mixed media in comics

comics do not normally involve mixed media in an obvious way (not now mckean) + tend to save incorporating other artforms like photography until they are needed for a spectacular effect, as in the three pages from thor 161 reproduced below: the unsuspecting reader turns the first page + gets hit with one massive panel spread over the whole of the next two


(c) marvel 1969

or photographs might just be used for backgrounds as in the following extract from mad (east side story)


(c) EC 196[3?]

the rest of this article will concern itself with the two media all comic book artists use (even if they’re using them digitally on a computer): pencils + inks (or pencils + gouache, silverpoint + oil paint in the renaissance, etc). a comic book artist is trained to build pictures up from initial pencil sketches to the finished (inked) art that gets published. of necessity the different media used for these two versions of the same picture communicate whatever the artist is endeavouring to express slightly differently, by putting different emphases on elements of the image.

also the inked or painted version covers + thus destroys the original sketch art, obscuring some of the visual information put into it by the artist via the original medium. if the artist sees this as a problem a good solution is to switch in + out of the two media when appropriate, as in the following example


(c) rebellion 1989

by pat mills + simon bisley (still in two minds about calling pat mills a muppet last year)

note the way the two media shift the emphasis onto (ie lead the eye to notice) different aspects of the image: two tone pencil art can show finer detail (all there is to look at in a pencil sketch is the network of fine lines of which it is composed). bisley puts the line where on the face it can delineate more subtly things like expressions + the characteristics which distinguish the person being portrayed from just a generic human face, which he has done here in a series of close ups. the fully painted art is more useful for things happening in wider shots eg battle scenes, where he could show thundery skies + blood spraying all over everything more effectively with paint than graphite

two additional pages from different points in the same strip are reproduced below. ask yourself what they would be like if they were wholly pencilled or wholly painted + what we would lose if they were


(c) rebellion 1989


(c) rebellion 1989

a brief aside about a fan film

there is an excellent spanish language trailer on you tube for a potential movie of the horned god

the filmakers appear to have opted for DV capture of models + post synchronised voice actors on for the dialogue. this has to be the right way to make short low budget films

train of thought

the train of thought which has resulted in this article was kicked off by a previous post about the book working methods, during which kelsey shannon’s finished art was compared unfavourably with his wire frame sketches + character designs. stated in brief the issue was that his art lost so much at the stage the colour got put on that it should have been left as it was. see below for a neat representation of depth in a street scene, a female character sketch with a certain amount of life + personality radiating out of it, + the flat blue page all that gets lost in


(c) mark kneece (script) + kelsey shannon 2007

although to be fair to kelsey shannon he trained as an animator: if the picture elements in the panels on the right above were moving relative to each other everything being depicted would be perfectly clear

re mixed media it’s pretty obvious shannon has a wide set of art skills at his disposal – maybe he could mix those from different media up, using for example those geometrically accurate wire frame sketches for the backgrounds + the flat colour character drawing for the people


(it would help if anyone reading this tries to imagine a more successful example than the illustrative attempt above). there is a precedent for mixing 3D with 2D – the tv series paddington


(c) filmfair 1975

where they used a colour 3D bear in with b+w 2D backgrounds etc

or perhaps kelsey shannon’s talents would be more apparent if he were to collaborate with another artist – maybe he could deal with the environments, + the other the figure drawing – or we could just go totally traditional + have him on pencils + someone else on inks …

the moral of this story

comic book art often loses something when inked

the comics industry ought to have noticed this in the 1990s when sketch cover variants started appearing in the US

but apparently it didn’t notice it because publishers are still paying artists to sketch the preliminary drawings for their own benefit + then asking them to show their audience a series of homogenised images with all the soul ironed out of them for ours

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