Saturday, September 27, 2014

Happy 59th Birthday, Charles Burns!

Photo yoinked from Wikipedia
We are almost to October, and for that month I am going to review a whole bunch of creepy and spooky graphic novels. Before we get there though, I am taking the time to wish a happy trip around the sun to one of the most accomplished of horror comics creators, Charles Burns.

Burns has won multiple Harvey, Eisner and Ignatz Awards for this work. He is also sort of the Jason Voorhees of comics, slow yet steady and always delivering a killer product. He has been making comics for the better part of 30 years now, and he is known for his combination of horror aspects with an analysis of a potentially nostalgic past. He is also known for his strong, clean black lines and his expertly crisp artwork.

His work appeared in issues of Raw magazine as well as other anthologies, and those stories were later collected into a number of volumes. Big Baby followed the exploits of a young boy who lives in the suburbs and suspects his neighbors of burying people in their backyards. El Borbah is about a hulking private detective who happens to wear a lucha libre outfit. Skin Deep is an anthology of various tales, including some about Dog Boy, a creation that starred in MTV's Liquid Television in the 1980s.

His most known and celebrated work to date is Black Hole, a comic book series that stretched 12 issues from 1995 to 2005. The entire story has since been collected into one volume, and it follows the exploits of some teens in the Seattle area in the 1970s as they are inflicted with some sort of plague that is spread by sexual activity. This disease manifests with physical changes that leave many disfigured in monstrous ways, and the affected teens are banished to a squatters' settlement outside of town. Although it is set much later, Black Hole is reminiscent of 1950s horror movies, although updated with a more modern sensibility.

More recently he has been working on a trilogy of books from Pantheon. These books, X'ed Out, The Hive, and Sugar Skull, are a kind of mash-up of Tintin comics and William S. Burroughs' writing, and the first of his works to be published in color and not black and white. I will review the first two entries in depth in my next post.

In addition to his comics work, Burns is also a sought-after commercial artist who has illustrated for prominent companies such as Coca-Cola and Altoids and also produced album art for Sub Pop Records and Iggy Pop. He speaks about his career in this interview, which is accompanied by ten facts about the man.

Happy Birthday, Charles Burns!

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