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Archive for ‘Process’


Drawing your Attention to Drawing your Attention

Great post by Aaron Diaz on Focal Points.

[via several people, including Kate Beaton, but I think the first was an email from Spencer Greenwood]


Wanna Help Jim Woodring Build a Big-Ass Pen?

When one the greatest cartoonists of our time decides he wants to build a seven foot long dip pen, y’gotta answer the call!

Check out the video. It’s actually a terrific idea and worth the Herculean effort it will take to pull it off.

Meanwhile, if you don’t have Jim’s gorgeous new book Weathercraft yet, well… what are you waiting for?

link via Fantagraphics.


Cause and Effect

Ed Piskor offers a great round-up of that peculiar comics phenomenon: the single panel in which an action and its consequences/reactions share the same visual instant.

[via BoingBoing via Mike Fortress]


Friday Odds and Ends

Not comics, but everybody keeps sending me I am Sitting in a Video Room (be sure to watch the other 999!) and this recent news piece on “the writer who couldn’t read” on the assumption that I’d find them interesting—which I did, so here they are.

Via Spurge, his annual Comic-Con Survival Guide and an awesome Jack Kirby Quote.

Finally, here are some nice immersive comics pages from concept artist Justin coro Kaufman.

So, yeah… truly random, but there you go. Go back to playing Angry Birds and enjoy the weekend!


“95% True”


Been reading and enjoying two very different autobiographical comics; Tracy White’s memoir GN How I Made It to Eighteen and Lea Hernadez’s Near-Life Experience entries at LJ.

White’s book delivers literally on the title, detailing her recovery from mid-teen traumas, and how treatment helped her to not die before becoming the successful and accomplished adult she is today. And like her webcomics at traced.com, How I Made It to Eighteen is “guaranteed 95% true.” She’s changed names and details, but you know you’re getting the facts that matter.

Hernandez’s NLEx also struggles with those 5% quandries, in her case because she’s not writing about events and friends from decades ago, she’s writing about stuff that happened Tuesday, and about a family that might be in the next room. You can feel the inner struggle as she writes about how much she’s willing to write about her son’s ongoing struggles to fit in to society’s limited expectations of him.

It’s a real open question whether any autobiography can ever be more than 95% true. Mark Twain stipulated that his memoir not be published until 100 years after his death (this year!), presumably so that he could be 100% honest—a full implementation of the Mystery Quote—but from what I’ve heard, the old guy doesn’t come across as particularly objective while ranting about his many late-in-life grudges.

Emotional honesty and factual accuracy aren’t the same thing after all. Twain may have thought he was hitting 100%, but maybe nobody can ever get past 95%. And maybe saying so upfront, as White and Hernandez both do in their own fashion, is the most honest way to start.


Four Kinds of Beautiful

Close-ups of the four color printing process, courtesy of Half-Man Half-Static.

[via Tom Gauld]


The Mystery Quote

“Write as if everyone you ever loved was dead.”

It’s great advice for writers. Right up there with “Murder your Darlings” (Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, apparently) and “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water” (Kurt Vonnegut).

But who said it?

I must have the phrasing off, since Googling yielded nothing, but I’m sure that was the essential meaning of the advice. McEwan said something similar regarding parents, and there’s a jumbled similarity to something by Lynn Freed (both via Twitter), but otherwise I’m drawing a blank, so I’m turning to you.

Does anyone recognize this advice?


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…

Uh.

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?


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.


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.