there are various methods an artist can use to depict the characters in a comic book, ranging from the primitive (using a combination of simple shapes, as per mickey mouse – 3d spheres, 2d circles, etc) to sophisticated techniques such as using photo reference for an oil painting where the reader can actually make out the likeness of the model (see any vampirella covers where she looks slightly older and less fit than normal)
even if they are principally known for drawing in one style, professional commercial artists (unsung cultural heroes of the 20th century) are highly likely to be skilled in others: this post will concern itself with instances where one of these different styles gets used alongside the one they usually utilise
obviously using a combination of techniques in the same strip is going to be more interesting than just the plain (vanilla) artwork we normally get to see, but it seldom happens as it is not normally motivated by the subject matter – fortunately on this issue there appears to be a silver age subgenre in which a human protagonist appears with a non human sidekick. on certain occasions the artists have elected to depict one of the pair as a cartoon character
the rest of this post will try to express a few points about three examples of this – if you’ve read any of my posts before you’ll be aware that I am not necessarily using the best examples, they’re just whatever I currently have to hand (I buy + sell a hell of a lot of comics + there is no sense hunting for a frame I remember when grading something six months ago which may by now have been sold)
because this issue was drawn by two artists (bob oksner + wally wood) with equal billing (previous issues credited oksner with the pencils + wood with the inks) it doesn’t necessarily support my theory about one artist using two styles, but here goes
the image above depicts angel + some sort of muppet looking supporting character. note that angel herself is usually drawn as a caricature as well – this frame is one of the exceptions in this title. in this instance she looks a lot more realistic, more like a specific girl (an echo of the artists model?) not a generic ditzy blonde (assuming ditzy is actually a word)
this example should serve to clarify that monsters + humans appearing in the same strip are not the issue – in this image cryll is definitely constructed differently: everyone else of whatever species gets a neck, shoulders + a pelvis, whereas cryll is drawn like the fundamentals of porky pig, consisting of simple shapes with a basic face drawn on the front. the other characters are complex more life like figures, as anyone familiar with the space ranger strip will tell you cryll himself frequently is when it suits the artist to draw him as such, hence perhaps this is not a devastatingly good example either
note that across the frames from this issue posted here there are three representations of lulu from two different angles where she clearly has unique facial attributes consistently rendered – I’m suggesting this as evidence of an actual model being used
ilda on the other hand is constructed from simple shapes presumably from the artist’s imagination.
if the same art style as was used on lulu had been used on ilda to get them to match she would resemble some sort of photorealistic machine with a lot more surface detail. also, lulu has a sort of classy expensive + fashionable look about her – a version of ilda drawn in the same style would have to look frumpy – there is no evidence of this (unless you count the disguise she puts on) – ilda is a blank structure consisting of plain cylinders. her character is brought to life only by the way that structure is posed + by varying the expression drawn on one of the cylinders. technically more complex images are capable of a greater degree of subtlety as they use additional techniques on top of these two – I’m stating the bleeding obvious here in order to provide a definition of the terms like ‘primitive’ + ‘sophisticated’ I’ve been using
the case of the blonde bombshell is the best example so far of two seperate artwork skills being used in the same strip (the one where my argument stands up) – note gil kane gets some of the images to meet half way – drawing more or less cartoony frames when the action gets into slapstick. in the scene where ilda is dressed as a waitress lulu goes from apparently an actual girl to generic babe to cartoon character in the space of three frames
I’m not sure if it’s necessary to have a spoiler alert for a story that has been out for nearly fifty years – but if you don’t want to know what happens in the end avoid reading the following frames
finally + without wishing to come across as a romantic person there is a sort of anarchic sense of liberation that I feel being transmitted from artist to reader when they cross genre boundaries in this way (compare the examples in this post with a british weekly war comic like victor to get the full effect). my impression (+ without evidence to support it it is merely an impression) is that the various artists quoted above enjoyed drawing the strips + that their enjoyment remains infectious to the reader.
+ believing this, it is good to know that that fun attitude is still there in the comics for future readers to discover. (there is no ‘use by’ date on the silver age)
as always, if anyone reading this has anything to say on this subject feel free to reply