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11 posts from May 2008

May 30, 2008

Vampires for Everyone!

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The Comics Should Be Good vampire alphabet continues with C is for Cassidy (my favorite comics vampire ever!), D is for Dracula, E is for Eric Brooks (aka Blade the Vampire Hunter), F is for Deacon Frost (also part of Blade's universe), G is for Greenberg the Vampire (who seems very peculiar!), H is for Adam Heller (the star of Blood and Water), I is for I . . . Vampire (or, as he seems to be more commonly known, I . . . Vampire! -- the exclamation mark clearly being a crucial part of his name), J is for John Falsworth (aka Baron Blood) and K is for Hannibal King

I can't wait to see the rest of the alphabet (especially X)!

Another vampire book that I've been hearing about lately is Claudia Gray's Evernight.  Evernight is "the story of Bianca and Lucas, two seemingly ordinary teenagers who are actually neck-deep in a struggle that goes back centuries. It's not another badly-written epic fantasy, however, where the characters could be anyone and all that matters is the plot: these kids not only have to face insurmountable odds that hit close to home, but deal with young love and vampiric cliques to boot." [from here]

Also: a review of Little Vampire from Greg McElhatton at Read About Comics.  "It’s just fun,  pure and simple," says Greg, and we second that! 

Kelly at Big A little a reviews Life Sucks (and likes it, apparently).  "Writers Jessica Abel and Gabriel Sora get teen speak right--which means it's not always politically correct and self aware, especially when the loathsome Wes opens his mouth. Illustrator Warren Pleece's panes are moody, d ark and beautiful--they'll draw that teen reader right in to the story."

Plus: Newsarama does vampires!  Including Bessie the Hellcow, who I'd never even heard of!

May 29, 2008

MENTORS CORNER/from IRA GLASS (!)

Fun fact: Ira Glass of This American Life created Radio: An Illustrated Guide with First Second's own Jessica Abel in 1999. 

Potentially of special interest to younger creators, this video is not specifically about making comics, but Glass does have sensible things to say about learning how to make art that is good. Also, we very much enjoy his glasses.

Here, a video found on Youtube, of the dulcet-toned philosopher dispensing some pretty useful nuggets for those just starting out in any creative field. Enjoy!

May 26, 2008

Vampire Creator

[From the Drawing Board of Warren Pleece]

Warrenpleecehires

Reading some of the reviews for my new books recently, First Second’s very own Life Sucks, with ultra talented duo, Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria (buy, buy, buy) and Incognegro, written by the very talented Mat Johnson (DC Vertigo-buy it now, too), I felt a little put out that I was described as an “old stalwart” and in one case, “veteran Pleece”. There’s no pleasing some people. Until I realised that maybe after 20 years making a living, more or less, on the outskirts of the comics mainstream, that maybe even I had something to add to the mentor-like blog, plug my new book as a First Second creator and tie it in with the Vampire month thing all in one shebang.

I can’t offer any great philosophical exercise here on comics and graphic novels; there’s been a lot of good stuff already that says it better than I ever could. Also, I don’t think I can make something as compellingly interesting as my old mate Nick Abadzis’s sketchbook diaries. What I can offer to young pups and old sea dogs alike, is a slightly different take on drawing comics from the outside insider.

One of the first and most important things I figured out quite early on, is not to be afraid to stretch yourself and your abilities and to make a load of mistakes; I’ve made/am making tons. Still if I hadn’t I wouldn’t and couldn’t improve on what came before. Horses galloping was always a pain for me, but if you want to be an artist worth your salt you’re going to have bite the bit, chomp the nosebag, or something. Being into old films, I’m always thinking of mad and interesting angles, aerial shots, knee high angles, not for the sake of it, but to add drama, suspense and interest to the storytelling. Go ahead, draw that impossible angle. You can do it, or maybe you’ll nail it the second time round.

I’ve always been very critical of my own stuff and I’m always looking for better ways to do things, but I reckon that’s healthy. I still cringe over the long chin phase I had in the mid-90s and as for the sausage fingers phase in the early Velocity days, well, that’s legendary, but maybe my glory years?

The thing is, if you spend too long perfecting your craft at the expense of any one seeing what you do, you’re just going to become one of those artists spending too much of their time falling in love with their own cross-hatching and missing out on life.

That was my other tip: get a life. Drawing comics/graphic novels is great, if you get the chance and even better if you can make a living from them, but don’t forget to get out there, see people, have a laugh. Drawing Life Sucks, I became haunted by the endless rows of cigarette packets I had to draw in the Last Stop convenience store, yeah, thanks Jess and Gabe. In fact, the self-portrait on the creator’s page is actually drawn from life and not some spoof, mock vampire tie-in kind of joke. My skin colour was that pale from lack of sunlight and being chained to the desk at the bequest of the evil Abel, the blood on the neck from reckless shaving due to tiredness and the eyes red from those bloody cigarette packets. Don’t ask about the teeth. If you look closely, you’ll see a longing in those ruby red eyes. Just like a dog that needs his walkies, all us arty types need to get out take life in.

