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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 11

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we look at Paul Pope’s Batman Year 100

Enjoy!

In 2006, Paul Pope gave the world a Batman mini-series called Batman: Year 100.

It being a Paul Pope-drawn book, it looked amazing.

Check out the opening sequence to the series, it gives you a perfect example of the absolutely brilliant dynamism that is Paul Pope…

The concept of the story is that it takes place in 2039, 100 years after Batman first debuted, in a world where the government has eyes on everyone – between their cameras and some telepaths on the payroll, everyone is on the grid.

Until a man shows up out of nowhere dressed like a bat.

Thus follows an elaborate tale of a corrupt government trying to take Batman down while also trying to discover his secret identity. Meanwhile, the grandson of Commissioner James Gordon, now a Captain in the Gotham Police Department, finds himself controlled by the government due to some skeletons in his closet, but he can’t help but investigate the government’s case against Batman (he is accused of murder). We also discover Batman’s ragtag team of assistants – a young man named Robin and a single mother and her daughter who serve as Batman’s medic and computer expert.

There’s a good bit where Batman uses ceramic teeth to convince people he’s a monster…

Pope’s artwork is simply stunning, and that’s the draw of the book – he’s such an engaging storyteller while also being extremely quirky in his designs and his character work.

Seek this book out – it’s a worthy companion to Batman Year One.

59 Comments

Good book. Easily the best Paul Pope book I’ve read yet.

I didn’t like Heavy Liquid or The One Trick Rip-Off, but this was much better.

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 12, 2010 at 6:24 am

I’ve read this book, a little hard to get into at first, but then the rest is smooth sailing.

I’d have to agree with the fact that it’s a cool book.

Go to your library and borrow the hell out of this book.

Didn’t really like it. Pope’s artwork is dynamic but somewhat ugly, and the story felt like nothing I hadn’t seen before.

I don’t enjoy Paul Pope’s artwork.

I’m not saying it isn’t technically good, just that I don’t enjoy reading it. Everything is just too ugly for me.

One of the living masters. He’s got a unique synthesis of manga, Eurocomics, and American mainstream styles.

Joe Rice has it down pat. It’s the mixture is styles that catches my eye. I think the reason people think Pope’s artwork is ugly is because it’s different form what we normally get in a comic book.
Either way, Batman: Year 100 is quite enjoyable.

I don’t see much manga in Pope’s style. (I know he worked in Japan, but even his stuff published there comes out looking very Euro to me.)

Paul Pope’s art may not be for everyone, but this is one of his better works. The story sort of rips off DK2, except Batman: Year 100 is well written and is actually interesting to read.

Pope’s manga influence comes from the way action is dynamically portrayed. His pacing also takes some cues from manga.

the art in the story almost has a dark dark knight returns feel plus it shows that batman can work in any year. love the vampire fangs batman uses .

It´s definetly a great Batman story, but I think a couple of extra issues would have been better!
We tend to complain about the fact that a story that takes 300000 issues (crossovers and others) are a really pain in the ass, but in this case, more issues would have given us more insight into the “world of the future”..
Still, great work by Paul Pope! :D

Is it just me, or is that one government agent a dead ringer for the Joker? Was that a tease that was never intended to pay off, or am I just imagining it? He had the huge mouth, and the hair and his outfit seemed kind of subdued Joker-esque.

Hm, I can see a bit of manga in the pacing, the use of background shots during the action. I can’t agree on the dynamics, unless you’re referencing his tendency to turn hatching into something somewhat like a speed line. (I hope we’re past the point where just using speed lines at all means you’re “manga-influenced”…)

When action manga is dynamic, it’s in a staccato and flourish-oriented sense that largely serves to slow down the action, exaggerating each beat of it. Shounen Jump stuff takes this to an often-ridiculous extreme but you’ll even see it in your more mature Lone Wolf and Cub-type stuff.

Pope’s work emphasizes flow and doesn’t seek to glamorize individual moments by breaking down the passage of time. Pope panels feel fast when the action is fast, slow only when there is an absence of action to emphasize. I would regard Pope as trying to convey time passing at varying rates within his own panels, emphasizing how each moment flows into the next.

That approach to dynamics is to me much more comparable to the school of artists like Kirby and Barks that came from animation backgrounds, and so focused on how they’d show time passing in individual panels through depiction of action. Manga panels to me always seemed more about freezing important moments in time, building them into story beats through their combination in a page layout.

I read this book, and liked it okay.
Like a few other commentors, I think the people look “ugly” but I do understand why Pope is so well regarded.
My big question though, why is this book held in such high esteem? Its feels like a really minor Elseworlds’ story.
Is the opinion based on the art alone, or is there something I’m missing in the story?
(I’m honestly asking, whatidimiss?)

