Sunday, July 27, 2008
JH Williams, Bryan Hitch and a Bizarre Business Plan
I also can't wrap my brain around these two facts: one - that the artwork is so good that it is making his Promethea and Desolation Jones work look like a warm up to these issues, and two - that DC isn't announcing this work at the biggest comic show in the country. I mean, this work if absolutely flooring me, and no one knows about it.
A musician once said, "There are two kinds of guitarists: some, that when you hear them, make you want to drop everything and go home and play, and some that make you never want to pick up your axe again." I've got original Promethea pages, and they're gorgeous, but they make me want to draw. The Batgirl artwork just makes me want to go home and be a fan boy and wait for the issues to come out.
Perhaps, once again, this is a microcosm for everything that ails the comics industry. One of the great, not good, great current artists on their roster, and DC fails to take advantage of promoting stellar work to 140,000 unique visitors. Why? Perhaps because it doesn't come out for a few months. and yet Warner Bros. has no problem plastering the entire convention with Watchmen posters and bags, and that doesn't hit til March of 2009. With everything to gain, and nothing to lose, DC again makes the worst possible choice with regards to getting readers excited about what is, lets face it, a "B" level book.
Marketing people, please log in to post your resumes online. Clearly, unlike other jobs, success elsewhere isn't necessary.
Also had the chance to meet Bryan Hitch, whose work on The Ultimates was a revelation. Bryan was hard at work doing sketches, as well as being represented by his art dealer, Rich DeDominicis. I enjoyed seeing some some of the FF originals, which are huge, massive pieces of art, and thinking that Bryan's work is meant to be seen that way, that a 50% reduction may not be the best physical approach for reasons of reproduction, but man, do those originals look good. Also walked away with a sketchbook copy, and I may just do an inked version of a Hitch piece just for the hell of it. You can see a few scans from the sketchbook with this post.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
San Diego Con - In Review Of: Travis Charest's Spacegirl
First off, I had the fun of hanging with Bully at the W.H. Norton Booth, which is was great, as Bully is one of the few devotees that love the current Doctor Who franchise as much as I do. My only sadness was not getting a picture with the extremely photogenic stuffed friend. Bully's Comics Oughta Be Fun blog is one that I always love reading. They also had a new book on Jews and Comics that I forgot to go back and pick up, but fully intend to get my hands on.
Over at Steve Morger's booth in the illustrator's section, there were a great group of artists, and one of the fun little delights was seeing Travis Charest's Spacegirl in hardcover form. Simplified into a single strip per page format, with only 55 total, Travis plunges us into the story of Spacegirl with nary a thought of world building, over wrought narration or even annoying intro. Spacegirl is that cool sci-fi movie you stumble on to in while channel flipping and you fall in love with. What universe are we in? don't care! Gimme some more cool stuff!
Travis an amazing artist, one that JG and I used to marvel over while he was doing WildCATs with Alan Moore. With his insanely delicate lines and detailed, layered approach, I can hardly imagine anyone less suited for the horrendous grind that is monthly comics. If there was anyone that I wanted to see do a hardcover european album, it was Travis.
Coming up, reports on JH Williams and the single best book that DC is going to publish this year that they decided to not promote, San Diego layout and useablilty, Steve Rude and oil painting, and enough reviews of make you wish that you had more time to read!
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
The Carnival: The Human Hourglass
The San Diego Multi-Media Experience
I recall having a lot of second thoughts about where the convention was going just a few years ago, as the toy companies and movies started to move in. I'll admit, it too adjusting to given that we were used to having the little corner of geekdom to ourselves and didn't have to share too much.
And you know what I think that's like now? Its like starting to hate a band you discovered on college radio or Myspace when they get big. I'm sorry that your "property" is now everyone's favorite, but really, just 10 or 11 years ago this thing was dead. DEAD. Comics were dead, the Con was aging rapidly, and i was publicly comparing us the best Horse and Buggy manufacturers when the Model T started rolling along.
