Posts Tagged ‘Frank King’

Compare and Contrast


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

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Cover, Walt and Skeezix Volume 1, Chris Ware (after Frank King).

Top portion of Stumptown poser, by Brandon Graham (After Chris Ware after Frank King).

(Just so there is no misunderstanding, I want to make it clear that this post is not meant to be a criticism  of Brandon Graham. His poster is lovely and I’m gratified that the Walt and Skeexiz books are informing the sensibility of younger cartoonists. The full Stumptown poster can be seen here. Thanks to Tom Spurgeon for calling attention to this poster. Everyone should buy the Walt and Skeezix books!)

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Faith in Comics


Saturday, December 25, 2010

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I wanted to do a post on the connection between illuminated manuscripts and comics but then I got sidetracked a little bit. From what I understand illuminated manuscripts were made like modern “assembly line” comics. They divided up the labor to construct the book. One guy did the calligraphy, another did the drawings, another did the “inking”, another the color and yet still others bound the book itself. Thinking about this also got me thinking more specifically about how I find it interesting that many of the leading alt/art cartoonists of yesterday and today come from interesting and varied religious backgrounds. Like maybe we’re all re-incarnated monks who used to sit for hours laboring over some miniscule drawing back in the 15th century or something. I’m kidding of course. But when I started thinking about my friends who are cartoonists who “had religion” I was surprised – or maybe I wasn’t – by the list I compiled. I dunno if there is a connection between “religion” – or “faith” – and comics – but there is something there. (more…)

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Give Us Your Money (a/k/a Buy Cool Stuff)


Thursday, May 20, 2010

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Longtime readers of Comics Comics know that this is a labor of love — and it will continue to be, at least until we figure out how to “monetize” critical discussion of Harry Lucey and old issues of ROM Spaceknight. Once we get that settled, it will only be a matter of time until we are rolling in dough, Scrooge McDuck-style.

Currently, though, we are still somehow losing money, and it’s gotten to the point where we need to try and offset some of our costs. For lack of a better idea (and enough traffic to inspire advertisers!), we are launching a PBS-style one-week pledge drive. Nothing big and nothing too obnoxious, we hope, just a quick, deep, searching grab at our readers’ cash while everyone’s flush with springtime-inspired resolutions to give to charity. We are a good cause, more or less.

We have many delightful ways for you to GIVE US YOUR MONEY, all of which allow you, the kind reader, to receive something in return.

1) Comics Comics contributors and pals have donated artwork (see below!).

Frank Santoro is selling 10 gorgeous landscape drawings at a stunning $100 each. Dash Shaw is selling his Smoke Signal cover painting, a page from Bottomless Belly Button, and even a Spider-Man page, among other goodies. Dan Nadel is donating a Frank King original comic strip, rare Paper Rad prints, and other lovely items. New work will appear every day. Over the next few days you’ll see rare and unusual items from Sammy Harkham, Jason Miles, Matthew Thurber, and Lauren Weinstein (as soon as she goes into the basement to unpack her stuff!).

All of these items are or will be available at PictureBox’s eBay store, which will be updated from now through Thursday the 27th.

2) Johnny Ryan has very generously offered to donate his drawing services to the cause. Until May 27th,  for a mere $100, Johnny will draw an 8 x 10 portrait of you, the Comics Comics reader (or person of your choice), being “erotically violated.” This seems like the perfect gift for any occasion. Dedicated readers choosing this option should first order this “item” via PayPal. Send $100 to orders (at) pictureboxinc (dot) com and include your address and a message. Please also send a photograph to the same email address. Mr. Ryan will then get to work. Allow at least 60 days before delivery.

3) You can purchase “variety packs” of PictureBox books at a crazy good discount. These will also be available at the PictureBox eBay store.

4) If for some reason you’d like to support us, but don’t feel like buying anything in particular on offer, you can tip us any amount you like via the PayPal button below.

Thanks for listening in any case, and we apologize for taking up your time with something like this. We don’t plan on making this a habit, or even something that we will repeat. We just want to keep this dog-and-pony show running for a while longer. Thanks again.

