Friday, 30 July 2010

She's A Rainbow

Now that I'm coloring my comics for the first time (save two covers) I've been looking for tutorials on coloring comics. There are pretty much none as far as actually painting them, but there are thousands on how to color comics using photoshop.

This is the best one I've found:

Aside from learning how to do this and looking at thousands of examples, I've become dismayed at the state of comics coloring. There seem to be more incredible artists than ever before, yet their artwork is smeared in the gaudiest didital color palettes and horrible effects. I'm scared of an "injury to eye" just by reading some.

Why is it that old comics look so much more appealing, despite the blurry colors, the crackling, grayish black, the cheap color being soaked into even cheaper, yellowing paper? I'll tell you why. One simple reason: they KEPT IT SIMPLE!

Color was once a luxury. Color was complex. It meant so much more than it does today. Back in the day, you had to actually paint, mixing colors as you went according to a formula. In the separations, some unnamed, unacknowledged person had to make plates for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (CMYK). These would be printed on the pages, layering on top of each other in different amounts, creating different mixtures.

Because of this, as well as deadlines, comics had more simplistic palettes. And the printing process got worse and worse. Marvel was the biggest culprit, some of their titles from the "copper age" look like blobs of tone dots over smeary blobs. As soon as digital coloring was feasible, it was implemented. And as soon as it was implemented, it was exploited. Lynn Varley, one of the greatest colorists of all time, used it in The Dark Knight Strikes Again. After the beauty of The Dark Knight returns and the weird beauty of Ronin, this pixelated vomit gets in your eyes... and your eyes will never fully recover.

Lynn retained her color sensibility and palette, so the results weren't always totally bad...

But the hideous trolls that followed in her wake had no suck background to save them:
After this, every arm band gleamed, every breast became a sphere, every field became a gradient and every shadow leaked into three of four shadows. No one would call comics subtle, but without an appreciation for painting by hand, I don't think any colorist can understand how to color work.

And it was this very labor-intensive process that made sure A) color was always used purposefully, always adding to the art, never overtaking it, B) the K was the most important part of CMYK. The inks were foregrounded, the art was first, and C) the artist delineated the shadows and the space, which made better artwork.

As a sort of side note, the one company that actually improved color reproduction in the eighties and early nineties was Eclipse. Their color reproduction is so beautiful and lush. No wonder P. Craig Russell released his opera series through them. If you are interested in what hand coloring really looked like, find some old Eclipse comics and soak in some Tom Luth, Quin Supplee or pull out Watchmen and bathe in John Higgins' gorgeous work in Watchmen. Lynn Varley's work on Ronin is incredible and Tatjana Wood's work on Swamp Thing (and Animal Man when they had better printers) is unsurpassed.

Lastly, Asterios Polyp uses color in a psychologically interesting way, it is exactly the kind of coloring the artwork deserves (of course done by the artist!). It is really the best colors I've seen in years: simple, beautiful and emotionally deep. Also notice how there is no black in the entire book...

Monday, 26 July 2010

Eulogy for the Living

A chapter title for my new project. Gouache, pen and the magic of photoshop... click to see all the details in full detail!

Friday, 16 July 2010

Hats Off to Vince Colletta

Vince, or Vinnie Colletta was one of the most controversial, perhaps the most controversial inkers in comics. If not controversial, polarizing. He worked with Jack Kirby for a huge chunk of time, primarily on his run on Thor. I've been rereading these Thor stories again and they're just incredible. The imagination, the artwork and experimentation is just awe-inspiring. Jack Kirby was simply a gifted genius. However, many claim that Colletta "ruined" his art.

Neal Adams called him the worst inker ever. Steve Ditko said he used to check the roster on the new issues and if he saw Colletta's name he would make a point of throwing it aside or even tossing it in the trash. Many other artists were pretty vocal about disliking his style or his work. This was due to his quick speed (he inked Kirby, remember?) to which he would simplify background characters or silhouette them to make deadlines.

