Friday, April 28, 2006

The Eisners for Process Junkies -- You're probably never going to get better insight into the mind of an Eisner Awards participant than you get in Chris Allen's BREAKDOWNS today (and last time and next time, too).


Tim Still Reads the ADD Blog -- And this is what he has to say about that and some other interesting stuff, too:

In fact, I've been wanting to comment on it for awhile now. I just let stupid self-doubts about not being in "the proper demographic" trip me up, I guess. I'm 52 & still a fan of comics ... well, some comics. I'm delighted with the explosion of non-superhero comics during the past 10-15 years, and ADD Blog has clued me in to several of them (the work of James Kolchalka, for instance). Yet I also enjoy traditional superhero comics, although nowhere near as much these days. And I think what I find unsatisfying is the demand for "realism."

Now, I'm not talking about smart, energetic, thought-provoking work like Mark Millar's Ultimates, or the return of noir sensibility to street-level heroics. What leaves me feeling empty & cheated is the "realism" in traditional superhero titles -- if graphic killing, rape, and psychological trauma is necessarily more real than, say, compassion or wry humor or a genuine sense of awe & wonder. This is evident in most popular entertainment today, not just comics -- the operative worldview seems to be, "the uglier something is, the more real it is."

Again, don't mistake this for a plea for all-ages work in the worst, fluffy bunny sense of the phrase. (Although I think "Owly," for example, is far more adult than the slaughterfest of characters we're seeing in too many DC comics these days.) And it's not a plea to ban anything dealing with the darker side of human nature, either -- such works are vital, if they're truly exploring that darkness, rather than simply exploiting it & pandering to the "kewl"-craving audience.

What I'm seeing is a vast timidity of imagination, a drawing back from that genuine sense of awe & wonder, a feeling that it's a lie, or an illusion, or a tantalizing but unrealistic goal. Granted, the current state of the country, and of the world, certainly supports such a bleak worldview. All the more need for that awe & wonder, then! Which is why I absolutely love the work of, say, Grant Morrison. He seems to be one of the few writers of traditional superhero comics who revels in wonder, who looks beyond the current edgy trends.

I see a lot of online talk about older comics work being dated (the same for a lot of films, novels, music, as well). Well, some of it is silly or poorly written or logically absurd -- there's basic assembly line work in any era, and some of it has its place, too. But when I look at something like the Superman Showcase which recently came out, I can see why its contents excited & thrilled Grant Morrison -- it's like a piece of naive but honest folk art, with a certain childlike purity to it. And Grant's been able to infuse his own work with much of that same sensibility, with the addition of 21st century insight & his own remarkable intelligence.

So, I know I'm rambling a bit here, trying to say too much at once, and probably not doing as well as I'd like. I just feel sad at times for so many people who can't see beyond immediate & often brutal sensation to something more -- a deeper, more complex & nuanced experience of life. And I don't see why comics can't offer some of that, just as much as any other art form -- people like Grant Morrison & Alan Moore are proof of that, to say nothing of the wealth of independent creators at work today.

Now, maybe this is just the nostalgia-ridden fear of someone grown older & uncomfortable in this newer world, someone who wants all the reassurances of a recognizable, longtime worldview. That's a possibility I won't discount ... but I honestly don't feel that's the case. I enjoy a certain amount of nostalgia as much as anyone who lives long enough; but I still seek out new expressions of art, new modes of expression. I don't want to retreat to a cocoon of oldies stations & Silver Age reprints; while I enjoy the best of that, I also want to know about the newest music & comics & painting & films, etc.

So what's my wish for comics? I'd say it's for a larger, more expansive, more emotionally & philosophically richer universe -- not merely an acceptance of the darkest & shallowest aspects of contemporary culture, one which says there's really nothing more than that. I want the dissection of despair I get from Chris Ware, but I also want the rapturous loopiness of Seaguy. I'm sure you've heard the Biblical quote, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." That's my wish for comics, then: More vision. More wonder. More joy -- and yes, more genuine sorrow, rather than "the shock of the year -- nothing will ever be the same again!"

