How 1970s Marvel Comics Shaped the Career of Artist JH Williams III
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One of the most respected artists in all of comics, JH Williams has only dabbled in the Marvel Universe professionally—a WOLVERINE ANNUAL here, a cover for INCREDIBLE HULK there—but the content created by the House of Ideas over four decades ago played an important role in refining the way he works.
“[It] doesn’t show much in the evolution of my work, but I can recognize Michael Golden influence creeping into my art in subtle ways often,” Williams says, citing the artist who made a momentous mark on Marvel via MICRONAUTS. “Mostly on things that are not so obvious to anyone else.”
We conversed with Williams about his other favorites from 1970s Marvel and how these building blocks forged a creative force.
Marvel.com: When did you read your first Marvel comic and what were the circumstances?
JH Williams III: That is kind of tough to pin down, because I was reading comics, especially Marvel comics, from a very young age. It had to be before I was 8. So I don’t have any distinct memory of a specific first time I read a Marvel book. But I do remember that it seemed that I always had them around.
Marvel.com: What were the titles, characters, and creators that introduced you to Marvel?
Marvel.com: What about the '70s era of Marvel made it stand out as a distinct time period?
Williams III: Comics [from that time] began to have a deeper impact on me, I began to retain the stories at a more sophisticated level. This was around the time I started getting exposed to Marvel’s cosmic stories more. That’s around the time Marvel really pushed on the cosmic stuff. Stories surrounding characters like Captain Marvel, Warlock, and the Eternals reached for bigger themes, ideas that brought bigger questions about humanity and our possible role in the universe. Those stories seeped into my consciousness and took root profoundly.
Also during that time Marvel seemed to engage [in] weirder stuff. You had things like HOWARD THE DUCK, MAN-THING, WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, TOMB OF DRACULA, GHOST RIDER, SON OF SATAN [and] OMEGA THE UNKNOWN coming along, sitting alongside those cosmic stories. I feel like there was a subversive aspect beyond what Marvel had been previously known for; much of the content moving into more distinct social and political commentary or subtext—although, Marvel always had that in varying degrees. I loved that Marvel could have that kind of subtext rooted inside strange adventurous titles like Killraven or Deathlok. The original Guardians Of The Galaxy also has this weird vibe to it.
Marvel had always tried to push on expectations, so I guess you could say there was always a weirdness to be mined. But it seemed to me that during the 1970s Marvel really began to push on what they were known for. There’s also an ethical application underlying those subversive and sometimes surreal presentations of bigger themes, while maintaining a sense of adventure and wonder that is almost unmatched. A lot of those attitudes I think fed into the later '70s successes like the resurgence of UNCANNY X-MEN and MICRONAUTS.
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