Friday, March 23, 2007

Influences: Kieron Dwyer

I've always liked Kieron Dwyer's work on things like Captain America, but I kind of lumped him in with a lot of other good artists whose stuff I would only pick up occasionally. But when he came out with Torch of Liberty from Dark Horse in the mid-90s, I felt like he hit a stride that made me look at every single panel with a laser-like intensity, wondering, "How does he do this sorcery?!"

*Click on the image to bring it up in more detail*

These are the first two panels of the story, an homage to Red Scare paranoia, and they do a beautiful job of establishing the scene (New York City), the characters (acrobatic WWII-style patriotic heroes), and the tone (dark and grim, though the campy writing by John Byrne undercuts that somewhat, to good effect). The thing that made me so fascinated with this work was that he used deep black shadows and imprecise, brushy inking that nonetheless gave a great sense of panel depth and texture. The buildings are distant in the first panel, without using any tricks or cheats, and the way he spotted black areas moves the eye around the panel with perfect precision. The brushy inking also allows the artist to suggest detail without having to slave over every last architectural decoration in a panel that will be read in only seconds.

I find that the thing that thrills me when reading comics is when artists create an image that communicates everything they need to communicate and nevertheless shows the reader the mechanics by which the drawing was created. That is to say-- we see what the subject of the panel is, and the panel has depth and dynamism and weight, but we also can tell that the image is a drawing; we see the brushstrokes, we can see that it is just lines on paper. That little switch that our mind makes between logic-- this is just ink on paper-- to emotion-- "that man just jumped through a glass table!" is one of the fundamental thrills of comics. It is particularly clear in Dwyer's comics; even the sound effect in this panel, which would usually be done by the letterer in a nice clean font, is integrated into the artwork, and its sloppiness adds to the power with which the Torch of Liberty hits the floor.

Dwyer also uses an impressive range of "shots" in his comics (recalling the 5 Purposes of Panels), and shows in this comic how a broad range of panel types makes for exciting reading.

I should mention that Kieron Dwyer is a friend of mine, and I told him all of this (in truncated, and drunkated, form several years ago). He continues to make awesome stuff, and you can check it all out at his site: Kieron Dwyer dot com


Anonymous said...

Hooray, Hooray!
I couldn't agree more.
It was his work on Captain America in the late 80s that made me go from someone who liked comic book art to someone who LOVED comic book art and made me practice each day to get better myself.

Kieron Dwyer said...

appreciate the compliments, guys. Very gratifying. Zander did tell me to my face, but it's awfully nice to stumble on to this page and see it in written form.

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