Unique and well-executed art styles always make comic books more interesting to read in my opinion, and as much as everyone claims you should not judge a book by its cover, that is often my first criteria for deciding to read a comic book. While there are a plethora of incredible styles—ranging from highly cartoony, to beautiful watercolor, to realistic—, inked linework has always captivated me, and artists such as Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff, Hal Foster, Mark Schultz, and François Schuiten are among my favorites.
While ambling down the rabbit hole that is YouTube a few months ago, I came across a video by Earl Grey reviewing a list of his favorite Euro graphic novels (he is from Germany)—and among the list was “Sharaz-De: Tales from the Arabian Nights” by the Italian artist Toppi. The illustrations were entirely in black and white, with intricate texturing and hatching, all within pages that contained some of the most unique panel compositions I had seen in a comic format. As soon as the video was over I knew a trip to Amazon.com was in order—and a short while later a hardcover copy of The Collected TOPPI – Volume One: The Enchanted World was at my doorstep.
Toppi began his career in the illustration world during the 1960s and has since become well known in comic circles and influenced many other artists. The refinement of his artistic execution and composition definitely reflects his interest in illustration, and makes for a dramatic reading experience:
My specific book is a collection of short fantasy works Toppi created. The stories themselves read much like very dark fairytales, and while interesting in their own right, are overshadowed by the artist’s incredibly unique style. With this collection, the reader can simply look at the artwork and appreciate the whole book on that merit alone, without reading a single bit of text. There are many examples of his work on the internet, and some of his publications have made it to the U.S.—albeit in limited quantities. But his style is unique throughout:
Comics from the European continent have become an area of interest for me as of late—titles such as Blacksad, When the Wind Blows, Samaris, and Matteo to name a few—all done with different styles and subject-matter. Toppi’s work is unique unto itself, and one of the few that can stand on its visual artistry alone. If you love well-inked drawings, and appreciate unique but effective composition, I would recommend looking into Sergio Toppi.
Earl Grey: https://youtu.be/yi6e4TQ7jC8?t=61
(all images are from the below)
Toppi, S., Melloul, J., Kennedy, M., & Sienkiewicz, B. (2019). The collected Toppi. Volume one, The enchanted world. Lion Forge.