Saturday, 15 August 2009

a couple of observations following upon previous posts ( sun 9 aug, weds 5 aug).

Mike Sacks' Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers had a few leftover exclusions that have been showing at McSweeney's. I quoted from the one with Dan Clowes a few days back. Now I'm reading the one with Roz Chast (part1, part 2). My question is: If he's left out the funniest cartoonist of my generation, who on earth is included?
What was it about Addams's cartoons that appealed to a 9-year-old?
For one thing, I "got" them. I couldn't relate to some of the other New Yorker cartoons, like the ones in which grown-ups said witty things to each other at a cocktail party. That just didn't make any sense to me; I had no idea what a cocktail party was, really.

But with Addams, I understood the jokes. It was sick humor − very black. They were funny to me. Plus, there were kids in them! A few of his cartoons I've never forgotten. One had an entire family pouring boiling oil onto a group of holiday carolers. In another one, the Uncle Fester character is waving to the car behind him to pass, even though he knows an oncoming truck is approaching. Or the cartoon where Uncle Fester is grinning as he watches a movie, while everyone else sobs. So many great ones! Very transgressive.

Wolcott Gibbs, the New Yorker writer, once wrote that Addams's work was a denial of all of the spiritual and physical evolution in the human race. Maybe I related to that.

...I feel that on my deathbed, which is something I hope to eventually have, I'll probably look back and wish that I didn't always look on the dark side of everything. But how can you not? You could die at any time, for any reason. You're walking under an air conditioner, and kaboom! My parents actually know someone who was killed by a falling flowerpot. But we have to kind of go along and put one foot in front of the other and pretend that we don't know that everything could take a serious turn for the worse in the next second.

On the problem with Hollywood movies being mostly that they are intended to be taken literally, my post was followed by a debate up the pub with my pal mr Duds, who often pops up in the comments here. I posited that The Village (2004) is my idea of a good Hollywood movie that has a lot going on above the literal level. I had forgotten that you can't mention this movie without starting an argument. The wikipedia page sums up the positions:
a) The movie received mostly negative reviews. Roger Ebert gave the film one star and wrote: "The Village is a colossal miscalculation, a movie based on a premise that cannot support it, a premise so transparent it would be laughable were the movie not so deadly solemn ... To call the ending an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes.

b) Philip Horne of The Daily Telegraph in a later review noted "this exquisitely crafted allegory of American soul-searching seems to have been widely misunderstood".
I watched the movie five times when i first came across it on a long flight and I'm with the second chap.
In other news:
SYDNEY (Reuters) - A Dutchman and his grandson boarded a flight to Sydney, looking forward to visiting sunny Australia, but ended up in a much chillier Sydney -- in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Joannes Rutten, 71, and his 15-year-old grandson Nick booked the trip through a Dutch travel agency with plans to visit family living in Wollongong and Tallong, south of Sydney, according to local newspaper the Illawarra Mercury.
They set out from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport with Air Canada on Saturday but instead of arriving to views of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House, they touched down at Sydney in Cape Breton Island, off Canada's north east coast -


Friday, 14 August 2009

i usually avoid carrying somebody else's advertising, but it's in the nature of our times that art of a sort is often made in the service commerce. Anyone who has ever tried to make a film will immediately recognize this one as exceptionally clever. Do not take my purloining of the video as an endorsement of the product.

Some of the Scottish names in the credits have got me all teary eyed. Alison McDonald... Annie McCredie... Shug McGurk...
(My pal Bob Morales brought it to my attention)

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Thursday, 13 August 2009

kseniya Simonova is a 24 year old artist who won the Ukraine's Got Talent contest with 13 million people watching the finale. This blew me away.

(thanks To Pam Noles for the link)


thomas Pynchon's new novel is out. Sean Rogers in The Walrus looks at references to comics in Pynchon and references to Pynchon in comics.
In his new novel, Inherent Vice, released last week, there’s a part where Thomas Pynchon has a character say, “I am aware of the Freak Brothers’ dictum that dope will get you through times of no money better than vice versa….” Later, another says, “Listen, I came up in Temecula, which is Krazy Kat Kountry, where you always root for Ignatz and not Offisa Pup.” Now, I haven’t finished the book just yet, but still I got to thinking about Pynchon and comics.
Ever attuned to the lower frequencies of American culture, the wavelengths where rock and roll and monster movies and The Tube all play out, Pynchon is an author who can ably salt away a few references to comics, too, throughout his works.
Rogers even uses my drawing of Alan Moore intoning Pynchon's name, from How to be an Artist

Speaking of sea-dwelling creatures, John Coulthart is reading Moby Dick and has reached chapter 55 wherein Melville looks back at ancient depictions of the whale and describes their grotesque inaccuracies. "Now, by all odds, the most ancient extant portrait anyways purporting to be the whale’s, is to be found in the famous cavern-pagoda of Elephants, in India..." John attempts to find some of them in old engravings and illustrations. Here is my own favourite old whale. It's from Punch, either 1849 or 1850 (i have the books but today i don't have the time), and almost exactly contemporary with Moby Dick, drawn by Richard Doyle. A whale had beached at Margate and the Duke of Wellington was arguing with the locals over ownership of the carcass. The noble custom of putting the beast back in the water had not yet been invented.