I hope from telling you this, you’ll appreciate even more the vampiric screwball fest that is Life Sucks if you’ve still yet to buy it and the poor state of the artistic animals that went into it’s creation for your appreciation.

Final tip, reflecting on Nick Abadzis’s recent blog about always sketching. If you don’t happen to have a sketchbook at hand and after 13 years of looking after kids, it hasn’t always been a priority when stepping out the door, though it’s always a pleasure, just keep on looking. Over the years, I seem to have developed a photographic memory for life’s background detail that’s much healthier than traipsing through Google every time you want to draw a telephone pole, an interesting face and, not forgetting those galloping horses.

May 21, 2008

Vampires By Number

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Finding Wonderland did a comprehensive, interesting post on vampire fiction last week -- you can read it here.  My favorite part?  Robin McKinley's Sunshine inspiring baking -- because it did the same thing for me!  I learned how to make cinnamon rolls because of that book.

Brian Cronin at Comics Should Be Good is doing a vampire alphabet, which is impressing me to no end!   So far, A is for Alex Elder; B is for Batman (who, yes, is a vampire in this story!).   

May 19, 2008

Do Something Boring*

[From the desk of Gabe Soria]

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"The Rut" – it sounds like an epic boogie rock instrumental, doesn't it? A real choogly Leslie West-meets-Billy Squier jam. Well, I wish it was. To me, though, it's a daily challenge that I have to strive to get over. Most of us "creatives" probably have a similar story. Hell, that's arrogant – most people, period, have ruts they have to get over in their daily lives to allow them to continue what they're doing and keep on keepin' on.

But right now, as I start working on my next book for First Second with St. John Frizell and Simon Fraser, I'm concerned pretty much with my own Rut, my creative one. It's the impulse that drives me to distraction and frippery when I'm sitting at the old typing machine, trying to pound out some inspiration. The only REAL answer to the Rut, at least to me, is discipline – turn off that internet connection, don't check that email or that movie blog and just put nose to grindstone for hours on end.

Unfortunately, I'm a bad disciplinarian, and the Rut rears its ugly head again and again, from day to day. And when discipline doesn't work, I have to look to other avenues to help spur the creative impulse, and that's what this blog entry is about – things I use to inspire and push myself to actually get good (should that last word be in quotes) stuff done. And in the interest of brevity, I'm just going to drop one of the many methods I use.

One of my favorite techniques to spur creativity is to use Oblique Strategies, a method for spurring creative thought developed by one of my heroes, Brian Eno, along with the artist Peter Schmidt in the mid-70s. Taking the form of a deck of cards with a cryptic zen-like koan printed on each, the Oblique Strategies are little, gnomic pushes in directions you may or may not want to go with your work. Meant to be taken as seriously (or un-seriously) as you'd like, they're pretty neat little things – kind of like having a deck of tarot cards crossed with Yoda and a hyper-intelligent record producer in your back pocket. I was introduced to the cards through a scene in Richard Linklater's 1991 film Slacker, which is one of my favorite films ever and which might explain a lot.

Unfortunately, "real" decks of Oblique Strategies can cost quite a bit of money. You could make your own, if you're so inclined, but I just use an elegant little Dashboard widget for my Mac, available here:

http://www.apple.com/downloads/dashboard/reference/oblique.html

But I'm thinking that soon I might have to switch to a completely analog version of everything – notebook for writing and real deck of Oblique Strategies for inspiration, because constantly going to my Dashboard to pick a card… well, it can be kind of distracting sometimes.

Yours,
Gabe Soria

*(The title of this blog post is the motto on the Oblique Strategy card I pulled when trying to figure out what to write for this entry.)

More information about the Oblique Strategies:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oblique_Strategies

Another Brian Eno creative inspiration game, in which he invented William Gibson/Neal Stephenson-esque sci-fi alter-egos for David Bowie and his band during the recording of the latter's 1995 album:

http://music.hyperreal.org/artists/brian_eno/interviews/raygun95.html

PS: Um, can somebody out there please do a comics version of the Oblique Strategies? Please?

[UP NEXT WEEK: WARREN PLEECE]

May 12, 2008

SuperPlus Vampires

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Weather in New York today is overcast and drippy, the perfect weather for the daytime vampire. 

I'd never heard of Christopher Golden before Little Willow wrote me about how awesome his vampire novels are, but now I want to go out and read them!  She's put together a piece about his work, and -- as a bonus -- begun a three-part interview with him. "You never know what he'll create," says Little Willow, "but you know it's going to be good."

