Friday 4 April 2008

Saturday 5th April

Happy Birthday to the wife of my Bosom

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my thoughts have turned to an old pal I first met exactly twenty years ago. I'm having trouble verifying details on this and I'm sure somebody will help as apparently he has no online presence (except for a reproduction at Tabula Rasa, David Carroll's Australian comic book covers gallery). I gather that he was found at the foot of a cliff six or seven years back, presumed suicide.
I first saw the work of Nigel Gurney on this striking cover in 1988. Tusk Comics was his own self-published book. The first issue appeared the previous year and was titled 'Hap Hazzard,' and this was the second. Brigid Bolt was a character that made her first appearance in the first issue and in between landed a weekly spot in local Sydney newspaper the Sun-Herald.

Brigid Bolt was an original and memorable cartoon character and I like the way Gurney and his scripting collaborator figured out the cadences of the sunday comic format and married that to their own subversive purposes.
sept. 6 1987

The above appeared in the book, while the next were loose xeroxes Nigel sent me. jan 10 and 17 1988

Nigel was a few years younger than me, which I always presumed because he seemed to think I was further along the road to recognition than he was. In 1988 I was appearing in a number of places but not making a lot of money out of it. I used one of his stories in The Dead Muse, a book I edited that was published by Fantagraphics in 1990.
I'm looking at a dozen or so letters from Nigel over the course of two years, thinking how fine it was when we all wrote to each other, properly thought out two page handwritten letters.
(9 june ) "Hope things pick up for you- can understand that feeling of 'the doors closing on another phase'. Brisbane is a tough place to entertain such thoughts. I always get depressed there... maybe it's because it's where I spent my early years."
(26 july) "Got your letter and 'Honk' (long defunct Fantagraphics humour mag whose last couple of issues were edited by Joe Sacco) in the box on my return- many thanks. 'The Wonders of Science' was certainly a gallant effort of lunacy, way beyond what we were allowed to do in the Sun-Herald. I found out the other day that our last story caused a storm of editorial controversy and nearly wasn't published because a) it showed a hand being chopped off, and b) it was about two lesbians. it's probably a good thing we quit."
Nigel was a granson of famous Australian cartoonist Alex Gurney of Bluey and Curley fame (Lambiek site biog):
(8 nov) "I'm going to photocopy a batch of Bluey and Curley strips for you, so you can see what Alex Gurney was doing. Rereading them I think they hold up incredibly well and I still get a real laugh out of quite a few of them."

Brigid Bolt made some later appearances I think in a gay interest magazine, but mostly I think Nigel experienced only frustration trying to get somehwere with his art. I have two photos in my files. One is a smiling portrait and the other is a tiny photo-booth mug-shot which nevertheless captures something of the desperation of the young artist perpetually thwarted.


Thursday 3 April 2008

happy 16th birthday,
callum campbell

Here's a panel from an unpublished page titled
"Callum's Alan Moore anecdote."

The big 'Alec Omnibus' planned for next year will have at least fifteen pages of never before printed material, and there are the same number again of pages not in print since 1990. If all you've ever seen are the four books I published myself in 2000-2002, then there could be as many as ninety pages altogether that are new to you.

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Wednesday 2 April 2008

a preview

i'm getting impatient waiting for The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard to come back from the printer in Hong Kong. I may see a copy later this month, but it will still be a while before the boxes arrive by sea mail. So here is a small excerpt to whet your appetite and keep you interested. I've cut the pages so they can be readable here on the main page (Blogger resizes things according its own logic unless you take pains to outwit the system):

I see via my pal Dirk Deppey that I'm being discussed here. Both blogs reproduce an image I drew as part of a set of question-answers for the Powell's site two years ago as promo for Fate of the Artist (It's been linked in my sidebar for some time). They invite an author to select between six and ten questions from a bunch of twenty. The Bookseller was having a special 'graphic novel' month and somebody had the interesting idea of asking me to do my Q&A as a set of cartoons. I thought that was nuts as it would take me longer to draw it than a regular author to just type his answers. So I grudgingly did it. I wish I'd spent more time and enthusiasm on it as it turned out to be very popular for its novelty value. You can still read it here. If you click on the first image you can see it all as a slidshow.

I think a few other cartoonists drew their Q&A after that, if you want to browse around the site.

"Men love women, women love children and children love hamsters. It's all hopeless." -Alice Thomas Ellis


Tuesday 1 April 2008

i feel a little unclean for bringing up that business about Vince Colletta once more. It's starting to look like I actually give a damn about the whole thing. Sure enough, my visitor statistics shot through the roof for a couple of days. However, I don't think I made myself clear in the end. My position on this is that arguing about Colletta erasing a few of Kirby's pencilled figures is on the same level as arguing about who is stronger, Spiderman or the Hulk. If you care then you are a loony! Don't tell me any more about it! Furthermore, consider how it must look to the outside world, who think it rather eccentric if not foolish for grown people to read comic books, let alone get upset and villify an artist for erasing another artist's pencilled figures FIFTY YEARS AGO. This stuff sounds made up, like a hokey plot for Murder She Wrote or some other old 1980s TV blather for people who stay home in their cosy slippers. Stan Lee could have done a cameo and explained to bright wee Angela Lansbury what an 'inker' is. And the main suspect could have been a big puddin' with no social graces. I expect someone will send me a comment telling me it was already done, and Mark Evanier wrote it. And wee Dirk Deppey remembers it well and put his homework aside to go and watch it and how mortified he was to see his hobby mocked in front of all the adults.
uh where was I ...

