Saturday, August 29, 2009

Happy Birthday to The King

A simple post. i won't bother typing out my interactions with Jack Kirby, all one of them as it was, frankly, completely unremarkable in the grand scheme of his life. (My favorite personal Kirby story can be found here, actually.) It was, however, remarkable in mine only for the chance to actually talk with the grand man of comics for a while. No great anecdotes were shared I'm afraid. I knew Jack, like most, through his art.

Jack was one of the great creative forces of American culture in the 20th Century. It simply took much much longer for anyone to realize it given the poor status of comics socially. But millions of people read his books. Millions. And then another generation came and read them and passed them around... and then another generation... From 1939 in the 1980's we had a creative genius who struggled to make ends meet and never reap the rewards of his fertile imagination.

Think about that. The Beatles changed culture with their music world wide and they were recording for six years. Six years. Jack was active for well over 40 years. Astonishing.

Reproduced here is one of my favorite Kirby panels of all time, from Fantastic Four #55 just to say, well, thanks Jack. You were one of a kind.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Once Upon A Process...

Everyone has been supportive of my struggle to find lines and finished artwork that I find both meaningful and professional, so I'm posting a few things that are on the board right now: a page of script from Pistoleras by Lis Fies with my thumbnails all over the place,

then a tracing page of rough layouts for The Human Hourglass Page 10,

along with another tracing paper where I tighten up panels 1 and 3. From here I will pencil via the lightbox onto the bristol then ink!

Does this seem simple? It is very possible that most of you will look at this and think, "That is likely the most convoluted and wasteful process ever seen in the history of artkind." And you might be right. It is, however, getting me closer than i used to be to doing work that I like. I was, until recently, photocopying or scanning the thumbnails and then blowing them up to get some of the proportion that i liked. i've also photocopied the pencils and then hit them with Sharpies trying to get the blacks spotted correctly.

I will likely repost page 10 when finished with all the associated sketches so that we can have an old fashioned"compare and contrast" as they used to say at the end of each chapter in a textbook!

Friday, August 21, 2009

More Sktechbook!

another bit from the sketchbook, one that i liked.

(of course, the reality here is that i'm not likely to scan and present any of the drawings that i really can't stand from the sketchbook. isn't that true for most artists?)

just graphite here, and a model that kept moving around. oddly enough, it rather looks like Faith from Buffy....

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In Review Of: The Hunter by Cooke and Stark

There are a number of exciting works that are coming out or have just come out begging to be read, and one of the ones that was most anticipated, by me at least, was the adaption by Darwyn Cooke of the Richard Stark noir classic, The Hunter.

(Scanned here is the limited edition San Diego Hardcover, which I thought a nice enough package to splurge on while there, even though i have a history of not always keeping the jackets in the best of condition over the years.)

To brass tacks: The Hunter is an interesting adaption for a character who is exceptionally internal, leading to a tremendous amount of information needing to be communicated in the silences and the pauses, in the calm before the storm of Parker erupting on yet another individual. It is a book with a difficult protagonist to get behind in some ways, and yet terribly easy to in others. As a crook, he's the audience's bad boy identification, the life that we could lead if we all had the balls and savvy to do so, but he doesn't make it easy for the reader: very few of us, with fantasies of ripping people off and living the high life imagine taking a knife and cutting off the face of our ex-wife. its like vaccinated time travel: we don't want to travel back to the middle ages with out knowing that we can't catch the plague, and we want to live our vicarious crime fantasies in a bloodless way. Stark (and i use Westlake's nom de plume here as that is the part of him writing the book, so i feel its appropriate) isn't going to make anything simple about Parker.

Except that there is little difficult to get about the revenge plot. The devil is in the details here, we've seen revenge stories, and what sets them apart from one another, like romantic comedies, is how well all the small stuff plays out. Do we buy the details? The answer, in some places is yes, but not in all places.

Cooke's The Hunter is an admirable effort and a hell of a lot of work, but it doesn't succeed on all levels. There are moments where Cooke's monochromatic pallette is somewhat limited in its ability to convey everything that he's trying to do. An early scene between Parker and Lynn plays perfectly, Cooke moves the camera focal point around, dropping outlines around the softness of Lynn's hair without sacrificing the density of black in Parker's suit as well as his shadowed face. The strength of his physical presence is portrayed powerfully even in the small shots, as is Lynn's vulnerability. Later in the book, however, when the same scene is portrayed twice, from two different vantage points of the naked gangster leaping for his gun as Parker comes in through the window, neither of them has the clarity necessary to make the visual aspect of the scene as powerful as we want it to be, nor as powerful as the story needs it to be.

