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The Art of the Artists

A column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Josh Adams

If you’ve had the chance to pick up one of the two issues of Marvel’s major crossover series The House of M, take note of the credits provided on the cover:

Bendis
Coipel
Townsend
D’Armata

It is interesting to see the colorist getting a cover credit. It is not something that happens often. I would not deny him the credit; I would merely applaud the decision to put it there for the three visual aspects of this comic truly work together to make it something worthy of the attention of both the X-Men and the Avengers…ahem..., I mean the Astonishing X-Men and the New Avengers.

When you look at Frank D’Armata’s coloring on this title, you will notice very little tone coloring (i.e. panels dominated by shades of one color) like you see in the work of Laura Martin or Paul Mounts. Where he does use it though, it becomes demanding and sets tension the likes of which is not matched by excessive use. D’Armata’s work on this title becomes unique in that coloring Coipel involves a lot of creative involvement on his part and a lot of responsibility to do a high level of modeling on faces and certain surfaces. Along with the effectively done task of modeling to that degree, his work shows no fear in accomplishing shade transitions, unlike the better part of the colorists who will drop in shapes of color with no blend between them. Next time you look at the book, take a close look at how involved the color is with defining each character and helping the clarity of the story.

A name, which should be of no mystery to any comic book fan, is that of Tim Townsend. I had the honor of receiving one of his pages from his work on Age of Apocalypse with Chris Bachalo, for my birthday (a gift of which I will probably be thanking him for the rest of my days). Taking a close look at Townsend’s work over Bachalo’s art, you will notice crisp detail and unique inking styles that when compared to the other inkers of that same series are not reflected in their work. Townsend has the ability to add a new dynamic to whomever he is working with, and with Coipel is no exception. Townsend’s work shows a mastery of line weight and precision cross hatching so when taking on Coipel’s pencils, Townsend is left with a lot of creative freedom to show off his subtle line weight variations as opposed the more dynamic ones of his days with Bachalo. He is the type of inker who does not slack on making sure the page is done and keeps a consistent level of quality for every page of pencils he renders. His crosshatching ability is unique in that it effectively conveys the progression of dark to light without drawing the eye away from the image as a whole. Townsend overall brings a new life using subtlety and fine skills to the already impressive pencils of Olivier Coipel.

Last, but certainly not least, is the biggest part of this trio, the one whose initial illustration makes the work of the other two possible. Olivier Coipel is an artist whose style is clean and clear and can turn the concept of a tame page into something beautiful that you can look at over and over. Take the poster he did for House of M featuring a plethora of superheroes merely observing what lies before them. The last time I could spend so much time staring at a bunch of heroes just standing there was when I picked up Kingdom Come for the first time…and that was painted! There are many challenges in tackling a task such as drawing all these characters. It is not a job that anyone in the biz could do, even if it seems like a simple task. A smart editor would look towards Olivier Coipel for a job like this, if only for one reason. Olivier Coipel knows how to draw each superhero. It is as if he studies and spends time thinking about each character. How many artists in recent memory have you seen draw Wolverine in the short and thick build that he is meant to? The only artist I can think of is Coipel, who brings Wolverine back to creature that he was named after. Another year of drawing Wolverine a six foot two model with some stubble, and we’re gonna start to wonder what the Hell Sabretooth was talking about in the first place! Let's take a closer look at Mr. Coipel’s style so we can truly understand why we love it so. His art is so “human,” though his figures aren’t photo-realistic like Bryan Hitch. They aren’t always these steroid-freak, muscle bound giants who pose in every panel and seem to say a lot even when they’re drawn with closed mouths. Contrast Dale Eaglesham’s Villains United #2 with Coipel’s House of M #2 and more specifically the page where Deadshot and Cat Man are sitting in the kitchen of a house and the page where Scott Summers and Emma Frost are in their kitchen preparing breakfast. Look at the two pages and you’ll start to notice things about them. For example, Deadshot is merely sitting at the table and his arm is so big that it makes his head look inhumanly wrong while in House of M Scott Summers leans over a table in a natural, “human” position, no giant muscles, no freakish proportions, just human. If you get a chance look at the way Olivier Coipel draws women. One of the clearest things you’ll see is that he doesn’t draw women like the excessively heavy-chested, thin waist freak models that almost every artist has drawn since the early nineties. The list of artists is long and in most cases will read like a “who’s who” in comics that draw the rubber stamp woman, but the truth is take a look and you’ll see it. Olivier Coipel, though I do not clearly rank him as the number one best artist, I am hard pressed to see him anywhere but somewhere at the top.

With an artistic line-up such as these three, Marvel is sure to use them for as long as it can.

Be sure to pick up House of M. It’s a fantastic read, and I think you could guess what I think of the art!

Please visit Josh Adams's site The Anti-Underground.

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