Welcome to the weblog of the writers and artists of Ferret Press (a publisher of fine comix) and PANEL (a Columbus, Ohio comic creators collaborative.) Here you will find our musings on comics, art, the creative process, politics, the web, and life.
7 Covers: comics I was promised would be worth buckets of money
This week's covers are courtesy of PANELista Craig Bogart. Craig writes:
"Seven comics I was promised would be worth buckets of money: I'm not sure why I was surprised this past MidOhio when I saw Flash #1 and Animal Man #1 for just a buck or two apiece. Those used to be pricey issues. I came in late to the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League, so that first issue cost me about $15 when I bought it. I see it on ebay now for $2.00. Not much Marvel here, only because they had sunk so low by this point I had defected to DC."
(Have a favorite series of your own? Or an artist? Character? Submit your own set of 7 covers by sending me small files (i.e. 72 dpi for the web) to ferret at ferretpress dot com and include "7 covers" in the subject line. Also, let me know if you have a blog or website you'd like me to link to.)
Hungarians, Childhood and Steve Black: Tryin' to live the dream
This guy, Willy Pogany, is literally the first artist I ever liked. Click on all these images to make them bigger. Seriously. They look so much better that way.
I remember a set of books called something like “My Little Bookhouse.” There were 10 or 12 of them, all hardcovers, and all themed. The earliest volumes were geared toward very young readers, and contained mostly Mother Goose rhymes, Aesop’s Fables and simple folk tales. Somewhere near the double digits, there was a volume with a painting of a castle and a procession of knights on the cover, and this one was my favorite. It was full of classical myths like the story of Perseus and the journey of Odysseus, legends like the story of the Ring of the Nibelung, and all sorts of tales about King Arthur and the Knights of Camelot. I was able to read fairly well by kindergarten, but I can remember looking at the illustrations in these books even before that.
While I liked almost all of the art, the artist whose work I loved the most was Willy Pogany. All of his pieces were very simple, elegant black and white line drawings but they were just beautiful. And he got to draw almost all of the monsters, from the Medusa that Perseus beheaded...
...to the monstrous children of Loki in the Norse myths...
and that was a big deal to me. At the time, I didn’t know who he was and I forgot about him as I worked my way through junior high and high school. Some time during my undergraduate years at Bowling Green State University, while doing some work in the library for a project on children’s books, I came across a copy of the book The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles.
I paged through it, saw Pogany’s classic illustrations, and was thunderstruck with a wave of nostalgia that knocked me off my feet. It’s hard to describe that feeling really.
Willy Pogany was a Hungarian illustrator working primarily in children’s books during the first half of the 1900s. He was incredibly prolific and created some real masterpieces in his time, including fully illustrated versions of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and Richard Wagner’s Tannhauser, Parsifal and Lohengrin. He passed away in 1955 but left behind and impressive body of work that included beautiful black and white as well as full color drawings and paintings. Take a look at some of these stunningly gorgeous pieces from his illustrated versions of Wagner's operas...
I’m not sure how much of the person we become is innate in us from birth or is a product of our environment. I don’t know how different I would have been if I had seen the messy scratchy illustrations of Jules Feiffer first instead of the clean line work of Willy Pogany. All I know is that those illustrations made an indelible impression on me, one which has never really disappeared entirely. I still thrill – absolutely thrill, personally and emotionally and reflexively – to his work.
About 6 months ago, when I began working on my project to create one illustration for every page of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, fellow Panelista Steve Black sent me an email in which he basically called me out and wrote that he thought I was capable of producing much better art than I was currently making. It wasn’t a douche bag move at all; it was actually something that only a good friend could have done. Steve wasn’t overstepping any boundaries with me at all. We had a great exchange, and while I was able to share a little more about what I was trying to do with the Moby-Dick pieces, he was able to refine and strengthen his critique, and we came to a good understanding. Steve’s words have stayed with me since then.
