Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Getting Graphic

Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Here we have two examples of successful storytelling within the same medium, one that is usually derided as being "kid stuff" or low-brow.  Both pack a punch but in very different ways.

Alex Ross creates comic art like you've never seen. While you've seen images of Batman and Superman a million times during your life, often not even seeking them out, when you come across Ross' work and give it just a moment or two to seep in, it will stop you in your tracks.

Mythology provides the reader a look inside the gorgeous artwork and gives us a sense of Ross' process which ultimately gives a greater sense of the man.  Owing a debt to the great comic artists that came before him, especially Neal Adams, Ross has elevated the art form.  His process uses live models and, most surprising to me, after drawing in pencil, he paints everything.  Surprising in that most comic artists start with pencil, then hand off to an inker and then hand off to another person, a colorist, to finish things up. His use of light is one of the especially effective and distinguishing characteristics of his work.  The realism is so intense, it's almost as if Norman Rockwell was hired to draw Superman or Captain Marvel.

Here's a video showing Ross at work:


Satrapi's Persepolis is a very different book though every bit as wonderful.  Unlike Ross, Satrapi uses black and white art to tell her story of growing up in Iran before and during the Islamic Revolution that ousted the Shah and installed the theocratic government of the Ayatollah Khomeini.  It is young girl's story of feeling powerless in a world that turned the world upside down. 

The honesty with which Satrapi writes is remarkable.  To show us how she could be a bratty, know-it-all adolescent, to share with us her parents real tears and fears, to shed light on the sizable population that were not Islamic radicals gives us real insight into the human issues.  All these years later, I think we assume everyone in Iran was in favor of the regime change and that now everyone is a fundamentalist and has been since the late '70's.  In Persepolis, Satrapi shows us otherwise and I am most grateful for her moving, funny, sad story.

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