Post-Iconic

So do I sound like a bigger douche than usual if I say that I feel like comics grew up with me right around the last yelps of my college years? No? Yeah? Kindasortamaybe. Sure I missed the really important stuff, given that I’m only twenty-five… but I think what so many call the Modern Age ended right around the time I left university, and comics became this new animal that was just rife with this manic purity and self-awareness that I got sucked back in after a withdrawal from the medium around the mid-to-late nineties.

When I think of the Golden Age (late thirties to early fifties), I think of the invention of the superhero and the birth of the icons.  I think of comics catching on as portable war-time pamphlets egging troops on with stories of good winning over evil. After all, comics were the iPods of the forties… if iPods indirectly conditioned you about the dangers of radiation and the terror of atomic energy… but no yeah, you get the idea.

When I think of the Silver Age (mid-fifties to early seventies) grounding the tales in science more than magic, what with everyone obsessed with nukes, I think of space cop Hal Jordan replacing mystic Alan Scott.  I think of the Fantastic Four.  Heroes became more flawed, and we got Spider-man.  Art became a bigger factor, and we got Kirby.  DC started becoming the legacy universe, while Marvel grew into the Wild West.

The Bronze Age/Dark Age (mid-seventies to the late eighties) saw a growing appreciation for serious real-life issues being filtered through the comic lens.  Schwartz took over for Weisinger to scale Superman’s ridiculously near-infinite powers. Speedy on speed.  Minority heroes.  The Dark Knight Returns.  Watchmen.  Vertigo.  The picture of justice became less and less stark black-and-white, but a thick muddled gray.  This was when I started.

And then came what I like to call the Image Era—the nineties. Not to point any animosity on Image the company or anything, but I feel like the term really captures that decade’s mood as well as the perceived superficiality of the medium at the time.  Superman’s death.  The Spider Clone Saga.  Inter-company Crossovers. Amalgam?  Need I go on?  It felt like a very events-for-events-sake time. This was when I stopped.  Sure, feel free to call me out on the occasional Gen13 and Battle Chasers splurge in the middle of it all, but hey man…. hormones.

Then when it felt to me like comics were all but tits up, someone lent me the trade for Grant Morrison’s  X-Men run.  And all at once, it all felt right again. Fresh again.  New again.  Like the first time I heard the Beatles.  And it wasn’t so much that Morrison was simply introducing new ideas—no, he completely and respectfully was building on old ones, expanding the mythos, broadening the scope.  And up until then, I had felt like no one had really even tried to do that in a while.  Then we got Identity Crisis and things just started to happen. Brave things. Fists in your fucking face things. The Authority. The Ultimates. Planetary. All-Star. Civil War.  And I wasn’t sure if it was Bendis’ DD run or Last of the Independents that made me say it out loud, but comics had grown its fucking balls back.

tony_was_right
When the boys and I drink, I tend to bring up how exciting comics are right now… and how this is probably the most energetic time for the medium since the Golden Age.  A new Golden Age, if you will.  It’s always fun to watch people play when literally no one is afraid to break their toys anymore—Steve Rogers is dead!  And there are real efforts to make things like that mean something now, and that to me makes this a fascinating ride.  The one term mentioned more often than “superhero”? — “status quo.” There is a fearlessness about creators today that make them unafraid to really torture their characters. But at the same time, what I love most about this era is that creators, on the whole, respect the creative lineage enough to make sure that how they piece their heroes back together absolutely earns them the way in which they broke them.  Here’s hoping it keeps up.

The Zuda Challenge (Part I)

The JENNY STRANGE package is graduating to the clean-ups phase.  Digitally unsmudging my pigeon poo inks and random coffee stains now.  And I mean that literally.  Sure, I love comics, and I love art, and I love the creation of comic art… but I honestly doubt I will ever enjoy clean-ups.  Coupla buddies once offered to shoot a video of my pencil-to-ink process (like them Gnomon cats, but with zero production value), and I knew these fuckers, y’know? And I knew they liked watching highway police chases and car crashes and train wrecks unfold on TV, y’know? So…ha ha ha!  Rain check, you bastards.