Oddly, the advertising for The Hunter is less monochromatic than the book itself. I saw the promo poster again today at my LCS, and the blacks were highlighted by reds and oranges, and I fully expected that the book itself would change colors as we went along, but no, all i got were the same muddy dark aqua tones mixed with the black. Its not that it doesn't work but its also not what i was expecting given the way that they advertised it.

I've seen Cooke taken to task on another review for not being able to play down his own "cuteness" with his character design and it is true: all the women in the book pretty much come from his own style of the adorable 50's chick, which may be a minor quibble, but it does pull us out of the graphic nature of the road weary Parker making his way across the country to get his revenge. The waitress on the cafe on page 13 is beyond cute, and I'm not sure that it was until later in the book when Parker and Wanda have their conversation that i thought that a female character broke the mold. Wanda, make no mistake is a hottie, but as the conversation progresses and Parker pushes her for information, does her mask slip and we see her other face: the calculating and scheming side. As an "actress", Wanda needs to move from the soft to the hard, and there has to be a coldness as well as an instinct for self preservation that has to show through.

The set pieces are good, and Cooke doesn't hit us over the head with the details to sell the book. If every chair is an Ames chair, then so what, most of us weren't buying funiture in the 1950's. This is a stylized look at 1962, not a literal look. Cooke's storyboard ability to make us understand the action works particularly well at the finale, when another artist might have botched getting us through the chase sequence. the action is clear and storytelling solid, something that has to happen for us to "buy" the ending.

I find the decision to drop the panel borders through the entire book interesting, just as i was reading some of Bryan Hitch's FF issues, where he does the same thing. As a formalist gesture, I'm not sure that bleeding every panel out into a loose gutter works, just as i'm not sure that you need to heavily border each panel as well. Scott McCloud must be licking his chops to put together another first person essay on the merits of borderless comics. There are moments where I want the eye to not be able to flow into the negative space between the panel, even with how careful Cooke has been with creating a lack of bad tangents through out the entire book. I think that I would want to limit the movement with the borders and bleed off others. (The short subway scene inthe book reminded me of Eisner's subway into to an old Spirit story, with the panel's being jostled back and forth like an out of control "E" train. The openness of the layouts always bothered me, as I was always terribly conscious of the ceiling, the closeness of the wall, the limits of my vision on a subway car. Anytime i draw a subway, i show the ceiling.)

Is it perfect? No. Does Cooke's version of The Hunter kick some butt? yeah, its a solid read. In trying to hit the ball out of the park, however, I think that it falls a little short, but its a hell of a lot of work, and i'll be right there to pick up the next one next year when they release it. For now, it goes on the shelf next to Steranko's Chandler and my Black Lizard crime reissues of The Thin Man and The Long Goodbye.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

More Sketchbook Work From San Diego

First off, a big "Hello" to the peeps from Spain, Denmark and Singapore.

Another sketch from the sketchbook. She was cute, but I think that I "cuted" her up a bit. She was two people ahead of me in line in San Diego, and god did i have time to sketch as we were waiting for quite a while.

Still digging the Wednesday Comics. All the non-comics people that i show them to are actually impressed by the fact that there is some "there" (artwork with size and impact) there.

There, did you follow that?

Also, i'll have work at the Monsters of Webcomics exhibition at the Museum of Cartoon Art in San Francisco. Details to come.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Work in Progress: I Hate My Lines

OK, I'll let you in on a secret: at the same time that i'm pleased with The Human Hourglass coming along I've reaching a point where I've decided that I truly hate my lines. As in hating the marks that I'm making on the page.

Now, especially as this is coming from someone whose professional background was as an inker, that might sound a little strange. After all, as I define as inker, it is not as an artist per se, but more of a craftsman, someone with the tools and skill to finish off what the penciller has started and make nice for print. This is not to desparage the work that the inker does, and god knows I worked plenty hard to make my inked pages print well, but more to provide a working definition as how I see the position.

Oh yeah, back to hating my marks.

I found, as I walked around San Diego yet again, alternately marveling at the artistic ability and creative expression and total ineptitude that I saw as I walked the aisles, that i'm starting to dislike the "typical inked look" from mainstream comic books. It looks, to coin a phrase, too "comic book-y" Yes, you heard it here first on the blog-o-sphere: "comic book-y"

And I've decided to blame my tools. why, you might ask? Good question. Simply, I don't think that my favorite #1 Rafael sable is capable of producing a really different set of marks than those that I usually get from it, and so I decided to stage my own experiment with using unfamiliar tools, and see how much I'm able to change that collection of marks that I put down on paper. Any art school student will tell you that there are those days where the instructor says, "You have a broken cork, a bottle of green tempura and a crayon. In front of you is a duck that will be holding 60 second poses. Go. "

Here is a cover that I pencilled for a Carnival story that I may never actually do, yet the cover is fully pencilled and ready for ink. So I've done a few experiments with finishing the cover.

