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Barry Windsor-Smith by Michael Netzer
|Born||25 May 1949
Forest Gate, London
Archer & Armstrong
|Awards||Shazam Award, 1974
Eisner Award 2008
His international acclaim came as the original artist for Marvel Comics’ Conan the Barbarian from 1970 to 1973, where he rapidly evolved a sophisticated and intricate style, introducing elements from diverse artistic influences to graphic storytelling.
Windsor Smith produced his first published work in 1967 and 1968 - single page "Powerhouse Pinups" of Marvel Comics characters for Terrific and Fantastic comics, titles published by Odhams Press that included licensed Marvel Comics reprints for the UK market. Following this, he flew to the U.S .in summer 1968 with fellow artist Steve Parkhouse for meetings at Marvel in New York. "I sent material first, and based solely upon a pleasant return note from Stan's assistant Linda Fite, my pal and me were at Marvel's doorstep in the blink of an eye." Largely due to his Jack Kirbyesque style, Marvel Comics Editor Roy Thomas gave him the job of drawing both the cover and story of X-Men #53 (cover-dated Feb. 1969), credited to Barry Smith as he was then known. He went on to draw Marvels' Daredevil #50-52 (March–May 1969), a Western short story, "Half Breed" (probably the story "Outcast" eventually published in Western Gunfighters #4, Feb. 1971), and issue #12 of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (May 1968), both scripted by Parkhouse. Windsor-Smith later called his early art "amateur and klutzy" and a "less than skillful" Kirby imitation, but Stan Lee liked it enough to give him more work However, with his visa having expired and without a work permit, Windsor-Smith was sent home by U.S. Immigration Authorities in December 1968.
Despite this, Thomas assigned him issues #66 and #67 of The Avengers (July–Aug. 1969) after he had returned to the U.K., and he continued to work at a distance for Marvel, providing the art for a number of stories in the horror anthology titles Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness. Thomas, a longtime fan of Robert E. Howard's 1930 pulp-fiction character Conan the Barbarian fan, also had Windsor-Smith provide art for a sword and sorcery story, "Starr the Slayer", in Chamber of Darkness #4 (April 1970). Soon afterward, Thomas offered Windsor-Smith the job as penciller for Marvel's adaptation of Conan, starting with Conan the Barbarian #1 (Oct. 1970). In 1971, Windsor-Smith moved to the United States, having been granted a work permit.
During his run on Conan the Barbarian, Windsor-Smith was involved in the writing as well. He and writer Roy Thomas adapted a number of R.E. Howard short stories, the aforementioned "The Frost-Giant's Daughter", "Tower of the Elephant", "Rogues in the House", and "Red Nails", the last of which was issued as a very limited, pirated, A3-size black-and-white version on glossy paper in England in early 1974. As well as the art and story contributions, Windsor-Smith provided the covers for most issues. They also worked on original adventures and characters based on R.E. Howard's characters - most notably the flame-haired warrior-woman, Red Sonja - loosely based on a character from one of Howard's non-Conan stories, who has now become a major comics character in her own right - in "The Song Of Red Sonja" in Conan the Barbarian #24 (March 1973), Windsor-Smith’s last issue of the title. By then he had worked on 21 of the first 24 issues of the series, missing only issues #17 and #18, and #22 (which was a reprint of issue #1), and both he and the title had won a number of awards. Windsor-Smith would later say[where?] that the reason he missed those issues was because he had quit the series a number of times as he was dissatisfied with the work and how the comics business worked, rather than the deadline problems Marvel quoted.
