Archive for March, 2010

Is it Comics?: An Interesting Fence-Sitter

Got this in the mail last night:

My name is Ira Marcks. I am a cartoonist from NY who recently collaborated with Jake Lodwick (founder of Vimeo) on an experimental illustration/animation project.

It’s sort of like a 45 minute music video with one sliding frame. But it’s also like a graphic novel told in a single, 50 foot long panel.

I settled on the term ‘Illustrative Score’ to describe the project and it’s method.

Check out Ira and Jake’s stimulating results here (and Ira’s personal site here).

And when you’re done, I’d be curious to hear your reactions to the old “Is it Comics?” question. Not a technical debate comparing it to this or that definition (though I’m sure those will come up), just gut reactions. Does this feel like comics to you?

I’m curious, because I’m totally on the fence!

Anyway, cool stuff regardless of what we call it.

Kickstarting E-Sheep

Patrick Farley is a friend, but I can say without hesitation that he’s one of the most innovative cartoonists of the last decade and the e-sheep archive (currently under reconstruction) is a treasure trove. Anything that helps him make more comics would be a very very good thing.

Dick Giordano 1932-2010

Tom has a comprehensive report, but I just wanted to add that I liked the man when I was a production peon at DC Comics in 1982-83, and I could tell that many of DC’s better moves at the time owed a debt to Dick Giordano’s better instincts.

I Don’t Know about You, but THIS is the Superhero Movie I’VE been Waiting for

I’m even okay with the ’60s Batman-style sound effects! Thanks, everyone I’ve ever known for telling me about this as soon as I got home.

Oh, and hey, as long as it’s Random Friday, I’ve got a question: I’m dying to find a reeeeeally old music video from the ’80s—maybe even pre-MTV. It had a funky, electronic song (possibly no words) with black and white, photocopy-style animation. There was a recurring assembly line motif with hamburgers and hands and that creepy masonic eye/pyramid thing. Really cool and jerky, almost like it was made by a robot Terry Gilliam. Does anyone remember this video? I’d love to find it out there somewhere but I don’t know anything about the director or even the musician(s) involved.

UPDATE: It was the experimental film “Machine Song” by Chel White. Thanks to music video master Alex de Campi for the answer!

As some of you might have guessed, based on past blog entries, music is very important to our whole family. Sky is going to Coachella this year with a friend of ours and I’m envious, but after Italy, I’m going to be too eager to get back to work on the book, so I’ve got to miss it yet again.

I love that my daughter has been listening to bands like Passion Pit, Hot Chip, and Vampire Weekend* (all at Coachella) while simultaneously getting into Bob Dylan and Bob Marley, on LP no less—and that I had nothing to do with those last two. Well, any of them technically, (though I did discover Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros before her).

I used music constantly while working on the first draft of the layouts for the new book. I had several different playlists for different kinds of scenes and I’d go for long walks trying to imagine sequences, while letting the music sustain the mood I was going for.

Recently though, I mentioned this to my Mom over the phone and she said she hoped I took the headphones off once in a while to listen to the sounds around me too. (Which is both reasonable, and exactly the kind of thing you count on a Mom to say.)

Funny thing is, though, I’ve discovered that music actually distracts me during those walks now that I’ve entered the rewriting stage of the layouts. Keeping a sustained mood through music actually makes it harder to step back and consider the structure of a scene or set of scenes in my head, and how to change them for the better, or to implement the suggestions of my panel of “kibitzers.”

That trance I needed to put myself in while conceiving sequences would now prevent me from evaluating those scenes objectively. More proof, if any was needed, that we need to appeal to different aspects of our creative personality at different stages of the creative process.

Hm. This post is like a Simpsons episode. One thing leads to another and…


See you Monday!

*Pop Quiz: If I added Peter Gabriel’s name to those three band names and asked you which of the four was not like the others, which would you pick and why?

Indiana University South Bend

Off to South Bend for my talk at Indiana University on Wednesday (see link at right for tickets). See you there!

As usual blogging may be spotty until I’m back on Friday. Feel free to keep debating the merits of thought balloons until then.

That Hand on Your Shoulder

Interesting article by Joe McCulloch at Comics Comics regarding the scarcity of old-fashioned thought balloons in todays genre comics and elsewhere (via The Beat).

