Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Further snobby whining

There is a new Western series coming out, written by Garth Ennis (side note: last time I went to a comic shop, his name was on about a three million books. Is there anything he hasn't written?). The art is by some new guy (new to me, anyway) named Mike Wolfer.

As usual, I was initially excited, and once I found the preview, disappointed. Here's an interview with the artist that contains several preview pages.

There are several things that don't impress me about the art. First off, the guy uses several artistic cheats that I used to use back in high school (when I still attempted to draw super-heroes). He uses side-view profiles (that's not redundant phrasing, is it?) a lot. Enough that it drew my attention to it immediately. I used to do the same thing: either draw the face straight on, or perfectly to the side. Not very dynamic, and it was because I wasn't very good at drawing any other angles of the face. Now, Wolfer does draw some of the faces from a 3/4 perspective, and a few others at more dynamic angles, so apparently he can, but he chooses the flat side perspective way too much and it looks bush-league. Look at the bottom three panels of page nine in that preview: dead-on front shot that looks like your friend in high school drew it, then profile shot of the old guy, then flipped profile shot. Boooooooooooooooring. And boring anatomy and detail in the face.

Also, the main character telling the story looks like a mongoloid in his first few panels. Giant nose, giant chin, and whaddya know, a lot of the other characters have the same features. He's like reverse Rob Liefeld (Liefeld draws his characters with tiny noses, mouths, etc., in case you're not familiar with his tendencies).

In the interview, Wolfer comments on Ennis' art direction:

To his credit, Garth Ennis is very precise in his character descriptions and does an enormous amount of research to insure that his script properly conveys time and place. If you're going to write it, write it right and no matter the artist, Garth isn't going to take any chances that the proper pistol will be drawn, for instance. He'll tell you year, make and model, exactly. It's that kind of attention to detail, that love of his craft, that makes Garth one of the most respected writers in our industry today."

This flies in the face of the horrible made-up weapons I saw in the Ghost Rider series I mentioned (that Ennis penned, if you recall), but Wolfer seems to mean what he says for his own series. The pistols look OK, mostly. Sometimes, though, Wolfer's weaknesses show up in the guns, too. Look here:

Rifle looks good. Pistol falling out of the guy's hand looks good. But check out the monkey-fist holding the gun to the far left of the image. First off, that arm and hand don't look right. Cheater anatomy. I realize it's hard to draw hands at weird angle holding guns, but that doesn't make it right to cheat and draw it in that perspective, because it doesn't look natural. Beyond that, the gun looks weird in several ways. Is it an early double action revolver? The frame near the hammer seems to suggest this. How long is that grip, though? And is it a Bisley frame and grip? I've never seen a double-action with a Bisley grip that had a ring on the butt, but maybe. Even if it was, though, the grip still does not extend far enough away from the frame. It looks like it drops straight down underneath the hammer. It's an awkward drawing that Wolfer didn't bother to correct with proper reference. He claims to have "spent a fortune at Borders and Amazon on Western photo books," so it's a little puzzling why he didn't consult them to see what a hand holding a Colt SAA looks.

Then there's this page:

At first glance, the figure appears to be a giant walking over the land Paul Bunyan style. You really have to study the grass along his feet to figure out that he's supposed to be on the edge of a hill that drops away steeply to reveal a tiny landscape in the distance. It doesn't read well. Then you have the character's foot, which again looks like a cheater drawing (side perspective). From the way the rest of the character is posed, I would have had his foot pointing more towards the bottom corner of the page. Finally, there's the rifle, which was drawn with good reference for the most part. Notice how he's cycling the action of the gun, though? There should be a metal piece extending from the breach of the gun cocking the hammer. Wolfer apparently did not have a reference shot of someone cocking their lever-action, even though he draws the rest of the gun pretty well.

In conclusion, though I appreciate the proliferation of Western comics that is currently going on, I'd really like to see some great artists take on the genre rather than the noobs I keep writing about.


Nobody said...

Truly, truly, I say to you: There's nothing I look forward to more these days than another demented rant from Ryan exposing artists' ignorance of firearm mechanics. I've learned more about guns from this blog than I ever did shooting rifles in the desert in Boy Scouts.

Anyway I agree 100% with every point of your artistic critique in general. To be honest his art is so amateurish it's not really worth discussing, and his fists look just like Liefeld's -- like the all the bones have been broken. (Admittedly Liefeld's art is much worse now than it was ten years ago.)

Those pages are painful to look at because you can see how much he's struggling, though I sympathize in the sense that I recall dealing with the same problems in my drawings (as you also implied). But how come I knew I wasn't ready for the big leagues, yet he doesn't? With practice he can probably fix those problems but what's he doing working with Garth Ennis? More weird, why is Ennis slumming with this guy?

Ryan said...

Word. You'd think that, being in the biz for as long as he has, Ennis would be able to differentiate good art from bad art. Right? You don't have to be an artist to see it, right? Ennis should have his pick of artists to work with.

Hey, in one of those comic blog links you sent me, there was a column by a guy (something Nguyen, I think) and he was picking on poor muscular anatomy in some published work, and one of the arms had the exact Liefeld problem you pointed out a while back in that Hulk piece! Where the point of the deltoid pointed right into the bicep, remember?

Anyways, it was awesome.

Nobody said...

Of course I remember! (Those that don't can see here.) Just as Ennis needn't be an artist to know good art from bad, you (and by you I mean I) don't need to be ripped to know where muscles go. Bizarrely, Liefeld has always been very fit (true of most artists) so he should know better!

That's the image that always pops into my head now when I think of Liefeld anatomy. That's quite an accomplishment considering it supplanted Captain America's perspective-defying boobs.

Andrew Hickey had a great line recently when describing the spectrum of artistic styles in comics:

"In fact, for superhero comic artists, rather than a 'big triangle', almost all fit into a 'little square', defined on one axis by the number of tiny little lines and on the other by how distorted the anatomy is. Roughly the four corners of this square would be Jack Kirby (no little lines, ultra-distorted anatomy), Darwyn Cooke (very few little lines, relatively accurate anatomy), George Perez (millions of little lines, relatively accurate anatomy) and Rob Liefeld (millions of little lines all over the place, wrong number of knees)."

Speaking of Liefeld's art, have you ever noticed that the faces of Rob Lowe and Jessica Biel look like they were actually drawn by Liefeld?

Ryan said...

"wrong number of knees" = lolz

You're right, Lowe and Biel do look like Liefeld drawings! (Facially only, of course)