Friday, October 31, 2008

A Comic Foundry mini-review of our minicomic

The Fall 2008 issue of Comic Foundry magazine spotlights politics in comics; profiles Tony Harris, main artist on James Robinson's Starman (one of Isaac's favorite superhero books); and includes a feature on six new and recent minicomics, including our latest:

We're in good company, too, right alongside Sarah Glidden's How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less #2 and Gabrielle Bell's Lucky vol. 2 #2 (and just above a row of books that are new to me but sound interesting: Harvest is When I Need You the Most by various artists, Untitled (Dinosaur) by Joseph Lambert, and Jam in the Band Vol. 1 by Robin Enrico).

Our thanks to writers Brian Heater and Sarah Morean for including us among "some of the best books to hit the scene recently" and for running a picture of page 1 in its slipcover band!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween Fun Punkin!


I know I should be grading papers tonight—and I'm about to get back to work—but I just couldn't let the season go by without doing something to mark the arrival of Halloween, which is my favorite holiday. Last year, as a special treat for our blog readers, I posted some Halloween Fun Comics, a choose-your-own-adventure story that is included in Satisfactory Comics #7.

This year, because we're likely to get trick-or-treaters here in Burlington, I decided to do something people could enjoy without being on the internet.

It started with one of the best demons from our Demonstration book, the Dark Abbess.

(Well, actually, it started with a bunch of sketches and doodles. I was originally thinking that I might make a punkin with the werewolf from "The Graveyard of Forking Paths.")

But once I'd settled on the Dark Abbess, I had to figure out how to make the shading work. I couldn't put her pupils in the middle of her eyes and also carve out the eyes for light to come through...

... but it looked like this was going to work. (I did have to upgrade to a bigger pumpkin.) And so, with a little handheld pumpkin jigsaw knife and a regular old craft knife, I started carving, and about an hour and a half later, I had this:

Let's turn off the lights and enjoy that the way it's intended to be seen. You can click this picture to enlarge it.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

No Time to Blog...

I don't really have time to write a real post.

I have a ton of papers to grade, and a few non-blog writing tasks I ought to address before I do anything substantial over here.

Please substitute me for longhair '70s Barry Allen in the picture above, and replace dinner with paper-grading, and slow things down about a million times. Also, put bags under his eyes. Or mine. And replace his manic look of inspiration with a weary thousand-yard stare. Ugh.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Endorsement that Convinced Me

If you love freedom, this is all you need to see. Hellboy's candidate is my candidate. Never mind what Mike says.

If you want this original art for yourself, it's on auction until the evening of October 13. All proceeds go to the campaign.

You can also use that link if you don't want it for yourself, and just want to buy it for me instead. Because if you love freedom, you probably also love giving me presents.

UPDATE: It sold for $1,625.00. That's some very nice fund-raising.

Monday, October 6, 2008

"Freedom within Boundaries": Derik Badman on Constraint in Comics

Derik Badman—cartoonist, critic, and comics theorist—recently gave a presentation at the first annual Web Comics Comic-Con and Conference, wherein he discussed varieties of constraint in comics. His presentation, "Freedom within Boundaries: the Theory and Practice of Constraint in Comics," may be viewed (and heard!) in full here.

His presentation lasts about 22 and a half minutes, during which he discusses general principles of constraint before focusing on some examples of "generative" and "transformative" constraint (borrowing categories from a Thierry Groensteen article in OuPus 1, a publication of the francophone Oubapo movement for formal experiment in comics). There are a number of interesting examples along the way, among which the following stood out for me:

1) David Lasky's adaptation of Poe's "The Raven" (which crops up around 9:50), a work I was already familiar with and which I enjoy a great deal (save for the transcription error where the meter gets loused up in a line, confound it). Its minimalism makes an interesting contrast with the Kurtzman-Elder adaptation from Mad, with its typically Elderian profusion of detail.

2) Frederic and Luc Schuiten's Nogegon (about 11:10 in) presents a symmetrical layout that outdoes even issue 5 of Watchmen (the first issue in the pair devoted to Rorschach).

3) Tom Hart's implementation of Matt Madden's obstructions (14:45 or so) for a week of his Hutch Owen strip, based in part on director Lars von Trier's Five Obstructions challenge. Tom and Matt's joint effort was of course the inspiration for our own "Stepan Crick and the Chart of the Possible," also known as Satisfactory Comics #8...

4) ...which also appears in Derik's presentation (at 17:15)! I'm pleased that Derik included us in his presentation (and I didn't know we were a part of it until I followed the link to it from Journalista this evening), and I'm doubly pleased that he showcases my favorite page from the story, Isaac's riff on Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase (page 7 of the comic).

5) Badman concludes the generative constraints with his own "Things Change" (19:00), based on Ovid's Metamorphoses. He shows two pages from a sequence designed so that each page doubles the panel count of the preceding page, till the art dissolves into blackness. (Before it does that, though, the use of color is quite striking, as seen in the adjacent 16- and 32-panel pages on display in his video).

So if you're interested in seeing and hearing a bit more about comics constraints (from somebody other than Isaac or myself, for a change!), I recommend giving Derik's presentation a listen.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

SPX 2008 Doodle Strip

I'm just back from this year's installment of SPX. I had a busy afternoon, what with co-moderating a panel with Isaac and introducing Ben Katchor's slide-show and Q & A, but there was just enough time to join Isaac for a quick three-panel doodle during a late lunch. Here's our quickie comic, our first joint work drawn in the same place since I can't remember when:
Deathless, isn't it? Nice to know that we've still got it!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Debate Doodle Duo (Veep Edition)

So last night I did the civic-minded thing and watched the Vice Presidential debate between Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Sarah Palin. While watching, the Mrs. and I played a few cards of Palin bingo (I eventually won, at 9:45, with the vertical series "Tax Relief—Job Creation—Free Space [snarkily labeled "Air Space"]—National Guard—Drill"). Anyway, even with the laser-like focus demanded by the bingo cards, I found my attention wandering occasionally--not too far, but far enough for my hands to produce a couple of doodles. Since I haven't drawn anything in ages, and I have been pretty AWOL from the blog, I thought I'd share these veeptastic designs.

