Monthly Archives: August 2010

My SDCC 1997 Sketchbook

Mike Allred

I asked him about the Madman movie, and he said, “All I can tell you is the potential director’s initials are DH.” I said, “D.H. Lawrence?!” and he said, “Who?!”

Mike Mignola

He seemed slightly reluctant to have to draw Rasputin for some reason…

Scott McDaniel

Ron Garney

Art Adams

Mark Schultz

Terry Moore

Geoff Darrow

One of my favorites of these. It’s amazing how much expression he gets out of so few lines, and yet he’s known for his hyper-detailed style.

Mark Texiera

I wanted a Punisher. He was, like, “Man, the Punisher is a dead character!” I was, like, “O-okay, Mr Texiera. Vampirella then please!”

Phil Foglio

Len Wein

Phil Foglio

Stan Sakai

Kevin Eastman

Rick Geary

Gary Gianni

Unusual to see anything by Brom in just pen-and-ink instead of fully painted!

Dick Ayers

Batton Lash

Eddie Campbell

Eddie seemed slightly annoyed to see me walking around wearing a From Hell shirt, and asking him to sign From Hell books. He seemed disappointed that I wasn’t into Bacchus, but I did end up buying three tpbs off him!

Matt Wagner

Larry Marder

Marie Severin

Sergio Aragones

I wanted a Punisher. He was, like, “I never drew that character!” I was, like, “O-okay, Mr Aragones. Superman then please!”

Steve Bissette

I wanted an Abby, but my friend warned me beforehand that Bissette didn’t like doing sketches of her because she was hard to draw. But I figured I’d give it a shot. First, I got him to sign my copy of Swamp Thing #21 (“The Anatomy Lesson”) and I told him about how I’d recently bought page 1 of that issue (it is the one piece of original art I own). He asked me how much I paid for it. I said, “$900” (this was pre-eBay, remember.) Bissette: Poker face. So then I asked for an Abby sketch, and he was, like, “Wellll…” So I quickly said, “How about a Swamp Thing?” He said, “Okay, but can you go get me a Coke?” So I went and bought him a Coke, and when I came back this beautiful drawing is what was waiting for me! Thank you, Mr. Bissette!!

Jill Thompson

Carl Macek (R.I.P.)

Me & Carl Macek

He was the first creator I met at the show, and the only one I got my picture taken with. For better or worse, ROBOTECH has had an abnormally huge effect on my life. I was sadder than I should have been when he passed. He died at age 58. Meaning he must’ve been about 33 when he produced Robotech. Wow.

Mark Millar

Mark Millar had just finished his run on Swamp Thing, which I absolutely loved, but he was still relatively unknown in the US. I was determined to meet him to talk about his Swamp Thing work, but he never seemed to be around the first day or two. Finally, he was signing at the DC booth. At the table were Grant Morrison — at the peak of his super-popular JLA run — on the left, and Millar on the right. The mega-line was feeding into Grant (JLA artist Howard Porter may have been there too), and people would theoretically then travel along to Mark. Nuh uh. People would get Morrison to sign their stuff and then veer off into the ether. Millar was sitting there looking bored, and to be honest, a little sad — hard to imagine these days, I know! Anyway, so I’m in the line. Finally, I get to Morrison and I walk right past him to Millar. Morrison looks slightly taken aback — whether at being ignored or Millar getting eager attention, I don’t know. Millar is slightly shocked by the crazed fan too. In any case, we had a great lengthy chat (as far as Comic Con goes) about the whole legacy of Swamp Thing and his wonderful work on the series and he seemed to really appreciate my support too. Unfortunately, I haven’t liked much of what I’ve read of Millar’s work since, but that was always one of my favorite con memories. And who knew he could DRAW Swamp Thing so well to boot!

KS

Review: PHANTOM ZONE #1-4 & DC COMICS PRESENTS #97

(PHANTOM ZONE #1-4: written by Stever Gerber, art by Gene Colan & Tony DeZuniga, 1982. DC COMICS PRESENTS #97: written by Steve Gerber, art by Rick Veitch & Bob Smith, 1986.)

As usual, I can’t remember exactly how or why these comics ended up on my wish list. I think I may have read something about it in the Krypton Companion, and I do like learning minutia about Silver Age Superman mythology, so maybe that was it.

