Thirty-five years is a long time.
Much can happen in three and a half decades. Lives are lived, lives are lost. Family grows, then moves away. Tastes change. Interests change. Businesses change.
Throughout all of that, and more, one thing remains constant in the world of renowned visual storyteller, Barry Windsor-Smith and that is his wonderful and harrowing art.
Now, finally, after thirty-five years in the making, his long form graphic novel, Monsters, is finally finished and being released for all the world to see – and feel.
I first became aware of Windsor-Smith’s evocative and detailed artwork in the early 1980’s through the back catalogue of Epic Illustrated magazine. That, for those that don’t know, was the North American sci-fi and fantasy mag of the time, must-reading for the better part of a decade.
Full of creator interviews and independently-owned properties, usually with semi-naked (or naked) sword-wielding warriors and war-priestesses, the pages of Epic Illustrated was the perfect forum for Window-Smith’s art. The visual storyteller had made a name for himself via his Conan and Red Sonja work in the early 1970’s – stuff that is adored just as much today as it was then. Perhaps more so. Window-Smith’s paintings and drawings of imaginative characters, monsters and landscapes were highly detailed and beautiful and wonderous and horrific, realistic but still stylized. To get a grasp of his artistic heft, during the early part of his career, Windsor-Smith was a highly-sought contemporary of other comic book and art world titans in Michael Kaluta, Bernie Wrightson and Jeffery Jones.
Monsters, is a work that has been with Windsor-Smith nearly since those golden years of Epic Illustrated. For an idea to stay with the writer/illustrator for so long, it must be a dear and worthy story to tell.
Proudly published by Fantagraphics Books, the 380-page hardcover of Barry Windsor-Smith’s Monsters tells a very human story at its core. Amidst the backdrop of 1964 America and an experimental World-War II-era Nazi genetics program, Monsters is the story of Bobby Bailey’s escape from his haunted past as he searches for some kind of decent future. It’s a story of family and childhood upbringing, civil liberties, and tragic destiny. Monsters, here, are both imagined and real. They exist in our world, in politics, in generations of family and, importantly, in ourselves.
And these monsters can be horrifying.
Throughout much of his career, Barry Windsor-Smith would forego more mainstream comic book work in order to tell the kinds of stories and retain the sense of control that only he could grant upon himself. Because of this, every black and white page, every pen and ink rendered panel, every emotionally dark and noirish line in Monsters is absolutely singular to the artist’s vision. It’s emotional and it resonates and it deserves, finally, to be fully experienced by the world.
Make the run to your local, better, comic book shop or visit the online Fantagraphics Shop today. Pick up the culmination of Windsor-Smith’s worthy, legendary, career in Monsters.