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March 1, 2011

Ink Stains 28: Abyss 1

Abyss 1

Abyss Publications, November 1970


If you like the great EC comics of the past, or the similar publications that came later, you will love Abyss!


Abyss is composed of stories that were originally intended for the short lived Skywald publication, Web of Horror. The contributor’s list is a virtual who’s who of fantasy/horror artists, including Jeff Jones, Michael Kaluta, Bruce Jones, and Berni Wrightson. Irony and dark humor are the modes of operandi here, and there really isn’t much I can supply that you won’t get from reading the stories and looking at the gorgeous art with your own eyes.

 

What you will see when you view the whole fanzine, is a story and a full-page illustration by Jeff Jones, two stories by Michael Kaluta, a very EC-like story by Bruce Jones (right down to the typed captions, modular layouts, and twist ending), and a group of nursery rhymes done as only Berni Wrightson can (as well as a dynamic and well designed cover). You will also see a fine and minimalist back cover by Kaluta (lower left), and a cheesecake pin up by Bruce Jones.

Attention was also paid to the visual sequence of the stories. The dense and zip-a-tone filled work of Bruce Jones and Wrightson are sandwiched around the spare and elegant galactic tale by Jeff Jones. Also, the serious tone of the other stories is softened by the grotesque humor in Wrightson’s “Revolting Rhymes.”

 

Though I am pretty sure all the artists involved would say their work was still in their respective formative stages, all the stories are beautifully illustrated in and exhibit the style each artist became known for.

Kaluta’s meticulous line work is especially evident in “Apprenticeship,” a story that shows the influence of illustrators of the past such as Arthur Rackham and the Robinson brothers. You would also see their (and Kaluta’s) influence on later fantasy artists, such as Charles Vess. See a few pages of this story below.

 

Jeff Jones’s incredible sense of composition, serene subject matter, and out of the ordinary gestures and body positions (including his command of the female figure) are all on display in his “Union,” seen below.

Bruce Jones’s love of lush forests, impossibly complex Wally Wood inspired machinery, busty women, and the dense vistas that zip-a-tone helped to provide are all on display in “Specimen.” I think he falls a bit short in the payoff panel, with the alien looking a bit less confidently drawn than the other elements. But before that, we are treated to a contrast of the claustrophobic atmosphere in the ship and the flirty beauty of the woman prisoner, seen below.

Finally, Berni Wrightson shows the skills that made him the best horror artist of his time in “Revolting Rhymes.” Also, his deft juxtaposition of horror and humor make what are simple juvenile rhymes take on a whole new meaning. He somehow manages to keep the story light, despite all the gruesome goings-on. You may gag at the shenanigans, but you will marvel (or in his case, DC) at his brushwork, his command of rendering fabric, and his ability to see and depict complex shadow patterns. Even back then, his art was truly something to behold.

Abyss lasted only one issue, but what an issue it was! If you liked this material, search out Web of Horror, and of course the fanzines that all these skilled draftsmen worked on…several that will be coming up soon in a further installment of Ink Stains! Please download the pdf, so you can see Michael Kaluta’s other story, “The Hunter,” as well as the complete stories from which you have only seen excerpts.

Thanks this time go out to Richard Arndt, who has a fanzine collection far better than mine, and who very graciously supplied the scans for this installment. Props to you, Rich! Thanks to him, you will also see Hot Stuf’ number one in the next installment of Ink Stains!

Editor’s Note: ComicAttack.net has been pre-nominated for an Eagle Award! Please click here to vote for us in the “Favorite Comic Book Website” category (question #27). Thank you for your continued support!

Ken Meyer Jr.
ken@comicattack.net

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14 Comments


  1. Christina

    That quality of this work leaves me speechless… It seems like this level of draftsmenship is rare these days… I think this is my favorite installment so far!



  2. Wrightson’s work is just fantastic and I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen anything from Kaluta but I love what I see here! This trip back in time is greatly appreciated sir!


  3. ken meyer jr

    Thanks for posting, guys. Christina, I agree…there are some great artists nowadays, but that was a golden time for comic illustrators for sure. Speech, you should check out Kaluta’s The Shadow, among many other great things he has done in comics.


  4. Billy

    Specimen looks fantastic to me. The others are good too, but that one really stands out in my opinion.


  5. ken meyer jr

    Interesting, Billy…I would not have picked that one to stand out to people, aside from the very EC look of it. Bruce Jones was/is a pretty darn good writer and, with the right material, is a darn good artist as well.



  6. Ken, it had a scantly clad woman in almost every panel. OF COURSE it’s gonna stand out to Billy! 🙂


  7. kenmeyerjr

    Yeah…Bruce was very good at rendering the female figure…and since he had/has such a realistic style (but didn’t necessarily shine on imaginary things like the creature in that story, for example), it leads me to believe he had some very attractive models as well!



  8. That first panel of his was the most impressive and it has a lot going on that just moves the eye all over the place. And your suggestion to pick up The Shadow for more of Kaluta’s work was pretty timely since I had just ran across an art book of his and I think Dark Horse has a colleciton of The Shadow issues from the 90s.


  9. Todd

    Lovely work. Thanks for posting this stuff. As I was “coming of age” I’d heard about these ‘zines but, alas, had no way of obtaining any of them.

    Do I really have to wait a whole month to see an issue of Hot Stuf’? I’ve been wanting to see one for decades – I don’t think can wait another 30 days!


  10. ken meyer jr

    Todd, there are a bunch of very affordable copies of various issues of Hot Stuf on ebay…in fact, I will probably get a few and do them later…and just because they are darn good. Glad you like the column and are looking forward to the next one! I remember really liking Bil Maher’s work and wondering whatever happened to him.

    Speech, The Shadow is one of Kaluta’s signature books, I think, next to Star Struck. But then, of course, he has done so much in his lifetime. And a helluva nice guy, too.


  11. Billy

    @Speech- I was mostly referring to the panel of the spaceship! 😀


  12. Richard arndt

    You should also check out Kaluta’s recent Madame Xanadu run–stunning work and Matt Wagner’s story is pretty good too. Mike also has work coming up in Rocketeer Adventures. Bruce Jones is writing the next mini-series of Solomon Kane for Dark Horse. Berni Wrightson just finished Doc Macabre (with writer Steve Niles) for IDW and Jeff Jones just had a massive retrospective of his paintings published. Mike Kaluta did a lot of little stories for Skywald, DC, Charlton, Web Of Horror and a lot of fanzine work in his early days. In fact, all of these guys did.


  13. kenmeyerjr

    Yeah, Rich…I cannot wait to somehow afford the Desperado Jones book…man.

    And boy, I had a bunch of those Skywald pubs and such, wish I still had ’em!



  14. Tahanks for the info and the sharing. some of this stuff i see for the first itme in a spanish pro magazine of the seventies, which is a clear demonstration that these guys were really good at the time. letar, they were better, of course



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