Friday, November 21, 2014

Shiny Beasts: written and illustrated by Rick Veitch with Alan Moore and S.R. Bissette (1979-1985; collected 2009)

Shiny Beasts: written and illustrated by Rick Veitch with Alan Moore and S.R. Bissette (1979-1985; collected 2009): Back in the long-lost days just before Marvel launched Epic, its own comics anthology magazine to compete with Heavy Metal, young turks like Rick Veitch and Steve Bissette were graduating from the first classes of the Joe Kubert School for Comics Art and entering the American comic-book industry. Veitch brings together his early-career short pieces done for Heavy Metal and Epic here, and they're a dazzling bunch for such a young writer and artist.

Veitch's interests have always tended towards science fiction and satire, and this book offers a heady dose of both. However, the mostly eponymous story, "Shiny Beast", points more towards Veitch's 21st-century graphic novel Can't Get No, with its reliance on pictures to carry the narrative.

Veitch would get better, and quickly, but there's a real charge to watching him play around with various illustrative techniques. His cosmic spacescapes dazzle in a couple of stories, making me wish someone had commissioned him to do a fully painted and airbrushed New Gods story. Blackly humourous twist endings abound, a legacy of both Veitch's work with editor Robert Kanigher at DC and of the long history of twist endings in short comic-book horror pieces, going back to EC Comics.

A generous afterword offers insight about Veitch's grwoth as an artist, his influences and mentors, and his collaborators. Several of those early Kubert School graduates were a close-knit bunch, sometimes living together to be able to afford the rent, and so a lot of work contains material from whoever was able to help out on a given day. It's a short and enjoyable volume, and would go well as a lead-in to some of Veitch's longer work from the same period, especially Abraxas and the Earthman and The One. Recommended.

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