Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Work: Mary Jane by Hughes & Yoakum

Another Adam Hughes ink job!

Love trying to get that Jazzy Johnny Romita hair sheen on MJ. Adam does interesting faces, not stereotypical women's faces, and I'm noticing it more now inking a few of these pieces than I ever did just looking at the work.

These are fun!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Women In Comics: Yet Again, into the Stereotypes!

Over at the blog, Stuff Geeks Love, the post Strong Female Characters Who Actually Aren't has generated at least three different responses, one at Are You A Serious Comic Book Reader? and two at The Mad Thinker's Blog, and, despite real reservations to this, I'm jumping a little into the fray. (And in the interest of keeping the focus, I'm not going into the "rape origin" discussion.)

First, thoughts on the original post. While the blogger makes some points that I agree with in discussing stereotypes, I disagree with the dismissal of some of the characters that were thrown under the bus in the name of stereotypes. Starbuck is a perfect example. Relegated to the "wo-man" stereotype:
The wo-man is a male character who happens to also have breasts. She is written exactly as the male characters are, shares all the same interests of the male characters, and has all the same problems of the male characters. Other than the breasts, her only other signifier of being female is that she will be in a relationship with one of the male characters. In addition to Zoe, the Firefly character mentioned above, other notable wo-men characters are Dana Scully from The X-Files and Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica.
Unfortunately, the whole "wo-man" stereotype as defined by Stuff Geeks Love, dismisses just about every interesting female character that isn't a) a whore with a heart of gold or b)the innocent virgin. Here are a couple of my givens: that interesting characters are by definition not perfect. They have flaws, they make mistakes, then they deal with the consequences. Another given: that not all women have the same set of "womenly" traits, just as not all men have the same set of "male" traits. What does this leave us with? That there are women who can be mothers and go kick ass like me do. That there are women who can be loving and callous. That there will be women who can have sexual appetites as indescriminately as men, and that those same women reserve the right to change their mind if they want later.

Using Scully and Starbuck as examples of the "wo-men" pretty much invalidates her arguement already. Scully naver moved into the "man with breasts". She was smart, loved her own family, did her job, was, in general, a rather multifaceted character. If Starbuck, a woman in the military who is a trained fighter pilot, comes across as a "man with breasts" for being a killer pilot with a sexual appetite, then I'm sure that the real world should take a look at all the female soldiers that exist in the real world. How many mothers and wives deployed in Iraq would love to be called a "man with breasts" for doing their job?

Sadly, the real world is messy, and the best characters have their own rough edges in fiction. And I totally agree with some of the original post: if I see another whore with a heart of gold in fiction, I'm going to hurl the book against the wall. The next prostitute that shows up in one of my stories will be a cold hearted bitch, just to play against type.

And I do think that "Irony" was lost on the picture of all the different slave Leias posing with Jabba in that picture. Carrie Fisher did have a long discussion, that I cannot find the attribution to, with George Lucas over whether Leia would wear underwear in space on the set of the original Star Wars. She does bounce a lot coming out of that trash compactor.

Are You A Serious Comic Book Reader? veers into the realm of male comic readers becoming uncomfortable with the depiction of, gasp, penises on their beloved heroes. (Which, after all, ties into the sexuality of female characters and is somewhat parenthetical to the rape discussion: if too many of the female characters have been raped, then we would assume that the men have sexual equipment as well). A quick internet search on the Alex Ross Sgt. Steel cover, one that i blogged on back in 2007, should reveal the depths of homophobia that the average comic consumer seems to have.

Scott's Mad Thinker blog is one that I'm not a huge fan of. I've popped over to the blog a number of times and I tend to think that his posts just jump around way to much for me. Its clear that he's thinking about things, but the writing doesn't always gel with me. That being said, he at least thinks about things, whether I agree with him or not. He took the time to do research on the female characters who have been raped, as well as taking the time to annotate some of the lists that he found. He very accurately identifies that fuzzy thinking behind the original posts problems with Buffy, and I completely agree with his case for the men in Buffy being the ones that can't handle sexual power. The women in the series use and have sex according to who they are: evil and good in equal measure.

