Bridges Aflame


Thursday, February 25, 2010

I’m only about halfway through Todd Hignite’s upcoming The Art of Jaime Hernandez, but while it’s possible if unlikely that the whole thing falls apart near the end, and while I have a few mostly minor qualms (some fair, some not) about its approach, even at this point it is clear that this is a rich and beautiful book, and an essential volume for the advanced Hernandezologist. I’m not going to review the book right now, but just point out a few thoughts it inspired.

1. Some of the images are cropped. Old rock show posters Album cover art, comic-book covers, sketches, et cetera. Not many, but every once in a while. This probably demonstrates my ignorance, but I don’t like this trend of cutting up images, like an old movie pan ‘n scanned for VHS. (The same thing was done in Blake Bell’s Ditko bio and Chip Kidd’s Peanuts book, among others.) It’s an especially unwelcome practice in a “The Art of ______” book. I want to see ______’s art! I want to see how the artist composed the image, and I don’t really care if it looks good or bad. (Pretty much everything Jaime draws looks good, any way.) That is in fact a big part of my interest in such a book: tracking the artist’s development.

Anyway, I don’t know if he or someone else was personally responsible for making the decision in this case, but Jordan Crane is credited as the book designer (speaking of great designers). To use the old cliché, Crane has forgotten more about design than I will ever know, and that’s putting it mildly. And overall, as mentioned earlier, this is a beautiful book. So there very well may be extremely good reasons (legal, artistic, or editorial) for this that I am not aware of, and that will make me look stupid if and when they are revealed. All the same, I wish this trend would go away.

2. I keep wanting to see Gilbert’s art. I mean, Gilbert is certainly a near-constant presence in the book; Jaime and Gilbert’s careers are too intertwined to separate entirely in the text and photos. But I couldn’t help wishing to see some of his drawings included as well. This is an obviously unfair complaint, because both Jaime and Gilbert more than deserve to have a book (or a shelf of books) devoted to each of them as individual artists without having the other dragged in, and this certainly shouldn’t be taken as a serious criticism. And yet I’ve read their work collected together under one cover for so long that their work is inextricably linked in my mind.

(Incidentally, they are also the only comic book figures—other than those I know personally—who I think of by their first names. I don’t refer to Ditko as Steve or Clowes as Dan or Jablonski as Gerald. Maybe Stan Lee’s Stan, but that’s it. This seems to be true for many people—how else do you indicate which Hernandez brother you’re talking about? I wonder if this has affected the way their fans think of the Hernandez brothers, made the connection their readers feel for their work more intimate than it would otherwise be.)

But it made me think: twenty or fifty or a hundred years from now, if people are still reading the Hernandez brothers (and I think they will be), in what context will they be read? Already, I imagine most people first experience their comics in the collected volumes, in which the stories are mostly separated by artist. How many of their fans have never actually read an individual issue of Love and Rockets? The currently produced book-like issues still collect Gilbert and Jaime (and Mario) together, of course, and they still preserve the old brothers-putting-on-a-show feel to a remarkable degree. But for future readers, the original comic-book context—not just the intermingled stories, which often seemed to be commenting upon each other sub-textually (whether or not that was literally the case), but the letters pages, ads, short gags, lists, et cetera—may be as unimaginable, and unimportant seeming, as the context that surrounded serialized Victorian fiction (not to speak of that surrounding ancient Greek poetry!) is to readers of Dickens or Thackeray (or Homer) today.

The bridge Frank once declared over is burning in more ways than one, and the fires were probably inevitable. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, of course. It’s a natural process. But it is may be a good idea to consider just how important all the ephemeral aspects of comic books and graphic novels actually are, and which are worth trying to preserve, if any.

Of course, once the sun explodes none of this will matter anyway, so it’s probably wiser to concern ourselves with more important matters in the time we have left. Now where did I put that Master of Kung Fu issue I was looking at, anyway?

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47 Responses to “Bridges Aflame”
  1. Jeet Heer says:

    Great post. I can’t wait to see the book.

    1. It would be interesting to get a designer — Crane? Grano — to talk about the cropped art and why they do it.

    2. I know people who try to re-create the original Dickens experience by reading the books in monthly installments that match the original publications (usually 3 chapters per month). The thing is: you can’t step in the same river twice. Reading the Locas stories now or the Palomar stories now means knowing that there are lots of them, just as reading Bleak House now means knowing its available in a thick single volume codex, not monthly installments. I think its better to just focus on the stories and forgot about any attempt to re-create the original reading experience.

