Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My Year With Marvel: POC Artists, Part I

A pale red banner that reads A More Diverse Universe 2015, October 4-17, #Diversiverse. An icon beside the text features a brown hand with a red star on its palm.

The other week, we talked about four POC who’ve written for Marvel. This week I want to look at four Asian-descended artists, with a post on artists of ethnicities to follow at a later date.

The majority of my diverse Marvel reading comes from the art department as Marvel does far better with hiring POC artists than they do with POC writers. From the late 90s on--ie, from the advent of the internet--non-American artists also account for a decent percentage of the company’s bullpen. I’m continually surprised at the sheer number of South American, Asian, and European artists I encounter. (No one from Africa has shown up on my reading list yet.) And many, though certainly not all, of these artists are people of colour. Added to the non-white American artists on the company's payroll, they form a creative pool that helps dictate Marvel’s look, albeit not without editorial challenges.

As was the case with the writers I highlighted earlier, the recs list below is a sample only. I encourage you to explore A More Diverse Marvel Universe for a broader (but still incomplete) list of other POC artists who’ve worked for Marvel.

Four comics panels arranged horizontally. In the first, Kate raises one finger as someone off screen asks, 'He wants to press charges, this florist of yours?' In the second, Kate pouts with her arms crossed. In the third, a balding white man in a white shirt and grey tie writes on a clipboard as he says, 'Well unless your guy wants to tell me that himself and why he thinks it's necessarily so, there's nothing we can do about it. Have a nice day, Ms Bishop. Don't come back. I'll have you shot. Or arrested. I dunno yet.' In the fourth, Kate adopts an offended yet determined expression, still with her arms crossed.
From HAWKEYE #14

American artist Annie Wu’s most prominent Marvel attachment involves my very favouritest Marvel title: HAWKEYE, which I consider one of the comics and want you to read in the worst possible way.

Wu drew the bulk of the series’ third arc, L.A. WOMAN [Marvel Unlimited | Amazon | The Book Depository], in which Kate Bishop (light of my heart; breath in my lungs) moves to Los Angeles and becomes a private detective. Wu's skill at conveying attitude with a scant few lines makes her the perfect fit for intrepid Kate. Her panels are full of telling body language and a stellar sense of movement that drives the story forward even during its quietest moments.

Watch for her as the primary artist on DC’s BLACK CANARY, too.

A single comics panel, featuring a young black man in a dark blue costume charging through a church towards a man in a black suit. The suited man falls backward as two throwing stars enter his shoulder. Two other people hover to the right, one of them wearing a bright purple dress, while a slew of people are visible in the church pews beyond the main figures. The scene appears titled within the panel.

British artist Jim Cheung collaborated with writer Allan Heinberg to create one of my favourite superhero teams: the Young Avengers [Marvel Unlimited | Amazon], a talented group of teenagers who rank the abovementioned Kate Bishop among their number.

Cheung pushes the action forward with every panel thanks to his excellent sense of movement. He also employs unexpected angles and different perspectives within otherwise conventional panel layouts, imbuing each page with extra oomph. His comics are a delight to view.

Three comics panels arranged horizontally. The first features a relatively close-in shot of the Eiffel Tower at night. One word bubble reads, 'Crazy night. You okay?' The next reads, 'Yes.' The next reads, 'You sure?' followed by, 'Yes... are YOU okay?' followed by, 'I'm like a rock star, dude. I'm fantastic.' The second panel features two young women perched on the tower's girders. One says, 'But... you know... if you ever want to talk about anything... anything at all... I'll be there for you. We're friends now. You get that, right? Friends take care of each other, like family. You have family, X. You have us.' The other woman replies, 'What if... there are some things I cannot put into words?' The last panel features a close in illustration of a young Asian woman's face in profile. She says, 'Words are overrated. You can pick up the phone... and we'll be quiet together. I just want you to know you can count on me... in case you ever need... in case you ever feel like you're...'
From X-23 #12

I know, I know; we talked about X-23 [Marvel Unlimited | Amazon | The Book Depository] when we discussed series writer Marjorie Liu, but I have to rec it again because of Japanese artist Sana Takada. She’s the artist behind much of the series' later run, and her work is amazing. She blends the standard western superheroic approach with manga influences to create something fresh and interesting on every page whether she's dealing with action sequences, character-driven moments, or sweeping vistas.

On the non-Marvel front, keep an eye out for MONSTRESS, her creator-owned collaboration with Liu.

Three long, thin panels featuring a dark-haired man with possibly Japanese features standing against a rose window that looks out on a starry sky. In the first panel, he has his hands clasped before him and his face upraised. The caption reads, 'Every night, he goes ahead of me, to mediate alone. So that while he's sleeping he doesn't accidentally say something that might destroy us all.' The second panel draws closer to the man, who cups his hands in front of his chest and looks straight forward, his eyes shadowed. A thin crown topped with a two-pronged fork is now visible around his forehead. The caption reads, 'For one hour every night, Marista... to purge all the thoughts of the day from his mind. Can you imagine the sheer effort of will that it takes to force yourself to sleep in absolute silence?' The third panel draws in close to his face. His eyes are now closed, his chin tilted downwards. The caption reads, 'To push away every sigh and sound you've experienced, to detach yourself from even the memory of your emotions--'

For some reason, most of American artist Jae Lee’s comics aren’t properly tagged on Marvel Unlimited, so they always come as a surprise. I think I’m about to read some random book, and BAM! Lee’s art is right there in my eyeballs, perfectly complementing the scripts of his frequent collaborator Paul Jenkins.

Lee’s panels are stark and haunting with their deep blacks and occasional, unexpected open spaces amidst otherwise busy compositions; a perfect fit for the stories he tells alongside Jenkins. I’ll direct your particular attention to INHUMANS [Marvel Unlimited | Amazon | The Book Depository], a great starting place for anyone interested in the Kree-engineered race of superhumans. You should also explore THE SENTRY [Marvel Unlimited | Amazon], a less idealistic look at the kind of superhero who dominated the genre in the mid to late twentieth century.

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