Sunday, November 18, 2012

Can Mort Weisinger Be Redeemed asks Arlen Schumer

I have an answer for Arlen.

No.

Weisinger and those early folks at DC Comics were evil and deserved to die long before they did. It still wouldn't have made a difference to the nearly blind and destitute Siegel, but it might have made him feel better.

"They kept sucking him in with stock options?" For all the horrible things that this man did to the poor creative individuals that had to work under him? Don't tell me, "Well, that's just how the business was back then." Bull. You can still make some money and you don't have to destroy the lives of the people under you just because you can. I don't care how unhappy this man was, He took it out on everyone around him and made their lives hell.

Forget about all the little contributions that he might ahve made to our favorite little nostalgic power fantasies. Simply look at how far from being any sort of good person Weisinger was. Viscious, belittling, emasculating, career destroying, eviscerating. Think, instead of this: without him ruining all the good stories and art that could have been done for Superman, think of how much better those comics could have been.

Read Men of Tomorrow, read what the artists and writers under him had to suffer through. And you'll never feel sorry again for him dying at a mere 63. All that evil, rolled into one insufferable man. and all because those poor people had the dream to work on a four color fantasy. And there was nowhere for them to go. Pay attention artistic folk, this is what happens: they die rich and you don't. And they hardly ever get their comeuppance.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tony Harris v. Cosplayers: Really?

There are rants and there are RANTS. This one falls into the catagory of "rants", but its funny and i like funny. Tony Harris, of Starman and Ex Machina fame, launced into a rant about cosplay girls on Facebook that Valerie Gallaher quotes in here article in The Beat. At the risk of being redundant, go read Tony's comments there and come on back if you wish.

You know, I blasted comic conventions in the 90's when it became popular for Playboy Playmates to come and sign centerfolds of themselves to the typical "Simpsons" comic conventions: fat unwashed men with no social skills and a distinct odor of permanent virginity about them, partly because i thought "that this is how low we've sunk?", partly because i thought that there is no way we can get girls and women in to comics if this is the environment that they have to come into", and partly because it simply didn't have anything to do with comics.

So now Tony is upset that we have hot, sexy cosplay girls. And while i'm not into cosplay, I just don't see how its a bad thing. Yes, some of them are serious comic geeks getting lots of attention playing their fave characters, and lots of others are just getting attention, but man, it just doesn't bother me. I don't care why they're there. I don't think you want to cosplay unless you want attention, unless you want someone to actually get your costume. (I saw one kid dressed as the gluttonous spirit from Miyazaki's Spirited Away and went over to tell him that i loved that he dressed up. His comment? "Finally someone gets it!!" so, yes, if that made his day, then great.) I've seen plenty of Power Girls and sexy Catwomen. Fine with me. Not because I like oogling sexy women in skin tight lycra and neoprene but because, well, they care enought to show up and get into the spirit of things.

I mean, c'mon, comics were dying in the 90's, and now we're pop culture, finally. Again. And women are part of the equation. Thank god. Now, Tony does way more cons than i do, and perhaps he has simply been put upon by too many women dressed up as sexy Catwomen or the Mist and he's totally over it. Perfectly legit. But for all the girls love this stuff, and want to dress the part: great, let them enjoy themselves however they want. I can't hate on anyone who has decided, for however many reasons, to show up in an intricately detailed costume. I'm just glad that they're there and into it. Not because i'm dying to see yet another "Slave Leia" but because that doesn't take away from my con experience.

Oh dear, its going viral. Can't Rob Liefeld do something now to take the heat off of Tony?

Friday, November 02, 2012

Before Watchmen: Are we trolling or what?

Dollar Bill?!? We're going to get a comic on Dollar Bill?

If you don't remember him, you're not alone. If you do remember him, its because you've read Watchmen a million times and you remember that he was the laughing stock, the one panel joke about how not to dress for the part of being a superhero.

And now, as a late addition to the Before Watchmen line, we get Wein and Rude's Dollar Bill.

Sadly, reading this while reading "Marvel Comics: the Untold Story" dovetails with Heidi McDonald's older post about DC's treatment of Moore, and how utterly distasteful the fans are towards the greatest writing genius that comics has ever had.

I really hate to see all the top notch talent that has been working on the Before line. I don't even have to name the names, you all know exactly who is doing those books. I would just have killed to have had them all working on new, amazing projects rather than desperately trying to fill in the gaps on a comics that was systematically designed to have gaps in just the right places to make the meat of the story work along the way. Its sad. And as they have said, "Hate the game, not the playa."

Well, there has never been a bigger gap in the Game and Playas than there is right now. Comics are more name driven now than since the first wave of "big names" changed the how the marketing worked in the mid-80's. And never has the potential for new properties and publishers existed alongside Marvel and DC trying desperately to hold on to the properties they have, and to squeeze every ounce out of them.

It would be interesting if, when we looked back, this was one of the final straws that might have broken the back of creators being willing to have their work published under the old paradigm. Such superior "name' creators such as Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey are off doing their Creator Owned Heroes book, and are clearly busy creating more characters and ideas than just about anyone else right now. More innovation from that writing team alone than anything that we're seeing at Marvel and DC currently.

I like Len Wein, and I love Rude's artwork, just as i love Hughes and Jones, but i don't think that i need a Dollar Bill comic. I hope that the royalties are enough to help Steve out from his financial difficulties when they collect all this. But i wish that this industry was so... so different.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Charles Burns & Chris Ware: Talking Comics

The audience was all artists. Really, you could have held a very interesting Mini-Con in the aisles.

