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Possibly the Most Harmful Art I’ve Seen in a Comic

This week’s issue of Uncanny X-Men (#510) possiby has the most harmful art to a story that I’ve seen in a comic.

I’ve seen plenty of comics with bad art.

I’ve seen plenty of comics where the artist was not a particularly good storyteller.

This comic, though, is pretty much one long extended fight sequence, and it was made darn near incoherent by Greg Land.

People speak often about the ethical issues of someone copying a drawing directly from an image, and thos concerns are likely fair enough, but when I think of Greg Land, my problems are not so much ethical ones, but the fact that his process results in terrible art and particularly terrible storytelling. When you only have a certain amount of poses to work with, you just can’t tell the story the correct way. And when the characters all look more or less the same (as they’re all based on the same small set of models/”actresses”), it just makes the book that much more incoherent.

It is stunning how much better this book is when the Dodsons are drawing it – then, the book is actually coherent, and Fraction’s stories are given a chance.

Here, the story is absolutely killed by the art. Killed. Fraction didn’t even have a chance with this comic (this is not to say that he is blameless for the story, but just that he did not have a CHANCE to make this a good comic book due to the art).

Such harmful artwork to the comic.

My problem with scans is that I can’t just scan the whole book, ya know? And just showing one snippet doesn’t really do it justice, but fair enough, here’s a few pages…

80 Comments

Could you scan some panels for examples?

I, for one, have problems both with the ethical ramifications of Land’s process, and the uniformly shitty art it produces.

I for one miss the days when comics were actually pencilled and not copies of photos and lots of the same computer generated backgrounds and images. I miss Kirby, Kane, Buscema, etc. Maybe I’m just a geezer in comicland now.

This is kind of useless without pictures.

Land used to be so good. I really like his work on Sojourn (was it called?) But ever since coming to Marvel his technique has gotten so transparent yet overwhelming, while his actual story-telling has suffered. It’s a weird kind of version of Rob Liefeld. It’s definitely _something_ and definitely recognizable and unique and instantly appealing if you’re in for the “wow, awesome art!!!” but not particularly pleasant or engaging if you’ve read lots of comics. But I kind of like it, still.

Hmmm, do I put money down because you advertised that it is perversely bad, read browse the book and put it back on the shelf, or live with the gnawing curiosity?

I REALLY would’ve like to have seen an example or two, since I’m not gonna be around a comics shop for a while to flip through.

I felt that way about the X-Men Annual 2001. I haven’t seen much of Ashley Wood’s art, and I suppose it’s quite appropriate for some stories, but this particular issue was rendered completely unintelligible. If I can’t tell who the characters are on the page — if I can’t tell the characters from the background, for Pete’s sake — then I’d say the art is hurting the story. You’re saying that X-Men #510 is worse than that? This I gotta see.

interestingly enough, as much as I hate Land’s (nu-school) art, I thought this was fairly decent. I agree that some of the panels were messed up, but overall, he didn’t make my eyes bleed. Odd that we would have such totally opposite reactions. As I’m going to point out in my review, there’s a different reason this issue (and Fraction’s run as a whole) isn’t as good as it could be, and it has nothing to do with Land.

What the hell happened to Land after his Nightwing run?

Oh yeah. “Photo realism.” Right.

Ashley Wood is one of the best artists in comics. That said, I don’t know if he’d suit X-Men. He’s done some bitching Spawn though. I’ll grant that his style takes some getting used to, but with Dave McKean seemingly gone from comics for the most part, it’s nice to have someone bringing the alternative style.

I don’t have any scans of the incoherent fight scenes, but here’s a little taste of this issue:

http://img20.imageshack.us/img20/2623/uncanny510p17.jpg

Admittedly, this is more a page that exemplifies everything wrong with the writing on this title than the art, but the art is still absolutely atrocious.

Honestly, not even JH Williams III or Frank Quitely could have saved this comic.

I’m confused, where do emma’s restraints go? how does emma go from cradling scott to cradling another girl?

JH Williams III can save anything! ANYTHING.

Why are people asking for reference pictures, the point of Brian’s post is how crappy Land’s artwork truns out.

We’ve already had a million discussions about how he copies and swipes other art/photos.

