Thursday, December 30, 2010

In Experiment: Girl #1

Been a long time since i've experimented with color, but getting the new Robert Maguire book (Dames, Dolls and Gun Molls by Jim Silke) for Chanukah, i've felt the need to play around a little bit.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Event Marketing vs. - gasp- Actual Stories

So its come to this has it? The Event loving chickens have come home to roost and sales are down at retailers for 18 months straight and suddenly the retailers and publishers are wondering where the readers have gone. And they both have different ideas of who to blame.

Johanna Carlson comes in with a short but succinct post about it, comparing quotes from Brian hibbs and marvel's Tom Breevort concerning cutting back the publishing line, since Brian believes that it is just such a glut of overlapping titles that has sapped the will of the consumer to buy. The Robot 6 post puts the two of them head to head.

Now, I know that i'm not the average superhero consumer. Quite the opposite it seems, since i tend to despise the event marketing and feel that it simply disrupts the actual writing of good stories, since there is so much crap that each issue has to do to make sure that it links in with the other issues properly. And, as we all know, they NEVER interlink properly.

So i've been buying Thor and Fantastic Four AS LONG AS THEY DON'T INTERLINK WITH THE REST OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE. And because there were some interesting stories going down there. But now I'm seeing multiple Thor books and FF appearsl to be coming out sporadically and Marvel is, once again, pissing me off. So yes, the local retailer is going to have a harder time getting my money because they are once again making my life difficult.

Why is it that hard? Because nothing succeeds like copying success, and if the event strategy has worked in the past, you're not going to convince the heads up at marvel with their sales charts not to do it again, despite the general blog-o-sphere showing that the public is tired of the events. Companies, constantly looking ahead by checking out the past are notoriously bad at taking the temperture of the general public. otherwise we wouldn't have seem so many Disco albums released after 1980. Or so many Secret Wars after the wars were no longer... um... secret.

So here's the deal guys: I don't quite believe in Brian's hypothesis that the event marketing has conditioned me to ignore titles that weren't part of the cross over, it has done the opposite. It has made me want to only look at titles that weren't part of the crossovers. But he's right in that the missing ingredient in comics right now is that they're not giving me my series heroin: a series so good that i'm there for it each and every damn month and if I don't get it I'll explode. And while Tom is busy asserting that sale don't aggregate if you were to consolidate the different Spider Man (and I'm sure that he has the data to back it up), i wish that he would answer the other unspoken question of whether or not sales would go up if you had a dedicated writer and artist creating a better product rather than a product noted for simply interlocking. Or a comic noted for being a great read rather than a comic noted for crossing over to other cross overs.

Either way, in a shitty economy, you're lost readers and that's never good.


Blown Away: the Tanuka's Hard Apple

I hate them.

The Tanukas that is. Asaf and Tomer.

I first fell in love with their work in small spot illos in the New Yorker. I was clipping them and putting them up on the idea wall in my studio. I soon realized that i totally dug their aesthetic. It was Jewish and unorthodox with regards to color and visual viewpoint.

Now I've been working on crime comics now for about 2 years and made some progress, but then Asaf and Tomer come along with some bad ass character designs and stunning panels on a Jerome Charyn adaption and blow me the fuck out of the water.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Colleen Doran and Techdirt redux

There is an excellent follow up to my Colleen Doran post on live journal that effectively says it all, in a fairly short period of time:
What sort of fandom demands so much from creators without being willing to meet them halfway, or in fact, to even so much as click a link or type a URL? Whatever Colleen Doran's failings may be as an Internet entrepreneur, how much more the failings of the fans who let their own apathy and greed prevent them from supporting things they say they supposedly like?
and its interesting that, in the comments section of my post, the writer of the Techdirt post, Tim Geigner, tries to get out of how harsh he was to Colleen. Tim tries to get people to back off by saying, in effect, "look, I write fiction too. I'm in the same boat as you guys." Except that its not the same boat. Never will be. Different people have different levels of financial commitment and time commitment, and there simply isn't an excuse for the level of anger towards Colleen in the comments section, nor for the level of snarky sneering towards someone who hasn't somehow "monetized" the internet properly.

There is no single justification for hating on an artist who is tired of getting ripped off. None. They have a right to be angry. And a right to want to be paid for their hard work. Because it is hard work, and it takes time, and there are only so many hours in the day and so many years in an artist's life to do the work.

Why does everyone want to try to defend the pirates and not the artist? No one else here has potentially been wronged, not the scanner of the work in question, not the person who downloaded the jpegs, not the server host, not the website owners. No, the only person with any skin the game at all is the artist and no one at Techdirt wants to stand up for them. "Well, what we write can be posted anywhere and we won't have a problem with that."

"I can't be a racist. I have lots of black friends."

Defend the person who is getting hurt here, without mealy mouthing about losing your free download privileges. Go download someone else's work who doesn't care that you're doing it. Go buy something from their store. You like to consume content over the internet? Put you damn money where your mouth is and go buy something to support the artist. For once.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Oliva: in sketch form

We interrupt this Starlin-fest to bring you something from my sketchbook: my youngest daughter reading my wife and me a story.

I kinda like this one.

We'll get back to the Starlin art orgy soon, and I want to start to put down some thoughts on Levitz's Coffeetable DC book. No, its not a book for the coffeetable, it IS the coffeetable.

I also want to welcome new visitors from Belgium, Sweden and Uruguay!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Captain Marvel #29: Starlin & Milgrom - The Real Cover!

And in honor of the review of the Starlin book, here is the ORIGINAL cover to Captain Marvel #29: one of the most iconic covers in Marvel Comics history.

Not owned by me but by Len Gallo. Don't be jealous of me. I've only seen it up close once.

...and I think that Len either has, or knows the guy who owns the splash to issue #29. He had it at San Diego a few years ago. I should have asked him if he wanted to trade for the splash of issue #30.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In Review Of: Jim Starlin - A Life In Words and Pictures

This is an interesting book to be reviewing, given that its finally a retrospective by one of the two major influences in my artistic life. Starlin and Gulacy were to the two men who really changed my life by providing art and stories that I was dying to try and compete with. The irony, of course, is that you'll never top those formative stories. They tend to take on far greater significance in your head than just being issue #30, or #40.

Now, having worked with Gulacy on and off since 1996, I have less issue with making comments on his work. I guess having pages that i inked included in his art book gives me the chance to be making those comment for a place of knowledge.

Starlin, on the other hand, is a whole different kettle of cosmic fish. We've met a few times, but he wouldn't remember me from any other artist/fan, so I've no other connection with him other than continuing to read over his work on the periods that i've enjoyed. I was looking forward to a "Behind the Music" approach to some of my favorite comics. What i got with this book, both fed that desire, but also left me terribly hungry for more. I'll be curious to see if other Starlin-ophiles like my buddy Alex Sheikman feel the same.

Gems to be found here: Jim admitting that we started the whole Thanos story with a bunch of characters in mind and nothing resembling a plot. That Roy Thomas wanted Captain Marvel to have the glittering trail behind him. He added the guest stars on the book (Iron Man and the Avengers) on a whim. He demanded to have a say over the inkers on Captain Marvel and the resulting demand got him off the book.

And now the quibbling on my part: We are treated to a number of panels of artwork and even full pages being reproduced here, but very little original artwork. Now, i know that after all this time the art has been long since sold, but lets look at who this book is for. Not the casual fan. No, this book is entire for the long devoted, cosmic cube loving Starlin fan. So why print a number of panels that we already know and love and give us more original art to look at? The only original of the entire Captain Marvel run reproduced here is the cover for #30, which Jim sold only recently. And its the size of a postage stamp. Why not put the call out to the artistic community? I alone could have provided a print read version of three different pages from issue #30, including two splash pages. I've seen the unaltered cover for issue #29, Jim's original version without the Romita head. Why isn't that in there, as large as could be? (The original artwork for Captain Marvel is concentrated primarily in the hands of about about 6 individuals, and we're all fairly well known, it wouldn't have been that hard.)