I'm talking about last night at Jewish Community Center in SF, which hosted Charles Burns and Chris Ware talking comics and showing art and generally being raconteurs about a profession that delights in hiding in your room hunched over your drawing table. And it was utterly fascinating on a number of different levels. Ware and Burns come to the table with a veritable ton of critical accolades, and a couple decades of material behind them, so to see and hear process from them is terribly interesting if you're an artist, but it is hearing the thinking behind the work that is even more interesting.

Ware, in particular, has always presented work that very clinically seems to rip apart seconds and minutes into tiny fragments and present them in both a combination of logical progression and dream order. Your eye gets pulled, sometimes, into the negative space surrounding the moments, and for the dizzying combination of images presented in the two page spreads in his latest Building Stories box, when he illuminated the under drawing and progression that it took to build such a page, it was quite a bit more organic that you would originally have thought. The interesting part: Ware's comment that, and i'm paraphrasing here, that "he continually looks drawing the next panel in context of all the panels that he had done prior." One of his best quotes: "I consider the writing of comics to be the writing and drawing of the comics." while showing a full page of blue line under sketches with black ink lettering on top. For all the division of labor in corporate comics, Ware's work in that stage looks no different that an old Snuffy Smith page in progress.

Burns' work has always carried a more organic quality to me, it was obvious the amount of ink that was being loaded up on the brush, and how he was feathering the dual lighting that highlights his darkest works, so it was doubly interesting to see him present the Tintin images that formed part of his childhood, and that now influence his current trilogy, of which "The Hive" is book one. When one thinks of Tintin, you think of well constructed panels in the "clean line" aesthetic, not the ink heavy noir of Black Hole, but it all starts to make sense in context. The surreality of some of Herge's work fits perfectly into the Burns aesthetic.

Moreover, it was interesting to hear two artists coming from a completely different background than i usually see. After having worked the mainstream business of superheroes, its not unusual for me to look at guys like David Mazzuchelli, who broke free from that style to form his own unique work. Much like the guys i knew growing up who read only undergrounds, and idolized Rick Griffin, Robert Crumb and Gilbert Sheldon, here was a compeltely different aesthetic, and whole different way of approaching the look of the material. Artists who weren't necessarily burdened with the need to shed any lingering Kirby or Swan influence before moving off on their own. Really, the blue line construction of Ware's looked for all the world like very simple and very solidly constructed drawings ready for inking. It is in the ink and color stages that they take on that utterly unmistakable "Ware look and feel". Burn's mainstream influences were global ones, such as Tintin, and it has left him with an organic legacy to his work that feels both familiar and much like the other.

Major props to the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, which put on this panel, for free, on a night when people could actually come. Excellent work by them. They deserve support and kudos for makes talks such as this available to the artistic community. Also props to Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik, who alerted me to the talk talking place as it had slipped beneath my radar.

Marin Magazine: A Little Local Publicity

Clearly Marin magazine has lowered their standards, as yours truly gets half a page in the November issue. The interview is by the irrepressible Eve Pell, who made me sound better than i usually do.

Many thanks to both, of course, for their time, effort and ink.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Rudderless 70's

Was just perusing a few of the Amazon reviews of Marvel Comics: the Untold Story when i ran across this bit:
The history of Marvel reads like a series of epic story arcs. There's the Big Bang of the 'sixties; the rudderless 'seventies; the Jim Shooter era, with an editor-in-chief seemingly dedicated to sabotaging Marvel's entire line of books; the boom and bust years of the early to mid 'nineties, in which the Heroes World distribution debacle and the mass defection of artists from Marvel to Image (who, once there, were incapable of releasing their books on time) helped to put thousands of comic shops out of business, just as Marvel, the former industry leader, declared bankruptcy.
And it caught me in that, as many bad '70's books as there were (and YES, there were some terrible 1970's Marvel Comics), there were a significant handful of truly amazing Marvel Comics that came out in that decade which may be glossed over by that simple phrase in the review above.

I've prepared a number of times, and scrapped, posts about using someone else's properties to make a meaningful personal comment, and just how difficult and, yes, strange it is to think of using someone else's character for that. And yet, with no other venues available, that is exactly what those 1970's arteurs did.

Shall we see the rudderless '70's as a company with no over arching vision? Of course, because if someone was really watching, and Jim Shooter would soon be, we would never have had Steve Englehart doing his own personal take on Watergate with his Secret Empire storyline in Captain America, or Jim Starlin exercising his personal Viet Nam and Catholic upbringings in Captain Marvel and Warlock. Don McGregor wouldn't have been able to make Jungle Action: Starring the Black Panther into a personal forum to battle racism and social injustice, nor made Killraven less a derivative science fiction story than a mediation on the rising and advancing of the last free people traversing North America. Would P. Craig Russell have had the chance to develop his singularly lyrical art elsewhere under a DC house style? Starlin wouldn't have given us Thanos. And Gerber, yes, Gerber would have never breathed life into the Man-Thing, let alone Howard the Duck.

Oh, and have we forgotten that, in 1975, a little book called the All New, All Different X-Man would come along and basically save the industry?

I can't wait to read more on this book.

