One of a series of special features during the month of March to draw attention to the crowd funding/pre order Indiegogo campaign for J.T. Dockery’s Despair Vol. 2. Click HERE for more info on how to order/contribute.
Guest Artist Spotlight. Three of Five: MARK RUDOLPH
I’ve remarked that Mark Rudolph is a 21st century Jack Davis, which might sound hyperbolic, but Rudolph has the goods when it comes to serious cartooning chops. Mark is, in fact, the “cartoonist’s cartoonist” of Despair volume 2. From a knack for caricature and the ability to make the grotesque comic, one can’t help but follow his line across the page, a line that has an unmistakable exuberance, making Rudolph one of those rare artists that I can easily and consistently pick his work as his own out of a line up at twenty paces. Which are all things I would also say about Davis.
Of course, Rudolph’s lush line is all his own, he’s no clone of Davis or any other artist, including another EC artist, Will Elder, who may be a more apt artist, in regards to line, to compare Rudolph’s own, but I can think of no other single cartoonist now who so adeptly brings the exuberance of classic EC era MAD to the page. But we’ll let this EC comparison go, as Rudolph is no nostalgia show or stuck in the strait jacket of the past. To the contrary, it’s how he brings this classic cartooning, and the aforementioned inky karate chops to pull it off, to the contemporary table that makes him unique.
Speaking of uniqueness, it’s Rudolph’s passion for metal, as in heavy metal, and the sensibilities he brings to approaching illustrating metallic subjects from illustrations for Decibel magazine to album covers to editing the tribute to Mercyful Fate book, Satan is Alive, that make his artistic voice reverberate as the premier visualist in metal of recent years, giving metal iconography a healthy shot in the arm. The only competition in his generation Mark has for”metal cartoonist laureate,” another fellow of impressive chops, Tom Neely, so it’s only natural that Rudolph’s work features in Tom’s Henry and Glenn work, and Tom contributed to Mark’s Satan is Alive.
Even at his darkest, with the humor moved to the side lines, Rudloph’s line just moves, a frivolity that’s never frivolous ; the eye can’t help but move with it. His adaptation of H.p. Lovecraft’s Dagon is one of the finest adaptations of Lovecraft to comics. He not only understands how to structure and pace Lovecraft, he does not get mired in the prose, making the literary visions of Lovecraft visual constructs. He never short changes the viewer with darkness; he just makes it’s seem fun and/or darkly humorous, a perfect example being his Smoking Corpses postcard set. Speaking to Rudolph’s dexterity, his slice of life work Closing Doors, recently reprinted by Nix, exhibits his ability to handle muted reality in comics, and he’s adept at stand alone illustration as he is the comics form.
Which brings us to his eight page contribution to Despair vol. 2, “The Cave,” a silent journey of barbarian as always the bridesmaid never the bride that takes us down, down, down to the dark place of isolation and futility; I can’t let the EC thing alone with Mark, but this story would be just as happy in Wally Wood’s old witzend as in these pages. Along with Clotfelter, Jankovic, and my own work for D2, this all fits in the travel/encounters narrative theme that seems to have arisen of its own accord in descent into Despair, if not despair, that the new volume represents. I put this thing together so I’m biased, but Rudolph alone is, as ever, worth the price of admission.