Axel-In-Charge: Unmasking the "Totally Awesome Hulk"
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 Click, which was published by Coldwater Press in 2007. These scans are from Meconis’s web site, where you can find the entire story (and many thanks to Dylan for allowing me to use these scans). Enjoy!
Click is a short story written by Sara Ryan and featuring a character from one of her prose novels, and it tells a nifty little tale of a friendship that goes sour for absolutely no reason. It’s impressive how much Ryan packs into it, and Meconis draws it really well, too. I asked Meconis about her comic book chronology, and she wasn’t sure if this came before or after tomorrow’s entry, but I basically flipped a mental coin and decided to check out this one first. I’m not sure why – tomorrow’s entry feels like it was building a bit on what Meconis did here, but who knows. Anyway, onward!
The main character, Battle, is working at a day-care center when she meets Erin, who pulls out her “secret weapon” – bubbles. This calms the kids down, as we see. Yesterday, Meconis was sharper early on in her career, and even toward the end of Bite Me!, she was still using a lot of angular lines, which we don’t see very much of here. Erin’s and Battle’s faces are more rounded and softer, even though Meconis gives Battle a short hair cut that appears a bit choppy. Her shading is much more precise than we saw yesterday – you can see each hatching line on Erin’s face on the floor of the room, while we get only a little brushing on the girl’s dress in the back. It’s a bit more starkly black and white than Bite Me!, but because Meconis inks the page so cleanly, she gets a lot of nuance into the work that she got earlier with shading. The first two panels are nice, because we don’t see Erin suck in a breath and then blow it out, but the way Meconis draws her lets us know that that’s what she’s doing. In Panel 1, her eyes are wider, growing thinner when she blows out. In Panel 1, her mouth is wider, and then her lips are pursed in Panel 2 when she’s blowing the bubble. Erin’s cheeks are just a tiny bit thinner in Panel 2, indicating that she’s blowing the air out of them. It’s well done, considering Meconis is focusing solely on Erin’s face.
Meconis does a nice job contrasting Battle and Erin throughout this story, but in particular in this scene, where Erin convinces Battle to put on some lipstick. She draws their faces very similarly, which makes all the other aspects of their characters interesting markers about who they are. She puts Battle in utilitarian clothing – jeans and a simple shirt – while Erin wears a more elegant shirt/sweater combo, and while we can’t see if she’s wearing a dress, she’s not adverse to it (as it’s implied Battle is). Obviously, their hair styles are different, but even the way Meconis draws them puts a divide between them – for Battle, she draws the tufts at the top and nothing else, while she uses a lot of brush strokes on Erin’s hair, making it lusher and fuller than Battle’s cut. Erin wears fancier earrings, with Battle sticking to a round … something (I mean, they could be pearls, right?). Notice, too, that Erin’s lips are fuller, because she’s wearing lipstick. All of these little touches in the artwork take the burden away from Ryan having to describe the differences between the two women – Meconis does the heavy lifting for her.
Ah, the montage page. Can’t you just hear the power ballad playing in the background? Meconis draws the hell out of this page, with amazing details all over the place. Once again we see the differences in the way Battle and Erin dress, down to the costuming in the lower right. I think it’s significant that Battle’s hat still has the price tag on it – they’re just fooling around, and the fact that Battle is hinting at the end of their friendship just under this detail of transitory ownership is neat, even if it’s coincidental (which, of course, it might be). Meconis is also hinting at the kind of people Battle and Erin are – Battle is clearly a bit more serious than Erin, and Meconis does a nice job subtly showing that on this page (and throughout the story, but specifically on this page). Her brush work – or pen work, as it might just be done with a pen, which would be neat – is exquisite. She uses cross-hatching on the shrubs when they’re walking the dogs, lighter strokes on the dogs themselves, and beautifully fine work on Erin’s costume, from the curves on the feather boa to the wonderful pattern on the dress. Meconis’s details are very good, but she also does a nice job with the tone of the page.
Battle and Erin’s friendship begins to fall apart when Erin meets someone “more like her,” meaning someone with long hair. Man, Erin is shallow! I noticed something interesting that I have to think is deliberate: Meconis draws the new girl with a sloped nose, rather than Erin’s more button nose, which is closer to Battle’s. The new girl literally looks down her nose at Battle, and I can’t imagine Meconis didn’t know what she was doing when she drew her. She does a really nice job with the new girl – in Panel 3, she tilts her head up and pets her hair lovingly, in Panel 4 she looks askance at Battle, and Meconis gives her thin eyebrows a cruel bent, and in Panel 6 she tilts her head down dismissively, and her lips close in an unwelcoming sneer. She makes Erin worshipful in that final panel, as she looks up at the new girl, her eyes and brows saying how pathetic Battle’s hair style is. Meconis designs the page so that Battle is in the two panels on top of each other – in Panel 2, she looks slightly hopeful that she’ll be included in the conversation, and then in Panel 5, Meconis raises her eyebrows and makes her look to the side as she realizes she’s been excluded. It’s a very nice facial expression and body language conversation, linking to Ryan’s words, which aren’t quite as cruel as the way the characters look and stand when they say them. It’s nicely done.
In an inversion of the first page I showed, Battle tries to blow bubbles and fails miserably, leading to wails from the children. This is after Erin has ditched her, even though Battle doesn’t really know why. She’s sad, but she tries to move on. Erin, however, had the magic touch with the kids, and Battle can’t even blow a good bubble. Meconis does much the same thing as she did above, but Erin is much more relaxed than Battle, so Meconis draws Battle’s cheeks blown out just a little more, because Erin understood that you shouldn’t blow the soap too hard or it will pop, as it does here. Battle either doesn’t know that or is too frustrated to do so, and she gets this. Meconis purses her lips, but not in a relaxed way, as it appears here that she just tasted something sour. And, of course, we get the next two panels, where the kids don’t run around the room happily chasing bubbles, but stay around Battle and start crying. Once again we see the nice hatching from Meconis, turning the stark black and white into something a bit softer without using shades.
Click is a nice little short story, and tomorrow we’ll check out a much longer graphic novel that Meconis drew around this time that shows her using some of these techniques, but with even more nuances. I hope you come back to check it out, and I’m sure you’re having a blast in the archives!
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