Category Archives: art

Pen & Pixel Album Cover Art (mainly the 90’s)

Pen & Pixel is a Houston, Texas-based graphics design firm that specializes in musical album covers, especially for gangsta hip hop artists in the Southern US. For a long time it was the house design firm for the famous No Limit Records label.Pen & Pixel is famous for its identifiable design vernacular of gaudy 3D- and effects-laden text like album titles and rapper stage names which are often “studded” with diamonds or made to look like marble through heavily layered PhotoShop-filtered graphics. These typically overlay a scene depicting the album artist ostentatiously surrounded by women, liquor, gold- and diamond-coated material effects, and other signifiers of a gangster lifestyle.

 The company’s CD cover art usually includes paraphernalia associated with wealth like luxury cars, helicopters, candlesticks, dollar bills, and women. Such displays often contrast said wealth against the woes of poverty amin New Orleans and the American south. Beyond materialism, common themes discussed in the company’s oeuvre include: death, violence, criminal guilt, manhood, persecution (especially by police), and urban paranoia.

(source –

Great Marvel playing card art from the 70’s

Maybe its because it connects with my childhood, but there is a power to Marvel Bronze Age art that I do not find in any other era. I think these playing cards, with their bold and simple designs, summarise best all that was good about the art of that era. It was, simply, exciting;

You can see the full set of Marvel playing cards here;

Polish Movie posters – they are awesome.

I tell no lie. This is a selection of brain-frying visual wonderment. Eschewing the formulaic Hollywood movie poster tropes, the Poles went for a WTF approach, and produced some truly WTF moments of cinema advertising. Jesus – take a look;

Wargames (1983)

Enter The Dragon (1973)

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Rosemarys Baby (1969)

The Getaway (1971)

Apocalypse Now (1979)

The Fly (1987)

The Exorcist (1973)

Duel (1974)

Critters (1987)

Christine (1983)

Aliens (1987)

Alien (1979)

The Shining (1979)

God never spoke – Charlie Adlards work on Walking Dead 48

“He knew only that his child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke.”
— taken from page 5 of the book ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy (ISBN: 0330447548)

I keep thinking about that quote from Cormac McCarthy and how it seems to inform this amazing piece of comic art from ‘The Walking Dead’. This single page, comprising four panels of art, is the most heartbreaking, haunting piece of comic book I have ever seen. Seriously. Its the Father and Son bond and a Fathers worst nightmare in 4 illustrations. It gives me goosebumps whenever I look at it. There is only one word in the whole movement, but that one word is the ultimate way expression of realisation and denial. It is lettered simply and its impact is not lessened by its size in comparison to the whole page.

The whole of that issue is infused with sadness, and Adlard is at his best throughout. He also manages to convey the brutality and chaos of war, the terrible violence that can be done to the human body. A truly gifted man.

It does contain spoilers, so if you havent read The Walking Dead #48, don’t click the link;

The Walking Dead #48 page

One more agonising day…….Walking Dead 48


If you get the trades for The Walking Dead, then you will probably not want to read this, as I am discussing some major spoilers from the ‘No-one is safe’ story arc. So if you dont want to know the score, look away……NOW.

This is getting hellish now. I have read the Walking Dead thread at newsarama, and the Kirkman board on Image. Speculation is feverish, and anticipation – well, I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve. I have scrutinised the shadows that hang across Rick Grimes’ impassive face on the updated cover for issue 48 (see above), but I get no further clues. I think it is going to be the end of Lori and Judith, as we saw them, at the climax of #47, helpless at the feet of a mystery assailant brandishing a shotgun. I think Rick and Carl could be the only survivors from all this misery and fighting as the Woodbury community take what The Governer has led them to believe is theirs.

I keep looking at the new cover, and counting the graves. I count 6. That is one for Tyrese, one for Axel, and…..? Are we going to lose four others in this issue? Is the perspective of the crosses misleading to suggest a smaller cross amongst the larger ones? A smaller cross would imply a childs grave. I do not think Robert Kirkman has any qualms about making this story as ‘real’ as a fantasy can be considered ‘real’. The young die and the good die. Characters who have been major players for 40 or so issues die brutally. This next issue is going to (hopefully) resolve a few questions that remain unanswered;

Does Andrea, after arriving like the cavalry, survive?

