Friday, February 27, 2004

 
Friday Reading --


It's not much, but I am still sick. Have mercy and hopefully by Monday we'll be back up to full power here at ADD Central.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

 
I Must be Nuts -- Sorry, nothing new today other than the usual mealy-mouthed excuses. In the past 24 hours, I have continued to be sick, completed the most interesting and exciting interview I've ever done (which you will see -- and hear, I hope -- very soon), and early this morning agreed to write a magazine article by Tuesday. Which I will do in-between editing said interesting and exciting interview for airing on the radio station next week.

Oh, and Igor Kordey, I am sorry Marvel screwed you, but that's what they do. Don't be so shocked.


Wednesday, February 25, 2004

 
More Applause -- CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP. (Happy anniversary, Neil!).

 
I'm A Wily Veteran -- Check out The Pulse's feature on who's likely to succeed Dirk Deppey as King Bloggy of Blogville.

 
Early Wednesday ADD -- I've now been sick since Friday morning, and I think my wife may be right that it could be pneumonia. In any case, I am not feeling my best at the moment, although I can't tell if I feel better, worse or the same as I did yesterday.

Later today I am set to record an interview I've been working on getting for months now, with one of the biggest names in comics history, and a personal favourite creator of mine. Wish me luck. Coincidentally, on the suggestion of a colleague, I proposed a Five Questions piece with another key figure in comics history, who is about to celebrate a unique accomplishment in the next few weeks. I just sent those questions off, so it's looking very good here at ADD Central for those of you who enjoy the 5Q. Judging from my e-mail, that seems to be just about everybody, and I'm very happy to see it's been so well received.

If you're a creator who reads this blog and would like to receive the 5Q treatment, or if you know a creator you would like to see interviewed, e-mail me and I'll get right on it.

 
Applause -- CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP. (Link courtesy of Progressive Ruin).

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

 


Chester Brown -- One of the best and most unique graphic novels of 2003 -- or any year, for that matter -- was Louis Riel. Chester Brown's insightful biography of one of Canada's most iconoclastic historical figures was also a huge leap forward for Brown, and for comics as an artform. This particular Five Questions originated as an interview for the radio station I work at, and can be heard through the station's website. My thanks to Chester Brown and Drawn and Quarterly's Peggy Burns for helping arrange this interview, and special thanks to Broken Frontier's Chris Hunter for transcribing the audio.

Many of your earlier works focused primarily on stories from your own life, autobiographical stories. What did you learn from autobiographical cartooning and what caused you to shift gears into this latest mode?

I learned that when you do stories about your own life, the people around you get mad at you for depicting them wrong. So, doing someone else's life is safer...they tend to think that I've gotten certain details wrong and don't like the clothes I have them wearing or the opinions I have them proclaiming or whatever...

Louis Riel is a key figure in Canadian history, but most Americans, I don't think, will be too familiar with him. Can you tell me a little about what attracted you to him as a subject?

Well, when I began the project, politically, I was an anarchist, and so I was attracted to the story of someone who had tried to, or who had led two rebellions against the Canadian government. That was probably the primary attraction, although, also I've had an interest in issues about mental health and schizophrenia. My mother was a schizophrenic and so the whole part of the story that dealt with Riel's own craziness and his incarceration in a mental institution, that part appealed to me, too. I felt that I'd be able to do something interesting with that. He considered himself a prophet. He called himself the "Prophet Of The New World" and he basically tried to setup his own new religion. And that had people thinking he was crazy.

You had to compress certain events and characters in telling this story...tell me why that was necessary and what kind of judgment calls you found yourself making in the process.



It was necessary because I wanted to limit myself to about two hundred pages and comics need more space than prose does. You know, in prose, you can describe something quickly in a sentence, but if you're to depict what happens in that sentence, it might take a page or more. So, to really tell a biography fully, you'd need maybe, like, a thousand pages to tell it rather than the two hundred that I gave myself, but I wanted to limit myself to around two hundred pages because I knew that it would take a while to do even that much because comics are kind of time consuming; it took me about five years to do the project as it was and if I'd have done a thousand pages, it would have been that much longer, so, yeah, I needed to kind of compress events and combine characters and all that kind of stuff...

The book was originally serialized in pamphlet form as a series of ten comic books before, ultimately, being collected in this hardcover graphic novel. Since the book holds together so well as a single lengthy work, how do you feel about serializing it? Would you follow that format again?

I originally wrote out a script for the book beforehand and I thought it was going to work well as just a single work and I didn't really want to serialize it in comic book form. That was done at my publisher's suggestion because it did help finance the project as it went along, but, probably my next work I'm not going to serialize beforehand, I'm just going to release it as a graphic novel and that'll be the first that the public sees of it.

This project took a long time to do and it may be some time before your next graphic novel appears...how does a cartoonist support himself in these periods, when you're working on these really lengthy works and you don't have regular work appearing on a regular basis in the meantime?

