Peter G (sinetimore) wrote,
Peter G

Houston, You Have A Problem

So, I'm spending the day trying to recuperate from this stupid illness.  I'm not like most guys.  When I'm sick, I don't want to be babied.  I want to be left the eff alone.  I had a girlfriend who expressed frustration that I wouldn't let her pamper me.  It's tough to appreciate pampering when you're ready to throw up like a pro-ana at Old Country Buffet.

So, to beat this, I have my usual remedies.  Vitamin C capsules (1K mg)?  Check.  Eucalyptus tea?  Check.  Electric blanket set for London Broil?  Check.  (I was even sleeping with socks on.  I can't sleep with socks on, I'll pull them off in the middle of the night without even waking up.  When I wake up and see socks on my feet, I know it's bad.)  I even went to get cold and flu medicines, just in case (I haven't had to touch that stuff in about a couple of decades).  And, since laughter is the best medicine, a whole bunch of funny stuff.

So, between the MXC and Sam And Max and the comedy gold that is the Road Runner cartoons, I also pulled out a couple of the new Deadpool comics I got the other day.  Among them is Deadpool #900.  No, it didn't last that long, they skipped a few numbers.  It's a super sized issue with a variety of stories.

One of which is drawn by Rob Liefeld.

So I'm reading the Liefeld story (he only did the art, he didn't write it).  I'll tell you the truth, I never noticed half his problems with anatomy before.  I think it's because I'm doing some penciling myself.  I now have a frame of reference from which to see the feet bent at impossible angles, how the women always seem to be making their O face, the women with waists as small as their forearms, the odd positioning....

I get it now.

I get the fundamental problem with Liefeld's artwork.

And I know someone with my meager talent is really going out on a limb criticizing this, but I see it now, and besides, not only do I gladly take what (surprisingly little) jabs I get, but I admit my limitations.  And I actually try to work with them or around them, I don't disregard them.  So I'm going to state Liefeld's problem from the rooftops and I don't care who knows it's me saying it.

Liefeld draws symbols, not images.

When I was first learning to draw all those years ago, one of the things being pounded into my head was drawing what was there.  Kids tend to draw with symbols.  Instead of drawing, say, an eye, they would draw something that suggested an eye and that was good enough.  As a result, you had an image composed of what amounted to that individual's clip art file in their head.  You had to learn to get past that, to depict what you wanted instead of just suggesting it with the visual equivalent of words.

This is Liefeld's problem.  Liefeld has learned how to draw with symbols.  He can draw a leg and foot that looks like a leg and foot.  But it is a wrote depiction.  Result:  he will draw them in because it is still recognizable as a leg and foot, even if it is out of proportion or there is no way the leg can possibly position itself that way.  An issue of X-Force, for example, had a character standing on her tiptoes, body more or less facing the viewer but the legs drawn as if they were in profile view with the knees touching.  Physically impossible (and the legs were longer than the rest of her, even with the bend), but you could still tell they were legs and you could recognize they were accurately drawn legs.  Inaccurately positioned, but still accurately drawn.

In many ways, this is symptomatic of art in general.  The very funny TV show Coach had an episode where Luther went to an art showing for the first time.  He was genuinely trying to understand art, and asked a key question:  "So what you're saying is, all this stuff is done on purpose?"  This is the truth about art, that it bends or manipulates to give what it is depicting some sort of presence.  And this is where I will never equal anyone from the Image crew.  I've done some test sketches about a swordswoman adventurer.  When I draw her fighting, I am constantly trying to guage where her center of gravity is, how her feet are positioned to help her move whereever she needs to, how she holds the sword, what would give it the most power...etc.  In other words, I'm trying to depict things realistically.  That, however, doesn't make a dynamic image.  This is why fight scenes have bodies bent at weird angles, weapons bigger than your car but no momentum to thrown them off, and things like that.  Realism is downplayed to make it more interesting and exciting.  Because reality doesn't look like this.

So here comes Liefeld, who understands that realistic depictions aren't what sells the image, but they exaggeration and the dynamism.  Discipline is thrown out.  It's not a matter of ignoring the rules on purpose, the rules are never considered in the first place because of how detrimental they are.  They say you should understand the rules so that, when you break them, you have a reason.  To paraphrase Luther, you should be intentionally doing it wrong.  But Liefeld never bothered to learn the rules.  What would be the point of rules you are going to ignore anyway?  So he jumped past that and creates his characters from a pulldown box in his head.  He can do the exaggeration like any pro.  He just doesn't have the capability to scale it back like John Byrne and such do.  Or, maybe he can, but he never draws anything that requires it.

So this is why Liefeld does Marvel and DC and Image work while I'm slogging away as a self-publisher.  It's not about artistic skill, but about rendering things a certain way.  Liefeld does in fact render things the way the comic industry requires.  And it figures, really.  When you're talking about superpowers and aliens and time travel and magic and such, is realism really such a good idea?

Or, to paraphrase Chris Rock, I'm not saying he should do it, but I understand....
Tags: art, comic books, comics, important life lessons, original comic art
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