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Year of the Artist, Day 272: Tim Vigil, Part 1 – Faust: Love of the Damned #1

by  in Comic News Comment
Year of the Artist, Day 272: Tim Vigil, Part 1 – <i>Faust: Love of the Damned</i> #1

Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Tim Vigil, and the issue is Faust: Love of the Damned #1, which was published by Northstar and is cover dated 1989 (although my copy is the reprint from Rebel Studios, which came out in 1991, and Wikipedia has a cover date of this issue as November 1987, so take that as you like). Enjoy! (And seriously, if you’ve never heard of Faust, I can’t stress enough that there’s some Not Safe For Work stuff in this post. I’m really serious, here! I mean, it’s probably Not Even Safe For Home, depending on who might be looking over your shoulder. Okay? Okay.)

I’ll give you a few chances to leave if you’re not comfortable with NSFW stuff right now …

Seriously, not only is it Not Safe For Work, but it might repulse you, depending on your sensibilities. I just want to make that perfectly clear.

Okay, are you ready? Let’s go!

I first saw Faust, and thereby Vigil’s work, in about 1989, when my best friend let me read it. It was like crack to my 18/19-year-old brain, and I sought the issues that had been published for my very own, and remained a fan of the series until it finally finished a few years ago. It’s certainly not for everyone, but I still love it. Let’s check out the first issue, and I’ll just spoil some of the subsequent days – this will not be the last time we check in on Faust.

You might notice that Vigil is ripping off another certain clawed hero, which is part of what makes Faust so interesting – it’s pretty clearly a satire of the extreme-ness of comics of the time period, as artists began moving into the Image Era. Obviously, Vigil is still trying to tell a story, but the over-the-top nature of his art and David Quinn’s script make it clear that as well as telling a story with religious overtones, the creators are also having some fun with the very squeamishness of mainstream comics. John Jaspers uses his claws to graphic effect, and it’s interesting that the kind of violence we see here isn’t all that shocking anymore in a Marvel or DC book, although a great deal of the violence in Faust is still beyond the Pale for mainstream books. But this page itself, which is fairly bloody for the time, isn’t too insane.

Vigil’s details, of course, stand out. He uses a lot of hatching on the page (additional inks in this issue are by Tom Brunton, but I don’t know what he did and what Vigil did, so I’m going to use the singular, if that’s all right), but it’s not excessive and is, in fact, a pretty standard way of inking – we’ve seen it on Tony Harris’s work this year, for instance, but that’s just the first person’s work to pop into my head. He lays the page out well, too – we begin with the carnage, and then we get the thug in Panel 2, tiny against the bloody wall, facing his fate. In the foreground, we see Jaspers’s claws, and Vigil uses blacks and whites well to make the gleam in the light. The curve of his arm leads us to Panel 3, where we see Jaspers (we’ve already seen him in the issue, so it’s not as dramatic as it might be, but it’s still a cool drawing). The squiggly lines on his gauntlets make them look more metallic, contrasting nicely with the smoother work on his cloak and mask, and Vigil surrounds him with smoke. Then he attacks the punk, gashing out two long cuts in his face, and Vigil does nice work with the way the panel flows. His right hand begins at the top of the panel (even though we don’t see it there), linking it to Panel 3. It comes down on the left side, where we see the punk and the blood spraying from his face. We follow the curve of the cut to Jaspers’s hand, which has completed its follow-through and is pointing us toward the next page. You might notice that Vigil gives Jaspers plenty of muscles in his torso, which is another convention of the times, although it would become more pronounced in the next few years. One thing that Vigil does, interestingly enough (and it’s another reason why this book is partly satirical) is give Jaspers … um … not a lot of room in the … um, you know … the groin area. Seriously, look at that in Panel 4! Of course dudes wearing spandex would be just as exposed as women wearing spandex, but while we see camel toe even in superhero comics, we don’t often see wedding tackle. Vigil embraces the junk!

