'I HATE that trashy Image style. Hiding bad drawing with flashy technique….'
Oh boy. I'm so tired of hearing this.
The internet nearly broke yesterday with a battle (on FaceBook) around good drawing, bad drawing, technique, bad manners, being able to take criticism or not, and whether a certain artist did or didn't deserve his success, and why we hate him, or not. It was epic.
I'm not going to go into the details. It got out of hand. My toes curled when I read all the comments. My heart sank. The entire original point of the thread was buried under a mound of vitriol which, justified or not, made me a little ashamed of my industry.
Comics are not all about good drawing. I've seen plenty of Jack Kirby anatomy that aligns to reality only in the most rudimentary sense, but we all know he was great.
The so-called Image style actually evolved at Marvel - and if you were around at the time you would have seen that all the guys progressing that style produced books that were the most interesting, dynamic and well-drawn (not that that matters) of the mainstream.
The guys that sparked this artistic revolution were brilliant stylists. Arthur Adams was one of the first to utilize hatching in such a bold way, playing with the way figures were drawn, and how best to show powers graphically. He inspired a legion of artists to try and do what he was doing (I remember J. Scott Campbell very humbly saying in an interview once "I'm not a Jim Lee clone! I'm an Art Adams clone!"
But it wasn't just Arthur, it was Barry Windsor-Smith, with his amazing detailed and symbolic work on stories like 'Red Nails' that informed this new approach. We had grown up being blown away by that work and wanted to try it. It was also the pioneering work done by Scott Williams on the inks, who himself inspired a generation of inkers. And there had also been inspiration in the tight, increasingly stylized work of John Byrne and Terry Austin (who's Starlord story with Chris Claremont remains a high water mark in my collection.)
Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri were the two guys that really inspired me the most during the time I was working on Marvel UK's Death's Head II. Paul Neary, the editor in chief, had introduced me to their work and wanted our Marvel UK work to share the house technique, and these guys blew my mind. Their XMen work, before the shiny paper and Image days, even before Photoshop coloring, was just stunning. It possessed great energy, bold layouts and a real underlying ability that I found utterly irresistible. But even the work of the much-vilified Rob Liefield oozed charisma and vigor. He dared to put the impetus of the story before continuity, and anything else. I could see the appeal, and put it in a similar category to Todd McFarlane's work of that time - who's Hulk run inked by Bob Wiacek I absolutely adored.
(As an aside - regarding continuity, Simon Bisley made a virtue of not giving a damn about that in his seminal ABC Warriors work, and we all applauded him for it. Rules are made for breaking!)
The so-called 'Image style' revitalized the mainstream. It brought me back to US superhero comics, which I had given up on to a very large extent. It inspired me. It excited me. It was bloody good stuff!!! Out of this style came me, Travis Charest, the late Michael Turner, Finch, Capullo, and many others who went on to great things.
When the books went glossy, and the color got shiny and lens-flare-happy it was, to be fair, a step away from the genuine class that preceded. But these were changing times, and there are always birthing pains. At times it did seem that the stylistic excesses overwhelmed the drawing - but make no mistake: it is NOT easy to do! And when a style so dominates where else do you go? If not MORE, then what?
Too often this amazing time is painted as vulgar and over-blown. The artistry is dismissed, the creators seen as second-rate and sometimes deserving of mass ridicule. I think it can get incredibly personal in ways it never could, nor ever should, in the past. Once the worst we got was a stinging letter in a letter column - and that could cause mass alcohol consumption and self doubt for a stretch of time all by itself!
Comics CAN be great art by incredible artists - the world's best in my opinion. But they can also just be bubblegum entertainment for people who just want to escape the world for half an hour and be transported somewhere magical. To judge all comics with the same expectation is futile and pointless. To mock or bully people who's art you have personally decided is sub par seems mean-spirited. That they may not be paragons of virtue themselves does not negate our own behavior.
We should be better than that. We should be an example.
That's just what I think. You may, of course, beg to differ.
I never expect anybody to like my work. I've ALWAYS split opinion. (Like most artists, I generally dislike my own work so I'm on the side of the critics!) But haters? I have no time for that.
Cheers for the excellent response. Appreciated!
And yes, I even love Rob Liefeld's old work, with all of its warts and flaws. Yes, he made some pretty dumb business decisions (he didn't have the business sense of McFarlane or Lee), and some of his past behavior could be considered petty....but I will forever defend Liefeld if only for one simple thing: His work, and the work of the Image guys in general, saved American comics from disappearing completely up its own asshole. It served as an effective counterweight to the artsy, cerebral comics like Sandman and The Invisibles (whose creator, Grant Morrison, is a fan of Liefeld's work). Their work - and Liefeld's in particular - served the tastes of children at the time and managed to keep comics fun.
And for those that dish out complaints, would they say the same things if they personally knew the creators? There is a reason we try to be civil toward those we care about. So why are so many people un-civil towards strangers or even acquaintances?
ALSO: there is so much in this world right now to love. There is probably an art style for every cell in the body. So why spend so much time hating (different from critiquing) on a style when people could be spending that time seeking out or (gasp) creating a style they love?
