A funny thing happens on the way to a printed comic book page…
The art gets less interesting.
Now this isn’t a rant against inkers or colorists or computer effects (but seriously, motion blur?). It’s just a thought I’ve had since I was a kid and got my first look at original comic art and uninked pages. Admittedly, part of this is a matter of personal taste, and yet there is undeniably some vitality and pure raw energy that often seems to get lost in translation through the long process from pencils to print. Some of this is because until quite recently, it has been difficult to reproduce subtle line work and value in print. But I think there’s a larger conceptual problem at play for a lot of comics professionals, and it comes down to this:
Comic book artists don’t like to show their work.
I don’t mean that in terms of “body of work.” I mean it in the way your math teacher used to take points off if you didn’t write out the steps that led to your answer. And I also mean it in terms of “labor,” the actual physical process one undergoes to create something. There are notable exceptions of course, but there seems a desire in the vast majority of comics, especially superhero comics, to eliminate all smudges and scribbles in favor of an ultra smooth and shiny finish, as if each page was designed by a super sophisticated and efficient arting machine. It’s a strange quirk of the medium and one that derives from a number of factors – the aforementioned technological restraints, the inherent nature of massed produced images, and one particular philosophical issue that seems most pronounced in sequential storytelling specifically.