Erasing "King" Kirby? This sounds like treason... how could you erase the master!!!?!??! I think all the complaints about him are a little ridiculous. First of all, he is an amazing inker. Period. He had a delicate style that gave the characters a feeling of weightlessness, yet without making them feel insubstantial. This is perfectly suited to the world of Jack Kirby, where everyone flies and floats around with logically indefinable yet stylistically impeccable costumes, where monsters crush and hammers fly. According to Mark Evanier, Kirby thought he did shoddy work, but growing up as a depression-era kid, didn't really feel like taking someone's job. Jack Kirby was too nice to say he didn't like his work.

But if you've drawn something and it gets taken out, you probably aren't going to be happy, whether it's the editor, the inker, or the market. Creative people are fragile. This is a fact that tends to get overlooked in the brutal world of comics, even, and especially when people act like jerks.

A lot of what people think of when they think of "The Kirby Style" is owed to Colletta. You can't take anything away from Kirby's genius, but when people ape his style, it is often in the inking style that they focus on to give it "that look." A lot of this is lost from abysmal reproductions (many of the originals are gone forever?) but flip through one of the Thor books (hopefully not reprinted) and find a page that looks like the printer didn't smear extra ink on it and you will see some of the delicate, beautiful lines that translated Kirby's world to us unsuspecting humans.

A lot of what went on between him and other artists may seem like ego or infallibility. Kirby is rightly treated as a god amongst mortals, but look at this panel. Colletta erased Mr. Fantastic. Stylistically this makes sense to me. Maybe I'm alone in my opinion, yet I think compositionally this panel works better without the other figure! Whether this was laziness, arrogance, inspiration or editorial, the fact remains that it works for me. But don't take my word for it! Click on the panel to enlarge:

Look at Superman's (EX-)Pal Jimmy Olsen issue 143's double page spread of The Mountain of Judgement or two-page photo-collage experiment where Jimmy drives his car through a psychadelic "nightmare." This is what makes comics fun and shows why they had so much more energy than today's lifeless automatons. Comics today are poorly drawn. A good inker can fix up the mistakes. Is obliterating whole characters more of a sacrilege than fixing a nose? It's audacious, yes, but what defines the line between inking and enhancing and inking and ruining?

For some reason Klaus Janson is the guy that wrote the book on comics inking. I would love if someone could explain why.

Mike Royer (also incredible) had inked a few covers for Kirby while at DC. Wally Wood and Mark Evanier eventually convinced Kirby to ditch Colletta for Mike Royer. Fans wrote in wondering why Kirby had abandoned the "Marvel style." Well kids, the "Marvel style" was Kirby's style. That just shows how influential he was to the look of Kirby's world. And the number of books he did attests to his skill and speed. Why would they ask for the Marvel style back after switching inkers if the Marvel style was Kirby's style? This is a repeated event with many of the artists that malign Colletta. He ruined their art, they get somebody else to ink it and then sales slump.

Criticized for simplifying details and giving a huge, bold bombastic look to the art... personally I think it's the perfect style, and tellingly the style that is most used when making comics look "retro" or trying to capture that silver age feel. All the detail in comics now looks like garbage. Add to this the bland computer inking and eyesore photoshop palette and this was the beginning of the end. The seventies would lead to a sketchier, drearier stoicism that shied away from the dark joys of Alex Toth and Steve Ditko. Interstingly enough, these would be siphoned off by Hanna-Barbera, no stranger to stylistic shifts, who would churn out stiff cartoons themselves with progressively poorer and poorer art.

But that's a whole 'nother tale.

Lastly, I'd like to present to you the infamous "Vince Colletta letter" (Colletter?) that's been making its rounds. In 1987, Jim Shooter was fired from Marvel. He followed a rearrangement of overseers while Stan Lee went all Hollywood on Marvel's ass and never looked back. Jim Shooter whipped the bull-pen into shape, making missed deadlines a thing of the past and overseeing Miller's Daredevil run, Claremont and Burns' Uncanny X-Men, Bill Sienkiewicz and a a ton of other artists and a slew of titles picking up sales. His clashes with artists would become fatal however, leading to pretty much all the top talent jumping ship: Gene Colan, Steve Gerber, Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Mike Ploog and John Byrne. Jim Shooter was also one of the few non-artists instrumental in getting artists rights to their characters and creative royalties, which should be his most important legacy. Steve Gerber was the one that finally did it, although he was fighting 'til the end to get credit he never recieved.