I do get royalties from my older books, the money still does come in from that and sometimes from unusual sources, like foreign editons and that kind of thing. And, also, while doing the book, I did get a grant from the Canadian government, so that helped, too. I think this might have been the first graphic novel that did get a grant from the Canada Council For The Arts, but it kind of opened a door there because now they have an official category in their grant system for graphic novels.

Learn more about Chester Brown at the Drawn and Quarterly website.

Monday, February 23, 2004

 
Monday Reading -- Let's run down some of the highlights of the comics internet over the past day or two...


Now go forth and make with the clicky.



 


Paul Hornschemeier -- The creator of the recent graphic novel MOTHER, COME HOME, Paul Hornschemeier is one of my four or five favourite cartoonists of all time. With a new issue of his FORLORN FUNNIES comic coming up from Absence of Ink and a number of other projects in the works, Paul took some time out to answer Five Questions.

What spurred your interest in comics?

The first thing I drew, at age 4, was a cartoon. What spurred my interest in comics as a viable medium to tell something beyond a cliche was reading Ghost World one Christmas (1997) and realizing that this thing I had done since before I could spell my own name (which is a hell of a name to spell, let's face it) could be something so incredibly significant and stuffed with meaning and beauty.

What do feel you've gotten out of the artform, and what if anything would you like to give back to it?

I can't say what I've gotten from it, Alan, beyond intellectual excitement and some insight into other people's lives and beliefs, but I hope to give examples of different ways things could take shape, and, the BIG HOPE, a few good stories that escape simple gesturing and experimentation.

How have your artistic influences impacted on your development as a creator?

I think I have been very influenced by the film Yellow Submarine (yes, The Beatles cartoon), and by Jim Henson, as well as Maurice Sendek and Edward Gorey. There is something in the sad, drooping, floating worlds, sprinkled with explosions of manic color and heat, that seriously colored the ways I expressed things, even at a very young age. I think these people influenced the method by which I translate the world into images, even in my mind, before any paper is brought into the equation.

Why is design so important to you? What do you think the elegance your work and its presentation possesses conveys to the reader, if anything?

A cartoonist is a designer, if s/he is anything. A designer is simply taking elements and employing those elements to convey a message, bringing separate components together to form a unified voice, to play upon the mind of the readers in a certain way. I believe every element of the book needs to be analyzed: it is what carries and contains the story. And I think every element (paper color, paper weight, colors of ink, line quality, page layout, etc.) all serve as ingredients in the larger cognitive experience. Nothing should be ignored out of laziness. If you do not choose to address certain issues, let that be by choice, because it will certainly play a role in the perception of the audience.

What kind of relationship, if any, do you see yourself having with your readership?

In all honesty, very little. I see myself producing the stories to take care of something in myself, which is horribly selfish, and I can't understand why people support these sorts of things, but I thank them profusely for it. I care immensely for people and am very appreciative of any praise or criticism I receive, but I can't stop writing these things down. It's sort of awful, really.

 
Short, Sharp Shocks -- Enlightened critiques of contemporary sequential art by one of the comics blogosphere's two biggest assholes.

Human Target #7 -- A three-part story focused on '60s radicals gone to ground begins here, and it's Peter Milligan's most expansive storyline in the title to date. In this first chapter, Christopher Chance is almost a bit player as we meet the people from a decades-old Weather Underground cell who are being picked off today as coincidentally Chris Chance decides to throw his fate to the wind. Artist Cliff Chiang has made the book his own, delivering an impressive realism with a gratifying economy of line. If you're someone who likes what Michael Lark is doing on Gotham Central or Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier, you should also give Human Target a look. It's a top-notch suspense title that is also one of the best-looking on the stands. Grade: 4.5/5

DC: The New Frontier #2 -- Speaking of Darwyn Cooke, the second issue of his epic take on DC history continues the high standard set in the debut issue. As an added bonus, there's more superheroes here, too, if that's your thing. This issue we see the Martian Manhunter's arrival on Earth, conflict between Superman and Wonder Woman, the origin of the Barry Allen Flash, and other vignettes, concluding with one of the most visually and thematically stunning moments I've seen in a superhero book in a long, long time. Please don't be deceived by the $6.95 cover price -- ad free and double-sized, this is the biggest bargain in superhero comics today, and also the best, freshest look at DC's stable of superheroes since Alan Moore was romping around the DCU all those years ago. Grade: 5/5

Demo #4 -- "Stand Strong" is the story of a gifted young man stuck in a dead-end job in a nowhere town who has to choose between the paths of nihilistic chaos and mere decency. I felt a definite Love and Rockets vibe in both the story and the art, with Becky Cloonan delivering some especially impressive page layouts that show off her beginning mastery of inking and page layout. Brian Wood's story is another resonant slice of somewhat strange life, as we've come to expect from Demo. It's safe to say at this point that this is a series well worth your attention, either now in single issues or in the eventual, inevitable and much-welcome TPB collection. Grade: 4/5

