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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #213

So it turns out that Jog (of Jog: The Blog and the new Savage Critic) and I share the same birthday. That makes me cool by association. It’s also neat that we share our birthday with J.K. Rowling, and hence, Harry Potter. And that’s almost as neat as sharing it with Dean Cain. Hahah. Thanks for all the well-wishes, gang. I will now re-gift this archive link to you. Cheers.

Bill Week continues now with a look at a scarily talented comics artist with a mildly unwieldy last name.

8/1/07

213. Bill Sienkiewicz

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Sienkiewicz. Sienkiewicz Sienkiewicz Sienkiewicz. Sin-kev’-itch. I’ve become acclimated to the name, and only performed two typos there, mostly because my fingers and my brain aren’t always on the best of terms. It’s a cool name, often misspelled and mispronounced.

Mr. Sienkiewicz is a Pennsylvania boy, like myself! Practically born around the corner. Of course, we rural Sylvanians know that around the corner means mile and miles away, but whatever.

Mr. Sienkiewicz is also an artist. He happens to work in comics quite often. Originally, his work in comics was the regular pencil-and-ink stuff, and it was very good. His big break was on Burgas favorite Moon Knight, in which he began to experiment with the comics page, to see what sequential art was capable of. His next major run was on New Mutants, in which he went crazy (in the best way possible) on the covers while reining things in a bit on the interiors.

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Sienkiewicz loves bringing a sense of expressionism and the abstract to comics, and he utilizes every artistic method possible, changing his style with each work– and sometimes within each work. He can use pencil and ink as well as he can use oil paints. He’ll slice the page up if it makes it look good. He’s a true multimedia artist, capable of seemingly anything. He’s really damn innovative.

His masterwork is probably Elektra: Assassin, which Mr. Greg Burgas wrote a Comics You Should Own column about. I’ll defer to Greg, because he’s awesome. More cool Bill Sienkiewicz art at that link. And even more cool art at this link, which will take you to a gallery of Elektra Assassin images. Tally ho!

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Bill Sienkiewicz is also known for his fascinating work on the unfinished opus Big Numbers, with Alan Moore. It’s a shame it will never see completion, because it might’ve turned into one of the best comics ever made. Dang.

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I’ve got to at least mention his notable work on the Shadow, as well as his other other masterpiece, the award-winning Stray Toasters, which he wrote and drew. I’ve never read it, though. Yes. I am a bad comics fan.

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His most prominent comics work is as a cover artist. He’s drawn and painted and composed glorious, mind-fracturing covers on an uncanny variety of series, from Batman to ROM to Dazzler to ALF. Yes, ALF. And it was awesome.

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Bill’s also a fantastic inker/finisher, elevating other artists’ pencils to new levels of greatness.

Yep, and he doesn’t just work in comics– he works in music and design and storyboards and loads of other artistic media. For instance, check out this great art that came with the Venture Bros. DVD:

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Who am I to speak for Bill Sienkiewicz’s art? After all, the art can speak for itself. And if it can’t, Bill can speak for it, like in this fascinating CBR interview from several years back. It’s great reading.

Enjoy the art I’ve provided, and seek out more for yourself. Bill Sienkiewicz is a comics treasure– supremely talented and relentlessly expressive. You can find his under-construction website here, and the previous incarnation of said site here.

22 Comments

It wasn’t just that his early work in comics was pencil and ink, it was that he was nearly a clone of Neal Adams, more so than Steranko in his early years was a clone of Kirby. I’ve always wanted to hear the story of how he made that evolution, because clearly it was quite a leap!

Initially Bill was sometimes referred to as either the ‘More Accessible Neal Adams’ or the ‘Less Expensive Neal Adams’. But eve during hia start he just rocked better than Neal ever did.

DEMON BEAR, baby!

Damn… I’d really like to see Big Numbers finished. Too bad that’s never ever going to happen or so says Alan Moore.

Voodoo Child: The Illustrated Legend of Jimi Hendrix is also great.

Ooo, pretty pictures! Liking Bill week a lot so far…oh, and by the way, belated happies yourself.

Tom Fitzpatrick

August 1, 2007 at 8:48 pm

Maybe we can get a petition going to pressure Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz to complete BIG NUMBERS. (or at least find a new artist like Ben Templesmith or Ashley Wood)

Never will happen though, so yeah, it’s too bad.

Mr. Reed,

I cannot believe you’ve never read Stray Toasters!
Better get the tradepaperback or do some back issues hunting.

Either try e-bay or http://www.dougcomicworld.com/

Complete your set!

Sienkiewicz. Quite possibly my favorite Bill of all time, barring Bill Murray and maybe the Bill of Rights. Great post.

Tom,it isn’t Alan Moore who held up Big Numbers. He even tried to finish it with Bill’s assistant. It just wasn’t meant to be.

Sienkiewicz’s cover to the original paperback of Elektra:Asssasin remains one of the best covers I’ve seen simply because it somehow captures the tone of the book perfectly, and that’s not an easy task.

