I’m a huge Scott Morse fan. Huge. And for that I gotta thank fellow artist, Cream City faithful, and good friend Amado Rodriguez.
Amado and I met over three years ago and immediately his love and passion for indie comics, particularly their creators, became infectious. He introduced me to hip indie cats such as Jim Mahfood, Dave Crosland, Sam Hiti, Rob Schrab, and Jamie Hewlett. I can’t say I remember the exact day or manner that Amado dropped Scott Morse’s work onto my lap but the effect of Morse’s genius did not go unnoticed.
First, I hunted down Smack Dab. Then I snatched up Soulwind, Volcanic Revolver, Ancient Joe, Visitations, Magic Pickle, Barefoot Serpent, Southpaw, and Spaghetti Western. With most of his older books in my grubby little hands, I’ve also been diligent in keeping up with Morse’s most recent releases: Little Book of Horror: Frankenstein, Noble Boy, and The Ancient Book of Myth and War. As if my fascination with Morse wasn’t already in the realm of awkward, I was beyond excited to pick up his new art book from Image Comics, Scrap Mettle.
Clocking in at 400 pages, Scrap Mettle is a monster of a hardcover book. It’s best described as a stocky coffee table book/bar room brawl bruiser filled with scraps of “fast art” Morse has produced in his everyday creative process. The artwork comes from the artist’s personal Holy Trinity of mediums: inks, watercolors, and cell vinyl.
Now, if you’ve never seen Morse’s work, imagine a colorful amalgamation of kid’s book illustration, animation, and abstract painting. He was mentored by legendary American animation great Maurice Noble whose contributions to the medium, along with Tex Avery and Chuck Jones, introduced a fine art sensibility, particularly in background design. Accordingly, there is an emphasis on shapes and mood in Morse’s work. It’s not about clean, crisp linework. It’s about the colors, the movement, and the tone conveyed in the overall piece. That may sound like Art History 101 speak but when you look at Morse’s paintings, you’re not looking at “comic book” art; you’re looking at fine art infused with a love for animation that brings his creations to life.
The widescreen format of Scrap Mettle and its design (courtesy of AdHouse's Chris Pitzer) gives each piece of artwork more than enough breathing room for maximum viewing enjoyment and exploration (or in case, uncontrolled drooling). We get to see behind Morse’s creative curtain and sample some of his loose inks. Considering that the artist has made a living by rendering left-handed boxing tigers and magic pickles, it’s interesting to see that the majority of his subjects in his inked odds and ends appear to be people he’s observed in his everyday travels. While the inks are a fascinating look at Morse’s creative work out, the section featuring the cell vinyl style he is known for really make Scrap Mettle shine...
“It’s sort of like the Tonka Truck of the paint world, this cell vinyl. When I was first introduced to it, Maurice Noble insisted we use it….Maurice was old school, from a time when they still painted everything. Photoshop and telecine color corrections made him cringe. If you went into painting something with the intention of changing it in the computer later, you weren’t doing your job right. You were half-assing it. You should have painted the color you wanted the first time and moved on. Think twice and paint once.”
That’s a hard quote to follow so I’ll leave it at that. I could write up a few more paragraphs about how awesome this book is but ultimately, it’s an art book and you have to see it for yourself to either love it or hate it.
You can pick up a copy of Scrap Mettle over at Amazon or at Bud Plant where you get an exclusive and limited bookplate signed by Morse. And if you want to check out some of Scott Morse’s artwork and keep up with his ongoings, visit his website and his blog.