What has happened to Glenn, Maggie and the others who left the prison with Andrea?

Will the Woodbury fighters hunt down the prison survivors?

Who has the gun trained on Lori and the baby?

Will the Governer meet a (deserved) brutal death?

Where is Michonne?

The answers will come soon, but there is a problem. It is one of impatience. My impatience.

The frustration for me is that I will not get the issue until Saturday at the earliest. I get my subscriptions via the post, from 2 brilliant comic shops, Red Hot (based in Glasgow) and Economic (based in Staines). I have links to their shops at the bottom of this post, and they both have great ebay stores as well. They are thoroughly nice people to do business with. Anyway, getting back to frustration… issue 48 will not arrive until the weekend at the earliest. That means I cannot use a lot of my favourite haunts online for fear of reading spoilers, and it doesnt get much worse than waiting for something like this, with such great excitement, to then read spoilers by accident and have the experience ruined.

What is the solution? Sit tight? Turn off all media until the postman delivers?? Well, there is another solution, and that is just grabbing a torrent of it, and reading it (probably) on Thursday. Is this right? Having already paid for the physical issue, I should have few reservations about grabbing an online copy for free, but for everyone who is just grabbing an early look before the paper copy arrives, I am sure there are plenty who are grabbing it for free. Therefore, am I justifiying the existence of these ripped copies, and harming comic creators and comic dealers????

Maybe, if I sit agonise over this for a few more hours it will actually take my mind off the wait for #48……

Economic Comics Home

Red Hot Comics Home

Robert Kirmans site

Kirkman discussing the ‘No-one Is Safe’ story arc

Review of Walking Dead 46

Wiki entry for Charlie Adlard

Wiki entry for Robert Kirkman

Image Comics Home

Video cover art of the 80s (plus FORMAT WARS!) and some videos too

Bit rambling this (nothing new), and its a sort of continuation from the article I did on Ruggero Deodatas ‘Cannibal Holocaust’. The cover art, as I showed, was brutal, and did justice to the brutality of the film;

which got me thinking about all the other fantastic video cover art of that era. In the past, when writing about post-apocalypse films of the early 80’s, I have commented that the cover art on the video was usually far more spectacular than anything the film itself offered (as the majority of the films put out on video in that period was generally low budget – major films could take months to come to video).

A classic example of great cover, BAD film;

and here is a review of the film;

Beardy Freak Review of ‘Mardi Gras Massacre’

Two of the most notorious covers (alongside Cannibal Holocaust) are here;

SS Experiment Camp

Review of SS Experiment Camp


Review of Snuff from StompTokyo

Here is an example of a cover that sums up the film nicely – the stark, creepy cover to the brilliant Texas Chainsaw Massacre, prior to its removal off the shelves in 1984 under the Video Recordings Act;

There are a few sites out there that dedicate themselves to archiving these treasures of the recent past;

Video Cover Art of the 80s

pre-certificate video art

Killer Covers

Ade collection of cover scans from the nasties era

That got me reminiscing of the video shops of 25 years ago – something some other people were doing on this forum;

forum thread about old video shops

I love the fact that someone on that forum mentions he collected video posters – so did I, including The Alchemist, Demons Of Ludlow, Ice Pirates, Frightmare, and my most treasured, The New Barbarians, all plastered over the bedroom…..

A modern day format war is now all but over, with Blu-Ray beat HD-DVD as the next format for films & games. Bit like the video wars of the early 80’s, when there was a 3 way tussle for the main prize of being the dominant format at the time competed for space in the rental shops (only the rich could afford to buy Video Cassette films, they cost upwards of £50 per film at the time). Betamax, Video2000 and VHS all challenged, with VHS winning out. There’s an overview here;

A History of the Video Format Wars

A brief history of Video mentioning the format wars

A brief history of the VCR

Finally on this whistle stop tour of video culture in the early 80s, here are trailers or opening sequences for some of the films that were staples of early 80s video shop rentals….