The Couriers: Dirtbike Manifesto -- Wants to be a loud, super-cool action comic but falls down on the artifical, unconvincing cool factor of its two lead characters and silly, off-the-wall stereotypes. Brian Wood's Demo shows he has potential as a writer, but Dirtbike Manifesto plays to his worst instincts (see also, Pounded). The art here has a few nice panels, and the layouts are mostly fine, but the mostly lifeless ink line is only overcome by decent greytones. This will probably satisfy the hardcore AiT/Planetlar/Brian Wood axis, but otherwise it's pretty much inessential. Grade: 3/5

Supernatural Law #39 -- Batton Lash delivers the usual wackiness in his lead story, "The Appeal of the 800 lb. Gorilla," but it's the back-up story that caught my true attention. "The Scariest Kid on Earth" is a surprisingly effective homage to Chris Ware, with the title character a Jimmy Corrigan stand-in afflicted with lycanthropy. Lash doesn't capture the essential agony of a typical Ware character, but I'm not sure he was trying to. The story is just noteworthy for its ambition and how close it comes to fulfilling it. Art Adams contributes a terrific cover that plays to his interests. Grade: 3.5/5

Common Grounds #2 -- This is a book that wants to be like Astro City in the worst way, and very nearly is. Superhero vignettes that on the surface seem to have all the beats down pat, but are missing the essential humanity and thoughtfulness Kurt Busiek almost always brings to the party. The first story's over-the-top take on a woman pretending she's got powers in order to scare off a murderer is almost insulting in its inability to convince, and the second tale also fails in its ambitions, in this case to deliver a bittersweet take on generational heroism. Dan Jurgens gives the story more heft than it deserves, but Ethan Van Sciver's Brian Bolland imitation on the first story is earnest but stale. I know this book has won raves from some readers, but I find it inessential in the Geoff Johns style, and of course lacking decrepit corporate icons to let it slide by on nostalgia. Grade: 2.5/5

Spawn #132 -- Even shipping late as it always does, it's almost impressive that this title has reached 132 issues. I don't imagine anyone present at the "Image Revolution" (you know, the first one) thought their experiment was going to produce that kind of longevity. It's a shame, then, that Spawn is such a relentlessly ugly and uninteresting book. This one surprised me by having much more story than most of the issues that I've sampled over the years. A serial killer is bumping off people who look like Spawn's wife, Spawn (in his human form -- I have no idea -- or curiousity about -- how that happened) consults with noted cops Sam and Twitch (who are actually almost fun to read about in their own title, sometimes) and has a brief confrontation with the killer, to be continued. It all has an air of contempt for women (who are always just plot contrivances in this title anyway, unless Neil Gaiman is involved), and the recursive loop that the identity of the killer indicates makes it apparent that the only people that even exist in this universe are those that are needed to tell more bad stories and generate more action figures for Todd McFarlane's toy company. Spawn, meet Clown. Clown, meet Wynn. Wynn, meet Spawn's Wife. Spawn's Wife, meet Spawn. Lather, Rinse, Repeat for over ten years of mind-numbingly awful comics (plus that one interesting issue written by Dave Sim, of course). I don't know who is still buying this after all these years, and frankly I don't want to know. Spawn is violent, mindless superhero porn for those too meek to buy snuff films. Grade: 1/5

 


The Week in Comics -- Here's a concise rundown of prominent new releases arriving in stores Wednesday, February 25th 2004.

DARK HORSE

FUSED #3 $2.99 -- Oh, hell. Somehow I missed #2. My review of #1 is here.

MICHAEL CHABON PRESENTS ADVENTURES OF THE ESCAPIST #1 $8.95 -- I don't have any advanced info about this, but you can read my take on the novel that inspired it here. (And a big THANK YOU to the Simply Comics gang for hosting my Comic Book Galaxy archives, you guys seriously rock).

DC COMICS

CAPER #5 (Of 12) (MR) $2.95 -- The story shoots forward a few decades -- my Caper #1-4 review is here.

CATWOMAN #28 $2.50 -- I love Ed Brubaker's writing, I truly do. I find myself waiting for Paul Gulacy to grow on me on this title, however.

COUP D'ETAT AUTHORITY #4 (Of 4) (MR) $2.95 -- I'm not sure what it would take for this issue to convince me that The Authority is currently worth reading, but this four-issue crossover has been pretty entertaining up to now. I am curious to see where it goes in this final issue.

AMERICA'S BEST COMICS

TOM STRONG #25 $2.95 -- Is this the much-dreaded Geoff Johns issue? I really wish, with the benefit of hindsight, that the ABC titles had been exclusively written by Alan Moore. No one was as kind to his babies as he was.

This page is powered by ADD.