The SKTCHD AWRDS continue today, as I’m getting into the second day of my creator-focus for the year that was. This week is all about my favorite writers, artists, colorists, letterers, etc. etc. from the year of comics, and I’ll be sharing five a day until Friday. But it’s not just “best” or “favorite” creators. No way. I created unique awards for every creator and title I will feature during this effort, which is always fun because I have to keep coming up with new ways to highlight each person. No problem! That’s why I’m a writer! To come up with a whole bunch of ways to say effectively the same thing over and over!
You might be wondering, “How did David determine the winners of these clearly very important awards?” Great question, fictional reader. The short answer is I read a lot of comics, made a really big list and then fine tuned it from there. That’s about it, but this committee of one believes I’m onto something here. Let’s get to the next group of five – which will continue from yesterday’s first wave in alphabetical order based off last name – with five more coming each day this week.
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 Best Actor Award: Erica Henderson (Assassin Nation, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl)
I’m obsessed with character acting in comic art. It’s genuinely one of my very favorite things in comics, and the difference between someone who does it well versus someone who doesn’t can make or break a comic for me.
And for me, there’s no better character actor in comics than Erica Henderson. Whether she’s drawing a room full of assassins discussing plans to kill a varmint-looking crime boss or a montage of Squirrel Girl set to her theme song, Henderson’s gifts as a visual storyteller are beyond compare right now when it comes to bringing a title’s cast to life.
That manifests itself in a number of ways. There’s the big, obvious stuff, like in panel #3 above where the man who is genuinely awful at determining the age or ethnicity of someone is putting in some thought. That’s a layup for Henderson, which is why she was such a great fit for Assassin Nation. You need someone who can sell big humor when it’s a title written by Kyle Starks. But the juice really comes in beats like panel #1, when Henderson is depicting the overly eager Dave’s curiosity about Smoke’s “go up and blast ’em” strategy with their target. There’s nothing showy about that, but that simple face, that turn of head, that amazing shirt…it speaks volumes about Dave when you look at it.
Assassin Nation was a big, nuts action book that was only five issues, and to get through the plot and the explosions and the gunfire and all of that, you had to kind of get through a lot pretty quickly. There’s not always a ton of room to dig into character. The good news is Henderson is so good at saying a lot about a character with one image here or another one there that you feel like you know these characters based off posture, delivery, gestures, and all of that jazz. Henderson is of course good at more than just character acting – she’s one of my favorite artists, period – but in this specific attribute, she maxes out her power set. It’s always a joy to read a story drawn by Henderson, and a huge part of that is how she can make you feel you know the cast with her art. It’s a true gift, and a rare one at the levels she’s at.
Speaking of all of that, I talked with Henderson about all of this for an art feature about Assassin Nation this year. If you’re a fan, consider reading that!