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Thursday, March 11, 2021

Review: The Stormbringer Sessions: Sketches for a Graphic Novel by James Cawthorn


While he was organising the archive of artist James Cawthorn, John Davey—a long-time fan of Mike Moorcock and publisher, through his Jayde Design company, of James Cawthorn: The Man And His Art—stumbled upon two boxes labelled "Stormbringer Roughs" and "Stormbringer Strip Photocopies". Together, they comprised a complete set of roughs for a two-part, 250-page adaptation of Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné novel, Stormbringer.

Cawthorn had adapted Stormbringer for publication in 1976 by Savoy Books, but the results were patchy and rushed in order to take advantage of a distribution offer. Many years later (the work is undated except for one piece, the cover, dated 1989), Cawthorn returned to Stormbringer with far more ambition, a fully worked out script and time to sketch out all 250 pages. The first volume was complete in 95 pages, the second ran to 157.

"Sketches" may give the wrong impression of the artwork... these are dense, loose pencils of pages, with corrections and, in a few cases, alternate versions of pages. Cawthorn stuck corrections over panels with sellotape, corrected text on the page by scribbling out errors, and did not worry about finessing the art. This was never expected to be seen by many, after all. It was there to sell the idea.


Which makes it all the more frustrating that it never did progress any further, because this version of Moorcock's novel really does capture the essence of the albino hero of Moorcock's first great work.

The book itself is available in a gorgeous slipcased hardcover edition limited to 100 numbered copies, with a loose-leaf print of the cover. There is also a trade edition, also limited to 100 copies.

The Stormbringer Sessions: Sketches for a Graphic Novel by James Cawthorn
Jayde Design in association with Savoy Books ISBN 978-095757643-8, 1 March 2021, 272pp, £35.00. Available from Jayde Designs. [Limited ed. h/c, £90.00]

1 comment:

  1. I bought this, and it looks beautiful. Nice big pages, a solid hardback, and beautiful freeflowing artwork. Yes, the art's unfinished but, to my mind, that suits Cawthorn's style perfectly and rather nicely meshes with the chaos at the heart of Elric.

    If, like me, you still have and love the original massively oversized (and in my case increasingly tatty) Cawthorn Stormbringer, or if you enjoyed the recent Titan reprint of it, then move now to buy this splendiferous book.

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