Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cover Artist: Bill Sienkiewicz

Bill Sienkiewicz is an American comic book artist whose art style changed early in his career into a form easily identifiable as uniquely his.  His transformation to his new style took place on the 1980 Moon Knight title.  At first, his art on the title is influenced by Neal Adams, but as the Moon Knight series continued, his art became increasingly abstract and distorted.  By the time he started working on the 1983 New Mutants title with issue #18, his unique expressionistic art style was apparent.

Bill Sienkiewicz contributed cover art for Marvel Super Special #27 containing the Return of the Jedi movie adaptation.

Marvel Super Special #27a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (1983)
It is not clear why the cover for Marvel Super Special #27 is not used as the cover art on the paperback and trade paperback.  The art looks like it could double as a poster for the movie and is clearly superior to the art used as the cover for the two other formats.  I like how it highlights some of the new elements from the Return of the Jedi: TIE Interceptors, A-Wing Fighters, Scout Troopers, and Imperial Royal Guards.  Familiar characters are used with Luke Skywalker front and center and the presence of Darth Vader in the background.  It also includes Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2, but noticeably absent are Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Lando Calrissian.

In addition to providing the cover for the magazine-sized adaptation, Sienkiewicz also drew all four covers for the Return of the Jedi mini-series.

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi #1b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (October 1983)
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi #2b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (November 1983)
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi #3b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (December 1983)
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi #4b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (January 1984)
I like the uniformity to these covers.  Each features 3 beautify drawn characters from the movie against a garishly colored star field.  A similar approach was used by Adam Hughes for the first six issues of the Star Wars: Legacy title from Dark Horse Comics except the characters have a more muted background.

Bill Sienkiewicz collaborated with Cynthia Martin for the cover to Star Wars #92.

Star Wars #92b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (February 1985)
Cynthia Martin has a cartoonish style, which can be seen in the drawing of Luke Skywalker, but the entire piece also shows Sienkiewicz's abstract footprint.

As can be seen on the covers for Star Wars #98 and 101, Sienkiewicz's art has evolved into the style he is best known for.

Star Wars #98a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (August 1985)
Star Wars #101a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (November 1985)
I'll admit, I'm not a huge fan of either covers.  Star Wars #98 has the makings of a nice cover, but I cannot get past the helmet worn by Han Solo.  It is oddly shaped and too small, making it look like Han has lost his head.  It is too bad this one aspect ruins what is otherwise a decent, action packed cover.  The cover for Star Wars #101 portrays plenty of action as well, but the blatant references to Earth horses is jarring.  This is not the fault of Sienkiewicz however; the story inside this issue is insipid and the use of horses is the least of this issue's problems.

Overall, I'm a fan of Bill Sienkiewicz's early and expressionistic work.  The work he did for the Return of the Jedi covers are terrific.  It is unfortunate his contributions to the Star Wars title are not representative of his best expressionistic work.

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