Monday, 30 June 2008

RIP Michael Turner

I just heard that legendary comic book artist Michael Turner has lost his long-running battle with cancer, passing away on June 27th. 

I know this isn't strictly Hellboy related, but I'm absolutely gutted by this news, and I imagine most comic book fans will be - so that's why I'm sharing it with you guys here.

I moved to London about a year and a half ago with only what I could carry on my back and in my hands, and with barely any money - this meant no TV and no DVD player and, as a film student, that's like chopping my limbs off. Pretty quickly I realised I needed a new entertainment outlet, something that wouldn't cost too much but would capture the imagination. I found comics not long after that. I enjoyed them all well and good, but they only started becoming something actually magical when I found a trade paper-back of the first volume of Fathom.

Now obviously I picked this up initially because I'm a sucker for unrealistically attractive illustrated women - but as I kept reading I found I fell in love with that world. I remember scoffing at the idea of a super-heroine whose super power was that she could manipulate water. I don't remember at what point I took back any criticisms, but I do know that I was in for the long haul about five pages into that book. Reading it felt like watching a movie, a very, very cool movie, and the incredibly beautiful art only made it so much easier on the eyes. Then I read the foreword by Marc Silvestri (maybe it was the afterword, I don't know - alls I know is I only read the blurb stuff after I've read the actual book), where he recounts how Turner got his start in the industry, saying he couldn't draw for shit and that it wasn't until he told him to go away and draw a building from reference that he saw any promise in him.

I was so taken by his story, and by Turner's work, that I thought 'well, why couldn't I do that?'. As a film student, the idea of illustration had simply just never occurred to me. So I start drawing Aspen, using the Fathom comics as reference.

Yeah, my first one was shit, but I felt actually very proud of it, so proud that I decided to try something bigger and better. And it continued, I drew more and more, all the while going out of my way to track down various Turner works in the comic book store and online, wherever I could. I eventually found his other creator-owned series, Soulfire:

It blends fantasy and sci-fi incredibly well, and I'd thoroughly recommend it to all the people interested in Hellboy's universe as they share a few common themes. The core series has had several spin-offs, some dealing with the more fantastical origins of that universe, some dealing with the more sci-fi future - all are very strong. Tragically, the first volume of the core series has been left incomplete for years, as Turner became critically ill and unable to finish the follow-up to his masterpiece.

After a while, I began to make my way in London and found myself able to move into a better flat and to finally get that TV and DVD player. I found I'd amassed a hefty collection of comic books in those initial 10 months or so (which were predominantly Marvel books, and most of those were predominantly Civil War related) - wanting space and a little extra cash, I auctioned them off on eBay.

All except for everything I had by Michael Turner (plus my copy of Absolute Sandman Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman, no way I'm ever gettin' rid of that).

His art inspired me, some guy who never even really appreciated art in the first place (and in fact had a negative view of the whole thing after seeing all of that Tracy Emin and Damian Hirst crap, plus going through a ridiculous relationship with a 'fine art' student now ex-girlfriend), to pick up a pencil and actually fall in love with the possibilities it provides.

It's been a while since I last picked up the pencil. I think it's time again.

Rest in peace, Michael Turner. You will be missed.

1 comment:

Alison Robin said...

My condolences. I'm not much of a comic book fan outside of Hellboy, but I've certainly heard of Michael Turner and I've read an issue or two of Soulfire before (although I never really got into it, I'm afraid.)
I'd love to see some of your artwork.