Comic Book Illustration, Artistic Styles, and Narrative Impact
256 Pages, 82 illustrations
Sales Date: August 1, 2023
An examination of the art in superhero comics and how style influences comic narratives.
For many, the idea of comic book art implies simplistic four-color renderings of stiff characters slugging it out. In fact, modern superhero comic books showcase a range of complex artistic styles, with diverse connotations. Leading comics scholar Jeffrey A. Brown assesses six distinct approaches to superhero illustration—idealism, realism, cute, retro, grotesque, and noir—examining how each visually represents the superhero as a symbolic construct freighted with meaning.
Whereas comic book studies tend to focus on text and narrative, Super Bodies gives overdue credit to the artwork, which is not only a principal source of the appeal of comic books but also central to the values these works embody. Brown argues that superheroes are to be taken not as representations of people but as iconic types, and the art conveys this. Even the most realistic comic illustrations are designed to suggest not persons but ideas—ideas about bodies and societies. Thus the appearance of superheroes both directly and indirectly influences the story being told as well as the opinions readers form concerning justice, authority, gender, puberty, sexuality, ethnicity, violence, and other concepts central to political and cultural life.
Super Bodies provides an entirely new framework for thinking through the importance of visual style in comics. It is likely to be incredibly generative for the field of comics studies and beyond.
— Bart Beaty, coeditor of Comics Studies: A GuidebookThis engaging discussion of styles as a broader issue, rather than the styles of individual artists, will appeal to students at all levels and academics in fields including comics studies, but also design, illustration, and cultural and media studies.
— Mel Gibson, author of Remembered Reading: Memory, Comics and Post-War Constructions of British GirlhoodNot surprisingly, this is exceptionally well illustrated for an academic book. It is an important contribution to comics scholarship and will help anyone appreciate the medium more deeply.
- 1. How to Draw Superheroes
- 2. The Superhero and the Dessinateur
- 3. Idealism and Comic Book Heroes
- 4. Retro Art and Nostalgia
- 5. Realism in an Unrealistic Genre
- 6. Super Cute Manga, Kawaii, and Infantilization
- 7. Grotesque Bodies and Monstrous Heroes
- 8. Superhero Noir, More than Just Black and White
- 9. Drawing Conclusions
- Works Cited