What’s Wrong with Comics?

My buddy Sully and I have had many discussions revolving around qualms and drawbacks with the comic medium, and he just recently found a chunk of time to dump it all onto a work journal mega-entry of sorts.  Being a fledgling writer more than just an avid collector, he has a bigger stake in caring about the sequential art form than most, so it makes for a pretty comprehensive read.

Check out the entries, you might even learn a thing or two:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Our own discussions often devolve from How can we fix things to How can we fix what we use to fix things… and then to boobies.  There’s also the occasional and unavoidable comparison between comics and manga… also he’s a gamer… so be warned… he tends to wander.

Dyslexic penguins go, “ploo ploo ploo…”

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.

Tres Komikeros 06

This week features Action Comics #870, Ferryman #1, and Marvel Zombies 3 #1. Each of us also also do quick reviews of other books out this week and give our opinions on the Watchmen motion comic and the rumors about Megan Fox’s possible comic films. We also talk about what we think of summer comics events and its implications on the future of comics.

Download the episode -> click it!

Tres Komikeros 02

This time around, in addition to doing a buncha reviews, we refined our quick shots and tried a little something called War of Thumbs. Pretty much a judgment fest.

Alex is gay for Nick Fury.

Y’all can also download the episode here.

Comic Creator Dream Teams

Took a break from my desk today to get myself some comfort food — hot wings over at the pizza place. Had to walk too, coz they’re building this flyover/skyway thing. A cab woulda taken forever coz of all the detours. My iPod bailed, so I got bored just sitting there and waiting. I didn’t feel like drawing, coz this was supposed to be a break after all, so instead of whipping out my little notepad to sketch… I wrote a list of creators I’d put on certain books if I had the power of the beyonder. A coupla my favorite artists are slow as all shit, heck some of them don’t even do interiors anymore! Guess that’s why it’s called a dream team, ey? Aaaahhh… clever ~_~

1.) Swamp Thing – Grant Morrisson and Frank Quitely
2.) Next Wave – Keith Giffen and Kevin Maguire
3.) Fantastic Four – Mark Waid and J. Scott Campbell
4.) Teen Titans – Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen
5.) Superman – Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch
6.) Batman – Warren Ellis and Steve McNiven
7.) X-men – Paul Jenkins and Adam Hughes
8.) Spider-man – Matt Fraction and Joe Madureira
9.) Avengers – Rick Remender and Olivier Coipel
10.) Lobo – Garth Ennis and Leinil Yu

Do not shit on my dreams.

Thor Sequentials (Part 1)

I didn’t bother writing a plot for this, since it’s pretty much going to be an action sequence anyway. Sorta. Not much going on in this first half, but I wanted to stretch some camera-placement muscles. I was listening to comic podcasts a lot while I was making these, and I forget who said it — either Hitch or Quitely —  but someone said it’s a good idea to do one difficult or new thing with every new page. It can be a camera angle, a blur effect, a shading style, a background element, whatever. As long as you try one thing new each time. S’great advice.

That’s it from me for now. As always, comments and criticisms are wildly welcome. (Oh but also, I added a Twitter feed on the right sidebar, waaaay under all the standard links and stuff. Check it out and add me up if you’re on there. Laters.)

Shapes

Remember that X-Files episode “Shapes”? If it was a FRIENDS episode, it’d be called “The One with the American-Indian Werewolf.” No, really.

Yeah. Anyway…

So I have a couple of pages of my Thor set done. Asgard was a bitch, but I think I pulled it off… after a fashion. Posting those when page three is in the can. Here’s the thing though: I get about half way through the loose pencils of page three when I start feeling like my art style is becoming contrived. Choked even. I prop it up on my desk, take a step back, and I swear I feel like killing something. Then I flash back to what a friend said about the faces of the characters in my Next Wave set. Apparently I have this bad habit of, maybe not changing characters’ faces, but changing the styles with which those faces are drawn from different angles. D’ya get me? And she was right!

I start to remember that in the nineties, as I was just starting to get serious about my sequential art, I needed to really have a solid foundation in drawing the face from different angles. But instead! Me being the total hack that I am, I looked at so many of my favorite artists for reference that I subconsciously incorporated too much of their face styles into mine. Madureira’s distinctive side views. Hughes’s front shots. You get the picture. Along the way, not only did I become some sort of clone — WORSE! I became a mishmash of different styles that were in constant flux and conflict with each other. I became some stylistic ersatz Frankenstein.

I can draw, sure. But it’s not me drawing.

So I tear my third page into bite-size bits (It takes a while, it’s 11×17 after all) and spend three days finding it—finding the convergence of everything i have ever absorbed from every artist I have ever admired. Fine, it probably didn’t all happen in the past three days… they might have simply been the culmination of this, for lack of a better way of putting it, artistic digestion. And it’s still happening to me.

I craft a sort of mission statement for my style, realizing that since my influences are mainly of the cartoony sort (Madureira, Campbell, Pearson, Drucker, Frezzato, Ramos, Immonen, and Adams), it makes no sense to contrive it with the “serious” sensibilities. All this time, I’ve been trying to do a Jim Lee piece with Campbell’s hand, know what I mean? Yes, I know I’m no J. Scott Campbell, but come on. It’s a metaphor.

I remember some concept art videos I saw. Some cool Gnomon shit. And I remember the importance of creating strong, defined, and unique silhouettes. And then I wake up and see that my strengths have always been in shapes. Spheres. Cubes. Cylinders. The whole shaboodle. And I’m focusing these insights into a conscious effort to create a style that is more cartoony than my past work, but not overboard. Coz the way I figure it, the only real way my stuff is gonna look consistent from page to page, panel to panel, is if it’s really my stuff. It’s high time I ditch my crutches and grew some sea legs. So there, as far as figure and face work goes… I’m going with this more rubbery, animated feel. The serious sensibilities will be maintained only in the other details. Shadowplay (Mignola), camera placement (Hitch), figure dynamics (Frazetta), that kinda stuff.

That said, here’s some of the stuff I just did. And I love ’em.

Peter Parker

Thor (current style)

Thor (Shitty older version)

Logan

And lastly.. Logan and Emma

I am happy now.

On with page three.