Posts Tagged ‘Kyle Baker’

But Doctor, I’ll Get Out of It!


Friday, January 21, 2011

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Now THAT is an angle.

Goaded by Santoro I had planned to write a post on Jack Kirby’s collage work. Lucky for you, I didn’t. Instead I have this:

1) My biggest comics thought in the last week has been about Deadpool. I read issues 1 and 3 and was “dismayed” by its transparent attempts to shock, it’s sub-Apatow humor, and cynical Tarantino x 10000 retread of outre tropes and “dirty” sex jokes anchored by some deeply strange but very uneven artwork and not any kind of satire and certainly not good comics.  It’s trying to be funny, but instead, like Lapham’s Stray Bullets, it just makes the motions of a genre without having any gravitas or unique ideas underpinning it. So naturally I wrote a heartfelt email to Jog pleading with him to explain to me why I should care about this series. Why? He didn’t try to convince me. But I do find Baker’s artwork interesting because, as Jog said in his email: “My interest is mostly in seeing Baker contort his weird digital style into something increasingly po-faced and funny in the ‘funny pictures’ sense.  I like that Deadpool constantly looks like an action figure – it feels like a presence that needs to exist on the Marvel scene, which is heavier than ever on posed, ‘realist’ shiny art.” Yes, with this I agree.

2) I have yet to see this posted anywhere, but here’s the Wall Street Journal weighing in on the recent upheavals at L’Association. It offers a pretty good overview and ties in the OuBaPo comics movement, which I’d never really considered in this context. I kind of love the Jerry Lewis reference in the headline while also hating it, but mostly because the confluence of Jerry Lewis and comics makes me think of Bob Oksner, and that makes me smile.

3) Over on Facebook someone posted a bunch of Neal Adams Ben Casey Sunday pages from 1964. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them and, man, is there some amped-up drama in there. I hadn’t realized that Adams was working those massive figures and impossible angles so early. It’s Stan Drake on steroids and I like it.

And that, my friends, is that. Happy weekend!

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Girl Comics (or women of the ’80s Marvel Bullpen)


Saturday, October 2, 2010

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Howdy folks! Welcome to CC‘s weekend edition. So, I bet you’re wonderin’ how can I transition back to riffing on romance comics after two weeks of SPX tunes? Well, see at SPX, me and Heidi MacDonald were talking about Marie Severin. We were looking at a Tales to Astonish cover (#98) and trying to figure out who inked it. Bill Boichel said Severin inked it. And then Jaime Hernandez said Dan Adkins inked it. Heidi looked it up on her phone. It was a fun little game. One that we used to play at comics conventions in days of yore. Try it – you might like it and hey! if it ain’t your thing, that’s fine! I’ll be right here. Talkin’ to Jaime. (more…)

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

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I’ve always been attracted to genre comic-book characters from (or descended from) pulp magazines. These characters and their stories, imagery, and cult seem to have their own point of reference, their own pool of collective unconscious, their own roster of archetypes separate from the majority of popular entertainment.

Pulp’s well known characters include Doc Savage, the Spider, and my favorite, the Shadow, an ink splotch of a character, an icon made of three or four distinct visual features: a large black hat, a Cyrano de Bergerac-esque nose, and guns.

Over the years since the character’s inception, the Shadow has rapidly lurched in and out of the public’s trash consciousness, I think due in large part to the Shadow (aka Lamont Cranston) being a real son of a bitch, a bastard of character difficult to identify with. I’ve often thought that if Lamont Cranston’s crime fighting motives were as empathetic as Bruce Wayne’s call to the Bat Signal then the Shadow’s presence in our daily genre lives would be more consistent.

I’m a fan of the many different takes on the Shadow, visual or otherwise, but I think my favorite is by Andy Helfer and Kyle Baker, in particular their six-issue story Seven Deadly Finns. Helfer and Baker understand the dark comedy of The Shadow. They recognize the ridiculous and frightening visual conflict of a large nose emerging from a large black shape accompanied by twin explosions and a rain of bullets. To think of this as the last image you encounter before death is absurd but not necessarily inappropriate.


