P(hilip) Craig Russell (1951–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1951, in Wellsville, OH; Education: University of Cincinnati, B.F.A. (painting), 1974. Politics: Libertarian. Hobbies and other interests: Piano (classical and salon).
Agent—Mike Friedrich, Star Reach Productions, 2991 Shattuck Ave., Ste. 202, Berkeley, CA 94705.
Freelance graphic story artist, 1972–. Marvel Comics, New York, NY, illustrator and adapter, worked on comic-book series, including Batman, War of the Worlds, Epic Illustrated, Dr. Strange, Sandman, Killraven, and assorted Elric titles adapted from the works of Michael Moorcock; Eclipse Comics, Forestville, CA, created comic-book adaptations of operas, including "Parsifal," "Salomé," "Ariane and Bluebeard," and "The Magic Flute"; Dark Horse Comics, Milwaukie, OR, writer and illustrator of comic-book series Elric: Stormbringer, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars, and other titles. Kent State University, Kent, OH, instructor in illustration, 1981, 1983.
Shazam Award for Best New Talent, 1974; Harvey Award for Best Graphic Album, 1993, for Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde, Volume 1; Parents' Choice Award, 1994, and 1995, for Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde; Eisner Award for Best Limited Series, 2001, for The Ring of the Nibelung.
GRAPHIC NOVELS; AND ILLUSTRATOR
The Chimera, Earthart Graphics, 1976.
(Co-plotter) Marv Wolfman, Dr. Strange Annual, number 1, Marvel Comics Group (New York, NY), 1976.
Night Music 1 (originally published as a comic-book series), Eclipse Enterprises (Forestville, CA), 1979.
(With Don McGregor) Killraven, Warrior of the Worlds (originally published as a comic-book series), Marvel Comics Group (New York, NY), 1983.
Elric: Stormbringer (originally published as a comic-book series), Dark Horse (Milwaukie, OR), 1998.
Isolation and Illusion: Collected Short Stories, 1977–1997, Dark Horse (Milwaukie, OR), 2003.
Also contributor of stories and illustrations to comic-book series, including Robin 3000, and 9-11: September 11th, 2001, DC Comics, 2002. Contributor to periodicals, including Imagine and National Lampoon.
GRAPHIC NOVELS; ADAPTER AND ILLUSTRATOR
Pelleas and Melisande: The Classic Story of Love and Death (originally published in comic-book format; also see below), translated by Barry Daniels, Eclipse Books (Guerneville, CA), 1985.
Salomé (originally published in comic-book format; also see below), Eclipse Books (Forestville, CA), 1986.
Rudyard Kipling's Red Dog (originally published as a comic-book series), Eclipse Books (Forestville, CA), 1988.
Ariane and Bluebeard (based on the opera by Maurice Mäterlinck and Paul Dukas; originally published as a comic-book series), Eclipse Books (Forestville, CA), 1989.
The Magic Flute (based on the opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; originally published as a comic-book series; also see below), Eclipse Books (Forestville, CA), 1990.
The Scarlet Letter (from the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne; originally published in comic-book format), Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1990.
Opera (based on works by Gustav Mahler, Richard Wagner, Strauss, and Claude Debussy; originally published in comic-book format), Eclipse Books (Forestville, CA), 1990.
Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde (originally published in comic-book format), four volumes, Nantier Beall Minoustchine (New York, NY), Volume 1: The Selfish Giant and the Star Child, 1992, Volume 2: The Young King and the Remarkable Rocket, 1994, Volume 3: The Birthday of the Infanta, 1998, Volume 4: The Devoted Friend, and The Nightingale and the Rose, 2004.
(With Jo Duffy and Lovern Kindzierski) Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book Stories, Nantier, Beall, Minoustchine (New York, NY), 1997.
The Clowns (I Pagliacci) (also see below) translated by Marc Andreyko, Dark Horse (Milwaukie, OR), 1998.
Richard Wagner The Ring of the Nibelung (originally published in comic-book format), Volume One: The Rhinegold and the Valkyrie Volume Two: Siegfried and Gotterdammerung: The Twilight of the Gods, translated by Patrick Mason, Dark Horse (Milwaukie, OR), 2002.
Neil Gaiman, Murder Mysteries, Dark Horse (Milwaukie, OR), 2002.
P. Craig Russell Library of Opera Adaptations, Volume I: The Magic Flute, Volume II: Parsifal, Ariadne and Bluebeard, I Pagliacci, and songs by Mahler, Volume III: Pelleas et Melisande, Ein Heldenstraum, Cavalleria Rusticana, and Salome, NBM (New York, NY), 2003–04.
