Suspended Animation - January 12, 2000

Out For Blood - Comics Legend Jack Davis

Out For Blood

    The best writing and art rises above the conventions of its genre.

    Prepare yourself for a leg up.

    Out For Blood is about a tough-as-nails cop who fights vampires, and the conventions or clichés of the tough cop story and the vampire genre are certainly everywhere. Policemen in trench coats. A victimized, beautiful woman. Bats and blood.

    But this new comic book mini-series is much better than its premise, and bigger than its clichés. Out... is intense, gripping storytelling.

    One way it "rises above" or improves on genre conventions is through the mastery of technique.

    In a field cluttered with artists who fake anatomy, perspective, proportion, and the techniques of representational art, artist Gary Erskine flies above the maddening crowd. Except for several minor problems in the panel-to-panel story flow in the second issue, his visual storytelling is flawless, his style is distinctive, and his staging is excellent. Especially appreciated is his subdued approach to graphic violence.

    In an art form cluttered with editors and artists who think art is more important than words, writers Michael Part and Steven Grant understand the real strength of comic bodes -- a flawless marriage of art and words in which one compensates for the weaknesses of the other.

    Their dialog is believable and crisp and thankfully mostly free of profanity. Their characters are also well delineated for the limited space available in comic books, and also believable.

    Art alone simply cannot tell complicated stories, express complex ideas, or develop characters rich in detail.

    Words alone simply lack the visceral, immediate impact of art and the ability to convey tons of information in a single image.

    Out For Blood is art for story's sake, and story for art's sake, and a fun read for fans of both the detective and suspense genres.

    It ain't Shakespeare, but it ain't Police Academy either, and Out... is recommended for mature readers.

    Review by Michael Vance

Comics Legend Jack Davis

    Jack Davis is the most successful and among the most prolific comic book artists in history.

    Born in 1926, his art first won recognition from fans and the admiration or two of the most important editors at the now legendary EC Comics in the 1950s. His limber, gawky characters, all exaggerated arms and legs, were equally at home in a American Civil War story or a Gothic nightmare of vampires, werewolves and homicidal maniacs. His ability to accurately caricature anyone added to his popularity. But it was Harvey Kurtzman, editor of EC's war titles and the creator of Mad magazine, who would discover Davis' real forte.

    Davis is best known for his extensive work in Mad (EC, 1952- present; Ballantine paperback reprints). The artist's humor work also appeared in Trump (Playboy, 1957), Humbug (Humbug Pub., 1957-'58), Help (Warren, 1961-'62; also two Fawcett paperback collections), and Sick (various publishers, 1960-'80).

    Davis's comic book work includes stories in most of the EC comic books of the 1950s: Shock Suspenstories (issues 1-5), Vault of Horror (issues 17-38), Tales from the Crypt (issues 24-46; covers 29-46), Two-Fisted Tales (issues 20-36, 40; covers 29-46), Crime Suspenstories (issues 4, 5, 7, 9-12, 20), Frontline Combat (all), Haunt of Fear (issues 4-26, 28), and Picto-fiction titles (1955). His work also appeared in Rawhide Kid and western and war stories (Marvel, 1960s), Yak Yak (Western, 1962-'63), Creepy, Eerie (Warren, 1964-'65).

    Davis also produced movie advertisements and posters, book illustrations, RCA record jackets and magazine cartoons; inks on The Saint comic strip (c 1950s); art on Little Annie Fanny (Playboy, 1965-'66); Beauregard comic strip (early 1960s); Topps gum cards; art for Sesame Street tv show; ads for Life, TV Guide; Superfan for Quarterback and Pro-Quarterback.

    Jack Davis is a master cartoonist and illustrator whose art deserves the highest praise.

    - Michael Vance