Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Classics - Blackmark

     In 1973 - in addition to buying comic books -  I was also constantly scouring book stores (new and used) for reading material.

   Imagine my surprise in finding this paperback in one of those stores. I had no idea who Blackmark was, but I immediately recognized the cover art by Gil Kane, easily one of my all-time favorite artists.

   I picked up the slim paperback and flipped through the pages, shocked to find that it was, in essence, a comic book!

   Kane had created a classic science fiction / pulp adventure tale, set on an Earth devastated by nuclear war, now home to warring (mostly) barbaric races and assorted monsters and creatures.

   The art didn't include just word balloons - instead, the story was told through blocks of text that ran around the art. Word balloons were only used for dialogue, and none of it was hand-lettered - it used type instead.

    It was not a story for children. It starts from the very beginning, as a mysterious scientist somehow makes it possible for Blackmark's mother to conceive a child for the first time (he is, unknowingly, the son of a king). Early in life the boy witnesses terrible tragedy and must struggle through life until he finds his destiny on the field of battle.

   It's a solid pulpish adventure, loaded with rousing action, grim moments and larger-than-life concepts. It's also just the beginning of the story (though it does stand alone), and Kane added a later chapters in the pages of Marvel magazines some years later.

   Especially considering the tiny size of the publication, the art is terrific (it appears to be mostly Kane on pencils and inks, although it's easy to spot some Neal Adams inking on at least one chapter), and if the story creaks a bit in places, you have to admire the energy, enthusiasm and pure skill Kane brought to the project.

   It stands as (arguably) one of the first graphic novels, and a grand experiment by one of the industry's masters. I loved it, and read it to pieces.

   Well worth tracking down!

Grade: A



Anonymous said...

I loved discovering this too much like you did! So cool. At one point I even owned a page of the original art. Sigh...

Chuck said...

Argh! Woulda shoulda coulda, eh, Pete? ;-)