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5 posts from July 2008

July 26, 2008

2008 Eisners


Congratulations to Nick Abadzis for a richly deserved Eisner Award -- Best Publication for Teens -- for the magnificent LAIKA.*


Congratulations also to Gipi, whose gorgeous GARAGE BAND was nominated for Best US Edition of International Material.

*By a wonderful coincidence, on the day that LAIKA won the Eisner - July 25 - internet cult figure and most excellent musician Jonathan Coulton released a song about the very same dog. You can read about it and download it here, at Coulton's blog.

July 16, 2008

American Born Chinese Booktalk on YouTube

[go, watch!]

July 14, 2008

The Dim Glow

[From the Drawing Board of Leland Purvis]

A visual trope in comics graphics is the ‘glow, or ‘halo’. Some artists I know simply like the effect. Many aspiring comics artists seem to use it, and over-use it, simply because they never thought not to.

This thoughtlessness, however, has caused a great deal of trouble and distress to the nefarious historical figure Bill Rattlecane. This is Bill.


Bill had been a playwright and actor in 17th century London until a scandal forced him to change his name to Rattlecane and flee to the high seas for the more respectable life of a pirate.

For a better look at Bill, obviously he should be inked. (Actually, Bill is not blind in his left eye, the patch is simply part of his disguise, and part of this illustration, as you will see.)



Following Bill onto the deck of the pirate ship Desdemona, we come upon the scene of his first night watch. We realize the background would be black.



As you see, the thick-to-thin lines that gave Bill’s head such definition and weight are gone. Also, with his black scarf and eyepatch, he seems to have been carved into floating pieces. To avoid this, artists often use what is called the glow, or more affectionately, the halo.



The problem for Rattlecane was that both the readers and the pirates may become either confused or fearful. In the fantastical worlds of heroes and magic, among auras, spells, pipesmoke, and crimson bands of sikoryak, it’s not always easy for the uninitiated to recognize the halo as simply a studio solution. The pirates may be fearful that Bill has magical powers, or worse, that he is cursed. They may knife him in his sleep and throw him overboard. 

To avoid this evenuality it behooves the artist, for the sake of the readers and Bill’s own lifeblood, to devise a different solution. If we return now to the initial drawing, one possibility is that as Bill comes on deck for the late shift, we ink the night sky first. Only when darkness has fully embraced him do we apply inks to the figure without crossing into the night . . .




With this solution we find that nefarious Bill Rattlecane, who was far from deservng a halo in any case, has neither been decapitated by thoughtless brush and ink, nor fenestrated by his fellow scallywags.


In fact, it was the glow than had given him away one night while leaving a certain courtier’s apartments and initiated the scandal which forced him into a life of piracy. If a cartoonist had helped Bill early enough, the course of English history and the high seas might have been changed forever.


July 11, 2008

Prince of Persia on its way to you


Reviews for PRINCE OF PERSIA are about to start turning up and I'm curious to see them. Jordan Mechner, A.B. Sina, LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland have poured their hearts into this project and I'm very proud of how it's come out. Some of you friends of First Second have expressed the worry that this may be a sell-out book for us. I promise it's not. Sina's script draws on Iranian myth and history as well as on David Lynch and other deep wells. Some might hate it. But it looks like some are already taken with it. And LeUyen and Alex are an inspired team—already working on their next project for First Second.

I'm having a good laugh looking at some of the gaming sites where a bit of artwork from the book was leaked—the responses range from "Wow, the art looks awesome" to "this art sucks! it looks hand drawn!"

(spoiler: it is!)


July 02, 2008

The Perfect Comics Kit, or, Abel & Madden + Barry = TOTAL WORLD DOMINATION

When I was a kid, my fondest dream was to own an art supply store when I grew up. I think there was something about having complete access to the means for making art that attracted me. That, and I really love markers.

Now I'm arguably grown up, and I work, in my capacity as an editor at First Second, with some of the greatest talents known to comics. (In a way, I've achieved my childhood dream -- I devote myself to making things happen so art can happen. And I have a lot of really nice markers!)

Anyway, some of the creators I work with are grizzled industry vets, and some of them are fresh out of school and finding their footing. But they all know how to make comics. And as for our authors who are writing in this medium for the first time, we might have a thing or two to teach them about comics, but they still know storytelling -- they know about creating.

What this means, I guess, is that I probably won't ever have a chance to enact this fantasy I have of taking a talented artist with no resources or training -- a blank slate personified -- and equipping her or him with precisely the right tools to make a truly great comic book. And that's probably a good thing! (I mean, this is kind of a weird fantasy, right? Please, let's not analyze it.)

But I can still think about this scenario. Here's how it might go...

"Here, talented young thing," I'd say, kindly in my grand way, waving a languorous and perfectly manicured hand, "here is a box of granola bars, a gift certificate to Utrecht, and two books for you to read very, very carefully. Now go forth and make the next Krazy Kat."


So, guess what? Those two books I want to give the victims beneficiaries of my largess? They both came out in the last two months. What is it about our time, about this moment, that these invaluable tools are coming to light right now? That's a topic for another post, I suppose. In any case, I'm absolutely convinced that anyone -- anyone! -- who reads Lynda Barry's What It Is and Jessica Abel & Matt Madden's Drawing Words & Writing Pictures will come away with the tools and inspiration to make a comic worth reading. And that's certainly saying something.


In certain respects, DW&WP and What It Is are very different. DW&WP is a wonderfully thorough formal curriculum, and provides a staggering array of technical tools for making comics, from tips about wrangling xerox machines to the basic principles of story structure; from a chart graphing the qualities of different nibs to a solid lesson in constructing an original character.


And then, over on the absolute other end of the spectrum of instructional works by revered cartoonists is Barry's fantastic, baffling, illuminating treatise on the creative process, where graceful and sinister collage pages somehow reach into your lizard brain and convince you that you can make things. It's an approach that sidesteps the critical brain altogether. Which is not to say that Barry doesn't offer any practical tips -- she does, and they are as useful and sensible as the tips in DW&WP, if nowhere near as wide-ranging or technical.

There is a more profound similarity between these two works, and it has to do with a certain spirit of intent, a democratizing of the creative process. Again and again, Abel and Madden remind us that we don't have to "know how to draw" to make good comics -- they spoke about this in their spot on NPR, which you can listen to here! -- and the curriculum they construct is one that relies very little on other formal training a reader might or might not have. Barry's focus is on actively eliminating the "Is this good?" part of the process and accessing a headspace that is generative and nonjudgemental. What you make, how good it is, is almost beside the point -- it's the making that counts, according to Barry.

It's an unbeatable combination. Together, these two books arm the reader with a perfect alchemy of know-how and zen-like clear-headed confidence, and, above all, a renewed enthusiasm for creating. They've got me looking at my markers in a whole new light.



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