Emerald Specter 117: My Comic Book Art Hangup

I have, in my mind, this idea for a grand column that is long… it’s about my own personal comic book art hangups, specifically related to me not wanting to draw my own comics because I think my art sucks.

I’m sorry if this is too short, but I wanted to at least discuss this in the open so that I can push through and start working on my comics in earnest.

When I started collecting comic books in 1987, I believed my own personal art was good enough to grow into one day becoming an artist for one of the bigger comic book companies. I was drawing pretty regularly from 1987 to 1990 when I finally decided that my own art style wasn’t good enough to be in comic books… switching instead from an art goal to a writing goal (though I wouldn’t have ruled out inking or coloring completely at this point).

Here I sit, some 30 plus years later still thinking that my art isn’t up to snuff to be in a comic book… but there’s a problem with that line of thinking.

Everyone has their own style. I read a lot of comics that wouldn’t fit with my “idea of a top company quality” that I believed existed way back in the 80s. In fact, there are some artists who’s style flat out sucks… in my opinion. It’s not that their art is bad, it’s that I don’t like that style of art… but for the purposes of the rest of this column, I’ll stick with calling it “bad.”

My own art style hasn’t evolved since the mid-90s. If I sat down right now and drew Iron Man, I think that I would hate it just as much as the last time I drew Iron Man (back in the 90s). The problem is a simple one, mainly a mental block, but there is a reason attached to it.

I want my art to look like the comics I read back in the 80s. Picturesque quality without a lot of “license” shown to design.

Humans should look like humans. Clothing should look realistic. Basically, I’m talking about what is now known as photo referencing… or that’s what I was looking at mimicking back in the 80s.

That doesn’t have to be the case.

In the series Black Hammer (all of Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer universe stuff), the art would have completely turned me away from the book back in the 80s. The fact that I enjoy this art lets you know right away that my tastes have changed, but I still feel my own personal art needs to be held to a higher standard.

Lots of artists would have caused me to go a different direction that have regular, very successful work right now: Mike Mignola, Dean Ormston, Darwin Cooke, and Mike Allred would be some of the more well known names.

I like their art, to an extent, because my tastes have changed.

If we look at the independent creators in the world, and I won’t name any names, there are more than a handful who’s art I’d legit call “bad.” I mean, it looks like a 4th grader drew it, handed it to a kindergartener to redo, then handed it in as “complete.” Is that harsh? Yes. Is it wrong? Not to me.

My art is BETTER than what I literally just described.

I need to stop thinking of trying to look like a Jack Kirby or a Todd MacFarlane. These are artists whom I admire but will never be able to emulate. I need to embrace my own style, make it my own, and make the damn comic books I want.

Why don’t I hire an artist? Well, money. I understand everyone needs to get paid, but there is also another reason: I’m a bit of a control freak with my vision. I have a very specific vision that needs to happen very specifically and look a specific way before I would be willing to deviate.

A long time ago, I dreamed of launching ongoing titles that would just keep going with new teams and stories after I told my own story. Seeing what is happening to Invincible and other titles in the independent market that are “ending,” I realize that if I don’t do what I need to in order to tell my vision, my stories won’t get told… and there’s more than a 95% chance no one else will want to pick up my characters and carry their torches.

Thanks for listening… reading… and I’ll be more thorough in the future.