    • T. Hodler says:

      @Jeet: Of course you’re right about the impossibility of recreating the original reading experience, but so much of the appeal and energy of Love and Rockets is wrapped up in the comic-book form and how it fits into that tradition, at least in my mind, that it seems strange to think that that aspect of the stories will soon go away—or maybe has already gone!

  2. patrick ford says:

    You are correct about the cropped art in every way. Cropping the images in an art book is what is ignorant. It’s inexcusable, and there is no valid justification for it ever in the context of an art book.
    If the art is being taken outside it’s context as a piece of art to be used as a book cover, in an ad, as part of a collage, that’s perfectly appropriate, but as you say in the pages of a book called “The Art Of” it’s just a misguided move.
    Chip Kidd’s work on the Schulz book looked somewhat interesting and flashy on a design level, but it’s the art of Charles Schulz, not the art of Chip Kidd.

    A book like this is something I’ll take a pass on.
    A comics artist is just that a cartoonist.
    I’ve bought everything Jamie and Gilbert have ever done and enjoyed it all, but the only cartoonist who’s sketch books are something I feel like I want to have on my shelf are Crumb’s.
    While I’d certainly like to look at this book, it’s the combination of art and story which is what I’m after.
    I bought the Love and Rockets sketch book from Fantagraphics many years ago, and I bet I haven’t looked at it since, having said that I’ll go take it off the shelf right now.

    • Michael DeForge says:

      “If the art is being taken outside it’s context as a piece of art to be used as a book cover, in an ad, as part of a collage, that’s perfectly appropriate, but as you say in the pages of a book called “The Art Of” it’s just a misguided move.
      Chip Kidd’s work on the Schulz book looked somewhat interesting and flashy on a design level, but it’s the art of Charles Schulz, not the art of Chip Kidd.”

      Not to stay on the Kidd tangent too long, but this is a problem with a lot of the books he designs. The Jack Cole book he did with Spiegelman has that hideous section devoted solely to Kidd’s collages of Plastic Man panels. I’m generally a fan of Kidd’s design work, but the way he manhandles the work of other artists can really drive me nuts.

  3. T. Hodler says:

    Well, I don’t want to give the wrong impression. This book doesn’t indulge in cropping and other such tricks to anywhere close to the same degree as the Chip Kidd/Schulz book. But it is there, and it did bother me.

    Also, it is more than just an art book—it’s basically a critical biography of Jaime as well. There is a lot of text, so it should hold interest for fans even if they aren’t interested in the sketches and early art.

  4. adam grano says:

    @Jeet: I can’t speak for Jordan of course, but the decision to crop art in the Ditko book was my own. (And it’s worth noting that I had to convince Blake to allow me to do so, as he shared Tim’s sentiments about cropped art.)

    I decided to go the enlarged/cropped art route for a number of reasons:
    – The majority of the art Blake had scanned for the book was line art. Page after page of black and white art reproduced comic-size full-page would get redundant. Reproducing art at a consistent size works for something like the Panter sketchbooks, but it wouldn’t have been possible to present all of the art in the Ditko book as “objects.”
    – Cropping a page allows you to focus on a particularly intriguing part of said page. Granted people will sometimes disagree with what exactly the most intriguing part of a page might be, but that’s part of the job of a designer on a book like this — to be a sort of tour guide for the reader. (I’m sure some will disagree with that idea too.)
    – The variation in scale livens up the book. This again goes back to the issue of redundancy.
    – It’s much easier to control the pacing and flow of the book when playing with cropping and scale.

    That said, I learned a lot from working on STRANGE AND STRANGER and there are things I would have definitely done differently now. (In fact, I’m currently working on a similarly-structured Rand Holmes retrospective and I’m cropping almost none of the art — the decision to crop or not is something that should be made on a case by case basis, in my opinion.)

  5. Jeet Heer says:

    Hey Adam — thanks, that’s very good explanation. I’m not as against cropped art as some others (I’ve heard complaints not just here but elsewhere as well). Like you say, it’s a case by case thing. One thing that impresses the hell out me about the current Fantagraphics design team is how each book looks different. There is no house style, just a high level of excellence and individuality for each book.

