Posts Tagged ‘Alan Moore’

Interviews and Autodidacts Notebook


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Tuesday, July 6, 2010


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Gil Kane, an artist whose interviews are always worth reading.

A notebook on comics interviews and autodidacts:

Autodidacts. I often think William Blake is the prototype for many modern cartoonists. Blake was a working class visionary who taught himself Greek and Hebrew, an autodidact who created his own cosmology which went against the grain of the dominant Newtonian/Lockean worldview of his epoch. The world of comics has had many such ad hoc theorists and degree-less philosophers: Burne Hogarth, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Gil Kane, Neal Adams, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Gary Panter, Lynda Barry, Howard Chaykin, Chester Brown, Dave Sim, Alan Moore. These are all freelance scholars who are willing to challenge expert opinion with elaborately developed alternative ideas. The results of their theorizing are mixed. On the plus side: you can learn more about art history by listening to Gary Panter and Art Spiegelman talk than from reading a shelf-full of academic books; Robert Crumb’s Genesis deserves to be seen not just as an important work of art but also a significant commentary on the Bible; Lynda Barry’s ideas about creativity strike me as not just true but also profound and life-enhancing. On the negative side: Dave Sim’s forays into gender analysis have not, um, ah, been, um, very fruitful; and while Neal Adams drew a wicked cool Batman, I’m not willing to give credence to his theories of an expanding earth if it means rejecting the mainstream physics of the last few centuries. Sorry Neal!

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moreMoore


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Saturday, December 12, 2009


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Hey everybody. Frank Santoro here. I’m still in “pitch mode'”after last week’s awesome convention. So, my post this week is another episode in my obsessive quest to understand mid ’80s independent comics. As usual, I ain’t got nothin’ much to say. Just riffing. Check this comic out if you see it around.

cover

Upshot Graphics, 1986. “A division of Fantagraphics,” it reads on the indicia.(Anyone remember the story with Upshot? Cuz I forget.) It’s called Flesh and Bones. Basically another Dalgoda vehicle. Jan Strnad. Good writer. Did some work with Kevin Nowlan that I like. Dennis Fujitake’s art on the lead story, Dalgoda, is solid, if a little stilted. A little too Moebius for me. But with none of the real drawing chops of Moebius. Anyways. Flesh and Bones was a book that re-presented Dalgoda and also had back up stories. Very good back-up stories.

Dalgoda art

I’ve seen this book in the bins for years but I spaced on who actually did the back up story. Well, it was Alan Moore. A reprint from a black and white magazine called Warrior from 1983. The story is called the BoJeffries Saga. For this version, it’s been shrunk and colored. A little hard to read at first. But once I got settled it played out like a pleasant little British comedy. You know. That wacky British humor that is sort of really subtle and eccentric at the same time? Yah. Great story. The art is like a leftover ’70s hodgepodge. Not bad. Steven Parkhouse. Cool image on the back cover. Should have been the front cover. I guess Dalgoda had to get top billing.

Moore’s story is about a rent collector. I could sort of read into this story from ’83 and imagine what Moore would go on to do. Basically, I would read into the rent collector character and imagine him to be Rorschach. What if Rorschach was sent around to collect the rent? Hurm.

back cover

   BoJeffries Saga 

BoJeffries Saga

This is that funny moment in 1986 when there was a sort of “Comics Renaissance” gaining critical mass. Alan Moore was part of that. So was Fantagraphics. And so was Heidi MacDonald.

Look at the article Heidi wrote back when there was no internet. It was a two-page article in this issue of Flesh and Bones. She’s asserting that Kirby, Tezuka, and Hergé are the “Gods of Comics.” Has her Pantheon of Comics Gods changed? I wonder…

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Has This Been Posted Everywhere Already?


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Thursday, March 26, 2009


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If not, it will be soon:

Big Questions Big Numbers 3!

Of related interest: a big chunk of the issue’s original script.

And Frank discusses the earlier issues.

(Thanks, Sean H.)

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I Don’t Read Comics Anymore


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Wednesday, February 25, 2009


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Sorry about that. It makes it hard to think of things to say about them, though.

