Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Mike Mignola is a genius

This book arrived in the post recently, courtesy of Tom at the Hitchin Boy's School library. Baltimore is illustrated by Mike Mignola and I have already mentioned my admiration for him in previous blogs.

I actually think Mike Mignola is one of the great American illustrators - right up there with the very best. I think if he did not work in comics, there would be little argument about this. I can think of few times I have seen a bad Mignola - he has the drawing equivalent of perfect pitch. If he has an Achilles heel, it is that he occasionally puts too much information in an image. But we are talking about degrees of perfection here.

Mostly though, his drawings are brilliantly economical. Like Rowland Hilder, Mignola knowingly refers to a woodcut style of illustration, though to a very different end. Where Hilder's work is gestural, Mignola's is very designed and restrained. His imagination is second to none, but it is always rooted in a very acutely observed reality. When he needs to be right, he is always bang on. The details that a lesser artist would simple make up or ignore, Mignola draws with almost scientific accuracy. Because his style is so economical and hard edged, Mignola cannot fall back on the illustrator's standby of simply making something vague.

For someone who spends so much of his time drawing action, Mignola is at his best, for me, when he is evoking stillness or silence. It is the moment before something happens that he draws so well. Baltimore displays this talent superbly, illustrated as it is with dozens of vignettes in which very little happens, but which are, every one of them, packed with atmosphere.

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