Archive for July, 2008



Thursday, July 10, 2008

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Courtesy of the Fantagraphics blog, here’s a nineteen-page preview of Where Demented Wented, the first comprehensive collection of the work of gonzo underground genius Rory Hayes (co-edited by Dan himself).

I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.

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Fellow Travellers?


Thursday, July 10, 2008

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This probably doesn’t deserve a post of its own, but since we closed the comments on the post where it would make most sense to put this, I thought I’d just point out an interesting credit that Pixar apparently included at the end of Ratatouille, according to Augie De Blieck at Comic Book Resources. If this is true, Pixar (at least sort of) agrees with Frank:

Our Quality Assurance Guarantee:

100% Genuine Animation!

No motion capture or any other performance shortcuts

were used in the production of this film.

“Realism” and excessive reliance on photographic reference aren’t the same thing, after all, a distinction a lot of people got tripped up by, I think.

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Craft in Comics 2.0 (finale)


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

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Anyways, back to craft. Ahem. That last post was sort of bittersweet. On one hand, I’m kinda bummed that my panel with Jaime Hernandez and Jim Rugg basically gets boiled down to this routine about taste. I was trying to riff on photo-referencing, not so much on Ross or even the comics culture that spawned him. Take a look at the comments section for that last post, wade through them and see for yourself how few of the comments refer to photography and drawing and the exchange between the forms. On the other hand, I’m happy that I did touch a nerve. Something resonated. I’m interested in fostering serious discussion about the over-use of photography in cartooning. Photography. Cartooning. Two different disciplines.

During the panel at Heroes Con, I spoke about a particular teacher I had who was adamant about not using photographs as reference for drawing. Ever. If there was something that needed to be researched she would direct me to a vast illustrated encyclopedia. And if an illustration of the thing didn’t exist, then I could go look in the regular encyclopedia. And then, we still could really only study the photo, we could make a drawing from it and then the photo had to be put away. We were to use the drawing we had made from the photo as the primary reference, that’s it.

The idea was to make us carefully select the information we wanted to transmit with lines. She would talk about how when one draws from direct observation, one is choosing what to leave in, what to leave out and even reconstructing elements so that the drawing will “read” better. When one draws from a photograph, the space is flattened, the camera has already selected the lines, shapes, and forms for you. When you are outside drawing a tree, YOU are choosing what is in focus, what is not—there is an exchange between subject and viewer. That is the art. To be present in that moment. When you are making the lines, THAT is the moment of seeing, of looking. “Don’t look at the paper,” she would yell. “Look at what you are drawing!” For me, this is what is valuable in the experience of drawing, this focus, this intention. It’s a very different process to draw a tree while sitting underneath it as opposed to drawing the same view from a photograph. The huge tree that moves and breathes is now lifeless and only about four by six inches wide and flat.

On the panel, we all talked a little bit about our schooling and how those experiences formed us, and how certain ideas we learned then are still part of our practice today. And for me, one of the limits I put on myself is not using photo references when composing my comics. Does that make me a better artist somehow? Maybe not, but it does lead me to make certain choices that yield unexpected and interesting results. For example, I’ll draw all the landscapes for my comics from life, from just walking around, or from just out of my head. I like to think that it adds a degree of naturalism to my comics, but it does prove difficult when I need to set a story in an exotic locale. Yet, since I feel comfortable drawing everyday backgrounds and such it’s not so hard to fake it out of my head. The conversational style of my landscapes that simply evolved out of the repetition of drawing from life serves me well in moments where I’m uncertain of how things should look. I can insert a believable setting for the characters and make it work, make the scene richer, fuller. And I like to think that those landscapes out of my head are more successful because they are not from photographs, and also because those landscapes contain my intent, my focus. Photos, even ones I take myself for reference, create distance between viewer and subject. That’s not the scene I just experienced, just walked through… How often have we all felt that the picture just doesn’t really capture the moment? That’s precisely why I strain to draw out those moments in my comics, why I refuse to use photographs. They only upset the balance. And it feels false, honestly. Like cheating.

Anyways. There’s room for all styles, approaches. But for me, I’m interested in DRAWING. I’m not interested in becoming a sort of movie director who utilizes actors, snapshots, Google image search, Photoshop, and every other available tool to create a hyper-realistic world. It’s a comic book fer christ’s sake. It’s pen and paper. It’s drawing.

Yet, I must admit that I do enjoy comics that contain plenty of photo-referencing. It can be done well. And of course all those drawings from photos are DRAWINGS too. I’m not trying to suggest that by using photos, drawing from photos is not drawing. It’s just different. And I can enjoy it—to a point.

