House Styles: Yay or Nay?

Okay, for those of you who don’t know, a “house style” is when a publisher (of comics; I suppose I should specify) enforces a particular art aesthetic across all of their titles. This is usually done through either hiring artists that have very similar styles, or by hiring artists that are known quantities and having them draw in a specific way.

For example, during most of the New 52 (up until around the DC You era), DC enforced a house style that was intended (at least from what I’ve read) to be more photo-realistic and spectacle-oriented, inspired, I’d wager, by the art of creators such as Jim Lee and Ivan Reis.

The question of this thread is not if you enjoyed the New 52 house style, rather if you think house styles in general are a good idea. I’m not going to share my opinion on this, at least not yet. I just want to pose the question, as I do think there are pros and cons on both sides of the fence.

So: yay or nay?


I would probably like it if they had a house style as long as the style they chose was one that I liked. I might be better off with no house style so that there is a possibility that an artist would choose to use a style I like.


A house style can be good, as long as it fits the tone of the universe. But considering the diversity of themes throughout the DCU, the way one book looks may not necessarily be suited for another.


Let the artists do their thing.


I’m nay on house style. I love Mike Grell who has a photo realistic style. I also love Jack Kirby whose energy comes through on every panel. Two styles that are completely different but both bring a unique view. I may not love every artist’s style but it adds to the story and the experience.


@TravisMorgan Well stated! Ditto.


Seems like it would constrain creativity and limit variation in tone. I see the appeal, but artists need a little flexibility. A Batman comic and a Green Lantern comic just shouldn’t look the same.


Nay!!! I didn’t even realize that’s a thing. How boring! Like several others have said, titles are so different in tone and story that it shouldn’t be necessary to make them visually match.

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I could see the use of a broad set of house style constraints on certain groups of books. Aka, all the “batfamily” books having a general style. That “house style” could have fairly wide parameters for example “not photorealistic, use classical, perspective geometry aka renaissance style anatomy”.

I don’t think it a bad thing to have artists & writers have some boundaries to their boxes. Those can be very broad parameters, but parameters nonetheless. I think it would foster more creativity, not less.


Curious - how so? I could see it fostering challenges, in the sense that the artists would have to work harder to find a means of maintaining their personal vision, but with deadlines and such, I’m not sure how many would bother (or even be capable of it), rather than simply putting out whatever package is expected of them.

I’d also worry this could limit the evolution or introduction of new styles. New blood might hold back from being innovative because their concern is getting their foot in and landing a paycheck. Animation is a different animal, but as I’m more up to date on it than comics, I’ll use it as an example: How often would we get stuff like Into the Spider-Verse and Batman Ninja if parameters, even loose ones, had been set for the Bat- and Spider-families?


I think being capable of a it is why I think it would foster creativity. Make artists “stretch their legs” as it were.

I think by limiting the number of titles to a particular style, not every single DC book has the same style or is constrained by “house rules”, you avoid the trap of limiting evolution and innovation.

Writers have to engage in a broad “house style”. If they write Batman as a weak willed, milksop. That’s not gonna fly. So there are some boundaries to the writer’s box for a given character(s). Yet, writers, or at least good writers can create compelling stories inside of that box. Also putting boundaries around artists, separates the versatile from the “one trick ponies”. If DC is going to foster/bring along/invest in developing artists (and writers) Figuring out who are adaptable is a good thing. They add depth to your talent pool and they can be assigned to work on many different books over time.

We accept box boundaries for other forms of art. Music for example. If it’s a 100 bpm song and the bassist is playing at 120 bpm, we wouldn’t expect that to be “just allowing them to have total control over their art.” The same with an actor, which is my background. You can make many different choices and styles when performing a character, but those choices still have to be supported by the script. Again, a big box to play in (especially if you have good instincts and training) but there are still boundaries you need to stay within. The fact that there are boundaries requires making choices that are stronger and more grounded in the words than just doing whatever you want.

Take Catwoman or Nightwing in extreme examples. If an artist drew one of those characters as a 400lb, low muscle tone individual, would that work? Is not letting them do that stifling their creativity?

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The house style worked very well in the Bronze Age. Then they ruined all the character designs in the 90s, and we haven’t seen a style worthy of being the house style since!

Hey, get off my lawn!
yells at cloud


I think Hickman’s X-Men run is a great example of a pseudo-house style that does wonders. Each book has a set color palette and set of thematic ideas, but they each use that palette different. X-Men and X-Force are very different artistically but both have the same palette and types of scenery.

