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CSBG Archive

Alex Maleev’s Back Pages

Every day this month I will share with you the first (at least as far as I know) U.S. professional work by a notable comic book creator. Here is an archive of the creators who have been featured so far.

Today’s featured creator is Alex Maleev!


Alex Maleev is best known today for his collaborations with writer Brian Michael Bendis. They had an extended run on Daredevil, are currently working on the creator-owned series Scarlett and will soon be doing a new Moon Knight ongoing series.

Here are some sample pages from Scarlett, to see what his work looks like nowadays…

Maleev first made a name for himself as a very young man in his native Bulgaria, specifically a series of great stories for the Bulgarian comic magazine, Riko.

In 1995, when he was roughly 24 years old, Maleev got his first professional work in the United States, drawing a mini-series for Acclaim Comics (originally known as Valiant Comics) for their licensed Magic the Gathering comic, specifically Fallen Empires on the World of Magic: The Gathering (a two-issue mini-series).

Here are some sample pages from the comic (which was inked by Rodney Ramos, as opposed to most of Maleev’s work, which he inks himself)…

About a year later, he worked on a Crow mini-series, The Crow: Flesh and Blood, for Kitchen Sink Comix. Here are a few pages from that comic…


I have to say I am not a fan of the photo-realistic comic art that a lot of artists seem to be employing these days (ie: Shane Davis). I suppose it’s a bit like animated films “Rotoscoping” technique, but it just seems a bit like, well, cheating.

Those Magic pages would look great, but that colouring burns the eyes… more “Neal Adams” than I expected

the Acclaim/Valiant coloring was all like that towards the end.

Man, it’s hard to judge that early Maleev work objectively with that garish coloring. I’m having trouble mentally separating the coloring from the artwork.

My eyes knew right away these were Valiant pages.

Great column! Make it permanent if possible. The earlier pages are good, I wonder what he’d be doing without the heavy photo referencing.

Taylor Porter

March 3, 2011 at 4:06 pm

I agree that the colouring and lettering is hideous. I think that those two things were something that helped keep me from getting too into Valiant. It was probably kind of subconscious, because I was pretty young. But they had some decent and some great artists, but the house-style for colouring and lettering was pretty garish, especially to someone raised on Marvel.

The art in these pages is pretty interesting, though. Completely different from what we expect of Maleev, but not bad at all.

Tom Fitzpatrick

March 3, 2011 at 5:25 pm

It’s too bad you didn’t show some pages of Maleev’s work on one of The CROW mini-series. If memory serves me right, that series was in black and white, and was tons better than the Fallen Empire, and was closer to his current style of art.

I really don’t like the photo-realistic trend that so many comics have nowadays, so even with the garish coloring I like his early stuff better. It might not be great, but I prefer it over the “taking a bunch of photos of people and then tracing over them” look.

I’ll take ANY legitimate art effort over digital photo tracing any day. We can all trace photos. A real artist can envision his own reality and convey it on paper without a Easypix camera and an inket printer.

I enjoyed that work in the crow a lot. I remember buying extras just to show people. Didn’t know about the acclaim work and happy to have missed it. This is a good daily feature. I love seeing peoples progression.

I like is art then as well as now.

Those colours, however… hoo-boy.

Yeah, his stuff on The Crow was great. Much much better than J O’Barr’s.

Why does everyone keep spelling Scarlet with two t’s?

Travis Pelkie

March 5, 2011 at 8:41 am

Man, I remember hearing his name for one of those Magic series. And I have that Crow mini somewhere. I think the last name “Maleev” is unique enough to be memorable, so that later on seeing it, I’d go, oh yeah, that Crow mini guy.

Too bad the Crow minis were terrible stories…

And as to the “anybody can trace photos” bit…go right ahead, guys. Try it, and see how well it turns out. Jeez.

Alex is the man he does not trace, I went to the Joe kubert school with him back in 94, and he rocked. the stuff he did at school was better than what the teacher were doing. I do think his stuff is to photo realistic but from what i remember he does use a lot of reference photo’s but that was back in 94. Everyone at school knew he was good and before the end of our freshmen year he was working in comics, he didn’t need the Kubert school. He was a fun guy the little i got to know him.

