Archive for March, 2006

Really, Marvel? Really?



who are you calling an aesthete?

(11:58:27 PM) me: i have been having really strange thoughts about visual art this year
(11:58:32 PM) madeline: ?
(11:59:03 PM) me: sometimes it seems like i am much more impressed by art than most people
(11:59:14 PM) me: and not just visual art.
(11:59:22 PM) me: there’s like this essential mystery that blows my mind
(11:59:45 PM) me: somebody can put a few lines together, or a few words together, and suddenly it is this extremely meaningful thing
(11:59:57 PM) me: and it communicates so much
(12:01:37 AM) me: maybe it’s because i’ve never been a creator myself
(12:01:50 AM) me: so it seems like this magical act
(12:01:54 AM) madeline: I think you think too much about never being a creator
(12:02:12 AM) madeline: I think you need to just forget worrying about whether you can create and whether it’d be perfect and do it
(12:02:19 AM) me: but i mean, a while back i sat down and sketched out some ideas for comics stuff
(12:02:25 AM) me: and i was impressed at the things i was able to make
(12:02:30 AM) madeline: *nod8
(12:02:31 AM) me: i was like “it’s this easy?”
(12:02:34 AM) madeline: er
(12:02:34 AM) madeline: *nod*
(12:02:35 AM) madeline: heh
(12:02:44 AM) me: i guess i have written songs
(12:02:56 AM) me: but they were silly and easy
(12:03:01 AM) me: like the Pope song from 24-hr theater [essentially: an acoustic guitar, a chord progression, some witty lyrics, an ordinary melody, and a repetitive chorus, that I continued to get compliments on for weeks after the show]
(12:03:13 AM) me: that doesn’t feel like real creation
(12:03:37 AM) madeline: heh
(12:03:45 AM) me:
(12:03:46 AM) madeline: “real creation”? What is that?
(12:03:53 AM) me: but i’m sure that’s how Jaime Hernandez feels about that sketch
(12:03:56 AM) me: took him five minutes
(12:04:07 AM) me: and somebody will treasure it forever
(12:04:09 AM) madeline: I think that term is, inherently, a little bit insulting for just the reason you said
(12:04:33 AM) madeline: to yourself, to everyone who does create
(12:04:46 AM) me: i don’t understand the “economics” of art
(12:04:54 AM) me: how can something be so disposable and so valuable at once?
so unlabored, so unintentional, so accidental, and yet so meaningful?

more copying from S_D – ASBAR

Step 1: read this page from All-Star Batman & Robin #2. Much mockery ensued on Scans_Daily.

Step 2: My reaction to this page.

On reflection, I actually quite like this.

What we have here is a man who has never dealt well with emotion. He is fanatically obsessed with the death of his parents and spends his life trying to somehow un-do that death, a quest which is eternally doomed to failure. he desperately needs allies because he’s going mad trying to do it alone, but nobody else is nuts enough to “understand” him. He sees a young boy suffer the same experience that he did and instantly grasps at this chance to save him from going through similar torture as well as finally have a companion in his “war.” It is sad, it is pathetic and it is more than a little creepy. This emotionally stunted man-child feels that the only person in the world that he can relate to is a prepubescent boy. But he can’t be honest with the boy, because then the kid will have to go through the same years of suffering that he did. It’s the classic parent’s attempt to save your kid from everything you went through as a kid. He’s trying to be for Dick the thing that he wishes he’d had as a kid, the thing that he only found after years of torment – a cold, external force constantly driving you to work at some task, preventing you from thinking about your feelings. So he does his best to be that for Dick. Of course, being an emotionally stunted man-child, he’s not too successful at it… I suspect Miller is writing Dick as considerably different than young Bruce; considerably more mentally resilient and mature. The great thing about watching the two of them is that Dick is actually the adult here. Bruce is trying so goddamn hard and Dick sees right through him.

I wouldn’t say it’s breaking too many boundaries – I think it’s treading the same path as Watchmen and Miracleman and Animal Man and Dark Knight Returns (more deconstruction, psychologically investigating the reasons why someone would become a superhero). And I don’t think it’s consistent with the marketing for this book, or with Jim Lee‘s talents as an artist, or with the current need for superhero books to be “fun again,” or with my memories of DK2.

But putting all that aside and considering it as a piece of writing, I like it. We’ve seen hints of this in other writers recently (Devin Grayson especially), and it actually seems to be the most popular Batman/Robin interpretation on Scans_Daily, so I’m not quite sure where all the rage is coming from.

The emphasis on two deeply flawed men trying to relate to each other reminds me a lot of Preacher. I wonder what Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon would do with this assignment. At least, considering what I said before about Jim Lee being inappropriate (if this is really the psychological story that I think it is), I wish we could get art from Dillon, or Darick Robertson, or somebody along those lines.

on the virtues of Frank Miller (i.e. Sin City)

sin city 1

Posted in Scans_Daily, but what the heck, I’ll put it here too.

Minrho just asked why Frank Miller gets any respect in the comics world.

Now, there are a lot of valid points to be made in the debate about Frank’s sanity and his worldview.

But when it comes to the ability to put ink on a page…

y’all better recognize.