I think that I have to disagree that simply listing the number of female characters who haven't been raped to get a statistical analysis for the percentage of women in comics is missing the point of the arguement for the data: Comics have primarily been a boys club, and there are years and years worth of negative stereotypes to overcome, especially to a traditional male audience that is generally no known for having fairly enlightened views of sexuality. When the rape stereotype comes up, it can stand out a bit too much like a sore thumb, or at least lazy writing. As the comics ahve become targeted to a more adult audience, the suggestion of the sexual assault have moved from the inference to more concrete, and thus, has become even more disturbing. As a father of two girls, yes, it bothers me tremendously, and while you could argue that that makes the rape an effective dramatic device since I do have an emotional reaction to it, I'm tired of it. Just as too many years of off-off-off-Broadway plays in New York made me hate the "every male is gay, they just won't admit it" plot line constantly written by gay off-off-off-Broadway playwrites.

Give me something else.

There, I'm done. The flames can begin.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Jane's Addiction: the latest reunion

i've usually kept this blog just to comics and tried to keep it well focused, but tonight i realized that i had to post this.

I've known plenty of artists who were total video heads, who could keep the tv going in the background next to their drawing board and just look over occasionally. Ron Lim and Howard Simpson were two like that. I couldn't do that at all. I was the music freak, listening to music as a way to psych myself up or down as necessary, to keep me going on the late night deadlines, to add the soundtrack to the panels and images that i was creating. Each note somehow made the ink lines make a little more sense.

Jane's Addiction was at the forefront of literally decades of artwork on my part. Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro, Perk and Eric Avery were so much more than the sum of their parts with that band that they created their own little music reality. For those of us who loved them, they took the stature of The Who, or Zeppelin or the Stones for our generation.

I saw them twice back in the day and, sadly, was underwhelmed by the sound system, by that particular night's performance. I've sat through various incarnations of the band, with Flea or Martyn sitting in on bass for Avery during his 20 year feud with Perry and wished that i had had the chance to see them the way i had discovered some other bands: in a small club with all that energy, all that fucking over the top bottled up youth and noise and sex energy ready to burst and bust and explode all over the stage energy bouncing off of the ceiling and back into the crowd.

So it seem that they're playing again. At the el cid tonight down in LA, pretty much only to family and friends, maybe with a few fans coming in, but basically at a club that holds 150 people and you're standing in line for 9 hours on the hope and wing and prayer that you get in.

Except that you can't do that now. You're not a slacker working at Kinko's so taht you can knock out a cheap zine at 3am when no one is counting the paper stock. You're not closing down the bar and then going to sit in line on the pavement for 24 hours so that you can get in to see your favorite band. You're married and you have kids and a mortgage and a job and the time when that music seemed so vital seems like a long time away.

I loved these guys, and it did sit on the pavement back in 1997, drawing backgrounds on the JG Jones' Shi:The Series so that i could make my deadlines, for 8 hours back then to see the best of all the shows that i personally witnessed, and to see the crowd pull the MTV camera in to the pit just to fuck with the corporate tools who were sucking off of Jane's reunion with Flea. I love them, but its not 1988 again and Nothings Shocking is shocking, shocking that it is putting Poison and Def Leppard and all the other hair metal bands into wheelchairs and pushing them gleefully down the stairs to split their skulls open. "If you've got some big fucking secret, then why don't you sing ME something?"

I love these guys, but its not 1988. If they want to play again, I'll absolutely go see them, but it won't be transcendent, it won't change my life (again), and it had better not be the same 20 year old material. For their sakes, i hope that they write some new material and move on. We're not the same, they're not the same.

It was said so well in all the longing post mortems that surfaced in the wake of the band's breakup, "No one listens to Jane's anymore, because Jane's was the fuck soundtrack for a generation that has broken up."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Work: Donna Troy by Hughes and Yoakum

A little new something. Some more inks over Adam Hughes sketches for a collector. here is Donna Troy, a favorite from back in the days of the Teen Titans, is the cool starfield costume.

Ink and Copic Markers on Bristol. Starfield courtesy of Dr. Ph Martins Bleed Proof White.

Another Adam Hughes piece to follow!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cartoon Art Muesum: A Tribute to Gene Colan

There isn't a lot of press on this, and there should be. So I'm posting this up to help the great folks over at the Cartoon Art Museum.

