Saga of the Swamp Thing #34 (1985), page 17. Steve Bissette.
Another Wednesday, another sequence column. This time I went in on one of my favorite pages by Steve Bissette, the vastly underappreciated main artist on Alan Moore's Swamp Thing run. Bissette is a guy like Carmine Infantino or Garrett Price who I wonder how he's just a cult favorite and not a full-blown canonical figure. There was a whole wave of guys in the '80s who sort of wiggled right in there between the Apollonian psychedelia of the European Heavy Metal artists and the darker, nastier psych stuff of underground comics makers like Greg Irons or Rory Hayes. Bissette belongs to the same moment in comics history that produced Gary Panter, and while his work isn't as earth-shattering, it should still be talked about a lot more frequently than it is. Look at that page! Like I said in the column, this is the missing link between Jack Kirby and Jim Steranko's experiments in superhero psychedelia and photo-manipulation and today's Nazi Knife garde of noise-image comics artists. It's right in the gap between the Kirbyist story-serving photo-splashes and total abstraction, too -- still putting definite information across, but not really moving with any action or depicting the forward progress of anything. It's like a poem in comics, a perfect space between word and image where neither are really beholden to anything but being themselves and engaging the senses.
Speaking of the words, I didn't put this in the column since I don't think CBR needs any more Alan Moore bashing after this colossally idiotic Jason Aaron column (until he makes an actual good comic, then fuck that dude for real), but I feel like Bissette is the thing that makes a lot of those Moore Swamp Thing issues work at all. I mean they're amazing comics, but until he did Promethea Moore's verbosity never caught up with him as bad as it does on pages like this one. What kind of girl refers to her ass as her "flanks" during a sex-monologue, yo? Or ever. I talked a lot in the column about how Bissette goes "off the grid" with a lot of his Swamp Thing pages, just swirling a bunch of really high-impact images into each other and letting the captions wash over them, always pulling your eye back to the art not by plopping down another panel in the sequence, but with the (always warranted) detail and unconventional directionality of his pictures. Moore's captions don't seem over-written in the Chris Claremont way they would if Bissette composed normal gridded pages with images that tie directly into the imagery of Moore's writing. Instead they just seem like a verbal counterpoint to the focus and depth of Bissette's pictures, almost like they've been initiated by the imagery instead of the other way around. It might be Moore's best ever collaboration, and that's really saying something when the dude has worked with Dave Gibbons and Eddie Campbell and Curt Swan.
Another thing I wanted to mention but didn't since this is a SEQUENCE column and not a fine-arts visual one -- good lord, but Tatjana Wood could color a page. That blue-green-orange-yellow four-color process looks so much bolder and fresher than any more expressive full-color palette possibly could. Like a silkscreen poster or something. Look at that blue and yellow dot pattern over Bissette's black dots in the bottom center. We're in like, East Totem West territory here.
Less rambling, more clinical analysis! Go here and read the full article!