Thursday, August 31, 2006
So Here is the piece that I posted a week or two ago, with lots more work done on it. I disliked the city scape background that i originally had intended to put in. The bottom half of it worked ok, but the top half was having problems being interesting so i put it out of it's misery.
Moved on to highlighting the villian of the piece, a drug dealer who deals "chroma", and addictive high for the future city. He figures prominantly in a few of the stories that I want to tell about the city and its people.
I'm working on this inbetween the Pistoleras layouts and a promo poster for a local event in san anselmo calif. I hate alking away from a piece for this long as I tend to change my mind about some of the tonal values that I had previously decided were just right for the art!
Monday, August 28, 2006
Exciting to see Lis' script play out in pictoral form, to imagine different scenes in my head and play with the camera angles to catch the best possible panel. Nerve-wracking because I have a million different camera angles to work my way though in my head, a million different tricks to make the panels tell the story on more than one level, to convey some of the foreshadowing for the later incidents in the story, to find non-verbal ways to get across the characters "tics" using body language.
The cats are asleep on the chairs across from me, my wife has gone to bed and my brain if going into overdrive when it needs to be settling down so that I can get a proper night's sleep before getting my oldest daughter to school tomorrow morning. Me? I'm deep into spaghetti western land, imaging the southern Sierra Nevada range rising up above the heroine's heads, heat shimmering off of the pitted black top roadway making the ground level of the desert vanish occasionally in a light-bent mirage and I'm trying to my best to imagine this story without the soundtrack that it so richly deserves, and I think that I'm jealous of the moviemakers who can make one scene work so perfectly that I cannot: the simple intoduction by the girls in the front seat of a CD into the car's deck and we have the sound of the road trip. Doesn't matter who it is: X, Chili Peppers, The Killers, Arctic Monkey, Jane's Addiction, early INXS, its the sound that you'll hear in your head for the rest of your life if you have the right soundtrack to a road trip.
Jealous. 'Cause you can't pull that off in a comic book.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Just picked up the first alias trade paperback from Bendis and Gaydos, and enjoyed a good read. Oh sure, Bendis has been working this writing style for so long now that it basically is him almost going through the motions, but I like it on Powers, and i like him involving the peripheral characters from the Marvel Universe (not the current one, the classic one)and, sometimes, the more important ones (like Cap).
Why the hell are you just getting into this now you might ask. And it is a valid question. Umm, i guess that I kept meaning to find the trade in the half price bins at ComicCon and never did, and then I forgot that I was looking for it.
funny how far marvel has come, and how not far at the same time. opening a series with Luke Cage announcing, "I'm the scariest nigga ever was. Who's gonna fuck with me?" and then all the glorious Civil Wars screw ups... well, just kinda funny.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Working away on character sketches for the cool indie movie Pistoleras, now in Pre-production. The movie has its own site www.pistolerasmovie.com and all sorts of cool stuff starting to come online, so feel free to bop on over and take a look! This is the first sketch where I really feel that I nailed one of the main characters, Jamie, which is why its being posted here. Nothing like doing a drawing that you're actually happy with. I think that the last time that happened was during the Clinton administration....
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Among the intersting things:
Q: We were just talking about the relative readership sizes of the graphic novel and comic format--could you elaborate?
Levitz: It smells to me like the number of human beings who are regularly reading graphic novel formats in this country is now larger, or about to be larger than the number of human beings regularly reading the periodical formats. I think that's a very interesting transition, because that has never been true before.
Levitz: I've had a propensity over the course of my career when I thought there was a logical compass point to move in, to try to find solutions to the opportunities. The graphic novel format that we've ended up with for collected editions of comics is the third try that I've made in my career. From the first time I was in a position of any kind of responsibility, I wanted to do something to make the great old stuff available because, as a comic fan, I just thought it would be cool.
The first one was modeled on the European album and lasted for about 2.5 seconds and didn't work. [It was] an experiment with Roger Slifer on Manhunter in '79 or '80. Then we tried a program with Baxter reprints of some of the great series like Green Lantern, Deadman and Swamp Thing in '82 or '83, where the brilliant idea was, 'We can't keep stuff in stock, but maybe every three or four years we can go back, have good negatives, and re-reprint these things in serial form a little thicker.' That was a lead balloon. Then we went to the beginnings of the graphic novel format with Dark Knight in '86. Although it didn't become a viable business of scale for many years, it was a relatively viable business model from early on and happily has found the answer.