So JENNY’s for Zuda, and that’s DC’s webcomic… ongoing contest… thing.  I honestly still have no idea what to call it without having to say it’s a slush pile, but Zalben went with that on an episode of the now-defunct The Stack on Pulp Secret.  The Zuda browser fills most of your screen with a landscape-orientated comic page.  This was a challenge to me because up until now I’ve only been working on standard comic page/portrait orientation.  Switching gears to landscape had me rethinking my panel design, sweet spot positioning, and pretty much the entire flow of the page itself.

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The standard comic layout, given how I’ve gotten used to reading, allows for a simple Z-shaped flow to the reader’s eye; and this way, no one really has to worry about the last panel (bottom-right of a typical page) attracting too much attention as you read toward it, simply because it’s in the very bottom of the page and thus it is literally the last panel your eye travels to.  Put simply, it is read last because it is seen last.

Now because comic pages are typically broken down in such a way that the last panel is usually either the “period” in that page’s sequential sentence, or the ellipses leading off to the next sequence of events (the next page), the intuitive positioning of the last panel is tantamount to the effective flow of a sequential page.  And of course, better flow equals better comic… and that never hurts.

Which brings me to the tough part about the Zuda pages with their landscape orientation — Suppose your script calls for you to lay out the page into two rows of panels: a top row and a bottom row.  Now let’s say there are three panels up top and two in the bottom, with the second bottom panel being the big plot event happening on the page.  It’s problematic because said big-event panel is right underneath the build-up shots.  Yes, I’m aware I could be bitching about a moot point, seeing as how most Zuda readers are probably “professional” comic readers and I’m just a jackass, but doesn’t it annoy you when you flip a page and your eye is accidentally drawn to the big twist/event right away, and so you feel you just got cheated out of what would have been a great build up?

And of course I’m aware that the Z flow still applies to the landscape orientation since it’s still western media, but I found the intricacies and challenges of the tilt to be fun and interesting to talk about, especially since, unlike the ever-dashing Derrick Fish, I have little to no experience with the strip format.

I’ll share some JENNY STRANGE pages in a coupla days as well as take a look at how some professionals play with the landscape orientation, and maybe then get told off on how I’m just talking out of my ass. Till then… keep ‘em warm, ladies.

Like Water

One of the larger rooms in the Amor residence recently became available to me and my deceptively quiet lifestyle — I say this with a smile in my heart and a curse on my tongue because I am in fact an intense young man with big, big ideas and thus need to be so housed (Hehah! I’m back, fuckers!).

It’s taken a good week to achieve what I waaaaant to call a Semblance of Order? But let’s just say it’ll do for now.  No, I am not building a fort around the desk… it’s just that the art books and some comics’ll have to be happy being piled up on the carpet until I can get a new shelf made. Or stolen.  I know a guy who knows a guy.  Maybe.

Work station’s set up smartly underneath air conditioner, sound blasters making the most of being cornered.  Made sure she was settled in first so Ray Charles could keep me company as I migrated my shit. Somehow, “Georgia on My Mind” almost made it feel fun. Almost. Room’s got more windows, which is never a bad thing, seeing as how I’m spending more and more time indoors what with the projects piling up (Douche Alert!). Also not hurting me — the fact that the room is twice the size of the old one.  Studio Hunger Pain was good to me… but this… I can get used to this.  I also got stuck with a retardedly large bed.  It’s pretty much a kingy — which is funny coz I am a tiny, tiny, unmarried boy — so there really isn’t a need for such generous beddage, unless the girlfriend finds a way to ninjarotically scale the balcony, which (and I shit you not) opens up to a pretty shallow view of the street.

Idea.

So anyway yeah, as of this posting Fort Bastard is running at 90% capacity.  The other 10% totally depends on whether or not the people who supposedly provide me with an internet service decide to help me out rather than just (a) reassure me with false hope; (b) continue giving me the runaround; or (c) hit on me.  Apparently being a manchild with a semi-nasal baritone is shmexy.  Who knew?

