Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Mark Texeira, and the issues are Jonah Hex #89 and Hex #14, both of which were published by DC and are cover dated February 1985 and October 1986, respectively. Enjoy!
Man, I’m cheating so much these days it’s not even funny. I know I suck, but that’s the way it is. As I was looking over my collection of mid-1980s Mark Texeira comics, of which there are not many, I noticed that this issue of Jonah Hex (which was Texeira’s first on the title) features a different kind of style than Hex #14. This is interesting for a number of reasons. First of all, the Jonah Hex/Hex divide, which straddled Crisis on Infinite Earths, has to be an early example of a comic book company rebooting a title with a new #1 just for the hell of it, right? I mean, yes, the direction of the series shifted dramatically (Hex is the infamous “Jonah in the future” story), but the final issue of the original series, #92 (drawn by Gray Morrow), had the story of Jonah leaping forward in time, so Hex was just a continuation of that, and both Michael Fleisher and Texeira were part of the new creative team. It’s bizarre, as it’s such a “Marvel NOW!” thing to do, but DC did it 30 years ago!
Does any of this has to do with the artwork? Of course not! Let’s get to that, shall we?
I don’t know who this is – she doesn’t get a name in this comic – but I wanted to show her to set up something else later in the post. It’s all about foreshadowing and symmetry, people! Texeira, here inked by Dennis Janke, gives us smoother lines than we saw yesterday, with nice blacks and beautiful hatching, showing the way the light hits the woman’s face. As it’s so close in, Texeira can take some time with it, but it’s still a very nice-looking drawing. Remember it!
Texeira continues to get better with spot blacks in this comic, as we see here. The blacks in Panel 2 make the man’s fear more palpable, and the black background in Panels 4 and 5 make the characters stand out more. This is still a bit more rounded than we’ll see Texeira’s pencil art become, but he is becoming more confident with his line work, and he moves us around the page quite well. This is solid work, although it’s still not “Texeira-esque.”
This is a really nice layout, and Texeira shows that he’s getting quite good at action scenes. His figures flow across the panels, and he places them where their movements can have maximum impact. Miss Starr moves our eyes from left to right in Panel 1 with her swing and the way her victim falls backward, and both she and the thug are drawn well to show the force of the blow. In Panel 2, we’re still with the punk, as we see the pain he’s in, while the other jerks advance on Miss Starr, whom Texeira puts in the deep background, shrinking her and implying the peril she’s in. We get the overhead view of the scene in Panel 3, and Texeira draws the thugs as lanky and lean, but still dangerous. Mr. Erdnase, the “professional gambler,” stands casually in between the punks and Miss Starr, who still clutches the stick, ready to defend herself. Texeira moves us from left to right in Panel 4, as Erdnase takes out one thug, and while he goes against the grain in Panel 5 because the punch goes right to left, the sound effect and Miss Starr’s presence on the right side of the panel balance it and keep us moving to the right. In Panel 1, Texeira doesn’t use borders, and Panel 5 is smaller, while Panel 3 also doesn’t have borders, so the page tends to form a diamond, opening up in the middle but then focusing us down to a smaller area in Panel 5. It’s a nicely designed page.
Hex has a dream, which is why Bob LeRose colors this page pink, but that’s not important right now! Texeira uses nice blacks on the horse to make its hair shine, and he and Janke use rough lines on the landscape and Hex, which is always a good idea given that Hex is rough around the edges. Texeira has figured out some nice ways to draw figures, as Hex’s tumble from the horse in Panel 4 is well done. Texeira and Janke use motion lines well, as it makes the page a bit more kinetic. Nothing is terribly stable when you’re riding around on a horse, so the motion lines help create that feeling.
After Jonah Hex came to an end, DC decided to throw him into a post-apocalyptic 21st century, which had to have been a bit weird. I only one issue of this series (once again, the 50¢-boxes at ye local comics shoppe are my friend!), so I’m not sure when Texeira began to show signs of turning into the Texeira who became a big star, but it’s certainly evident by issue #14!
