Thursday, 25 April 2013

Review Month - Alien Worlds - issue 3 (cover).

Alien Worlds- issue 3 (cover review).

Dated July 1983.
Art by W. M Stout.
Written by Bruce Jones.
Published by PC Comics (aka Pacific Comics).

For today's edition of Review Month on the blog I thought it would be cool to review another cover.  We got a great reception to our last cover review but this time I thought we could try something from the 1980s.

So today I looked at the cover to Alien Worlds issue 3 by the really interesting and deserves to be known more artist W. M. Stout (aka William Stout).

Mr Stout is probably better known for his movie work and has been pretty prolific over the years. He started in the late 1960s and was soon working as Russ Manning's assistant on the Tarzan of the Apes newspaper strip. He is pretty well known in the field of movie posters, storyboarding and in production design. He worked on Raiders of the Lost Ark and on that recently reinvigorated animated movie from Ralph Bakshi  the wonderful 'Wizards'.

Interestingly he specialises in Paleontological art and has given lectures on the subject. Looking at the image above this may explain the vermin's lizard features, almost like little dinosaurs themselves. 

Clearly a man of many talents, Stout lists Frank Frazetta, Norman Rockwell, Alex Toth, Robert Crumb, Wally Wood and Will Eisner as influences (well he would wouldn't he). This presents an interesting list as I examine the cover image. I can see the iconic old school space imagery of Wally Wood and I can also see some facial influences from Crumb - quite a mixture I am sure you agree, but one that he pulls off superbly for my money. For me I would add a touch of space strangeness of Moebius and some animal design originality by someone like Leo. All the above prove to make a truly original and shockingly weird image, ideal for the time and placing.

Stout's linework isn't glossy and over rendered like a Frazetta and this only adds to the impending doom of the piece for me. It gives the whole book an edgy feel to it. I would love this as a poster for the study.

Alien Worlds was an anthology title that was in the most part written by Bruce Jones with guest artists. Sadly this cover image must have been completed apart from the interior content as this story is not represented in this issue.

The image speaks in many ways.  It has that European 1970s and 1980s sci-fi weirdness to it that you could see in Heavy Metal. But most of all it tells a story. The face of the trapped astronaut is haggered, tired and starved looking. He is frightened and trapped. We see that he is sinking in some form of quicksand. Maybe he has walked from a crashed spacecraft or shuttlecraft of some kind. Alone in an alien landscape he has fallen into the sand. Nobody to help him. He is surrounded by these strange (and cute in any other arena) mini lizard vermin. You see that they are waiting for his death so that they can rip the flesh from his bones. Death, horribly on a desolate and alien planet. It speaks to our own fears and failures. The image chills you and sets you up for more strangeness inside. I loved it.

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