Mitch Gerads: The Art of Nuance

Mitch Gerads is one of the most talented artists currently working in the comic book industry. He has recently become a very big name (and Eisner winner) due to his work on the incredible Mister Miracle limited series with writer Tom King. However, Mitch has been around for a while with work published in books such as The Activity, Sheriff of Babylon and even in a couple of issues of King’s Batman run. One of the aspects of Mitch’s art that stands out so much to me is the realistic feel he gives to every character on the page. Every moment feels like a genuine scene that you can imagine happening, and this nuance helps further draw you into the world that you’re reading.

In an interview with Newsrama from 2011, Mitch talks about something he always thinks about while drawing: “Something I try to keep in mind with every scene I draw, whether the script calls for it or not, is that people are always doing something. Even if they’re just having a conversation, nobody just stands with their arms at their side talking. So I try and make sure everyone always has something to do like pouring a glass of water, scratching an itch, pounding their fist on the table.” This attention to detail can easily go unnoticed, but it’s something that makes the entire reading experience so much better. It’s also one of those things that once you do notice it, your appreciation for its inclusion increases ten-fold.

The first time I noticed this nuance was during my first reading of the outstanding series, Sheriff of Babylon, written by Tom King with Mitch Gerads on art duties. This moment happens near the end of the story and is between two characters sitting in a room while waiting for updates on a very intense military op that is supposed to be underway. One of the characters, Chris, is our protagonist throughout the story, and the man opposite him, Bob, has appeared in the later half as somewhat of an antagonist. While not being a direct cut and clean “bad guy” (nothing in this book is that black and white), Bob’s motives and actions clash with what we hope for Chris to accomplish.

The Sheriff of Babylon
(Vertigo/DC Comics)

The two are sitting across from each other as Bob rambles on. During one of his sentences, Bob leans over in his chair, grabs a water bottle, unscrews the cap to take a drink, and then leans back over to place the bottle where it had been on the floor. This is such a menial action, but it’s one that impressed me upon my first reading. Reaching over and taking a sip of water while talking is such a normal thing for someone to do, but to include this and illustrate it just adds another layer of detail to the book that really makes the conversation feel real.

Once you notice this and know to look out for it, you’ll find so many little things like this throughout all of Mitch’s work. From the shrug of someone’s shoulders to someone messing with their I.D. badge or stretching before taking a walk – it’s subtle things like this that we do in our every day lives without hesitation that Mitch injects into his work; and it really puts it on another level for me. This attention to detail and clever nuance bring the worlds and characters to life so much more. You feel more attached and connected with what you’re reading because of Mitch’s attention to detail, and you might not even realize why, but that’s the beauty of it.

Another one of my personal favorites of these moments comes in issue 5 of the ever impressive Mister Miracle series- another collaboration between King and Gerads. This issue puts all the focus on Scott Free and Big Barda spending a day and night together in California. During one of their exploits on the boardwalk, Scott wants to make good on his promise to win a giant stuffed toy for Barda, and he does in his own wacky way. After the stuffed toy is in their possession, Scott and Barda have a bystander stop to take a picture of them. It’s here where we get a full page of 9 panel grids (an interesting element of the story that is implemented throughout the entire series) that feature Scott and Barda smiling and waiting for their picture to be taken.

Mister Miracle
(DC Comics)

This page PERFECTLY captures that feeling of standing there with someone waiting on your picture to be taken. From the expressions on their faces, to having to stop and help the person with the camera, and then going back to posing. It’s all there, and it’s executed flawlessly. It’s such a relatable moment because everyone knows what that moment feels like, and Mitch does an incredible job illustrating and bringing it to life.

These are just two of my favorite examples of nuanced moments that Mitch Gerads puts into all of his comic work. While they’re not the flashiest things to ever be seen on comic pages, all of these moments add so much to character depth and really help you connect with what you’re reading by offering the relatable element of doing normal things. It all makes the world feel like it’s inhabited by very real and human characters. It’s also something that adds to the value of a re-read. I’ve read through Sheriff of Babylon and Mister Miracle numerous times, but with the help of Gerad’s art, there are still new things I pick up on each time I read them. This art of nuance that I feel Mitch has perfected is something that makes his entire body of work that much more impressive.