McCulloch pulls out a few examples of legitimate uses for the bulgy Edsel of comics iconography like Mazzucchelli’s picto-bubbles in Asterios Polyp, but he’s most enthusiastic for its streamlined descendent, the caption-style interior narration—especially the floating word bursts found in some manga.

McCulloch does a good job of enumerating the perceived advantages of thought captions (with or without borders) over balloons, but I’d like to toss out one more possibility.

The question I find most interesting is why do traditional word balloons seem more patronizing by their very nature? In Ware or Mazzuccelli’s hands, that quality is ironically re-channeled, but I think it’s still there. In the Shirow Miwa example that McCulloch offers, I think it’s there too.

In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that any thought caption made into a thought balloon is going to take on that patronizing quality, even if the phrasing is identical. It isn’t just the hokey word choices like in the above Ditko Dr. Strange panel, it’s the graphic device itself.

I don’t even think it’s the shape. The Shirow example McCulloch offers is just a jagged little slab—nothing goofy—but it still carries that spoon-feeding connotation for me. Even if it was a caption-like rectangle with square bubbles pointing to the character, I think the effect would be similar.

The important difference for me is that a thought caption—with or without borders—embodies each thought in a way that encourages us to assume ownership of it as we read. We literally bring each sentiment into existence as a thought, creating an instant bond with the character.

The thought balloon, regardless of shape or style, just by virtue of its pointer, brings a third party into the relationship: the author, gently putting his/her hand on our shoulder and pointing to the face of the thinker with the words “he thought.” Maybe thoughts are just too private for that kind of parental intrusion.

The fact that McCulloch reserves his most enthusiastic endorsement for modern Manga’s floating thought bursts feels right to me. If there’s one thing Manga has been doing right for years, it’s creating in readers a sense of participation in the lives of its protagonists. Participation in their innermost thoughts is a logical next step.

Random Friday Stuff

Item #1


Item #2

Uh-oh! Trevor Dodge is very kind, but this is the kind of thing that always gets me into trouble.

Item #3

Still haven’t gotten any word from Comic-Con regarding our hotel choices, so I assume there will be no choices. Hm. Guess we’re keeping our just-in-case reservations again this year at full price.

Item #4

Perhaps I should just link to a Kate Beaton comic every time I do a miscellaneous Friday post.

Item #5

Can anyone recommend a brand of ice tray that doesn’t suck?

On Your Mark… Get Set…

Comic-Con Hotels go on sale at today (Thursday) at 9:00 am sharp.

They’ve added both rooms and an expanded list of hotels this year. If all goes well, there should be plenty of rooms available for as much as 20 minutes until every one of them is sold out.

Read up on this year’s protocol (it’s a bit different this time), give it a try, and then let me know if you succeeded. I’m genuinely curious.

For reference, here’s some video from last year’s hotel reservation rush.

Palate Cleanser

While I’m happy to let Pixton and Bitstrips continue to trade stories of comics-making software tools in yesterday’s mammoth comments thread, let’s invite a hand drawn comic by the great John Porcellino into our hearts for a moment to restore a little balance to the universe.

Visit John’s long running King-Cat Comics site for more information on a small press legend and his sublime hand-tooled words and pictures.

How Do We Feel This Morning?

Want to draw comics for a living? Watch the video here three times in a row then come back.

How do we feel? Hmm?

Now…want to WRITE comics for a living? Watch. Any difference?

Seasoned vets can make fun of some of the oddball qualities of Clive and Daina Goodinson’s labor of love, but in its current incarnation, Pixton is pretty close to what a lot of young newbies have been asking for for years (I know, I get the emails!) and there’s clearly a lot of thoughtful design work going on under the hood.

Much like the Photo Comic software Comic Life, this appears to be a thoroughly user-centered venture. Users want it. Users will get it. And like Comic Life, I could see this continuing to find a place in classrooms, families, or around the water cooler.

The reaction of a lot of my cartooning peers may be a simple “GYAAAGH!” but this sort of thing never bothered me. The goal posts in the whole “only a human can do it” game are going to be moving a lot this century and I’m happy to dance around them with the rest of the creative community.