P. Craig Russell’s Symbolist Fantasies and Other Things Fine Art Edition

P. Craig Russells Symbolist Fantasies and Other Things Fine Art Edition cover

P. Craig Russell’s Symbolist Fantasies and Other Things is a beautiful 12″x17″ oversized hardcover featuring complete stories scanned from P. Craig Russell’s stunning original art. While appearing to be in black and white, each page has been scanned in colour to recreate as closely as possible the experience of viewing the actual originals—including blue pencils, notes, art corrections and more. Pages are reproduced at original size on heavy paper stock to provide fans, aficionados and collectors with the best possible reproductions.

This 148-page Fine Art Edition includes the following complete stories and songs:

The Avatar and The Chimera (1978, 16 pages), Pelléas & Mélisande (1985, 56 pages), Ariane and Bluebeard (1988, 42 pages), Two Anxious Songs (Whispers at Night, Beheading) (2013, 2 pages), Little Nemo in Final Slumberland (2013, 1 page), Nightride and Sunrise (Two Songs) (2014, 2 pages), Spring and Autumn (Two Songs) (2014, 2 pages), Love: Bitter and Sweet (Two Songs) (2015, 2 pages), The Spectre of the Rose (Two Songs) (2015, 2 pages), Pendant to the Rose (A Symbolist Fantasy) (2016, 2 pages). PLUS: Selected colour pages from The Dreaming City (1991, 12 pages).

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As with all AE format material (Artist’s Editions, Artifact Editions, Gallery Editions, Art Editions, Studio Editions, etc), this is a collection of classic comic material and I’ll be reviewing the book and not the story. For a complete list of all current and announced editions, with review links, please visit our Index. Also, see What is an Artist’s Edition and our Artist Index.

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The fourth Fine Art Edition from Wayne Alan Harold focused on the works of P. Craig Russell. As with the previous volumes, we’re treated to a wide variety of work spanning Russell’s career from 1978 to 2016. The stories are arranged by length until they get to the one to two-page items. A one-page introduction from Russell covers the material with thoughts from the artist.

Scan quality is excellent. I only found two instances of soft or blurry text on pages 54 and 55 of Pelléas & Mélisande. All other pages were clear. Art has aged from off-white to light tan. Blacks show gradients. Correction fluid used judiciously. Along with the inked original art we’re also treated to some pencils. Margin notes are scattered throughout. Some great Zip-A-Tone pages.

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The design is a development from the previous volumes. A bright cover design and logo, moving back to the covers of the first two Fine Art Editions. Yellow and red endpapers. A colour title page, and black and white colophon, title page and introduction. Some extra art is sprinkled around and listed in the colophon, including a cover of The Avatar and The Chimera on the back cover. There is a table of contents but no pager numbers in the book: the art is fully top to bottom of the page with slim white margins on the left and right.

Production is excellent: a sewn binding of heavy paper stock with a matte finish. The book comes well wrapped in bubble wrap. Because the print run was 250 they were not able to get boxes manufactured for the books from the printer. The binding is tight: the book does not lay flat. Thankfully the margins are there so you don’t lose any art, and there are no double-page spreads.

Let’s talk paper. This book uses 200 gsm paper stock with a matte finish. Yes, matte finish is a coating of approximately 25%. It was Russell’s desire to have the coating so the inks would have a gloss similar to the original artwork. It does pop the inks but makes for a bad glare when reading with overhead lighting.

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I asked Harold about the Elric pages since the license is currently held by Titan. Also, they looked like painted pages with an acetate overlay for the inks. Here’s what he had to say.

The Dreaming City inks are actually right on the page—I think he just painted over and around them. The lettering, however, was done on separate overlays. As far as rights go, Craig actually owns the copyright on that artwork. If we would have printed the words/captions/dialogue then he would have had to sort out rights issues.