Posts Tagged ‘MAD’

Wally Wood Should Have Beaten Them All


Thursday, February 18, 2010

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Weird Science 16, 1952 (original art)

Wally Wood’s life and art exist in the space between two comic book stories. The first, “My World”, published in Weird Science no. 22, 1953, was written by Al Feldstein as a tribute to the 26-year-old Wood, who drew it. In the story, an unseen narrator describes his daily experience of reality juxtaposed with panel after panel of spectacular fantasy scenes, consisting “. . . of great space-ships that carry tourists on brief holidays to Venus or Mars or Saturn . . . My world can be ugly . . . Landing at night and entering my cities and killing and maiming and destroying . . . My world is what I choose to make it. My world is yesterday . . . Or today . . . Or tomorrow . . . For my world is the world of science fiction . . . conceived in my mind and placed upon paper with pencil and ink and brush and sweat and a great deal of love for my world.” The final drawing of the comic has Wood smoking a cigarette at the drawing table and looking a bit wan. It’s an evocation of the celebrity of Wood-the-cartoonist published by William M. Gaines’ EC Comics, home of Mad, and the publisher for which Wood did his most famous work.

Twenty-two years later, Wood, having long since broken with Gaines and Feldstein and by then a cautionary tale to his peers, wrote and drew “My Word” for Big Apple Comix. It is again a breathless narrative complemented by stunning drawings, but this time it’s a trip through a hellish New York. A furious Wood closes his introductory monologue with “Anyhow, since I have three pages in this mag, I’d like to comment briefly on the universe.” And off he goes. After some muggings, some light S&M and the requisite pile of shit, Wood, apropos of nothing, leaps on art: “That mysterious process by which one’s fantasies enrich the lives of others… and the pockets of publishers. But it is worth it, for there are the fans.” And here we see a naked boy prostrating himself saying, “Do what you want with me! Kick me! Fuck me! Shit on me! I love you! By the way, your old stuff was better…” Wood closes with a distorted version of “My World’s” final panel: A squat alien at the drawing board, smoking and saying, “My word is the word I choose to make it, for I conceive it in my mind and put it down on paper with a lot of sweat and love and shit like that, for I am a troglodyte. My name is spafon gool.”

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Helpful Answers to Stupid Questions


Friday, July 10, 2009

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As you know, I’ve been trying to answer an important historical conundrum: Where did Al Jaffee get the idea of depicting fish skeletons whenever he draws someone vomiting? After a long and mostly fruitless quest, eventually one of my correspondents suggested that I just ask the Master himself. So I did, mentioning Will Elder and the James Ensor drawing from last post, as well as commenter BVS’s theory about the Dutch fish. Very graciously, Jaffee answered me via e-mail:

As to vomiter’s discharges I can’t say how I came to include such things as fish/chicken bones and even false teeth (see wretching jackal in NATIONAL PERSPIRERER article…MAD #??). My childhood pal Will Elder and I shared a similar cartooning sense of humor and certain bodily functions we found funny simply because the media and refined people generally tended to make believe they didn’t exist.

The Dutch people do indeed swallow small fish whole. I was on a Mad trip across the Zuyder Zee some years ago and for lunch we dipped into a barrel, pulled out salted fish and (YECCH) swallowed whole. We did not pull the bones out. I guess the fish were small and aged with soft bones. This is a Dutch delicacy.

The drawing with guys upchucking huge fish is wild. I wonder if it’s some sort of 19th century gag (I’d gag too with a whale that size in my gut).

Anyway, thanks for the info and I hope I answered your question.

Dan tells me this is possibly the greatest post I will ever publish.

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Tossing Around the Old Medicine Ball


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

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Surprisingly, I still haven’t figured out a grand unified theory of comics reading. (I do think that Eisner/montage bit at the end was kind of stupid in retrospect, though not regrettably so.)

