INTERVIEW: "Batgirl and the Birds of Prey" Hunt Rebirth's Oracle
Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Juan Ferreyra, and the issue is Colder #3, which was published by Dark Horse and is cover dated January 2013. Enjoy!
Ferreyra and Paul Tobin’s Colder is a very cool mini-series, one of the best of 2012 (and bleeding into 2013), and in it, Ferreyra got to draw a lot of horror and stretch his imagination quite nicely. He was still coloring himself, but he was helped out by his dad, Eduardo, and Laura Binaghi, and I’m not sure who does what in this issue. The colors, however, are spectacular, but then again, the artwork in general is spectacular!
Because Colder takes place partly in a strange, “unreal” world, Ferreyra is able to bend reality to suit the needs of the story, and here’s a good example of that. The bad guy, Nimble Jack, is chasing Declan and Reece, and even thought they’re not in the mirror, he chases them into it. Ferreyra distorts Jack beautifully here, stretching his face and fingers as he slides into the glass, turning his eye into the central terrifying image of Panel 2, and remembering that Jack is missing a tooth on that side, so in the piano key row of teeth we get an eerie gap. But he also changes the composition of the mirror itself, as the glass flows and fuses with Jack, which makes the image even more disturbing. Ferreyra thinks of small things like this, which makes the big picture have a greater impact.
Jack bursts out of a man’s head, and we get this terrific sequence. Again, Ferreyra places Jack’s eye in a primary spot in Panel 1, so that the man’s dead eyes above, direct us down to Jack’s all-too-living eye gazing out of his mouth. Jack’s pointy nose is too large to remain in the mouth, so it’s protruding beyond the lips. Ferreyra lines up Jack’s teeth with the old man’s, which gives us that dichotomous smile at the bottom of the panel. He and his collaborators color the old man in dingy green while Jack is literally in the pink of health, which is again a good contrast. In Panel 2, Jack pushes his way out of the man’s mouth, and Ferreyra stretches the man’s skin as it starts to rip, turning him into a fish-eyed monster. One eye is exploding out of his skull, while is top teeth are dancing above Jack. Jack completes his “escape” in the Panels 3 and 4, tearing the body apart and climbing out. The details are amazing, making the horror a bit more real, as it does seem as if Jack ripped the dude in half, but the colors are well done, too. The background is painted a sickly greenish-blue, with an even more sickly yellow haloing Jack and the old man. Reece’s yellow skirt is turned more green by the poisonous hues in the air around her. This is a frightful sequence, and Ferrerya nails it.
Declan is able to pass into the unreal world through the minds of the insane, and he does that here. This isn’t a completely unique idea, but a lot of artists don’t think of something like this, and it’s nice that Ferreyra did. He breaks the turn into a series of doors and shows how Declan does it as he steps through. He places his hand on the woman’s head, creating the passageway, and Ferreyra rims first the woman and then Declan with a neon blue to show him moving between two worlds. He never lets go of Reece, but the way the sequence is structured, it appears he takes her arm as he moves through. In the background, he begins with a building and slowly destroys it as the worlds shift. He changes the colors, too, as Reece’s dress goes from yellow to gray, as the world they’re entering is a largely gray place. Outside the boundaries of the panels, you’ll notice, he draws a creeping black ooze, indicating the terror of insanity that lurks throughout this comic. This is the bottom third of one page, but it’s amazing how much thought went into it.
This two-page sequence again shows Ferreyra’s inventiveness, as Declan tries to get the two of them back into the real world. He again distorts the bodies of people in Panel 1, as he stacks eyes on top of eyes on the left side of the panel and turns the dude on the right into a merry-go-round of faces and multiplies his fingers. It’s terribly weird and horrifying, which is what Ferreyra is going for. As the creatures run away in Panel 2, a stalk of eyes rises on the left side of the panel, looping toward our heroes, and then in Panel 3, Ferreyra surrounds them with bony tendrils. Notice again the attention to details, especially in the backgrounds. This is a fully realized “unreal” world, and Ferreyra doesn’t cheat on the decrepit buildings that surround the scene. Then, on the second page, the monster fully emerges, and it’s a nightmare of eyes and muscles and teeth. Once again, Ferreyra doesn’t short-change us, and notice too how he paints in the flying debris from the monster’s rise. I don’t think I’ll get into the sexual imagery, but feel free to see it! The transition back to the real world is sudden, and Ferreyra does a nice job shifting so quickly that Declan’s upraised right hand is still in that dimension in the final panel. We’ll see more of the nice paints in the next few examples.
Ferreyra does some nice character interaction here, as Declan and Reece recover from their time in the other world. Declan is smiling devilishly in Panel 1 because Reece read Nin to him (he was comatose for years before this comic began, and she, a nurse, was caring for him), and Ferreyra drops her hair on the right side of her face so that she doesn’t look at him directly. Then, in Panel 2, she turns away and smiles because she’s a bit embarrassed. This is a very nice little sequence, and it’s followed by Reece’s confused and somewhat forlorn look when Declan walks away. It’s well done, showing the feelings these two have for each other without being too obvious about it. The other neat thing about the page is the coloring, of course. We get the beautiful dappling on Declan and Reece as the leaves block some of the sunlight reaching them, and in the wider shots, we get delicate watercolors on the trees, in the sky (which remains a slightly ominous gray) and on the buildings, allowing the still soft but slightly starker colors of the characters to stand out. It’s a beautifully colored page, and Ferreyra (and his assistants) do a nice job contrasting the brighter real world with the gray “unreal” world.
Declan comes back and starts talking, not realizing that Reece is slowly going insane herself. This is the final page of that sequence, and I love how Ferreyra brings the creeping horror to life – the spilled water is a bit of a cliché, but it’s still effective, and the way Ferreyra slowly draws the tears flowing from Reece’s eyes is well done. The coloring again helps, as the shadows thrown by the leaves make Declan just a tiny bit darker, foreshadowing the badness to come, while the still pleasant greens and yellows around the scene make Reece’s transformation a bit more heartbreaking. Ferreyra does a nice job with her face, too – he keeps it vacant as the tears begin to fall, but in the final panel, he turns her mouth down and lowers her eyelids, showing her pain and heartbreak. It’s a really nice way to show her slipping away.
Colder is an artistic masterpiece, but Ferreyra can’t just stop working because of that, can he? In our final day of his art, I’ll take a look at a very violent comic and, as an added bonus, a short story in a fairly different style. You know you’ll enjoy it! You’ll also enjoy checking out the archives!
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