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Year of the Artist, Day 124: Dylan Meconis, Part 1 – Bite Me!

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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Dylan Meconis, and the comic is Bite Me!, which was self-published on-line between 2000 (when Meconis was, I should point out, 17 years old) and 2004. These scans are from the collected edition, which was published in 2009. Enjoy!

I met Dylan Meconis in 2010 and she immediately became one of my favorite people in comics. She’s an awesome person, an extremely funny writer, and a wonderful artist. She’s currently writing for PvP, which is probably a pretty sweet gig. But we’re not here about her writing, we’re here about her artwork! So let’s take a look at her French Revolutionary vampire comic, which I can pretty much guarantee is the funniest French Revolutionary vampire comic you’re ever going to read. Take that to the bank!

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Early in the strip, this was the way Meconis drew, but it gradually changed over the course of the series, which we’ll see in this post. She uses a lot of sharp, angular lines, chiseling Claire and Lucien’s faces and features very precisely. Claire has a slightly weaker chin, as we see in Panel 3, but she also has more expressive eyes, which – as we’ve seen before in comics, going back at least to Kirby – makes her more trustworthy than the aristocratic and therefore somewhat shady Lucien, whose eyes are thinner. Meconis also makes Lucien’s eyebrows slightly thinner – you could cut yourself on them, especially when he cocks his right one in Panel 4 – while Claire’s peasant brows are a bit thicker. Part of what Meconis does in this comic is play around with stereotypes, and she’s definitely doing that with her depictions of Claire and Lucien – the bouncy versus the diamond-edged hair, the flouncy shirt versus the buttoned-up tunic, the goofiness versus the cool reserve. In the final panel, she uses a lot of different body types, and while no one is quite as angular as the two main characters, the lines are still a bit sharp. Meconis shaded this is a fairly unsubtle fashion – it’s perfectly fine, but she would get a lot better over the course of the series, as we’ll see.

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In the close-ups, we see the differences between Lucien and Claire even more clearly. Lucien’s thin eyes are even more feline, and his nose is even sharper. Even when Meconis draws them both with their eyes wide open, as in Panel 5, Claire’s are still wider than Lucien’s. It’s interesting that in Panel 6, she puts shaded lines under Lucien’s eyes as he moves in to bite Claire – it adds just a bit of weariness to Lucien’s character, as if he’s tired of being a vampire. Bite Me! is a farce, so there’s not a ton of emotional depth, but Meconis gives Lucien a bit in this scene.

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Not too far into the book, Meconis has already begun doing some more stuff with her work. Audric is just as sharp as Lucien, but notice that as he’s the more experienced vampire and Lucien, although now a vampire, has been revealed as a minor aristocrat, as well as a more sympathetic love interest for Claire, has wider eyes than he did in the beginning of the book, while Audric now has more feline, untrustworthy eyes (remember: we can’t trust cats, man!). So Lucian looks more “human” – his eyes express more than just contempt, his mouth is twitchy with fear, while Audric looks monstrous. Meconis doesn’t use a lot of hatching on Audric’s face in Panel 2, but it’s more than she has been using, and it’s enough to turn Audric from a cool upper crust vampire to a horrifying monster. Meconis is getting better at the shading, too, crafting it to match the way Audric’s and Lucien’s faces move. It’s a nice development.

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Ginevra tells her origin story, and we get this nice page that shows a bit more development from Meconis. In Panel 1, she creates a montage of Ginevra’s husband acting “clingy,” and she does a wonderful job with Ginevra’s facial expressions – the sideways tilt of her face in the lower left is my favorite. The husband is done well, too – Meconis gives him plump, sensual lips in the upper left and upper right, and because she draws close-ups, they make the husband seem more lecherous. She crinkles up his mouth in two of the drawings, making him look like a pathetic puppy, but in the other drawing, he’s licking Ginevra’s elbow and casting a leering eye in her direction. In one panel, Meconis gives us a very good description of the husband, even though she doesn’t write anything about him. The payoff of the joke in the bottom four panels is done very well, because Meconis draws a wonderful stately husband in Panel 3 who then turns into a gleeful pervert in Panel 5. She’s using broad facial expressions to drive home the joke, and Ginevra’s fearful expression in Panel 4 and weary expression in Panel 5 also helps sell it. Her shading is becoming much more complex – as we see above, early in the strip she was simply leaving a lot white or black, but now she’s using shading much more – in the husband’s hair, on Ginevra’s face, and to show the rich textures of the nobility’s clothing. It’s clear she’s getting more confident with that aspect of her art.

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Luther Levy, who’s the main character of Meconis’s Family Man (which we’ll see in a few days), shows up here and has a fun chat with Claire. It’s interesting to contrast Luther to the rest of the cast, as Meconis is still drawing Claire and Lucien and the others with a more cartoonish vibe while Luther appears a bit more “realistic.” He has a long nose, which is a bit “unrealistic,” but the lines on his face are more defined, his eyes are more realistic, and his hair looks like strands of hair and not a chunk of black, like with Lucien and even with Claire. Check out Panel 1, where he and Claire appear in the same frame. Meconis hatches some of his hair and shades the rest, while Claire still has the black chunk in the upper right corner. Luther’s eyes remain thin, but not as feline as Lucien’s, so they appear more realistic in comparison to Claire’s giant eyes. His mouth, while still wide, fits his face well, while Claire’s looks more cartoonish. If we look at the rest of the page, Luther’s somewhat schlumpy clothing, with its creases and folds, looks more “realistic” than Lucien’s black outfit and Claire’s “serving wench” clothes. When Luther turns into a wolf, Meconis makes his ears, snout, and neck ragged with fur and gives him sharp, jagged teeth, in contrast to the simple fangs we’ve seen on the vampires. Luther is still part of the comedy, but he seems a bit apart from it, as well. Was Meconis already planning a more serious comic starring this character?

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I just wanted to post this because Meconis’s lettering in this book is awesome. Insane, but awesome!

Meconis went on to draw a few things she didn’t write, and tomorrow, I’ll check out a short story she drew that shows her moving beyond the angular style of this book and more toward her “middle period” style (as much as she has one – she has a long career in front of her, so I imagine she’s not done evolving yet!). Come back and check it out, and be sure to drop in on the archives!

2 Comments

I think that you can make two installments of this column just on Bite Me! as her art changed as the stripped progressed. At least in the online version. I don’t know if she redrew or reembellished it for the print.

Alin: I showed a bit from the later stages – the Luther Levy page is one of them. She changed a bit, but I figured it was easier to show all the work from Bite Me! on one day rather than split it up. The next entry shows her evolution pretty well, though.

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