What I expect to see over the next couple of days will be pack with people of all ages, all able to get their freak on with whatever sub-genre stokes their furnace. And, man, thats the way it should be. I mean really, I could care less that the zombie lovers would have to make their way past the Naruto folks and Alex Ross line. The fact that we have that many different art styles and story styles butting up against each other should be refreshing. Bring the kids, let them see just how much cool stuff there is out there, and let them grow up thinking that there is a world of stuff for them to learn about and absorb.
Now we're not a dying art form, we're actually a MASS MEDIA again. Don't argue with me that the periodicals aren't selling, that business model is outmoded anyway, Phil Seuling saw to that with the creation of the direct market. After all, isn't it about the stories, the art, not just the delivery system?
I'll take your thoughts on it later. Back to work on The Carnival: The Human Hourglass.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Avengers Original Art: Truth or Consequences part II
Here are scans of the Essential Marvel Avengers, Avengers #1, which does not have the job code, in the lower left corner.
And, interestingly, the splash for Avengers #2, which does have the job code.
I'll answer a few of the thoughts that Danny Boy has posted. One, that I've changed my mind in one way from looking at the scan of the Avengers #1 splash, and that I like seeing the page number marked in the lower right hand corner. That adds points to me on the legitimate side. Also, that there appear, from other comments, to be repeated sightings of the original in collections prior to this apprearance on ebay. It lends a lot of credence to the page being either a) legit albeit restored and cleaned or b) a recreation but not one of recent vintage.
Personally, the fact that the page might have been restored or deacidified or some such is rather beside the point. Yes, I prefer the art with the warts and all; I love Kirby's margin notes to death, they're fascinating. However, the original art is preferable to anything, and given that the artwork is almost half a century old, you take it the way that you can get it, period. If I had that kind of money, I would be bidding on it too. Should you find a lost DaVinci, you take it the way you find it and feel lucky at that. Same thing with this. Its not the holy grail, finding pages from FF#1, but its close up there.
Here is the other part of this: the job code could easily have been stripped off at the printing stage by someone working with the negative. Happens all the time with those printing methods. And here is the kicker: the job code makes sense. The job code on the Avengers scan is X-337, the job code for issue #2 is #X-435, issue #3: X-525. As I read the old job codes, the first number is the month, the second and third are the place in the schedule. So not only does it fall into the monthly position, but all three issues fall into the same relative place on the schedule. (issue #4, BTW, does not have a job code.) Only someone who had an understanding of the codes could have produced the piece.
Does this make it legit? Not entirely, but it certainly elevates it. Since the auction has been ended prematurely, I'm willing to bet that the owner was offered an insane price for it, and simply sold it to a private collector. I have the feeling that we'll never see that page again for the next 20 years.
Peace out. Looking forward to San Diego.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Avengers Original Art: Truth or Consequences?
You can clearly see here the red pencil used to note the issue number on the top margin here at the top of FF #20 page 14. I have no idea what "No. SPS" means.
Here, at the bottom of the same page, is the thick black marker used to denote the page number.
And here is the code seal on the back.
And now, Avengers #14, page 24. Interestingly, there is no large black number on the bottom of the page as the artwork has been trimmed, but we get the same sort of markings on the top part of the page, from book to page number.
Interestingly, there is no code seal on the back of the Avengers page, which I find rather interesting, considering its vintage. Perhaps trimmed off of the bottom?
and, ah! I see that Dan posted a new post with other scans from Avengers #1 on his site while I was typing this. Ah well, more data to mull over!
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Whither San Diego?
Gone, clearly, is the element of surprise.
OK, here are my plans: I will be going down to San Diego to do a lot of the usual. and that usual is not sitting in Artist's Alley, as I was never able to secure a space, even when working at DC on Batman, but roaming around, talking to friends, looking at expensive artwork, and generally absorbing the zeitgeist of being around COMICS.
Lets face, even while the convention has been about becoming the popular media convention rather than comics, I appreciate that people are coming, still coming to what looked like a dying medium only 11 years. I love the little pieces of paper, but I love the books more, square-bound, prefect bound editions of things that I enjoy reading. Stories and art that fire my imagination. I'll be drooling over artwork that I can't possibly afford, but I keep believing that if I stare at it long enough, I'll figure out the puzzle of what makes the piece work and be able to apply it to my own art.