And why is there a ton of art from the late 1970's printed before the chapter on Captain Marvel 1973-1974? It comes at exactly the wrong point in the book. Its out of chronology and even messes up the narrative flow of the text.

Warlock fairs better, with a couple of great scans of original art, and a more precise storyline of exactly how working with Marvel went on that series. What is missing is a dissection of just how the Universal Church of Truth came from his being in a strict Catholic school growing up, and how the inventive time travel story ending came about. Its a deep storyline, one with more emotional gravitas and thought than most superhero stories. I guess that i'd love to hear Jim go deeper into the work.

Metamorphosis Odyssey comes off better here than it did at the time in the Epic books, I think partly because the art isn't a complete and utter muddle in the printing, and it comes off less as "The Grand Artistic Statement" and more as someone stretching out and trying something new.

Another gem: Jim dislocated his finger playing volleyball and had to tape a felt tip pen to his hand to ink the book. Which is why it looks different. And why the originals have all turned blue and purple over time. And that the book was part of the game changers on royalties to artists. As was Dreadstar.

Jim goes on to delineate any number of other projects over the next 20 years, many I'd seen, and some that i hadn't, but i won't spoil your chance to dig into the book for yourself. Certainly it does an excellent job of spelling out the much more of the editorial insanity that continually pushed Jim away from comics, or completely scuttled series that would have been worth reading. Why? No idea other than it was something that i saw in the comics industry every damn day taht i worked there. Now, this is just Jim's side, and he is nothing is not at opinionated figure, which was presented to me when i showed him a portfolio of work back in '89 or '90 and he told me in fairly straight forward terms to keep my day job. Always.

Jim makes the point of saying on page 294 that he doesn't want to come off "like a bitter old man, ranting about all the things that went wrong with his final job in commercial comics", but after a while it hard to make excuses for why so many creative people constantly have to do interviews to explain how editorial messed up their most recent project. I have no problem believing Jim when he writes, "There was no longer any fun in the job (working for Marvel or DC)." And that's so sad.

Jim came in when comics were chaos, and an ex-viet nam vet who would still get drunk or loaded could go home and create a bunch of crazy fun shit that has clearly stood the test of time. And that time is long since past. Rock and Roll has moved on.

I appreciate the reprint of more obscure short stores in the back, at least one that i hadn't seen. And I like the few pages of proposals that didn't go through as well. I suppose that none of the sketches from back in the day could have been used to round out the pages from earlier in Jim's career. Are there no long lost sketches from Captain Marvel or Warlock for us to check out? No old script pages? Nothing else to let us peak behind the curtain? After all, we're the die hards; we'd appreciate stuff like that.

And, unlike many other popular comics figures, Jim's best work deserves that level of dissection. At his best, Jim posed philosophical questions of his villians, and existential queries about not just his heroes but all his protagonists. He used off-handed Kirby creations like the cosmic cube in throughly creative ways, and did so in a time when the use of corporate comics as a means of personal expression was becoming the norm for the young mavericks of the 1970's. The proof of Jim's genius is rooted in the fact that there have been very few legitimate additions to the cosmic pantheon of Marvel that haven't been branched off of Jim's ideas. With two failing heroes, Jim created a storm of ideas around them. Ideas that are still being traded off even today.

Soul Gem? Check. Titan, a hollow moon of Jupiter? Check. Cosmic awareness? Check. Thanos. Gamora. Pip. Infinity Gems. Inbetweener. Chaos. Order.

Thanos. Villian who didn't want to knock over banks. No, he worshipped Death. Try saying that over in your head a few times. He was Darkseid done better.

I'd have loved for Jim to address some of his own, reportedly, dissatisfaction with his art, and his switch to writing in the 1980's. What prompted his change in style? Other than Kirby and Ditko, who else influenced his early art? The change of only doing pencils instead of inks in the mid-1980's? Who got him to have the vast majority of his characters constantly ready to pounce? Where did this delicate inking style on his book plate illustrations come from? Inquiring minds want to know on a $50 book.

i've been meaning to do an appreciation post on Starlin, as i had Gulacy for the blog. As a nice history piece. Perhaps this will be a good push to do that. In the meantime, this is one fun book. And while shorter on substance that i would have liked, I still enjoyed it quite a bit, even if it wasn't quite the behind the scenes look that I would have loved.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Is It Really A Bomb If It Goes Off And No One Knows It?

If the tastes change, can we all start to complain that the general public likes our little college indy band? Retorically, I feel like that is a little of what Frank Santoro is lamenting in his Comics Comics column. Frank riffs on how the general public has taken over what used to be our little corner of the world and, a little annoyingly, moved on without us. And that's OK.

A few points that he makes along the way:
So, I thought I’d riff a little bit on what I think Evan is getting at – because I definitely remember when the L ’n R Sketchbook came out and how big of a deal it was for many of us at the time
Really? Perhaps it was in your comic shop at the time. I was reading Love and Rockets from issue #5, and when the sketchbook came it, it was like, "Cool, an artbook with Jamie's work." I don't know why it would have been seen as a "minor bombshell", but clearly both Frank and Evan Dorkin saw it at the time, so it just goes to show how different the reaction was. But it makes the point that, given the scarcity of the material back in the day, that each new work that WASN'T superheroes was a revelation, something to be held up and examined by the light from all angles. There was that little out there.

(edit: It has been pointed out by Evan Dorkin, who originally started this chain of thoughts that I was trying to be totally snarky, which points out that tone is damn hard on the internet sometimes. I meant to come off as a bit surprised by the comment, which i was. No nastiness intended in this post. In general, I was quite in agreement with Frank's original thoughts on his post.)

And now... well, now there isn't. Now we've become what we always wanted: practically mainstream, and respectable. Wow, who would have thunk it? We're in book stores, in sometimes big numbers, we have entire conventions that feature monographs and graphic novels and objects d' art like MOCCA and APE, we get reviewed in legitimate publications like the NY Times book review and even win Pulitzers.

And we're so large that there is no longer the one "Book of the Show" that everyone in talking about. Which is great. It does mean that our audience is so fractured that there can no longer be consensus within the community, something else that Frank brings up:
It was a bitter pill to swallow when I had to “sell” Love and Rockets to a new reader when I worked at a comics shop. It is hard to remember a time when I thought Los Bros.’ star would dim in the hearts of new fans. But I would just do just my best Bill Boichel impression and would explain that it was like The Beatles, insomuch as they changed everything. “Well, I never liked The Beatles,” said the twenty-year-old college sophomore. And as a retailer or a guy working for a retailer, what am I supposed to say to that?
and its a good analogy, given that you could make the case that The Beatles kinda changed everything within rock and roll, fracturing the audience so much that it was no longer easy to say which kind of rock and roll you liked.

But if you take it back to 1990, you had a real dearth of work. There was so little out there. And now its easy to have a book shelf full of complex, fascinating work that you can show off. Remember, as a retailer you can work with what the person likes to introduce them to all sorts of things. Every record store owner had a kid who loved Led Zeppelin who eventually got turned on to Willie Dixon because they wanted to work their way back to the roots. All Star Superman can lead a reader back to Doom Patrol and Flex Mentallo.

