Away From The Walking Dead
Tripwire’s contributing writer Tim Hayes casts his eye over BHP’s Charlie Adlard Drawings + Sketches, out now…
Charlie Adlard Drawings + Sketches
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Editor: Tim Pilcher
A new collection of work by Charlie Adlard from Glasgow publisher BHP Comics presents a selection of the artist’s moody pencils from The Walking Dead stories and elsewhere, allowing a close look at the output of one of the most successful artists currently around. Edited by Tim Pilcher and following on from BHP’s similar volume about Frank Quitely in 2018, it puts the art alongside commentary from the artist about his inspirations and looks beyond Adlard’s high-profile horror output over the last decade, although his influence on that genre is unmistakable.
Adlard drew the best part of 200 issues of The Walking Dead for Image Comics and the series duly features strongly in this book, but its first image is from a different zombie outbreak: a poster for George A. Romero’s 2010 film Survival of the Dead. The artist dismisses the film, but his hiring for the poster proves how strongly he was associated with the zombie genre even before The Walking Dead TV series took off. His zombies adorn custom skate decks too, enthusiastically embraced by other areas of pop culture entirely. Adlard’s art from The Walking Dead itself is all about mood and threat, grasping zombie hands emerging from pools of black ink, bold pen strokes keeping characters penned inside some usually simple page layouts. “15 years is a long time for anyone to be drawing zombies,” Adlard notes, having turned down zombie work since the end of the comic. “But it has opened more doors than it’s closed.”
Vampire State Building is more recent work from 2019, a French graphic novel in which vampires attack the New York landmark and the people trapped inside fight for survival. Adlard’s vampires, with Nosferatu features and drastic fangs, look suitably blood thirsty, and the story’s setting allows him to choreograph characters in corridors, apartments and elevators. Adlard also explains his use of digital effects, letting the interiors fill with smoke and ash and litter, a modern and atmospheric art style for the vampiric slaughter.
Breath of the Wendigo, also known as Curse of the Wendigo, is an older French comic project, first published in 2009 before later being picked up by Dynamite. Set in the middle of World War I, it features a Cree Native American soldier encountering a supernatural force in the trenches. Adlard’s watercolour paintings for the series’ covers show him using a different set of tools from his usual heavy black inks, and the book includes his experimental manipulation of photographic source material, another route to the atmospheric dread of the trenches that Adlard was after.
Drawings + Sketches includes glimpses of Passenger, a one-off story in European-album format that Adlard and Robert Kirkman have been working on since 2011 in which Adlard draws sci-fi hardware in a smoother brushwork style than the harsh zombie ink lines of The Walking Dead. And there is some lighter work too: illustrations from CD covers and promotional posters stemming from Adlard’s side-line playing drums in the band Cosmic Rays, and a selection of miscellaneous sketches showing his eye for design, along with thoughts about the changes in his methods over his career. Anyone interested in the breadth of Adlard’s work will find the new book provides a snapshot of his artistic styles away from the zombie headlines.
Charlie Adlard Sketches + Drawings is available now