The first has been transferred to 2 ply bristol and uses india ink as a wash, along with undiluted ink as well. Koh-i-noor 3605 ink here.

I'm not sure how well it shows up, but i was getting some really weird textures from the paper in unexpected places, so that the evenness of the grey tones is terrible and I abandoned this one halfway through.

The second has me using a rather large crow quill [brand and name unidentifiable due to years of inky build up on the nib] and, as the drawing indicates, a rather large [#6 scepter gold II] synthetic sable brush in concert. And doing so very quickly.

and this one, as the drawing says, is done with two different size Sharpies and a thin Uniball pen.

So, the question is, which ones do you like? i'm going to take a few days and then come back to this for the hell of it and see what I can make out of this.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Sketchbook: Saturday Night at Comic Con

This particular comes from watching Tony, high school buddy of my good friends Gene and Cath, weave a myriad number of tall tales and larger than life stories from his days of school in the Bronx.

I had personally hit a wall after three days of Con and couldn't be counted on being civil to anyone. Which explains why I was out at 1o pm ordering yet another gin martini on a sidewalk bar where Lis Fies and I once toasted our initial shopping of Pistoleras back in 2008. So while I was out with other humans, the one that I could be counted to not snap at was my Black Mirado #2 pencil and I ended up with a number of good sketches from that night.

Welcome to the blog-o-sphere Tony.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Where to Sell Your Work & Why and the Mystery of Scott Pilgrim

Now heres a quote for ya, so good it got picked up to be the lead on Journalista today:
The fundamental takeaway was that comics retailers want publishers to drive people into comic stores. And it’s a worthwhile goal, but at the same time, it’s very much a chicken and egg thing. If I, hypothetically, as a small publisher work to build my own audience on the internet (because that’s the easiest place to do so), then what’s the impetus for me to point people anywhere but my website to buy my books?

Marvel and DC and the larger publishers all have a heavy investment in the direct market. They’ve got a vested interest in keeping driving audiences into comic stores. But when independent publishers are met with resistance and pushback and questions about audience in the direct market, there’s suddenly a dis-incentive to start with the DM.

Well, my ready answer would be that I don't want to lose ANY places, whether DM reliant or non-DM reliant, to sell my work. I want to be seen everywhere, not just some places. You never know whose eyeballs are going to latch onto your work.

Yes, the delight is that we can now interact one on one in a way with our fans that would have been impossible only 8 or 9 years ago, and that alone is worth the monthly fees to AT&T, but that it can lead to a source of revenue is the next great step. (Print on Demand is the next interesting part of the equation for the started, as it sidesteps the economy of scale that basically kept the loner out of the playing field.)

Now why we had to bring the Celestial Madonna into this I don't know, but, yes, there are some lines you shouldn't cross.

And I'll ask the question that will get me flamed: What is the big deal with Scott Pilgrim? Brandon Lee O'Malley leaves me cold. Its not bad, but I don't thinks its clever new or all that interesting. Someone please explain it to me.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Miracleman Story Continues...

I've blogged before about the Miracleman/Marvelman saga from Warrior and Eclipse Comics, and now feel dutybound to continue when new developments arise, and one certainly did during Comic Con this year.

With marvel's announcement that they had acquired rights to the original Marvelman series, there is always a hope that Gaiman and Buckingham will get the chance to eventually continue and finish their arc that they started back during the Eclipse days. Obviously there are probably a host of legal issues to resolve but this is a step forward at least.

excerpted from Neil's blog:
Regarding Marvel's recent announcement concerning the acquisition of the rights to Marvelman -- Will you be involved in any way with the future publications and/or marketing? If so, would you and Marvel possibly consider continuing to use the name Miracleman rather than reverting to Marvelman? My personal experience with the character began in the mid-80's with the Eclipse run by Alan Moore and then you; and, regardless of the actual reasons those stories used the Miracleman name, I have always felt "Miracleman" was -- for lack of better explanation -- a classier, more appropriate, more adult designation than "Marvelman". Thanks for taking the time for this.

We'll see. And no, I think it's Marvelman, which is what it was until 1984ish when Marvel complained.

Right now I'm not entirely sure what's going to happen, and Mark Buckingham and I haven't signed anything, but I'm really hopeful that Marvel will bring Alan Moore's stories back into print, and the work I did with Mark Buckingham (Miracleman 25 was finished, ready for printing, 16 years ago. It's still in Mark Buckingham's possession, although some of the lettering balloons have gone a bit yellow.) I'm not entirely sure what Marvel's plans are for the character at this point -- obviously I'd like to finish the story I started.