Finally there are roots and levels of strata to dig down to. Prior to this there was nothing. Nothing at all. To paraphrase Frank Miller, "Everyone wanted to believe that we had this long tradition to talk about, when all we had behind us was 50 years of shit." The Hooded Utilitarian had a long post about a lost Toth Enemy Ace story that made me realize that while i loved Toth's design sense, the vast majority of stories that Toth had to illustrate were utter dreck. Its not's Toth's fault that he was an artist with a capital "A". He never had an audience that would have read his work next to Asterios and Big Numbers and Sacco and Tomine, and now he would have. Its a shame. I would have killed to have Alex Toth work on mature material worthy of his talent level!
I feel like I meet people who are new comics readers all the time – and when I ask them what they like, they invariably say, in one form or another, “all kinds of things.” They like Sin City and they like Ghost World. They like Naruto and they like Barefoot Gen.
And its that short of range of material that, hopefully, can keep things going for graphic novels: that there is a degree of love for the artform and all the different types of things that it can present. And while we can never put the worms back in the can, never re-piece together our audience like it was in the old days, we'll still have our memories of seeing R.E.M. with about 10 other people in a coffee shop.

Ah the good ol' bad days. Long may they be gone. (edited to add: Bad in that it was superheroes and more superheroes and very few avenues besides the direct market, which was flourishing in the period before the B & W collapse put some many shops under. While no one is happy with current economic climate, i.e. Colleen's post in The Hill that i commented on recently, certainly we can agree that comics are finally no longer just "Pow" and "Bam" and "comics aren't just for kids, Batman!" in the local paper anymore.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

TechDirt vs. Colleen Doran: Angry, Angry, Angry

I don't know where to begin regarding a post that Techdirt has, savaging Colleen Doran for her column in The Hill regarding comics piracy and digital "theft". There is a level of vitrol here that is hard to quite get, except for the fact that Tim doesn't like people upsetting his little digital "everything for free" model. And its even worse when he makes a good point or two along the way.

For one thing, the comment section is full of extremely angry readers and writers, with a hell of a lot of anger directed at Colleen for no good reason. Seriously, lets look at the situation without a lot of snark: Colleen Doran writes an opinion piece about how hard it is to make a living as an artist in this day and age with everyone wanting free content, and gets hit with asshole comments like this:
You may have lost business to the internet, but that's only because, as I was coming of age, there was so much more interesting content being generated for free, by folks who made it for free, on the Internet than in your paper and ink, overpriced pamphlet.
as if Colleen was the one who was doleing out assignments and pricing and packaging the stuff herself over at Marvel. Perhaps that particular author should have been checking out her own work, A Distant Soil instead of assuming that the only comic out there was the latest X-Men crossover.

Saying that if she's having a hard time making a living is her own fault is like the rich telling the poor to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and get going. Perhaps less than 1% of the webcomics out there are making money, making enough money to support themselves, and yet everyone holds them up as the ideal for surviving as artists. Listen people, making art is hard and time consuming, and the reality is that very few people are going to pull the discretionary income necessary to keep themselves going.

Certainly I would have thought that people like Colleen and Terry Moore would have been the poster children for making this work, given a strong fanbase and name recognition, but perhaps not. Perhaps there simply isn't enough time in the world for them to actually spend hours creating art and then marketing themselves on the internet.

I'd love to have an actual ratio of artists vs. consumers in the world. I'd love to know what would happen if all the webcomics people just quit producing for a week or two, would people get as twitchy as if their daily newspaper page with comics suddennly went blank? Or if no new comics showed up in the store for a month? Would people be angry, or would they simply click to yet another site? And what about having all the television shows go to repeats? Remember how it was when Lost would go to reruns? I thought that you'd have riots like the streets of Detroit.

I'd love to know how twitchy people would get when all their favorite stuff to consume would go away. And then all the artists could lean back and say, "Sorry, you'll need to pay me so that i can get back to work." Expect that people don't like strikers, do they? The same people are angry that ARTISTS THAT ACTUALLY PRODUCE MATERIAL THEY LIKE want money, and if those people STOPPED PRODUCING, then the people would get... even angrier? How the hell does that work? Colleen is nailed to the cross with the phrase "Creator Entitlement" as if everyone on that board doesn't work for a living. What if we impaled their crass comments on wanting a paycheck as "Employed Entitlement". Fools, wanting to be paid for working in an office, filing paperwork, answering phones, doing anything. Such Entitlement, wanting a "paycheck". Go home and tell your wife or husband that they're withholding your pay that they really would just "like it for free".

It only enhances the odd relationship that people have with artists and the things that they produce. We assume that the art just comes out: That actors like to act and make movies, musicians write our favorite songs over breakfast and that comics are made by people who just doodle. The best ones look so easy that we assume it just exists, poof!, out of thin air.

If we go back 15 years ago, AOL, the huge heavyweight on the block, went and bought TimeWarner because it understood that content was king. The internet user has an insatiable, vampiric desire to consume content at a higher rate than ever before. Feeding that beast is becoming Uroboros, the eternal snake eating its own tail to consume and conquer the hunger, but with a greater global economy, that hunger shows no sign of abating. The best point in the Techdirt anger are the truest: that Colleen is one of the few that needs to figure out, or have someone else figure out, how to leverage some money out of that fan base. The should be able to do it better than most, and it may take a person that sees the micropayments and other, more inventive ways to market her on the digital ecosystem so that fans of hers will come and spend.

Friday, November 12, 2010

JMS Leaves The Floppies: World Yawns

Tom wonders, in his usual way, over at the Comics Reporter, whether J. Michael Straczynski leaving the monthly Wonder Woman and Superman is a vote of no-confidence in the monthly books. Other, of course, have picked up on this and will make it a small meme for about 5 minutes.

I mention this because, really, most of us have given up on the monthlies in a big way. Marvel and DC regularly put out story arcs designed to be collected into the trades which have a longer shelf life anyway. So, of course, the format is dictating the content. Which is always has done. All of us older comics readers got addicted to the monthly format of 22 page stories from an early age, and that's how we "see" comics. It pushes our buttons for what we're used to. People who came to alterna-comics via Groening or Carol Lay are going to look for the weekly comics fix in their local paper. Unlike the writer of books, who are going to write chapters solely on how long the chapter needs to be, the comic writer chapter is going to have to give you 22 page chapters for their story arc.

And you know what? There is a reason that more sophisticated work is being done long form in the Graphic Novel format. While I'm annoyed that Straczynski can't finish his damn work, but that he keeps getting work, I loved his Thor. Best version of Thor in 20 years, so yes, I put up with it to get a comic that i enjoyed the hell out of. But the pacing for the story that he was writing would have been better outside of the 22 page format. Each month we ended at a strange place in the rhythm of the story and had to pick it up 30 or 60 days later. I would much rather have read a great Thor Graphic Novel.

Yes, the floppies are dead, they just don't know it yet. No, Straczynski's leaving has to do with his inability to make deadlines. Yes, his parting bon mot is just about right. Leave your comments below.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Aging Out of Comics: Why Does It Happen?

Here is a good question, why do people abandon something that they like? Why do readers of comics stop reading comics? Why do people who like a certain type of music stop purchasing that music? Or seeing a certain type of film?

Jason Thompson ponders the age old marketing question of how to hold on to an audience, one that, in prior years, would have been reliable readers of a certain type of manga. There is a lively discussion below the initial Live Journal post that I’ve pulled a little bit out of.

What is interesting is watching Jason write about something that I’ve approached many times on this blog. Where are the comics for my age? I had almost stopped buying 7 years ago when, in my late 30’s, nothing spoke to me anymore. Jason wonders why you can’t sell more adult oriented manga to former readers and fans of shonon and shojo manga. And it’s the same with American comics. Marvel and DC have always wondered why they lost readers when they moved on from that “I love the Avengers” phase. Those same people don’t decide, “I’ve grown past Little Mermaid, so I’ll stop going to movies now,” so why not move them to more mature manga?