Adapter and illustrator of operas and stories for comic-book series Night Music, Eclipse Comics, 1984–90. Adapter and illustrator of Richard Wagner's Siegfried and the Dragon, for comic-book series Epic Illustrated, Marvel Comics, 1980; Cyrano de Bergerac's A Voyage to the Moon, Marvel Comics, 1992; and H. P. Lovecraft's "From Beyond" in the series Heavy Metal, 1994. Contributor to Clive Barker's Tapping the Vein—Book One, Eclipse Books, 1989; Within Our Reach, Star∗Reach Productions, 1991; and Ray Bradbury Chronicles—Volume 1, Bantam Spectra, 1992.
Roy Thomas, script writer, Elric—The Dreaming City (based on the story by Michael Moorcock), Marvel Comics (New York, NY), 1982.
Roy Thomas, script writer, Elric of Melnibone (based on the novel by Michael Moorcock), Graphitti Designs (Anaheim, CA), 1986.
Achmed Abdullah, The Thief of Baghdad, Donning (Virginia Beach, VA), 1987.
Patrick C. Mason, script writer, Parsifal: Part I: His Journey, (adapted from the opera by Richard Wagner), Nantier, Beall, Minoustchine (New York, NY), 2002.
Illustrator of comic-book series adaptations of Wagner's Parsifal, Star∗Reach, 1978, portions published as Parsifal, Part One: His Journey, text by Patrick C. Mason, NBM Publishing, 2003; Michael Moorcock's "Elric—While the Gods Laugh," for Epic Illustrated, 1982; Hugo Wolf's "Ein Heldentraum (A Hero's Dream)," for Epic Illustrated, 1985; and Moorcock's Elric: Weird of the White Wolf, for First Comics, 1986. Illustrator of comic-book series Batman, DC Comics, 1992, and Sandman, DC Comics, 1993. Inker for Star Wars: Crimson Empire, Dark Horse, 1998.
Illustrator P. Craig Russell combines his love of classical opera and stories with his artistic ability to bring old stories to new audiences. His drawings, which reflect the sensuous, stylized art of Victorian illustrator Aubrey Beardsley in their use of line and contrast, are noted for their attention to detail. First published in comic-book form, Russell's adaptations of musical works—ranging from The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to Richard Strauss's Salomé, and Richard Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung—have earned the illustrator an Eisner award and continued critical acclaim. Additionally, his adaptations of fairy tales by nineteenth-century Irish writer Oscar Wilde and stories by Rudyard Kipling have won awards and a readership that stretches beyond the usual comic-book audience. Russell has also contributed artwork to more typical superhero comic books, such as Batman and Dr. Strange. Noting the wealth of subject matter available in classical adaptations, Russell once quipped to Something about the Author: "So many stories, so many pictures, so few hours in the day."
Born in Ohio in 1951, Russell attended the University of Cincinnati, where he earned a B.F.A. in painting and illustration in 1974. By this time he was already contributing artwork to comic-book publisher Marvel's Dr. Strange and Killraven comic-book series. Both titles deal in fantasy worlds; in Killraven Russell illustrates the adventures of a gladiator who does battle with Martians in a world inspired by that of H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds. He also worked as an inker on Batman comic books in the early 1970s.
Russell studied piano as a boy and formed an early love of classical music and opera. In 1976 he completed the first of his many adaptations of classical operas, Parsifal, Wagner's final work. Two years later he produced the comic-book series The Ring of the Nibelung, the first part of an eventual three-volume, 424-page, illus-trated "Ring Cycle" saga that includes the operas Rhinegold, Valkyrie, Siegfried, and Gotterdammerung, or Twilight of the Gods. This tale of the cursed ring taken from the Rhine maidens follows the efforts of Siegfried to save civilization. For Devin Leonard, writing in Fortune, Russell's adaptation is "a terrific road map if you're visiting Wagner country for the first time." Similarly, Jody Sharp, writing in School Library Journal, found that Russell "has brilliantly adapted" Wagner's work.
After working at Marvel for several years, as he later wrote in an article for Horizons Online, Russell decided to create a series of comics that adapt the great librettos "because I wanted to do books that were more in line with the things I was interested in." He explained that superheros like Superman, Batman, and the Justice League of American "didn't interest me" as much as opera with its good, strong story tradition. Meanwhile, for Marvel he moved to traditional fantasy comic-book series, such as Elric: The Dreaming City and Elric of Melnibone, both adapted from Michael Moorcock's novel Elric, about an albino warrior.
Russell's comic-book adaptation of The Magic Flute is an ambitious work. It relates the tale of Prince Tamino, who is given a magical flute by the queen of the Night in order to rescue her daughter from the supposed villain, Sarastro. In actuality, Sarastro turns out to be a good man, and the queen is the villain. In Pelleas and Melisande, which adapts Claude Debussy's opera that is itself adapted from a story of doomed love by Maurice Mäterlinck, as well as his adaptation of Richard Strauss's Salomé, Russell creates illustrations featuring art nouveau elements popular during the late nineteenth century. Published first as comic-book series, these works were eventually produced as individual graphic novels, and more recently have been included as volumes in the P. Craig Russell Library of Opera Adaptations. A contributor for Publishers Weekly had high praise for The Magic Flute, writing: "Sure and confident, Russell's art switches from tense action sequences to slapstick without missing a beat." The same reviewer thought Russell also strikes "just the right tones" with his dialogue, and concluded that this "classic adaptation displays the artist's skill at both writing and illustrating." Steve Raiteri, reviewing Volume I of the series, dubbed Russell's artwork "marvelous," noting that the illustrator blends "realistic figures with decorative backgrounds."
