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I was surprised to learn that this comic artist grew up practically next door to me -- he graduated from Maine East High School in Skokie, Illinois in 1975, the same year I was born, and finished college at Northern Illinois University in Normal. He was already working professionally before he got his bachelor's degree in painting, although he never had a regular stint on any one comic book title. But he was good, and got better.

Unlike most comic book artists of his day, he didn't go in for superhero-style realism. He was influenced from the beginning by animated cartoons. Over the years he evolved his style into an angular, unreal sort of simplification that no one else could duplicate (or, more likely, that no one else wanted to). His style was odd, but effective. In his own words, though, he's not an abstract artist: "'Abstract' implies 'non-representational', which is incorrect. If I had to label my style, I would say it's expressionistic."

By 1990, he had his first commercial success, a DC Comics publication called Breathtaker. But Marc had already made himself known with a little bit of insanity known as Gregory. Gregory was a little boy with a big head who spent his days inside a mental hospital, mostly wearing a strait jacket while locked inside a concrete box with a drain in the floor. He didn't say much, although his rodent perpetually-reincarnating roommate Herman the Vermin certainly did. The book was fairly sick and twisted, and therefore hilarious (if you never read comic books, you wouldn't be into that kind of humor anyways). Fans of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac would notice many similarities.

After Breathtaker, Marc proved himself again illustrating an issue of Clive Barker's Hellraiser, but most people would come to know him when Vertigo Comics contacted him next. /Breathtaker/ had made an impression on writer Neil Gaiman, and soon Marc had accepted the task of illustrating eleven issues at the end of The Sandman, for the story arc entitled "The Kindly Ones." Marc's angular simplicity was in stark contrast to what Sandman fans had grown accustomed to, but the dark and supernatural tone of the story suited it well, and Marc proved that he could draw very realistic and attractive people in his stories -- when he wanted to.

Sadly, DC Comics officially owns the Gregory books, but then again, Gregory didn't lend himself to too many dynamic stories. These days Marc is associated with Insight Studios, the same place that Frank Cho of Liberty Meadows fame calls home. He produces an irregular comic strip for them called Naked Brain and a self-published comic book called Tug and Buster. More of his usual insanity, he just doesn't confine it to an asylum any longer.

When he's not smiling, he looks a bit like John Cusack.

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