Thursday, June 10, 2010

Photo Referencing: Norman Osborn and Spain's Prime Minister

(On the left, Norman Osborn as depicted by Salvador Larroca, from Invincible Iron Man #8. 
On the right Spain's current Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero)

I dropped Invincible Iron Man in the early stages of the title. The uneven writing from Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca's new style turned me off from the book. Recently, during the now-legendary Amazon Glitch Sale, I purchased the Invincible Iron Man Omnibus for a really cheap price. Earlier this week I was reading it (a full review coming soon), when I stopped suddenly, dropping the book and asked my wife if she saw it too. Where Norman Osborn was supposed to be, instead the Prime Minister of Spain (the country I currently reside in) was looking at me through the pages. Hit the jump to see more.

If it is a direct trace, I do not know nor do I want to emptily accuse Larroca of it, but you can tell it is heavily photo referenced from Zapatero's facial features. The eyebrows are a clear sign, down to the same shape, but also the nose and chin, and even the age lines in the forehead and cheeks share a striking similarity. Most readers obviously would not notice it, but considering I see Zapatero's face every day in the news, it was incredibly obvious to me.

I think I've made it clear before that I have no problem with photo reference in comics when it is done the right way. It is just a tool that artists can use, but if a single panel can take you right out of the reading experience like it happened to me, I would argue it is being used the wrong way. What's even more strange is that Mike Deodato pretty much established that Osborn is supposed to look like Tommy Lee Jones, so I don't know what compelled Larroca (who, in case you didn't know, is from Spain) to use the photo of a head of government as reference, one that can be easily spotted by someone like me. Ironically enough, Greg Land also used a head of state as a reference for Norman Osborn, although of someone slightly more popular and well known.

I guess what really bothered me the most is that in none of the other panels does Larroca's Osborn looked like this. His facial features completely shifted from one panel to the other never really establishing a solid look. Take a look at the the following two pages:

(Pages from Invincible Iron Man #8 by Salvador Larroca and Frank D'Armata)

The fact that for the final panel Larroca photo reference a well known figure was the final straw. What took me out of the book, and from my reading experience. If artists DO want to use a celebrity as a model for one of their characters, they should at least continue using that look throughout the book, in order to maintain the suspension of disbelief. (Side note: that H.A.M.M.E.R. agent totally looks like John Travolta, right?)

Like I mentioned above, at least Deodato makes Osborn look like Tommy Lee Jones ALL the time. Bryan Hitch does this too. Larroca does not. If  he wanted to establish that Osborn looked like Zapatero, he should at least look like that in all the panels, not just in one of them. It doesn't help the story, and in my case, it didn't help the reading experience.

What's your take on this kind of technique? At what point does photo referencing get in the way of your reading experience? Do you like Larroca's new style? Let us know in the comments section.

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Ivan said...

I admit I usually don't pick up on photo references unless some points it out to me or if it's Greg Land-levels of swipe. Só, I guess I don't really mind.

In fact, I'd say I really like how Gary Frank makes Superman look like Christopher Reeve.

Hey, that reminds me of the time that artist (don't remember who) depicted Magneto as the King of Spain during House of M. That must have cause quite a commotion over there, huh?

I'm watching the World Cup opening ceremony, and boy, is Alicia Keys pretty or what?

Nathan Aaron said...

This is driving me crazy in Invincible Iron Man. Larroca has just gone nuts with photo reference (actually, now he's using so much actual blurry photography for background images, it should just become a photo book, and not a comic book. Ugh.)

The title, as it stands right now, has Sawyer from Lost playing Tony Stark. I kid you not. Every panel, every issue. All I see is Stark with Sawyer mannerisms, cause the photo reference is uncanny. In fact, last issue (26) has one panel of Tony's doctor as another actor (I forget his name. But the minute I saw the panel I stopped and went "who's that actor?!") IN FACT, when they got to Rhodey, the art was sorta off on his face/head, and I thought to myself "Man, Larroca must have not been able to find any African American actor reference to use here." LOL!

They seriously need to bring in another artist on this title. I'm liking the book, but the art distracts me every time. (And his Norman Osborn NEVER looked like Norman Osborn, anyway. I mean, COME on... if your photo reference actually makes the character look nothing like the character, please stop using the photo reference.)

