Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Mercenary: The Cult of the Sacred Fire

The Mercenary
The Cult of the Sacred Fire and The Formula
NBM Books, 1985

In 1980 the Spanish artist Vincente Segrelles (b. 1940) decided to get into comic books and produced a strip set in a fantasy kingdom, featuring a hero known as the Mercenary. 

At the time an established artist and illustrator, Segrelles hand-painted his comics in oils, which, needless to say, was a very labor-intensive process. The results, however, were impressive.

The Mercenary's first installment, later to be titled The Cult of the Sacred Fire, was serialized in English in Heavy Metal magazine in 1981 - 1982.

This NBM trade paperback compiles The Cult of the Sacred Fire and the next installment, The Formula, in a very nice 8 1/2 x 11 inch volume, printed on glossy paper with high- resolution reproductions of the artwork.

The Mercenary's early adventures take place in the Country of Permanent Clouds, a landmass in Asia that is cut off from the rest of the world by its high altitude and constant cloud cover. Above the cloud cover is a land of temples, castles, flying dragons, wizards, damsels in distress, and other trapping familiar to readers of sword-and-sorcery fiction.

Segrelles' color scheme, with its luminous whites and grays, is carefully used to evoke the atmosphere of an aerial world. At this website, Segrelle provides excerpts from his book Como Pinta Vincente Segrelles (Vincent Segrelle's Art Handbook) on the processes he uses for painting the fantasy art displayed in The Mercenary.

I won't disclose any plot spoilers, save to say that the Mercenary often has his hands full when trying to complete his contracts.

There is an element of humor to the goings-on, as well as the opportunity to please the Heavy Metal readership via the presence of nubile young women....

Segrelles finished the Mercenary storyline in 2003, at which time it comprised 13 volumes. Eight of these have been published in English translation by NBM Books. These are out of print and copies in good condition go for rather steep prices; I was able to find my copy for an affordable price.

Hopefully someone like the New Comic Company or Titan Books will obtain the reprint rights for the complete 'Mercenary' series. Until that happens, if you see any copies of the NBM volumes on the shelves at your used bookstore, they are well worth getting.

1 comment:

Russ said...

Very nice work, but his uncle Jose Segrelles was an even more amazing artist in many ways.