Archive for May, 2009

Real Deal: The Real Story


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Wednesday, May 27, 2009


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By my own (and some popular) demand I interviewed Lawrence Hubbard aka Rawdog, the artist behind the mysterious Real Deal Magazine, a six-issue masterpiece of comics that began in 1989. One of the rare contemporary African-American created and published comics, Real Deal depicts L.A. underworld life with visceral, bone-dry humor and gross out violence rendered in Hubbard’s uniquely gnarly line. Anyhow, I was also happy to discover that Hubbard still has some back issues of Real Deal, so PictureBox will be representing with the original printings of issues 1 and 3-6 at MoCCA and, shortly, online at pictureboxinc.com. Prices at the festival will be $10 for issue 1 and $6 each for the rest.

How did Real Deal begin? Where and when?

Back in the early nineties I was working at California Federal Savings (now defunct) in the IT department (because of family and money problems I have always had to have jobs outside of my art). Anyway I was hanging out in the sub-basement of the building where my buddy HP Mc Elwee worked in the record storage dept, anyway we were just shootin the shit when he showed me these crude stick figure pictures of these characters GC, Ace Brogham, Slick Willy and Pork
Butt, GC’s old lady. Anyway the shit was so funny we laughed like hell for hours, and I thought it was so funny that I said “Hey man you know I draw!” so I took the characters and fleshed them out and made them more realistic. Anyway it was so damn funny to everybody we showed it to that we decided we wanted to publish it. At first we sent out samples to the usual suspects, Marvel, DC, Mad and got clowned by all as usual, Marvel actually sent us a personally written letter, but said sorry we can’t use it. Anyway we said “fuck it” and decided to publish it ourselves, the first issue came out in 1989, and we did comic shows and stuff like that, but because of lack of money, distribution problems (Damn I wish the internet was like it is now back then!!) it didn’t quite work. Anyway we managed to get 6 issues out, but HP McElwee died of a stroke and heart attack at the age of 43. Anyway, one thing that keeps me going in this is the fans!

You mentioned that people you showed the work to would laugh like hell … so did you go into Real Deal with the idea of making your own Mad? A humorous comic for adults?

In a way, a sort of satire from “The Hood” for adults, and one thing that was different in Real Deal was that the characters are older guys whose youth was in the ’70s and they just kind of stayed there (kind of reminds me of a story a guy I used to work with named Ben told me. He said he left Iowa in 1974 for California, when he went back in the early ’90s for a visit, he said a lot of the guys he knew still had the same cars) while most books about this sort of thing would have been about some young hip hoppers. The ’70s is when we came up, Blaxploitation, Disco, double knit rags, pimp mobiles, Funky Music, Soul Power, Can you dig it Baby?? And the main thing was we didn’t see anything else like it.

Where did the characters come from? HP’s own life experiences? His observations?

What’s funny about that is the characters are from both of our lives, we had been friends for years before he came up with it, and it was a culmination of people we had known in both of our lives, convicts, hustlers, drug addicts, crack hoes, car thieves, murderers etc. People we used to talk about. HP’s brother was a car thief, he had been to jail so many times he didn’t seem to mind it.

Do you think of Real Deal as being specific to L. A. and L. A. culture?

Yes most definitely, this is where I grew up, this is where I live, if you look at the backgrounds in my art, you can tell it’s L.A.

What were you main influences in comics and art? Were you a part of a large scene?

My main influences were Marvel and DC comics and especially Mad Magazine, I loved the work of Mort Drucker and Angelo Torres, George Woodbridge. Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, E. Simms Campbell, Doug Wildey and a host of others. There is a downtown scene here in Los Angeles, artist lofts parties etc, there was a printmaker called Rollo, I can’t remember his last name that used to do posters for alternative bands, he did a print of some of my work. unfortunately I have been stuck most of the time doing jobs that have nothing to do with comics.

How did you and HP divide the labor? Did he write scripts?

HP originally wrote all the scripts, and I would add my input and I would show him the pages as I was drawing them. Since he passed away I have been following his formula, and amazingly enough it’s not that hard to write a Real Deal story. You take a simple everyday situation: Going to the store, the car wash, buying some food, you have a confrontation, nobody backs down! And next all hell breaks loose!! And the main thing is none of the characters give a shit about the consequences.

What else do you do for work? Do you publish your work elsewhere?

I’m not publishing anywhere else right now, but soon I plan on doing a big push for Real Deal to put it where it belongs, Right now I work in the IT industry as a Production Control Analyst.

