Veteran comics inker Bob McLeod is the editor of a new comics magazine, Rough Stuff, that’s devoted to showing original sketches and preliminary art from top artists, along with insights into the process of creating comic art. It’s a really interesting mix for any comic fan, especially those who are fans of the artists spotlighted.
Of course, McLeod picks a stellar group of artists to spotlight in his first issue. There are original layouts and pencil sketches by artists such as Alan Davis, George Perez, Bruce Timm, Walter Simonson, Art Adams, Kevin Nowlan, John Byrne and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Timm is the spotlight artist, featuring typically gorgeous animated-style art from a master of the form. His illustrations of Frankenstein’s Monster and the Zombie in this issue are wonderful.
The real revelation this issue is the work by longtime DC artist Garcia-Lopez. Though he drew the graphic novel Road to Perdition, among others, Garcia-Lopez is probably better known as the key artist for DC’s character model sheets in the 1980s. His clean line style was perfect for that sort of work, since Garcia-Lopez’s characters were always well-proportioned and designed. So it was a thrill to see pages of continuity from him. McLeod publishes a preliminary page from a Superman story by Garcia Lopez that is so gorgeously designed, so full of movement and charm, that it was very exciting to me.
But what I really found fascinating about this magazine was the behind-the-scenes look at creating artwork for comics. McLeod writes an intriguing article called “Tight Pencils: The Answer or the Problem?” that explores changes in comic art over the years. One thing that has changed a lot is the tightness of pencil art in comics. Where previously the inker was given a lot of freedom to add his style to penciled art, now the penciler is in ascendance. Pencilers are encouraged to draw in great detail, and are expected to do a lot of the rendering work that inkers have traditionally done. I’ve been a comics fan for many years, but I had no idea that any of this was happening behind the scenes.
I also really enjoyed “Rough Critique,” where McLoed analyzes a submission by a comics fan. A reader can really see McLeod’s professionalism and experience show through in his analysis. McLeod’s comments are insightful and interesting.
As essentially an art gallery with a few articles, this zine sometimes feels a bit light in content. But if you like the artwork, it’s well worth the cover price. And the short articles add a lot to the magazine, too. I’m looking forward to future issues of Rough Stuff.