I personally think the editor on Uncanny X-Men must actually have mental problems, not just because he hired Land to do artwork but because he has Dodson doing art back to back with Land. On the one hand you’ve got crappy photorealism and on the other hand you’ve got stylized exeggeration. The constant shift between styles could induce whiplash in addition to negative reader experience.

Take a look at the last panel from the second page (the phoenix one). Now take a look at this: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/bf/Endsong1.png

He even apes HIMSELF.

I honestly don’t think that art is too bad. You want to see bad art that hurts stories pick up the X-Factor run when Stroman was doing it. Good lord. Normally art, even bad art, doesn’t put me off of reading the comic, but THAT art was so bad I skipped over those issues entirely because I just couldn’t stand to look at it.

Preston: People were asking for examples of the art in the issue at all, because originally this post didn’t have any scans in it.

Land’s art is pretty crappy there for sure, but how much of the bad storytelling is due to Fraction’s writing? There are some writers who, when handed incoherent storytelling, try to use the dialogue to compensate and explain what’s supposed to be happening. Fraction’s words seem to be flowing as incoherently as the art, making me wonder if maybe Land’s just drawing what Fraction wants.

I don’t have any Land-drawn comics as reference, but does he usually use long horizontal panels lined up vertically as a layout? If he does, then I’d agree his layouts are dull and uninspired.

However, if he doesn’t then I can easily believe Matt Fraction asked him to do it in the script. Perhaps hoping it’d work the same way as quick cuts in a movie and would better accommodate Land’s photo-realistic (tracing) style.

The ethical implications of Land’s almost-plagiaristic-lightboxing are one problem, but there’s also the equally bad issue of his representation of women; he does not draw women with different body types, he does not draw women with different faces ( note how his Revanche/Psylocke cover has the British and Asian characters’ faces looking exactly alike ), and he does not draw women with faces that convey an expression you’d see outside a porno flick. The Sisterhood arc is shaping up to be nothing more than a massive catfight, which is most damning because it’s with a book that traditionally has had better female characters and ( somewhat ) more female fans than other superhero comics, but here the empowerment of the X-Women is turned into little more than mud wrestling.

I’m back to the hobby after leaving it 15 years ago. I might be in the minority, but Land’s art looks gorgeous to me, especially compared to the Rob Liefield “art” I had to endure during those years.

I agree that’s some very clunky and disjointed storytelling. Having said that, maybe I’ve just read more awful comics, but I don’t think it quite lives up to the hyperbole.

I honestly don’t think that art is too bad. You want to see bad art that hurts stories pick up the X-Factor run when Stroman was doing it.

HA! I actually did just that tonight. M…. she looka like-a man. But generally, the action still flowed better on those issues than this. And I don’t think Stroman copied his own work in those issues.

sonovadiddly.

Larry Stroman is great. He’s very stylized but he’s still an effective storyteller. I think the issue Brian is raising is that Greg Land’s artwork, while slick and pretty, isn’t effective at telling the writer’s story, which would kind of defeat the purpose of being a comic book artist / sequential artist.

Andrew Collins

May 21, 2009 at 4:43 pm

I’m back to the hobby after leaving it 15 years ago. I might be in the minority, but Land’s art looks gorgeous to me, especially compared to the Rob Liefield “art” I had to endure during those years.

No offense Ferro, but saying someone is at least better than Liefeld is the texbook example of Damning With Faint Praise…

LOL…you’re right of course, Andrew. Just wanted to drive the point home that Land’s art isn’t so bad – it’s actually perfect for the testosterone-laden teenage demographic the books are geared to. Actually makes me wonder how the heck Liefeld actually gained an almost-iconic status back then.

[…] Possibly the Most Harmful Art I’ve Seen in a Comic […]

Just from the cover… is it just me or does Emma and her attacker look a little too “happy” to be locked in a life-and-death struggle, and does Emma’s head look detatched? Anyway, the interior looks like it gets worse: facial expressions don’t match the emotion, none of the women’s features are consistant (or even that indivisualistic), poses and positioning don’t flow from panel to panel, blatant copy/pasting (as painfully evident in the sample Dave posted) … I’m starting to believe that Land has spread himself very thin which is why the tracing/lightboxing is getting even more brasen.