Actually, I’m exaggerating. I read and mostly liked the two new Urasawa series that finally got published last week, and re-read and loved the Tezuka story that one of them adapted. I still don’t have anything to say about them, though.

So how about this instead?

1. Paul Karasik can still surprise me, which surprises me. Check out his take on the above Jimmy Olsen cover over at the Covered blog.

2. I like a lot of Alan Moore’s stuff, but have recently gotten tired of reading all the articles about how he doesn’t like movies made of his comics. Not that his stance bothers me, but I’ve heard it a million times now, and don’t understand why the entertainment press still thinks it’s so shocking and interesting. So it was funny (to me) that when I read the latest big Alan Moore interview, this part jumped out at me as being particularly enjoyable:

One of my big objections to film as a medium is that it’s much too immersive, and I think that it turns us into a population of lazy and unimaginative drones. The absurd lengths that modern cinema and its CGI capabilities will go in order to save the audience the bother of imagining anything themselves is probably having a crippling effect on the mass imagination. You don’t have to do anything. With a comic, you’re having to do quite a lot. Even though you’ve got pictures there for you, you’re having to fill in all the gaps between the panels, you’re having to imagine characters voices. You’re having to do quite a lot of work. Not quite as much work as with a straight unillustrated book, but you’re still going to do quite a lot of work.

I think the amount of work we contribute to our enjoyment of any piece of art is a huge component of that enjoyment. I think that we like the pieces that engage us, that enter into a kind of dialog with us, whereas with film you sit there in your seat and it washes over you. It tells you everything, and you really don’t need to do a great deal of thinking. There are some films that are very, very good and that can engage the viewer in their narrative, in its mysteries, in its kind of misdirections. You can sometimes get films where a lot of it is happening in your head. Those are probably good films, but they’re not made very much anymore.

I didn’t enjoy it so much because of his critique of film—which I think (or thought) was pretty banal and almost conventional wisdom at this point (Godard’s work isn’t done, I guess)—but because it just seems so refreshing after reading so many articles and interviews with comic-book people who always seem to be trying to pump up comics by saying they’re just like movies, or could make great movies, or that the reason Will Eisner is great is because he used tricks from the movies, etc. It’s nice to hear someone involved in comics who doesn’t have an inferiority complex about them, and just flat out says they’re better, and on top of that, movies are bad for your brain.

Also, usually I get all bent out of shape when someone admits to not paying close attention to comics and movies for a decade or so before turning around and bashing them on and on, but I have to admit this time I was kind of amazed at how accurate Moore was. (Though admittedly his critiques apply mostly to the superhero and blockbuster varieties.) Maybe that’s a power you get when you’re a wizard.

On the other hand, I tried again this winter, and I still can’t get through Promethea. What a chore. It seems like being a wizard has its bad sides, too.

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Formal Formula


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Monday, August 18, 2008


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Here’s a spread from the kinda rare Big Numbers #2 by Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz published by Mad Love back in 1990. Big Numbers was, for me, impenetrable to read, like some overcrowded black and white photographic contact sheet. The series was never finished and honestly I never really read it. I would just pull it off the shelf every now and then and look at the art. I like Sienkiewicz’s energy and line but this book was too stilted, modeled, posed. Yet there are some great formal devices that he uses that feel right to me, that are successful simply as two page spreads. There’s an affinity for direct observation drawing and for realism, photographic realism, that I find pleasing and balanced. The images also reflect the character’s inner subjective view through varying the media and the approach, and that is really a strength of Sienkiewicz’s which fascinates me still.

The issue itself though is a little too formal for my taste and veers into straight up fumetti but it is an interesting mix of drawing and photography. A big influence on the Dave McKean school of cartooning, and sort of responsible for jump starting the last 15 years of photo-realist comics–Big Numbers is what you thought, what I thought, was going to be like a graduate class in the best comics had to offer in 1989: Moore and Sienkiewicz. Maybe it would have been great, but after trying to read the two existing issues, I started to wonder if they both were just totally burnt out by then. They both had almost ten years of monthly or semi-monthly deadlines (something I could never measure or fathom) and were simply dead. Reading it feels like trying to make your way through a crowded funeral parlor. Sorry, mates.

