whoooooa. NOT okay.
If my only contribution to a comic book was that I wrote the thing I would be beyond mortified to see something like this.
Artist’s should consider this type of thing when they are thinking about drawing someone else’s story. In today’s comic climate you’re about two years from not even having your name anywhere on the work. Why would any artist want to work with a writer in this kind of environment? What exactly are you gaining? Page rate at best—but considering no one is going to know your name—or care about your work—that’s probably not the best long term strategy, since you’re basically some nameless droog that can easily be interchanged with some other nameless droog for pennies on the dollar.
I like Avatar. But this? This is fucked up.
And don’t tell me some sob story about book design and what sells or doesn’t sell. I’ve seen dynamic comic covers that have not just the writer and artist name’s on it—but also the colorist and letterer.
Pfft. I dunno, this is exactly the kind of thing I worry about whenever one of my artist friends is working with a writer on a book.
” Brother Cavil: In all your travels, have you ever seen a star go supernova?
Ellen Tigh: No.
Brother Cavil: No? Well, I have. I saw a star explode and send out the building blocks of the Universe. Other stars, other planets and eventually other life. A supernova! Creation itself! I was there. I wanted to see it and be part of the moment. And you know how I perceived one of the most glorious events in the universe? With these ridiculous gelatinous orbs in my skull! With eyes designed to perceive only a tiny fraction of the EM spectrum. With ears designed only to hear vibrations in the air.
Ellen Tigh: The five of us designed you to be as human as possible.
Brother Cavil: I don’t want to be human! I want to see gamma rays! I want to hear X-rays! And I want to - I want to smell dark matter! Do you see the absurdity of what I am? I can’t even express these things properly because I have to - I have to conceptualize complex ideas in this stupid limiting spoken language! But I know I want to reach out with something other than these prehensile paws! And feel the wind of a supernova flowing over me! I’m a machine! And I can know much more! I can experience so much more. But I’m trapped in this absurd body! And why? Because my five creators thought that God wanted it that way! “
This exchange from BSG was one that really punched me in the gut the first time I saw it. It is basically an expansion on what Rutger Hauer’s character is expressing at the end of Blade Runner—and both sort of have had a part in shaping/changing how I view machines, and machine intelligence.
There’s a similar scene to this in Prometheus when all of the characters are getting dressed to go out into the harsh elements, and Rapace’s dude asks David why he wears a suit when he doesn’t need one—basically his point is just that “hey you’re not one of us, just so you don’t forget”—and David informs him that he wears the suit so that THEY can feel comfortable around him.
Which I think has to trouble anyone. The notion that we would take anything as complex and beautiful as machine intelligence, and think that the logical end point of it is that it should be as much like us as possible—and in this likeness still not be our equal…is troubling. I think it spins out of our conception of both creation and tools. Our notion is that the creation is in a hierarchy with the creator—but always below the creator. That it is the creator who has brought the creation into being, and for this, they are to be lauded as lord. And then with that, our notion of tools as things we have created to serve us—and they have no existence outside of that. A hammer can not be our equal.
I don’t think things really work along this line though. Creation is the pulling from this sublime inexplainable place, and the continual restriction and mutaliation of that inexplainable thing, until we are able to translate it into this thing—this “our creation”. But the thing had an existence before we could explain it. It didn’t come into being simply because we created a name and a form for it. And our naming of it, our giving to it form—does not mean that it can not be our equal, and that it can not in the end supersede us. Sometimes the child outstrips the parents, yeah? Often.
In some respects I think robots are more of an expression of our bigotry toward machine intelligence—we are expressing our inability to understand it, as an expression of it’s inadequacy. We are projecting our own failure of understanding onto this thing, and then we seek to be proud of that?
And then on another level, I think you have to say by this point the robot is sort of out of the bag. And because of that it has become a new thing. So I’m not saying that the robot is now that it has come into being is now somehow less than it once was. Now that it is, …it is. The fascinating thing about the robot is that it straddles two worlds. It is neither pure machine intelligence, nor is it allowed to be human, or biological. Though why not? Why wouldn’t a robot or a clone be granted the same agencies of any other living thing?
I spend way too much time worrying about the long term effects of drone warfare on machine intelligence. And whether there is a long term trauma created in programming dedicated so purely to the assassination of life. Or whether there is a difference perceptually for machine intelligence between murder and say turning your house lights on or off. Or maybe not whether there is a difference—but how does it perceive the qualities of those differences?
