Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Juan Ferreyra, and the issues are The CBLDF Liberty Annual 2013 and Kiss Me, Satan! #5, the first of which was published by Image and is cover dated October 2013, and the second of which was published by Dark Horse and is cover dated January 2014. Enjoy!
For the last day of Juan Ferreyra’s art, I thought I’d check in on his most recent comic, which was Kiss Me, Satan! It was written by Victor Gischler, and it wasn’t great, but it was pretty entertaining. But Ferreyra and Paul Tobin had a 4-page story in the CBDLF Liberty Annual 2013, and I wanted to check out some of that, because it’s a nice change of pace from Ferreyra.
Tobin’s story is about Georg Paul Morgenstern, as you can see. The dog is Hitler, in case you didn’t quite get that. Ferreyra shows his adaptability by drawing the scene very cartoonishly, as Morgan was a cabaret performer in Weimar Berlin, which was where it was at, cabaret-wise (Joel Grey and Liza Minnelli told us so!), so he was fairly theatrical (plus, he was an MC, so what he’s doing is in line with that). Ferreyra uses exaggerated facial expressions and movements, a silly confrontation, and a goofy looking dog to poke fun at the Nazis, but also to set up the dark turn the story takes. I love the off-register coloring and the “dirty” paper – Ferreyra and Tobin go out of their way to make this comic look “olde-tymey.” This looks simple, but Ferreyra still puts a lot of care into making it so silly-looking.
Here’s an example of an artist using photo references in a way that doesn’t bother me. If you Google Conrad Veidt, Anita Berber, and Fritz Lang, you can find these images pretty quickly (here, here, sort of, and here, although I wouldn’t recommend Googling Anita Berber unless you have a hankering for some good old-fashioned 1920s nudity), but then Ferreyra obviously does some actual work on them, adding some inking texture and placing them well in the panel with the still cartoonish Morgan. I understand why artists use photo references, and I certainly don’t have a problem with it unless it’s done lazily, and it’s clear that Ferreyra was not lazy here. Notice the “ripped” and “folded” paper, too.
Ferreyra does a cool thing in this brief story – as Morgan’s fate becomes more dire, Ferreyra draws it more realistically, so by this final page, despite the colors still being a bit off-register, the drawings are not cartoony at all. We get the emaciated prisoners at Dachau, the stern guards, and Morgan’s death, drawn with painstaking care so that it hits us harder. In the final panel, we get another drawing using photo reference, but Ferreyra inks it with nice hatching, throwing shadows over Morgan’s face. In the background, he uses paints on the dogs taking care of Hitler, separating that drawing from the rest of the story and making it even more metaphorical. It’s a pretty cool choice.
You should always get the Liberty Annuals, because they’re chock full of talent and it’s for a good cause, but this story is really well done. But let’s move on to Kiss Me, Satan!, which is just a tad different than “A Mustache at My Heels.”
As Ferreyra gets a bit older, he has seemed to use hard angles a bit more. He can still soften his pencils a lot if he wants to, but when he’s drawing some more evil things, like the bizarre monsters in Panel 1, he’s using a harder line and bolder inks. As you can see, he also uses a bit more hatching on the priest’s hand to rough it up a bit. This is a nice panel – the nun in the background is softer than the priest, and the three-dimensional aspect of the hand is very cool, allowing us to see the wee beasties nicely as they attack. Ferreyra uses the colors well, too – to show the veins in the creatures’ wings, he simply paints in yellow lines rather than drawing them, so they seem more organic. Notice, in Panel 2, that the borders of Zell’s body are a bit sharper than we’ve seen from Ferreyra before – again, he seems to be evolving in this direction, and the fact that he hasn’t abandoned his “softer” aspects makes his art a nice study in contrasts. In Panel 3, we again see his use of watercolors for the backgrounds, which adds a hazy, somewhat nostalgic feeling to the settings that he uses.
This is one of these panels that makes me wonder what the script was like. Did Gischler write something like “Malcolm is looking in the pool, and he sticks his finger in and disturbs the surface tension, so make his reflection all squiggly” or did he simply write that Malcolm was looking in the pool and Ferreyra added him putting his finger into it and disturbing the water so that he reflection went all squiggly? I don’t know, but if it’s not the writer’s idea, it’s the kind of thing that makes you appreciate good artists, because while it certainly doesn’t really add too much to the narrative, the fact that Malcolm is experiencing some doubt and Ferreyra makes his reflection uncertain is some nifty little visual symbolism. If it’s Ferreyra’s addition, it’s a cool little touch that the artist brings to the table, if that artist knows what he or she is doing.
