On Craft: A Gesture

By | Monday, September 04, 2017 Leave a Comment
I recall reading at some point several years ago, someone was asking John Byrne if he had a particular page or panel that he was especially proud of. His response was something along the lines of, "Yes, but nothing you're likely to know/recognize." He went on to explain that while the big splash pages and great heroic shots are cool, the stuff that he tended to be proud of were just random panels in which he drew a hand really well. Or an eye. Or a fold of clothing. The small, subtleties that perfectly capture the nature of humanity he was trying to convey at that moment.

One of the drawing challenges I had as a child (back when I still aspired to becoming a comic book artist) was hands. I had the proportions down well enough, but every time I drew hands, they always looked extremely stiff. Which was fine if I was trying to make a closed fist, but my drawings of open hands looked awkward. But one day, as I was reading Avengers #242, there was a panel that caught my attention...
(Pencil breakdowns by Al Milgrom, finishes by Joe Rubinstein and Brett Breeding.)

Honestly, it's not all that great of an illustration. Especially in isolation like this. But for some reason, Vision's left hand caught my attention.

First, it has a fairly natural feel to it. The fingers are relaxed and posed in a fairly neutral position. It's not drawn like a mitten with dividers between the fingers, much as I had been doing. Each finger is curled in its own manner and maintains its own integrity.

Second, the shadow on the palm and pinkie finger was, to my young mind, a novel -- almost genius -- approach. Of course that part of the hand would be in shadow, but the solid black eliminates the details that A) just confuses the visual at that size, and B) is a hell of a lot easier to draw since you're shortcutting your way out of having to portray those details! (Which probably isn't the best mental approach to drawing, but I was a kid and looking to make better-looking art quickly!)

I did get much better at hands because of that panel. Seeing how the fingers all curled slightly differently from one another proved to be something of a revelation for me, and my hand drawings improved substantially. (Although never good enough to be a regular comic book artist, but that's neither here nor there!) But just from some random panel almost in the background of a superhero story that's probably better remembered as launching the Avengers into the original Secret Wars!
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