Transatlantic Exchange

Quickly, I wanted to draw your attention to two pieces of process that cropped up over the last couple of days, one from an American working on a European comic, and the other from a European working on an American one.

The first is from former X-Men and Defenders artist Terry Dodson, who is working on the second volume of his so-far-only-published-in-Europe Songes series. I like Dodson's art because I think it strikes an interesting balance between traditional, stylized, cartooning and a kind of real feel-- I believe it, if that makes any sense. I also really like his process posts; because they tend to follow a particular cover or page from conception to finished product, they're both comprehensive and instructive. In this particular case, the lines in the inked image, on the left, are quite thin, and they give the page a confusing aspect, like there's too much going on. In the colored page on the right, the narrative is significantly clearer, despite the addition of a couple of extra elements even over and above the color. Although I tend to dislike coloring that has so many layers, Dodson's art works because it's complex, that's what makes it dynamic and fun to read, and the coloring adds a kind subtle depth that's lacking in the inked page, particularly when Dodson is using such a thin line.

The second of the posts is from David Aja, who often posts preview of the inked and then colored pages before a new issue of Hawkeye comes out. Now, without getting too deep into the weeds here, this is a great page. I love how well Aja mimics the aesthetic of a side scrolling arcade game, down even to the way that Spider-Man is turned slightly away in that middle panel and the way that Hawkeye falls straight down on the bottom left. I am particularly interested to see what purpose, exactly, a page this referential serves in the greater scheme of an issue, because it's either going to work or, well, it isn't. But the important thing to note here is in the thing itself; while the color clarifies the Dodson art above, here it serves to add pop, while the narrative is perfectly clear from the inked page alone. This isn't to say that the colored page isn't better, just that the color isn't necessary here in the same way it is above. This is because its component panels are devoid of unnecessary ornamentation; while much of Aja's early work on Immortal Iron Fist has exceedingly beautiful, detailed, composition, his work on Hawkeye has tended to emphasize complex page structure and panel interaction even as his what's inside those panels becomes increasingly minimal and crisp. His work, always fluid and kinetic, now consistently demonstrates the narrative clarity and playfulness that characterized the best pages and panels from Immortal Iron Fist.

To put too fine a point on it, I think that Dodson's style is representative of contemporary American (or Anglo-American) comics creation and, although my knowledge of Eurocomics is sad and minimal, I have a feeling that Aja's is similarly representative of a Continental style; to a large extent, I expect that we can trace the former to the energetic maximalism of Jack Kirby, while the latter probably springs from Herge and the limited frills of ligne claire. Of course, Aja's minimalism bears a striking similarity to trends in American art comics, and I think this points to an interesting split in American comics in general. In this context, it's heartening to see Aja's work become so successful, just as its nice to see Dodson make some overtures to the overseas market. I have a feeling that crossover projects like these are going to become increasingly common and, to the extent that they can encourage people like me to expend the extra time and resources necessary to pursue comics either published in Europe or drawn in European styles the same way we try to discover American ones, I think that they're a good thing.