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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

On The Radar: Michael Turner

Posted By on Wed, May 21, 2008 at 11:18 AM

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By Matthew Shaer

Marvel announced today that Michael Turner – he of "Witchblade" and, like, 38 million DC covers – has drawn up two variant portraits for next month's "Wolverine." (One’s a “sketch” variant, so expect to fork over some extra cash for that fucker.) Turner has become something of an American Cover Idol in recent years; he handled the front of a few 'JLA' books and he did a wham-bam 'Wolverine: Origins' sketch that was subsequently canonized with a full-length poster.

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Next month's 'Wolverine' cover

Clearly there’s something to Turner’s art, which tends to blur the line between genders. Men look an awful lot like women; women look a little like men; everyone glowers and grimaces and threatens to burst out of their trench coats and Spandex. Not that I’m suggesting there’s anything inherently wrong with the man’s abilities: some Turner covers (like the ‘Wolverine’ mentioned above) pop and spin and move with a good deal of energy. And he’s no Liefield: everything here is in proportion and the cannons are blessedly small and the women’s bodies don’t look like an abandoned game of Jenga.

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An older 'Mercenaries' cover

Still, there’s a heterogeneity to his approach. Real action, for the most part, evades Turner. He likes poses. He likes crossed arms. He likes the threat of violence, and rarely the violence itself. Which, when we think about it, is what makes a cover artist different from a star. Jim Lee – despite his problems with the human mouth, which is often depicted as a simple half circle, teeth-be-fucked – is very much an artist of action.

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A 'Teen Titans' cover by Michael Turner

Lee’s panels slide into each other; his covers can be posed, but more often, they’re simply enlarged variants on a scene from the book itself. So one way to parse it: Lee writes novels; Turner writes epigraphs. Another: Turner is not necessarily an artist of dynamism, but one of stasis – a flat plain where vaguely similar-looking men and women stand together with their arms akimbo or crossed, discussing the latest news, like the universe of Marvel or DC was an office, and we, their water cooler.

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Matt Shaer

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