I still dig the Moby-Dick stuff a lot, but the very nature of the project (one illustration per day, made in an hour or less, and so on, for 552 consecutive days) has a real effect on how finely polished the images will be. Those pieces are rougher, more random, more experimental, and more wide-ranging. But I keep coming back to Steve’s words, and in a weird way, to Willy Pogany.
See, Willy Pogany is the one guy who I’d kill to be able to draw like. I don’t mean I’d like to swipe him, I mean I’d do almost anything for his command of line, form, composition, and elegance. But you know, in spite of more or less imitating all sorts of other comic book artists like Kirby and Marder and sometimes even Simonson throughout my years of making art, I’ve never worked toward what I’d really like to accomplish. A lot of that has been, I’ll admit, a fear of failure. If I never try to clean things up and draw like Pogany did, I’ll never fail at it. But I know that’s really stupid and pathetic. So lately I’ve been thinking, why not? Why can’t I be that good? Or at least try to be that good? I’ll be dead eventually, and if I died tomorrow would I regret not challenging myself to make the kind of art that I love the most? Definitely, yes.
So take a look at Willy Pogany’s art, and please let me know…any advice? I know Andy told me to draw and draw and draw and draw and I believe that. Looking at what Pogany could do, I have no doubt he had piles of sketchbooks all over the place. But what else? Any advice on this kind of clean line drawing? I think it's fascinating that in so much of the early, black & white stuff I love by Pogany, there is only a single thickness of line. No heavier weights of line at all. It's all done with composition and linework. I can see echoes of it in the art of Paul Smith (especially his X-Men stuff)...
and Yves Lombard...
and even Sergio Aragones with his single pen approach.
So help me out and I’ll share the results as I work on this. Pen suggestions? Practice suggestions? How to make this work in black & white? How to make this work for comics as well as it does for static illustrations? Any feedback at all will be deeply appreciated.
Because Marvel's doing a "Deadpool variant" cover on almost all their books, for no apparent reason other than to feature Deadpool. Oh, and I guess sell a bunch of extra comics.
For what it's worth, the crasher squirrel cover is one of the few that I find to be funny, but maybe that's my geeky Internets meme appreciation side talking.
I mean, if you're going to do variant covers (which I'm no fan of), I guess it's at least cool that they're having some fun with it. But Deadpool? Really? A Rob Liefeld character is still this popular?
By the way, you can see the crasher squirrel/Deadpool on www.marvel.com if you enter this code:
Well, it looks like the free commenting service that I had been using, Haloscan, is no more. I started using them because at the time I set up this blog, Blogger itself did not offer a comments feature. But Haloscan was bought out by some pay service, and is being shut down. I can export all 8000+ comments from this blog, but there's no way to import them as of yet. Sigh.
This means I really need to get my butt in gear and do the long-in-the-wings port over to Wordpress. In the meantime, I'll try and turn on the Blogger commenting feature. Hopefully it'll work as a stop gap.
A few months ago, I raised hackles by casually dismissing the work of Roy Thomas. Turns out I was wrong about that, I was attributing to him some crappy comics by Paul Levitz and Gerry Conway.
My first exposure to the Justice Society was the early-1990s revival, where they're shown as these aging workhorses. I was a big fan of the 1999-2006 series, which depicted them as the elder statesmen of the DC Universe. So I was looking forward to reading the 1970s version, which kept the flame alive for my generation.
It's really kind of not good.
Writers Paul Levitz and Gerry Conway try to bring back that goofy Golden Age stuff, but it's pretty stale.
Then, they try to show the JSA as real people with real problems, but then they all come off as kind of unpleasant. Here's Wildcat, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder:
I knew from the 1999 series that Wildcat and Power Girl had some kind of rivalry, but in the 1970s version it's pretty explicit. Wildcat's just sexist, as are the rest of the Justice Society.
Here they are rooting for her to get her comeuppance from a group of mole men.
The Star-Spangled Kid tries to take her side, but he does it in an "I'm trying to get in your pants" kind of way. Or maybe a stalker way. Anyway, ew.
I guess I got to give them props for making Power Girl a feminist, but she's such a man-hating ball-buster that he may as well not have bothered. If your conception of feminism begins and ends with "don't call me babe," you should probably look for a new angle.