Now, Frank’s page compositions are almost always just that – page compositions, where the page as a whole is an artistic unit. Therefore I’ve provided good-sized thumbnails of everything, so you can get the “from a distance” view as well as the closeup. (Incidentally, part of the reason why Frank’s pages work this way is because he was one of the first Americans to really carefully study Japanese comics, particularly Lone Wolf and Cub, in the 1980s.) (And it goes without saying that he worshipped Will Eisner.)

Look at the lighting:
sin city 2

Look at the composition, the placement and angle of all the white and black elements:
sin city 3

I love how he can say so much with a silhouette (notice also the composition, etc, of course):
sin city 4

sin city 5

sin city 6

He gives us absolutely everything that’s important and absolutely nothing that’s not. Another brilliant lighting panel – look at the way Hardigan’s hand emerges from the darkness… So much is implied with so little!
sin city 7

The reduction of everything to its most fundamental quality. Iconography:
sin city 8
God, that page just literally looks sharp.

Look at how he visually represents the mental state of a man being hung, swinging on the end of a noose:
sin city 9

Addition, subtraction; positive space, negative space; text, image; form, content: This is one of my favorite pages of all time.
sin city 10

I’m not saying he’s the greatest comic artist ever. Chaykin and others have played with lettering. Mignola has almost as good an eye for where to put his ink. And Eisner invented all of this back in the fifties.

But give the man his propers. Motherfucker knows his way around a page.

the ideal comic shop

A post on Jason Richards’ RIOT shop blog asked about the “ultimate comic book shop” where space and money is no object. My response, which turned out a little more generally-applicable:

ultimate comic shop:
-many comfortable chairs, some with tables
-coffee bar
-bar bar (for after hours :D)
-come to think of it, i really like the idea of barstool seating with a counter… just imagine a line of people sitting there reading comics…
-people are welcome to stay as long as they like
-visually awesome (LOTS of art on the walls… but really classy stuff… if possible get Chris Ware to turn one wall into a giant comic strip)
barcode point-of-sale technology
-a high-quality web site
-don’t carry any comic unless there is at least one store employee who absolutely loves it
-knowledgeable, smart, and charming staff
-staff are pro-active in recommending books to people who would like them
-shelving by theme
-hold events like comic-making workshops, and the crazy promotions that the Isotope runs
-have a “bring a friend day.” If a regular customer brings in a friend who’s never been in your store before, they both get 10% off. or a free comic, or whatever.
-carry every title on the Comics Journal top 100, and label them as such
-label Harvey/Eisner/Ignatz winners and nominees
-label staff favorites, with a little hand-written paragraph from the staff member, a la independent bookstores & video stores
-hang up posters around the store; little reading guides like “a guide to Grant Morrison” or “the best Batman stories” or “black-and-white hipster autobiography comics”, and list a dozen items with a little pitch for each one. be sure to stock everything on the list.
-either commit to a broad and full coverage of the comics field, throughout the 20th century and across the world, or else narrow your focus to one thing and do it REALLY well
-be a hip and attractive destination every day of the week, not just Wednesday. be a cool place to bring somebody on a date. be a logical response to the question “let’s go hang out somewhere… but where?”
-have equal numbers of male and female customers
-encourage customers to come to special events to meet each other and build community. comics is too solitary a habit sometimes.
-host reading groups kind of like Oprah’s book club. get people coming in on a regular basis to talk about their favorite comic. Female readers especially, in my experience, tend to form REALLY strong attachments to books, and they LOVE to talk about them with other people. Do one volume of SANDMAN or PREACHER or TRANSMET or FABLES a month.
-understand that goodwill, positive associations, and loyalty are worth their weight in gold. Letting somebody read four books for free, find one that they absolutely love, and come back every month to get it, is better than letting them read no books for free and never come back because nothing sparked their interest.
sell books to your local library. like a ton of them.
-sell books to local college students. another ton. Get permission from the school to visit the campus and market comics. set up a table with several sample books (proven college-kid favorites) and get people interested. Get some contacts on campus. talk to the school anime/manga club. get word of mouth going.
-have your primary goal be providing a service to the community, not making big bucks. If your community is not better because of you, you’re doing something wrong.

My brother’s additions, with which I mostly agree:

Sell subscriptions to the store “archive,” which is everything that’s not for sale, including 1 of every major graphic novel ever published in English (including a bunch of foreign stuff). Let subscribers come in and read whatever they want in the archive, but it’s not a lending library, so they can’t take stuff home. Sell “day/week passes” as well as monthly subscriptions, in case someone just walks in and is dying to read as much Promethea or old Prince Valiant as they can possibly consume in a single sitting. Or if they’re trying to do research. Encourage people to value the experience of reading comics more than the value of owning them.Get knowledgable folks to give lectures on comics in your store and invite local students and professors to attend. Provide free food and drinks.

Aside from the cool bar-stool idea, have an area where people can just sit or lay around on the floor or on an unending sea of couches, relaxing with comics or in a pile of their friends. Have a place where you can have Story Time and read books aloud to a gathered audience.

Leigh Walton talks comics and maybe other arts. (RSS)
He also works for the very excellent publisher Top Shelf Productions (which does not necessarily endorse the views and opinions, etc, herein).


Header by me. Contains an interpolation of the final panel from All-Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Speaking of which.