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George Pratt has had an enigmatic career.

Despite being one of the finest painters ever to work in comics, his name still rarely comes up in typical debates about the medium’s best practitioners. Maybe that’s because in the public consciousness Pratt’s not easily associated with any one character or series, any one publisher, or even

George Pratt
laboring over) produced authentic aircraft that would’ve made George Evans proud, and military uniforms that might’ve even forced Harvey Kurtzman to keep the cap sealed on his red corrections pen. While not a huge hit stateside, the book’s depth, artistry and attention to detail nonetheless resulted in multiple translations worldwide and Pratt recieved personal accolades from World War veterans touched by his empathy and respectful accuracy. While Enemy Ace was clearly a labor of love for the then-budding artist, George Pratt continues to put ample

the flesh. Be it feudal Japan, Vietnam, or a World War, Pratt’s fascination with largescale human conflict is one that even the artist can’t explain fully. Still Pratt’s ruminations on the brutality of war are perpetually relevant, and never moreso than in eras of false patriotism, jingoism, and war profiteering. All of which sadly symbolize new millennium America.Thankfully we’re not quite a half-decade into the next thousand years. But given his past history and current interests it figures that George Pratt will continue to touch on similar themes in his future projects, regardless of the political climate. No doubt he’ll also continue to pour the same artistic vigor and passion for the craft into

any particular movement. If he had come from an earlier generation he might have been a perfect fit for EC, and likely routinely placed in the pantheon among some of the medium’s most respected and revered artists. As it is, Pratt is still most readily identified with his first significant comics work, Enemy Ace, which is easily as complex and textured as the best of EC’s legendary war comics. The 1990 graphic novel, published in DC’s premier format was based on the character created by Robert Kanigher and originally drawn by Joe Kubert, and immediately announced Pratt as a formidable talent within the medium.The intensely researched Enemy Ace (which Pratt spent three years

research, energy, and creative vitality into even his most commercial projects. Never shortchanging the readers or himself in the process. Pratt stymies lazy conventional criticism that artists can’t imbue mainstream work with personal statement by infusing his own themes and interests into even the most crass commercial characters. To that end he was recognized with a 2003 Eisner Award as Best Painter/Multimedia Artist for his work on Wolverine: Netsuke. In that work, as well as his 2000 graphic novel Batman: Harvest Breed, Pratt still managed sequences detailing the stark horrors of war and the inevitable human toll; both emotional and of

his work, regardless of shallow trends and false movements; undaunted by inferior artists trumping his sales, if not his considerable talents.

Painting in four colors

INTERVIEW BY ROBERT YOUNG
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The Comics Interpreter Issue #2

George Pratt Painting in four colours

Robert Young: Let’s start with your various artistic peers? You’re good friends with Jeff Jones, Jon Muth, Kent Williams, Bill Koeb, John Van Fleet, Scott Hampton, and Tommy Lee Edwards, among others. Is it just a case of all the painterly types in comics sticking together? Mutual aesthetic? George Pratt: Well, John Van Fleet, Kent Williams, Mark Chiarello and myself all went to school together and became friends there. We found that we had the same influences, generally, and that sort of pulled us together artistically. Scott Hampton I met while in school, as well as Jeff Muth. Jeff I met at a convention while in school and he sort of took me under his wing and allowed me to come to upstate New York to paint with him. Very cool. So there’s no conscious thought there of everyone sticking together because of the painter thing, just a by-product of knowing each other. Happenstance. Young: How big a role do your artist friends play in how you approach your work and in your

own artistic development? Pratt: Early on, certainly, that played a much bigger role than it does now, at least in approach and technique. Now we just sort of help bolster each other and keep each other in line or keep each other cranking. A nice support group. But early on Kent Williams and I spent loads of time together figuring out drawing and painting. Kent was my real spiritual painter buddy and we learned an awful lot from each other. One would stumble onto something and pass it on to the other. It was an extremely exciting time for us. When you’re just starting out everything is a plateau, growth comes in great strides. As you get older those plateaus start

to level out and you have to work harder to continue to grow. The natural tendency is to slow down and sort of repeat oneself. That’s death. Complacency is murder. I continually struggle to find ways to interest myself as I work. Young: Outside of your circle of friends are there any current comics artists whose work you particularly admire? Pratt: Dave Mazzuchelli’s work is always fantastic, and he’s a super nice guy. Mike Mignola’s work I always enjoy as well. Mike does go back to the old days when we were all in school, though he was in California we met several times in New York. Most of the comics that really turn me on are either European or from the 40’s - 70’s. Milton Caniff, Hugo Pratt, Alex Toth, Noel Sickles, Dino Battaglia, Attilio Michelluzzi, Jacques Tardi, Hermann, etc. Just brilliant stuff. These days I really enjoy Dave Cooper’s work, Dave McKean’s work, mostly the work he writes himself, Seth, Jeff Brown and Chester

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Brown as well as Dan Clowes (who incidentally was my roommate at Pratt). I think Toby Cypress has an interesting style. I always love what Tony Salmons does, so wacky and

ing for painting’s sake. I’m not trying to say anything profound in my paintings for galleries, they’re vehicles for paint. It is a dialogue with the material that’s interesting to me.

bold. Great black and white work. Young: As a fellow painter in comics do you have any thoughts about the enormous commercial success of Alex Ross? Pratt: Alex hit a nerve with people and it’s great to see that painted comics can command that much attention. More power to him. Young: It has to be asked: There are numerous paintings in your comics that, if they appeared on the covers or interiors of say The New Yorker or even The Saturday Evening Post, would immediately be taken more seriously (or posited as fine art) than they ever will be as long as they’re inside a comic with Wolverine or Batman in the title. Have you ever had second thoughts about pouring such artistry into mainstream comics? Pratt: Not at all. I do gallery work as well and painting is painting. The comics work has different goals, namely to tell a story, keep the reader turning the pages and reading the story. They shouldn’t be getting too caught up in the art. Again, it’s about the story. If they’re getting hung up on the paintings then it’s working against itself, whereas my gallery work is paintThe Comics Interpreter Issue #2

And there I want the paintings to be paintings. I’m not interested in aping nature at all, everything is second best in that attempt, even photography really. But paintings that are paintings bring something else to the table.

story, at least for me. I can stomach a lame story if the art is nice. I can just wallow in the beauty of the art and forget the story. But a great story cannot always save bad art for me. But more and more I find myself trying various books because I want a satisfying read, I hunger for a good read. So I’m getting better about trying books where the art is less than inspired, but carries the story in a different way that has nothing to do with flash and pomp. There’s something quiet in some of the work that is just right for the story they’re telling. Nothing else would have been as effective. So I’m growing to appreciate all the different approaches and that’s opening up my own work as well. Young: You’ve done some teaching, specifically at Savannah College of Art & Design. What’s the most important message you try to convey to your students?

Young: Also, do you enjoy any specific comics where the art holds little or no aesthetic appeal for you, but the storytelling is so deft or personal that you’re drawn in anyway?

Pratt: I don’t try to teach anyone to draw or paint like myself. I show them ways of approaching techniques with various media and push them to find their own way with it all. But basically go where
Page from Wolverine: Netsuke. Artwork by George Pratt.

Pratt: Definitely. Though even then there’s a certain aesthetic at work there that is part and parcel of the appeal. This is something that I’ve had to nurture in myself because my initial reaction is always to be swayed by the eye candy of great art. And great art can save a sorry

you need to go, but learn how to truly draw and paint first. Don’t blow off the hard work of really learning how to draw. If you can’t draw then nothing you say will come across. You have to learn how to speak before you can sing.
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George Pratt Painting in four colours

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