Few artists drew Westerns as well as Doug Wildey. His portfolio The Movie Cowboy includes pinups of scenes from great western films, and must be seen to be believed. I’m fortunate enough to have a piece of original art from this era of his work, and it’s gorgeous. But The Movie Cowboy isn’t why we’re here.
The panel above comes from Rio, published in Eclipse Monthly #5 (left) and the Graphitti Designs collection (right). Prior to this panel, a company of soldiers comes across a group of Apache women and children. Here, as the Apache flee and the soldiers find themselves unable to pursue, Colonel Elgin fires a shot, knocking an Apache boy from his mount.
Wildey uses a number of techniques here to hint at Elgin’s state of mind without overtly stating it. First, Wildey uses a dutch angle, which not only benefits the composition, allowing the outstretched gun and gunfire to take the maximum space, but also visually implies that this action is unbalanced. As the story progresses, Colonel Elgin’s decisions become increasingly irrational, but here we see one of the first glimpses that that may be the case. Along with the angle, Wildey uses his depiction of the horse to the same effect. The wild-eyed surprise of the horse adds to the suggestion that Elgin’s attack shocks those in the story as well as the reader. Finally the lone line of dialog in the panel lets the reader know that Elgin’s dislike of the Apache runs deeper than merely being battlefield enemies.
I also find the differences between the two printings interesting. It appears that Wildey went back to the board and made some significant changes between the first printing and the collected edition. In various spots on the Colonel Elgin figure, Wildey added zip-a-tone effects to enhance the shading. More interestingly to my eye, though, are the changes he made to the horse and to Elgin’s hat. Looking at his Movie Cowboy drawings, especially the one I have in my collection, it’s clear that Wildey uses crosshatching masterfully. However, he also employs a technique that I’ve rarely seen elsewhere, using a series of parallel lines of varying width and closeness to create shading without that exact crosshatching effect. It adds an almost wood-cut-like texture to his drawings. This added texture gives the piece even more depth, and enhances the drama of the scene.
For those that haven’t already read Wildey’s Rio material from Eclipse, Graphitti, Marvel, and Dark Horse, you’re in luck. IDW will soon be releasing a complete Rio edition including unfinished, previously unpublished material. It should be a great introduction to the work of an amazing artist.
(By the way, I just noticed that all my posts so far have mentioned IDW. I promise you, I’m not an IDW shill. Far from it. It’s just a coincidence that they’re putting out great material. Next week is all Marvel.)