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CSBG Archive

Chris Bachalo’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 Chris Bachalo!

Enjoy!

Chris Bachalo is one of the most popular artists in comics today. After having great success drawing Shade the Changing Man for DC Comics, he followed that up with two highly-acclaimed Death mini-series with Neil Gaiman before moving to Marvel Comics, where he co-created Generation X. Since Generation X, Bachalo has done a number of high profile work for Marvel, primarily working with the X-Men group of titles (he’s had, like, three separate stints as a regular artist on X-Men and Uncanny X-Men).

Shade the Changing Man was Bachalo’s first regular assignment in comics. Here’s a few pages from the first issue in 1990…

While Shade was Bachalo’s first regular assignment, his first published work came about seven months earlier, with a fill-in issue of Sandman (#12)…

Boy, talk about hitting the ground running! Bachalo was great right from the word “go.”

30 Comments

I miss his Shade stuff. To be honest, his style change after his Marvel transition has never been as much to my liking compared to his early DC stuff.

Jonathan Carpenter

March 16, 2011 at 6:39 am

Wow, this stuff is almost completely unrecognizable compared to his current stuff. I for one love his current stuff no matter how unreadable it sometimes may be. He just has this awesome sense of style that wows me every time I see new pages from him.

I dunno. I mean, stylistic as his current stuff may be, I feel the lack of clarity (especially in the action scenes) can be a bit of a problem. His old art style was clear as rain. Even back during his Shade days, he was drawing some jaw-dropping stuff. It’s probably a little too intense to post here, but issue #2 has one of the most intense, stomach-turning openings I’ve ever seen and Bachalo just nails it. I’d go into details, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, especially since a lot of people probably haven’t read Shade: The Changing Man yet.

I dunno. I mean, stylistic as his current stuff may be, I feel the lack of clarity (especially in the action scenes) can be a bit of a problem. His old art style was clear as rain.

Was his old stuff clearer because he had better storytelling sensibilities back then, or was it clearer because he had to draw significantly less action scenes for Vertigo books?

Wasn’t he involved with Ghost Rider 2099 before Generation X ?!

Anonymous, only the first issue and a half or so before Peter Gross came in.

Quite an interesting book as it showed his evolution between Vertigo and Generation X, which of course, continued quite heavily through the rest of his Gen-X run.

Let me rephrase my question for clarity: What I’m asking is, was Bachalo actually better at drawing action scenes with clarity back when he was at DC, or was he always weak at drawing action scenes with clarity but it just didn’t show because no one assigned him action scenes at DC back then, so his weakness at them remained hidden?

I don’t know about action scenes, but in the The Witching Hour (I think it was called) mini that he did with Jeph Loeb for Vertigo he was in his poor storytelling mode and as far as I can remember there wasn’t much action in that.

Also, though it was distinctly un-special, I never had a problem with the storytelling in the Ultimate War mini he did with Mark Millar which was an action story.

Add me to the list of people who thought his work was beautiful in Shade the Changing Man and he’s lost it since.

Is that Krang?

i’d love to see Bachalo do another creator-owned story

Bachalo’s style has changed a lot, but I love both styles. Except for the occasional slip-up today. X-Men #188 was a confusing mess, and sadly my first Bachalo experience, but I’ve loved everything else I’ve seen him do.

It’s funny, to the best of my knowedge I’d never heard of this guy (probably because I don’t read the X-titles) , but I certainly have both comics shown here.

I loved Bachalo’s work on the “Death” minis, but soon after, it became far too cluttered for my tastes. I enjoyed the “Generation X” series for a bit, and “Steampunk” as well, but his art became too difficult to enjoy at ‘story’s pace’. His work IMHO would best suited to oversized very busy pin-ups and/or posters. I feel the same way about much of Geof Darrow’s work – amazing attention to detail both, but better as a “Where’s Waldo?”-type scrutiny than as visual narrative.

Let me rephrase my question for clarity: What I’m asking is, was Bachalo actually better at drawing action scenes with clarity back when he was at DC, or was he always weak at drawing action scenes with clarity but it just didn’t show because no one assigned him action scenes at DC back then, so his weakness at them remained hidden?

I would say that it the later. Chris Bachalo was working at Vertigo and got assignments that required him to create a mood. That is his strength.

Honestly, Bachalo leaving Vertigo for Marvel is one of the under-rated moments in comic history. In the mid-’90s, Karen Berger was presiding over an extremely cool slate of titles under that fledgling imprint. It seemed as though it could become its own, self-perpetuating entity. The problem was that Berger could not keep her talent long-term.

Bachalo was the first home-grown Vertigo artist that seemed capable of becoming a star and he bolted at the first opportunity for the chance to draw Wolverine. If Bachalo had never drawn a single issue of the X-Men, then Marvel would have just hired Joe Madureira (or whoever) and the mutant train would’ve kept chugging along. Bachalo leaving SHADE was a major event. It reinforced the perception that creator-driven comics (even those published by one of the Big Two using one of their copyrights) were not an end in themselves, but a stepping stone to editorially-driven comics. More than anything, that perception is why the direct market resists the new.

I mean, why get attached something like Milligan & Bachalo’s SHADE, when you know that it is going to get tossed aside when one of the creators gets a chance to be the hundredth creator to take dictation from an editor on what Spider-Man (not that Batman would be any better) is going to do this month? More than nostalgia, isn’t that why the sales charts are dominated by concepts from the Silver Age (aka the era of Work-for-Hire)?

The Bachalo Shade #1 totally blew my mind when it came out. Funny I never seen his contemporary work.

