Land of Lost Stories: Chapter Two
Ladrönn's Lost Adventure: The Saga of the missing Silver Surfer epic
For a while, Marvel had the artist drawing lackluster gigs like a "Fantastic Four Annual" and such. They had no idea what to do with him until editor Tom Brevoort let Ladrönn roam free in a beautiful back-up strip for the 2000 "Thor Annual." With this story and liberated from the monthly grind, he was able to demonstrate that he was more than just a penciler, but a true artist, a master at penciling, inking and painting. What normally would have been traditional Marvel filler material became a lavishly painted story of epic proportions causing the editors at Marvel to finally reward him with an "Inhumans" limited series that would follow the Eisner-winning "Inhumans" work by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee. Writers Carlos Pacheco and Rafael Marin wanted to tell a more traditional Marvel story about the Inhumans and in Ladrönn they had an artist who would give the story scope. The series was a modest success, but triggered the beginning of a falling out between Marvel Comics and Ladrönn. In the beginning, the book was quickly green-lighted by editorial and solicited before the artist had completed the first book -- that's all fine and dandy, but this wasn't a typical comic book. Apparently Marvel expected Ladrönn to paint all four issues in a mere few months and they expected the same quality of work that they had seen in the "Thor Annual." The pressure was on from the beginning and yet the artist still managed, with the help of friends, to produce an outstanding piece of work in the first three issues of the four-issue limited series. The stress and sheer volume of the work had already set him behind for the fourth issue, and when Ladrönn requested additional time, the editor decided to get another artist fast to meet the deadline.
Around the year 2000, things got worse when Ladrönn terminated his exclusive contract with Marvel because they did not hold up to their part of the bargain. There were numerous conditions and stipulations that were part of his deal - the most important one being that Marvel would help him in attaining a work visa. With the bureaucracy and inner-office shuffling going on within Marvel, the artist became a victim of their red tape when Marvel stuck to the excuse that all dealings with Ladrönn's visa were done without Bob Harras' knowledge and thus removed this important provision to his contract. Already residing in California, Ladrönn soon had to pay for the costly immigration legalities out of his own pocket because his immigration status was jeopardized in part to Marvel's sudden change in attitude. He decided that with the end of the "Inhumans" series so to would be his days at Marvel (for now).
|The third and fourth page of Ladrönn's exquisite, if unfinished, Silver Surfer story. The rest of the entire graphic novel length script remains unillustrated.|
This Silver Surfer story was inspired by the fact that there was a major continuity gap between the Surfer's appearances on "Silver Surfer" #18 (Sept. '70) to his reemergence in "Sub-Mariner" #34 (Feb. '71). Somewhere between those two issues various characteristics of the Surfer had changed including his trademark angst and torment. It was as if he had taken anti-depressants. "The Lost Adventure" sought to fill in that gap and explain the Surfer's maturation, co-writer Jean-Marc also added that the story would have been "a science-fiction epic not encumbered by present-day continuity, that would have given Ladrönn the chance to shine by offering the opportunity to draw what he does best: Vast sci-fi landscapes and concepts, futuristic worlds in ruins, aliens, etc."
|The cover to "The All New Atom" #16 and #21. Since 2001, Ladrönn has provided many striking covers for DC and Marvel.|
In 2002, Ladrönn's work on "Hip Flask: Unnatural Selection," reunited him with Joe Casey in what was a new milestone in comics and a revelation that received overwhelming praise from fandom and critics. The book involves much of the same techniques the artist employed on the "Thor Annual," "Inhumans" and "The Lost Adventure pages," but integrated with other new techniques that he has picked up along the way. "Hip Flask" creator and letterer extraordinaire, Richard Starkings, explained Ladrönn's style in detail. "What you must also realize is that the art you see in 'Hip Flask' is a combination of airbrush, watercolor, color pencils, pastels, acrylics and gouache enhanced in Photoshop and Painter and therefore the finished work only exists in cyberspace. Even the boards to which Ladrönn applies the airbrush and watercolor base are Xeroxes of the original inked pages. Only when Ladrönn's work is printed does it exist in the material world as he has envisioned it. In a sense, everyone who has brought 'Unnatural Selection' owns an original."
The artist is presently working on the lavish European graphic novel "Final Incal." "Final Incal" is the final installment of the adventures of John Difool's saga, the book is written by Alejandro Jodorowsky, the Chilean poet, and film director of "El Topo" and other cult films. He also continues his brilliant cover run for "The All New Atom" at DC and rendering on the last part of the Hip Flask's mini series, "The Big Here & The Long Now." Last week saw the release of "Unhuman: The Elephantmen: Art of Ladrönn," 128 page oversized, full color hardcover art book that's full of Ladrönn goodness.
Special thanks to Ladrönn, Richard Starkings and Jean-Marc Lofficier. The original version of this story was presented in "Comic Book Artist" #23. Remember, my hope is that those folks who have this type of unpublished story material in their files may consider contributing to my desire in telling the "Greatest Stories Never Told" in comics.