Interesting that he was behind the two earlier attempts go get the graphic novel format off the ground. I remember each of these tries. His problem was, back in '80, that their "european format" simply didn't pass the smell test. It was unsophisticated material, and the reprints later on smacked of trying to simply repackage material and steal some market share from Marvel.
The reality is that you needed to create new material and make it more sophisticated, more up to the art books that the european ones that Catalan and the other publishers were bringing over. Full painted art? Sure, Heavy Metal came to that back in the late 70's. Lynn Varley's colors for Dark Knight at least told audiences, "Hey, this says Batman, but its not the Batman you remember. Trust me." Amazing how long the marvel and DC editors were stillplaying around with FLEXO coloring. Good God.
it's nice to see that Levitz recognizes the change in format, and hopefully will move with that to but some of DC's (and AOL Time Warner's) considerable resources behind material worthy of the adult format.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Alan Weiss once said to me over beers, "Once you get past Kirby you get to Steranko and Adams, the two superstars of their day. Some people simply never got over one or the other." And he was right. Watching Sienkiewicz start as an Adams clone on the early issues of Moon Knight, and how can you see Paul Gulacy without realizing what his influences were? Impossible on either account.
I admit to enjoying the graphic nature of Steranko's storytelling as opposed to the ultra realism of Adams. Probably explains why I like the Rogers Batman, who is quite a bit more graphic than real, over Adams. Steranko's camera moves around in space, capturing angles and light and showing us, the reader, all the little bits of story that we need to know. It catches, with a dispassionate eye, all the elements necessary to carry the information and mood and carries us, inexorabily towards the finish. There is something "hitchcock-ian" about Steranko's storytelling. It's cold and distant in a way that is not there to keep us from getting emotionally involved in the story, but distant in a way to show us that his eye is in control. Even the staggering One and two page splashes used in SHIELD and Captain America are so beautifully arranged that we can but stop and marvel at them, appreciating their staging.
At The Stroke of Midnight is like that, perhaps the ultimate in Steranko's storytelling from that period, showing off his lighting and coloring effects which were pushing the boundary of the printing process at that time, while dragging the reader through a chilling twilight zone of a story. Every bit of flash is used to set the tone of the story, and it has flash to spare.
i could never imitate the strokes that Steranko used on the splash page and it drove me crazy for years until I finally saw the original. It was done with a marker. Now I know. Bastard.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
How do I know?
Because unlike just about everyone else in comic book land, the pushing back of Marvel's Civil War series doesn't mean a damn thing to me. If I want to read it I'll get the trade, or I'll simply be patient.
As I type that the younger me is having a fit.
Does anyone even remember how late the last issue of Dark Knight Returns was? Or the last issue of Watchmen? Good, neither do I. I do recall that they were damn late at the time, but now I don't really care. Because when I pick up my hardback Watchmen or TPB of Dark Knight Returns, Moore, Gibbons, Miller & Varley don't disappoint. They all give me the goods with stories and art that stand the test of time. And in the end, that is really what I want. How many people are still pissed off that the Kree-Skull War wasn't done entirely by Neal Adams? I still am. And thus the 30 day deadline kills another epic.
I guess that I've been there, trying to crank out the work on a monthly basis and it's tough, tough with the level of detail and care that you try to put into the work, tough because you have to rely on a number of other people not getting sick, not having kids, not having vacations, not having anything go wrong in their lives. And if the companies don't build any lead time into the schedule, or decide to change things along the way editiorially then you lose that lead time quickly.
A monthly comic? Cool, but when push comes to shove, and Marvel hands it's latest epic over to an untried artist no matter how good he may be, I'd rather wait thank you.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
I may have read plenty of issues afterwards, but these days, the X-men, to me, ends with Kitty Pryde as Ripley from Alien. That Claremont/Byrne/Austin run still can't be beat.
And yet, i still keep looking for the new run on the books where they do a good slant or just a damn different slant on a fave character. I loved Don McGregor's run on Black Panther in Jungle Action, and didn't like anything with the character until Christopher Priest's version showed up. while I love the Bill Finger/Bob Kane version of Batman, the Englehart/Rogers/Austin is still the best I've ever read. And yes, I've seen the Neal Adams stuff. And the Kaluta, and the Wrightson, and the Golden, and the Aparo, and even the Dick Sprang.
