Frank Miller’s Sin City is Formalist

In art theory, formalism is the concept that a work’s artistic value is entirely determined by its form–the way it is made, its purely visual aspects, and its medium. Formalism emphasizes compositional elements such as color, line, shape and texture rather than realism, context, and content.

To index Formalist art:

Step 1: Look at the art. Are the formal qualities (line, design, color, shape, texture) of the art the most important part?




A. Yes, Formalist. Continue to Step 2.

B. No, one of the other tribes.



Animist Definition: “Animists are the first artists, the shamen dancing around the tribal fire who drag raw emotion from their soul and give it to the audience. They are the instinctual artists, concerned above all with content.” (McCloud 2006) Jack Kirby and Jeff Smith are prime examples of this broad category of art.

Jack Kirby is an Animist


Iconoclast Definition: Iconoclastic art is representational and symbolic.    It eschews beauty, and accurate physical representation in favor of the truth of ideas.


Robert Crumb is an Iconoclast


Classicist Definition: Classical art is complex, with levels of detail that come closer to simulating reality.  Classic art presents an idealized version of the world based on historic conceptions of beauty and form.  Classical art is clean and detailed.

Charles Vess is a Classicist.

Step 2: Consider one of the below sub-categories if appropriate. If not, just pick Formalist and check box in

Graphic Design

Examples: Sin City & Chris Ware. Bold use of clean lines, carefully laid out on the page to move the eye. Sharp contrasts between light and dark and well defined sections of the page. Tends to use fewer panels.


Example: John Porcellino’s work circa 2010 & Jason. The essential elements needed to convey meaning are all that minimalist art gives, often forgoing shading and background.


Example: Bill Sienkiewicz. When a page of a comic looks like a collage.

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