Thursday, January 29, 2009

Paolo Rivera

Paolo Rivera
At one time the brief description line at the top of Paolo Rivera’s blog read: “I am a painter for Marvel Comics. Really, I am.”

If that seems odd, you may not be aware that many comic book overs are painted (a practice that has a fairly long history) and, in recent years, an increasing number of comics stories themselves are being told in fully rendered painted panels.

I trace fully painted comic stories back to the pioneering work of Will Elder on Little Annie Fanny in the 1960’s, though perhaps there were antecedents in European comics I’m not aware of. The limiting factor in mainstream American comic books was printing technology. For a long time comics were printed by letterpress (like newspapers), and color was applied by hand-cutting stencils.

That has changed dramatically, of course, and in modern comic book printing almost anything is possible; and the main limitation on painted comic book stories is that the process can be even more work and time intensive than traditional ink outline with filled colors.

Some purists don’t like the painted approach, feeling that it’s not “comics” unless it’s black line art with color fills, but I think it works fine as long as the artist has good visual storytelling skills.

Though within the practice of painted comics stories artists can take a variety of approaches, and in the hands of some artists it can feel forced and stiff, with the visual weight of the fully painted images slowing down the pace of the story.

Rivera, I think, is an artist who has a light and varied touch to his painted interior panels, and a natural feel for this variation on the comics medium. He has an approach that flows with the story, propelling it rather than slowing it down, and providing a wonderful textural quality to the images that only painted panels can provide.

Rivera grew up around art, his parents owned an art supply store, and he started working for Marvel comics while still a junior at the Rhode Island School of Design. He found his calling in comics, particularly painted comics, when he was struck by the painted comics work of Alex Ross on Marvels.

Rivera has become well known as a painted cover artist and for his painted storytelling work on a series called Mythos as well as titles like Spectacular Spider-Man.

Lately he has been showing himself to be adept at the traditional line art style of comic storytelling, tough I hope it doesn’t mean we’ll see a lot less of his painted work.

As part of the lead-up to the New York Comic Con, coming up February 6th – 8th, where Rivera will be among the guest artists, he is giving a lecture on Comics, Color and Composition at the Brooklyn Public Library on Wednesday, February 4th, 2009.

The lecture will be at 7pm in the Dweck Center of the Central Library on Grand Army Plaza. It’s free and open to the public and will be followed by a question and answer session, so comic-artists-to-be can grill him on his drawing and painting techniques.

11 thoughts on “Paolo Rivera

  1. Charley Parker Post author

    Thanks, Pedro.

    I certainly agree that Rivera’s pencil and ink work is terrific, though I like his painted work so much that I don’t want to see him abandon it. Hopefully he can keep a balance between the two (or maybe a clone…, naw, that trick never works).

    Other readers can check out Funnybook Babylon, a comics oriented blog with input from several writers, including Pedro Tejeda (and a great comics board paste-up layout design).

  2. David Clemons

    There were great painted covers on the old Gold Key/Whitman comics back in the early 60s. Magnus, Robot Fighter and Dr. Solar, for example. I believe the Dr. Solar covers were by Richard Powers who did many paperback covers for Dell.

  3. Charley Parker Post author

    Right you are, David, and your second comment caught me right in the middle of replying back about the Turok covers (which, according to reader Dan Varner were by Mo Gollub).

    Here is my post on Richard Powers, and on Cover Browser, an amazing resource where you can browse thousands of old comics, magazine, pulp and book covers.

    Other readers can see David Blaine Clemons’ portfolio of paintings and drawings here.

  4. Dan Pollock

    You can trace painted comics back beyond Will Elder’s Anny Fanny in the ’60s for Hugh Hefner. In the late ’50s Hefner put out 2 issues of Trump magazine with a lot of Mad alumns and defectors, including Elder and Jack Davis. Jack Davis’ watercolor renditions of a spoof of the movie “Giant” (Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean) blew me away as a kid, and still remain vivid in memory. Don’t know if they are anywhere on the web, but there was a Trump coffee table book collection.

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