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Art

The art of webcomics

Happy Halloween from your pals at ComixTALK

Boo! An unexpected update from the undead ComixTALK.  

FANG TEN:  Just in time for Halloween, Boom Studios is serializing Dracula: The Company of Monsters on the web.  About 14 pages so far, it looks like it might be fun, so far jumping between the time of Vlad the Impaler and a present-day ruthless corporate boss.  Also it's credited as created by Kurt Busiek so it's got that going for it.

SUPERTORT: The ABA (American Bar Association and that's bar as in lawyers not martinis... er well maybe both) Journal has a list of the top 10 superhero lawyers. (Side Bar: I'd never heard of the character of Manhunter before but I'd hate to see what DC would do her costume -- there's not much there to be rebooted... if you know what I mean -- and I hope you because I don't.)

DINOMITEOSAUR:  Are y'all reading Hipsters? The hipsters versus dinosaurs storyline is pretty funny.

YOU WILL SUBMIT:  The videogame-themed website Joystiq is still soliciting videogame-themed webcomics to suggest themselves to its Weekly Webcomic Roundup.  I may have found the comic Brentalfloss from there -- I definitely chuckled at the ones I got although some... whoosh, didn't get.

MILESTONES: Brad Guigar made his 2000th pun this month.  Wait wait -- I meant to say he posted his 2000th Evil, Inc strip October 22nd.  He made his 2000th pun before he could walk.

PRINTED THINGS: Shaenon Garrity has a new giant omnibus collection of her first webcomic Narbonic with all six years of the strip into two fat volumes. Copies are available through the Couscous store.

TO THE BOING-CAVE: Cory Doctorow, technologist, writer, possible superhero, has reviewed some webcomics on Boing BOING recently including Scenes from a Multiverse and Red Light Properties.

GOTTA KEEP THOSE:  I watched the pilot online when Michael Jonathan tweeted about it but I'll just borrow a bit from Gary who was diligent enough to keep blogging every single day for EVER.... taking a deep breath for a second... Anyhow Jonathan and others are working on a new MTV animated show called Good Vibes which runs after the resurrected Beavis and Butthead show (which by the way -- I guess they're now going to watch MTV reality shows since the network doesn't play videos anymore).  

MAILBAG: Harvey Award nominated Terry LaBan writes that the webcomic Muktuk Wolfsbreath, Hard Boiled Shaman is nearing completion.  This actually has gotten a ton of praise from other creators and critics and it's on my list to check out.  It's "a dark tale of love, metaphysics and obsession set among reindeer-herding tribesmen in the chilly forests of Siberia" -- probably perfect for this time of year!

NOT WEBCOMICS: And I leave you with this montage of clips from Big Trouble in Little China -- watch it and wonder if Kurt Russell actually knows what's going on!

On Art, or Make Bad Comics

Cartoonists (and artists in general, I suppose) love to argue. Or, at least, we have strong opinions on things; spend all your free time cloistered and toiling, you're bound to ruminate. One favored topic is the ol' “Art vs. Writing” debate, which usually seems to degenerate into “I think I'm good at X, and know that I'm terrible at Y, but that's okay, because isn't X more important, anyway?"

Truth is, if your goal is to make quality comics, Art and Writing are equally important. Intertwined. Yin and Yang. If one falls short, the other suffers. Which can be discouraging, because people tend to think that they're gifted with certain talents and not others, and thus it shall ever be. But Art and Writing are skills, not talents, and like all skills, you can improve your proficiency over time.

Pixels and Panels...

Hi, Folks—Scott Story here.  You may know my work from “Johnny Saturn,” and if not I invite you to visit and check it out. Before I got into webcomics, I worked for a bunch of different print publishers, such as Amp Comics, Arrow Comics, Blue Line Productions, Digital Webbing Presents, Image Comics, Nifty Comics, Powerful Press, Rogue Wolf Entertainment, and Rorschach Entertainment. "Johnny Saturn" has been used as prop on a Nickelodian show, been reviewed in the "Comics Buyers Guide," and won two awards (1st and 3rd, respectfully) in the Webcomic Readers Choice Awards.

