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  • Realistic or Exaggerated Art in Comics

    I don't know if this was asked before, I tried looking through the forum to see if this topic was brought up or not and I haven't found anything. My sincerest apologies if this has been presented before, but I was curious to know what everyone's opinion is in regards to the current trend or style of comic book art.

    I grew up in the 90s and with it, 90s era comics. I remember that back in those days there was a strong sense of exaggeration in the way artists drew their superheroes and I'm talking about the Liefelds, Lees, McFarlanes, Bagleys and all of the other stuff that was out there at the time. I love how they did their art and looking back at it now, I see that some of it, if not most of it was a big exaggerated in its execution. Nonetheless, it's all classic great comic book art.

    I've been away for a long time from comics and I've picked up some recent issues and I've noticed a drastic change in how comics are done now. There are a lot of things that I noticed that are better now and I also noticed that there seems to be a shift towards more realistic art. I'm assuming that this is because of this latest wave of comic book movies which is putting comic book art and its work in the spotlight.

    My question is, what do you prefer to see in your comics, a realistic approach to both characters and background or something that could be called "cartoonish" in the characters and backgrounds?

    Sorry if this was previously discussed, but I was just curious to hear your opinions. Have a great day!
    https://www.deviantart.com/nygma85

  • #2
    I think for me the main issue is how well the art style matches the content. For instance, I like Mike Mignola's style. It really fits something like Hellboy, which has this, imo, sparse and evocative style of storytelling. I don't think I'd like to see him on something like Ghost in the Shell with dense dialogue, abstract concepts, and a lot of political intrigue.

    Conversely, while I like realism, you can certainly have too much in comics. It has to serve the thrust of the fantasy. I like John Buscema's Conan. I don't want to see an historically accurate style Conan with bad teeth, poor hygiene, realistic living conditions, etc. Batman is great in a comic book style. He looks awesome running across rooftops, can fade in and out of shadows, etc. Have a real guy in a suit act like that and it's laughable. There was a moment in the second Nolan Batman movie where you actually saw him running away down the street in the cape and it looked ridiculous.

    I wasn't a big fan of 90s era superhero comics. A lot of it struck me as self-indulgent. Spawn for instance. I always felt like the point of that character was to marvel at how McFarlane drew floaty chains and ginormous capes.
    sketchbook thread

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    • #3
      I see what you're saying and it makes perfect sense. The style should reflect the content and it should service the character. This is probably the reason why certain artists draw certain characters better than others. So in that sense both styles are acceptable as long as it works with the superhero in question.
      https://www.deviantart.com/nygma85

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Elliot Rodriguez View Post
        My question is, what do you prefer to see in your comics, a realistic approach to both characters and background or something that could be called "cartoonish" in the characters and backgrounds?
        I could care less as long as either is done with competence and respect. Mazzucchelli's Year One and Bruce Timm's Mad Love are equally brilliant.

        Would a realistic Batman work in film? He would if they used Batman. Unfortunately, given Warner Brothers utter contempt for the character, the closest we've seen to Batman on the big screen is Leon the Professional. The Batman that appeared in Sandy Collora's Batman: Dead End was visually spine tingling and that was made for couch money with his buddies in the back streets of North Hollywood. Give Sandy a budget and a competent screen writer who respects the character and you'd have something.
        PaulMartinSmith

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        • #5
          Nice, I've never heard of that Batman project before. I'll be sure to check it out and thanks for your insight. Competency with regards to the art style is what matters, got it. Thanks again.
          https://www.deviantart.com/nygma85

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          • #6
            Overall, I prefer my comic art exaggerated. I think it usually suits the stories better in my opinion. These are usually stories involving super humans, creatures, mythical powers, fantastic machines etc.

            The right artist fit is obviously very important too... It would be tricky to imagine Hellboy, Bone, Groo, Head Lopper done in other styles. The artwork can help create the tone and feel.

            I remember an art teacher that I had, asking why I was trying to draw such 'realistic' images. He then said, if you want realism, you should buy a camera.

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            • #7
              I think the best comic artist straddled that line between cartoony and realistic with perfection, splitting the difference. To me, ultra realistic art loses some of the energy that cartooning brings.
              http://chcomicart.blogspot.com/
              https://www.instagram.com/chris.haizlip/

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              • #8
                Originally posted by sevans73 View Post
                Overall, I prefer my comic art exaggerated. I think it usually suits the stories better in my opinion. These are usually stories involving super humans, creatures, mythical powers, fantastic machines etc.

                The right artist fit is obviously very important too... It would be tricky to imagine Hellboy, Bone, Groo, Head Lopper done in other styles. The artwork can help create the tone and feel.

                I remember an art teacher that I had, asking why I was trying to draw such 'realistic' images. He then said, if you want realism, you should buy a camera.
                Yeah, that's an interesting point. I like the exaggeration too, I think that's what comics are about, being dynamic and full of energy and I think it helps to tell a story. It's what I grew up on and it's what seems right to me.