Colan: Visions of a Man without Fear
Cartoon Art Museum Exhibition: November 15, 2008 – March 15, 2009

Opening Reception: Thursday, December 4, 2008
With special guests Gene and Adrienne Colan

The Cartoon Art Museum is honored to celebrate the life and work of cartoonist Gene Colan with a career-spanning retrospective entitled Colan: Visions of a Man without Fear. This exhibition will include over 40 examples from Colan’s long creative career, from his one and only story illustrated for legendary publisher EC Comics in 1952, through his career-defining work for Marvel Comics from the 1960s and 1970s on titles as diverse as Iron Man, Tomb of Dracula and Howard The Duck, to his notable run on DC Comics’ Batman in the 1980s, to his more recent efforts, including illustrations commissioned by his fans and his beautiful pencil artwork on titles such as Michael Chabon’s The Escapist, published by Dark Horse Comics.

This exhibition has been assembled by Guest Curator Glen David Gold, author of the novel Carter Beats the Devil and many comics-related essays. Gene Colan and his wife Adrienne will be the guests of honor at the December 4 reception, and many Bay Area comic book professionals are scheduled to be in attendance. Additional information regarding this reception will be announced later this month.

I'll be there for the reception, and so should you if you live in the Bay Area. Imagine, the original art for Iron Man #1 right next to the art for Iron Man & Sub Mariner #1, right next to rejected cover art for Daredevil vs. Captain America. If you don't know who Gene is, you're probably not really reading this blog. I expect to see amazing art from EC, to Tomb of Dracula, to Tales of Suspense, to Steward the Rat, to Detectives Inc. And Gene himself, who has been suffering from ill health the last few years, making the trip out here. Gene and Adrienne are genuinely some of the nicest people in comics and it will be a pleasure to see them again.

Don't miss out. When you come by, tell me you saw it on "Ink Destroyed My Brush"!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

In Review Of: Darwyn Cooke's Retroactive

I have to say that there isn't a whole lot to review here, other than to perhaps make the rest of the world aware that this book exists, but perhaps that will suffice.

I missed seeing Retroactive at San Diego this year, partly, I'm sure, since it sold out in the first day or two. A simple hardcover collection, slightly oversized, of Darwyn's work in a hardcover format.

Given the loose brush stroke slightly "cartoony"style that Cooke works in , one might think that it wouldn't be as effective large as it is in reduction, with the tightening effect when the art shrinks in size. The opposite is true, as the larger version lends a greater abstract power to the best images here, the simplicity of the image gains impact as the artist's choices are magnified.

It is a bit like what Lichenstein was after, but Roy was able to demean the medium of comics while at the same time trading in on their power and stealing from them for his source material. Many of the oversize pieces, such as "Old Miami" in the frontpiece, are so enlarged that we can easily make the grain of the rough tooth bristol under his brush strokes on the art. Other skteches, such as "Hal", "Jetage" and "Score" work even better at 500% than the do at actual size.

One of the best pieces in the book, an untitled Spirit piece done on duotone board, is one that i had never seen before, and was instantly captured by. A great deal of work went into this one, the planning of the four different tones (white, black, 30% grey, 60% grey) and it does a magnificent job of capturing the energy and tone of Eisner's best work. In a curious omission, there is no title for the Spirit two pager.

Mint copies of this book, by the way, will be impossible to find unless they're still in the damn shrink wrap. The back cover is mostly white, and already is showing scuffs on it from being in my studio on the shelf or on the table. Now, mind you, books in my studio end up getting used, opened, read, paged through but they're not dipped in ink and driven over by snow tires. Get used to seeing shelf marks on any of these and just move on.

It has long been my contention that more people would be impressed by comic art if they saw it full size. The reproduction may hide some flaws, but it also robs the art of some of its grandeur, and I simply that is a shame. When guests come over and see the various originals that I have in the house, you can see the non comic readers looking at the art in a new way, they're clearly seeing things that they would never have noticed with cheap printing and bad reproduction. Cooke's best stuff, from New Frontier to Catwoman, has the strength to stand no only on its own but to stand up to repreaded examination.

The Iconic Batman: Steve Englehart

With a twist of the cape, and the most devastating cowl ever to be put over Bruce's head, the Marshall Rogers Batman is delicious, dark, powerful version of the revenge archetype, and, as i've said many times before, the best version to ever get laid on to newsprint of the character. The team of Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin laid down the law when it comes to the Batman.

