Saturday 15 October 2011

If I were in Manchester I would go to this exhibition of the work of Adolphe Valette. He was a French painter in the Impressionist style who made his home in Manchester, England. If he is remembered at all It's for having befriended and influenced local art hero L S Lowry. Thus the title of yesterday's Guardian article, Exhibition for 'Monet of Manchester' who inspired Lowry, in which our artist is an unknown location, pinpointed in ideaspace by using three other proper names as coordinates.

Valette, self portrait circa 1917.


Friday 14 October 2011

This has been around at least a year so you may already have seen it, but I need something quick for today:

as to its origin, who knows, but Craig Ormiston saw it posted on the set where he was working in sept 2010. His blog is full of picked up down-home wisdom like You look stupid with too many hats on. (give a few away)


Thursday 13 October 2011

New Steve Moore book coming up. Glycon has the gen.

The cover , which you can see at left, is by the amazing John Coulthart, who has long been a friend of this blog. I wrote about him specifically here.

John has just been celebrated in the latest issue of Eye magazine by design scholar Rick Poynor (mentioned in this blog on at least four previous occasions).
‘His blog is kind of like finding a first edition of the Necronomicon three to four times a week.’ I know how this writer at the Dangerous Minds website feels. He is talking about John Coulthart’s Feuilleton, an extraordinarily committed undertaking even by the standards of the most compulsive and sleep-deprived bloggers. Coulthart set out, in February 2006, to post an item every day and so far as I can tell from random searches in his archive, and incredible as it might seem, he has stuck to this arduous programme, though he does down tools at Christmas for a brief respite. more...
This week on his blog, John has discussed 15th century woodcut initials, the German feature film Die Farbe and a vandalized collection of books at the Islington library:
I was going to title this post “Fucked by Monty” but thought that might give the wrong impression. The phrase was one of several titles added to the cover of The Collected Plays of Emelyn Williams by Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell when they were happily defacing the books of Islington Library, London, in the early 1960s. Despite the outrage of the librarians at the vandalism most of the defaced books were put aside and are now prized items in Islington’s collection. This week the library announced an exhibition of the books, Malicious Damage: The crimes of Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell. The Guardian has a gallery of the covers here (and there’s more at Joe Orton central), rare examples of what might be called “guerilla collage”. links and more


From Hell is now available as a purchasable download from itunes and Comixology and other places. Price $14.99 US.


Wednesday 12 October 2011

Critiquing the critics.
I believe it is absolutely right that the critic freely expresses his or her opinion about a work, but what is it with Ng Suat Tong?
"For my part, I found Habibi utterly repugnant and well deserving of a place on a list of worst comics of 2011."
A few months back:
"Glidden’s comic is a work of self-condemnation; a “warts and all” cautionary to all those who would seek to traffic in their trifling insights, for therein lies undistinguished banality. It is the rotting carcass of the autobiographical genre in comics."
Way back in the day, Top Shelf once stopped sending review copies to the Comics Journal because the magazine kept giving them to this guy to review. "We can see no purpose in it" they said, quite logically. "But he keeps asking for them," replied the Journal.

Now, Suat is a nice enough bloke whom I have met on occasion, and I'm concerned for him. Something must have happened in his past. Did his mother make him wear his hair in ringlets until he was fourteen? Did his father spank his bare bottom in front of all the relatives?

Please attach your personal observations in comments, though if they cross the line of good taste like mine just did, I will probably have to remove them.


Tuesday 11 October 2011

The way they draw women's feet in comics has always been a mystery to me. they look like plaster casts of the insides of high-heeled shoes. Here's a couple of typical examples from way back in the 1940s:

We might conclude that these renditions are the product of a culture in which men only ever see women's feet encased in shoes, and that the bare foot is forever unknown. But I once read an American book on anatomy that recommended a falsification of the evidence, that the female foot should be reduced in size as much as one can get away with. I wish I'd scanned the page. Even when faced with actual photographic evidence, somebody like Milt Caniff still chooses falsehood over truth.

To my eyes, Summer Canyon looks deformed in that Steve Canyon promotional picture from the mid-1950s (scanned from RC Harvey's excellent biography). I won't even try to get into the psychology of reducing the female to such a flimsy thing. Frank Frazetta on the other hand was a fifties man. He knows how to get that big and bold style of footwear down confidently. His girls look strong and vigorous, with their feet planted firmly on the floor:

Today, Craig Thompson is the man who draws feet right. They are muscular appendages that can conceivably do the work that is normally asked of feet.

In getting them down he may occasionally give them more space than they are entitled to, but that's okay with me. It's such a relief to see them done correctly. In an online interview somewhere a few years back, he mentioned that James Sturm had criticized this, the size of them, and I felt very annoyed with James Sturm. 'Mind your own business!,' I shouted at the computer.

ps. I apologise to James Sturm, who has done only great things, for using him as the punch-line in my balonious rant about feet. (smiley face, etc.)