The series spends a fair amount of time trying to bring our WWII-era heroes into the present-day, and it mostly falls flat. Here's the Golden Age Green Lantern struggling with Nixon-era cynicism.
Endless angst, attempts at relevance, desperate attempts to revitalize the crappy comics from your youth ... I think the cancer that's killing comics starts right about here.
Longish interview with Paul Hornschemeier. Honestly it's a weird one. Paul appears to be walking around his townhouse. Or the guy holding the camera ambles around stalker style. Casing the joint. I tapped out after 8 minutes. He'll be coming to S.P.A.C.E. in April. Paul will, not the stalker camera guy.
Matt's 7 Covers last week reminded me of the Hawkmoon comics, and how one of the series featured painted covers by one of Young Dara's favorite cover artists of the 80s and 90s. So, this week I'm featuring 7 covers by Dave Dorman. He was a mainstay of indie publishers, especially Dark Horse, doing a ton of movie-related comic covers. His ultra-realistic paintings don't do as much for me anymore, but I still have fond memories of his work from the past. And the few times I met him at conventions, he was very personable and down to earth.
Anyway, here are 7 random covers, from a variety of different books he has worked on:
We've touched on the subject in the comments of a couple posts below: here's preview artwork from Marvel's new "Astonishing" line of new-reader friendly books.
I think a big part of expanding readership would have to involve changing the image of comic readers. My enthusiansm for new comics waned when I realized I was being lumped together with a group of porn-obsessed basement dwellers. I was being insulted on a regular basis and decided I had enough. If we're trying to convince an outsider that this art form has some merit, showing them this crap isn't the way to do it.
Of course, that obviously isn't really Marvel's goal.
Once in a while, when Pitchfork isn't masturbating over the new Of Montreal album, they post something cool. This is a pic from Wayne Coyne's house. If I had the means, this is probably the house I'd live and create in. You can see the architect's work here.
On my breaks, I occasionally check out houses around town and came to a similar conclusion: you have to move either outside the city or in a bad hood to have the freedom to shape your property. I mean create a space with little legal entanglements and fees.
I mean, really love Spider-Man? That's good, because Marvel's solicitations for books shipping in May are online, and it looks like there's exactly 582 Spider-man books coming out.
Ok, so I exaggerated. But just a bit. Here are the Spidey books coming out in just a single month:
ASTONISHING SPIDER-MAN/WOLVERINE #1 ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #10 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #631 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #632 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #633 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #37 THE MANY LOVES OF THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN PRESENTS: AMERICAN SON #1 (of 4) SPIDER-MAN: FEVER #2 (of 3) PETER PARKER #3 WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #8 SPIDER-MAN MAGAZINE #11 Marvel Adventures: SPIDER-MAN #2 SPIDER-MAN: THE REAL CLONE SAGA HC SPIDER-MAN: THE GAUNTLET VOL. 3 – VULTURE & MORBIUS PREMIERE HC SPIDER-MAN NOIR: EYES WITHOUT A FACE PREMIERE HC MARVEL 1602: SPIDER-MAN PREMIERE HC SPIDER-MAN: THE COMPLETE CLONE SAGA EPIC BOOK 2 TPB SPIDER-MAN: RED-HEADED STRANGER TPB
And that's not even counting all the Age of Heroes and Avengers books he's appearing in. Is there a Spider-man movie coming out that month that I'm not aware of?
THE MANY LOVES OF THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN? Really? I thought Peter Parker was supposed to be a nerd who is unlucky in love. This looks more like THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: SMOOTH PLAYA'
I do dig this Chris Bachalo cover for ASM #632, though:
And even though I haven't read a Spidey book in decades, I think I'll pick up the SPIDER-MAN: FEVER limited-series. It's written and illustrated by Brendan Friggin' McCarthy! Are you kidding me? How could I possibly pass that up? If you like your comics served up with a side of doped-up, acid trip surrealism, "The New McCarthyism" is the guy for you. (Loved, loved, loved his covers on Vertigo's Shade The Changing Man, though his art here isn't nearly as tripy.)