For the longest time, there was nothing to move to really. Jason is picking up Alan Moore as the natural follow up to reading superheroes, since his work dovetails from Swamp Thing and Superman into Watchmen and Promethea in a natural progression. People stop reading, I believe, because there was no follow up, and there was a social pressure to “move on to adult things”.

What is striking is how all the things that Jason says in regards to “aging out” of manga are the same for the United States and superhero comics if you just replace the words.

And I was exposed to Anime early on, and fully believed that, while Americans were being subjected to Star Trek 3: The Search for Chris Lloyd, the best space opera being made was Be Forever Yamato and Captain Harlock. I saw the adult implications in the kids series even if they were being used as subtext.

I do think that there were bids for the medium to grow up in the 1980’s within American comics, but man it was a hard sell. And I wouldn’t have wanted to have been a pioneer trying to stay in business back then. While DC was foistering Camelot 3000 as a supposed more adult comic, Love and Rockets was starting to come out, if you knew where to look. American Flagg had 10 whole issues of greatness in that series.

Rushthatspeaks has a couple of interesting comments part of the way down:
First, it was difficult for me to find things that suited my tastes as I got older. They turned out to be out there, but I really had to look. Shounen and shoujo get the splash ads in the magazines, the pages at the back of other manga, the bookstore displays and the clever catchphrases….

…it cannot be overemphasized how much American comics shops, who have the adult readers of Watchmen etc. and sell the indie comics meant for adults, used to hate manga. I am not joking nor overstating when I say that at the place that used to harass me, I would come in and ask for manga and be told 'We don't order that ridiculous girlie crap and your boyfriend should know better than to send you in to ask for it'.

At this point my household just goes into the local comics shop, they give us their distributor catalogs, and we do all our ordering ourselves because they have no idea what we are talking about. There is no marketing force behind manga for adults. When we ask company reps at cons, they say it's because it doesn't sell, but I think there may be a bit of a catch-22 loop going there: it doesn't sell because it isn't marketed because it doesn't sell because it isn't marketed...
How is this different than the superhero reader who has decided to move on? How many women were attracted by Sandman to comics only to find that there was… well… nothing to go to? It is a Catch-22, and this goes straight to the heart of the problem here: if you don’t have a market, you need to make one. Somehow. Locally. I spend all of the Alternative Press Expo looking for books that would entertain and appeal to the 44 year old comics lover: me. I found some, but I didn’t find a ton. But that is better than it used to be.

Why aren’t there a lot of adult comics? I’ve blogged before about the fact that I think comics excel at the large moments and fail at the small ones. Subtlety doesn’t play well in comics generally, which makes it less suited for many of the adult themes that you might explore, so it does seem easy to ignore certain stories for lack of ability to pull them off. (Like having a sophisticated script and the worst actors in the world at your disposal. At a certain point, don’t you just give up and go back to doing “Once Upon a Mattress”?)

Rushthatspeaks again:
I don't think any young fans (or at least not the majority of them) actually go around thinking "Aah, Bleach is the shit, but when I turn 21, I am never reading manga again." They may gradually succumb to societal pressure not to do such weird stuff, but I don't think any fandom actually thinks within itself their fandom is something that must be "grown out of." There will always be some people who grow out of it naturally, and some people who go on cosplaying into their 20s and 30s, no matter how embarrassing and awkward it is for everyone else at the anime convention.
Jason seems to think that the 1980’s audience for Alan Moore was willing to move from DC to From Hell in one fell swoop because they were hungry for more adult fare. I think that he’s giving us more credit than we deserve honestly. Some of us were hungry for more, but it was a long ugly discovery process. But I can say there it is a complete lack of modesty that drove the 1980’s comic convention goer. Those great unwashed masses in X-Men T-Shirts went to the conventions again and again because they were impervious to being awkward and embarrassed. They insisted that they were right, and slowly but surely, pop culture came back to them an apologized.

You could read that X-Men trade on the subway and have it look normal. We didn’t grow out of it. Not entirely.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

In Review Of: True Loves by Turner & Botma

Just finished off True Loves by Jason Turner and Manien Botma, a sweet, predictable alterna-love story that i found at APE at the New Reliable Press table.

I mean, c'mon, who could resist such a charming and beautiful little cover like the one on the left?

I'm reminded that my wife continues to rent Romantic Comedies, when both of us know the plotlines, we know the resolution, so why go rent another? Because, occasionally, just occasionally, they do one that gets the little details correct along the way to the predictable finish. Somehow the writer will slip in enough clever lines that actually have some emotional resonance or interesting details and you find yourself sucked into the movie despite knowing that these two actors are not going to spend the rest of their lives deliriously in love.

True Loves fits that description to a "T". I knew where the plot was going from about page 4, but that was ok. Jason and Manien were doing a detailed true-to-life-in-Vancouver-in-your-20's story, and they sold me on these characters. True, Eliza, Dirk, Zander and Herb all ring note-perfect for who they are, what their characters do, how True and Zander end up falling for each other.

I mean, c'mon, we know that True and Zander will end up together, the question really how they'll get there. Its from that that we start to appreciate the book. Jason and Manien do an excellent job juggling their small cast of characters and making them stay true to themselves.

I think that much of the pacing stems from Jason's weekly schedule while originally putting the strips out. There is a pacing to it that is subtly different than it might have been had it just been done for a book. It keeps Jason from extending some scenes, which in turn keeps the action a little punchier. I think that it works to his advantage. The art definitely gets looser as the book goes on. The first few pages of True at the clothing store and at dinner with Dirk are much cleaner and tighter than the final pages of Zander shaking cherry blossoms all over True, but the looseness works and almost never intrudes on the storytelling. My one quibble: that Zander looks almost a little too happy, almost a little too stoned through out the story.

And, of course, now i have to go get True Loves 2 so that i can see where they went with the story from there. Cause, yeah, now i like these people and now i want to see where they go from here. And isn't that the best part? We all want characters to fall a little in love with from stories like these.

Monday, November 01, 2010

In Review Of: Street Angel by Rugg & Maruca

Not only is it the coming of Jesse Sanchez, but it’s the coming of The Afrodisiac! How could I miss out on that? But I digress, I’ll back up to the sweet pink cover of the digest trade “Street Angel”.

Forget where I heard about “Street Angel”, but it was another review that was good enough that I ended up bugging my LCS Blue Moon Comics to order me a copy. What I got was a good read, but one that shows the tricky part of collecting the learning curve. Its steep and not entirely smooth and in one place it shows up, bumps and all.

The early stories are a black and white hoot, showing Rugg and Maruca running roughshod through enough comic book tropes that we instinctively know just what their stunted childhood was spent doing. The aforementioned street angel, Jesse Sanchez, is a fun character that doesn’t need to make any other sense that doing all the cool stuff that we can’t do in our world: being the world’s greatest homeless skateboarder and ninja destroyer while having a legless skateboarding buddy to boot. Its fun, totally goofy shit that looks like the old Wally Wood 1960’s Thunder Agents in places. Its also totally forgettable beyond the laughs.

But by the 4th story in the compilation, Down in the Dumpster Blues, writer Rugg is growing by leaps and bounds and a lot of the goofy ninja shit is gone, What we’re left with is some growing emotional honesty about jesse’s homelessness and lack of food and the embarrassment from a single stare for a classmate as Jesse stands in a dumpster. The interaction is both light and heavy in equal measure and crackles with low volume/high emotional resonance. Artist Rugg is also growing, relying less on solid blacks alone and pulling out the quill and brush to add a ton of texture and grey to a less black and white world.