Windsor-Smith also provided the art for a number of other Marvel Comics titles, including the Ka-Zar stories in Astonishing Tales #3-#5 (December 1970-April 1971) and #10 (February 1972), three further issues of The Avengers (#98-100, April–June 1972) - about which he would later remember the nightmare of drawing "all those bloody characters that I didn't give tuppence about", Iron Man #42 (June 1972), and Marvel Premiere #3-4 (July–September 1972), which featured Doctor Strange, both of which were apparently re-scripted by Stan Lee after being drawn to Lee’s original scripts. Windsor-Smith was by now becoming disillusioned with the comics industry and the way in which in his opinion the writers and artists were being exploited: "I needed to be free of constraints and policies that were imposed by the dictates of creating entertainment for children" Shortly thereafter, Windsor-Smith left comics for the first time, leaving only a couple of inventory items in the Marvel Comics vaults, both stories of R.E. Howard characters: Kull in "Exile of Atlantis" (Savage Sword of Conan #3, December 1974), and Bran Mak Morn in "Worms of the Earth" (Savage Sword of Conan #16, November 1975). Other than ten pages of inking of Jack Kirby pencil work for Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles (1976), a one-off oversize Marvel Comics Treasury Edition, he produced no more comics work until 1983.
At this point he changed his professional surname to Windsor-Smith, adding his mother's surname to his own, and began to pursue a career in fine art. Granted residential status in the United States in 1974, Windsor-Smith, along with his partner Linda Lessman, set up Gorblimey Press, through which he released a small number of limited-edition prints of fantasy-based subjects that proved popular. In 1976 Windsor-Smith published The Gorblimey Press Catalogue, a high quality index to the work published by Gorblimey Press, with full-page reproductions of each piece. Prior to that, in 1975, together with Jeff Jones, Mike Kaluta and Bernie Wrightson, he was one of four comic book artists-turned-fine-illustrator/painters who formed a small artist’s loft commune in Manhattan known as The Studio, with the aim of pursuing creative products outside the constraints of comic book commercialism. By 1979 they had produced enough material to issue an art book under the name The Studio, which was published by Dragon's Dream (ISBN 9063325819).
Windsor-Smith returned to mainstream comics work for Marvel in 1983 with two pieces, a short mystical tale of love, "The Beguiling", and a dark, humorous 2-page black-and-white story, "A Path of Stars", both in Epic Illustrated #16 (February 1983), which also featured a page and a half Windsor-Smith spread accompanying an Archie Goodwin text story called "The Horde" (which appears to be a drawing of Conan and Valeria in battle). Later the same year he produced a short piece in Dave Sim's Swords of Cerebus (#5, 1983), followed in 1984 by several Marvel superhero stories: an untitled story, though usually referred to as "that night...", and an April Fool’s story of The Thing in Marvel Fanfare #15 (July 1984), which he wrote and drew. He also illustrated "Lifedeath" a double-sized Storm story in The Uncanny X-Men #186 (October 1984), and a 4-part Machine Man limited series (October 1984 – January 1985), for which Windsor-Smith was artist and colorist over Herb Trimpe layouts for the first three issues, and drew and coloured alone for the fourth. Although he would return to the X-Men once a year for the next three years, (Uncanny X-Men #198, #205 and #214), his mainstream comics output remained limited throughout the rest of the 1980s, amounting to just one issue each of Fantastic Four (#296, November 1986) and Daredevil (#236, November 1986), two issues of Iron Man (#232, July 1988 and #243, June 1989), two pages for DC Comics' Heroes Against Hunger benefit project, and two small pieces for the Harvey Award-winning comics anthology A1 published by Atomeka Press. In 1987 he also returned to his first major success and provided new painted covers for nine issues of Marvel's Conan reprint title The Conan Saga, all issues which contained black-and-white reprints of his original 1970s stories.
Together with the X-Men offshoot Excalibur (#27, September 1990), Windsor-Smith's last work for Marvel Comics came with the serialized Weapon X feature in Marvel Comics Presents #72-84 (1991), his own, original conception of the origin of the X-Men character Wolverine which he wrote, drew, inked, coloured, and co-lettered. In late 1991, he was approached by Valiant Comics, a new comics publisher founded by former Marvel Comics writer and editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, and asked to act as their creative director and lead artist. Valiant had obtained the licenses for a number of characters originally published in the 1960s and 1970s by Gold Key Comics: Magnus Robot Fighter, Doctor Solar and Turok Dinosaur Hunter, and added their own original titles to the roster, including Harbinger, X-O Manowar, Shadowman, Archer and Armstrong, Eternal Warrior, Bloodshot, Ninjak and Rai.