To show you how tense and shitty it was around the Marvel office; in issue 127 of The Invincible Iron Man, Dave Cockrum's (another ship jumper's) resignation letter was placed in a panel, replacing "Marvel" with "Avengers" and passed off as Tony Stark's butler's resignation for a previous alcoholic berating. Here's the text:

To: Anthony Stark

This is to notify you that I am tendering my resignation from my position. This resignation is to take effect immediately.

I am leaving because this is no longer the team-spirited "one big happy family" I once loved working for. Over the past year or so I have watched Avengers' morale disintegrate to the point that, rather than being a team or a family, it is now a large collection of unhappy individuals simmering in their own personal stew of repressed anger, resentment and frustration. I have seen a lot of my friends silently enduring unfair, malicious or vindictive treatment.

My personal grievances are relatively slight by comparison to some, but I don't intend to silently endure. I've watched the Avengers be disbanded, uprooted and shuffled around. I've become firmly convinced that this was done with the idea of 'showing the hired help who's Boss.'

I don't intend to wait around to see what's next.



cc: The Avengers

They issued a swift apology, but why point out you're airing your dirty laundry?

Vince Colletta's letter to Marvel on Shooter's firing didn't surface for a long time. Now that it has, he's become controversial for more than his inking. It makes sense that Colletta would find Shooter's firing so reprehensible; here was a guy that worked his ass off and expected everyone to do the same. Here was someone that, like Colletta, was being punished for hard work, getting fired for making deadlines instead of friends.

I don't personally know what went down at Marvel, but I sympathize with Colletta's anger and frustration. Yes, he was losing his work there as well due to Shooter's loss, so his frustration is not entirely altruistic. He may have been a dick to work with, he may have be a terrible inker in your eyes, but in the end his work amazes and inspires me. At the end of the day, that's all I can ask from comics.

Oh yeah, speaking of airing dirty laundry, here's the letter:

Marvel Editors... you are the droppings of the creative world. You were destined to float in the cesspool till urine logged and finally sink to the bottom with the rest of the shit but along came Jim Shooter who rolled up his sleeves and rescued you.

He gave you a title, respectability, power and even a credit card that you used and abused. He made you the highest payed Editors in the history of the business. He protected you against all that would tamper with your rights, your power and your pocketbook.

He backed you against all Prima Donna free lancers no matter how big...his pockets were always open to you. No cry of help was too small for him to turn his back on.

As heard in the "Brass" section of the company..."He never asked for anything for himself...always for his men."

The roof over your head, the clothes on your back, the car you drive and the trinkets you buy for your blind wives and girlfriends you owe to the Pittsburg kid.

For all he did for you... you repayed him by attacking him like a pack of yellow, prickless faggots. Ripping away his flesh from his body and laughing and pounding your chest like conquering ghouls and long after his bones were dry you continued to pour salt on them to squeeze every ounce of pain out of him.

Not the slightest whimper or cry or tear came out of this man. With you still biting at his ankles, he put on his coat and walked away... Displaying more class and poise in defeat than all of you did in victory... Jesus had one Judas... Jim had many, those that speared him and worse, those that watched...

I stuck by him and for that you've nailed me on the same cross... I thank you for that... It's an honor to be crucified with Jim Shooter...a man who none of you will ever be.

Vince Colletta

Before you judge, Marvel was at this time being bought by New World Entertainment. It's now owned by Disney. And all of their titles are terrible.

In the end, it feels like too many bruised egos have filled the halls of comics. Was Colletta a hack or a great inker? Was he a charming curmudgeon or the victim of malicious back-stabbing? The truth usually lies somewhere in-between. Until then, I'm basking in the beauty of Kirby's Thor (dialog by Stan Lee) with Inks by Vince Colletta. I love his work and I hope you do too!

For the brilliant Eddie Campbell's defense of Colleta, click here.
(with tons of examples and scans and other fun stuff!)

Here's Mark Evanier's response to Campbell and take on Vinnie.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Detroit Metal City

On the whole manga sucks. Why? Because manga is just another word for comics. And look around, my friends... comics suck. Sure there are some gems here and there, but there is no Kirby, Steve Ditko is still cranking out rants, we've unfortunately lost and underappreciated Steve Gerber, Steranko is busy being Steranko, and Alan Moore has pretty much retired. But I digress.