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Kyle Baker juvenilia


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

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I found this Kyle Baker comic in the “Ten for a Dollar” box at my secret spot here in Pittsburgh. I had never seen it before. From October 1985. Published by Lodestone. Straight outta Brooklyn, NY. Sort of a War comic, it made me laugh cuz I thought about how Baker is doing Special Forces these days, some 20 years later.

Just wanted to share, I’ve got nothing really insightful to say about it. I’m just annoyed. Kyle prolly just drew it in straight pen, no pencils. It has that “first take” look about it. And it’s still so good. Aarrggghh. It’s not fair. How old was he then? 19? Geez.

Too bad he didn’t do the cover, tho. Yikes.




Sunday, April 13, 2008

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I was going through yet another unmarked box of comics and found two books next to each other. Black Dogs by Ho Che Anderson and the issue 3 of the anthology, Instant Piano. Both are from the early 90s and both have stories in them with lots of dialogue. So I thought I’d compare them and riff on the striking differences between the two.There’s a Kyle Baker story in the Instant Piano about a couple at an outdoor cafe that is pretty great. Baker employs an invisible grid to hang his panels on and puts all the dialogue under the panels and more importantly under the person who is talking. It’s a signature device that Baker really made his own in Why I Hate Saturn and here he uses it effortlessly to great effect. By placing the dialogue below the panels he opens up the drawings themselves to function as film stills and encourages the reader to “read” the expressions, to really take time with them somehow. I’m not as hurried as I would be in other types stories that depict static characters with a lot of dialogue. Case in point would be the above page by Ho Che Anderson from Black Dogs. The opening shot is the first for this scene. On the previous page there is no mention of the couple in the story going to sit somewhere and talk under what appears to be an outdoor picnic area type of place. But there is no “master shot” of the couple talking, just that mustard color jacket under the shelter to give us a hint that they are sitting at a picnic table. Like Baker, Anderson uses close cropped framing to draw out the emotional content of the dialogue, but unlike Baker, Anderson makes it very difficult for the reader to follow the thread, to “read” into the charged conversation (it’s about race). In fact, it’s almost “un-readable”, the cropping of the figures is crowded further by the balloons of text creating a claustrophobic feeling that might in some strange way add tension to the conversation but instead just turns me off as a reader. I lost interest simply because it’s too hard to follow along. And I found it frustrating that such an important passage of the story (on the next page there is a fight) is without any structure to hold it all together, to move the reader through the page.

Anderson uses a grid, essentially, for the page but the way the dialogue overwhelms the page design obscures the flow of the reader. Baker’s “cleaner” approach is more successful and although I don’t think it necessary to put the dialogue under the panels, I do think that composing pages with grids is not as simple as it appears. One still must consider how the page is going to breathe and unfold in time.

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notebook reviews #1


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

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I wrote these notes while traveling this weekend. They’re sort of reviews, but really just riffing on color and composition. I’m obsessed with HOW color comics used to be made and want to write about it here for fun.
“The Inheritors”, by Bruce Jones and Scott Hampton
Alien Worlds no. 3
Pacific Comics, 1983
full color

Looks like Kaluta, Wrightson. Reads like an old Unknown Worlds ACG comic but is beautifully painted. Each panel like a small Frazetta fantasy world. And that’s sort of the problem. I like the story, but it’s so serious and heavy and important. No Twilight Zone economy, no pacing, just a slow, laborious plodding. “We were aliens; creatures from another world come to the salvation, not of humankind, but of the planet itself.” A story of immigration, essentially, hacked out by Jones. Tolerable stuff, not great. The art saves it but really it’s just a fairly authentic blend of Frazetta, Wrightson, Kaluta, Vess. Nothing special really but beautiful.

