Trouble with Comics

Apr 28

ADD Reviews Jim Rugg’s Supermag

Jim Rugg’s Supermag (published by AdHouse Books) is kind of like the AdBusters of comics magazines — it takes a familiar format and recontextualizes it to display Rugg’s many and varied illustrative modes. There’s no single narrative; short stories and random pages from hypothetical comics co-exist within Supermag’s pages. Readers of Rugg’s Afrodisiac graphic novel will be comfortable with the approach, although Supermag lacks the laser focus of that book. Rather, Supermag seems to be a summation of everything Rugg has learned about creating art and comics, a “Where Is He Now?” moment that begs the question, “What comes next?”

image

I loved Rugg’s work on Street Angel a few years back, a five-issue alternative superhero comic that was strong on story and featured bold cartooning and some early hints of the various styles that Rugg often utilizes, from ballpoint ketches to fully-realized paintings. There’s a lot of pastiche and homage at work in the pages of Supermag, as well as some one-off illustrations and Photoshop wizardry. The comics content shows a lot of Dan Clowes and Charles Burns inspiration, but if you’re going to be inspired, you could do far worse than Clowes and Burns.

The magazine’s visual virtuosity suggests a budget-friendly coffee-table art book, something Rugg’s art has earned and probably would have achieved by now if the economy hadn’t taken the turn it did five years ago. The non-superhero comics industry has adjusted to our new reality in a number of ways since then, and if Supermag is an answer to the question “How can we affordably present a dazzling array of Jim Rugg artwork and remind people of just how powerful and witty a cartoonist he is?” then, I am glad someone asked. At a smidge under ten bucks, you get a lot of stunning design and memorable eye pops for about what you’d pay for a crappy lunch at Wendy’s.

Me, I’ve quietly been waiting for more Street Angel for a long time now, but Supermag indicates that Rugg has a lot of other interests (although Jesse Sanchez, and Afrodisiac do both pop up in the pages of Supermag), and its implicit promise seems to be that whatever Rugg does next, it should be fun and beautiful to look at. I hope it happens soon.

Alan David Doane

Apr 24

seanhowe:

Alan Moore on Robert Morales, 1958-2013:“Appropriately for a man I met when he was spitting out incisive comments on the music business for Vibe magazine, my twenty-something-year relationship with Bob Morales was conducted, pretty much exclusively, in audio. I never got to shake his hand, but I imagine that Bob’s handshake was a firm one, and that it was warm. I’m going to miss the savvy New York creak his conversation had as much as I will surely miss his writing; the commitment, insight and rare passion that he brought to every story, ever feature, every line. One of the comic field’s conspicuously rare voices of colour, he was also one of its most gifted and original contemporary writers. As a genuine creator of integrity, inevitably he came into conflict with an industry that much prefers a bland subservience in its employees to the fierce, ungovernable talent of an actual artist who has something deeply felt to say and does not care to compromise a work which he or she believes in. That was the stance Bob Morales took, a fighting stance almost unheard of in a frequently less-than-superheroic marketplace, and that professional bravery is something else I’m going to miss. Moving with no apparent effort between his extraordinarily diverse realms of endeavour, Bob was like a human cultural adhesive that connected up a vast cobweb of people who, in every probability, would never have been introduced to one another save through him. One of the last authentic hipsters, he was sharp, astute, and very, very funny. If I’m honest it might be his anecdotes that I’ll miss most of all, the unexpected courtesy and deference extended to him by a crowd of strangers at a party whom, it transpired, had been informed Bob was a Puerto Rican mafia prince.
I may be wrong, but I did not see Bob as a conspicuously religious man with any firm conviction of an afterlife, and nor do I myself have any such beliefs. I do, however, have a strong affinity for Albert Einstein’s view that in this at-least-four-dimensional eternal solid that we know as spacetime there is only, as he put it, “the persistent illusion of transience”. Each instant, every hour and every human lifetime is therefore suspended, fixed forever in a medium without loss and without change, where our time-bound awareness recurs endlessly, our precious lives repeating in their joys, their sorrows and their sheer breathtaking richness, and each repetition new and unexpected, every time the first time round. Robert Morales had a fine and blazing life, a side or two of classic vinyl that I’m convinced will replay unendingly, just as I entirely expect to pick the ’phone up for an interview with Vibe, one day back in the hectic1980s, and commence a long, sweet friendship full of warmth and great ideas and lots of memorable laughs.
So long for now, Bob, from me and Melinda, and I’m looking forward to enjoying that mafia anecdote again.
Your friend and your admirer,
Alan Moore.”

