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. Read the rest of this entry »
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. Read the rest of this entry »
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. Read the rest of this entry »
In Visual Storytelling on June 10, 2010 at 1:00 am
In general I don’t really like autobiographical comics. I have nothing against the idea, and I greatly enjoy the work of cartoonists like Alex Robinson (Box Office Poison) and Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets) who, like the best contemporary novelists, draw on their personal experiences to lend their fiction an air of authenticity.
Most cartoonists doing straight autobiography in comics move through two distinct phases with their work. First it’s post-college angst, with comics about the seemingly universal experience of living in dumpy apartments, working miserable jobs, and going to parties and bars, with particular attention paid to romantic failure. Next, assuming the cartoonist has some success with the first phase, comes an endless series of comics about the experience of going to comic book conventions, which makes sense as this is one of the few times a dedicated cartoonist gets away from the drawing table. This rarely makes for interesting reading, even if you get all the in-jokes and pop culture references, and the frequent mean-spirited humor directed at convention-goers strikes me as not only petty, but biting the hand that feeds as well.
There are always exceptions, however, and there are a few cartoonists doing autobiographical stuff whose work makes me eat my words. Read the rest of this entry »
In Intensive, Interview on June 3, 2010 at 1:00 am
Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, is the most comprehensive textbook on comics creation to date, with chapters on everything from narrative structure to the technical demands of digital art reproduction. The book presents its material in a series of 15 lessons, each building on the last and clearly intended to be the framework for a class, but with enough flexibility that the lessons can be worked through by individual learners (referred to as Ronin in the book) as well as groups of students outside of a traditional classroom setting.
Students at the 2008 PNCA Graphic Novel Intensive were lucky enough to be the first to use the book in a classroom setting, and even better, their teachers were the authors themselves! I recently had a chance to catch up with Jessica and chat about the book, its use in the classroom, and the planned follow-up… Read the rest of this entry »
In Interview on May 27, 2010 at 1:00 am
Why do bad things happen to good comics in Hollywood? Why do some succeed as movies while others fail? And, successful or not, why do so many comics-to-screen adaptations have so little resemblance to their source material? Screenwriter Randall Jahnson (The Doors, The Mask of Zorro, Tales From the Crypt) shares his insights into the strange and terrifying world of Hollywood…
So, why do bad things happen to good comics in Hollywood?
Comics creators – and their fans – have to understand that mainstream Hollywood is a machine designed for one thing: making money. The studios nowadays are not the autonomous entities they were in the Golden Age. Sony, Universal, Paramount – all the majors – are parts of mega-conglomerates that exist solely to churn out profits. That “Bottom Line” mentality starts at the top and trickles down like drops of sweat into every aspect of movie-making, including the most basic creative decisions. Read the rest of this entry »
In Web Comics on May 20, 2010 at 1:00 am
The internet is the world’s most powerful and accessible publishing platform, so it’s really no surprise that web comics have been around almost as long as the world wide web has. But while the self-publishing boom of the ‘70s and ‘80s was driven by multi-page comics stories out of a need for a physical product with some substance to it, the more immediate nature of the internet has led the majority of web comics creators to use single page, newspaper-style comic strips as their model.
That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of long form comics work out there, it just tends to take a form similar to the old Terry and the Pirates or Flash Gordon syndicated strips – an ongoing story told in short, single page (and sometimes just three or four panel) installments. It’s simply a feature of the format – where a book or even a minicomic needs at least 8 to 12, but more often 24 to 30, pages of material to form a printable, sellable book, a web comic has no such physical constraints, and relies on repeat visits to its hosting site, so a one page per day (or per week) release schedule serves the format much better. Read the rest of this entry »
In Intensive, Interview on May 13, 2010 at 1:00 am
Daniel Duford is an artist and writer. He makes wall drawings, comics and sculpture to tell stories that meditate on myth in the American psyche. His graphic novel The Naked Boy Part 1 was published in 2009. He has a BFA from the University of New Mexico. He teaches regularly at PNCA and has taught at the Graphic Novel Intensive every year since its inception in 2007. Check out more of his work at danielduford.com.
What got you interested in comics, and why do you think the form is worthy of serious study?
I began reading comics before I could read. I have a very early memory of sitting in the backyard with my older brother Mike and drawing panels and word balloons before I could even write. When I was in grade school my ambition was to be a comic book artist. It was my first exposure to art. I was shamed out of it in art school but the building blocks of my artistic eye come from looking at comics. Read the rest of this entry »
In Interview on May 6, 2010 at 1:00 am
Brett Warnock started the company that would evolve into Top Shelf Productions, publisher of critical and commercial successes such as Craig Thompson’s Blankets and Alan Moore’s From Hell with the publication of the anthology Top Shelf in 1995.
So what prompted you to start Primal Groove Press and publish the original Top Shelf anthology?
When I got into mail-order mini-comics, I discovered there were lots of my favorite cartoonists not being represented in the current crop of indy anthologies at the time (influential books like D&Q, Rubber Blanket, Raw volume 2, Nozone, et al.). So I decided, hey, I’ll have to do it myself! Read the rest of this entry »
In Events on April 29, 2010 at 1:00 am
Creating comics is a fairly solitary occupation, requiring endless lonely hours at the drawing board or computer workstation. It is safe to say that any cartoonist who devotes the time it takes to make good comics doesn’t get out much, which is why events like Portland’s Stumptown Comics Festival are so important. They provide the working comics creator with the two things he or she desperately needs: an audience for their work, and an excuse to get out and talk to people. Read the rest of this entry »