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John Byrne
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 6:16am | IP Logged | 1  

As I have mentioned before, this is a term we use in comics to describe the manner in which information is presented in the panels. The action of the panels is the "storytelling". "Action" here meaning what's happening in the pictures.

For some reason I found myself thinking about this, just now, and started wondering whatever happened to this simple skill. With the emphasis on so much ACTION in the jumping punching hitting sense, the "acting" part seems often forgotten.

Here's what I am blabbering about: Whenever I draw a character, I try to keep him or her in character. So, even if s/he's just standing or sitting, I try to have him/her stand or sit in a distinctive way, or at least a way that's different from anyone else in the shot. Giving the characters little bits of business is one way of accomplishing this. (This is something I do a lot in the Commission pieces, tho I have made it a habit in my reg'lar comic work, too.)

But increasingly in the past couple of decades, artists have turned more and more away from this kind of thing -- everybody stands the same way, walks the same way, jumps the same way. It's as if there are "rubber stamp" poses, to which the artists merely add costume lines.

There are some, of course, who are still "old school" -- Bruce Timm, Adam Hughes and JRjr excell at this -- but I can't think of many others (this side of the Pond, anyway.)

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George Peter Gatsis
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 6:28am | IP Logged | 2  

Miller? Swan?


Edited by George Peter Gatsis on 16 March 2007 at 6:29am
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Dave Powell
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 6:34am | IP Logged | 3  

Cho... ok just shoot me, that wasn't even funny.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 6:39am | IP Logged | 4  

Swan?

***

Not producing much these days…
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Joe Hollon
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 6:46am | IP Logged | 5  

As I'm making my way through Essential Captain America volume one, I'm finding a fun exercise in reading each page as scripted by Stan Lee and then going back and "reading" the page simply by looking at the Kirby artwork.  It's interesting because occasionally you can find differences and "see" the scripting process Stan Lee was going through.  Try it!
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Patrick T Ditton
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 6:52am | IP Logged | 6  

To agree with JB - I read an article several years ago, an interview with John Buscema while he was doing his Avengers run in the late 80s.  I recall he discussed how at (that point) in his career he, too, was drawing his characters to each have distinctive personalities - focusing on body language and things like that.  After reading the article I began noticing the subtle things Buscema would draw to define a character - it was remarkable.

I have noticed JB doing much more of this in recent years and it's been a good thing, too - it truly enhances the storytelling.

I think Alex Ross tries to capture some of this with his work - but much of his is expressed through the mood of his colors and the detailed facial expressions of his characters.
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James Hanson
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 6:56am | IP Logged | 7  

But increasingly in the past couple of decades, artists have turned more and more away from this kind of thing -- everybody stands the same way, walks the same way, jumps the same way. It's as if there are "rubber stamp" poses, to which the artists merely add costume lines.

I've thought the same thing. It seems action scenes have suffered most. They used to have a sequence of events within them that the reader can understand. "First Cap throws his shield, then the Hulk grabs it and throws it back, then Cap leaps over it, ..." Now it seems like they're comprised of random action poses with no actual content. "Superman is punching Amazo in midair, now Amazo is doing it, now they are both doing it..."

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Martin Redmond
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 7:05am | IP Logged | 8  

Stuart Immonen is good at giving different stances, Humberto Ramos, Bryan O'Malley, too.

I think most people like that are working in videogames or animation right now. I'm often amazed when rereading older comics since many fight sequences remind me of games I played like Devil May Cry and so on. When you get multiple characters to chose from, they usually have different walk animations and attitudes as well.

I also think it's a matter of "fashion". It's not really fashionable to do this in comics right now or I just don't notice it because the writing is usually bad and I don't pay attention. I'm sure if I thought more about it, I could find alot of names.



Edited by Martin Redmond on 16 March 2007 at 7:08am
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John Byrne
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 7:08am | IP Logged | 9  

I think Alex Ross tries to capture some of this with
his work - but much of his is expressed through the
mood of his colors and the detailed facial
expressions of his characters.

***

Ross depends too much on live models. You don't
get, say, Thor's body language, you get somebody
-dressed-up-as-Thor's body language.
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Dave Powell
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 7:12am | IP Logged | 10  

I like Alex Ross, and I believe he creates nice pictures.   But the stringing together of sequential art isn't his strong suit.  Add to it the fact that his figures seem to be straight out of an Andrew Loomis book, to the point that I've seen his models before, and they lived in the 1950's.  Well, paint pictures Alex.. we all love them.
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Gerry Turnbull
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 7:15am | IP Logged | 11  

Mark Buckingham,Darwyn Cooke,Tony Harris
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Michael Cross
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 7:37am | IP Logged | 12  

I find Alex's storytelling on Justice is his best yet, but possible because he's not using his own breakdowns or pencils.  Doug Braithwaite has a real good eye for what he is putting in each panel.
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William Byrd
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 7:42am | IP Logged | 13  

Tim Sale? I just finished his and Loeb's Catwoman:When in Rome series and was blown away by the art.
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Ed Love
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 7:58am | IP Logged | 14  

I am enjoying JUSTICE, but I found the latest issue to have the storytelling
problem I find with a lot of other artists, they want to be George Perez or
Dick Dillin. They cram so much in a panel that it's hard to read the story
of the panel, the central thing it's supposed to get across. Perez is
detailed, but he's not cluttered, the message of each panel is clear even if
it's got 20 figures in it (and he's a master of having each figure having it's
own language, check out AVENGERS #1 where they are all sitting in on a
briefing). But the latest issue of JUSTICE, there were huge fight scenes
that were hard to read, not helped by all the characters being in almost
identical armored outfits. Instead of being thrilling, I had to slow down to
figure out exactly what the art was trying to display. However, I don't
recall that problem really with KINGDOM COME. While possibly not always
the most dynamic presentation, the individual panels were pretty clear as
to the action it was displaying, even the huge fight scenes.
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Matthew Hansel
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 8:02am | IP Logged | 15  

Something else that is all but dead, with regard to storytelling, is panel-to-panel continuity.  It seems that almost nobody knows how to drag a reader's eye from one panel to the next, using either a background element, word balloons, cropping of the figure, tilting the shot to make it naturally drag into the next panel...basically, anything that Joe Kubert has been doing since the beginning.

