Black Hole covers # 9 and 10
Charles Burns has always been interested in graphic arts. Before starting to do comics, he worked in a gallery, created a campus magazine, made photographic novels and did other photographic experiments. Burns' career in comix started with him meeting Art Spiegelman, the founder of Raw magazine, and being invited to contribute to it. He contributed to the magazines from its third issue in 1981 and from these earliest works on, Burns combined crisp, fresh-looking line work with dark horror themes. This tension between innocence and evil, accessibility and gore, are at the heart of Burns' comix.
Mysteries of the Flesh (1982)
Until 1991, Burns contributed to Raw, drawing strips like 'Dog Boy' and 'Big Baby', as well as short stories like 'The Voice of Walking Flesh' and 'A Marriage made in Hell'. From 1983, he was present in Heavy Metal with 'El Borbah', a series that was later collected in the book 'Hard Boiled Defective Stories' by Pantheon Books in 1988. During this same period, Burns took on 'Mutantis', a series of illustrations published in the Seatlle magazine The Rocket.
Between 1984 and 1986, Burns lived in Italy, where he became involved in Lorenzo Mattotti's Valvoline group. By this time, his work was introduced in Europe, and was printed in magazines like Frigidaire (Italy), El Vibora (Spain), Schwermetall (Germany) and Métal Hurlant (France). Burns created 'Big Baby' in 1986. Stories with this character appeared in several magazines between 1988 and 1993, and were collected in book format by Kitchen Sink Press. He made the book 'Skin Deep' with Penguin Books in 1992, and produced superhero parodies in the 'Charles Burns Horror Sketchbook', published by Kitchen Sink in 1993. That same year, he cooperated with MTV on an animated version of 'Dog Boy'. In 1994, he began the series 'Black Hole', which is also published by Kitchen Sink. The final issue (#12) appeared in 2005.
Final sequence of Black Hole
Besides comix, Burns also does a lot of illustration work, published on the covers of alternative reviews, famous magazines (Time Magazine, Esquire), comics anthologies and cd covers, such as for the Iggy Pop 'Brick by Brick' album. 'One Eye' (Drawn and Quarterly 2007) is a collection of paired photographs by Charles Burns that captures the strange undertones of a staggering range of objects and locales. In October 2010, Burns released the first part of a new series, 'X'ed Out'. The second and third installments ('The Hive' and 'Sugar Skull') were released in October 2012 and in the Fall of 2014, respectively.