Shit, my biggest influence from those days was Dale Keown back when he was penciling for THE INCREDIBLE HULK and then PITT. You wanna talk about LEIFIELD's plastic rendition of reality, HOLY SHIT, Keown was a sinew-and-spittle surrealist that made Leifield look like a classicist by comparison. But DAMN did his work make you (or at least ME) wanna buy the comic and see what to expect. And truth be told, his type of intense linework and off-kilter composition was perfect for the type of cinematic storytelling that Peter David was doing for the book back then. I think in some way it was what drove me more to hyperrealism because I saw that it was possible to be extremely detailed and accurate but also dramatic and pliable at the same time.
If anything, you could argue that the worst thing about Image was the uneven quality writing-and-concept execution that tended to occur (PITT being a good example) but that's an overall creative problem that everyone deals with, not just Image. The best creators and artists stumble, but just because they tend to share a talent pool doesn't mean the singular aesthetic is the problem.
very well written, and also very true.
I remember collecting alot of comics arounf the "Image days", also before hand on X-men, i still love the art from that era. I still try and collect collections of comics/storylines from that era.
Alot of ppl hate the 90's comics because everything was "overdone". Without these artists like Jim, Marc, Todd, Rob etc, comics would not be the way they are today.
Very good point you make. I also cringe when I see comments on forums etc bagging out these artists.
Keep in mind that the ones doing the most criticizing generally lack the experience in what they are talking about or they have, as one mentioned "an ego as big as outdoors". Also art is subjective. I saw a picture once of a statue that my company bought for one of its new buildings and I was shocked at how much they spent on it. It looked like a series of glass balloon flowers. The price was in the millions. I thought "There's nothing special about that" and there probably could have been a dozen more skilled pieces they could have purchased for less but that's what they wanted.
These people who seem to be unable to participate in any sort of meaningful debate let alone mutual respect do not really matter in the long run. In fact, they are small and petty. Take the remarks with a grain of salt and keep in mind that they are not judges of the artistic world. No one is.
Watching you work made me remember about Jim Lee interviews, and how humble and modest he is. Maybe money or fame doesn't get to everyone's heads. And in the eyes of rookies like me this means role models to follow and admire. Keep up the amazing work you guys do at MadeFire.
Maybe some day when I'm good enough I might join you and see the masters at work, it would mean a dream come true. So more hard work it is for me!
If these artists suddenly changed their style to be more anatomically correct then even more people would complain that their comics were ruined.
I was a fan of the original Image creators back in the day. Back then I just liked flashy pages with energetic poses and fight scenes and sexy women. As I matured and learned more about story telling and technique and other details of comic art that many in the industry were passing over in favor of the big splash page and the gritted teeth and big boobs. Maybe I became a bit of an art snob, but I started to really dislike some artists who I used to admire. Over the years, I may have even developed some animosity towards artist that I felt I could do better than who were getting jobs and I was not. But I also know that had a lot to do with my not really getting myself out there. I was involved in the thread you are referring to. I do think many people on there used the discussion as a means to air their dislike in a way that was not constructive at all and went beyond what the original post was getting at, not that someone's style or skill is necessarily bad, but that there was a very big mistake and flaw in a piece from someone who should at this point know better and who has demonstrated those same mistakes many times. I loved your early work on the Death's Head 2 books, and I figured that many companies actually insisted that artists emulate the style of artists like Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri because that was what was popular. That style, like or hate it, was seen as a needed shot in the arm for comics. A bold, expressive and unique way of telling a story. But in time, the importance was put so much on drawing like someone that whether or not the art was anatomically right or correct in other ways was unimportant.
I myself have lost a lot of artistic drive in recent years over this ire towards stylized "90s" art that seems to rule the majority of comic book enthusiasts.
And it's not just art, entertainment in general seems to be overly scrutinized to the point that I have a hard time enjoying anything. And it seems like that it's not only become socially acceptable to intellectually bully people for liking something, but to also bully people for not liking something.
Being that I am a big fan of Jack Kirby and Richard Corben, I have no problem at all with things not being true to life.
I've seen every style since the EC era to the stuff that came out this week and it's all good.
But I'd never, ever, want comics to just be one thing.
art in my perspective, no mather what medium, is something the creator decides. you adjust your style according to the serie you're working on, but its still yours to experiment with and to make it evolve, no mather what the trolls or the douches say. i often think that in every criticsm or bashing, there's a truth hidden and it's our task to search for it and decide if we use it or not.
art is something its creator owns and if the "fans" dismiss it as second-rate and keep on bashing it like trolls, then to hell with them! if they are true fans in my opinion, then they should give the best criticsm they've got and help the artist they love.
to me, my current guiding lights amongst artists would be Stjepan Šejić, Dan Luvisi, Allison Smith, Stanley Lau and you (with that i mean your art for Outcast and I Frankenstein XD), but Stjepan in particulair. the man knows how to make art! sometimes highly detailed and painted, sometimes simple and slightly sloppy (you could call it conceptart-ish). i had the most incredible luck that i had the chance to meet him last year.
No matter what people say, there will always be people, may they be artists or fans, you guys will always inspire people.