He has his followers as well as detractors, but I'm a big fan of the comic book artwork of Chris Bachalo. Although I first discovered his work on Sandman and Shade The Changing Man, it's his quirky and distinctive artwork for issues of Generation X that made me a fan.
Two-page splash spread for Generation X #29 (August 1997), script by James Robinson; pencils by Chris Bachalo and Pop Mhan; inks by Al Vey, Eric Cannon, Tim Townsend, and Al Milgrom; colors by Marie Javins; letters by Richard Starkings and Emerson Miranda
Click image to Mondo-size
A quick Bullynote: this issue is pencilled both by Bachalo and by Pop Mhan (Spyboy, Blank). I'm gonna admit it: I can't really tell which pages are specifically by Bachalo or which ones are by Mhan. (Well, this one's definitely by Pop Mhan.) So if the panels and pages I'm pointing to turn out to be Pop Mhan rather than Chris Bachalo...boy, is my fuzzy face red. But just because I'm having trouble distinguishing between two similar manga-styled artists doesn't, I hope, distract from my appreciation for the art.
Bachalo's style had evolved by this time into an exaggerated bigfoot cartoon style that perfectly fit the young adolescents of Generation X: M, Husk, Skin, Chamber and everybody's favorite not-yet-vampiric and the aptly-not-appearing in this issue Jubilee. Big round heads, rubbery faces (and I'm not just talking about Skin), oversized feetnot quite manga, not quite western comic art, but a look that would become more prevalent in superhero comics over the next several years, paving the way for artists like Humberto Ramos and Joe Madureira. Some fans hated it, others lapped it up like chocolate milk. Mmmm, delicious chocolate milk. I'm not a blindly slavish Bachalo fanbullhis adult figures like Emma Frost looked like teenagers as wellbut he took the strictly structured world of the X-Men franchises and brought a gleeful, colorful hallucinogenic quality to it. It was no stretch to believe that Howard the Duck or Spider-Ham existed in the world of Generation X. I love the two-page Where's Waldoesque (Where's Waldoish? Waldoiffic?) splash page to ish #29 (above). He's got the title team in there lost among the hurly-burly eccentric circus of Venice Beach, filled with inside jokes (is that Neil Gaiman's Death over there?). It's the kind of landscape and range of human figure we might expect the X-Men and Generation X to exist in...sure, they're mutants and they stand out among us...only, some places, less than others.
What's this got to do with Monday Night or even Thursday Night Murals? The cover's not part of a mural. We're smack-dab in the middle of the "Operation: Zero Tolerance" crossover in the X-books, where Sentinels are tracking down every one of the X-Mutants to totally eliminate and crush them...wait a minute. Just like Kid's Day, isn't every day in the Marvel Universe "Operation: Zero Tolerance"? Except for that time Rogue was flying over the military air show in her Daisy Dukes and a tube top...that was "Operation: A Little Bit of Tolerance."
Nopeunlike most of the examples in the Murals category you'll find on this little stuffed blog, I'm gonna show you an internal mural that I'm fascinated by. Here's two facing pages from the same issue, Generation X #29. Now, do I need to set up this clip for you? Gen X is being chased by Prime Sentinels through the streets or Los Angeles. You don't need to know much more than that, So, put on your widescreen glasses to get ready!
Click picture to Sentinel-size
Not a mural either, huh? But the cleverer among you (see how I keep my blog audience by giving them sneaky compliments, huh?) will have noticed that if you take your scissors and cut along here...and then snip this page off and apart like this...and you get your glue stick out and liberally apply here...and here...and then sit in a warm bath for a while so you can get the gluestick out of your fur...you might just wind up with something like this:
Click picture to Generation-size. You might need to click the resulting image to blow it up, too!
The six page-wide panels combine into one ultra-wide adventure chase mural. Unlike most of the murals I spotlight in this feature, this sextuple-wider combines a mural landscape with successive actions in timein other words, as Scott McCloud would tell ya in his multi-billion selling Understanding Comics, Bachalo is using action moving across panels to show movement in time as well as space. (And without Doctor Who showing up, either!) As we an to the right on the long glued-together mural, the actions in each section are successive, not simultaneous; we see them across a moving landscape but not at one time. To simplify, our eyes are moving from left to right, but not as fast as the Gen X kids and their pursuing Prime Sentinels and the little skateboarding kid caught up in their chase, riding out the explosion like a wave.
I've had to fudge a little bit with pasting together the images: you'll spot that the first and second panels contain the same "no parking" sign at a slight different angle. Theoretically, you might get that same parallax view if you were running more slowly alongside the action from across the street...but I'm gonna guess that Chris Bachalo threw the sign in again to give us a visual clue that the panels were all part of one landscape. I chose to do it this way because pasting one sign on top of another would obscure the graffiti behind it; but between four and five I've cut out the second set of figures of the woman in black and her bald-headed boyfriend (and his punch line) to better preserve the visual continuity of the background. Bachalo's mural design isn't impeccable, but it's inventive and energetic, and I love the way he draws your eye from left to right across each separate panel in our natural reading direction, at the same time moving the characters and action and background in the same fashion. While the physical limitations of the comic book page have prevented him from actually creating a 48-inch wide comic panelI picture a horizontal version of Vertigo's 2003 Vertical comic bookbut Chris Bachalo has certainly done more with his own improvised "widescreen" format than most of the visual artists of the short-lived "Marvelscope" sideways-bound comic experiments like the New X-Men Annual and X-Treme X-Men Annuals of 2001.
And he did it without using the word "Marvelscope."
Hasbro's "Ram Smash Volstagg" action figure (2011) from Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Series 2
"Volstagg the Valiant is famous across Asgard for his boundless bravery, mighty axe, and endless appetite. It is rare, even in battle, to find him without food in his hand, or at least a pouch full of snacks. His hunger never distracts him from a battle, however, and his brother warriors are always glad to have his axe at their sides.
Defeat the forces of evil wherever you and your Volstagg figure find them. This fierce, determined hero has proven himself on many fields of battle, and his spinning axe ram accessory makes him especially prepared for crushing his foes and gaining victory for Asgard! The battles you and your mighty Volstagg figure fight are sure to become legendary."
Hasbro's "Blade Battle Hogun" action figure (2011) from Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Series 2
"Hogun the Grim rarely smiles, and never laughs. He finds his own quiet joy in victory over the enemies of Asgard, but he leaves the celebration to Volstagg and Fandral. His skill at hand-to-hand fighting makes him an invaluable comrade in arms to the mighty Thor.
"Defeat the forces of evil wherever you and your Hogun figure find them. This quiet but determined hero has proven himself on many fields of battle, and his detachable 'blades' accessories turn into fist 'blades' to make him even more powerful! The battles you and your mighty HOGUN figure fight are sure to become legendary."
Hasbro's "Harpoon Blade Fandral" action figure (2011) from Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Series 2
"Fandral the Dashing is known as much for his skill with a blade as for his striking good looks. Many have swooned at his attention, but many more enemies of Asgard have fallen beneath his furious attack. There is no edge Fandral cannot turn into a weapon, and no clash that does not go exactly as he plans.
"Defeat the forces of evil wherever you and your Harpoon Blade Fandral figure find them. This handsome hero is already a skilled warrior, but his harpoon accessory makes him especially prepared for crushing his foes! The battles you and your mighty FANDRAL figure fight are sure to become legendary."