Grey Vampires and Green Cowboys

Gus and His Gang by Christophe Blain
First Second

Vampire Loves by Joann Sfar
First Second

This is a quick examination of some color, drawing and design techniques used in two great bandes dessinées. I've kept Vampire Loves close to my drawing table for some time now, trying to glean some ideas and inspiration from Sfar's art. More recently I picked up Gus and His Gang and that's also been both enjoyable to read and to look over, saying "How did Blain do that ...?" Both artists have versatile, energetic, and very "cartoony" art styles, in the best sense of using all the tools of caricature, exaggeration, and symbolism that are available to cartoonists. They are Big Guns and worth close study. Some other artists in this vein that I enjoy, but didn't have time to fold into this post, are Kerascoet and Emile Bravo, both of whom have some work available in English (and probably a much vaster amount in French.) I hope you'll look them up!

Seeking Solace at the Symmetry Shop (An Appreciation of Ben Katchor)

Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: The Beauty Supply District
Pantheon Books, 2000

The Jew of New York
Pantheon Books, 1998

The central joke in "The Beauty Supply District" is neatly summed up by this gem from Carol Lay‘s old Frequently Asked Questions page:

Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: I buy them in enormous rolls from Hammacher Schlemmer.

The Beauty Supply District—another picturesque corner of Ben Katchor's New York-like city—is a little warren of shops where art and design ideas are sold over the counter. Towering geniuses of the art world make furtive visits to punch up their paintings, atonal compositions, and what have you. Commercial manufacturers stride in with less trepidation, aiming to put a new gloss on their line of olive products.

Comix Talk for Friday, April 2, 2010

Bad Machinery (Linton) by John AllisonREVIEW: El Santo tackles the denizens of Tackleford in a review of John Allison's Bad Machinery.

CRAFT:  Webcomic Builder has a few words of inspirational advice for improving your art.

FROM THE MAILBAG

Poseur Ink which published the Side B anthology has a Kickstarter drive going to pre-sell a new book, Octobriana from Steve Orlando and Chaz TruogOrlando is the author of the innovative adaptation of Paradise Lost; and Chaz Truog is the artist of Grant Morrison's legendary Animal Man.  Poseur Ink describes the book as "an action-filled fantasy piece that follows the heroine, Octobriana, on her quest to claim her title as the goddess of lust. Set in Soviet Russia, with chapters full of sex, psychics and Russian mythology, this new incarnation looks to be a titillating thrill."

Ed Contradictory is a webcomic with an archive back to 2007, with a lot of meta stuff going on, jokes about the creator's control over the comic, etc.  The art is serviceable, but boring in a repetitive, and bland kind of way.  The comic does seem to keep getting better though and to the extent you love jokey meta kind of webcomics, this might be one for you to check out.  (In fairness Greg Burgas at CBR liked it a lot more than I did).

A pitch for Cheapjack Shakespeare, a webcomic with a decently polished pr pitch attached.  Except that the website itself is still sporting "hosted free, courtesey ofGo Daddy.com" -- guys, there's plenty of free webhosting not cluttered up with ads and stuff designed to make your site look like an escapee from Geocitites.  (Let alone maybe you should spring a few bucks for hosting?).  In any event, it looks like the webcomic "preview" on the site is really a promotional piece for a desired movie deal.  The webcomic preview is available at a small size -- too small to read actually -- and with an interface that's a bit of a pain.  Sorry not to be able to comment on the story itself but if I can't read the comic, not much to say.

Got an email about the Charlestown City Paper's coverage of a photo comic called Blood Rose.  I'll admit up front, the number of photo comics I've liked in my life is pretty small.  And this one started off confirming my bias - static scenes, horribly clunky dialogue; but I was impressed with the visuals after finishing the story.  Charlie Thiel staged a lot of action really well and the actors were pretty decent.  But the dialogue... oy, that's got to improve.  (It wouldn't hurt to polish up the website either).  Anyhow, the next storyline debuts today in the afternoon (EST I suppose).

Comix Talk for Thursday, February 18, 2010

 The 11 1/2 Anniversary Edition

Pretty quiet today although check out this stunning creative innovation from the newspaper comic B.C.  Wow!  Now that's how you stay hip and current...

INTERVIEWS: Josh Lesnick, creator of Girly, is interviewed by the INTERNET!

REVIEWS: Johanna Draper Carlson has a review of the new mega-Penny Arcade book, The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade.  For all the reasons she's a bit lukewarm on it, I will probably love it.

