Issue 49: Sketch Update: Batgirl

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Tinseltown Thursday: 2/1/07 - Invincible Iron Man

Taking a break from TPB Thursday, it's Tinseltown Thursday! Why? Because I watched The Invincible Iron Man DVD movie this morning, and also I like repeating letters (it's not quite alliteration, so sue me).

Wow. If Marvel's mission were to make direct-to-DVD videos with decent art and really mediocre story readily available to the public, I'd say they were doing a great job. The Invincible Iron Man is a prequel of sorts to the Ultimate Avengers in that it is the origin story of Iron Man. But you won't find any of Orson Scott Card's blue Tony Stark babies here, this happens while he's already grown up and at Stark Enterprises. At odds with the board and his father, Tony has begun the excavation of the Mandarin's temple in China. You'd think this act would make the Mandarin the main villain of the story, but, alas, some random Chinese anti-Mandarin cult is the true enemy here.

Ok, I don't follow the Iron Man comics much, but I know his origin well enough. While this movie seems to keep the truly important elements, it's just not an exciting origin story. The biggest complaint I have is that the villains are really weak in this. Not in terms of strength, because Tony's ass, new to being Iron Man, gets its share of being kicked. The cult is pretty lackluster, and the entire movie I really wasn't sure why Tony was trying to stop the Mandarin's lackeys' (who are fighting statues with no lines). Sure, some cult shot at him a few times, but I don't understand how that made Tony go on this quest. Other than to showcase different Iron Man suits, of course.

The supporting characters are also uninteresting. When did Pepper become a librarian? And the main girl, I don't think one can even call her a love interest, is not at all consistent in her actions. The one conflict between Rhodey and Tony is tabled, and the scene between Tony and his father serves only to cut a 2-d personality for Tony.

I did like the art in the movie, and Iron Man armor is cool. I think the voice acting has gotten a little better since Ultimate Avengers 2, and the dialogue could've been a lot worse. This movie won't put you to sleep, but it won't keep you on the edge of your seat, and I would not recommend it for buying unless you really loved Ultimate Avengers.

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The Sketch

I'm not sure why Mike decided to completely ignore the sketch, but I guess not posting for a month or two means he has a bunch of pent up emotions that he needs to release.

In any case, this is sketch is a reference to Batgirl's radical change in Robin #150, where she went from being a semi-mute, resident cutie/bad-ass/bat-ninja who everybody loved, to being a diabolical crazy person, who speaks perfect english. It seems as if nobody enjoys Batgirl's new personality "One Year Later", especially when DC decides they don't need to explain why she went bat-shit-crazy.

Remember the only thing worse than a bad storyline, is NO storyline. (Unless it's Wolverine's Origin)

Comic Art...Thoughts...

(sorry everyone, it's a long one...)

Since the dawn of time, comic artists have gone in many different directions, stylistically. In the 90's we saw an abundance of "extreme" characters, with fittingly exaggerated anatomy (see Liefield, R. / large-breasted Captain America...hawt).

Nowadays, though, many artists strive for "realism". They want their scenes to look like photographs from an actual event. Part of this trend stems from the vast progress in computer aided coloring -- two-tone coloring is no longer a limitation but a stylistic decision. The only limitations now are simply artistic skill and time.

Regarding skill: Drawing Superman flying through the air in tights, in a realistic manner, is no easy task. Ensuring that Wonder Woman has the same face at multiple angles, across a number of panels, throughout several pages, over multiple issues is also quite a daunting challenge. Add to that the requirement that she have a different face than Lois Lane...well, very few artists can pull that off. Even fewer (if any?) can do it without any references.

Now, all comic artists have deadlines (unless you're Brian Hitch...finish The Ultimates already, dammit!). "Output vs. Quality" becomes a critical tradeoff, and soon the question of "What corners can I cut?" comes up.

There are some accepted shortcuts for artists, the most effective of which is referencing. Alex Ross, Bryan Hitch, Greg Land, the ummm...guy who does those Punisher covers where Frank holds a gun and looks at you menacingly...I mean, it was a pretty cool pose the first 10 times you did it, but c'mon, lets have some variety, please? -- Anyways, they all use real models for reference. It saves a lot of time by preventing the "Err, did I draw the arm too long?" and the "Whoops! Her face looks like Devon Aoki's, I should start over!" situations.

Photo/model referencing is an accepted practice in the art world. If Da Vinci did it, it must be OK. (insert joke / Da Vinci Code reference here) In fact, the only reason that tracing was less prevalent in early comics was because it was simply harder to do than freehand. Printing transparencies from photos, setting up a lightbox projector, heck, who's going to do that for every panel? But nowadays it's as easy as "copy, paste as background layer, scale, draw on new layer" in Photoshop.

Now we hit the thorny topic of Greg Land. Now, this man is a dirty tracer. He traces pr0n. He traces other artists. He even traces his own traces. But his detractors often forget: he puts out near-photo-realistic comics at a monthly rate. In fact, he probably even has time to watch his pr0ns afterwards.

Many people complain that Greg Land's tracing is so obvious, it detracts from the art. I tend to agree. I don't want to see Ultimate Sue Storm making a "ZOMG C0CK GOES WH3R3?!?" face because frankly, the thought of Greg Land watching porn is not what I want as part of my comicking experience.

His supporters, on the other hand, argue "If it looks good, it looks good." And I agree with that also. Before I knew about the tracing, I thought Ultimate FF4 was one of the best looking titles out there. I've seen plenty of non-photo-referenced art (including my own) with terrible anatomy, awkward poses, and Devon Aoki faces. For all the nitpicks of Land's tracing, the his art overall looks almost like a live-action movie.

Now, suppose there exists an Earth-Zero Greg Land, who also traces, but traces very well. In fact, he's so good, every frame is masterfully posed for conveying the story. As an aspiring artist, I want to yell, "Hey! He's still tracing! That's cheating!". As a reader, I argue, "But it looks better than your crappy non-photo-referenced art, and he still puts out titles monthly!".

...which finally brings me to the point of this whole long winded post. The rules for comic art have changed since ten, twenty years ago. Anyone can easily learn to do what Greg Land does, and it will look better than anything I attempt to freehand. As an artist looking for direction, I'm left with three choices:

1) Focus on photo-realistic art. Trace, with no shame, no regrets. Meet pretty girls who will pose as Harley Quinn for you.

2) Develop a "stylized" art style, a la Bruce Timm or anime. Tracing is pointless in this domain, as the artist sets his own rules of anatomy. However, stylized art tends to be much more polarizing to critics than photo-realistic...(the more exaggerated the character, the more extreme the love or hate...), and it's very easy to get into the trap of a "crappy style".

3) Learn to freehand photo-realistic art. Maybe even photo-reference (but no tracing! that's cheating!). Know that the skill you possess takes years to master. Also know that some punk-ass kid with the Photoshop can emulate your work in 1/100th the time.

So...what do you think? is a digital parody comic about Comic Book Characters. The original characters are owned by Marvel, DC and other respective copyright owners. PassFailStudios uses the names and images of these figures for the purposes of satire. The opinions and words expressed on this site should not be construed as text from Marvel or DC comics.