Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday... Blood Red, and the Incredibly Ridiculous Talent of a Young Neal Adams!

I've been working pretty hard on my Blood Red book this week. In case you've forgotten, it's a revenge story set on Mars. It is drawn by the Jesus-Serpico of comics, the hugely-talented Shawn Crystal. It'll be awhile until the book comes out, but it'll be worth waiting for, I think. I know this guy thinks so-

Blood Red is owned by Mr. Crystal and myself.

Today's art scan is a panel from a Ben Casey daily strip, drawn by Neal Adams... when he was all of twenty-two freaking years old. Holy Shit... just think about that for a second. This daily isn't the best strip work of it's day, by any stretch. It isn't as good as Neal would end up producing decade or so down the line. It is, however, pretty goddamn amazing for a kid just barely old enough to buy a drink.

As we've discussed here before, Neal comes from the school of realistic photo-reference typified by the likes of Stan Drake and Alex Kotzky. Neal would go on to revolutionize the comic book industry by bringing that sensibility to the world of stretchy pants. Judging by the pencil roughs I've seen, I think Neal became so good at his pseudo-realism that he eventually all but dropped his reliance on photos. At the time this Ben Casey was drawn, though, I assume he was still taking and using his own reference.

The drawing in this example is solid as hell, and Neal's inking, as always, really sells it. I have no idea where a kid of 22 got the balls to attack the page like this. It's really pretty mind-blowing. The inking on the clothing is incredibly lively. Look at the lines on the angry man's suit jacket. I don't quite buy the rendering on his right arm, but everything else is so sharp and perfect. Likewise for that man's hair.

The composition is also very nice, and something of a bold choice. I think most artists would have drawn this confrontation in profile, to fully show the angry man leaning into the doctor's space. The way Neal has drawn it, though, has a more subtle and impressive impact. The doctor (the strip's lead, Ben Casey) is cool and detached here, separated from the rage by the vast expanse of desk.

One technical note: this strip was drawn on a special paper called dou-shade, or benday board. The paper was manufactured with two tones built in. Those tones were invisible until the artist applied one of two special solutions that brought them out. Many artists used this paper to good effect. It was a simple way to add tones to black and white art without the hassle of cutting zip-a-tone screens. Neal uses the tones really well, combining them with his great, textural inking to create a very rich effect. There is one problem with using dou-shade board. You can't use whiteout on the page, because it would make applying the developer to the board directly impossible. Thus, there is little room for mistakes. I used dou-shade on a comic book mini-series once, and it was fun, but stressful. Neal didn't have much to worry about, I guess... there is no hint of whiteout on the daily I own.

Of course, being as good as Neal was as young as he was can be a mixed blessing. It must be tough to carry that incredibly promising start with you throughout your career. Neal has met that challenge with mixed results, but he's certainly one of the giants of comic book art.

Okay... enough outta me. Enjoy the genius, and come back for more next Tuesday!


Does someone own Ben Casey? Somebody has to, right? Anyway, if you wanna use the good doctor, do a search and figure it out before you get in trouble, okay?


Max said...

Jesus-Serpico is now my new favorite description ever.

Really enjoying the new blog, Ande; keep it up!

Shawn Crystal said...