The best adjective I’ve come up with for Pope’s art is ‘fleshy’. There’s something really tactile and vivid about how he renders textures, particularly textures of the human body, that for some can be wonderfully vivacious and sensual, and for others almost grotesque and offputting.

Love Paul Pope’s style. I’ve been meaning to read this for years and have almost bought it several times, but seeing these panels (and your endorsement of it Brian) is going to make it pretty hard to resist next time.

“My big question though, why is this book held in such high esteem? Its feels like a really minor Elseworlds’ story.
Is the opinion based on the art alone, or is there something I’m missing in the story?”

For me it’s about the art and the design work. I think this is a fully-realized vision of a future world. That really takes a good story to the next level.

Paul Pope has become one of my favorite artists. He has such a distinctive style and a definite point of view. And each piece of work he does is better than the last.

I used to find Pope’s artwork really unappealing. But after reading his Adam Strange strip in Wednesday comics I warmed up to it a lot. I had always avoided this because of the art, but I think it would be worth checking out, now.

There are people who don’t like Paul Pope’s art? What the hell’s wrong with you?

I love Heavy Liquid. That book is brilliant! This book is good. I like the elastic around Batman’s wrists on his sweater

Some people look at a comics page and expect to see something very clean, something that feels aesthetically pleasing. Pope goes out of his way to include all sorts of interesting details in a page that are certainly not clean. For people just looking at the art as pictures and not as storytelling, it looks ugly and there’s revulsion.

I’ve seen people have similar reactions to Frank Quitely before for pretty much the same reason. Not people ignorant of art, either, commercial artist types. Comics just happens to be a form of art where the ugliness can and will make the storytelling better, and it’s the storytelling that really matters.

I think this sort of mentality also fuels the people who insist that simpler art styles are “worse” than ones that use more lines, because you know, using all the extra lines is clearly much harder than drawing perfect simple lines. Somehow.

His Batman looks like he has a squished head, like he’s a bean bag doll or something. I was turned off by the covers to this series without ever looking inside, but now that I’ve had a peak, it looks pretty fantastic.

Wow. I’ve never read this one, but consider me sold Brain. I’m off to eBay!

Whoops…Brian! Sorry!

[…] Comics Should Be Good covers Paul Pope’s Batman 100 in their Year of Cool Comics […]

Erm… no, I don’t find his artwork ugly because I’m ‘looking at it as pictures instead of storytelling'; I admire its dynamism and storytelling but find it ugly anyway. It’s not any lack of artistic sophistication on my part, it’s my opinion.

If you admire the storytelling and dynamism, why do you find its ugliness a quality worth discussing? Do you consider its ugliness a trait of equal importance?

Daniel O' Dreams

January 12, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Count me as someone that was never a fan of Paul Pope’s style. However, maybe it’s just because it’s Batman, but this looks pretty good. It seems much more dynamic and less cluttered than I remember his art looking. That rooftop dog chase scene is great, like an animation storyboard. i’ll have to pick this one up.

It’s worth discussing because the ugliness is the first reaction a few people seem to have to it. If you see art you consider ugly, you’ll likely move past it without thinking about it again until someone tells you to take another look. Then it’s natural to comment that while you find some of the work ugly, you appreciate why it is being recommended.

I was just wondering what all that white liquid is that Batman is running through in the first few panels you have posted up here? Is it glue? It looked decidedly more…. perverse….. to my deviant mind.

I love Pope, but I completely understand why his work isn’t for everyone.

It’s a beautiful sort of ugliness isn’t it? Kirby and Ditko were/are likewise practitioners of this ugly beauty. And masters both.

I never found Ditko’s art very grotesque (even when he was striving for it), he seemed to excel more at stuff that was just surreal and unsettling. Still does, actually, his quasi-recent Mr. A stuff is stupendously weird.

Now, I can completely see a parallel between Kirby’s grotesques and the “ugly” quality of Pope’s art people have been discussing.

One of the things I love about Year 100 is that Robin’s different, Gordon’s different, Gotham’s different, but Batman? Bruce Wayne, avenging the deaths of his parents by fighting crime. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I enjoyed this book, but it didn’t have any moments that completely blew me away or made me feel real emotion. It’s why I prefer 100% and Heavy Liquid to this. But Paul Pope’s work is always amazing.

Yeah, Paul Pope’s art is quite ugly, but I still love it.

And apropos of nothing, didn’t Ron Paul say that this was his favorite comic book at one point?

