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Year of the Artist, Day 172: John Paul Leon, Part 1 – Dark Horse Comics #2

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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is John Paul Leon, and the story is “RoboCop Part 2″ in Dark Horse Comics #2, which was published by … um, wait, it’ll come to me … and is cover dated September 1992. Enjoy!

As far as I can discover, this is the second comic John Paul Leon ever drew, following Dark Horse Comics #1, which had the first part of this RoboCop series. He, well, has improved quite a bit since this issue!

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Leon has never been the most fluid artist, and we see that here in his early work. Leon was 20 when he drew this, so it’s not surprising it’s extremely raw, but he does some interesting things on this page. He draws different faces in Panel 2, giving each character a bit of personality, which is nice. Mr. Tucker in Panel 3 is a bit odd-looking, but Robo’s pose is interesting, as it looks cribbed from the way he stands occasionally in the movie. It doesn’t look like Leon simply stole the image, but I wonder if he used pictures from the movie as a guide. It’s not bad detailing on Robo’s armor, and Sean Tierney’s coloring helps make it look more metallic. Leon’s art certainly isn’t very smooth, but it’s legible, which is nice.

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A bad guy decides to take his chances with RoboCop, which just isn’t a very smart idea (although Robo doesn’t kill him, so that’s something). Again, we see that Leon’s action is a bit stiff, although the page layout is perfectly fine. He or inker Jeff Albrecht puts some decent hatching on the bad guy, giving him a bit of a rough look, while the spot blacks on the page add a bit of definition to the scene. Leon hasn’t quite gotten the hang of faces yet – the bad guy in Panel 2 is fine, but he keeps Robo’s mouth tiny throughout, which is a bit odd. A lot of this looks like Leon copied it free hand from photographs, which isn’t the worst way to draw things but does limit the way the characters interact. Leon also ignores backgrounds in the close-ups, which isn’t too uncommon but still makes things look like they’re taking place in a no-place.

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When Leon goes in for a close-up, we get more nuance on Mr. Tucker’s face, and we can see a few hints about the direction Leon’s art would go in. He (or Albrecht) uses a lot of blacks in Tucker’s hair, as Leon would begin to use heavy blacks in his art later in his career. Tucker’s face is lined to show his age a little, and while that’s probably Albrecht, Leon would begin to do that more, as well. In close-up, his facial expressions are a bit better, as Tucker’s rage is pretty clear in Panel 3. Albrecht uses some cross-hatching in Panel 2 and vertical hatching in Panel 3, adding some nice nuance to Tucker’s figure. The art is a still a bit creaky, but it does foreshadow better things.

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When Leon pulls back to show the carnage Robo’s arrest has wrought, we see that he’s still a neophyte, as he relies on basic shapes with very little detail to show the scene. Mr. Tucker’s pants and the dead girl’s dress are the only things that get any kind of definition in the middle ground – even Robo’s armor is very basic, even though we’ve seen Leon make it look more armored in previous panels (although he makes sure that the cops leading the bad guys away are wearing bullet-proof vests). Albrecht, it appears, adds some black lines to the blood around the dead woman, but otherwise, this appears to be very much a “tracing” job on the inks, as Albrecht doesn’t add any hatching or brush work to the scene. This is, again, possibly symptomatic of a young artist – Leon wasn’t confident enough to go into too much detail, so he drew this panel quickly and … well, not exactly sloppily, but in a manner that suggests he was just trying to make sure everything was there without worrying about the nuances too much. Tierney, with the green-purple of the trash bags and the hues of Robo’s armor, seems to be doing more of the heavy lifting on the page.

This is a short story, so there’s not much else to show. Leon would, of course, get a lot better, and tomorrow I’ll take a look at a comic he drew not too long after this where we can see more of a move toward his more mature style. You know you want to come back, and you know you want to give a gander at the archives!

11 Comments

ho… i do have that comics… in a box somewhere…

that anthology (like many antho) did have many a beginning artist or writer.

-one with interesting beginnings are the DC bonus book at the end of the 80″s)

tom fitzpatrick

June 21, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Seeing his art here, I would not have recognized it as John Paul Leon.

I don’t recall exactly which book I first saw his works, but the one I remember him most fondly for is EARTH X.

I remember wishing that he’d come back to do the art on the second and third part of that trilogy. Sadly, that didn’t happen.

Two artists that reminds me of JPL is Ted McKeever and Danijel Zezelj. They’re all similar to Keith Giffen. :-)

Hi Greg, a request for Static if you have it! (A series I enjoyed immensely, both for the art and the writing).

I do believe I read the first few issues of Dark Horse Comics, but I didn’t stick with it. And yeah, definitely would not have associated this with Leon!

This is interesting. I only own JPLs work on winter men which is ridiculously awesome. I can see traces of that here but it certainly lacks his later nuance. I look forward to your tracking his evolution.

Let me just say thank you for this entire series. How about doing Steve rude at some point? He’s become one of my tops as I’ve dug his old nexus stuff up- and if I could have one comic book dream it would be that he gets regular gigs on some of these new sci fi books the smaller publishers are putting out.

Another surprised fan, here! JPL first came to my attention on Earth X, and I soon grabbed everything I could find by him… but I never would have expected this to be his work. It’s always interesting to see how styles evolve.

tom: Man, I would not have thought of those three artists with regard to being similar to Leon. If you say so! :)

David: Well, if I’m doing Static, it will be tomorrow, so you’ll just have to come back and find out if it shows up!

Robin: Yeah, Winter Men is awesome.

The problem with Rude is that as far as I know, he started on Nexus, or if he didn’t, it was almost the first thing he did, and the art is so refined that he really hasn’t evolved that much. I’ve thought about him, and I might get to him, but I’m not sure. His art is superb, though, so maybe I’ll show it just to show it!

Very excited for Winter Men. Brett Lewis, Brett Lewis, wherefore art thou, Brett Lewis?

If John Paul Leon reminded me of any other artist it would likely be Tommy Lee Edwards

tom fitzpatrick

June 22, 2014 at 8:09 am

@ Scooby: Ooooh, I forgot about Tommy Lee Edwards!

Ok – make that four artists, Mr. Burgas. ;-)

Scooby: He and Edwards are good friends and apparently they share a studio (or have in the past), so it’s not surprising they’re similar. Edwards is coming up in this series, too!

I do love me some JPL!
He’s got some amazing stuff. From Earth X, to the Challengers of the Unknown (with Shawn Martinbrough) and a couple of filler issues of Scalped. You can go a lot of interesting ways of showing this man’s work.

-R

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