The transfer’s been generally good though.  And I’m finally able to get caught up.  The Euro comic thing is pretty much wrapped up, with some minor cleanups to take care of — cleavage enhancements and such. What.  The Will Prince gig is steadily gaining some steam, with the page layouts all done and pretty much approved.  But tomorrow I’m waking up, fixing up some coffee, and finishing JENNY STRANGE, god fucking damn it. Once and for all, period, end of discussion. Completely unhappy with the lag between the action sequence and the pitch’s denouement. We’ll see how it goes, I guess.  And finally, Alex and I have landed this local gig where we design RPG-type creatures and all that fun stuff.  I was a Magic: The Gathering nerd, so stuff like this is always good to unwind on.  Doesn’t hurt that it pays, of course.  Holla!

So yes… still busy.  With the new studio, what I’ve found to be the biggest challenge is getting back into the right headspace of being relentlessly productive again.  And yes, I know it’s really just a geographical change; but more often than not, are we not shaped by the spaces around us, after all?  Finding that groove again though.  It’s funny how, in freelance, you’re constantly thankful that you’re tired.  But you keep moving, y’know?  You pickaxe, claw, or tooth your way up that steep slope… but you keep moving.  Don’t know if it was Bruce Lee or Spike Speagle, but hey… “Never stop moving.  Remain in motion.  Constant.  Flowing.  Think like fire.  Be like water.”

Someone lent me Iron Fist trades.

Snowball

Takeout.  Bought this bacon-raped cheeseburger thing at close to midnight, coz I usually get real hungry right around that time and it gets harder and harder to stay at the desk when my stomach begins to fuse with my spine.  But now that I have this sexy chunk of food in front of me, I’m not feelin’ it.  Not the least bit hungry.  Feel more like I’ve been pantsed by the Irony Fairy and she’s pointing and laughing at my wiener.  Eat big sandwich anyway.  Large fries.  Large coke.  Double patty.

Now happy as a pig in shit.  Pretty sure I look the part too.

Comics are glamorous.

::: ::: ::: ::: :::

Work’s been hectic.  As mentioned in previous posts, OVERTHROW and 1888 are out of my hands (crosses fingers, toes, and all other crossable appendages), so I’m diving into some new things to keep me afloat as I wait for word.  JENNY STRANGE is cruising along, and I’m finally in the final lap of what, I must say, has been a real challenge to my page-orientation ethic.  I’m taking much, much longer than I would have liked though, and I humbly admit to a noobish ineptitude on my part regarding the proper adoption of the landscape comic format.  Never been more aware of the horizontal page flow than I am now.  Curse you, Zuda!

In concurrence with that (thanks, Word of the Day Cereal), I’m juuust starting pencil work on some pages that’ll hopefully make their way into a European mangazine-anthology-type book.  So I’m thinking JUMP, but with a Le in front of it.  I don’t know.  Alexis Nolte has written a sonuvabitch of a detailed period piece — a French 17th century detective comedy, to be exact.  And quite frankly… I don’t know what I’m spending more time on — all the wigs, or all the corset cleavage shots.

Penis Canals.

Good times.

…And still in the page-layout-and-script-munching stages is an also unnameable project with William Prince.  Not much to say about that until I bang some real stuff out, but I will say that fantasy-oriented existentialist themes always suck me in, especially when they don’t just feel like they’ve  been hammered into a comic-shaped chunk of pretense.  Things like this just give my inner Caulfield a hug and a handjob every now and then, and that never hurts.

So yeah… that’s going on.  Plus the cross-country trips.  Plus the podcast shenanigans beginning to snowball.  But in a good way.

Fairly confident I can get all these projects out of the way before the month ends.

Oh stop laughing.

1888

The gears’ve started to turn on the Victorian horror project with punk  Wolfgang Parker EPswing pioneer Wolfgang Parker.

Haven’t shared much about it on the journal for very specific, very delicate reasons.  I’ve said it before, but I’ll slap you in the face with it again anyway — can’t let anyone in on any juicy details or the terrorists win.  Nyaha! Deal with it.  But no yeah, I’ve just recently completed my share of the work for the initial stages of the project, so here’s hoping something clicks and bursts into flames.  The good kind of course.

