Friday, May 15, 2009

Jeff Smith on Joe Kubert's Tarzan

I was Google Image-ing to see if I could find any examples of Joe Kubert's ape drawings from his Tarzan run to use to illustrate today's post, and instead I found this: A 2006 blog post Jeff Smith wrote about Kubert's Tarzan, inspired by the Dark Horse's release of trades collecting it.

It's only a couple paragraphs long, but if you're interested in Kubert and/or his Tarzan, I'd definitely recommend giving Smith's post a read.

Smith is himself a great cartoonist, and picks up on unique elements of Kubert's work and communicates about it far, far more perceptively, efficiently and effectively than I could.

Reading it reminded me that Smith had cited Kubert and his Tarzan work as a big influence on his own comics, so I then pulled out my copy of Jeff Smith: Bone and Beyond, the catalog of the 2008 Wexner Center for the Arts gallery show of the same name, to see if he also discussed Kubert within it. And he did!

It's a little less concise than his blog post, but definitely of interest. A portion of the catalog is dedicated to a transcription of an interview between Smith and the show's curators, Lucy Shelton Caswell and Dave Filipi. In this section, the latter prompts Smith, "Just from looking at Bone there are definitely Joe Kubert influences. Can you talk about him?"

And Smith does:

[H]e didn't obsess about details, and in fact he would often leave out information. He might not even draw somebody's feet, but you always knew where the feet were. I came to appreciate that his artwork was in some ways better than the people who were drawing really perfect anatomically correct people. He engaged your imagination. I definitely brought that into my Bone work. Nothing I draw looks like Joe Kubert, but I was very conscious of how much information you had to impart because Joe knew exactly how much he needed to sell the idea completely. And I actually think that's more powerful—when you, the reader, fill in the feet. YOu do more than fill in the feet when you're doing that. You're filling in everything around the feet and behind them, and you make the world all the more real. The storytelling was really powerful. He could make an adventure story move. One minute he could have Tarzan standing there talking to someone, and you got Tarzan standing with his weight on one leg, like a real human would, instead of standing there with his hands on his hips like a superhero, and the next minute he's in the trees carrying a human being chased by gorillas, and it all looked completely real. It looked like that's really happening—and trees that are a hundred stories tall. It's just how he can make something impossible feel so plausible that you almost could feel the sunlight splashing by him and feel tree limbs under your feet.

Man, now I really want to see what a Jeff Smith Tarzan comic might look like...

1 comment:

Hdefined said...

Smith clearly gets the secret of visual storytelling, ala Scott McCloud: it's not what you show on the page; it's what you imply between panels.