Saturday 10 September 2011

Mandy Ord, last mentioned here yesterday, is a Melbourne cartoonist who has lately been getting some of the attention she deserves.

That wasn't her, but one of her people sketches, which are always caught just right. She is in fact the very attractive lady in this video interview at Melbourne news daily The Age.

She chooses to draw herself as a cyclops. Her book Sensitive Creatures was launched last month August 18, published by Allen and Unwin, who have been cultivating a line of graphic novels, including books by Nicki Greenberg, Shaun Tan and Bruce Mutard.

Oslo Davis, also mentioned here yesterday, writes about Mandy at the Sydney Morning Herald.

Anybody who followed Brisbane anthology comic book Dee Vee (published by my pals White and Evans) will recall seeing her work as early as 2001 alongside The Playwright.

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Friday 9 September 2011

I've only just seen this great comic published in connection with the Melbourne Writers festival. 24 big tabloid pages, and they gave away 35,000 of them on street corners and like places beginning 26 August. Editor Oslo Davis has photos from the streets. Stuart Geddes at The Thousands shows some of the pages. All the excellent Melbourne cartoonists are here with full or half pages, some in full colour, Shaun Tan, Nicki Greenberg, Bruce Mutard, Mandy Ord etc.
Jim Woodring was a guest at the show and has a page in here too, in which he notes:
“Autobio comics are tricky. If you make yourself look good you’re a jerk and the ‘Oh, I’m such a discombobulated but lovable klutz’ shtick is threadbare.”
A great idea all round. Somebody got it right at last.


Thursday 8 September 2011

Another gem from Spain. El Vecino by Santiago García, writer, and Pepo Perez, artist. El Vecino means 'The neighbour'. The character has an actual name, but I love the idea of a superhero just being known as 'The neighbour'. It's in a nice hardcover book from Astiberri, but the story is open- ended. There is a second volume and several stand-alone short stories elsewhere. The first volume is in full colour and the second is in black and white. If you've been in the comics biz for any length of time, such things do not normally need to be explained. The opening scene has stopped me in my tracks, because In an interview a couple of months back.. (probably this one) I was asked why I always stuck to that nine panel grid in From hell and Alec and I said it was all about the patterns, and I referred to the game of noughts and crosses, or whatever you call it in your part of the world, this game:

And how this opens up all the directions, all simultaneously. You can't have patterns with 2. That's just coincidence. You need to be working in 3. It is quite probable that i was thinking of the opening design in El Vecino.

Notice how the eye can't help but read that brown diagonal as a separate strip within the complex, in fact it reads it simultaneously with all the other possible strips that you can extricate from the grid, including three horizontals, three verticals and the other diagonal top right to bottom left before we start getting into the strips that reverse normal time. (also check out Scott McCloud's theory about compressing time on pages 84-5 of Understanding Comics)

The bookish chap above hears a noise in the neighbouring apartment. The next night he hears it again and adventures next door, where he lets himself in the unlocked apartment to find a guy in a superhero costume.

Within no time they're in and out of each other's apartments borrowing cups of sugar and stuff like that. They even go jogging together. They're real good neighbours. Here's a scene where the Superhero gets his neighbour to dress up as the hero and appear at the window to crush some suspicions that were being aroused. Well, it's the sort of thing good neighbours do for each other.

The superhero is one of those handsome bastards you always end up living next to, who has way more than his share of the ladies. Here's a scene where the poor old bookish chap is sent to take care of the lady business while the hero guy rushes off to take care of more important business. Notice it's a different lady from the one in the scene above.

The story is full of affection for the superhero genre, at least as it used to be before the carnage maniacs got ahold of it. Pepo Perez has a rough and ready style that keeps everything lively. He has a very simple and pleasing way of drawing a pretty girl.

Even with my half-arsed grasp of Spanish I'm enjoying the hell out of this book.


Wednesday 7 September 2011

I have just heard That you can buy Alec: The Years have Pants digitally (15 bucks!). Go to Comixology for your download. Later it will be available in other places, and by the end of the year You can add From Hell and the Playwright to your digital stash. A friend sent a couple of photos of how it looks and you can get a free ten page preview to see if works for you. If you still prefer paper, Top Shelf is having one of its colossal sales right now and you can get the Alec and From Hell hardcovers for only 25 bucks. Go all the way down the list for items at three bucks and even one lousy dollar. One lousy dollar! The guys must have a huge print bill to pay off. Go and lend a hand.

"A digital comic ain't worth the paper it's printed on"- Sam Goldwyn.


I linked to this a few days ago, but let's post it here. It's from Gotye's album, Making Mirrors. It's at number three here this week after landing in the charts at no 1 last week. These are beautifully crafted little songs. And this one has a lovely piece of animation too.


Tuesday 6 September 2011

There's a review of Alec:The years have pants in the newly published Comics Journal #301. Its writer, musing upon a slickness he perceives in the art of the later portions of the book, concludes that it must be because of my 'acknowledged use of assistants.' He offers that explanation rather than the more obvious one that a worker in any field is likely, barring the burdens of ill health or senility, to acquire, by degrees, a facility in his work after practicing it for ten, twenty, and then thirty years.

