About a Book Wednesday stops in the groovy 1970′s this week. Another bit of ephemera from my dad’s studio. This is a graphic novel from 1971. And oddly enough, it’s in traditional paperback size. It’s by Gil Kane, who has quite a history in comics.
Blackmark is a great example of 1970′s sci-fi, fantasy. How can it be anything else when the cover tells you, ” First in a series of daring adventures featuring Blackmark in the primitive world of the future.” And judging by the cover imagery they mean sometime in the 1980′s. That’s when swords were big. Anyway, I don’t believe there were any more published in this format. And it’s easy to see why.
The artwork is vital and competent, but the book is sunk because of the typesetting and design. As you can see from the spread below, the drawings are not so elegantly placed in-between large blocks of truly ugly typesetting leaving unnerving white space throughout the narrative.
Typesetting in the 1970′s wasn’t the image wrapping fun of using InDesign in 2012. I’m not 100% sure if this was issued first in a magazine format from Marvel or not, but some of the images are split so oddly by the spine that I can’t believe they are actually planned double page spreads. I’m sure there is a comic book expert that knows more about this book. But it’s definitely another step in the world of ‘graphic novels’. On the title page they refer to it as “A new fusion of images and words in an action book – the next step forward in pictorial fiction.”
In my experience, at least in the U.S., Will Eisner is often credited with being the artist/writer who created or at least popularized the term ‘graphic novel’. His A Contract with God came out in 1978. And Eisner himself credits Lynd Ward for inspiration. I’ve discussed on this blog before a wonderful original printing of Lynd Ward’s Vertigo that I have.
But in paperback format this particular combination of words and pictures leaves a lot to be desired. It neither celebrates the excellent artwork or makes the story easy to digest. Reading it feels a bit too much like homework. And this posting is feeling too much like a research paper, so I’m out of here!
You can pick yourself up a copy for yourself on ebay if you wish.