How Hard Can it Be? III


Time for another of these snarky posts on the exasperating shortcomings of our fellow man (see previous installments). The trend for tracing photographs has never been more widespread in American comics, and while I don’t agree with Frank Santoro’s recent, refreshing but rather hardline dismissal of the technique, it has been responsible for some pretty damn dull-looking and stiff comics.

Tony Harris is a case in point: I like his work OK, and what little I’ve read of his series with writer Brian K. Vaughan, Ex Machina, has been enjoyable, but his characters continue to appear as if they were action figures posed in all their PVC glory, while his background drawings frequently look a tad too much like solarized scans of photographs. Slightly exasperating when you consider that his chops are actually decent enough. Give the lightbox a rest, will ya?

Anyway, here’s the thing: when you trace photographs you almost invariably claim some sort of reality to what you’re doing. And when, on top of that, you draw a rather well-known location, such as, say, the Lincoln Memorial, chances are that your readers are going to expect consistency. OK, so the first issue of Harris’ and Mark Millar’s silly but entertaining War Heroes opens with a Muslim terrorist with explosives strapped to his body walking into said memorial. But as he pushes the detonator, it is not The Great Emancipator who goes sky high, but rather the Capitol? WTF?

Problem is that these two locations, in one of the best-known areas in America are roughly a mile and a half apart — on opposite ends of the Mall. (Also, is that explosion not behind the Capitol, rather than it it?) Harris apparently hasn’t been to Washington DC. That’s fine, but — as I said — when you use photos for reference and set your action in an extremely well-known place, expect a rather jarring reading experience when you get sloppy.

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