Friday, January 30, 2015

The Drifting Snow

For all of my snow-bound friends on the east coast, here's a frigidly faithful Tony Isabella and Esteban Maroto adaptation of August Derleth's fear-fraught Weird Tales short story classic "The Drifting Snow" from the April 1974 issue of Vampire Tales #4 magazine. Awesome cover by Boris too, though the blurb incorrectly states the story is called "Night of the Snow Vampire." Keep warm friends, we'll get back into the precode gold next-- stay tombed!


Mestiere said...

Peruvian artist Boris Vallejo must have used himself as model for the guy on the cover painting. That's pretty much what he looked like back then.

August Derleth is not one of my favorite writers but, thanks to Spaniard Esteban Maroto's beautiful art, this is a poetic and affecting story. My main objection is that in both the original version and in Tony Isabella's it is implied that the servant girl who was thrown out into the snow had been raped ("despite the girl's blamelessness he had sent her into the cold night--") and yet the art seems to show otherwise.

Esteban Maroto—who's still alive at 72—is somewhat controversial in Spain for his abundant swiping of the work of others. Not just figures but sometimes entire pages. The brazenness of his stealing can be breathtaking:

Frank Frazetta and Esteban Maroto

Hal Foster and Esteban Maroto

French artist Michel Tanguy and Esteban Maroto

Jeff Jones and Esteban Maroto

It's like those famous authors like Stephen Ambrose (Band of Brothers), historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and even Alex Haley (Roots) who have been caught plagiarizing. Why won't they just work harder?

Brian Barnes said...

This is one of the stories that shows the incredible promise and power of comic horror stories.

The Drifting Snow is probably second to "The Upper Berth" for short text horror stories (IMHO.) From that basis, springs this beautiful adaptation. The full figured vampire woman is something Maroto did over and over in his career and you can see it in a lot of other works. As Mestiere said, though, could have been a swipe.

But, separating the art from any failings of the artist, this is a pristine and wonderful job. And something that could have only been done well in B&W. The starkness of the black lines vs the snow covering wouldn't have been as bleak if in color.

Maroto's use of negative space (the all black/all white panels) is very solid here. Especially last page, panel 2, where he uses negative space to frame the rising snow/legs of our victim as the vampires attack.

Beautiful piece. On that should be in a museum, and that's not hyperbole. Everything works here.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

To put it bluntly: I don't like Maroto. I can't help it, it's a matter of personal taste. I don't remember this story, looks like one of his better efforts, and surely all the embellishments and effects he uses here help a lot. When he is more "essential", like in some Satana stories or, worse still, in Cinco por Infinito or in later comics, he seems to be dull (in his human portraits) and pretentious at the same time. He fills the page as if he was telling us "Hey, look how 'graphic' I am", but lacking real pathos. A "cold" artist (which is fine here). I repeat: personal taste.
The cover: that cover bring me fond memories, for it gave me the creeps as a kid (I know, I know...), but if I remember well, THIS story was not in the italian version.
I immediately thought of "I tre volti della paura" ("Black Sabbath") by Mario Bava, the segment with Karloff ("the Wurdalaks"). Was there a blizzard? I seem to recall there was... Anyway, that Lady is NOT a vampire, maybe a western Yuki - Onna.

Dr. Theda said...

We had this issue as a kid...
and always enjoy Moroto's artwork....

Grant said...

I have such trouble recognizing comic artists from one story to another, but not so much Maroto. He gives the supernatural figures here such a great "arty" look. Just like the ones in his DAX THE WARRIOR sword and sorcery stories.

aldi said...

Not my favorite artist but he is effective at times here. BTW the servant girl needn't have been raped to be described as blameless. An artful seduction would also be deserving of that epithet.

Morbid said...

I have not really been a fan of Maroto, but I have to say that with this story his style really "makes it". The aloof, often superficial ornateness of the line work, and inexpressive characters' faces, have made it hard for me to warm to his work. Nobody seems to "act" in one of his stories -- they're just there to look pretty. However -- with this tale he seems to come into his own. The brittle character of the drawings, the ornate, snowflake like effects (affects?) he always does come into their own. All in all, a terrific piece. Really like that Boris cover, too.

I am stunned to see those blatant art swipes linked above. Why do this when you've got solid talent? There is nothing wrong with the odd photo reference as a starting point here and there. Even looking to some really great art for inspiration on composition or dynamic figures is not the end of the world -- just make it your own! But, wow, those links are blatant. Except for the Frazetta, which is a little iffy, the rest are embarrassing for him. Is he embarrassed by those? Has he ever commented on it all?

JMR777 said...

Art swipes or not, this was a well drawn tale by the artist. Could another artist have done better? It is hard to say, but the art works well for this story.

The first page sets the scene of isolation, reminiscent of the hotel in The Shining, just a bit.
The art gets the job done in eleven pages, a page or two less and it would have made to feel rushed an compressed, a page or more and the story would have suffered.

Mestiere said...

"Is he [Maroto] embarrassed by those? Has he ever commented on it all?"

Since his swiping is so well known he must have been confronted about it but I don't know what excuses he uses.

This is what John Byrne wrote about him:

"In my pre-pro days, I became enamored of the work of Esteban Maroto, and copied a lot of his stuff into my own work. Then, one day, I was copying a Joe Kubert figure, and realized it was a Maroto figure I had copied previously -- except the Kubert piece was about 10 years older than the Maroto piece.
I went back and looked at the Maroto stuff again, and realized it was wall to wall swipes. A Kubert figure here, a Neal Adams there. Here's an Alan Weiss!

I learned that no matter how desperate I imagined myself to be, I must never swipe Maroto, since he was probably swiping somebody else!"

Karswell said...

Wow, art swipes don't bother me in the least bit... in some stories it's actually kind of fun to find the swipes and identify them. Oh well...

So THOIA will be taking a break for a few weeks here as we focus on a precode related side project... but we'll return in time for a Valentines Day massacre the likes of which you've never seen. Adios for now, enjoy the archives if you're new around here, or even if you're old to THOIA, why not revisit some of the backlog?

Morbid said...

I agree that finding art swipes can be fun when reading some of the stuff that pops up in THOIA. I especially like it when they pop up in some really struggling guy's work from some 1950's poverty row horror comic publisher. You can just picture him, desperately trying to draw a story for a few peanuts and ability-wise he's in way over his head. The deadline looms and his work is crap! Even the editor of this rag he's drawing it for is going to reject it and not give him another job! So he cracks open a bottle of rotgut, pours a glass, and reaches for an EC or an Atlas and thumbs through it... salvation!

S.D. Joe said...

Maroto Shmaroto - I'm here ta pick a fight wit' da guy who badmouthed Augie Derlet'!

Darci said...

S.D. Joe,
Try this review: