Monday, February 21, 2011

A Breath of Fresh Air

Comics generate a lot of material and I have been reading comics for a lot of years. Add those two things together and it is easy to see why my tastes stray to more unusual material. Although I still love my super hero material I need to read other types of books to keep me involved. Still I love it when someone can make either material great.

This also causes me to get giddy about new creators that burst on the scene and I always hope they will be the next big thing. Then of course with the artist the dreaded deadlines cause them to not be able to produce a monthly book or they get the cover artist gig or something else pulls them away and as a fan I miss out on seeing their work.

With new writers it is even worse because the industry seems to want to make anyone the next new big writer. Comics have gotten wrapped up in their own little star system and a new writer hits the scene and has a promising book and next thing you know he is saddled with more jobs then he can handle and all that promise sometimes gets washed away.

This long preamble is because I have two talents that I want to praise and sing their praises again and again as I have many times in columns before about their work.

On the artist side it is Amy Reeder. Her Madame Xanadu work was a revelation to me. She has the fluidity of a Steve Ditko with the prettiest line I have ever seen. Her work has so enamored me that I got a piece of her art work for Gwen as a gift and I have purchased a page of her work for my own minor collection. Maybe it is because Amy is a woman, but her women are the some of the most beautiful to ever grace the page of a comic. I fell in love with Madame Xanadu all over again while reading her comic due to Amy’s work. What so amazes me is that her women are just that, beautiful women. They are not the overblown Power Girl type figures or the under dressed scantily clad type that populate so many comics. I always fall back on saying Amy’s work is pretty.

The line work is only one small part of it. Many artists have a photographic realism bent to their art and often that goes hand in hand with an almost rigid form of art. The people feel static and therefore it makes everything feel a little stilted and stuffy. When an artist has fluidity to their work it feels like the pictures almost come to life. Dikto was the first to impress me with that quality and Alan Davis has it in abundance, but Amy has it also and when added to her line work it makes it even better.

Finally Amy has the ability to tell a story. Page layout, design, making the story flow is all there, along with expressions and being able to choreograph a fight scene when needed. She is the total package and a truly unique style in an industry that seems to gravitate towards one or two main styles of work. I believe Amy is a talent to be reckoned with and she will be a star either in comics or somewhere else. I hope that she stays with DC and that she is given the right project. Right now I’m awaiting her work on Batwoman as I understand she and JH Williams will be sharing the art duties. It says a lot when I’m want to see her work even more the JH Williams who is an artist that is another heck of a talent.

On the writing side of things I want to talk about Scott Snyder of American Vampire and Detective Comics. Scott hit the ground running in comics and has not let up since he broke into the world of four color dreams.

Many new writers come into the market and have a book that is great and makes a name for them. Then Marvel or DC snatch them up and give them different books to write and they often fail. Oh as fans so hungry for a new thing we continue to praise them even though their work is a poor reflection of what got them noticed or they have yet to find that series to make their own. I’m not naming names of those who I feel fit the profile I have laid out, because this is about Scott who has yet to miss.

I had the pleasure of doing an e-mail interview with Scott and one thing he said is that he will write an issue numerous times to get it right. I believe Scott is his own editor. In the world of production driven comics this is a huge skill to have since most editors I don’t think have the time to help newer comic writers or they don’t have the skills to do it. This skill set helps because it appears to me that Scott has laid out his story before he starts the script and then works to make the script get him from the beginning to the end.

In American Vampire it is obvious that he has these stories either already written in his head or laid out in notes because each story line is building on the next. I also have a feeling that as he has been able to actually write out each story the characters are so well defined they are almost suggested stories to Scott as he writes. All conjuncture on my part, but I believe (from my own experiences) that if a story is built on a solid foundation that the characters start to “talk” to a writer.

A strong writer knows when to write and when to be quiet and let the pictures tell the story. Comics are a strange amalgamation of story and art. In reading older comics writers would often overwrite a book, by often wasting space explaining what the picture shows. Scott has worked to make his books back off the words when needed and trust his artist to say what he wants to have conveyed. This makes almost every book he scripts read with a wonderful rhythm and often a pitch perfect pace.

In handling the Detective Comic assignment you can tell he has come onto this book with a plan and also a willingness to play within the confines of the reality structure that Grant has established. No other Bat book has shown such style and grace in making a book its own animal, yet remaining true to the new status quo. His Dick Grayson is a man of experience, yet still learning this new role of Batman.

Finally Scott seems to be working within his own guidelines of how much he can handle how soon. It appears to me that often the fresh new writer is given a lot of chances at assignments and seems to accept all of them, perhaps for fear of never getting another offer. Then what inevitable happens is the writer burns out and fades away. Scott exhibits a maturity and a confidence in his own abilities that I believe carries into his writing. I can’t wait to see where Scott goes from here, but the sky is the limit.

Each of these creators is fresh air being blown into a sometimes stale and stagnant industry. I hope we see more bright lights like this coming forth in the coming years, but this level of talent is the exception and not the rule. I’m just glad that I get to see and read their work.

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