INTERVIEW: DiDio & Lee on "Dark Knight 3," Vertigo's Future & DC's Evolving Readership
Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Jason Copland, and the comic is Kill All Monsters!, which was serialized on-line circa 2010, while the collection was published by Alterna Comics and is cover dated July 2013. Enjoy!
Michael May, Ed Brisson, and Copland began working on Kill All Monsters! a while ago (it’s copyrighted as early as 2007), but I’m not sure when Copland drew these pages, as they aren’t dated at the KAM site. Copland dated at least one of the pages 2010, so I’m going to assume these pages were drawn any time from 2007 to 2010/11. That’s the best I can do!
Copland gets to draw a lot of action in this comic, as it’s largely about giant monsters destroying the world and the people piloting the giant robots that are trying to stop them. Copland might not seem like the kind of artist you want drawing giant robots, as his rough style doesn’t seem to mesh with the sharp lines and edges we might think of when we think of giant robots, but as we can see, he does a nice job, as his thick lines make the robots look beaten up a bit, which suits the story very well. The entire world has been wrecked, and while it’s expected that Copland could draw wreckage pretty well, the fact that the robots look a bit run-down is a nice touch. When he needs to draw a robot that looks bit newer, he’s perfectly capable of doing it, but when they’re fighting the monsters, it’s kind of cool that they look like they’re roughed up. Copland designs some creepy monsters, too, as we see here with the thing that … shoots insects? Notice in Panel 1 that he tilts the scene to make it a bit more chaotic – we follow the insects toward the robot, up the page a bit, but when we reach the two robots in the background, the tilt of the page almost makes our eyes fall toward the lower right so we can move easily to the bottom row. It’s an interesting trick. We can see that Copland uses harsh, thick lines to make Paris look more destroyed, which works quite well.
As this is Paris, you know the Eiffel Tower is going to get used as a spear, and here it is! Copland once again gives us a solid yet somewhat squalid robot, with the blacks on the legs scuffing up the metal. The monster is creepy, of course, and Copland uses thick blacks on its body to make it look ickier but also so that the blood exploding from it stand out. He uses a lot of nice motion lines on the page, driving us from the left to the right like the robot, while the wound stops us short, as the design of the page makes the vertical Eiffel Tower a barrier to our reading, so we have to stop and take it all in. When I reviewed this, I asked Copland about his use of Zip-A-Tone, which we see in the smoke, for instance, as well as other places on most of these pages. He noted that it adds a “gray value” to the page with using a flat grat color, which is a neat workaround. One thing that he told me that I myself noticed is that it adds texture, which you can see on the tentacles of the monster. The suckers are good enough, but with the Zip-A-Tone, it makes them look even more tactile. Copland also told me that one very good reason to use Zip-A-Tone is because it’s awesome. He’s not wrong!
This could be a figure work study, as Akemi climbs down her robot and jumps to the ground. Copland uses a silhouette in Panel 1 to show how tall the robots are and how terrifying it could be to climb down them, as the black isolates Akemi and the buildings in the background provide scale. In Panel 2, she leaps, and Copland does a beautiful job with her shadow, as it curves across the base of the robot and onto the ground. This has to be harder than it looks, based on some of the weird shadows I’ve seen other artists draw, but Copland does a good job with it, even making the legs look a bit messier as the ground breaks up where the light falls and is blocked. I don’t know why, but I love Panel 3, when Akemi lands on the ground. Her pose is perfect, as she bends her knees and stabilizes herself by keeping her arms out in front, and Copland sways her hair to the front to show the way her momentum is carrying her and gives her a bit of a wince as her body braces against the ground. It’s such a realistic drawing of the way someone would land after jumping from a decent height, and it shows Copland’s precise attention to detail.
The team – Akemi, Dressen, and Spencer – gets caught in Paris, and discover that things are a bit weird, starting with some kind of dog creature that Dressen and Spencer kill. Copland gets to go a bit nuts here, as the dog-thing is all blacks and crazy lines, making it look even more rabid and feral than if a different artist drew it. I really like the last panel, as Akemi stands alone in thought. Copland crosses her arms, which makes her look slightly saintly, as if she’s waiting for martyrdom, while Copland attacks the background with thick, messy blacks just around her, so that we get her black state of mind while also, given the rest of the panel, setting her very much apart from the other two. She’s not quite sure what to think about the way things are playing out, and instead of May trying too hard to get that into the dialogue, he lets Copland do it through the art, and it’s nicely done.
The team gets attacked by giant mutated warthogs (or something), and the inhabitants of Paris, who have been reduced to a civilization without modern technology because the monsters destroyed it all, come to their rescue. So there’s Cosa, leaping down with her curved knife, ready to carve up some hog, while her back-up fires arrows at the monsters. Copland once again does a wonderful job with the way he draws figures – Cosa has bent her knees to protect herself as she falls, while she has her arms out for some stability. Copland draws her hair flying above her very well, and he makes sure her face is placid, as she’s calmly assessing the situation before she lands. The people on the roof have looped some of the warthogs, which provides a it of a lattice to frame Cosa but also links the background with the foreground – the ropes create an interesting perspective that ties (excuse the pun) the panel together well. Copland again shows that he can draw good monsters, as we get the grotesque creature in Panel 3 getting punctured with arrows – he adds what appear to be boils to the monster’s skin to make it more disgusting, while making it clearer that it has thick, brushy fur across its shoulders. As we’ve already seen, Copland uses thick, messy lines to create chaos in the scene, which makes it more frenetic and fits the tone of the scene very well.
Archer is the fourth robot-pilot we meet in this comic, and here he chucks an ugly thing around a little bit. I wanted to show this because while some artists don’t like motion lines and think they’re a crutch, I tend to disagree, if only because it allows artists to make their art look a bit more crazed. If you’re trying to draw as precisely as possible, I suppose the lack of motion lines interferes with your “realism.” Copland, however, is drawing a book where giant monsters fight giant robots, so realism left the building a while ago. He’s trying to add as much kinetic energy to the page as possible during these fights, so he gives us thick, swooping lines in Panel 1 as Archer swings the monster around, with the actual monster a blur of black in the corner, and he gives us more thick, blurry lines as the monster smashes into the other monster, the one that looks like a big brain in a frame of Jell-O. Copland draws basic outlines for the monster’s body and claws but then “colors outside the lines” to give the impression of fast motion, while he still remembers to be more precise with Archer’s robot, which is metal and therefore doesn’t have fur to ruffle as the wind blows through it. You’ll notice the Zip-A-Tone again, making the Jell-O monster a bit more substantial as the other monster smashes into it. It doesn’t need a lot, but the little bit that Copland uses helps create a nice contrast between the impact point and the rest of Jell-O-zilla.
Kill All Monsters appears to be on hiatus, which is too bad because it ends on a cliffhanger. Maybe we’ll see some more of it, but maybe not. In the meantime, Copland kept working! You might think I’ll show a certain horn-head tomorrow, but I don’t own that issue (yet), so I’m going to take a peek at another smaller comic you might have missed! You can find that horn-head and other superheroes in the archives!
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.