Friday, June 27, 2008

The Prince Valiant Page

I first came across Gary Gianni's artwork in a Shadow mini series that he drew for Darkhorse Comics. His style at the time reminded me a little of another Shadow artist, Mike Kaluta. Later I spotted Gianni's work on other comic titles for various publishers, but he didn't really catch my attention until he started doing illustrations for Wandering Star's Robert E. Howard projects. His work on The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane book really impressed me, making me think of old time illustrators like Joseph Clement Coll, Franklin Booth, and N.C. Wyeth.
When I saw Gianni's work on Wandering Star's second Conan volume, he became one of my favorite illustrators of one of my favorite characters. I've mentioned in an earlier post how pleased I was when I learned that Gianni had taken over the illustrating of Hal Foster's Prince Valiant Sunday comic page. He brought a real sense of adventure to the strip and now with the help of writer Mark Schultz, Gianni has begun to return the strip to its fantasy roots, introducing monsters, mages, and demons. Wonderful stuff and I hoped that it would be collected at some point.
This week Flesk Publications released a large hardcover volume called The Prince Valiant Page. Not a collection of the strips, but rather a book about how Gianni came to take over the legendary comic and how he approaches the feature. (There is a collection of strips due out in October.) It's chock full of artwork, photos, and behind the scenes information and features a nice running commentary by Gianni about his working methods. Illustrators and art fans alike will enjoy the beautiful pencil drawings and the studies, roughs, and thumbnails. There's a whole chapter on how Gianni uses photo reference that I found very interesting. Unlike some artists, he doesn't trace the photos so much as use them for guides to his finished drawings. He also uses a lot of photos from old movies as reference, though you'd probably never catch them, so different is the finished image from the inspiration.
You also get to see just how bad the printing is in most newspapers. The original art has a lot more detail than what shows up in the printed product. I'm hoping that the upcoming collection of the strips is shot from the originals or at least high quality stats.
Anyway, if you're a fan of Gianni's, or if you just appreciate good illustration, then you want this book. Highly recommended. In the meantime check out his webpage at:

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