seanhowe:

Alan Moore on Robert Morales, 1958-2013:

“Appropriately for a man I met when he was spitting out incisive comments on the music business for Vibe magazine, my twenty-something-year relationship with Bob Morales was conducted, pretty much exclusively, in audio. I never got to shake his hand, but I imagine that Bob’s handshake was a firm one, and that it was warm. I’m going to miss the savvy New York creak his conversation had as much as I will surely miss his writing; the commitment, insight and rare passion that he brought to every story, ever feature, every line. One of the comic field’s conspicuously rare voices of colour, he was also one of its most gifted and original contemporary writers. As a genuine creator of integrity, inevitably he came into conflict with an industry that much prefers a bland subservience in its employees to the fierce, ungovernable talent of an actual artist who has something deeply felt to say and does not care to compromise a work which he or she believes in. That was the stance Bob Morales took, a fighting stance almost unheard of in a frequently less-than-superheroic marketplace, and that professional bravery is something else I’m going to miss. Moving with no apparent effort between his extraordinarily diverse realms of endeavour, Bob was like a human cultural adhesive that connected up a vast cobweb of people who, in every probability, would never have been introduced to one another save through him. One of the last authentic hipsters, he was sharp, astute, and very, very funny. If I’m honest it might be his anecdotes that I’ll miss most of all, the unexpected courtesy and deference extended to him by a crowd of strangers at a party whom, it transpired, had been informed Bob was a Puerto Rican mafia prince.

I may be wrong, but I did not see Bob as a conspicuously religious man with any firm conviction of an afterlife, and nor do I myself have any such beliefs. I do, however, have a strong affinity for Albert Einstein’s view that in this at-least-four-dimensional eternal solid that we know as spacetime there is only, as he put it, “the persistent illusion of transience”. Each instant, every hour and every human lifetime is therefore suspended, fixed forever in a medium without loss and without change, where our time-bound awareness recurs endlessly, our precious lives repeating in their joys, their sorrows and their sheer breathtaking richness, and each repetition new and unexpected, every time the first time round. Robert Morales had a fine and blazing life, a side or two of classic vinyl that I’m convinced will replay unendingly, just as I entirely expect to pick the ’phone up for an interview with Vibe, one day back in the hectic1980s, and commence a long, sweet friendship full of warmth and great ideas and lots of memorable laughs.

So long for now, Bob, from me and Melinda, and I’m looking forward to enjoying that mafia anecdote again.

Your friend and your admirer,

Alan Moore.”

(via comixace)

Mar 17

Somebody Said Marvel’s “Secret Invasion” Was A Story

It isn’t a story, it’s the bare bones of an idea for a plot that a story could have been built on (but was not). What you describe (“shape-shifting aliens invaded years ago”) is what Gaines and Feldstein called “springboards,” and they kept them on 3x5 cards at EC Comics so they had a place to start. (Pro tip: a story doesn’t fit on a 3x5 card — not a multi-issue epic story, anyway.) That’s the problem with Bendis and many corporate superhero comic book “writers,” these days — they consider the job done when they have a nugget of an idea, rather than blowing it up and exploring it and revising it and making it into something well-written, professional and occasionally even memorable, like Moore, like Morrison used to do, like Gaiman and Ennis and Ellis are sometimes capable of, like Millar and Straczynski had the potential to do before they disappeared up their own asses, like Hickman and Snyder might be capable of in another five or ten years if they don’t get better-paying jobs writing even worse-reading material outside of comics. Story is what the original Image creators thought either didn’t matter or they could fake on their own. Erik Larsen faked it until he made it, the rest hired other writers, some of whom knew what they were doing, some of whom were Jeph Loeb. 


A story by definition has a beginning, middle and end, with structure and character arcs and theme and other stuff that someone who didn’t drop out of high school and then college (like me), would be better capable of mapping out. 

Story isn’t that fucking Robert McKee book, and it isn’t something you can do just because you READ that fucking book. Storytelling is a skill and an art; it’s something you can learn, but the passion to do it is something you’re born with or at least is evident very early on. It’s something, honestly, that I personally don’t have in me, but I fucking well recognize it when I see it, and Secret Invasion ain’t it. A missed opportunity? Yeah. A huge disappointment? You bet. A story? Hell, no.

