Comic book editors come from all kinds of interesting origins. Some are writers, some are artists, others use incriminating photos. Me, before getting into comics, I had a writing and film background, so maybe that’s why I’m so fascinated by the ins and outs of comic book artists and the voodoo that they do. Take what Alberto Ponticelli does on UNKNOWN SOLDIER, for example. First of all, in a time when it’s getting harder and harder to find an artist to do just a single storyline uninterrupted, he did a full year of art on that book before needing a break. This page from UNKNOWN SOLDIER # 12 is one of my favorites: I love this, by the way -- watching art go from its initial chicken scratching layout phase to the final finished colors, while noticing the details that change along the way. But starting with last month’s issue of UNKNOWN SOLDIER, Alberto decided to completely blow everything out of the water, and it’s so cool to have a behind-the-scenes perspective on, I thought I’d share it. Whereas usually, Alberto goes through the usual process of drawing the pages in pencil before inking them, (leaving the coloring and modeling to colorist Oscar Celestini), check out what he’s doing now: The colors are still Oscar, but the modeling and tonal work are all Alberto, and it’s amazing how much atmosphere it’s added to the pages – completely appropriate considering that in the current arc, Dry Season, Joshua Dysart is writing a film noir story that takes place inside an IDP camp. But the most amazing thing of all? Alberto’s doing all the art in the exact same amount of time as before. Where does he gain the time? Well, for one, there’s no ink on these pages anymore. Alberto manipulates the contrast of the pencils in Photoshop, and whereas in most digital inking jobs, this causes the line to be fuzzy, the “dirt” works out perfectly for the dusty atmosphere of an IDP camp. From there, he adds layers of watercolor textures and applies them for shape and tone. UNKNOWN SOLDIER has received critical acclaim from some of the top outlets covering comics right now, from legit news places like The New York Times to TV shows like Attack of the Show to websites like IGN, but every time I look at the work Alberto puts in, I wonder if people realize the work he’s putting in to give this stuff atmosphere but still be accurate to DVDs full of reference Josh has on Uganda. It’s kind of the challenge every contemporary comics artist faces when they work on ambitious material. Because inevitably the story ends up outweighing the artwork, which is as it should be, and I know Alberto wouldn’t have it any other way, but it got me thinking. Where are the best places to find discussions about comics art, especially in books where the artist didn’t write the material themselves? For that matter, who do people see as the Pauline Kael of comics criticism? The Roger Ebert? I’d be genuinely curious to hear what people have to say.