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Topic: Keeping the Characters "On Model" (Topic Closed Topic Closed) Post ReplyPost New Topic
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John Byrne
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Posted: 07 April 2005 at 8:04am | IP Logged | 1  

There is perhaps no greater truth in the universe than that pendulums always swing, and this is as true in comics as anywhere else. Consider, for instance, that DC Comics routinely set other artists to the task of redrawing Jack Kirby's version of Superman whenever he appeared in JIMMY OLSEN or any of the other titles Kirby handled for DC at the time. Fans have been inclined (especially recently, tho less at the time) to be outraged by this, but is this ire properly placed?

Consider the other end of the penulum's swing, where we seem to find ourselves today. Pick up three Superman titles, and you will likely find three very different versions of the character. Artists (and writers) are encouraged, it would seem, to make a personal statement or give their own "interpretation" of the character(s) -- but is this really a good idea?

Recently, Superman went thru some story arcs where he was wearing different costumes, and flipping thru the issues I found myself wondering at times if it was, indeed, Superman I was looking at. I cannot imagine this having been the case when, say, Curt Swan was drawing Superman. Other artists were instructed to make their version of the character look as much "on model" as possible, and where this did not happen -- as with Kirby -- art corrections were made. And I use the word "corrections" specifically, here. Disney understood from the very begninning that Mickey Mouse must always look like Mickey Mouse, and that when changes occur, as they did and do, they must be across the board. Only recently, with the character firmly established in the minds of the public, has the Disney corporation allowed different versions of Mickey to appear side by side -- but even there, this was carefully controlled. A 1930s style Mickey might be on a T-Shirt at the Disney story, but animators working on the latest Mickey cartoon are not allowed to render him in any way other than the current model.

Yet, as noted, pick up five Superman comics, and you will find five different versions of Superman, five different artists "expressing themselves" with their imaginings of the character. Ultimately, what is served by this? When I picked up the ACTION COMICS assignment, recently, the first thing I did was sit down with a stack of Superman comics and try to find a face for him that would fit with the other issues. Took me about three issues to get there, but what matters here is that I did not approach the job with the attitude that I had drawn Superman before, so that was the Superman I was going to draw this time. I wanted the readers to get a sense that all the artists working on the character were "looking at" the same guy when they drew him. (Not an easy task, given the wide range of "interpretations".)

In the end, I feel it is both the characters and the readers who are ill served when there is no attempt made by the various artists to keep Superman looking like Superman, Batman looking like Batman, etc. These books are not -- or at least, should not be -- canvases for self-indulgence. The characters should come first, always.

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Trevor Giberson
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Posted: 07 April 2005 at 8:07am | IP Logged | 2  

I agree with everything you've said here.

You'd be horrified by the various renderings of Ben Grimm these days....

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Ron Farrell
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Posted: 07 April 2005 at 8:13am | IP Logged | 3  

JB, you shouldn't be looking at current comics for references. The other guys should be looking at yours. Please, I'm begging here.

 

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John Byrne
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Posted: 07 April 2005 at 8:18am | IP Logged | 4  

JB, you shouldn't be looking at current comics for references. The other guys should be looking at yours. Please, I'm begging here.

*****

'Preciate the thought, but until such time as DC editorial hands down such an edict, I feel my job is to go with the flow. As I commented in a Q&A I did recently, I am sick to death of the "personal expression" crap. 99% of the time it looks to me more like "personal laziness" than anything else -- crybaby artists who are too f****ing full of themselves to modify their "styles" to fit the characters. "I know this doesn't look like Superman, but that's the face I always draw!" feh

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Matt Hawes
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Posted: 07 April 2005 at 8:33am | IP Logged | 5  

I'm tired of the other artists mucking with Superman's symbol.

I also think that Batman has to be the one character that is off-model the most at DC these days, as nearly every artist has his own take on the character. Sometimes he has long ears, other times they're short. Sometimes he has combat boots, other times he has standard issue superhero boots. And so on...

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Roger A Ott II
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Posted: 07 April 2005 at 8:33am | IP Logged | 6  

I remember reading a Spider-Man comic a couple years back, and realized that if it wasn't for the dialogue on the page, I wouldn't have been able to tell who Peter Parker was.  And if it wasn't for the color of her hair, I wouldn't have been able to tell who Mary Jane was either.