When I was younger I read some of Bill S’s (I know I’ll spell it wrong !) New Mutants (that issue 19 pictured above was the 1st of his I read) and couldn’t stand the artwork because it was hard to work out what was going on (b1973 so I was 9 or 10 at the time !!!).

Now I look at it, think it’s fabulous and have a complete NM run of his in the loft.

*IF* Marvel continue releasing New Mutants Classic next year the next volume (3) should start collecting his issues.

I would totally put some of this guy’s interiors, framed, on my wall. Not even mentioning the covers! I’ll have to track down this Elektra: Assassin thing, just for more of that artwork. It’s beautiful.
Inspirational stuff.

Voodoo Child: The Illustrated Legend of Jimi Hendrix is also great.

I never heard of it until now, seems extremely promising. Is it still available? And who published it?

Tom Fitzpatrick

August 2, 2007 at 5:27 am

Way I heard it, Mr. Sienkiewicz (who’s not only a legend, but a genius in art) had problems conforming to Mr. Moore’s (who’s not only a legend, but a genius in storytelling) meticulous and demanding script.

Apparently, Mr. Moore is very detailed in his scripting and is equally so on the artist(s).

Sometimes when you put two geniuses (and legends) together, well, it’s probably like water and oil, or cats and dogs. They don’t always get along.

“Why can’t we all get along?” ;-)

Ha. Never knew Sienkiewicz did an ALF cover.

Oh, and how appropriate is ALF reading a comic called Stray Toasters?

I managed to get my hands on a trade of Stray Toasters at a used book store and pick up a copy of issue #2 of the series itself in a giveaway bin at a con earlier this year. It’s really a fantastic series, and I’m always surprised that more people don’t know about it.

As I said in the comments on SDCC a few days ago, I’ll usually buy almost anything as long as it has Sienkiewicz on interior art. He’s one of the few cases for me where the art will totally override any merit or lack thereof in the writing.

That’s a honking HUGE bear on the New Mutants cover!

When I was a kid Sienkiewicz’s work freaked me out… which is why I liked it. His covers for Rom Spaceknight really made the issues eerie & atmospheric, and they were appropriate for a series whose villians were brain-eating black-magic-practicing shape-changing alien invaders.

Anyone here seen his recent work on Black Widow? Lovely stuff. Bill S has definitely still got it.

Oh man, I loved the Richard K. Morgan/Sienkiewicz Black Widow run, even if Sienkiewicz was doing finishes over other artist’s layouts for 11 of the 12 issues. It sucks that we never got to see the face-off between Black Widow and Elektra that Morgan had planned for the third volume.

Personally, I preferred Sienkiewicz working with Goran Parlov’s layouts on Volume 1 to Sean Phillips on Volume 2.

I’d buy a trade of all the completed art on ‘Big Numbers’, plus the scripts for the rest of the series. Anyone else?

I’m a huge fan of Sienkiewicz. I’ve always thought the comparison of his early work with Adams was slightly unfair: many, many artists were influenced by Adams, and you could always see the unique Sienkiewicz style even in his earlier work, particularly the fluid but thin line. I think the departure happened the more he inked his own work.

Doing the art on New Mutants may well be one of the biggest risks Marvel has ever taken. Art on X-books was kind of like a bank in the ’80s: safe and good value. Getting Sienkiewicz at that time was a huge departure from the Bob McLeod style that had permeated the run previously. I was astounded they did it. It’s a complete 90-degree turn on the house style of a title– like getting Tim Burton to start directing Law & Order.

He also did the artwork for one of my favourite Bruce Cockburn albums, The Charity of Night (and it’s superb)

Bill Sienkiewicz is so FUCKINGAWESOME!

His stuff always blows me away. It hits you on such a visceral level, and yet, can be so fragile when he wants it to.

I will read anything he does, and hope to have children someday, so I can blow their little baby minds with his stuff.

For a long time, I maintained a current checklist of Sienkiewicz’s work at http://lsh.0catch.com/sienk/index.htm but in late 2000 I got lazy and stopped updating it.

In the late 90s I gave Bill a copy at San Diego and he thanked me, saying that (a) even he didn’t have a complete list of stuff he did, and (b) there were things on the list that he didn’t remember doing.

I’d love to see a Moench/Sienkiewicz reunion on Moon Knight.

I think I’m the only person I know that liked his stuff on New Mutants. At the time, I didn’t get it, but I liked it anyway. It was powerful, intense, and radically different than ANYTHING else. He’s reigned it in over the years, but he’s still awsome.

I would love for a BW reprint of Bill S’ New Mutants Run. Just to get a ‘purer’ look at his work.
Stary Toasters is a beautiful piece of work that will get its due praise someday.
Yet I feel that we have lost the Bill S who made Big Numbers forever. He’s moved on in style. Less tight, more chaotic.
But it would be great to see that series finished under a variety of artists.

I have to say, I cant stand his overly photoshopped stuff. Theres a few great ‘traditional’ comic artists who use filters in the lweakest of ways, and blow low res art up too far till you can see the pixel cracks. Bill S is one of them. It just doesnt do it for me.

I still love his BW work past and present. He’s the only artist I know that can distort anatomy so much yet still make it stunningly accurate

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