How is it Amy Grant managed to sue the crap out of Marvel in the 90's for using her likeness without permission on a comic cover, but today artists are doing it like mad with no repercussions?

Reference is fine. Artists need it. But the point of it should be to use it to help your art come alive, not to look like you traced over the image.

Nathan Aaron said...

Oops. For the doctor image, that was issue #27, not #26. Sorry.

Philipe said...

I agree...this is getting ridiculous. Don't wanna sound old, but back in the 90's no one was doing this photo reference crap.

And Larroca's pencils are just ugly. Iron Man is a good book, and would be even better without him

Ryan K Lindsay said...

I really just don't dig the art from Larocca. It's not exactly bad but it certainly isn't what I like. It distracts me and really doesn't make the book look like it's a top tier book. What a shame.

Chris said...

Well I never would have picked up on that one....but yeah, I really wish they'd get rid of Larroca on the book, because in my opinion Fraction is doing a hell of a job writing the book and the art sometimes distracts from the great writing.

The Dangster said...

see its bad because the prime minister looks nothing like norman osborn. I feel like Reeve as superman and clint eastwood as jonah hex is homage and it works because it at least sticks to the framework of what the characters are supposed to look like.

that being said, this is too much.

Eric Rupe said...

Larroca's art is one of the reasons why I'm not buying Fraction's Iron Man and reading it from the library instead. I honestly wonder why Marvel, and Fraction, put up with this sub-par art.

And, on further thought, it makes me wonder what Fraction did in a previous life to get stuck with both Larroca AND Land. That, or who at Marvel has a grudge against him.

The Dangster said...

wow, just looked back, the character designs are more inconsistent than i thought.

Matt Duarte said...

@Nathan: Oh man, I just started watching Lost, and since you brought it up, now I can't unsee it.

@Phillipe: The thing is, they might have been, but they didn't make it as obvious as they do now.

@Eric: Man, I hadn't really thought about it, but you are right. Fraction in Marvel has Land and Larroca. The weird thing is that in his creator owned work, he has Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, Steven Sanders. What a drastic change. Let's hope he works with Pasqual Ferry better than with Larroca.

Philipe said...

I know you will kill me for saying this, but I don't think Greg Land is that bad. Yeah, he goes over the top sometimes, but I do think his style suits the X-Men. It's flashy, colorful, pop, which is exactly the direction Fraction is taking it.

And I'm not a fan of Dodson. His style's too cartoonish.

I miss Andy Kubert.

forrest said...

I think its a fun game to guess who's who. Anyone notice Brad Pitt as Reed Richards a few issues ago?

daryll b. said...

wow I see a change has happened with the name inputting... but on subject:

In the beginning I loved Larocca's art just like with Land... yes they used photo referencing but the ratio of that to hand drawn art was like 15% to 85%

Within the last two years I have soured to both because that ratio has radically changed to the other way where it seems 85% is photo referenced

Unlike Land though, Larocca's "art" still is tailored more often times than not to the story...

This is where I rely on Fraction's strong storytelling to get me through...however if he has a "miss" issue, then the art really bogs down my enjoyment...

Daryll B.

Steven said...

I believe Larroca's art incorporates a lot of computer generated drawing these days, along with traditional. Hence the fairly strong, and odd looking changes to his art over the last several years.

Tijmen said...

I remember liking Larocca's art back in the late nineties on Excalibur and Heroes Return and especially later on X-Treme X-Men (no, none of those books were very good, but they looked pretty).

These days, it's a 'are you frickin' kidding me?' trainwreck of poorly chosen photo references, weird proportions and general laziness.

Not only is Josh 'Sawyer' Holloway an incredibly poor choice to 'cast' as Tony Stark, Larocca already used the same actor for the Starbrand character in Warren Ellis' Newuniversal. If you're gonna be a tracer instead of a penciller, at least diversify your references!

I despise Greg Land, but in the case of Larocca it's worse: he can and has done so much better, making his current aesthetic choices all the more baffling. Does he simply not look at his own art anymore?

acespot said...

Land 2.0
nuff said

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