Posts Tagged ‘Richard Corben’

THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (12/2/10 – Thursday’s releases, today!)


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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I thought of this when I heard Irvin Kershner had died, which goes to show you the psychological damage a lifetime of comic book reading can do. Kershner, of course, inevitably prompts some funnybook consideration; as director of The Empire Strikes Back, he picks up the considerable baggage of the asserted comics influence on Star Wars, while his direction of Robocop 2 — the first R-rated movie I ever saw in R-rated form — implicates more contemporary notions of translating a cartoonist’s style (i.e. errant screenwriter Frank Miller’s) to a big-money action movie.

Then again, these days the most direct Kershner/comics connection is in fact specifically wedded to psychological damage, in that he served as director for the notorious 1955 horror comic books episode of the television program Confidential Report, currently on a dvd included with the Abrams ComicArts release of The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn’t Want You to Read! While mostly comprised of awkward interview footage of, say, children recounting various horror comic plots or a reformed cartoonist indicating where touch-up artists made the breasts on his romance comic heroine larger, the meat of the program is surely its energetically cut (and rather patently staged) footage of kids romping out to the woods to take in some fine graphic literature, after which they engage in the unsubtly sexualized (if okay-for-’50s-television) assault of a hapless local boy.

It’s weirdly harrowing stuff — flaunting its journalistic license to loll in content abjectly harsher than usual for its era and style — boasting a centerpiece of delirious kitsch wherein narrator/creative force Paul Coates, like a proud graphic novelist perched at the podium of his spotlight panel at a art comics convention, recites the narrative captions of a jokey, she’ll-rip-yer-heart-out horror poem one-pager with all the cold gravity of Signal 30, after which one of the featured boys rises immediately to his feet and begins driving a pocket knife over and over into a nearby tree. I read comics that make me feel like that too.


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Every Now and Then


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

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Every now and then I feel compelled to make sure you, the CC faithful, are aware of what’s going on over at PictureBox. This is one of those times. You want fusion? Criticism? Porn? We have it all.

Dig this, and don’t go crying to Santoro if you miss it all:

Comics by Carlos Zefiro, a mid-century Brazilian cartoonist who makes Raymond Pettibon look like a wussy.

-Deeply underground material from the 1970s, like Book of Dreams by John Thompson (signed with drawings!) and Inner City Romance by Guy Colwell.

-Evidence of a burgeoning obsession with Italian comics maestro Magnus, in the form of a jaw dropping retrospective book and a very cool edition of Necron.

Graphic novels from the golden 80s.

-And of course, a gorgeous silkscreen and flocked print by Sir Tim Hensley and a new Jimmy Corrigan story by Chris Ware.

It’s like our very own Comic-Con! But less crowded and more fun. Don’t forget our comic strip, True Chubbo, multiple blogs, and the enchanting “Daily Yokoyama”.

Now back to your regularly scheduled reading.

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THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (7/21/10 – Britain & Sweden: War of the Invading Forces)


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

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Following up on last week, above we see artist Richard Corben working from a story by the late Harvey Pekar, as presented in 2006’s issue #2 of the first Vertigo iteration of American Splendor; a second series followed in 2008. Collectively, those eight issues were the last of Pekar’s work to see print in the comic book format — although they followed a prominent bookshelf-ready Vertigo release in 2005’s The Quitter, drawn by Dean Haspiel — and often had the feel of a valedictory effort, with a occasional propensity for teaming Pekar with hopefully simpatico ‘name’ artists, like Gilbert Hernandez or Darwyn Cooke.

Corben illustrates a five-page Halloween story which, in true Pekar fashion, ambles into a small domestic drama about searching for a lost pair of glasses the day after a party. The effect of this subject matter on the art is interesting; stripped of any overt supernatural or fantastical image potential, extra attention is drawn to how Corben’s stylized figures hang weightily in space, initially standing in claustrophobic rooms draped with midnight holiday shadows (see left), but then moving outdoors with Pekar’s narrative into white-heavy space, cold and aloof (perfect for hiding misplaced items) and quietly threatening, like sharp leaves and twigs surrounding grumpy vulture Harvey above, externalizing his eternal anxiety ($150!!) as nature itself threatening him with yet another poke. That’s just how Harvey’s world could seem in these comics, mundane to some but likewise potentially transformative for collaborators, in that we might suddenly see nothing but ably wrinkled humans scanning their model-like world, a vulture by a tree, wondering what to do, or maybe pondering which created which, man or world? Writer or artist?

