Axel-In-Charge: Facing the 'Divided' Marvel NOW! Future
Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Kevin Nowlan, and the issue is Moon Knight #32, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated July 1983. Enjoy!
I’m cheating a bit in this post, because I’m going to show art from three different issues of Moon Knight – #29, #31, and #32. It’s my post – I can do what I want! The reason I’m doing this is because these three issues show different inkers on Nowlan’s art, and I think it’s interesting to see the differences. First, one example from issue #29, in which Nowlan pencilled and inked a back-up story:
Nowlan has become known as an inker more than a penciller over the years, so this first inking job is interesting. It’s not as strong as his inks would become (as we’ll see over the next few days), but he does seem to use a heavier line than Terry Austin, who inked him in yesterday’s post and whose inks we see below. Steven’s hair is a bit fuller, and Nowlan scores his face a bit with thick lines to show his long dark night of the soul (he’s being haunted by himself, basically). Considering how precise Nowlan became with his inks later on, it’s fascinating to see him here just a bit rougher. I should also mention that this story, starring Steven Grant, was written by Steven Grant. OooooOOOOOoooooo!!!!
Moving on to issue #31, this is Nowlan inked by Austin, like we saw yesterday. I mentioned in that post that I wasn’t sure how much the genies at Marvel “cleaned up” the original art, as the collection I own came out last year on, I assume, different paper than originally published (Doctor Strange in 1983 couldn’t have been published on Baxter paper, could it?), so here we see the pencils and inks on newsprint. Austin’s inks are a bit rougher than in yesterday’s example, but not too much so, and we see that the blacks, for the most part, are sharply defined. The cross-hatching in the background is very nice, especially as Nowlan/Austin erases the line of Moon Knight’s cape so that it seems like he blends in with the gloaming. As we’ll see later in this post, there’s another scene with Moon Knight standing against the twilight like this, but with Carl Potts on inks. It’s fun to compare! Also, if this comic were published today, Moon Knight’s thought would read: “This part of Brooklyn’s a bad scene, all right — a hipster zone full of artisanal porridge shops, and worse than I remembered … even the half-caff non-fat soy caramel macchiato here seems dirty and hopeless.”
Obviously, as Moon Knight is an urban vigilante, Austin probably inked this differently than he would for a book starring the effete Doctor Strange, but it’s still Austin, so the lines are still pretty fine. Shank’s hair in Panel 2 is thin and scraggly, and even Lenny’s fuller head of hair doesn’t look very poufy. Austin uses quite a lot of hatching and spot blacks, but his work is still as precise as Nowlan’s pencils.
Here’s another nice example of Austin’s inking. Lenny’s hair is disheveled in Panel 2, but it’s still very thin and precise. Look how clean the lines are in Panels 4 and 5, even as Nowlan does a good job with the squalor of the alley. Nowlan also has a good sense of timing – in Panel 4, Lenny isn’t too far away from Moon Knight, but by Panel 5, Moon Knight walks away, we don’t even see Lenny’s shadow, so Nowlan stretches time quite well here to let us know how saddened Moon Knight is by Lenny’s choices. It’s well done.
Now we’ll move on to Moon Knight #32, in which Nowlan was inked by Carl Potts. As opposed to the semi-splash of Moon Knight above, which was inked by Austin, we see that Potts’s inks are rougher. He even uses cross-hatching in the background so we can compare the harsher lines in this drawing as opposed to Austin’s slightly finer ones. How considerate of Potts! Potts also uses more blacks in Moon Knight’s costume, so that he looks darker and sadder. Nowlan’s thin lines are still evident, especially in the cityscape, but the inks are just thick enough to give this a bit more depressing look.
Here’s a nice page that shows how well Potts works with Nowlan. The pencils are clean, and Potts keeps them that way in some places, like the way Lewis’s hair is wispy in Panel 4. Nowlan’s layout is really nice, too. Lenny’s hand looms into the frame in Panel 1, reaching for the music box he’s about to steal from his mother. Nowlan shoves Lewis and Lenny to the corner of Panel 3 a bit, isolating them in the darkness as Lenny attempts to “sell a dream.” But there’s also the rough inks in the final two panels, as Lenny’s mother pleads with him to get the music box back and Lenny promises he will. Without using too many lines, Nowlan and Potts show the anguish in both characters’ faces and the darkness in Lenny’s soul. It’s very well done.
This panel with Marlene and Moon Knight shows again what Potts can do over Nowlan’s pencils. Nowlan doesn’t pencil a lot of lines in Marlene’s hair, but what he does draw are thin and swirly, making it somewhat flyaway. Potts doesn’t interfere with the hair too much, but look at the hatching he puts on Marlene’s cheek, above her eye, and along her chin line. Just that small amount roughens Marlene up a bit, giving her just enough of a haggard look to show how hard Moon Knight’s life is on her. In the background, we get blacks and heavy lines, as the weather reflects the darkness of the story.
Lewis, of course, dies ignobly, and Lenny leaves him lying on the floor of his pawn shop. Nowlan lays this out pretty well. The cinematic panel layout – three horizontal rectangular panels – works well with the scene, and Nowlan begins with Lenny standing over Lewis’s dead body while the rest of the gang runs out the door. Then we get a close-up of Lenny, and Potts’s inks are once again excellent, as Lenny’s face is heavily lines and shaded. In Panel 3, Nowlan moves us closer to Lewis’s body so we can feel the impact of his death, and Lenny is halfway through the door that leads into total blackness. The broken window next to the door makes the aperture even more hellish. It’s nicely done by Nowlan.
The first panel is nice, although you’ll notice that Nowlan’s figures are a bit stiff, which is one of those things that always seems to bother young artists. Nowlan got better, of course, and the choreography of the panel is neat. Potts uses a liberal amount of blacks for Moon Knight, and it works quite well as he’s going apeshit on the gang. The second panel, though, is beautiful. Doug Moench examined the effects of violence very often during this run on Moon Knight, and this panel is indicative of that. Nowlan gives us the fist speckled with blood, but because it’s a close-up, we only see his victims in silhouette on the wall behind him. It’s a tremendous way to show the brutality of Moon Knight’s vendetta without showing too much. It also ties into the darkness of violence that Moench has explored throughout the run, as the figures participating in the violence are simply black. It’s a tremendous panel.
Once again, we see Nowlan’s sketchy pencils work well with Potts’s heavier inks. In Panel 3, Lenny fades slightly as he realizes how screwed up his life has become, and Potts does a nice job with the hatching on his face and on his jacket. Then, in Panel 4, we again get the roughness of the background, showing the urban blight in which the gang members live. The inks help make it much more depressing.
Nowlan soon began inking himself exclusively, and his work shifted to a more rigid, yet still fine, line. We’ll see an example of that tomorrow. If you’re not too worn out from this post, I hope you come back for more! Soothe yourself by … checking out the archives!
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