Speaking of Wellington, in a town named after him:
WELLINGTON (Reuters) – An extremely drunk, naked man lost his way at a New Zealand hotel and ended up sleeping in the wrong room, forcing its female occupant to hide in the bathroom, local media reported.
The 29 year-old Australian man had gone back to the hotel with a woman, but got up in the night and wandered into a bedroom where a couple were sleeping.
"He was a bit surprised that there were two people in his room and he was butt naked," Sergeant Steve told the Southland Times...

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Wednesday, 12 August 2009

two more images from The Playwright, the most colourful, sexiest thing likely to ever come from my hand. And if that sentence sounds like one of the Playwright's own double entendres, so let it remain.

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Tuesday, 11 August 2009

another episode of "It's funny how things turn out."

I've been scanning all the Bacchus artwork recently for the big collection in 2010 and particularly enjoyed revisiting the second volume, The Gods of Business (drawn 1987-88). The art on this one was by Ed Hillyer over my roughs, with the lettering and balloons placed by me in ink. They were alternately as rough as the one on the left (with Ed's finished version on the right):

And as vague as the one on the left (again with Ed's on the right):

(For a handy introduction to Bacchus, Rob Vollmar Posted his excellent Comics Journal Article in two parts (A, B) on his blog last year)

Ed Hillyer was the first small press guy after Paul Gravett, the Man at the Crossroads, to pop up in front of me when I started casting my eye around for fellow travelers in 1981. In typical Campbellian fashion, I think I began by biting his head off over some imagined slight. He had been introduced to my work by Paul at the office of Psst magazine, where Paul was working in a sub-editorial capacity, and where I had deposited some samples. The manager there had taken offense at some implied sexism in one of these samples. It sounds daft now, especially given some of the ugly crap the magazine went on to publish, which nobody remembers anyway, but women were trigger-happy about taking offense back then. Anyway, I didn't know about this until Ed jocularly referred to it in his letter, unwittingly getting me started. Writing letters was another thing we did back then.

Ed had an idea about being a small press publishing impresario and he put out a few ambitious anthology things before disappearing off to college and tending to his own talents instead of that of others, which I had encouraged him to do from day one. When Ed came out of college in 1986 he duly started putting out his own mini-comics and I quickly nabbed him to help me out with Bacchus, because I was the one now consumed with megalomaniacal ambitions. What I mean is that I was trying produce more comic books per month than I could actually write and draw myself and was looking to hire machines to do half the work for me (well, I thought of it more along the lines of putting a band together). Ed never liked filling this particular role as the thing he enjoyed most was, and is, page-design. I asked him to do all the art himself on the later volume 4, but I think he still felt constipated by the kind of stories I was telling. He wanted something more kinetic. He was one of the first guys to get into Manga way back in the day. Recently he applied his accumulated expertise to a book on the subject:

It has just come to my attention that Ed is now the author of a NOVEL. Actually I knew about this a long time back, (ten years?) when he directed me in obtaining xeroxes of an obscure 19th century manuscript in the National library of Australia. I just never thought the finished book would ever come to be. It will be titled The Clay Dreaming
Set during the first Australian cricket tour of England in 1868, this magnificent début novel explores an extraordinary friendship between King Cole, one of the Aboriginal players, and Sarah Larkin, a bookish spinster living in London.
And it will be published in April 2010 by Myriad Editions of Brighton, UK:
We're involved in the challenging but thoroughly enjoyable process of editing The Clay Dreaming. This is a hugely ambitious novel set around the time of the Australian Aboriginal cricket team's historical visit to London 1868. It explores an extraordinary friendship between one of the cricketers and a bookish young English woman and their mission to uncover the mysteries of his ancestry. Different story lines, original documentation and various texts within texts mean that Vicky Blunden, Myriad's fiction editor, and the author Ed Hillyer have a hard task to cut down the manuscript from over 1,000 pages to a more manageable 700 or so.
While looking for an online photo of Ed I found this great one by Andy Konky Kru on his own site, and I hope he'll forgive me for borrowing it. This is Ed (left) with Paul Gravett. I always felt Paul had disappeared into the woodwork when he was managing the Cartoon Art Trust 1992-2001, I mean it's a job worth doing but in the sense of 'oh well, somebody's got to do it.' It's been good to see a string of big books come out under his authorship and editorship over the last four or five years.

The photo is from a set taken at 'The UK Web and Mini Comix Thing' 2006, which looks like a very good annual event. Perusing Andy's great photos taken there I found myself transported back to 1981 when we started the whole xeroxed minicomics thing, Paul, Ed, myself, Phil Elliott and the rest.