I remember taking a class about this particular aspect of storytelling, and it BLEW ME AWAY...my world changed.  (I also had a LONG discussion at a con with Joe Kubert, which also changed my life).

Pitty that so many consider it to be so unimportant.

MPH

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Derek Muthart
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 8:06am | IP Logged | 16  

Mark Buckingham is doing a wonderful job with Fables.  Of course the exterior of characters gives them a lot distinctiveness, but if you look closely you can also see certain characters exhibiting unique body language which amplifies their personality. 
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Frank Robert
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 8:11am | IP Logged | 17  

> Ross depends too much on live models. You don't
get, say, Thor's body language, you get somebody
-dressed-up-as-Thor's body language.

Personally, I think Ross has the worst body language in comics art.  Everything looks static and overly-posed.  His models don't "move" -- they just "stand" -- and, thus, do his characters.

His work has absolutely no dynamics or life in it.  And that makes him one of the worst artists I have ever seen.  Technique is nothing without life.  It has to FEEL real in order to be real, as far as I'm concerned.

_Frank Robert

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Aaron Smith
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 8:22am | IP Logged | 18  

Looking at some current comics artists, I feel that they certainlty can draw, but might be more suited for portraits or single illustrations. There is a certain "flow" missing that is essential for panel to panel sequentials.
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Mike Duncan
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 8:23am | IP Logged | 19  

I agree with Frank.

Ross' work is far too staid and controlled. Posing is everything. Sure they look iconic, but man, they have no soul.

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James Hanson
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 8:30am | IP Logged | 20  

His work has absolutely no dynamics or life in it.  And that makes him one of the worst artists I have ever seen.  Technique is nothing without life.  It has to FEEL real in order to be real, as far as I'm concerned.

While Ross' work can be stiff, to say he's one of the worst artists is a bit much. I'd be suprised if there was a member of this board besides JB or some of the other comic legends that could match him.

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Paulo Pereira
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 8:34am | IP Logged | 21  

I don't know if a lot of folks would be that interested in matching him.  He does a lot of prep work and uses, as mentioned by others, models.

Anyway, I find it hard to be that impressed by Alex Ross (don't get me wrong, I think he's got great talent) when I consider the work of Frank Frazetta, a guy who (allegedly) never used any references.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 8:36am | IP Logged | 22  

While Ross' work can be stiff, to say he's one of the worst artists is a bit much. I'd be suprised if there was a member of this board besides JB or some of the other comic legends that could match him.

***

The word "comicbook" should be inserted between "worst" and "artists". Ross has it over just about everybody, when it comes to technique. But superhero comics aren't about technique -- as we are shown almost daily with the beautifully rendered talking heads comics that have come to dominate the form.

And it was not always so. MARVELS had everything a comic should have, plus that wonderful painterly look. But somewhere, around the time he became THE Guy Who Paints Superheroes, a subtle and accelerating shift happened, and the dynamics faded in favor of the posed models.

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Eric Lund
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 8:55am | IP Logged | 23  

That is why Justice is so cool ...Ross is not doing the layouts for the book and the dynamism and action of the storytelling I feel is so much better than when he is just painting models in costume.... Superheroes are an ideal and an ideal is not a normal looking human in a costume... It is Michaelangelos David or Hercules.... The proportions are augmented and idealized.... That is really missing from his posed work which while cool to look at just does not garner any AWE like Neal Adams was able to capture with his version of hyper realism... Neals characters looked awe-inspiring but real at the same time....

The best artists are the ones that can make the fantastic seem real but the FANTASTIC aspect of it stands out...and the real does not make it seem mundane or posed....Characters should look like they are ready to LEAP off the page not look like they are in a life drawing class posing...

Edit:
Body language like JB said (and he couldnt be more right about it) is the character... With silhouettes you should be able to tell who any character is by how they stand and hold themselves.. Thor does not hold himself or stand like Cap or Cap like Spider-Man or Spider-Man like Daredevil.... or Wolverine etc...ad-infinitum....

That is why it is so disheartening to see alot of new artists not "Get" characters they draw.... John Buscema was one artist that really stood out for me as a guy who could storytell a whole story with a pose of a character just by itself... his poses spoke volumes about that character...



Edited by Eric Lund on 16 March 2007 at 9:01am
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Joe Zhang
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 9:17am | IP Logged | 24  

So much of the new comic art is pretty but lifeless. This explains part of it.
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Matthew Turnage
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Posted: 16 March 2007 at 9:56am | IP Logged | 25  

Perez is one of my favorites when it comes to this aspect of storytelling.  He can draw a page with Captain America and Hawkeye  interacting in civilian garb and the reader can tell which is which without the benefit of dialogue.  I don't think many artists today could do the same.

Speaking of the old masters, I was talking with my roommate the other day (he's an artist) and recounted the discussion on this board about how modern artists rely on the colorist and their figures don't have the "weight" older artists' figures did.  By way of illustration, I showed him a Neal Adams page from the "Half an Evil" story that was posted in the other thread (I think by JB) and one of the things he remarked on was how the positioning of the characters on that page led the reader from panel to panel and even to the next page.  It was a sad reminder to me how so much of that ability has been lost on the current generation of comic artists.

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