Your Comic Art Preferences

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Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by tony ingram on Mon Aug 11, 2014 8:36 am

I was mulling this over after having a lengthy running disagreement with Karatattoo over the art on the current She-Hulk title. I like it, he loathes it. But why? That's actually a difficult question to answer. I like it, I think, because it seems to me to look like a comic, that is to say, with simple, clean lines, and no unnecessarily busy areas distrasting from the flow of the story, something a lot of comics these days fail on for me. In general, I prefer the uncluttered simplicity of a Jack Kirby, a John Romita Sr or an Alan Davis to most of the stuff that currently seems to be popular, because I find a lot of the more modern stuff muddy, harsh to the eye and not very memorable. But is that just because of the era I grew up in? Is one style actually better than the other? And if so, which one?

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by Lucy McGough on Mon Aug 11, 2014 9:55 am

Having seen the art in question, I think it works for that particular story, but I wouldn't want it for all comic stories. I've reconciled myself to the art in Brass Sun but I wouldn't want every 2000 AD story looking like that. We need variety — some simple and uncluttered, some complex, some monochrome, some coloured.

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by MajorHoy on Mon Aug 11, 2014 2:58 pm

Also, how much of that "cluttered" vs. "uncluttered" look can be a result of the inker (or even the colorist / colourist?) as opposed to the person who did the main pencils for the art?

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by tony ingram on Mon Aug 11, 2014 3:16 pm

MajorHoy wrote:Also, how much of that "cluttered" vs. "uncluttered" look can be a result of the inker (or even the colorist / colourist?) as opposed to the person who did the main pencils for the art?
The colours certainly have something to do with it. In a way, I miss the days when comics colourists had a more limited range of colours to work with. A lot of todays comic art seems to me muted and indistinct because of the greater range.

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by Lucy McGough on Mon Aug 11, 2014 3:35 pm

It's horses for courses, I guess, because I like the modern stuff, except when they do it with a computer.

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by Mbast1 on Mon Aug 11, 2014 10:04 pm

tony ingram wrote:Is one style actually better than the other? And if so, which one?

Well, with comic art you have two issues, I think. One is simply "I like" and "I don't like", that is a subjective response to it. The other is "does it tell the story" or not? Of course drawing the line between the two can be easier or harder depending. Sometimes you dislike the art so much you can't follow the story even though you might otherwise see it tells it well. (I dislike Herb Trimpe's art A LOT and so have missed out on what might have been good stories). Or the reverse. You can forgive poor-storytelling because you like the art. But, they're not the same thing, I think.
My brother doesn't read comics too often any more, and he pointed out something I hadn't noticed much (because I was reading them all along, and so the change wasn't abrupt) but modern comics DO seem to have a style (well, American superhero comics, anyway) definable by era. Yes, there are always outliers, but you can often tell the era of books by the art. And, if you grew up with one era and a recognizable style, it may be that nothing else feels "right". So, you have to be able to distance yourself enough to look at the storytelling, if you can.
So, I don't know would be my answer, I guess. One style CAN be better than another, at storytelling (although that would require you to average the entirety of the style's artists and that wouldn't be easy), but probably not on a subjective level.

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by Mbast1 on Mon Aug 11, 2014 10:14 pm

Lucy McGough wrote:Having seen the art in question, I think it works for that particular story, but I wouldn't want it for all comic stories.

I think this would be my answer to this, often. Does it work for the story the writer is telling? (Although, I'm not sure you can always tell. Art can change the story enough that you don't know what the writer meant)

tony ingram wrote:In a way, I miss the days when comics colourists had a more limited range of colours to work with. A lot of todays comic art seems to me muted and indistinct because of the greater range.

I wouldn't agree, in that I think the more options the creators have the more likely they are to tell the story they mean to tell. To a point, of course, because too many choices can overwhelm.

MajorHoy wrote:Also, how much of that "cluttered" vs. "uncluttered" look can be a result of the inker (or even the colorist / colourist?) as opposed to the person who did the main pencils for the art?