  6. patrick ford says:

    T. Thanks for pointing out the book is more like King of Comics than one of the Crumb sketch books. You were clear the cropping isn’t extensive. I brought up the Kidd/Schulz book because it is a good example of artistic design, which doesn’t serve the intent of an art monograph.
    Even in an art book the designer should feel free to be creative on the covers, the end papers, the title page, and table of contents, after that let the art speak for itself. There are also instances where a large close-up cropped image might be useful in supporting something in the text or to show detail at a size larger than a reproduction of the full piece of art would allow.
    How many years has it been since really long interviews with Jamie, and Gilbert have been done? I don’t ever recall seeing an “epic” interview with Mario.

  7. patrick ford says:

    Consider any book called “The Art of.”
    The title asks you to view the subject as art. If comics are to be taken seriously as art shouldn’t they be reproduced in the same way as “fine art?”
    You will not find cropped images (except to show details of very large paintings reproduced in full on another page) in a high quality art monograph.
    If the same page size page after page is visually redundant, then almost every comic book, and strip ever published is visually redundant.
    Should IDW begin printing the Little Orphan Annie strips at different sizes every few pages to make the layout less monotonous?

    On another subject has anyone ever tried reading old comic strips one a day as first published? The one comic that is best appreciated that way is Krazy Kat, another reason why it is the best daily strip of all time, it is perfectly attuned to it’s form.

    • adam grano says:

      I’ve seen PLENTY of fine art books that crop the art pieces they contain — and occasionally I appreciate what the designer accomplishes by doing so. It usually falls flat, though, because fine art isn’t as closely related to pop art as comics (except for when it is — see Lichetenstein, Warhol, etc. — but I’m referring to more “classical” fine art books).

      And reading a comic for “story” is different than viewing a single page or panel that is illustrating a biography. In the case of the Ditko book, the blown-up pages serve to break up the monotony of gray text and small illustrations and thrust you right into the art. Visual redundancy isn’t as much of an issue when you are invested in comics story. It can be, though, if the panel layouts and “camera angles” are stagnant — but at that point, we’re just talking about a bad comic (though I’m sure there are even exceptions to this — maybe Feiffer during his photocopy era?).

  8. patrick ford says:

    Adam, It’s hard to be certain, but I don’t think really high quality art books crop images unless the paintings are absolutely monumental and can’t be properly seen in a book when reproduced full size (Sistine ceiling, Bruegel, Bosh).
    It’s hard to be absolutely certain without seeing the original paintings. I do notice in the Taschen books images are resized so they can be presented next to one another, but I don’t think they are cropped. For example in” Van Gogh The Complete Paintings” many paintings are reproduced side by side or top and bottom. It looks to me that the reproductions are sized so that the heights are the same in the side by side images, and the widths are the same when the images are reproduced top and bottom, so the paintings are reproduced at different relative sizes so they conform to the layout, but they are not cropped.
    Anyhow It’s just my preference that images not be cropped, and really when looking at comics as an art form a large component of the form is the balance and composition of the page as a whole, isolating portions of the image when presenting comics as art just doesn’t work for me. Opinions (as you mentioned) differ.
    Since you worked on the Ditko book maybe you know why collectors were so stingy allowing the use of the original art? Very few of the images in the book were from original art scans, and a lot of it looked like it had come straight out of one of the Essentials reprints. There are far more scans of Ditko original art in the Heritage Auction archives than there were in the Strange and Stranger book.

  9. Jeet Heer says:

    By the way, I actually loved Chip Kidd’s Schulz book, as I’ll explain in a future blog posting. It was one of the cases where cropping made sense.

    • I’ve always thought of Chip Kidd as possessing a wonderfully fetishistic eye, when it comes to focusing on details and visual textures that drive his image editing impulses. He is able to generate wonderful visual tapestries that express the essence of his subjects. His method of cropping never seems arbitrary to me, as he stitches together pieces of images as if they were memories in the process of being collected and sorted out. He gets right to the poetry of the source images, and his work should always be seen as a bold celebration of the material. I am particularly moved by the sheer tactility of his image assembly. Many of the images in the “Schulz” book carry with them the texture of newsprint and drawing paper, ink stains and the signs of aging. It is clear that Kidd obsesses over his source material (one need only look at “Batman Collected” for evidence of this), and that obsession is reflected in his desire to constantly move-in closer and linger on specific pleasures of the images. What we often see in his art books, is the lust to recreate pure experience on the most detailed level.

