Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thursday- I'm Back, and I Brought Frank Robbins with Me!

Again, sorry about the long lapse in posting. I'll try to get back to sharing some art a couple of times a week. As an apology, today I bring you something special- an entire, glorious Johnny Hazard daily by the immortal Frank Robbins.

Before I begin ranting and raving about Robbins' work, please click the image, so you can see this thing at full size. You really should see this thing that way to appreciate what I want to discuss.

Since I haven't posted in awhile, I'll repeat the main theme of this blog; great comic art happens when the artist tells his story well and efficiently. I do not believe that comic art is about making the prettiest lines, or even the loveliest drawings. The best comic art isn't always pretty, but it is always effective. Frank Robbins is a perfect example.

This wonderful daily comes from the '60s, which is a little past Robbins' prime, in my opinion. Still, it is masterful. Everything here helps tell the story. The drawing is simple and evocative, the writing is sharp, and the flow of the strip is smooth as silk.

I could go on all day about little things that make this strip effective, but I really want to focus on one element. If you look closely at the first panel, you can see a brighter white behind the background figure. That brighter white is whiteout, applied by Robbins to get rid of a background he had drawn in that space. That's what I'm talking about!

Robbins spent some time drawing a cool background and then, once the strip was done, he wiped it out. Why? Because it reads better this way! Often, a background would help pop a figure forward in the reader's eye. In this case, though, when the figure is a bold, almost entirely black shape, nothing makes that figure pop more effectively than the empty, white space.

No one asked me, and they're not likely to. In my opinion, though, every young comic artist in America today should be studying Frank Robbins, and learning how to simplify their work to make it more readable. We need less careful, precious drawing in comics, less photo-tracing and less detail. We need some Frank Freaking Robbins!

That's enough outta me! See you back here soon.



Mad Ernie said...

I don't think I ever fully appreciated Robbins' work. The issues of Detective Comics and Captain America he did in the 70's were horrible, imo. At least, that's what I remember thinking as a kid. Yet, I think his comic strip art is great. I don't think Frank was cut out to do super-hero comic books, but as a comic strip artist his work was truly something to behold.

Max said...

Weirdly, the first time I encountered Frank Robbins was on Ghost Rider and his work always stuck with me. It looks much better reprinted in the Essential volumes, without the bad coloring to distract you.

That strip is great.

seth hurley said...

This is the second Robbins mention I have seen in as many days. Hopefully the next one I see is for Johnny Hazard collections.