Sad.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 07 April 2005 at 8:44am | IP Logged | 7  

I have spoken on more than one occasion of "The Bob Kane Effect" -- that little pathology which haunts me, compelling me to seek some kind of different visual "identity" for each new project I worked on, inspired by the fact that "Bob Kane", who drew the adventures of my favorite character when I was a kid, seemed to use a different style for different kinds of stories. It would be years later that I would discover "Bob Kane" was the name under which worked a small legion of uncredited ghosts, including Dick Sprang, Shelley Moldorf, Jerry Robinson and Jack Burnley, to name but a few, and that the stylistic difference was due to this, not any conscious decision by "Bob Kane" (who by then was hardly ever drawing any of the stories himself).

But, significant to this thread, even tho I was able to spot stylistic differences, there was never any variance in how Batman, Robin, Commissioner Gordon, Alfred, and all the rest of the cast were drawn. Batman looked like Batman, and no artist was at liberty to change his chest emblem, or the style of his gloves, or the length of his ears, or anything else.

Today, I am sure there would be plenty of artists and their fans who would decry this as "stifling artistic expression", but to me it falls under the heading of "being professional".



Side Note: When Neal Adams exploded on the scene, the Batman he drew looked much like the Carmine Infantino version that had become the house style by then -- but it was not long before Neal begcan to make his own impression, and not long after that before DC was (wisely) encouraging the other Bat-artists to draw Neal's version of the character. So, once more, even tho the character had undergone a fairly significant change, stylistically, he remained "on model" as that change became the standard.

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Aaron Leach
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Posted: 07 April 2005 at 8:44am | IP Logged | 8  

I hear you on this one JB. I can only reference one change in the appearence of Superman before now. Look at Shusters Superman, and then Superman that was published in the 50's. I don't know who was responsible for this change, but the look of Superman in the 50's became the model for how he was to be drawn for many years after. In fact more people identify the look of the character in the 50's as the way he has always looked. Batman, I feel, has undergone many changes since his first publication. Look at the many incarnations of Bob Kane's Batman, to Jerry Robinson's Batman, to Dick Sprang's, to Neal Adams's. What I find odd is more people identify with the Neal Adams, or Jim Aparo, version of Batman than any other versions. Even though the Batman portrayed by Adam West looked more like Sprang's version, the public gravitates more to the Neal Adams look. Robin, however, was kept fairly consistant in his appearence up until the 90's. Go figure. It does seem that the editors are placating to the artist a lot more today than ever before. Who is running the show here, the artist's or the editors?   
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Joe Hollon
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Posted: 07 April 2005 at 8:45am | IP Logged | 9  

Good example with Peter and MJ....I'm in the process of
reading every issue of Amazing Spider-Man (currently up to
issue #187) and so far all the artists have kept the characters
very much "on model"...even though there HAVE been some
changes and adjustments to the characters (Peter mainly) they
are all instantly recognizable. Now there is no way to tell...I'm
proud to say I finally kicked the M***** habit and no longer have
to look at these misused characters.

Another good modern example is the advertisement I saw for
an upcoming (or recent?) issue of Superman where the artist
has Superman and Captain Marvel side by side and they look
EXACTLY THE SAME!!! Same person wearing two different
costumes! Inexcuseable!!! I'm sure some of you reading this
know the ad I'm referring to....maybe someone can post it here.
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Matt Hawes
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Posted: 07 April 2005 at 8:50am | IP Logged | 10  

 Aaron Leach wrote:
...I don't know who was responsible for this change, but the look of Superman in the 50's became the model for how he was to be drawn for many years after... 

From the late 1950s until JB's run on "Superman," the character's basic look was based on Curt Swan's version of Superman.

Edited to add: I think, editorially-speaking, that it was Mort Weisenger (sp.?) that was in charge of the "Superman" line of books, and dictated how the character should look.



Edited by Matt Hawes on 07 April 2005 at 8:52am
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Matt Hawes
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Posted: 07 April 2005 at 8:55am | IP Logged | 11  

 Joe Hollon wrote:
...Another good modern example is the advertisement I saw for
an upcoming (or recent?) issue of Superman where the artist
has Superman and Captain Marvel side by side and they look
EXACTLY THE SAME!!! Same person wearing two different
costumes! Inexcuseable!!! I'm sure some of you reading this
know the ad I'm referring to....maybe someone can post it here.

It's Ian Churchill's art. I usually like most of his work, but I totally agree with you on this point. I was actually looking at the ad and thinking the same thing you mentioned, about how the two characters look the same. Captain Marvel looks way too much like Superman in that picture. How can someone screw up one of the most unique-looking faces in comics?

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Bob Simko
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Posted: 07 April 2005 at 9:07am | IP Logged | 12  

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