Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2015 K'hym J'onzz Space City Comic Con Jam Sketch Detail by Dietrich Smith

I first heard of Dietrich Smith on mid-'90s EXTREME!!! books like The Night Man/Gambit and Chapel before he disappeared and reappeared on more eccentric, experimental fare like Tad Williams' The Next. Most recently, he's been working at Dynamite on licensed projects like Battlestar Galactica, Army of Darkness, and the upcoming Shaft: Imitation of Life with David F. Walker. His style has changed a lot over the years, but in researching him for commissions, I found that I really enjoyed his current output. He often foregoes solid blacks in favor of rendering figures in pure color via pencil, marker, or watercolor. It softens the focus and gives a greater impression of a moment of life rather than a crystallized image.

I wanted that kind of delicacy in the approach to K'hym, J'Onn J'Onzz's deceased daughter, whose spirit hangs over the series of superhuman teenage surrogates the Martian Manhunter has mentored since shortly before K'hym's existence was revealed in 1988 (Gypsy, Jenny Quantum, Stargirl, The Pearl... and in outside media, Miss Martian and Supergirl.) As much as I'm sure J'Onn mourns and misses his wife, J'Onn's role as the father of an older child (usually depicted as pre/early adolescent) who has passed not only twists the knife of tragedy that much more than is commonly seen in super-hero comics, but has had a stronger reflection in his ongoing narrative than his little seen and short-lived romantic interludes. The specter of K'hym cast a pall over J'Onn's continued existence to a greater degree than any other long and forever lost member of his family.

Like most of the other artists, Smith had to not only capture the nature of his subject, but do so within the confines of a collaborative project where numerous figures would be interacting with one another, all drawn by different artists in a sequence without direct communication with one another or an overarching layout. K'hym had one of the hardest "green screen" roles, since she's fourth in line after her father was looking at her mother was looking at her uncle who was himself looking at the audience, all in a diagonal line of sight that terminated with T'omm J'onzz, and with J'Onn slightly left of center.

Smith had K'hym believably interact with a presently distracted but not neglectful father while having her relate to a flame that was used to set up other artists and their characters. It was Smith's idea to add the fire, which ultimately reflected Grandmother J'onzz's comfort with/connection to her god H'ronmeer and his embers of destruction/creation. I love how accurately Smith was able to depict this young woman's body through the color-only anatomical/costume details, while also making feminine her bald alien head, sewn together by dark lines to better tie her into the overall piece. The look on her face and the trepidation in her body language while she steps away from a modest danger toward her protector, both figures connected but neither actually looking at the other. Even though she's an otherworldly green-skinned being, she's also your friend or your sister or your daughter.

For the record, the contrasts on the scan make it appear like K'hym has a harsh light source to her left, but that area is actually just more lightly colored than the copy was able to pick up. K'hym is the only character in the piece fully colored by their artist, with lovely shading besides, so she really stands out in the finished piece (though I hope to have the whole thing hand or digitally colored in the future.)

More from Dietrich Smith
The J'Onzzes

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