Robot 6

Six by 6 | Six ‘retired’ artists we’d like to see return to comics

Tales of the Great Unspoken

Tales of the Great Unspoken

Making comics, as we all know, is hard work. And — particularly if you work in the “indie” side of the aisle — it’s not always good-paying work.

Small wonder then that many talented individuals leave the medium to find a career in illustration, animation, sales, or hell, anything that paid better than comics.

Still, while I understand the financial necessity, there’s a number of artists I wish would come back to the fold, if just for old time’s sake. For example:

1. Aaron Augenblick. In 1999 Augenblick created a charming little mini-comic, Tales of the Great Unspoken. It was inventive, clever, superbly crafted and very funny. It won a Xeric. It was, all in all, a great debut that showed enough promise to suggest that Augenblick had a great career ahead of him in comics. Then he decided to chuck it all and make animated cartoons for Adult Swim and MTV.

It’s a shame. The kid really could have really made a name for himself. Still, it’s not too late Aaron. You could give up all that sweet, sweet Nickelodeon money and come back to comics anytime …

2. Brian Biggs. Like Augenblick, Biggs left the world of comics for greener pastures, though in his case, those pastures consisted of illustration and children’s books, with a smidge of animation here and there.

For a while there in the 1990s, though, it seemed as though he was one of the up and coming stars in indie comics. Books like Dear Julia and Frederick and Eloise brought a whimsical, storybook approach that never seemed overly twee or sweet. Indeed,they were often grounded by some dark undercurrents, not to mention backed by some serious artistic chops.

Biggs still dabbles in comics occasionally, but those are mainly one or two page pieces. I’d love to see him attempt a longer work once more.

The Far Side

The Far Side

3. Gary Larson. A gimmie perhaps, but significant enough to warrant inclusion here nevertheless. Seriously, has Larson done anything since the release of his children’s book There’s a Hair in My Dirt? I’m really tired of reading third-rate Far Side retreads in my newspaper — they just make Larson’s absence all the more frustrating. I’m not asking him to return to the grinding daily schedule that made him retire in the first place, but surely a collection of cartoons every few years or so wouldn’t put too much of a mental strain on him. And he’d have some new material for those calendars he cranks out every year.

4. Dave Cooper. For one brief shining moment, Dave Cooper had climbed up to the upper pantheon of Fantagraphic artists. Surreal, mind-warping books like Suckle, Ripple and his ongoing series Weasel, which chronicled a number of sweaty, paunchy, disturbingly neurotic and oversexed characters, had Cooper earning acclaim equal to the likes of Clowes and Ware.

Sadly, he became more interested (and no doubt found he could earn a better living) in painting and illustration (he recently wrote a children’s book of all things) and abandoned comics, apparently permanently. Perhaps he said everything he had to in those various graphic novels, but I’d sure love to have him come back and try again, even if he does end up repeating himself.

5. Mary Fleener. I’m not including that recent story she did for The Beats book and neither should you, since a) she didn’t write it and b) it wasn’t up to par with her best work.

Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes

No, I’m talking Fleener’s entirely self-produced work. The kind of stuff found in issues of comics like Slutburger, the G-rated Fleener and the x-rated Nipples and Tum-Tum. Even though she hasn’t produced a single 32-page comic in years, she remains one of the most original voices in comics, with an art style that’s completely her own (no one draws a sex scene like her). Really, comics probably needs her a lot more than she needs it.

6. Bill Watterson. An obvious choice really. Indeed, Watterson must be the patron saint of people who have turned their back on the comics industry. Watterson retired in 1995 and hasn’t uttered nary a peep since then except for the occasional introduction or commentary in one of those Calvin and Hobbes collections.

And god, how I miss him. I don’t care if he brings back Calvin and Hobbes. I don’t care if he tries to adapt the works of Herman Hesse. I don’t care if he decides to tell the adventures of “Bundle of Twigs and Mulch Pile.” I just want Watterson to be back at his drawing table and making comics again. Like, right now.

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22 Comments

I second (and third) the vote for Mary Fleener!

I’d nominate David Mazzucchelli and Troy Nixey.

I agree with all but number two. That dude was a loser.