It is my best guess that the artwork here was originally meant to be printed at regular comic size but has been reduced to digest size, which tightens up the linework, but can start to drop out smaller details as well. In this case, the scans seem solid, but there is a real lack of impact with it’s small size that I bet was in the originals. Dumpster blues would be something that I know that I would be impressed to have sitting on my drawing board at 10 x 15 size.

Hero Time, the direct follow up story continues the impressive artwork, as well as a far more cohesive story. The pacing is excellent, as are the pastiche’s of 1970’s marvel comics included in the story. Suddenly, Jesse and an older, wiser Afrodisiac are fighting an almost impossible battle, and we get a great little comic gem of a story.

Rugg's layouts and composition have improved greatly by this issue. Did i mention that learning curve earlier? Hero Time is far more mature in its storytelling and its aims, veering from the sardonic to the serious to the revelation that all the Afrodisiac's efforts to save the Earth have long since been lost by the next generation, a slightly bittersweet view of the aftermath of every other issue of the Fantastic Four or the Avengers circa 1972. Gerber as one of the few to try and address this with his classic Howard the Duck issue, "What do you do, the day after you saved the Universe?"

Of course, in the back are the covers, a great collection of Rugg doing lots of visual pastiche: Harold Grey, rob Liefeld, and Dan Clowes to name a few. And the obligatory sketchbook pages. But the meat? Its in issues #4 and #5 here. A fun read, and worth searching out or getting your local guy to order!

New Reviews Coming...

for a variety of books that i've picked up.

Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell

Street Angel by Jim Rugg & Brian Marluca

Umbrella Academy by Way & Ba

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Bombshells by Terry Dodson

and The Outfit by Darwyn Cooke!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Yoakum Interview on Comic Book Resources

I'm showing up in the press a bit more these days, and here are a few links. Comic Book Resources did a mini-interview that appeared yesterday, along with the cover of The Human Hourglass, which them for including! When I was writing this story and thumbnailing it out in one 7 hour stretch on a plane flight from Paris to Chicago, I don't think that i would have imagined not only having it out int he world, but the cover showing up on CBR's site.

But that's why we create things. To get them out there.

Also a review of Time Bomb #1 & 2, which is the first one to note that I did ink on issue #1 and include me in the review, for which I thank them kindly. Its the first time that I've inked Gulacy in about 10 years outside of some sketches, so doing the work was fun. I'm enjoying the story as well. I have no idea how it all ends, so I'm waiting for issue #3 to show up so that i can find out the ending along with the rest of you.

And lastly, but by no means least, Enter The Dark, Todd Miro's killer short horror film that I co-star in, is up for three awards at the Dark Carnival Film Festival: Best Short, Best Editing and Best Supporting Actor (my co-lead, Rob Sandusky). We had a great California premier at Sacramento's Horror Fest with family and some of the crew in attendance as well, so we had someone to laugh at our jokes during the Q & A.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Robot 6 on APE 2010

JK Parkin of Robot 6/Comic Book Resources just posted some of his thoughts on APE, along with some pics and artwork. Mr Parkin was good enough to pick up the initial issue of The Carnival, which you can see peeking out from the bottom of his stash pile in the final photo. Thanks for coming by JK!

Pic stolen from JK Parkin's post. That's me, in the black hat and white shirt. Man, my sign behind me was falling over. How did i not notice that?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

APE 2010 Round Up

Got to walk around the Alternative Press Expo on Sunday morning and pick up a few new books, books which I promise I'll be reviewing here soon. I know, its been forever since i was doing reviews, but i promise that i will. I'm kinda curious to see if anyone bothers to review The Human Hourglass online. But I have a likely looking stack of books in the studio to start reading, which is a good thing.

Got to meet Erica Moen, whose Dar webcomic I've enjoyed for a long time. Picked up the second edition of that book and got a little sketch. I'm always happy to tell cartoonists that i enjoy that they're being read and appreciated. We all operate in our own little worlds and sometimes it helps to hear that all those hours are worth it. Erica's work is so open and autobiographical and so damn real that i feel like we're pretty much getting it the way she saw it. And its raw. I wouldn't have the guts to be that open about my relationships. I enjoy her work since it so different that mine. While she's ended Dar, there are still the archives and, happily, she's working on two new graphic novels.

Walking around I was stuck by how I felt like i'd been at this con before, and then i realized that i had, San Diego, 1988. Similar vibe, same number of people, just with superheroes. And it struck me that i hadn't been this happy about being at a con in years. Even without the superheroes I still got sucked into the art porn booth that is Stuart Ng and bought a book (just one!).

Had the chance to meed John Fleskes, who has a number of great art books for sale. My personal favorite is the Steve Rude one. John, who knows my boothmate Alex Sheikman, and I got to artgeek over originals for a while. John has a great eye for this stuff as well, and it was good to share ideas on original art and talk great artists long gone.

Had a discussion with Comic Con Executive Director Fae Desmond. I applaud Fae walking around and chatting with the artists, given that when you are in her position, someone will always find something to "discuss" with you.

Just starting to read True Loves by Jason Turner and Manien Botma. I'll report back when i'm done.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

APE: Day 1 - The Round Up

Home after a day of chatting and selling and NOT walking around and looking at all the other books on the other tables on the first day of the Alternative Press Expo.

It was cool. Sold a decent number of books, considering that pretty much no one knows me, knows my work and certainly isn't anticipating picking up the first issue of The Carnival.

Alex and I had a good time talking comics and storytelling. Its a good pairing since neither of us is Manga, Underground or Mainstream Superhero. We are, I guess, Ground Level. And, perhaps, moderately interesting. But we come from a similar past in terms of artistic influences. Thats Alex in the hat, myself in the red shirt. Table 655.

Next to me: Spain Rodriguez the legendary underground cartoonist. S. Clay Wilson also stopped for a minute to chat with him. It was cool next door company.

The convention reminded me of San Diego 30 years ago, with less superheroes. And thats a good thing since I twice today had the conversation with people who had decided, as i did this year, to stop going to the Mega Fest that is San Diego. There looks like a wealth of interesting ideas and books mixed in among various levels of skill and talent. Tomorrow I hope that pick a few diamonds out of the rough and blog about them.

Come on by if you've been on the fence about going: apparently this year's APE is larger than ever and at a much higher level that ever before. 8th and Brennan, South of Market, 11-7pm. See ya there.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Human Hourglass wraps up at APE

Finally will be finishing The Human Hourglass and presenting it in Ashcan form at APE this weekend in SF. If you love alternative comics you owe it to yourself to come on by.

Alex Sheikman, of Robotica fame, and myself will be sitting Sat and Sun at booth 655, so swing on by!

Here is a panel from the last two issues of The Human Hourglass as I work on it just to tide you over til the last two pages are done. The final panel is actually in and done, but i never work on the pages in complete sequence, so jumping around allows me to work on a different place while the ink is drying elsewhere. I know that most artists do that. I also know that Jack Kirby didn't. Bastard genius.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Fiction, Meta-Fiction and Heroes in Grey

I sometimes wonder if other people have the problem that i have: that the stories come too frequently to put down, not in pieces but in whole and complete downloads from elsewhere, well, from somewhere, and then they wait for you to try and figure out what to do with them.

and the best of them need craft to make them better, to sand the rough edges into fitting, making the whole thing make sense. I sometimes wish that i didn't sit at this drawing board working away listening to music and reveling in the direct feedback that comes from hearing a beautifully played chorus. Is there anything in our medium that comes across as succinctly and directly? (current example playing as i right this: Green day's "Holiday") I don't think that there is. We're the medium of quiet comtemplation and hours of lonely work, in direct opposition to the performing arts. our work is to be digested over time and the in the peace and quiet of the reader's mind. If we do our job right then hopefully the scene that we create will play over and over in their head upon subsequent rereadings. We can only hope.

