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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Art Dive; Trevor Von Eeden - DC in the 80s



Trevor Von Eeden is one of those mysterious dudes you saw occasionally, and rarely do you see Von Eeden on "all time favorite artists" lists. But Trevor Von Eeden is absolutely one of my favorite artists of all time, and I wanted to explore some of his work. I wish he was a regular on a book after 1985, in my prime years of DC in the 80s childhood obsession, but he wasn’t. He had that Steve Ditko vibe to me, like “What happened to him, where is he?” I knew what happened with Steve Ditko after the internet became a thing, but still Trevor Von Eeden remained a mystery. I felt his work was this funked-up Alex Toth, more technical 80s version of a 70s-era Frank Robbins. But he had his own distinguishable energy. It was so fresh, so different from everything else out. It was dynamic, beautiful, and I wanted more.


Trevor Von Eeden in 2008.
I now follow him on Facebook, and I can tell you for sure he is alive and well. He’s even begun going to Conventions, and I hope I get the chance to meet him someday. I’d love to ask him about his experiences when he first began in the business, the bs he had to go through, and maybe the bs that eventually made him peace out. He’s also super passionate about his beliefs, which I love. If he did stories about what he is passionate about, I would buy it.

I thought it would be cool to read some of his work right now, and explore the art. Like an art historian. So pretend this is a DC in the 80s museum, and I’m the guy they gave you when you asked for a tour and we are going into the Trevor Von Eeden room. If you don’t like how I do it, another tour is starting soon.

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Batman Annual 8. 1982.

First of all, who else worked on this book. Mike W. Barr, a SUPER underrated Batman writer. His Detective run with Alan Davis might be my favorite of the 80s. John Costanza on lettering, Lynn Varley on colors and the legendary Dick Giordano on editing. Lettered, colored and edited by the Dark Knight Returns team.

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This main villain and his henchman. The henchman is a classic square jaw goon, and the classic hooded no face main villain, but with such powerful evil portrayed just through the eyes. The goon almost foreshadows a future Marv from Sin City, while the hooded villain recalls others who used religion as a shield for their hate.

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Look at that line and shadow work. I love that huge bat shadow falling on the dead victims, and then the Batplane underneath the sky and birds. It feels like the two pages are speaking to each other.
Here you see how Von Eeden played with perspectives, and his amazing symmetry. There’s something special going on here, a real angular exploration. 

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Batman totally backhanded this fake Jesus character. Like "Really dude?"

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BTW the story line is about some poison being introduced into Gotham’s water supply. Joker did this, Scarecrow, Ra’s Al Ghul. A popular Batman trope. I will say just as I’m reading this, it’s a really well told story. It’s an A to B to C story, very early 80’s comic book, but Barr has a way of narrative that fits Batman well. It’s the most “detective” of the Batman stories I’ve read. Von Eeden’s art is killing it tho.



The link work, the circles. I’d say Von Eeden is more of an alchemist than a cartoonist in this book. I feel like I am looking more through a book on Carl Jung, rather than a Batman comic. Am I projecting?

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Damn Batman is coooolddd. He's right though.

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Green Arrow limited series Issue 1, 1983.

Mike W. Barr writing again. This time John Costanza letters again, with Dick Giordano on the inks, Len Wein is editor, and Tom Zuiko is the colorist. Wouldn’t it have been funny if George Costanza’s cousin was the letterer at DC, and Jerry Seinfeld got to meet people who worked on Superman? They could have done an episode about Jerry being really sad Superman was dead and George tried to buy every issue of the story in NYC and destroy them so it would become really rare and only he would have it, until some store in Newark suddenly made millions because everyone took the train there to buy it.



Here it seems the line work is less experimental and more straight forward. Von Eeden is channeling Frank Miller in some of the shots, and I could easily have seen him working on Daredevil during this era. Still, it’s very much a unique look, and Giordano’s inks aren’t drowning out his style. It seems like it was only a few panels. Sometimes it feels like Von Eeden is experimenting with styles mid story. Love it.

