This may sound like sacrilege coming from a comic book artist but I really do dread drawing double page spreads. I know what you are thinking, “it’s just hyperbole to create a topic for discussion” (at least I think that’s what you’re thinking) but it’s really a true statement. It has taken years to form this opinion and it boils down to one word, PRESSURE!
I didn’t always feel this way. I remember a time very early in my career where I was sitting in the bullpen at Marvel Comics working on a page from “What The..?!”(remember that book?) I was in New York slumming for work and my deadline was fast approaching so I grabbed one of the free drafting tables and started working on my last page to that particular Forbush Man adventure. Sitting one table down and across a very narrow aisle was a young Tom Raney (he’s probably still younger than me) working on an X-men double page spread. Editor after assistant editor after intern after janitor walked by and commented on how cool his piece was and then walked by me and said nothing. I thought to myself how cool it would be to be working on X-men and get to draw a double page spread! Wrong! (well, working on X-men is always very cool)
Here is what I have discovered in the years since. There is a ton of work that goes into a double page spread. Extra planning, extra layouts and extra pressure. It makes it even worse if a writer gives you an image that isn’t necessarily inherently dynamic or deserving of a double page spread. But even when an artist is given a fight scene with a lot of characters it is still not an easy task to put together a “knock your socks off” piece of art.
What angle is most dynamic? Which character is most visually interesting? How do you favor more than one character? I think over the years I have done some pretty successful double page spreads and I have certainly had some misses that I would love to have back.
The bottom line is I rarely feel good about a double page spread when I finish it. It’s only after I can step away and look back over time that I can accurately judge its success or failure.
Since this is an art blog, let’s look a couple of my more successful attempts (failure’s are so hard to look at).
Dan Jurgens really set me up on this one from JLI #2. How can you go wrong with this imagery? When a bunch of superheroes are falling from a giant robot the right angle (low) is a no-brainer. I put Batman in the foreground because he’s the coolest.
Again, another big thanks to Dan Jurgens for providing a winning formula. Anytime you can fill up half of a double page spread with an image of Batman, you can hardly go wrong. Throw in a graveyard in the background and it really doesn’t matter that you have a non-descript “who is that guy” kind of villain in it.
All right I caved. Here is one that I don’t think is as successful as it should have been. Judd Winnick gave me good material to work (JLI Generation Lost #24) with but i think the angle I chose was a little too pedestrian. A lower angle would have made this much more dynamic. I can’t remember my thought process behind finally choosing this shot but after getting it finished I know I had serious doubts and some regret. A really strong image of Wonder Woman does help this, though.
This is pretty successful considering it is Catwoman (issue #25) not dressed as Catwoman. (You can clearly notice the similarities to the JLI Batman spread. I’m such a hack) I could have had Selina laid out and diving to perhaps fill up the page better and give it more over the top superhero energy. This is unusual for me because I actually liked it better after it was inked an colored than I did when I turned it in.
This spread from Wonder Woman #23 is a good example of finding a way to feature both characters. You surely don’t want to see Wonder Woman from behind here and you have to have the demon monster coming at the reader as well. It does look a little “posey” but I think it is still a strong piece.
I really like this one from Wonder Woman #36. It’s dynamic, full of action and the background was easy! It wasn’t a cake walk, however, as I spent a great deal of time on the figures because quite frankly, they are all that matter in this shot.
Just my opinions on my own work, you are certainly welcome to your own! See you next time!