I won't be happy to be walking around on saturday, with the aisles full to the brim and making it impossible to actually get to some of the places that you had missed the first two days, but thats just the way that it is. 140,000 unique visitors last year? I doubt that they can hold any more.
I recall going to one of my first San Diego, perhaps my very first, 20 years ago, and thinking that this was an old man's game. And old and unwashed man's game to be sitting around behind these moldy old books and cheap rented folding tables. And it wasn't the San Diego that I thought I'd be getting. And then, while hanging out in front of Marvel's booth (yes, Virginia, they had a booth back then. And two folding tables.), Jack and Roz walked by. No one else went over to them, so I did. I'm so glad that I did.
For the record, this is year 20 for me. So, yes, 1988 was my first San Diego Comic Convention. Those oldtimers can say that I'm still a fairly new attendee, but I think that 20 years isn't too bad. I slept on the floor of the Westgate staying with my college friend Ron Lim, who had just started working for Marvel the prior year. He was kind enough to let me crash there for a couple days.
And it was good to be there. See you all down in San Diego. Come up and say "hello!" if you happen to run into me over the art tables.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Recreations of Original Art: Avengers #1
The first post, here, describes reading the fine print and figuring out the scoop, along with finding a dealer who is repping the artists doing the recreations. The second, here, talks about the splash page to Avengers #1 up for auction... and the whole discussion of whether it is really Kirby or not.
Danny Boy also brings up something that I've thought many times: there is no reason to recreate what still exists, and I make a case in point "The Life Of Captain Marvel" trade paperback from a few years ago. Clearly Marvel was using low quality stats, or bleaching out original copies of the comics. The brush work was muddy and degraded. As someone who has lived those books as the best part of my childhood (Captain Marvel #25 - 34 and Marvel Feature #11 & 12 since you asked), having it all contained in one easy to read volume was a dream, and I simply couldn't look at the reproduction. Given that a large part of that Starlin artwork in held by about 4 individuals (and you're reading a blog by one of them), I would certainly be happy as can be to send a bunch of 600 dpi scans to Marvel, for free, so that they could have perfect copies for their files. They just have to ask. Why aren't they doing that for the Masterwork Series?
Remind me to tell the story of the Starlin collectors one day. Kinda funny.
The Carnival: The Human Hourglass
You were warned.
I guess that you could and should file this under "process", for what its worth, but as I finish pencilling page 3, I've decided to wait on the inking until I've gotten more than a few of the pages in the fully pencilled stage.
The inking is the fun part. so is putting on the lettering, since then, to me, it becomes something more than just drawings. it truly becomes a comic when you can read the damn thing.
Its true, I hate pages without the lettering on them. The old Valiant pages would drive me insane since you couldn't see where the balloons were going to go, you couldn't read them afterwards, it just ruined it for me. I love my '70's artwork that has those great Marvel word balloons wiht the big lettering. Its fun to simply marvel at.
It also makes sense to know where the placement is. Simple reason: white word balloons count as positive space, and they can compliment or completely screw up the flow of your page as an artist. you're busy spotting blacks on the page to help lead the eye through the panels, and to have that level of storytelling taken away is a mistake.
I know, bitch, bitch, bitch.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Original Artwork: The New York Times
I've been saying to friends, as well as in my recent post on original art, that I feel slightly collected into a corner. The pieces I want are literally moving further and further out of my grasp with every day, and while I'm incredibly happy to get the recognition over the artwork that I love so much, I hate that it's moved beyond people like me. That hurts. The fact that David Mandel, producer of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" owns the original Kane cover to Giant Size X-men #1, a Miller Daredevil cover and the last 4 pages of the Killing Joke, says two things to me:
1 - the man has excellent taste and I'd love to meet him sometime and
2 - I must be nuts to think that I can play in this art market anymore.
