Sunday, May 30, 2010
the (comics) industry
Is he a tracer, a finisher - art partner, continuity cop, embellisher? The analogy of an inker as a drummer in a band doesn’t even really fit because American comics is done in so much of an assembly-line style that they really have no say until everything else is done - almost more like the mixer or sound engineer, if we were to use the band analogy (and if so then what is the colorist or even letterer for that matter. I’ve seen pencilers leave all the black placement and shadows to the inkers, correct anatomy and perspective, finish out buildings add background and even draw in full figures like the famous jim lee and scott williams page shown here. is it their job to point out all they do to the penciler, in hopes that things will change and they wont have to do as much next time or is it too much for any one person in the process to try and tell the others how to do their job.
Does a bad penciller/inker reflect on the other’s skillset and talent in the finished work if it looks bad - or can artists only tell the difference. Are we cutthroat enough to only do “our job” or is it the nature of a team effort that each person down the line must pick up the slack the others have left? I suppose this is the job of the editor to make sure that everyone is doing their job to their full extent - or that there is an understanding between the various creative teams - supposing that every team is different. But its hard to say anything as a statement - that isn’t a question for clarification - without stepping on the other’s toes. Is it the inker’s job to silently make the penciller look as good as possible and change things or is his job only controlling the look of the lines and not their placement (the pencilelr’s job)? There are even inkers that take over the art, that you see the inker more than the penciller like Bill S. or Joe Kubert.
writer/artist relationships - and their effect on the reader
I’ve also been talking to my friend about the difference between “rockstar artists” that grab you from a distance because of their own intrinsic power from their style (jim lee, kelley jones etc) - and “story artists” who really go unnoticed until you read the work, and find it served the storytelling the best and played second fiddle or even in tandem with the writer rather than over his head (steve dillon, john cassaday, etc). There are some that are both or have become that.
For a long time, I guess growing up in the 90’s - the age of rock star artists - I began buying and reading comics purely visually, and it wasn’t until recently that I would buy a book because of the writer, disliking the art at first because it didn’t “grab” me and then find the artists to be a perfect fit - and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
How does this affect marketing that is either based on a name by name basis, or splash page art? Of course there have been artists in this transition that I used to like visually but can’t stand to read, or found confusing. I’ve known writers who hate artists who render or take time for themselves such as drawing full splash pages etc, that the reader slows down to look at - because it messes with their pacing. Then there have been artists that even play with that idea, and actually simplify during action sequences so you read faster- you have less to look at, like Mignolla.
I might never pick up a book if I don’t respond well to the marketing or I have to go through the work to read synopsizes or listen/read peer reviews. Neither of which are bad, and are probably by far more accurate than splash-page art, but it is almost totally the opposite in terms of how we process that type of marketing and the types of people that respond to it - or would go through the work, its not as immediate as it used to be.
Then there is also the difference between cover artists and interior artists like Brian Stillfreeze, and Dave Dorman who could sell sand to Egyptians, or bottle water to Americans - lol. I suppose in certain instances they have become recognized and gone on to an easier and higher paying career where they are a house-hold name in the comics world but by and large it is a totally difference industry from a buyers perspective and no one really told anyone else to change the way you look for new books. You just kind of get jaded after spending a couple hundred on beautiful cover art that delivers nothing inside - not saying that Dorman or Stillfreeze have done that , just that they easily could.
Many have even said that this is the age of “rock-star artists,” who people will sit through bad art they don’t like just to read a good story. I suppose it is such a subjective subject that a perfect match and balance will only be found in the eye of the beholder, and is still changing. But its interesting for a guy who fell out of reading for a few years to come back and see it almost flip flopped of where it was 20, 15 or even 10 years ago. Ideally we are looking to take in all aspects equally well, but it rarely happens as such.
Many of these conversations/arguments were inspired/introduced to me, by things I heard inker John Holdridge, and writer Mike Baron say years ago at a class they taught, rather dualistically - for these very reasons, in Denver’s RMCAD about 10 years ago, now. But they are things I am only now beginning to experience and question for myself.