Sunday, 8 January 2012

F is for...Fegredo, Duncan Fegredo

A commision of Enigma & friends
When I started collecting comics it was with my mate Mustafa who lent me the X-Men #1 that got me started on superheroes after having bought the Beano and toy related comics previously.  My other friend who was into comics was Arunan who had other older friends who read comics and so was into stuff that wasn't normally on our radar such as Ostrander and Mandrake's Spectre, Warren Ellis comics and Preacher.  One of the comics he put in my hands that opened my eyes and nudged me away from the mainstream was Milligan and Fegredo's Face.
Opening page of Face
Face was the story of a a fairly typically flawed Vertigo/Milligan character, a self centred, neurotic plastic surgeon who, for example collects telephone numbers from strange women to get himself off on later, although in a long term relationship.  He gets hired to operate on a Picasso type who wants to look like one of his paintings.
The thing that most struck me about the book, aside from being a great creepy, human horror story, was that the art and story seemed to come from the same place.  The underlying humor that Milligan infused the script with is also felt in Fegredo's art.  The same is true with what was, pre Hellboy, Fegredo's largest body of work Enigma.  I struggle to think of anyone else who could have bought the screwed up tapestry of english silver age villains, their gay creator, lizards and white trash to life the way Fegredo did.
The art on both Face and Enigma has an art school sensibilty with overtones of Sienkewicz, Kent Williams, Bill Koeb to it.  What's there from the beginning is a constantly moving camera in even the most static scene so there's an energy to the work that's incredibly compelling.
For me, the most notable thing about Fegredo's next series, Millenium Fever with Nick Abadzis, was the absence of the frenetic inking style of Face and Enigma.  There's a lot more control in the inking; it all gets a lot more economical and the art benefits from it greatly.  This would mark the direction for the rest of Fegredo's comic work.
It's very pretty art but the colours are a little lively and the story's mental!
Vertigo Verité was a series of "realistic", non fantasy books about normal things like aids, class conflict and global conspiracy.  Milligan and Fegredo gave us Girl, a three issue mini series about an English teenager stuck in a desperately mundane life with crappy parents and friends. It's a great, funny, sad story which Fegredo gets to animate a very pedestrian setting to life.
DC's fifth week event New Year's Evil, with great covers by Jason Pearson, included a Grant Morrison Prometheus story, introducing the character prior to his JLA appearance but more importantly for me, Scarecrow: Mistress of Fear by Milligan and Fegredo.  This is the story that gave me an unhealthy appreciation for the Scarecrow and the psychosis that drives him.  The colours are by Teddy Kristiensen's collaborator and painter on Superman: For All Seasons, Bjarne Hansen.  With a limited palette of what feels like predominantly greens, the Gotham City of Fegredo is creepy and perfect for the Scarecrow to muck about in.  As he attacks the Gotham suburbs, terrifying people into attacking each other with irons and Hoovers over their fences, the Scarecrow comes across a girl with seemingly no phobias, who of course, must be his so he sends his goons, the Blues Brothers, to get her.
After "directing" the bridging story between Chasing Amy and Dogma with Kevin Smith in glorious zip-a-toned black and white Fegredo jumped around quite a bit.  X-Force (with Milligan), Tom Strong with Ed Brubaker, Ultimate Adventures (a funny Batman cypher with Ron Zimmerman), Reed Richards with Peter David  (an Indiana Jones style pre FF story), a Marvel Monsters one shot with Steve Niles and various Vertigo fill ins and short stories.
While all the above were great (with the possible exception of the Reed Richards book), Fegredo found a home for his sensibilities with Hellboy.
One of Bermejo's completed Hellboy pages
The first choice to replace Mignola on the art for a while was Lee Bermejo (Batman/Deathblow, Joker, Lex Luthor, Batman Noël) who I like quite a bit.  I honestly can't imagine the last three books of Hellboy with such an agressive, dark style.  While Mignola's universe is a dark place it's also fun.
Glen Murakami of the WB Superman and Batman cartoons suggested Fegredo for the job, which I have to say, I would have too!
Dark Hellboy
Fegredo got to do the Empire Strikes Back arc of what is set to be one massive trilogy with Mignola returning to illustrate what I hope isn't the Return of the Jedi arc (yub,yub).
Hellboy has forced a kind of restraint on Fegredo's style that makes it simmer in all the quiet moments. While almost everything in Fegredo's published career leading up to it has been overtly humorous and kinetic, his Hellboy run was full of quiet moments that made the punching and the leaping and the running all the more frantic.  Dave Stewart used the same palette for colouring Fegredo's Hellboy as he had on Mignola but in a more lush, painted style so while it was consistent with what had gone before it was also fresh.
In all my years collecting comics everyone recognised how much talent Fegredo has but it's taken Hellboy to really put him on the map of the general comics readership.  We understand there's more Hellboy to come from him and I can't wait.

Fegredo to seek out, in a vague, top of my head chronological order:
Kid Eternity (Vertigo)
Face (Vertigo)
Enigma (Vertigo)
Absolute Vertigo (Vertigo)
New Years Evil: Scarecrow (DC)
Weird War Tales 3 (Vertigo)
House Of Secrets 6 (Vertigo)
Batman Chronicles #9 (DC)
The Dreaming 26 (Vertigo)
Winter's Edge #1 (Vertigo)
Chasing Dogma (Oni Press)
Flinch #6 (Vertigo)
Spiderman Tangled Web 5-6 (Marvel)
Ultimate Adventures 1-6 (Marvel)
Tom Strong 29 - 30 (DC/ABC Comics)
Monsters on the Prowl (Marvel)
Hellboy: The Wild Hunt (Dark Horse)
Hellboy: Darkness Calls (Dark Horse)
Hellboy: The Storm & The Fury (Dark Horse)
Also check out the twenty something brilliantly inventive covers on Shade the Changing Man from 42 onwards.

P.S.Vertigo have 48 pages of Face, 3 issues of Girl, a Weird War Tales 8 pager (War & Peas), a Weird Western Tales 8 pager sitting there desperate for a nice collection.  Come on!  Get on with it!
Unfettered Shade cover

Wedding present from a friend

Return to Enigma

Love to Halo Jones

Love to Shigs Miyamoto