Having said that, maybe I’ve just read more awful comics, but I don’t think it quite lives up to the hyperbole.

Exactly. It’s really bad, but not quite as bad as the hyperbole. Now that Marc Pacella drawn Avengers Annual that Brian linked to some weeks back? Now that had to be most harmful art I’ve ever seen.

I have absolutely hated Land’s art on this series. Having said that, this issue wasn’t that bad. Aside from the scene with the Cuckoos, it was pretty tolerable. I usually have to struggle to make it through, but this week was no problem.

I’d rather look at this book than Stroman’s recent X-Factor stint.
Sorry guys!

I didn’t see what was so horrible about any of that art.

I don’t really see what’s so horrible about Greg Land in general.

@Nitz

Land’s certainly not the only artist out there drawing women with the same body/faces. I think that’s a criticism that can be directed to the majority of mainstream superhero artists.

I agree it’s a problem, but it certainly isn’t a new problem for Uncanny X-men.

It’s like the comic book version of Plan 9. Horrible, yet I can’t stop myself from staring, pointing, and laughing.

@Chris Jones
For me, I think it’s the fact that most of the time the faces don’t match the emotion or scene. It’s really unnerving. I don’t have a problem with photorealism, I don’t think. Salvador Larroca has switched to that recently. His arc on Uncanny was drastically different from the last time I had seen his stuff (which was back on his X-Men stint with Milligan,) but I really enjoyed it. He balances that style with the technique he already mastered. Although, there was one panel where Nightcrawler look an awful lot like Tom Cruise… Anyway, Land’s weakness is relying too much on references instead of strengthening the story with his own creativity.

Honestly, I love Fraction. He was repeatedly cited as one of the best emerging talents here in the last couple years, and rightly so.

And I also have a special place in my heart for Warren Ellis. But X-Men is just a bad fit for both of them.

In Fraction’s case, he doesn’t seem to know which characters he wants to write; in Ellis’s, it’s that all the X-Men suddenly talk like the cast of Planetary. In both books, well, everyone is suddenly fucking each other or talking about fucking each other, which is honestly a little pathetic for a forty-year-running superhero book in a supposedly mature post-1990s age.

And, yeah, Land makes everything absolutely terrible, and despite every explanation I’ve heard I still don’t know why he gets work, because honestly he’s bad for Marvel’s image and bad for the industry and can’t possibly be making that up in the books he’s “drawing”. But honestly this book would still be bad if it was drawn by Dave Gibbons.

I’ve seen worse comics art. Far, far worse. It IS distracting, however. Can’t tell if it was meant to be that way or not.

On the other hand, that dialog was terrible. It just sounded hockey. Like they didn’t have enough roomin the word balloons for all the words. Maybe it sounds better in context?

I too have seen much worse, but the flow was horrible, it seemed disjointed–and not just becasue we come in part way through a story.

I too miss true sequential art.

I’m not saying Land did a great job, but in the panels above the only part that disn’t make perfect sense in the context of the comic was the part where Emma’s suddenly to the left (from the reader’s perspective) of a random blonde who doesn’t appear to be the person to the immediate left of Cyclops in the previous panel. I’m pretty sure what’s supposed to be happening is that, having freed Scott from the psychic illusion, Emma is moving down a row of other people similarly trapped, but that’s mostly because it’s the only explanation I can come up with.

On the other hand, everything else is pretty clear IF you’ve read the comic. If you haven’t read the comic, the fact that it shifts back and forth between the “real world” and the illusions that Lady Mastermind is projecting into Scott and Emma’s heads is obviously going to be confusing, but it’s not fair to blame that on Land both because his work is being taken out of context and because I have a hard time believing the shifting perspectives were a command decision on his part and not part of the script he was given to work with.

