Living in the heart of Manhattan like some John Carter of Mars in an alien environment, Paul Pope sees the lines of telephone poles and smells the odors of street car vendors with the appreciation of a child. In the moment, his artwork conveys his electric persona and captures his passion for life and the movement of the human body. It’s a rare thing to see so talented an artists working in this funny book medium and rarer still to see him so refined.
Heavily influenced by European comics and Japanese Manga, Paul Pope also has a healthy dose of American comics in his line that hearkens back to the 1960′s of Marvel Comics. There’s both innocent and an ingenious flare of imagination in each of his panels as characters playfully scale the confines of the page. He left the familiarity of Ohio to work for Kodansha, the world’s largest manga publisher in Japan, where his brushwork was influenced by the local style. An incredible innovator, Pope took the energy of manga and the character of European comics with as dash of American action.
After developing his own comic series THB and working with Jay Stephens on several projects, Paul Pope created Heavy Liquid for DC’s Vertigo imprint. A sci-fi melodrama mixed with elements of film noir, the series was a gorgeously produced work that scared off many thanks to its high cover price. Not the wisest decision on DC’s part to introduce an artist new to their company and charge readers so highly for taking a chance. In any case, the series was a critical success and lead to the follow-up 100%.
But don’t let the film noir sci-fi angle put you in the mind that Pope is above funny books or guys in tights. A deep admirer of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s, Pope’s Spider-Man is a joy and his Batman at DC Comics is remarkably refreshing. His Batman Year 100 told a gripping tale that replaced the character’s haunting characteristics, portraying him as a demonic creature of the night, ageless and mysterious in a futuristic setting. The comic won him the coveted Eisner for best limited series and best writer/artist in 2007. A brand new take on the mythos of Batman, Pope described his version as “someone with the body of David Beckham, the brain of Nikola Tesla, and the wealth of Howard Hughes, who is pretending to be Nosferatu.”
Not restrained to comics, Paul Pope has also done work for the hipster footwear company Diesel and contributed the cover to John Spencer’s side-project Heavy Trash album. He has had his brushes with Hollywood as Tim Burton once attempted to adapt the scintillating Escapo into a feature film, but nothing doing. Truth to tell, Pope couldn’t be bothered anyhow. He’s much more interested in the printed medium than some glamorous mega-corporation project run by committee. But he has coyly stated that he’d gladly take the money (think on that Alan Moore).
A true modern master of the sequential medium, Paul Pope is a comic artist to get acquainted with.