Having my local bookseller, as always, order it for me, not on Amazon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Return of the APE: 2012 In A Nutshell

Without question, this is my favorite show on the circuit. While all the Marvel and DC names were sitting in the dedicated artist's room on NYCC, we Indie artists WERE the show at the concourse here in SF. I practically sold out of my own book, a full printing of The Carnival: The Human Hourglass in a first edition with color cover, got to talk to some other great artists, and picked up some books that i can't wait to read.


Tablemate Alex Sheikman, pictured below, talking to some of his fans, sold his handsome hardcover of the Dark Crystal Prequel Volume 1, and showed off originals for volume 2 due in December. I kept my originals out to catch people's eyes as they walked by. For no advance notice, after all, no one was coming to the show to pick up my book, I was happy to see that the work had some visual appeal as it certainly drew a decent number of folks over the table's edge.

Apparently I'm pretty old skool with my art, as i'm still using ink on paper. But really, should we be surprised at anything anymore? With the digital age upon us, there really is no way anymore to know just how images are being created. You could be scanning your sketches, creating your own brushes in photoshop, doing work on your Cintiq, or simply putting ink on 2 ply bristol with real, not virtual, brushes.

In any case, the computer has clearly led to images as striking as Sho Murase's single illustrations, images that would have been far more difficult to produce in a less digital age.

I have a great stack of books to read on the shelf behind me: Sushu Xia's China Comics, the Lilah-O one shot, Gabrielle Bell's The Voyeurs, Daniel Cooney's Valentine TPBs, the Holguin/Sheikman Dark Crystal and Luke Pearson's Hilda and the Midnight Giant (which looks like an instant classic).

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Human Hourglass Color Cover

Just wanted to send out an image of the color cover of The Carnival: the Human Hourglass that will be on sale at APE in two weeks or so. I've not had any work in color for a while, so this is fun to see.

This version of The Human Hourglass will have a full color cover, black and white interiors and sketches in the back.

Alex Sheikman and I will be at table 740, so come by and say hello. Buy comics, have fun!

Friday, September 28, 2012

A new panel, coming into focus...

Panel 3, prior to inks. Taking shape, however.

The Carnival: One Last Note, Before I Go Preview Edition should be available at APE in San Francisco October 13th and 14th. I'll also have The Carnival: The Human Hourglass for sale, and my friend Alex will have lots of good stuff as well.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Front Cover Color: One Last Note, Before I Go

Working a little bit further here on the new Carnival story, and while i posted the black and white yesterday, tonight i wanted to give everyone a sneak peak at the cover color comp with come of the trade dress on the cover.

Not finished however, just getting there.

Hope to see some new folks out at APE, the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco. Its basically all different kinds of comics, just about everything you can imagine, except superheroes. Its a great reminder of how diverse the medium can be. Alex Sheikman and I will be out there on saturday and sunday at table 740.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sneak Peek: The Carnival - One Last Note, Before I Go


Yes, bad blogger, no question. I'll try to get better. But in the meantime, I've hard at work at the next Carnival story, trying to get it done in time for this year's APE in San Francisco. Just wanted to put up a small peek at the front cover, sans color. You'll see the small thumbnail, worked out with marker, as well as the finished art. comments appreciated of course.

I'll try to post more art this week!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

You did WHAT to my comics - Opening Sept. 9th

Normally the idea of someone taking an Xacto knife to their comics would have me shaking my head in frustration, and yet Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik finds a way to transform the pieces he cuts into striking, colorful Jewish themed compositions. He has a Northern California show in San Rafael with the opening on September 9th.

Its really, as you can see here, stunning, intricate work that has both a sense of playfulness as well as a much deeper layer of meanings, but only if you find yourself enough of a geek to recognize the texture of Johnny Storm's flame or the glow of a Lantern power ring being used in the service religious metaphor.

The reception will be from 4pm - 5:30pm, Sunday, September 9th at the Osher Marin JCC on North San Pedro Road. It is being held in association with the one and only Marin comic shop, Blue Moon Comics.

What is so fascinating to me is to see the comic book iconography taken and changed so dramatically with the context that Isaac put it in. It is one of the most amazing reimaginings of the panel work that I've see, and I've certainly seen a lot of comic book iconography appropriated over the last couple decades. Somehow, there is a spin to the design that never completely divorces the pieces from their past while at the same time allowing the visuals to become completely themselves.

For more visuals or text, check out Isaac's site here.

Its cool stuff. come check it out the originals. I'll be there, talking comics and having wine when i should be working on my stuff for the 2012 San Francisco Alternative Press Expo. Yes, I'll be at APE again this year with new work. Sharing a table with Alex Sheikman (of Robotika and Mouse Guard fame) again. More on this later!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Avengers Annual #10: Worst to Best Cover Ever by Michael Golden

Among the hyperbolic winners in our comic group's informal chat sessions: best comic with the worst cover. As opposed to many issues of Rom: Space night that had great covers and regrettable interiors, or plenty of other issues with solid interesting Cockrum covers and, again, generic interiors.

#1 on the list, always, was Avengers Annual #10, the utter tour de force from Michael Golden and Armando Gil, a comic where, literally, every page was a stunner and a new lesson in how to do Marvel comics. Introducing Maddy Pryor and Rogue, it turned into a lynch pin of understanding the New X-men as well. Amazing. And it was saddled with this cover. 

