1990: Toadswart D’Amplestone

Toadswart D’Amplestone (1990) by Tim A. Conrad.

As the 90s start, we find Eclipse a transformed company. Just two years earlier, Eclipse were pumping out one new action/adventure series after another, while there’s no new series of that type in 1990. In 1987, for instance, Eclipse launched around 50 new things (mostly new series, but also some oneshots and a smattering of collections), while 1990 sees only 15 new things, and they’re mostly graphic novels and other one-shots.

This very shiny album reprints this Conrad story that had been serialised in Marvel Comics’ Epic Illustrated magazine.

And it’s a very appropriate paper choice. Conrad’s black and white artwork glitters on this black, ink-soaked paper. As for the text… Conrad’s obviously going for a Gothic horror feel, but the text just isn’t very… er… good?

When he’s not doing blocks of exposition, the characters prate and they prate. That’s as it should be in a Gothic horror, but it doesn’t much help with the flow of the comic.

I’m guessing that Conrad relies heavily on photo reference (note, for instance, the identical poses of the guy in the collar up there on this and the previous page).

But pictures of what? Panels like this makes me wonder whether Conrad had sculpted misshapen heads to be able to draw them accurately.

If this had been a new book, I would have guessed that this artwork originated in a 3D computer rendering farm somewhere, but since this is the 80s, it has to be a lot of work…

And it’s effective in its gruesomeness, even if it’s rather stiff.

And then there’s pages like this. That’s pretty fab, eh? But what’s the expression on that guy’s face supposed to be, anyway?

Some of these panels makes me wonder whether Conrad had just painted directly onto pictures, because no artist would have come up with that fish eye lens effect on their own. I think?

Anyway, while I was really sceptical at the start, the story did pull me in after a while. It’s a pretty original take on these tropes, and I had no idea where the story was going, which is fun.

But then it ends with basically a Deus Ex Machina. It had been foreshadowed a bit, so it’s not a total cheat, but it still felt like a let-down.

Hm… is this the first Eclipse book with an UPC code? It’s printed in silver, so I’m not sure that it even works…

I was unable to find any proper reviews of this book, but there’s this from Amazon:

This book is like led zepplelin’s ”the song remains the same” transformed into a graphic novel. Completely absorbing. An immersive powerfully touching, affecting experience. Unique.

Mm-hm.

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