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SYFY WIRE Jeff Lemire

Exclusive: Dean Ormston's inked line art in preview of Black Hammer: Director's Cut

By Ernie Estrella
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For many comic book readers, the monthly floppies or trade paperbacks are plenty to occupy their time, but there's a huge market for original art, for those with more dispensable income. Unfortunately, that leaves another portion of the audience out in the cold, hence the rise in popularity in oversized, deluxe Artist's Edition hardcovers and process-rich books, that scan the original art in incredibly high resolution and package it in affordable ways. 

On Wednesday, Jan. 16, Dark Horse Comics is releasing Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston's Black Hammer: Director's Cut which shows off much of Ormston's inked artwork for the original Black Hammer series in a 56-page one-shot priced at $4.99 and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive preview of the book. For the sake of file size, these images published in this article are at a much lower resolution than what readers will find in tomorrow's release. 

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"It's actually quite scary having the 'warts and all' inks reproduced in this way," Ormston told SYFY WIRE when asked about fans seeing scans of his original art. "I was comfortable in the knowledge we had Dave Stewart onboard as colorist so I left quite a bit of empty space because I knew that I could rely on Dave to fill in the gaps and give the pages depth. I think I would have approached it differently with another colorist and I would have added a lot more blacks."

"On the plus side, I love seeing artist editions where we see the unfiltered, unclean original. I love buying original art. There’s an atmosphere you just don't get with the cleaned up and colored product."

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Being able to see the original art versus the finished product does peel back the layers of the creative process to the reader about things the artist does to help tell the visual story that goes far beyond the word balloons and captions. 

"Things that differ from the standard issue is evident on a few of the pages you can see where for reasons of clarity, I've decided not to ink parts of the pencils," added Ormston. "On page 2 (below),  I decided to white out the trees because I felt the scene would feel bleaker without them and none of this is visible on the standard published comic. I'm never that comfortable with inking, so I constantly try different tools, switching between brush, technical pen, marker pen, and dip pen and this is more visible on this edition. 

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"One thing that he does that I love is that he letters the pencils himself," Lemire raved to SYFY WIRE. "Which isn't done alot with original art these days (since most of the lettering is done by computer now). If original art is dated after the 1990s, lettering's not done on the boards. It's really cool."

"Dean has a history of being a horror artist and you can see there's a darkness and wierdness to his art that works really well in the world of Black Hammer.  Some people might get caught up in that and not realize the amount of humanity he brings into those characters. I try to write really nuanced characters but if you don't have an artist to render that properly, a lot of that emotion and nuance gets lost. He makes characters like Gail and Barbalien and all of these fantastic characters so real with subtle facial expressions and body language. He's a master at that. They're not things that pop off the page, but they really bring the comic to life."  

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Since the release of the original series, the Black Hammer universe has exploded to multiple spinoffs, mini-series and one-shots. Now it will be adapted by Lemire as a part of his development deal with Legendary Entertainment. Part of that was an organic development from Lemire's mind, but also due to buy time for Ormston to recover from his cerebral hemorrhage to his left side of his brain, which affected the right side of his body. 

"I had to take a lot of time out learn how to draw again, so Jeff started to think outside of the farm setting to give me time to recuperate. Even now, I struggle to draw and ink with any fluidity, so most of my creative juices are concentrated on trying to keep to the world-weary look we created very early on, to keep the four volumes as uniform as possible."

"However," Ormston added. "It's really exciting to see how other artists approach Black Hammer characters, and I do think that if and when we revisit Black Hammer I will change my approach to the overall look as a result of the larger universe.

Check out the first nine pages of Black Hammer: Director's Cut below and let us know what you think.