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style is something i think about a lot when it comes to comics.  when i grew up drawing superheroes through high-school, there was a part of me that always thought my drawings were eventually going to be very detailed.  i hadn’t drawn anything like that yet at all.  in fact i always preferred heavy outlines and simple descriptions, but i couldn’t fight the suspicion that that was because i was an untrained draftsman.  i knew i’d eventually get good.  and surely the result of mad practice or of an art education was to make things more realistic.  and surely making things look more realistic meant making them more detailed.  it was my destiny to master detail.

this was probably the last traces of my worship of the image comics artists of the early 90’s.  man, the first time i saw a rob liefeld drawing, i crapped my jeans.  my mom had knocked on my bedroom door and interrupted me in a serious rendering of my character DRAKE, who was a whack punisher swipe i drew from john romita jr. drawings on punisher cards.  she came in and told me she had something she wanted to show me and handed me the NEWSWEEK she’d been reading.  it had both a photo of little rob and THE BEST FUCKING DRAWING I’D EVER SEEN.  i can still see it.  the character was some nobody from an issue of X-FORCE, but that motherfucker brought out the fierce in me.  i was like 11 years old and the article–a short, filler article with no apparent love for liefeld or for comics–mentioned that rob had gotten his start in comics when he was 17!  17!!!  shit was on, i decided.  that awesome drawing of a big-haired fuzzy dude with a cable-style metal arm was way outta my league.  you could just look at all the hatching and lines and detail.  i didn’t know how to do shit like that!  but i was gonna bring my game.  i was gonna show rob liefeld what was up.

i’m meandering, but all i mean to say is that to my young mind–young or stupid or unpracticed or whatever–the detail (read: the lines and marks) he slathered over otherwise weak drawings read to me as finishing polish and badass grit.  everything had all these extra lines all over it to let you know that the drawing was fuckin’ serious, that it was dark, and it was DONE.  can you imagine?  anyway, it wasn’t long after this that i decided i was grown up and that i now knew rob liefeld couldn’t draw shit.  i even walked around comicon for a few years with a sharpie-made shirt that said ROB LIEFELD MUST DIE.  but despite the conviction of my superiority, the suspicion would persist in me for many years that something was supposed come along in my work to make it look more professional, more serious.  my work was gonna be more detailed.  rob–and to be fair, mainstream comics in general, with their comics-taught artists and proprietary visual trends and gimmickry–had fuckin’ brainwashed me.

i ain’t mad at rob, though, and i ain’t mad at mainstream comics.  while i think that on the whole they’re just artless, uninspired rehash, unfit for any critical reader, they were still a big influence on me at one point.  and let’s be honest.  lots of indies have their gimmick, too.  and an indie book isn’t automatically better than a mainstream or  big-two book.  the emo auto-bio, the cutesy relationship auto-bio, the antihero-auteur auto-bio, the robot-pirate-ninja schlock–they’re gimmicks.  and indies have their own pitfalls of visual style.  won’t name names, but i’ve seen people just FULLY swipe the style of prevailing indie bigwigs.  there are indies who can draw their asses off but can’t think of one meaningful thing to write about.  there are indies who can’t draw but take on an affectation in their visual style to disguise it.  there are indies who don’t have a shred of talent one way or another and their style is to pimp their shit by cons and social media.  GIMMICKS.

any genre, art-style, trope or networking flair that an author or artist thinks frees him from the BASIC NEED of having something to say and a way to say it in comics is the same fucking thing as a rob liefeld drawing to me:  you might have some use for it at first, but once you’ve been around the block a bit, you won’t even turn your head anymore.  if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all–and they suck.

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