Research the following comic artists who are highly unconventional and extreme in their style; that is, they have a super-stylised and almost unique way if drawing that cannot be compared to anyone else in the comics’ field:
- Jim Steranko
- Aline Kominsky-Crumb
- Alex Niño
- Dave McKean
- Mary Fleener
- Frank Miller
- Basil Wolverton
Choose two artists form the list and consider their style and how it relates to the form and content of their stories.
After looking at examples of each artist’s work and some preliminary reading, I selected Aline Kominsky-Crumb and Frank Miller.
Aline Kominsky-Crumb’s is credited as a pioneer for female comic artists and the underground comix scene in the 1960s and 1970s. She paved the way for other women to follow in her footsteps, creating comics that were more relevant to them than the previously male-dominated ones, which generally only included women in stories as stereotypical, often sexualised, characters.
The subject matter of Kominsky-Crumb’s comics are often those considered provocative and taboo, such as sex, drugs and menstruation. Her work is autobiographical and the characters are extreme self-portraits in which she is depicted in an uncomplimentary way in terms of what is generally socially accepted as attractive.
Kominsky-Crumb’s style is often described as ‘repulsive’, ‘amateurish’ and ‘crude’ and she has admitted that “comics are my worst artwork because it taps into some unconscious and primitive part of me that’s not controlled by intellectual interference”. Her influences include German Expressionists such as George Grosz and Otix Dix. I also thought that there was a Cubist influence in some of the examples I came across.
Kominsky-Crumb does not focus on perspective or realism in her work, but does detail textures using cross-hatching. I felt that the extreme style of Kominsky-Crumb’s artwork was suited to the content – uncomfortable, personal subjects depicted in a brash, confrontational manner.
Frank Miller is famous for his graphic, noir-style artwork. He is credited with redefining the character of Batman as gritty, reclusive and bitter in The Dark Knight Returns.
The style of Miller’s work is extreme realism and he uses black and white to create stark, impactful images. Often, for example in Sin City, Miller uses completely black panels apart from white highlights on areas of a character’s face/body to depict light or texture, occasionally combining these with flashes of one colour. Sometimes he utilises ink splashes to depict blood splatters or water.
I felt that the style of Miller’s artwork clearly relates to the content of his stories – using strong, graphic realism for his hard-hitting narratives of ‘good’ versus ‘evil’. His characters are often flawed and this is reflected in the overall mood of the images, enhanced by the lighting and limited use of colour.
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