— Alan David Doane

Mar 15

“Don’t do comics. Comics will break your heart.” — Jack Kirby

Mar 07

Best Wishes, Kim Thompson

Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson has just released a statement that he’s been diagnosed with lung cancer. I’m sure I speak for my partner in crime, Alan David Doane, in saying that Kim is a huge inspiration and influence, and we wish him a speedy recovery.

—Christopher Allen

Mar 06

Chris Sprouse Off Card Superman Story

Lots of people are congratulating Chris Sprouse for asking DC to replace him on hatemonger Orson Scott Card’s upcoming (or not) online Superman story. And yes, he did the right thing. But when you read his statement, which even in this headline is misconstrued, Sprouse says nothing about DC’s decision to hire Card, nothing about gay marriage or gay rights. He is merely uncomfortable with the negative attention. He just wants to draw comics that are discussed for the comics themselves rather than the creators’ beliefs, and that’s fine, though it’s a little weird to me he goes out of his way to make clear he’s cool with DC Comics and will continue to work with them. So he’s fine with them hiring Card, just not with people who don’t like Card now not liking him if he works with the guy. It’s a career-based decision. Understandable, especially in a tough comics industry that isn’t growing but continues to have new talent coming in, competing for work. But let’s not call the guy a hero.

—Christopher Allen

Feb 12

Michl Hartny.: I Just Wrote This To DC Comics -

Here’s a fine letter to DC Comics objecting to the hiring of hatemonger Orson Scott Card to write some Superman comics.

michaelhartney:

Hi, DC!

My name’s Michael Hartney. I’m as big a Superman fan as you’ll ever meet. I have bought Superman comics every Wednesday since I learned to read, which was nearly 30 years ago. Superman was the subject of my blog and my one-man show. My name is tattooed on my arm in Kryptonian, for Zod’s…

Jan 14

“What makes [Superman] interesting other than that he’s really, really strong? That question led me to want to redefine Clark in ways that made him more interesting and more flawed as a person. Not in a dark, mean, cynical way, because that’s way too easy. But as a true outsider whose heart is vulnerable. I wanted to emphasize the loneliness of a kid growing up knowing just how different he was from everyone else, who had to keep his distance for their protection and his own.” —

Quote of the Day | ‘What makes Superman unique?’ | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment

This is basically every kid ever, if you think about it for longer than a half-second. This isn’t a Superman thing. It’s not profound. It’s just the human experience. It’s how we do. It’s not special.

(via iamdavidbrothers)

To quote Orson Welles, “the right reading is the one I’m giving (and not David Brothers’)”. The “feeling like an outsider” part is, yes, typical of all children and indeed, many adults. But that’s not all the quote is about. Superman is a “true” outsider, as opposed to just feeling like one. He’s an alien, and he has to keep his distance to protect others from his powers. The trick is to mix the relatable aspect (we all feel out-of-place) with the different (real alien with powers).

(via iamdavidbrothers)

Since we’re on the topic of creative changes, one of the things that was a big discussion point for a while was Gail Simone being on and off “Batgirl.” With Gail now reinstated on the title, I have to ask — how much was fan outcry and fan support part of that creative editorial decision?

Harras: What we had was Ray [Fawkes] coming on for two months to help out, schedule-wise. We’re very happy Gail is back; she’s on the book moving forward, so to me, that was a moment in time where we were just looking for Gail’s next plot to come in and we’re moving forward.

” —

B&B: “Constantine” Creative Changes, 900 Issues of “Detective” & More - Comic Book Resources

Follow-up question: “When the news broke, Simone herself said that she was informed she was no longer the new writer. That doesn’t sound as temporary as simply waiting on her next plot. Can you expand on what happened here? Was there a miscommunication?”

Don’t let these people rewrite history and use your platform to do it.

(via iamdavidbrothers)

Such patent nonsense, so obviously false and easily disproven. There are good journalists covering comics, for sure, but so many are clowns who accept crap like this and post it without confrontation. Is Bob Harras now considered a forthright, truthful guy? It’s insulting to both Simone and the fans to present this farcical version of whatever the real truth is. Simone doesn’t have a reputation for being late, but even if she was, the standard procedure would have been to schedule someone, Fawkes or whoever, to do a little fill-in arc to help her get back on schedule. She announced she was removed from the book. There was no benefit to her saying that, so we can assume that as far as she knew, it was true.

—Christopher Allen

(via iamdavidbrothers)

Dec 30

Peter A. David Suffers Stroke

Comics writer Peter A. David suffered a stroke while on vacation with his wife. He cannot move much of the right side of his body and is experiencing vision problems. Please consider sending him your best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Chris