Book Review of Comic Art Now (Mania.com)

By:Tim Janson
Review Date: Monday, August 18, 2008

OK, quick question…Is comic book art better today than it was 25 years ago? I’m betting most of you will say yes. You may be right, but then again, you may be wrong. It’s an ages old argument when comparing eras. You hear it in sports all the time. Who is the better golfer, Tiger Woods or Arnold Palmer? It might be easy to say Tiger Woods but Palmer didn’t have the advantage of playing with today’s precision engineered titanium clubs that allow golfers to hit the ball further and more accurate than ever. When Palmer used a wood club, it was actually made of wood!
 
Much the same can be said of today’s comic book art. Artists today have the advantage of superior printing and coloring processes. 25 years ago, art could not extend to the very edge of the page and had to be enclosed within panels. The colors were often dull and don’t hold up very well over time thanks to the cheap newsprint paper. It’s virtually the first thing you notice in today’s comics. The art is bolder and brighter with an unlimited color palette. The advent of computer programs like Photoshop and Corel Painter gives artists the ability to produce effects that they either could not do by hand, or would be too time consuming to do by hand.
 
Comic Art Now is the perfect showcase for these techniques with its international sampling of comic art from various genres. Nearly every piece of art in the book was either created or finished in one of the programs I mentioned. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but what might a Neal Adams, Jim Steranko, Barry Windsor-Smith or Berni Wrightson had been able to produce if they had these programs 30 years ago?
 
British comic book editor and comic expert Dez Skinn is your host for a look at the best in modern comic art and it’s a great book for aspiring comic artists. Each piece of art includes the title of the piece, the artist, the methods used on the piece, the artists e-mail address and/or website address (don’t bug them too much) and comments from Skinn and the artist on each piece of art. Would-be artists should pay particular attention to the comments as they often pass along valuable tips.
 

“Heroes and Villains” is the opening chapter and features the premier characters of comics, the superheroes! Michael Golden’s outstanding “The Silder Surfer Strikes” is one of the true highlights of the entire book. It’s an homage to the silver age and Jack Kirby in particular, but aided by Photoshop to achieve a look of movement that you could not achieve with a mere hand-drawn and colored piece.

 
Following “Heroes and Villains” comes chapters on Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, Humor, and Comic Noir. Not all the art is digitally created or enhanced, however. Some of the best pieces in the book come from veterans like Mike Ploog who provide some incredible examples produced solely in pencil or pen and ink, such as his whimsical “The Bridge” which fans of Marvel’s 1970’s fantasy series Weirdworld, will certainly appreciate.
 
What strikes you about the art in the book is the variation of styles. From ultra-detailed to simple minimalist, the computer has forever change the way comics are produced. It would have been nice to see more examples of mainstream art and the chapter on humor could have been skipped, as it doesn’t fit well with the other chapters. It’s a very slick production, hardcover, over-sized, and with glossy pages. It’s an eclectic collection but one most comic book fans should enjoy.


Mania Grade: B
Book: Comic Art Now
Written By: Dez Skinn (Foreword by Mark Millar)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 192
Price: $29.95