Mark Kardwell— David Mazzucchelli has a new book coming out in 2 months or so. Details found here: http://www.randomhouse.com/pantheon/graphicnovels/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780307377326

I absolutely agree with all of those, especially Cooper & Augenblick – Tales of the Great Unspoken is amazing.
I’d add Steve Walton, although there was a new collection of Ragmop last year, and Bernie Mirault seems to have disappeared from comics recently…
Good to see Tony Salmons making a return to things last week with the Strange Adventures of HP Lovecraft, too.

I know this is only an imaginary exercise anyway, but fwiw I’m kind of glad that there are some people in the world who do actually make it big, and then genuinely hang it up and (presumably) live happily ever after. So many people, after all, should have quit while they were ahead. :)

I nominate Akira Toriyama. It’s been a long, long time since Cowa! and Sand Land were first published in Japan. I know he doesn’t need to work anymore, but man, he should.

I wasn’t familiar with any one on that list other than Larson and Watterson- and they’re comic strip guys, not necessarily ‘comic book’ like I thought the post was about. Anywho, I wonder if people have any more mainstream artists they would like to see again.

I’m really tired of reading third-rate Far Side retreads in my newspaper — they just make Larson’s absence all the more frustrating.

Me too. I’d be interested to see a rundown of how many bad Far Side clones there are out there.

I miss M.D. Bright. He used to draw SUCH a pretty Hal Jordan.

Hey folks, Mary Fleener had a new comics story titled “Niacin” in Hotwire Comics Vol. 2, which we put out last year!

Gloryoski, that’s right. I had completely forgotten about that.

OK, swap out Mary Fleener with Louise Simonson.

The world just isn’t the same without Larson and Watterson in the paper each day.

Fleener’s also been doing a strip called “Mary-Land” for her local newspaper for some time. It’s pretty great, actually. She’s collected these in minicomics form; I think they’re available at her website.

I’d like to see Michael Golden and Barry Windsor Smith in the pamphlets again -

I would add Julie Doucet to your last.

Dave McKean
Bill Sienkiwicz (apologies on the spelling)
Baron Storey
Marie Severin (where’s the Marvel Masterworks Not Brand Ecch?)
Jack Davis
Todd McFarlane
Jim Steranko
Stepanie Gladden
Jon J. Muth
Brian Michael Bendis

I miss Bill Watterson so much. What happened to him anyway?

The other syndicated guy I miss is Aaron McGruder. The Boondock’s comic was great but the TV show (are there even plans for a new season) was disappointing. Not necessarily BAD but certainly disappointing.

Frank Brunner is the first great MIA comic book artist that springs to mind.

Is Steranko still alive? Surely they’d have given him some work by now if he was.

Given my love for his Spectacular run, I’d also really love to see Sal Buscema do something more than just trace issues of Spider-Girl.

There are a lot of guys that I THINK have left comics only to have them show up out of nowhere after a long hiatus. Chriscross and Luke Ross spring to mind.

Most of the other “missing artists” that I like are either dead (Ringo and Seth Fisher), writers (Christopher Priest), or dead writers (Steve Gerber).

And now I’m kicking myself for forgetting Adrian Alphona.

Someone told me about this blog and I have to say Thanks for the good words, but I ain’t retired yet!!! I just finished a 5 page color piece for a Louisa May Alcott story in the new colored version of Tom Pomplun’s GRAPHIC CLASSICS, and right this moment I am trying very hard to meet my HOTWIRE #3 deadline to finish a 12 page story about how I became a gun owner. For the last few years I became very invovled in local politics, and in 2004, was able to stop a Redevelopment project that would’ve destroyed our li’l beach town of Leucadia. I was also on a campaign team , (I was The Minister of Propaganda), to get a pal of mine elected to our City Council. Now I’m retired from politics…as they say, you have to pick your battles, but I’m glad I went ot all those endless meetings and it was time well spent. After I finish this HOTWIRE story, I am getting back to a graphic novel idea I had 5 years ago, and have started to write the stories. I have a title, and Kim Thompson sounded interested, so that’s my Big Idea.

As for The Beats book, I recieved a signed copy of LOBA from none other than Diane DiPrima who told me I “got it” and she was very happy with the story and the art, and frankly that’s all that matters to me.

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