Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Interview: 'Method Man' writer David Atchison

David Atchison is a writer for the times. He bills himself not only as a Comic Book Writer, but also as a Journalist and Producer. On his most recent project, he was charged with fleshing out the story of Method Man's Peerless Poe character, a task that no doubt required him to wear all three of these hats, at once. I caught up with David and we discussed what it is like to be a writer in the world of celebrity owned comic book projects and social networking sites.

IT: What was the Method Man project like? Were you a fan of Method Man
and Wu-Tang before you landed the job?

DA: Growing up, I was a fan of the Wu-Tang Clan, specifically Method Man.
He's possibly one of my fave front men in Hip Hop. For me, he
encapsulated what the Wu-tang was about. Through the process of the
comic, Method Man and I communicated, BUT he also gave me the space to
create something from his initial idea. It was good creative
interaction. I liked the way it turned out for the most part. I would
have liked a couple more pages to tell the story in, but I think we
did a good job with the amount of pages we had. I don't know for sure
if I'll be involved in the other Wu-Tang Graphic Novels. If my
schedule and Hachette Publishing's Schedule line up, there's strong
possibility.

IT: When you are writing on these celebrity projects, Method Man,
Rosario Dawson's Occult Crimes Task Force, what kind of input do you
have in the backstory, plot points, etc.? How complete is the premise
when they bring it to you?

DA: I've had as much input as any creator would have on a creator owned or
new book. Maybe even a little more. Rosario and Meth have both
respected by skills as a writer and let me "go with it."

When we started the Method Man Graphic Novel, Meth had a series of
ideas that he wanted to see in a story. It was my job to take those
ideas, combine them with ideas of my own and characters I created to
fashion a story. The OCT was totally different. It was actually a
story I created. Rosario came on board after the initial premise was
created and helped me to tweak it further. The books protagonist,
Sophia Ortiz, was based on Rosario in the same way Marvel's Ultimates?
Nick Fury is based on Sam Jackson. The difference with the OCT is
Rosario actually has a hand in the guidance of the character. It's
cool because she provides a different perspective as an actor and
helps to ramp up the emotion in scenes.

IT: The information that's out on the web bills you as not only a comic
book writer
, but a journalist, and producer, as well. When you wear
so many hats, do you find there is considerable overlap in terms
process and networking?

DA: Comic Illustrator Brian Stelfreeze once told me, "who you are is who
you are." I think about that with all of my jobs. Who I am as a man is
who I am as an artist and who I am as journalist and producer. The
same level of discipline and commitment I bring to one project must be
apparent throughout every facet of my life. If anything, I try to
bring a certain level of professionalism and passion to all the things
I work on. There is actually a good amount of overlap right now
because I produce multimedia projects with iterations in the comic
book medium
. As for networking, the statement is true "a good name is
better than riches." In all fields you have to guard your reputation
with your life. The easiest way to guard your reputation is to follow
the golden rule. Everyone can respect a consistent person.

IT: Where do you see yourself going? If you had to pick a single path
to follow, based on the different kinds of work you've done, what
would choose.

DA: I see my life going forward. It might sound corny, but I'd like to
advance myself in all the areas that I'm currently working in. I'd
like to write bigger comic projects, I'd like to work on larger
film/multimedia productions and I'd like to write for bigger
publications. Choosing one... I'd go with comics. Of the three, they
were my first love.

IT: Having been in the game for a few years now, what advice do you
have for creators trying to break into the industry? What do you think
of networking tools like ComicSpace and Triggerstreet comics? Do you
utilize these channels? If so, can you speak on their strengths and
weaknesses?

DA: The best advice that was given to me: do the work. If you want to
write comics then write them. Writing is revising. You need to
practice. I get better with every script. Even when you look at the
comic storytelling legends you can see their skills improved as they
did more. If you want to work in comics you've got to create comic
books. Even if no one sees them. It only to increase your skills. New
creators should also remember that creating comic books is a job and
it should be respected as such. Invest in your industry by purchasing
the tools to do your job better. You can either be a creator that
takes away from the industry or you can be a creator who adds to the
industry in the form of good stories that help to increase the
artistic merit of the medium. There are a lot of great books about
writing comics that can help a new writer. It's also important to
educate yourself on the other guy's job. A comic book is a team
effort. As a writer you're like the quarterback of a football team. To
call the play right you've got to understand what the other guys on
the team do.

As for comic book networking tools. I don't use them as much as I
should. I do use social media sites like myspace, blogspot, twitter
and facebook to keep up with other comic book professionals. I also
peruse a couple of message boards where fans and creators hang out.
Online networking is a great tool for meeting other creators. I would
caution new creators to watch what they say online though. Excessively
slandering other creators or taking a drink of E-Courage and fighting
online can come back to bite you in the ass.

