I’ve been a fan of the artwork of Bernard Chang since I first saw it on Valiant’s original The Second Life of Dr. Mirage, and he’s only improved over the years. I think his strongest effort was on DC Universe Presents, a short-lived title with DC’s New 52 that featured different characters and creative teams with each story arc (Chang illustrated the Deadman and Vandal Savage arcs).
In recent years, he’s proven himself to be a reliable resource for DC Comics, illustrating such other titles as Batman Beyond, Wonder Woman, Demon Knights, Superman and Green Lantern Corps. Still, seeing his name and work on a comic title always takes me back to Dr. Mirage and even TV adaptation Sliders: Ultimatum (I think I was one of three people who liked that show). That his early efforts on relatively obscure 1990s titles has stuck with me over the course of two decades is a testament to his craft and skill as a storyteller.
In the past few months, I’ve been fortunate enough to pick up a couple of pages of Chang’s original comic art — not from Mirage, Sliders or DC Universe Presents, but solid examples of his style, featuring some familiar super-hero characters.
First up is Page 18 from the first issue of a little-known Marvel limited series titled New Mutants: Truth or Death. I picked up this page as an add-on to an eBay transaction for a great price. I think Mark Pennington’s inks make Chang’s original linework look a little loose, but the penciller’s style comes shining through — it’s most evident in Panel 5. My favorite element on this page is Panel 3. I’ve always found the look of the Warlock/Douglock characters to be especially striking, and Chang handles the techno-organic design adeptly. I also like how the long, narrow panel conveys Douglock’s attention and focus on people across the room.
It’s always great to find a comic-art board with a bonus on the back, and that’s exactly what I got when I received this New Mutants page. On the reverse of the page, one finds Chang’s loose, pencil layouts, apparently done in rough there so he could work on the final art with the aid of a lightbox (I assume). I love that added glimpse of the process. Now, the other Chang page I recently acquired would seem to indicate that’s something Chang typically does when illustrating a piece of comic art. Below, you’ll find scans of the front and back of Page 2 from Green Lantern Corps #37 (the New 52 iteration).
There are innumerable things I’ve come to love about comics over the years, and Chang’s art is just one of them. Another I’ve come to appreciate in the medium the notion of Lantern Corps of Many Colors. Geoff Johns’ introduction of Lanterns of every color of the spectrum was an idea borne of a Silver Age simplicity that proved to be fun and profitable for DC Comics, and creators have mined that rich vein rather successfully. (One could argue the mine has since been depleted, but that’s not a point to explore at the moment.) This page focuses on Indigo-1, the leader the compassionate Indigo Tribe, and a New 52 incarnation of Highfather of the New Gods, in a moment from the recent “Godhead” New Gods/Green Lantern event from the various GL titles. Most striking on this page is Chang’s depiction of Highfather. I love the edge and experience he instills in the character’s face. Furthermore, one can see a strong Steve (Preacher) Dillon influence at work in Chang’s work here. The page is also signed, which pleases me.
One thing this page also spotlights is how comic art has changed in the digital age, and it does so with what’s missing from the board. Given the appearance of the finished product, it’s clear the backgrounds were all done digitally (see the comparison below of Chang’s line art and the published page). My preference would be for it to be drawn traditionally, but I could imagine the digital method serves the nature of the sci-fi setting well and probably saves time in production. Missing out on hand-lettering is an unfortunate side effect of comics creation in modern times, so it’s a little disappointing (though not surprising) to see another element, another step in the process, missing from the original art as well. Still, I’m happy with the addition to my art collection.
To view larger scans of these Bernard Chang pages or to view the rest of my collection, check out my gallery at Comic Art Fans.
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