Windsor-Smith became the chief designer of the Unity crossover for Valiant Comics, and writer and artist for most of the first dozen issues of the title Archer and Armstrong. By focusing on storytelling and innovative marketing practices such as a tightly knit continuity, crossovers and send away issues Valiant quickly became a considerable success story, selling nearly two million copies of premiere issues and rapidly becoming the third largest comics publisher in the U.S., behind the long-time industry leaders Marvel and DC Comics. However, in 1993 Windsor-Smith once again found himself in opposition to company employment policies when Valiant decided to adopt the same work for hire practices that he had disliked in Marvel Comics, and became dissatisfied with his position in the company: "They needed me as a figurehead just as much as a creator." He left Valiant soon after Jim Shooter's departure from the company. Smith has called work-for-hire contracts "a legal but unethical instrument designed to rape and plunder young talents of every possible prerogative they would otherwise possess if they had the fortune to work for more scrupulous, morally invested, publishers."
Of his work for Valiant, and the problems he encountered there over legal ownership of titles and characters, Windsor-Smith said in 2008, "In the 1970s I was constantly asked when I would 'do Conan again'. In these latter years I receive e-mails imploring me to return to Archer and Armstrong. My short reply is, 'When pigs fly to the Moon and return home safely.'"
Since leaving Valiant, Windsor-Smith has worked for a number of companies. For Malibu's Ultraverse line he co-created Rune with Chris Ulm, including a crossover one-shot comic titled Conan vs. Rune published by Marvel Comics in 1994 after they took over Malibu. As a result he once again came up against legal ownership problems, and the Rune stories have remained un-reprinted as a result. For Image Comics he worked on the crossover event "Wildstorm Rising", drawing and coloring the first issue, WildStorm Rising #1 (May 1995), and all eleven of the covers for the interlinked series. Windsor-Smith later said that he was talked into illustrating Wildstorm Rising, and regretted participating it, stating that in reading the story and illustrating it, he could not understand the motivations of any of the characters, even when he read earlier Wildstorm books featuring the characters. He says he altered the plot in order to improve it and his enthusiasm for it, later learning that writer James Robinson was not pleased with his doing so.
In 1995 Windsor-Smith created an oversized anthology series, Barry Windsor-Smith: Storyteller for Dark Horse that contained three ongoing features: "The Paradoxman", a dark science-fiction tale, "Young GODS", a homage to Jack Kirby's Thor and New Gods series, and "The Freebooters", a lighthearted action series about an aging Conan-like character grown older and heavier and now running a tavern. He canceled Storyteller after nine issues, even though a tenth issue had been completed; since then Fantagraphics Books has issued hardcover collections of "Young GODS" and "The Freebooters". Each of these hardcover volumes includes supplemental features, essays and previously unseen art. Fantagraphics has also published Windsor-Smith's Adastra in Africa, a hardcover starring a character from "Young GODS" in a story originally intended to be published as "Lifedeath III" for Marvel's X-Men, with the character Storm. In 1999 Fantagraphics published two volumes of BWS - Opus, a hardcover art books featuring Windsor-Smith's work from throughout his career, including an autobiographical story, "Time Rise", which features details of his experiences with seemingly paranormal phenomena.
