Saturday 22 September 2007

In my neighbourhood.

In fact, right across the street from my front gate. A Graham-Paige 1928, with extended wheel base. And to say whether that was a manufacturer's option or a contemporary or latter day customisation would be just too esoteric to get into here, though certainly the sort of thing Campbell would enjoy getting into. Indeed, he attempted to get into it with the driver, who also happened to be the restorer of this magnificent piece of work, but some teenagers were to be driven to their school formal.


Friday 21 September 2007

In my neighbourhood

This gem is on the rear of a sportsground shed facing a creek and then a forest. Very few people would see it.



American Children being brought up by brainless bullying parents. Something should be done about it.
Parents like Jenny Ginns are outraged that a teacher provided a comic book to a freshman student..."If that was my daughter that came home and showed this to me I honestly believe my husband would hurt the man," said Amy.

The girl’s mother said her daughter has been "crying every night" and asking not to go to school because students who liked the teacher are blaming her. "He’s the cool, favorite teacher of all the kids," the father said. His wife said she became especially concerned when her daughter told her Fisher asked her "how the book made her feel," although the mother added that she has no idea "what his intention was."

What I don't get is: How did the parents know anything about this? Don't kids know how to keep secrets any more? My father once confiscated a James Bond paperback I picked up at a garage sale when I was about ten. From that moment on I reallised that my reading adventures needed to be done in secrecy. I started by reading all the James Bond novels, at first trying to psychoanalyse my father, figuring out exactly what it was about the book that worried him. If my dad's reading this, I'm sure he can't remember anything about it.

Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund in New York City, said that Clowes is a well known graphic novelist. "The book (Ice Haven) was basically a profile of a town and its various oddball personalities and it was drawn in a wide variety of illustrative styles to create a psychological portrait of the goings on in this town," Brownstein said. "It certainly is not pornographic." He added: "Frankly, I find the fact that somebody has left their job over this particular work deeply troubling."

I love to compare the way Charles expresses it in his official capacity with the way he'll express it next time I talk to him in a bar.

(links via Tom Spurgeon)


Thursday 20 September 2007

colour me purply brown again.

M ore panels of campbellian X-men. Here's the panel I already showed in the gentleman's club:

And here it is in clubby smoky purples and browns.

Here's a panel which is all Pete Mullins' work.

And here it is in steampunky purples and browns:

I kind of like this little panel. Minotaur by campbell, cute girl by mullins:

Not sure how that blue got in there.
Those pages were the last time Pete and I worked on a job together ( 2001).

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Wednesday 19 September 2007

color me purply brown.

Iwrote yesterday's post after uncovering a pile of old artwork while looking for something unrelated. I looked over the pages of art I drew for the X-men thinking to myself: this isn't as bad as I remember it. It was during that phase when Marvel's colorists were doing everything in purple and brown, for reasons one cannot hope to guess. Here's my rendition of Wolverine:

An here he is in muscular purples and browns:

Here's a shaman character coming form the wilds, whom I modeled on Alan Moore. For those following my recent notes on markmaking, I smeared the ink into a thick gel medium and laid it on with a one-inch broad bristle brush for the effects of the tree bark (click to enlarge for closer detail.)

And here it is in foresty purples and browns:

More shimmering hues tomorrow. Watch for them.

Mother sues doctor over twin birth

Graphic novel a brilliant way to tell a disturbing story- The Ottawa Citizen- Monday, September 17.- Yann Martel, the Booker Prize-winning author of Life of Pi, is sending a book and letter every two weeks to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.: "Maus by Art Spiegelman. Don't be fooled by the format. This comic book is real literature..."

Mini-comic vending machine.

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Tuesday 18 September 2007

bit parts

Spot Campbell's pals. This isn't something I go looking for, but at the same time I enjoy it when it comes up. I'm talking about the odd occasion when I draw a few pages in a superhero comic-book published by Marvel or DC. Just counting off the top of my noodle, I think I've appeared in maybe thirteen individual books from the 'big two', including a complete art and writing job, a 2-issue art job and a 4-issue writing job, and assorted guest spots of three, five and eight pages. Here are a couple of panels that have similarities in that the two writers each kindly allowed me a crowded bar scene and I took the liberty of putting all my pals in it. First one is page 1, panel from an Orion five page back-up scripted by Walt Simonson. Far left, that's White doing the goggles effect when he plays 'dambusters', a game in which you hum the theme tune of the old Dambusters war movie and then pretend you're the bomber flying in low to cripple the Mohne dam in May 1943. The dam is a beer jug on the floor and the bomb is a 50 cent coin clenched between the buttocks. If you can't picture it, ask hayley campbell; I have heard that she brought the house down recently in London with a demonstration during a dinner party attended by several comedy writers (email her for bookings).

Left to right you can also see Staros, Minty Moore, Evans tipping the dancer, and me and Mullins. Pete Mullins chipped in on this job for me. The two dancing girls were drawn by him. This was in 2001. In the same year I drew an 8-page guest spot in X-men #400. Joe Casey successfully wrote me into the special issue in such a way that I didn't have to draw a superhero, if you don't count Wolverine with his shirt off. In the villain's history in flashback there's an old-time scene in the bar of a gentlemen's club. I'm on the left, White's behind the bar. Mullins is wearing a bow-tie and Evans is just arriving.

When you have to draw a bunch of people in a crowd scene it's useful to use people you know just to get a sense of assorted personalities in order to avoid falling back on stock types. Otherwise, it's self indulgence and this is a blog.