I'm here to talk about a manga title I like.

I wonder if there is a bunch of great manga we just never see because the lowest common denominator wins out. Import the crap that has the broadest appeal and let the markets sort it out. Hopefully it will all be this good.

DETROIT METAL CITY is full of weird visuals, tons of spanking and nipple play, metal, intestinal explosions, awkward drawings, homoerotic drug use and mood-sensing corpse paint. Like many Japanese things it is a weird mishmash of American pop culture stuck in a blender, mistranslated and immaculately executed as if on an acid trip. In other words, I can't explain it. You'll just have to find it yourself.

The basic premise is this. This little indie rock kid is trying to be a sweet, sensitive singer/songwriter. His friends are total nerds and nobody likes him. The usual. But he turns into Krauser II (I don't know who Krauser I is...) the singer (or Emperor if you will) for Detroit Metal City. It's a sort of mishmash of death metal, KISS, Visual Kei and just plain weirdness.

It's full of awkward situations were the kid says stuff that's pretty f'ed up and his alter ego takes over. Apparently all this happens when he puts on his make up (which grows more extreme with his mood).

When his alter ego is out he's obsessed with spanking. Being Japanese, of course there is weird and creepy sexual stuff. His uncle becomes this transvestite slave who gets kicked around, spanked and ridden (yes by the kid). His name in the band? Capitalist Pig of course! P.S. there is a lot of dry butt humping. You have been warned.

The whole thing reminds me a lot of GWAR, and I think that's why I like it so much.

The artwork is stylistically sort of terrible but done well. Kind of like good lo-fi black metal. It sounds like shit for all the right reasons. Well the artwork is so weird in places that it adds comedy to otherwise stagnant panels.

Now a word of warning. SEEK OUT ONLY THE COMICS! While researching this comic, I discovered a live-action movie that was made from this. It is absolute dreck and the music is HORRIBLE! Imagine the worst metalcore you can think of, then water it down, then imagine it put in a low budget feel good comedy. It's better you don't know.

I couldn't even sit through the trailor. It looked as bad as those Garfield movies...

Go to your LCBS and find this. I bet you won't be able to resist it. It was put out by VIZ Media in 2009 in the US (It was published in Japan in 2006). The author is Kiminori Wakasugi and as far as I can tell this is the only thing he's done. I only have the first volume but there's more (maybe 6 or 7?).

Oh and if your hipster ass isn't convinced by now, there's a quote from Andee Connors of Aquarius Records fame on the cover:

"A death metal indie rock emo soap opera... gleefully profane, wildly ridiculous, goofy as all get out, and weirdly sort of sweet."

I would like to add that for all the nonsensical pop weirdness, there is a slight exploration of the notion of fame and the nature of authenticity and the schizophrenia this split between doing what you're good at (plus keeping a secret) and failing at what you want to do but desire more than anything provides. I won't say it's deep or anything, but it feels like it's a touch more than just a superficial romp.

But you don't have to take my word for it!

Chalk It Up

More boards

Friday, 2 July 2010

Long Live the New Flesh!

Ah the backpiece! Originally done by Japanese mafia members as a form of allegiance, it is now a place to show allegiance of all kinds! And why not? After all, (A) it is the biggest, flattest space on your body and (B) you will never have to see it.

In fact, the only people who will see it are (A) beach-goers, (B) the guys behind you at the game and (C) people doggy-stylin' it to you. So why not fill 'er up? Let your imagination run wild! Yes, leeches and germs... I bring you ten rockin' back pieces to feast your eyes on!

First we present to you a family tree of sorts. House of Pain was born from Whitesnake and Judas Priest. Judas Priest's mom and dad was Warrant and Accept, and as we all know Whitesnake was born from Mötley Crüe and Firehouse. Malcolm Young's (?) butt is made up of Randy Rhoads.

Sometimes getting laid is hard. I know. When you're hanging out in a Turkish bathhouse with nothing but a skimmy over your jimmy and no one's giving you the eye, nothing says "come hither" like the signatures of EVERY member of AC/DC. I've been touched by rock royalty. Don't you want to tap that?