Anyway, first up is the Phantom Zone miniseries by Gerber and Colan. There is a guy at the Daily Planet named Kweskill who we learn was once incarcerated in the Phantom Zone but upon his release somehow lost both his powers and memory and is now living like the Average Joe. Except the villains still in the Phantom Zone are psychically manipulating Kweskill to build a Zone projector which releases the criminals while trapping Superman and Kweskill inside. The pair then spend the remaining issues trying to escape, while Zod and the other escapees build a giant Zone projector to phase the whole planet Earth into the Zone.

The concept of the Zone is that you can only think and observe while you are there — no feeling or aging, though criminals can psychically communicate with each other. So I actively disliked the way that Superman only had to do a bunch of stuff to escape — much the way he came back from the dead in the 90s. Somehow the way Gerber delineates the Zone in such physical detail detracts from the existential horror of the idea. And the whole idea is so huge that plot holes are bound to emerge if you try to describe it too much. I have to admit though that I found Gerber’s approach less disconcerting on a second read through. Still, at times it was almost as if he bit off more than he could chew. Gerber’s best notes are played on Kweskill, who is the kind of Man-On-The-Street Gerber excelled at writing and often appeared in Gerber’s Howard the Duck. In fact, the fact that he makes time for the panel below amongst the chaos is classic Gerber.

But there is some weird stuff in this series. One the very first page of issue one, in the very first sentence, there is a misprint which reads: “Perry White is a newspaper of the old school.” Ironically, this page is about newspaper editing. (It’s so blatant part of me wanted to believe it was some kind of meta-commentary by Gerber.) We get a bit of history of Jor-El’s discovery of the Zone as well. Jor-El proposes the Zone as a punishment for criminals instead of cryo-freezing them and rocketing them into orbit as they do currently and the council seems to accept this after one day of deliberation — no scientific investigation or anything. Jor-El explains that the criminals are in the same physical space as them after they are projected into the Zone, but it’s not clear how they “travel” from place to place — how did they get to “Earth space” 30 years later? The council decides to rocket the projector into space to protect people from the psychic influence of the prisoners. This makes no sense since the criminals do not exist in the projector, and dooms them to eternity in the Zone no matter how long or short their judged terms were. It’s also very, very fucked up that Perry forgets that Kweskill was a Kryptonian until Batman reminds him in issue 3! And why does Superman keep a “disintegration pit” filled with “radioactive Kryptonian fuel” at his Fortress? Where did he get that fuel anyway? It’s also weird that Superman only has to destroy Zod’s mega-projector to return Earth from the Zone after being half phased into it. Really? So all you have to do is destroy any projector and whatever’s inside pops back out? Finally: Zod escapes and his one goal is to completely destroy the Earth — but his motive is never given. As far as we know, the Earth never did him any wrong. And if he kept the people alive, with his superpowers he could rule over them as slaves.

In terms of art, the work by Colan — a frequent collaborator of Gerber on Howard the Duck as well — is beautiful and moody and horribly reproduced. The heaviness of it is well suitted to the wasteland-like Zone. So why did they choose to make the covers so “comedic”? Weird. And I found it odd that when the villains manage to launch nuclear bombs against the Earth and Superman is forced to watch helplessly from the Zone, his face is practically emotionless. Also — probably not Colan’s fault — I disliked that Zod was bald. Aren’t Braniac and Luthor enough bald villains for Superman?

DC Comics Presents #97 (the last issue of the series) on the other hand, is one of the best superhero comics I have ever read. Gerber returns to write, this time with Rick Veitch on art, to create the final chapter of the Phantom Zone’s history in which the living entity which is the Zone becomes corporeal in our universe, fusing with Mr. Mxyzptlk, and releasing the prisoners once again.

As the cover states, this is an “Untold Tale of the Pre-Crisis Universe” — meaning Gerber had almost complete freedom to mess things up as much as he wanted since the continuity he was writing for no longer existed — much like the freedom Alan Moore had with WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE MAN OF TOMORROW. In fact, Gerber seems to have had so much freedom, that some of the events in here involving Mr. Mxyzptlk seem to contradict directly what Moore did with his story.

There is a very obvious Moore-influence here. Gerber often narrates in the first person here, instead of the omniscient third person narration he used in the miniseries. And the Zone, as a sentient being, speaks in an appropriately “unhuman” version of English — something too difficult for the 11-year olds reading the miniseries, but something Gerber seems quite comfortable with after Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing bomb hit DC Comics in 1984. This isn’t a knock-off though — it’s more like Moore revealed to Gerber more tools in his shed that he could be making use of, and Gerber used them to craft his own kind of house. (Although it is possible that the miniseries and this issue are each enriched by reading the other.)