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 13, 2010 at 4:35 pm

My big question though, why is this book held in such high esteem? Its feels like a really minor Elseworlds’ story.
Is the opinion based on the art alone, or is there something I’m missing in the story?

It’s all in how it’s told – It’s a Batman story, there’s only so much you can do with that, but it’s the way Pope does it, the world he’s created, the way the story unfolds, the way his pages make sweet, sweet love to your eyes,

Honestly, if you think it’s a minor Elseworlds story, go grab another elseworlds book you consider top notch, and compare pages.
Pope will come out on top every time.

Yeah, Paul Pope’s art is quite ugly, but I still love it.

Well then, going by the definition of ugly, you don’t think it’s ugly if you love it.

I think anyone who finds his, or Quitely’s art to be ugly really need to be ashamed at themselves for being so indoctrinated by the sort of Adams/Byrne/Lee look – I can only imagine it’s the fact you know you’ll get jumped on that keeps you quiet about Kirby.

As for arguing with the people who thinks his art is ugly – why bother?
They’ve got a rather immature and bland taste to art – it’s got to be clean, the compositions need to be basic and standard.
Face it, beyond his odd bit of superhero work, they aren’t going to be interested in his real work.

Thank God FGJ is here to tell us definitively what art is good and what art is bad. I was starting to worry that it might be subjective or something.

Well then, going by the definition of ugly, you don’t think it’s ugly if you love it.

Nah. Rollercoasters are scary, but I love them. Excessive amounts of chilli in food can be painful, but I love it.

Paul Pope’s art is quite ugly, but at the same time there’s something really appealing about it.

Jack Kirby’s art is iconic, but also kind of ugly.

Frank Quitely’s art is beautiful.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 14, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Thank God FGJ is here to tell us definitively what art is good and what art is bad. I was starting to worry that it might be subjective or something.

Sorry, just sick of superhero fans who buy David Finch, Ed Benes and Phillip Tan books saying Paul Pope is ugly, when he’s possibly the best in town.
You can have a little whinge because I made you feel silly, but your tastes are rather mundane and bland if you prefer Jim Lee or Steve McNiven to Paul Pope – Pope is a master of comics, the others mentioned are journeymen.

It’s like people over twelve who think Avatar is the greatest film they’ve ever seen, or Harry Potter the best books they’ve ever read – everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but I feel no shame in thinking a lot less of their tastes and critical thinking… we can have a subjective/objective argument – actually, you can, I don’t need to have one, I’m fine with accepting some people just have lesser tastes.

Did anyone in the thread mentioning that they found Pope ugly mention enjoying any other artist better by name? Let alone Finch, Benes, Tan, Lee, or McNiven?

As far as I can tell, you’re the only person discussing these artists in this thread. You’re making some awfully broad assumptions about everyone who mentioned that they found Pope ugly.

How do you know they don’t find Pope ugly in comparison to Jeff Smith, Brian Hitch, or Dave Gibbons? Nobody here has compared Pope to any artist except Frank Quitely, Jack Kirby, Carl Barks, or Steve Ditko.

If you want to bitch at people for liking Benes or Lee, maybe you should go find some actual self-professed fans of those artists to bitch at, instead of making wild and unfounded assumptions about people who are talking about Paul Pope so you can talk about how great your own taste in art is.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 14, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Because there’s people who like Pope, and there’s people who don’t.

And the people who don’t like him in the comments on this blog are usually the people who like the others I mentioned, I’ve had this argument with people about Queitly on message boards before – and as we’re talking about him on a Batman book…

If you like Smith or Gibbons, I don’t see how you could be put off by Pope.

And as for my tone, someone compared it to a minor elseworlds story – sorry, but I’m happy with their being a line in the sand.
I’m sorry a couple of you are so insecure that this insults you.

Do you think it’s fair to restate your argument here as essentially meaning, “Everyone with good taste likes Paul Pope, therefore I get to criticize you for having what I personally define as bad taste if you do not like Paul Pope?”

This is how your argument currently reads to me. Am I understanding it accurately?

As for the “minor Elseworlds story” line, I actually seem to recall reading several mediocre Batman Elseworlds stories with remarkably similar plots that were published well before before Year 100. While this is bizarre to bring up as a dismissive comment, it’s not a totally unfair or ungrounded comparison. Year 100 wouldn’t be interesting at all to me if Pope hadn’t drawn it, certainly.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 14, 2010 at 5:55 pm

This is how your argument currently reads to me. Am I understanding it accurately?

Yup, but without the ‘what I personally define as bad taste’ part.

Pope is a god of comics – all who do not worship are unworthy of the medium.

I only buy other comics so that there’s still an industry in place to release Paul Pope’s next work.

