The art world is full of different styles: Art Deco, Postmodernism, Realism, Surrealism and many many more, everybody has their personal preferences and tastes and no one person is right about which is best. What a lot of people may not think about is that this applies very strongly in the world of comic books too with many comic book artists having particularly unique styles.
Without going into any particular comic book artists in detail, the very concept of artistic style is a strong element that can be used to convey a particular feel for a story. Many Batman comics have been drawn with a dark Film Noir style particularly associated with gritty crime dramas, particularly relevant when considered with the Detective Comics origin of Batman in 1939. Gotham city itself is regularly portrayed using artistic styles associated with the start of the 20th century – namely Art Deco. Much of the Gotham skyline is depicted as being similar architecturally to buildings such as the Chrysler Building in New York. Even the first Batmobile was a striking example of Streamline Moderne design, a design style similar to Art Deco that was more directed at vehicles originally but that eventually crossed over into other areas of design.
Even when you consider the artwork from an over arching design style such as Art Deco, each artist individually will tackle that design from their own unique perspective, perhaps inspired by their own real world experiences with that style. They could be completely clueless about the design elements of Art Deco or they could be intimately familiar with even the subtlest nuances of the design style that another artist might overlook. This of course gives rise to yet more diversity in comic book artwork for geeks to enjoy.
Ask any comic book fan why they love a certain book or storyline and many will discuss the artwork as a main reason for loving that particular book. It should be no surprise that in a medium that relies so heavily on the work of artists that many readers will develop personal tastes within the comic book world and will be able to list off many artists names even if they would otherwise consider themselves to know nothing about art.
Artists make or break a story sometimes and as such many will even go so far as to read any book that a particular favourite artist has worked on, much like many will do the same if a favourite writer or director is associated with a film they wouldn’t normally be interested in.
With the growing popularity of comic book movies many people are now regularly asking the geek community how to get started in the world of comic books, what should they read as a good starting point? Yet again art plays a huge role as many people will suggest particular story arcs and when asked why you’ll regularly hear people sing the praises of the artist(s). A long time reader can overlook lower quality filler pages in a comic book but if the whole book is that lacklustre then a newcomer to the genre could easily be put off or generally left uninspired even if the story itself is fantastic.
The diversity doesn’t stop with the page content either, nowadays you can’t turn around in a comic book store without being confronted by a million and one variant covers, each created by a different artist and often in a very different style from the others, the latest drama with Manara’s Spider-Woman variant cover is a prime example of the diversity of artists involved in variant covers. This creates an additional market for increased sales of course from the collectors who have to have one of each. It can also however offer a sense of cohesion to a collection. The Buffy the Vampire slayer comic book continuation from Dark Horse for example comes with two variant covers as standard, with occasional extra variants, but originally one used artwork by the artist in charge of the internal content of the book and the other was created by a cover artist, Jo Chen, who paints the most incredible and almost photo realistic art work. Given that this particular book was intended as a canonical continuation of the TV show it made sense to have a version that accurately captured the likenesses of the actors who portrayed the characters to help boost sales initially but the covers were that popular that they have continued to offer variant covers that match a similar style by a variety of different artists long after Jo Chen stopped being the regular cover artist for that variant.
Art matters hugely in the geek community, creativity and unique perspectives are essential to avoid everything looking exactly the same. The simplicity of early comic books is often described as boring or dull, but it served a purpose, it gave substance to creative ideas from the imaginations of their creators so that they could understand and visualise these fantastical stories about super powered heroes and villains. It opened the minds of a new generation and ultimately inspired the diverse range of artists we now have creating the characters and the universes we all love.
It is for this same reason that we actively support and encourage independent artists at our events, art is for everyone especially the geek community and the world can never have too much creativity.