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This has a really great story. There’s this love established between Oliver (Green Arrow) and an older rich lady. I was really feeling it. I’m also feeling this experimentation of panels. It gives this page the chaos it needs to convey an explosion and fire, and everything falling apart.

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Look at the sadness conveyed during the reading of a will of someone Oliver cared for, while the deceased's children argue over Queen getting a fortune, he could care less. Love how he gets smaller as their conversation gets more heated.

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I love everything about this page. So stylized. Again the panels are loose, but Von Eeden’s symmetry plays into it. Also, his moon scenes really get me. I saw this in the Batman Annual as well.

Why didn't we get 20 issues of this???? If you haven’t already, go out and get this Green Arrow mini-series.


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Look at this page in issue 2. This is classic illustrating. Some Ditko, but a style completely Von Eeden's own. The next two pages after this make the comic worth whatever you pay for it. Just go buy it.

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In Issue 3, I feel Von Eeden takes a step up in artistry. The first page is one of the best pages in comics, IMO. Look at Count Vertigo sweating! The story telling is all in the eyes. Amazing stuff.

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I really enjoyed the minimalism on this page too. Recalls some of Jim Aparo's 1970s work, some Miller stuff on Daredevil. GIVE ME 20 ISSUES OF THIS STORYTELLING. 

Wow did I enjoy the 3 issues of Green Arrow that I’ve owned for decades and never read. What a waste. Or maybe now was just a great time to read it. Que sera sera. I have to get #4 on Ebay like right now. Man, these shipping and handling fees. I would so rather get this at a shop or a con. 

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Thriller #1.

As a kid I thought Thriller was about Michael Jackson, and even when I found it wasn’t, I still didn’t want to read it. I DJ weddings and I’ll play MJ, but I’m just into him. Janet Jackson I love though. Rhythm Nation FTW. But I bought some issues a few years ago in the dollar boxes, just because I knew Von Eeden was on them. First of all, if it’s on Baxter Paper, so it’s amazing. Baxter Paper feels like "Hey I'm a Special Comic!!". Second of all Robert Loren Fleming, the writer, worked on Ambush Bug, which is still one of the greatest series of all time. So I can't wait to read this. 

There is a lot of experimentation in this. It’s very quick, fluid. It’s almost like a dream. They’re introducing characters at a breakneck speed and it feels like they need to get them all out before they can really start the story.

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This is a particularly interesting sequence that feels like it could work in a Deadman story too. I love the face and the shading. Von Eeden is such a strong, interesting inker too. 

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Love this drawing. This character Data blows my mind, the inking on him is so different. BTW this Data has the ability of a few 647k computers, so watch out Microsoft Word documents. 

I read #2 and just feel this needs more attention, story wise. I'll get all the Von Eeden issues and read them all at once. Or I won't, who knows. So hard to find time to read anything. They will go in the read pile, which has books that I bought in 1986, so yeah.

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Finally, the classic Batman and the Outsiders #15.

Here, Von Eeden’s work gets dirtier, and so much more experimental. Heavy pen lines, crazy inking. I wonder if this was a fun issue for him, or whether it was part of the process of him leaving DC. Another Mike W. Barr collaboration.

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There is this hot Outsiders versus New Olympians splash page. It’s so different, so much more independent then what you were seeing at the time. Poster-worthy. I also wish Maxie Zeus was a bigger Batman villain. He felt like a major player in the 80s, but now, he's not even top 100.

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Katana bitch-slapping the archer Diana, and Antaeus floating. Von Eeden did so much with eyes, that it was lost if you looked at the pages too quickly.

The issue was great, but felt like it was over too quick. Much like I feel about Trevor Von Eeden’s career at DC in the 80s. I'm going to finish Thriller, and hunt down more Trevor Von Eeden work from the 80s. I think he's a forgotten master, and although he helped create Black Lightning, he just doesn't get the credit he deserves for his work.


-Mark Belkin

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