Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Michael Golden, and the issues are Uncanny X-Men #273, X-Men Unlimited #31, and Daredevil #65, all which were published by Marvel and are cover dated February 1991, April 2001, and November 2004, respectively. Enjoy!
In the 1990s and beyond, Golden stopped drawing interiors as much, and while his style continued to evolve a bit and he experimented a little (as we’ll see), it wasn’t as easy to actually find his art. But these three examples – 3 pages in UXM #273, an actual 12-page story in Unlimited #31, and 5 pages in DD – show how his art has changed in the past 20+ years. Well, it’s been a decade since Daredevil, so that could be a bit of a misnomer, but I don’t know if Golden has done any interior work in the past ten years. Does anyone know?
Chris Claremont invented Gambit, so I assume he liked the idea of the character, but I wonder if some faceless Marvel exec, seeing that Gambit had total Poochie-Potential, ordered Claremont to include this fight, because after spending a decade turning Wolverine into the bad-assiest bad-ass in the Marvel Universe, he writes this three-page fight in which some douchebag with a bad haircut and an ever worse accent beats a really exhausted Logan by cheating and we’re supposed to buy Jubilee weeping. Fuck you, Gambit. I’m a person who believes that writers should never, ever kill characters that they themselves did not create, but when Joey Q gives me the call to write the X-Men (it’s fate, Joey Q – just accept it!!!!), I will have Gambit killed off by an old lady wielding a parasol on the first fucking page. Man, I hate Gambit.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, the art. Golden does nice work here, as he’s still in his cartoony phase that we saw yesterday. On the first page, we get that panel with Jubilee, and Golden really enlarges her eyes to an almost comical degree. It seems like here he’s doing it to denote innocence, as Wolverine and Gambit don’t get that treatment, but who knows. Wolverine, however, gets a nice wide mouth and wide face, as we see in Panel … 3? I guess, as Deathstrike bursting upward seems to be Panel 2. Golden gives us a terrific panel at the bottom, when Wolverine slices the fake Yuriko’s head open. It’s very nicely done. On the second page, Gambit kicks Wolverine’s butt, and Golden does a good job with the fight, showing how Gambit sneaks up on Wolverine in Panel 1, then gives us only the stick hitting his body in Panels 2-4. It makes the fight quicker and more immediate, as we don’t see Gambit swinging the stick, just the impact, which makes it seem like it’s happening much quicker than it would in “real life,” making the impact greater. Golden follows along with the way that he was first dressed (Arthur Adams was the first to draw Gambit in a comic, but his creation is credited to Jim Lee, so who knows if Lee decided he should dress like that), which is unfortunate because he dresses like a dick, but Golden does make his douchey haircut even more ridiculous than most people do. I mentioned a few day ago that crying Golden characters look a bit odd, but he gets away with it in the final panel, I think because he closes Jubilee’s eyes. That makes it work better. Scott Williams is inking Golden here, and we can see his influence, I think, with the somewhat excessive hatching. In the panel where Jubilee wonders what Deathstrike is doing there, we get hatching on her face, on her nose (which was, as we’ve seen this year, a bit ubiquitous in the late ’80s/early ’90s), and on her arm. Meanwhile, we get a lot of hatching on Deathstrike’s legs, too. It’s not horrible line work, mainly because it seems that Golden’s style seems to balance it out a bit, but it’s definitely more than we’ve seen other inkers use on Golden.
By the way, do we think that Deathstrike isn’t a simulation of the Danger Room but rather something from Gambit’s mind? Early on, Claremont hinted that he was able to convince people of things just by talking to them, but that power seemed to disappear over the years. Perhaps this is a manifestation of that, making Wolverine see something that isn’t a Danger Room simulation, but something he conjured? That was the only minor cool thing about Gambit, and I don’t think anyone ever ran with it. Fucking Gambit. With a parasol, I tells ya!!!!
Anyway, a decade later, Golden wrote and drew a Rogue (and Jean, for a bit) story in X-Men Unlimited. It’s … well, it’s something.
Obviously, the first thing that leaps out is the roughness of the lines. Golden is inking himself, which he had done in the past, but he’s stepping back from the finer line work that characterized his heyday and using thicker and chunkier lines, which makes the work look a bit more simplistic. The lines are scratchier, too, which makes me wonder how he drew them, exactly – was he using a different pen, or was this done on computer? The scratchy line doesn’t work in all the situations in this comic, but because Golden is drawing a messy, crowded, wintry street scene, the line work adds to the chaos fairly well. Gina Going colored this, and it’s a bit more muted than I like, but that’s what tends to happen with digital coloring. It makes Golden’s lines even fuzzier, but that’s the way it is, I guess.
