The Unexpected Anatomies of Rick Parker’s Sketchbook

by Koom Kankesan

Mort Todd (of Cracked fame) introduces Rick Parker‘s sketchbook by saying that he (Todd) encouraged Parker to put it out when he “saw this motherlode of fantastic artwork (and) suggested he put together a collection of some of these drawings not only to showcase his talent, but to allow other people a glimpse into his imagination.” In Parker’s own brief introduction to the sketchbook, he writes: “although I knew better, I continued to associate people I saw in the real world with drawings I would see in cartoons and comics. Thus, over time, the real world and the world of my imagination became inextricably linked in my mind forever. Anyway… I hope THAT, at least, partially explains what you will see on the following pages.”

Neither of these ideas really explain how to approach Parker’s sketchbook or the contents therein. When I interviewed Parker a while ago, he was warm, friendly, generous, animated, maybe even manic. In fact, you only have to add ‘a’ to ‘manic’ and you get a warm, friendly, generous maniac. Parker is constantly working and buzzing with things he wants to do. Even as I type this and you later read this, Parker is probably hard at work working on his graphic novel ‘Drafted’ about his time in the army. A long time letterer at Marvel Comics, Parker fashioned his New York studio apartment into a launching pad for installations of his own creation called The Barking Dog Museum. In more recent years, he’s illustrated introductory pages for Tales From the Crypt from Papercutz so perhaps that explains his grotesque and macabre sensibility.

Rick Parker is a funny guy – make no mistake – his drawings and sensibility lend themselves towards a droll horror fifties theatricality that is surprisingly wholesome. Now, semi-retired, he strikes a ham pose for the camera with a generous surge of white spiky hair and Terminator sunglasses. His drawings also carry the feel of being hatched by some musician that might have once done a retro werewolf act – as if the cartoons were drawn for a New Yorker magazine that might have been taken over by the Addams family in an alternate dimension. I’ll post some Kickstarter images (above) that were used to sell the sketchbook and then discuss some of my own favourite perplexing entries.

I love this page – although I can’t tell what’s going on – all I know is that it references Frazetta‘s cover to Weird Science-Fantasy #29 above:

The Senior Surfer – unlike Marvel Comics, Parker is thinking about the long term effects of cosmic radiation:

We’re not told who this is but it’s really good. There really seems to be a unique set of facial muscles in the midst of expression and a particular moment captured here – the care with the line work and texture makes me think of some of Crumb‘s portraits:

For some reason, I kept on thinking of Burne Hogarth‘s book on anatomy which I’d always seen in comic shops as a youth – Parker’s work isn’t like Hogarth’s in the least but there is a sort of self-taught studiousness being applied here. Also, Parker refuses to draw penises for some inexplicable reason:

Look at that range of faces!

A good representation of Parker’s zany gag mentality:

Who doesn’t like Harold Lloyd hanging off the clock face or a visual match with a ghoul being hung up with a nail?

To conclude, like a grotesque representation of Forrest Gump’s maxim, with Rick Parker, you just don’t know what you’re going to get! It ranges from the sweet to the sinister, the mellifluous to the maniacal, the goofy to the grim – but it’s all done with an enviable gusto and dedication towards his passions. Me, I’m curious about what his memoir graphic novel’s going to look like when it’s out.

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