When is art born?  It’s almost like asking “what is art?”.  Our passion for comics brings two art forms together – writing and drawing.  Is one “art” without the other?

If we all agree that writers are artists (we do, don’t we?), when does an idea become art?  If you’re a writer who cannot draw a basic shape, when does your idea make that transformation into art?  Does it simply need to be written down?  What if you gave your fully fleshed out idea to someone over the phone?  Your idea was never written down, does that not count?  Does it not become art until an artist draws it?  Or in this medium, is only the pen & ink guy the “artist”?

Personally I feel our hobby is so collaborative there is no separation.  Both the idea AND the final drawing are art.  This may be a selfish notion on my part, as I put a great deal of thought and time into my commission ideas.  But where do you draw the line?  Is it a matter of “I know art when I see it?”  For example…

This image of Daredevil was wonderfully drawn by Kevin West.  My only input was simply “Daredevil on a ledge in the rain.”  Even I would concede this is 100% Kevin’s work.

But what about this piece?

This is an example of a very specific idea I had in mind for a long time. The commission was offered to artist Seth Frail with the following scene description:

“Daredevil has been thrown off a pier, into the East River.  A chain wrapped around DD’s ankles, and attached to a cinderblock pulls DD down.  His hands are bound behind him.  You can make out the shimmering image of a limo and three figures above.  One large man (Kingpin) holds a cane.  A great “cliffhanger” style cover.”

To me this is an example of collaborative art.  I feel I was as much a part of this piece as Mr. Frail.  Many would argue against that.

How about this?

In this instance not only did I include the following scene description:

“This one is framed horizontally.  Doc Ock nearly fills the horizontal frame – back to us.  He has just busted out (literally) of a bank.  Sacks of money are in his tentacle hands. Dust and rubble at his feet.  Framed by his arms to the left is DD, crouched and ready for action.  Framed by his arms to the right, we see the cops have cordoned off the area and have their guns drawn.  This piece is all about capturing the very moment Doc Ock busts out the front of the bank…I’d love to see lots and lots of details in this one.

But I also included this embarrassingly bad sketch.

Again, with this commission I feel as though it was a total collaboration between the Fraim Brothers and myself.  Is the storytelling aspect of these two commissions enough to cross the imaginary threshold of “art”?  Is my inclusion of a really lousy sketch make my contribution art?

What about Andy Warhol?  Most would consider his work to be art.  Take his Campbell soup can image…art?  It was the idea behind what he did that’s considered art.  It certainly wasn’t exquisite draftsmanship.  Where does that place something like this?

An image we all know and love as Norman Rockwell’s “Triple Self-Portrait” – but with a twist.  Who gets credit here?  Rockwell?  Gene Colan?  Myself?

Regardless of where you stand on this question, I can tell you without doubt my enjoyment of this hobby has skyrocketed since I’ve had more input into the commissioning process.  I’ve let my mind create scenarios and situations for the characters I love and teamed with skilled artists, we’ve created some of the finest commissions I’ve ever seen.  I’m constantly blown away with the work that has come back to me.  Ideas I’ve had suddenly come to life, and nearly always better than I’d ever imaged.

I encourage you to conjure up a scene in your own mind and then contact your favorite artist for a commission.  Give them your idea and let them go with it.  Remember this is collaboration – don’t force their hand.  Give them the idea and let them run.  I like to call it the “Marvel Method” of commissioning.  You play the role of Stan.  Just give ‘em a basic plot and stand back.  You won’t be disappointed.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to plug our own guys here at Wednesday’s Heroes.  They’re all astounding artists and are all available to bring your ideas to life.  Just contact me if you’d like to work with one of them for your idea.

Thank much, and keep on dreaming!






Join the Conversation

  1. Mike Pascale
  2. Craig


  1. Hey, Craig! Wonderful article. Very thought-provoking and insightful. Reminds me a lot of my college days, taking aesthetics classes and arguing with my pal Dean Armstrong about “what is art?” (Or, more specifically, “art” vs. “Art.”)

    In the examples you cite above, where your description is very specific, I would agree they are totally collaborative pieces. To me, the Doc Ock piece is more like work than art, because it’s so specific. I’d call it an illustration. You were the “writer” in this one.

    To me, “art” is simply the physical or finished piece. It can be a painting, a drawing, an illustration, a statue, a comic book or strip, a sculpture, a photo, a play, a song, a novel, a film, whatever.

    “Art” (Capital “A”) is different. It’s special, uncommon, unique, creative and expressive. It is something that has been created (as opposed to captured, like a photo) where nothing existed before–with a certain amount of imagination; it has to be executed with an uncommon skill (just because I can balance my checkbook doesn’t make me an accountant; I can pick out a few constellations but I’m not an astronomer); and it has to be expressive–there has to be a piece of the artist’s personality, soul and emotions in the piece, for it to be true Art.

    Warhol’s soup cans is art but not “Art.” Same with most of Pollack, Lichtenstein, Kandinsky, even some Picasso IMO. One of the criteria is missing or greatly diminished, enough for it to not apply. In that case (and this I adopted from Dean), I simply call the work by its physical description: a painting, a drawing, a photograph, etcetera.

    Regarding commissions, I continue to be fascinated by the different preferences. Some artists really dig detailed descriptions like those you provided above, while others (like me) shun them like the plague. (Probably because I’ve spent so many years dealing with specific and often anal direction from art directors and clients, such lack of freedom comes off as just another commercial assignment.)

    I really liked your description for the first DD piece and love that “freedom” to come up with something on my own. However, I have to know you *prefer* that leeway so I’m not giving you something you don’t want. For that reason (as you may recall) I prefer to ask a gazillion questions first.

    Thanks again…I hope others chime in, especially our other arteests here!


  2. My descriptions are usually pretty specific, but once given, I pretty much let the artist do his/her thing. Often times I get back things, while to-the-letter are what I asked for, they are nothing like what I imagined. So there’s still a huge amount of room for expression, even with a detailed description. The two biggest examples in my own collection are my “Puppet Master” and “A Friend in Deed” pieces. With the “Friend in Deed” piece, I actually had to go back and re-read what I’d asked for! I was so surprised that indeed Geof drew EXACTLY what I’d asked for, but did it in a way 1000 miles from what I’d imagined – and believe me, sometimes that’s a good thing! 🙂

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