Saturday, April 16, 2005

INDUSTRY RANT: It's the new style
Your art sux dude

The recent avalanche of comments on the New Warriors piece at Newsarama (seen HERE and featured on TSL yesterday) is filled with flames regarding Skottie Young’s artistic ability. A common occurrence these days, when an artist exhibits ability and control over a more contemporary style of line work. You then tend to get the peanut gallery making lots of crude comments about how untalented said artist is, simply because they don’t care at all for their type of style.

Here’s my take:
There is a very vocal disapproval to manga, graffiti, and cartoon/anime inspired art within the comic book community (and especially the online community), even though these are massively accepted styles in today's culture. Which, when you really think about it, makes sense. The comic book market has dwindled to the point where most of the fans are old guard, and when that is the case, they’re going to be predispositioned to find more traditional styles appealing, in terms of art. Just take a look at the types of books that find success in today’s market, they all cater to mainstream/traditional superhero fans.

Everyone’s entitled to their opinions, but that doesn’t mean it’s not problematic. If the market continues to reject the newer artists, with varied, more contemporary styles, we’re just perpetuating the demise of the market. If only realistic/traditional style artists, and decades old concepts find success, you have nothing to appeal to new fans. Sure, those other new styles and things still exist, and will, but it’s signal to noise. If the bulk of the US industry is old school superheroes, drawn by old school artists. Well, you’re only appealing to old school fans, and manga kids, and anyone else you could bring into the market isn’t going to touch your product.

A healthy comics market can not be so incestuous. That can only lead to bad things. It’s been a longggg time since comics fandom has embraced a HOT new artist. Sure, we prop up our Hitch’s and Cassaday’s, and rightfully so, but there’s been no real superstar artist for ages now. No artist to come along and turn the heads of comicdom as a whole, no one to find the level of success and appeal like McFarlane, Lee, Campbell, or Joe Mad once did. And it’s not that there haven’t been artists to come along capable of doing that, there have, but they fail to. Why? Because the majority of the market is made up of old school fans, there’s a lack of new blood, a younger audience that’s more receptive to more contemporary styles. That’s a problem.

So instead of moaning painfully about your dislike of someone’s artistic style, can’t you instead accept that it’s simply not for you, and that it’s quite possibly good for the medium as a whole? Sure, you’d like to see a different, more traditional style on the revamp of your beloved group of old, and rather this new, more aggressive style was matched to an equally new aggressive property, but the reality of today’s comic market is that for whatever reason, the big publishers continually trot out updates of existing properties, instead of creating new ones.

New styles are not for everyone, but if you keep chasing them away, you’re just chasing away potential new blood, something the industry badly needs.


Mike Wieringo said...

Wonderful commentary, Jason! And right on the nose. Bullseye. I can't get over how entrenched the bulk of comic book fans are in just wanting to see the SAME KIND OF ART ON EVERY PROJECT!!! Without new, fresh styles and takes on the comics form, there is no growth. It's why the industry is stagnant as the Dead Sea.

Jason Martin said...

Hey Mike, thanks for posting!

Just one of the many "hot buttons" I have in regards to the state of the industry.
Glad to see others like yourself agree!

I really dig your work btw.

Feel free to post here anytime.

Brian Denham said...

You make some good points. The comics industry at times seems to be retreading Neal Adams clones. There are many artists in comics for years who have tried to emmulate the pseudo-realism of Adams and Byrne.

On the other hand you mention that the industry has not had a hot artist in a while and does not welcome artists like Lee, McFarlane, Joe Mad and the rest, but if you stop your rant for a second you'll notice that all of the guys you mentioned have pushed the status quo. They have drawn in unorthodox styles for the comics industry and turned the collective industry on it's proverbial heads.

Even the guys who have responded to you are new style artists who do not draw in the styles you are against, but they have still achieved success in this industry.

American comics are a mix and wonderfull blend of styles and tastes from all over the world. There is room for a Mike Wieringo, a Joe Mad, a Scott Kurtz, a Hitch, Cassaday, Lee, Liefeld and the rest. There are guys at Antarctic Press who have been drawing comics for over 100 issues of their own titles and aren't drawing in a reaistic style but still have found their niche.

The industry accepts different styles from different people. It can also reject styles of some people. I find some artists are not consistant in their own styles and I think that is what the industry rejects more than the style.

That's why the fans and retailers can take a guy like Wieringo or Joe Mad who are consistant and professional in their work, but may reject a Skottie Young or Cheeks Galloway who may not be as slick, polished and professional.

Remember too that all of the guys you mentioned like McFarlane and the rest worked their asses off for years before they got to the level of superstar success. Skottie Young has only been around a couple of years and has himself been on some big titles. Give the industry a break and the fans a break and give the artists some time to rise to the top instead of demanding they be on top right off the bat.

This is America. People appreciate hard work and paying dues. Skottie Young in a couple of years will be the cream of the crop. As will Mark Brooks and a lot of other up and comers.

Lots of room for everyone. The more styles we have in the industry then the bigger the audience will grow.

Jason Martin said...

Brian, thanks for commenting. I totally see where you’re coming from, and agree (to an extent).

I wasn’t trying to prop up Skottie or any one in particular. Just commenting on the very vocal disapproval online, and lack of industry push internally, of new style artists. Making note that more traditional art is more accepted in comics, while pop culture as a whole is progressing into new areas. I too think realistic styles are great, I love artists like Hitch and Cassaday, they’re great artists, and great for the industry. I’m just posing that traditional styles are favored too heavily, when contemporary anime/manga and the like are what is in favor with the mainstream, the audience comics should be courting.

As for contradicting myself with the examples of McFarlane etc, as you say, perhaps I was unclear… I used those examples because they were artists who brought an unorthodox or fresh approach for their time, which is generally what popular artists are about and why they’re so popular. Pointing out that we haven’t had that happen since those examples really, when there’s been a lot of change in contemporary style.

I’m not ranting for the sake of anything but what I perceive as what’s healthy for the industry. It doesn’t come from a place of what my artistic preference is. It just seems highly illogical that pop culture is heading in one direction, and that comic books, a pop culture stalwart, aren’t embracing that. It seems like a huge discord to me. Contemporary style shouldn’t be a niche. The latest styles should be the latest craze. Since we’re not seeing that, I’m posing it’s just another sign that the industry is stagnating. That's my take, right or wrong. That’s all.

Anonymous said...

Just stumbled on this while searching for any artwork by artist Skottie Young. Well said!! i picked up New Warriors and loved this artwork so much, I actually had to search for more. I'm happy to see Marvel taking chances on different styles!