February: Brian Stelfreeze

Brian Stelfreeze is one of those artists who's best known for his covers and design work more than his interior comics art. His covers to "Shadow of the Bat" were iconic and his fifty issue run covering the book certainly stands out both for that time period and since. The fact that there hasn't been a book which would collect the covers and various sketches, process drawings, and other "Batman" work that Stelfreeze has drawn seems idiotic.

Stelfreeze was a founding member of Gaijin Studio, which was home to a great lineup of artists including Cully Hamner, Tony Harris, Adam Hughes, Dave Johnson and Jason Pearson, among others.

For the most part, the projects that Stelfreeze has worked on are ones that he co-wrote or was deeply involved with the story process, which is not typical. He collaborated with Doug Wagner a number of times, writers like Joe Pruett and Devin Grayson, and more than just playing a role in the writing the projects he was often pencilling, inking and even coloring the stories.

In these projects he would alter his style to suit each project. He wasn't taking this heavy-handed approach to his career, but he was taking an interest in the work and being very proactive as a collaborator and storyteller. Some stories were more cartoony, some more realistic, some darker, some lighter. And at the same time, each story very much shows hallmarks of the writer's work. Matador feels like a Devin Grayson comic. "Gun Candy" feels like a Doug Wagner comic. The story in "Wednesday Comics" feels like something that Walt Simonson would write.

I've never met Stelfreeze, I don't know what it's like working with him, but as a reader, that is the definition of a good collaboration and a good collaborator.

Boom! made a splash when Stelfreeze signed onto draw the series "Day Men" for the publisher. Written by Michael Alan Nelson and Matt Gagnon, the book very much plays into Stelfreeze's strengths as an artist, and at a time when vampires have become almost ordinary, the book stands out with a very different take on the mythos, both in terms of the actual content of the series but also the ways that the series approaches it.

Boom launched a new occasional project, "Pen & Ink" last year where they print the inked pages of artists in an oversize format. It's not for everyone, but seeing two issues reproduced like this is an incredible thing for fans of artists and process junkies (and people who love looking at original art but can't afford them). Stelfreeze's first two issues of "Day Men" made up the first "Pen & Ink" and there will be a publication of the third and fourth issues coming up this year.

Stelfreeze is also a noted designer who is perhaps best known for his redesign of Nightwing many years ago, but he has posted online some sketches and redesigns over the years. His redesign of DC's Crime Syndicate was an elegant and interesting take on the characters which was done in a way that was really striking. Stelfreeze captured the essence of the characters while completing redesigning them from scratch and using a style that owed much more to people like Alex Toth than many of the overly busy designs that are so commonplace and popular nowadays.

"Day Men" has had some trouble keeping to a monthly schedule, but when I spoke with Stelfreeze last year he spoke about the lengthy back and forth that he and the writers engage in with every issue, making the book far more collaborative than most ongoing comic series, and it isn't shocking that the book doesn't come out monthly. This criticism is unfortunate because it is a beautiful book with a very unique take on the genre. It also spotlights just what Stelfreeze is able to do. Like a lot of artists, it's easy to forget about people and how good they are, when they haven't been producing a lot of work regularly. I get the sense that Stelfreeze understands this and that it was one of the reasons that he wanted to draw an ongoing series

I'm perfectly happy with the pace of "Day Men," though I'll be honest that I'm one who tends to read the collections of comics. In a more ideal world, I'd like many more issues of "Day Men" each year with a new "Pen & Ink" every year showcasing more of Stelfreeze's work. I'd also love to see him do more cover artwork and experiment with more styles and approaches. More than anything else, though, I want to see more Stelfreeze artwork. However it ends up looking.

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