Did any of the writers and artists that were cranking out some of my favorite comics from the 1970s ans 1980s realize that they were creating works that lasted? I doubt it. When i brought up to Alan Weiss just how reverential i was to those issues of Jim Starlin's Captain Marvel, he wasn't surprised, but neither did he betray that Jim had idea that they would be as profound a piece of fiction as they became. I have the idea that Marshall Rogers knew, just fucking knew in his bones that his Batman was practically definitive, at least definitive to him, but as he was a Batman fan down to his DNA, it was work that carried weight of truth to it.

There is fictional truth and then there is TRUTH. This is the same truth that Kirby alluded to in his scattered work in Fourth World series. Jack wanted to create an entire mythology without a master plan spread out over the three books, and he went at it full bore and it was a mess, a glorious mess that contained kernels of greatness like the final fight of Terrible Turnpin, and others like the Black Racer and the hippy nonsense of the Forever People. There was truth in Englehart and Roger's Joker, and chilling horrible nihilistic truth that fueled heath Ledger's performance. (It was here that Englehart and Rogers out Kane'd Kane: In understanding the depths of the Joker as the agent of un-logic, he moves into the realm of myth and terror as the embodiment of horror that cannot be reasoned with. A jewel thief? A man under a Red hood? Are you kidding me? he is the horror of the Un coming to get you and you're never going understand him.)

I tried to explain the idea of what makes good fiction to my 9 year old daughter the other day. The idea that conflict was the necessary content to make the story happen. She understood almost immediately, having read more than enough fiction to realize that perfect people make for a boring story, and that the protagonist has to have obstacles in his/her path to make it interesting. Explaining characters that are shades of grey was a little harder. And while its true, I do still enjoy that idea that there are some heroes left somewhere out there, so that we can occasionally hang our hat on the idea of the morally simple ending rather than the murky grey toned one.

I'm writing the last page of The Human Hourglass and working on the layouts right now. It ends as messily by the next to last panel as i originally thought, with no real winners and only losers and its far more like real life. and I have to keep from making a happy ending. It doesn't deserve it, nor does anyone who's read the first 21 pages. They deserve the ending that is supposed to happen.

McKee was right: you have to be brutal to your characters. And it hurts.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

New Artwork & "Enter The Dark" by Todd Miro

Two new panels from The Human Hourglass from page 18. Nothing crazy here, but I like these two in sequence.

Enter The Dark. Scary film. 18 minutes long, already going to be making it's premier at the Chicago Horror Fest and then showing at Thriller! Chiller! film fest in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Its funny and scary and messed up, as all good horror films are.

My good friend Todd Miro wrote and directed and its pretty cool. I'm one of the two lead actors and while I cringe every time that i open my mouth on screen, for exactly the same reason that we all hate hearing our own voices on answering machines, I don't think that we do a half bad job.

Some reviews:

- Brutal as Hell review:
… a fun little fright flick that effectively showcases Miro’s filmmaking and editing abilities.

- review:
Enter the Dark is a clever, scary, fun piece that delivers with a punch and a cool ending.

- All Things Horror review:
… Enter the Dark proves once again a good ghost story simply needs to put emphasis on the story and not flashy effects or big budgets in order to provide some fun and scares.

Todd and I will be attending the Chicago premier so if you're not doing anything on the 26th, come by and check out the film. We're playing right before the feature presentation at 9:15 or so, which may be like having your band open for Van Halen once. We'll see.

Check out the bad ass trailer here. Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Doctor Who Lego - Two Great Tastes in One!

This is just pure awesomeness, and I have no idea who did this. but I love it. and I'm sharing.

Anyone who can send me that attribution, please do so that i can extend the proper art credit.

wow. Love it. Can't wait for more of Matt Smith's Doctor BTW.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Copyright, Greater Culture and the ever lovin' Business Model

Scott Kurtz of Plaver Vs Player, one of my favorite online comics BTW, relates an incident at the Harvey awards that is probably best described in his original post, so I'll only excerpt a bit here:

obviously the main point of this is not to call attention to the arguement between Waid and Aragones, both men that i have respect for, but to the larger picture: the notion of copywrite and its place in society. And the comic industry's refusal to embrace new forms of payment or potential business models.

Any anyone who has been reading this blog knows, I've been a proponent of the different busienss model for the longest time, in a large part because the old one isn't working. Much. At all.

How not working? Let me count the ways. Artists operating under feudal system that robbed them of the ability to profit off of their creations in the manner that artist under almost every other system are able to. Sales on pamphlets so low that the general malaise under which the book industry is suffering cannot be to blame for them. A business that simply eats its young and never gives back to more than a few individuals. Stan Lee will retire well. Jack Kirby did not. How is that equitable?

Waid's assertion that eventually copyright should wane, and that creations should open up to the general public, given taht he's a businessman is an interesting and bold one. His main idea of the file sharing genie being out of the bottle is right on the mark.

Look, the recording industry and movie industry haven't been able to stop file sharing with all their money and lawyers and resources, how the hell is the comic community going to do so? Just as i want to castigate the BBC for being stupid enough to not take my money so that i can watch Doctor Who when its been broadcast over in the UK, I want to thank them for making it available in America with only a 14 day delay. Just as the manga industry is getting tough on unlicensed scanlations, they also have to thank those scanlators for making a built in audience for them.

you can't go back. Marvel can't stop the kids from putting the Avengers comics on the scanners and uploading them. Perhaps it would be smart, life saving-ly smart, in fact, to embrace any new business model that would allow for revenue. Especially when new authors are bypassing the Direct Market in pretty much every possible way. Scholastic is marketing Bone and Amulet directly to the kids, kids that don't even know that comic shops exists. kids that don't have the monthly comic habit that those of us older folks do, and they're not missing a thing except our nostalgia.

Embrace micropayments, embrace original graphic novels, embrace marketing everywhere, and using new format to do so. Embrace digital markets as well with different platforms such as cell phones and tablets.

Do something. Because Waid is right. You can't stop it. And like holding back the tide from washing up on the beach, you'll die trying.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Changing up Studio Yoakum

Spent a little time to change up the wall in Studio Yoakum. here is a quick pic of the wall o' artwork after changing out the art in the frames. Now up are:

- A George Perez/Pablo Marcos page from Avengers #167

- A two page spread from Sandman Mystery Theatre by Guy Davis

- the final page of Wardancer #3 by Weiss and myself

- A Rusty and the Big Guy sketch from Darrow

- an Invisibles page by Fegredo

- an old Iron Man page by Tuska and Johnny Craig

Inking page 19 of The Human Hourglass as we speak. Almost done!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Here's Hoping For: Ben Caldwell's Manga Wonder Woman

Is there any format or new idea that DC won't retreat from? Odd, isn't it, that DC decided not to do the stand-alone series of Wonder Woman that Darwyn Cooke and J Bone were offering to do, when they're put so much muscle behind New Frontier? Odd that DC is more remembered for putting out The Dark Knight in the 1980's than the '60's TV show finally, a comic that was a radical departure from anything that they had ever done with the Batman franchise?

And now here comes bits and pieces of Ben Caldwell's Manga Wonder Woman pitch and i'm stuck thinking that, given their recent retreat from anything that was DC "go-go" checks approved, its just all wasted time and energy. Carmine Infantino must be running the company again.