Don't get me wrong, I love Al Milgrom. As I've said, he was one of the two biggest influences on my inking and it is to my current regret that i've not met him in person to thank him. But this was not his best work. It honestly looks like something knocked out at the last minute in the office when another cover didn't work and the deadline was, well, passed most likely.So I've honestly no idea where this piece came from, other than it might be a commission by a fan for Golden to do what would have been his take on the cover. The style says to me that its fairly recent, but your could try to convince me otherwise. Either way, its beautiful, and i'm psyched that someone went to the trouble to get the correct trade dress for the art. Enjoy the comic that might have been.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Toby Keith Project: Gulacy, Yoakum & Mounts

Finished panels from the Toby Keith project with the astonishingly talented Paul Mounts doing the colors.

Wow. Paul and I never had it so good.

The animated piece is for the song "Beer for my horses", and is playing, so I understand, at a Toby Keith concert near you. If anyone goes and sees it at the show, I'd love to hear from them how it was presented.

Sketch A Day #42: Fernanda Zombie Slayer pt. 2

the lovely and kick ass Fernanda holding the body part of some poor unfortunate that no longer needs it. Dr. Sketchy's in the Mission District.

Me trying to ink it like David Mazzucchelli inked Batman Year One, which had a loose and lively ink line to it. Does anyone mind not having every lace done in the boots, as opposed to the suggestion of there being laces in the boots? The artist in me wants to put in the suggestion, the fanboy in me wants to put in all the laces.

Mirado Black Warrior, #4 Utrecht red sable, Koh-i-noor india ink

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sketch A Day #41: Fernanda the Zombie Hunter

just back from another edition of Dr. Sketchy's in San Francisco, armed with a few new pieces of art. Here is one of my two favorites from the evening.

Was clearly rusty on the drawing tonight. Using my inking chops versus drawing are two very different things for me.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Quick Peek: Gulacy & Yoakum Storyboards

As you can see, i've been gone from the blogging world for over a month, pretty sketchy even with my history. Paul Gulacy and I have been hard at work on storyboards for an animated piece for Country and Western singer Toby Keith. Just wanted to share a few of the panels before the esteemed Paul Mounts gets his hands on them and makes them look 10 kinds of incredible.

edited to add: for color versions, click here!
yes, it was impossible to keep up my sketch a day with the addition of the freelance work that i picked up. sorry for any of you who were actually entertained by the drawings. they will resume tomorrow!

Monday, May 07, 2012

In Review Of: The Avengers (2012) by Joss Whedon

Be warned, spoilers included amidst the gushing.

I struggled with the opening sentence of this, but the best thing that i came up with, the truest thing, was also the first: Joss put the best part of my childhood up on the screen. Not in any Wonder Years sense, but the part of my childhood that disappeared into the four color world of the comics at the age of 7. Its 1973 and the Avengers are being tricked by Loki and Dormamu into battling the Defenders in Steve Englehart's Avengers/Defenders cross-over. I've just started reading comics, an escape from the nasty playgrounds and bullied bus rides to and from school in Houston, Texas. I'm picking up Iron Man, The Avengers, Captain Marvel, Daredevil and the Fantastic Four. Daredevil and the FF are not in, how shall we put this, their creative prime. The first three? Magic. Iron Man, in the Avengers and guest starring in Captain Marvel, kicks ass and takes names, and there seems to be no end to the inventive stories. The Celestial Madonna? Thanos? The Zodiac team? It was a world of wonder.

And Joss understands everything that was cool about those comics and he's put it all up on the big screen. If the common complaint is that superheros are power fantasies, then we get to see the proper application of that power. this is something is commonly missing among the pundits who want to make a psychological hash out of those of us who loved sueprheros. "Juvenile power fantasies" the common derogatory remark. Yes, but it wasn't out of using the power to bully, we all knew that power all too well. It was how we would use the power if we, the formerly weak, the ones that no one else would protect, ever got the chance. Captain America  was a reminder of the root nature of the appeal of the superhero. Just as Joss understood the need to turn the tables on the blonde walking down the alleyway alone in Buffy, here he understands how they should act. How they should fight.

Oh and yes, how they fight. the most glorious fight scenes ever recorded with superheroes and with the proper use of their powers. From Cap's Adamantium shield to Iron Man being both smart and powerful, Stark using his mind as much as his armor. The scene where he confronts Loki out of the armor may be one of the best of the movie. And we get the team, as they become one, deferring to Cap, the ultimate soldier, who gets to turn to a weapon unlike one that any general has ever been able to wield, The Hulk, and give him an order: "Smash."

So why reference the Englehart issues? Because clearly Joss read them and loved them and knows a good moment to steal when he sees it. Here, from Defender #10, still sitting on the spinner rack in my living room, is the moment when the Hulk tries to pick up Thor's hammer... and can't. It plays beautifully on the Shield Helicarrier in the movie.

They finally got the Hulk right as well. Mark Ruffalo plays Banner with a resigned air about him, with an apparent edge underneath as well. Its a great, pocket, tour-de-force performance, hidden among all the effect laden grandeur. Hiddleston's Loki is excellent as well. If there is anything else that Joss brought to the movie it was the sense that everyone in the ensemble had to have their moment to shine, and there are really great moments for all the characters. No small feat that.

