Sunday, December 21, 2014

Marc Silvestri, Dan Green, and Mark Texeira

Let's trip down memory lane a bit, shall we?

These guys are some of my favorite among the superhero artists. Silvestri and Green were a team, pencils and inks respectively. Above is a fairly early effort of theirs, before Green really got it completely together as an inker. He was already excellent, but as time went on he got a lot tighter and more detailed without losing any of the loose free qualities that made him the perfect match for Silvestri's amazing pencils. 

They started on the Uncanny X Men in the 80's, right after the incredible run of John Byrne and Terry Austin, which I believe was the first artist team to break significantly free from Marvel's Draw Like Kirby axiom that had dominated the bullpen until then (as evidenced by the book How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, which essentially came straight out and said the Marvel way is to draw like Kirby). Incidentally, Byrne and Austin drew the famous Days of Future Past storyline which has become so well known and spawned the latest X Men movie. 

What happened to break Marvel out of DrawLikeKirby mode? It was called The Dark Knight Returns, drawn by Frank Miller and Klaus Jansen (who received basically no credit for his inking, which was just as innovative as Miller's pencils, in fact he probably spruced them up considerably). That storyline, done for the rival DC comics empire, lit a new fire under every studio and suddenly they all wanted artists who drew in some fresh, loose, highly stylistic way. It also spawned a move toward increasingly gritty and dark stories and heroes that were more anti-heroes, following the same trend in pro wrestling of the time. The bad guys were the stars all of a sudden, and the good guys were hard to tell apart from them.

I love the loose gestural, almost cartoonish quality of these Silvestri/Green pages. The very free sketchy line quality and the expressive shapes. And Silvestri's grasp of anatomy and the figure are astonishing. His hands are always incredible - how the hell does he do it??!! There always did remain an affinity for Kirby though in the hands and the feet.

The Wolverine series was significantly different from any other superhero series of the time - or any time for that matter. He rarely wore his costume, he was usually out in the wilderness or visiting other countries - this was Wolvie off duty, without the rest of the X Men, and you very rarely ever saw anybody in a superhero costume. The stories were written like Film Noir, and drawn like it too. Very refreshing if superheroes in colorful tights just isn't your thing.

And then in the 90's Silvestri packed up and joined a handful of other extremely talented Marvellites and formed Image Comics, to crank out low grade copies of Marvel characters and teams with a lot more violence and lines. So the art duties on Wolverine were handed over to Mark Texeira, who drew sort of similarly in some ways, but pushed things way over the top. He was even more loose and gestural and cartoony, and his heroes - at least the big brawny ones - were ridiculously oversized and looked like giant animated sides of beef. He inked his own work - I doubt anybody else could have done nearly as good a job on it. His art is shown above and below.

These are artists who, for whatever reason, if you do an internet search, what you'll find is only their later work, which is inferior in my opinion. Silvestri's stint at Image apparently caused him to lose much of the cartoony gestural qualities I loved about his work, and his heores got a lot bigger and brawnier (though never to the extent of Texeira's). And I believe Texeira stopped inking himself, and as soon as other people tried to do it the art lost much of its magic. He also largely moved from drawing comics to painting covers, or sometimes painting entire comics. While I dig his gouache paintings (why does everybody just call them watercolors? Makes it so hard to tell who paints in gouache!) they just never had the same qualities as his comic book drawings of the early days. After doing only issues 61 - 69 of Wolverine, he did a standalone Sabertooth series (Sabertooth was Wolvie's nemesis, and guess who makes an appearance?) The Texeira pages above come from the Sabertooth graphic novel, and the Silvestri/Green work comes from the Marvel Legends; Marc Silvestri - Wolverine GN. I had some of the original issues, of both, and it's truly amazing how much better it looks printed on glossy crisp paper with such vivid colors. In comparison the originals are dark and smeary looking, with dull washed-out colors and big dots everywhere. It's a quality jump akin to seeing a movie in HD opposed to a cruddy VHS tape.

I uploaded these pages much larger than usual - once downloaded to one's desktop they'll open quite large to be examined in detail.

Man, thinking back to those heady days of the late 80's early 90's, I had such a massive influx of incredible comic book art coming in all the time (this close on the tail of the also heady Warren horror magazine days of the end of the previous decade). I think that's why I was drawing so much then, and perhaps predictably, I stopped around the time it these artists all moved on to projects that didn't live up to their earlier glory (for me at least - to each their own opinion). Or maybe it had something to do with my first computer that showed up around that same time..

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