A moment on art

Art is a tricky subject, because everyone tends to take it too personally and feelings get hurt when attitudes don’t reflect the same path.  I can look at an abstract art piece of shrubbery and say “hey, nice bush” and someone else can look at the exact same thing and say “that’s a sad beaver”, seeing it as a critter that comes scurrying into the place.  It’s all about perception.

Comic book art is different, when it comes to having the same character appear in the same way, drawn by different artists.  Obviously, the changes will mark the style of the artist but the reader will still see what they register as “Specific character”.  For example, if Joe Madureira were to draw a character, and then John Byrne were to draw the same character, they would look different because of the artist’s personal style, but they would be identifiable.  That’s the relationship between the artist and the character.  The character has a look and that artist is doing their representation of that look.

But then I see something like this, taken from last week’s Uncanny X-Men #8.


I’ve removed two words out of the lady’s speech bubble.  Can you fill them in?

Who is this girl?  I’ll tell you that as the story reveals, the character is an X-Character, and thus fans should be able to immediately recognize her.  Thus the big appearance on the page.  But (to my eyes) the art fails here because I could not tell who the character was and thus the big splash lost its effect on me.  It went to the word bubble to identify the character and thus the impact of the scene failed to hit.  That’s not what a comic is supposed to do.

Now you may look at me and say, Jacob that’s how the artist draws this character.  And that’s how his style is, and you have to go with it.  That’s why the balloons are there.

And to that I say bollocks.  The art of the mainstream comic book is not to let the artist draw his depiction of a blonde woman and toss an outfit on her and there she goes.  That would be like an actress playing multiple characters.  It’s the same person, just dressed up differently and calling themselves a different name.  If you’re selling by the actor, that’s fine, but in comics, the characters are all supposed to be individual people.  They have looks.  If a character is a title character that’s been around for decades, you shouldn’t have to read the sign to say who she is.  So tell me – which one of these is right?

dagger emmafrost illyana paige

The point I’m trying to make is that all of these various girls – Dagger, Magik, Emma Frost and Husk are often drawn exactly the same, facially, and thus its just the artist drawing his style of girl with a costume rather than that character.  Any of these could have worked with the characters provided, and thus they have lost their individuality and become just a blurb of costumes.  But in this case, being that we’ve never seen that costume before (and iconic costumes are becoming passe in comics today), we have no idea of who it is until we read the dialogue and the impact is somewhat lost.  The art should not depend on the writing to work, just as the writing should not depend on the art.  They should balance each other.

So that’s all I’ve got on that.  Sorry to waste your time.

And in case you’re wondering, the girl there is Allison Blaire, better known as Dazzler.  I don’t think it looks anything like her, personally.



  1. Sort of agree with you here — the outfit doesn’t really ‘sing’, pardon the pun — but cut Chris some slack — it’s a redesign, and sometimes it takes a little hands-on time drawing a character dozens of times. Also, both of Dazzler’s previous looks, the 70s disco queen, and the 80s Flashdance unitard ensemble, were clearly not what they’re going for.

    As a character, Dazzler has been defined by her outfits and her hairstyle — not by her physique or facial features, which are and always have been, pretty much comic book ‘generic blonde female standard’. You can’t blame Chris for lacking something that was never there to start with.


  2. Better then the short and pink haired design from New Excalibur. What do artists have against Dazzlers old face paint? I know the disco-ball mirrored roller skates and bell bottoms were “of the time” but the make up was still a recognisable part of her original outfit that could still be used. It’s like looking at Luke Cage in his original outfit, fine it’s dated and the metal headband could be considered goofy, but these days he wears a black t-shirt and jeans which is frankly dull.


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