I love the way these old Pacific Comics look. The colors on all the stories are great. All the Pacific Comics back then were done with that crazy process that was called “Greyline”. Steve Oliff actually colored a story in the back, but the Hampton story in the front is colored by Hampton I believe. Anyways, it looks fantastic like some comic straight out of “The Studio.” Plus, I bought it for a quarter. Whatever.

Oh, yes, back to the story. Well, I never finished reading it. I do love this passage (above, bottom panel) however, where a landscape panel has no black-line “overlay.” The landscape is not delineated by black marks, lines that are colored, filled in with paint. The landscape is just pastel colors that recede and allow the inserted black ink’d shadowed image — and the panel itself — to “float” above the color plane. That’s why I bought this one.
Special Forces no.2, by Kyle Baker
DC, 2007
full color

I don’t really want to review this comic, I just want to write about the color and how fresh it looks. Plus, I’m such a Baker fan it’s hard for me to review anything of his fairly. I mean, I could give a shit about a war comic but Baker’s approach, his humor and his vantage point (read: not white) on the subject makes it, um, enjoyable. Remember this is the comic whose opening volley was a (black) guy getting his head blown off.

Baker has been creating his comics on computer for over ten years now. They “worked” for me back in the ’90s; I always thought he struck a balance between the generic Photoshop look of all computer “constructed” comics (meaning: no inked panel borders, floating computer fonts and text all arranged in Photoshop). It’s an interesting mix of approaches that Baker has developed. He seems to be using all the same filters and settings that everyone else is in Photoshop, but since he can draw better than just about anyone (uses no photo references for the figures as far as I can tell, has mastered a sort of Aragones-inspired comical realism, plus he has a real eye for movement, no staged “realistic” photo ref’d scenes that jar the narrative flow to a halt, no spending days playing photo-shoot director, dressing up as the characters for “believability.” Nah … none of these games for Baker, who’s got the time? He’s got kids, man. Plus he can draw. Did I mention that?), and since his use of color is so inventive and comic-booky and fresh — it all simply overrides the sensors in my brain that normally dismiss such “computerized” comics. In fact I actually like the economy of the easy-to-read simplistic layouts. I think they allow his drawings & sequences to breathe. There’s a real organic feel to his customized approach that carries the narrative along quite beautifully.

I really just want to write about the color tho’, so here goes: in many sequences, Baker will switch from the “realistic” color of the Iraqi landscape and replace it with “knockout” color in the action sequences. Meaning Baker will reduce entire backgrounds to a single color like blue while figures in said background are, say, red. This was very common in the four-color era of comics, but it’s rather uncommon these days to switch from “realism” to “symbolism” on the same page.

Baker’s “realistic” color is, I think, a perfect example of using the contemporary approach to color (Hyper-realism: everything molded and highlighted, shiny and video game-like), but using it with restraint so that the drawings are not overpowered by the colors. His “realism” is also served by alternating back to knockouts and the use of pure flat color. This approach develops a rhythm that allows Baker to use the symbolic and “the real” within the same sequence to great effect.
Archie no.170, by Harry Lucey

This is an all Harry Lucey issue. You don’t know who Harry Lucey is? He was the best Archie artist. That’s all you need to know. The whole issue is an amazing display of composition, pure drawing, and gag humor cartooning. It’s a fucking clinic, actually. I’ve been doing these warm-up exercises everyday where I just draw from Lucey. I just look and learn.

Anyway, check out the color in this splash page. Stare at it and break it down. Remember this is four-color process, so its simplicity may fool you. For me, it’s the super simple use of the black and green of the girl’s dress in the foreground, which is a darker green and blue, playing off the wall behind her which is a lighter, 50% green and blue behind her. Big deal, you say? Well, look how the shapes unite and allow the central figures to remain on the left of the composition. The lines of the the wall AND the united color shapes create a plane and piece the wall and the foreground girl together in a really pleasing way. It’s a minor thing, really, but these masterful touches throughout each of the 4 stories in this comic all add up to one remarkable reading experience. (For 3 bux.)

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