Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Moving Pictures: Linework Only

I thought this might be an interesting study in line versus shape; here's part #62 of Stuart and Kathy Immonen's Moving Pictures, posted last Friday...
Here it is again with the word balloons removed...
And one more time with all the black shapes removed, leaving only the actual linework...
I think many people naturally think of the more illustrative artwork when they think of comics and sequential art, but this shows pretty conclusively how wide the spectrum really is if more artists choose to work in different directions. There's only one discernible face in that last version, and only one figure that seems recognizable as a person. Despite how exceptionally clear Immonen is in his original!

There are a few artists who work in a more graphic and less illustrative format, but not many. There's Frank Miller's post-Dark Knight work, most notably Sin City. Will Eisner occasionally dabbled the style with some of his Spirit stories. Jim Steranko played with the ideas. But the list is pretty short for the number of comic book artists and, even then, you can't point to their work as EXCLUSIVELY graphic in nature. Immonen's Ultimate Spider-Man looks nothing like Moving Pictures, for example.

The reason, I suspect, for not seeing more graphic work in comics is not dissimilar to the reason why we don't see more minorities working in comics: the field is fairly insular and breeds/rewards repetition more than innovation. How many artists working in comics today, for example, are directly or indirectly, consciously or subconsciously aping Jack Kirby?

Not that there's anything wrong with copying a winning formula, mind you! But the American industry is set up to keep regurgitating that same formula with minor variations over and over. (Admittedly, there's only so much you can distort an image before it becomes wholly unrecognizable, but there's still a lot of latitude an artist can take.) The industry fosters more illustrative work almost to the exclusion of all other styles, just like it fosters the work of younger Caucasian men almost to the exclusion of other races or gender.

I don't have a solution, but the "sameness" of artistic expression in comics further emphasizes just how insular our little boys' club has become.

2 comments:

chatterbox said...

It may also have something to do with the fact that most artists working in comics aren't 1/10th the draftsman, designer, and visual storyteller that Stuart Immonen is.

canvas art prints said...

Cool blog, I always enjoy reading stuff like this!