Newsarama just posted a preview of my Ghostbusters one-shot for Valentine's Day. Not the highest quality scans os Salgood Sam's artwork, but you get the idea. Also, here's a look at the couple of different variant covers, by artist Nick Runge:
(*sigh* yes, I know, I know...I'm not a fan of variant covers either. But unfortunately I don't make the business decisions...)
By the way, the book was supposed to have shipped to stores last week, to coincide with Valentine's Day, but it got held up in customs. It's officially hitting stores this week (17th), except for most of the East coast. Here’s where the story takes a tragic twist: the truck from Diamond Distributors that had all of IDW’s books on it for the East coast stores was involved in a very bad weather-related accident. My understanding is that the driver(s) are in critical condition in the hospital. Needless to say, it’s a very unfortunate event and I hope that everyone involved pulls through and makes a full recovery.
Since the official announcement was made today in this USA Today article, I can finally talk about one of my current IDW projects: an all-new, original 4-issue limited series based on the characters and settings of James Patterson's latest YA book, Witch & Wizard.
This is the cover mock-up they ran in the article, but it's not going to be the final cover of the first issue. The artwork is being handled by the extremely talented Victor Santos, who recently collaborated with Brian Azzarello on the Filthy Rich crime noir graphic novel from Vertigo. You can also see his work in the Mice Templar series from Image. Once I get the go-ahead from the powers-that-be, I'll post some of his pages from our book here.
This week's 7 Covers is courtesy of PANELista Matt Kish, who had this to say about his choice:
"Unlike Brent, who has confessed to being an ardent Robert E. Howard fan, the fantasy paperbacks that filled my youth were the tales of Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champions. Elric. Hawkmoon. Corum. Erekose. And so on. I devoured every Moorcock book I could find, and I was thrilled when I discovered that Pacific Comics, and later First Comics and others, were turning his Eternal Champion books into comics. My first experience with these comics was the miniseries "Michael Moorcock's Elric," adapted by Roy Thomas and gorgeously illustrated by P. Craig Russell and Michael T. Gilbert. It was an amazing comic. Although the title jumped from publisher to publisher and changed artists several times, eventually Russell would bring the whole thing to a close in the late 90s at Dark Horse by adapting the novel "Stormbringer" on his own. Even more thrilling for a young fantasy addict like myself, the publishers saw fit to dig deeper into Moorcock's body of work, also bringing excellent comic adaptations of the Hawkmoon books, with art from Filipino komiker Rafael Kayanan, and the Corum books, with mindblowing art by a young Mike Mignola. Every one of these books is great and well worth checking out."
I'm one of the presenters at Pecha Kucha Columbus. My slide show will be about comic books, from early influences to my latest projects. There will be 9 other presenters, with topics ranging from labor and fashion, to detention tactics, to wine! There will also be music, food, and entry is a mere $2 donation.
The event is Thursday, Feb 11, starting at 7 pm. The location is the OSU Urban Arts Space at 50 West Town Street.
Pecha-Kucha Night, devised by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture in Tokyo, was conceived in 2003 as a place for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public. Pecha-Kucha (which is Japanese for the sound of conversation) has tapped into a demand for a forum in which creative work can be easily and informally shown, without having to rent a gallery or chat up a magazine editor. This is a demand that seems to be global - as Pecha-Kucha Night, without any pushing, has spread virally from Tokyo to over 160 cities world-wide.
As a presenter, you are allowed to share 20 slides total, and you get 20 seconds during each slide to talk. Slides should be timed… 20 slides at 20 seconds each gives you a total of 6 minutes 40 seconds to speak.
There goes the neighborhood; Neil Gaiman is writing an episode of my favorite SF show, Doctor Who. Do I think he'll do a good job? Sure. I'm not as enamored of Gaiman as most folks, but I don't dislike him, either. And bits (as in, about half) of his book Neverland struck me as being cribbed from Doctor Who.
The episode is slated for the 2011 season, so we've still got a little over a year to wait.
