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CSBG Archive

Year of the Artist, Day 66: Matt Wagner, Part 2 – The Demon #1

02-08-2014 01;34;19PM (2)

Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Matt Wagner, and the issue is The Demon #1, which was published by DC and is cover dated January 1987. Enjoy!

Wagner’s style continued to evolve through the 1980s, and we can see his development on books like Mage, which is where he refined his style into a sleeker look. By the time DC noticed him and let him do a four-issue mini-series starring Etrigan, he had become more recognizable as “Matt Wagner.” I wanted to show these pages as opposed to his work on Mage because I own a nice hardcover of Mage, in which the art has been cleaned up considerably, and I wanted to show his art looking a bit “rawer” at this stage. So there you have it!

02-08-2014 01;30;17PM

This is kind of the standard Wagner figure work, even years later. It’s been refined a bit, but it’s essentially the same. We’ll see more of it later in this post. Notice how he isn’t too complicated – even at his most detailed, Wagner has never been too fussy with his artwork. He uses bold lines to suggest solidity, and he doesn’t use a lot of hatching. When he does, as in the final panel here, it stands out more. Jason and Glenda are simply drawn, very straight-forward, and neither Wagner nor inker Art Nichols adds much definition to their faces. Nichols adds some blacks, of course, because he’s suggesting the darkness that lurks within Jason, but that’s about it.

02-08-2014 01;32;27PM

This sequence is a nice example of the way Wagner draws figures. In Panel 1, Jason’s face is solid and almost square, which is the way Wagner often draws people who are a bit tougher than average. Once again, he and Nichols don’t use a lot of hatching, but what we do get is enough to show how set Jason is. In Panel 4, we get another Wagnerian drawing, as Jason shoves his hands in his pockets, shrugs his shoulders, and looks down. Wagner thins his face a bit, and he and Nichols use big, thick lines instead of a lot of thinner lines – Wagner is a bold artist, and he and Nichols understand that when you’re using chunky blacks, you don’t need a lot of clutter. Nichols, obviously, uses a lot of black on these pages, because Jason and Glenda are meeting at twilight, but the blacks are large blotches and therefore add even more solidity to the artwork.

02-08-2014 01;34;19PM

Wagner’s splash page of Etrigan arising is nicely done. He draws an Etrigan who’s slightly slimmer than we’re used to – this is a Wagnerian trope that comes up quite a bit in his work, as we saw yesterday. He certainly can draw bulkier people – his Grendel Prime is a good example of that – but he generally makes his characters fairly lithe, and Etrigan is more unusual because of it. The way most artists draw Etrigan, he’s a thick, clunky bruiser, and that’s perfectly fine. Wagner’s Etrigan is a bit sleeker and even – dare I say it – sexier than usual, and given that the subtext of quite a bit of Wagner’s work is a kind of ambiguous sexuality, it works quite well. Notice, again, that there’s a lot of black in this drawing, but what hatching we do get is thicker and only rims the large black chunks.

02-08-2014 01;36;38PM

This is a nice look at the way Wagner draws body language, as Glenda faces Etrigan down a bit. We see the stern, hard look she gives him in Panel 1, and how he turns away from her almost petulantly in Panel 2 and 3. This works with a slimmer demon, as I doubt if a bulky Etrigan turning away would look as good or convey his distemper. I’m not sure if Wagner was going for this, but he looks like a drama queen in Panel 2. Then, notice how well Wagner shows his curiosity at what Glenda is saying, as he slowly turns back toward her. This is really well done, and it shows that Wagner is able to handle more subtle things in his comics, in case that wasn’t evident already.

02-08-2014 01;38;57PM

We get a bit more hatching in this sequence, but it’s because of the fact that Jason and Glenda are underground and the light is creating weird shadows and not illuminating everything the same way. So Wagner and Nichols use thinner lines and more of them to give an impression of the weak light not quite lighting them up terribly well. Wagner still uses fairly basic shapes, and when the light catches the demon in Panel 4, he and Nichols don’t use as many lines, so it’s an interesting contrast to the more solid blacks we’ve seen throughout the issue. I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with that demon’s left hand – doesn’t it look like it’s on backward?

The Demon is kind of a halfway point between Wagner’s early, raw artwork and his more refined work in the 1990s and beyond. Tomorrow I want to check out a comic from a few years after this, where we can see even more development in his artwork, including the fact that he painted the entire thing. Come back to see what it is, and always remember that the archives are there for your edification!

8 Comments

tom fitzpatrick

March 7, 2014 at 2:49 pm

This particular DEMON mini-series has always been one of my favorite DEMON stories. Ever since Alan Moore resurrected this character; very few people has handled Etrigan well.

What was the answer to the house ad question “What has Matt Wagner done to the Demon”? What was the change in his status quo? Is this where Jason and Etrigan were first separated?

Jacob: Yeah, that’s it. The series ends with Etrigan flying away, leaving Jason. I don’t know how they got back together, but in this, they separate!

Didn’t they get rejoined in Cosmic Odyssey? That wasn’t too long after this. Was that in continuity?

@ Jacob, Wagner’s demon got a TPB 2-3 months ago .. go check it out ( it also has the issue Wagners done in the folling Demon series)

I understand you only have 5 or so chapters with each artist, but jumping all the way from Primer #2 to this leaves out some very crucial stages in Wagner’s development. At least one of his Mage issues should have been covered. That’s when his layouts and artistic style really came into forms, particularly in his “Grendel: Devil by the Deed” backups that began in 1984.

P. Boz: Ah, yeah, that’s it. It was definitely in continuity, as far as I remember. John Stewart’s foolishness was referenced in other books.

turk: I get that, but I was looking at Mage, and I think that the difference between the Comico Primer and Mage was greater than the difference between Mage and this, so this shows the development as well as Mage does, and, as I noted, my copy of Mage feels too “clean” – they did a nice job on the hardcover! I like Devil by the Deed, but his figure work is very close to this, and I did want to do other stuff than Grendel. So while you have a point, I think that his work on this, which is from 1986, isn’t too, too more developed than his work in 1983/1984 or so.

Mage the Hero Discovered was recolored some years back at Image comics and it was horrible. So hopefully you don’t have that version in hardcover.
Wagner colored the the first series himself and it was beautiful, had a kinda texture to it.
There are hardcover versions out there with the original colors, best to find those ones if you don’t have them.

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