Crossing Borders: The Genius Of Andreas And Rork
Posted by Bart Croonenborghs on Nov 27, 2012
A special spotlight on one of Europe’s greatest creators remarkably overlooked in the US: Andreas Martens and his Rork series.
Born in Germany in 1951, Andreas Martens published his first comics in the late seventies and showed potential from the start. In the present he has over 50 album releases safely tucked under his artistic umbrella but the only mention of Andreas I could find in english language comics database sites like comicbookdb.com was a Cromwell Stone reprint by Dark Horse in 1992 and a few mentions in Dark Horse’s European anthology Cheval Noir (1989) yet Andreas Martens aka Andreas is one of Europes most lauded creators.
After discovering American comics and legendary horror comics artist Bernie Wrightson and subsequently the turn-of-the-century pen drawings by Franklin Booth and J.C. Coll, Andreas fully came into his own style of drawing. A classical underpinning coupled with a fluent brush, attention for architectural details, detailed hatchwork and inventive page layouts would be his trademark style that would earn him the attention of readers all over Europe. Over time his hatchwork would become even more intricate while his fluent linework navigated towards a more angular illustrative line. These days his pages are meticulously laid out and detailed while never sacrificing clear storytelling.
One of his masterpieces is most certainly his series of loose albums and vignettes featuring the titular character Rork of which the first stories are now bundled in one beautiful oversized hardcover by Dutch publisher Sherpa. Rork is a traveller and an investigator of the paranormal. He has mastered the secret of the Passages, allowing him to travel through time and space but at a cost.
His first adventure entitled The Forgotten was published in 1982 soon to be followed by Passages and Fragments in 1984 due to the popularity of Rork. Subsequent albums were published throughout the years showing a remarkable aptitude incorporating previous adventures and multiple storylines into one big tapestry. Andreas has created a world where imagination can soar leading to such stunning vistas as the graveyard of cathedrals, planets inhabited by the corpses of alien whales, murder machines in the shape of geometric abstracts and girls capable of unravelling reality like a puzzle. In between walks Rork the traveller and chosen bearer of the secret of Passages, a mystical doorway between universes. Andreas confesses to having read a lot of weird sci fi in the seventies so it is not uncommon to see resemblances between Rork and Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius or eternal warrior Elric. Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft are also influences that are noticeable in the underlying threads and atmospheres of the stories.
Andreas has two major passions: philosophy and architecture. The philosophical aspect is not readily apparent but is reflected in his stories which involves themes like the nature of Man, our relationship with the earth and our fellow beings and how much we can understand on the actual happenings that make the world and the universe turn round and round. The architectural passion is visually very present with of course the majestic vistas of the graveyard of cathedrals chapter standing out but also the short story Low Valley where a mysterious girl has the power to unravel reality like a puzzle, leading to stunning visuals of Rork’s house being literally taken apart as an intricate chinese box. In The Red Triangle - a non-Rork album - he even homaged Frank Lloyd Wright using his architectural designs as omni-present backgrounds.
Andreas’ Rork combines counterculture influences with a dash of mysticism, philosophy and architecture, molding it into a series of stories about life and nature, not only of Man but also of something higher. The Rork Volume 1: Passages hardcover by Sherpa with its oversized printing on quality paper is the perfect showcase for Andreas’ intricate linework and moody hatchings. It collects the stories Les Fantômes (2012), Fragments (1984), Passages (1984), Les Oubliés(1982, 2012), Le Cimetière de Cathédrales (1988) plus Le Saveur du Crété (1987) and includes full page illo’s, rare illustrations and an exclusive interview. Volume 2 of the Rork series will complete the collection of all his stories. I sincerely hope our english language readers can experience this incredible series for themselves in the future. Dark Horse Comics, are you listening?
Rork Volume 1 (of 2): Passages is published in Dutch by Sherpa. It is a full colour oversized hardcover counting 256 pages and retails for €49.95.
Note: preview images from the book itself were not available online at the time of publication of this column so images are pulled from the French edition and a variety of resources.
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