The line is what makes the cartoonist. Here in contemporary America, in our cult of originality and individuality, the cartoonist strives to go forward, look avant-garde and make his line stand out; even amongst mainstream art worlds like super hero comics, to have a distinctive line is paramount. Everyone in the game can recognize the line of Jack Kirby, Walt Simonson, Zeb Wells, Paul Pope, etc., etc.
One way I've been playing around with shifting line quality is switching the scale of my originals. I got this idea from Paul Pope (See above image - I WANT TO SCREAM IN ECSTASY AT HOW AWESOME THAT WOLF IS), who has some pretty cool youtube interviews where his original drawings are shown larger than the average bear. Pope has a very seductive brush quality I envy, but he can't get that look without using India ink like gestural painting brush strokes.
For a full frontal portrait of a mutated Byron Slimecold coming through the mist of hot fudge vents, I decided to work big. I was able to work with prismacolor markers. It was very liberating. My hand moved faster, but overall to finish the portrait took about the same amount of time as any panel due to the scale. Here's a close up with a bad cropping job on my part.
On the other side of the gestural line is Kentaro Miura, my Japanese Manga God, author of the forever evolving dark fantasy/horror series "Berserk". Berserk takes place in a Medieval/Renaissance European influenced world and Miura's art history references reflect this time period.
Sometimes I look through Berserk and I feel Miura is channeling the twisted off-spring of Albert Durer and Hieronymus Bosch, but with Mannerist compositions. Particularly in the later volumes of Berserk, I keep on thinking "these would make GREAT etchings". But they're not! They're Japanese comic books!
Miura's line is tight, repetitive and full of cross hatching. I'm sure he uses a brush, but the dip pen takes precedence.
While arguably a Pope gestural brush stroke would be more "liberating" for the artist, I feel the repetitive and fast cross hatching of Miura could/would be just as satisfying as one is continuously batting down on the page. I'm not sure what scale Miura works on, but the final product is about half the size of your standard American Marvel comic book, so I'm guessing he works small.
Here's a page from THE INVASIVE EXOTICS ISSUE #3 where I feel I effectively used scale to my advantage. Here is an atmosphere sequence illustrating the charging of Sludgewater Security forces invading a section of Brooklyn. Looking back, I feel this page is a bit rushed (I wanted to get it out in time for the Brooklyn comics and graphics festival that happened last month) but at the same time it gives the page a loose, faux-naivete that is appealing. Plus, horror or menace just isn't as scary without irony or humor. Simply put, those building windows wouldn't be as fun had I drawn them on a small scale.
Sometimes the secret of being an artist is to continue having things feel fresh and fun. This is VERY difficult in comic books and probably why there just aren't a lot of us around. You draw a LOT of the same exact things and since one is constricted to telling a story sometimes getting loose is a challenge. But that's a challenge for each artist, how do you keep it fresh ...