Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Autobiography and the Curse of the Story

Over at the Savage Critic, Sean Collins has a great write up on Pheobe Gloeckner's new work, The Diary of a Teenage Girl and also links out to a terrific interview with Pheobe from back in 2003. In the interview, and the review, he discusses the amount of autobiographical work in Diary, a subject that Phoebe has talked about at length before.

It brings up a difficult point for storytellers: about where the line ends between fiction and, Rosahmon-like, their version of the past begins. PJ Harvey, whose music I think has tremendous emotional and physical weight, was interviewed once and asked, "how much of this is you?" to which she laughed and answered, "I have to live 100 years and have been both sexes to live everything that i sing about." So when Phoebe presents a book of teenage sex and drugs that might or might not resemble her own past growing up in the rather somewhat more permissive '70's, we as the audience question what is real and what is fake and Phoebe rolls her eyes again. Quite so.

We're asked, as storytellers, to present stories that resonate with our readers, and that may or may not include things that we've heard or read about, or resemble a break up that we might or might not have had. It would be the rare person who hasn't played over a "break-up conversation" that they've had in their head more than once, perhaps toying with a phrase here, or parsing the other person's answer there, searching for more meaning or a different outcome. Does that mean that Adrian Tomine had to live through all the unhappy slacker lives that he chronicles in Shortcomings or any of his prior books? (I hope not, the man does covers for the New York for christs sake, how unhappy can you be?)

And yet, the more torrid the work is, the more titillating it is to ask: do this really happen to you? In our drug and sex obsessed culture, Gloecker's work doesn't look like an exaggeration to me whatsoever, not knowing the personal histories of many of the women that I know who grew up as divorced latchkey kids in the 70's and '80's. And I don't need it to be true to make it resonate.

If we make our fiction indestinguishable from the "true stories", isn't that the mark of a great storyteller? If we label them as true stories and we get caught lying, the Oprah will rake us over the coals for hoodwinking an entire generation of "O Book Club" readers, while not demanding references from all the other authors presented on the club's hot sheet. Eddie Campbell has done a horrendous job of creating an alter ego for his autobiographical works, and yet they're delightful to read. They are, in fact, some of my favorite pieces of work of his.

As storytellers, we're cursed by the fact that sometimes a story takes on a life of its own, just as characters will start to act on their own in our heads and we can't slap them back into line. "True Stories" can be true when the story stay true to itself, even if it starts to diverge from our own personal history. i've been trying to work out how to deal with the gaps in time in a biography: can I call it a person's history when I have to spend time making up some of the gaps in the story to get from point A to point B? And how true can it be when it has my spin on it?

And yet it will likely be pretty damn true to the person as I knew him. So its true to me at least. For what its worth. But I don't know if it will be true to you.

Full disclosure: I'm currently reading, and lving, A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi and don't give a damn it he changes things to suit his story at all. Great work.

Monday, April 27, 2009

More Sketchbook Fun!

From the depths of the sketchbook, drawing a girl and, for some reason, trying to figure out the Mucha hair stylings. You never quite know what you'll end up with, do you?

Fow what its worth, I started to clean up a few construction lines in photo shop and then decided to stop, so that the sketch here is exactly what i drew, warts and all. You can see, for better or for worse, how I construct the head, eyes, etc.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Captain America: Kirby & Yoakum for Super Con

I seem to be back in inking mode again right now, with the two Adam Hughes pieces out of the way, I've moved on to a 1982 Kirby piece for San Jose's Super Con 2009.

There are some other interesting pieces that will be blue line inked for the auction on Sunday, so keep your eyes peeled as I post mine here as I work on them. You'll also run across others on Comic Art Fans as well.

How to approach Kirby, and not prime Kirby (lets face it) either? I'm not a fan of the Royer method of giving Kirby what he drew with his pencil. I'm much more a fan of how Sinnott, Ayers, Giacoia, and Wood worked with Jack's pencils: you interpret them, not treat them as gospel. Those slashing pencil lines don't just mean slashes, or misplaced muscles, the're indicating a flow of force as much as anatomy. Giacoia did some great things over Jack on some fairly forgettable stories in the Tales of Suspense days, and that has been my inspiration on inking this. Perhaps you'll see it somewhere in there....