First up, a debate demon:

Next, a debate doll:

And no, I did not intend for either of these to represent either of the candidates or my feelings about them, though you are free to psychoanalyze my random doodles to your heart's content. Meanwhile, I remind you that I declared my endorsement of a perennial candidate over a month ago, after earlier consideration of a real Washington outsider.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The things I have from "The 50 Things That Every Comics Collection Truly Needs" (via the Comics Reporter)

Last Sunday, Tom Spurgeon ran an article on his Comics Reporter website featuring his list of "the fifty things that every comics collection truly needs." It's an interesting list, with lots of illustrations and numerous suggestions and sub-suggestions within broad categories. I recommend checking it out here.

He also posted a suggestion from one Stephen Frug on how to play along with his list by sharing what your collection already includes. Tom Spurgeon has tweaked Frug's helpful visual shortcuts to yield the following code:

Leave Plain = Things I don't have
Make Bold = Things I do have
Italics = I have some but probably not enough
Underline = I don't agree I need this

This seems easy enough to play along with, so here's my list as of today. Isaac, if you are so inclined, it would be interesting to see your list, too. Anyway, my list, with occasional notes:

1. Something From The ACME Novelty Library
2. A Complete Run Of Arcade (I have most, but not all)
3. Any Number Of Mini-Comics
4. At Least One Pogo Book From The 1950s
5. A Barnaby Collection (I don't own any myself, but I know where there's a copy at my wife’s parents' house)
6. Binky Brown and the Holy Virgin Mary
7. As Many Issues of RAW as You Can Place Your Hands On (alas, I passed on my one chance as a youth to buy a remaindered copy of Read Yourself Raw)
8. A Little Stack of Archie Comics (sorry, my only interest in Archie is when the ISB brings it up)
9. A Suite of Modern Literary Graphic Novels
10. Several Tintin Albums
11. A Smattering Of Treasury Editions Or Similarly Oversized Books
12. Several Significant Runs of Alternative Comic Book Series
13. A Few Early Comic Strip Collections To Your Taste
14. Several "Indy Comics" From Their Heyday
15. At Least One Comic Book From When You First Started Reading Comic Books (Sad to say, I actually read the "Anatomy Lesson" issue of Swamp Thing from the spinner rack at an Eckerd Drugs when I was a kid--and I put it back, unpurchased, but fully read. That story haunted me like no other comic story I had ever read. A few years later, as Watchmen rolled out, I realized what I had let slip through my fingers. Ah, well; at least I still have my copy of Marvel Tails starring Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham!)
16. At Least One Comic That Failed to Finish The Way It Planned To (If Eddie Campbell's Egomania counts, then I got one, at least)
17. Some Osamu Tezuka
18. The Entire Run Of At Least One Manga Series (Lone Wolf and Cub; Mai the Psychic Girl; Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind: all outstanding)
19. One Or Two 1970s Doonesbury Collections (again, the in-laws have some)
20. At Least One Saul Steinberg Hardcover
21. One Run of A Comic Strip That You Yourself Have Clipped (Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers, from its original run in the Forward)
22. A Selection of Comics That Interest You That You Can't Explain To Anyone Else (it's my job to figure out how to explain what I find interesting, so I am having real trouble thinking of a suitable comic to fit this category)
23. At Least One Woodcut Novel
24. As Much Peanuts As You Can Stand
25. Maus
26. A Significant Sample of R. Crumb's Sketchbooks
27. The original edition of Sick, Sick, Sick (my in-laws probably have this one, as well)
28. The Smithsonian Collection Of Newspaper Comics (possibly the single best present I ever received as a child; thanks, Uncle Bill!)
29. Several copies of MAD
30. A stack of Jack Kirby 1970s Comic Books (in collected editions, at least)
31. More than a few Stan Lee/Jack Kirby 1960s Marvel Comic Books (ditto)
32. A You're-Too-High-To-Tell Amount of Underground Comix
33. Some Calvin and Hobbes
34. Some Love and Rockets
35. The Marvel Benefit Issue Of Coober Skeber (I've seen it; I really don't think I need it. Seth's Vernacular Drawing suits me just fine for his superhero renderings)
36. A Few Comics Not In Your Native Tongue (I have a few of these, yes...)
37. A Nice Stack of Jack Chick Comics (I've seen enough not to be that interested, and not just because I have a friend who is a Rabbi Waxman)
38. A Stack of Comics You Can Hand To Anybody's Kid
39. At Least A Few Alan Moore Comics
40. A Comic You Made Yourself
41. A Few Comics About Comics
42. A Run Of Yummy Fur
43. Some Frank Miller Comics
44. Several Lee/Ditko/Romita Amazing Spider-Man Comic Books
45. A Few Great Comics Short Stories
46. A Tijuana Bible (I've seen some; do I need to own them?)
47. Some Weirdo
48. An Array Of Comics In Various Non-Superhero Genres
49. An Editorial Cartoonist's Collection or Two
50. A Few Collections From New Yorker Cartoonists

What does this tell me? (a) My tastes overlap with Tom Spurgeon's to a rather high degree. (b) I can cut back on the comics a bit, probably.

Update: Upon further reflection, I have altered the replies for items 21 and 27 from their original state.