Balanced out with the high-octane, pulp approach I’m using for JENNY STRANGE, I’ve subdued my camera and physicalities for this project as I wanted it to feel… real.  Or at least as real as a drawn piece of work can be, given that my work is intrinsically cartoony.  Coated my style with a Mignola-Fegredo luster, which I’m hoping I pulled off without having to dampen too much of my own spices.  Yes, I totally just compared myself to a sprig of basil.  Fairly happy with the results.

1888-preview

Vague enough for you?  Good.

Anyway… so that’s that.  Worked pretty steadily on this one.

Blame it on the season.

Grid Talk

My good friend Derrick Fish and I recently got online to critique each other’s new artwork and talk about random shit.  This is what happens when artists try to trade ideas…

Amor: So since you’ve got WELLKEEPER in the works, and that’s pretty much horror-fantasy, I HIGHLY recommend getting the first trade for Locke and Key. I stake my nerd cred on it. It’s got the most clever paneling I’ve seen in years. Gabriel Rodriguez is a bastard.

Fish: Now THAT’S a tough one for me. After years of doing a comic strip, I’ve all but forgotten how to lay out a page in anything but a grid.

Amor: Not necessarily a bad thing though, right? Grids work. But no… I don’t mean L&K does overlapping shit. It’s also mostly grids in that, but the angles and figure placement, man… fucking brilliant.

Fish: That’s also what I’m thinking of. My staging is bland compared to the stuff I did just out of high school, and that’s not good. I’m getting a little of my groove back on “The Line” setting the camera at more than just eye level, but I feel like it’s a muscle I haven’t flexed properly in too long. I want to find a good balance between interesting and clear. I don’t want camera work SO clever that it kicks readers out of the story, or so straightforward that it puts them to sleep.

Amor: I understand that. It actually pisses me off when people do all these “clever” angles when they’re just doing a conversation scene, like with the camera in-between the first and second knuckle… and looking up at the subject. Whatever, man. It’s just… pedantic to me.

Fish: Haha! It draws attention to itself. Is the knuckle important? Why are we looking through knuckles?!?

Amor: Because we caaaaaaaan!!!

Fish: Now, maybe the person talking is a bruiser and his knuckles are battered… but if the conversation is between Aunt May and Mary Jane… Why be clever just to show how clever you are?

Amor: Exactly.

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John Amor and Derrick Fish

Fish: In film, a good example of this was in “Panic Room”, where Fincher kept zooming the faux camera through every crack in the wall for a “Wooooshy” shot.

Amor: See… on the street… away from you and your fancy films… me and my boys just call it the Mortal Kombat effect.

Fish: Elaborate…

Amor: “Wooooshy” is too technical a term for us, good sir. MK the movie would have these two-minute cut scenes where we’d circle a CGI castle and then whoosh in through the window or some shit. And I appreciate that they were trying to imply scale and grandeur, but it totally sucked me out of the movie.

Fish: OH MY LORD, I know what you’re talking about. God, that can get irritating.

Amor: It sorta happened in King Kong, but Jackson caught himself, I think. He was all, “Shit… I’m totally Mortal Kombatting this fucking bigiature scene.”

Fish: Indeed. And I LOVED King Kong but he totally did that. “LOOOOOKKKK…. a big WALL!!! Wooooosh!!!”

Amor: YES!!! Ah well…but you summed it up, why be clever just to show how clever you are? Fuck you and your astute summations.

Fish: My thoughts on that are if you can’t make a move with your REAL camera, don’t make it with your digital CGI camera. It just SCREAMS “COMPUTER EFFECT!!! NOT REAL!!!” That’s one of the millions of reasons I loved Iron Man. No Mortal Kombat camera wooshes.

Amor: Oh oh… Crystal Skull.

Fish: WOOOOOOSSSSHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

Amor: Hahaha!

Fish: Especially when Sam Witwicky becomes fucking Tarzan. Yeesh!

Amor: I know, right? Then the whole fencing-on-two-jeeps sequence. I felt sorry for that scene. You know a movie’s bad when you actually feel an undeniable amount of lurid sympathy for it.

Fish: Spielberg’s first idea was to shoot it with the same techniques and practical effects that the other three were made with and Lucas talked him out of it. That was a cool enough IDEA, but ruined in the execution. I SOOO wish Spielberg would have gone with his first instinct.