That's very true and important, ALL of them play a part. Both in terms of how much you like the art and how well the story is told.

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by tony ingram on Tue Aug 12, 2014 7:28 am

Mbast1 wrote:
tony ingram wrote:Is one style actually better than the other? And if so, which one?

Well, with comic art you have two issues, I think. One is simply "I like" and "I don't like", that is a subjective response to it. The other is "does it tell the story" or not? Of course drawing the line between the two can be easier or harder depending. Sometimes you dislike the art so much you can't follow the story even though you might otherwise see it tells it well. (I dislike Herb Trimpe's art A LOT and so have missed out on what might have been good stories). Or the reverse. You can forgive poor-storytelling because you like the art. But, they're not the same thing, I think.
My brother doesn't read comics too often any more, and he pointed out something I hadn't noticed much (because I was reading them all along, and so the change wasn't abrupt) but modern comics DO seem to have a style (well, American superhero comics, anyway) definable by era. Yes, there are always outliers, but you can often tell the era of books by the art. And, if you grew up with one era and a recognizable style, it may be that nothing else feels "right". So, you have to be able to distance yourself enough to look at the storytelling, if you can.
I think this is possibly where my problem lies with a lot of modern stuff: it's just too different from the material I grew up with, which I guess is down to me not adapting. Your brother is right, I think, about there being definable eras. Eighties comic art tends to be quite distinct from nineties comic art. And we're now seemingly in an era where realism is the goal of many artists, whereas up until about fifteen years ago there was a sense of comics having a kind of exaggerated reality of their own (I'm not sure I'm explaining this very well).

So, I don't know would be my answer, I guess. One style CAN be better than another, at storytelling (although that would require you to average the entirety of the style's artists and that wouldn't be easy), but probably not on a subjective level.
I guess you can't really even gauge which era had the greater number of artists who were good storytellers. The number of people working in the industry has changed so much that it's not easy to compare.

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by Lucy McGough on Tue Aug 12, 2014 9:14 am

I.N.J. Culbard's art for Brass Sun is more sort of deliberately 'comic book style' and less realistic, which is why it took me a while to get into it, but now I like it. It's good to read an anthology comic with a mix of styles in it, so you get some 'realistic', some 'comic book style', and some black and white.

With Judge Dredd, for instance, a 'comic book style' is good for the stories emphasising the comedic aspects of the strip (fatties with bellywheels! Kneepads! Ridiculous names! Ludicrous hobbies!). A 'realistic' style fits the stories that focus on the true horror of the situation (oh my word, it's the future and we live in a city of 50 million people and everything is AWFUL).

Black and white is good for more 'noir' strips like Sinister Dexter, but also works for comedic strips like Robo-Hunter where the playfulness of the situation provides its own colouring, IYSWIM.

I have a soft spot for the hyper-realistic uber-polished style of the nineties, where everything was either coated in grime or emitting sparks (especially Superman), because it's what I grew up with.

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by tony ingram on Tue Aug 12, 2014 10:48 am

I really like black & white on a lot of stuff. Gene Colan's work always looked better in black & white, to me (Essential Tomb of Dracula is a joy to behold) and so, I think, does Neal Adams a lot of the time (I grew up with black & white reprints of his X-Men, Inhumans and Avengers work which were amazing). Artists who use less shadow and cleaner lines work better in colour. Alan Davis, I think, is a good example of that, as is Brian Bolland.

I actually really like the art on Brass Sun.

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by Lucy McGough on Tue Aug 12, 2014 11:10 am

It's grown on me. It also works if you see comic as being direct descendants of medieval illustrations and stained glass windows, with their bold colours and simple lines conveying vital information.

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by tony ingram on Tue Aug 12, 2014 11:24 am

Lucy McGough wrote:It's grown on me. It also works if you see comic as being direct descendants of medieval illustrations and stained glass windows, with their bold colours and simple lines conveying vital information.
Bold colours and simple lines conveying information is what, in my opinion, comics used to be, more often than not. It sums up most pre-90s American comics pretty well.