Kelly at Big A little writes a pull-quote-tastic review of Little Vampire.  Says Kelly, "Each page and every panel gives the child reader something to think about, something to laugh at, an adventure to follow."

Jeff VanderMeer over at Ecstatic Fiction asks his readers, "Vampire fiction is one of the most mined-out, debased subgenres in horror. But like any form, it has its dangerous, edgy, and experimental incarnation. Eschewing the ordinary, what’s the strangest, weirdest, craziest vampire fiction, in book or short story form, that you’ve ever read–and why?"  One of the comments mentions Suzy McKee Charnas' The Vampire Tapestry, which makes my list of bizarre vampire novels -- the vampire is an aeons-old anthropology professor who sucks peoples' blood through a stinger on the bottom of his tongue.  (Tor is re-issuing this book this August, if you're become wildly curious.)

And Jeff also talks about James Howe's Bunnicula over at Omnivoracious Reader.  Vampire bunnies for kids are clearly one of humankind's best imaginative creations. 

Plus!  NYMag likes Life Sucks!

Why Sketch?

[From the Drawing Board of Nick Abadzis]

A cartoonist friend of mine once told me about another cartoonist friend of his who sneered at the idea of spending time doing life drawing. This isn’t from the horse’s mouth, you understand, so it could be a wind-up, as I have difficulty imagining a cartoonist who would be boring enough not to like sketching or drawing from life. My friend reckoned this guy would rather use the time to plan a story or ink some pencils and while I understand the motivating force of beating the clock (creating comics is such a labor-intensive art) I think it’s just as important sometimes to bug out and do a bit of doodling, or sketching from life.

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Sketching is like play -- it exercises certain creative muscles that would otherwise either atrophy or snap from overwork. It’s important. It frees up the mechanism in your brain that usually stays focused and produces tight drawings as part of a comics narrative, and I think it’s wise to allow it some downtime, so to speak. Otherwise, you run the risk of going stale.

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Indeed, for me personally, there’s little that’s more pleasurable than sitting out on a summer’s day for a couple of hours, sitting in a park or somewhere and catching a few likenesses of the passing people. You never know what you might see, or what it might inspire. I have a whole sketchblog (http://nickabadzis.my-expressions.com/) that’s more or less devoted to sketches of people that I do while traveling on the London tube or bus service. Those sketches are a valuable source of potential character types to mine later.

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Often, sketching generates story ideas -- most of my sketchbooks are filled with little notes and reminders, germs of stories to be retrieved later in the studio and worked into something larger. Sometimes, it also takes your mind off a storytelling problem and when you come back to work, the solution to that problem miraculously pops into your head. It’s quite meditative like that – one’s subconscious seems to appreciate the downtime too. Above all, it sharpens your sense of observation and contributes to an overall looseness that you just can’t manufacture.

Sketch_4

The best advice I could ever give is not to take any, just follow your own heart -- but if there’s one piece of wisdom that’s worth imparting, if you want to be an artist or writer of any kind, keep a sketchbook or notebook.

Here are a few great blogs that I admire that contain a lot of the artists’ sketches, preliminary drawings and doodles. Or just plain wonderful drawing:

http://clementoubrerie.blogspot.com/

http://giannigipi.blogspot.com/

http://www.lotteklaver.nl/

http://daveshelton.blogspot.com/

http://mattiasa.blogspot.com/

May 09, 2008

Even More Vampires

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Vampire Month continues on its lumbering, blood-sucking way here at First Second, with some great blog posts about exciting pieces of vampiric literature. 

You can find the Excellent Colleen Mondor on Elizabeth Bear's New Amsterdam (with vampires in an alternate US) here

Seven Impossible Things reviews Life Sucks here

Jackie at Interactive Reader reviews Eighth Grade Bites: The Chronicles of Vladimir Todd here.

May 08, 2008

Sardine Fans Ahoy!

As some readers may know, First Second's favorite scrappy space marauder, Sardine, has inspired a veritable deluge of fan-mail and fan-art. A recent email to creator Emmanuel Guibert from 9-year-old fan Solomon read,

   I really like your book,"Sardine in Outer Space".

   It is my kind of humour!

   All those funny things!

   I am probably your biggest fan.

Guibert promptly responded with this terrific drawing. Lucky Solomon!


Sardine_solomon023

May 05, 2008

Vampire Month Update!

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Johanna (from Comics Worth Reading) has inaugurated our Vampire Month with a lovely post about her vampiric favorites.   (And she likes our books, too -- that's always a good sign.)

And Unshelved (the librarian comic to end all librarian comics!) has done a comic format review of Life Sucks with a most excellent punchline. 

More vampires to come!

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