Comic Artist Evolution

A year-by-year retrospective of some of the greatest comic book artists to put pencil to paper. Now featuring the incredible work of: BILL SIENKIEWICZ! 

Bill Sienkiewicz 1990: excerpt from A1 #4: “Emily, Almost”

A1 was an award-winning anthology comic that showcased creator-owned work by some of the greatest talent from the world of comics.

As poetry alone, "Emily, Almost" doesn’t stand out from the scores of other poems of unrequited love. But once again, Sienkiewicz’s beautifully atmospheric artwork elevates the impact of the words and demonstrates the unique power of graphic storytelling.

Bill Sienkiewicz: Dazzler #29 cover art
Top: Kris Anka: Uncanny X-Men #23 excerpt

"Hey, I got that reference…!"

Screw Tumblr — see the REAL DEAL in two days!!!
Bill Sienkiewicz 1990: excerpt from Breakthrough
Here’s another deep cut:
Sienkiewicz joins a parade of comics greats, including Neil Gaiman, Dave Gibbons, Dave McKean, Milo Manara, and Moebius; to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall in this hardcover anthology filled with assorted art and short stories that touch on the aspects of the wall and the two Germanys since WWII.
Bill Sienkiewicz 1990: The Green Hornet #7 cover
Bill Sienkiewicz 1990: Critical Mass #5
With the premature cancellation of the original Shadowline titles, the remainder of the stories intended as a crossover were combined in the the seven-part Critical Mass anthology series.

Bill Sienkiewicz 1990: Critical Mass #5

With the premature cancellation of the original Shadowline titles, the remainder of the stories intended as a crossover were combined in the the seven-part Critical Mass anthology series.

Bill Sienkiewicz 1990: Transformers #65Color: Nel Yomtov
I am utterly unable to focus on the awesome creepy Sienkiewicz-drawn alien creature because WTF happened to Grimlock, the badass Dinobot?!?!
After some digging, I discovered this was apparently during the Pretenders period, when the Transformers were robots in disguise — as white people.

Bill Sienkiewicz 1990: Classics Illustrated #4: Herman Melville’s Moby Dick

When First Comics and Berkley Publishing joined forces to revive the venerable Classics Illustrated series, Sienkiewicz was attracted to the prospect of adapting a classic book to help transform the image of the comics medium:

More than anything, the superheroes have perpetuated this perception of the medium as being just for children. But that’s like saying, ‘There are only these kinds of movies’ or ‘There are only those kinds of movies,’ and then along comes Citizen Kane. To me, the comic-book medium is a way of using words and pictures together to say more than either the words or the pictures alone.  

[emphasis added]

— Entertainment Weekly

Bill Sienkiewicz 1990: Friendly Dictators trading cards

Sienkiewicz’s work on Brought to Light clearly made him a prime candidate to illustrate the Friendly Dictators trading cards. Like Brought to Light, it was published by Eclipse Enterprises and sought to use pop culture media to call attention to the American government’s and/or business’s cozy relationships with brutal regimes. The “cancelled” stamp element (also used in Brought to Light) refers to autocrats who eventually fell out of favor.

Seeing all these cards side-by-side, you can get a sense of the kind of artistic diversity-within-consistency Sienkiewicz is capable of.

These cards are out of print, but if you want to read the about America’s relationship with each of these dictators (maybe like me, you’re thinking Hitler? Really?), a bunch of websites like this one have transcribed these cards and recounts the details of each relationship.

Bill Sienkiewicz 1989: Mister X #2 cover / A1 #1 pinup

Dean Motter’s Mister X clearly held some appeal for Sienkiewicz, he would return to the indie character several times throughout his career.

Bill Sienkiewicz 1989: Marvel Comics Presents #36 wraparound cover
Bill Sienkiewicz 1989: pinup from Marvel Fanfare #45
Bill Sienkiewicz 1989: Wolverine #10 coverwith Kent Robert Williams
Bill Sienkiewicz 1989: Alf Annual #2 cover/pinupwith co-artist Dave Manak
And then this happened.
(Note what Alf is reading up in the corner box).

Bill Sienkiewicz 1989: Brought to Light — Shadowplay: the Secret Team

25 years ago this month, Oliver North was sentenced to prison for his part in the Iran-Contra affair. Coincidentally we arrive at Bill Sienkiewicz’s first pairing with Alan Moore on the unusual Brought to Light project.

Brought to Light is a book with two stories — and two “front” covers. The first story by Joyce Brabner and Thomas Yeates, is a straightforward documentary-style telling of American involvement in a bombing in Nicaragua, which would be revealed to be connected to the Iran-Contra affair.

The second was Moore and Sienkiewicz’s “Shadowplay: the Secret Team,” which is everything one should expect from an Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz story about governmental misconduct: a defiant critique mixed with black humor. In it, we listen to a blowhard anthropomorphic eagle bragging to his bartender about his “company’s” successful history of government-sanctioned black ops missions since WWII.

Sienkiewicz is often quoted as saying that the subject matter informs his artistic approach, and his stylistic treatment is every bit as provocatively warped as you would expect.

It might have been a little more than what the producers of the project — public interest law firm Christic Institute — were comfortable with, judging by these caveat-laden excerpts from the introduction Daniel Sheehan wrote for the story…

“[Shadowplay: the Secret Team] is a subjective, surreal and artistic interpretation by author Alan Moore and artist Bill Sienkiewicz of the information set forth by the Christic Institute…

This surreal and angry presentation — unlike the public presentation of the Christic Institute — depicts the symbolic “salesman” of the agenda of the shadow government as vicious, confused, and violent. To our knowledge, none of these defendants is personally any of these things…

Moore and Sienkiewicz, who wrote and illustrated “Shadowplay,” have exercised their judgement in a way very different from that in which this information has been historically presented by the Christic Institute…

The conduct of the defendants is shocking and violent. The style of the author and artist of “Shadowplay” is, correspondingly, shocking and violent. One may, Indeed, find the style of the author and artist of “Shadowplay” to be unsettling and terrifying. I would hope that one would find the conduct of the defendants to be equally so.”