Windsor-Smith's last published work was "UFO POV" an 11-page story in Streetwise (July 2000), a trade paperback anthology published by Two Morrows Publishing. In January 2006, Windsor-Smith announced on the website Comic Book Galaxy that he was in negotiations to publish a graphic novel for Marvel Comics starring The Thing. He has also been quoted as having been working since at least 1998 on a 300-page graphic novel Monsters, which "explores the life and times of two disparate American families fatefully connected by an abandoned Nazi project in genetic engineering that has been covertly revived by the US government". and completed a Superman story in 1999 that has not yet seen print. However, he has produced no further work in mainstream comics since that announcement, and nothing has been produced by Gorblimey Press since the print "Liberomano" in 1993.
- 1970 - Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards Best Individual Story ("Lair of the Beast Men," by Roy Thomas & Barry Smith, from Conan the Barbarian #2) (nominated)
- 1971 - Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards Best Continuing Feature (Conan the Barbarian) (winner)
- 1971 - Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards Best Individual Story ("Devil Wings over Shadizar," by Roy Thomas & Barry Smith, from Conan the Barbarian #6 & "Tower of the Elephant," by Roy Thomas & Barry Smith, from Conan the Barbarian #4) (nominated)
- 1972 - Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards Best Individual Story Dramatic ("The Black Hound of Vengeance," by Roy Thomas & Barry Smith, from Conan the Barbarian #20) (nominated)
- 1973 - Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards Best Continuing Feature (Conan the Barbarian) (nominated)
- 1973 - Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards Best Individual Story Dramatic ("Song of Red Sonja," by Roy Thomas & Barry Smith, from Conan the Barbarian #24) (winner)
- 1973 - British Fantasy Society Awards Best Comic (Conan the Barbarian) (winner)
- 1974 - Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards Best Individual Story Dramatic ("Red Nails," by Roy Thomas & Barry Smith, from Savage Tales #1-3) (nominated)
- 1974 - Shazam Award for Superior Achievement by an Individual (nominated)
- 1974 - British Fantasy Society Awards Best Comic (Conan the Barbarian) (winner)
- 1975 - Inkpot Award (winner)
- 1975 - British Fantasy Society Awards Best Comic (The Savage Sword of Conan) (winner)
- 1976 - British Fantasy Society Awards Best Comic (The Savage Sword of Conan) (winner)
- 1977 - Eagle Awards Favourite Comicbook Artist (nominated)
- 1985 - Haxtur Awards Best Long Story (Machine Man) (nominated)
- 1985 - Haxtur Awards Best Drawing (Machine Man) (nominated)
- 1990 - Gem Award for Outstanding Service and Product Best Comic under $3 (Deathmate Prologue) (nominated)
- 1993 - U.K. Comic Art Awards Best New Feature (Archer & Armstrong)
- 1997 - Comics' Buyer's Guide Favorite Colorist (nominated)
- 1997 - Harvey Award Best New Series (Barry Windsor-Smith: Storyteller) (nominated)
- 1998 - Comics' Buyer's Guide Favorite Colorist (nominated)
- 2008 - Eisner Awards Hall of Fame (winner)
- Astonishing Tales (Ka-Zar): #3-6 (1971)
- Avengers, #66-67, 98-100 (1969–72)
- Avengers, vol. 3, #48 (2002)
- Chamber of Darkness #3-4 (1970)
- Chillers Giant-Size #3 (1975)
- Conan the Barbarian #1-24, Annual #1 (1970–73)
- Daredevil #50-52, (1969–72); #236 (1986)
- Excalibur #27 (1990)
- Fantastic Four #296 (among other artists) (1986)
- Iron Man #47 (1972); #232 (1988)
- Machine Man, miniseries, #1-4 (1984–85)
- Marvel Comics Presents (Weapon X): #72-84 (1991)
- Marvel Fanfare (The Thing) #15 (1984)
- Marvel Premiere (Doctor Strange) #3-4 (1972)
- Masters of Terror #1 (1975)
- Savage Tales (Conan) #1-4 (1971–74)
- Tower of Shadows #3, 5, 7 (1970)
- Uncanny X-Men #186, 198, 205, 214 (1985)
- Wolverine #166 (2001)
- Barry Windsor-Smith: Storyteller #1-9 (Dark Horse, 1996–97)
- Archer & Armstrong #0-6, 8, 10-12 (Valiant, 1992–93)
- Eternal Warrior #6-8 (Valiant, 1993)
- Rune #0-6 (Malibu, 1994)
- Solar, Man of the Atom #1-10 (Valiant, 1991–92)
- Wildstorm Rising #1 (Image, 1995)
- X-O Manowar #1 (Valiant, 1992)
Books and compilations
- Weapon X. New York: Marvel, 1994. ISBN 0-7851-0033-4. Republished as Wolverine: Weapon X. New York: Marvel, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7851-3726-9 With Jim Novak.
