Monday, October 15, 2007

Preserving the past (in a climate controlled vault)

Not 50 miles away from me, there rests a hallowed artifact. Detective Comics # 27 (the first appearance of fucking Batman!) was purchased by a local comic book store owner. It's definitely cool that this piece of history has lasted this long and is treated with such reverence. On the other hand, it's a drag that after paying about $250,000, the book probably won't even be put to it's intended use of being read. I regained some hope at the end of the video, when the buyer says he is treating the purchase like that of a fine wine or cigar and wants to savor it.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

AKIRA Club is finally out!!!!!

I ordered this book from Amazon about seven months ago. It has been out in Japan for years and years, taunting me from the eBay stores of priveleged otaku. It was in Japanese and that was always the deal-breaker. To have it in English made the nerdiest recesses of my psyche squeal with ecstacy. Akira has been one of my favorites since 5th grade.
Then Dark Horse, Amazon, or the Universe in general, decided to fuck with me. I received emails, saying the book wasn't going to ship in time for its scheduled release. Three more months went by and the new release date was pushed back. Three more months and I received an email saying it probably wouldn't be out until December. After that, it kind of fell off of my radar. Then, on Monday, after a particularly shitty day at work, I found it on my doorstep. Like some long lost girl; finally ready to love me.
I've read the graphic novel -all 2000+ pages of it- at least four times. As far as I'm concerned, AKIRA Club has nothing to do with the story. AKIRA Club provides context. With title pages from it's various iterations and translations, photographs of the merchandise, and translations of margin notes from Otomo-san, himself, AKIRA Club expertly shows how the AKIRA epic became a phenomenon in Japan and how it began to take shape in the US. Worth the wait and, more or less, worth the hefty $30 price tag.

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Sunday, September 9, 2007

Album Covers by Comic Book Artists Part 3: The Final (and long delayed) Installment

OK, this is long delayed. I think these were more intensive than I expected them to be. There are still many more album covers by comic artists. I just wanted to talk about my favorites. The last one I want to talk about is the GZA/Genius' Liquid Swords cover by Denys Cowan

The top image is the front cover and the lower image is a detail of the liner notes. This cover works well because it not only is emblematic of GZA and Denys Cowan. It is emblematic of Hip-Hop, itself. On this cover, Cowan incorporates the Wu-Tang sensibility of Chess and Martial Arts with the larger sensibilities of Hip-Hop: fierce competition and survival in the streets. When I first saw this cover the repetitive use of the GZA "G", a variation on the Wu-Tang logo, really solidified the notion that Wu-Tang was something very different. It felt like some kind of strange army instead of just a group of rappers. It felt the same way, when I first saw the X-Men.

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Thursday, August 9, 2007

Album Covers by Comic Book Artists, Part 2

To call Charles Burns a comic book artist wouldn't really be right. He did get his start in the world of Fanzines and Underground Comics, but I suspect that comics haven't been his bread and butter for quite some time. As far as clientele outside the industry, he has been known to do illustration for the likes of Coca-Cola and Altoids.

His early comic book stories tended to feature awkward freaks as protagonists. Big Baby, a young boy, uncovered the seamy underbelly of the American Suburbs. El Borbah was a mexican wrestler/detective. Dog Boy was just that: a boy that thought he was a dog (this is probably his most well known character, as he appeared in live action on MTV's short-lived Liquid Television animation show in the early 90's). Black Hole, a 12 part story about a northwestern town plagued by a physically deforming STD, is considered by many to be his best work in comics and was told from 1993 to 2004.

I chose Burns' album work for the opposite reason I chose Sienkiewicz's. While Sienkiewicz's RZA cover seemed to defy his established sensibility, Burns' cover for Iggy Pop's Brick by Brick album embodies everything about both his own, and Iggy Pop's, style. Burns' work exudes sweating freaks on their way to or coming from commitment of deviant acts. I don't need to tell you that so does Iggy Pop's music.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Album Covers by Comic Book Artists

The best people in the comic book industry are able to move their talent freely. Let's face it, being a comic book artist or writer is not necessarily a lucrative gig. I haven't yet tasted the life of a "professional" in the field, but I would imagine that the time between jobs can put a hurtin' on your finances, whether an industry name, or not. Ultimately, expressing oneself across media platforms will keep one from being pigeonholed, will expand the variety of people with whom one will interact, and, if executed properly, will allow one to reach a greater audience, including people that would not otherwise pick up a comic book.

Some obvious examples of this type of cross-genre movement are Geof Darrow's conceptual designs for The Matrix, Paul Chadwick's scripting of the Matrix MMORPG, and Brian K. Vaughan's recent stint as a scribe on Lost, to name a very few. These, of course, all seem to represent a stepping up.

Sometimes a lateral step can be just as cool. Illustrating an album cover can give an artist a chance to fully utilize all the quirks in his or her visual arsenal, without the encumbrance of having to tell a sequential story. With less space to work with, the result is more raw, and obviously more traditional in an artistic sense.

He is best known for Stray Toasters, Elektra:Assassin, and his New Mutant work, as his wiki will attest. I chose him first because I think that the album covers he illustrated say a lot about the diversity of his talent. His work has a dreamlike feel, illustrating nightmares frozen in silent terror, as evidenced by Stray Toasters

Dreamlike is rarely a word used in describing Hip-Hop, yet his style translates extremely well to his cover for Wu-Tang's The RZA's first album, Bobby Digital in Stereo.

In one picture, Sienkiewicz manages to capture all the recurring themes of the album: sci-fi, blaxploitation movies, comic book excess, and hip-hop righteousness in the face of cultural excess. He juxtaposes the chaos of the gangster lifestyle with the clean lines of the Wu-Tang W, which could be an allusion to the stability that the Wu philosophy brought to RZA's life. It's perfect. His other album work includes EPMD's Business as Usual .
You can read Sienkiewicz's thoughts on doing album covers on his website.
Next Time: Charles Burns.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Marvel Essentials

I'd like to briefly lick the chode of the Marvel Essentials series. You get about twenty-five issues of a comic. They're printed on newsprint in black and white. It really doesn't sound good, but it works. I don't know if the words essential and essence are etymologically related, but that's what the Essentials give me. Essence. I can really see the editor's influence when I read them.

Page One: Did the main character survive last month's cliffhanger?

Page Two: Of course he did. Here's why: RECAP ORIGIN, etc

They're cheap and they look pretty decent on my shelf.

It saves the time and energy it would take to track down all the comics, issue by issue. And anyway: As single issues, they just wouldn't be as good. It's nice to sit and read seven or eight issues back to back, without fumbling around.

Anyway, all this fellatio has made my jaw sore and I have that weird taste in my mouth. It tastes like shame.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Pros and Ams

Tony Long, the Wired Luddite, has a great piece up today. It's all about the amateur revolution that has emerged from Web 2.0. I think the article interests me so much because it speaks to all my fears, as I try to break into the comics industry. There are plenty of places to get my work seen, but, with everyone going the same route, it would likely get lost in the noise.

The question was asked at the beginning of the Internet, and is increasingly relevant as YouTubes and Blogspots emerge: What is the standard for legitimacy? I have no doubt that a Garage Kubrick is on its way. Right now, it's hard to say whether the Makers of the future will enter the limelight through a blog template or in some other way that has not yet been conceived. I do know that the Internet is a noisy place.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007