On one day when our office had no internet, I borrowed my seatmate Elvin’s book about Marvel cartoonist Joe Quesada to pass the time. Admittedly, I’m no real comic book fan, but I love poring through comic books because the illustrations in pen and ink are frustratingly amazing. (Art envy strikes again…)
Joe Quesada, I learned, is a pretty big deal in the comic book world, and you’ll see below why he deservedly is. The art directors I work with tell me it’s really difficult to capture the human form realistically — what more if these forms have supernatural powers, zip through the city, engage in glorious battle, and go back to their alternate “normal” lives!
What piqued my interest about Quesada’s work is that he’s very much inspired by Czech artist Alfons Mucha. Mucha is the epitome of the Art Nouveau movement at the turn of the 21st century. Art Nouveau is a precursor to the graphic design we know today because the elements that define this movement were mostly seen and used in event posters and print advertisements.
Check out Quesada’s work for Marvel (scanned from Elvin’s book) beside Alfons Mucha’s works from the 1890s-1930s (from his official website) and see how a living artist pays homage to a legendary one:
Mucha made posters for stage operas. He incorporated elements from the stage with the actress in the middle (almost always Sara Bernhardt).
Quesada likewise frames his subjects with a distinctly Art Nouveau border and recreates the stars in the background. It seems to fit the story because the levitating character looks like he’s performing.
Mucha also used circular borders with a lot of curlicues and other ornamental touches that frame his subjects beautifully and highlight his ink work to perfection.
Quesada utilizes the same elements and gives a usually very macho comic cover a feminine touch. Somehow, he makes it work!
This poster advertisement for Job cigarettes has the signature Mucha hair — “coiled in arabesques” — and is popularly called “Mucha maccaroni” hair.
Quesada is clearly inspired by Mucha’s maccaroni hair, but he gives it an edgier and more electrifying twist.
I really admire Joe Quesada’s artistic discipline. He is able to give his readers art that beautifully imagines the stories he illustrates for and pays tribute to a man that paved the way for graphic design more than a century ago. And for all of you who want to check out and study another way to draw the female form, it pays to study how Alfons Mucha did it in a way that defined a whole Art movement.