Archive for ‘Process’

Two Videos

1. Seth Kushner’s 30 minute Act-I-Vate video courtesy of Newsarama.

2. Moebius drawing on a Cintiq at Angouleme 2009.

I like how the Act-i-Vate Collective has used technology on all fronts to get their message out from the beginning and Kushner’s cool docupromo thingey really kicks it up a notch.

It’s fascinating though, after seeing the barrage of ideas, words, and techniques flying out of NYC in every direction, to watch the aging Moebius silently, confidently, picking up his pen, putting it to the screen, and simply drawing.

(both via today’s Journalista)

Climbing up the Picture Plane

My old pal Larry Marder just sent me images from the upcoming Beanworld Book 3—the first all-new Beanworld stories in fifteen years—and I was struck by how beautiful they were; even moreso than in the original series, which remains one of my favorite comics of all time.

Larry uses spot blacks, bold geometry, rhythm, negative space, repetition, and variation like no other cartoonist I know.

Beanworld accomplishes something very rare. To use my own goofy terminology, Larry manages to use pure cartoony abstraction from the lower right vertex of the big triangle but because of the pure graphic ingenuity on display, his pages are a riot of abstraction reaching up toward the picture plane vertex at the same time.

Look at any given element. Is it a symbol? A picture? A pure shape? It’s everything all at once!

Click on the thumbnails below to get a closer look at 6 out of the 186 pages hitting store shelves in early December. This one’s going to be a classic.

The Letterers

The celebrated letterer Todd Klein was interviewed last week. Some find hand lettering tedious and prefer using fonts, but there’s no question that Todd’s hand lettering was a thing of beauty no font will ever match (though even Todd himself is working increasingly in the digital realm).

Still, after reading how he got started, I had to laugh at the thought of Todd on the job at DC for the first time (doing the sort of correction and paste-up in the production department that I would later do in the desk next to Todd’s in 1982) thinking to himself: ”Boy, this sure beats putting together instruction manuals for air conditioners!”

Todd lettered Zot! #1 and did the final version of the Zot logo. All but two of my subsequent comics, through Understanding Comics, were lettered by the great Bob Lappan. Since then, it’s been all fonts for this control freak, but I still consider the approach a work in progress, and there’s always a chance I might hand letter a (probably short) comic in the future.

I do still hand letter my rough layouts and try to make them readable for my editors. Even on the Cintiq tablet, zoomed in at 800 dpi to save my wrists, my technique is still the similar to what Todd taught me all those years ago.

(link via Dirk)

There and Back Again

The road between analog and digital is a two-way street for a lot of cartoonists these days.

Bringing it home this week: A shop talk video featuring Doug TenNapel (via a tweet by Kazu) and an email from artist Nate Simpson about his use of the Cintiq.

TenNapel’s video covers many of the same techniques my generation was using 20 years ago—right down to the Windsor-Newton finest sable #3—but with a difference. Mr. T. is perfectly comfortable using digital tools (has in the past, might in the future) he just prefers the traditional ones right now, and his affection for them shows in the video.

Meanwhile, Simpson has fallen head-over-heels in love with his tablet monitor and has been producing some amazing art and discussing process over at his blog for a while. 100% digital and happy as a clam.

Both are talented artists. Both have set foot on both analog and digital soil. Now they’re settling on whichever patch of land is making them happy. And if they ever want to pull up stakes and go back, they know the way.

I remember when that two-way street was a dirt path.

Guarded by Trolls.

On Criticism

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the role of criticism, specifically negative reviews of comics and how they tend to be received by the creative individuals involved.

For myself, I always consider reviews useful—even the hatchet jobs. It makes my heart sink a little when I hear other artists dismiss all reviews as irrelevant to their process. A common claim is that reviews tell us “only about the reviewer” and tell us “nothing about the work,” but I disagree. Yes, reviewers have biases. Yes, they miss the point sometimes. But there’s always some kind of information embedded in any reaction to any creative effort.

Take an extreme example:

Suppose you’re a cartoonist, and ten years ago you made a casual remark about some political issue in an interview or on a panel. A stranger decides they don’t like you, based entirely on this one remark.

Ten years later, you’ve just published your first graphic novel. You’ve poured your heart into it. It’s a thousand pages long, it’s everything you wanted it to be. And an online review site hires that same stranger to review the book.

Still upset about the political remark you made a decade earlier, the stranger-turned-critic savages your magnum opus, tears it to shreds, all the while clearly referencing a perceived political position which has nothing to do with the book, and is nowhere in the book. All negatives. No positives. All based on that one remark from ten years ago.

If you were that cartoonist, you could easily dismiss such a review. You could easily say that a bitter, biased, petty review like that is a classic example of a completely useless review, that it told you “only about the reviewer” and told you “nothing about the work.”

But you’d be wrong.

Because even in that extreme example there was a vital piece of information about your work that was worth paying attention to: The simple fact that your art and/or story were insufficiently powerful to overcome a grudge.

And that’s information worth having.

With Great Power…

There’s an interesting conversation between Dash Shaw and Hope Larson about editing that’s been making the rounds. Hope likes editorial feedback, but I’ve heard other young cartoonists railing against editors.

I came from a generation of independent/alternative cartoonists that largely believed that “editorial freedom” meant “freedom from editors,” but I’ve always believed in the value of getting honest, in-depth feedback.

For most of my career, I’ve had tremendous freedom in putting together my stories and art, but I’ve also turned to friends to tell me when I’m going off the rails. When working on Understanding Comics in the early ’90s, I turned to my panel of “kibitzers” (Kurt Busiek, Neil Gaiman, Larry Marder, Steve Bissette, Jenn Manley Lee, and Ivy) to rip apart my layouts and rip they did.

The very fact that I could have ignored their advice gave me the confidence to follow it. Whole chapters got the axe and new ones were created. I had the power to ignore them, but I also knew what Spidey said about “great power” and — like the spelling of invulnerable — it was a lesson I learned from reading superhero comics that I’ve never forgotten.

That’d be 63 Years in Internet Time.

The Webcomic Overlook takes a look back at a 9-year-old list I wrote of 10 suggestions for beginning webcartoonists. Won’t quibble with the article’s conclusions (whether I agree or not, they’re reasonable points) but it’s a brief, funny look back at a very different time — literally the Web’s first decade (post-Mosaic).

[via Journalista]

In other news: OMG, even his bees are winning awards now.

On the Creative Process

Beaver and Steve creator James Turner offers his take on the creative process and yeah, sometimes that’s just how it is. 

[Thanks to Dirk Deppey at Journalista for the link (crediting Xaviar Xerexes).]


I think that the biggest reason readers get upset when cartoonists change styles suddenly is because all their favorite characters are suddenly replaced by *drawings* of their favorite characters.

Just a random thought, but it led to this unexpectedly interesting discussion on Facebook, so…

Easy on the Eyes: Take Two

In the comments to an earlier entry about formats and Lightbox 2, Chris Bolton links to a full screen version of the same approach that’s worth checking out as well.

Of course, this has precedents. Whatever you think of Zuda and their business model, I think they at least had their eyes on the ball when it came to design priorities. “Fit the screen/fill the screen” isn’t a bad way to go for page-to-page formats. Unlike strips, which can thrive in a terrarium of distractions, long form comics work best if all other distractions go away until the story is over. Sadly, both full screen modes seem to short-circuit keyboard commands, but we can’t have everything. (No wait. Screw that! Why can’t we?)

My dream “next page” button?: The spacebar.

Or better yet: Just tap and slide.

We’ll see.