Okay, wait, I take that back. It’s an inspired work, but there is this lack of motion, of movement that adds to the density. Beyond the incredible glass shattering sequence in the first issue, it’s basically a quiet European film of a comic. I’m sure Moore’s script was pretty intense and Sienkiewicz does a decent job of mixing and matching talking heads and word balloons with these formal devices that “open up” the page and let it breathe a little. But again because of the photographic sources, there is always this middle ground focus where every character is shot from the waist up, gesturing. There will be two pages of dense talking head panels and then some sharp detailed sketch within a scene (like above) that is very focused, not only in technical articulation but in feeling. They show great restraint and balance and then release into sketchy memory. The pages are clean in their black white and grey purity but somehow the palette only adds to the gloomy claustrophobia of its rigid structure and square format. Big Numbers, just plods on and on formally like this and ultimately feels like a straight-jacket.

When the series tanked, Sienkiewicz just decided to go the other way and do finishes on Sal Buscema pencils for Spider-man. Buscema would do really light breakdowns and Bill would just go nuts on the flourishes. I remember them being totally off the wall.

Anyways, anybody know what happened after the second issue came out? Wasn’t Tundra going to continue publishing it?

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at top, detail of two page spread of Big Numbers #2, pages 4 and 5. The top image is what I see first when I open to this spread, which is the top of page 5, natch. Then my eye goes over to the top of the left page. So, I’m just focusing on the stuff that really moves my eye around formally. There are elements to the spread that don’t relate to the mirroring of the dinner table scenes, so I didn’t scan the whole spread, cool? Cool.

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Alan Moore Has Good Taste


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Wednesday, August 6, 2008


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[Via Mike Sterling].

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Variety Pack


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Tuesday, March 11, 2008


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1. This old interview with Matt Groening popped up in my RSS reader about a week back, devoid of any context or explanation. I’ve decided to take it as a sign that now is the time for me to declare that — strange as it sounds to say about one of the wealthiest and most-celebrated cartoonists alive — I think Groening’s comics work is highly underrated.

Most episodes still have a few funny moments in them, but The Simpsons lost me as a big fan at least a decade ago. And while I was initially excited by the concept of Futurama, it never hit that sweet spot for me that the first two or three seasons of The Simpsons and many of Groening’s early Life in Hell strips reached on a regular basis. The strips collected in books like Work is Hell, Love is Hell, and School is Hell are not just incredibly funny and insightful, they also display a barely concealed sense of real dread over the human condition. That underlying pain raises the humor above the amusing into something that I find genuinely moving, and even strangely comforting — yeah, sure, life is pointless, but at least I’m not the only one who feels that way. To me, early Groening at his best belongs to the same great tradition as Kafka and Ecclesiastes. (Or at least it’s a small, awkwardly beautiful fish swimming in the same big river.)

2. Incidentally, it occurs to me that with all the endlessly recurring talk about “literary” comics versus “art” comics, if you go by the only definition of literary comics that makes much sense to me (the relative importance and prominence of the words), then Groening and Lynda Barry are two of the most literary cartoonists around. It’s strange that their names never come up in those discussions.

3. Since I’ve written some harsh things about the critic Noah Berlatsky in the past, it seems only right to point out his recent post on Alan Moore, which I think is quite good. I don’t necessarily agree with him in all the particulars, but it’s a really strong, fair, smart piece. For some reason, writing about Moore tends to bring out the best in him.

4. Finally, I don’t think I’ve linked to Charles Hatfield & Craig Fischer’s relatively new comics site yet, but it’s been worth regular stops for a while now. (I probably never would have bought the fascinating Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure comic if I hadn’t read their write-up, so I owe them for that alone.)

Anyway, while I regularly disagree with many of their individual judgments, their writing is unfailingly thoughtful and fair. This week, they took on Frank’s Storeyville. Again, I don’t concur with everything they say about it, but it’s nice to see the book finally getting some real (and overdue) critical attention. (If I didn’t feel constrained by ethics, I’d write more about it myself.) I hope this helps get a good conversation going.

[UPDATE:] 5. & 6.: A Gary Panter interview and Gary Groth on Jules Feiffer.

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