I have always had an affinity for European comics. The works of Moebius, Hermann, Carlos Ezquerra, Jean Van Hamme and William Vance, and of course the grandpappy of it all, Herge. As an American, it has not always been easy to find good European comics. Certainly you can read any number of British writers (some better than others) that cut their teeth on the seminal mag "2000 A. D.", but by and large these guys all seem to end up writing shitty superhero comics. I have personally reached a point of extreme saturation when it comes to the superhero trope. If your name is not either Grant Morrison or Frank Quitely I really don't care what innovative things you are doing within the world of capes and cowls. I still love my John Byrne "Fantastic Four" and my Walt Simonson "Thor", but the current superhero schlock really doesn't do it for me. Anhyoo, Some years ago I was trolling the dollar bins at Seattle's Zanadu Comics (back when Zanadu had shit like that...sigh) and stumbled across the first two issues of Dark Horse's "Cheval Noir". Of course the first issue (as seen above), with Dave Stevens' artfully erotic illustration, peaked my interest, but it was the cover to the second issue that really blew me away. I quickly snatched up both issues and headed down to Madison Beach to relax with a couple of delicious looking comics. I was amazed. Before I go any further here is the cover to issue 2 by none other than the amazing Geof Darrow:
The content was excellent, with both artists that I was familiar with, and other folks busting out that my little American brain had never even imagined. I became familiar with the character Lone Sloane as created and drawn by Philippe Druillet, and also the sensually madcap adventures of Fred and Bob, by Thierry Cailleteau and Oliver Vatine. I had not seen such a breadth of great European comic art since first cracking open a copy of "Heavy Metal" (the American version of Moebius' original "Metal Hurlant" magazine). It is such a sweet thing to stumble across amazing shit when you are least expecting it. It truly makes the wait worthwhile. I have since discovered other great European artists and comics but, for my money, with perhaps the exception of "Heavy Metal", "Cheval Noir" is the best place to find beautifully produced collections of classic European works. The inclusion of Japanese work is also a serious boost (Amano did a cover!). There are fifty issues of this glorious series all told and the only bummer is that it hasn't been published in about fifteen years. The great thing about comics is that there are still fifty issues out there. I didn't stumble across the first two until well after the run had ended and I have subsequently feasted on somewhere around 25 of these delights. There are still about 20 issues left for me to sink my gummy little teeth into! Its a pretty good deal. If you ever stumble across "Cheval Noir" grab that shit. There are alot of other ways to discover European Comics, but the presentation that Dark Horse gave is enough to make any comicfiend salivate. Check these covers by Kelley Jones and Mike Mignola respectively:
Man that Mignola is the jam! I own the book itself but I would love to get a poster sized print of it and frame that sucker. Fucking breathtaking.
For all the covers to "Cheval Noir", and pretty much any other comic ever made, check out the unbelievable website of "The Grand Comics Database Project". I have been pulling all my covers for this blog from their site and I have even stumbled across some incredible new shit that I am excited to get my grubby little fingers on. They really have everything you could ever want to know about most comics...seriously. It appears they also are always looking for volunteers to contribute new comics to the database, so check that out too! Pretty cool shit. Here is the URLy: