Thursday, March 1, 2007

Totally serious question about comics

This is kind of a Brian Cronin question, and I don't mean that as a diss. And I'm assuming here that cartooning and drawing comics are two different things. Cartooning to me is a style of comics-drawing in which the artist is intentionally unrealistic (in anatomy, physics, etc.) in order to better express emotion, character, movement, etc.

Are there any contemporary Marvel/DC artists who you would consider good cartoonists? I mean besides Darwyn Cooke, whose background in animation pretty much guarantees his proficiency as a cartoonist. And Jeff Smith obviously is a great cartoonist, if you consider him a DC guy (I don't). There are plenty of artists considered "cartoony"--Ramos, Bachalo, McGuiness, Madureira, Brooks, etc., etc. But none of them are really cartoonists--they distort reality more for style than expression. In other words, it's cartooning without meaning or substance. If everyone has big bubble muscles, is it really carooning? Or is it just a stylistic choice?

Another question: how many SA superhero artists were good cartoonists, anyway? I can think of plenty of good GA superhero cartoonists, but Silver Age artists aren't renowned as great cartoonists--most of them were too realistic (Adams, Smith), polished (Romita, Kane), or stiff (most of the DC artists, some of the Marvel ones). But Jack Kirby clearly meets my definition--his style was often divorced from reality, but only in the service of characterization, action, etc. He's rarely described as "cartoony," but maybe he should be. John Buscema and Steve Ditko weren't averse to cartooning either. Buscema's villains often had exaggerated, gaping mouths, while Ditko's Spider-Man was rubbery and kinetic. Maybe we should create a new term for this style, like "heroic cartooning" or something, in the hope that some aspiring young artists will seek to emulate it.

Just a few thoughts that occurred to me as I was reading Monster, a "mature" and relatively realistic manga which nevertheless features some great cartooning by Naoki Urasawa.

PS: The wikipedia page for "cartoonist" has a picture of Mark Trail artist Jack Elrod. That has to be the work of someone who reads The Comics Curmudgeon.

16 comments:

Batiduende said...

Sergio Aragon├ęs, perhaps?

Martin said...

Ramona Fradon?

James Meeley said...

Modern artists who could be consider cartoonists? Terry Beatty, Rik Levins and (the late) Mike Parobeck. They just pop right off the top of my head.

Johnny B said...

Someone beat me to Fradon, but I'd put Marie Severin on that list.

Martin said...

Kyle Baker?

Dan Coyle said...

Ron Lim?

Just kidding.

Dick Hyacinth said...

I meant more like people actively employed drawing comics for Marvel and DC--someone that the average superhero-only fan will see.

What has Rik Levins done lately? I'm actually totally unfamiliar with his work. It looks like he started at Marvel shortly after I started reading mostly Image (I know, I know) and at Valiant around the time I was losing interest in their comics.

Terry Beatty and Mike Parobeck--yes, but I suspect that most readers don't think of them as regular artists, but ones who draw in a "kiddie" style. You can throw Ty Templeton into that list as well. It's strange--it seems like the Batman cartoon influenced a lot of mainstream artists in the 90s, but most of them copied the surface elements without trying to effectively cartoon. Yet the people who did understand cartooning got shunted off into the kids' line. (Which I understand was superior to the regular line in almost every way--still it would have been nice to see better cartooning integrated into something like JLA.)

Kyle Baker--certainly a good cartoonist, and it's too bad he's not working at DC anymore. Plastic Man seems to have reached a number of people who otherwise would have no interest in a humor comic.

Fradon and Severin--pretty good examples of how the Silver Age was an era which placed greater value on cartooning. I don't know about Sergio Aragon├ęs' influence on Marvel/DC artists--writers, sure.

I loved Ron Lim when Silver Surfer was my favorite comic.

Jeff Lester said...

I had to put aside my initial "Internet Empty Argument Boys Club" response to your definition of cartooning, but it may come back to bite you in the tail, anyway, Dick.

I'm sure there are more but Stuart Immonen was the first guy to leap to mind. If you've seen his mini about signing at cons or even his later work on Nextwave, you'll know what I mean. The dude's totally a cartoonist, and a good one.

If my brain ever starts and I think of more, I'll post 'em.

Dick Hyacinth said...

Stuart Immonen makes sense, and is a complete oversight on my part.

I was actually looking for a better definition of cartooning, but couldn't find one (which is how I stumbled on the Jack Elrod picture). So I'd welcome your argument against my definition.

Spencer Carnage said...

Cartoonist and comic artist are just different words for the same thing. If they can call Milton Caniff a cartoonist, Jim Lee might as well be called a cartoonist, too. Even though we don't refer to realistic comic artists as "cartoonist", doesn't mean it would be wrong to do so. At this point however, it makes sense to say that Darwin Cooke or Eduardo Risso's styles are more "cartoony" than Neil Adams, who ironically, got his start as a "big feet" cartoonist.

Matt Brady said...

I usually think of a cartoonist as somebody who does both the writing and the art, but your definition makes sense as well. Probably more so. You could add Frazier Irving to the list. Maybe Cameron Stewart? Mike Allred perhaps? His style is a bit less realistic, but not exactly "cartoony". Marcos Martin. Cliff Chiang. Tony Moore? The late Seth Fisher. Mike Mignola, if he counts. Philip Bond. Darick Roberston, although probably more so when he was doing Transmetropolitan than now. Adrian Alphona. I could probably think of more, but that's a lot, so I'll quit. Let me know if you think I'm full of it.

Dick Hyacinth said...

Okay, okay. Clearly I didn't give this enough thought, given all the examples that have been thrown against me. (Which is seriously disconcerting, considering how much I like a lot of these artists. I mean really, it's embarrassing at this point.)

The real question, I guess, is why Marvel and DC keep giving the big, high-profile assignments to Image-style retreads rather than artists with legit cartooning chops. Is that what the market demands? Maybe Stuart Immonen on USM will change this trend.

Matthew E said...

Another question: how many SA superhero artists were good cartoonists, anyway?

Alex Toth?

Dick Hyacinth said...

Alex Toth drew Hot Wheels, which means he doesn't count.

Toth is interesting, actually. He was the artist's artist, but he was always on the periphery of the Marvel-DC universe. I found out about him reading books about comics, rather than comic books. Obviously he was extremely influential, but I'm not sure how to place him in this debate other than to say "the artists he influenced are better than those who only have a passing familiarity with his work." But that's pretty fucking obvious.

Johnny B said...

She hasn't really done all that much for DC, but perhaps Christine Norrie (American Virgin, Bad Girls) fits the description?

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

I usually think of a cartoonist as somebody who does both the writing and the art...

That's always how I've defined it. I'm pretty sure at least one of the comics awards defines them that way, too, differentiating them from artists, pencilers and inkers.

Based on that, I'd add Matt Wagner and Frank Miller to your Marvel/DC list.