Small quibbles, because, yes, there will always be a few. The blue on Cap's uniform was way too bright. And its hard to miss. And since they nailed Iron Man's armor, Thor's Simonson outfit, and the Widow so well, its a little shocking to see that bright a blue. The uniform itself is fine design-wise, but more of a navy next time please. The middle third of the movie could be tighter. We spend a lot of time on the Helicarrier waiting for the coolness to start, and for the heroes to figure out why Loki allowed himself to be captured, and it takes a little more time than it should. Perversely, i wish that the anonymous aliens that attack were some species that we'd see before. Badoon perhaps? Just a name change would have been cool. That's about it.

And because talking about the alien race leads us to the post-credits sequence...

And because Joss knows that, if this makes money, which it has, and if you can actually get everyone back for a sequel, there are very few places that you can go to surpass Loki as a villian. The final, post credits sequence, with the alien complaining to his overlord that the humans aren't as weak as we thought leads us to  the one final twist set-up. Anyone reading the bio part of my blog knows that it was Starlin's Captain Marvel series that, literally, changed my life. So punch in the gut when the overlord turns his head and it reveals Thanos is one that, well, took my breath away. If they decide to do a second one, it will be because this makes enough money to validate them doing a film with Thanos, and all I hope is that a certain kree Captain at least gets a name check. But for now, Marvel has, astonishingly, rendered me truly speechless by making the superhero film of my dreams. Wow.

Hobgoblin by Romita & Yoakum

final touches added, here is my first work over the legendary John Romita's pencils.

I think that i could have done a hell of a Spider-man cover back in the 1970's. Given that i cuold have wrest the job away from Esposito or Giacoia for an issue.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Almost Finished: Hobgoblin by Romita and Yoakum

Almost there, just have some touches to add to this piece for a collector. Its inks over a John Romita sketch, and boy, is this fun!

I'll post the finished product tomorrow....

Thursday, May 03, 2012

In Review: Michael Chabon and the Art of the Conn

Richly imagined, in its own little constrained world, the surrogate dopplegangers of Stanley Leiber and Jacob Katzenburg reach the end of their lifes and try to reconcile or try to avoid reconciliation when little is left of the world that they had started. How does it end? Badly, as you would expect, and messy, in all the ways that you would also expect.

Finally had the chance to sit down and really read through Citizen Conn by Michael Chabon from the February 6 & 13 issue of the New Yorker and it was an interesting read, but ultimately and puzzling one. I'm not surprised by Chabon working comic book territory again, after all, he loves the stuff down to his DNA as much as I do, as much as i expect the readers of my blog to, and so, instead of being upset with him mining comic book iconography and mythology (as I am with Lichtenstein), I appreciate his take on our favorite guilty pleasure medium. He can write, really write, and its a joy to read his sentences as opposed to so many other writers.

So for him to turn to the ugly soap opera ridden uncertainty that is the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby is certainly interesting, and certainly his take on the story is the right one: rather than assigning who did what in the never-to-be-visited past (there is nothing more subject to the Roshamon effect than the origins of the Marvel Comics Group), he visits the later days of these creative giants. Days when the pages no longer fly off the board and the typewriter is still and the effects of money, time, lawyers and long ago signed backs of Work For Hire checks have long since had their way.

But, tellingly, the Kirby of the story has no Roz to take care of him. He is a prototypical loner, who toiled at his drawing board for too many years and never had the support of a wife or children, and so it is the Kirby surrogate, Morton Feather, moving into an assisted living facility while struggling with bone cancer, who has no dilution of focus. The Stan Lee of the story, Artie Conn, may be married, but we see none of that, we only see his attempts to reconnect with Feather so many years after the Fantastic Four, Thor, The Hulk, and, of course, The Avengers.

It focuses the anger that Feather feels towards Conn that neither has a spouse who walks on stage during the story to take the focus. The female rabbi who narrates wisely has a husband who stands in for us, the average fan, and we get the chance to see how ineffectual our love and devotion to those long yellow paged stories is. It puts us in our place almost instantly and takes us out of the narrative to the benefit of the story.

No, the focus, the rabbi would have us believe, is in the betrayal that was felt in the late '60's when promises were reneged on and Lee signed up to a life of solid wealth and Feather... oh, hell with it, Kirby forced to move to DC and a life of decaying freelance assignments and meager checks. After all, the rabbi's husband, and, by proxy, us, have our joy in opening those books and discovering those stories and becoming enmeshed in the world as Lee and Kirby unfolded, month after month, but, lets face it. We're nothing compared to the men who took the time to create and live in those universes first. While we merely rented an apartment there, no matter how vested we THINK we, they built the whole damn subdivision from an empty lot. Chabon's case, as i see it, is that the money and the lawyering and Stan's taking credit was secondary to the betrayal of the partnership with which those two created.

Those of us with interest in those sorts of things have read plenty of contradictory interviews regarding who did what. And its clear that it will never be settled because, for too many years, their working method was too streamlined, too overlapping, too damn quick given the deadlines to not just keep filling the pages and stay on a roll. Like your favorite band, there is no way to know who came up with that one riff that played perfectly off of the rhythm; both the bassist and guitarist will remember it as something that they came up with, when, in reality, there was a synergy that allowed the creativity to spin off into far more interesting directions even through disagreement.

And that's something that gets brought up all too often in the painful details of Stan and Jack's splintering. That there would have been a number years when the business started taking off again and the books got better and Stan and Jack were creating so much that the pages and the issues just flew by. And while it was exhausting it was probably also exhilarating with both men doing what they loved to do and seeing it all start to come together. They were in their moment and that moment would be about 6 brilliant years of sleepless nights and feverish working days and ink stained hands.