  10. J. Overby says:

    Dang – yeah, when are we gonna see an “Art of Gilbert” book? one of the best mark-makers around!

  11. patrick ford says:

    That is an excellent description of Kidd’s considerable talent Ryan.
    For me the experience Kidd supplies (more nostalgic, than clinical) is not the one I’m interested in.
    The designer I want on an art book might be best described as a hooded utilitarian.

  12. Jacob Covey says:

    This argument about cropping strikes me as utterly puritanical.

    These books being talked about aren’t definitive collections of work– they’re monographs with an editorial perspective. No book about a comics artist can be definitive unless it includes every page of any given story– because the STORY in total is the artform. Any single page of a comic is no more a complete picture of the artist than a cropped panel is. If it’s a book asking people to scrutinize an artist’s work then the challenge for a designer is to find ways to lead the viewer into seeing the work in new ways. (And to do this in service to the author, by the way– not to simply grab the reins and dictate the book’s thesis, but to help flesh it out.)

    It’s the most stifling kind of conservatism that people think cropping comic strips in the Schulz book was a way to make Chip Kidd the star of that book. It was a way to make people see the work differently and it worked. A lot of people bought that book precisely because of the design decisions and a lot of those people had a light shined onto the genius of Schulz. (In no small part because it gave some of his “edge” back after decades of sappy marketing.) I truly believe that anyone willing to view it with an open-mind would be moved by the experience of reading that book. It wasn’t about the strips, per se, so what does it matter if some of the strips are cropped? It was about the effect of the work as it plays on an intuitive level– the level of Art. The thing that makes art Art is the spiritual (or use a less loaded term if you like– emotional maybe?) resonance and what Kidd does in the Schulz book is, as Standfest excellently points out above, address the visual poetry of Schulz’s work and the artifacts he left behind as legacy. The book isn’t just a collection of Peanuts strips and it’s not a ton of original art– it’s an exploration of themes and rhythms and of the simple beauty inherent in Schulz’s body of work. It’s also an exploration of cultural nostalgia, brilliantly done.

    And, remember, this was a daily strip for the masses. It’s not the property of comics people. Schulz belongs to everybody and there’s a lot of ways to read him.

    As far as the Ditko book– or any such book– the reality is that the physical book is a limited boundary. It imposes itself on the content and a good designer looks for ways to exploit the possibilities of the page frame as best they can. You may prefer stoic books but I certainly prefer more dynamic, experiential reading and I support what Adam did with Strange and Stranger. Insensitive designers can utterly destroy content with masturbatory cropping but that doesn’t mean that all such cropping is done without care. It certainly gets done with bias and I understand fans being suspicious of any voice that isn’t that of the featured artist, but one day these derogatory ideas about graphic designers who dare to assume a curatorial voice– to add to the dialogue– will seem as outmoded as those people who thought photography was incapable of being Art or those who currently think that “comic art” is an oxymoron.


    • T. Hodler says:

      @Jacob–Now that’s the kind of comment I love—lots of juice! Thanks for sharing your perspective. And thank you, too, Adam Grano. It’s very much appreciated, and I hope neither of you (or any other graphic designers) were offended by my fumbling post.

      I take your point, and agree with many of your arguments to one degree or another. If my post reads as if I am 100% against cropping in all cases, then I wish to retract that. It can be done well and appropriately. In fact, looking back at the Hernandez book this morning, in many cases, the cropping has been executed subtly and justifiably. At other times, not so much (in my opinion), but more on that in a bit.

      I do have a few quibbles, though. First, you write this:

      “These books being talked about aren’t definitive collections of work– they’re monographs with an editorial perspective. No book about a comics artist can be definitive unless it includes every page of any given story– because the STORY in total is the artform. Any single page of a comic is no more a complete picture of the artist than a cropped panel is.”

      This a strong argument, but against a weak straw man. I didn’t say anything about being “definitive.” Moreover, I don’t think you’re going to be able to convince me that Charles Schulz didn’t design his strips to be read individually, or that Jaime Hernandez didn’t expect the record covers he has drawn to be read as standalone images. Obviously, they did.

