Saturday, June 27, 2009

2 of My Favorite Cartoonists Contrasted

I like Harvey Eisenberg and Milt Gross for some traits they have in common and some that distinguish them. Their main difference is that Harvey is very conservative and Gross is very radical creatively. Harvey uses construction, Gross doesn't. But they share many other controls or the use of principles.
Harvey's compositions seem to be very carefully, logically thought out while Gross' seem more spontaneous and anarchic. They may look anarchic on the surface but they still are full of negative shapes, clear posing and the BGs are composed around the characters. They are filled with what could be considered mistakes -like tangents, but that adds to the spontaneity of his images.
Opposing Angles
They both compose their characters in reaction to each other using opposing angles.

They both use interesting angles in their BG compositions and frame the bgs around the characters.

Action, Acting
Gross uses line of action but also goes beyond the limitation, while Eisenberg pretty much sticks to the rules. Gross' poses seem much more lively than Eisenberg's. Eisenberg uses great control and the classic principles to make his images read clearly and have good artistic pleasing balance.
BG Composition
Gross tries to get more observation and grit into his BG scenes, and uses more interesting shapes. Eisenberg is able to draw dynamic angles but is very careful about it.

Eisenberg can be wacky, but in a very conservative way. Gross is always wacky and in constantly inventive ways.

Gross really uses shapes to keep his images full of contrast, inventiveness and interest. Eisenberg sticks to a handful of stock animation shapes, plus a few of his own stylistic inventions. His construction is very careful with some purposeful cheats, while Gross ignores construction altogether. He gets away with it because he has so many other artistic principles in his work to hold the images together.
Panel Layout
Gross' panels are all different shapes and angles, while Eisenberg's are mostly rectangles.

Gross is the far more creative cartoonist, but I also really admire Eisenberg's control and discipline. Eisenberg is born to layout. Gross is born to genius.

I love both these guys and they each have their place. My own style is somewhere in between the 2 approaches. I wish I was as inventive as Gross and as controlled as Eisenberg.

See the whole comics here:


Jack G. said...

Complete Milt Gross Comic Book Stories are slated for November 29, 2009.

nktoons said...

Great post John! After carefully looking at the two illustrators I'd have to say Milt Gross panels are more visually creative and progressive compared to Harvey Eisenbergs conservative approach. Although both are great in there own right, some of the Milt Gross strips lead me to wonder on "How did he do that?" Where as
with Eisenberg I can dissect what I'm looking at. When I contrast these 2 great artists to modern cartoonists, I wonder what happened!?

drawingtherightway said...

Being that these are comic strips, Gross can get away without construction, but if this were animated wouldn't he pretty much have to use construction to keep the details from floating all over the place?

Will Finn said...

Milt Gross seemed to operate on the theory that whatever you draw, you might as well make it funny. If you can't make it funny, then leave it out. As a result every picture is purely enjoyable.

Still his hierarchy of composition never gets cluttered or clunky, and you always know what your looking at and why. His newspaper comics are slightly more conservative (only just) because the standardized formats of the panels kind of demanded it. But he and Cliff Sterrett pushed it even in that venue.

Too bad he only got to make 3 animated shorts in the sound era. All three are a blast.

Shawn Dickinson said...

>>Complete Milt Gross Comic Book Stories are slated for November 29, 2009.<<

I pre-ordered that mother weeks ago! I'm not sleeping till it's in my sweaty, grubby, greedy hands!

Ted said...

Gross's shorts are significantly more orderly; at least Jitterbug Follies is (I haven't seen any others). But maybe that's a function of locked down backgrounds and needing to get the backgrounds and the moving images to work well together.

patrick said...

wow, so much eye candy!!!

Mr. Tat said...

Very informative. With these side by side, I can see how two different seemingly different approaches builds off of similar principles. I'm reminded of the Tom and Jerry and the Pogo post again.

There were cartoons based on Milt Gross' comic strip also? Everyone seems to be in the know about these things.

Benjamin said...

John, I've often wondered- what cartoonists (of the comic/comic-strip variety) who are working now do you consider to be good or great? I saw somewhere that you like Peter Bagge, as I recall. Anybody else?
I know you tend to be attracted to somewhat older work as you feel (and offer some compelling evidence) that it's more artistically intentional, purposeful, follows principles, etc., but what contemporary artists do you feel like are worth readers time and money, if any?

thomas said...

Enjoyed the post! The Whistler's Mother gag in the last Gross panel is a hoot. In the 30's- 40's, Whistler's Mother was the middlebrow idea of "high art". It's more or less the equivalent of having the pooch in disguise in Warhol Marilyn drag, today.

I'm a fan of Gross' animation too. They do retain much of the uncanny energy of the print work.

Pilsner Panther said...

Let me guess: young Mr. Eisenberg was really good at Geometry and Drafting in high school, while Milt Gross was probably a constant source of irritation to his teachers.

Gross reminds me of George Lichty (who I think was a bit younger). That is, their drawings look "scrawly" and almost at the point of falling apart and turning into scribbles, but there's a great deal of compositional talent there— for anyone who can see it.

And there are three Milt Gross animated shorts? Where are they? Please John, post the links!

Cliff Sterrett was somewhere in between, having a born draftsman's tight control of his pen lines, but he still managed to consistently go over the top. Pilsner's Picks features a Sterrett panel on my main page, and that's no accident.

"There were giants in the Earth in those days."

Yowp said...

Would Eisenberg have done the story?

It's interesting comparing this to the Cousin Tex cartoon that inspired it.


HemlockMan said...

I may have asked you this before...and I did a search using the new engine and came up zilch...are you going to cover John Stanley? Does he enter into your consciousness at all as a cartoonist? Do you dismiss his work?

Just curious...

Zorrilla said...

The first one looks like the work of a good artist doing a job, while the second looks like a good artist having fun.

Sherm said...

I like the way this shows how there are many approaches to cartooning, and not just one "right way." Someone like Milt Gross is brilliant and crazy enough to break all the rules. Why? Because it just WORKS!

rodineisilveira said...

Johnny K.,

You gonna find two cool topics involving the Pixie & Dixie episode Cousin Tex (whose comic book version drawn by Harvey Eisenberg is included on your topic) - which's from the first season of The Huckleberry Hound Show (Hanna-Barbera/Columbia Pictures, 1958-62) - which are included on the Dodsworth's blog, Yowp (
Here are the topics:

Pixie & Dixie - Cousin Tex:
A Knockout Mouse Cartoon:

Enjoy the visit on these links quotated above, OK?
And this episode brings the design (funny, of course) drawn by the legendary Ed Benedict.

TParker said...

What the-? Pete the Pooch looks exactly like Jasper!