(This is the second installment of my essay on 2 key influences on me during the period in the early 1990’s when I was drawing “The Mark”, the first of which is the movie producer for RKO in the early/mid 40’s, Val Lewton.)
In “The Seventh Victim”, the audience identification character is Mary Gibson, (played by Kim Hunter), an innocent searching early 1940’s Greenwich Village for her missing older sister, Jacqueline. Mary meets all of Jacqueline’s friends during her search, each not so much a character but a spokesperson for an existential philosophy. (In this, it reminded me of David O. Russell’s “I Heart Huckabee’s”). Eventually Mary learns that Jacqueline dropped out of sight to escape from a satanic cult she’d been a member of. The cult’s rules demand Jacqueline’s death but they’d taken vows of nonviolence and so, in the climactic scene, they sit around her in a circle and try to talk her into killing herself.
In “I Walked With A Zombie, the voodoo ritual that is the major set piece of the movie is conducted by natives wearing white shirts, bow ties and pressed slacks. The voodoo priest is revealed to be none other than Dr. Rand, an elderly Caucasian woman who serves the white part of the community as a traditional medicine practitioner and, in disguise, succors the blacks using the medicine of a different tradition.
I think Lewton was making anti-horror movies, undercutting the fear, showing that “the other” isn’t so scary after all and only slightly different than “us”. This is less re-assuring than it sounds, for the danger in which the audience-identification figures find themselves is quite threatening, both physically and epistemologically.
This discussion will continue tomorrow, but right now I want to talk about the page at hand. In a previous post I mentioned being influenced by Jack Kirby, and this is it. This is me, getting as close to Jack Kirby as my uptight “raised-on-the-altar-of-Neal-Adams-and-Al-Williamson-itis” would allow me to get. Believe me, during this period in the early 90’s, I was trying; I was spending my non-working moments copying Kirby pages trying to crack his secrets. I bought and poured over every issue of “The Jack Kirby Collector”. And to no avail. I just couldn’t make myself get that abstract. Oh well. As I approach the big 6 0, I’ve been wrestling with trying to find my own style, not seeing how close I can approximate someone else’s. Most of the artists I really admire were their own men or women, pounding the grist of their influences to create something new.
This is page #19 from "The Mark" issue 1, volume 2, otherwise known as "The Mark In America", published by Dark Horse Comics in December 1993. Written by Mike Barr, Drawn by Brad Rader