Other artists, and worlds, of course, might resist. Witness Eddie Campbell, as crucial a practitioner of autobiographical comics as Pekar, but full of fancy and romance and fiction, sharply apart from the self-consciously unadorned vignettes and monologues and encounters of the comic book American Splendor. Above you’ll see the bottom half of the second and final page of a Pekar/Campbell collaboration, from the same issue as the Corben story. Harvey has bought some pierogies at the store, and become engaged in a chat with a bagger on trombonist Jiggs Whigham, whose father was a policeman. Our Man reminisces about the old Famous Funnies series Juke Box Comics, in which real popular musicians would get into adventures. Suddenly, the final ‘panel’ is protruding downward from the talking heads above, and Benny Goodman is racing around Pekar’s narrative in a wordless escapade, anticipating the (literally) extra-narrative, occasionally extra-mortal antics of Campbell’s 2008 The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard with Dan Best.

But make no mistake – this might look like crime fighting, but it’s as much a jailbreak. From Harvey Pekar.

Additional splendor of every construction and connotation follows:

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THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (7/14/10 – One Lie About David Copperfield)


Monday, July 12, 2010

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Nothing beats a good ol’ local comics convention, so my Sunday morning was fucking invincible. It was one of those longboxes-atop-longboxes things, held in a local campus gymnasium so remote on school property a cosplayer took it upon himself to direct eager patrons in. The basketball hoops were still hanging; it was hot. To your left is my prime find, probably not the kind of revelatory funnybook (re)discovery that might open your eyes, heart, etc., but still: Fantagor #1, first Last Gasp edition, 1971, $5.00.

It’s Richard Corben, of course; I’ve been in the mood since reading an appreciation by critic David Brothers (very much worth reading for a perspective premised largely on Corben’s recent, front-of-Previews comic book work) and then belatedly discovering that the artist has returned to comic book self-publishing via Odds and Ends, a 32-page b&w compilation of assorted items, paramount among them a 20-page sequel to 1994’s color Corben release From the Pit. We can certainly draw a line straight back to Fantagor, the artist’s original (initially self-published) showcase series, although writer Starr Armitage and artist Herb Arnold also appear, foreshadowing the anthology format in which Corben would plant himself for many years – the seductive quality of narrating a comics artist’s path across the development of the form ensures that the younger Corben is typically identified as an ‘underground’ cartoonist, which is accurate, but it’s also true that his Warren magazines debut came in 1970 (Creepy #36), the same year as his initial contributions to Last Gasp’s Skull Comics and Slow Death, and only two years after his earliest fanzine appearances in Voice of Comicdom. In this way Corben bridges the gap between the EC (or thereabouts) horror-influenced faction of the undergrounds and the arguably more direct continuation of the aesthetic via Warren, while indeed anticipating the shift of the Warren magazines toward a less traditional ‘horror’ focus as the ’70s continued.

Five bucks was a popular price at the basketball con (as I have renamed it); I also picked up that enormous Treasury edition of Jack Kirby’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dave Sim’s Collected Letters 2, because you know entertainment’s right around the corner when the first two words in a book of correspondence are “Gary Groth.” I felt so great I almost did a victory layup. Although, actually, I ran cross country in high school; I don’t really know what a layup is. And I can’t even jump these days without my ankles shattering. My presence on the internet may be diminishing, but make no mistake: I’m rapidly expanding in other ways.

A note on new comics methodology: I’m writing all this on Sunday night, because it turns out I won’t have online access until Friday. As such, this week’s selections are based on Midtown Comics’ list of 7/14 releases to Midtown Comics locations, which may differ in certain ways from Diamond’s own list of releases (updated Mondays), although neither list is foolproof, or a guarantee that your shop ordered anything besides X-Force diorama statues. But anyway:


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Random Riff Round-Up


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

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Hey everybody. I thought I’d copy Jeet and post some of the things in my notebook that I’ve been carrying around for the last few weeks. Nothing super substantial but hopefully enough to get some discussion going in the comments.  I just got back to Pittsburgh after a week in NYC working with Dash on his animation project. He and I talked a lot while I was up there and I gotta get this stuff outta my head. Please forgive the randomness of these notes. Maybe someday I’ll turn some of these riffs into more well-rounded posts but until then this is it. 