If you can't get AC/DC to sign your back or don't want to hang out in a Turkish bathhouse, why not get a bunch of their mid-career album covers on your back? We all know what "flick of the switch" means, right?

Here's a trooper! This tattoo has the opposite effect. Eddie will lay waste to anyone who tries to tap this!

"I'm driving through Westwood... this is 1987 or '88. I've got a Hawaiian shirt on; it's real hot outside. I see Tom Waits, all in black, long-sleeved shirt and cowboy boots - it's 90 degrees - and he's walking through Westwood.

"So I pull up next to him and I say, 'Tom!' I've got these sunglasses on, he probably thought I was with the CIA - car phone and everything - and he says, 'Heh?' and looks real startled so I say, 'It's Bob Seger.' He says, 'Ooh, hi Bob.' He jumps in the car and we start talking.

"I asked him what he was doin' and says, 'Uh ... I'm walkin'.' I've loved his stuff down through the years so I started asking him all these dumb questions about his songs. I said, 'In Cold Cold Ground, Tom, you say 'The cat will sleep in the mailbox.' Yesterday I went and bought my cat one of these fuzzy mailboxes. Is that what you're talking about?' He looked at me like I was from Mars - 'No, no. My cats sleep under the house.'

"So it goes on, this strange interlude, for about fifteen minutes. Finally, I asked if I could drop him somewhere and he says, 'Tell you what, take me back to right where you picked me up.'

So I drove around a bunch of blocks, dropped him exactly where I picked him up and he says, 'And, uh, I'll just keep on walkin'."

----Bob Seger

I can't help it. He's a guilty pleasure. This tattoo is awesome:

When I die you can bury me on my stomach.

Nothing gives your wish more power than Christmas lights. Especially if it's a deaf wish!

He didn't practice Santaria. And he didn't have a crystal ball. He had a few thousand dollars and... he blew it all:

Of course you can always just tell the world you waste your life playing video games...

To purge your eyes from all you've just witnessed, I offer you this. Which I almost can't believe is real. But I think it is and I think it's awesome.

Long live the new flesh!

A Woman Under the Influence

Remember when people could make decent movies? Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands are incredible.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Squirt It

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Someone just tried to extort money from me, then stole my room mate's rent and bill money all while owing me money. To top it off, they are still running around with the keys. Now I really feel secure! I knew he was a scam artist after a few months, but I never thought he would stoop to something this petty and, frankly, sad.

When things like this happen, I usually have dark thoughts in my head. Then I feel bad and think, "no, no, I shouldn't think like that. Everyone is descent... I should still treat everyone with kindness and respect." Maybe this is the trappings of an introvert, or a misfit, or a depressive. Whatever you want to call it. I always ultimately end up taking a deep breath and clearing the negative thoughts from my head.

But kindness and being nice got me into this mess. It is such a cliché at this point, but it's a cliché because it's true. These vampires will take advantage of nice people. It gets proved again and again in my life. So rather than sit around, having a mental tennis match with my good thoughts against my bad thoughts; this time I became proactive.

It is all well and great to be nice to people. Even dicks. But when they do something callous and malicious, you need to act and you need to act fast.

When life gives you lemons, squirt them back in that fucker's eyes.

If you sit around feeling sorry for yourself, you'll simply fuel your self doubt. I repeat my mantra: I will not fall victim to anyone else's insecurity. People are damaged, people are disturbed but NO ONE can take their problems out on you. They will try and they are crafty but you will win in the end with truth on your side.

We can't love everyone. And why should we? Not everyone will love us. We should be fine with this. Can't we all just get along? NO! The worst of the worst will pretend to love you, then stab you in the back. They will twist the knife. These people are a waste of complex cell structures. They are a virus masquerading as life. They are also not worth your energy.

Be proactive, take on the situation calmly and coolly, make a strategy, organize and then let it go. Don't let these people enact their vampiric fantasies. As Sarcofago said; Crush, Kill, Destroy. Then as Black Flag said; Rise Above. In this order is the simple way for dealing with these predators.

Thanks for checking it out!

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