I’m very happy with the way this page turned out. I’ve been on a nice hot streak with this more realistic approach that I’ve been taking with the characters and I really wanted to try it out with our titular character (that’s Black Snow, for all my dumber readers).
He’s always been one of those characters that has been kind of halfway between a more traditional comic book style and a cartoon style (sometimes leaning a bit more in one direction), so this is really the first time I’ve really drawn him as a real man with no comedic cartoon embellishment. And I think the results are quite striking in those first three or four panels.
For one, I think this is the drunkest he’s ever truly looked. Yes, he’s been shown drunk (or at least drinking) many times, but here you really get a sense that he is wasted. He just looks trashed. And not in a garish or jovial way. Just flat out, sad drunk. Nothing over the top about it. I’d say there is an understated beauty in his facial features and posture here that conveys his altered emotional state.
Something that just rings true about the way he holds himself. This came from studying drunks (not hard to find on the internet or amongst my friends). Obviously drinking and alcoholism are key themes and facets of the character, and I wanted to strengthen that as much as possible. If it’s my thing then I better get good at it!
We usually just focus on the comedic side of drinking, but there are many other aspects to be explored. There has always been a sadness behind the comedy, but it is really on display here. I’ve always found the drinking to be one of Black Snow’s most humanizing qualities. It helps me relate to him. Not that I’m some hard drinker. Far from it. I’m a social drinker who can go extended periods without drinking if I don’t happen to be around it. I don’t actively seek it out.
That’s not too say I’ve never been drunk. I have, many times. Even to the point of black out. I know I have the capacity for alcoholism (there are a few in my family, though they don’t seem to realize it or care). Drinking to excess is easy and usually quite fun, until the hangover and embarrassment kick in. Thankfully I have strong self control and I’ve learned to drink responsibly. Not to get too preachy on you. Just enjoy a nice buzz, that’s the best feeling you can have. Go past it and eventually you are going to regret it.
But it’s not the actual act of drinking that I think makes Black Snow relatable. The drinking is an embodiment of human flaw, which Black Snow has in abundance. Superheroes are super not simply because of extraordinary powers, but because they are able to push the boundaries of ordinary human spirit and character…usually. The most extreme example of this is everyone’s favorite boy scout and proto-hero, Superman (yes, even if he isn’t technically a human). He has ethics and a moral code to match his incredible abilities, making his name all the more apt. He is something we can aspire to be, but we never will be.
Superman is not relatable to me. Heroes are not usually relatable to me. More often I find myself feeling a connection to the villains. This is not normally the intent of the artist or writer telling the story (whether it be a comic or a movie) and I often don’t get the same experience as most people. Sometimes it ruins it for me. But I just find villains more interesting, fun and realistic. Good villains with some dimension that is.
That’s why I like Black Snow. He isn’t a good hero. He’s no villain, but he certainly has some villainous tendencies. Not that this is any secret, it says ANTI HERO on his damn chest! And it isn’t ironic or anything, he is an anti hero.
At the time when I initially drew the character we had just come off the 90’s, when anti heroes were all the rage. It had been a cynical decade full of angst and people did not want cookie cutter good guys anymore. They wanted heroes with an edge to them. Greyed lines between good and evil. This started depreciating in the 00’s, but it was still quite a part of the culture when I thought up this character, which was initially something of a parody of the idea of a modern day dark hero.
I don’t think he’s your typical anti hero though, as an anti hero was often just a cool bad ass. Instead of bucking the hero trend the anti hero had become the standard in many ways. It had become a hollow satire, a veneer painted onto bland characters in an attempt to make them appear unique and exciting.
Black Snow was never meant to be that. He was meant to mock that, taking what made the anti hero cool and turning it on its face. His issues weren’t just window dressing meant to give the character a cool factor. They are meant to be real problems which hold the character down.
He’s angry, drunk, weak, greedy, ignorant, selfish, petty, dependent, lazy and just plain flawed. He’s not extraordinary, if anything he may be under average. That’s why I find him relatable. He’s you if you tried to be a superhero. He’s all your failures in life set in a more fantastical world.
And I think that is all more clear on this page than ever before. Not just because of the way he is wallowing sadly at a bar, just like any of us might. Pay attention to his body and think about the superheroes you generally see. Dude is slight. If you hadn’t noticed it in his earlier scenes where he looked small next to Elephant Boy or a random black bum, you can certainly see he is smaller than Brad, an average cop.
Superheroes almost never come in regular size, just jumbo. He’s no shrimp, slightly taller than Eric and towering over his teenage sidekick, but he isn’t large. I didn’t ever want to make him an unfit joke though (that’s Elephant Boy), so he’s actually in pretty good shape for a chain smoking alcoholic in his late 30s.
I love the visual comparison between beaten down Black Snow and clean cut Brad. They’ve got a good dichotomy going, and I’m glad they finally get a scene together. They did not have enough scenes together in the original comic (only a single scene in issue one if memory serves). The first scene of issue 7 was going to be a long one of Brad visiting Black Snow at the hospital before we decided to start things over.
It’s going to be fun to see their relationship play out.
On a final note, that first panel is something I’ve been striving for since my very first drawing of Black Snow (well, the second in truth, which was him basically in the same pose but not as well drawn and without the same impact). One of the best parts of drawing a webcomic is that no one tells you what to do. I can keep altering my approach and style as much as I want. I could draw this photo realistically if I wanted in one panel and as a Warner Bros. style cartoon in the next.
So I will continue to experiment and hopefully improve as I find my style in this crazy comic world, and maybe you’ll continue to join me for the ride.