Picked up the Alive this week and got the rundown on the new Wonderland space. If I was more organized and with it, I'd try to attempt something similar with the real estate around where Clintonville Electric was situated. I have no idea how degraded the interior is but I always thought that space could be something fantastic if the funding was there. I've watched that area of Clintonville slowly turn into a mini-Portland over the past decade with it's aging hipster shops popping up.
The real estate includes a building that was formerly a theater.
Anyway, Wonderland is planning on taking over the old Wonder Bread factory by CCAD. My excitement was slightly muted by the fact that the Couchfire group is involved. They're planning on moving homebase from Junctionview into this new space. Roughly by 2014, when that space is set for demolition. I've had mixed feelings about Couchfire. Their heart's in the right place but every show comes off like well organized hype. Friends and I have tanked (sales wise) at every recent function they've put on. Sure, you could relate it to the crap economy but I have items that are around $2 to $4. It's great to get exposure but people seem there for more of the entertainment and food/booze. I say this as I have done other non-Couchfire related events around town and sell way more than I ever did at one of their events. It's one thing to be great at paperwork but the end result is lacking... a lot.
Yes, they can stir up a crowd but is that crowd the kind that'll buy a painting for under $100? Or a print for $10?? Or is it the crowd that's there for the bands and the booze. I'm thinking it's the latter. Case in point: The lousy C-Note show had a jacked-up cover charge (???) and on a brief walk thru, only a few pieces sold. There was some decent stuff up on the walls. What kind of a gallery has a freaking cover charge??? I thought it'd be sponsored out the butt.
Possibly this will change over time. Who knows in twenty years what will happen with their efforts. I'd like to be able to sell a painting in this town for over $500. Realistically it's nigh-impossible with the average income in Columbus. We're talking about middle to upper middle class and Les Wexner. I am getting sick of the one sided hype online with this crew. You can't build up something without airing both sides of story.
I think this post is pretty much just for me and Dara. I finally got around to buying Models Inc. No. 1, the one with Project Runway's Tim Gunn on the cover.
The issue itself didn't grab me: it's basically a group of Marvel's model characters (there are a lot of them!) doing light comedy and light drama. Comics are good at heavy comedy, but you have to be incredibly good to do light comedy. Same with light drama: when it's really, really good, it's just OK. When it's so-so, it really sucks.
Writer Paul Tobin also labors to introduce 6-8 characters I don't care about, so the whole thing kind of drags.
But then there's an 8-page backup feature starring Tim Gunn, and it's a hoot and a half. Writer Marc Sumerak (who?) manages to squeeze in every Tim Gunn catch phrase (the guy has more catch phrases than The Rock) and still tell a story with a point of view.
Tim Gunn's giving a tour of a superhero fashion exhibit when AIM bursts in. The big reveal after that page is an Iron Man suit, which Tim Gunn dons to defeat AIM.
Why was the Iron Man suit at an exhibit? Why was it charged? Why is Tim Gunn able to pilot it? Fuck you, that's why.
Right after this, Iron Tim gets blasted by a ray gun. I appreciate that Sumerak gets in a few reversals of fortune in this 8-pager. But the suit manages to reboot itself just in time for Tim to give his final catch phrase:
I'm not a Clive Barker fan. I haven't read any of his books and haven't seen the Hellraiser series of movies. In fact, I think the only ones of his movies that I've seen are Nightbreed and Lord of Illusion. So why'd I pick up this one-shot comic book? Mostly out of curiosity. I like artist Gabriel Rodriguez, and wanted to check out the 3-D effects. So, with that in mind...
The book came with a variant cover by Barker himself (the white one, below)
Here's how the story is described in the original press release when the book came out last October:
"In Seduth, Barker tells the tale of celebrated architect Harold Engle, who first glimpses the small cloud of darkness inside a glittering, priceless diamond, without any knowledge of the terrible plague contained within. Seduth follows Engle on a surreal journey through murder and madness to the very heart of existence and a terrible, impossible choice-to unravel the very fabric of the world, or to save it?"