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Monday 17 September 2007

Wee Cal brought home the Rocketeer on Dvd. I'd forgotten what great fun that movie is. Made in 1991 it was the first movie based on the work of a comic-book guy of my own generation (Dave Stevens was born just two weeks ahead of me). Checking the Wiki entry I see it had a tough time making it to the screen, being first optoned in '85. It stands up well today. The comic book followed the traditional route from sinking ship to sinking ship, Eclipse to Comico, before landing at Dark Horse just as I was leaving. An editor once said to me that Stevens was the only artist he knew of whose work on a cover could guarantee a significant number of extra sales. I only ever spoke to Dave twice I think, both times in San Diego, once in an elevator and once in a hotel forecourt. I have some very dear friends that i've met almost as often. I wonder what he's doing now.


Sunday 16 September 2007

literal speech balloon

I was glad to catch Bryan Talbot in conversation this week before we appeared on stage, because I know we don't see eye to eye on a lot of aesthetic and historical matters, and I wanted to get them out of the way in case we embarrassed ourselves publicly. So I found myself in an interesting technical discussion which can be nicely extended into an essay here. Bryan criticised my 'fumetti' sequence in The Fate of the Artist, in which hayley campbell is interviewed about the disappearance of her beloved father. Here is the first page of it. Ignore the obvious goof in panel 1 of attributing the interviewer's question to the subject by encircling it in a lasso resembling, for the sake of this discussion, a speech balloon.

The seven page hayley sequence is intended of course to evoke the 'fumetti' idiom, the English language name for a style of comic strip that is said to have originated in Italy, in which photographs take the place of drawings. Here is an attractive example of the style (Check here for the whole work in 36 panels, by Charlie Beck)

Bryan said to me that he feels that the hayley passage fails because he doesn't believe the character is actually speaking. I said, what, you mean the thought processes are not convincingly those of a nineteen year old girl? Bryan replied, no, I mean the face in the picture doesn't correspond to what is being said in the balloon, and the mouth isn't even open. Ah. the conversation didn't get much further because I was taken aback; it was something I hadn't even thought to prepare a defence for. I do say clearly that it's a transcript of a taped interview (entirely a fiction), and I've taken pains (as has Mick Evans, who brought the parts together at the design stage) to make it look roughly cut and glued from a typeset document; it's NOT direct speech. There is no sound.

I worked hard to avoid the kind of histrionics you see in the second example above, in which skill and craft are evident but inauthenticity is the initial impression. It has a feeling of being staged (though note that Beck arrived at the same conclusion I did, that a series of open mouths on one character looks too wrong). Talbot's seven page episode of fumetti in his Alice in Sunderland is so something else that it would seem eccentric to make a comparison. It's perfectly appropriate to his purpose.

So let me stick to the subject of the word balloon, which is the real issue here, and it dovetails with an earlier discussion I had with Bryan. In the following example, do we believe that the 2,000 year old bust of Caesar is LITERALLY SPEAKING the words from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar?

Or would we say: no, it's not direct speech but a quote contained in a balloon of attribution which combines with the image to make a graphic construct at the same time more direct and more complex than the sum of the elements. Note that in an earlier version I had the quote "I came, I saw, I conquered," but ditched it as the words looked too simply like words that ought to go with the face.

The earlier discussion (with Bryan) concerned my assertion that we should not corral willy nilly under the rubric of 'comics' old works that appear to have the same formal elements, because there is a tendency to misinterpret their function, for example the word balloon. The most intelligent view on the subject is the 22 page essay, On labels, loops and bubbles by Thierry Smolderen in Comic Art #8. He writes:

Throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, labels consistently appeared in political satires. Because their function seems, at first glance, similar to that of the 20th century device, the modern reader is tempted to read them as regular speech balloons, ignoring the fact that there isn't anything remotely similar between a 20th century comic strip and a 17th century allegory...
In an allegorical picture, each character (or, sometimes, object) has both a literal and a metaphorical meaning. On the literal level, the picture can mean just about anything - or make no sense at all; the 'tableau' is merely a hieroglyph; its external appearance needs not be more plausible or coherent than the garbled letters of a cipher. Thanks to this freedom, the satirists were allowed to combine topical interests with any wild fancy of their imagination...
In such a context, the reason why the labels cannot be read in the same way as our modern speech balloons becomes clearer. Nothing is alive or natural in allegorical constructs: like rebus riddles, they exist in a timeless and spaceless dimension, in which no living sound will ever travel. How could metaphors freely dialogue between themselves like characters in a comic strip? Any verbal exchange included in an allegorical picture could only be the metaphor for something else.
(example from an 1860 Currier and Ives print used in the article)

I think the real difference between Bryan and me is that he likes and believes in 'comics,' (see his three page history of British comics in the Guardian last week) and imagines I do also, but I don't. It is a medium that becomes more conservative and moribund every year. All the theories are designed to shackle it to a metronome of measured time analogous to the cinematic. Give me an art that doesn't need to constantly resubmit its claim to the respect that readers award to the 'realistic,' which must dress the facile in verisimilitude. I want a truth that has no need to play games of make-believe.

p.s. Of course, on Bryan's behalf I should say that in order to do what they do, artists need to be single minded to the point of thinking everybody must do things their way. For example I remember Pekar criticising Spiegelman for using animals in Maus. And God knows what innocent Charlie Beck thinks of me for dragging him into my argument. Check his page and lighten my guilt.

pps. re talking things that are not literally talking, see my post on Rome's 'talking statues'.

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