Black History Month 2011: Denys Cowan

February 10th, 2011 by | Tags: , ,

Denys Cowan
Selected Works: Hardware: The Man in the Machine, The Question Vol. 2: Poisoned Ground, Batman: Lovers and Madmen

I’m usually pretty okay at figuring out an artist’s influences, but Denys Cowan is a mystery to me. There are traits he shares with other artists, sure. He’s kind of scratchy like Bill Sienkiewicz got on Moon Knight once he hit his stride, or maybe some of those really dirty Jamie Hewlett pages. He works cityscapes like Frank Miller used to when he was on Daredevil, where they don’t quite make real life sense but they make perfect visual sense. His figures are a little off, just this side of Kirby’s flexible proportions.

That’s not to say that his art is a hodgepodge of techniques from other artists. Cowan’s art has certain aspects in common with other artists, but his art definitely stands alone when you look at it. Whatever his influences, he’s created something that’s distinctly his. The way he draws muscles are a couple points that stand out to me. Cowan draws some knobby elbows and knees, a couple of joints I generally think of as being bends in comics art, rather than anything with detail. It’s such a little thing, the sort of thing you have to work to see, most likely, but there it is: knobby elbows.

His faces are good, too. If you look at a close-up of Hardware or Barraki, they look black. Not just comic book black, where they look like generic (white) dudes with brownish skin, but actual black. Broad noses, full lips, cheekbones, everything. He nails it.

One last point: I listened to GZA’s Liquid Swords until the tape popped a couple times. Cowan did the cover and liner art for that, and I still love them.

Similar Posts:

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

6 comments to “Black History Month 2011: Denys Cowan”

  1. Cowan started out with a fairly heavy Neal Adams influence (much like Sienkiewicz did). Clearly he’s evolved well past that, and one of the things I really like about him is that there’s not an obvious comparison.

    Have you checked out the Captain America/ Black Panther book he did with Reggie Hudlin? It’s inked by Klaus Janson (!) and Tom Morgan and is worth a look. I have found that Cowan’s work looks a LOT better with certain inkers than others. (Rick Magyar inking him on The Question was one of the best.) Janson’s about as good an inker as there is, and teaming him with Cowan = excellence.

  2. another good combo is Cowan with Kent Williams on inks from Fight for Tomorrow, really expressive and dirty.

  3. @seth hurley: They did a comic about Prince with Dwayne McDuffie years ago, too. It’s pretty crazy and super dirty.

    @matches: Yeah, I dug that Cap/Panther book! The art was nuts. I don’t know that Hudlin stuck the landing on the story at the end there, but it was definitely a good read while it was going on.

    The Neal Adams thing is so interesting. He’s the definitive influence for a whole gang of artists who then went on to spin off in wildly different directions.

  4. I think my first exposure to Cowan was Fight for Tomorrow, since I was going through a big Brian Wood phase at the time. I definitely enjoyed his stuff on The Question as well when I read it a year or so back.

  5. The art of Sergio Toppi is a major influence on Denys’ work.


    Nice find with the Genius / GZA album cover!

  6. Fight for Tomorrow needs more love. I am a huge mark for Cowan, and he’s in rare form in this.