Chabon sums it up in the penultimate paragraph, when Lee's doppleganger gets to exclaim, "You know what? that wouldn't surprise me a bit. he always took everything so seriously." in reference to the idea that the partnership was the defining moment for Kirby, while Lee, more easy going in temperment, simply moved on. Kirby's desire to create was likened to a force of nature within him, so of course he'd take it all so damn seriously. And when you add in the money, oh all that money we know about, then it changes things. The story's solution is a simple solution, and one that we know works well in comic book logic: sadly, real life is so often messier and far more complicated.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

International Storytelling Part 1: French Albums to Kill For


If the British and the Americans can be people separated by the same language, then what are we to make of reading graphic novels in a language other than your own? How common is the visual language of comic storytelling?

It is an intriguing proposition to explore, given all the work that I’ve done in the blog over the years discussing storytelling, as I’ve been loaned a number of graphic albums recently. All in French; none of which, to my knowledge, having ever been translated into English at any point, leaving me with an experiment. How much to gleam from the storytelling alone, from the visuals, the character designs?

Up for discussion today is Orbital by Pelle and Runberg, Lupus Vol.1 by Frederik Peeters and Sambre by Yslaire and Balac. Peeters, of course, authored the brilliant Blue Pills that I reviewed years ago here, and still think fondly of (given that I believe that I loaned my sister in law my copy and I don’t think that it ever came back to me, but that’s a quibbling point). The other writers and artists are unknown to me. And I fully admit hating to type that sentence. Because I love this medium, and like most Americans I find myself provincially mired in the American comics scene, when there is a whole world of astonishing artists with which to explore.

So, without speaking a word of French, what can we take from the reading of these stories? Both a little and a lot, and much of that comes from embracing the different: different art styles, different story pacing, and different levels of imagination. Lets start with the last one first.

From the very beginning I believe that the American comic book was constrained by three things: the criminal low class with which the books were produced, the format that they were presented in, and the success of Superman. At the very onset of cheap reproduction, the pulps were overtaken by the one thing that comics needed, a hit. And a hit that would codify the way that comics were perceived (low budget crap with poor art and poorer stories), the format in which they were presented (short chapters that easily fit into a defined page count for a periodical), and that they presented a powerful nostalgia factor (kids reading Superman would want to go on and create “their” Superman for fun and profit (and, it turns out, litigation)). Super heroes would dominate most of the American market for the next 90 years. The Europeans, with a longer tradition of art and storytelling magic would produce Nosferatu to our Dracula, and years later Lt Blueberry to our Two Gun Kid. There is no way to measure the seismic difference between those books.

So what can we take away from those books? That the French are utterly, astonishingly, so much less fettered in their imagination that even when working on very familiar ground they inject freshness into the story. Sambre appears to be a love story between a young, depressed nobleman and a beautiful vampire. The middle third contains one long intercut seduction/sex scene in a crypt that is gorgeously drawn and staged. Orbital looks to have a future Earth being invaded by dark spider/insect aliens and the drama of the rag-tag interstellar who will have to learn to work together to save the planet.

Lupus? I have no idea what the fuck is going on. Other than it appears that Peeters doesn’t own a pencil and simply goes straight to ink on every panel that he draws. The wet, inky boldness of his drawing both sucks me in and makes the book appear to have simply appeared from his sketchbooks as opposed to the intricate work in Sambre and Orbital.

There is more design imagination in the construction of the Orbital architecture than in the last 12 issues of Fantastic Four and X-Men. And, yes, there are certainly echos of McKie, and Alien and Blade Runner and the Rebel Alliance but who cares? Even working the interstellar troops trope the books crackles with conviction

Next up: thoughts on how the page count and page size contributes to the storytelling experience (and differences therein). Not to mention the revelation that men have penises during sex scenes.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Inks Du Jour: Supergirl and Batwoman by Noto & Yoakum

A commission to ink and tone Phil Noto's pencil work by good friend Steven Woo. He picked up the finished piece today and left me with a new, intriguing one to work on. I'll post that later when it gets finished.

In the mean time, enjoy the fully finished Noto piece. I wish that he would fill in his own work to this level. I've seen a number of his pieces that look almost done, but never seem to get there. Fortunately I get the opportunity to do the work myself sometimes...

I have an open schedule for a little bit if anyone wants commission work, contact me via the blog.

Koh-I-Noor ink, Rafael brushes, Hunt 102 nibs and Copic Markers on bristol

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sketch A Day #39 - No, thats not a perm

I'll be upfront about it: I keep doing the Wonder Women because, one, the costume is too much fun, but two, primarily, because i don't like the way that i draw women. So, clearly, one has to continue to draw women and work on it until you get it right.

This means that you do NOT just draw male superheroes punching the crap out of each other because you've never actually been with a real woman.

I know that I lost a lot of audience right there. Just go on back to watching Big Bang Theory and think, "I'd know how to get Penny." In the meantime, I'll continue to work on until they do things like have internal organs or spines that don't show their boobs and ass at the same time.

Speaking of which, its quite nice to see that on my Google stats, the term "Ms Marvel Boobs" has fallen from being one of my top ten search engine hits. Currently, however, "Naughty Wonder Woman" is trending.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sketch A Day #38: Wonder Woman in the Victorian Age

A liittle more work and i finalized this in a way i was almost seeing in my head.