- Barry Windsor-Smith's The Freebooters, Young Gods, The ParadoX-Man. Kingston, New York: Windsor-Smith Studio, 1995(?). OCLC 36362038
- Barry Windsor-Smith: Storyteller volume 1, number 1. Milwaukie, Oregon: Dark Horse, 1996. OCLC 63079005
- Barry Windsor-Smith: Storyteller volume 1, number 2. Milwaukie, Oregon: Dark Horse, 1996. OCLC 63079007
- Adastra in Africa. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 1999. ISBN 1-56097-357-9
- Opus volume 1. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 1999. ISBN 1-56097-367-6
- Opus volume 2. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2000. ISBN 1-56097-393-5
- Young Gods. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2003. ISBN 1-56097-491-5
- Young Gods & Friends. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2003. ISBN 1-56097-491-5
- with Diana Schutz. The Freebooters Collection. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2005. ISBN 1-56097-662-4
- with Kerry Gammill et al.. Untitled. New York: Marvel, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7851-4186-0
- George Khoury and Eric Nolen-Weathington. Modern Masters Volume Six: Arthur Adams, 2006, TwoMorrows Publishing.
- Cooke, Jon B. "The Art of Arthur Adams", Reprinted from Comic Book Artist #17, 15 November 2001
- Biography on BarryWindsor-Smith.com
- Cooke, Jon B. "Alias Barry Windsor-Smith, Interview with Storyteller & Conan Artist: BWS"; Comic Book Artist #2 May 1998
- Conan the Barbarian: Red Nails Unicorn Press, Brighton, England 1974. This was the second and last A3 comic issued by Unicorn Bookshop, the first being an unauthorised reprint of Elric of Melnibone, material first in Metal Hurlant magazine by Philippe Druillet
- Marvel Treasury Special Featuring Captain America's Bicentennial Battles #1 at the Grand Comics Database
- Heroes Against Hunger #1 at the Grand Comics Database
- "VALIANT DAYS, VALIANT NIGHTS - A LOOK BACK AT THE RISE AND FALL OF VALIANT", Newsarama, 23 September 2003
- Barry Windsor-Smith Official Biography (page 27)
- Text of 2008 Eisner Awards Hall of Fame acceptance speech
- Groth, Gary (September 1996). "The Barry Windsor-Smith Interview". The Comics Journal #190. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- Preview of Windsor-Smith's The Thing 2006 graphic novel on Comic Book Galaxy
- Windsor-Smith, Barry. Monsters
- Jones, Valarie. "Art or Rock? A visit to Windsor-Smith Studio" SUBmedia #1, 1999
- Levitz, Paul (2010). 75 Years of DC Comics The Art of Modern Mythmaking. Taschen America. p. 626. ISBN 978-3-8365-1981-6. "'An Evening With Superman' This oversize art book has entered fan folklore because of the years it has spent in limbo."
- Barry Windsor-Smith LinkedIn Profile, linkedin.com, 8 March 2010
- Official website
- Barry Windsor-Smith at the Comic Book DB
- "Barry Windsor-Smith Interview". The Comics Journal (190). (online excerpts from print interview). Archived from the original on 1 May 1999.
- Comic Awards Almanac