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!