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Monday 10 October 2011

Habibi, by Craig Thompson. I'm glad I read the book before I read Nadim Damluji's nicely considered review The Spectre of Orientalism in Craig Thompson’s Habibi at the Hooded Utilitarian. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to look at the expanse of desert on the rear endpapers without seeing it as an editorial cartoon minefield, with submerged bombs labelled 'orientalism,' 'ethnocentrism,' 'primitivism,' 'exoticism' etc., or be able read the book without being in a tense state of 'how's he going to get all these worms back in the can?'

Thompson's own remark in a recent interview creates more problems than it solves: "But I was also having fun thinking of Orientalism as a genre like Cowboys and Indians is a genre – they’re not an accurate representation of the American west, they’re like a fairy tale genre.” As a cowboy, I myself shot a dozen indians in the infamous incident at Glasgow Gulch, and to this day, fifty years later, when I see casual slaughter in the movies, and in kids' video games, I feel nauseated.

The thing about Craig Thompson is that he kind of exists in a state of blessed innocence. I can think of no other artist who could draw so many pages of nakidity and you come away thinking 'aw, he's such a sweetheart.' I even find myself wanting to protect him from all those jackals at the Hooded Utilitarian.

But let's not do that. I shall take a different tack altogether.

Thompson's need was not to tell us all about the geographical or political Middle East, either of today or yesteryear, but to find a narrative body that would carry him through the next stage of his development as an artist. For me, many years ago, Greek mythology served a similar purpose; I had no special interest in the subject prior to that. I just needed an engine that came ready built with all its interconnecting parts in place, that enabled me to encase stories within other stories right from the kick-off. The theme that commands Thompson in this early phase of his oeuvre is LOVE. He has taken it from the childlike cute of Goodbye Chunky Rice through the 'first love' of Blankets. And now a big subject was required, something with epic potential, a grand romance, something bigger than the familiar and the everyday. He sought and found it in the idiom of the Arabian Nights, with its sultans and harems and slaves and eunuchs. But more than a single linear story, Thompson wanted to erect a colossal structure with a baroque encrustation of teeming narratives. To this end he uses the literature of the Middle East, in both subject, using the Qur'an the bible and Arabic poetry, and in form, through the rich calligraphic tradition of the literature. At this point you would have to ask: is this guy nuts? Where did he get the courage to take on all of that?

The funny part is that I always mentally filed Thompson with a newer wave of artists, like Kochalka, who rejected the byzantine complexities of Alan Moore's Watchmen and From Hell and plunked for a straightforward heart-on-sleeve, decompressed, uncomplicated brand of storytelling. Habibi is continually backtracking and jumping forward and freezing for analogical insertions and philosophical digressions. A calendar of pregnancy, an explanation of ancient chemistry, numerology, a cut away diagram of a ship, pictorial nods to 19th century painters such as Rossetti, Ingres. And that's just off the top of my head

One of Damluji's criticisms:
Wanatolia represents the heart of Habibi’s most problematic elements. In the sense that Habibi is a fairy tale (which Thompson has stated he was intending to create) it is understandable that the city is constructed as “timeless.” In other words, the majority of Dodola and Zam’s story isn’t tied to an analogous timeline. The problem arises when in the latter chapters of the book Thompson reveals that the same backward setting of Wanatolia (which houses the harem filled palace of the Sultan) dually houses a modern urban city. When Dodola and Zam return to Wanatolia after escaping the palace and recouping with a fisherman, we see the city in a completely new light: it is now a vibrant bustling city with billboards for Coca-Cola and Pepsi, SUVs, and free women pushing strollers...
...The entire events of the book are retroactively a modern reality in the wake of an urban Wanatolia.
This strikes me as an overly linear reading of the work. By the time you get to that part of the book, with all its parables and tangents, It's difficult to think of the action as taking place in a city or a time in any real sense. Will any reader think that the sea of junk, for instance, is supposed to be literal? It's all in ideaspace, to refer to Alan Moore's concept, where one thing and its opposite tend to exist in immediate juxtaposition. And it fits perfectly with the tradition of the Nights (without getting into the complications of how they got the way they are):
The tales vary widely: they include historical tales, love stories, tragedies, comedies, poems, burlesques and various forms of erotica. Numerous stories depict Jinns, Ghouls, Apes, sorcerers, magicians, and legendary places, which are often intermingled with real individuals and geography, not always rationally...
Next time, some thoughts about the art in Habibi.

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Sunday 9 October 2011

Milt Caniff used to talk about how good the engravers at the Tribune News syndicate were and how he could count on them to get subtle colouring effects onto the printed page. This is Burma in a panel from a May 1941 Sunday page of Terry and the Pirates.