We’re onto the penultimate chapter of the creators section of 2019’s SKTCHD AWRDS, as just one more day of naming my favorite creators of the year remains after this one. As a reminder, this is all about my favorite writers, artists, colorists, letterers, etc. etc. from the year of comics, with five more coming today and tomorrow before I move onto the comic-centric awards.
As I’ve reminded you, these are not just my picks for the “best” or “favorite” creators. Naturally, I had to go more over the top that. For the SKTCHD AWRDS, I’ve created unique awards for every creator and title I’m featuring during this effort, making for a comics awards show unlike any other. It’s like the Eisner Awards, but driven by a man mad with power and with completely improvised award categories.
When it comes to these awards, there’s method to my madness, of course. I read a whole lot of comics. I made a big list. I kept removing names until I was at 25. Very scientific! But enough methodology, let’s get to the picks, as we examine five more of my favorites from the year, once again in alphabetical order based off last name.
Have other favorites you think I missed? Get to the forums and let me know! I am CERTAIN I forgot someone I love because these efforts are impossible to get perfectly right.
The Hell of a Thing Award: Steve Pugh (Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass)
Sometimes when you’re talking about comic art, it’s all about the subtleties of the work. “Did you notice how the art guided your eye down the page?” you might ask yourself, or maybe, “Did you notice how the artist reflected an earlier beat there?” Things like that. These are the kinds of things one might miss when reading a comic simply because you’re engrossed in the story. It happens, and it’s part of the reason it can be hard to talk about comic art. Much of the impact comes from the nuance. It’s wondrous.
Sometimes, though, there’s efforts like what Steve Pugh put in on Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass where you look at a page and are like “holy crap what am I looking at this is amazing.” Art that immediately turns you into that weird Persian Cat meme, gesturing generally in the direction of the pages of this graphic novel because it’s all so incredible.
There are two elements that stand out the most amongst what Pugh brings to the page. First is his character work, which is astonishing in how it enlivens the cast without feeling too lifelike. There’s a verisimilitude to his delivery of the cast, but his art never feels beholden or enslaved to reality in a way that takes away from the energy on the page. These characters feel alive, but they still feel like comics, which is a subtle difference that’s important to the reading experience. It feels real, but comic book real and at the absolute apex of that admittedly amorphous concept.
The other is color. Pugh uses color brilliantly throughout, as the bulk of the book is blue-ish, gray-ish tones mixed with white to establish a base layer, but when he escapes from that foundation, it’s for maximum impact. The amazing thing that happens when a significant portion of your comic features a limited palette is whenever you choose to leave your home row, everything pops like it wouldn’t otherwise. The reds of Harley Quinn’s outfits, the flames of the explosion shown above, the purple of The Joker’s suit…it’s easy to know the importance of these elements because the colors are telling us oh so vividly. It’s a fascinating mix of restraint and showiness, and something that works very well.
Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass is the best Harley Quinn comic I’ve ever read. Pugh’s art is a massive part of that, as it truly is a hell of a thing.