(Have you read 100%? I think you should, you’d see where I’m coming from).

While this is bizarre to bring up as a dismissive comment, it’s not a totally unfair or ungrounded comparison. Year 100 wouldn’t be interesting at all to me if Pope hadn’t drawn it, certainly.

Well, there’s nothing new in the concept of Batman Year 100 – on concept alone it’s just another Batman in the future story.
But so’s Dark Knight Returns.
Both are only interesting in how the story is told – which is true of most stories.
It’s just that these two are told so exceptionally well that it blows most others out of the water.

I agree that without Paul Pope there’s nothing to it, but the entire project IS Paul Pope – if he wasn’t in the equation, there wouldn’t have been a project.
I don’t think anybody came to this to read a Batman in the future story, you come to it to read Paul Pope doing Batman.

Also, just a quibble, I’d argue the ‘only interesting because it’s drawn by Paul Pope’ – Pope needed to write it as well for it to be a true Paul Pope book.
The pacing of each issue, of each page, and what is shown in each panel, is just as important to the way he actually draws them – if someone else had wrote it, chances are it would look nice, but not be half as treasured by those of us on the Paul Pope side of that line in the sand.
(The dune page for instance: http://www.arthurmag.com/magpie/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/3970099852_0126f51ec1_o1.jpg)

Yeah, my only point with “the plot’s been used before” is that if you don’t like Paul Pope’s style immediately or don’t know who he is (which is likely among Batman readers), the concepts in Year 100 will not convince you to give him a try. The basic plot is something you’ve seen before. (The actual story is fine work– story and plot are not the same thing, after all.)

I don’t think the comparison to Dark Knight Returns is valid– DKR introduced a lot of entirely new themes and story material to the general body of DC Comics. It gave us a new way of depicting Batman’s origin, the idea of Batman and Superman in conflict, the first real destruction of Superman as defender of the status quo… basically, it’s still attractive to a reader who isn’t creator-oriented. A lot of superhero readers just don’t really care all that much about creator style at the end of the day.

The “line in the sand” stuff just reminds me of the guy who hung out at the local comic shop in the 90’s, yelling at people when they bought a stack of comics that lacked the latest issue of Wolverine. That shop ended up having a very hard time selling any Wolverine comics to anybody.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 14, 2010 at 7:11 pm

A lot of superhero readers just don’t really care all that much about creator style at the end of the day.

And that’s why their tastes don’t really count in adult conversations.

The “line in the sand” stuff just reminds me of the guy who hung out at the local comic shop in the 90’s, yelling at people when they bought a stack of comics that lacked the latest issue of Wolverine. That shop ended up having a very hard time selling any Wolverine comics to anybody.

But the difference between Paul Pope and 90’s Wolverine is that one was 90’s Wolverine, and the other is PAUL POPE!

Ignore my tomfoolery, his work speaks for itself!

(At least to anyone with a developed palate!)

I never found Ditko’s art very grotesque (even when he was striving for it), he seemed to excel more at stuff that was just surreal and unsettling. Still does, actually, his quasi-recent Mr. A stuff is stupendously weird.

Now, I can completely see a parallel between Kirby’s grotesques and the “ugly” quality of Pope’s art people have been discussing.

I enjoy your posts here Lynxara. Beyond Ditko’s power to “unsettle” or disturb there is a lumpen almost marginal quality to it (not in quality of course). Ditko perfected a certain trope that in the comic book art world more or less sits at the opposite extreme of that exuded by the so-called clean or “handsome” artists, be they of the Swan/Anderson or the Neil Adams mold. His faces are not beautiful even when the faces are of ostensibly beautiful women. And his men, typically cynical or shallow, tend to morph into highly expressive and mocking grotesqueries. He imports from a cursed world and dips his pencil in a well of discordance often crabby and misanthropic. It is sometimes hard for fans of artists like George Perez or even the delicate romance of a Windsor-Smith to see much that attracts them to the murkier and “pre-enlightenment” Ditko aesthetic.

The expressiveness of Ditko’s art is a quality seriously undervalued by modern fans (that I’ve seen, anyway). The rage now is very representational stuff in the Hitch vein, with occasional flashes of a cartoonier artist following in Wieringo’s footsteps.

Ditko’s art was what I’d consider impressionist. He drew emotional states and filled panels with representational meaning packed into an elegant paucity of lines. He seemed best at evoking dread (as in Dr. Strange), but he could also evoke happiness and other emotional states very deftly.

