Sunday, June 24, 2018

In Defense of Pulp

Al Feldstein (w, a), Marie Severin (c), Jim Wroten (l), "The Vault of Horror!: The Dead Will Return!," The Vault of Horror #13 [#2], EC Comics, June - July 1950; as reprinted in: top: The Vault of Horror #3 (Gladstone, December 1990), bottom: The Vault of Horror #2 (Russ Cochran, January 1993).   

The above images are the splash-page of an old EC story as reprinted on cheap pulp, exhibit a), and a bit better pulp, exhibit b). The first thing that jumps to the eye is exhibit b)'s crispness if compared to exhibit a). Crispness, though, comes with a price.
Let's look closer:



The pulp in a) is more anarchically textured than in b); as a consequence the black areas in a) aren't completely opaque. In b) everything is well defined. To me that's a plus, but it's also a problem: in a) the transitions on the back and arm of the male character are smooth; not so in b) which causes an artificial effect: are those supposed to be the colors of the clothes of the male character, or is this supposed to be a light effect? It's obviously a light effect in a), and a strangely colored outfit in b).

My solution? It's simple dialectics: see it below:

Before I go: Russ Cochran published his The Vault of Horror #2 at a time (1993) in which the halftone dots were still in use. When even the dots disappeared the plan sharpness worsened the transitions problem. Ironically, that's highly appropriate to manichean genre comics since, morally, everything is portraied without grey areas.

PS A possible objection to what I say above is the use in contemporary comics of computer gradients. To that I always answer in the same way. You may also say that everything is possible with computer coloring these days. True, but the problem isn't the tools, the problem is those using them.

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