Tag Archives: comics

Visual Oddysey

Ulysse Malassagne!

Lesser artists cringe, turning paint-stained pants away from the dark figure in the doorway.

Ulysse Malassagne!

He enters, returned after a long journey to find his banquet hall full of miscreants and vagabonds who merely pose at craftsmanship. He bares a shining sword. No one says a word. A few ragged beggars begin to file toward the door.


I’m not sure how to transition from that gripping intro to the normal blog post. Really it was just a dumb joke based on the fact that his name sounds like Ulysses and his blog/portfolio is called Oddysey. Just forget it.

Ulysse Malassagne is an artist and storyteller from France with a wonderfully loose and imaginative style.

Malassagne_New Companions_2010Ulysse Malassagne, New Companions, 2010

He’s perhaps best known for writing and illustrating the graphic novel series Kairos, which was launched with a very cool book trailer (animation directed by Malassagne).

KAIROS Trailer from Studio La Cachette on Vimeo.

The first two volumes of Kairos are currently available, with one more to come.  To my shame, I don’t have the money to buy any of them. Hopefully I’ll scrape together some cash later this summer.

Malassagne_Kairos_2013Ulysse Malassagne, Kairos Tome 1, 2013


Ulysse Malassagne, Kairos Tome 2, 2014


Ulysse Malassagne, Kairos Tome 1, 2014

There’s been a movement in the past few years towards what I’ll call the “Really-Fast-And-Quick-And-Sort-Of-Crap” school of drawing, embodied and largely inspired by the show, Adventure Time.  I have a beef with this school simply because (1) it has so many followers, and (2) it’s not visually rich.

But I love loose artists. Loose doesn’t necessarily mean “Sort-Of-Crap”, any more than it indicates a lack of effort, and Ulysse Malassagne is a prime example of a loose style, executed well.

Malassagne_TheHouse_2010Ulysse Malassagne, The House, 2010Malassagne_Poster_2013Ulysse Malassagne, Poster, 2013

Looking through Malassagne’s work, I get a sense of his genius for character, setting, and tone. As he tells stories that can only be told with pictures, his work takes on some of the rampantly original flavor of Miyazaki. If we were to cut this guy open, we might find liquid creativity in the place of viscera.

Malassagne_voeux_2013Ulysse Malassagne, Happy New Year, 2013  Malassagne_The Soul of the King_2009Ulysse Malassagne, The Soul of the King, 2009
Malassagne_Searching the Plain_2010Ulysse Malassagne, Searching the Plain, 2010

Malassagne_Jade_2013Ulysse Malassagne, Jade, 2013Malassagne_Anaëlle et la gouvernante_2010Ulysse Malassagne, Anaëlle and the Governess, 2010



Goodness Gracious!

So it looks like it’s a monster kind of week!  Bernie Wrightson is a comic book artist who produced a riveting series of illustrations for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Wrightson Frankenstein



Bernie Wrightson, Frankenstein, 1983

I have a confession to make.  When I see work like this, I get nauseous.  It’s so GOOD.

Immediately, familiar thoughts spring into my mind like Jack-in-the-box demons: I’ll never be this “good”.  Why am I wasting my time?  Maybe I should quit.  Or maybe… I should just imitate this guy’s style.

When approached the wrong way, masterful work can be really discouraging.  A lot of artists deal with these qualms, and our biggest question is always:

Will we ever be this “good”? The answer being:

No, we won’t.  

For several reasons.

Wrightson Frankenstein_1983


Bernie Wrightson, Frankenstein, 1983

1. An imitation can never match the original.  A lot can be learned by the act of imitation, but we’ll never exceed or even equal the quality of the original in our copying; we’ll always be approaching it.

2. We aren’t “the Masters”.  Artists are made up of more than just lessons and practice; artists are molded by their lives and surroundings.  The circumstances of your childhood and adulthood shape and mold you, and in turn you shape and mold your body of work based on those experiences.  This is what makes artists (and people) unrepeatable.

I’m convinced that we have to learn from the masters, rather than trying to become them.  We’ll never be Bernie Wrightson, or Gerhard, or Katsuhiro Otomo… we’ll never get “there”. But then again, do we want to get “there”?



Bernie Wrightson, Frankenstein, 1983

We also have to be careful not to confuse “good”ness and excellence- there’s a big difference. With time and persistence, we will arrive at excellence; that’s the journey of a thousand miles.  There’s no denying that Wrightson’s work on Frankenstein is excellent.  But the book’s 47 illustrations were seven years in the making. Excellence is a journey.

But “good”ness… that’s a nebulous quality that is relative from person to person. Groucho Marx was “good” at being Groucho.  Anyone else who tries it is annoying; the only solution for other comedians is to find their own schtick, and schtick with it.

The same goes for artists.  Find what you love, and express what it means to you, to the best of your ability.  Push yourself.  Put in the hours.  Make something truly original.

Let’s re-define “good”.  Let’s be excellent.