—The Editors

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Cubist Comics Notes, Part II


Friday, April 23, 2010

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To continue our notes on comics and cubists:

1. Modernism came to America in 1913 via the Armory Show. One early response was this Mamma’s Little Angel page by Penny Ross , circa 1913 or 1914, where the lead character has “a cubist nightmare in the studio of Monsieur Paul Vincetn Cezanne Van Gogen Ganguin.” (The page can be found in the great Smithsonian book edited by Blackbeard and Williams.) This page is an early example of a common joke, later repeated by Frank King and Cliff Sterrett, where American domesticity and “normality” is turned upside down by modern art.


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Word Balloons in Visual Space


Monday, March 22, 2010

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Clowes' "Wilson", from The New Yorker

Joe’s excellent post on thought balloons got me thinking about comics balloons (or text frames) in general: not just thought balloons but also word balloons, narrative boxes, and labels (like the famous arrows in Dick Tracy which diagrammatically call attention to two-way-radio-watches and other items of interest). It would be great to have a history of text frames in comics. There have been stabs here and there by scholars. Thierry Smolderen’s “Of Labels, Loops, and Bubbles” in Comic Art #8 is a good start.

About thought balloons: When did they emerge? I know Harold Gray was very chary of using them: he only used thought balloons a handful of times in his 44 year run on Little Orphan Annie. I think this was deliberate. While his characters where gabby they were also secretive – this is true not just of Warbucks but even Annie, who never says all she knows. Gray wanted to keep his characters mysterious, hence he avoided thought balloons.


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Comics and Photography: Research Note 1


Thursday, February 4, 2010

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Eadweard Muybridge’s motion study of a galloping horse.

This is the first of a new series of blog posts I’m going to be starting up under the umbrella title “Research Notes.” These posts will be quick notes on ideas that could (and maybe should) be spun off into larger, more polished essays. But in the research note I’ll just jot down the preliminary notion. Since Comics Comics has a very smart and articulate readership, my hope is that the notes will spark suggestions for how the idea can be refined and developed.

So the first research note is for an essay on “Comics and photography”; the idea was sparked by Dan’s earlier comments on the new Rip Kirby book (and by a subsequent conversation Dan and I had). Some quick thoughts:

Comics and photography were both part of the proliferation of images that occurred in the 19th century, the explosion of the visual made possible by mechanical reproduction.

To what extent were late 19th and early 20th century cartoonists like A.B. Frost and Winsor McCay, who did so much to introduce sequential movement into comics, influenced by the motion studies of Eadweard Muybridge?

Winsor McCay’s motion study of a galloping bed.

Frank King was a lifelong shutterbug, at the vanguard of the first generation of middle-class Americans who used the camera to record family life. As Chris Ware and I have documented in the Walt and Skeezix series, photographs were a major source for King, who used family photos as a reference tool. Yet King only very rarely directly copied from photos; rather he used photos as a memory tool. And indeed, even King’s own photos seem somehow not to record so much a moment in time as a slightly-fuzzy memory of a moment. King’s photos are nostalgic and backward looking.

The Sickles/Caniff school is often linked to movies, and it’s true that Sickles and Caniff were great film buffs and absorbed much from the cinema of the 1930s and 1940s, not just classics like Citizen Kane but also B-movies with their slightly darkened sets. Caniff and Orson Welles had a mutually admiring correspondent. A fan letter to Caniff in the early 1940s smartly compared Terry and the Pirates to Casablanca. What hasn’t been investigated is the likely impact of magazine photos: the 1930s were the decade Life magazine took off as America’s leading photo-magazine. The use of photographs to record the news, particularly the darker corners of the Depression and the onset of the war, transformed the world’s visual imagination: Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange (who was friends with George Herriman by the way), George Strock, and many others. Caniff was paying attention.

Socially and politically he was very close to many people in the Time/Life staff, who tended to be smart, internationally minded college boys like himself. The Luce magazines often promoted Caniff’s work, since he did the comic strips that most closely resembled their own aesthetic and political outlook.