I recently finished a book on big time art frauds over the last century written by a former curator and "fraudbuster" for the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art and I found many of their detection methods as well as the description of the art market fascinating. As recently as two years ago, I spent more money than I had ever spent on a single piece of art, purchasing a twice up Kirby FF page from Heritage Auction. Upon discovering that the Kirby signiture on the art is a fake (while the page is indesputably real), I had a discussion with a representative from the Gallery over the need for provenance for this art. She brushed me off rather nicely, but I tried to make my point enough for it to stick: the art is starting to move into real money, not just a couple hundred bucks here and there, and we need to know what is up with these originals.
This article just illustrates, in very black and white terms, that four pages of the Killing Joke together represents more than $120K. I'd say that the insurance company likes knowing that these originals are in place and properly ID'd.
And, honestly, I have dreams where I see the pages that I could have had back in the day when I bought my first pages (1988 I would guess). Why the hell does it mean so much to me?
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
New Work: Digging into The Carnival
For all those who like to see the process, I thought that I'd start with a single panel, thumbnail blown up a couple times on my copier so that i can lightbox it to finished pencils.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Top Hits: Marvel Boobs
Those two words are guaranteed to keep the folks coming back for more. Not the erudite commentary, nor the opinionated verbosity that drives my wife nuts. Not even my continual evisceration of Vinnie Colletta. No, its tits.
The Marvel kind.
Courtesy of George Tuska and Fred Kida: Madame Masque's rack, post-coital.
Baby! They don't grow 'em like that anymore. Scanned from the original.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Vinnie Colletta Redux: Its not the man, its the work
- Nothing seems to keep getting the email like my post on Vinnie Colletta from almost a year ago. Lets go back and revisit the subject because, like most people, I hate getting emails that attack the messenger for the message.
Facts: I never met Vinnie, and have no knowledge of him other than all the stories that I heard from the people who actually knew him. I'm a generation removed from actual Vinnie stories. I have no doubt, as McSplurge below says, that conversation rings true. The conversation in question shows that the comic business is as petty and as much a business as any other, and that the people are more than human in their faults. I have my own issues with Shooter (and not with Levitz or DeFalco as I simply didn't work with them), so I don't need Vinnie's issues. But I didn't call anyone to task for being a "lowlife", this is all about the art.
And the reality, I believe, is this: Vinnie could ink, when he wanted to take the time. I actually like his approach to Thor with the thin crowquill lines. They added an interesting look and texture that old metal printing plates were actually able to keep up with. It really complimented the "feel" of the book, which was very different from what Kirby/Sinnott were doing over in the FF. As well, we know from the romance stuff from the '50's that Vinnie could draw when he wanted to, or when he took the time. But many times on Thor, and even more often on his DC work in the late 1970's, Vinnie continually took shortcuts and didn't give the work his due. That is what pisses me off. And that is why I applauded Evanier's post at the time. Just because someone has died, I don't feel the need to make them a saint. I'm sorry that it might hurt people's feelings, but the printed work is the printed work, and much of what went out with Vinnie's name was substandard work, because he felt the need to take it all on and crank it out.
I dislike sloppy, careless or just plain bad work. And I reserve the right to call anyone on that. Including myself. Not everything that I did was gold, believe me. And I would never claim it as such. But from a professional standpoint, Vinnie didn't take care of business, which in my book is delivering your money book, not just hitting the deadlines, in this case Thor in the '60's, in pristine condition.
Rule #1 for the working inker: Don't over commit yourself so much that you can't deliver the pages in good condition. Rule #2 for the working inker: Don't use politics to cover up your mistakes. Eventually, it won't work. That is the problem with depending on connections to get inking assignments: eventually the regime changes, and if your work doesn't speak for itself, you're in trouble. That's Marvel in the early 1980's for Vinnie right there.
- Below is a list of the comments from my original post. You're welcome to reread the original post as well to see if I actually attacked the man himself.
- McSplurge said...