Vigil will always, it seems, have some issues with anatomy (if you can explain what’s happening with that poor woman’s leg in Panel 2, you’re a better person than I am), but he always does interesting stuff with the way he presents a page. The first two panels are fairly standard, but then in Panel 3 we get an extreme close-up of the dude biting the woman’s nipple, while his disgusting fingers come right at us. I’m not exactly sure what’s going on in Panel 4, but in Panel 5, he gives us a view of the woman straddling the man, complete with a ceiling fan “above” her and her breasts framing her chin. The caption boxes obscure the dude’s face, which lies on the right side of the panel. In the inset panel in the bottom left of the page, Vigil draws a doorknob reflecting the two characters having sex, which is an interesting touch. His use of hatching on the two figures makes them look rough, which, given that they’re junkies (well, he is, and she appears to be an alcoholic), is appropriate. Vigil pays attention to details, though, as look at how he lines around their feet in Panel 6 – it shows where their skin is tougher because skin is often tougher on one’s feet. The details make the scene disturbing, which of course is the entire point.

Faust isn’t all violence and sex, of course. Vigil does nice work with Jade DeCamp (yeah, the names in this book are something) as she pokes around in Jaspers’s file (you have to love the comic artists whose files are in the psychiatric ward). He uses light really well, as she shines the flashlight around and he uses thicker lines in Panel 2 to illuminate her face and spot blacks in Panel 4 to show how deep in darkness her face is. He inks her hair lushly, especially in Panel 6, when we get the close-up. Vigil might over-hatch a bit, but it’s not like he’s out of control with it – each line is precisely done, which makes the few times he goes a bit crazy with it have more impact.

Jaspers is an artist himself (the self-referential layers in Faust are kind of neat, actually), so Vigil gives us one of his paintings. It looks like a Tim Vigil drawing, but Vigil does some things that he himself doesn’t do while he’s drawing the “real” portions of the book – he uses far more expressionistic images in Jaspers’s painting, and the main horned creature in Panel 1 and the giant-eyed things in Panel 2 are giving off a John K. Snyder III vibe to me. Vigil also uses different line weights, which is also nice to see. I don’t know what’s going on with this “painting,” but it’s pretty keen.

More good violence, as Jaspers slices up some street punks. Vigil again lays the page out well – Panel 1 leads us to the punk in Panel 2, who faces Jaspers and his tough-guy pose. The line of sight takes us from the punk to Jaspers (and Balfour, the reporter behind Jaspers), while Jaspers’s upright pose leads us down to Panel 3, where we get the extreme close-up on his face. Then we get another sweep of his right hand, tearing the dude apart and taking us from the top middle to the lower right and toward the page turn. Once again, there’s a lot of inking lines, but as we’ve seen, Vigil is very careful about the lines, so while the art is busy, it’s not uncontrolled. Faust isn’t terribly subtle, but it has its moments, and I love that Vigil draws the ghostly faces around Jaspers’s eyes in Panel 3, which makes him believe that the street punk is a demon – notice that Vigil gives him horns, sharp teeth, and claws in Panel 4, which he didn’t have in Panel 2. These little touches help create this strange world that Jaspers inhabits – is he mad, or is he seeing things the way they are? Considering that Faust delves into all sorts of metaphysical things, perhaps he’s not crazy after all.

Jaspers likes singing James Brown, and it means something to Jade, even though we don’t know what it is right now. Once more, the intense line work is amazing, and Vigil does really nice work in Panel 4 showing DeCamp’s and Balfour’s horror at Jaspers’s actions. But like the panel above, I love that Vigil puts the skeletons in the shadows of Jaspers’s cape in Panel 5. He uses white spaces for some of the features, and he grayscales some of the bones, making them more shadowy, while the fact that he doesn’t show all or even most of the skeletons makes them more spooky and mystical. This conceit of Vigil shows up often in the book, and it makes the weirdness of Jaspers and his bloody mission stand out even more against the grittiness of late 1980s New York.

I’ll get back to Faust, as it took over 20 years to finish and Vigil’s art evolved quite nicely over those years. But tomorrow we’ll check out a book that is much more Safe For Work, so feel free to come back and take a look! And find a lot of SFW stuff in the archives!

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