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MailTribune.com
  • Jonny Rench: An appreciation

    Medford's native son did his town and the comic industry proud
  • I'm using this space to give a belated thanks to the late Jonny Rench.
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  • I'm using this space to give a belated thanks to the late Jonny Rench.
    Who?
    For those not in the know — including myself until two days ago — Rench was a North Medford High grad who made something of himself in the comic book world.
    Awesome. Was he a writer? Artist? Editor?
    Not exactly. Rench, 28, was of that criminally unsung ilk that colored comics for a living.
    There's a great scene at the beginning of Kevin Smith's "Chasing Amy" in which "Bluntman and Chronic" inker Banky tries to strangle a convention geek (played by a young Casey Affleck) who denigrates his profession. Banky's description of inking, which provides critical depth and shading to the pencilled art, falls on deaf ears.
    "I don't want you to sign it," the geek says. "I want the guy who DRAWS 'Bluntman and Chronic' to sign it. You're just a tracer."
    Chaos ensues.
    I would say it's fair to lump colorists into a similar category as inkers in terms of geek disrespect.
    Anyone with even a passing interest in this column knows that I am a comic geek. Have been most of my life. I was applying my own narrative to Neal Adams' brilliant Green Lantern panels before I could read the words stuffed inside the bubbles.
    When I read about Rench's demise in the Trib earlier this week, I was disheartened that the dude had died so young and immediately became interested in his work.
    I, being lame, rarely take the time to learn the name of the colorist of my favorite comics.
    I am aware of the legendary talents, such as George Bell, who inked and colored many of Jack Kirby's iconic Fantastic Four and Avengers covers in the early '60s. Too often, Marvel did not credit Bell for his contribution to these pieces, many of which now hang in fine art collections all over the world.
    Rench worked for a number of comic companies before landing a prime gig at WildStorm, a highly successful offshoot of DC Comics.
    WildStorm features mostly creator-owned titles and recently has launched a line of movie and video game tie-ins.
    The other night I cracked into a few of my long boxes in search of Rench's work, if, in fact, it was there to be found.
    I dug out a few issues of the comic prequel to the CW show "Supernatural" and found Rench's name in the masthead.
    I sat back and reread the issues, mostly cruising over the words and dominant figures in order to absorb the color effects conjured by Rench.
    I realized that many comics are so entwined with the psychedelic movement in modern art that it is impossible to underestimate the value of the colorist to the work as a whole.
    I then unearthed a copy of "Ex Machina," a one-shot special Rench colored that is among my all-time favorite single-issue stories of all time.
    "Ex Machina" is an alternate history that tells the story of a man who dons a homemade super suit and manages to save one of the Twin Towers on 9/11. He parlays this celebrity to become mayor of New York City. Soon after he begins to struggle with his own morality as he becomes a cog in a soulless political machine.
    Again, I settled my attention on Rench's virtuoso job of lighting and bringing to life a fantastical New York City that feels true despite the fact that it exists in a comic.
    Rench makes a few more appearances in my collection. I'll get to them over the weekend.
    It's really a damn shame that the industry is losing a talented guy, whose love for the medium becomes apparent the moment you crack open one of his books.
    Check out some of Rench's work at http://jonnyrench.blogspot.com/.
    You don't have to be a comic geek to appreciate his talent. In particular is a "Wetworks" snapshot midway down the page that expertly captures the visual dynamic between fire and snow on a battlefield. Then scroll down to the bottom of the first page and check out a selection from "The Programme," a noir-influenced comic that is getting some good reviews. Rench nails the washed-out noir aesthetic to create a mood of dread and isolation.
    Rest in peace, mate.
    Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail him at cconrad@mailtribune.com.
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