Attack of the Clones
By John Byrne
The other day, over lunch, I was flipping through the new, hardcover collection of DANGER GIRL, and it got me thinking about something Mike Mignola said, once upon a time, about Art Adams. If, Mike postulated, Art was more inclined to actually produce work, we would not need so many bad Art Adams clones to fill the gap. I whole heartedly agree. But, when I look at something like DANGER GIRL, I'm a little bit grateful that Art is such a flake. In DG we get an Art Adams clone who may actually be better at it than Art himself!
I'm reminded of when Paul Gulacy first came along, doing his dynamite Jim Steranko impression. It wasn't long before wags in the industry started saying Gulacy was a better Steranko than Steranko. And, too, people have said Dale Keown, who drew THE PITT, was a clone of me. If so, then this is another example of the clone being better than the original.
Normally, I do not like it when one artist bases his or her whole style on another, largely because in so doing they often shoot right past the important elements of the work they copy, and skim off only the superficial. How many bad Neal Adams clones did my generation produce, for instance? Yet, to be fair, there are times when an artist basing his style on that of another artist can truly produce some wonderful work. The Dodson Twins (Yes, yes, I know!!), working on HARLEY QUINN, for instance, are producing some mind boggling stuff, while looking for all the world like Adam Hughes.
Which raises the point I'm struggling toward, here: what will happen, I wonder, if these artists continue to grow, and actually evolve away from the styles of the artists they started out copying. How many of you remember, for instance, that Frank Miller started as a Gil Kane clone, or that Bill Sienkeiwicz early work bore an almost photographic resemblance to Neal Adams'? (I started out copying Neal, too. I just never got as good at it as Bill.) Keith Giffen started out under orders from Jim Shooter aping Jack Kirby. For about five minutes, at the start of his career, George Perez was a shadow of Rich Buckler, who, himself, copied Neal Adams. John Romita Jr. started out drawing almost exactly like his Dad, as did the Kubert boys.
The advantage here, of course, is that these guys started out copying really good artists. And one of the things that can come from copying a good artist, and getting it right, not just skimming the surface, is that it builds a strong underpining for the artwork. Each of the artists named above has developed his own, distinctive style (even me, tho when I look at my own work I see only a synthesis of influences), each strong in its own way. I would be much intrigued to see how the artists mentioned somewhat further above will develop (if they even want to), building on their strong foundations.
It could make for some really, really neat stuff which other, younger artists will themselves copy, of course.