Why do I keep looking for a new twist? Maybe because i can't let go of the kid nostalgia for certain characters, while the adult me understands the marketing forces that drive the current version of the industry. and because there is a level of fun to see just how far you can twist certian things into new pretzel-like shapes (i.e. the Morrision/Jones Marvel Boy).
Makes you wonder, however, just how much this mental energy being exerted in the service of pretzel twisting keeps people from creating new ideas and new icons. WWJKD? What would jack kirby do? Jack freely borrowed from himself when the need arose, but he also was wandering in to the wilderness of new ideas and new concepts decades ahead of just about everyone else. Innovate or die? Sounds about right to me.
There was a Valiant Comics reunion panel at the San Diego Comic Con in 2005. About 10 people who had worked at Valiant showed up: Kevin Van Hook, Rodney Ramos, Sean Chen, Bernard Chang, Jeff Gomez, Howard Simpson, myself, and a few others that I'm forgetting. The panel was brought about by the nice folks over at Valiant Comics.com, a great website if you harbor a secret love for Solar, Turok, X-O Man-O-War, and the robot killer with the white go-go boots. The number of us up on the podium was about equal to the number of people in the audience, partly because there wasn't a lot of promotion. Still, a good time was had by all; we brought up bits and pieces of the past as questions were asked about the early days of Valiant when Jim Shooter was still running things, when Bob Layton took over, etc.
This year there was a second panel, one that was actively promoted, and, lo and behold, about 50 people showed up, up about 38 from last year. I walked in expecting to see the other artists and writers, but at 5 minutes to go, no one was there. And by 5 minutes after, it became clear that no one was going to show up either.
Now, let’s be clear about my credentials. I worked on a number of Valiant books: Turok, Magnus, Geomancer, X-O, Shadowman, The Grackle, Trinity Angels, Troublemakers, and probably a few more that I can't even remember right now. Even more impressive, I survived a couple regime changes at the top. I’m eminently qualified to be up there. However, I was not editorial, I’m not a writer, and I can’t tell you all the things that a Kevin VanHook can about why certain characters acted the way they did, why certain plotlines continued the way they did. And those are great questions to ask when you’re a fan sitting in the audience.
So, over the next hour, very few people walked out, indicating that I was not nearly as boring talking about this stuff as my wife thinks I am. I’m not quite sure that I’d fall into the category of “entertaining”, but I figured that for whatever was brought up, I may as well try to continue the conversation with any interesting tidbits that happened to relate, however tangentally. I was actually surprised to see that almost no one was going to jump on a few of the things that I said that might have been controversial, a couple of lines about Shooter’s working methods that I was critical of, stuff like that, but no one did. If you stumbled across this post by searching for Valiant Comics, then come to the panel next year. I'm sure there will be some more people than me next time.
The reality is that I believe that most comic fans don’t want to know what actually goes on behind the scenes of their favorite comics company. They may think that they want to, but it does spoil a bit of the magic for most people. And I think that most creators know this, and will soft sell even the controversial stuff when asked.
Either that, or I’m simply too damn critical.
Monday, August 14, 2006
I'm sure that it all goes downhill from here.
We'vve been through so much. A quick read over the Essential Iron man collections tells the sordid tale of Tony Stark, the millionaire industrialist who is busy having to fight through Don Heck doing a poor job drawing metal and through the most half-hearted attempt to portray the "reds" as credible villians. Issue after issue has Iron Man getting his ass kicked, even into the beautiful looking Gene Colan era of Tales of Suspense, crawling on the floor, barely able to stand.
This continues in the regular Iron Man series, after the shame of having the numbering of Tales of Suspense moved over to Captain America instead of his book. Issue after issue getting his butt kicked again and again. one pundit once commented that there were no fans like the sadistic iron man fans who had to deal with their hero being blasted into a grave by Firebrand, armor melted off by the Melter, made to trip by the Black lama in his threatening fur cap (in a cool jim Starlin cover) and even attacked by a guy with a polka-dotted jumpsuite with twin antennea that end in lobster claws. Seriously.
And yet, over in the Avengers, Iron Man would kick ass, this armor taking names and taking down bad guys all over the place, since the Avengers book simply didn't have the panel space to devote to IM's transistors running out of power. Again.
