Quite often the title of a book or comic doesn’t accurately reflect the contents that are found within its pages, so it’s nice to report that TwoMorrow Publishing’s Modern Masters: Alan Davis is exactly what it says it is.
It’s great to have a book about Alan Davis who is one of my favorite Captain Britain writers and artists that covers his whole career in great depth and as the volume is sadly out of print I thought it might be nice to share its contents here.
Now as the book is mostly a detailed interview that covers so much of Davis work and career I thought it would be best to split up my review into two or more parts so I can cover as much of it as possible but not with overlong posts.
My first impressions of the book is the great eye-catching Davis cover of Captain Britain and his current Marvel project at the time the book came out KIllraven, I think it’s the petulant look on both characters faces that sells it to me, anyway onto what’s under the cover.
Davis starts the interview by talking about his very early influences and they are an eclectic mix, Dan Dare, The Beano and Dandy comics , diorama building and sculpting all occupied his time. Interestingly enough like many a comic lover Alan then discovered American comics through their black and white British reprints which I remember being all over news agents like a rash especially when Star Wars came out.
Below is a very early Davis piece entitled ” The Bar Fight, ” I’ll let him tell you about it.
” This was one of a number of complex images I was trying to create after seeing Da Vinci’s sketch for ‘ Adoration of the Kings. ‘ I had been looking at a number of classic art books to see what I could learn. ”
I mention this piece as by using it as an example it reveals Davis’ perfectionism and how he re drew this work 30-40 times until he was happy with it and how he often does this to improve his art.
Before the interview moves on we get some art pages of Davis influences and I must say one came out of nowhere and surprised me, I mean I was expecting to see Frank Bellamy and Frank Hampson but John M. Burns artist of the soft porn strip ” George and Lynne,” was an eye opener. Then I began to think that for a lot of kids exposure to art came in the form of the daily funnies in their parent’s newspapers and so I suppose if your going to learn to draw the female body you’ve got to start somewhere !
The interview moves on and talks about Davis and how he got his break in comics, he tells the story like this,
” I was queuing up to meet Paul ( Neary, head of Marvel UK,) there were art students all around with their big professional portfolios and I had a plastic bag with some drawings stuffed into it. I thought I really shouldnt be here…. I felt really ridiculous when I got out my felt tip drawings and handed them to Paul . But Paul said they were exactly what he was looking for… to cut a long story short I was eventually asked to do Captain Britain and that was it.”
Of course the rest is history so to speak as Davis joined Marvel UK and started working with little known ( at the time, ) writer Alan Moore on Captain Britain, interestingly enough Davis has this to say about his redesign of Cap’s costume which you can see below in his first Cap page.
” The lion rampant ( Cap’s first red costume, ) was a real joke in the UK because although it is a heraldic symbol it was best known as a sign to denote the quality and freshness of eggs. There were all sorts of jokes about Captain Britain being a good egg. Paul wanted a total redesign so that visually Captain Britain would be an American style super-hero, but with a British sensibility. ”
Well I think Davis nailed the design and its interesting to note that over the years and many costume designs Captain Britain has had he always ends up if not in the Davis original then something close to it, proving its iconic status.
More next week on Davis early work with Marvel, Alan Moore and more but I’ll just leave you with some rare art from the book.
Here is a great Garth promotional piece Davis drew, the effect of the different aspects of Garth as he travels through time is a striking image that catches and holds the eye. I remember reading Garth in the Daily Mirror newspaper as I was growing up and its a shame there are no real collections of this great strip.
Here in a different style to his normal crisp pencils is a Davis Night Raven piece. Night Raven was originally printed by Marvel UK and was part created by another of my favorite writer/artists the talented David Lloyd whose work I think influences Davis here.
So join me next week for part 2 of my look at Alan Davis’ career in comics taken from the excellent volume Modern Masters : Alan Davis.