Renato Guedes has been rightly praised for his artwork on the latest issue of Supergirl, chiefly for his convincing and non-exploitative depiction of its teenage heroine. And it is, indeed, refreshing to find an artist who can make figurative realism work on the pages of a comic book, achieving a readable fluidity and avoiding the lifelessness that often undermines photo- or model-referenced comic art.
What I find most interesting, though, is Guedes’s use of colour. Several comic book artists have, like Guedes, adopted a style of drawing that uses fine, unmodulated, clear linework with little chiaroscuro, in the realisation that computer colour now provides shading and depth in a way that the old, flat, ben-day dotted colours of newsprint comics could not. Scott Kolins and Pete Woods are good cases. But they generally work with colourists who provide fully modelled, mimetic colouring of the sort seen, for example, in the panels from 52 that I posted yesterday.
Guedes, on the other hand, does his own colouring, though he does not ink his own pencils. His technique is quite different from the norm. Generally speaking, he deploys each colour in two sharply contrasted tones, one light and one dark, rather than providing continuous modelling. The effect is as if everything was seen by bright sunlight, casting sharp shadows – or perhaps, since the darker tones often dominate, bright sunlight seen through sunglasses.
This technique does not always show Guedes’s drawing off to its best effect. In heavily shadowed panels, the fine linework can be swamped and hidden. But it is very distinctive, and, given his choice of which parts of the art process to undertake himself, it is presumably an important part of the way Guedes wants the pages to look.
I’m not sure what Guedes’s intentions are. Perhaps he feels that fully-modelled colour can deaden the image. Perhaps he just sees light that way. Whatever, I’ll be interested to see what he does with future issues.
Supergirl issue 20, “No Good Deed …”, written by Tony Bedard, pencilled and coloured by Renato Guedes, inked by Jose Wilson Megalhaes, lettered by Bob Leigh, edited by Matt Idelson, DC Comics, October 2007