      It’s been a long time since I saw the Schulz/Kidd book, and your defense of it (as well as Jeet’s) has convinced me to take another look this weekend. I could be wrong about it.
      Also, I should say that for the most part the cropping in the Ditko/Bell book didn’t bother me tremendously. It and the Kidd book were simply the first two examples to come to mind. There are far more egregious books that could, and probably should, have been called out instead.

      But have you seen the Hernandez/Hignite book? The images I am talking about aren’t so much cropped panels from stories, but album covers inexplicably cut in half, and comic book covers cropped several inches on all sides, for no apparent reason. It almost seems like a perverse attempt to frustrate the reader. As I wrote before, I’m ignorant about design, so I could be wrong, but I don’t know what the point is in reproducing an album cover in a context like this if you aren’t going to show the whole thing. (I’ll try to scan some images this weekend so you can see what I’m talking about.) There may well be a good reason, but in the case of this particular book, it strikes me as really odd. (I again want to point out that this is only true for a small selection of the included images. Overall, I enjoyed the book a great deal.)

      But I take your greater point. I would only add that obviously, as you yourself point out, cropping of this kind can be done well or poorly, and opinions can differ on any particular designer’s choices on any particular book. If graphic designers want to have a curatorial voice, they have to expect that sometimes people are going to disagree with their perspective! But that was already more or less implied in what you wrote.

      It’s funny, I had a really negative reaction to the Schulz book when it first came out, but now I really can’t wait to take another look. Thanks again.

  13. patrick ford says:

    Jacob’s thoughts are well reasoned, and I wouldn’t dispute anything he said except saying being of a different mind is puritanical (no cause for concern Jacob, I’ll certainly never be a position to edit a book).
    No doubt the Schulz/Kidd book is commercial and works in just the way Jacob describes for the majority of readers.
    A hard core fan who already has a keen appreciation of Schulz, and doesn’t need Kidd’s help to be engaged by the images isn’t the target the book is aiming for. For one thing the author doesn’t need to sell the book to those people, they are going to buy the book anyhow, which I did, and I look at parts of it quite often.
    It’s true the book despite it’s title is hardly an “Art Book” after all it features many collectibles based on the characters.
    What got me when I looked at the book was the one panel a page (the panels aren’t cropped) over four pages “Just look at the stars.” strip shot at high resolution reproduced in large scale, a great design choice that high lighted the art, but presented the entire strip with nothing trimmed away. That’s the sort of Schulz art book I’d like to see someone publish. A book who’s focus is reproducing the original art at full size and reproduced in such a way that it’s every nuance can be seen (white out, visible brush strokes in large black areas, etc.).
    So it is a little unfair for me to criticise the Kidd book for being something I want it to be rather than what it is. Still that’s what I got out of the book, a strong desire to see more detailed reproductions of the original art reproduced in a large scale.

  14. EH says:

    I just wanted to say that the Hernandez brothers’ work in general had always intimidated me because there was so much of it until I found a couple of copies of the 1st volume of comics lying around in a dollar bin and snatched them up. I was of course totally confused, but the short gags and self-contained stories provided enough “sense” that made me all the more rabid to track down the missing pieces of the puzzle. I have about a third of the original run at this point and every time I try to pick up the graphic novel collections I put it down. Too heavy and too monotonous in the sense of “mono-tone-ness.”

  15. Rob Ullman says:

    I kept trying to manufacture outrage over the design of the Peanuts (and to a lesser extent, Plastic Man) books, but in the end it was useless; I thought they looked great. As Jacob said more eloquently than I ever could, they’re monographs, which implies a certain amount of influence by the designer, who is going to have presentation in mind. Amazing and essential as the Fantagraphics Crumb sketchbooks are, page after page of black print on white page is awfully repetitive, and would probably have a hard time holding the attention of all but the most dedicated reader.

    Anxious to see the Jaime book…sure sounds like a winner!

  16. I like the look of the Schulz book much more than the Cole one, but I suppose my problem with the latter is still that back section. Over a dozen or so pages devoted solely to collage seemed excessive to me. I see Jacob’s point about the cropping in the Schulz book serving a purpose, but I always thought those Plastic Man pages missed the mark. They seemed more like exercises in composition than they did a genuine interaction with Cole’s work.

  17. Jacob Covey says:

    I’m afraid I’m quite swamped with work so I’ll rush my reply now that my hot li’l head has cooled. Tim- I admire you, am offended in no way. Truth is I am guilty of not staying focused on the topic of your post.

