Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the things that influenced me as a cartoonist. A quick perusal of the body of my work shows that I was obviously influenced by "cartoony" comic art, and indeed I was. I much preferred animation and funny animal comics to Superhero stuff. There is one exception, though.
Although I loved "funny" comics, I had a soft spot for the "Classics Illustrated" series of comics that were ubiquitous when I was a lad. Indeed many of my peers owe their passing grade in English to these easy-to-read "simplified" versions of classic literature. "Classics Illustrated" books were great! Instead of spending a week or two poring over a boring ol' book like "Moby Dick", in fifteen minutes you could get the gist of the book, with fabulous illustrations, no less. The adaptations were pretty good too. They hit all the major plot points, making it easy to turn in a passable book report, or ace a "Pop Quiz".
I, of course, loved to read, so I really didn't need to substitute "CI" for my assignments. At least, for most of them. Some times, when I was overcommited (Like if there was a Godzilla Marathon on TV), I did rely on these comic book adaptations to help me make my homework deadlines.
There was one "CI" adaptation, though, that I didn't need to read, but I'm glad I did. It was their version of H.G. Wells' classic, "The War of the Worlds"
. As a kid, this was my favorite book. I read it over and over. I loved
the idea of uninvited guests dropping by our planet and behaving badly. As a young Catholic, I also enjoyed that God turned out to be the hero of the piece, leaving germs around, in His infinite wisdom, to kill the invaders.
As I said, I loved this book, so a comic book adaptation had a LOT to live up to. It did. Not only was the script a fairly tight adaptation of the book, but the artwork was FANTASTIC! All the images of the Martians and their machines and the destruction they caused, were BRILLIANTLY
realized by artist Lou Cameron
. "TWotW", has been adapted a few times for movies and TV and such, but none of the designers working on those projects has ever realized the Martians and their technology as well as Cameron. The Fifties' futuristic aesthetic works beautifully against the Victorian setting. The design of the Martians themselves is great, too. So familiar, yet so creepy and nasty: They are here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and they are all out of bubble gum!
So, since I don't draw "realistic" science fiction comics, how was this an influence on me? I dunno. All I know is that these designs raised the bar for me in terms of what your imagination could do if you just let go and explore any possibility when you draw.
So kudos to Lou Cameron! Lou, if you are still with us, I'd LOVE
to hear from you. If not, rest well, and thanks for the memories.
After posting this, I was inspired to go back and read the original novel again. You know, the one without all the great Lou Cameron illustrations. When I did, I realized that the person who wrote the Classics Illustrated adaptation eliminated a few major plot points in their version. First, there is no mention of the Martians' black gas or red weeds. Since these weapons play a major role in the fall of London, I wonder why they were omitted. Space restrictions, maybe? The other omissions are a bit easier to understand. The Martians' use of human beings as their own personal "sippy cups", and the Narrator's murder of the Curate may have been a bit too much for a wholesome family-friendly comic.
I pity the lazy student who tried to do a book report based on this comic!
Still, it is a fantabulous adaptation, and since you can buy it on Amazon "used" for under seven cents, all of you reading this should check it out!
Also, if this post has you jonesing for more of Lou Cameron's work, go and check out my buddy Mykal's blog!