In this week’s Pipeline column at ComicBook.com, I talk about Alan Davis’ “The Nail” and “Another Nail” mini-series. Six years apart, but so good.
As usual, I can’t fit all of my thoughts into that column, so I saved the rest for here. This time, it’s all about the art and creation of the comic.
Why Does Alan Davis’ Art Work So Well?
Alan Davis’ art has shape and form. His characters have depth and weight.
An Alan Davis drawing is never two dimensional, even when standing straight and facing directly at the reader. There’s still a roundness to the characters’ body, a fluidity to the ink line, a sense of place from the way the shadows fall, and a depth that goes along with it.
They feel real because they look real even though we all know they’re an enormous stretch from real anatomy. Those bulging biceps, those six pack abs, those broad shoulders and barrel chests — not only do most people not have those things, but those that do couldn’t pull off wearing bright red spandex with that physique, anyway.
Comics are fake; Alan Davis makes them look real — without drawing [expletive deleted] seams.
What’s With The Diagonals?
Here’s something that drove me away from John Byrne’s work in the 90s, that Alan Davis used as a tool in “Another Nail.”
Compare these two pages, the first from “The Nail” and the second from “Another Nail.”
See the difference?
In the third issue of “Another Nail,” the story takes place in a world that’s a bit off-kilter, so Davis goes diagonal for the whole issue to show that it’s a bit… off. I get the idea behind the technique, but I hate it. I’ve always hated the technique, even when used for a purpose. Panel compositions look lopsided and wrong. Page layouts look haphazard, like panels are just thrown around willy nilly. (The example I have above it about the most minor diagonal the panels go.)
This is probably just an annoyance of mine, though.
The Lettering of Patricia Prentice
I love the lettering of Patricia Prentice with Davis’ art. It feels organic. It reminds me a lot of L. Lois Buhalis’ form, with a bit of Richard Starkings’ old hand lettering style, and maybe a touch of John Workman’s energy.
Those round balloons, those square letter forms, those floating balloons. They never butt up against a panel border. They’re always free floating.
Looking at her ComicBookDB.com page, it looks like she rose up the ranks of British publishing before becoming a favorite of Alan Davis’ for a while, lettering both of “The Nail” mini-series, along with his Killraven mini and some “ClanDestine” work. Her two biggest works were lettering “Hitman” for its entire run, and a spell on Peter David/Leonard Kirk’s “Supergirl” series.
She appears to be out of comics now. “Another Nail” actually looks to be her last work. Everything after that was reprints. It was a relatively short career in comics, but one with a lot of highlights to it.
The Coloring of John Kalisz
There’s a big difference in the cover credits between the first and second series. Look:
Colorist John Kalisz gets a “with” cover credit, which I think is pretty nice, and pretty forward for a 2004 comic. At that time, I don’t think that was too common outside of CrossGen.
Kalisz deserves the credit, because his colors suit the series so well. He can paint with bright bold colors suitable to a superhero comic, without every hiding or competing with a single black ink line. Everything is crisp and clean. It’s not fancy, but it’s also not flat. Looking at the two books side by side, you can see how his coloring skills increased in those six years, too. Things got a lot more technical with that experience.
Kalisz is still a colorist at, mostly, DC Comics.
Anything Alan Davis does is worth reading, even fill-in issues or short-lived series that are otherwise uncompelling. I just read his run on “Wolverine” that he did with Paul Cornell a couple years back. It was underwhelming. Not Davis’ fault. He just didn’t have a lot of great stuff to draw, and the story was a little iffy. Plus, those two fill-in issues just killed the momentum of the book with some not great art.
So, there, a bonus review.
Check out the weekly column at ComicBook.com for more on these two “Nail” series, and join me in wishing for an Absolute edition!