Too bad the Crow minis were terrible stories…

I liked the John Wagner one. It was far better than the original Crow miniseries.

Well, it has been ages since I’ve read those Crow minis, so I may have been influenced to like the original and dislike the “sequels”, so I may have to reread these. Wagner is a good writer, so it can’t be that bad.

And I was probably influenced by the fact that I really disliked the original Crow miniseries.

You guys realize ONLY in comics is “photo referencing” scrutinized, right? In every other commercial visual medium, artists use reference. Fine art too. You don’t think da Vinci made up “Mona Lisa” to “envision his own reality,” right?

Bear in mind, I’m not a fan when those models are out of place in the story and don’t flow (see: Greg Land). But people like Alex Ross and Maleev make it work. Most of the time. I will say his “off-model” Nick Fury never sat well with me, but still …

“You guys realize ONLY in comics is ‘photo referencing’ scrutinized, right?”

I don’t think what people are scrutinizing is photo referencing so much as copying/tracing. I don’t know of any artist who doesn’t photo reference. And unless I’m way off, what I consider photo-referencing is what *I* do: If I’m trying to draw, say, a certain pose and I can’t quite visualize it, I’ll pose or I’ll have a model pose, have a photo snapped of that pose, then look at the pose and reproduce it free hand onto whatever medium I’m using. Or If I’m trying to draw a specific tree or something, then I’ll snap a photo of a tree and then draw it using that photo as a guide.

Which is different than what guys like Greg Land do: Google a photo of Sandra Bullock, photoshop or trace it, then drop it into a panel. And then continue using that same pose in every book he “draws”. I’m not quite sure how that can be considered photo referencing; to me, that’s just tracing at best and plagiarism at worst, since he’s using a copyrighted photo that someone else took, not giving credit whatsoever to that photographer, and then passing it off as his own work.

The fair thing would be to have guys like Land thank everyone who he ripped off, but if he did, we would probably have something that would look like the thank-you list on a record album and would probably be as long as the comic book itself. So instead we get Joe Quesada and Marvel looking the other way and putting him on books that he has no business being on.

@George: That was my point EXACTLY. Problem is, most non-artist comic fans can’t really distinguish between what Greg Land does and what Tim Bradstreet does.

It also never ceases to amaze me how many comic book fans just shrug off what Greg Land does and chalk it up to “it looks good and it sells, so what’s the big deal”? The big deal is that someone spent time and effort to set up, light the subject, pose the subject, photograph the subject, and then copyright his or her work. Then this schmuck, who CAN draw if he puts his mind to it, decided to take the easy way out and just photoshop and trace celebrities and porn stars and call it “art”. Land has taken the art of plagiarism to a whole new level, and his bosses, instead of calling him out on it, decided to look the other way, patted him on the back and wrote him huge checks so he could continue doing it.

I’m sure everyone who thinks Greg Land is doing nothing wrong would change their tune REAL quick if THEY created and copyrighted something, had some guy come along who, because of sheer laziness, decided to appropriate it for himself, then made tons of money off of it without acknowledging or crediting the original. When it happens to you, it’s not so harmless after all.

Keep in mind that when Maleev did those Crow pages, it was before the internet was a big deal. I loved those Crow comics, back in the day. Tracing is a problem, yes, but that’s always been the difference between good artists and hacks. If you want to get nit-picky, there were Renaissance painters that used the camera obscura http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camera_obscura was use to trace. So yeah, using life models and photo references is a valid technique, but there have always been hacks.

There’s a real difference between someone like Land, or David Mack – Who had that big old controversy about one of his New Avengers issues just before Secret Invasion, and people like Alex Maleev or Tony Harris. People like Tony Harris and Alex Maleev actively work with their own models and people they know to generate the correct poses and appearances for their pages and characters. They take their own photographs and work on top of those – It’s not like they pluck these images from the internet or from older comic books and trace over those, they actually put the work in all the way.

Maleev is words beyond Land, and it’s insulting to compare the two. If he does trace, so what? He does it from HIS OWN SOURCE. Nothing like Land.

I thought Maleev went to the Kubert School for a while? I heard a teachers had said he was one of their most talented students. I think it was Maleev atleast. Anyways …back ground in schooling is always interesting to hear and also important when looking at someones beginnings, interest, commitment level ext ext.

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