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Opus 46-60


46 Star Wars: Episode 1 - Queen Amidala, 1999, Dark Horse.

A story around the main female character in the film.
Russell has done the layouts and the inking, and Galen Showman has penciled the damn thing. It looks good, of course, the storytelling is nice, but... it's a Star Wars story, and it 'showcases' Amidala and Jar Jar. What else can I say?


The gods.

Brother & sister... and lovers.

Siegfried deceived.

47 The Ring of the Nibelung.

  • book 1, The Rhinegold 1-4, 2000, Dark Horse.
  • book 2, The Valkyrie 1-3, 2000, Dark Horse.
  • book 3, Siegfried 1-3, 2000-2001, Dark Horse.
  • book 4, GötterDämmerung 1-4, 2001, Dark Horse.
  • The first two books are also available in the first Ring collection and the last two in the second one.

On the Dark Horse site, there's an interview of Russell, and also some pages from the first issue along with all the covers.

A sculpture by Sam Greenwell, from a design by Craig Russell.In some of the comics, you'll find drawings and sketchbooks which Russell has done over the years for these stories. In fact, he had already adapted a small part of Siegfried's story in Opus 7, and there's also a 1979 portfolio on these themes (see Pinups & Portfolios).

Siegfried.14 comics! 424 pages! That's what it took for Russell to adapt Richard Wagner's tetralogy, a great story of gods and men, of lust for power and redemption through fire and love. Wagner drew his inspiration from Nordic mythology but took some liberties, especially in the way he unfolded his vision of the themes of the myths.
Russell and Patrick Mason, who translated the text from the german libretto, didn't try to go back to the sources but decided to be faithful to the operas themselves.
Russell's version of the gods are very influenced by the way they have usually been represented in the operas (apart from Logé, the fire-god, who is shown as a sprite). They are not olden days gods, but rather characters on a stage who play their parts, none of them able to ignore their fates, their impending doom woven by the Norns.
Russell is clearly at his peak as an artist. The fluidity of his layouts, the details of his pencils which give life to stones, trees and beings, all this shows how much in control of his art he is. The color art by Kindzierski is also very beautiful, full of texture for some scenes, shining and monochromatic for others. This is very close to a perfect comic.

And just for fun, here are the b&w versions of a few of the comics' covers:


Cover by Tim Sale

48 Buffy the vampire slayer: Tales of the Slayers - Presumption, 2002, Dark Horse.

This book is an anthology showing the "slayers" (the current one being Buffy) throughout the ages. Russell drew an eight-page story, written by Jane Espeson, which takes place at the beginning of the 19th century, during a reception among the well-to-do.
More than the usual fight between the slayer and a vampire, it is a well crafted reflexion on the boundaries placed upon women by society. Russell's art, with its attention to detail and its dead straight storytelling, perfectly shows the hidden shadows which lurk behind the beautiful clothes, the floodlit ballroom, the codified relationships between men and women. This is a society where people are often refined and deadly... like all the best vampires.

49 Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde - The Devoted Friend.

A 15-page Oscar Wilde fairy tale.
Included in The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde Vo. 4, published by NBM in April 2004.

A very cynical and sad story, The Devoted Friend sees a young gardener whose friendship with a very bourgeois miller is daily abused by the miller, which the rather naive gardener doesn't realize.
P. Craig Russell has used his cartoony style to adapt this tale, and the combination of the whimsical art with the bleak happenings is rather chilling. Even the talking animals introducing and concluding the stories, which look cute and which Russell probably had fun drawing, do nothing to cheer up the reader. But after all, traditional fairy tales often didn't end well for the protagonists, despite what Disney would have us believe.

50 In Flanders Field, 2002, Dark Horse.

Two pages in 9-11 Volume 1.

An adaptation of a a well-known poem from World War I, this is Craig Russell's contribution to one of the anthologies published after the New York City terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
After the Ring cycle, it's fascinating to see Russell work again on a very short story. His talent for adaptation, that is, the way he finds new meaning to existing works, is very apparent in this powerful piece. He finds connections between the experiences of WWI soldiers and the men and women who lived and died in New York City on that day, without resorting to cheap melodrama.

51 Murder Mysteries.

A 64-page hardcover edition, June 2002, Dark Horse.

And here is another Neil Gaiman/P. Craig Russell collaboration, after The Sandman # 50 and the Moorcock story. This time, Russell adapts a short story written by Gaiman some years ago (it's included in his short stories collections).
An angel is found dead in the streets of the Silver City, long, long ago, in the days before the universe came into existence. That is what an old man tells a younger man, one December night in contemporary Los Angeles. The rest of the tale concerns various angels involved in the investigation, including the captain of the host, Lucifer. It also concerns two concepts, new at the time of murder, called "love" and "death". Guilty parties abound, and the innocents might not be spared for long.

As you can see, this is pure Gaiman. Using old myths to spin post-modern tales is something Gaiman has being doing for some time, now. But this is also pure Russell. The man was born to draw angels, particularly the ones looking very masculine, although without the usual appendages. It is also very interesting to see him draw some real-life scenes (the ones in L.A.). I'd love to see Russell adapt some modern stories. He has a way of drawing a contemporary city which makes it almost as strange as Asgard or the Silver City.

