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Doug Wildey’s Masterpiece

Doug Wildey was one of the often forgotten comic book artists. I am mostly familiar with the work he did for Harvey comics with Joe Simon as editor but he did more work for other outfits like Atlas (Marvel). He obviously used photographs as reference in his work. Now I have no problem with an artist using photographs, many comic book artists did at least occasionally. However it is not without its problems. One is that the difference between sections based on photographs and those not can be jarring and negative to the work as a whole. Further poses can be stiff and unnatural. So while theoretically I do not care if a comic book artist works from photographs, too much dependency on photos is detrimental to an artist’s work. Apparently Wildey never got the memo. Yes he used photographs but it is hard to tell how he did it because his work consistently attractive and there is nothing stiff about his figures.

It is clear that Doug care deeply about the quality of the work he created. The original art for comics that he did show that he provided a lot of detail and special effects. It is surprising that he would do this because he must certainly have known that much of this careful work would be lost in the printing. Not only was fine details often a waste of time it too could have a bad impact on the work. There are those fans who admire finely worked pencils and inking but I could generally describe such art as dry. There is probably nothing worse for comic book art than being dry. Doug Wildey did not get that memo either. One description I would never use in describing Wildey’s work was dry.

Unfortunately a comic book artist’s reputation generally depends on whether he ever had the chance to work on a popular feature. Do nice work on a popular feature and fans will even pay attention to the rest of a comic book artist’s work. Unfortunately most comic book artists do not get a chance to work on something really popular and I believe Doug Wildey was no exception. That is not the same thing as Doug never working on something really good. Wildey did have a masterpiece, it just did not draw as much attention as it deserved. Doug’s masterpiece was a western which has recently been reprinted in “Doug Wildey’s Rio”. Rio was Wildey’s creation and not only did he do the pencils and inking but the writing, lettering and coloring as well. This book presents this work largely from the original art so this really is Wildey’s creation. As good as Wildey was in the 50’s and 60’s, he out did himself for this work. Rio truly was Doug Wildey’s masterwork.

Doug Wildey’s Rio is presented in a truly nicely packaged volume that is large enough to properly present the work. As I mentioned the book mostly uses the original art therefore there is some variation in the coloring and some of the work is uncolored. Further Doug was still working on one story when he passed away. While this story is unfinished it is effectively complete, that is while the art might be sketchy in some parts the story is all there. There is also a nice introduction by Mark Evanier who obviously is very knowledgeable about artists other than Jack Kirby. This is a book that I highly recommend. Many thanks to IDW for really doing this reprint right.