Saturday 25 July 2009

hayley Campbell is still assessing what will be her trajectory through the world. She is currently looking at the prospect of 'professional bookhandler' as outlined at Skoob, which is the letters of 'books' rearranged, hence 'skoob glob'. Anway, there's an anecdote there about how Flann O'Brien had the idea of offering a bookhandling service to illiterates with big houses. He offered to come round and go through your shelves, thumbing your volumes, dog-earing pages here and there and adding scribbled notes in the margins such as "Yes, indeed! How true!" and "I don't agree at all" and "Well, well, well. Quite, but Boussuet in his Discours sur l'histoire Universelle has already established the same point and given much more forceful explanations". If there were still people who cared about not appearing illiterate and therefore customers to be had, I could see Hayley making a go of it. Hey, Hayley, while you're there you can spill soda pop on their computer keyboard and put a jam sandwich in the video player.

No, wait I forgot, you're not a kid any more.

Panel from The Years have Pants


Friday 24 July 2009

steve Bissette is interviewed at the AV Club. He goes all the way back to the beginning, to the days before we took to hanging each other out to dry in public (Bissette vs Moore, Sim vs Smith etc):
AVC: 1963 was also your last project with Moore. What exactly was the beef with him? You’ve mentioned it was prompted by your interview with The Comics Journal.

SB: I don’t know what pissed him off. I think what happened was, I talked about business practices. I really got into the nuts and bolts of the limitations of working comics as a writer. And what examples do I have to draw from? I mean, look at my career. The main writer I’ve worked with is Alan Moore.
The interview hadn’t seen print yet. I sent copies to anyone I mentioned by name, of the transcript of the interview with a cover letter, saying “If anything upsets you, I will take it out. If there’s anything I got wrong, I will change it. Please read this, go over it, and let me know.” Alan, I never heard from. But when Neil [Gaiman] saw him, Alan…
The problem with trotting this thing out for the police line-up every few years is that the witnesses tend to make very firm decisions about who was the nice guy and who was the bastard, as in the comments following the interview, while everyone, including Steve, has forgotten what the crime was supposed to be. Alan and Steve had so much more going on than the stuff that included me, so my guess as to what upset Alan is likely to be way off. One thing I do know is that in Alan's universe everything that is true is sayable. Alan would only have objected to an untruth.
One thing that always stuck in my mind is that I was the one pressing for From Hell's removal from Steve's anthology Taboo, while Alan stood firmly and loyally (to Steve) for seeing out the sentence. Taboo, you see, was a quarterly anthology that came out once a year. That became one of my quiver of humorous soundbites, like 'From Hell is a penny dreadful that costs 35 bucks.' Steve always bristled when I would write that about Taboo, but these are the statistics: #1 Nov '88, #2 Sept '89, #3 Mar '90, #4 Feb '91, #5 Jan '92, #6 July '92, #7 late '92. There aren't as many as twelve months between any two issues, but nor is there more than one issue per calendar year in the four years '88, '89, '90, '91. Watchmen came out more or less monthly and was packed together two years after being launched. From Hell, its follow-up, had the potential to make waves in the world but it was being held back by this serialization arrangement. Steve and I were and are friends, but I had to come out and say that our book wasn't going to amount to anything in the world until it got up and left home. Alan took Steve's side in this argument, for the simple reason that Alan had said fourteen chapters, with a prologue and an epilogue, all in Taboo, and he intended to be exact to his word, no matter how long it took.

Steve has so many cockeyed justifications for not finishing his epic Tyrant, the biography of a dinosaur (he got four issues of the 24 page comic out in three years), that if you sit through a session of listening to them you will lose the will to live. The orders for his first issue were around 24,000 if I remember correctly. Steve thought it was a catastrophe and got out of the business. My orders started at 8,500 and I did well for seven years after that. If i tell him that, he will come up with ten advantages I had that he never had. But the simple fact is that if Steve had continued to work on Tyrant for half an hour every day while making a living doing other things, he would have had a completed project years ago and publishers would have fought and still be fighting each other to have a part of it. But he would have to finish it first, because no publisher would commission it with an advance payment. None of them would hope to live so long. And if done according to my suggestion, It would be a magnificent piece of work and a tribute to his talent and vision.

