Artist Appreciation (or the people that never make me want to pick up a pencil again, depending on the day) #1: Ivan Reis, A God Among Men

Hello fellow Authentics out there (hey, Excelsior and True Believers was already taken… gotta work on these catch phrases for the core base of Authentic Entertainment Productions fans out there). Behind the scenes here at Authentic Entertainment Productions, Randy and I are geeks about many, many things (shocker, I know). Comics and pop culture might be our common denominator but Randy definitely has a strong appreciation for good stories told well so I won’t step on his feet in talking shop about writing. Instead I will share some notable influences that artistically really do something for me, and maybe they will for you, too. Today I want to talk a bit about one of my favorite artists working in comics today: Ivan Reis.

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Why start with Ivan Reis you might ask? Why not Jack Kirby? John Buscema? Neal Adams? Alex Ross? The answer is very simple even if it showcases my OCD tendencies to the nth degree. Recently a friend of mine got the chance to go to the New York Comic Con (probably the holy grail of the East Coast conventions that a fan could visit) and asked if there was anything I’d like signed. The only name on the guest list that really grabbed my attention at this point was Ivan Reis, an artist I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet but one day hope to. I gave my friend issues 0-5 of Aquaman’s New 52 run with specific instructions to please get as many signed as possible, with the first issue taking as much priority as possible. The Friday of the convention I got a text from him saying mission accomplished for all 6 of my comics with one slight snag. The signature on the first 3 issues got smeared bad enough that it barely looked like Reis signed them. So in my off hours over the passed week I was searching to find all 6 of those issues in as close to mint condition as I could to keep my OCD at bay (something that isn’t easy for me when it’s something I want/love enough).

Honestly, while the story in those first few issues is decent, that’s not what sold me completely on wanting to have those issues. No, it was Ivan Reis’s pencil work that made me feel the need to re-buy all of those issues as best as I could because I just couldn’t look at those smeared versions (while I’m thankful they still got signed in some way) be THE versions in my collection to showcase Reis’s skills and talents.

Reis’s work first came to my attention a few years back when he worked on a title for DC Comics called Rann Thanagar War. With a strong grasp of anatomy, a roughness that wasn’t just for detail’s sake, and a certain beauty and grace to his line work, Reis’s art became something to be noted each time he worked on a project. And the projects kept coming, getting bigger and bigger to showcase his amazing grasp of scope until he was filling two page spreads with so much action and so many characters in titles like Infinite Crisis and Green Lantern that you might wonder if Ivan was cloning himself in order to meet his monthly deadlines.

Speaking of Green Lantern, it was Reis’s work on that title that had me believing he was one of the heaviest hitters in the DC Comics stable of artists. The galactic scale of his work in creating alien worlds, races and huge outer space battles, especially during the incredible Sinestro Corps War crossover, had me amazed and jealous at the same time. And even though he deserves the tons of praise he’s been given for his run on Green Lantern and Blackest Night, something not to be overshadowed in Reis’s technique is he’s a storyteller, capable of bringing across intimate moments in ways that rival his epic two page spreads of the Green Lantern Corps fighting off the Sinestro Corps or the DC Universe trying to stay alive against the zombie throngs of the Black Ringed hordes from the Blackest Night event.

Aquaman is an excellent example of Reis’s intimate moments. The first issue alone showcases some wonderful sequences, from Aquaman stopping a bank robbery where one of the robbers opens fire on Aquaman, grazing his forehead with one shot only to have Aquaman giving the robber a beautifully rendered “Are you kidding me? I’m the king of the freakin’ ocean!” look that makes the criminal cower, to moments between Aquaman and his wife, Mera, where you can almost hear the strands of a sweeping orchestral score as they have a romantic moment by ocean, or even a scene in a restaurant where Aquaman orders lunch and recalls eating at that restaurant as a child with his father. Those moments aren’t forgotten in Reis’s work, giving so much more feeling for any character Reis works on and making them pop off the page more than pencil and ink artwork has the right to.

Now Reis’s career is reaching even greater heights with him becoming the full-time artist on DC’s Justice League title. As much as I’ve had my issues with that book since the giant New 52 relaunch last year, him signing on for that title has cemented it as a mainstay in my pull list at the local comic shop, again, more for his contributions to the title than maybe the story. But at this point, with how Reis’s artwork has become ingrained in my DNA as being incredible and a perfect blend of what got me back into comics in the 90s with the onset of Jim Lee and Image Comics, thankfully Reis’s draftsmanship makes his art so much more than just pretty pictures to hang on your wall. They tell the stories of incredible, impossible and indescribable events that, after seeing them rendered by Ivan’s capable hands, make you feel like you were there and got a front row seat each and every time.

All artwork and characters are copyright their respective copyright holders.

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