Now, if you think that sounds a bit metaphysical, let me assure you that the above description is about as straight-forward and coherent as the story gets. The book itself is a weird jumble of bizarre landscapes, surreal ideas, and disjointed narrative threads about love, death, sex, heaven, hell...you know, what some less artistic folks might be inclined to call "pretentious". Here's one example of what to expect from the writing team of Clive Barker and Chris Monfette:
Now, I pretty much knew what to expect as far as the writing goes, and had a feeling it wasn't going to be for me. In one of those rare impulse buys, I picked this comic up more for the art. Rodriguez does a fantastic job of bringing some semblance of clarity and sanity to the otherwise bizarre settings and realms. (The colors are by Jay Fotos, and 3-D effects by the legendary Ray Zone) Some of the pages, like the one below, make good use of the 3-D effects:
While on others, everything comes together perfectly to take full advantage of an otherwise distracting gimmick. This page in particular struck me as how well it worked; if you move your head from side to side, the glass shards move across the face for an added layer of effect:
There's also a very impressive double-page spread (which I didn't scan) in which Rodriguez draws about 70-80 distinct faces as our protagonist contemplates the universe and his place in it. Gabriel is a really talented guy, and while he's currently exclusive to IDW (working on Joe Hill's Locke & Key), I hope to see him do more work at other publishers in the future.
The book also features some of Barker's notes in the back, with his ideas and sketches from (presumably) the inception of the project. In one such page he describes the book as "a completely nihilistic story" and "this is my Superman". Here's a look at another one of his notebook pages:
So, 24 pages of story and 8 pages of Barker notes for $6. Was it worth it? I guess that's more for you to decide for yourself. I'm not Barker's main audience, but I liked pouring over the art and checking out the 3-D effects, so it definitely entertained me for a while. Your mileage may vary.
John Porcellino now has a blog. So far it's just started so check back or add it to the feed. I also came across an online comics archive that Porcellino takes part in. You'll find some work by folks like Jordan Crane, Sammy Harkham, Ted May and... oh god they're adding Gabrielle Bell (why? if they add Jeffrey Brown to the mix, I'm tapping out.). Porcellino's work has always managed to elevate itself from the navel gazers like Bell (or Brown). He can make the most mundane thing seem epic, beautiful and readable.
recommended reading: A Perfect Example. (locally at the Columbus Metropolitan Library)
Ok, so DC's got their Blackest Night crossover going, and in a marketing move that came as no surprise, they shipped free "collector" Lantern rings with certain tie-in issues. One of those was Doom Patrol #5. And by all accounts, the promotion certainly boosted the sales figure on the participating books. And while I'm not a fan of the crossover tie-in, or the silly marketing gimmicks, it didn't bother me too much. It was done quickly, and actually had a hook to the past history of the book.
But here's the problem: assuming a bunch of new readers unfamiliar with Doom Patrol picked up #5 and were exposed to a new book, how do you suppose DC capitalized on that opportunity?
They went ahead and did a boring character recap story in the very next issue!
No start to an exciting new story arc to hopefully snag and keep some of those new eyeballs. Not even a semi-exciting stand-alone adventure to introduce readers to the team. Nope. They did an entire boring Wikipedia-like info dump devoted to the convoluted backstory of one of the characters, the Negative Man.
Way to keep those new readers, DC.
I would place some of the blame at the feet of writer Keith Giffen, but honestly, this is more of a management problem. Editor Elizabeth V. Gehrlein and head honcho Dan Didio missed the boat here, big time. And it's not like it's rocket science. If you have an odd book and you're trying to raise awareness for it, don't do an entire boring Who's Who issue right after your big crossover.
Dumb. Just plain dumb.
PS. As much as I love my B and C-list characters and have been enjoying this latest incarnation of the Doom Patrol, the Metal Men backups in each issue have been completely unreadable. Kevin Maguire provides some slick art, but Giffen & DeMatteis's attempt at recapturing their old "Bwa Ha Ha" Justice League magic falls completely flat. It's overwritten and underfunny.