Endangered Species: Brian Panderson
Brian Panderson, like his phonetic namesake, has shamefully become a rare sighting in the comic world; a living master lacking for work, our industries J.D. Salinger. The recent furor in the press around Panderson’s name in the solicits for Marvel’s Age of Ultron series was simply the latest in a long string of false sightings; the artist signing on to then dropping off of major titles around once a year. Some say that the lack of his name on the comic store racks or convention signing tables is simply a matter of health – the aged artist lived a long, storied life before starting out in comics, as the many available biographies attest – however others argue that his style, while highly respected, is simply too controversial for the now corporately owned comic companies. Whatever the reason, chances are that if you’re a new reader then you’ve never actually seen a single piece of Panderson’s artwork, which is a shame because he is arguably one of the mediums greatest minds. Who, you may ask, is Brian Panderson? Let’s find out.
Panderson – B.P. Anderson to friends – cut his teeth like so many comic greats on the bamboo of lesser known British works before breaking in with some black and white interior for 2000 A.D. in the mid eighties. The story was scrapped at the last minute because of its eerie similarity with events that occurred the week before in Chernobyl and is still considered ‘lost’. We know that it was read by at least one person though because soon after connoisseur of controversy Alan Moore announced that he would be working with Panderson on a world-changing comic. Moore also announced that there was no world, that there is only him, saying, “At this particular moment in space and time, this particular locus, the overall awareness of the entire continuum happens to believe it is Alan Moore”. His initial announcement would turn out to be just as cored in reality.
Panderson, it turns out, was hired by Moore under the table to provide proof of concept artwork for Twilight of the Superheroes, a company-wide crossover that Moore had proposed for the DC line. That he had already proposed it to the higher up’s an been rejected was a fact Moore failed to share with the in awe Panderson. This was to be his ticket straight to the top of the American industry and so he was willing to believe whatever Moore told him; even though the book never saw the light of day the concept work was so strong that it still succeeded in earning him the attention of the taste-makers. The hype around this newcomer was so strong that a bidding war broke out between the big two for his services; for a few years he was the most wanted man in comics.
Panderson was picked up by DC who promoted him heavily, heralding him as the thing that would save the comic’s industry. As a promotional event the company slated him to draw every issue release in the first week of 1994; they termed this Panderson in the Sky. It was too much, he couldn’t handle the pressure, seemingly managing only a few pages from a handful of issues; all of which are highly prized by fans and collectors, but none of which have ever been verified as real. In response to this failure Panderson altered his style dramatically and released, finally, a low-key original graphic novel which he also wrote. So impressed with his work Jean-Luc Godard optioned the rights to an adaptaton of this nineties nugget, The Invisible Man: buying not only concept but the script, all original art – which showcased the first example of what would soon become his trademark style -and publication rights, preventing DC from actually releasing the book. Sanderson himself was again uninformed and thus never saw a dime from the deal.
Seeing the success his Marvel counterparts were having after jumping ship and starting ‘Image Comics’ Sanderson sought to do the same at DC, starting the now infamous ‘Text’ comics line and hoping others would join him. Text Comics took the tagline ‘Where Characters Matter’ to the extreme by focusing its artists on the creation of unique fonts in place of comic’s traditional pictures; Sanderson thought that stories should be told by the tone, tenor and temperance of the voices and tried to capture this in an entirely silent medium. It was a mad idea and something of a failure since he was never able to raise enough funds to breach Diamond’s then prohibitive print run requirement. So the books never saw distribution but their impact on the industry was dramatic; techniques he created back then can still be seen in the comic’s of today, commonplace now, somehow.
So you can see why the news that Marvel were hiring Panderson for their summer crossover shocked comic circle’s: some critics thought it an elaborate prank or slip of the tongue, something simply said by a group of guys in a room, but fans saw it as the potential phoenix for his dialogue driven style; if Sanderson could convey the story of an action based event entirely through words – something never before achieved – then he could stand as a success, stand alongside his old partner Moore. It was not to be however, the company instead favoring the traditional work of some other artist with a made-up sounding name for the latter issues of its crossover, but it may someday. With Image stronger than ever, Valiant revived, apps like Comixology allowing anyone to publish and pretensions at an all time high I believe that now is the perfect time for Sanderson and ‘Text Comics’ to make a comeback… or debut, as the case may be.