In Q & A, a weekly feature of Fantastic Fangirls, we ask our staff to tackle a simple question — then open the floor to comments:
What artists do you think deserve to be superstars?
Amidst all the hoopla over Girl Comics, from its announcement to the reviews of the first issue, there was one thing pretty much everyone agreed upon.
That is a great cover. Amanda Conner has all the makings of a superstar. She has mad skills, she has her own distinct style, she’s full of personality on and off the page, she stands out and her art is memorable even when her name isn’t:
I hate this comic. But I love that cover. Here’s where Amanda really wins me over though:
How adorable is that? (Here is the full scan.) Power Girl’s figure is the stuff of legend but Amanda doesn’t back away from it, she appreciates it. Under her pen, PG isn’t a hypersexualized gimmick — or worse, joke — she’s an ideal. Not everyone’s ideal, not mine. But an idealized woman. There is some measure of strength in that, and certainly some measure of beauty.
The easiest way I could answer this question is to tell you to pick up any of the various incarnations of Jeff Parker’s Agents of Atlas series (miniseries, ongoing, backup stories, the various Atlas versus minis) and you’re pretty much guaranteed to find an amazing artist. Leonard Kirk, Chris Samnee, and Carlos Pagulayan are all artists who have made a splash in that eccentric and delightful title.
I was particularly excited, though, to learn that the new Atlas series (launching in June as part of Marvel’s Heroic Age) will be drawn primarily by Gabriel Hardman. I first found Hardman’s work when he drew and issue of Agents set primarily in Atlantis (you know, the one where Namor and Namora make out, prompting an aside about how they’re not that closely related). I was enchanted by the depth and texture Hardman brought to that undersea world, and immediately set out looking for more art. You can see the detail in his black and white workhere.
With the added element of color — as in the recent Avengers vs. Atlas series expertly colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser (see the panel below) — Hardman’s comics are the complete package.
Artist Clay Mann first came to my attention with last year’s Dark Reign: Elektra. I’m still not entirely sure why I read that miniseries, not being an Elektra fan, but whatever strange twist of fate led me to pick it up was a welcome one, because I fell in love with Mann’s art immediately. Take a look at this page:
There’s Elektra, wearing nothing but a bra and underwear, splayed out on a table. There are so many ways a comic book page matching that description could be gratuitous and exploitative. Yet here she is, looking tough and capable, with musculature and a bone structure that actually make her look like she could capably attack the person holding her there. She has a stomach. She has hips and breasts that could be found on a real person. She’s in a pose that matches up with actual human anatomy. And she’s still beautiful.
Take a look at another shot of her in action, wearing her classic ninja costume. That costume has always left little to the imagination, yet Mann manages to make it look like a uniform, not a fetish outfit. The fabric is flying up as she soars through the air, but we’re not treated to gratuitous crotch shots, and her breasts are flattened against her chest with gravity. She looks like a real, beautiful woman in a real costume fighting a real fight — and it’s fantastic.
Though Mann has never been given an ongoing title, he has shown up from time to time as a fill-in artist, most recently on X-Men: Legacy #233. When I saw his name on the cover of this issue, I felt instant relief — because I couldn’t think of a better artist for a nearly all-female fight issue. Take a look at this page of Rogue fighting a possessed Husk:
When I showed this page to a non-X-Men reading friend as we browsed through a comic shop, she immediately bought the issue on the strength of the art alone. This page features two gorgeous women beating each other up, one of whom is completely naked (though her skin isn’t made of flesh at the time.) Imagine what that page would look like in the hands of someone like Greg Land. Imagine the gratuitous camera angles and gaping mouths and anatomically impossible poses designed to make the reader ogle. Now look at the actual page as it exists. It’s beautiful — but it’s a fight scene, given the same angles and poses you’d find in any male superhero fight.
Heck, even a shot that is almost always gratuitous — a shot of a superheroine’s behind as she looks at something farther away from the reader — manages to look empowering in Mann’s art. Look at this panel of Blindfold and Magneto, where the focus of the image is on the conquered Magneto and Blindfold’s powerful stance over him, rather than the fact that Blindfold’s butt fills up a large part of the panel.
In conclusion, Clay Mann is that rare unicorn of an artist feminist fans are always looking for — an artist who can draw beautiful women who are also realistic and empowered. If someone doesn’t give him a monthly book soon, there is something deeply wrong with the world.
There are a few things I request in comic art. Dylan Meconis does them all.
First, I strongly prefer that people who are supposedly ordinary people look reasonably ordinary; I also request the corollary, that extraordinary people look extraordinary. Comics are a visual medium, and I prefer that the art give the reader clues as to what is transpiring, and what to expect.
Second, I have a strong, strong preference for artists who can convey subtle changes in mood through a character’s facial expressions and body language.
Look at this page from Meconis’s Family Man:
I love this page. We have a realistically depicted landscape in winter. We have a realistic wolf, whose eyes manage to somehow convey a presence, one creature looking at another. We have a great, great entrance panel for Our Mysterious Hooded Figure. We have realistic bodies for humans and animals. And we have the look, delivered just with the eyes, of the Mysterious Figure gazing at the wolf. Pity? Respect? Sorrow? Something complicated, something hard to define. It’s a look that I want to know more about.
I love Meconis’s work. Her completed webcomic, Bite Me, is a farce about vampires during the French Revolution. Her current webomic, Family Man, is (according to her website) “a graphic novel about 18th century universities, religious doubt, and (eventually) werewolves.”
Vampire farce. Eighteenth century religious controversies. Werewolves. Great characters, witty dialog, and great, stand-out art. What more could you ask for? Dylan Meconis is an artist who deserves to be a superstar.
So what about you? What artists do you think deserve to be superstars?