The art of comic books

Superhero storytellling

Apr 25, 2019 | Feature

With superhero films dominating the box office, Head of Design, Karl Jaques, discusses his love for comic books, and what makes them a great way to show, and tell, a story. 

When it comes to comic books, I’m a bit of a geek. I love the format and the superhero genre, but that hasn’t always been the case.

As a youngster I inherited a sizeable comic book collection from an uncle deemed ‘too old for children’s stories’ by my soon-to-be auntie. 

I remember him reluctantly handing over the cardboard box as it sagged under the weight of his beloved collection. I was initially warned to take special care of them, because they were ‘incredibly precious’.

I could pretend that I took that advice and kept them safely in my bedroom under lock and key, becoming an overnight obsessive, but that’s not the case.  The truth is, and I’m ashamed to say this, one or two of those well-loved, well thumbed ‘black and whites’ were in fact used as alternatives to my colouring books. There, I’ve said it! 

My sister got hold of a few too and her scissors did more damage than my crayons ever did. I’m also pretty sure my mum favoured the ‘box of old colouring books’ as the go to choice of lining for my ageing hamsters cage. Shameful stuff all round. 

The discovery

It wasn’t until a few years later, on a wet and miserable Wakefield afternoon that my passion for super-powered stories was finally stirred.

My Star Wars figures had been confiscated, and I’d been banished to my room as punishment for mischief I’d been caught up in earlier in the week. Seeking a hit of intergalactic high-jinx, I dusted off the box of old comics. 

There were so many characters to choose from – The Hulk, Batman, Superman, Spider-man, The Flash – where to begin?

I finally settled on an early edition of The Fantastic Four, based on the fact that the cover was set in space (interstellar fix), someone was flying and on fire (how was that even possible?) and one of the characters appeared to be made of poop (probably the real reason my interest was piqued). 

The insane storytelling and high-impact artistry had me hooked and left me reaching for my asthma inhaler.  Of course, that could have been the dust.

I’d never experienced the shock of a plot twist, or the power of a cliffhanger before. This was of course pre-1980 and Empire Strikes Back was yet to hit the local cineplex. I didn’t understand how a story could be left hanging and not neatly wrapped up. Who would do such a thing?

I desperately rummaged through the comic box searching for the next edition, but there was nothing. I couldn’t believe it – why would you not have the next issue?

When I next got my pocket money, my mum and I hit the market and headed to the comic book stall in search of the next issue.  He didn’t have it. Why would he? It was already a few years old. 

As a budding designer, I decided that I would create my own ending, and that was it, my passion was unleashed. 

Modern day superheroes

Nowadays, superheroes are everywhere. The impact of Marvel and DC on popular culture is massive and unmistakable. Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War were two of the highest grossing films in 2018, and the highly anticipated Avengers: Endgame is predicted to have a record-breaking opening weekend.

Recently, I had the pleasure of working on a project that fitted perfectly with my obsession with comic book heroes. After all, why fight a trend?

Our client, a US based business, operating in the field of synthesized DNA production were celebrating five years of superhuman achievements.

As part of the project, we helped them to celebrate by creating a commemorative video in a comic book style. It brings their origin story and amazing achievements over the past five years to life, and the CEOs and colleagues were transformed into their superhero alter egos.

With a script as fast moving as any Stan Lee story, and visuals that have more than a nod to the great comic book artist Jack Kirby, I was in my element. 

Planning the storyboard and selecting the limited colour palette, mainly black and white, with the occasional flash of green (Hulk-esque) I was transported back to my childhood and my dusty old box of comics.  

Boom!

Projects that allow you to channel personal interests into your work, are always fun to work on, and this project received some fantastic feedback of its own.

Not only was the video received really well by employees at Twist, it was also the winner of the Video and Animation category at the recent IoIC Central and North Awards.  Needless to say, we were as happy as Thor with this new hammer.

You can take a look at some of the superhero-worthy work we did with Twist here.

To this day, I’m still unsure of the outcome of that Fantastic Four storyline. 

What did happen to ‘Fire-man’ and Turd-Guy? Did ‘See-through Forcefield Lady’ and Mr. Stretchy ever save the day? 

The possibilities were endless – and so my interest has never waned.

 

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