No need for word balloons: Comic Book Artistry
by Richie Ramos
(May 2000 -

With the surge of interest in comic books as an art form, it is no wonder that comic book art has become a part of our creative landscape. Richie Ramos goes over to the Crucible Gallery to take a look at Arnold Arre's works.

Comic books have always been a big part of my life; in fact, it's highly probable that comic books are the very things that got me interested in reading. After, all, what kid can resist what are basically picture books, but with slam-bang action or pure comedy?

As I grew older, my tastes in comic book changed, I was introduced to the Vertigo line of comic books, got into Sandman, and generally became more literate. After that, I got into the world of real novels, forsaking the pictures entirely for the beauty of words.

But I miss the pictures. I miss the power that a comic book artist has, to make, as the clich» goes, a picture worth a thousand words.

So, when the Mythos exhibit of Arnold Arre opened in the Crucible Gallery, it was a kind of affirmation for me, personally, that the art that the illustrations I loved so much when I was a kid actually had the appreciation of "serious" art circles.

Arnold Arre is responsible for the incredible artwork of the Filipino comic book Mythology Class. His gallery exhibit features themes taken from that comic book series -- namely supernatural creatures from Philippine folklore. Rather than make them look menacing or horrific, Arnold takes the other tack, that of imbuing the viewer with a sense of wonder for the subjects, making them not demonic creatures, but more of nature spirits, as they should be.

On the technical side, the artwork was done in a "multimedia" format, combining watercolor and airbrush on paper. This is a common combination in more recent comic books, with the watercolor being the majority of the hues, and the airbrush used to highlight or shade the illustration, to give a sense of depth. Arnold's style borrows from some of the great masters, such as Moebius (also known for his conceptual work on the film Tron, as well as The Fifth Element), and Larry Elmore, who is best known for his work in The Dragonlance series of novels (he created the covers). There's also a bit of Geoff Darrow in the details of his art, and as such, he is successfully mixing both classic and modern styles of art into his own unique blend.

This is not to say, however, that he is just copying from the masters -- on the contrary, he has a style all his own. The way that his figures are posed, the layout of the artworks are all indefinably Filipino, while the ornateness of some of his detail work definitely suggests the Filipino feel. The surreal, flat surroundings and static or posed compositions of the works evokes a feeling of how Filipinos view things, giving it that air of mysticism and reality that mesh so well together and is actually indicative of how well our culture accepts both the real and the surreal.

Another thing that makes it indefinably Arre's work is the way that there is somehow an informality to the characters÷yes, they are sometimes static or posed, but there is a looseness, as if one is taking a near-candid shot. It is a testament to his talent as an artist that he can pull off these moods quite well.

As I stayed and simply enjoyed looking at framed comic book art (ironic, in a sense), I noticed that the other people looking at the artwork were not just kids. There were also older people, people who weren't just there amused that comic book art was being shown in an art gallery. These people were really taking in the artworks. Just for that, I felt affirmed that what I had loved as a kiddie thing had finally been accepted as art.

The only problem now, is that I'll have to buy comic books again. Oh well.

About The Writer
Richie Ramos is a former comic book aficionado. He suspects that if comic books on the local scene get any better, he'll be a comic book aficionado again.