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July 06 2008

Jo Chen on likenesses. Jo has updated her MySpace with a reflection on the delicate balance between faithfulness to the actors and the need for dynamicity and originality in the illustrations.

She's totally right. You can always tell a comic noob when they complain that the characters don't look exactly like the actors.
And yet, her likenesses are so true, even in the more mundane sense. Her enjoyment of the process of her work seems to shine through every time...her covers are just so much fun to look at.
I feel something amiss here. Has she been receiving negative reviews of her work?
Well I've been collecting comics for 25 years and so no 'noob', but I always appreciate an artist who can produce a great likeness when it comes to comics that are dealing with TV spin off material such as Buffy.

It seems strange that Chen felt the need to put her point like this as her work is always top notch, and her ability to reproduce superb character likenesses is unparalleled.

Her covers are always superb.

[ edited by sueworld2003 on 2008-07-06 19:58 ]
I think Jo's covers have been iconic and beautiful, but most artists remember the one complaint more readily than the hundred compliments. However I imagine she just wanted to blog about likenesses in general, since all comic book artists must talk to each other about this ongoing problem. In my opinion even newbie comic book readers are less attached to having the characters look exactly like the actors than having the characters in the comic not look interchangeable on the page. This is a huge problem in comics when characters are dressed alike (in military garb or everyone wearing matching hoodies): it makes it too hard for the reader to follow who is who on the page. Actually this can be a problem on film too, if you dress your characters alike you have to go to much more effort to make them distinct in other ways!
I can't imagine that anyone would fault her cover's they are beautiful!! I wish they were made into posters!!
I always appreciate the artist's view when delving into "iconic" subjects. It must be a nerve-wracking experience and whether or not Chen has received negative comments I agree with embers that it's probably something that comes up a lot.
How does the artist reconcile fan expectations, publisher demands AND personal artistic style? I don't know HOW she does it, but Chen definitely pulls it off.
Embers- so true about how the characters can look too similar...or insufficiently consistent from one frame to the next. I am sometimes having that problem with the After the Fall artists, and it is far more serious than not looking like the actors- it makes it much harder to follow the story.

I have not had that problem with Season 8 at all. (I am one who has not read comics since "Classics Illustrated" as a kid...though I've read a few graphic novels in between. I'm enjoying this a lot.)

Of course, Jo C. has been doing only covers- a different situation, allowing for a lot more development and a different kind of artistry.I'm hoping for a poster of the most recent preview- the Scoobies and the's just so cool.
The (so far) only cover with Giles That one I want posterized, but I'm biased. They are all great work.
You know, I actually heard someone complain once that her covers didn't look comic-y enough(!) This, mind you, while a fair portion of Season 8's "negative press" has to do with the fact that it is a comic.

I dunno, maybe there really is something in the water...
I love her work and had the opportunity to meet her at the Arlington, VA, CSTS screening. (We chatted briefly about Norman Rockwell.) She donated prints of two of her covers (flaming Faith and the TBP cover for Serenity: Better Days) to be auctioned to raise money for Equality Now. The prints brought in over $600. And my Faith print is currently at the framing shop.
Bobbi, I am so very, very jealous.
You know, I actually heard someone complain once that her covers didn't look comic-y enough(!)

This is part of the reason I buy both covers, I love Jo's covers to death, but I can't look away from Georges Jeanty's amazingly alive and expressive covers. I also intend to lend some of my issues out, which is the other part of the reason I buy both.

Also, Buffy and co. already dress so distinctly and colourfully that it's very clear who's who.
The only complaint that I have ever heard about Jo Chen's work is that the first cover looked slightly like Mischa Barton which I agree to a degree but me... a comic noob just for Buffy! But I still think that that cover was an iconic piece with a great presence and did not let that off ness of likeness distract me from believing she is an amazing artist!!!
The Londinium Sun:
This is part of the reason I buy both covers

My reasons for buying both covers are deep and esoteric, with a...

...oh, hell, I do it because I'm obsessive. *gad*
I genuinely think Jo Chen is one of the best artists of any kind I have ever seen. I absolutely love looking at her work.
Maybe Ms. Chen is not responding to criticism of her own work at all, but to criticism of other Whedonverse artists for not capturing likenesses with exactitude. Her statement that character and emotion are more important than physical likenesses carries more weight because she nails the likenesses every time. Perchance she's being noblessey. Since her work works on all the levels, there's no hint of defensiveness when she writes about which levels are most important. (Although I get the impression that she thinks they're all important. A fan of Norman Rockwell would, I think, tend to take pride in her draughtswomanship [and I don't mean how much beer she can drink] as well as in being iconic.)

(Rockwell was really good at capturing vulnerability as well. His self-portrait of him painting a self-portrait captured the tendency to idealize oneself and did it with good humor. And the little African American girl being accompanied to the newly desegregated school by National Guardsmen -- way vulnerable. Two kids on a first date at a malt shop -- corny, yet vulnerable.)

[ edited by Pointy on 2008-07-08 03:26 ]
For example, my illustration for the cover of Buffy 10. If BtVS weren't the title of the book and if Willow weren't as recognizable, would readers have recognized Buffy/SMG in her moment of extreme panic at being 10,000 feet in the air without a parachute, hanging onto Willow for dear life? Doubtful.

Hm. I thought that was her best depiction of Buffy to date, actually. Because of that expression. It always sticks out to me as more Buffy and less SMG-as-Buffy, so it's interesting she mentioned it here. I tend to buy the Jeanty covers more, since I like his depictions a lot and sometimes actually dislike Chen's because they seem more like the tv show and less like the comic. And I understand that that's exactly what other people like in them-- it's a question of style rather than skill. But when I love her covers, I love them in some very large unit of measure. Tons? And of those I like freaked-out flying Buffy the very best.
Yeah, I think a lot of it comes down to personal preference. I think it's a little insulting to suggest that anyone who laments bad likenesses simply doesn't know what they are talking about. I certainly don't think that every panel needs to have every character's expression matched with a photo of the actor's actual expression for that emotion, but I think Jo is quite right in saying that there is a balance.

It would be wrong to slave over likenesses to the extent that the movement, emotion or message of the visuals were impeded in any way, but at the same time maintaining a decent level of likeness can really help capturing the tone of something like Buffy, which has a very specific quirky style and switches between genres so frequently. And I have to say there have been a few times I've seen comics where the only way of telling some characters apart is by hair colour, because some artists seem to have one or two set male figures and the same with female, which can make it very hard to follow the story and fails to capture the subtleties of a character's expressions. It's sort of similar to how it seems to be easy for them to create good likenesses for action figures of monsters and demons whereas it's much more difficult to capture an accurate human character, it's very easy for Buffy to just look like a generic blonde bimbo in other artistic mediums.

But I find it odd that Jo would face criticism regarding likenesses considering hers are so phenomenal. She manages to capture the characters brilliantly without making them look like they've been adapted from studio shots or stills which look quite static. As I've said before, I'd love to see Jo illustrate at least one issue even if the level of detail she uses would take much longer for it to complete.

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