Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Mark Texeira, and the issues are Ghosts #108 and The Warlord #58, both of which were published by DC and are cover dated January and June 1982, respectively. Enjoy!
I first saw Mark Texeira’s art about a decade after he broke in, and as I had never heard of him, I didn’t realize how long his career had been before that. When I started thinking about featuring him for this series, I realized I needed to find some of his older work, and so I did. Now, of course, I have several early examples of his career (50¢-boxes FTW!!!!), and I’m finding it hard to choose examples. Today was fairly easy, as his story in Ghosts is very short, and these two comics came so close together. Moving forward, though … man, it’s tough. Will you see a Continuity comic over the next few days? What about the New Universe? And let’s not forget Black Panther!!!! The mind reels at the possibilities!!!!!
Okay, let’s begin. Ghosts #108, which came out just before its cancellation, is one of his earliest comics, and “The Face of Truth” is but 5 pages long. A mad scientist tries to steal his grad student’s research and things don’t go well. You know the drill!
Neal came up with a way to separate the soul from the body, and Grant decided to steal the research and use poor Neal as his test subject. That has to suck. Texeira, you’ll notice, has a very utilitarian line, as he doesn’t stray too far from conventional early 1980s pencil work. The off-kilter panels in the upper left are a nice touch, as Grant becomes unhinged and attacks Neal, and Texeira gives Grant a nice maniacal expression in Panel 1. John Celardo inked this, and I’m not sure how much he embellished, but there are a lot of thick lines on this page, as we see when Neal is in the tank. Instead of using black on his hand to shade it, we get that very dense line work. Texeira doesn’t have much personality in his work yet, but he doesn’t make the page difficult to read, either.
Neal’s body dies and his soul take revenge, as we see here. Already we can tell that Texeira has a grasp on facial expressions, as Grant looks very pleased with himself in Panel 1 before he realizes that Neal has died, while his astonishment in Panel 2 is well done, too. Texeira and Celardo use thicker lines in Panels 4 and 5 as Neal’s soul strangles Grant and then drops the body, and the blacks shading his eyes in Panel 5 are nicely done. Texeira also shows a decent understanding of perspective, and the final panel, with Grant reaching toward the reader while his colleagues stand in the background, is a good example of that.
Texeira also began work on The Warlord the same month with issue #53 (which came out two weeks after Ghosts #108), but I don’t own that issue. I do, however, own issue #58, so let’s take a look at that!
I have no idea what’s going on with Travis Morgan and his life, because I don’t own much of The Warlord, and I definitely don’t own the issues around this one, but I guess some dude has the real Travis Morgan imprisoned, and this dude is an imposter. He struck Tara on the first page, which might have clued her in that this dude isn’t manly-yet-sensitive Travis Morgan, but I guess she’s too busy pining for her childhood boyfriend to notice (as we’ll see). This isn’t a bad page – Texeira lays it out well, and the individual panels are pretty good. He does nice work making “Morgan” sweat in Panel 2, and he tilts Tara’s head down, makes her eyebrows slope a bit more, and closes her mouth slightly from Panel 1 to Panel 2, which makes her look more like she’s searching for answers and not getting them. In Panel 6, we get to see her large, black-lined eyes, which highlight her sadness even more than the tears she sheds, while Texeira gives her slightly plumper lips, making her a bit more sensuous. Mike DeCarlo inked this, and I’m not sure if he’s responsible for the speed lines in Panel 3, but whether it’s him or Texeira, the way they’re drawn, showing Tara twirling her sword away and back into its scabbard, is nicely done.
Graemore and Tara, who grew up together, reconnect because Tara is sad about Morgan, and of course they end up making out. This page might as well be wordless, because the words don’t do anything that the art can’t show, and while I can’t imagine this kind of scene is all that difficult for an artist to pull off because it’s so common, Texeira still nails it. Panel 3 is a bit awkward, as neither Graemore nor Tara seems to be actually in contact with the other, but Texeira makes up for that with Panel 4, which is still a bit off (why is he kissing just her top lip?), but at least shows them interacting with each other. Tara’s turn away doesn’t need to be accompanied by any words, as we can clearly see what she’s thinking, while Graemore’s hunched walk to the horses also needs no words, as it’s clear he thinks he’s missed his chance again. Notice that Texeira opens his eyes in Panel 8, as he’s surprised that Tara would come after him. Then, of course, we get the clichéd “pull-back” and silhouetted final panel, which usually implies boots-knocking, and it’s significant that Mike Grell discreetly switches scenes and doesn’t show Graemore and Tara again until they’re riding back into the city. Did she actually cheat on Morgan? I mean, she’s wearing an easily removable metal bikini top and fur thong, so it’s not like it would take that long to disrobe and rerobe. I don’t know what happened, because I don’t own the next issues, but it doesn’t matter right now, because this page shows that Texeira knows what he’s doing, at least when it comes to laying out a page.
Here’s Tara and Graemore returning (post-coitally, perhaps?), where they’re spotted by Darvin, who happens to be the dude who imprisoned the real Warlord. He’s dastardly, in other words. I don’t know if Texeira designed Darvin or if he was around before Texeira came on the book (given the penultimate panel, I’m assuming he pre-dates Texeira), but the artist does a nice job with him. He gives him that long mustache that’s the perfect length for twirling, while in Panel 2, he has a raffish, “I’m awesome” face that is, frankly, awesome. Even the way Texeira has him leaning in Panel 1 is excellent, because he just doesn’t look like he gives a shit. Once again, Texeira and DeCarlo don’t do anything too amazing on this page, but they do a good job with the little things, and we get a good sense of Darvin from this page and the other pages on which he appears, a sense that is only partly due to Grell’s writing.
These humble beginnings for Texeira led to … well, other humble stuff. But you gots to put in the time before they let you do the big guns, don’t you? So tomorrow we’ll look at more of his development. I haven’t decided what it will be yet, but it will be something, all right! As always, you can waste time in the archives!
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