Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Render Robos Right - Alex Milne on Rom vs Transformers Shining Armor and contrasting complexity

 - Leigh Gregurke

I admit I underappreciated Alex Milne when he was on More Than Meets the Eye. 
It wasn't until he moved on from that book that I went back and thought about what he provided to that story. He defined a visual style for a number of now major characters and moments that I imagine will be remembered for many years. I was interested in checking out ROM vs Transformers Shining Armor on the back of Milne at the art helm of a Transformers book again, it was an opportunity to see with a fresh eye what exactly Milne does that works so well.  

Welcome to Render Robos Right a now titled series of articles wherein I discuss, analyze and examine the art of transformers comics in a detail I think you wont find anywhere else.
So what style and traits do we associate with Alex Milne? My initial thoughts were high levels of detail. Not necessarily surface detail and rendering but the amount of figures, objects.....I think of complex backgrounds, sprawling sci-fi city-spaces and detail heavy space vessel interiors. 

Here's the thing I discovered though....I think Milne's best work is when he contrasts that busyness and excess with isolated moments, when an action or moment is spotlighted and we blur or cut away all that noise to see what is meaningful on a page.


This page from ROM vs Transformers Shining Armor hits all those Alex Milne beats. Setting the scene with an appropriate usage of detail. Content heavy scenes with depth from the foreground right to the back giving depth. The panel that really leaps though, is that isolated image against the stark contrasting background. The removal of all the noise, the extra information; the page gains urgency and momentum, everything else is turned down while we focus in on the key moment.


I wanted to draw some attention to importance of 'Value' in sequential art and how it relates to the isolation of content against blank grounds. I refer to the light and dark qualities of the images on the page and the relationship they form. Stripping the hues from the same page but retaining the value; it really highlights the importance of that negative white space in adding value diversity and visual interest to the page. Look at both images and you see the importance of the first panel having the contrast between ROM's lighter tone and the darker environment, without that the top of the page could become a little muddy or lost. Getting the values right is tricky as it depends not only on the artist but the colourist often even more so. In this case Josh Perez is equally at work making sure the page reads clearly.

Think of the technique not as removing detail or background but making the choice to use a solid ground and engaging negative space. Sometimes it can be disguised to not feel as obvious also such as the following page from MTMTE.

The final panel gives us a white ground with the addition of two windows. They may indicate the space the scene is in and give some contextual reminder of the outer but in essence they are abstract forms designed to stage the characters and give focus. This allows the viewer to be pulled back away from the detail and information and take in a few key elements such as the characters stances and postures and the crucial writing. 

At times I think Alex Milne can sometimes can get a little too busy, page flow suffers and I am not sure where my eye should be focusing but more often than not he absolutely nails the balance between the two.

I suggest you take a look at a few pages of any Milne work and find for yourself how a busy packed page can be focused down in single solid backed panel. Think about how it impacts the page and how it might read differently with the same background content as another panel.

As always, keep it #refined

Follow Leigh on Twitter @ambushthem

No comments:

Post a Comment