Veitch’s work on this story is phenomenal. Gerber covers a lot of the same Zone backstory that he did in the miniseries (was it already in place before then even?), but he’s far more passionate about it here, and Veitch — Moore’s frequent collaborator on Swamp Thing — attacks it with the eye of Victor Moscoso, abstracting and intensifying the layouts. Characters are sweaty and paranoid and visceral — I felt like Veitch was channeling Justin Green the whole time. I haven’t seen superhero characters look this emotional since Kirby. After reading this and Veitch’s Heartburst and Shiny Beasts recently, I am convinced that Veitch is one of the true greats of comic art, and I wish sometimes he could draw every superhero comic.

 

(Faora and Binky Brown — separated at birth?!)

The other great thing about Gerber’s freedom on this book is that the ending is negative in a way that I don’t ever recall seeing in a superhero book up to that time. It’s almost like the DC Universe version of Miracleman #15, with Metropolis largely destroyed — which totally makes sense if Kryptonian villains were allowed to run rampant on earth — and Mxyzptlk having seemingly become a god.

Excellent. A heady, feverish experience of a superhero comic book. Highly recommended.

KS

R.I.P. Cathy

So Cathy — the newspaper strip by Cathy Guisewite about the perpetually mid-life-crisising modern, urban woman — is ending in October. Is it wrong for me to say I absolutely loathed this strip (not as much as I loath B.C., but still)? For me it always hit on about the same repetitive level as Garfield. Good riddance! (But thanks for those 17 great seconds on 30 Rock.)

Review: No Guts No Glory

NO GUTS NO GLORY: HOW TO MARKET YOURSELF IN COMICS (Beau Smith. Blue Line Art, 2008.)

Just a quick review today since, unlike the last two How-To books about comics I read, this one is actually very good, and provides little to complain about.

Beau Smith’s book is really all about networking, getting other people in the business of comics to remember you, and getting yourself to remember them. When I got to his chapter on how to write comic scripts, I initially wondered why it was in the book to begin with, and then I realized that what he was really writing about was establishing relationships with the artist and editor.

Smith takes on a manly, rancher-cowboy persona to write the book. I say “takes on” but maybe it’s genuine, in which case he may track me down at a con one day and challenge me to some fisticuffs for casting suspicion on it. At any rate, being a wussy-writer-type, the very idea of self-promotion scares the shit out of me. Manliness of the jockish, macho, biker, or any other variety also scares the shit out of me. So theoretically, this book should have sent me running to the toilet. What I found instead was that it was genuinely ENCOURAGING.

It’s so well written, rather than feeling like he was grabbing me by the lapels and throwing me into a prison rodeo, it was more like he was a sympathetic mentor or Jack Bauer telling me, “You can do this,” before jumping into the water to wrestle the crocodiles. He is perpetually a nice guy, and all of his advice is delivered in a straightforward, common sense way that doesn’t make you feel a fool if you didn’t know it beforehand. I felt like he genuinely wanted even us wussies to get out there and do our best if it meant good comics. This was a real breath of fresh air. So many of the other books seemed like their real agenda was sabotaging any potential competition. Even his chapter on keeping physically fit to survive the war was inspiring — especially compared to, say, the ridiculous section on showering and dressing nice to meet editors in The Writer’s Guide to the Business of Comics by Lurene Haines which seemed to assume that its readers were all slavering Neanderthals.

NO GUTS made me feel like my goals were realistically achievable. And the reality is, if you are intending to self-publish, even us shy-artist types will need to get up on our feet at some stage to go out there in the world and get our work printed, marketed, and distributed. This book gives us some manageable options for establishing the necessary relationships to make that happen.

The only thing I would’ve changed is made the thing a less manly size. The book is in a large and somewhat unwieldy format despite a relatively low page count. It could have been more compact and ninja-like.

There is a lot here, and I don’t think I would be able to implement all of his advice at once. Plus, a lot of it is aimed at getting the attention of editors on work-for-hire books. This is not my area of interest obviously, and the book does not pretend to be comprehensive, but it is a necessary read for getting off your damn ass and getting to work. Recommended.

KS