PNCA Continuing Education

The future of comics

In History on July 1, 2010 at 1:00 am

I recently had occasion to re-read some Fantastic Four comics originally published in 1981. Clunky dialogue and crude printing aside, they really were some beautifully drawn and very entertaining stories, but the thing that really struck me this time around was the writer’s approach to the comics as individual, self-contained stories. Each issue was a complete story with a conclusion (barring the odd two-part story), but at some point there would be a little one or two page scene setting up next issue’s tale. This accomplished two important things very well: readers would (hopefully) be intrigued enough to buy the next issue of the series, yet the book would provide a satisfying, complete story for first time or irregular readers.

Currently, the comic book market is almost entirely driven by the trade paperback. Usually a collected volume reprinting groups of single issues (or “floppies,” as they are starting to be called), trade paperbacks emerged in the mid-1980s as a way to get popular comics material into the coveted book store market, as well as make out of print material available to new readers.

My life in comics

In History, Minicomics on June 24, 2010 at 1:00 am

In 1981, at the tender age of 9, my father took me to the first Colorado Comic Art Convention. It was a tiny gathering of comic book fans (especially by today’s comic book convention standards) with Kirk Alyn (who had played Superman in a 1948 serial) as the headlining guest, but for a kid whose experience so far with comics had been picking them off of the spinner rack at the local grocery store, it was a revelation. I came away with a handful of comics, including and old Marvel  Human Fly (I don’t recall what issue, and sadly it’s long gone from my collection) and a copy of Fantasian, a local fanzine about comics put out by the group who had put on the convention.

Crumb’s Genesis is a revelation

In Cartooning, Events, Visual Storytelling on June 17, 2010 at 1:00 am

While I will admit that I’ve never been a close follower of his work, it has been my general impression that most of Robert Crumb’s artistic output since the release of Terry Zwigoff’s documentary about him has been about Crumb’s bizarre persona as presented in the film. The cover of Self-Loathing Comics #1 from 1995 proclaims “Exposed! Details of R. Crumb’s everyday life!” I can’t say I’ve ever been particularly interested. Even his well-known material from the 1960s and ‘70s is so steeped in the alternative drug culture of the time that it fails to appeal to me, as someone with no particular interest in that period of history.

However, no one can deny that Crumb is an absolutely brilliant illustrator. He consistently creates comic pages of astounding detail and is possessed of an instinct for page layout and panel progressions. Watching film of him drawing, either in Zwigoff’s Crumb or in Ron Mann’s excellent comics documentary Comic Book Confidential, he makes the process look effortless. It’s too bad I find most of his work so obnoxious.

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