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Monday, June 18, 2007

The Plain Janes Discussion -- I've been having an interesting discussion with Abhay Khosla on the Image message boards about the recently-released Plain Janes, drawn-but-not-written by Street Angel's Jim Rugg.

The discussion began when Abhay said he almost bought The Black Diamond Detective Agency by Eddie Campbell, but then went with Plain Janes instead. That prompted me to say:

Well, the Eddie Campbell isn't his best work, but Plain Janes is REALLY dull and Rugg's art seems especially toothless for the most part. I would have rather had more Street Angel myself. Hopefully he made a lot of money on it, anyway.

As message board posts are wont to do, that made me sound a good bit more dismissive than I meant to be, which Ivan Brandon called me on, especially disliking my use of the word "toothless" and conflating it with "hackwork," which you may or may not realize is not a phrase I tend to use much. My response to that:

I mean it lacks the vitality and spontaneity Rugg evinced in Street Angel. It seems managed, calculated, and not anywhere near as interesting as his earlier work. If someone is interested in Plain Janes based on the excellence of the cartooning in Street Angel, chances are they'll be a bit disappointed. It's good, professional illustration and that's about all it is. I didn't say it's hackwork -- that's not a word I generally throw around much, and I'm sure Jim fulfilled the assignment with as much passion and professionalism as he could. I just personally found a hell of a lot more passion and personality in Street Angel. YMMV.

Once Abhay has read the book, he feels myself and others who didn't enjoy the book very much may be judging it too harshly...But his thoughts aren't uniformly enthusiastic, either, and says "I hope [Rugg] does a 180 from this material in his next thing because... because again, it just doesn't play to how much fun he can bring to... to.. to movement...? It doesn't utilize everything he's capable of."

My final thought on Plain Janes and similar efforts to integrate artcomix creators into the world of corporate comics is summed up like this:

I always wonder if Marvel and DC are deliberate in their habit of hiring great artcomix creators (Rugg and Horrocks come immediately to mind) and then tasking them with jobs that don't reflect their obvious true gifts, but which keep them busy NOT exercising those talents for their own benefit, however much it might pay in the short run. Or, do the "Big Two" just take a cog for a cog and not even think about anything other than forwarding their own "mainstream" agendas...

There's lots more in the link to the discussion above, but I wanted to get my own thoughts on the book and on the issues it raises here on the blog.

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