Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Mark Texeira, and the issue is Megalith #1, which was published by Continuity and is cover dated 1989. Enjoy!
I know that Neal Adams had his hands on a lot of the artwork for Continuity Comics, presumably cleaning up others’ work when he thought it wasn’t up to snuff. That’s why it was surprising as I was trawling through the 50¢-boxes at ye olde local comics shoppe and found this, because it’s very clearly Texeira’s Nineties style. I don’t know if it’s the first example of it, as we saw yesterday some ur-examples of this style and presumably more had crept into his artwork before this, but the first book I saw Texeira draw, Stalkers (which I’m not showing because I just wrote about it in Comics You Should Own … and yes, I do plan to return to those, but it might not be until next year because they take up a lot of my time, especially my next entry on Starman), featured full-on “Texeira-style,” and that came out in 1990. So this comic is very close to full-on “Texeira-style,” and I really do wonder if Adams had anything to do with that. As I noted, it’s clearly Texeira, but did Adams tinker with it a little and Texeira decided to run with it? Beats me. But let’s check it out, because you will see that this is pretty much fully-formed Texeira art!
It’s hard to define a male “Texeira face,” but Joe Majurac, our corn-fed hero, sure has one, as does Joel, the boy he rescues on this page. We’ll see more of them, and you can see what I mean (if you’ve, perchance, never seen a Texeira face before), but we see them pretty clearly in Panels 5 and 7. Texeira, inked by Rudy Nebres, is using even rougher lines than we’ve seen, and those thicker lines, combined with the spot blacks, make his work more solid and darker. Joe’s muscles are a bit ridiculous (we’ll see more of them below), but he’s a superhero, after all, so what do you expect? Texeira continues to be quite good at action – his figure work is fluid, and his page layouts move us easily across the page.
Joe is a superhero, so he can easily bash his way through a bunch of heavily-armed soldiers. We get more of the “Texeira face” here, with a big brow ridge; dark, hooded eyes; a wide, square mouth and gritted teeth; and relatively high cheekbones. Notice, again, that Texeira does a pretty good job with Joe’s muscles – they’re a bit ridiculous, sure, but they’re not unbelievably ridiculous. The figure work, as usual, is very good, as the soldiers look like they’ve been scattered, and while I’m not sure if Joe’s cross-armed pose would actually cause the soldiers to fly like that, I’m willing to accept it. The coloring on the book – by Eva Grindberg – is quite nice. The coloring softens Texeira’s pencils a little, but not too much, and just that much helps create a more “realistic” coloring job, as the soldiers’ uniforms look like fabric rather than green blotches. Adams and Continuity, as you might recall, were on the forefront of new coloring techniques, and it seems like they were on their way even in 1989.
Another example of the male “Texeira face” (Megalith #1 is remarkably low on women – Joel’s mother, who appears in three panels, and a flight attendant, who appears in five panels, are the only women in this book), as Joe attacks a helicopter. Texeira gives us a nice square jaw, and we see the thick brow ridge too. The thicker lines are also a highlight of the “Texeira face” – sure, it’s a highlight of Texeira’s art for the next several years, but it’s quite prominent in his faces. Notice, again, that Joe is wildly muscular, but Texeira still does a nice job keeping him somewhat in proportion. He uses the rotor of the helicopter as a panel border (sort of), which is kind of neat because he goes full bleed with just the rotor, making it feel even bigger than it actually is. It’s a clever trick.
This is another pretty good “Texeira face” – Joe’s prominent brows, his wide nose, and his high cheekbones are a good indication of that. One thing we’ll see from Texeira a bit more (even though I’ve already noted it) is his use of motion lines. He likes using them to show his characters shaking or otherwise moving, as here we see Joe trying to contain his rage and the general trembling in fear. Texeira has always seemed a bit more “macho” with his artwork than a lot of his peers, especially in the 1990s, and for some reason, to me the motion lines capture that, as these men are trying to control the manly rage that’s always simmering close to the surface. Texeira doesn’t just them for that, obviously, as the general isn’t full of rage, and neither is the dude in our next example, but it seems to be a feature of his “angry dudes.”
This poor dude gets a gun shoved in his face, even though the bad guy wants COMMANDER Colin Grantland (did Bill Simmons read this comic when he was young?) and apparently can’t read the COMMANDER written on the door a few feet away. There’s a lot of nice work in this sequence. The blacks in Panel 1 make the bad guys look menacing, while Texeira’s blacks on the secretary’s face don’t hide his wide-open, terrified eyes. The gun in Panel 2 leads us right to his scared mouth and face, and his arm points us to the door and the second gun, so that the entire panel flows well even though no one is “moving.” Once again, we get motion lines to show trembling, as the secretary points a shaking hand toward Grantland’s office. The way Texeira uses perspective is also somewhat “Texeiran” – it’s another thing that’s hard to explain, but if you see enough Texeira comics, this becomes a motif. The perspective is fine, but the shortening of the arm looks a bit wonky, as limbs often do when Texeira does this. Finally, once again we see some nice coloring, as Grindberg softens the line work on the secretary’s clothing to make it look more expensive. It’s neat.
One more action scene, because Texeira continues to be good at them. He’s using blacks well here, both to emphasize certain parts of the art, like the guns, or because there’s so much dust in the air, as in Panel 6. Texeira moves us through the action well, as Joe jumps up, grabs the gun and simultaneously pulls the bad guy toward him, punches him in the gut and relieves him of his weapon, runs through the dust toward the other bad guys, decides to ditch the gun, and then … does something in Panel 7? It appears that he picks up some loose gravel and chucks it at the bad guys (this is on the next page), but it’s really not clear what he’s doing in that final panel. Are we supposed to read it from right to left, with his open hand catching the gravel and moving to the left, where his closed fist clenches it? That seems likely, but there had to be a better way to show it. Strange. We also notice, as you might have in this post, that Texeira likes having his characters break through the panel borders, so Joe smashes out of Panel 5, as he’s just so big and bad that panel borders cannot contain him! I don’t know – it’s always fun, to me, when artists do this. It’s part of the glorious wackiness of comics.
This was right before Texeira became a big star, I think, as it seems that by 1990/91, he was on to some more high-profile Marvel work (he was inking Ghost Rider and penciling Punisher by 1990). I’m going to jump ahead a few years, though, for tomorrow’s entry, which is perhaps the epitome of “late Nineties Texeira” artwork. Come back and see what’s what! And don’t fail to check out the archives!
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