Right, let’s get this out of the way before we go on: I’m a comic book geek. Yep, the type that bag and board every comic they buy so you don’t get creases and tears on the book. The type that doesn’t let anyone go near them, let alone read them. But there are reasons for this nerdy love of comics and Comic Art Now is a perfect showcase of those reasons.
In his foreward, writer Mark Millar (creator of Kick-Ass, Wanted and the soon to be released Nemesis) states that it is the art that is paramount above the stories, saying:
‘A bad artist can slit the throat of even the sturdiest story, but a great artist can resuscitate a corpse’
High praise indeed for a writer, rather than an artist. But within a couple of pages, with the splash of Ron Garney‘s Amazing Spider-Man: The War At Home with its vibrant depictions of Spidey, Iron Man, Sue Storm, Captain America and more, it’s obvious why Millar holds art in such high esteem.
What comes across so well in this book is not simply the brilliant reproductions of the art, with 3/4 page and full pages dedicated to the characters, but the variety within the covers. From the superheroes previously mentioned to the 50s styled Lass Vegas by James Hodgkins and manga influenced Maxwell Cockswagger by Ben Ang, art is seen in a league of its own, rather than the cheap pulpy image it once had.
Standout pieces include the image of X-Men villain Magneto by John Watson, explaining that looking out at the reader from under angry eyebrows and the slight sneer on his mouth are the subtle ways of portraying a bad guy. Such small but thoroughly well thought out details give a lot more dimension to the work.
One of my favourite artists, Ben Templesmith is also featured. Having seen his exquisite work on Steve Niles’ 30 Days of Night turned into a succesful film, his style continues to stand out amongst his peers. Focussing on slight glimpses of light on otherwise black backgrounds, he achieves the perfect balance between atmosphere and dynamism as shown in a page from his brilliant Woormwood: Gentleman Corpse.
Finally the chapter on Noir comics go to show that work on a page is just as effective as creating suspense and moods as shots on film. Sean Phillips‘ black and white Lawless and Cliff Richards‘ Echoes of Dawn are perfect examples of this.
So there you have it. Comic book art is not to be laughed at and should, in fact, be revered and enjoyed. If you aren’t sure, check this book out, it’s a perfect entry into the styles to be found out there.