June 15th, 2010
It’s been only a month since Frank Frazetta’s passing, and now Al Williamson is gone, too. They did some outstanding work together at EC. If Frazetta’s forté was fantasy, Williamson’s bent was more for science-fiction.
I first saw Williamson’s work in 1966, in issue #1 of the Flash Gordon comic-book series, from the short-lived King Comics line. Here is a sample of what I saw when I was but a wee lad of ten. The artistry in these pages is stunning, compared to many of the comics that were being published at the time.
Williamson worked in a style inspired by Alex Raymond, who is my pick for the all-time greatest artist of adventure comic strips. Younger fans came to know Williamson from his run on Star Wars. By that time, Al was being assisted by Carlos Garzón, from Bogotá, Columbia, where the American-born Williamson had grown up.
The last time I saw Williamson at a comics convention he still had something of the brash, young artistic turk about him, despite being in middle-age, and he was still very much a lady’s man. He was a rare breed, who updated a classic style of illustration, while staying true to it. Williamson and Frazetta were to comic books what the Method was to acting, where tried-and-true techniques of the past were reinvigorated with an independent, cutting-edge, attitude.
Speaking of Frazetta, his most famous ink drawing was recently bought by Heritage Auction co-founder Jim Halperin for $380,000. It was drawn for a Famous Funnies issue of Buck Rogers, but it ended up as the cover for the EC book Weird Science-Fantasy #29.