Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Nick Dragotta, and the issue is X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl #2, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated April 2006. Enjoy!
Dead Girl was still early in Dragotta’s career, but he showed that he was already quite good at drawing cool comics. This book shows a bit of a difference from yesterday’s work, as we will see!
Dragotta is inked by Mike Allred on this book, and they’re both credited as “artists,” so I asked Dragotta about it to find out the division of labor. He told me that Allred was the inker, and we can see the embellishments that Allred brought to the pencils. There’s some very nice brush work here, as in Panel 3 with Strange’s hair. When Allred pencils books, it seems he uses a slightly thinner and sharper line, and we see here that Dragotta’s pencil work is slightly thicker and lusher, while Allred’s inks match that more than when Allred is inking his own work. Dragotta does a nice job with the characters here, as Wong is the harried assistant, while Strange seems completely oblivious to Wong’s distress. Laura Allred colored this, and she tends to like brighter colors (perhaps because she works with her husband so often), and she does a nice job making Strange stand out in a slightly blander world.
Strange helps Dead Girl become corporeal by letting her possess meat. Yeah, it’s a Peter Milligan comic – just deal with it! Dragotta does a really nice job with the ickiness of it all – he gives us nice meat products in Panel 1, and is very clever about where he puts it. I’m not sure how, in Panel 2, Strange is applying the paint to Dead Girl – it seems like he’s using his fingers – but it’s another funny and nifty detail. We can see Allred’s inks more clearly here, and it’s very lush – he uses broad strokes for the folds in the clothing, and he uses nice thick blacks and grays to complement Dead Girl’s blonde wig. It’s weird enough to make the artifice more obvious, which might be the point.
I love Dragotta’s use of perspective in the first two panels – I know it’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s still cool for a few reasons. Wong is diminished a bit, which ties into the second reason, that Strange’s house is quite large, probably bigger on the inside than the outside, and these two panels do a nice job showing that. The fluid wall is also neat, especially when we see it from the hallway in Panel 5. In Panel 3, Dragotta does a nice job creating the hole through which Wong looks, as he bends the bricks and Laura Allred uses a dull gray/brown hue to show the rippling effect of the wall. The fact that Dragotta puts a head over Wong’s body in Panel 5 is a nice touch, too. It’s odd-looking, sure, but still clever.
Dragotta draws Moira MacTaggart, Gwen Stacey, and Bobbi Morse in a book club, and we get a nice page of them talking about Ulysses and wondering where Dead Girl is. Dragotta does nice work with the ladies as they talk, as they look as bored in “hell” as they do in a regular book club where they have to read Ulysses. He gets their expressions quite well – Moira is giddy about the convening of the book club in Panel 1, Bobbi is dismissive of the book and of Dead Girl in Panels 2 and 4, while Gwen is anticipatory in Panel 3. It’s nicely done. I like that he puts Bobbi in costume – it appears that in “hell,” you reflect your “true comic-book nature,” and Mockingbird was always more of a character than Bobbi. Dragotta’s figures are a bit more “Allred-esque” than yesterday’s example, but they still don’t look as much as Allred’s penciled art does. It’s an interesting balance – Dragotta’s faces tend to be a bit less severe than Allred’s, and we can see that here, but there are still plenty of similarities. And once again, the lushness of Allred’s inking is very nice, especially on the ladies’ hair.
Even early in his career, Dragotta was quite good at action, as his figures were never stiff and he laid pages out really well to show how the characters moved across the page. This is a good example of that, as the Phantom Rider shows up and agrees to help Strange and Dead Girl track down “a bloodthirsty gang of dead villains.” Dragotta leads us into the page with Strange’s flowing cape, which is used as a counter-balance to the Rider in the background. Even though the Rider is in the deep background, Dragotta does nice work showing him yanking hard on the reins to turn his horse. Dragotta also gives us three layers of the panel, with the Rider in the background, Strange in the middle foreground, and Dead Girl even closer to the reader. It gives us a good frame of reference for Panel 2, where the Rider turns toward them and Strange is still deeper than Dead Girl, but now the Rider is bypassing him and heading toward Dead Girl. Dragotta’s horse and rider in Panel 2 are really nicely done, as they flow toward Dead Girl, and the way Dragotta draws her is nice, too, as she’s beginning to run “toward” us to match the Rider’s speed so she can grab hold of the horse as it rides by. Panel 3 is another nice one, as the look on Dead Girl’s face is well done, as is the way Dragotta draws Strange running after the Rider. His stride is a bit silly, but it’s not unrealistic, which makes it work even better. Dragotta does a good job in Panels 4 and 5 when the Rider comes to a halt, remembering to draw Dead Girl’s leg in Panel 4 as she loses her grip and Strange bent over in Panel 5 because he’s not used to running. The layout of the page is very good, and we can see that Dragotta is already quite good at action, which would serve him well in superhero comics.
This is a nice, creepy page, as Tike dreams of spending time with his grandmother, where things go pretty horribly wrong. Dragotta starts tilting the panels to create a more chaotic, disjointed reading experience, as Gran’ma’s face explodes and Tike is plunged into a nightmare world of police beatings, slavery, and Klan meetings. He uses unusual points of view to heighten the tension, as in Panel 5 when he draws the cotton very large as it wraps around Tike’s feet and when he draws the burning cross rising ominously above Tike in Panel 8. The final panel, where we see Tike through the flaming noose, is very well done, too, both as a terrifying image and for the symbolism. The rope is drawn well, too, as we just get thick black strokes very close to each other, making the rope itself a bit more unreal. Meanwhile, we get more nice inking and coloring, from the bushy fur on the dogs to the pale, sickly yellow sky in Panel 6. This is a well done nightmare, which is kind of the point.
There’s obviously not a lot of action on this page, but it’s still nicely done. Scott Lang’s pose in Panel 2 is conceived well, and for some reason I really dig it – Dragotta didn’t have to crunch him up like that, but because he did, Scott looks a bit more “ant-like,” if that makes sense. Dead Girl’s wry look in Panel 4, when Strange talks about his hemorrhoids, is subtle but done well, and Dragotta does a good job with Scott’s dramatic panel that leads us off the page. As we’ve seen throughout this post, Allred’s inking gives everything a lushness that we don’t associate too much with Allred’s pencil work – if you’re familiar with Allred’s work, you can tell it’s him, but he doesn’t overwhelm Dragotta’s style, either.
Of course, Dragotta could be chameleon-like in his work, too, as we’ll see tomorrow when he adapts to a different tone of comic. What could it be? You’ll want to come back and find out won’t you? Of course, maybe you’d rather spend your time in the archives!
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