Fifteen years ago today, a good friend and an amazing artist passed away unexpectedly. Edvin Biukovic was one of those wonederful comic book Cinderella stories, emerging from seemingly nowhere to make a big splash on the form.
In fact, it wasn’t from nowhere, it was from Croatia, but in 1993, that his artwork managed to make its way across the oceans and land on Diana Schutz’s desk at Dark Horse Comics was no small feat. So many things could have happened to that envelope, torn and ratty as it was by the time it arrived, but luckily Diana received it and looked inside and saw how good it was.
Shortly thereafter, Diana and Matt Wagner signed up Eddy and his writer Dark Macan for a Grendel Tales series. And it wasn’t long before I joined Dark Horse as an editorial assistant. I wrote about this in the introduction to the collected volume of that series, Grendel Tales: Devils and Deaths. Here are a couple of excerpts, written in 1996:
“I feel sorry for Jamie,” Edvin Biukovic told the editor on his first post-Grendel project, “that he had to deal with me as his first artist.”
Though Eddy was referring to his lateness, to the times we couldn’t get him on the phone for days, and his own cynical attitude toward his artwork, the statement holds a different meaning for me.
Grendel Tales: Devil’s Choices was the first series I worked on from start to finish...Darko Macan and Eddy Biukovic were the new Grendel success stories, and, in a way, I was too. They had come from nowhere, a single package in a pile of submissions, a blessing delivered by the postal service. I was a fan who had gotten a job on a book that I loved. And we were all three coming together at once.
Yes, Eddy was right in feeling sorry for me. It was unfair that I had to work with him right off the bat. It was unfair that I had to work with Darko that soon, as well. It was unfair because it spoiled me. Could I expect to work with creators as good as this again? Could I expect so much creative excitement, such a high level of craft? Would anything measure up?
The answer, of course, is both yes and no. There have been other projects that have lit a fire under me. Still, they don’t hold quite the same feeling. Nothing ever compares to that first time.
We would still talk occasionally after the series ended, and I got to meet Eddy once on his sole trip to San Diego Comic Con. He was the proverbial kid in the candy store at that show, so in awe of everything he was seeing, so excited to be there. Of course, had any of us known we wouldn’t be seeing him again, we would have taken extra time to hold him close and make sure he knew how much we appreciated him.
One anecdote about Eddy I have shared often, and one that will give you an idea of just what kind of a person he was, involves how he would talk to me about the war that was tearing up his home country. At one point, an army draft notice had been sent out for him, and he went to the coast to hide out while we made sure to get him a copy of his contract for his next Dark Horse project. If he proved he was working, they’d let him avoid the draft. It was common practice in those days, the Croat men would give their friend’s address instead of their own so it would take extra time for the draft notice to get to them, and they could take whatever actions necessary to avoid going to fight.
It was just business as usual. Eddy was as practical about the as he was everything else. So much so, that once on the phone with me, Eddy mentioned that there was bombing going on and it was making things a little difficult. I, of course, freaked out, asking him if he was safe and okay. “Oh, yeah,” he replied, with the greatest of nonchalance, “that’s a couple miles away. No big deal.”
That was Edvin Biukovic in a nutshell: a big deal, and completely unaware of it. His illustration style was so elegant, his approach to a page so dynamic and thoughtful. Matt Wagner noted on Facebook earlier today that Eddy “made it look so fucking easy.” This was true: be it a quiet village scene in Grendel Tales or spaceships fighting against an open starfield in the Star Wars: X-Wing Fighters - Rogue Squadron arc he and Darko did next, or the more complex gambits of his work with Peter Milligan on Human Target, an Edvin Biukovic comic was always an effortless read.
The mind can only boggle at all he could have done had fate been more on his side.
Special mention should be made of artist Tonci Zonjic, one of Edvin’s pupils and an amazing draughtsman in his own right, who encouraged folks to pay tribute today. He’s the reason so many admiring artists drew these pieces gathered together by Bleeding Cool. You can find more on the Eddy Fan Club Facebook page.
The Grendel Tales art and Human Target page posted above were taken from Splash Page Comic Art, who have an incredible gallery of work being sold for Eddy’s estate. Even if you don’t have the scratch, go take a look at all they have to offer. It’s a great way to become acquainted with a master.
Oh, yeah, another first. Eddy was the first person to draw me in a comic. That's me in the top corner, as colored by Matthew Hollingsworth. I have Matt's color piece hanging on my wall to this day.