Rogue happens to touch someone and becomes overwhelmed with evil thoughts, and Golden shows some of it. There’s not a lot of the “old” Golden here, except a little bit in the way he draws Rogue, which is slightly more cartoonish than the rest of the page and veers a bit toward the way he used to draw figures. He uses nice bold lines on Jesus to highlight the blood, and the kids are drawn well, if in a different style than Golden was using in the past. As we can see, the boldness of the lines makes for large expressions, which leaves empty space that Going colors the same as the background, which makes the image sickening and terrifying, especially when you throw in the Jesus and the birds losing its wing. Golden’s lines aren’t quite as loose as they have been in the past, but he still knows how to draw, and that means this is a freaky image that hits pretty hard.
This story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, unfortunately – Rogue somehow senses a child murderer is in the area, even though it’s pretty clear she never touched him? And, of course, the very fact that there’s a really creepy child murderer in a superhero comic book never sits well with me – superhero comics can skim real-world horrors, but they have to handle them delicately, and Golden really doesn’t in this story. But Rogue gets to beat up a giant fat naked dude, so there’s that. His stiffer line work in this story doesn’t lend itself too well to action, so Rogue and the big fat dude don’t really look like they’re moving, just that they’re posed. It’s too bad. Golden does nice work in Panels 3 and 4, where we see Fat Boy gagging as Rogue holds his throat and then as Rogue thinks about bashing his face in – the expressions work really well – but the action preceding it isn’t terribly fluid. We see some hints of old-school Golden in Panel 4, as Rogue’s mouth is a bit bigger than we might expect, but in general, the cartoony aspects of his older work aren’t that evident. Even the motion lines, which I would usually dig, look a bit too stiff.
That story felt like an experiment that didn’t quite work out, because a few years later, Golden drew a few pages for Bendis’s 40th anniversary issue of Daredevil that, while not reverting to his 1980s style, was surer than this work, as we can see below!
Golden is still inking himself here, and Justin Ponsor is coloring the work, and maybe Ponsor is a better colorist than Going, or maybe the nature of the scene just means he gets to use different hues, but the coloring does look better here. Meanwhile, Golden is still drawing in a similar vein to the X-Men Unlimited story, but he seems to have found a bit of balance between that extreme and his cartoony side. Matt’s face is certainly solid and probably as realistic as Golden will ever get, while Jennifer, who is still realistic, shows a bit of the old Golden style. Her face is a bit rounder, her lips a bit fuller (yes, it’s because of lipstick, but still), and her head looks a little bit out of proportion. It’s a interesting shift for Golden.
One of the things I’ve noticed this year is the way artists adjust to the digital age. Some make the transition well, while for others it’s a but bumpy. Golden’s line work has altered, but it’s still fairly strong, so he resists the shading that Ponsor uses, examples of which we can see on the faces of Fury and Matt. By using fewer lines but more spot blacks, Golden is able to resist the aging effect so much digital coloring seems to have on characters that are over-hatched, and while I’m not a huge fan of this Golden style, it does work pretty well with the coloring. Golden also uses short but thick lines, which don’t get “softened” as much by the coloring. This allows him to draw in every blind, for instance, and adds some nice solidity to Matt’s office. He doesn’t get to draw action in these few pages, but he does nice work with what he’s asked to do.
I’m not sure why Michael Golden doesn’t draw very much anymore – perhaps he makes enough money doing covers (probable) and wants to pursue other stuff. I don’t love the way his art has progressed over the past 20 years, but it’s still interesting to see the changes. Now I just have to track down Bucky O’Hare!
Tomorrow I’ll check out a female artist whose work I really like and who is always nice to chat with at conventions. I feel bad about not doing more women artists – this one will be the fifth and final one (probably, unless I find an extra day somewhere) I take a look at this year – because I like a lot of current female artists, but I don’t have a lot of their work stretching back years to watch their progression. I had Colleen Doran on my list, but I’m not going to have time to check her work out, unfortunately. For so many others whose work I really like – Marian Churchland, Emma Ríos, Emanuela Lupacchino, Becky Cloonan, Fiona Staples, to name just a very few examples – I just don’t have enough of their work to check out their progress. If I ever do this again (he says with a crazy look in his eye), I will have more of a body of work to look at, so I’m sure I’ll have more women. But that’s for another time! Tomorrow, a new artist! Who will it be?!?!?!? And don’t forget about the archives – they’re there for your edification!
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