And yet, as Danny Boy posts on his blog, here is a little missive from Steve Englehart that says volumes:
As most everyone getting this knows, I wrote DARK DETECTIVE III beginning in January 2006, but Marshall Rogers died tragically and completely unexpectedly as he was drawing the first issue. What happened after that was puzzling.

A DC editor called up Terry Austin - not me - and said "There are some people up here who want that series dead, and Marshall's death gives them their excuse." Whereupon they cancelled the series. That in itself was not so puzzling, because DC has never liked the idea that the Englehart-Rogers-Austin Batman established the Batman film and animation franchise (and in retrospect, by creating the first adult superhero, the whole superhero film genre since 1989). They never deny that it did, because they can't; they just never talk about it at all.

I've exerpted my favorite part, but you have to go read the whole thing. Don't worry, I'll be here when you're done.

Back? Good. I was watching Constantine on Tivo last night, and basically watched a comglomeration of the best of Jamie Delano and Garth Ennis with a decent budget, but with nary a credit in sight. And its a shame. The Batman movies? Must be even worse for Steve, since, given how many times they're thrown a bucket of money at people to do a new and great version of the character, they keep going back to 1977 to steal the right ideas for the movies. That they decided to rip off the most recent version that Steve did surprises me not at all. Just makes me sad.

And really, they're not going back to 1939 to make this work, are they? They really are going back to Steve's ideas of what makes the character work in a modern context, because going back to a gothic Bob Kane version would be all kinds of retro fun, but would hardly work for the character in the present day.

Lis Fies, fresh from the editing bay, watched Dark Knight and had the same reaction that most people had: why doesn't the film end? Why are we sitting here in the theatre still when the main story seems to be over? Given that Lis was busy paring down her new horror opus The Commune down to its terror-soaked marrow, why, she wondered, is there a whole extra 60+ minutes of padding in The Dark Knight?

Good question, now we know.

Why not just pay Steve to write the damn first draft and hand that over to Nolan? Is it so hard to spread a little of that green around to people who are supplying your main ideas?

Yes, that is rhetorical. I know that. No one wants to let go of their money, not even a little bit. but where do you go from here? Do you want a third Batman film that is as bad as the third X-Men film? If you're Warner Bros., don't you want to give Nolan whatever it takes to get him on the third film?

Howzabout a good story?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Short Takes: Steve Ditko and Defiant Comics

Carl Potts, has a great post on steve ditko on his blog here, the best part being this little bombshell:
In the late ‘80s, Ditko told me that, when he quit Marvel in the ‘60s, he didn’t turn in two Dr. Strange stories that he’d plotted and penciled. My jaw hit the floor.

This was amazing news and I urged (begged) Ditko to bring in the story! He politely declined, saying he didn’t want the pages to ever be published or copied. I told him that I’d be happy to look over his shoulder as he flipped through the pages/ That way the pages would never leave his hands, but he still declined to bring them in. Since then I’ve fantasized about what those pages look like and what the story was about. I wonder if I’ll ever find out!
I somehow doubt that we'll ever see those pages until Steve passes on, and i wouldn't put it past him to have it written into the will to have the executor have to shred them before getting anything else.!

My near-miss Ditko story: I started working professionally at Defiant under Jim Shooter in 1992, just as Ditko had finished drawing the promo-issue of Dark Dominion #0. Defiant had offices on the 15th floor of a building on west 36th st. with both an elevator and stairs. One time Steve showed up and was told that Jim was in a meeting and would be out in about 15 minutes and would he please wait? Steve, who had walked up all15 flights turned around and walked out. He declined to wait, but came back about 15 minutes later for the meeting. Now Ditko was notorious about not taking elevators. Did he just go down the stairs and then come back up? There really was nowhere else to go! Everybody there was convinced that he walked down, and walked back up.

Ditko's last day in the offices was the day before i got there. Argh. I felt like Steve was just out of reach, as if he was slightly at a distance and in shadow, like all those original panels hiding the identity of the Green Goblin.

Ditko's best work, in my opinion was most likely on Dr Strange, although i always see them as an extension of the short story monster work that prevailed in the Pre-Marvel line. Some of those litttle twilight zone scripts received rare treatment by Steve in terms of beautiful light and dark work. His story about the man who traps death in a stasis ray is a great little gem.