In addition to loving comics as a finished article, I also love the original artwork that the comics are printed from — not too surprising, I suppose, as I’ve drawn numerous comic strips myself over the years. I know the the sheer dedication and amount of work that goes into each and every page to provide what is often seen as throwaway entertainment. I’ve been collecting original art for twenty five years and have over a hundred pieces. I thought I’d start a new series showcasing some of this art, alongside the final, printed result.

I’m starting with a lesser-known series, Reign of the Zodiac, which was a creator-owned project written by Keith Giffen, with artwork by the incomparable Colleen Doran. Originally published in mid-2003, Reign of the Zodiac told the story of the other-dimensional world of Eidolon, a planet with 12 dominions—each one with a culture based upon a sign of the zodiac—and the characters, interplay and battles between them.

It was a complex series that rewarded multiple readings, and was just getting started when the plug was pulled. Although in hindsight this should have been a Vertigo title, DC chose to publish it under the regular DC logo and it was met with indifference by the wrong audience—which was a real shame. The story-telling was some of Giffen’s most mature to date—far away from the usual super-hero slugfests for which he’s known—and the art was simply amazing. Colleen threw herself heart and soul into creating a unique look for each of the 12 dominions, and was sure to make Eidolon itself distinctive enough to be a character in its own right.

The page I’ve chosen here is the full-page splash for page 3 of issue #1, showing Eidolon in happier days, before things went to hell:

Reign of the Zodiac original art, Colleen Doran

Reign of the Zodiac original art, Colleen Doran

I first saw this page in pencil form, published as a preview on some web site, and was blown away by the detail and imagination on display. The inks on the completed page are by Bob Wiacek.

Click on either of the images for a better look.

The series ran for just eight issues before cancellation, though those encompassed one reasonably complete storyline, and the last issue does have an ending of a sort. Sadly, it’s never been collected, but here’s the cover to the first issue (drawn by Tony Harris) should you wish to track it down:

Reign of the Zodiac ©2012 Keith Giffen

And if you like Colleen’s work, she’s got a new graphic novel coming out soon: Gone to Amerikay, written by Derek McCulloch