Thursday, January 12, 2006

Paul Kirchner


I noted in yesterday's post the distinct possibility that my original Wallace Wood sketch of SALLY FORTH might actually have been done, at least in part, by Paul Kirchner. Although he did work with Wood, Kirchner has a notable, if eclectic, credit list all his own. This includes work for NATIONAL LAMPOON, HEAVY METAL and HIGH TIMES. More recently(See interview here: Paladin Press Author of the Month - Paul Kirchner) he has been writing and illustrating books on weapons and combat.

Perhaps Kirchner's best work was this little-known black and white graphic novel from 1986. MURDER BY REMOTE CONTROL was a collaboration with prolific Dutch mystery author Janwillem van de Wetering. By no means a straightforward narrative, it is a confusing philosophical story of a detective attempting to solve a murder. There are lots of symbolic splashes like the one seen here and a bizarre, sci-fi ending. Along the way, there are also a few naked ladies. I offer one of those pages here for comparison to my Sally picture. Hmmm... Could be but sure looks like Woody had SOMETHING to do with mine at least.

Kirchner's art here comes across as cold and sterile but that fits the mood of the book. Wood's influence on his style is unmistakable but I also see some Ditko influence. You could even make the argument that those symbolic splashes are Steranko-inspired. MURDER BY REMOTE CONTROL is long out of print but not too hard to find on the Web. If you're a detective fan, I can't really reccomend it but if you're a comic art fan, it's nearly a hundred pages of good art and interesting storytelling by an artist who rarely did all that much work in one place!

3 comments:

Paul K. said...

Hah! I just came across your page while I was sitting here Googling myself. Yes, it's shameful but we all do it. Very pleased to see some pages from the Van de Wetering project.

My career has indeed been checkered, due to a combination of taking whatever came along and pursuing various interests to their conclusion and then moving on. I have noticed that real success comes from sticking with one thing long enough till people start to notice but I haven't persuaded myself to try that.

I wanted to be a comic book artist in high school, and after going to art school in New York I drifted into it. I was slow and never made much of a splash. People still remember "the bus" but at the time it didn't seem to get much attention. I started getting commercial work--toy design and advertising--and this lured me away from comics as the money was better and the tight deadlines forced me to be more productive. In the mid 1990s I accepted a full-time job as an art director at a New York ad agency. On the long commute I wrote a couple of books. Since I was laid off a few years ago I've been doing advertising storyboards almost exclusively.

I met Janwillem van de Wetering in 1980 through my brother, a lifelong zen practitioner still living in Japan. Van de Wetering, of course, is known for his affiliation with and writing about zen as much as for his detective stories. We agreed to do a project and when the toy company I was working for, Mego, went bankrupt, I had the time. It took me about a year, with some other projects mixed in. It made almost no money and discouraged me from further such attempts. However, I remain good friends with Janwillem to this day and he is one of the most interesting people I've ever known.

I agree with your criticism of the style of the book (though of course it hurt my feelings). For much of my career I was too fixated on drawing realistically. Since I've been doing advertising storyboards, I think I've found a style that is truer to myself--faster, looser, more humorous.

Before I forget, you mentioned your Wally Wood sketch, one of those he gave out with memberships to Friends of Odkin. Should I say it? Why not: I traced off almost all of those for $2 apiece and Woody signed them. I've seen them sell on ebay for $150, so God bless us all!

I have to get back to work--there's advertising to be done.

Regards,
Paul Kirchner

chuck 2.0 said...

I'm an old fan of Paul's work, and while his early work was not as dynamic as Kirby, it showed great composition and the contrast between his realistic style and the weird storylines of Dope Rider, MBRC and other series was itself an interesting juxtaposition which gave them a dynamic contrast to such diverse comic successes as Capt Marvel (Fawcett) or a Ditko Dr Strange.
chuck 2.0 landau

Melanie said...

I'm a city bus driver in Minneapolis/St.Paul, Minnesota who also works on my local union newsletter. I was given a copy of Paul's "The Bus" many years ago, and have always wished that I could use some of those cartoons, which I'm sure my co-workers would find as hilarious as I did.
I have no idea how to contact him to ask if that would be possible.
Melanie