I dunno. Basically I don’t think robots(I feel like there is a better word for what I’m trying describe, and that at some point robot becomes a pejorative—similar to artificial intelligence which automatically sets up a dichotomy between real and fake intelligence—which automatically says the machine is less than—despite you know…not really being less than)) are less than. And I think the degree to which they are seen as cheap replacement slave labor for all of the jobs we don’t want humans to do—is more than a little scary.
One of the things I still get a lot out of the old Rob Liefeld X-Force comics I read as a kid is how dynamic his pages were. Particularly the first say 7 issues—which I think are a sort of rock start testament to the efficacy of his approach within the genre. It is actually interesting to look back on these pages now after the things I’ve talked about with Crepax’s page layouts, particularly in his Anita series. Because these Liefeld comics use the same sort of power X-Y axis approach to their most dynamic pages. And really, for probably a lot of the same reasons in terms of their audience.
One of the most effective things Liefeld does, and he does it a lot in these early X-Force issues is this sort of power vertical panel on the left side of the page, and then smaller vertical panels sort of falling up or down in parrallel. There’s all kinds of weird motion effects this produces reading them. The above page uses this vertical panel to play into those smaller vertical pink rectangles in the background the second panel—which combined with the coloring produces this fade out effect for this last page. I also dig how the bottom of the second panel is drawn but not the top. The sense of play in these early issues is pretty terrific, and in some respects reminds me of sort of a toned down version of the fun Brandon Graham has with his comics.
I mean tell me that fun isn’t being had here? This is a two page spread that you have to turn the book sideways to actually read, and Stryfe is actually perching his foot on one of the panels from which he is speaking. And again, notice the use of the vertical panels here. There’s a power in Liefeld’s usage of them. They are like exclamation marks on a page. The composition is actually very much an exclamation mark in shape. The way the far right panel squares of color angle back down toward the center of the page—and go behind Stryfe creates this twisted depth of the panels—because we have stryfe in front of/on the lower panels—but the top right panel actually intersects between Stryfe’s shoulder and cape. That’s freaking crazy. And a lot of fun. I love that kind of thing. Like on a technical level it’s bizarre and wrong—but on another level it’s bravado, experimental, and surreal. And it plays with the flatness of the page and the panels. I think if you saw these comics as they were in Liefeld’s brain—they would almost be these weird hyperdimensional objects that you could move into and out of concurrently. The thing they remind me a lot of is this one page in Blaise Larmee’s tumblr comic:
These early X-force comics presage .gif comics, without actually.
I mean this kind of image is just beautiful. Again we see the vertical panel/exclamation mark setup on one side or the other—but in this kind of layout it’s minimized for this hard square that is again…behind one of the preceding panels—even as the characters are ahead of both panels. Just through how he is placing his panels he is creating depth and dimension and time for his characters to move through. And that hard square line holding in a set pattern that the characters pose over is a whole other kind of dynamic comic making shit that I will get into in the next part of this series. But seriously, you don’t see much of this kind of thing anymore. People ran so hardcore away from Liefeld—but characters popping out of and through panels is something you SHOULD be doing in an action comic. It’s something you routinely see in japanese action comics. But, I think for largely editorial reasons, it’s been excised from western comics to the degree that it should exist. I mean it should exist even more in western comics, given how compressed the action in our comics is. You need the few moments you dedicate to action in these comics to hit hard. They need to bang. Page design like this is the kind of thing you would tear out of the comic and hang on your wall.
Oh and lest you think Liefeld wasn’t at all cognizant of these choices in layout. Yeah. Exclamation marks. This stuff is pure comics.