If Caniff came out of Life, the post-war Alex Raymond was affiliated with Vogue. Depression austerity and wartime rationing were over and Paris was in ruins, so the post-war years were the period when New York became the world’s fashion capital. The first Rip Kirby story involves a fashion model; and the whole ambience of the strip comes from the fashion world. Raymond’s drawings weren’t just done in a photorealist style; they were distilled fashion shots.

If King used photos to pull him back to the past, Raymond was interested in snapshots that caught the present, the sleek and shiny now rather than the blurry bygone days.

Like Caniff, Raymond often photographed models. But when Raymond reinvented his style with Rip Kirby he was able to take this use of models and photos an extra step because of a new invention: the Kodak instant camera. Photorealist comics depended on this new technology.

Even among naturalistic, literal-minded illustrators, not everyone was a fan of photography. Here is Burne Hogarth’s thought: “[Hal Foster] is one of the great geniuses of the comic strip….Other artists were fixated on photographs; this guy worked it out straight out from his eye outward. He solved problems that very few people ever did. I began to realize that because when I had to draw figures that were flying, I sat down and draw those things, for Christ’s sake. I couldn’t have models pose. Milt Caniff many times had model pose. Stan Drake had models pose. The point I’m making is that those guys used Polaroid cameras all the time.” (The Comics Journal, #166, p. 75).

The decline of photorealism as a comics style might have something to do with the parallel decline of magazine photojournalism. During the years when Life was supplanted by television, photorealism lost favour as a cartooning style.

In sum, it’s not just the case that some major cartoonists were influenced by photography. More complexly, as photography evolved, comics followed along; the two art forms developed in tandem.

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Cubists and Cartoonists in Chicago, 1913


Friday, January 8, 2010

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Clare Briggs, March 20 1913.

Modern art famously came to America in a burst at the Armory Show that opened to scandal and praise in New York on February 17, 1913. The story is often told and it’s true enough. But not quite the complete truth. In fact, there had been exhibits of modern art as early as 1911 in W. Scott Thurber’s gallery in Chicago. And on February 25, 1925 the Art Institute of Chicago hosted an “Exhibition of Contemporary Scandinavian Art” which can be seen as strongly paralleling the more famous New York show.

Frank King April 24, 1913.

For our purposes what is important is the number of top notch cartoonists who went to the show, including Frank King, Clare Briggs, and John T. McCutcheon. The show was much mocked in the press but was a popular success, attracting many ordinary Chicago residents (including Frank King’s wife Delia who went to see it by herself).

John T. McCutcheon, April 3, 1913

For months afterward, cartoonists would use cubist and futurist imagery in their work. Intriguingly, many of these comics weren’t done in the typical philistine “you call this art” mode. Rather, these artists seemed to be affectionate to the new art, and tried to assimilate it into more homespun, familiar experiences, notably Briggs’ jest that the quilt maker was the first cubist. Another cartoon showed a bear cub (symbol of the local baseball team) done in a cubist mode: “our own little cub-ist.” In effect these cartoonists were domesticating modernism.

L.W. Newbre (?), March 25, 1913

Frank King of course remained obsessed with modern art for many years, leading to the great Gasoline Alley Sunday pages where Walt and Skeezix enter into the world of abstract painting. In his personal papers, King often alluded to Picasso.

There has already been one academic paper written about the 1913 show and Chicago cartooning. Alas that paper is as yet unpublished. But more work remains to be done. The crucial question I think is this: was their a hidden affinity between comics and cubism? Did the encounter with modern art liberate King and other cartoonists to free themselves from illustration and become more abstract and cartoony? This is a story that has yet to be written.

NOTE: Robert Boyd makes an important point in a comment posted below. The Armory Show travelled to Chicago. This would explain all the cubist cartoons printed above, except the Clare Briggs one which ran before the show moved from New York to Chicago. This renders moot my speculation that the artists might have seen modernist art in earlier gallery shows. Oh well, we can still enjoy the cartoons.

So to clarify: Briggs, who did at least 2 cubist inspired cartoons, might have gone to the Armory Show in New York. King, McCutcheon and L.W. Newbre probably went to the Armory show in Chicago. The show that Delia went to was the Armory show in Chicago, not the earlier exhibit of contemporary Scandinavian art.

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