I started this post so I could try to name some modern inheritors to Ditko’s style of working, but I’m not sure we have one. Pope is comparable to Ditko in many ways but his work (that I’ve seen) lacks the total abstraction that Ditko was regularly willing to deal in.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 14, 2010 at 8:16 pm

I started this post so I could try to name some modern inheritors to Ditko’s style of working, but I’m not sure we have one. Pope is comparable to Ditko in many ways but his work (that I’ve seen) lacks the total abstraction that Ditko was regularly willing to deal in.

Charles Burns is the best I can come up with off the top of my head, or maybe Danijel Zezelj… Teddy Kristiansen?

They go for a more abstract/impressionist look with their art, but I’m not sure if Ditko was a direct influence.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

If you like Smith or Gibbons, I don’t see how you could be put off by Pope

Because their styles are SO similar.

I should have been more specific when I called Pope’s art ugly. His figures are ugly. The cover to Year 100 shows a Batman that looks like he’s playing Wile E. Coyote after having a boulder dropped on him. The close up of Batman above and his work in Wednesday Comics display the same tendency to break model. It’s not the end of the world, and when you don’t focus on those aspects, his layouts really shine. I’d compare him to two of my long-time favorite artists, Kelley Jones and Sam Keith.

FGJ, I usually enjoy your comments, but you’re really being a fucking prick here.

He’s not being a prick, he’s being right.

The line’s been drawn, and there’s a right side and a wrong side, and the people that hate Pope are on the wrong one.

Comics: serious reading material for thoughtful adults.

I started this post so I could try to name some modern inheritors to Ditko’s style of working, but I’m not sure we have one. Pope is comparable to Ditko in many ways but his work (that I’ve seen) lacks the total abstraction that Ditko was regularly willing to deal in.

Agreed Lynxara. Pope employs a more natural line to Ditko’s abstract bent. In that direction they differ quite substantially, where the two converge is a similar tendency to eschew a clean illustrative look and instead embrace a bold form of cartooning, either earthy and hyperbolic like Pope or abstract/expressive and thoroughly atmospheric like Ditko.

I gotta say though this sort of fascistic stream that says if you don’t like so and so you are a blackguard and utterly wrong is a little too much like letting the thought police rule the roost. I think Pope is an amazing artist too, but if someone prefers another creator and another style then so be it.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 17, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Because their styles are SO similar.

No, because all are actual artists – well trained and with their own style.

You’ll never open a page on one of their books, and not see every element working in perfect harmony.

Their panel arrangements, their layouts, the finishes – everything works together as a whole, yet never sacrificing clarity of story.

FGJ, I usually enjoy your comments, but you’re really being a fucking prick here.

Settle petal!

Sounds to me that your just upset because you disagree with me this time.

I think Pope is an amazing artist too, but if someone prefers another creator and another style then so be it.

There’s preferring another artist – which is fine – and then there’s saying Pope’s work is ugly.

One’s alright, and the other is wrong.

Hmm, I’m not sure that I buy “ugly” as necessarily pejorative in a discussion of Art (and I do think Paul Pope’s stuff deserves to be regarded as such). Pope is an apt illustrator and he could draw nothing but glamourous beauty if he wished.

When Pope chooses to do otherwise– and he does– it’s a deliberate decision that usually serves the story or ads meaning to the work in some way. Certainly when he draws Batman’s wound in the pages above, the ugliness is very deliberate.

Now it is certainly pejorative to call, say, Ed Benes illustrations ugly, since his work is usually only trying to communicate action and glamour. When you call his work ugly, you’re denying that he possesses even the mastery of basic skills required for grinding out passable hackwork, which seems to be his main interest as a creator.

If someone was like “Paul Pope sucks,” yeah, that’s an opinion from crazyland. If someone is just saying that his stuff is ugly– well, frequently he does create ugly illustrations. He tells stories about ugly things, often enough, it would be a problem if he didn’t.

There’s preferring another artist – which is fine – and then there’s saying Pope’s work is ugly.

One’s alright, and the other is wrong.

Ah, but FGJ you didn’t look at my full post. I said it was a beautiful sort of ugly did I not? I said Jack Kirby was an ugly artist (when he needed to be of course). Kirby is my favourite artist, so that is high praise indeed from me. The ranks of abstract expressionists whose art might be termed ugly is legion (Picasso for one). What is ugly does not deny what is moving, what is beautiful. It is right to say Pope’s work is ugly… I assure you it is a compliment. See Lynxara above.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

No, because all are actual artists – well trained and with their own style.

You’ll never open a page on one of their books, and not see every element working in perfect harmony.

Their panel arrangements, their layouts, the finishes – everything works together as a whole, yet never sacrificing clarity of story.

True, but it doesn’t necessary follow that liking on means you should like the other. If Paul Pope’s style isn’t your thing then there’s nothing wrong with that.

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