    I haven’t seen the finished Hignite book– Jordan showed me the book but only as an in-progress pdf. I know he struggled with that book for myriad reasons. Another topic of discussion is the limits a designer has in realizing a specific vision when he’s working for a group of people– the editor, the author, the artist, the sales and marketing teams, etc.

    I was not so much responding only to your post but also reacting to a lot of the comments here, as well as burdening my post with carryover from one of Jeet’s previous posts in which people were (in my eyes, unreasonably) criticizing graphic designers for imitating Chris Ware. I should probably just get my own damn blog, right? Rant over there.

    Oh- and Michael D., I’d need to revisit it but I think you’re right about the ending pages of the Cole book. Indulgent. Problem is, nobody had done a book like that before so if we have to sit through those pages in order to have such a tome, then I’m for it.

    Long live Comics Comics.

    • T. Hodler says:

      Cool. Glad you took my reply in the right spirit. On some level, I knew you were responding to other commenters as well as my post, but I was too solipsistic to act like it. Interesting to hear that about the Hignite book—I’m sure there is plenty of interesting back story to any book that complicated (and the thousands of decisions that have to be made).

      I like your hot-headed comments, though. Please don’t stop leaving them here. Although I’d definitely read a Jacob Covey blog. Maybe you should do both!

  18. Jacob Covey says:

    Well, I just realized my comment about Jordan sounds like I know some grand behind-the-scenes info so I want to clarify that it ain’t like that. Big projects like that take a long time and a lot of energy for everyone involved. So, yeah, like you say, any book that complicated takes thousands of decisions and some things get done that you might do differently if you could go backwards 125 steps. None of which is to speak to the Jaime book, just my experiences.

    Something more to keep in mind about the cropping issue– every book has only so much room for illustrations. A ton of good stuff can get left out so cropping also gets done in order to go “the necessary evil” route of including more work within the template.

  19. Great discussion. As the editor of the JAIME book and having worked with some of the others involved in this discussion, I thought I would share some insight. With regard to the JAIME book, I encourage everyone to look at the book rather than speculate on misinformation, because Jordan did a stellar job and was (as always) incredibly thoughtful in his approach to Jaime and how to present his work in this book. Very few images in the book are cropped, and those that are “cut” are supplementary images that are not by Jaime. The reason for this is a legal one: they needed to be cropped for fair use so they could be included in the book. And since they weren’t by Jaime, the supplementary art didn’t need to carry the same visual weight as his art. With rare exception the art in this book is shown complete and in scale. This is true in Evanier’s KIRBY: KING OF COMICS as well. But sometimes an image is cropped, and this design decision is done for a variety of reasons. If the designer is skilled enough, the reader gains insight into the artist and an aspect of his art that is being shown. When it’s done badly it looks it. But Jordan Crane and Chip Kidd are incredibly talented designers whose work is done with great respect for their subject matter, and is not done randomly.

    As for why the book is on Jaime and not Jaime and Gilbert, that was the book Todd presented to me, and the book Jaime wished to do. I fully hope we can do a volume on Gilbert, and am relying on everyone buying a copy of the book so there are the sales needed to make the case to my publishing board for a Gilbert “sequel” of sorts.

    With regard to PLASTIC MAN, my understanding is that with the final montage, Chip was trying to recapture for the reader a sense of confusion and chaos, and flash back to certain images from earlier in Cole’s career to convey a sense of what was going through Jack Cole’s mind right before he shot himself. I always read that scene with the music to the end of the Beatles’ “A Day In the Life” going through my head and thought it to be the perfect end to a book about an incredible idiosyncratic artist, and I think Chip captures that completely within its plastic covers.

    For those looking to see comics art shot off the originals, I encourage you to look at Stuart Hample’s DREAD & SUPERFICIALITY: WOODY ALLEN AS COMIC STRIP. Full disclosure, I edited this book too, but was drawn to it for a number of reasons besides being a fan of Woody Allen’s: Stoo had enough originals that we could shoot the entire book in four color and show all of the Whiteout and blue pencil and yellowing tape and marginal notes. Wish that we could do that for every book on comic strips, but with rare exception (CALVIN & HOBBES?) original art lies with multiple collectors and requires a lot of coordination to get them all shot and scanned so that they look all the same.

    Great posting, and appreciate the indulgence of my two cents.