You can see a bit of what Texeira was moving toward on this page – the lines are definitely rougher (which could be from Carlos Garzon inking it), while the characters are, for lack of a better word, uglier. During Texeira’s 1990s heyday, he always drew males a bit ugly, and we can see that beginning here. In Panels 2 and 7 – where we see the dude chasing Hex – we get some things that Texeira would use more in the future. First of all, he creates shadows by using a thick, rough border and filling in the space with thin, usually horizontal lines. Both panels show this pretty well. The dude is a bit harsher-looking than a lot of Texeira’s figures, too, and while we can see that in other panels on this page, because he’s along on the page, we see it a bit better in those two. As Texeira gets rougher, he uses more and more blacks, which fits the tone of the book nicely, as well.
There’s Stiletta, whom Hex was searching for, fighting a … robot? I guess. Texeira does a very nice job with the figure work, as he shows that he’s getting better and better with action – the poses of the two combatants are well done, and while Stiletta is flexible, her moves aren’t ridiculous. The energy trails from the knives she holds even help us imagine her movements prior to this panel, as it appears she spun around, attacking with her right hand, and is now in a backswing with her left hand. I’ll show her face below, but here we get a good indication of what is becoming increasingly the “Texeira face” – Stiletta has high cheekbones, a thin chin, and eyes spaced a bit far apart. Obviously, Texeira draws faces differently depending on the distance from the reader and the situation, but this is definitely a motif he would develop over the next few years.
I told you the first panel above would come back in importance! Eighteen months or so after drawing that first face, Texeira gives us this close-up of Stiletta, and we can see the differences. How much of this is due to the inker, I don’t know, but there are differences. First of all, Stiletta’s hair is a bit thicker and lusher than the woman in Jonah Hex, which seems to be the inker’s job, but I’m not sure. The blacks in the first drawing make the woman’s hair a bit sleeker, while the limited use of blacks on Stiletta create more thickness to it. Texeira gives Stiletta sharper eyebrows and not much of a nose, but what really sets Stiletta apart his the high cheekbones. The other woman has a hint of cheekbones, but their lack rounds her face a bit more, while Stiletta’s isn’t exactly sharp but it’s definitely a bit more defined than the other woman’s. It’s an interesting shift, and it’s what Texeira would continue to work on over the next few years.
Panel 1 shows us another good proto-“Texeira face,” with the slightly more cartoonish male visage – the dude is surprised, but the wide eyes and wider mouth, along with the rough lines, are pretty standard when it comes to later faces in Texeira’s career. Even when the person isn’t surprised, we can see it, as Panel 7 makes clear. It’s interesting seeing little things like this, because it shows an artist finding things he’s comfortable with and fitting them into his repertoire. Of course, if you don’t like it, that’s a problem, but it’s still fascinating to watch.
As you might have noticed, these pages have a lot of panels – this comic is packed with content, and it makes the 22 pages feel a lot longer, and Texeira does a nice job fitting it all in. His page layouts are nice, and he’s even able to fit a wide panel like the one where Stiletta spins the whip onto the page and make it feel big and dramatic. He leads us around the page very well, especially in the bottom row, where Stiletta snares Hex with the whip and tosses him out the window. The whip links Panels 9 and 10, while Stiletta’s arm in Panel 10 leads us to Panel 11, where Hex goes out the window. It makes the entire sequence move very well, even though they show separate events. Texeira is still refining his faces, but you can see in Panel 5 that Stiletta still has the cheekbones, the thinner eyes, and the arched eyebrows. The hair falling over her face and the way she smiles is very nice, too, as it shows how much she’s enjoying kicking Jonah’s ass.
So that’s a bit more of “proto-Texeira.” We can see that he’s evolving into the artist who became big-time in the 1990s, but he’s not quite there yet. So tomorrow we’ll check out a comic that shows even more of his development, and I think I’ll stick to just one comic this time. But I can’t promise anything!!! Find more cheating in the archives!
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