Just in time for the 2209 San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel has released a beautiful new hardcover book featuring the artwork of one of their premiere cover artists Marko Djurdjevic with the straightforward title The Marvel Art of Marko Djurdjevic.
Marko first came to Marvel in 2006, after some of his controversial X-Men character sketches drew the attention of Marvel’s Chris Allo. Up until that point, Marko worked doing character concepts for Massive Black, mostly for video games and film.
Djurdjevic was hired on at Marvel to do cover illustrations, and in the few years since that time he has done well over 200 of them and just about every single one is included in this comprehensive over-sized hardcover book.
The book is organized by comic book title in the order that he first started working on series, starting off with the X-Men and ending with Magneto, with his Marvel 70th Anniversary and other miscellaneous covers after that. The book concludes with some of his character concept work, including the original X-Men sketches that first got him noticed by the comic book community. (See image above)
The book is in landscape format, which I initially didn’t understand given that most all of the artwork included, minus special “wraparound” covers, were vertical “portrait” compositions. But, the landscape format allows for extra sketches and commentary in the margins, which is a wonderful addition to the covers themselves.
The chapter breaks have thumbnails of all the cover images in the chapter, which is a nice bonus when you’re trying to find a particular cover. One mildly annoying thing is that the pages are printed on thin paper so there are times that you can see the images on the reverse. I only noticed it when there were large areas of white space, which mainly occurs in the titles of the chapter.
The artwork itself is amazing, and almost overwhelming considering the sheer volume of it. The “trade dress” (which includes the comic title, UPC, price, etc) has been removed so it is just page after page of lushly colored, perfectly rendered and creatively composed illustrations.
The work ranges from downright frivolous (Blade) to hauntingly somber (Magneto) with everything in between. My favorites (as of today – it may change tomorrow) are the earlier pieces where he integrates typographic and abstract graphic elements. They might not be his best work (It’s hard to compete with the Rembrandt-esque Penance on the cover of Thunderbolts 117 or the power of the mostly black and white Magneto covers) but they are refreshing in the free spiritedness of the compositions and outright creative audacity. Blade 9 is a great example, though not as abstract. I wish they would let Marko handle the titling!
The book is amazingly comprehensive and includes sketches, alternate covers, rejected drawings, quotes from industry big wigs and tons of quotes from Marko himself about his own work. (It’s fun to find out which pieces he was fond of and which pieces he might not have cared if they left out of the book) The layout is very clean and not distracting, and the organization of the chapters seems very well thought-out.
The goal of a book like this is to showcase an illustrator like Marko in a way that reveals his work to be something more than just well-executed colorful comic book illustrations – to put it in a new context that allows the viewer to focus on the depth and beautiful subtleties in the work itself. The Marvel Art of Marko Djurdjevic accomplishes that and more. This is a powerful book that deserves to be put on the shelf beside the likes of Warhol, Wyeth and Hopper. Kudos to John Rhett Thomas for putting it together and to Marvel for really stepping up for one of their many great talents. I hope this is the first of many more to come.
In case my review didn’t convince you, here is an excerpt from the intro by the President of Massive Black and Founding Director of conceptart.org, Jason Manley:
Marko Djurdjevic is an art chainsaw of skull ripping, bone shredding, self-taught talent. He is an enigma who carved his life and his work as he dreamed it to be. Over the past ten years Marko has sharpened his skills through hard fought personal battles, countless hours at the grindstone, and has overcome severe adversity to become one of the top entertainment illustrators and designers on the planet…
…Marko’s works are powerful, virtuosic, and rich in imagination. If you look deep enough into these pages you will see the same thing I see – an artist of immeasurable heart, perseverance, humor, intense work ethic, wisdom, integrity, and deep creativity. If you truly listen, works of art say more than just a narrative message, they speak directly to the soul of the artist. Within this book I think you will find, as I did when I first discovered his art years ago, that his art speaks for itself. Work like this reveals more than just a beautiful story or design. I think you will enjoy what you find, as there is a lot more here than just beautiful images from the mind of Marko Djurdjevic.
Order your copy on AMAZON– But hurry!
Marvel is notorious for books
mysteriously going out of print
overnight, even if they were just
published. (It already says “Usually
ships within 1 to 2 months,” which has
me concerned. This just came out!)
If you’re worried about amazon being able
to fill your order, you can get the book
from the fine folks over at Tales of Wonder.
I think their price is a couple dollars more,
but they are some serious comic book folks
and usually keep a large number of copies of
books like this stashed away!