Did things a little differently this time, since the sketch a day project is specifically to make myself take chances and do some different things.

After coming up with a pencil drawing that i liked, I lightboxed the drawing onto bristol. First I added the tones using Copic markers, the inks on the outlines with a vintage hunt 107 crowquill dip pen, then did the interior cross hatching with a hunt 102, and finally a the hair with the Rafael 8404 size 0 brush.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sketch A Day #37: Victorian Wonder Woman

a new Victorian Wonder Woman piece in process. didn't really capture what i wanted from her the last two times, nad thats kinda what this whole sketch a day process is about: creating and moving on and not totally obsessing about the ones that don't work. Move on and make one that does work to your satisfaction.

yes, its true, i totally fell off the wagon for a few days. sorry. life gets busy sometimes is all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

RIP: Jean Giraud 1938-2012

A giant has left us, and, since he was French and didn’t do a moderately lengthy run on the X-Men at some point, there is a lot less fanfare than there should be. Jean was a GIANT in his field, and stands at the highest peaks of what it is to do with comic art. While the rest of the American comic book artists see that there is little beyond the world of superheroes, Jean, the FRENCHMAN, created the sweeping vistas of art that graced arguably the best sustained western comic epic, Lt. Blueberry, and then moved to science fiction, opening Moorcock’s door and exploring the Airtight Garage, designing uniforms for Ridley Scott’s Alien (even doing a short story with screenplay writer Dan O’Bannon that I consider a minor masterpiece). How about mentioning his short humerous pieces? Of the beautiful fantasy, Arzach, or his more lyrical illustrations that have graced more publications than can be counted?

This is not a comic book artist, this was an artist. And one whose craft was beyond remarkable. His visual shorthand showed a degree of craft that matched his vision, and one can only imagine that it was borne out his not being straightjacketed by the narrow minded vision of the American comic book industry.

It was long said that Jack Kirby got to the top of his mountain and couldn’t see the next mountain, and that Gil Kan got to the top of his mountain but didn’t know how to get to the next mountain. Moebius simply didn’t see the valleys between and strode rather effortlessly from one to the next. While I don’t always agree with that analogy, I will make the case the Moebius is the musician who appears to be able to play anything, and his ability and talent masque just how damn hard he worked.

Ah, yes, Moebius. Jean Giraud made the excellent choice to do his science fiction work under the pen name, perhaps freeing himself from the constraints of his western style for Blueberry, perhaps freeing himself from having to be any one thing, since it was clear that the Airtight Garage, his delightful epic serialized in the 1970’s Heavy Metal, took Jerry Cornelius into places that Michael Moorcock’s imagination simply wouldn’t have taken him (which, yes, was the entire point of Jerry anyway wasn’t it?). Heavy Metal, originally the best place to find hand drawn tits and ass for us naughty juveniles in the days before internet porn, now gets to be remembered more fondly for introducing us to European artists whose imaginations weren’t limited to Siegel and Shuster hand-me-downs. (Was there anything like the beautiful open line Moebius illustrations sitting next to Phillipe Druillet’s interdimensional space gothic cathedrals? Even if you weren’t stoned, there was this whole other reality that existed to open up new synapses of your brain just for trying to understand to the artwork.) That the original Airtight Garage may not have had the best translation only adds to the charm of it.

And what to make of the pen name itself? The Moebius strip winds and loops around to itself, never finding a beginning or ending, it is too perfect for the reality jumping of the Airtight Garage which needs neither a beginning or ending but, like all reality, is a series of nows that flow from one to the next.

The Incal work he did is breathtaking, although it has suffered through what appears to some onerous coloring issues that make some versions less than desireable, as well as even more onerous publishing histories of the sort that make me just want to pick them up every now and then and enjoy them in small doses. The wordless Arzach fantasies are a goldmine of subconscious images that resonate on very emotional levels with many. Moebius’ imagery is so good that it has been appropriated into world wide pop culture over the last couple decades.

Jean Giraud was an artist’s artist, a shy man that I met once in passing and, quite honestly, didn’t know what to say to him. He is one of those artists whose work has burned into the visual cortex of my brain and I don’t quite think that its ever going to leave. And it isn’t about copying him, which is terribly difficult since his work was so unique  and it generally looks like you’re just doing a poor man’s Moebius, but it’s about looking at his approach to storytelling and design. His approach was so rich and imaginative. His establishing shots, his character design, he gets his visual perspective right, and when not given a rigid structure, he finds all the subtle ways to make hard visual regression shots work and impossible shots look easy. He was an artist’s artist.

And a real giant.




Friday, March 09, 2012

Sketch A Day #36 - Femme Fatale

A femme fatale, based on an older photograph with cool dual lighting of Helena Christianson.

HB Mirado Black Warrior on Bristol

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Sketch A Day #35 - KA-BOOM!

Drawn on the beach at Carmel-By-The-Sea this last weekend while reading over The Clockwork Prince and Tale of Sand.