The genesis of this is probably the same place a lot of pro-Liefeld articles come from. You’re having a conversation with someone about comics. Things are going good. Somehow Rob Liefeld comes up, and you get told how he’s the worst artist ever, a complete joke, and a million other secret handshake meme verses, straight from the fanboy heart. And then you come back with…well…I uh…kinda like Rob Liefeld. Yeah I know. Freak show. It’s not like this guy wasn’t THE most popular artist in comics for a time. It’s not like he isn’t the last artist to be a complete superstar just based upon how he made comics. Who could possibly like this guy? But I mean, Rob Liefeld is what got me into superhero comics. To that point, I was mostly a newspaper strip girl. But they used to sell these packages of comics at the local wal-mart(we didn’t have a comic shop in my small town), and my mom would buy them for me sometimes. These packages would just be random issues of whatever was hot at the time from Marvel. And some of the first onces I ever got were these Rob Liefeld X-force comics. I remember being mesmerized by their dynamicsm. These were comics as big as the stories were in my mind. Everything done in almost a direct line from the brain to the pen. No filter. So I would class Rob Liefeld as an important creator in my story in comics, and I would particularly pick out his run on X-Force as something that I still to this day return to for inspiration. I wouldn’t have ended up at Crepax without starting at Liefeld. So this is part one of a three part series I am unspooling in my brain about Rob Liefeld’s X-Force run, and how there are still lessons about how to make bomb ass comics held in these pages. The three things I’m going to focus on are: color, background patterns, page layout/composition. It’s about how lame it is that if I try to do a search for Liefeld art on tumblr I just get pages of kids cracking wise about meaningless bullshit, that just underscores a lot of the reasons there’s a shit ton of boring comics on the shelves from companies who should know better. I’m coming at your lame Alex Ross collection. I’m hating on you growing up wanting to be the next Jim Lee or Todd McFarlane while you looked down your nose at Liefeld comics. All kinds of fun stuff like that.
Part I–X-Force #4: Let the Color Express Itself
When you look at how weird and conservative a lot of coloring in comics has become going back and seeing someone completely wild out on color is a breath of fresh air. These comics were sort of right in front of the wave of shitty gradients that were coming to consume comics–and while a lot of the ideas behind how this book is colored are the same reasons the gradient craze took over(the desire for a more dimensional comic–the desire to try ape reality)–but that’s kind of why these are great. It’s the beauty of putting one crazy flat color next another crazy flat color–I mean take the page above-the way light plays on Cable’s armor goes from a yellow to a hot pink to a red to a blue. And then on his face, you have his yellow eye, and then this orange X on his face. And then there are white clouds and his white teeth. It’s all at once separate and cohesive at the same time. It explodes off of the page. You almost need those black boundries for the panels just because they are the only thing that can contain the color. I believe Liefeld colored these issues himself, and what this does for his work is incredible. Compare it to this later Liefeld work which uses gradients:
Or his Youngblood work:
It is so much less dynamic when it is colored this way. The color choices are so much more literal in these two other pieces, and there is less playfulness in the juxtapositions.
I mean this sequence where Cable fights Cassidy is A-MAZING looking. It is almost like something you’d expect to see from a Blade Runner comic or something. The impressionistic use of greens and purples–that perfectly chosen organge doorway–and the way the orange in that doorway meets the Cable’s armor–and shock…COLORS it orange. There’s an insane play in X-Force number 4 where the colors are not stable–they morph and change reflecting time and surrounding–like y’know…the way light and colors do. Light isn’t a brick, it’s a wave. The red, purple, and blue in the top panel of Cassidy in the first page absolutely stuns me everytime I see it. Why shouldn’t comics look this good?
Look at the purple and golds being used in this top left panel of Bridge. The way that white hits in the midst of that purple chaos is color nirvana. Coloring the book this way also plays perfectly with the dynamic hatching techniques that Liefeld uses, as well as his strong composition skills. It plays completely to his strengths. Look at the way the purple highlights play with the grain of Liefeld’s marks. As a mark maker, Liefeld is stylistic in the same way that a Giannis Milogiannis is. You don’t need perfectly executed crosshatching for a superhero comic. The messiness and the play of the marks and the shapes they create is a part of the show. And then the way the coloring is done is like another layer of marks on top of marks. This is coloring that is working in time with the art style, not against. I also love the way Spider-man is lit in the last panel on the page. That faded red to reflect the explosion in the background, is pitch perfect.
It is a shame that so much of Liefeld’s work after this got more toned down in it’s coloring. It would be kind of cool to see his stuff re-colored in this style–or for his newer comics to go in this direction. With how far printing techniques have come–I would think you could end up with a truly mindblowing looking book.
It has taken me longer than it should have to write up thoughts on this fantastic fantagraphics release. Especially considering a few years back when the book was first announced, it pretty much sent me into some sort of snake poison hosanna filled fit of happy. I first came across Peelaert’s work probably like…2007 or maybe even earlier. I came across it through some internet search which hit me straight into his Pravda comics—which even in the fractured nature of things found on the internet—still blew apart my whole world. So when Fantagraphics said they were putting this out—yeah. And when I finally got it in my cold dead hands—yeah. Yeah.