Then things got better. Starlin came in and did an issue or two (#55 and #56) and Iron Man played a prominent part in the defeat of Thanos. George Tuska got better inkers, Bill Mantlo started to really write, and David Michelinie, John Romita Jr. and Bob Layton decided to come on board. And I haven't even brought up the Jack of Hearts.
I'm sure that I'll be disappointed by the movie, as I doubt that it will live up to my expectations, but you know, there will be a moment in the film where they give us the money shot of the red and gold armor glinting in the sunlight, standing proud in the service of defeating the Mandarin, and my little boy's heart will jump into my throat and I'll think, "this is what I always imagined."
I'm delighted to see that Granov is involved in the design of the film as well, his art is solid, and I like his design sense. At least someone who really cares for the hero is involved.
By teh way, does anyone know what happened to Bill Mantlo when he came out of his coma?
Write it down, it will come, as a book title says.
I believe it, but that requires committing to doing things, and telling people and involving them, something that I'm finally trying to take onto the brunt of my shoulders.
i'm working on character sketches for a story to pitch, and finding it interesting and difficult when its someone else's story, so its not something that I've been living with in my head for a while. Just like i'm working on the characters of something that I've been struggling with for a few years now, but since its my story, its that much easier to get the visuals in my head.
i think that the biggest cheat is those "portfolio pages" that run in the backs of Back Issue or Write Now! or Comic Book Artist since they make the process look too damn easy. They print the best stuff and ignore the stupid drawings that didn't work out or got erased too many times and make the rest of us seem like idiots for not being brilliant and perfect from the word go on every single damn drawing we do. Screw that. It's not real.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Please note that I, along with most other comic oriented blogs, will be digging into days worth of San Diego and Chicago cons for blog material for months. I mean, really, months. 'Cause there is just so much that needs to be mentioned.
I have never been ashamed of being a comic fan. I knew that most of the work out there was crap, and have spent many an hour trying, mostly in vain, to defend work that I knew was marginal. But you could make the same case for television: try to defend most of the output on the TV and you'll run into very little consensus about what is actually worth viewing. And half of the work will be about people's "guilty pleasures" (what would be the TV version of Omega the Unknown?).
I knew there was good stuff out there, even back in the day. And there is far more of it now.
The idea that the term "comics" is solely derogative I think is an old fashioned one. Certainly there are, and always will be, people who can't change thier mind about what comics can be, but most people, when shown that Sandman exists, or Maus, or In the shadow of no towers, or... (add your fave title here) can change their mind pretty quickly. They need to be converted one at a time. In some respects, I love the idea of using the "Graphic Novel" tag for a while to trick people into viewing the work as a new medium. Let them come with as little baggage as possible is my idea.
For a while, in the late '80's I had a girlfriend who had never read comics, so I loaned her a few things to read, one of which was The Doll's House Sandman collection. She handed the others back to me with a "these don't interest me" comment, but she threw The Doll's House back at me with "I want more. Is there more?" She then loaned it out to her girlfriends, who loaned it out. I lost three versions of the softcover, but converted a ton of women into Sandman fans. It can be done. And all the positive press on comics over the last 15 years has made it even better. You no longer have to be ashamed to be a comics fan.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Unlike the '90's, where collector fever and a slavish approach to art along with a great reluctance to try anything new in terms of distribution or packaging, saw a tremendous shrinkage in the actual numbers of a reading audience, today we're looking at new markets and new mediums being bridged almost daily it seems. Who would have seen Top Shelf and Oni succeeding 10 years ago? Who would have forseen Slave Labor still being around? Probably only Dan Vado, but he was right.
I can pick up Blankets, From Hell, Genshiken, and my Ultimate Avengers Trade all at the same Borders. And Borders is the important part of the equation because adults shop there, in big numbers. The kids reading manga are learning a visual language that we take for granted, and that we have to explain to others who have never read visual sequential narrative (comics). They will read other things and may eventually read Maus and Blankets and From Hell, or not, but at least we have a new ground swell of audience some of which will move on to other comics.
I'm encouraged that our medium is not entirely seen as the bastard stepchild of empty printing presses from the 1930s, run by morons. Have we finally moved beyond the '60's Batman show? Perhaps, since that did as much to set comics back in the minds of adults as Seduction of the Innocent. Finally, we can be open about our love of these books, this medium, and we have quality material that we can give to people and say, "Here, read this. I don't think that you'll be disappointed."
