Early in Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean, critic Douglas Wolk states, “American art cartoonists generally try very hard to adopt a style that’s far away from the default style of the superhero mainstream.”
Which naturally leads him to the question of what defines or drives that “superhero mainstream” style:
You know it when you see it, but it’s hard to pin down. Here’s a stab at it: it’s designed to read clearly and to provoke the strongest possible somatic response. You’re supposed to react to it with your body before you think about it.So do you think that applies to yesterday’s picture by Don Kramer?
Most of its characters, especially the heroic ones, are drawn to look as “sexy” as possible--wasp waists, big breasts, and flowing hair on women; rippling muscles on men.
People and objects are partly abstracted and partly modeled, but always within a framework of representation. There’s a lot of foreshortening, for the somatic excitement of seeing something right in front of your face. The style gives a sense of even the most everyday actions and interactions being charged with sex, power, and beauty.
Most of all, generic mainstream drawing is doggedly quasi-realistic--or, rather, it’s realism pumped up a little, into something whose every aspect is cooler and sexier than the reality we readers are stuck with. It’s meant to provide an escape route into a more thrilling world than our own.
Going back to Wolk’s introductory remark, if “art comics” creators try to stay far away from that visual style, do they deliberately seek a look that tamps down “somatic excitement” and blanches out “sex, power, and beauty”? That would certainly explain Jimmy Corrigan.