When I published How to be an Artist, from which the above panels of Steve Bissette are an excerpt, I fretted that more than one person would be upset and I was going to be in trouble. But Steve was the only one to express hurt. Oh well, at least he's still talking to me.

ps. Steve mentioned me on his blog a couple of weeks back, (The latest bout of selective blindness is Eddie Campbell’s interview...) taking me to task for not crediting himself and Taboo for their part in the From Hell story. My justification would be that the interview exists specifically to draw attention to my upcoming book, and I only said what was necessary to efficiently achieve the purpose, not unlike the above blog post.

pps. prediction. Steve will write 500 words in the comments, during which time he could hypothetically have drawn a panel of Tyrant.

ppps update: more baloney in the comments, so do read them: "The only good thing about the Especiale was the tequila lollies he got hold of to use as a promotional thing. Little oblong blocks of clear candy, each one with a worm in it. I wanted to bring them up the pub when i got home, for a laff, but I chickened at the thought of attempting to sneak them through the notoriously strict Australian Customs and gobbled the lot on the plane."


Thursday 23 July 2009

arf! you must watch!


of the innumerable books and pamphlets that have overflowed the nation, scarce one has made any addition to real knowledge, or contained more than a transposition of common sentiments and a repetition of common phrases."- Samuel Johnson

I read and enjoyed The Women's Room back in the day, a couple of years after it first appeared. It was certainly an addition to the pool of human wisdom. But like most books that thump you over the head with their message, I found myself resenting it afterwards. The interview with its author, Marilyn French, who died in May, in the current issue of Bookslut, fascinates me. It fuels my persistent curiosity about the state of profound disgruntlement that seems to be the inevitable fate of creative people of any significant worth. Brittany Shoot is the interviewer:
Roughly a week after sending them off, I received her pithy answers to my interview questions and went into a bit of shock. A number of my writer friends have had similar experiences; so far, I'd avoided them. Occasionally, you have the misfortune to catch a subject on a bad day, an off week, or maybe you are to blame. Do your questions seem trite without the framework in which they will be placed, without knowledge of the audience that will digest the answers? Did I manage to offend in some way, or is this person simply an uncooperative interviewee?

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Wednesday 22 July 2009

goat's crowning as king of Ireland in doubt
DUBLIN (Reuters) – The annual crowning of a goat as king of Ireland at one of the country's oldest fairs is in doubt after organizers said the heir to the throne may be stopped from traveling to the festival.
Traditionally a male goat is caught in the mountains of Kerry in southern Ireland and paraded through the town of Killorglin where he reigns for the three days of Puck Fair, a centuries-old festival of drinking, music and dancing.
Locals may have to desperately trek the nearby hills after this year's chosen animal from the Northern Ireland town of Ballycastle could only get a four-day license for the trip south of the border.
(Goat from a panel in Bacchus)


there are only two things. Truth and lies. Truth is indivisible, hence it cannot recognize itself; anyone who wants to recognize it has to be a lie."- Franz Kafka

from the third set of Bent Books bookmarks, 2006

in other news:
I just had lunch with my pal Daren White who mentioned that, after the whole rigmarole of starting school and explaining the days of the week and weekends and all that to his two wee'uns, he now has to explain why Wednesday Comics doesn't come out till Thursday. It's not even about shipping and distances any more, it's just that it's Thursday here when it's still Wednesday there. This is the first major comics confusion since the lads announced that the three leading members of the Justice League are Superman, Batman and Womany-man. Ever after, in our circle, Wonder Woman has been known as 'womanyman'.

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Tuesday 21 July 2009

Philosopher urges us: Don’t just sit there, think! (Providence Journal, today)
“My philosophy on humor is it’s funny,” says Pessin, who is funny, animated and passionate about something most people aren’t: philosophy.
“People don’t demand philosophy because they don’t know of it.”
It isn’t taught in elementary, middle or high school, although the American Philosophical Association is working on that, according to Pessin. Only in college do people encounter formal philosophy, and only if they choose to. And to do that, they must choose to dismiss its reputation of being stodgy and dull, and without a remunerative return.
Now here's the good part. Having set up the idea of using humour to sell philosophy, we get this;
(His) books are written for a mass audience: in the same light and humorous style, with a sensitivity to today’s attention spans.“I had to cut chapters down to 350 words. A lot of the humor had to go. You need a certain amount of space to set up a joke. As it got whittled away, the set-up went and then the joke had to go...”
Which, you have to admit, is quite funny. However, since I had to juxtapose two remote paragraphs to make it come out that way, I must ask: if the professor meant it to be rib-tickling, was the journalist keeping up with him?