(It also occurs to me that it doesn’t make much sense if you don’t know that Emma’s immune to psychic attacks in her diamond form and that the restraints holding her down were illusionary, which is why she’s suddenly unbound when she shifts form)

Land’s art is awful with the many problems listed above, my biggest complaint is the constant terrifyingly big smiles the characters always have, but I think Fraction’s writing is just as big of a problem with this series. Somebody mention the Cuckoos scene earlier and that is a perfect example. All of a sudden these young teenage girls are ready to get naked together in front of Elixer for the sake of yoga? Also, Elixer is a main character in X-Force and his blurb box doesn’t match up to that characterization in the slightest. Along those same lines his depiction of Armor as a terrified little girl doesn’t match up at all with her depiction in Astonishing.
It seems that he wants to write every character as some hipster no matter if they’ve ever been that way in the past. From this same issue the conversation Wolverine had during the battle is a good example. I can’t wait until Fraction gets the boot. I just wish I didn’t have every issue since Giant Size 1 b/c now I feel obligated to keep buying this crap. Ugh.

“Josh Foley — Elixir. Member of a black ops killing squad. Murderer of Rev. William Stryker. Zen Pacifist.”
“Mindeee, Phoebe and Celeste — The Stepford Cuckoos. Three-in one hive mind. Incredibly slutty. Better at hand to hand combat than X-23.”
Matt Fraction — Writer. Has apparently never read an X-Men comic published in the last 10 years.

Chuck D, please reconsider your sense of obligation. There are so many excellent comics out there that could easily trump “crap”. As someone who has broken free of much of the collector mentality, I can tell you it’s much better and way more interesting than to be saddled with mediocrity due to habit.

Those posted pages weren’t hard to follow. I’ve seen much worse from Land. Granted there were only a couple pages, maybe the rest is worse.

I used to be on the hate Land band wagon. However I got over it and decided to appreciate it for what it is. Yes everyone looks the same and they can’t stop smiling, but I have to say this issue is some of the best I have seen of his work (not to say I am an expert). I was particularly impressed with the panels with Logan holding Psylocke hostage. She didn’t look like she was having an orgasm during it. I understand people’s issue with Land but to say the book is unreadable or mind-bogglingly horrible is ridiculous.

And besides there are much worse: Stroman, after seeing one issue of his X-Factor I was ready to give up my favorite x-book; Bianchi’s Astonishing X-men is often very confusing and his faces are just wrong; and I can’t remember who was doing the art but during the ultimate x-men arc where they met the morlocks was hideous. By comparison Land is not that bad and even on his own his drawing or tracings (which i don’t find such a big deal) are beautiful.

What I want to know is, in the panels with Scott in the classroom, who is guy next to Banshee? We obviously can’t tell who the one on the end is, but any idea who the other is?

Everyone else I recognise: Thunderbird, Banshee, Ms. Grey, Ms. Pryor, the dead Cuckoos, and Kitty.

Anyone know?

The best I can come up with off the top of my head is that it was supposed to be Skin from Generation-X but got miscolored. Maybe he and the person behind him (I thought that was Beast until I realized everyone other than Scott in that room is supposed to be dead) just represent two of the many students killed when the mansion was last attacked (i.e., Land needed to fill out the room but couldn’t think of any more dead X-Men).

By the bye, mea culpa for the fact that in my haste to explain how the panels were “pretty clear” I implied (heck, I outright said) that the “white room” bits with Emma and the *ahem* mysterious redhead were Lady Mastermind’s illusions. That’s just stuff on the astral plane (maybe not literally the astral plane but, you know, in Emma’s mind, but presumably not coming from Lady M). The illusion Lady Mastermind is projecting into Emma is the bondage gear. I also misspelled “didn’t” in the first sentence. Thank you.

See, I’m with you about the art being hurtful to the story…but you actually chose perhaps the one sequence in the book where it’s…sequential…it actually flows.

Since I could only pick a couple of pages, I went with the ones that included the most straightforward errors (Emma’s bonds disappearing, Dazzler showing up out of nowhere).

Stroman is a WAAAAAY better artist than Land!

Having said that, Stroman’s recent run on X-Factor was far from his best stuff. It was a bad match.

Bring back Alien Legion!

Ashley Wood’s art may be good in recent years (I haven’t checked) but it made Ghost Rider 2099 basically incomprehensible at the time.

Yeah, this was not remotely as bad as I was expecting. That’s some good hyperbole there, but I think a lot of people here would classify the sub-Liefeld inking brigade of the early 90’s as “Most Harmful,” simply because their ineptitude was brushed off as “style,” and that style then poisoned a lot of incoming artists and made for half a decade of unreadable art industry-wide.