David, I enjoy & appreciate your online work. I've discovered some wonderful new work thanks to your reviews & comments. And if I don't always agree with your every word, I'm always grateful for the obvious passion & dedication you show for this wonderful art form.

Thanks for listening!

Hey, thanks for writing, Tim. It's extremely gratifying to know someone so eloquent and intelligent makes this blog a stop on his web-surfing itinerary...


The Complete Jog Seven Soldiers Review Index -- The title says it all, as Jog once again proves he's one of the comics blogosphere's MVPs. Go check out the Jog reviews of the entire Seven Soldiers event. I haven't read the latest one yet because I haven't read the comic (Frankenstein #4)yet, and Jog's list is missing the unreleased final issue of the series (because, uh, it hasn't been released yet)...but once that comes out, you know Jog'll cover it. This is one of the most impressive projects any comics blogger has yet undertaken, and that it's dedicated to good comics instead of Infinite Crisis (or the new Amazing Spider-Man, I read that last night, what the fuck?!? It's "amazing," all right...) makes it all the more worthwhile to bring to your attention.

Oh, and, thanks to all who responded to the call for entries in the previous post; if you haven't sent me an e-mail yet, I'll be taking them probably into early next week, so read below and drop me a line. And remember to include your address.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Checking In -- Yes, I've been busy. Sorry about that. I don't have anything solid to tell you here, but I wanted to check in. How about some

As you were, Sparky.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Father and Daughter Reunion -- It seems the forthcoming MY DAY IN THE LIFE OF JAY collection from Jason Marcy and Friends (and I'm more than a little proud to be in that group) will contain not only my first published comic book story, but a pin-up by my daughter as well.

I'm pretty happy with how my story came out -- Jay drew it, so it looks great, and it tells the true story of my family's visit to Ontario last year.

Any longtime reader of this blog knows I am a big fan of Jason Marcy's Jay's Days series of autobio graphic novels, and this collection should be a worthy companion, true stories by the people who know and love the man himself. Make sure you keep an eye out here or on Jay's LiveJournal for details on when and how to get a copy for your own self.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Panelology -- Kevin Huizenga's Curses will be released this fall by Drawn and Quarterly.

SInce first seeing his work a year or three back, I have been enchanted by Huizenga's economy of line, his graceful depiction of suburban environments, and the humanity and verisimilitude of the stories he tells.

Here are four panels chosen from the forthcoming Curses that I think demonstrate pretty strongly why Huizenga is among the best cartoonists to come along in the past decade.

This panel is a good example of the excellence Huizenga demonstrates in depicting everyday events; here's Glenn Ganges reading the newspaper, barefoot at the breakfast table, wide-eyed with intrigue at something spotted in the paper that he wants to tell his wife Wendy about. There's no background to speak of in this panel, and yet we're right there with Glenn at the table.

Huizenga has a real gift for depicting natural settings, such as the open fields in "Green Tea" (collected in Curses), or the woods and trees around and in front of Casa Ganges. Drawing cars is not Huizenga's biggest strength, as you can see here, but the rest of the environment is so convincing that at worst we forgive this minor shortcoming, and at best are charmed by the clunkiness of the vehicles in his stories.

Glenn Ganges holds his mug of (most likely) tea while pondering a subject clearly of deep interest; barefoot again, too, one notes. The rich, suggestive background is implied in just a few lines, Huizenga using the unique comic art element of closure to create Glenn's entire neighborhood through his spare, elegant style.

My favourite thing of all in Huizenga's work is the way he draws suburban environments, marking him as spiritual inheritor of R. Crumb in this particular area; any North American reader immediately recognizes these places, and is caught up in the maze of power poles, mini-malls, SUVs and signs. Each time Huizenga creates one of these panels, they are unique and different, and they all suggest a love of suburbia that the reality does not deserve, and a charm that does not really exist except in the way Huizenga recreates such images in pen and ink.

Anyone interested in the art above, be sure to tell your retailer you want Curses by Kevin Huizenga, coming this fall from Drawn and Quarterly. You're also advised to check out Huizenga's work in Or Else, Ganges and at USS

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