Greg Capullo, an appreciation.

Greg Capullo started as a comic artist with a style that, while not always the most critically applauded, had it’s own feel. If you know his name, most likely the first thing you think of, however, is his work on SPAWN, which people will argue was just a reference piece rip of Todd McFarlane’s style. It brings to light the question, what role does originality play in terms of recognition of quality. I would like to take a minute to appreciate the fact that Capullo was a master of form, and anything lacking in terms of originality was more than made up for in terms of aesthetic and growth over the years.

Let’s start with everyone’s favorite. Quasar.

This is the era with which I recognize the most uniquely “signature” form in Capullo’s style. While he will reference John Buscema as a notable influence, I would say that his style in this period was somewhere between Arthur Adams and the mid ’80s work of Sal Buscema. It had some of the same flair for emotive, but simple facial expression that Adams somehow mastered. Compare the rest of his figure illustrations and then the faces of these figures. His use of fine details in his figures should be seen in a nice contrast with his very simple faces. His focus instead – in his finer moments – in the face was to direction, eyes, and emotion. Capullo did this well, and while his style does not share that fine detail with Adams, it begins to work in sharp but defined lines that work very well with motion and proportion, ala Sal Buscema’s work on Spectacular Spider-Man. I could go on, but just go with me here.

While I definitely enjoyed Capullo’s work (for some reason I vividly remember some of these issues of Quasar featuring Makkari moreso than many of the much more big name Marvel romps of the time) I also will not deny that it had it’s failings. His facial work fluctuated from the emotive style I mentioned above to simple flat and lifeless. Arthur Adams soft, rounded lines helped to cover the deadface moments – with Capullo’s near “L” shaped jaws there’s no room for a lackluster moment. He had those. And it hurt.

When he moved on to be the successor of Rob Liefeld on X-Force, the pressure was on. I wouldn’t be surprised if Marvel was trying to have a bit on visual continuity on one of it’s more valuable properties at the time. Capullo gave a downright Darwinian effort – he evolved his style to a more bombastic, detailed effort that should be seen as both a success and failure. He was slowly moving away from some of the simple angles that could draw comparison to the work of Sal Buscema, but was also moving towards that Liefeld style of nuclear-steroid musculature. He managed, however, to keep a faithful hand to proportion, a welcome change on X-Force that held it together after the big name ticket left the title.

Given the situation, Capullo did a much more than competent job and by the end of his run on X-Force (10 issues, as compared to Liefeld’s 9) the series had transformed from a vehicle for a single entity to a living, breathing comic book.

And that might be his greatest strength. When Capullo moved to SPAWN, his style again had morphed. This time it echoed with the ever present McFarlane style, with uber-detailing and his angles and line softening, it also can be compared with some of the best work of Adam Kubert in the mid to late ’90s.* He was able to take McFarlane’s level of style and make it an applicable long standing form that transformed the book much the same way he helped to transform X-Force. From a fan’s perspective, Liefeld’s X-Force and McFarlane’s Spawn were merely vehicles for artist/creators who were larger than life, larger than the project. It can be compared to watching a Chicago Bulls game in 1993; you weren’t watching the Bulls really. You were watching MICHAEL JORDAN. Sure there were 9 other players on the floor, coaches, organizations, history… all of that was secondary to this individual.

And it takes something, or someone, transcendent to take interest that is focused on the strength of an individual and redirect it to a more intangible entity. Capullo did this. Twice, in my opinion. And to even do it once is something that should be exalted.

*I would have given my right arm to see what Capullo would have done with some of the Marvel X-Men books in ’90s. It would have been just awesome.

One Comment

  1. Posted November 13, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    I liked Capullo’s work on /Quasar/. It started off a little shaky in issue 18 (the one with Origin and Unbeing) but as it went along it became as solid and smooth as John Romita Jr. When Capullo became a McFarlane clone I was horrified. As far as I know he’s never gone back to the /Quasar/ style.

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