Tuesday, December 06, 2016

366 Days with J. Jonah Jameson, Day 341: Friendly Rubbery Spider-Man

Well now, let's wander over to the Daily Planet Building in beautiful downtown Manhattan and see what Peter Parker and J. Jonah Jameson have in store for us todAIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Panels from Spider-Man: Quality of Life #1 (July 2002), script by Greg Rucka, computer art by Scott Christian Sava, letters by Richard Starkings


It is, in fact, Spider-Man: Quality of Computer Art Life, an atypical foray into all-computerized artwork in a mainstream superhero comic book. It's also...not a complete visual success. Even though it's less than 15 years old, it's lightyears away from today's comics created using computers. The art often looks over-shiny and rubbery, like a very early videogame cutscene, and occasionally a panel (like the second one below) challenges you to define exactly what you're looking at. Izzat is left knee, or his calf, or...?

Panels from Spider-Man: Quality of Life #2 (August 2002), script by Greg Rucka, computer art by Scott Christian Sava, letters by Richard Starkings

Maybe it's unfair in an era of stylized work by artists like by Chris Bachalo and Humberto Ramos to look askance at a digital version of anatomical exaggeration, but...whoa, who poured the Diet Gingold into Doc Ock?

Panel from Spider-Man: Quality of Life #1

The four-issue limited series spotlight's Spider-Man's ongoing battle with The Geico Gecko:

Panels from Spider-Man: Quality of Life #3 (September 2002), script by Greg Rucka, computer art by Scott Christian Sava, letters by Richard Starkings

No, wait, it's actually about Spider-Man versus Lara Croft:

Quality of Life certainly isn't the first comic with computer artwork. With Shatter, Mike Saenz gave us the burgeoning field of MacPaint for comic books, waaaaaay back in that far-off historical era of 1985, the age when Mr. Mister, the original NES, and Rocky IV roamed the earth like...some great roaming things.

Cover and panels from Shatter (1985 one-shot) #1 (June 1985), script by Peter B. Gillis, computer art and lettering by Michael Saenz

Shatter was spun off into a series later in 1985, eventually notching up a respectable 1980s-indie run of fourteen issues. In a few years Saenz brought his MacStylin' to Marvel for the hardcover color graphic novel Iron Man: Crash.

Panels from Iron Man: Crash graphic novel (1988); script, computer art, and letters Michael Saenz

And in 1993 Saenz is scripting (though not fully creating the art) of the aptly named cyberpunk thriller/girls in tight vinyl one-shot Donna Matrix. Sorry, folks, I know you think I have everything...but I don't have this comic!

Cover of Donna Matrix #1 (August 1993); pencils, inks; computer imaging, and 3D modeling by Norm Dwyer

Meanwhile, over at DC, Batman Goes Electric in Pepe Moreno's Batman: Digital Justice, featuring a robot Alfred Pennyworth. While I'm waiting, you can say that again to appreciate the cool futurism of it all: Robot Alfred Pennyworth.

Panels from Batman: Digital Justice graphic novel (1990); story and computer art by Pepe Moreno, art assists by Bob Fingerman

Let's see if we can avoid mentioning the unfortunate "gritty and adult" Marvel Max miniseries U.S. War Machine 2.0...whoops, I stepped right into that hot steaming landmine.

Panels from U.S. War Machine 2.0 #2 (September 2002); script by Chuck Austen, computer art by Christian Moore, letters by Randy Gentile

And of course, let us never forget that this traditionally 2D character made a foray into the third dimension in 1995:

Anyway, to sum up and in the interest of fairness, here's a somewhat positive review of Spider-Man: Quality of Life, and here's more background on the book. This CBR interview with artist Scott Sava is good inside background on the creation of the series. I do enjoy Sava's recent work a lot more than I did Quality of Life, so I'll be fair and say that it's just my opinion that the artwork didn't work for me, or that the technology wasn't just quite there yet in 2002. After all, most contemporary comics are at least partially drawn, colored, and/or lettered using a computer! Also: I'm very indebted to Chris Garcia's article "The Dawn of Computer Comics: Shatter" in researching this post.

Still, I woulda hoped that a storyline featuring the death of a long-running Spider-Man supporting cast member and the wife of one of his greatest enemies, woulda been featured in a story that would have involved fewer giggles than this:

No comments: