Monday, January 17, 2011

Old man, take a look at my life.

I'm a lot like you!

Current reads.

Star Wars: Doomworld
Roy Tomas, Archie Goodwin, Don Glut, writers

I recently found some Star Wars postcards at a kitschy shop in Ann Arbor. I thought they were hilarious - and then, I found the actual comic books featured on said cards. Doomworld is a pretty darn amazing, and hefty, collection. This is old-school Marvel stuff produced right after A New Hope was put out. The first third of the book is a retelling of the film, with little bits of dialogue added or removed - which is interesting, but not why I'm reading it. The rest is a smattering of clichéd science fiction plotlines with Star Wars characters shoved in. I mean, living in the era of Xizor and role-playing games and entire encyclopediae dedicated to alien creatures, I take it for granted that these '70s writers and artists had only two hours of film and a demand for excessive merchandizing to go on. With that said, there is a Seven Samurai plotline - including a plate mail-wearing, lance-weilding, white-bearded, speech-making man claiming to be a Jedi knight, named Don-Wan Kihotay... yes, it's Quixote, we GET IT - and a slough of other hijinks. Chewbacca looks like a sasquatch from the burn ward. Han looks like the Hoff, Thor, Prince Valiant, but never Han. There is a myriad of weird slang, like "star-hopper", "planet-jumper", and so on. Did I mention the (oh no!) space pirates, complete with cutlasses and eyepatches? So, really, it's a relic of a much more innocent time. Even though I haven't fallen in love with some Marvel classics, like X-Men (and I really wanted to!), this strikes me as really fun, old-fashioned comicry. My inner - chortling, entirely too well-informed, I-knew-Vader-was-Luke's-father-before-I-was-even-cognizant-of-it - Star Wars nerd aside, it's an enrapturing read.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Current reads.

Mat Johnson, writer, and Warren Pieece, illustrator

As one of my online friends passionately filmed a civil rights documentary, I felt his voice in my head saying, "hey, this looks interesting! you should read it!". It's a story about a daring young reporter that investigates lynchings and white supremacy groups in the south. He is black, but has light enough skin to pass for white, hence "incognegro". He's about to get out of the game as, so often it happens, one last crucial job presents itself. The rest is a fantastic, twisty mystery. I find it funny how I keep talking about graphic novels so casually; there are much better-written reviews out there, with more research and knowledge involved. All I can personally say is what I find and enjoy, I suppose! Anyway, I did enjoy this one. The art is a stark, classic black-and-white (no pun intended). It feels old, in a satisfying way. For me, the whole work went down smooth, like a good beer. Though black history in America is often a tough thing to digest for otherwise complacent ethnic groups - like me and my white heritage - I'd recommend this. It's not "preachy" or over the top; just tells it like it is.

Tove Jansson

And, just for contrast, there's Moomin! If you know Finland, you know Moomin. He's so well-known, he's featured in postage stamps, commemorative coins, and his own theme park! These books are volumes of the three-frame daily strip kind of format. I didn't know exactly what to expect... but the best way to describe Moomin is this: think back to an eight-year-old you, sitting around a campfire with a group of friends. You start telling a story, a sentence at a time, passed from child to child. That's how Moomin's adventures go. There will be a general story arc, but within it, there are all kinds of rigamaroles and new characters and hijinks. A flood! Pirates! Love interest! Etc. Something to know, too, is that you have to put on kind of a Hergé Hat when you read this... characters like Snorkmaiden and Mymble strike me as scheming, materialistic damsel types. Naïve, let's call it. I find my impressions of the female characters even weirder since learning that Tove Jansson was a woman, and even had a female partner. Anyway, these are fun to read, bizarre misogyny aside!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Drawing from life isn't always easy.

Today I am working on a commission. Surprise, it's a house! Now, I like drawing my landscapes from life. I recently gave in and did one from a photo... but it's not as satisfying. I like how being there in real life causes certain features to pop out. The pen flows a bit more organically and I tend to pick up and move over to whatever area interests me at that moment. That results in more of that abstract, mosaic style that I (and apparently others?) enjoy. However...

...currently, it is 21 degrees farenheit, with heavy snow flurries.

Needless to say, there are some challenges.

My strategies:
  1. Long johns, thermal socks, and fingerless gloves. Turtleneck, hoodie, winter coat, cap, scarf.
  2. Tucking pens under my clothes so they don't freeze.
  3. Keeping the board at a near-vertical tilt as to prevent snow from sticking to the paper (causing fresh ink to bleed).
  4. Regular warm-up breaks.

Soon, I go back out into mother nature's frigid trials. Oh, the life of an artist! (Where's my beret?) Oh, the suffering for the sake of art! (Shouldn't I also be a beat poet?) Oh, the... toe warmers I forgot. But it's a good time! And the act of making the drawing feels so much more satisfying.