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Burns, Charles

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist, Author, Comics.

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(1955-    ) US Comic-strip artist and author, born in Washington, District of Columbia, and now based in Philadelphia. The drawing of his Fabulations and Mutant characters displays a strange, heavily stylized vision. His work has been widely published in Italy (notably in Vanity), Spain (El Vibora) and France (Métal Hurlant) as well as in his native USA (Heavy Metal, Village Voice, National Lampoon, Face and Death Rattle). His famous El Borbah strips, collected as Hard-Boiled Defective Stories (graph coll 1988; exp vt El Borbah 1999), feature an eponymous private eye who is not so much hard-boiled as rock-hard-boiled. Like the masked Lucha libre wrestlers of Mexico, El Borbah wears a jet-black mask with only rudimentary features, a black shiny leotard and black boots; his surreal adventures often contain sf elements. The series shows the influence of Chester Gould (of Dick Tracy fame) in its heavy-line style and its bizarre characters. Here, as in his serial Big Baby (first collected as Big Baby: Curse of the Molemen graph coll 1986; exp vt Big Baby 2007) and his self-syndicated strip distributed to freesheets and street-level papers throughout the USA, Burns creates a world peopled by the inhabitants and served by the machinery of US 1950s B-movies. Likewise, the Black Hole comics serial assembled as Black Hole (graph 2005) centres on a sexually transmitted disease which mutates its teenage victims into more or less Monster-like forms; their resulting social ostracism offers a metaphor for reactions to AIDS. Burns continues to write and illustrate horrific graphic novels, while also working as an illustrator for The New Yorker, The Believer, and other magazines. [RT/SW/JP]

Charles Burns

born Washington, District of Columbia: 27 September 1955


  • Big Baby: Curse of the Molemen (New York: Raw Books and Graphics, 1986) [chap: graph: Big Baby: hb/Charles Burns]
    • Big Baby (Seattle, Washington: Fantagraphics, 2007) [coll: graph: exp vt of the above, adding a second story: Big Baby: pb/Charles Burns]
  • Hard-Boiled Defective Stories (New York: Pantheon, 1988) [coll: graph: El Borbah: pb/Charles Burns]
    • El Borbah (Seattle, Washington: Fantagraphics, 1999) [coll: graph: exp vt of the above, adding epilogue: El Borbah: pb/Charles Burns]
  • Skin Deep: Tales of Doomed Romance (East Rutherford, New Jersey: Penguin Books, 1992) [coll: graph: pb/Charles Burns]
  • Black Hole (New York: Pantheon, 2005) [graph: hb/Charles Burns]
  • X'ed Out (New York: Pantheon, 2010) [graph: hb/Charles Burns]


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