The Strange Death of Alex Raymond

Living the Line. Aug. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9781736860502. $39.99. GRAPHIC ARTS
Sim (Cerebus the Aardvark) delves into the early days of comic strip artistry in this challenging graphic novel. Its title refers to the real-life death of artist Alex Raymond in a car crash in 1956. Sim introduces Raymond’s death and investigates the reasons behind the crash. The book then wanders into the realm of the photorealist style of artwork in comics; this technique brings clean brushstrokes to the page with the look of photographs. Three men who pioneered realistic comic art (Raymond, Milt Caniff, and Hal Foster) are intertwined in this story. Their own competition led to harsh feelings among the group. Sim displays how he taught himself the difficult style of photorealism through trial and error and intense study of his predecessors. The reader is taken on a winding road of technical prowess, ingenuity, history, and betrayal, with the death of Raymond as the binding story.
VERDICT Written for readers wishing to learn about the history of the photorealist style in comic strips, this book may be dense for casual readers. Fans more familiar with the history of comics will rejoice in the depth of research and analysis provided within.
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