Sunday, June 5, 2011

Spotlight on: Mike Ploog

Karen: Mike Ploog is best known for his work on Marvel horror comics of the 70s. Werewolf By Night, Frankenstein Monster, Ghost Rider, Man-Thing - all of these titles featured Ploog's distinctive style. Ploog was Marvel's main man when it came to monsters. A few years ago I was at a comic convention and Roy Thomas and Mike Ploog were on a panel, and when someone asked why Ploog drew so many monsters, Thomas responded that "he drew hairy things better than anyone else!"

Karen: His style is very fluid and round, almost soft; it definitely has a very organic feel to it. It fits the moody horror books well. Ploog uses spot blacks well and over time evolved into a very good story-teller.

Doug: I think you've really hit on the major appeal I see in Ploog's art, and that's the texture and fluidity. In both of the cover samples you've chosen the viewer gets a real sense of dynamism, but you can't deny that part of that is from the texture-like feel to the art; there's almost a 3-D quality to these images.

Karen: Of all the characters he worked on, his Werewolf is a particular favorite of mine -he is sinewy and feral, looking like he's always about to pounce on someone. His Frankenstein Monster is also quite good, getting across the innate sadness of the character.

Doug: I'd have to agree here, and say that while my mind "sees" John Buscema's Monster, it's Ploog that perhaps gives us a better interpretation. While his Monster is certainly no slouch physically, Buscema embued his version with perhaps too much raw power -- that may have detracted from the "sympathy vote".

Karen: Ploog also did work for Marvel's black and white line, which included the Planet of the Apes magazine. Although he did some super-hero work, it really didn't seem to mesh well with his art style. One super-hero I would have liked to see Ploog take on was Dr. Strange -I think given the nature of that title, it might have been a good fit.

Karen: So do we have any Ploog fans in the house? Let's hear from you. Or -if you don't like his style, tell us why.


joe bloke said...

A few years back it was my great fortune to spend a while in Mike's company. He was doing a signing at my local comic shop, and I got there early, just to be on the safe side, only to find that Mike had got in early, too. So, for the first hour or so, there was just me and Mike. I asked him if he'd draw me a quick sketch of a Gorilla from Planet of the Apes, and he seemed genuinely happy and suprised that anyone actually remembered his amazing work on the Apes comics. He was everything you could ever hope your favourite comic creator could be: charming, funny, attentive, humble, full of great little stories.

Great choice for a spotlight, guys. I can't properly express just how cool I think Mike is. Loved his work when I was growing up, love it even more - if that's at all possible - now. Love the man.

Rip Jagger said...

In many ways my first experiences with Mike Ploog were also my first experiences with Will Eisner. Ploog has so much of his mentor in his style when he worked at Marvel, that later when I got a chance to see Eisner's work directly, it was uncanny.

It's definitely textures that set Ploog's work apart. Already mentioned are the furry beasts he did so well, but I'd have to say it was the sheen he gave to Ghost Rider's leathers that made the biggest impression on me.

Rip Off

Inkstained Wretch said...

The only art of Ploog's that I am really familiar with is his work on Man-Thing. His style worked very well on the title. One thing that struck me about it was that it had a slightly cartoony side, like he was doing a funny comic strip.

In one Giant-Size issue, for example, the Man-Thing fights a a wacky cult whose leader is a dead ringer for Richard Nixon.

Edo Bosnar said...

I really like Ploog's work as well, especially in Man-Thing. He was so perfectly suited to that title and it's too bad he didn't stay on it longer. I think his best work on the title - and one of my absolute favorite stories of Gerber's run with the character - is that 2-part "Dawg" story from Man-Thing #s 9-10. Such a sad, touching story, and Ploog's art just makes it hit home all the more.

Redartz said...

The Man-Thing was my introduction to Mr. Ploog as well. His style really worked well for the book; everything had a slightly loose, yet solid appearance. His figures ooze character, and his swamps could inspire claustrophopia. My particular favorite is the "Night of the Laughing Dead" from Man-Thing 5 and 6. Very creepy...

Anonymous said...

Ploog did some nice work on Kull, one particularly nice strip was reproduced from his pencil (sorry I cannot remember the magazine but probably Savage Sword)- I think I liked the way Ploog meshed "old style" (1950s) art giving it that atmospheric feel with the then modern (70s) style especially in his horror work (and of course as previously mentioned he was influenced by the wonderful Mr Eisner) . I loved his Man Thing art but agree a stint on Doc Strange would have been nice. I saw pretty much most of Ploogs "horror"/ superhero art in the UK weeklies of the 70's (Planet of the Apes. Titans, Dracula Lives etc) and they all looked good in B&W - He's also done some lovely stuff more recently appearing in DCs the Spirit,the indie book "Thicker than Blood" and on "Abedazed"


Fred W. Hill said...

Most of my exposure to Ploog's artwork was likewise from the Man-Thing series, and while he didn't get quite as much acclaim as Bernie Wrightson did for his work on Swamp Thing, Ploog certainly crafted some magnificent art for Gerber's wild tales. The Dawg and Clown stories were emotion-laden highlights of his run. I do have some of his other horror work, including Ghost Rider as well as an early Beast tale (yeah, that was a "superhero" comic, but even with Iron Man appearing, it had a genuine "horror" comic feel about it) but never caught his Planet of the Apes work, except for what I've seen on the internet, and I agree it's quite exceptional.

Oh, and on a side note, as long as I've already mentioned the Beast, I saw the new X-Men film tonight, and, wow, great film period. Far better than I expected (and I had to look up its Wikipedia entry to figure out who several of those characters were, including Azazel, who I figured just from his looks and powers must be related to Nightcrawler. I highly recommend it.

Marcus said...

Ploog was Eisner's student then his assistant. I love his style ans wish we could see more of his work.

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