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Friday, June 6, 2008

Art for the Commercial Graphic Novel

Last night, I was thinking in my usual over-analytical mode of the anti-social sort. I sat in the kitchen and thought out loud--a typical conversation with myself. And the topic at hand concerned art style.

What kind of art style would the commercial graphic novel have to help boost its chances of success? As I pondered on this question, the word+image concept popped into my mind.

The graphic novel in question should have art that would satisfy the taste of its intended audience, the same way that its story ought to be written.

Would Jim Lee's style give justice to a romantic comedy? Would James Kochalka's style work for a swords and sorcery epic? Arguably, they could. But the popular manga style apparently didn't work for Marvel comics, so there must be something about art style that should figure into the whole commercial graphic novel idea. (As a side note, I used to think that every Wonder Woman fan adored Adam Hughes' rendition of our dear superheroine, but I've read in a forum that there are a few who thought otherwise.)

This reminds me of a friend of mine who writes great dark fantasy stories. I told him that maybe he ought to try other kinds of stories--like stuff for kids. Surely a talented writer could easily write a short children's story. Well, he tried it, and it didn't work. The story he wrote had all the trappings of his dark fantasy style, albeit using less words in his sentences. It didn't occur to me then that writers had a default style, a methodology they're most comfortable with, a distinct way they interpreted their view of the world. The same way that Mariah Carey is best doing RnB, and Fall Out Boy doing rock.

So the commercial graphic novel should not only carry a commercially-viable story, but also commercially-appealing art, an art style that matches the mood and nuances of the story to be told. The Jim Lee style is perfect for superheroes, but I find it hard imagining its effectivity in a period British war story, at least in the eyes of the general public.

Who do I think would make great artists for the commercial graphic novel? Adam Hughes, Bryan Hitch, Brian Bolland, Paolo Serpieri, Jackson Guice, Greag Land, Alan Davis, Mark Schultz, George Perez, Phil Jimenez, and all artists whose styles tend towards the more realistic. They can make characters act and express emotions that resemble real life.

And when a story resembles real life, yet still hinges on the fantastic, it would have an easier time connecting to a large audience. It would be easier to sell.



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