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wonder Woman 2 by Hughes & Yoakum

A far more illustrative approach to this one, as opposed to the graphic approach that i took on the first wonder woman piece. added some grey tone to this one as well. Click on the image to enlarge!

And "hello" to the 56 people who have come here in the last week by Googling "Watchmen Porn".

And i'm psyched that i still have two visits from Malaysia this week. Haven't scared them off yet.

Graphic NYC: Walter Simonson Interview

Today I'll draw your attention to Graphic NYC, which has an excellent interview with Walter Simonson as today's entry. The focus of the blog is the reflection of NYC through the eyes of her cartoonists, which is certainly an almost unending subject given the wealth of inspiration that the city provides.

Comics were born in the underbelly of NYC back in the 1930's, and continue to provide generation after generation of new artists to make their mark in comics.
I know all the guys in my generation, personally. [Neal Adams’ studio] Continuity was the boy’s clubhouse, and you’d be there four to seven times a week. It wasn’t too far from DC and Marvel. You got to see a lot of stuff and talk about comics with other artists. You’d walk there and see Russ Heath drawing Sgt. Rock. I’m sorry, but the web just isn’t a substitute. In an odd way, it was being part of something bigger than yourself, and it was very exciting and energizing.
I know that even 9 years removed from living in Brooklyn, the images of NYC remain seared into my brain. I recall, one evening, out on the balcony of the Defiant offices on 37th street, the Empire State Building dominating the sky just 3 blocks away, staring at the huge edifices of concete and brick with colorist Tim Perkins. The sun was setting, searing all the buildings with a bright red/orange and we were just marvelling at the "being there", seeing the huge valleys that the buildings carved out, and Tim says, "I "get" Spider-Man now." Being surrounded by all these other energetic people with different backgrounds in art and design did make you feel part of something bigger, and it certainly suffused your creativity with an adrenaline charge like no other.

Christopher Irving writes the words for Graphic NYC. I'll certinaly be keeping an eye out for his upcoming book, From Four Color to Silver Screen: The First Movie Superheroes in summer of 2009. Take a look, take a read, fun blog.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Wonder Woman 2 by Hughes & Yoakum

The second commission piece, inking over an Adam Hughes sketchbook image. Fun in a lot of ways since Adam hadn't really finished and tightened the piece, which let me have a little more leeway in terms of actually interpreting them.

Almost finished here...

And "hello" to the one person who came to this blog, yet again, by Googling "Marvel Boobs".

Wonder Woman by Hughes & Yoakum

The first of two finished commission inking pieces. Hope you like.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Red Tide, Adam Hughes and other random bits of news...

Received my oversized copy of Steranko's Red Tide and was delighted to find that the printing is only about 10 times better on the oversized version than the more readily available pocket version. Well worth the money, which isn't that much, and time to find one.

I want to say "hello" and give a shout out to the two people from Bulgaria who hit last week, and the 4 from Malaysia.

I also want to say "hello" to the person who came here with the Google search "porn porn". Now, we've all done the first search, but do you need it so bad that you have to put it in to Google twice?

And, of course, some new Hughes/Yoakum Wonder Woman!

Friday, April 10, 2009

What Do You Do: the Holy Grail Artwork

I just had the interesting experience of being offered a piece of artwork via email.

No, not just a piece of artwork. One of those "grail" pieces. You know the kind, the ones that you've stared at the printed page at for so many years that you've memorized the very contours of the ink lines, noted the areas where the color went off register (damn cheap 4-color printing), actually dreamed about the day when you might discover the page sitting, with no one aware of its true value, at an estate sale somewhere, next to the old china. Except those things don't happen anymore.

Except that, in this economy, you never know who may or may not have over-extended himself buying things. And collectibles are certainly assets. And a certain number of these assets, the more valuable ones, many times never hit ebay or heritage. Many times they're traded or sold silently through a network of traders and collectors that all know each other.