Tom Fitzpatrick

March 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Loved both art from old and current Bachalo!

Pete Woodhouse

March 16, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Remember buying the Shade, was good stuff. I think Buckingham became involved a little later. Shade, Doom Patrol, Animal Man, Grant/Breyfogle on Batman (Aparo also), those Golden Detective covers, mmmmmm. I’ll take off those warm rose tinted specs and shut up now.

Wow, THOSE were his first published works? Holy crap, he WAS awesome right out of the gate. Man o man.

Dean, as usual, makes a fascinating point about Bachalo leaving Shade for Wolverine, and how it’s probably more of a watershed moment in comics than one would think. When was that, ’94, ’95? That’s about the time the whole speculator market started to crash and burn, and took down alternatives like self published stuff and smaller companies, so Wolverine would’ve been a safe harbor.

There’s also the element that DC treated their artists as interchangeable and easily replaceable, so there’s that element as well.

How did he go from great stuff like this to absolutely hideous artwork like the recent Spider-Man issues he did?

I haven’t seen a lot of Bachalo’s work. I’ve read several issues of Generation X, in which his art ranged from great to awful, often in the same issue. And some X-Men stuff from here and there in different periods, which also varied from good to horrible, with the most recent X-Men that I’ve seen being as bad as his Spider-Man.

But this stuff that you show here is by far the best work that I’ve ever seen from Bachalo.

Dean is right. Except he is probably the only case of a high profile “alternative” comic book artist who left for very mainstream work and never looked back (I mean, Bachalo never got back to do more mature material). Do anyone remember a similar case?
I mean, for every Punisher tackled by Steve Dillon, he still works on other “Vertigo”-style books every now and then. And Dillon’s Punisher wasn’t exactly X-Men.

Whoa! Had these not been tagged as Bachalo pages, I would have sworn they were Steve Bissette’s.

He sure had a great start. And then he just ran off into the wilderness and started drawing like a blind person.

Bachalo is one of the best, flaws and all.

funkygreenjerusalem

March 16, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Bachalo leaving SHADE was a major event. It reinforced the perception that creator-driven comics (even those published by one of the Big Two using one of their copyrights) were not an end in themselves, but a stepping stone to editorially-driven comics. More than anything, that perception is why the direct market resists the new.

He probably made a fair bit more scratch by doing that – can’t blame him for wanting to do that – also, as he didn’t own Shade, and presumably Milligan was more of a driving force on the book, I’m not seeing where he went wrong.
Hell, that’s how I found out about his work – when he launched Generation X, and more importantly, when he started doing Generation Next (which is when his art style morphed).

Also, since Shade, whenever he’s gone back to Vertigo – with the exception of Sandman related properties – he hasn’t done as well (The Witching Hour), same as when he tried his first creator owned book, Steampunk.
Seems to me, the market has taught him to stick to superheros.

Great artist then. Great artist now.

Getting your first job doing an issue of Sandman? Talk about starting at the top!

He probably made a fair bit more scratch by doing that – can’t blame him for wanting to do that – also, as he didn’t own Shade, and presumably Milligan was more of a driving force on the book, I’m not seeing where he went wrong.

I am not faulting Bachalo for his decision. Most people will take more money and/or job security. I am sure that Marvel has always paid a lot more than Vertigo and working with multiple publishers is almost certainly the smartest career move for a freelancer.

However, it was a moment at which comics stopped going in one direction and started going in another.

In the late 80s and early 90s, it seemed as though Vertigo and its predecessors were doing what Marvel had done in the ’60s and evolving into new model for making comics. Warrior (e.g. V FOR VENDETTA) and the Kubert school begat SWAMP THING. SWAMP THING, in turn, begat ANIMAL MAN, DOOM PATROL and HELLBLAZER. Those titles begat SANDMAN, THE INVISIBLES and SHADE. Bachalo was both highly influenced by Steve Bissette, but slicker.

Well, Vertigo never really made The Leap. It still produces a high-quality title every few years, but they never really found “The Vertigo Way”. Now, all the proto-Vertigo characters are in the DCU and their editors seem to have less autonomy. I like having it around, but it never lived up to its fullest potential. Bacalo leaving was the first indication of things heading in that direction.

The launch of GENERATION X was the fourth (or maybe fifth) spin-off of the X-Men. It was one more confirmation that these corporate owned franchises were expected to yield an unending stream of derivative properties. The New had become the “New”.

Andy Taylor, I definitely see the Bissette connection, but I’d say he’s “doing a Sam Keith”, especially on those Sandman pages.

Fireball XTC, yeah, I’ll go along with that. Bachalo says his greatest influence is Michael Golden, but I don’t really see it in these pages. Maybe in some of the faces.

funkygreenjerusalem

March 20, 2011 at 4:03 pm

The launch of GENERATION X was the fourth (or maybe fifth) spin-off of the X-Men. It was one more confirmation that these corporate owned franchises were expected to yield an unending stream of derivative properties. The New had become the “New”.

Which makes it kind of interesting that the books fortunes seemed to start falling the moment the original creative team left.
I walked not long after Bachalo left, and without knowing numbers, the book sure seemed desperate to get attention, with an ever changing roster of writers, once Lobdell left as well.

I was at a convention recently where the subject of Bachelo’s Steampunk book came up and somebody insisted to me that it had a discernable plot. I’ll bet.

Look at those pages. They are a completely different style. He’s changed a lot over the years. I was just looking through his Ultimate War series and I can see how people might be upset with the way he draws. But it definently has its appeal.

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