Monday, September 30, 2019
New Austin Briggs Book by David Apatoff
I was on the road, doing a cross-USA road round-trip for old times sake, so I received my copy of David Apatoff's latest book later than some other folks did. (Many thanks to Manuel Auad and Bill Peckmann, loyal readers of this blog.)
Auad only has a thousand copies of each of his books printed, so get to this link quickly before the trove of Austin Briggs information and work examples is gone.
Apatoff, proprietor of the Illustration Art blog, is extremely knowledgeable regarding American illustration (along with other kinds of graphic art), and has written books about the great Bernie Fuchs, Al Parker and Robert Fawcett.
Besides Apatoff's text, there is an introduction by Briggs' son.
Briggs had an interesting career, doing illustrations for "pulp" magazines during the Great Depression and later becoming an in-demand illustrator for "slick" magazines. Actually, there were some other illustrators such as Walter Baumhofer who did the same. But Briggs did well in more than pulps and slicks: he was an important comic strip artist who spent several years manning the Flash Gordon helm. Briggs' son's introduction deals more with the Flash Gordon work than with his later career in slicks.
Until reading the book, I hadn't been aware how early Briggs got involved with Alex Raymond's 1930s strips -- Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim and Secret Agent X9. Perhaps it shouldn't have been a surprise, because I've wondered for a long time how Raymond could manage all that work. Turns out Briggs was there to help, even years before taking over Flash and X9. (I continue to be amazed how some backup strip artists were able to duplicate the style of the primary artist. In the case of shadowing Alex Raymond, this was a huge challenge that Briggs puled off very convincingly.) In a few respects this was similar to the Milton Caniff - Noel Sickles partnership going on around the same time.
Apatoff was fortunate that there exists a good deal of information regarding Briggs including his own writings and family remembrances. Therefore, unlike some other biographies of illustrators in my library, he has a good deal to say. Besides biographical information, Apatoff adds several pages analyzing Briggs' growth as an artist along with his impact on the illustration field during the late 1950s and into the '60s.
This book is a worthy addition to my library.