So I'm offered this page... and it is quite out of my price range. In the same number of thousands of dollars more than i can spend as when i saw the Starlin cover and splash that are on the short grail list. And I had to turn him down, but not without doing a quick inventory of artwork and assessing with both my gut and my wallet, in that way that we collectors do, what i might be willing to sell to make that happen. And it was touch and go as to whether I let go of a Starlin splash to get this one, or an early Dringenberg, or... we'll I decided against it. But it was an offer, and I was happy, if literally for this one chance in my life, to get the opportunity to own it.

After 20 years of lusting for it, I can at least put it in the column of ones that you had to let get away.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Metal Hurlant, Humanoids and Moebius: Dissecting Colouring

Jog at his blog has a wonderful rundown of the changes in coloring that Humanoids has done to Moebius' material from the 1980's and has taken the time to actually scan a whole bunch of pages for us to look at. (the above image is actually my favorite on the post, by Ladronn, from the Final Incal series, and only because I love the image.)

It brings up a whole host of issues: who has the right or responsibilty to deal with the recoloring or censoring of the artwork? If the artist himself wants to do a "director's cut" on a classic work, should they be allowed to? Or an editor wanting to do a "final editor's cut"? The one that I would love to talk about is the recoloring versus the flat coloring.

There is a tendancy in today's world to over color the hell out of everything, and not only does it destroy the linework, but has shifted the final authority the photoshop user from the penciller and inker. Over rendering every single ab muscle on an X-man's uniform, or rendering the individual light sources on the White Queen's breasts can't be productive to actually allowing the reader to focus on the story proper. While we could search very quickly for examples of horrible off color and poorly chosen flat color, we can also find work that was clearer and far more helpful to the story both in terms of information and readability than the modern computer color.

I've commented on this before with regards to the Masterworks that Marvel has put out: chosing 100%M (full on 100% magenta or red in the printer's parlance of CMYK) on a bright white high gloss paper is a mistake, even if that is the color that was originally on Iron Man in Avengers #4. You have to make allowances for the paper and saturation. And since you're printing from generally bad 3rd generation black plate sources (at best), the line work that you're spotlighting is also degraded, so you're not showing up Kirby or Ditko or Heck at their best.

Moebius, whole linework can be delightfully open and cluttered at the same time, depending on what phase he's in, is an artist that has been recolored more than just about anyone I can think of. From the original Metal Hurlant work, to the pages that came to Heavy Metal in the 1970's and were printed in glorious black and white ("Free Fall", many part of the "Airtight Garage"), to the Marvel editions from the 1980's to more modern reprints, he's been all over the map. And his storytelling and linework are so seductive that perhaps its to his credit taht the work is at all readable with all those different looks that have been given to it. I'm not entirely in love with the '70's pallette, but I prefer it to the over rendering that plagues all the modern coloring. It reminds me of musicians that have the skill to play a million notes, but know when not to. I know that photoshop can do all this amazing shit, but I'd prefer if it was done a little more judiciously.

The Ladronn page at top reminds me of "Free Fall", but more of the opening and closing shots from "The Long Tomorrow" the great Moebius/Dan O'Bannon story that has been reprinted many times. Ladronn's page works because he's designed for it, so we can see how the same shot can work with the full rendering as well as flat color, but it does help to have that settled before going in.

I recall when they switched over a book i was inking from painted color to "full" computer color, only to find that the computer colorists were missing the dual lighting on bodies as much as the flat colorists were. Computers and watercolors: they're just tools and only as good as the artists using them.

Tuska's Tony Stark: the Porn King

As much as I have fond memories of the 1970's Iron Man series, fond from a childhood recollection standpoint, not from a quality standpoint unfortunately, I now look back a Tuska's Stark and that 1970's porn soundtrack starts up:

Chkkka

Chkkka

Chkkka

Oh baby...

"Are you going to give me the business?"


Artwork stolen from the Coollines artwork site, which deserves to be singled out as especially annoying for not posting prices, just putting "please inquire" on everything, which likely means that they reserve the right to jack everything up as much as they wish whenever they wish. The Donnelly brothers have been raked over the internet for holding on to artwork as if their function was to simply tease rather than actually sell artwork. C'mon guys, take note of the fact that a ton of original art buyers are pissed off at you.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

the Yo sketchbook: girl in a cafe

a little sketch that I liked. I don't work as often as i should with color, so I sometimes take only the colored pencils out to make myself work with them.