  20. patrick ford says:

    Charles, I have several hundred art monographs published by Thames and Hudson, Abrams, New York Graphic Society, Skira, Taschen, etc.
    Wouldn’t it be unusual for any of these publishers to crop images in the gallery, or plates section of an art monograph? (excepting an artist like Bruegel who’s paintings are so large and detailed they demand “detail studies”)
    Aside from the front and back cover, table of contents, introduction, and index does the book (by way of example) Picasso His Recent Drawings 1966-1968 contain any cropped images?
    I know a book like Forever Picasso displays many of the paintings in the full context of sitting on an easel, or propped against a wall in Picasso’s home, and is in that way more similar to the Kidd/Schulz book. More visceral less clinical.
    I do respect Kidd’s talent my beef is I wanted a different book.
    I’d be happy to have both Kidd’s book, and a book on Schulz more similar to the one on Stuart Hample you describe. Chip Kidd did have complete access to the Schulz archive, so possibly another Schulz book could be done which would compliment the Kidd book?

  21. Fair enough–wanting a different book. And I hope there will be more, other, different books on Schulz that accomplish what you are hoping to see. Fantagraphics has one approach. Hopefully there will be others.

    In our Abrams library we have some 100 books on Rockwell. We wouldn’t have done the last 48 if there wasn’t a market for them. But each offers a different perspective and point of view, either by its selection, text, and certainly design (you can easily spot the decade of each by the jacket design). As for cropping, I think it depends. There are many books here I have just pulled from the shelf and seen with images cropped and not cropped, including ones on the artists you mention. A fantastic book on the Mona Lisa that breaks it down by geometry, another on van Gogh that has close ups of his brushwork. Others don’t. Again, it depends on the focus of the book. For the Kirby book, Evanier felt strongly that none of the images be cropped, since Jack cropped his art in a way that he wanted it to be seen. That said, we have a handful of cropped images in that book that Mark suggested since we had space considerations or he was trying to emphasize a different aspect of Kirby’s work. Whose to say he’s wrong. He’s the author, he worked with the designer and me on those decisions, and we liked how it came out, and hope others agree.

  22. patrick ford says:

    Charles, Thank you from taking time out of your schedule.
    The Chip Kidd books works better for me as “The Charles Schulz Scrapbook” than a book called “The Art of Charles Schulz.”
    I agree cropping for what I’d term illustrative purposes is often desirable, or in a specific case like the “Van Gogh Brushstrokes” book indispensable.
    When cropping is employed for decorative design purposes, at least in my view, it isn’t best way to take advantage of complete access to an artists archive.
    Certainly if there were only one art book on Van Gogh almost everyone would agree that book would best serve the artist by letting the work speak for itself?
    Here’s to many more books on Schulz.

  23. patrick ford says:

    Excuse me : “..for taking time out…”

  24. Lou Copeland says:

    Cropping seems to me part of the visual language in the same way that profanity works in oral communication. One can get all puritanical and take the stance that bad language doesn’t have a place anywhere in our daily lives, but there’s little in our culture that can get a point across in the way that dropping the “F Bomb” will. Cropping has it’s place in comics appreciation, it just needs to be applied in the right context. To follow through on the simile, I think we can say that Kidd has “the mouth of a sailor,” but compulsive swearers can be just as interesting as anyone else if they have a good story to tell.

    Given that Los Bros. sign their work on a first name only basis, I think it’s quite natural to refer to them in that manner. Which is great because if we were to start applying more formal honorifics towards a discussion of cartoonists, Jaime would unquestionably be designated in my mind with the unwieldy title of “His Royal Highness.”

  25. Blake Sims says:

    Some of my most prized possessions are the almost complete run of singles from the first volume of L&R, all purchased for .99 a piece. It’s like Eightball and Yummy Fur, it’s a million times more gratifying to read the issues over the collections.

  26. inkstuds says:

    I checked out my copy of the Jaime art book and noticed the originals look great the way they are reprinted. I can see what Tim means when referring to the images being cut up. It seems almost to be a disservice to not see the whole image as a composition, instead, we are presented with a nice looking sample within the larger piece.

    The reprints of the originals really are stunning though. If you have seen a Jaime page up close, you will notice how fucking perfect they look and the book seems to capture that. There is some nice transition with some rougher early work and the later cleanness.

