Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I found this 1989 Judge Dredd collection in the cheapie bin. It contains two perfect examples of late ’80s hand-painted color by one of the masters, Brendan McCarthy. (Okay, get over the fact that it’s a Judge Dredd comic, I’m riffing on COLOR here.) There are four stories in this one. Two colored by McCarthy: one drawn and colored by McCarthy (with help from Tony Riot) and one drawn by the team of McCarthy, Riot, and Brett Ewins. The other stories are by Brian Bolland and Ian Gibson, and are not colored by McCarthy. To me, it’s funny how Bolland’s art has aged poorly next to McCarthy. It’s like technically sound black and white artwork versus technically sound loose, color driven artwork. McCarthy looks fresh 20 years on. Bolland looks archaic, byzantine in comparison. But, that’s me.
McCarthy is a peculiar artist. He’ll razzle-dazzle with “effects” and color and get way loose, and then pull it in, tighten up, and play styles off of each other. He can get too loose for my tastes, but then he’ll reel his lines in and take it to the hoop, scoring points for “realism”. It’s a nutty combo that was “out there” for comics fans 20 years ago. Funny how this approach seems just right for today.
From the first story, Judge Dredd having a spell (drawn and colored by McCarthy):
This is from the third story and looks tighter because Brett Ewins was involved. I think they would switch off on each page, the styles range wildly. I really dug this spread, and believe it’s Ewins’s pencils and layouts with McCarthy’s colors.
And I think this is all McCarthy, maybe Ewins layouts(?):
For me, McCarthy’s color signaled a break in the ’80s towards a wider range of feeling. His colors are “realistic” and modern in a painterly sense, but compared to most comics coloring, he was seen as “radical”. He was utilizing a new process that allowed him to use any and all colors he could imagine, not being limited to the FOUR color process. This was also before Photoshop, so he was attempting to “expand” the palette like few before him. He incorporated (relatively new) DayGlo colors and found ways of getting around the limitations of the wonky FULL color process. The other two stories in the book use a similar color range, but they don’t look half as good. McCarthy brought to the table a painterliness that didn’t rely on black containment lines for everything that was being delineated. Nothing really all that new, even in comics, but McCarthy’s work didn’t look like other “painted” comics. His work was never muddy, but “light” and “open”. A fresh look compared to the Frazetta-like browns and ochres that dominates the “Studio” group of painter-slash-cartoonists like Kaluta and Jones.
Anyways, that’s all I got. Can’t sleep, but too tired to flesh this out anymore. Later.