Sunday, 16 October 2011

D is for...Davis, Alan Davis

Terrifically dynamic cover made this book a must have for me before
I even knew my X-Men collection would go back this far.

I'm not sure if I first came across Alan Davis' work in a collection of Alan Moore's DR and Quinch while rifling through whatever could be found in my local library or in back issue hunting for X-Men and coming across his X-Men Annuals.  Nothing struck me too much about his work in either of those books though retrospectively they definitely have something I like.  As you might expect I've gone back to his great Detective Comics run with Mike Barr and Captain Britain with Alan Moore but my affair with Davis beganwith a shockingly ugly shiny covered 90s number one.
I think odd costume design and odd characters helped make ClanDestine as short lived
as it was.
My real first Alan Davis was his own creation ClanDestine.  Beginning collecting comics in earnest in '91 meant there was plenty to choose from.  Marvel and DC drowning the market along with Image but I lucked onto ClanDestine.
The book is extremely English and I think was never goning to take of.  Issue three featured a cameo with Spider-Man which is where I was hooked on Davis' always charming and slick style added by the equally slick Mark Farmer, his now long-time art partner following the very competent Paul Neary who'd inked him for the first chunk of his career.
The splash that got me hooked.  Nice!
I've heard that he's said to refute any real move towards Neal Adams style but I find it very hard that he expects us to believe that or that if it's subconcious he can't see it himself if.  His men are rugged and his women gorgeous, his panel layouts owe a lot to Adams too.  ClanDestine/X-Men even features some of Adams' panel compostions which together make up one image (below).
Pile of bones becomes androgeanous old lady hair becomes trees, a la Neal Adams
We got a brief overly coloured, pretty unreadable three issue Fantastic Four run before he went quiet for a little while and came back at DC with Justice League: The Nail, an Elseworlds hung on "What if the Kents had got a puncture and never found baby Superman".
Davis draws tonnes of characters interestingly as well as Golden or Art Adams

Davis' writing is always super dense but always so earnest that I find while I generally need a bit of a mental run up to read it, I always enjoy it.  The Nail was around 180 pages featuring Davis getting to draw every major character at  DC comics, the majority getting a one page splash to show off on a la Steve Ditko's Spider-Man Annual.

Davis came straight back to do a sequel with an uninspired title (Another Nail) but again showcasing great art.  It allowed him to spotlight all DC's weird 60s and 70s characters like the Creeper and Black Orchid with as much gusto as he'd shown to Batman and Green Lantern in the first.  Both solid books!
The Nail books set the precedent for what we would get from Davis going forward, a George Peréz style drive-through all his favourite bits of comics, drawing the characters he obviously has great affection for.  Fantastic Four: The End, Killraven, Avenger:Prime, Uncanny X-Men, Superboy's Legion (with Farmer wrting) all have this "get everyone in" approach which works largely because he draws everyone so well.
Davis continues at Marvel today doing special projects and covers for the most part, the next being a Cap America run with Ed Brubaker which I hope will be full of Modoks and weird Kirby Nazis.
His ability to draw almost any character (always something odd about his Wolverine and Hulk for me...) combined with great composition and great Farmer's super slick inks and ink effects makes his covers always worth a look.
Davis' own website here including pencils which hightlight Farmer's contribution to the work.
As always a smattering of images pilferred via a Google search: "Alan Davis Comic"

Homage to Davis' own Excalibur #1 from ClanDestine Vol 2
God, I loved this cover.  It would be years before I bought it just for the cover! (It's nice inside too!)

Davis keeps pulling out the spectacular!

Dynamic at a glance with horror upon closer inspection


David N said...

One of my absolute all-time favourites. I think maybe the greatest super-hero artist of the last two decades alongside JRJR.
I always thought his style was Adams x John Byrne. First encountered him on Captain Britain and DR & Quinch then X-Men. That Wolverine - Sabretooth fight (your first cover) is fantastic; he gets across the animalistic ferocity and savagery in a way nobody else ever managed.
Love his very Adams-esque Batman. That run on Detective is great. But his best work remains the incredibly influential stuff he did on Captain Britain and Miracleman.
Underrated as a writer; Clandestine and Excalibur are both funny, quirky, solid comics. Those JLA minis work really well.
My only criticism would be a slightly narrow range, but that's maybe a comment on how distinctive his work is. A Davis comic always looks like a Davis comic.
No mention of how shockingly Bryan Hitch ripped him off in the early years? I think Davis gave him his break by showing his work to US Editors...

Will Shyne said...

Tried to avaoid mentioning Hitch as I've never really had any time for either of his styles (Alan Davis lite and messy sub Nowlan inks).
Adams mashed with Byrne rings true. Also Gil Kane in there for sure. In the back of one of the Nail trades he goes through his DC influences and perhaps he dislikes the Adams comparison as it discounts so many others he's got in there too (he cites Aparo as his Batman for example). I'll still pick up anything he draws but there is something about his writing that has me looking forward to seeing him work with Brubaker (the Bendis book was ok).
That Miracleman stuff is gorgeous but I always had that in my head as owing to Leach as much as anything.

Anthony Hope-Smith said...

I reckon that his Adams influence come initially via Aparo, as Davis has claimed in the past. I can see it in the art via figure work, the flat hands during action, and so on. Given he was getting a lot of this material through reprints, he may not have been aware of Adams prior to Aparo.

Really enjoying these, Billy!

Will Shyne said...

I believe the Aparo influence but those layouts have nothing to do with Aparo!!
Glad you're enjoying these. I've got the next few planned but life has gotten in the way a bit!
Every Sunday is the plan!

Anthony Hope-Smith said...

BUT it's fair to say that the Adams-influenced layouts weren't in evidence until his late'80s/early'90s work. Prior to that, his page design was, for the most part, more conventional.