    And I will second Charles’s recommendation to check out the Woody Allen strip book. It’s kind of off the radar for most modern comics folks, but Stoo has some great penmanship. And he is a fountain of knowledge itself. I talked to him once and want to yak with him again.

    The best use of original BW pages though in recent reprinting, has to be the Jack Survives book. It completely changes how you understand the original work.

  27. Jeet Heer says:

    @Inkstuds — absolutely right on target about Woody Allen and Jack Survives. I’d also add the new incarnation of Binky Brown, which makes that masterpiece an even more intensely intimate experience than before, as you can see ever whiteout and nerviously scribbled line.

  28. Jeet Heer says:

    I should add that when I praised Kidd’s Peanuts book I didn’t mean to slag (by implication) his other comics related projects, all of which I like except the Alex Ross book (and that’s because of my feelings about Ross, not Kidd’s design). In general I don’t think the comics world has fully appreciated what Kidd has been doing with his books … a subject for a future post, perhaps.

  29. Bryan Munn says:

    Thanks for the heads up for the book. Hignite’s particular approach to comic art is one I really value, and I’m curious about his biographical/critical take on Jaime, an artist whose work transformed my view of comics 20+ years ago.
    Nothing wrong with cropping or excerpting work for critical purposes. If you want to talk about the brushstrokes used on the cheek of a small figure in a large panoramic painting, you shouldn’t reproduce the full painting.

  30. […] Tim Holder offers an initial critique of the upcoming Art of Jaime Hernandez book, which results in a flurry […]

  31. Tim, I just want to say I’m glad you were able to sneak Master of Kung-Fu into this post. I just ordered half a dozen Moench-Gulacy MoKF issues off eBay. So good they’re like sin.

  32. Zack Soto says:

    Benjamin- Just read the short Gulacy interview in Amazing Heroes 159, it’s pretty fun. I recommend grabbing it if you haven’t yet. He’s got some insight into the genesis of his MoKF approach.

  33. Zack, I just ordered that AH 159 ish off eBay as well. I can’t wait to read what Gulacy has to say about his MoKF stuff. I can’t get enough of that art. Gulacy’s issues are like magic items. The more I have in my possession the stronger I become.

  34. Zack Soto says:

    Inspired by this exchange, I finally opened up the 6-pack of SLASH MARAUD I had picked up from work and read the 1st two issues for bedtime reading.

    As Sci-Fi, it’s a mess but it’s kind of a glorious mess. Gonzo shit, evil shape changing muppets have turned earth into a giant petrie dish and instead of wiping out the human race they’re just ignoring them to death.

    His art is diamond hard. The cover of #1 is possibly the most single 80’s thing I’ve seen in my whole life. I can’t wait to see what happens! (in that AH interview, Gulacy says SLASH was a success and a sequel was planned, but I guess that never happened!)

  35. Frank Santoro says:

    First time you’ve ever read Slash Maraud!? What!? Is that legal? It’s a required text!

  36. Zack Soto says:

    I know, I know! I used to stare at the ads longingly when I was a kid, I just never managed to track it down at the time, you know? I dutifully followed COLDBLOOD-7 from week to week, if it’s any consolation.

  37. Kim Thompson says:

    This shooting-from-originals-warts-and-all thing is an interesting trend. In most cases I’d say one needs both versions because the “originals” version doesn’t “read” nearly as fluently as the “clean” one.

    A European publisher has started publishing spectacular facsimile editions of Franquin books shot from the originals, which Franquin evidently kept, at least for some of his books. The QRN SUR BRETZELBURG one in particular is utterly stunning. I say this with no exaggeration whatsoever, it’s arguably the best drawn graphic novel of the 20th century and this presentation makes it the most beautifully presented one as well. I’d recommend to people to go pick it up but it’s a limited edition of 2,000 copies and sells for upwards of $150, but I got mine and it’s worth every penny. I probably would have paid twice that., to be honest. (The regular edition can be picked up for about 1/10th that, even if you can’t read French I’d say go for it, the graphics are so astonishing you’ll get more than your money’s worth just staring at them.)

  38. Zack Soto says:

    (try to avoid reading the comments there)

  39. Elliot Levi says:

    Hi Tim,

    Sorry, this isn’t about the article, but I’ve been trying to track you down. My late father-in-law had 4 of your original political pictures of Thatcher, Hume, MacMillon & Heath. Are there any more in the series, and where can I get hold of them?

    Many thanks

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