Still, you'd think by now we'd all have proper jobs in real estate or banking. It's funny how things turn out.

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Monday, 10 August 2009

happy birthday to me! And fate steps up to deliver the printer's proof pages of me new book. I've cut the cover to fit around the loose bundle to give a better feeling of how the finished thing will present itself.

It's the same dimensions as From Hell, but 64 pages thicker:

Half a dozen pages show faults and errors, all my own, but I've caught them in time. One has to pay attention during the proofing stage.


Sunday, 9 August 2009

earlier this week a guy asked:" I don't understand how the goal of making a comic that's a good movie pitch or media property, is inconsistent with or divergent from the goal of making a good comic, period." Well, your blog is titled 'groovy age of horror,' so we may presume that it's all of a oneness to you. And to all the other folks who may be having trouble understanding, the fact is if you gear your project to be a good movie pitch, then you may feel secure in knowing there is not much that can be lost in the translation.

About the same time, I linked to the interview with Dan Clowes in which he said:
The executives would look at us as if we were insane. It's like saying, "We'd like to take $6 million of your money and shred it for an art project we're doing." The people who make the decisions in Hollywood are never the oddballs or creative types, so you have to tell them what they want to hear. It didn't take long for us to start saying things like, "We want to make another There's Something About Mary". We had no intention of doing that, but you must at least make the effort to be reassuring.
Twice in the last week or so, I've picked on Hollywood movies for being untruthful, either to the book or history. The problem with these movies is that everything about their style says that they intend to be taken literally. An example of the opposite tendency? Take Federico Fellini's Casanova. I never think while watching it that he is telling me what either the real or the folkloric Casanova is supposed to have said and done. I'm not even sure it's really 'about' Casanova at all, which this quote from Casanova actor Donald Sutherland, which I've transcribed from a filmed interview, supports:
"(Fellini) was using Casanova to try and make clear for modern audiences how this particular shallow fickleness, this inadequate perception of one's life, now seemed to be an epidemic among the nouveau riche in Rome. He wanted to attack a disregard for the future and a disrespect for the past. Casanova was his metaphor for this."
I get tired of hearing that Watchmen the book is about 'what if superheroes really existed?' and 'what if these superheroes were made appropriate to the cynicism of our times.' Any great book is not 'about' the contents of its plot. Moore's Rorschach is a brilliant artistic creation for what he has been emblematically made to represent philosophically, psychologically, politically, that is, the Objectivism of Ayn Rand. I find this 1964 Playboy Interview to be a handy summary of her ideas, perhaps the source Alan was using when he wrote the scene with Rorschach and the black and white mask (which I referred to in my critique of the Watchmen movie in which the scene is oddly missing, and I say oddly because it is the crux of the character, the scene that everything else should have been built around. In comic book terms, it's his 'origin'; who he is and how he came to be.):
PLAYBOY: "In Atlas Shrugged you wrote, "There are two sides to every issue. One side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil." Isn't this a rather black-and-white set of values?"
RAND: "It most certainly is. I most emphatically advocate a black-and-white view of the world. Let us define this. What is meant by the expression "black and white"? It means good and evil. Before you can identify anything as gray, as middle of the road, you have to know what is black and what is white, because gray is merely a mixture of the two. And when you have established that one alternative is good and the other is evil, there is no justification for the choice of a mixture. There is no justification ever for choosing any part of what you know to be evil."
Being superheroes, which are essentially graphic symbols, they adopt the appearance of the idea or ideas that they represent. But in the diminished world of the movie they simply represent superheroes, which in these videogame days means toys with interchangeable parts and an entry in a dossier itemizing their abilities and power levels. In Public Enemies, the movie I saw and wrote about last tuesday, Baby Face Nelson just represents Baby Face Nelson, and his violent death can be moved to an earlier time in his life for movie-making reasons because it doesn't mean anything. And I'm not talking about depth of intellect here. The fable of the Tortoise and the Hare means something more than two animals having a race. It's not too complicated. Anybody can get it.

The reason the X-men became Marvel's most popular comic book in the '80s is because the meaning inherent in it appealed to a large number of readers. Alienated and rejected people find purpose in joining an alliance of people like themselves. There are two such, one constructive and the other driven by vengeance, from which the series derives its dramatic conflict. This idea at the heart of the series allows it to be expanded metaphorically forward, sideways (the acceptance of those who are different, such as gays) and backward (the plight of the Jews in Auschwitz). It's an idea that demands consideration on many levels. This doesn't mean that every X-men comic book or movie makes the grade, but it does explain, I believe, why the first film was a success:
Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe praised the X-Men films as "more than a cash-guzzling wham-bang Hollywood franchise... these three movies sport philosophy, ideas, a telethon-load of causes, and a highly elastic us-versus-them allegory." (wikipedia)

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