After that “Greg Land’s lightboxing habit is annoying” doesn’t really seem like a big deal.

While art is subjective, I think the major point is that Land has done much better. If you don’t believe, go look at Birds of Prey or Nightwing. His reliance on photo reference is out and out copying. He isn’t just looking at a picture and interpreting it, he is copying it and shoehorning it into the story. I am a Marvel stockholder and it makes me sick that the company allows this sort of stuff. Its amazing that there are artists that can’t get work when there is junk like this in a flagship book.

The Snappy Sneezer

May 22, 2009 at 7:26 am

Rob Liefeld has more talent and imagination in his left pinky toe than this guy.

I think Land is fine for pinup art, but his storytelling is a train wreck that’s a mile away. (You can’t stop looking, but you can’t tell what’s going on, either)

Land pisse d me off when he was on Ultimate FF, tho. None of the characters were “on model” – Johnny worst of all. He went from having a short haircut in one issue to long curly hair in the next.

I agree with those who said the art is average, not “the most harmful” ever.

To offer a couple of possible answers (and thereby win a No-Prize):

1) Emma’s restraints are psychic in nature. They come and go depending on whether pseudo-Maddie is concentrating.

2) The blonde girl in lavender whom Emma is comforting is the blonde girl in pink from the previous panels. The script may have said something like:

Panel 1: Emma comforts Scott.

Panel 2: Emma comforts another captive while talking to Scott across the room.

If this is true, Land could’ve handled the sequence a lot better, of course.

Yes, Rob Liefield-style art from the Image era might qualify as the most harmful art ever seen in a comic. More so than this art, certainly.

Again, art is subjective… but at least most of the time Liefield’s art had energy. They at least had movement, Land’s basically photopainted images are static on the page.

But, the bigger issue is the theft of someone’s art. A photograph is owned by the person who took it unless they sell it to another. When you copy that picture, you are stealing.

I enjoyed this issue of X-Men immensely. I had no trouble following the story. Land is like every other artist You know going in whether you like his work or not. I happen to like it. Apparently enough other readers do that he has been assigned to one of Marvel’s flagship books. Comics are pricey enough these days that if you see a credit at the top of someone you don’t like, you drop it until the team changes. With me it is more often writers than artists that make me take that jump.

Greg Land’s art is great for making people who don’t know anything about art think they know something about art.

I used to read X-Men, but it’s been a while. Probably about five years since I picked up a copy that wasn’t prefixed by “Astonishing.” So I certainly had no idea what was going on in this story, or who the characters were. I didn’t even know there WAS a Lady Mastermind. And yet I was able to follow the events of this excerpt easily. The switches between “real world” and psychic plane were easy enough to follow, and other than the mystery of who the woman in the purple top is and where she came from, there’s nothing in these panels that really threw me. The art’s not my cup of tea, but it does its job adequately.

I do find it kind of ridiculous though, that for a guy who’s always using the same few faces for his characters, Land has made Jean Grey and Madelyn Pryor look like different people…

“Rob Liefeld has more talent and imagination in his left pinky toe than this guy.”

ROFLMAO

@Callen

I believe that is Wing, the student who died during Whedon’s “Danger” arc.

Let me get this right: The white backgrounds are on the mental planes and the black or red backgrounds are not on the first page? If so, how did the White Queen get out of her bonds?

Yes, C., that kind of makes sense. The red and violet panels are reality and the normal-colored panels are a psychic plane. Or something like that.

The visual storytelling is horrible. The pacing, the flow between images, the way he draws women… Land might be drawing nice pictures (well, or copying them out of pornos or magazines, whatever), but he is drawing horrible comics.

“While art is subjective, I think the major point is that Land has done much better. If you don’t believe, go look at Birds of Prey or Nightwing.”

I think that’s the larger point – a lot of people think Land’s ALWAYS been this awful and are more forgiving towards him as a result (the “oh, he’s just a bad artist” argument). He actually HAS talent, knows how to tell decent stories (or, at least, knew how to do so off a Chuck Dixon script), but just is a bad joke nowdays.

I can’t believe that no one mentioned Lady Deathstrike’s Tyrannosaurus Rex arm on page 12. I wish I could scan it, but I can’t. Seriously, anyone with a copy of this… check it out. That is NOT how perspective is supposed to look.

