Saturday, September 22, 2012


The easiest thing for me to do here is to quote Steve Thompson ("Booksteve") from his "HORRAY FOR WALLY WOOD!" blog...

"Peter Hsu was one of the assistants who worked with Woody on the second (and possibly the unfinished third) WIZARD KING graphic novel toward the end of his life. Hsu went on to do a number of sexy sci-fi/fantasy comics including QUADRANT, seen here in its collected version. These were all distinguished by black and white painted art highlighting gorgeous Wood-like blondes, all of which had seemingly been copied from adult magazines. In fact, some of his work showed them in ridiculous poses but discretely covered up. Others, like this one, remove the obstacles. Even as he focused on naked women in high heels fighting monsters with swords, the rest of his work, as seen in the images below, always continued to show a distinct influence from his brief time with Wood.  If I recall correctly, Mr. Hsu went into software design later on."  

I first ran across Peter Hsu's work in the pages of Warren's 1984 / 1994 magazine, where it naturally caught my attention, considering how much awful, wretched hack-work was on display in that rag.  Once the Wally Wood, Richard Corben and Jose Gonzalez material was exhausted, later issues mainly had Frank Thorne to keep them afloat-- and, Peter Hsu.

I must have missed it (or else my comics shop wasn't getting them in), but QUADRANT was a series that ran 8 issues from 1983-86, and was reprinted as a "prestige format" (that's the same size as regular comics so it's easier to display in stores and file in your collections) TPB in 1990.

QUADRANT  /  art by PETER HSU   (1990)

I just finished reading this book. I'd say re-reading, since I've had it "forever", except I honestly didn't recall any of the plot details, which makes me wonder how it got filed away all those years ago.

I hadn't quite made the "Wally Wood" connection, but I can see it now. The whole thing with the elf who manages to befriend the normally man-hating lesbo warriors should have been a tip-off.

No doubt, Peter Hsu's a master when it comes to drawing NEKKED women, and his airbrush work is astonishing. I have to shake my head at the ridiculous "costumes" ("That's a nice outfit you're almost not wearing", I once said to a singer in a all-girl rock & roll band). And, frankly, high heels do NOTHING for me. But this isn't what's bothers me.

The concept is complex-- perhaps too much so. Tons of character bits slowly revealed, a bit at a time, keep you guessing in between "PENTHOUSE" and "HUSTLER"-style crotch-shots. I think I'm spoiled, though, after spending the last few years re-reading so many Jack Kirby comics.  Hell, I'd be spoiled after reading WALLY WOOD comics, and too many stupid fans accuse him of being "dull" or "static", and you never hear anyone (besides me) raving about what a damn good WRITER Wood was.

The checklist goes like this... Hsu's visual storytelling is barely there at all, his panel-to-panel continuity nearly non-existent. Too many of his women all look the same; apart from the faces, couldn't he at least have given them each a more distinctive hairstyle? The dialogue isn't bad, but the whole panel-to-panel storytelling problem gets in the way of the story being able to "flow" naturally.

And then there's the technical stuff. Like the later Warren magazines (where I first saw his work), all the lettering is done with a harsh, cold, mechanical typeface. The effect of this is to separate the words from the story being told. (There's this font called "WHIZ BANG", people!!!) WORSE, it's TOO SMALL on most pages, and inconsistent in size on others.  And then there's the printing (if that's what it is), which causes some text blocks to fade away into gray. I suppose we can blame Malibu Press for this.

I hate to sound so critical. I enjoyed the book (to a degree) and I get a kick out of the very idea of anyone doing a "fantasy-adventure" story where ALL the women are naked ALL the time. But what I see here is POTENTIAL. It also brings into focus, for me, just how bad so many "professional" comics out there really are. To tell the truth, I think reading a pile of Jack Kirby, or Wally Wood, or Gray Morrow comics, can REALLY point out to you just how bad MOST comics art and writing done by other people in the biz really are, by comparison. They're a high standard to live up to. Half the time, "the big two" aren't even trying.

Hey, the last decade or so, most of my favorite comics creators use "cartoony" styles. Which I suppose brings up an obvious question.  How come "cartoonists" like Phil Foglio, Sergio Aragones, Jeff Nicholson, and Paige Braddock, are MUCH better at visual storytelling than all these fancy-schmancy "illustators"?

Oh, and why is this called "QUADRANT" when the main character is called "The Gauntlet", and the main story is titled "HELLRAZOR"? Okay, the original magazine was called QUADRANT, and since it had various back-up stories, I suppose it qualifies (just barely) as an anthology. I'll go out on a limb and guess they used the same name here "to avoid confusion".  By the way, "Hellrazor" (which clocks in at 153 pages!!) was written by Tara Balance, and of the two (new?) back-ups, "Travesty" was written by Peter Hsu while "Goddess" was written by Timothy Moriarty, who did a lot of work near the end of Warren's output as a company.

Copies of some individual issues still available from Atomic Avenue.Com
See Paul G's gallery of Peter Hsu art at Comic Art Fans

Artwork (C) Quadrant Publications and Peter Hsu /
Scans by Henry R. Kujawa