Changing the subject, Leif Peng looks at the illustrations of William Smith. I love the big bar scene, of which this is a small detail:


Monday 31 March 2008

while wafting through a tourist souvenir shop here in Brisbane three or four years ago I became enamoured of a large painting signed by one John Rotumah. Its ease and facility with sharply executed black line astonished me. And then on top of the blacks there were white line decorations, with the whole lot over a flat colour ground. Wherever I found these shops serving the traveller looking to take home a piece of local colour by way of decorated boomerang, didgeridoo, or kangaroo scrotum coin purse, I'd look for Rotumah's work. Subsequent checks confirmed that his particular touch is quite exceptional. I picked up a small motif style original to take home and study at my leisure. Black and white line on a sprayed canvas base of yellow and green, and it really didn't cost very much considering the level of skill. I was and remain in awe of the guy's ability. This is an enlargement of an area two inches high:

Look at the tiny little tapered fingers on the kangaroo. I have it on my wall here and I look at them often.

I found a photo and biog here.
And this appears to be his brother Dean, also an artist.


Sunday 30 March 2008

as I was drifting into sleep last night I thought of something urgent that I must say on my blog. Should I get up and scribble it on paper? Nah, I thought to myself, I won't forget something that good.
Until it comes back to me, here are a few links:

Dith Pran, ‘Killing Fields’ Photographer, Dies at 65 - NY Times- March 31, 2008

Dith Pran, a photojournalist for The New York Times whose gruesome ordeal in the killing fields of Cambodia was re-created in a 1984 movie that gave him an eminence he tenaciously used to press for his people’s rights, died in New Brunswick, N.J., on Sunday. He was 65 and lived in Woodbridge, N.J. Mr. Dith saw his country descend into a living hell as he scraped and scrambled to survive the barbarous revolutionary regime of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, when as many as two million Cambodians — a third of the population — were killed, experts estimate. Mr. Dith survived through nimbleness, guile and sheer desperation.
Recall the famous image of Marilyn Monroe from the movie The Seven Year Itch where her dress is billowing in the udraught from the grate of the New York subway? Well somebody has made assorted animals from plastic bags that stand in the same updraughts. here is Air ZOO and Air Bear (link thanks to my pal Mia Wolff)

(Anyone bored to tears with arguments about late comic book artist Vince Colletta should read no further) The comments box of my post of 3rd May last year on the subject of comic book artist Vince Colletta is still attracting contributions. I wrote it in the first place in response to the absurd accumulation of abuse toward an artist whose work I enjoyed when I was a lad, and indeed it contributed a great deal to my ideas about pictures and how to make them. It would seem beyond understanding that the little drawings in kids' comic books from fifty years ago could inspire the kind of adult animosity I was reading, much of it by people who don't know what they are talking about (e.g. here). Somebody must feel that his youth has been robbed from him and somebody else must be made to suffer for it. One Dan McFan points the finger at Mark Evanier, and he has started a blog titled Is Mark Evanier mentally ill?
Do you bash Vinnie Colletta every day of the year? If, for instance, you don't talk to a comic person that day, do you bash Vinnie to your butcher or your dry cleaning guy? Do you wake up screaming "I hate Vinnie!" Is your dog even sick of hearing Vinnie's name? Even though he or she has never read a comic book, is your therapist intimately knowledgeable about everything to do with Vinnie? When you can't pinch one off do you cry out "Damn you, Vinnie?" I am convinced that you are mentally ill. If I wasn't laughing so hard right now I'm sure that I would be crying. What did this man do to you to inspire such hatred?I need to start a topic about this, if not here, then somewhere else. People need to know and have the right to weigh in on your fixation and loathing of Vincent Colletta because you are considered some sort of authority. Some comic fans respect you. And you are one of the great perpetrators of the "Vinnie erased the sacred Kirby's pencils-Let's burn him in effigy" club.
Before I leave this interminable disquisiton: Evanier usually makes irrrelevant snide points about Colletta's use of assistants, a custom that became quite prevalent in the '70s, which was a dull period for comic books anyway, with gang inking teams, in which a hack mentality set in across the board (the period in fact in which Evanier learned his craft). Most of the output was so awful it's not worth arguing about (and hey, anybody who thinks comic books are worth arguing about in the first place is in trouble)(I like to think that my own interest in this subject is of a higher order, that is, the fate of art and of artists, their life and posthumous reputation, as implied by my blog title). However, being hired that way was always a good means for aspiring youngsters to get into the business, a kind of unofficial apprenticeship, and also an artist could earn cash in a lean period by helping out a fellow practitioner who had more than he could handle. Furthermore, when we hear that Roz Kirby would help Jack by filling in his blacks and other simple inking procedures we think, aw isn't that cute. It works both ways and can't be used as a criticism in itself. The next major criticism is always aesthetic. The critic doesn't like the inked lines. Simple as that. But bear in mind that most comic book appreciation, like most comic books, is bankrupt of any meaningful aesthetic thought and feeling. I have demonstrated that the lines in question had value for me, discussing their textural qualites of dryness and roughness and muscularity, and the aptness of these to the subject of Norse Myth, and I liked them above all the other inky lines, the shiny and liquid and sleek ones of the time, for the reason of suitability to my preferred subjects. Finally, there are the lines and figures left unseen (removed). I didn't see them when I was ten and it's too late to care now. I was influenced by the ones I did see. If Kirby felt miffed, that's one thing. That you or I should take his side in a tide of anger is absurd. To vent your moral indignation upon a situation that cannot be in any way affected is to leave the path of wisdom. And there are more important things to be angry about. Unless you are a comic book fan, in which case God help ya.

(update. 1.35 am EST. After underestimating the number of comic book fans determined to be upset over this subject at the drop of a hat, I've gone back and closed the comments boxes on all previous posts that mention it)

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