Create, Consume, Recycle 07/05/11: James Stokoe’s Orc Stain

July 4th, 2011 by | Tags: ,

stuff i made

-In a weird funk, like I can’t produce like I usually do. It’s been there before the Akira posts, and is still here now. Working my way through it. Might spend some time talking about things other than comics this week, too.


-Does the blink tag still work? That should be blinking.

Archie’s on Windows Phone

Hey, stop making digital comics just like regular comics, stupid

-Two posts? Cripes. The nice thing about these posts is that it lets me see exactly how much I’m writing elsewhere, compare that to what I’m doing here, and then attempt to adjust.

-Enough talking about writing, read this:

something i like

I bought the first issue of James Stokoe’s Orc Stain way back in December. I finally read it earlier today. Pathetic, right? I have plenty of excuses, if you’d like to hear them.

All my friends like Orc Stain. I like Orc Stain, at least what I’ve seen around online. Stokoe has drawn some stuff that blew my mind, most particularly the Spider-‘Nam thing here (brief sidebar: the tone is perfect for both that type of story and Spider-Man, who remains my favorite superhero, even if I haven’t actually liked a Spider-Man comic in ages. I would personally put tens of dollars in Stokoe’s pocket if it meant he’d do an entire story, but I’m also content just seeing him noodle around with the idea. briefer sidebar: it’s also a creepy, unsettling Spidey, just like Ditko’s best.). I just never sat down and read it for whatever reason, even after having bought it.

I like a lot of different things in it. The world-building is pretty smooth, the characters are interesting, I wanted to read more by the end of the first issue, blah blah blah. It’s a good comic, right? Y’all know what goes into good comics. I don’t need to tell you that. I will say that I’m buying 2-6 once I finish this post, so, y’know, there’s that.

Okay, colors in comics. Specifically, colors in mainstream books, which Orc Stain isn’t, really. The colors tend toward realism, rather than expressionism. Colors are meant to represent what the characters or whatever would actually look like in real life, rather than a mood or tone. There are a few exceptions–I like Bettie Breitweiser’s colors on Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman’s Hulk, Frazer Irving is the king of “this isn’t real life, so stop pretending” coloring right now–but by and large, if you flip open an adventure comic right now? You’re looking at colors that are meant to evoke real life.

This isn’t a bad thing, exactly. It’s just a thing that I noticed. Noticing it (probably after reading some Frazer Irving book or getting mad at how Frank D’Armata colors murder the work of artists or noticing how John Rauch’s work on New Mutants and Pete Pantazis’s colors on Justice League were washed out and bright, like a police spotlight focusing on your friends) made me start paying attention to palettes in comics and how they can be used for good, rather than realism.

Orc Stain‘s palette is interesting. If I had to put a word, or words, on it, I’d say that the palette is… sickly and visceral, like a half-healed wound. It’s evocative of guts and organs–no, not organs. It’s evocative of guts and hearts. The purples, reds, and blues on this spread remind me of a beating heart, and the dominance of the purple and blue puts me in mind of a heart that’s straining to beat.

(Also? It reminds me of tentacle porn.)

And it fits. It’s a war scene, the orcs are a blight on the land… when you look at the world of Orc Stain, you’re looking at a gaping wound. When you look at the Orc Tzar, with his bright red lips and shock of green atop his head, you’re looking at poison.

Scene two.

Blue fading into… what is that, orangish brown? in the sky. Blue and tan on the rocks. Translucent white clouds. The striation and layers on the rock faces, continuing the queasy organic horror point, looks like the same stuff on your finger nails, doesn’t it? The orcs are bluish/purplish, brighter than the rocks, with green highlights. Love nymphs are bright blue, like the sky.

What gets me most is that grass. It’s this bright green, the sort of green that comes from either Photoshop, artificial grass, or a fleet of yard workers pulling a week of overtime. Growing up, I never saw grass like that. The sun baked the grass in Georgia to a darker green. Brighter than pine needles, darker than flowers. This color is snot green–well, cartoon snot green. It’s bright and shocking. For us, anyway–it’s natural there.

I like looking at Orc Stain, and the palette is a big part of that. It’s not trying to show me a vision of real life like Dave Stewart did a great job of doing over on Conan with Cary Nord. That palette was rugged and raw, like Conan himself, but was still some measure of realistic. There’s no reason for Orc Stain‘s world to look like the Earth, is there? Orc Stain is a monster comic, and it looks like someone took the 1931 Frankenstein and put it through a Technicolor blender.

It works, and it works well. I’m a fan.

Here’s a Spider-‘Nam spread that Stokoe colored:

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5 comments to “Create, Consume, Recycle 07/05/11: James Stokoe’s Orc Stain”

  1. Some good thoughts there on digital comics. I also think that the first issue of an arc should be discounted. If floppy digitals cost $2.99 (which is insane), then the first chapter of a six-issue arc should cost, say , 99 cents, to get more people to try the entry point issue, then maybe stay on board at full price.

    Same with backlist. If Batman: Year One costs, whatever, 10 bucks, let me read chapter 1 for a dollar. If I buy the rest of the book, credit that dollar toward the purchase price, or something.

    Also, something that should’ve been better adopted since “writing for the trade” became standard: Do not start each issue of a single long story with exposition-heavy recaps. In singles, use the “Previously …” page, which, when removed from the TPB/digital collection, allows a smooth reading experience. That exposition helps when I’m reading issues a month apart, but it makes the collected version seem juvenile, especially to civilians.

    However, the last thing I wanna see in my digital comics (if I bought them, which I won’t until I can own the files) is animation. When I want animation, I buy/watch animation. Digital novels could make the text change colors to suit the mood of the paragraph, too, or float off the page to indicate lightness or whimsy, but that ain’t what I look to prose for. It should be noted, however, that I am old.

    Finally, when you DO get around to hooking your mom up with Blackest Night, please podcast that conversation.

  2. Spider-‘Nam is the best Spider-Man comic in years. I love his lumpy, buggy, jumpy Spider-Man.

  3. @BrianMc: If I did that, my mom would murder me and pretend like I never existed, I’m pretty sure. Good points, especially on animation. I think it has its place, but it needs to be native, not just something thrown in on finished works.

  4. Agreed on Spider-‘Nam being amazing.

    Gotta say, the main thing that comes to mind is that I want more. It’s an interesting concept that I somehow haven’t seen before, and I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been done well. Looking at it, it’s done well here.

  5. That Spider-Man in Nam looks bliss. What a morally ambiguous story that would make.