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Comics Pet Peeve: Character Designs Based on Actors

Something that I think may be getting out of hand lately: comics artists who design their characters in obvious reference to this-or-that Hollywood actor. I'm thinking specifically of J.G. Jones designs for 'Wesley' and The Fox in Wanted (which, yes, is coming out soon as a major motion picture.) It takes about two panels to identify their real-life inspirations as, respectively Eminem and Halle Berry.

But you can find similar examples sprinkled all around comic-dom. Sometimes, it seems done for more specific artistic purposes (eg. Robert Mitchum's face lending Astro City's Steeljack just the right hint of world-weary, beat-down integrity.) But why, specifically, does Mr. Revise reference David Niven in the Jack of Fables books? (Of course he's intended to look like Niven—Willingham even makes a joke about it in Vol. 2 of the series.)

Particularly in the case of Wanted, it bothers me for a couple of reasons. First, it's distracting, and takes me outside the world of the comic. I spent way too much time speculating "Why the hell does he look like Eminem?" rather than focusing on the story.

Secondly, it's creatively lazy. I suspect that these designs are intended as some kind of shorthanded cultural pastiche: by referencing Eminem, Jones and Millar are imbuing Wesley with a dimensionality and 'mouth feel' that they don't have to fully paint for you. But they're also (conveniently) forgoing the need to fully develop a new design, and think about all the facial and emotional variations that will truly make the character work. I mean really—what does an uncanny resemblance to Halle Berry really tell us about the character of The Fox? She's hot? She's black? She can't act?

Finally, I can't help but wonder how the actors themselves feel about such overt identity-ripping. I wonder—did they receive any compensation for the use of their likenesses? (Do you suppose the producers for the upcoming Wanted film even briefly considered Berry for the Fox role? I bet not. That must sting.)



This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 28, 2007 12:03 AM.

The previous post in this blog was New Comment System.

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