HB Mirado Black Warrior on sketchbook paper

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

In Review Of: World's End Volume 1 by Tim Perkins

Very few times has someone pulled off such a beautiful thing as actually showing us the end of the world, meaning the true edge, where the water falls off into the cosmos, and the final inches of land give way to the stars and nebulae. Three quarters of the way into his debut graphic novel, one printed in full color and in a very handsome hardback edition, Tim gives us that edge shot on a two page spread with full bleed... and then dives back into his story, what appears to be a young adventure coming of age story, repleat with wise magician, evil villians from another dimension and even a mysterious girl who may or may not eventually become a love interest to young Ralf.

I had the pleasure of working with Tim back in the '90's at Defiant Comics, and it was clear from the long hours of working on pages with him that there was far that he wanted to do story-wise. Cutting his teeth on the fledgling British comics scene before coming over the states, he learned all sort of craft and it all shows up here. Jim Shooter's emphasis on clean, clear storytelling shows up here, as there is no point in the novel that you see style over substance, to where the art overwhelms the story. I bring this up because it is so important that, in a graphic novel that could very well target a younger reader, you don't want to lose them along the way. They will be come vested in your characters by story, not by endless splash page after page. Tim does a great job of keeping the story moving forward in a clear and concise manner.


And the color is brightly rendered, giving the book a full, rich sweep of colors to the panoramic shots of the alien worlds. This is no cheat, where the artist draws the background once and then conveniently saves time by dropping the background out. Tim doesn't skimp: we are front and center in a world not of our making from the first page, and it never lets up. As much attention is lavished on the interior of the invading alien's spacecraft as it is to the beautiful desert panoramas.

The story is an introduction to a much larger world, and on these coming of age stories, there is much that is saved for the later volumes. We get a scant three pages worth of the young girl Zephol, and i'm assuming that she'll play a much larger role in the narrative since she gets to be on the cover, but we spend very little time with her in the book. The majority of the book is devoted to Ralf, local scamp and royalty, and the Mathemagician Gweldar, who is equally at home casting some spells as is flying a scud bike, so he had a foot in each world as well. Unfortunately we barely get started on our quest to the World's End before we're at the end of volume 1.


Tim has long been documenting how work on the first volume over at his blog Wizard's Keep, and you can order this first volume over the web here. Go take a chance on a new author making a big leap and publishing his own work! Supporting artists directly is best way, obviously, to keep them creating new and entertaining works for us to read. (Tim also does a great job of detailing the backstory of the making of World's End in the book, describing his process in the creation of the work. Wonderful material for any aspiring artist perhaps motivated to try his or her own hand at creating the their own work.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Sketch A Day #34 - Busted!

A little fun, with our cat Voldemort standing in for the unfortunate tabby.

Still loving the victorian Wonder Woman costume, having fun drawing it. Just got Jim Henson's Tale of Sand, adapted by Ramon Perez today. i'll be reading it over the weekend and getting back to you all with a review.

Personally, I think that the cat isn't in nearly as much trouble as he thinks he is: a true Amazon appreciates the thrill of victory.

Sketch A Day #33 - She's My Kinda Girl

Didn't like my original sketch that i was working on, one of the victorian Wonder woman holding a pussycat. i'll keep working that one til i get it right. its pretty cute.
This one? an excuse to pull out my #1 and #4 brushes and let the bristles feel the texture of the bristol board. you don't get THAT on a Wacom.

Of course, i stole the title from Ramon Perez's blog that he used to post pics of the pretty girls on, my little homage.






in reality, of course, here is truly MY kinda girl.


Thursday, March 01, 2012

Sketch A Day #32 - Victorian Wonder Woman

 not entirely happy with this one, but there are some things that i like about it. This was the second pose for her and the one that i finally liked. The up shot on her face is tricky, and i'm going to go back to that until i get the regression in space correctly.

This was inspired by a cosplay photo of a Victorian Wonder Woman costume that i found on the great Fashionably Geek site. i fully admit that i never found anything that worked for me on the traditional WW costume. It simply made no sense as anything other than Marston's fantasy female dress-up. And that wasn't working for me on the comic book page (although the drop dead gorgeous, sexy and classy Lynda Carter was certainly working for me back in the 1970's) when it came to drawing her.

Running across this jpeg of the cosplay and another variation of the costume recently made me want to draw her just to do some versions that would make more physical sense in the real world.

yes, i know, i didn't get the bracelets right, and i'm not sure that the swoop of the material behind her is attached correctly. Perhaps if someone knows the cosplayer they can get a few more photos sent my way so that i can get the details correct. Thank you, whoever you are.

Amended to add - I was quite correctly pointed in the direction of Himearts.com, which is the home of the most amazing cosplayer, Riddle. Her victorian Wonder Woman page is here. Just clicking around, many of her other costumes are simply amazing as well, hopefully she won't mind my providing the link.

What is also killing me on the photo is the porker Captain America in the background. Man, that is funny.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sketch A Day #31 - Samurai!

Reworked a sketch from this last saturday and came up with one that i really like. Reminds me a little of Mike Oeming's stuff on the mid-period Powers series that i liked.

Little more cartoony than I usually do, or is this just a cleaned up version of my usual style?

"G" nib Crow Quill, Brush, Rotring Technical pen on Bristol


I know that a lot of mangaka like the "G" Nib, but i'm having a hard time using it on bristol, it stalls out when i want it to start a line. I still prefer the old style Hunt 102s. Any thoughts by other artists out there?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sketch A Day #30 - A Rolling Pin

After all the work at Dr. Sketchy's on saturday night, today you get one of the challenges from 642 things to draw book:

A rolling pin.

Enjoy!