Without artists, all of your favorite characters, scenes, costumes, and locations would just be words on a page. In short, they’re the ones that make comics comics. That’s a lot of responsibility, yet the best artists manage to juggle all of those tasks and inject some meaningful art and style into the proceedings. Whether its a subtle expression or a jaw-dropping action sequence, our favorite artists add the requisite magic to make their worlds and characters real. These are our top 10 artists of 2015.
Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Chewbacca 5, originally released December 30th, 2015.
Taylor: In the new Star Wars movie, it’s apparent that director J.J. Abrams wanted to make Chewbacca a more rounded character. The need for doing this is plain – Chewbacca is one of the main characters in the Star Wars movies, but he’s little more than Han Solo’s charismatic shadow. Abrams rounds out Chewbacca by having him interact with more characters than just Han and by also giving him more heroic things to do like blasting stormtroopers. For the most part I find this to be a fairly successful venture into Chewbacca’s character. He’s portrayed as being important but not to the point that his language barrier interferes with things at all. The Chewbacca comic series similarly attempts to flesh out this character, but as issue 5 highlights, it is not nearly as successful as Episode 7.
Today, Michael and Taylor are discussing Chewbacca 4, originally released November 25 2015.
Michael: Remember in Revenge of the Sith when Anakin Skywalker was arguing that from his point of view the Jedi were evil and we all laughed? Flawed storytelling aside I think comic book fans can agree that the big difference between heroes and villains is their perspective. “History is written by the victors” is probably an overused statement but nonetheless true. Simple Star Wars logic dictates: Rebel Alliance = good, Galactic Empire = bad. I’m not sympathizing with The Empire here, but Chewbacca 4 had me examining the actions of our “heroes.”
Today, Patrick and Andy are discussing Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Shattered Empire 1, originally released September 9th, 2015
“Star Wars is the saga of good vs. evil, divided into nine parts.”
-George Lucas, 1994
“It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime.”
-George Lucas, 2012
Patrick: George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy is heavily influenced by just about every archetype-establishing institution in the book: westerns, serials, samurai stories, myths. They are clear stories of good vs. evil, strictly adhering to tenants of Joseph Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces. In 1977, that made those films the sum total of popular fiction to that point – a perfect distillation of the hero triumphing over forces of darkness. That’s an over simplification, of course: Taxi Driver came out the year before A New Hope, after all. But what Lucas did so well in his original film was channeling the simple, clear morality of popular fiction. Almost 40 years later and morality in popular fiction isn’t so clear – neither is the morality of war. Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, Mad Men, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, two different Gulf Wars – today’s storytellers have a different responsibility to their audience than Lucas did. Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto’s Shattered Empire embraces this shift, focusing more on the insane fog of war surrounding the bit-players that supported the main heroes of the original trilogy. Continue reading
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Black Widow 18, originally released May 27th, 2015.
“All these voices / All these memories / Make me feel like stone.
All the people / Make me feel so alone.”
-Brian Wilson, “Midnight’s Another Day“
Patrick: One of the universal experiences of the comic book reader is the gradual sense that you’re actually getting to know these characters. Readers watch them grow and evolve, and there’s frequently running voiceover to add extra context to their actions. You ever notice that comic fans are much quicker to refer to Superman as “Clark” than people that just know him as a cultural icon? Surely, everyone knows that Superman is Clark Kent, but only those of us that feel close to him would have the audacity to use his first name. But what happens when a comic series actively keeps the protagonist’s perspective at arm’s length? Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s Black Widow shows off a Natasha Romanova that can only really be herself when hidden from everyone else. That includes Bucky Barnes, the Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., you and me. Continue reading
Suzanne: Have you ever looked at your job description six months into a new job and chuckled to yourself? Rarely do expectations and generally-worded guidelines from corporate align themselves with real-life experiences. How about that summer internship when you felt more like a barista than a business student? Natasha Romanova feels your pain in Black Widow 12, as jobs constantly pull her away from her preferred role as a spy. Continue reading
Shelby: Sometimes it takes other people to really see something about a character. Seeing a character’s actions and internal monologue when it’s separate from others can almost numb you towards that character’s actions. It’s with the inclusion of another point of view that you suddenly realize the character is not all right, or that they need more help than even they realize. If there’s any character out there who needs more help than they realize, it’s gotta be Nathan Edmondson’s Black Widow.
Shelby: I have a friend who’s having a frustrating time at work. Her department and position is currently transitioning to something different, so until everything is finalized she’s working two different positions. I can see how, from a management perspective, that would be the perceived best way to transition someone into a new job. For her, though, it just means she’s two jobs to do instead of one, and instead of focusing on one or the other she has to half-ass both. I think one of the toughest things about managing a company is avoiding situations like my friend’s. You have to be able to manage your people in such a way that they are able to do their tasks to the best of their abilities. It’s important to diversify and grow the skills of your employees, but not at the cost of prohibiting them from doing their actual job, especially if that job is being one of the world’s greatest spies.
Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Black Widow 3, originally released February 5th, 2014.
Taylor: Home is a powerful concept for most people. It engenders ideas of safety, retreat, relaxation and rejuvenation. It’s a place to hang up your coat at the end of the day and somewhere where you’re allowed to live exactly how you want. In short, home is that place you go where you just feel good. However, if you’re Black Window, the concept of home can be a bit more complicated. Having lived a life that is defined by violence, the ideas of safety and retreat aren’t exactly well known to Natasha and with that comes an unusual view on the idea of home. In Issue 3 of Black Widow, Natasha ruminates on the idea of home and in the process learns a little something about herself along the way. With the spectacular artwork of Phil Noto accompanying the story, how could this issue be anything but great?
Today, Shelby and Spencer are discussing Black Widow 2, originally released January 22nd, 2014.
Shelby: I have lived alone for a little over 3 years. Like anything, living alone has its pros and cons. I love having space that is completely mine, that I can do anything I want with because I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself. I’m a pretty independent person, and living alone is a part of that. On the other hand, sometimes being alone is just really lonely, and at the end of the day I just want someone else to be around. Even with that loneliness, I prefer living alone; having to share my space with someone all the time seems like a weird idea, now. I almost can’t imagine letting someone in to my life and space like that anymore. For Natasha Romanov, being alone is just a part of the job description, which makes it easy enough to carry into her personal life as well.