Amor: What’s funny is I could tell the color palette was off… and I’m practically colorblind.

Fish: Hahahaha! There was too much “Here’s reality” and “Here’s CGI.”

Amor: It felt like the Mummy.

Fish: Indeed. And not even the FIRST Mummy when it was still kinda under control. But the shitty Mummy Returns with the video game Scorpion King. I’m trying to think of other good comic book examples, but movies are so much easier.

Amor: See… I feel like there’s a rule about CGI. If it’s gonna be for something simple like… a tidal wave or a big car crash… then it better be good. If it’s gonna be bad… then at least make the creature or robot design fucking awesome.

Fish: Indeed.

Amor: We’re such nerds.

Unclean

Three Days Ago…

There is something in my gut, and… it doesn’t like me very much…

Why can’t I get warm?   I killed the AC over three fucking hours ago, and the fan isn’t even on.  The goddamn windows are sealed shut. I. Am. Under two thick blankets!  I can barely even breathe from how sealed off this room is — Why can’t I get warm???  This thing in my gut… it’s trying to kill me. It’s winning and I don’t know how to stop it. My joints ache too… possibly because I’ve spent the last few hours lying motionless, thinking about the thing in my gut that’s been trying to kill me. It’s fine unless I move, at which point it starts to try and kill me all over again. So I’ve lain very still… and pondered… waiting for either death or for the thing in my stomach to lose interest and move on to less life-loving bodies than my own. It hasn’t done either yet. So I lie very… very… still.  Why. Can’t.  I. Get. Warm.

And then a mosquito flies past my face. And I shiver even more violently, chilled by the breeze of its wings.

Yeah, it gets bad.

And then the trips to the bathroom start.

Today…

Haven’t been sick in months — not once since this whole working-at-home thing started back in September; and I don’t say that to make it seem like I think I shouldn’t get sick because I’m indoors for weeks at a time… no no… I say it because I go out ONCE… one motherfucking time in almost a whole entire motherfucking month… and I get the motherfucking plague handed to me.

In a glass.

Irony can be a bitch and a half.  See, earlier this week, after getting a fair amount of work done, I broke down under peer pressure (from myself) and decided to have some drinks with some friends.  Night had attendant drama, as is characteristic of such things I suppose, but at least the food and the company was good.  It was just beer for the night.  And it turns out even that was too good for a guy like me.

Turns out ice is best when it’s clean.

Strange Days

First official post at the new site?  Should come as no surprise that the first blab is about a new project, yeah?  But first!

OVERTHROW, what I like to think of as mine and Justin Jordan’s love letter to NEXT WAVE (stylistically anyway), is looking to be headed to full-on pitch stages pretty soon, so I’ve still got my manties in a bunch waiting on that.  He got to be a whore at the NY con about the project, so that’s pretty sweet.

jenny-conceptAnyway… not being completely sick of each other just yet, Justin and I are working on a new comic entitled JENNY STRANGE.  It’s pretty much my first attempt at doing something ZUDA-worthy; and to be totally honest, the landscape format to the page took quite a bit of getting used to.  For those of you who’ve been under a rock this whole time, Zuda is DC’s virtual slush pile.  That probably makes it sound dirtier than what it actually is, but suffice it to say it’s a webcomic… monitor-conscious… page browser… thing.  (It’s two in the fucking morning, give me a break… and no, I’m obviously not the writer in the tandem) Buncha guys get weblished, buncha other guys vote for who gets to stay online and finish their story.  Bam.

I’m pretty excited about JENNY coz I’ve been jonesing for a strictly pulp book for a while now.  That and GEN13’s vibe had a pretty huge impact on me as I was getting serious about comics in the 90s (yeah, I know).  Little bit of Doc Savage thrown in there as well.  Aesthetically speaking, I’ve been pouring over some recent Ultimate Spider-Man stuff and even some BRIT to harness the right vibe I want to wrap my art in for the project, but that coupled with the landscape format is taking a bit of doing.  Anyway, that’s all on that for now.  I plan to go into gory details about the zuda page orientation and the attendant storytelling mindfucks, but that’s for another post.  Till then, keep ’em warm, ladies.