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Wilks, Mike

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

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(1947-    ) UK illustrator and author, who began to publish drawings of genre interest with his highly intricate, architecturally imaginative portrayal of the eponymous Edifice or City conceived in conjunction with a long narrative poem by Brian W Aldiss as Pile: Petals from St Klaed's Computer (graph 1979). Pile itself – drawn by Wilks in terms evocative of the work of M C Escher and Giovanni Battista Piranesi – is a claustrophobic but playful expression of the city seen from without, but also conceived in terms of Urban Fantasy [for Urban Fantasy, for Edifice above, and for a differently-couched entry on Wilks, see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. In Granny's Garden (graph 1980), to a poem by Sarah Harrison (1946-    ), presents the eponymous enclave as a kind of Zoo containing within it animal species from previous ages. The Weather Works (graph 1983), a narrative poem woodenly derivative of Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark (1876, chap), again describes a kind of edifice, in this case a Steampunk complex works where weather is made.

Wilks is almost certainly best known for his various picture books each of which contains information graphically presented in the form of precisely drawn images – often hundreds of them – which must be identified within the overall work. The Ultimate Alphabet (graph 1986; exp vt The Annotated Ultimate Alphabet 1988) – comprises for instance twenty-six dauntingly intricate paintings, each devoted to objects whose name begins with a particular letter of the alphabet (the painting devoted to the letter S alone contains 1229 separate items), all charted and enumerated in the annotated version of the project. The Ultimate Noah's Ark (graph 1993) consists of a single painting – presented whole and then broken into sixteen details – containing 353 paired animals, variously placed, plus one singleton which readers are asked to find (the wraparound dustjacket, which will have been stripped by the British Library and other statutory institutions, presents an entirely different rendering of the bestiary; see link to Picture Gallery below). The Ultimate Spot-the-Difference Book (graph 1997) presents mirror texts and images, each containing a least one difference.

In the twenty-first century, Wilks created a narrative-focused alternative to the Ultimate books of the previous decade in the Young Adult Mirror Tree sequence, comprising MirrorScape (2007), MirrorStorm (2009) and MirrorShade (2010); the young protagonists, having encountered a painter whose works allow entry into the worlds they depict, have various adventures within worlds which could be described as Virtual-Reality Pocket Universes, all interlinked by Mirrors [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], repetitions, Doppelgangers: everything, as in all of Wilks's work, ultimately seeable. [JC]

Michael Thomas Wilks

born London: 20 March 1947



Mirror Tree

  • MirrorScape (London: Egmont Books, 2007) [Mirror Tree: illus/hb/Mike Wilks]
  • MirrorStorm (London: Egmont Books, 2009) [Mirror Tree: illus/hb/Mike Wilks]
  • MirrorShade (London: Egmont Books, 2010) [Mirror Tree: illus/hb/Mike Wilks]

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