As I mentioned in my previous posts on him, I consider Al Williamson one of the greats of 20th Century comics art, and an important bridge between the traditions of the newspaper adventure strips of the first half of the century and the “Silver Age” comic books of the second.
Williamson carried forward the excellence in draftsmanship, composition and superb ink rendering that was prominent in the best newspaper adventure comics and blended it with the dynamism of superhero comics. His fluid, heroic figures look like actual human beings in action as opposed to the cartoonish musclebound exaggeration that often characterized much of the latter genre.
Flesk Publications, a small independent publisher who I admire both for their beautiful production values and for their dedication to bringing light to under-appreciated illustrators and comics artists, has published the second volume of their series of preliminary art, sketches, layouts and personal drawings from Williamson’s own collection, Al Williamson Archives: Volume 2.
This is as wonderfully realized as the first volume, which I reviewed here. In each volume, the publisher has freely wandered across the length of Williamson’s long and prolific career, with pieces from all phases of his work, various genres and a tasty variety of types of drawings and sketches, from mere doodles to almost finished drawings.
Most publishers would not have been able to resist the temptation to “clean up” drawings like this, forcing high contrast to eliminate yellowed paper and sketchy lines and make them look more like finished pieces.
Flesk has done just the opposite, carefully shooting the artwork to preserve as much as possible its actual appearance — yellowed paper, tape, white-out and fine sketch lines intact; even going so far as to lay sheets of translucent tracing paper, on which Wiliamson, like many comics artists, often worked out his compositions, with edges overlapping so we can see the sheets for what they are.
This is as close as we can get to opening Williamson’s flat files and holding the drawings in our own hands, and it’s a treasure trove of instruction for those interested in the working methods of a master comics artist, as well as anyone interested in pencil and ink action figure drawing.
Al Williamson Archives: Volume 2 is $20 U.S.D. and can be ordered directly from the Flesk Publications Store.