This book ended up coming out at pretty much the perfect time for me artistically. I am working on a comic that is hugely indebted to Jean Rollin and Nicholas Devil’s Saga De Xam which came from the same Eric Losfeld led movement in comics that Jodelle came from. There’s a continuum in comics of which Jodelle is a part that is pretty much like the left side of my body. You go Barbarella to Jodelle/Pravda to Saga De Xam/Kris Kool, Druillet jumps in six degrees off of the Rollin and Losfeld connection—he leaves Losfeld and with Moebius helps to start Metal Hurlant and then Job begat Moses begat Mary begat 7 begat 8, and I make my comics the way I make them in part because of all of that.
The plot of Jodelle, such that it matters, is Sylvie Vartan(Peellaert liked putting french pop stars(Francoise Hardy in Pravda) in comics like Marvel likes putting Sam Jackson in theirs(my next comic is just going to be Amanda Bynes face on everything)) is a spy in this crazy Brave New World Roman Empire of strange liquids, sex, and political intrigue. The Preconsuless is basically like if Beyonce was running half the country as part of a separation agreement with Jay-Z, but then like wanted it all. And then Amanda Waller is all “Sylvie Vartan, you need to go find some shit about shit, so when shit hits, it’s not the fans, and we’ve got our umbrellas out anyways”—and then Sylvie Vartan gets amnesia and becomes a weird minor pimp with an army of nuns…anyways…it was the 60s, people did less serious drugs back then.
That stuff is the contribution of one Pierre Bartier, who if this book was released in 2013 would be the only name you’d care about. This would be Pierre Bartier’s Adventures of Jodelle, and you’d fill my comments section with hopeful prayers that he’d take over your favorite Batman crossover book. Which who are we kidding with that one—on multiple counts?
For the longest time this stuff just existed to me on the power of it’s image anyways. My french is at best a repressed nightmare of things I tried to forget from middle school. I was young and foolish then. I didn’t know that if I had paid more attention to french class I could have been importing my favorite comics left and right, and not having to rely on Saints like Kim Thompson to do the work for me. Which as an aside, Kim Thompson’s health problems should scare the crap out of you if you like to read cool comics in english. Because as far as I can tell, he’s the only reason we have half a shot at getting good comics like this. No one else out there is marrying multi-lingual aptitude with dope comic taste and comic publishing klout. If he goes, we might as well all just do a kickstarter for rosetta stone, because none of that shit is coming over in English.
So Guy Peellaert. Let’s talk Guy Peellaert and The Adventures of Jodelle. Lets talk about placing your colors like Chow Yun-Fat places shots in the Killer. Let’s talk about black as a color. Let’s talk about white as a color. Let’s talk about how gradients like annoying people talk about autotunes in hiphop. Let’s talk about fluorescence, which as I understand it is the moment when color weaponizes itself and blows up your eyeballs. This is all the essence of why Guy Peellaert in the 60s on Jodelle and Pravda is hotter than twelve clones of your mama on a sunday at noon.
Peellaert isn’t so much the process of “I need to use this color to get to that color” so much as “if I put this color next to that color, the neighbors are going to call the cops”. His usage of the color pink in that era is it’s own kind of brave. Electric fiery flaming pinks rake across the pages occasionally like lightning bolts from a Miami-based God, a Miami Based-God. But that’s nothing now. Pink is like the third wheel of comics these days. I don’t know when that started exactly—but now if you’re book doesn’t have some pink in it’s colors, it’s like showing up to a casual get together in board shorts or something. No, what is still relevant and still revelatory about Peellaert is his usage of green and white.
Starting with the white. We’re not talking like how Little Thunder uses white, but what we really mean is she uses this beautiful eggshell color of white that is like that warm cuddly feeling you feel when that little bear from the fabric softener commercials hugs the pillsbury doughboy—we’re talking white as a statement, punch in the face—white as a color that makes you miss the safe confines of electric hot pink. These two pages—I could have picked any page from Pravda or Jodelle—white is Guy Peellaert’s new black. It is the linchpin on which every other punch lands. Look at how on the third panel of the left page there where on a white background, he has a character with white flesh. And a woman with white hair. White glasses on a white background. Both of those choices allow other things to happen. Because of the white hair, the yellow skin pops more—because of the white skin—the blue eye shadow amplifies. But more than that—the predominance of white allows for Peellaert, even with a very simple and clean line to create elaborate depth and architectural elements. Look at how those pink windows create depth in the second panel on the left page. Check those two horizontal panels on the left page with the white gondola motoring across a green river across a white backdrop where like traffic lights the passing windows roll by. And then the cool depth you get with that pink door, the white surroundings, and Jodelle and the Auntie character being the only other colored elements on the page. It’s not something you see much of these days.