52 Between Two Worlds.

In The Comics Journal Special Edition Volume 2 - Summer 2002, published by Fantagraphics.

This is a three-page biography of the composer Erich Korngold. Published in a wider-than-high format, this is another example of Russell's wonderful storytelling. This story is obviously close to his heart, and the way he blends Korngold's life with the turmoils of his time is very moving. He also manages to make a few points about the various cliques which are always trying to put down one musical movement after another.

Cover Dave McKean

53 The Sandman: Death and Venice.

A 24-page story in The Sandman: Endless Nights graphic novel, DC Comics/Vertigo, 2003.
Craig Russell has written a post on his forum about his adaptation of Neil Gaiman's script.

Here is the fourth collaboration between Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell. This is another story with Death, the cute punk version of the reaper, which Gaiman 'created' for his Sandman series.
A boy meets Death on an island near Venice, and years later, the man he's become will meet her again and go with her to meet a group of aristocrats who've been reveling day after day for centuries. This might be one of the best stories Gaiman has written, with a fractured structure and a sense of melancholy which he's always done well. As for the art, it's another example of Russell at his peak, as much for the layouts as for the line art.

54 Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde - Nightingale and the Rose.

A 15-page Oscar Wilde Fairy Tales adaptation, published by NBM alongside Opus 49 in April 2004.
You can see a few pages here.

A poor student pines for his love who's asked him for a red rose in exchange for a dance with him. And there are no red roses in his garden... It will take the poetic sacrifice of a nightingale to bring him one, but that might not be enough to win his love over.
Drawn in a realistic style (apart from some talking animals), Russell's art brings to paper the sense of doom and failure which permeates the story. Wilde definitely didn't write feel-good children stories.

55 Gone.

An eight-page story in The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings, Dark Horse Comics, 2003.
Preview here.

Craig Russell drew this story from the beginning of a screenplay by Mike Richardson. A low-key, disturbing tale which sees first a kid, and then adults entering an abandoned house never to reappear, it also gives us the opportunity to see Craig Russell working on a story which has no (visual) fantasy elements whatsoever, and so highlights his finely chiseled storytelling. The last page (which I'm not showing here, it would be a pity) is for me among his most striking.

Cover by James Jean

56 Fables: The Last Castle.

A 48-page prestige format comic written by Bill Willingham, DC Comics/Vertigo, 2003.
Framing sequence pencilled and inked by P. Craig Russell, with the main story pencilled by Craig Hamilton, with layouts and inks by P. Craig Russell.
Here is a preview, courtesy of the publisher.

Fables is an excellent continuing series created and written by Bill Willingham, about various characters from fables and legends who have escaped to our world, following a war with an as-yet mysterious Adversary who's conquered all their lands. 'The Last Castle' tells the story of their last stand. Russell and Hamilton's art is perfectly suited to this tale, which is rather dark and bloody.


57 Hellboy:Command Performance.

An 8-page story in Hellboy: Weird Tales # 6, Dark Horse, December 2003.
Preview here.

Written Will Pfeiffer, this story sees Hellboy discovering the truth behind a Grand Guignol troupe. Russell uses his cartoony style, which is perfectly suited to an over-the-top gory story with no claim to depth or nuance. This is stricly for fun, although the storytelling is as effective as ever.

58 The Godfather's Code.

A 32-page black & white comic adapting the opera Cavalleria Rusticana, NBM, February 2004.
Also included in The P. Craig Russell Library of Opera Adaptations vol.3.
Preview here and here.

Often played alongside I Pagliacci, another opera adapted for comics by P. Craig Russell, Cavalleria Rusticana is also a story of adultery and revenge, set in 19th century Italy. Here titled The Godfather's Code for its use in the film The Godfather III, Russell's adaptation is a joy to behold.
Printed from his uninked pencils, the art is elegant and refined, and while the plot is rather thin, it offers a lot of opportunities for the display of Russell's mastery of body language and facial expressions.

Cover by Christopher Moeller

59 Lucifer #50: Lilith.

A 40-page comic, DC Comics/Vertigo, May 2004.
Here's a preview from DC.

This issue tells a special story for the Mike Carey-penned series, a spin-off of Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Set rather early in the history of the universe, its shows how Lilith, the rejected first wife of Adam, gave birth to many kids, from demon fathers... as well as from some angels. Although this is a good comic by itself, it's rather funny to have in mind Russell's work on Murder Mysteries, the Neil Gaiman story about (among other things) angels at the dawn of time. In both comics, beautiful and rather masculine angels contend with their creator's seeming lack of interest in their life. And in both books, Russell's artwork is absolutely wonderful, giving each angel a specific body language and showing them as unique creatures. You can read this comic without knowing the Lucifer series, but of course, you'll get more out of it if you read the rest of the comics first. It will be included in a future collection of the series.

60 Daredevil #65.

A 6-page sequence in that anniversary issue written by Brian Bendis, November 2004.

Matt Murdock/Daredevil meets various people in that issue, among them Captain America. Russell gets to draw that meeting in Central Park. He gives Captain America a classical, handsome face that's at the same time coherent with his own style and with the long history of the character. He also shows again his storytelling skills, with complex and varied layouts, using the surrounding nature in a psychological way (trees separating the two men when they don't understand each other, for example). It's nice to see Russell drawing the real world (or as real as it gets in superhero comics).

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