Seeking to disprove stereotypes that comics are merely simplistic or juvenile entertainment for the uncultured; to enlighten the open-minded and encourage the broadening of one's horizons; to examine comics as a text; to deepen appreciation for comics, comic books, and graphic novels as a formidable form of art in all cultures.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Meatier Posts to Come

I apologize for the lack of conversation-sparking posts lately. I know what I want to write about, but have been delaying because I don't have a scanner to use for bringing in examples. I may just bite the bullet and settle for snapshots from my digital camera.

I have a couple posts immediately in mind, such as an examination of pacing in comics, and the artistic qualities of text and its juxtaposition with images. Hopefully I'll have something in the next couple days.

Review: How to Make Webcomics

How to Make Webcomics is a collaborative effort by webcomic creators Scott Kurtz of PvP, Kris Straub of Starslip Crisis (and, my personal favorite, Chainsawsuit), Dave Kellet of Sheldon, and Brad Guigar of Evil Inc., and is essentially what the title implies: a "how to" book that gives in-depth insights as to how to create and manage a successful webcomic, both as a form of storytelling and as a business.

As webcomics are an increasingly important part of the comics medium, I've included this book as a link on the sidebar. Webcomics, as noted by the above authors, are a unique subcategory of comics in general. Not only are they generally more accessible than comics in other media, but they also lack the collaborative properties of comic books and graphic novels. Webcomics are generally a solo act, so the artist's persona comes out stronger than in other cases.

Also of interesting note is the fact that a webcomic's overall themes and feel -- the mise-en-scene, if you will -- extend beyond the borders of each daily strip. HTMW discusses the importance of web design and blogging in an effort to support an artist's strip and give something "extra" to the readers, while keeping the tone of the characters and plots he or she has developed.

I found the artistic portions of the book to be very insightful. The business parts were also useful, but I found them to be less convincing as I knew that, at the time of the book's writing, at least one of the authors didn't follow what he was preaching. However, given that any one of them knows countless times more about finding success in this field than I, it's certainly not useless information. Aside from this (and an insane abundance of typos), the book was a great read and I welcome it whole-heartedly into my library. And, yes, I will be citing it as a reference in future posts.

Friday, June 13, 2008

David Hajdu on "The Colbert Report"

David Hajdu is an author who recently wrote a book detailing the political controversies of post-WWII comics as commentaries about social change and stories about anti-heroes. If anyone reads his new book, The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America, let me know what you think!

The embedded clip below gives insight into the book and is a good example of how comics, like any other art form, can have profound cultural impacts.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Review: How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way

How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema is pretty much what the title suggests: an instructional book on illustrating comics in a certain manner. When a "how to draw" book is mentioned, you might think of those simplistic books you used to pick up from the library as a kid that helped you learn to draw potatoes in five different scenarios or stoic animals. This book, I assure you, is a little more advanced.

HTDCTMW teaches the reader all the processes of illustrating a professional comic book, emphasizing the ability to draw different scenarios and breaking them down into their basic shapes/components. Stan Lee emphasizes the need to be able to depict a story that one could follow without words, if necessary. The authors even take it a step further and show you how to ink, which is an underappreciated art form in the comics industry/readership (including yours truly). Some argue that, for advanced artists, the information contained is a little dated (it is over 20 years old) if you are aspiring to get into the comics biz, but almost anyone would point you to this if you were asking for a book to help you hone your artistic talents specifically for comic book creation.

I include this book in the sidebar as recommended reading because it shows the many tools comic book artists have to work with, and also gives insight into what an artist must remember as they strive to communicate effectively through the comics medium. It distinguishes between drawing real life and drawing for a superhero genre, the sorts of melodramatic elements that must be considered when doing so. The beginnings of the book also break down a comic page into its various elements and define what exactly they are (the "gutter," a "splash page," etc.). I plan on citing this book in future posts.

If you can endure Stan Lee's zany narration, give this book a peek. I received it as a present as a teenager, and though I haven't attempted to enter the comics industry, I have kept the book as a reference for understanding -- and I've had professional artist friends borrow it from me to specifically gain a better understanding of such notions as proper proportions in human anatomy and superheroes.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Event: MoCCA Art Festival 2008

It's only a two day event, but this weekend (Saturday, 6/7 and Sunday, 6/8) will bring the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Art Festival in New York City! An annual fundraiser held by the museum, panels discussing the art in comics will be hosted by major players in the comics industry, including Art Spiegelman of Maus fame.

From the website:
Sponsored by the New York Institute for the Humanities and MoCCA, “Post-Bang: Comics Ten Minutes After the Big Bang!” features roundtables and presentations on “key trends and debates facing comics in this new, ‘post-bang’ environment.” The day opens with a roundtable on “Comics and Canon Formation” (11:15-12:30) and moves onto “Comics and Kid’s Lit” (1:30-2:45), “Comics and the Literary Establishment” (3:00-4:15) and “Comics and the Internet” (5:30-6:45). The day closes with Art Spiegelman and Gary Panter in conversation (7:00-8:00), and Hillary Chute interviewing Lynda Barry (8:15-9:30).
Click on the above link to check out more information on the event, schedules, and the address. And, of course, if you happen to go, let me know what you think!

Review: Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross

Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross came to me about five years ago as a birthday present from my brother. It's great at what it shoots for: a showcase of Ross's work for DC over the years. It makes a great coffee table book, as it's very segmented in format. It's not meant to necessarily be read cover to cover (though I have done so) as the primary focus is the over-sized illustrations that "wow" the reader. The art itself is meant to be studied and taken in, with less emphasis on the written text.

I bring this book up, however, for a couple reasons. For one, Ross is one of the most unique comic artists you will find out there. If you're averse to the lack of realism in some drawings, you'll appreciate the photoreality that Ross utilizes in his depictions of fictional characters. In fact, the title "Mythology" is a multiple entendre for Ross's ability to take mythological beings and ground them in a real-world feeling, increasing depth of character and relatability between the reader and the material. In so doing, Ross brings perhaps otherwise-laughable concepts to a new level of respect and provocation of thought.

Also, Mythology shows Ross's journey as an artist -- how he was raised, how he developed his talents, the process he goes through in creating his art, and the psychology behind his work. Anyone who questions the degree to which comics can be considered an art form should study how Ross meticulously conceptualizes, rough sketches, photographs models, paints, sculpts, etc. The amount of creative synergy in his efforts is astounding -- you'll see his work as much more than a pop culture attempt at commercialism.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Exhibit: Comic Art Indigène

As noted in the sidebar, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, NM has a new exhibit running from May 11, 2008 through January 4, 2009 called Comic Art Indigène.

The exhibit explores the artistic approaches made by a recent generation of Native Americans who have embraced comics as a form of expression and reflection of their culture. From the museum's website:
It is only natural that this marginal art appeals to oftmarginalized indigenous people, for both have been regarded as a primitive and malignant presence on the American landscape.
I find it extremely interesting that a minority with a history of being overlooked and mistreated is utilizing an art form that is respected as such by very few. This exhibit should prove to be fascinating.

If any readers happen to see this exhibit, please let me know your thoughts!

Lest Tyranny Triumph ca. 2004
Diego Romero (Cochiti Pueblo)
Pencil, ink on board

(used without permission)