[UPDATE: 5/29/09]

In response to some of the questions in the comments section, I asked Lawrence about some specific L.A. influences, to which he responded:

You know I didn’t know Gary Panter or Raymond Pettibon by name but when I looked them up I immediately recognized their art; they are very good. I think I developed my style from all the cartoonists I named in my interview. One who I always admired was Doug Wildey of Jonny Quest fame, when I used to watch those episodes on TV when they were new, I always admired his attention to realism, I try to bring that to my art. Even though my characters have cartoon faces which fits the style of what I’m doing, I try to make the bodies, hands, backgrounds etc as real and on perspective as possible. I’ve always admired cartoonist who could draw in a goofy cartoon style and then change up and do realistic illustrations, you would look at it and say, “Is this the same guy?”

That’s it for now…

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COMICSCLASS2700


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Friday, May 22, 2009


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Saturday JUNE 13th noon to six
COMICSCLASS2700
with FRANK SANTORO
“DISCOVER THE HIDDEN TEMPO OF COMICS”

Hey Everybody. Your friendly neighborhood loudmouth here, Frank Santoro. I’m doing a workshop class in New York City at the infamous Westbeth artists’ co-op on June 13th. Be there or be square. It’s gonna be an intense, small class of six people. Not for beginners. Come ready to draw.

The focus will be on the student’s contour line drawing and composition. This class will explore the process of improvisation within a rigorously structured page design. Meaning students will learn how to find a framework of harmonic points on the comics page. These points act like a “tuning fork” and provide page proportions which allow the drawings to unfold in sequence while firmly remaining “in key”.

Seriously. See, the problem I see with most comics is that often there is a real lack of a consistent narrative pace. Comics can be structured like songs and utilize tempo, rhythm, harmonies and melodies to change the pace of a story. It’s this invisible structure that will be explored, diagrammed and discussed.

And as for the drawing end of it, we will be drawing in a contour line style. No shading, just lines. And no color. Students will be making a manuscript, a “print dummy” of sorts for making their own 16 page zine. Each student will be “improvising” upon a pre-existing story structure designed by myself. Straight ahead, no-frills drawing and composition, transitions and sequencing will be the order of the day. I will be working with each student one on one to really explain how structure and improvisation can unlock one’s narrative vision.

Email me: capneasyATgmailDOTcom if you’re interested and I’ll fill you in on the details. It’s 40 bux. Noon to six with a lunch break. June 13th. Saturday. Space is limited to six people. Thanks.
[UPDATE] THE CLASS IS FULL . I’m making a wait list and hopefully will be doing this again soon, so please email me if you’re interested and I’ll let you know what’s up.

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Starting to Happen


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Wednesday, May 20, 2009


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Oh my, what’s this? A preview of Sounds and Pauses: The Comics of David Mazzucchelli curated by yours truly? Could it be? iPhone photos have a wonderful way of obscuring detail (or at least mine do) so I’m not giving too much away here. Anyhow, it’s now up and viewable at MoCCA and there’s an opening reception June 6, 7-9 pm. The show, which I’m really quite proud of, features work from throughout David’s career, with a special focus on the art for his forthcoming book Asterios Polyp. David designed the exhibition itself, making it a wonderfully immersive experience. There’s work here that even the most hardcore Mazzucchelli obsessive will find surprising. Anyhow this 4-month long process has confirmed David’s unique comics genius for me, and I couldn’t be more pleased to be involved. So, here are a few blurry pix of the show…



That’s it. The above 3 are of course details of the installation. You have to go see it to put all the pieces together. And keep an eye out at the MoCCA festival for David’s wonderful exhibition poster.

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Follow-up for Frank


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Monday, May 18, 2009


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If you want to listen to the TCAF “Post-Kirby” panel Frank mentioned in his last post, the audio has been posted by Inkstuds.

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TCAF ramble


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Sunday, May 17, 2009


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FRIDAY

The drive from NYC to Toronto was fun. Dan, Dash, the books, and me. I drove most of the way. It’s a hoof, for sure. Basically ten hours when it’s all said and done. Dan’s a decent navigator, but he likes those Google directions, and I prefer Ye Olde Atlas, so a few times we goofed and missed a turn. For the most part we found our way and got there in one piece. Dan backed into the gas station and crunched the bumper a bit in Buffalo. So, y’know, the usual drive to a con for me and Dan.

Dash is whatchacall a good conversationalist, so he and Dan riffed on all things comics most of the way. The future of print magazines, new subscription models, online comics, animated shorts, oh yah—Dash has these new short animation pieces that he showed me and Dan on his iPod. All hand drawn by him and Jane Sabrowski they look fantastically modern, fresh. Dash sees no distinction really between comics and animation. It felt like reading a solid short comic story. Only two minutes long but just shimmering with a very particular pacing. Remarkable detail and movement.

