Young Man Yells At Cloud: An Essay on the Artistic Process
I bought two original pages at C2E2 2016.
The first, a page from a 2015 issue of Insexts (Do you like Hannibal? You'll like Insexts.) as a gift for my partner.
The second, a page from a 1992 Flash comic.
Click on images to expand.
The Insexts page (far right) looks like a piece of art. Not a single word balloon profanes the page. The first three panels show a butterfly hovering around a bush, the fourth and final panel pulls back to reveal a genteel garden party. Persons of refinement pour tea beneath gaslights.
The Flash page (far left) looks like it came in wounded. There's notes all over the thing, a transparency sheet taped over one of the panels, the word Fix in blue pencil (a color invisible to the scanner) in a background and a stamp on the back that lets me know the page is copyright DC Comics 1992.
I like the Flash page better.
It's not because of the superhero angle, or the difference in style between the two pencillers.
The Insexts page is exquisite. You can tell Ariela Kristantina (the penciler, who inked herself) took time and care to get her many thin black lines right. There are no notes to the colorist. That page looks like art and art arrives fully formed.
Comics, however, is about engineering. And that's why I like the Flash page (by journeyman comics author Phil Hester) more. All the work is there, from the check boxes on the top of the page that say the page has been proofread to the word balloons physically pasted onto the page and finally the whiteout to indicate an 11th hour change to the lettering. This is how you made comics in 1992.
It's not how you make comics today. Which is good! Technology (read: Dropbox, FTP, Manga Studio) means the artists (who are also engineers!) have a greater margin for error when their work is passed to the next person in the chain.
The sense that someone labored here when seeing the original pages is interesting to artists, professors, and aspiring weirdoes only. The audience, famously, tunes out when artists talk about process or materials. And that's all this Flash page is to me. Process. I have no connection to the story. I don't even know where I would find the printed comic that the page corresponds to.
I bought the Insexts page for my partner because she adores the story. She has a connection to Insexts. She wants that moment, issue two, page one. The Flash page contains none of that. Mr. Hester's page interests me as an artifact first, and second as a work of art to inspire aesthetic pleasure.
Dirty pages demystify the artistic process. I find that inspiring. The difference, in short, is between "this is incredible" and "this is just glue, paper, pens, and Sharpie."
Here's the conclusion: We lose something with clean pages, but not truly. There's enough tutorials on the internet as well as material in the back of collections detailing process that the knowledge will still be there, but less accessible in a tactile manner.
Ms. Kristantina's page will get framed and admired from a safe distance.
Mr. Hester's page will get no frame and fingers all over it, so onlookers can pick it apart for knowledge.
Which fate do you pity more?