Vince Colletta made everyone around him better-Jack Kirby, Jim Shooter, Stan Lieber, Marvel and DC as a whole...I loved reading the transcript of the conversation and it rings absolutely true. As someone who knew Vinnie for many years I can say that. As for the lowlifes of the business, Paul Levitz, Carmine Infantino, Stan Lieber, Tom DeFalco...your destinies are, for now, unknown but as we all know, what goes around, comes around.
- McSplurge said...
By the way, who is this nobody named Mark Evanier?
- Dan McFan said...
Thor was late because they threw Vince an X-Men or other book that needed to be inked over the weekend. Did this happen every month? Go find out instead of patting Mark Evanier on the back. "Good for him"? Exactly. Self-serving crap. I am blogging Evanier at http://ismarkevaniermentallyill.blogspot.com/
- Anonymous said...
Good article except for the editorializing. I agree with the commenter who took you to task for writing "good for you". I thought Colletta's work was OK and also that he never got a fair shake from "fans" like you.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
In Review Of: The Essential Captain Marvel
Baby, the Essential Captain Marvel is on Earth in the swinging '60's and ready to party.
Lets get to the chase right here: this is not stellar stuff. It is interesting, however, to read the early issues and see Gene Colan quickly moving through stuff that is not entirely up his alley. Case in point: the early set up scenes with Mar-Vell at the missle base, disguising himself as a human have a quiet grounding in realism that makes them tick, but the majority of the first issue is given over to a fight between a Kree Sentry (the one from FF#72 I believe) and Mar-Vell that Kirby would have made crackle with power, but Gene muddies up with some sketchy figure work and less-than stellar cropping. Doesn't matter really, because your attention will be given over to Roy Thomas' over the top hyperbolic apeing of Stan the Man's dialog style.
I'm actually very happy with the classic Gil Kane illustration that they chose for the cover, even if its not very appropriate for the volume. And can we nit-pick on the logo? Correct logo, but bizarre size. They actually decide to redo the cover on the pre index page, use the same illustration with a different crop and larger logo, as if they knew that they messed up on the cover and couldn't go back to those photoshop files. Bizarre. And not entirely appropriate for a collection given over to Mar-Vell in his classic green and white Kree uniform.
The premise is interesting, the Kree Captain sent to Earth to get it ready for attack, but it is clear by the 10th issue or so that the book is not working, (there really are only so many ways that one could twist this and keep the initial premise going and they actually use very few of them before giving up) and thus begins one of the more interesting experiments in Marvel history: the complete reinventions, of a book while its still being foisted on the unsuspecting fans. The middle period for this book, would be an odd mish-mosh of storylines and contradicting characters.
It only took 10 issues before they decide to jettison the original story line, even killing Una, his one true Kree love, in an almost off-handed way in a tiny panel of issue #11. So much for being the hugely important part of Mar-Vell's life. #11 was entitled "Rebirth", and gave Mar-Vell terrific new powers by way of an outspace acid trip from the creature Zo.
We then return to Earth to pick up the old storyline with Danvers and the military base, but there is little or no grounding in reality here, just an annoying android called the Man-Killer. Yon-Rogg is still around, but marginally so. At the end of #14 we're drawn back into space with Zo, and throw Mar-Vell back to Hala for a whole new storyline. By #16 we finish up on Hala and find out that Zo wasn't real, and that the last couple issues were a complete illusion. Perhaps you could get your 15 cents back from the drug store. Mar-Vell is given his new costume with three pages to go of issue #16 and promises a whole new space adventure, when, in a complete rewrite, he gets thrown in to the negative zone for no reason what-so-ever.
And the series almost ended right there. Not very promising is it?
But then, they bring in Rick Jones and about three different fill-in issues trying to find a direction. Some rather kinetic Gil Kane artwork as well. But none of it has even a hint of direction.
And then, in a final twist of fate, came Jim Starlin, and following him over from Iron Man, came Thanos of Titan and Drax the Destroyer.
And the final reinvention of Captain Marvel was about to begin. Ha! Top that Omega the Unknown!