CRAFT: Nice little tutorial from Jim Zubkavich on the process for a recent illustration he did.

BUSINESS: The Beat reports that Graphic.ly, "a fairly new but bold player in the digital comics distribution field", has announced the acquisition of iFanboy, the popular comics news and information community.  Graphic.ly is in "private beta" -- anyone using it right now?

Comix Talk for Friday, January 22, 2010

Psst.  Super art fight this weekend..

I think I've mentioned it before but whatever compulsion I might have once had to share with you every scrap of webcomic-related stuff... well I ain't feeling it.  So it's great that others are taking care of it and this week you can't go wrong with this round up of webcomic reviews, interviews and stories from Brigid Alverson's Paperless Comics.

SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT THE NEW NEW ECONOMY:  Tom Spurgeon writes about Julie Larson's decision to move from a deal with Creator's Syndicate to self-syndication.  You really can't extrapolate much from a story that includes one newspaper comic (Larson's) and one webcomic (Apokalips) as the basis for discussion.  I feel bad for folks like Larson who are stuggling with the double whammy of tectonic shifts in technology and a bum economy.  But I also think it's annoying and self-defeating to write about how the Internet is killing everything.  The Internet is part of the environment now.  It's the least-cost, most effective publishing tool ever invented -- when before in history has ANYONE been able to potentially reach EVERYONE on the planet at the minimal costs needed to put up a website?  That fact is AWESOME and no one in their right mind would trade it away for preservation of past pratices.

The other thing to keep in mind is that there used to be certain channels of content that we consumed because it was there in a format that required us to read/watch/listen to it on the format's terms.  That's going, going, gone.  Watch teevee when it's scheduled? Nope, TIVO.  Listen to radio live?  Nope, not if you don't want to - podcast, iTunes, etc.  Read the daily comics in the morning at breakfast?  Nope, even newspaper comics are ARCHIVED and available on the web.  I can see it in my kids' habits.  I used to come to the content in a lot of cases... for my kids all content is a library.  They watch/listen/read their favorites -- it's RARE that they ever engage with content because it's there.  What does that mean?  I'd bet a lot of things, but one thing that seems obvious is that FAVORITES will win an even bigger share of whatever new business models sustain creators.  If in the past it made sense to appeal to the largest audience possible (which often meant a softening and blanding up of material) to get into the newspaper, I think creators have to understand that's probably a really BAD strategy now.

PODCAST: The long-running webcomics podcast, the Webcomic Beacon, has two more episodes up: Fan Fiction and Black & White versus Color.

JUSTIFY TOM'S HYPE: Tom Spurgeon also linked to Smoke Signals, a free all comics newspaper based in Brooklyn.  The first two editions are available for a free download at their website.

Comix Talk for Thursday, January 21, 2010

I think I've officially run out of stupid headlines for daily blog posts... thank you to everyone who gave me advice about webhosts and website software this week.

INTERVIEW: The New Yorker has an interview with comics writer Neil Gaiman. Congrats to Neil on his recent engagement.

REVIEWS:  El Santo reviews Lily of the Valley, a webcomic about a serial killer.  A mixed review - I noticed however, that the artwork reminded me a bit of Faith Erin Hick's work.  There's also a glowing review by The Trades of Kazu Kibuishi's Copper book

THE PROBLEMS WITH DEAD TREES:  Comics Worth Reading writes about Disney's decision to let the first volume of Jellaby go out of print.  The downsides to getting involved with multinational corporations...

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 BLOGS:  Drawn! blog links to Jake Parker, creator of Missile Mouse, writing about fixing inking mistakes old school style (i.e. without Photoshop).  I haven't read it yet but both of my kids have read the new Missile Mouse graphic novel and loved it.

How To Draw Stupid -- Kyle Baker's Entertaining Book on Cartooning

How to Draw Stupid and Other Essentials of Cartooning by Kyle Baker is one of the more entertaining how-to books I've read this summer.  The somewhat thin volume (clocking in at 111 pages) is really well written -- if a little thin on practical tips and guides to actual cartooning techniques.  I mean well written in the sense that it's an enjoyable read, even if you don't learn a thing from it.  Baker is just funny, especially in his cartooning, but even in the straight-ahead text portions of the book.