However, after much research, I can finally report that Frank’s comment about David Mazzucchelli’s theory of comics simultaneity (“The page is taken in as a whole, the two page spread. It’s not one image at a time. And it’s not necessarily linear in so much that it’s all absorbed at once and then accepted as ‘ordered.'”) is absolutely spot on. At least when you’re reading Mazzucchelli comics. It’s kind of amazing really. It works with everything from Batman to Asterios Polyp. I don’t know how he does it, but it’s true: entire spreads enter the reader’s brain instantaneously.

But the two-page-spread simultaneous reading thing doesn’t seem to work with a lot of other comics, at least not for me. And not just inferior comics, either; some of the best comics around don’t work that way. So more research is needed. I’ll be in my study.


In the meantime, though, here’s a new stupid opinion: I like Philip Guston just fine, but I think it’s time that cartoonists started appreciating other painters now and again. (Always lead with a straw-man argument—that’s the blog way.)

Like, for instance, why aren’t cartoonists all over James Ensor? (If they are, and I’ve missed it, someone please correct me. (Actually, according to French Wikipedia, at least one European comic drew inspiration from him.))

Lauren dragged me to an exhibit of his drawings years ago, and I loved it, but I didn’t really get how great he was until I went to the retrospective that opened at MoMA last month.

For the most part, Ensor didn’t really attempt any of the sequential-art proto-comics often associated with people like Hogarth or Goya, and he had a tremendous range of tone, subject matter, and approach, but there’s no question that he often displayed the soul of a cartoonist.

For example, check out the famous self-portrait he painted in 1883, and revised five years later to add a hat and other evocative details.

Or for that matter, his later self-depiction, “My Portrait in 1960”:

(This one in particular doesn’t work in the same way without its title, which essentially functions as a caption.)

Most of the work included in the exhibit loses even more power than art always does when seen via the internet instead of in person, particularly the two enormous (and enormously complicated) drawings of Christ entering Jerusalem, and Christ revealing himself to the people. It’s impossible to tell when looking at them online, but they’re packed with incidental characters and background details that my comics-rotted brain can’t help but compare to chicken fat. He also often uses typography in a subtle, interesting ways.

Anyway, I could go through the exhibit pointing out drawing after painting after etching as possible kinda-sorta-like comics examples, but really I just wanted to use this as a setup to ask if anyone knows where Al Jaffee got the trademark fish bones so many of his characters disgorge whenever they vomit?

Because if you zoom in on “The Strike”, and move your attention to the figures leaning out of the windows to throw up on the right, I think we might have something like a 19th-century Belgian precedent!

IMPORTANT UPDATE!: I found out the answer to the fish-bones/vomit question from the man himself! Read it here.

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Sweet Vindication [?]


Sunday, March 1, 2009

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No one else will remember or care about this, but a while back I recounted how I was once deluded into thinking MAD caricaturist Mort Drucker didn’t use pencils, but inked his pictures directly. Tonight I happened across my ancient copy of Mort Drucker’s MAD Show-Stoppers and noticed the included biographical essay (written by Nick Meglin), which includes the following passage, and must have been my original source:

Drucker doesn’t think out his ideas on paper. He doesn’t do thumbnail sketches. He prefers instead to envision the completed work in his mind beforehand. He later duplicates the concept on paper as best he can, allowing accidents and changes that may possible improve the work as he goes along. … “It’s also a sure way to keep from being influenced by your research,” reveals Drucker. “I put the figure in where I think it belongs and not where the photo dictates. Staging an illustration around available reference points limits your freedom to tell a story effectively; when an artist does that, he ignores his very purpose.”

It goes on to say that Drucker sometimes used pencils, but only for panel backgrounds.

Anyway, the latter part of that quote is reminiscent of some of Frank’s talk about photo-referencing, etc., which is interesting to me because Mort Drucker’s one of the last artists I would’ve associated with Frank’s ideas. He doesn’t often achieve the associated flow Frank talks about so much, I don’t think, but still… half-baked connections are what blogs are for.

UPDATE: An anonymous commenter has rightly pointed out conflicting evidence.

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