Modern Masters: Chris Sprouse

I’m still waiting for TwoMorrows to deem a woman worthy of inclusion in their Modern Masters line of interview books, but in the meantime, I’ll enjoy this Chris Sprouse volume, co-written by our friend Todd Dezago. (The other writer is nice guy Eric Nolen-Weathington.)

Modern Masters: Chris Sprouse cover
Modern Masters: Chris Sprouse
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I find Sprouse’s clean art lovely in its simplicity, and he works incredibly hard to achieve that appearance. As with the other Modern Masters books, the text is a lengthy interview in which the subject talks about his life and work, how he got into the field, key points in his career, and his love of comics. It’s accompanied by all kinds of art samples, including early and rare work, such as pieces for his high school paper and summer jobs. Plus, there are sketches, character designs, and page layouts.

They did a nice job actually connecting the images to what’s being talked about in the text. I’ve had problems with some of the company’s magazines before, talking about things that they never show, but that’s not the case here. I say “they” because I don’t know whether to credit authors, editor, or someone else, but whoever’s responsible, thank you. Nice caption job, too, providing full identification so I’m not guessing at what an image is or where it’s from.

I also appreciated “hearing” Sprouse address the struggles he’s had, his learning curve, and his issues with perfectionism and how it affects a work schedule. He comments briefly on many of his co-workers, but the part that really struck a chord with me was when he talks about emotional impact, how looking back at certain pages reminds him of major changes in his life going on when he drew them, and how difficult it can be to keep enthusiasm going after a while.

Sprouse also walks through the full creation of a page from Ocean before the book switches to pure art gallery, including a short color section of full-page images. I’d forgotten just how much I loved his work on Legionnaires, around the time I first began reading the series. I really enjoyed this volume, going over his career and understanding better what makes Chris Sprouse the talented artist he is.

12 Responses to “Modern Masters: Chris Sprouse”

  1. Don MacPherson Says:

    In my small collection of original comic art is a Sprouse page from Legionnaires, and it’s one of the most special ones I own. That’s because more than the others, it shows the process the artist goes through to create a page. Sprouse actually sketched the entire layout and rough figures in reverse on the other side of the page before pencilling the his final illustration on the front side of the art board. It’s very cool.

  2. Diana Green Says:

    Delighted to see this out. I met Sprouse briefly at a local con some years back and found him quite charming. Picked up a Strong Family sketch for a more than reasonable price.
    Sprouse is a logical successor to some of the clean line masters of the 60s. I see some of Manning, Swan and Anderson in his work, and that is far from a bad thing!

  3. Tim O'Shea Says:

    Who would be on your short list of women they should cover? I think someone (cannot remember who) is already working on a Marie Severin book. Just curious.

  4. James Schee Says:

    Tim, I’d love books about Colleen Doran, Linda Medley and Jill Thompson given the variety of work they’ve done. Hmm others…

    Jan Duursema or Adriana Mello(sp?) or Amanda Conner could certainly be considered in future years as their bios grow. Would it be worthwhile to go after some of the manga creators I wonder?

    Oh and I loved Sprouse ever since the Legion days (often wondered if someone as great as Jeff Moy hadn’t followed him if I’d stayed on the title after he left) and was surprised at how natural fits he was on Supreme and the ABC books. I’ll have to look for this.

  5. Johanna Says:

    James and I are thinking in the same direction: Doran, Medley, and Thompson would be tops of my list as well. Conner is another great choice, given the superhero slant of the book line. Ramona Fradon if you wanted to cover another era. There are some wonderfully talented women out there I’d love to read more about while savoring their sketches.

  6. Johnny Bacardi Says:

    The Bierbaum/Sprouse Legionnaires remains my favorite version of the Legion, and it was there that I discovered Sprouse’s art. He remains a favorite of mine to this day.

    Another early pencilling job of his, which I found a bit later, was Hammer Locke- a great, overlooked little SF/superhero book.

  7. Johanna Says:

    There’s a BUNCH of Hammerlocke art in this volume. I didn’t mention it because I didn’t know it still had fans and I hadn’t heard of it before.

  8. Johnny Bacardi Says:

    Cool, now I want that book more than ever!

    I don’t know how many fans it has out there- it received very little promotion as I recall and is pretty much forgotten today- but I know at least one!

    I started an issue-by-issue look at the series at the Show a long time ago, but have yet to finish it. Maybe someday…

  9. KC Says:

    From my days editing Legionnaires, I can confirm that almost all of Chris’s pages in those days had something going on the back. A few were SO detailed, I had to call and confirm with him which side of the page was the “real” side.

    I was also one of the “Legion of Hammerlocke Editors” (one of 7, I think) for about 20 minutes. That book was SO long in pre-production (DC really didn’t know what to do with it), it’s a miracle that it ever got released. Fun little book!

    BTW, Chris is one of the biggest fans of the band XTC around. He’s been known to slip bandleader Andy Partridge into the background in a few of his projects…

  10. Chris G. Says:

    In about 1994 or so, I was delighted to discover the guy behind me in line for a Harlan Ellison book signing was Chris Sprouse. In retrospect, I should have told him how much I loved his art, and asked how he managed to build three-dimensional figures with so few vertical lines, and asked how me managed to create such variation amongst the Legionnaires despite the near-unanimity of their costumes. Instead, I told him that Brainiac 5 didn’t strike me as a ponytail sort of guy. Youth is wasted on the young.

  11. Friday Night Linkblogging « Half Eaten Sandwich Says:

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