'Bout time True Believer. Nuff Said.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
I don't believe that for a second, to be honest, but there is no myth about his line control. Everything looks as good full size as it did shrunk down for the venerable New York Press, which was my bible when I lived in Brooklyn.
What is funny is that I used to live just down the street from Tony back in the day and never ran into him at any of the local bars. Too bad, since I respected his work tremendously, and would have been happy to buy a round or two.
Knowing Tony clearly could have been expensive in that respect.
This is an older piece of Maakie's art with all the perfect elements that I wanted in a strip: Drinky Crow and his bottle, some beautiful architecture on a building, and things blowing up in the end. You can tell its age by the fact that Tony has his old mindspring email on the strip. I do wish that he had dated it however. Perhaps one day I'll have the time to research its age.
I'm very pleased to see Tony get much wider exposure with his Sock Monkey work, but Drinky Crow will always be in my heart, constantly blowing his head off sick for love for Phoebe and booze, as the ultimate Tony Millionaire character.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Rogers work at that time was stunning. He was all over the map with his layouts, in a good way, and his arcitectural background served him well in terms of his building design, beyond what most artists would put into their work. His vision, for that is the only thing that I can call it, of what the Batman's world should look like was so damn unique that I still can't quite get my head around it to this day.
Anyway, I apprears that Roger's entire share of the book is in Moy's hands, almost two thirds of the book, with a lot of Batman fighting the (at that time) new Clayface. Stuinning stuff that clearly hasn't been broken up and spread out all over comicdom in the 30 years since it was published. For that art to only have now surfaced gives us a great glimpse of that the collected book looked like when it arrived at DC in the spring of '78. How Paul Levitz could say, as he so famously did that, "Contrary to popular belief, a Marshall Rogers Batman does not sell better than an Irv Novick Batman." without their being some sort of other editorial criteria involved still floors me.
Lets turn this logic on its head for once: the Marshall Rogers Batman doesn't sell less than Irv Novick's version, and its hard for me not the see the DC staffers getting the pages from Marshall and going, "Oh yeah, we need more of this." Apparently, as time has told, they were not as floored as I was.
Marshall did do some more stories for DC before disappearing to do turn up with Detectives Inc. with Don McGregor and Scorpio Rose with Steve Englehart and then migrating over to Marvel. And they were quite good. Detective's Inc is years ahead of it's time, like many of Don McGregor's projects over the years. It's not a total success, but very strong in it's own right. And Marshall's vision is very strong from that time period, whether it's Detective's Inc. or his run on Dr. Strange.
But nothing is as good as his Batman. And Moy has non-Batman pages from the book for a song: $250 or so. Go over and buy some before he's all out. You'll thank me later.
After so many years of collecting comic books, I realized that I didn't really get a serious thrill over holding the original issue of Amazing Fantasy #15 in my hands, not the way that some people do. Clearly, comic collecting started to lose some of its luster with that little epiphany. Fortunately, or unfortunately if you're my wallet, I had replaced it with something else: collecting the original art.
Even before I was working in the comic industry professionally, I had started to buy art from dealers and the artists that would show up at the conventions, becuase it was clear that the originals had value on two different fronts: first - that they were a one of a kind piece that no one else would have, thus beating even the rarest comics and, secondly, there was a vitality to the original brush strokes that no amount of reproduction could capture. I started out buying the pieces that I remembered from my favorite books, and was able to capture a fair number of Jim Starlin Captain Marvel pieces, as well as two Gulacy Master of Kung Fu pieces among others.
Over the years, however, the Kirby piece eluded me. They were always too pricey for me and over the years, it was clear, especially since Jack died, that they were going to become rarer and rarer. Even after the FF movie tanked, the demand would continue.
Lets do some math about Kirby FF artwork: Not counting covers, we are looking at 103 issues of around 22 pages, plus 5 annuals of varying page counts (not counting reprints) = 2,394 pages tops. Less than that of twice up artwork. Now, we know that a decent percentage has been lost over the years, perhaps up to 50%. We're now down to 1200 pages potentially out there as a round number. At this year's San Diego convention, by my own count, there were a total of 10 pages from the FF.
That's not a lot to choose from.
However, I now have mine, a page from FF #20, the first Molecule Man issue, with a terrific fight between the Molecule Man and The Thing, so I can stop worrying.
More on art acquisitions later....