• Lead Poisoning: The Pencil Art Of Geof Darrow



    Lead Poisoning: The Pencil Art Of Geof Darrow
    Released by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: July 25th, 2017.
    Written by: Various
    Illustrated by: Geof Darrow
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    Anyone with even a passing interesting in comic book illustration and sequential art knows who Geof Darrow is. He’s the guy who illustrated the amazing Hard Boiled and the equally great The Big Guy And Rusty The Boy Robot, both written by Frank Miller. He’s done loads and loads of fantastic cover pieces over the years and he is the mad genius behind the Shaolin Cowboy series. He’s worked with famed French illustrator Moebius and he’s done production design work for the Wachowski’s, notably on The Matrix and Speed Racer.

    Darrow is well regarded amongst his peers in the industry and fans alike for the ridiculous amount of detail that he cram into each and every panel, and also for his fairly perverse sense of humor. Dark Horse Comics, which has basically been Darrow’s publishing ‘home’ for the last two decades, celebrates the man’s artistic legacy with the aptly titled Lead Poisoning, a 129 page hardcover collection that features scores of Darrow’s raw, uninked penciled pages alongside commentary from plenty of his fellow artists.

    Essentially a beautifully bizarre kaleidoscope of art done for comics, movies and sometimes just for his own amusement, there’s a lot to take in here. Dave Stewart provides an introduction in which he explains his own personal attachment to Darrow’s work and how after meeting at a con they became friends while bonding over donuts. Having colored Darrow’s work, Stewart is in the unique position to comment on what all the detail in the man’s work means and why it’s there in the first place.

    As we star flipping through the book itself (or in this case scrolling through a PDF – it’s really not the same though…), we get page after page of mind-blowing art. A lizard carrying a giant city on its back with a comment from Chuck Palahniuk. An insane shoot out taking place on the balcony of a crowded apartment building, complete with political commentary from the artist himself circa 2012. A barrage of bumper cars, rhinos and station wagons crashing off of a building. Crazed robots and what Dave Stewart calls an ‘in the meet cute between Geof and Tiki.’ Tiki is a cat, the drawing, a two page deal, shows a strange half woman/half cat creature stalking a weird baby with a sentient lizard living in its navel. It takes a fucked up imagination to come up with this stuff, but we should all be thankful that Darrow does.

    Richard Corben offers his two cents on Darrow’s abilities, Steve Purcell makes some notes about a picture of an alien flying in his U.F.O. and Stewart chimes in again on an image of a dinosaur horde walking up to a pair of cowboys. Others that chime in? John Arcudi and Sergio Aragones on a few fantastic Spaghetti Western pieces with Lee Van Cleef and Tomas Milian, Stan Sakai on a Usagi Yojimbo piece (of course – and this is a very touching piece), Mike Richardson on a Kirk Douglas inspired illustration, Steve Skroce on Darrow’s universe, Mike Mignola on a Kirby inspired illustration of Mangog, David Mack on Darrow’s artistic compulsions and more from Skroce on the impact Hard Boiled had on him when he first saw it (join the club!), appropriately calling it the ‘Where’s Waldo of Brutality.’

    Mignola shows up again to comment on Darrow’s ability to combine machines and monsters like no one else, Corben again on a strange and perverse tribute to Moebius’ Arzach and Arcudi on the joys of looking at an illustration of an ape riding a giant humanoid skeleton steam-powered robot. Mack makes a return appearance to talk about how Darrow’s art and represent conflicting sides of his own personality, Skroce again on the artist’s obsession with dicks and dogs shitting, and Pahalniuk with more odd stream of consciousness thoughts on various pieces. Teresa Gresham notes what it’s like to deal with Darrow over the phone, Aragones on Darrow’s ‘research’ process, Katsuya Terada on the ‘fun’ that there is in enjoying Darrow’s details, Steve Purcell on the ‘promise of the nipple’ and Duncan Fegredo on artists’ attempts to suppress things. Joss Whedon provides a poem to give context to a piece that shows a distraught inner city and then Skroce again on how Darrow’s Shaolin Cowboy is an alternate reality version of Geof himself. Yoshihiro Watanabe notes the delicate precision of Darrow’s ‘obnoxious ideas’ and Isabelle Giraud discusses meeting Darrow in Paris and how kind and charming he was, while Michael Arias talks about the cinematic qualities of Darrow’s art. Masao Maruyama’s quote describes Darrow appropriately enough as a loveable madman (if you’ve ever met him you’ll know that he really is a genuinely nice guy… and by looking at his art you can safely surmise that he is possibly quite insane). Last but not least, Brian Michael Bendis closes the commentary out with a piece that notes how devastating it was to discover Darrow after just finishing art school and then how much heart goes into work like this while Whedon provides another abstract poem over some recent pieces Darrow has done that show a certain President Of The United States depicted as a mechanized diaper clad infant engaged in combat with a double edged chainsaw wielding Shaolin Cowboy. Appropriately enough, the last piece also features some dicks – but sadly, no dogs taking a shit.

    The commentary is great. It humanizes the artist with fun anecdotes and it contextualizes the art with insight into what makes the different pieces as interesting as they are. The real reason to check this out, however, is the chance to see Darrow’s art in its most primal form. We can see here where he’s erased things, where he’s added and subtracted bits and pieces, and it makes his process all that much more fascinating to behold. There are simpler pieces, like some motorcycle designs for Akira, and there are far, far more complex illustrations here like the Hard Boiled pages and some of Big Guy and Rusty The Boy Robot’s pages. Sex, violence, extreme gore, political commentary, monsters, robots, scary babies, apes, machines, armored wiener dogs, fish and various bizarre creations that combine all of the above live in Darrow’s imagination and spill out onto the page alongside Madman, Godzilla, The Rocketeer, Hellboy, Little Nemo and someone who Sergio Aragones observes looks suspiciously like Clint Eastwood (who, it’s noted, would make a great sidekick for the Shaolin Cowboy).

    “There is no one, not a person, that puts more time, thought, and care into his or her art than Geof Darrow. His meticulous approach to his craft is unmatched.” – Mike Richardson

    Amen.