The English illustrator, painter and comics artist Martin Vaughn-James passed away last week (obits here and here). Perhaps this will be an occasion for comics world to take greater note of this significant artist and innovator in the medium. Owing to his influences and probably especially the fact that he lived in Brussels for the latter part of his life, he is much admired by critics and scholars, if not the comics-reading populace at large, in the Francophone world. In America, however, he lamentably remains largely unknown.
From what little I’ve seen of his work as an illustrator and painter, I would hazard the guess that his work in comics, although comparatively limited — consisting as it does of a mere half a dozen books — is nevertheless his most significant. His approach to the form, both in terms of narration and, more concretely, his blend of words and images, remains unique in the medium, all the while prefiguring important later innovations by direct progeny such as Schuiten and Peeters and Marc-Antoine Mathieu, as well as by such less directly related figures as Richard McGuire and the Fort Thunder cartoonists, different as they are.