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A Month of Art Stars – Steve Lieber

Every day this month I’m going to feature a current comic book art “star,” someone whose work I absolutely love.

I’m mostly going to try to keep from the biggest names as much as possible, because, really, do I need to talk more about the awesomeness of JH Williams, Frank Quitely and Darwyn Cooke?

Today, we’ll take a look at one of the best storytellers working in comics, Steve Lieber.

Steve Lieber has been working in comics since the early 1990s (after graduating from the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art), with his big break coming in late 1993, where some work on a Hawkman Annual led to a couple of Hawkman fill-ins which then led to Steve becoming the new artist on the book when Bill Loebs took it over (right before the book was revamped with Zero Hour). Lieber would stay on the book for about two years.

Lieber’s work was a nice breath of fresh air during the 1990s, with his realism and strong storytelling skills.

While the work was good, though, Lieber has grown tremendously as an artist since then, especially in the storytelling department.

What is striking about Lieber’s work is the fluidity of his movements, the ability to draw something that appears realistic while also maintaining the idea of movement. I think this mostly comes from his ability to draw highly realistic characters without photo references – while there are some artists who can do it (they’re the amazing ones), most artists, when doing photo reference drawings, tend to stiffen up the work, as the illusion between real and fantasy has been lost a bit and it takes the reader out of the comic.

Lieber, on the other hand, is great at drawing super-realistic backgrounds but his characters never get TOO real. That juxtaposition really works well.

His most famous work along this lines, and heck, probably his most famous work PERIOD is Whiteout, Greg Rucka’s first comic work (and one of Rucka’s best works, as well). Whiteout is a story (soon to be a major motion picture) of a murder committed in Antarctica.

Check out some of Lieber’s work from the series…

(sorry for the size of the images, WordPress’ image reducers just suddenly decided to not work for me. So odd)

Talk about juxtapositions!!

Here, now, is Lieber telling stories via two very different types of stories, the first is a page from a Hellboy story he did awhile back and the second is from his Eisner Award nominated short story (written by his wife, Sara Ryan), Me and Edith Head.

I’ll admit, I have a slight preference for when Lieber works with more realistic characters – I think his style is more unique in those occasions.

Then again, that ability to depict realism came in quite handy when he he did the Infinite Final Crisis tie-in issue of Gotham Central – he is so good at depicting realistic situations, when he drew that issue, he made everything so tangible – what it would really feel like for a regular person to be in the middle of a supernatural event.

Okay, the pages above all came courtesy of Steve’s website, www.stevelieber.com. Check it out for more awesome artwork by Steve!

12 Comments

FunkyGreenJerusalem

September 3, 2008 at 11:27 pm

I first came across his work with Whiteout, it was only due to this that I knew he’d done any work, let alone superhero work, before then.

Then again, that ability to depict realism came in quite handy when he he did the Final Crisis tie-in issue of Gotham Central -

I think you’re having a Crisis crisis!

It was the (apparently not so) Infinite Crisis, not the Final Crisis that crossed over with GC!

Hehe, yes, it was.

I’m not really familiar with Lieber’s work, but the examples here are fantastic. There looks to be a bit of a Joe K influence in those Hawkman scans, without being derivitive. And the art on Whiteout is great. Haven’t heard of that series before, but maybe I’ll have to give it a look.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

September 4, 2008 at 12:19 am

And the art on Whiteout is great. Haven’t heard of that series before, but maybe I’ll have to give it a look.

I’m surprised you haven’t heard of before, but you really should give it a go – it’s good stuff!
I didn’t like the sequel that much, went too far in the action adventure direction, where as the first one has some action, it’s focused more on a murder mystery.
It also works as a prequel of sorts to Rucka’s other excellent series, Queen And Country.

I liked that cover image for Hawkman 6 so much that I had it airbrushed onto a t-shirt when I was a teenager (something I probably shouldn’t have just admitted to… but it’s not like I still have it now or anything… heh). Loved his work on the title and the whole post Zero-Hour totemic animal avatar take on the character (which lasted what, 4 whole issues?) is still one of my favorite spins on the concept.

oh, lieber. he can drybrush and whiteout (haha) the heck out of a page. can’t wait for the third WHITEOUT book.

the guy has a great zine-sketchbook somewhere out there. maybe mr cronin can find scans of it for us somehow…

and the ZERO HOUR HAWKMAN looks a bit like a kelley jones drawing.

He also did the last GRENDEL TALES mini. (I forget the title)

"O" the Humanatee!

September 4, 2008 at 11:08 am

Lieber’s definitely one of the good ‘uns, working in the tradition of classic adventure comic strip art and the illustration-oriented styles of some of the EC greats: The “ability to draw highly realistic characters without photo references” used to be far more widespread in comic books. At the same time, he’s got modern storytelling chops. That Whiteout page where the lead character’s being attacked is a good example; it reminds me of some of David Mazzuchelli’s work on Batman: Year One and his later work on Daredevil.

Mazzuchelli is a PERFECT example, O!

Much like Mazz, Lieber can do the superheroes and do them well, but they really both excel at drawing down-to-Earth situations.

Based on the Hawkman covers, it seems like he had an Kelly Jones/Sam Keith/Early Jae Lee vibe going on, Though it got toned down between issue 6 & issue 21. The Whiteout examples look like high grade late ’70s early ’80s magazine B&W art (that’s a compliment, honestly) When are they from?

The man has a wide variety of styles, but they all seem to suit him.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

September 4, 2008 at 7:44 pm

When are they from?

Whiteout was late 90’s or early 00’s.

It was the book that really made me pay attention to Oni.

Great choice!

Steve Lieber is one of those truly underrated artists. As much as I liked Whiteout (like everyone else), Lieber’s best work are his pieces he did for wonderful and much lamented BIG BOOK OF books from Paradox Press/DC (DAMN YOU DC FOR STOPPING THOSE! BEST BOOKS EVER!) His line work in the Big Book of Weird Wild West is some of my favorite work he’s done. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him and he told me he’s extremely proud of those works.

His little run on Detective with Rucka was solid as well.

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