I handed it to him in a panel in the book itself, if he got as far as page 259.

However, more pertinent to my reputation, anybody who ever did any work on a story of mine always got his or her name on it. There were one or two exceptions which arose when, if another set of hands was involved, another set of contracts were going to have to be read, signed and mailed. In these circumstances we saw it, much as we were honoured to be involved, as a job to be executed quickly and with the least hassle. That happened maybe twice and on one of those I got Pete Mullins to letter his name onto a bottle in the foreground of a panel.

Assisting a professional working comics artist is something I would have loved to have done when I was starting out. I even offered myself to one, but he didn't have the type of personality that would have lent itself to such an arrangement (he would undoubtedly have murdered me within a week). The practice has existed since the early days of the newspaper comic strips. In the very earliest period, a young fellow would work as a cleaner and gopher in the art room of a newspaper and work his way up through colouring and other such routine jobs. Then when cartoonists started to become stars and get to work at home, they would hire a young wannabe to assist. The job involves so much routine labour such as cutting and ruling paper, posting and collecting mail etc., that it was an arrangement that suited all involved. Eventually the young guy, if he proved himself both useful and talented, would get to work on the important parts of the job, and eventually get a leg up into the business on his own account. The comic books favoured a very different arrangement, closer to a factory assembly line, in which the job of making pictures in a comic book is broken down into clearly delineated activities under the headings 'layout,' 'pencils', 'inks', 'colors.' It grates me to find that many comics aspirants think of this as a natural division of labour rather than as something cooked up by the sort of people who set their minds to inventing ways to make hens lay more eggs than hens are naturally inclined to lay.

It would irritate me when that kind of thinking would turn up in places where it really didn't belong, such as Harvey Pekar's early books, where he would have a single page story with a credit box giving himself as writer, with Dumm and Budget as penciller and inker. I thought it was unseemly to have that many names on a one-pager. I thought it belonged on the packaging. Imagine if you got credits for a song actually heard in the recording instead of printed on the sleeve notes. My way of doing things was to just scribble my name next to the story title and if somebody else worked on it, then add their name under mine. Like this:

In the early 1990s I found my self able to line up way more work than I could handle. And way out here, remote from the comics publishing biz, there were enough people who were desperate to get a taste of it that I would have felt like a criminal to turn any opportunity away. But my feeling was always that this was my thing, and I'm the author, and anybody contributing to it is a guest writer or guest artist, and my way of implying that was to simply add their name after a '+' or a 'with'.

There was a fellow who wrote a few things for me who used to get mad at me because I didn't put 'writer' or 'co-writer' by his name. He didn't want people thinking he was 'just an inker' (as in 'tracer'). I told him if he wanted to use the work to get himself other work, I'd happily back him up in however much of it he wanted to claim for himself, but I wasn't putting it on the page. There was another fellow who came round when I put the word out I desperately needed help on a job. He said he didn't want to be 'just the inker'. I replied that I didn't work that way but, to be frank, I told him I wouldn't trust him to ink it. We got on fine after that. I even got him to draw a number of foreground figures when the deadline loomed.

I look at the practice of getting help on the work as comparable to a singer-songwriter hiring backing musicians. There are times in comics when extra hands are like the ingredients in a fine soup or a rich stew. It makes it all more interesting both to make and to read. I can see many places in From Hell where my attention was flagging, and I thank Fate that Pete Mullins was on the premises to keep me from looking foolish, artistically speaking. And there are loads of funny ideas in Bacchus that Marcus Moore threw in, and they still make me laugh today. And Mick Evans did all the design stuff when I thought myself a publisher, and Daren White hung around long enough to get properly recognized on the Playwright. But the Alec stuff was always different. That's my personal view of everything. It's all mine.


Monday 5 September 2011

I'm reading a stack of books sent to me a few weeks back by my marvelous Spanish Pals, Santiago Garcia and Manuel Bartual and another package from Pepo Perez. That trip to Spain opened up some wide new vistas for me, I can tell you.

The collected Los Garriris by Javier Mariscal (ediciones sins entido 2011) is a wonder. What's it about? who cares! the point is that you're off to the beach. It's like eating a fresh oyster. The delight of a fresh oyster, and it must be the freshest, is that it delivers you on the beach and reminds you suddenly and deliciously of the sensation of being smacked in the face by a salty wave. Fermin and Piker, the Garriris of the title, are always off to the beach, where they go fishing, or swim, drive around on vespas or open topped cars and introduce themselves to beautiful chicas. And I'm going with them.

Julian the dog turns up about half way through. here he is barking at lobsters. That's a day out by itself. I once spent an hour watching my dog Monty barking at ants.

At the bottom of this page he tries a new approach and plays music for them

Sometimes Mariscal goes all cubist without the slightest hint of pretension.

One of the sad things about these days of the 'graphic novel' is that too many of us want to know the story and have forgotten how to enjoy cartooning purely for its own sake.

For my earlier post about Mariscal go here.

For an interview with the artist, go to Paul Gravett.

For first rate oysters, get an invite to one of my pal Daren White's parties.

Speaking of whom, his swimming pool broke down the other day because this little chap got caught up in the filter.

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