Why don’t the old guard guys make graphic novels? As someone who loves tracking down old comics by Howard Chaykin, Walt Simonson, Barry Windsor-Smith, Michael Kaluta, and other guys who made “art” comics back in the day, I often wonder why these guys don’t make long form works. Chaykin just did a new Dominic Fortune story but released it as a serialized comic book. His pair of Time2 graphic novels from the late ’80s were amazing and it makes me wonder why he doesn’t “do a Mazzucchelli” and really show us something. Is it the money? I figure he probably knows he can do it as a serialized comic and get paid. I’m guessing that not many publishers can offer guys like him a hefty advance so he can take time off from the pulps and focus on a long form book. But it’s kind of weird, isn’t it?  When I dig through my collection I come across comic after comic from the ’70s and ’80s by guys like Chaykin, Windsor-Smith, Corben, and many others that all held the promise of some future where they could make long form “adult” comics that would appeal to a wide audience. Well, the time is now and it’s strange to me to see them still doing serialized comics. Only Mazzuchelli made the jump. Will others follow his lead and do long form works that aren’t serialized? Does it matter? No, but it is weird, I think.

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Corben’s Cage


Thursday, October 8, 2009

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I went over to Jim Rugg’s house today to hang out. He just finished his Afrodisiac collection for AdHouse Books and I wanted to take a look. I must say that this book blew me away. It’s going to KILL. Jimmy is a master stylist. He and his co-creator Brian Maruca have crafted something that’s, for me, beyond description right now. I’m in shock. Just wait. You’ll see.

Jim also dragged out his “Blaxploitation comics” collection. A longbox of gems from different eras. There was one that really fascinated me though and I can’t put it down. It’s Richard Corben’s take on Luke Cage from 2002. Great colors by Jose Villarrubia. Check out the easy “realism” above.

I really don’t have anything to say about it except: HOLY CRAP, is it beautiful. There’s something about the odd pairing of Corben and Cage that just works for me. I’m in shock. I’d never heard of it or seen it before. Has anyone out there read it? Or at least just gawked at the artwork?

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(Not) Comics


Sunday, December 14, 2008

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Attention peoples:

Because I know Comics Comics is full of discerning readers of visual stuff, I want to point you all to a brand new PictureBox book: Overspray. Check out Norman’s blog about the subject of airbrush art. It’s a great, great read. For fans of imagery and illustration, this book is a must, in my humble opinion. It doesn’t fit into a NYC-centric vision of conceptual illustration or ephemera. But, perceived “depth” or “importance” in illustration has, for the last 30 odd years been calculated along the Steinberg/Push Pin conceptual illustration axis. I love this stuff, but there’s room for more. To me, what we’re dealing with when talking about the Overspray guys is astounding feats of image making. You sink into the images and explore their visual worlds. Things like Charlie’s Levi’s Splash image, or Lloyd’s Rod Stewart cover are unforgettably powerful IMAGES. They’re not tricked-out ideas, a la Glaser, but they are forceful and communicative. And the surfaces are compelling. Unlike so much concept-based illustration, these surfaces add a layer of meaning: the sheen, the sheer thickness of them gives them a life of their own. What they have is presence — something so much illustration lacks. This is more in the vein of contemporary work like Murakami or even Matthew Barney. Or, on a comics level, they harken to Richard Corben, Moebius, Macedo, and other late 70s/early 80s fantasy artists that we at CC love. Plus, there are some awesome images from Tron, which Peter Lloyd helped design. And, I think it could be argued that the Overspray work is more relevant to contemporary visual culture and 90% of the history of illustration. That’s not really an argument for its quality, but certainly if you take one look at magazines like XLR8R, galleries like Deitch Projects, artists like Jim Shaw, and on and on, you see that Overspray contains a huge chunk of stunningly relevant ideas. So, check it out! You’ll be very happy you did. Ok, promotion over.

