Monday, June 14, 2010

R.I.P. Al Willamson

Possibly my favorite adventure cartoonist of all time, Al Williamson, passed away yesterday at the age of 79. I have been a fan of Williamson's art since at least the early 80s, when he drew the Marvel Comics adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back. In the years that followed, I made a concerted effort to track down as much of WIlliamson's work as I could find - and when I got my hands on James Van Hise's book, The Art of Al Williamson, I was knocked off my feet.

I loved his detailed, lush art style, his noble-but-human heroes, his stunning women, his imaginative and utterly convincing alien worlds. He was as much a master of real-world adventure (Secret Agent Corrigan) as he was interplanetary adventure (Flash Gordon, Star Wars), and he was equally adept at atmospheric horror (Creepy), gritty Westerns and exotic jungle thrills (Jann of the Jungle).

Right next to my desk, on a bookshelf within easy reach, are nine large volumes devoted to his work: the aforementioned Art of Al Williamson, Al Williamson Hidden Lands, Al Williamson Adventures, the lovely Al Williamson's Flash Gordon collection, the hardcover edition of his Flash Gordon movie adaptation, three volumes of Classic Star Wars strips, and a Secret Agent Corrigan album from Pioneer Books.

Following so quickly on the heels of the death of his friend Frank Frazetta, I can't help but feel that a distinct era of heroic fantasy illustration has passed, and that we'll never see its like again. Oh, there are talented artists out there working in the tradition of Frazetta and Williamson, like Mark Schultz, Gary Gianni and Mike Hoffman, but it's not the same.

Rest in Peace, Al, and thanks for sharing the adventure. I miss you already.

3 comments:

Atom Kid said...

That's too bad. I really liked his artwork. I grew up with his Flash Gordon series, and I loved the horror stories that he illustrated.

Jay said...

I too am a huge fan of Al's artwork, and I've collected some of his Flash Gordon comics and books. What a bummer of a year for sci-fi art fans.

Bob Andelman said...

Learn more about legendary comics artist Al Williamson in this Mr. Media interview with his friend and artist Mark Schultz, in which he discusses the book Al Williamson’s Flash Gordon: A Lifelong Vision of the Heroic.