When I’m asked to design a character, there’s no end to how different a character can be conceptualized. One of my clients had asked me to design a panda, and I thought I’d share a few styles I went with (there were others I did as well).
I was never a big Will Eisner fan, but he garnered so much industry respect that I thought I must be missing something. I really wanted to go back and study his work on The Spirit, but any trade reprints just didn’t seem to be of great quality. Let’s face it, the production quality of comics has come a long way from the off-register-colored stuff printed on newsprint which made up the comics of my childhood. Frankly, I preferred the DC series which were done by Darwyn Cooke several years ago. So I never purchased any of the series by Eisner. And then came the IDW Artist Editions. I watched a YouTube video of someone flipping through one of The Spirit editions, and it just didn’t impress me. And then I saw one in person and flipped through it – Wow! Seeing the work up close made all of the difference in the world. Naturally I bought both volumes. The first thing I have to say is that I now understand why everyone has such great respect for Eisner. His work on these Spirit comics is amazing. And seeing the original-quality inking without the distraction of coloring really highlights what’s best about this work. Eisner wasn’t just a great sequential story-teller (which is what I thought was his claim to fame). He was really a great artist as well. I would recommend any fan of good, traditionally inked work to run out and get themselves a copy of these editions. An artist can learn a lot from studying these. The IDW Artist Edition on EC comics is my least favorite of the ones I’ve reviewed, though, that Frazetta cover is an amazing work of art which one could study endlessly (it’s easily one of my favorite Frazetta pieces). I was really hoping this edition contained mostly collaborative work by The Fleagles, but that wasn’t the case. It’s still a top-notch volume where quality is concerned, but if you’re looking for lots of Williamson, Frazetta, and Krenkel, don’t look here. I think there was only one such collaborative story, but that isn’t really much in a volume this large. Wally Wood also isn’t represented here because his work was saved for another Artist Edition devoted entirely to him. Still, as I said, it’s a well-produced book. Regarding future IDW Artist Editions, what I’d really like to see is some work from Marvel’s Savage Sword of Conan magazine (from the 70’s) reproduced in this format. I really want to see Big John’s penciling with Alfredo Alcala’s beautiful pen and ink work. Can you imagine seeing the following pages reproduced in their original size in all of their splendor? Perhaps someone at IDW is already on to these and has plans for reproducing them in a future Artist Edition. One can only hope.
One thing I liked about IDW’s Artist Editions is the fact that I could study what was essentially the original work up close. There’s something to be said for zooming in and getting a closer look. Anyway, someone had asked me about pencil drawings, so I had enlarged a detail of a rough sketch to show what was going on there.
I recently picked up the IDW Artist Edition of Mark Schultz’s Xenozioc Tales, which is even larger in format than the 2010 Artist Edition of Dave Steven’s Rocketeer, which I got a few year ago (and I thought the Steven’s book was large). Since these are said to be scanned from the original art, it makes sense that all of the Artist Editions will be different in size, depending on the size of the original art.
If you’re a fan of Frazetta’s dry-brush ink work, you’re probably already familiar with Schultz’s work and are a fan of his take on the style. He’s mastered the technique, and I think he’s probably the only guy who does it prolifically these days (if you can call him “prolific”. He seems to be rather slow in churning out new art, but it’s easily forgivable once you consider how much work he puts into a piece of art. It’s well worth the wait).
These IDW editions are not inexpensive, but they’re worth it for those who would like to collect original art but do not have the requisite fortune necessary to acquire such art. It’s also valuable for the artist who wants to study great works which were/are done traditionally, and I’m happy to see good reproductions of this art in its most original form. The ubiquitous use of digital media, while a helpful and useful tool, results in a lack of tangible original art, a situation I personally lament. I do, however, understand the need for the transition to digital media for those who work professionally these days. Even though I still draw on paper where a piece of art is important to me, I still paint it digitally for the sake of time and technical convenience. But I personally enjoy tangible, traditional media, and these books are a joy for those who share that enthusiasm.