2009
05.11

Some of you may know the work of David Mazzucchelli through his late 80s superhero work and some of you may be more familiar with his indy friendly output. It’s a gross overgeneralization but Mazzucchelli’s fan base has always been divided into those two camps (with the occasional gray areas) so I’m sticking to it. The tail end of Batman: Year One and the emergence of Rubber Blanket is about the time that Mazzucchelli redefined himself and, for better or worse, the industry. What’s interesting are the elements that led up to that era and the projects that followed.

Ranging from franchise characters to cover illustrations, this Master Post shows an inkling of Mazzucchelli’s artistic transition and range.

Don’t judge too harshly, you were once young, too.

Mazzucchelli’s first professional outing was for Master of Kung Fu #121 (Feb. ’83). Written by Steven Grant and inked by Vince Colletta for Marvel Comics, Mazzucchelli was still at college student at the time of this first comic book job.

Despite crushing nature of the deadline art industry, Mazzucchelli kept at it long after his underwhelming Kung Fu job. His next few assignments began trickling in about a year later. One of them being The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #14 (Feb. ’84) which was written by David Michelinie and inked by… “the Saint” (probably a bunch of Bullpen staffers pulling an all nighter; feel free to correct me).

In World’s Finest #302, April ’84, “No Rest for Heroes” plays up Mazzucchelli’s strength as a naturalistic artist, devoid of fancy tricks and concerned more with moving the story along. David Anthony Kraft wrote this 5 page back-up tale (inked by Rodin Rodriguez) showcasing two DC Comics superheroes taking a breather.

By June of the same year, Mazzucchelli was back at Marvel and penciled Star Wars #84, written by Roy Richardson and inked by Tom Palmer. This one page is more Mazzucchelli and less Palmer, a small wonder considering the inker’s dominant style.

ROM #61 (Dec. ’84) is Mazzucchelli’s first non-Daredevil cover art. He had already become the regular penciler on Daredevil and did little else during that run.

It was during his run on Daredevil where Mazzucchelli’s style grew beyond the Marvel House Style, especially during the “Born Again” storyline written by Frank Miller. Any of you guys heard of it? I hear it’s pretty good.

From the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition #3 (Feb. ’85, all inked by Josef Rubinstein), Daredevil…


…Death (also from #3)…

 

… and Kingpin (from #7, June ’85).

Who can name what comic book this image is from?

Yay! You win! Batman: Year One is Mazzucchelli’s second major collaboration with Frank Miller in 1986-87 for DC Comics. Given the high level of reverence that Year One receives from just about everybody, it’s no surprise that this is regarded as a sacred cow in mainstream comics.

DC Comics’ Who’s Who series was unlike Marvel’s counterpart in presentation alone. There was a wider range of artists who drew a bit more than your average stock pose. A dumb little detail, I know, but when you get a couple of entries by someone like Mazzucchelli, every bit counts.

The Riddler from Who’s Who #19, Sept. ’86.

Commissioner Gordon from Who’s Who Update ’87 #2.

Unused cover for X-Factor #16, for which Mazzucchelli penciled as well.

This marks the last full length mainstream comic Mazzucchelli drew, written by Ann Nocenti for Marvel Fanfare #40, Oct. ’88.

After taking a short hiatus after the Year One period, Mazzucchelli returned to comics with a considerably different approach to comics. He began self publishing Rubber Blanket, a magazine-sized kommix anthology with wider thematic ambition than the general marketplace that made him popular. The style he developed at this point had more to do with personal expression, cartooning, and Art history filtered through an unorthodox sensibility that isn’t ordinarily championed by the commercial comics world.

Rubber Blanket #1, 1991.

Back cover to Rubber Blanket #1.

If you own a copy of Rubber Blanket #2, congratulations. I don’t think Mazzucchelli himself owns a copy. If you don’t, you may have to resort to getting the Italian Edition of “Discovering America” (Coconino Press, 2001), which reprints the main feature in RB #2 as well as “Near Miss” from #1 and “Stop the Hair Nude”, Mazzucchelli’s love letter to Japanese obsession.

Above is the inside back cover to Rubber Blanket #3, which was then more of a varied anthology rather than a one-man show. The main attraction for the issue, though, is the classic “BIG MAN” (also reprinted by Coconino Press). Below is a minor sampling of the true power of the story. It may not make much sense out of context, but it’s still dramatic and beautiful. Forget all that Batman stuff; “BIG MAN” shows what Mazzucchelli was really capable of as an artist and a writer at the time. I almost cry every time I read it.

Another major work in the post-Year One phase of Mazzucchelli’s career is his collaboration with Paul Karasik on “City of Glass” (’94), which was originally written by Paul Auster in ‘85.

The next story of note that Mazzucchelli worked on was “Rates of Exchange” for Drawn & Quarterly #2, vol. 2 (Dec. ‘94). In this semi-autobiographical tale, Mazzucchelli utilizes a looser, thicker line to enhance the feeling of memory and distance. It’s no Rom, but it does the job.

Cover for The Comics Journal #188, July 1996.

The definitive interview in The Comics Journal #194, March ’97.

“Sorry”, which appeared in Nozone #5 (Nozone, ‘93), is one of my favorite one-pagers.


“The Fisherman and the Sea Princess”, for Little Lit: Folklore & Fairy Tale Funnies (Joanna Cotler/Harper Collins, 2000, reprinted in 2006), was the last lengthy comics work by Mazzucchelli to date. Let us not forget what technically WAS the last printed comic of his was: “The Boy Who Loved Comics,” published in The Comics Journal Winter Special, 2001. (And seriously, who could forget his “Jack Kirby” pages in Evan Dorkin’s World’s Funnest?)

While it’s known that Mazzucchelli is a superior cartoonist (if not in fandom then definitely amongst pros), his output in the last decade hasn’t been high. It hasn’t been uncommon in the past couple of years, though, for a member of the comix cognoscenti to innocently let slip by that Mazzucchelli has been hard at work on a graphic novel. Believe it, readers, when it’s described as being the “best thing he’s ever done”.

The book is ASTERIOS POLYP, and it will be released this July 7th from Pantheon. According to their site, Asterios Polyp is “an engrossing story of one man’s search for love, meaning, sanity, and perfect architectural proportions.” Also, it happens to be an “imagined world of brilliantly conceived eccentrics, sharply observed social mores, and deftly depicted asides on everything from design theory to the nature of human perception.”

That’s cool, but what are the chances of a Batman vs. Daredevil mini?

— Fiffe

4 comments so far

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  1. Hey babe! I noticed your birthday was coming up, and I wanted to drop by and wish you a very happy and enjoyable special day! =D

  2. An excellent overview of David Mazzucchelli’s career and work. Like yourself, I do wish he had been more prolific in recent years, since he is such an incredible artist. I certainly found Asterios Polyp to be an intriguing, unusual read, and it was clear that Mazzucchelli had put a tremendous amount of thought into the various aspects of the story & art. It is one of those books that certainly bears re-reading, as I expect I’ll get more out of it a second time. I was unaware that he had contributed to Little Lit: Folklore and Fairy Tale Funnies. I’ll have to look for a copy of that collection.

  3. Wasn’t there a New Yorker Magazine cover by him?

  4. He did. Here are a couple.