                It was weird seeing such realistic art in comics nowadays, but I get it. It looks nice too and as others mention, whatever helps sell the story would work.
                https://www.deviantart.com/nygma85

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by ChrisH View Post
                  I think the best comic artist straddled that line between cartoony and realistic with perfection, splitting the difference. To me, ultra realistic art loses some of the energy that cartooning brings.
                  Yeah, I think that after reading through these responses, my best approach would probably be to find a mix or a balance between the two and use that. I'll try to find that neutral zone and stay in it. I also agree that the cartoony stuff gives the comic an extra boost in energy. Thanks for the feedback!
                  https://www.deviantart.com/nygma85

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Elliot Rodriguez View Post

                    Yeah, I think that after reading through these responses, my best approach would probably be to find a mix or a balance between the two and use that. I'll try to find that neutral zone and stay in it. I also agree that the cartoony stuff gives the comic an extra boost in energy. Thanks for the feedback!
                    I remember John Byrne saying he pushed his poses just a bit beyond what a human is actually capable of. But that is the definition of superhuman, anyways. For the record, I think John Byrne found that perfect sweet spot between realism and cartoony.
                    http://chcomicart.blogspot.com/
                    https://www.instagram.com/chris.haizlip/

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                    • #11
                      I'd like to see a myriad of styles in comics. When I was younger I gravitated to the stylized artists who exaggerated the American comic book norm. Each artist has their style and each has their merits. Art is subjective may be a cliche but not everyone loves a certain style getting attention.

                      When Bryan Hitch was doing The Ultimates back in the day, it was great for the time. It was before the Avengers movie hit and it fueled the imagination as to what a comic could be if it were a film. Would I love the style now? Probably. I'd be nowhere excited as I would have been then because we have consumed a lot of material from. However that art style helped to sell a grittier take on the super hero genre.

                      There are so many factors that play into whether your prefer a more cartoonish or realistic style. Is their a good marriage between the story and the art? Does the art serve the story?
                      As juvenile as the Sin City graphic novels were, I loved the series. That said, I disliked the movies. Frank Miller's art wasn't realistic for the series but he captured the action so well and created striking imagery.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by ChrisH View Post

                        I remember John Byrne saying he pushed his poses just a bit beyond what a human is actually capable of. But that is the definition of superhuman, anyways. For the record, I think John Byrne found that perfect sweet spot between realism and cartoony.
                        Yeah, John Byrne's work is great. I love it and there definitely is a refined balance there between realistic and exaggerated. Is there any newer artist who you feel found a similar balance between realism and exaggeration?
                        https://www.deviantart.com/nygma85

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Dri View Post
                          I'd like to see a myriad of styles in comics. When I was younger I gravitated to the stylized artists who exaggerated the American comic book norm. Each artist has their style and each has their merits. Art is subjective may be a cliche but not everyone loves a certain style getting attention.

                          When Bryan Hitch was doing The Ultimates back in the day, it was great for the time. It was before the Avengers movie hit and it fueled the imagination as to what a comic could be if it were a film. Would I love the style now? Probably. I'd be nowhere excited as I would have been then because we have consumed a lot of material from. However that art style helped to sell a grittier take on the super hero genre.

                          There are so many factors that play into whether your prefer a more cartoonish or realistic style. Is their a good marriage between the story and the art? Does the art serve the story?
                          As juvenile as the Sin City graphic novels were, I loved the series. That said, I disliked the movies. Frank Miller's art wasn't realistic for the series but he captured the action so well and created striking imagery.
                          Yeah, definitely. Now I think that boxing comic art into one single style would be doing it a great injustice. There are all kinds of styles out there and they each do well in telling a story and setting a tone and the mood and it's what best serves us fans, to have a variety to the art. Art is completely subjective. Art, like beauty, lies in the eyes of the beholder and not everyone is going to like the art that is used in comics, so a variation is very well received.

                          I posted this question while trying to find my style, my voice with art. I noticed that there was a different status quo when I first read comics back in the day and now I see that the status quo is competely different (on the count of the box office success we've seen) and I felt like I had to re-learn how to draw everything and modernize the look of my art, but I realize now that that is not the case and that my art can evolve, but not so much to the point where it's unrecognizable to myself. So yeah, as you say, so many factors need to be taken into consideration when thinking about art styles for a particular comic or storyline. Great ideas man, thanks for the feedback.
                          https://www.deviantart.com/nygma85

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Elliot Rodriguez View Post

                            Yeah, John Byrne's work is great. I love it and there definitely is a refined balance there between realistic and exaggerated. Is there any newer artist who you feel found a similar balance between realism and exaggeration?
                            I don't know if you'd count him as a newer artist, but Salvador Larroca started out cartoony and got more and more realistic. Somewhere in the middle of his career he found the sweet spot, but then he marched right past it.
                            http://chcomicart.blogspot.com/
                            https://www.instagram.com/chris.haizlip/

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by ChrisH View Post

                              I don't know if you'd count him as a newer artist, but Salvador Larroca started out cartoony and got more and more realistic. Somewhere in the middle of his career he found the sweet spot, but then he marched right past it.
                              Oh ok, yeah, I see what you mean. Yeah, he's relatively new I guess, I saw some of his artwork on Fantastic Four and yeah, I see what you mean. I'd say that you can see part of that evolution that you speak of during his Fantastic Four run, which is interesting and he's got some great artwork, really good stuff.
                              https://www.deviantart.com/nygma85

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