1990: The Bronx Warriors

Basket Case at the IMDB

Bronx Warriors at the IMDB

Creepshow at the IMDB

The Deadly Spawn at the IMDB

Flash Gordon at the IMDB

Hawk The Slayer at the IMDB

The Walking Dead – the power of Cover Art

I have mentioned Robert Kirkmans ‘The Walking Dead’ (published by Image) a couple of times now. I love it. Set in a future where there has been a Zombie Apocalypse, there are pockets of civilisation left, and the focus of the story is on Policeman Rick Grimes, his family, and the other survivors he meets and forms a community with. They are currently in a prison, holed up and ‘safe’, while the undead roam the perimeter fencing. However, the nearby survivor community at Woodbury (a fortress-like town) has become aware of the prison, and led by ‘The Governer’, a psychopathic villain, they aim to take it by force.

This current story arc is subtitled ‘No-one is safe’. It is one of the series strengths that major characters can meet sudden death, reflecting the dangerous, unpredictable environment they are in. This arc also moves the threat away from the undead, and onto the Woodbury survivors. The implication is that we (humans) are our own worst enemy.

Robert Kirkman is producing some great writing for this book, and has to be considered as one of the very best writers of the genre (up there with Alan Moore, Stan Lee, Pat Mills, Frank Miller). His work is full of drama and emotion, and knows how to pace a story, even giving the reader superb cliffhangers at the end of each issue.

With any comic book, you need the visuals as much as you need the story. It’s an alchemy, and only the best titles and/or best writer &artist teams have it (for the obvious, think of Stan Lee & Jack Kirby on The Fantastic Four, or Stan Lee & Steve Ditko on The Amazing Spiderman). Charlie Adlard, the artist for ‘The Walking Dead’, has a style that suits the gritty, sometimes violent nature of Kirkmans writing. He is a British artist, and started out on 2000ad, working on Judge Dredd. He has been working on ‘The Walking Dead’ since issue 7. He has been doing the covers for each issue since #25. The covers I am showing here are from upcoming issues (#47,48 & 49 – the ‘no-one is safe’ arc finishes at 48). Not only do they give tantalising glimpses (and nothing more) of what will be happening, but they convey so much drama and emotion. I find the ‘mother & baby’ cover (of Rick Grimes’ wife, Lori, holding her infant daughter) particularly moving – the facial expression (anger? fear?) and position of surrender of the Mother, the way she is trying to shield her child, the movement of the baby in her arms, the aggressor standing mainly off panel, shotgun ready. The prison perimeter fence looks devastated, the feeling is one of desolation and finality.

The next issue is stark and foreboding – we know there will be major characters who will not survive, and this reaffirms this – it reminds me of images of makeshift war graves on the field of battle. Again, the prison perimeter fence is devastated, showing that the former ‘safe’ area has been broken down and is at the mercy of the undead and any other invader;

Finally, this is the most intriguing cover. Issue #49, Rick Grimes (part covered by shadow) being led by his young son, Carl. Ricks posture suggests one of 3 things – he has either become undead (as he is drawn in a typical ‘Zombie’ pose – think ‘Flyboy’ in Romeros ‘Dawn Of The Dead’) or is weak with injury, or overcome with grief and is incapable of doing anything – even escaping from danger – without the aid of his son. They certainly are not in the confines of the prison any more – this is open space, bristling with threat. Carl looks determined, intent on leading his Father to safety.

The comic book cover is the first impression, and Adlards art for ‘The Walking Dead’ is the perfect selling point for Kirkmans brutal survival tale. It demands your attention. It demands to be read. Can I have all these issues now please???


Robert Kirmans site
Kirkman discussing the ‘No-one Is Safe’ story arc
Review of Walking Dead 46
Wiki entry for Charlie Adlard
Wiki entry for Robert Kirkman
Image Comics Home