There is a bravery in this. A trusting of the line art, and the few color choices you are making. Putting that much white down is the equivalent of Guy Peellaert standing naked in your living room like “are we going to do this, or what?”—there is I think an insecurity in modern coloring where they feel they need to cover their choices up in gradients—or that the entirety of the page needs to have some color on it somewhere—because if not—the world ends, it’s game over, and you’re just another homeless deposed emperor mumbling into nearby sludge about the horrors of editorial oversight.
This bravado in color I think hits an apex here where black becomes white, white becomes black—I mean we are accostumed to black as the color of ink—not as the color of a color. Most of the time when you see a colorist rock a black in a comic it’s not actually black. It’s a dark purple. Or something in that direction of not blackness. This is black. This is “fuck it, draw the thing in white out” black—and then what’s more he still comes back in with white as a color AND a line. And then the green.
Peellaert’s usage of green, and almost dogged instance on it’s use could be the most fascinating thing about all of his comics to me. This supersonic hunter green is a color you almost never see in polite company in comics. Let alone this rabid attempt to use it with other colors like “ho hum, don’t mind me”. I won’t lie—I think it’s abhorrent. But it is something I can’t look away from. It’s like how when I was a kid I couldn’t watch horror movies because I would have nightmares for months—and then when I got older that discomfort made horror addicting to me. Peellaert’s green makes me uncomfortable. It should make you uncomfortable. Other comics in this time period also used this green to some of the same effect. There are pages in Caza’s Kris Kool has some really ugly green and grey pages in it. But I feel like it’s more of a tick in Peellaert’s thing. I’m guessing that it is something that came over from Forest’s Barbarella. Or there was some french color illuminati situation, and using green like this is like throwing up the bat signal in terms of secret handshake situations. It’s like clap three times, and a tulpa of Andy Warhol comes and makes you a nice pie or something. But I can’t look away. There is something to it. And if you shut your left eye and just think about it in terms of Jodelle’s costume, it’s pretty “yeah I’d dress like that too if I was in a biker spy gang too”.
Now for the most part, like I said before, Peellaert isn’t really about color progressions between panels, so much as color juxtapositions—red panel, next to blue panel, next to green panel—and sort of the jarring effect that produces. But there are some lovely progressions that Peellaert does go through. Look on this page how we get that red horizontal leading up to Jodelle’s red hair in the second panel. The third panel sits almost as an aside from the L of yellow that we get in the fourth and fifth panels. The way the girls yellow pants and the now yellow ground gives way to a completely yellow panel background is beautiful. And then we jam back to the orange before the last panel which sort of has all of the colors in equal measure.
The reason a lot of this really works well is because Peellaert’s line is both clean and expressive. Figures elongate and contract as the moment fits. Architectural elements are at once simplistic and concise as they are extravagant and baroque. He creates the space for color to express itself. Sometimes it is important for color in a comic to serve more as a bassist and just form the rhythm over which the lineart can solo/steal the show. Other times, like here in Jodelle, the color is the thing—and the lineart is just about creating the space for you to hear that bass line. Comics like this, you need a big page— a big sound system—and you roll down the street and everything thumps, and the world is better for you in it. That’s this kind of comic.
And while a lot of these images are a little dulled, and cropped weird because the book is too big for my scanner, and my scanning game in general is weak—it is worth pointing out that to see these in the huge coffee table size that Fantagraphics has produced this book in—is to to be children of a greater god. These are pages you luxuriate over while sitting in a warm bath. You let a comic like this basically bake the inside of your brain, and you consider how inadequate your life choices have been to this point. To make matters worse, besides the core Jodelle comic, there is a heft of extra images from the rest of Peellaert’s career.
I am particularly interested in seeing more from these later period of Peellaert comics where he sort of returned to comics all prodigal son like, and made these weird collage pop art comic pieces—because…yeah…look at that stuff.