Dan’s finishing up his second Art Out Of Time book and we talked about John Stanley. Somehow that led to Trevor Von Eeden. Lay-outs. That’s the connection. Comic book page lay-outs. John Stanley horror comics and their page designs. Thriller and how it was DC’s “art” comic. Crazy art by Von Eeden colored by Lynn Varley. And how DC’s other “art” comic at the time, Ronin, was also colored by Varley. Everyone knew she was the secret to Miller’s successful visual breakthrough (don’t laff) on Ronin, but she was also the real reason why early Von Eeden is so good. And then, after Ronin, she mostly only worked with Miller. Things that make you go hmm…..

John Stanley, Lynn Varley. These were the important matters of the day. Then it was Steranko. And Mazzucchelli. Dash did an interview with Mazz for an upcoming Comics Journal. They talked about Steranko.

Dan’s curating a Mazz show for MoCCA. I still haven’t read Asterios Polyp. Dash didn’t know that Richmond Lewis colored Iron Wolf by Mignola and Chaykin. Chaykin! Chaykin was into Steranko. That led us back to Photoshop and animation. Chaykin should do animation. I could do all the backgrounds. Dash would color it. Chaykin would just have to draw the figures over my lay-outs. Cody Starbuck 3000.

Then we were there, we made it, Friday night. This year’s TCAF was in the big Reference Library in Toronto. I was skeptical of the new venue but it turned out to be perfect. We dropped our books off. Checked into the hotel. Went and got burgers. Walked around, got a drink. Dan tried not to smoke cigarettes.

SATURDAY

I spent almost all day Saturday behind the table, pricing my “curated back issues” for the discerning Toronto crowd. In other cities my back issues cause a riot. But in a town that boasts one of the best comics shops in the world—The Beguiling—most of the TCAF attendees were like, “Oh yah, I have all these…” I was shocked. “What? You have Dennis The Menace Goes To Mexico?”

Somebody was rifling through my sets when he pulled out Gilbert Hernandez’s Speak Of The Devil and pointed to the “hype-up” sticker I affixed to the bag. “Is this really the GREATEST MINI-SERIES EVER?”

I was ready to deliver my best fastball sales pitch when the gentleman stopped me and introduced himself. “Hey Frank, it’s Robin McConnell.” Whew. I was getting ready to go off like some used car salesman loudmouth, ha ha. And I thought I had recognized his voice, he of Inkstuds fame, but i didn’t have a moment to register it all. In all the rush to set up the PictureBox table and arrange our wares, I’d almost forgotten about the panel discussion we we doing in the early afternoon that Saturday.

The panel was basically about how old mainstream comics from the last 30 years had a lot of influence on how alt comics were formed. More or less. I think, really, Robin and I wanted to just throw the ball around in front of a crowd. So we got some other folks who are equally comics-crazy to join us: Dash Shaw, Dustin Harbin, and Robert Dayton.

Robin moderated the panel. But I hi-jacked it early on and spent maybe a little too much time trying to guess if the audience had really read all the stuff we were riffing on: Ditko, ’70s Kirby, Steranko. I think my fellow panelists were being polite and just let me TRY and explain why mid-70′s Kirby is important to me as an artist. Once I just spoke “normally” and let someone else talk, the panel occasionally assumed some sense of order. Dustin tried to be a voice of reason. When the audience jumped in was when it really went somewhere. It was fun, anyways.

[UPDATE FROM TIM: You can listen to the panel here.]

(I think at this point I’ll leave the panel description to anybody but me. Please feel free to add your voice in the comments. I’m completely unreliable recalling whatever it was I was ranting on about—and even listening to the mp3 Robin sent me hasn’t helped. Ask Dash. Ask Robert Dayton. But don’t ask Dustin. Or Bill K. (Just kidding, geez…))

Back at the table, business was brisk. I sold a Dennis The Menace to a little girl for 3 bux. She seemed happy. Even Dan was happy. He was only grumpy cuz it was pretty hot in the room we were in once it filled up. It was packed for most of the day. I barely walked the floor to see friends cuz of the traffic at our table. We did okay. I was selling Cold Heat sets at an unexpected clip. People were actually bringing their copies of Storeyille from home to be signed. Saturday just blew by. It was great.

SAT NIGHT

The bar was packed so we had to go upstairs on the enclosed roof. It was loud. Dan hobnobbed with Mr. Oliveros and Mr. Tomine.

Gabrielle Bell, Dash, and I made of list of comics we’d like to “cover”—like we would re-mix a Crumb story or something. But it was just an excuse to ask Gabrielle to collaborate on a Cold Heat Special. She said “maybe” and laughed. I tried to flatter her by telling her that she had nice angles in her artwork. “Maybe.” I tried to compliment her color sense and that we could exploit her mastery by doing a full color offset job for the project. “Maybe.” I tried to buy her a beer. “Maybe.”