There still will always be a transition or two in a heavily photo-referenced comic that seems really stilted and wooden. I think what happens is that the comics continuity is hindered by another discipline’s limitations. The still photo versus the moment-in-time in a motion picture, in a movie. Would folks who use snapshots of actors for their comics prefer to just film it and then capture a less “pose-y” position? Does that make sense? I mean, why not just film it and then at least you’re getting the FLOW of it. Then you could pause the really great gesture or something. But then, why not be a filmmaker? See what I mean? It’s a slippery slope. At least that’s how my brain works. I have to set limitations.

“I set limits for myself,” Jaime told the audience. “Like I only ever have four lines of dialogue at a time. If you have more, it’s too much. I wouldn’t read it. It’s too many words. It’s gotta be natural.”

PREVIOUSLY: Part one, Part 1.5, and Part 1.75

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Your Pshaw! for the Day


Sunday, July 6, 2008

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By Pshaw!

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Happy Independence Day!


Friday, July 4, 2008

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Craft in Comics part 1.75


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

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Hey everyone. I’m going through my notes on the panel (“Craft in Comics” with Jaime Hernandez, Jim Rugg, and myself), and honestly, they don’t capture the feelings I had about the panel, or how I feel about it a week-and-a-half later.

I guess the thing that resonated most with people is my rant about Alex Ross, and I just don’t feel like turning my recollections about this wonderful panel I was on into a bitch-fest about Ross, but … ah fuck it: It’s not just Ross, it’s this culture of photo-referencing in comics that grinds my gears. It’s true, I hate Ross’s work. He’s got great technical ability, but big deal. Why is copying the nuances of a photograph such an achievement? That’s not drawing! He’s the worst example for a young artist to have, the worst role model. No one has done more harm to the form than Ross. It’s not comics he makes. It’s fumetti. There are no real panel-to-panel transitions as there are in “pure cartooning”; he’s just putting photograph next to photograph in a way that some find pleasing. But it’s not comics.

His original sketches for his pages—which I’ve seen in person—are lively drawings that capture the energy and action of the figures. I remember thinking then, “Why doesn’t he just work those up into full drawings?” Instead, he’ll literally dress models up in a costume and take pictures of them dressed as Galactus or Batman. But that’s not Galactus, that’s some guy standing on a washer and dryer in a basement. How do I know? Cuz Ross and guys like P. Craig Russell love to publish those photos for some reason.

There was a Conan book recently that I was flipped through and I could immediately see that it was referenced, because the referencing takes over. Did John Buscema or Barry Smith let their references take over their style? No, they were original enough, wise enough, to incorporate the references, to subsume them into their overall style. P. Craig Russell most often does the same, he’s good enough to really USE the reference, but I always wonder why? Why bother? It distracts me as a reader, it ruptures the balance of his drawings, his lines, because it’s clear that the drawing is from a photo. It sends the other drawings on the page that are not referenced into high relief. Photos flatten the perspective, the shape of the body, the sense of depth. And worst of all it’s not Conan! Or Galactus. My suspension of disbelief is shattered at the moments I realize a photo is being used, and then that break is re-enforced when I see the photo that the artist was using, which they’ll often proudly display like a trophy! Do they think that should be applauded? It’s maddening!! When Kirby drew Galactus it WAS Galactus. Real. Manifest. Not some schlub in his underwear playing dress-up.

Think of Alex Toth. As far as I know he only occasionally lifted a photo straight. Like Neal Adams, he’d draw from it and then integrate it into his style so that it wasn’t so jarring. These days that concern seems archaic. The more photo-realistic the better. And on top of that, look close at the more recent vintage of photo-referenced comics. Generally each photo has the same focal length. You can really imagine the “actors” sitting there on their couches, at their kitchen tables, in the car. It’s so LAZY!! Point and shoot, ah, that panel’s done, next! “Honey, will you stand over there by the window and look off in the distance? I need to nail this Catwoman drawing.”

** More soon—also I’m not responding to comments on this one. On this subject, I have patience only to be dogmatic.

*** Photo-referencing isn’t just a problem in mainstream comics either, by the way. Those guys are just easy targets.

PREVIOUSLY: Part one and Part 1.5

NEXT: Part 2.0

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

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I assume most of you have decided to send your letters to Comics Comics the old-fashioned way, and your missives are already in the mail. If not, do your duty, and don’t let the Internet kill the old-school letters page. Because so far, our pickings have been slim. Surely someone is still angry with Dan about his Masters of American Comics essay from CC3! Do you love the space our large broadsheet size allows for artists to create cover images and comics? Or does trying to read the monstrous thing on the bus drive you insane? At the very least, you could take issue with Frank’s assertion that Ronin is the best Frank Miller comic…

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