Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Jason Copland, and the story is “Send Louis His Underwear” in Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened, which was published by Villard Books and is cover dated July 2007. Enjoy!
Postcards is a fascinating project – editor Jason Rodriguez collected old postcards, gave them to creators, and let them come up with a story behind whatever was written on the card. Obviously, the stories in the book are a mixed bag – it’s an anthology, after all – but there’s some very cool stuff in it, and Copland’s art on a short story with a great title is part of that!
As you can see, Copland has become a much rougher artist since he began working on Empty Chamber – it’s not just the fact that the story takes place in a snowstorm. He flicks white acrylic paint on the page in Panel 1 to create the blizzard, while he uses white to create the denuded trees, as well. For the smoke, he uses more white, smudged with a bit of black to make it more, you know, smoky. He uses the same effect on the fence to make the woodenness stand out a bit in the stark setting. He isolates the house really well, as the fence leads our eyes toward it but ends far before it reaches the house, which allows the grounds to isolate it even more. Of course, the fact that the ground is covered in snow makes the barren ground even more lonely. Copland moves in on the house, and we see the nice details he puts into the house with just simple lines, creating the stone foundation and the rough wood of the building. In Panel 3, we get the protagonist of the story (I’ll assume that’s Louis), and Copland does a good job showing how the light falls on his face but dissipates into shadow quickly, as the candle isn’t that terribly strong. Again, Copland smudges the window frame to show the roughness of the house. It’s a nice touch.
It’s a bit hard to tell on the screen, but I think you can still see it – this page is a bit fuzzy. It’s a bit strange – I assume when it was shot from the originals, something happened, and it’s only this page in the entire book, so it’s not a recurring problem, but there it is. Oh well.
Anyway, this story is five pages long, and for the middle three pages, Copland breaks down the page into 16-panel grids, with some variations, as we see here with Panel 3. That’s necessary so we see the bodies stacked next to the fireplace, and Copland does a nice job leading us to that point. In Panel 1, he leads us back to the fireplace, which seems benign, even though we can see the bodies next to it. It’s not clear yet what they are, though, so then we move to Panel 2, where we see the photograph on the mantel. This is Louis, as far as I can tell, with the two women, who presumably are the ones wrapped up next to the fireplace. Copland uses a single panel to link the photograph to the bodies, as the panel border would bisect that panel perfectly and might sever the link between them. Copland does an interesting thing in Panels 5 and 6, as the checks on Louis’s shirt match the checks on the bundles. It’s an interesting way to link them, much like the photograph on the mantel linking the women to the bodies. Copland uses good shading to create indentations and bulges in the bundles, indicating that they’re bodies. He also does a nice job in the final panel, as Louis decides on a course of action. His mouth is slightly turned up as he comes up with an idea, and Copland moves his eyes to the left, moving us toward the next page.
Here are 12 of the 16 panels on this page, as Louis walks to the barn, back to the house, and then back to the barn, carrying the two bodies. Copland takes his time with the action, which adds to the tension of the scene, as the reader keeps waiting for the payoff (which doesn’t really come; this is a meditative story). He uses white ink once again to create the blizzard and the breath coming from Louis’s mouth, scuffing the page very nicely as Louis moves through the snow. Notice that Copland makes the divots in the snow a bit darker as Louis walks across the field, which is a nice touch. He keeps things simple, using black smudges to show Louis when he’s nearer to the barn, which is logical but also adds some mystery to the scene. Louis is not wearing pants, which ties into the name of the story, but that’s all I’m going to say about it!
We can see a bit of the facial structure that Copland used in Empty Chamber, as Louis is similar to Matt and the male characters in that book, even though Copland is using a different, rougher style. I like this sequence because it slowly reveals the depths of Louis’s personality, with all that implies (and again, I don’t want to give too much away). In Panel 1, Copland establishes the scene, with the photograph still in the background, a reminder of better days, I assume. Louis stares at the postcard in Panel 2, his mouth turned down, his eyes hooded darkly. As he smiles, Copland adds more lines to his face, of course, and Louis seems mirthful, but Copland never lightens his eyes, which makes the smile a bit more disturbing, given what we think we know about Louis. We get some of the groundwork from Matt Dembicki’s script and the text from the postcard that Rodriguez found, but Copland brings it home nicely. We think we know what’s going on with Louis, but it’s still ambiguous, and that comes through in the art, especially this sequence, really well.
Around this time, as far as I can tell, Copland began drawing a magnum opus on-line, which I’ll take a look at tomorrow. He gets to draw a shitload of action, so that’s always fun! Remember: it’s always fun to check out the archives!