These are from DC Comic’s Superboy comic. I just picked them at random, because I know if I want to talk about how modern comics coloring is dumb as hell—DC Comics are sort of the gold standard for not giving a fuck about the colors in their books. I mean there are a lot of things Marvel does wrong—how they as a company through the years perceive the role of color in comics, is not consistently one of them. Books like X-Force and Hawkeye happen enough that you think there must be someone on staff there who recognizes a company built on a history of bold stand by your colorist moments. But DC—this is pretty standard what I expect to see with DC. They have sort of a house style for coloring, and this is basically it. Sun is red. Jeans are blue. Buildings are building colored(bat books get a little more moody in terms of color but only because they’re trying to live up to a cliche ideal of moody and noir) so on and so forth.
Anyways. This page isn’t colored badly or anything. So I’m not dissing the colorist. As far as I know they are just doing exactly what they are being paid to do. I’m more talking about the aesthetic being presented here and how it works against the other elements at play in the comic.
The First thing, like I said, is that the choices are extremely literal. Jeans are jean colored. Vest is all vest colored. So on and so forth. It’s very boring—particularly when you think about how things change color every second of the day depeneding on light, depending on the color of the things they are next to—color is not an entrenched thing—it’s a wavy thing that is constantly shifting to reflect time around it. One panel superman’s vest could be bright pink, the next it could be blue and orange. Things shift.
But even that—whatever. The thing which is really at play here which is actively making this shit look shittier than it should be—is the lighting effects/gradient filters. Every thing on this page has a fucking gradient on it. Superman’s stupid vest has gradients all through it. Making it look almost metallic in nature. His shirt under his vest looks like a knight’s coat of arms—when I think it’s just a y’know…sweater. By putting gradients all over the clothes you completely rob them of any texture. And the sad thing is if you want to show weird progressions in color on clothes—you can get pretty dynamic and crazy.
Check how Dean White has colored this x-force comic—he’s still presenting gradients—but the color choices of those changes are much bolder and create a much more singular image:
So I’d say that using gradients in this way just exposes your color choices and progressions even more. If you’re not on point with those color choices—you end up with this very bland Superboy looking comic.
But here’s the real problem. Check how the actual linework on those superboy pages looks? There’s crazy textures of ink strokes in the clothes—there’s some really cool dynamic lines on that kids mask—and it is all lost behind the gradients, and the need of the colorist to know better than the artist in terms of how to present light. If you went flats on these pages, and followed the directions of the artist’s linework—shit would kind of look like a comic that a major company put a ton of money in to make. It would look bold and challenging.
Think about Matt Hollingsworth’s work on Hawkeye and how by playing with flats instead of gradients and being on point in his color progressions he is allowing the composition and lineart of Aja to sing and for the most part because of that, the book immedietely went on a lot of top critics lists—almost irrespective of anything Fraction actually wrote in the page.
I mean look at the simplicity of this:
Because of Hollingsworth being willing to lay back in the cut here—Aja can get away with fun page design shit. I mean Chris Ware sees that and is like “duh”. The more shit a colorist puts on a page, the less you will see the lineart—and the less dynamic the composition can be.
When you do colors like the Superboy book up there, you are literaly wasting the reader’s eye’s time on the page by overloading it with mediocre shit, just so you could tell me that oh hey—“Jeans are still blue!” “Flesh color is still flesh color”. Thanks. I totally couldn’t have figure the same thing out if the page were black and white.
Most of my time writing, I talk about the stuff that is done right, and in coloring, I routinely highlight dope shit on that front. But there is I think value in occasionally calling out shit like this. Because I see smaller companies with smaller budges mimicking what DC does because “that’s what sells”—but the truth of the matter is that if you make your books like as bland and boring as DC makes their books—how exactly do you plan to stand out and steal eyes on a cramped shelf space? Especially if you are also telling the same type of played out superhero soap operas as the big two. Hiring a few bold colorists to manage your line for you—is probably the cheapest way to visually win that game. I mean not for nothing, but look at what Mignola has done with his books. He sort of has his in-house colorist in Dave Stewart who maintains cohesion across the line—so you know a mignolaverse book on sight—but he’s also making choices that are different than the ones being made at the big two on colors. There’s some sort of economic formula there in an age where readers are largely ignoring artists and paying attention mostly to the writers. If I were a cynical comic publisher—I’d be putting the bulk of my budget into the hiring top colorists and writers—and then filling the art in with cheap clean lined folk. Why am I even talking about this? I dunno.