Russell's four-volume Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde have been highly praised, and earned the illustrator several prestigious awards. Praised by School Library Journal reviewer Karen T. Bilton as "accessible," these adaptations of the short stories of the noted nineteenth-century Irish writer include "The Selfish Giant," "The Devoted Friend," "The Nightingale and the Rose," "The Star Child," and "The Birthday of the Infanta." In each volume Russell's visual interpretations "adeptly capture Wilde's ability to bring a gentle, unexpected note of pathos" to the fairy tale, according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Russell's pre-Raphaelite and art nouveau influences are also in evidence, although his drawings retain their cartoon-like feel. In the opinion of the Publishers Weekly contributor, "Russell matches Wilde's literary skills with his estimable artistic talent," while Booklist reviewer GraceAnne A. DeCandido praised the artist's "classic comics-graphic novel style," and concluded that "older children will appreciate the edgy story and the mouth-filling language as well as the format."
Russell has also adapted the tales of Rudyard Kipling in several volumes of the Jungle Book Stories, featuring the adventures of the young boy Mowgli. Among the tales included are "The King's Ankus," "Red Dog," and "Spring Running," which trace the jungle youth from childhood to adolescence. In Murder Mysteries, he joins writer Neil Gaiman in telling a tale of two connected deaths, one of long ago in Silver City and the other in contemporary Los Angeles. In another shorter work, Isolation and Illusion: Collected Short Stories, 1977–1997, he illustrates comic-book versions of such stories as O. Henry's classic "The Gift of the Magi." Reviewing this work, Booklist contributor Ray Olson noted that Russell "has a sinuous line few can match, a refined eye for shading and coloration, a flair for dramatic composition, and figure-drawing skills for days." As is the case with all Russell's works, each of these comic-book sequences has been published in graphic-novel format.
"I believe the graphic story art form to be one of the best kept secrets of the day," Russell once commented to Something about the Author. "I particularly like doing adaptations. The challenge, like that of the screenplay (from novel to film), is to deconstruct a piece and then to reconstruct it in another form, exploiting the possibilities and meeting the demands of that new form while remaining true to the spirit of the original. It takes a jigsaw-puzzle mind combined with a love of imagery to make it work. I can't imagine being in any other field."
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Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, April 1, 1999, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde, Volume Three, p. 1406; September 1, 2002, Ray Olson, review of Murder Mysteries, pp. 37-38; April 15, 2003, Ray Olson, review of Isolation and Illusion, p. 1458; February 1, 2004, Ray Olson, review of The P. Craig Russell Library of Opera Adaptations, Volume 3, p. 963; August, 2004, Ray Olson, review of The P. Craig Russell Library of Opera Adaptations, Volume 2, p. 1916, and Francisca Goldsmith, review of The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde, Volume 4, p. 1937.
Fortune, July 9, 2001, Devin Leonard, "Holy Wotan!," p. 222.
Library Journal, July 15, 2003, Steve Raiteri, review of The Magic Flute, p. 70; November 1, 2004, Steve Raiteri, review of The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde, p. 66.
Publishers Weekly, November 9, 1992, review of The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde, Volume One, p. 85; September 30, 2002, review of Murder Mysteries, p. 52; September 1, 2003, review of The Magic Flute, p. 66; January 26, 2004, review of The P. Craig Russell Library of Opera Adaptations, Volume 2, p. 232; June 7, 2004, review of The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde, Volume 4, p. 34l August 23, 2004, review of The P. Craig Russell Library of Opera Adaptations, Volume 3, p. 39.
School Library Journal, May, 2003, Jody Sharp, review of The Ring of the Nibelung, Volume One, p. 182; July 15, 2003, Steve Raiteri, review of The Magic Flute, p. 70; October, 2004, Steve Weiner, review of The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde, p. 20; November, 2004, Karen T. Bilton, review of The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde, Volume 4, p. 153; December, 2004, J. M. Poole, review of The P. Craig Russell Library of Opera Adaptations, Volume 3, p. 177.
Dark Horse Comics Web site, http://www.darkhorse.com/ (December 31, 2003), Shawna Ervin-Gore and Michael Gilman, interview with Russell.
Horizons Online, http://www.horizons.uc.edu/ (June, 2002), P. Craig Russell, "How to Take Opera from Stage to Page."
P. Craig Russell Official Web site, http://www.lurid.com/ pcr (May 12, 2005).
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