Caldwell's stand alone Manga series makes so much damn sense both in format and art that there is no way it will go forward. The sense of retreat and retrenchment at DC seems simply to be too much to overcome.

And I love the samples. They're great fun and I would buy this in a second for my daughter. Who, by the way, has totally been put off Wonder Woman by the endless crossovers and retrenchments on the character. DC lost her, and they totally had her during the Gail Simone run. How can I addict my daughters to comics if the companies that put out the comics continue to not give me anything for them to read?

Format, format, format. It has so much to do with how we perceive the material. The success of Scott Pilgrim should be a perfect example that the digest format can work, especially when you don't have to flip the pages and translate them. How better to break into an entire market that should love WW?

Man, I get so tired of saying the same thing over and over. I'd love to know what the sales figures were for Wednesday Comics...

Friday, August 13, 2010

In Review Of: "Cathy's" retirement

Cathy is dead. I type those words with joy in my heart. Seriously.

Not since For Better or Worse threw salt into the eyes of all its regular readers has a comic needed to bow out, go away and be as forgotten as the Gumps.

It may not be a stretch to say that Cathy set the women's movement back by years as well.

There are a notorious number of things to hate about Cathy: her ending up with Irving, the poor state of the drawing, the limited number of punchlines that were regurgitated over the decades... its rather mindboggling. Even Lynn Johnston made some interesting strides in her artwork, as the reprinted early FBOFW strips show. Not Cathy Guisewite. Her generously proportioned stick figures had the same level of incompetence 20 years later. When the old Cathy jokes were aged and yellow and peeling off of the office cubicle, they could be replaced with identical fresh ones and no one would ever be the wiser.

Did Cathy end up with Irving simply because Ms Guisewite was unable to come up with a single other male character? Sure looked that way. In her own way, Ms Guisewite hit the jackpot. With nary a bit of artistic talent on the page, she was able to craft a career that many far more talented cartoonists would envy, if they weren't working at convenience stores or driving UPS trucks.

Rest in Pieces Cathy, you will likely be forgotten as soon as the final strip goes into the recycling.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

DC and the Format Wars: Giving up before the first shot is fired

I was fascinated by th3e idea that DC would be doing original graphic novels next year on superman and batman as a way to introduce new readers to the continuity without having them struggle with just where to begin. Overall, i was willing to wait for what i was sure was going to be a spectacular failure.

As Johanna Draper Carlson points out, DC is already backing away from the original version of the OGNs, which brings us right back to a subject that i feel i've covered ad nauseaum over the last few years: the format wars.

How to present the material hat you have to a diverse clientele is a tricky one, especially since you have such different markets with Borders and Barnes and Noble in competition with the Local Comic Shop.

But how many cross over customers are there? The large bookstores that are in my area essentially eschew the weekly pamphlet format in favor of TPBs, while the LCS tends to carry a mix of both. How many people are really shopping both at this point?

DC has become, with the cancellation of essentially every experimental line that they have, from Minx to their manga line, relentlessly conservative. They have retrenched physically and mentally, deleting the new versions of their heroes in favor of the silver age versions, why should it surprise anyone that they've also deleted all the different formats that they've experimented with?

DC Comics has returned to the Silver Age. Unfortunately, their audience is living in 2010.

Doing manga? nope. Digest books? nope. Diversity in heroes? nope. Comics for girls? nope. Keeping Vertigo running? barely. Original Graphic Novels? nope. Monthly pamphlets about white males? Yup.

How's Milestone doing these days?

What's fascinating is that pretty much everyone else is able to make interesting things happen with the OGN market except a company with the greatest outreach and resources to do it. If necessity is the mother of invention, then perhaps corporate resources are the father of conservatism here.

Work In Progress: The Human Hourglass Page 18 part two

This panel is coming along nicely. page 18 is almost done and, as always, art surprises you. panels that i thought were somewhat boring are turning into far more interesting bits and pieces.

A few more pages to go...

Friday, August 06, 2010

Work In Progress: The Human Hourglass Page 18

Working away, and was rather pleased with this top tied of page 18 about to be inked.

I'm not fast, but i think that i'm getting better.

For those in the SF Bay Area, i'm trying to get into APE in October. Haven't heard whether or not I've got the table, but I'll let you all know the minute that I know!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

New Work: The Carnival - The Human Hourglass page 17

a new page posted at as I get closer to the finale of the first Carnival story. Of course you can click the link and go straight to it, or you can do what my friend Sam is doing, which is simply wait til i finish the damn thing, then go read it all at once.

But then you miss a bit of the voyage doing that. I suppose.

The Human Hourglass has been running around my head for a number of years, but i lacked a few of the pieces to pull it all together. Odd how life works, it finally came together on a plane, far from anything even resembling noir. More like small inedible dinners served on biodegradable plastic. Inspiration comes from weird places. Being a mere 5 pages from the finish is rather invigorating.

Also, the first issue of Radical Publishing's TimeBomb is out on the stands as off last week, so go take a look. I ink the first 21 pages of Paul Gulacy, and you'd have thought it was 1999 and we were working on Batman: Outlaws. Except this time with a really cool story and killer coloring. Take a look and let me know what you think. Been ten years since i've had anything out on the stands.

Monday, August 02, 2010

For Olivia: Do Something!

My youngest daughter threw the blank 8.5x11 paper at me with the title (in her mind) Do Something! so I whipped up a strip over breakfast about our usual breakfast time during school.

I'm not the average house husband, but i usually do the morning ritual, this the pretty damn true to life. Olivia cracked up when i gave the artwork back to her.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

In Preview Of: Space Battleship Yamato 2010

My old friend Dave Hillman turned me on to this trailer via Facebook and my jaw just hit the floor.

You see, while the rest of the United States thought that this was Starblazers, some of us with the bootleg Japanese originals at hand knew that this was the series of movies with the Space Cruiser Yamato. And while the US science fiction series still struggled with little things like Twiki saving the day AND delivering the best one liners on Buck Rodgers, we were watching planets getting blown up, crew members dying, a drunk saki swilling doctor, moral dilemmas of adult complexity, and Dessler, one of science fiction's most interesting villians.

Whole civilizations dying? Pollution and ecological themes? A freakin' Wave Motion gun? Check, check and check.

Be Forever Yamato and the others were epic.

Fucking Epic.

Seeing this translated into the real world makes my year.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Not in San Diego part 2

So i'm celebrating not being in San Diego (see prior whining post) by... creating comics. Sitting down at the board and getting back to work. A quick new scan of panel 3 page 17 to the left.

My Wife and Sister-In-Law also have a new blog, that I've added to the blogroll on the right. Surrogate Cities is the name and while i doubt that comics will ever, ever appear in that blog, the writing is great, so go take a look.

back to work. After all, if all of the comics creators in north America are in southern California, who is creating all the stuff that we want to read?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A San Diego Hangover Without Traveling

without travel this time. So, for the first time in 23 years i'm going to be missing the San Diego Media Con and, not to put too fine a point on this, I have utterly mixed feelings about it.

Let me try to explain.

There are rituals and there are rituals. Long after Iron Man #72 introduced me to the idea of attending the convention, then still located in the old San Diego Convention Center in the middle of downtown, I attended my first convention in 1988. I was an unpublished neophyte sleeping underneath my leather jacket on the floor of the Westgate Hotel thanks to the generosity of Ron Lim. I believe that i picked up the splash page to Master of Kung fu #40 that year, as well as watching the classic Gil Kane cover to Iron Man #66 get sold right before my eyes.

Did i mention that it was a heady experience? Oh, and i would have to wait a whole nother year before meeting Jack Kirby for the first time.