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by Lucy McGough on Tue Aug 12, 2014 12:22 pm

But it doesn't have to be the only way, right?

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by tony ingram on Tue Aug 12, 2014 12:46 pm

Lucy McGough wrote:But it doesn't have to be the only way, right?
Well, no. I'd just prefer to see more rather than less of it. I mean, a character like Captain America doesn't actually need to look realistic (and what was wrong with his pirate boots, anyway?)

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by Lucy McGough on Tue Aug 12, 2014 2:13 pm

Realistic comic book art gives our fantasies flesh.

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by MajorHoy on Tue Aug 12, 2014 2:14 pm

tony ingram wrote:I really like black & white on a lot of stuff. Gene Colan's work always looked better in black & white, to me (Essential Tomb of Dracula is a joy to behold) and so, I think, does Neal Adams a lot of the time (I grew up with black & white reprints of his X-Men, Inhumans and Avengers work which were amazing). Artists who use less shadow and cleaner lines work better in colour. Alan Davis, I think, is a good example of that, as is Brian Bolland.
I've always preferred my superheroes in color / colour. After all, you have all those colorful / colourful costumes, and when you have a large assemblage of costumed characters, the colors / colours do make a difference (and sometimes help you keep track of who is who). Sometimes science fiction and fantasy also benefit with color / colour when you're encountering strange, exotic locales and multi-hued people and creatures.

Other genres, like maybe Westerns and war comic books, aren't always as much about colorful / colourful costumes and backgrounds, so it may not be as important.

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by Lucy McGough on Tue Aug 12, 2014 5:23 pm

I reckon Batman would work in black and white, but with the others, you have a point.

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by MajorHoy on Tue Aug 12, 2014 5:42 pm

Lucy McGough wrote:I reckon Batman would work in black and white, but with the others, you have a point.

On the other hand, Batman's villains are a colorful lot . . .





and Poison Ivy definitely needs her greens.

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by Mbast1 on Thu Aug 14, 2014 4:05 am

tony ingram wrote:(I'm not sure I'm explaining this very well).

I think well enough, for me anyway in that I read comics in those eras and I think I see what you mean. And agree.

tony ingram wrote:I guess you can't really even gauge which era had the greater number of artists who were good storytellers. The number of people working in the industry has changed so much that it's not easy to compare.  

Yeah, and it's not as though many of them had the exact same level of quality in all of their work.

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by Mbast1 on Thu Aug 14, 2014 4:09 am

Lucy McGough wrote: so you get some 'realistic'

I've never been a fan of "realism" in comics anyway. Not to say that photorealism in the art is necessarily bad, but realism? In superheroes? Nah. Plus, I still think most people who say they want realism just want more violence.

Lucy McGough wrote:I have a soft spot for the hyper-realistic uber-polished style of the nineties, where everything was either coated in grime or emitting sparks (especially Superman), because it's what I grew up with.

I think we all have a soft spot for the things that caught our attention and pulled us in in the first place. I'll never accept a version of Superman who kills because I grew up in the Bronze Age. And I think Jim Aparo's art is fantastic. Things like that. I think that's ok, as long as you don't start to hate what is NOT like that.

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Re: Your Comic Art Preferences

Post by MajorHoy on Thu Aug 14, 2014 2:09 pm

Mbast1 wrote:I've never been a fan of "realism" in comics anyway. Not to say that photorealism in the art is necessarily bad, but realism? In superheroes? Nah. Plus, I still think most people who say they want realism just want more violence.
The realism bit for superheroes depends on how fantastical or grounded in reality they are. Batman I typically want more realistic unless the story calls for psychotic affects or other strange things, but Dr. Strange doesn't require as much realism to me. (Though a good healthy dose of realism when mystic arts aren't in play makes for a good contrast with guys like Dr. Strange and, say, John Constantine.)

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