Nevertheless, he obviously studied under the great Professor Cuthbert Bean. As I admitted last time, the words are a quotation and i very badly did not say so at the time of the original cartoon. I have no hope now of ever rediscovering the source. The second in a series of five, I give you once again...

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Monday 20 July 2009

my pal Mick Evans had a copy the new restoration of the old Lee-Kirby Tales of Asgard with him when we had lunch last week. There's a preview of some of the pages at Newsarama, from which I've clipped these panels.

It looks very airless and lightless and unappealing. The very thing that attracted me to this stuff in the first place has been rejected, that is, the riotous colour of those early 1960s Marvels. It was so riotous they could never keep it between the lines, as i'll show below.
Frank Santoro posted an article last week in which Neal Adams talked about how the old comics were limited to effectively 64 colours. Now that there are thousand to choose from, we have to wonder why our present day colourists have trouble getting past GREY (or gray as they write it in the USA). Once or twice when I've drawn these sorts of things I threw in some rough colour guides, taking care to let the colourist know the light sources and times of day, two crucial natural determinants in the appearance of a colour to the human eye. Of course I came to realize that comic book colourists, with one or two exceptions, don't know about and are not interested in such high-flown painterly matters. They have their formulas for modeling shapes and have not much looked up from their computers in the learning of them.
Nevertheless it's good to see some of the Colletta-inked stories in print again. There are even a couple that I don't recall ever seeing before (my Thor collection is impressive but incomplete though I can get an uninterrupted read-through from The Trial of the Gods to Ulik the Troll).

Discussing the work of Vince Colletta is one of those things that guarantees me a lot of visitors, and I bring the subject up yet again, knowing that all these visitors cannot look at the page without glimpsing the ad in the sidebar for my next book. But I do not lie when I say that he was my favourite 'inker' of the 1960s. Last week Sam Henderson posted a short romance story Colletta illustrated in 1960 (more). Since discussions of the artist very rarely get down to specific graphic points, note that I am particularly fond of panel 4 below, in which the bold sweep of the brush lines of the tree trunk is contrasted with the noodling of the flexible pen in the clouds.

I don't know what Sam scanned from, whether original or reprint; it looks fine, too fine to be a 1960 printing. However, in the past I have always been dismayed to see how Colletta's work has suffered in reprints. Following are two pairs of samples. All four of these are from different books; the problem was widespread. The first of each pair is the original printing from the mid-1960s and the second is the reprinting from the 1970s. You have to ignore the differences in the colouring. The older panels both have registration problems, and also there seems to have been a custom of underlaying a deeper yellow in the flesh hues (see the Santoro article linked above which discusses this very point). Colletta's style of inking Jack Kirby's work on Thor favoured a lot of textural fine lines. There is always a feeling of roughness and ruggedness in the inkwork that complements the sense of a pre-technological age. But notice in the reprint images how much of this fine work has disappeared. In the first pair, notice the lines that have disappeared off the yellow of the hair and work around from there. I've zoomed on very small details to make my point, but as I say, on first arriving at the reprinted versions, I'm always filled with a dismay at feeling that overall there is a great deal missing. Even moreso at the thought that these weak photostats(?) are all marvel has kept for the future. In the second pair, notice how the modelling lines on Thor's right arm have filled in, leaving ragged black shapes.

I have wrestled with the very same problems myself, though I am willing to admit that I create many problems with my ultra-fine linework. When Pete Mullins started working with me, one of the first things I observed was that he had worked out an indestructable inking style, quite in contrast to my cobwebbiness .
Here is an example from From Hell. The first version is from the current printing. The second is from the first Tundra/Kitchen volume 1, which went into three printings. The third is an even more degenerate version I just found on the internet. I wrote a 3,500 word account in 2001 of the technical history of From Hell which is quite dense with information that would only be of interest to a limited few people. It's available there via wayback, and should be copied and filed by anyone who can imagine ever wanting such a thing at a remote future date. The example below was particularly annoying to me because the very point of the moment is that a huge solid volume has suddenly placed itself in front of the running Sickert. In the faulty reproductions there is an opening on the side of the vehicle through to a white distant sky, undermining the intended effect.

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Sunday 19 July 2009

baseball has the great advantage over cricket of being sooner ended." - George Bernard Shaw

Author portrait from the third set of Bent Books bookmarks, 2006