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
In Review Of: the Fantastic Four by Millar and Hitch
So I decided to wait out the first story arc of the Millar/Hitch series and see how it all wrapped up. And now we know. At the start of the second story arc we can officially say that Mark Millar has no feel whatsoever for the Fantastic Four.
Many of the elements that you would hope for are there: the multiple storylines happening all at once, the introduction of amazing new concepts just around each page turn, the long standing family bickering that you would expect.
And yet somehow all that adds up to nothing. Primarily, we always thought that Reed cared too much about, well, everything. He could hardly take anything lightly really. So we expect him to care about Nu-Earth, about the C.A.P. robot, but there is never a sense of him being all that involved is what is going on. There is also the matter of a terrible deux ex machina to finish off the four issues that is so awful I can't really figure out how to make fun of it.
Ben's character is not as "off" as Reeds, but the funny thing is, he is the most ignored character in the book. Time was, the Torch was given one label, "hothead", given about three petulant lines in the book and Ben Grimm, the heart and soul of the team, given to being the "go-to" character for a good moral or some decent comedy. Millar doesn't know what to do with Ben. And worse, Hitch can't draw the character. The Thing has different body dimensions from an ordinary human, and Hitch hasn't taken the time to figure them out. He "looks" wrong proportionately.
The flow of ideas that Millar is producing should work for the book: Sue decides to put together an all female side team, the kids need a new nanny (one who is clearly more than she seems), but there is just nothing but a resounding silence of emotion where the characters should be. Johnny seems to be the best defined, but then that has also been the case for the movies as well, so the characterization should come as no surprise there.
Hitch is working twice up on the art, and it is giving him the ability to really over do detail, in ways that are not making the art work. There is something of the scope that Jack had when his artwork was done twice up, but Hitch makes us feel that the letterboxing has somehow gone awry on the art. FF #556 is a mess art wise. the snow storm is so over done that it is almost impossible to make out the work beneath. As well, look at the two cover versions. One, sans balloon, is almost a compelling image, while the other has Ben saying something that, well, just isn't Ben.
Maybe he's a skrull.
Ooops. Just kidding.
I would rather that Millar is a skrull than admit that this is the best FF that he can do. It doesn't work as a comic, a deadpan series of scenes that look fun but don't add up to much. The first family of Marvel, not the X-Men, deserve better.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Original Artwork: The Holy Grail
The brutal reality: I cannot afford to get the art that I would need or want to add to my collection anymore. Its simply too expensive. I'm afflicted with the curse of not wanting to part with any of the art that I've collected so far, and now find little that I can actually get! Partly because art prices have gone up so much, and partly because the stuff that I want is almost impossible to get.
Should ComicArtFans ever decide to do one of their weekly interviews of me, here are the pieces that I'd list as my 5 most desired pieces of artwork:
1: A Marshall Roger/Terry Austin page from Detective Comics #471-476 Doesn't even matter which page, this is simply the best Batman ever. Sharp incisive inks, Rogers at his innovative best, Englehart writing a compelling story that established the best Joker ever as well.
2: A Bissette/Totleben Swamp Thing page from the Demon trilogy (Swamp Thing #24-26). Alan Moore at his innovative best as well, and Bissette and Totleben really finding their feet on the series. Extra points for a page with Etrigan on it.
3: A Dave McKean Cages page from issue #4, with the artist and his neighbor talking all night while the Angel plays. Alan Siegel has been jacking the prices up on the cages pages over the last 3 years and it really annoys the hell out of me. Makes me sorry that I ever bought my other Mckean work from him back in the day.
4: A John Totleben page from Miracleman #15. Do a search on my blog for my post on that issue. Devastating work. Don't care that it took a year to do. Fine. Worth every second.
5: The cover or splash to Captain Marvel #29 I've met the person who has these, and while I'm very glad that they exist, and, in fact, that I've at least had the good fortune to see the splash in the flesh so to speak, i'm also sure that they're not going to change hands for less than $8K, and I'll never have that money, so there you go. Two of the most formative pieces of Bristol board there, and I'll never get my hands on them. Ah well. At least they're safe.