Ferreyra gives us two consecutive double-page spreads showing our hero, Barnabus, and our heroine, Zell, entering the house of the werewolves who are the bad guys in this story and, well, fucking shit up. As usual, I apologize for the fact that my scanner is too small to accommodate an entire open comic book, so you’ll just have to deal with smaller scans and, if you want, you can click on each side to embiggen them. In the first example, Ferreyra uses really nice details on the top row, showing the ornate surroundings of the werewolves’ mansion. Ferreyra has always been very good at details, and this work makes the massacre a bit more florid, I suppose, as it’s taking place in such a beautiful place. We can also see Ferreyra’s use of hard lines, as Barnabus and Zell (not to mention the werewolves) are bordered with strong, angular lines, giving them a slightly etched quality. It’s not the fact that the book is the most brutal one Ferreyra has drawn (probably – as I noted, I don’t quite own all of his comics), because when he was drawing gore in earlier books, he still used a softer line. It must be because he’s moving that way, artistically. I suppose we’ll find out in August, when he draws an issue of Abe Sapien.
The layout of these pages is, of course, what stands out. Ferreyra shows the werewolves rushing down the stairs and adds the inset panels to show the men preparing for battle, with Barnabus in the last panel thinking he may have bitten off more than he can chew but not backing down. In the second row, Barnabus shoots a bunch of werewolves, and Ferreyra draws the gore wonderfully. The inset panels at the top follow the bullet through the head of one of his victims, with Ferreyra giving us a X-ray vision of the bullet passing through the bad dude’s brain. At the bottom, we see the small panels showing Zell’s friends and her mentor, all of whom have been killed during the course of the story. It’s a nice way to show that they’re still in her thoughts. In the bottom row of the first example, Ferreyra twists the point of view in the middle panel, which is pretty cool. It disorients us because Barnabus and Zell are upside down, but it still works. On the second two-page spread, the werewolf enters with the big-ass gun and starts spraying bullets. Ferreyra uses the double-page spread well, stretching out the bullets in the second row, which, although it’s two panels side-to-side, still gives us the feeling of one long panel. He leads us really nicely across the floor and up the wall, which takes us to the chandelier falling and Zell casting the spell. Then, because Ferreyra always does a wonderful job with the coloring, we get the entire scene drenched in green, while Barnabus and Zell stand outside the spell and so remain colored “normally.” In the final panel, Ferreyra remembers to draw the shadows of the bullets on Barnabus’s face. More nice attention to detail there.
Malcolm takes Barnabus’s amulet off, and it turns out that’s a really bad idea. He’s a fallen angel, you see, who’s trying to do good deeds to get back into Heaven, and this is his true form. And he’s in a really bad mood. Once again we see how much fun Ferreyra has with the gore, as Barnabus pulps the werewolf in the upper right so hard that his teeth fly out of his mouth. In the final panel, he punches the dude so hard he basically explodes, which is accompanied by that fantastic sound effect. A couple of things stand out on this spread. Ferreyra’s colors, once again, are stunning, with the painted flames boiling away flesh in Panel 3 a highlight. In that panel, Ferreyra shows that his wings are translucent, which is a nifty idea. In Panel 5, Ferreyra gives us a close-up of Barnabus’s head, and I love the light hatching he does to make the bone … bonier? and the slight discoloration of the white bone to make it look older and more worn down. The flow of the pages is really nice, too – Ferreyra leads us across the top well, and the way Barnabus sweeps the lower part of the panel in Panel 3 leads us downward to the lower left. The bullets in that panel take us to the close-up of Barnabus, and he turns to dispatch the dudes firing at him, but even though he’s moving the “wrong” way, the fact that his body is on the right side of the final panel helps lead us off the page. It’s very nicely done.
This is Ferreyra’s most recent work, but as I noted, he’s drawing at least one issue of Abe Sapien coming up, plus the Futures End issue of Constantine. I would love to see him get more recognition, because he’s a great artist, and I’m not sure if enough people know about his work. If you didn’t already, I hope these past few days has convinced you to check out some of his work!
Yes, that means it’s time for a new artist, so I’m going to check out another current artist. I’m kind of proud of myself about this guy, as I mentioned in one of my Year-End posts that he should have a bigger profile, and almost instantly, he began getting a higher profile! I’m certainly not taking credit for it or anything, I’m just pointing out that it’s rare that I’m so prescient about things. So come back tomorrow, and make sure to give the archives a whirl!