Dash has these ideas about re-mixing comics, like “covering” well known comics and just using it like a melody. Just riffing on it. Like sampling, but not. And he also has these interesting ideas about imitating TV formats. Wait, that sounds too literal. It’s more like trying to distill the melodrama out of the narrative. Boil it down. He showed me this Blind Date comic he did where he riffed on the reality dating show and used the format of the show to underpin the arc of the story or episode. Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, you know what I mean. It was a short story, but it really made me think about how one could build comics more informally, how things like TV and YouTube have shaped our sense of narrative. After all, it’s the snippet of story, action, drama, that we like to experience in these other mediums, this instant unfolding. Dash didn’t bother with too much set up at all in the story, it’s all there, programmed into our heads already. So the focus was on the boiled down back and forth between the characters and their movement through space and time. It FELT like a 15-minute episode of a show and not a comic that I read in 3 minutes.

Back at the hotel, Dan asked me if I had seen Seth‘s new book. I hadn’t. Holy shit, Batman. George Sprott is a stunningly beautiful book.

SUNDAY

Got a slow start. Everyone was doing the slightly hungover shuffle. Went and had a coffee with fellow Pittsburgher Erin Griffin. Surprisingly, many coffee shops in Toronto have never heard of soy milk. Maybe I was mumbling.

Dash and I put some of our Cold Heat Special #3′s together. Dan realized I had “borrowed” the stapler from the PictureBox office back at SPX last year. “Hey, that’s where the stapler went!”

Walked the floor a bit. Talked shop with Brett Warnock. Said hello to Nate Powell. Stopped by Alvin Buenaventura‘s table. Said hi to Jessica over at D&Q. Stood in line to get a George Sprott book from Seth. The D&Q table was like a warship at battle. There was a line that stretched out the door for Tatsumi.

Met lots of people read Comics Comics who said they thought I’d be a jerk in person. That’s always nice to hear. I think. Sold some Shaky Kane and Brendan McCarthy comics to Tom K.

Tom K is one of my favorite cartoonists these days. His sense of space is impeccable. No surprise then to learn that he went to architecture school. So we stood around riffing on the Golden Section and how most artists and architects just take all that (knowledge and irrationality and measure and magic) for granted. Tom also has discerning taste in back issues and browsed my back issues for a good twenty minutes. I asked Tom about his MOME comics and if they were going to be collected. He said his recent move to Minneapolis (a year ago now, actually) has impeded his progress slightly on cranking out the comics. And everyone still thinks he lives in New York.

Dan had a panel late in the afternoon. There were still a lot of people milling around. Met plenty of nice people who wanted to talk about old comics. Jim Rugg came by and got a copy of Nemoto‘s Monster Men.

Then the show was over. And then Dan realized we could make it to The Beguiling before it closed. So we packed up quick and raced over there. We couldn’t let another TCAF go by without actually seeing this awesome store that we’ve always heard so much about. And, man, it really is an awesome store. Dash found a whole set of Mai The Psychic Girl for a song. I found a set of Star*Reach. And a set of Trevor Von Eeden’s Black Canary. Dan unearthed some rare Real Deal comics. We were in heaven. And our finds fueled a whole ‘nother round of riffing on old comics at dinner.

That’s what I love about TCAF, that there’s an opportunity to really share ideas and talk at length about comics. I mean, I talk about comics all the time anyways and at other festivals but when everyone gets together like this in a comics-hospitable environment like Toronto, man, there is like none of the guilt that goes along with some comics gatherings, that “What am I doing here?” feeling. So somehow the urge to just keep talking shop and imagining some bright future for alt/art comics sticks around. And the conversations go on for days essentially. Like I started to feel like Dan, Dash, and I were in a Chester Brown comic where he walks around town and goes to bookstores with Seth and Joe Matt and they’re all riffing on comics and art. It was pleasantly surreal. And genuinely enjoyable. We had a great time. TCAF is something special.

[UPDATE FROM TIM: Inkstuds posted the audio from the "Post-Kirby" panel Frank was on here.]

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Paging Real Deal Productions…


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Saturday, May 16, 2009


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I’m looking for the men behind Real Deal Magazine: Lawrence Hubbard and R.D. Bone. They published at least 5 incredible comic books between 1989 and 1996. And then … nothing. There’s a great interview with them online here but nothing else. If you’re out there, get in touch with me at dan (at) pictureboxinc (dot) com.

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Now I Wish I Went


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Friday, May 15, 2009


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That‘s the Dan I know!

On the other hand, I don’t know if this report is accurate, Dan, but I would like to point out that you have had months to digest Asterios Polyp, so that’s no excuse–for you.

It’s impossible to tell much from this post that mentions Frank’s panel, but maybe more details will be revealed.

Also: I feel like maybe we should be arguing about this, but really, I get tired just thinking about it. Maybe you guys have the energy.

Reviews soon.

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