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SPACE report


Sunday, March 2, 2008

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Inter-office memo. PictureBox.

RE: SPACE 08 Columbus Ohio

Went to SPACE in Columbus, Ohio. It was okay. Just no traffic really. The only people walking around checking things out were exhibitors. It felt like that until about 2 or 3 o’clock. I passed out some Cold Heat zines while Jim Rugg signed comics for his legions of fans (3 different people brought all their Street Angel comics, from home, to be signed. I’m not kidding! That shit never happens to me!) A little frustrated early on, I looked up to the end of my aisle — and there was Dave Sim. It’s not 1987 or 1995, it’s 2008, and there’s one of the most recognized figures in comics, still on tour, still hawking his vision.

I watched him sign books and look through fans’ artwork a few times, and I mean he really looked at it and gave advice and encouragement. Each time when the exchange was over, he stood up, shook the person’s hand, and thanked them for stopping by. Geez. I don’t care what anyone says about the man, ‘cuz really, he busts his ass and makes it work, whatever it is he does. I went up closer and checked out the exhibit of pages from his new work, Judenhass, which hung unpretentiously behind Sim’s table on wire racks. I was impressed. Like it or not, Sim has made a beautiful photo-realistic pen-and-ink comic book about the Holocaust. I talked to one of Carol Tyler’s students, who had just finished reading the whole book (at a table beside the exhibit set aside for reading it). “It was powerful. I feel sad now,” she said, before walking away. So there it is. I guess he just “reached” someone, right?

I got in line & when I met Mr. Sim (“Call me Dave,” he said), I handed him issue 3 of Comics Comics, and gave him my spiel on my on-going old color printing process series. I told him that I’ve been in touch with Steve Oliff, Kevin Nowlan, Michael T. Gilbert, and — I took a breath here — would it be possible to reprint the section in his Following Cerebus interview with Neal Adams where Neal explained the real reason ’60s DC characters’ skin was pink? (Because DC cut corners at one point and got rid of “tone yellow” when making separations for its books.) “Sure,” said Sim, and then he asked if I’ve been in touch with Richard Corben.
“Corben figured out that he could do full color for the Warren magazines by making his own separations with grey paint,” Sim said. “He did it all by hand, and kept in his head how the seps would overprint to create complementary colors when it was printed.” Did you know this, Dan? I didn’t, and it was like some guarded secret had been revealed to me, production nerd that I am. Sim said that the color articles sound like they are turning into this complicated tangential narrative, that’ll turn into “a book about out-dated color printing processes that no one knows anything about, ha ha!” And I thought, “Hell, YES! That’s my kind of book!”

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Sobering, eh?


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

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Well, Frank was certainly up early this morning. I also worshiped “The Studio” as a teenager. It was, for me, my first encounter with “art” that I took to be accessible and somehow applicable to me. Oh lord, looking back on it now it seems so silly. I’d feel much much worse about this if Gary Groth didn’t feel the same way when he was that age. Anyhow, the appeal of that stuff was to see somewhat baroque, overripe illustration in fine art trappings. It’s ironic, of course, because the illustration they were referring to was, by the 70s, eclipsed by Push Pin, Brad Holland and the like. The Studio was, if anything, thoroughly anachronistic. But charmingly so. And, in their avid production of portfolios, prints, and assorted “fine art” ephemera, unique for those days. In a way, they anticipated the Juxtapoz-ish illustrators-making-bad-fine-art gang. Another point of interest is that, with the exception of BWS, all of those guys contributed comics to Gothic Blimp Works or The East Village Other, their pages sitting next to work by Deitch, Trina, Crumb, etc. It’s funny to think of a time when those worlds (fantasy and underground) mixed. This was perhaps helped along a bit by someone like Wally Wood, who straddled both sides of the fence, albeit briefly. Then it splintered a bit, with guys like Richard Corben occupying their own niche in the underground scene, in opposition to Crumb, Griffith, et al, who disdained the EC-influenced genre material. In a way, what guys like CF and Chippendale are doing now is related to those early efforts at underground fantasy comics, except coming from a very different mentality.

Also, I think Tim is right that Crumb was the first to make fun of the dainty falling leaf-as-signifier-of-meaning.

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