I honestly think many of DC’s writers and artists need to go back and take a serious look and study of the Bronze Age. It is the where the “modern era” started and is its foundation. Building and defining characters, panel composition and layout. There are some basic principles these folks should know.

It is the old axiom of art (and many other artistic areas) learn and understand the core principles, then go ahead and break them, because you understand how and why you are breaking them. It gives substance to taking things in a different direction/style/etc.


Ah, now see, titles I can agree with. As in, I wouldn’t mind a thematic palette or style required specifically for Detective Comics, but I wouldn’t spread it across the board to other Bat titles.

Quick example: Babs Tarr’s style, from what I’ve seen of it, seems to match the vibe of the newer Batgirl, but I wouldn’t care for those colors and designs used in Batman.

I’m not sure I’m understanding that as the same situation… if using music as an example, wouldn’t a “house style” be more along the lines of a record label telling an artist that they could only produce a certain type of music? To me, telling illustrators that only photorealism will be accepted sounds like a record label telling a songwriter that only ballads may be produced. I am not a music person, though, so I might be drawing a false equivalency from all of this. :sweat_drops:

Poke poke poke Come on! I know you said that’s an extreme example, but I feel like you’re teasing me with that! Unless you’re an artist that’s so sought after that you get to make your own rules, any paying job is going to come with unspoken restrictions and expectations. It’s true, that is a stifling of creativity, but it’s also the price all of us pay, no matter our industry, to make ends meet. The artists of the Batfamily titles shouldn’t have to be told that they can’t draw in the style of Teen Titans Go; but they also (imo) shouldn’t be told that they can only use “renaissance-style anatomy.”

pokes Put down the broom, pappy, before you scare off the kids again.

And conversation with DeSade was specifically about creativity, but this raises another point that makes me wary of house styles. What happens if you hate a specific style, but it’s trendy and brings in buyers, so DC decides to start demanding its use in related titles? There was a time when it felt like a lot of American animation was trying to be anime.

I certainly could see having Detective being on style and Batman and all if they ever bring it back, Brave & The Bold as a Batman team up book. I could see those two books having the same “house style” for example. Or Superman & Supergirl having a similar or different “house style” to Batman and B&B but Action wouldn’t be held to that “house style”

Yes, it’s a bit of teasing, but it is true, the question is always to what degree. I think a bit more reigning in on a few titles is worth a shot, but it’s really gotta be a 2-3 year commitment by editorial to see if it’s effective.

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Actually I’ve been looking into this as I’m working on a project with somebody in the music industry. With the advent of digital downloads you really don’t need a record label. You can record, mix and digitally publish your music by yourself. Labels now are really, mostly just marketing systems. Of course you also have the case with any artist that gets a whiff of popularity in some segment, that they are on a record label, that is owned by another record label, that is owned by another record label, etc. and eventually they almost always end up under a handful of major labels that control most of the music label industry.

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To DeSade’s point, it is certainly true that constraints can foster creativity because they force you to think of an outside-the-box solution, but I think there’s a difference between constraints and dictating artistic decisions.

Constraints leading to creativity: Batman has to look spooky, but he wears kinda silly bat-themed spandex. So, artists tend to solve the problem by drawing him in silhouette a lot, which is cool and has become iconic.

Dictating artistic decisions: Saying all the books have to use a photorealistic, high-spectacle style when one of your flagship characters is a stealthy detective who works from the shadows. I guess it’s technically just another restriction, but it’s one that isn’t motivated by the content of the story itself.

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I liked the style Superman (2016) went with. But I don’t think comics should be held to a house rule. Though if it is the same run, I would like it to be the same kind of art style.

Although, one could argue the inverse. Because of the gothic/noir sensibilities of the character maybe there should be a box that says, In his own books or either Detective or Batman within standard continuity, photorealistic and high spectacle art shouldn’t be used.
You want to use photorealism and/or high spectacle art, do an elseworld. Or a non mainline continuity mini or maxi series.

Certainly for characters that have been around as long as Batman & Superman, perhaps WW as well, although she has had a few different origins at this point so I’m not sure she fits in the same way as S & B. The classic model of storytelling has virtually been turned on its head. The classic idea that a writer & artist combine to create a story and they dictate what the character is and does. The writer and artist are confined within a box, albeit a decent sized box, but the box of the character. They can bend and shape the box, but the box still needs to remain intact and true to the essential fundamentals of that character.