This set a pattern. For the next two decades plus I've journeyed each year down to SD for a variety of reasons. And I recall them all for the touch points on my life: meeting Jack for the first time in 1989, hanging with Dringenberg and buying Sandman #8 pages in '91, meeting David Lapham in '92, drinking with Wrightson, Russell and Kaluta at the Omni in '94, signing at the DC booth with my Batman book about to hit the stands two weeks after the con in '00, taking the chance of missing my wife going into labor with our second child in '03. I've been going down there longer than i've been married, had children, pretty much longer than anything.

And this is the first year that i'm not going down. And I'll miss it. But there are a ton of things that i'm not sure i'll miss. I'm going to miss all my long time contacts that i see once a year on that packed convention floor. I'm going to miss the ease with which i navigate those aisles to get where i want to go. I'm going to miss taking down a new pitch as i did with lis fies in '08 and taking meetings. I miss the smell of belonging.

but I'm not going to miss not belonging. This business is merciless, and despite inking part of Palmiotti and Gulacy's Timebomb for Radical, I'm not part of their marketing on the book. No one gives a shit that i did those pages. I got paid well for them, but, lets face it, my ego isn't getting stroked for helping to get the book out.

I want to matter more. I love this medium and as i sip some tequila and draw a bunch of new pictures on paper hoping that some will care and yet caring not because it feels so good to be drawing and having something cool appear out of nowhere on a blank sheet of paper, I miss the getting on the plane with my portfolio tomorrow morning, as i have for 23 year, and landing in the humidity of SD.

I want to contribute to the graphic novel market that i swore would come back in 1996 when i sat in the bullpen at Valiant and tried to convince everyone that the day would come. That the market would eventually accept us. I SAW this, I saw this all. And i wish that i had the time to make more pages, to convert the stories ion my head into physical books faster.

I want to matter more. And its hard not to.

So I won't be be walking aisles of SD this year, critiquing the new hardbacks, trying to figure out which party to crash, which packed san diego restrauant to slide into. Dick's Last Resort will have to do without me.

I want to matter more. And its hard not to.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Missing In Action - Charles Yoakum

OK, I've been a bad blogger. I admit it. I've not posted much in the year 2010, especially in the last couple of months.

Its not that I've not been reading comics, or thinking about comics, or doing some sketching on my recent trip to New York. I just haven't been motivated to talk about comics. In most any way shape or form.

I simply haven't had the energy to talk about finally getting down to reading the entire run of Planetary up to the final trade (when it comes out), or getting to read Madame Xanadu, or getting my Adam Hughes cover parade book or sitting back down to finish up the Human Hourglass pages.

Sorry. My bad. Although I'm not sure that anyone really missed me. There are just so few minutes in life and I wasn't spending any of them constructing great and funny thoughts about storytelling or artwork or anything. Perhaps if I was a faster and better typist it would be easier to get them out, but that would preclude the editing process.

I need to be a Dragon software adoptee. Seriously.

Recent trip to New York: me with an old friend from the Acclaim days to discuss what he's publishing these days. Should anything work out I'll let you all know. Took time in the Met and the MoMA to pull out my sketchbook and draw a little Modigliani and Klimt. The heat and humidity felt wonderful and having my daughters lead me through the subway passages at Union Square made me proud.

New York inspires me and makes me want to do art. There is some vitality in the people and the energy that makes me want to work. You walk around and see everyone and think that somewhere in that naked city area a million visual ideas and they're just bouncing around in your head and you need to get them out.

Stay tuned. Above sketch of my daughter playing on my wife's iPhone on the flight to NYC.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In Memory Of: Al Williamson 1931-2010

It is sad that just a short time after Frank Frazetta passes from this earth, one of the few men whose touch with a brush was as good would also succumb to illness. Al Williamson was a giant of an artist in his skills, but somehow he was primarily an artist who dazzled other artists but didn't have his name transcend the work the way that Frank's did.

Coming up at a time when illustrators were able to be inspired by some of the classic american comic artist such as Raymond and Foster, as well as seeing Lyendecker and others create what we now know as the classic age of American illustrators, Al had a facility with a brush that was matched only by Frazetta and Wood as his contemporaries. It was technique along with the eyes to saw, really saw, the compositions and the structure necessary to make the whole piece work. There was no trick to it other than bloody hard work.

His work on EC remains my favorite, while some prefer Rip Kirby or Secret Agent Corrigan. Even his work on the Blade Runner adaption in the 1980's is stellar.

Of personal reflections, I have none. I had dinner with him in a group once or twice and I don't think that i ever got the chance to sit next him. Mores the shame. I was just happy as could be to be in the presence of such a great man. I'm sorry that there was no chance to one day wrangle the chair next to Al so that i could discuss brushes with him, or, well... just anything.

The great ones are great and we all just sit back and get mesmerized by their work. Al influenced generations of inkers and artists. As it should be. Rest in peace Al.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

RIP - Frank Frazetta

It took me a day or two to consider what to write in the wake of Frank's death two days ago. Here is what comes to mind.

We use the words like "Genius" and "Master" pretty loosely. After all, there are a number of fabulous artists around that we can get impressed by, and those words trip off the tongue pretty easily.

Very rarely should we consider someone to be utterly in a class by themselves, and with his paintings, Frank was that. Illustration magazine has been making a good case for us to fall back in love with many of the early 20th century illustrators and pulp magazine painters, yet for the most part, their work has a nostalgic appeal. It has skill, yes, but for all the George Rozen Shadow covers that i find briliant and iconic, they simply aren't a Rockwell. Or a Leyendecker.

Frazetta's approach, technique, color sense and, very importantly, composition were game changers in every sense of the word. For all those that had worked in the fantasy genre before him, we see almost no precedent to his Conan, to the sense that he brought to those paintings.

He was a true artist in that, once you saw the piece, it appeared as if he had shown you another world that should have always existed, but that you simply hadn't seen before. The best artists show us things that should have been obvious and yet, somehow, we had never seen them.

His comic work prior to that is pretty well known, although i doubt that many have poured over Johnny Comet as much as the Death Dealer. I personally enjoy, as a single piece, this Buck Rodgers cover from the 1950's, with a peer in skill, Wally Wood, inking Frank's pencils. Not only is it a gorgeous piece in terms of technique (at his peak, Wood was an astonishing technician with regards to texture and light), but the composition is magnificent.

As an artist, I can look at this piece and start to dissect it, look at how it was achieved, look at the choices that Frank and Wally made along the way. Same thing with the aforementioned Johnny Comet newspaper strip. When i get to Frank's Conan covers, I get lost. Completely and utterly lost in the colors, the textures, the circular compositions that make you want to look at everything all at the same time and don't allow you to concentrate on any one thing. They don't have to be perfect (although I defy you to have the balls to tell me ways to improve any of the Conan pieces) to mesmerize. They helped to define an era of art, of shrinking genre paperback books that we trapped in a world that was busy trying to pretend that it didn't need them. Like the Beatles or Elvis, there is pre and there is post and we are now utterly post-Frazetta.

Your younger reader who is used to seeing graphic novels and trade paperbacks in the book store will have a hard time understanding that there was a time when you would walk into the Brentano's bookstore and in the "cartoon" section would be some of the oddest books imaginable smashed up against each other. Back in the glorious days of 1978 one would find the Garfield collections next to Doonesbury collections next to Peanuts next to The Art of Frank Frazetta. Astonishingly, they wouldn't put his art book in the "art" section many times but in the "cartoon" section since, obviously, it had barbarians and other fantastical worlds, so it couldn't be ART. Therefore it was cartoon, right? I dare anyone to look into the eyes of a Frazetta female and tell me "that come hither so I can kill you" look is cartoony and should be next to Garfield.

Rest in Peace Frank.