Rough Stuff #2 (magazine review).

It’s a strange phenomenon. Despite being nearly two decades old, snagging copies of the 12-issue ‘Rough Stuff’ series feels like striking gold. They’re a touch easier to find than ‘Write Now!’, but let’s just say neither are cluttering the shelves. One wonders if TwoMorrows might consider issuing a new special from time to time. You know, just to test the waters and give budding artists a snapshot of the current state of the art.

The big draws for this second issue of ‘Rough Stuff’ are undoubtedly Paul Gulacy and Frank Brunner. However, the issue kicks off with artist Brian Apthorp detailing his panel construction techniques. Something that got me thinking was his use of flopping, or mirror-imaging, a panel. If you’re going to flip an image like that, pay attention to door orientation; most shop doors swing inwards rather than opening out onto the street.

The raison d’être of ‘Rough Stuff’ is to peel back the curtain on how comic book artists approach design. Frank Brunner’s method focuses on shapes and tone, making ample use of shading to add depth. While his thatching technique is insightful, it can look muddled if you’re not careful. The key is to balance it well with the foreground elements.

Paul Gulacy’s approach is somewhat similar, making it intriguing to see the two styles side by side and to understand how their respective inkers interpret the essentials. Gulacy also shares insights on his work on ‘Jonah Hex’ and ‘Master of Kung Fu’. What really hit me this time was how expressive he makes his characters’ eyes—they don’t just stare; they actually look. And that’s an invaluable lesson for anyone itching to pick up a pencil and sketch.

Another treat is the character sheets by Alex Toth for the 1960s ‘Fantastic Four’ animated series. It’s a fascinating precursor to his more intricate work on DC Comics and serves as an interesting lesson in artistic evolution.

Rounding out the issue is Matt Wagner, who offers a diverse array of material that often serves to establish mood as much as detail.

Long story short, these magazines are timeless treasures. If you’re keen on delving into the decision-making process behind comic book art, these issues are well worth tracking down.

GF Willmetts

September 2023


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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