"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Ken Krekeler, and the issue is The Colodin Project #2, which was self-published and is cover dated sometime in 2008, I think? These scans are from the collected edition, which was published in September 2009. Enjoy!
Ken Krekeler is a really talented writer/artist who’s starting to get a bit of recognition for his work (not enough in my mind, but oh well), and I thought I’d devote a few days to him – only three, because he hasn’t published a ton of stuff. He’s an artist who uses models in his work, which can be disastrous, but let’s see how he does it!
The first page of the issue gives us a decent idea of how Krekeler creates his art. I know he works digitally, but I’m not sure if he was doing it back then, too, although I assume so. The reason I’m not sure is because he does make this scene, at least, look a little less “slick” than a lot of purely digital work, as we can see in “Panel” 1, where Krekeler adds a lot of rough hatching to the wall behind the figure. Obviously, you can do this digitally (at least I assume you can), but often artists don’t do it. In Panel 2, we get more of that – on the back wall, on the large stones that hold the swords and shields, on the statue in the foreground. The rough hatching helps add verisimilitude to the ancient, tomb-like space. Krekeler, as I noted, uses models for his figures, although it’s hard to tell that here because he uses blacks to shroud the figure’s face. Where the digital production is a bit more obvious is in the coloring. The blue hood in Panel 1 is watercolored so that we see nuances to the hues, but it’s clear from the blue and the brown of the face that Krekeler is adding layers of color and filtering it somehow (again, I apologize that I don’t know the language of digital coloring as well as I’d like). We see this more in Panel 2 – despite the nice use of shadows, the bright spots look laid down without too much regard to how the stones would reflect the light. It’s not too big a deal on this page because it’s so dark, but it’s something to note going forward.
Krekeler might use models for his figures, but he knows how to alter them so that they fit into the story he’s telling, as we see here. I don’t know if he copied the giant from someplace else and changed it up or if he used a model and then added muscles (unless he knows someone with those kind of muscles), but it works very well. He inks the giant very well, making him appear very tough and ancient, as if he’s from an age before history. He places the other figure with his head just touching the giant’s left hand, which links the two of them and also provides a bit of perspective – the giant is very close to the figure in the foreground, so we get a sense of how dangerously close the smaller figure is to the larger one. It’s a nicely composed splash page.
Here’s a good page to see what Krekeler does with his figures. As I noted, I’m not sure if at this stage of his career he was using models – I know he does now, because he occasionally posts the photos he takes on his Facebook page – but if he was, he gets them in good poses. He thinks about how they would interact with each other, which, if he is taking pictures, is harder than it sounds, as usually you don’t have everyone you’re using as models in the same room. Steven and Rene have a conversation, but Krekeler makes sure their body language is as good as the dialogue, from Rene disgustedly crossing her arms in Panel 2 to Steven looking down, embarrassed, at the ground in Panel 3 to Rene’s “you-have-to-be-kidding-me” face in Panel 4. Krekeler inks the page nicely, too, as he gives Steven a few wrinkles, giving him enough of a world-weary look without marring his face too much. Krekeler would get better at coloring, as the washes on this page and in much of the book are somewhat uninspired, and the blurriness of the background in Panel 7 is unfortunate, as it makes the art look a bit too “digital,” but it’s clear that Krekeler, at least, is good with the characters. The backgrounds would come later.
Krekeler, as we can see, doesn’t exactly color “realistically,” which is perfectly fine with me and is actually preferable in many instances. The problem with a sequence like this is that there doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason for coloring the car pink. It helps make the dude in the car pop a bit more, but it’s still a weird hue to use. The lurid coloring could be part of the contrast presented by the city as opposed to the interior where Earl is, and we see a bit of that in Panels 3-5, which show the city in the background. Krekeler uses some obviously Photoshopped backgrounds, which is fine if it’s integrated well into the panel. You can see that Krekeler colors it oddly, using a lot of yellows and pinks, so that its “reality” becomes “unreal” and more a part of the overall art. It’s an interesting trick that works well.
Here’s another unusual page, as Krekeler again does nice figure work and uses coloring to blend his artwork with Photoshopped backgrounds. By using a gray-green hue, he lessens the impact of the background being different from the figure work, and he also helps turn the pattern on Roger’s suit into something that looks a bit less like a layered add-in and more like something Krekeler might have inked in himself. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than a lot of artists who use this approach and don’t mess around with the coloring too much. Krekeler not only messes with the coloring, but he uses shading on Steven and Roger well to make them more part of the entire scene. Krekeler would get better at this, but he’s not bad here.
In this sequence, I don’t think Krekeler’s integration works as well. When Steven enters the apartment building, Krekeler decides to use a monochrome gray for him and the gun, but because the interior that he uses has a lot of wood in it, the brown of the scenery jars a bit with Steven’s blandness. It’s not a bad idea – Steven is colored “normally” in Panel 1, and when he moves inside the gloomy house, he becomes gray with darkness – but it doesn’t quite work. Perhaps if Krekeler had chosen a better color it might, but Steven seems to stand out among the obviously Photoshopped interior, and it doesn’t work as well as some of the other choices Krekeler makes in the comic. He lays the page out well as Steven moves through the building, but the color work is a bit disappointing. Krekeler would get better on his next project, though.
We’ll see that next project, which turned out to be one of the best graphic novels of 2011, tomorrow. I know you can’t wait! You can always soothe your fevered brow by checking out the archives!
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