"Black Box" Edition

Published by:

Edition Brusen

In association with:

ISBN: 9-788799-214761
Edition size: 500 numbered
MSRP: £85,00

When I first stumbled across this book, I just had to have it, even though it was primarily intended for European audiences. I immediately fell in love with both the art and the presentation of Mark Wilkinson's gorgeous illustrations.

And who is Mark Wilkinson? Wikipedia has a short, but rather incomplete, summary of his works. Mark has had a very diverse career, creating illustrations for several rock bands (e.g., Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Marillion), the Judge Dredd comic, various Red Dwarf pieces, and even stamps for the Guernsey post office (one of the U.K.'s channel islands). Shadowplay covers 30 years of his highly imaginative output, which has a distinct neoclassical feel. He tackles a wide range of styles, from Tolkien-inspired fantasy to modern renderings of various famous personas.

What really makes this book shine is the rich amount of expository text, which guides the reader through Mark's long and fruitful involvement within these various genres. This text, along with the illustrations themselves, gives the book tremendous depth and imparts a sense of completeness that other artbooks frequently lack. Many artbooks I've thumbed through have fantastic reproductions, but very little writeup. This deprives the reader of a sense of history and context, which is rather lazy on the part of the publisher. Not so with Shadowplay. Even though the book clocks in at a relatively brief 168 pages, it conveys a sense of a total comprehensive package.

The "Black Box" edition of Shadowplay comes with a wealth of features, making it a truly worthwhile purchase over the £25 trade hardcover, including:

In all, there are four places in which Mark provides his signature (five if you count the case for the playing cards), one of which contains a non-personalized inscription which preserves the important flatsigned nature of this edition.

I do have a few critiques, though. The first being the folder of prints does NOT fit within the slipcase. There just isn't enough room for both it and the book. I tried forcing it as much as I was comfortable, but could only insert it about two-thirds before I feared the folder and its contents would suffer damage. I strongly advise buyers of this edition to keep the folder outside the slipcase altogether. The second, albeit minor, complaint is that the material used for both the slipcase and the book is a dust magnet, so it's best to keep it in an enclosure of some type, like a bookcase with doors. The third is that there is no dustjacket for us Brodart users, making the book "naked" and that much harder to cover. Other than that, it's an excellent presentation of the material.

If you can afford this edition, buy it. If you can't, the trade version is available on Amazon at a discounted price.

As a postscript to this essay, Mark is currently designing a similar "red box" edition showcasing Paul Raymond Gregory's art entitled Beyond Time and Place - The Art of Paul Raymond Gregory, which I fully expect to be a stunning production. It retails for £90,00. Needless to say, I've preordered one. ;)

A note regarding the pics - the exterior shots of the book didn't turn out as well as I expected, probably because I had already applied a Brodart covert, which generates a lot of glare. Also, I don't like to break the spine of a collectible, which is why Shadowplay isn't lying flat. As a rule of thumb, I try not to open a book past a 90° angle.

- N U M B E R E D -

A signed deck of playing cards showcasing Mark's talents. These cards are available for purchase separately and do NOT come with the book.

The aces and jokers of the deck, along with the facing design.

The front of the slipcase and the folder with the Giclée prints sticking out. The framed onlay is in full color and the stamping is in silver and contains a remarkable amount of fine detail. Unfortunately, the folder of prints does not completely insert into the slipcase.

The slipcase spine, featuring highly readable text and a bottom graphic.

The front of the print folder.

The certificate of authenticity, signed & numbered. If you order directly from Mark, the Purchaser and Date Purchased fields will be filled-in. I bought my copy from a secondhand source, which is why my certificate's fields are blank.

The first Giclée print, entitled "Shadowplay".

The second print, called "Paolo & Francesca".

The front of the book, identical to that of the slipcase. Unfortunately, there is no dustjacket for those of us with a Brodart or Gaylord book cover fetish.

The back of the book, with a clever twist of the front illustration.

A close-up of the binding. Also shown is the embedded ribbon marker.

The numbered limitation page featuring a clever circular design.

Best Wishes from Mark Wilkinson

The copyright page. This edition and the 2,000-copy trade hardcover (9-788799-214739) have their own ISBNs, which is always a welcome sight.

The Table of Contents, which is separated into twelve chapters and includes a foreword and afterword.

The foreword by Fish, Marillion's original singer and songwriter, who has now gone solo.

Pages 30 & 31, showcasing Mark's eclectic styles.

Pages 66 & 67, featuring Judges Dredd and Hershey from 2000AD.

Pages 88 & 89, displaying various original ship designs created for the Guernsey post office.

Pages 94 & 95, showcasing artwork completed for Iron Maiden's 2000 album, The Wicker Man.

Pages 120 & 121. Wouldn't you want to take a trip on the HMS Kylie?

Pages 132 & 133 - two very creepy cover album paintings commissioned for the Irish rock group Glyder entitled Weather the Storm (2008) and Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (2009).

Pages 138 & 139, featuring a full-bleed two-page spread entitled One Way Ticket to Hell...and Back (2005). This was commissioned for the British rock band The Darkness.