Words of Questionable Wisdom: Just what to do with Greg Land?
By Paul Sebert
Every so often there comes a new artist who becomes so iconic that their very name becomes synonymous with a specific art style. Jack Kirby is forever associated with dynamism. Alex Ross is the name people think of first when it comes to photo-realism. Then have Greg Land a distinguished artist whose name people always associate with two words.
Yes Greg Land, esteemed artist of such books as â€˜Sojourn,’ â€˜Ultimate Fantastic Four,’ and â€˜Ultimate Power’ among others has attracted quite bit of the very bad kind of speculation last year. While he has admitted to using photographs as a point of reference (an accepted practice) some fans have gone to accuse him of actually tracing photos and even the work of other artists . But plagiarism issues aside perhaps the most stinging accusation has been that which has been using pornography as a reference point. Take into account this infamous panel from Ultimate Fantastic Four #23.
Now I’m sure there’s a very good chance that Land may have used non-pornographic material as a reference point. Perhaps he just studied a picture of a woman enjoying a delicious Johnsonville bratwurst. Then we have this panel from Ultimate Power.
Ok so Greg Land is apparently either tracing porn, using it as a reference source, or just seems inclined to draw beautiful women in positions that are generally only found in porn magazines. Whatever the case is, the end result is painfully awkward and out of place in a superhero comic.
So why not turn this negative into a plus? Greg Land should take a page from Jim Balent’s career.
See back in 1999 after a long run at DC comics, Balent left mainstream comics to form his own publishing company Broadsword Publishing. Today Broadsword is best known for publishing the hit Indy book â€˜Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose.’ According to the comic’s wikipedia entry Tarot is a very, very deep book.
â€œThrough the stories told, Balent is also conveying a deeper insight into the often misunderstood Wiccan theology. Within the fictional prose, ideas of tolerance and acceptance are put forth.â€
For those who have never actually read an issue of Tarot it’s about a witch with large breasts who fights the forces of evil by walking around topless and having lots of sex. She also has a boyfriend named Jon Webb who has a costumed alter-ego called Skeleton Man and he looks suspiciously like Jim Balent.
While I would rather have my wisdom teeth removed again than actually read an issue of Tarot, this book actually serves a very vital role in the modern comics marketplace. First of all it gave Balent something to do other than draw horrible issues of Catwoman. Second it gave the fans who actually bought Jim Balent’s run on Catwoman what they really wanted (boobies!) which allowed DC to free up the Catwoman character for the rest of us. This allowed the world to enjoy the glory of the Ed Brubaker/Cameron Stewart run.
So if Jim Balent can do this much for the superhero comics industry why can’t Greg Land?
In fact both Marvel & DC could go so far as to create their own softcore erotica imprints as a means of keeping their crappier (though inexplicably popular) artists from drawing superhero books. Just like how DC set up Vertigo in the early 90s to gradually weed all of the eclectic and intelligent books out of the DC superhero Universe. Imagine a world where we no longer have to worry about Michael Turner drawing Supergirl?
â€œBut Paulâ€ you might say, â€œan adult erotic imprint would be a public relations nightmare for a comics publisher. Think of the possibility of a moral outcry!â€œ
Nonsense I say. For years Fantagraphics has been kept afloat by it’s â€œErosâ€ imprint of naughty, naughty books, and that didn’t seem to bother anyone when they bought the rights to reprint kid friendly titles like â€˜Dennis the Menace’ and â€˜Peanuts.’
Besides it seems like a win-win situation. â€˜Ultimate Fantastic Four’ readers get a new artist, and Greg Land gets to apply his neo- pornfaceism art skills to where they would best appreciated.