That is the third worst Wolverine I have every seen.

“That’s not as bad as I thought it would be…”

“It’s better than Liefeld…”

“the plot’s incoherent anyways…”

Seriously, it’s all shit art. The story might be shit, but the art is terrible as well. I would be enraged to actually pay money for a comic that looked like that. If it weren’t for reviews like this one I would have grabbed Fraction’s X-Men in trades simply because of his other work, but thankfully CSBG, LITG and a few other places are nice enough to provide examples of Land’s “work.”

Thanks!

I had never dropped a book for the art before Uncanny. It’s just horrible.

Stroman’s X-Factor stuff wasn’t good by any stretch but Land completely ruins stories for me. I’m 29 BTW.

There’s a software package called Comic Book Creator which comes with preset panel layouts, word balloons, effects, etc. that you can insert your artwork into. They also had a Marvel Comics version where you could insert clip art of Marvel characters in different poses and create your own comic book.

This is all Greg Land is doing. Swipe pose here. Swipe pose there. It’s shoving clip art into the appropriate point regardless of whether it has any artistic continuity from one moment to the next.

It’s sheer laziness and is harmful to the craft. It doesn’t matter that he does nice figure drawing. Greg Land doesn’t actually draw comics. He pastes clip art.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

May 24, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Ashley Wood is one of the best artists in comics. That said, I don’t know if he’d suit X-Men.

It did when he was on it.

Try and track down the ‘Widescreen’ annual he and Joe Casy did for Uncanny X-men.

It’s fantastic!

[…] critic Brian Cronin from Comic Book Resources, states about Land’s work on Uncanny X-Men #510: “People speak often about the ethical […]

Funny, I actually enjoy land work. Sure, every issue seems to have an out of context cheese whiz smile and often times his female characters look the same. But I still like it especially compared to guys like Bachalo’s.

Funny, I like Land’s work on a frame by frame basis, but I have to agree that it’s far less ideal for portraying comics’ stories. I think he’d be *great* as a cover artist or for doing artwork for things such as Magic cards, but the style is not quite as good at conveying action or emotion over a number of frames. The faces do start looking a bit too uniform to portray proper variation in people and the emotions they are expected to show. All that being said, the end result is still very pretty artwork.

I have been re-reading the Ultimate Marvel titles in order, or in the case of Ultimate Fantastic Four reading most of them for the first time. I hit Greg Land’s art in the Crossover arc my enjoyment came to a screeching halt. His depiction of Sue Storm actually made me angry it was so absurd. She is a PhD scientist, who is meant to be pretty, but not a Victoria’s Secret model with pouty lips and halter top. Same with her mother, who must be what, mid-forties or early fifties, but is drawn to look she is in her early twenties. Absurd.

This art appeals solely to that sad subset of male readers who can only relate to women as idealised caricatures, not real people or in this case, realistic characters. The fact his faces look so similar one woman to the text has this creepy dehumanising element, where their uniqueness is erased for cheap sex appeal.

It does not help that the Namor story arc is a mess of absurd, over-the-top plot devices, but the art is so bad that reading became a labour, not a pleasure.

I like Greg Land a lot and you could pick apart any artist you want. Somehow he’s become the ‘Kick Me’ guy and mob psychology took off. People just enjoy saying ‘yeah, he’s an ahole’-that’s why gossip is so prevalent in human interactions. Most of the supposed ‘porn faces’ just look like faces to me-maybe we see what we want to see….

Captain Haddock

March 20, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I was reminded of this article when I finished reading the latest Iron Man.

Those grins, how can any editor look at those stupid, stupid, stupid grins, those faces that refuse to line up with what the writer is trying to convey, that stupid finger bite that all his misshapen women do….

Bleargh! Dale Eaglesham can’t get here fast enough.

like I say-you could pick apart any artist you wanted. I could say come on sean phillips, draw a full face for once-stop taking shortcuts and shading half the face all the time’ but that would be stupid.

[…] his current penchant for swiping from known photographs and other artists and recycling his own art gets old real quick, bring back the Greg Land that worked on Birds of Prey and Sojourn please… […]

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