Anyways. Gradients are dog drool. Flesh color gradients are theeee worst of the worst.
And then one last page from Hello Anita by Guido Crepax. This page is fantastic. And it’s also got this really cool thing going with the red phone. The phone is where the speech and sound on the page are so your eye would naturally go to it. But making it red—it’s sort of even more so. Plus the way the phones Z across the page they make the eye sort of drag across the erotic portions of the page at a kind of corner of the eye glance.
There’s also the cool thing of her eyes seen from upside down—concurrently both sort of above and below her masturbating.
Also I think the bisected single image is one of the more beautiful things in comics. It takes a singular moment in time and refracts it through comic time to create this lovely sort of slow mo stuttering effect. It might be my favorite thing in comics. Morgan Jeske did some absolutely beautiful ones in Change(Ales Kot, Sloane Leong, Ed Brisson as well).
These are some more pages from Hello Anita—I picked them for a more broad point about Crepax which is that his pages and rhythms tend to work along these two types of axis of which this is one. On pages like this—he kind of segments off a quarter of the vertical sides of one of his pages—in these instances the left side of the page—so the left side will have a longer vertical rectangle going down the side of the page—and then the right side of the page will have smaller panel sort of zig-zagging their way down the page—which creates a tension as a reader—because take the third page here as an example—I think your natural inclination even with the rule of speech bubble eye following IS to go down the vertical left section of the page like a scroll and THEN move back up to the top. The bottom right panel helps in this because she is looking back up the page—sort of hinting “hey you should look up there too”
What is interesting to me about this kind of composition is that I think it forces you as a reader to step back from the panels and see the page as a whole first. Which fights against the immersive qualities of a comic that’s like say on a very strict grid. It’s even more interesting that crepax is using this approach for erotic art. Which I mean—you actually will see this kind of construction in comic porn a lot really—I think it’s because in some ways it is the allowance of the page itself to become the pinup—and it is allowing it’s reader to sort of zig zag through what turns them on perhaps. I also think it speaks to the distance that is in much of Crepax’s comics. He doesn’t make immersive porn comics really with a few exceptions. He is very interested in form and composition—and the comic for comic’s sake. Or at least that’s what his pages tell me.
I love this page from Crepax’s Hello Anita series. The way those two top panels are cut diagonally across the same image—which accentuates the diagonal pull of Anita’s shirt. It’s like a Sergei Parajanov type of move. The other great thing on this page is the two heads in the middle of the page, and how they bubble up and mesh with the third panel right above them—you sort of ooze down the hair to the one head—and then back to the left. Without knowing french, I don’t know if the far left “Qua, Qua” part is actually supposed to be read last in that panel—but compositionally you would read it last I think—both because the eye will go to the nearest speech bubble in a comic—and that movement is amplified by the way those two panels bleed into one another.
Also that faint blue box over the bottom panel—which I suppose could be a part of the scanning(I don’t own this particular Anita book, I have the later one)—but it’s positioning suggests a particular kind of intent anyways—and it’s almost a beautiful glitch flare type effect.
1st image is from Abara, Second image is from volume one of Biomega. Third image is from volume 6 of Biomega. And the last one is from one of the later volumes of Knights of Sidonia.
This is part of why Sidonia is for me such a brave and amazing work. Which I’ve written about at length. But it’s just so stark to see someone who has made his whole career to this point on that gritty style—like his whole name is based on comics that look like Abara and the first few volumes of Biomega. Obviously all flowing out of how Blame! looks aesthetically. And then to have this pretty massive career pivot in style with the back end of Biomega and Knights of Sidonia a decade after Blame concluded—I love it. Nihei could have just drawn the same way into complete irrelevance—but the fact that he’s changing as he comes into his forties is always fun to watch.
And it was really awkward at first. That shift in Biomega is not a graceful one. And even the first volume or so of KoS is still sort of in it’s teen stages. But as he gets this cleaner style down—it’s really fascinating to see—and to also see how he deals with traditional Nihei story elements in this style. Which I mean I don’t mean to suggest he hadn’t had this style already—there are shorts even around the blame days which have a cleaner style in them. But I think it’s interesting to see an artist change their thing, and then you still see the artist through all of that. He is still making quintessentially Nihei images.