Jun 12, 2013

Pop Medicine: Five Long Minutes

Pop Medicine is a "visiting" column by Travis Hedge Coke for the Comics Cube! Click here for the archive!

Fifteen in Fifteen
Pop Medicine
Travis Hedge Coke

I recently avoided reading any of an entire set of review copies I was sent for an imprint, read through a complete omnibus of the single worst comic (on all fronts) I can recall where the talent did seem to actually be trying genuinely and in earnest, and I still can’t quite work out how to get Amazon.cn and Amazon.com to sync up and behave for me. It’s not a great week in comics for me, outside of rereading Lazarus Churchyard and one of my students drawing Thor freaking out over Tony Stark kissing his brother.

I needed to avoid even potentially dealing with shitty comics or the shitty treatment, by publishers or fans, of comics talent.

I found Duy’s first go at laying down what fifteen pencilers stick in his taste the strongest (or the readiest; I don’t know – this isn’t a science), and I wanted to do something similar. But, the thing is, pencilers get talked about a lot, and there’s always eighty-three artists you could also list who just blip out of your mind at the critical moment. Which, maybe, is why Duy did a second list for the Cube, later on. In any case, I am going to try to do three lists, artists, colorists, and editors, because I talk too much about writers, don’t see enough pre-inked art to be sure on inkers, and lettering has always been the weakest aspect of the average comic, so my list would be really short and highly unfair.

To be clear, the lists were made in five minutes, no revisions, no reordering of names, and I then took some time to give a one or two sentence comment on each.


Fifteen Artists in Five Minutes

Leiji Matsumoto – Leiji Matsumoto has a small set of basic heads and bodies he sort of swaps around, but then, so too, does the world when you’re remembering. And, nobody draws the concept of machine or standing proud than this man.

Moto Hagio – She doesn’t make me feel emotion, so much as instantaneously ripping emotions out of the most private areas of my soul and making me look at them. And she’s really good with symbolism.



George Herriman – George Herriman is nutso good. I’d hate to ink or redraw Herriman, because it’s exactly as it all should be.

Jack Kirby – Jack Kirby will go down in history as this raw, unconsidered artist because of his speed and the apparently effortless nature of his comics. But every comic he did has innovations, experiments, and an ever-developing understanding of comics’ potential.


Jill Thompson – I’ve loved Jill Thompson’s work since my high school librarian said, “my friend’s drawing these five superheroes who fight oppression and boredom” and brought me back into The Invisibles. And she painted a chibi-looking Creature from the Black Lagoon once.

Sue Coe – Sue Coe should do more comics. But, only the comics she wants to do. And then everyone should read them.

Erik Larsen – Like Kirby, Larsen’s going to be remembered as a simple superheroics guy, but he is still the most competent artist of the Image founders and constantly trying and pulling off new things without ever really seeming like he’s out of his safe zone. His safe zone is, apparently, huge.

Charles Burns – Those thick lines! Those heady and often unrepresentative details! Swoon!

Walt Simonson – Walt Simonson is really smart. You can tell he’s smart just by the way he draws someone lugging a backpack or scratching their head.


Rumiko Takahashi – She draws really really cute aprons. Really cute. And sweaters. You have no idea.

Sanomi Matoh – I’m not entirely sure how she got on this list. But Dee is devilishly cute.

Duncan Fegredo – So much power in this guy’s linework. And nobody does an erotic or physical charge in comics like Fegredo.

Gene Colan – In the mid-90s, the then long past his heyday Colan was part of a jam comic called Heroes and Legends and in only maybe three pages, he trumped every other penciler who turned in work that year in all of comics. Maybe not quite, but he came so close you have to stand up and salute the guy.

Phil Jimenez – Phil Jimenez draws people who look like they fart and sweat, but they’re still more glamorous than flesh and blood folks. George Perez drawings through a Ken Russell mirror.

Frank Miller – Miller draws like a motherfucker.


Ten Colorists in Five Minutes

Tatjana Wood – Even in the days when coloring reproduction was dodgy as hell, Wood could turn those limitations in bursts of evocative strength. And she really is the part of a certain Swamp Thing run that has aged the best.

Laura Martin – There was a time when there were comics that Laura DePuy/Martin was coloring and the rest of comics. She really kidney-punched the coloring aspect of comics and then held it propped up until it could stand proper again.

Nathan Eyring – Putting the pop! in pop. A sheen, and a shine, and sweet glow in every page he’s done.

D’Israeli – Isn’t there egg in a page of Lazarus Churchyard? Where D’Israeli may have gone inaccurate in representing the world in color, the world should correct itself.

Kenichi Sonoda – Kenichi Sonoda’s color work looks like he just did it for fun. There’s a gloss of love coating, protecting, highlighting every color and shade.


Gregory Wright – Gregory Wright is the first colorist I can recall who seemed to get that there are gradations of color change as an object moves through a field and interacts with shadow, light, and distance.

Christie “Max” Scheele – Her paintings, today, are really sweet, too, but when she was a comics colorist, she always seemed just ahead of the curve enough to keep a constant energy going without losing competency or being distracting.

Whoever colored Gene Colan’s Daredevil run – The uncredited colorist(s) on his lengthy run not only enhanced the pencils in a way many Colan-coloring jobs fail to, but they were also progressive in their range of skin-tones and portrayal of depth and focus.

Lynn Varley – Varley’s work always seems completely tonally sound to me, and just exudes confidence. Astonishing.

Richmond Lewis – Year One was my first Batman comic and it’s solid-toned Bruce Wayne, little patterns, and all the swimming, roiling colors of the world did in my little brain. Still does.

Five Editors in Five Minutes

Karen Berger – My admiration for and interest in Karen Berger knows few bounds. No one did more for creator-owned mature comic books in the monthly and trade format than Karen Berger.

Stan Lee – I readily believe the artists did most of the writing on 60s Marvel books, but Marvel Comics is the House That Stan Built.

Mark Waid – Is it weird that I can’t imagine Mark Waid actively editing? He’s edited some great comics, but having seen video of him, having read his work, read interviews, etc, I cannot imagine what he might be like as an editor.

Annette Roman – The three manga collections right in front of me were all edited by Annette Roman. A ton of manga I am really happy was brought over to English was, in fact, edited or adapted by Annette Roman.

Trish Ledoux – Why is there no Wikipedia page for Trish Ledoux? (Now that there’s one for Marie Javins again, this is the absence from Wikipedia that bugs me the most.)

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