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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Illustrators #17 (Winter 2016)

The latest issue of Illustrators contains three main subjects who couldn't be more diverse. The issue leads with Mort Küntsler, American artist who may nowadays be best known for his paintings of the American Civil War but who spent the Fifties and Sixties painting covers and illustrations for the thriving men's magazine market and the Seventies doing illustrations for the better paying magazine markets and film posters.

Küntsler's pulpier illustrations are beautiful. The men's magazines were full of salacious thrills dressed as stories of soldiers in battle or thrillseekers fighting sharks or hero cops fighting gangsters. It didn't matter where these tawdry tales were set, there were always busty women in peril, usually facing that peril at best in a bra or more often topless, their arms carefully posed for modesty's sake. It made as little sense as the metal contraptions women wore in space on science fiction pulps. While it's easy to deride the subject matter, you cannot fault the artistry and talent that went into the images.

From the Eighties on he has made his name for painstakingly researched Civil War and historical art which have been gathered in numerous books and made available as prints. Küntsler is, thankfully, still with us and, although he's ninety this year, he's still painting. His book The New Nation was published as recently as 2014.

Francisco V. Coching might not be as familiar a name but in the Philippines he was the one of the leading lights in the local komics industry, leaving school in 1934 at the age of 15 to begin drawing professionally; he continued to draw comics for four decades, retiring in the 1970s. So popular was Coching that the majority of his comics characters were turned into movies.

Writer Diego Cordoba calls him "perhaps the best comic book creator you've never heard of," and based on the examples seen here that could be true. His artwork owes much to his inspirations Hal Foster and Alex Raymond and his apprenticeship to Tony Velazquez, one of the pioneers of Filipino komics.

Gustave Doré was featured in issue 11, but a second article is welcome to show off more of his astonishing artwork. Professionally published at the age of 13, Doré illustrated some of the greatest books of all time, from The Bible to Don Quixote. He lived through some of history's bloodiest times, including the Crimean War and the Franco-Prussian War, inspiring some of his darkest works. One of his finest works was London: A Pilgrimage with text by William Blanchard Jerrold, which recorded London's slums in all their grisly honesty.

An interview with children's illustrator Zac Retz completes the issue in fine style.

For more information on Illustrators and back issues, visit the Book Palace website, where you can also find details of their online editions, and news of upcoming issues. Issue 18 will feature Mort Drucker, Ernesto Garcia Cabral, Becky Cloonan and the early years of Puffin Books.

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