IT: Are there any characters or properties that you'd really like to
get your hands on and write?

DA: I'm a big fan of early Marvel Stuff. I'd love to write Black Panther,
Daredevil, Fantastic Four or Captain America. The Milestone characters
would also be really dope to write. I was a huge fan of Static growing
up. DC has some gems in there as well. The New Gods, the Guardian,
Batman, etc. If I could bring one property over from television to
comics it would be the Bionic Six. It was a great show and could make
a great comic book.

IT: Describe your dream project.

DA: My dream would be to push a creator owned project I have to the next
level. I'm really inspired by Mike Mignola's mix of artistic work and
business savvy on Hellboy. I'd like to do something like that with my
baby. As for a project owned by someone else- I'd like to do a what if
where the Black Panther takes on the Marvel Universe.

David is online, in many places:
http://twitter.com/popculturalist
http://www.myspace.com/popculturalist
http://thewritedna.blogspot.com
http://www.thewritedna.com

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

PRESS RELEASE: Comic Book Writer Seeks Burgeoning Artists For Experiment in Comic Book Creation

Contact: Ian Thomas FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Email: ianthomas1225@yahoo.com

Website: www.ianthomascomics.blogspot.com

WRITER LAUNCHES EXPERIMENT IN CROWDSOURCED COMIC BOOK CREATION
Seeks Burgeoning Comic Book Artists to Compete for Weekly Prizes and Promotion
My name is Ian Thomas. I am a writer, trying my best to break into the Comics Industry. I run a blog called Ian Thomas Comics, which I use to examine my own tastes and to explore what goes in the annals of today’s Geekdom.

I have found one of the greatest challenges in building a body of work to be engaging potential collaborators. With limited financial resources and no reputation, it is difficult to make the case that working with me will benefit them.

On the flip side, I know there are plenty of artists out there in my situation, looking for writers with which to collaborate, but unsure how to approach them. I see them on message boards, networking sites, and in the Artists’ Alley at the cons. They are hungry to work in the industry, but can’t afford to give up their services for free.

With all the noise and distraction of today’s industry, it is difficult to get a solid line of communication with potential collaborators. This dilemma forms the basis of my experiment. I have stories to tell, but no resources to tell them. Given the nature of the Internet, though, I have a voice. While I can’t pay what the Big Boys are paying, I can pay some. I intend to pay in the form of weekly prizes worth around $25 that will usually be given in the form of online gift certificates. In addition, I am bringing promotion to the table, because every entry I receive will be featured on my site.

Here is how it will work: Every week I will post an assignment and a deadline for participating artists. These assignments will begin with the character design. Once designs are cemented, I will post the script at a rate of one page a week, with each page corresponding to one prize. At the deadline, I will post all of the entrants and open the polls for voting. The winning entrant will receive a prize, recognition, and their page will be sent to a letterer to become an official page of the story. The result, assuming this experiment takes, will be a sort of jam story, showcasing the industry’s next wave of talent.

I am not seeking to publish this story outside of the site. I am not trying to make money off of these artists. My reward for this project will be the promotion it creates for me and the finished pages that result, showing I can work successfully with artists.

I am aware that the nature of this project is highly unorthodox. But if ever there were an industry receptive to experimentation, the Comics Industry is it. Further details, along with the first assignment, will be posted on my blog on Friday, August 8, 2008. Please come to my website, ianthomascomics.blogspot.com, to see what happens.

If you have any questions about my project, please contact me through the channels listed above.

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Sad-urday Night "Fun"

There are a ton of very cool desktop backgrounds over at the Dark Horse site. I'm currently rocking the Usagi Yojimbo.

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Haiku Review: The Machine Girl



Revenge is dealt by
Carnage creating gadgets
Making laughs for all

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wu-Tang Comics news and reviews



I recently had a chance to check out the Method Man graphic novel, courtesy of the nice people at Grand Central Publishing. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it's a lot of fun, a COMIC BOOK, in all caps.

Method Man stars as Peerless Poe, a "murder priest", excommunicated from his order of demon hunters. When the order faces a threat it can't handle alone, they call Poe in on it. That's when the fun begins.

Method Man incorporates enough Wu-Tang references to keep the fans that came for Wu-Tang happy. In addition, it has a nice back story, based on Biblical mythology. The artwork and story allude to further Wu-Tang comics.

As far as I know, the next Wu-Tang graphic novel will be GZA's Advance Knight. However, it was indicated to me that Advance Knight's publication has been postponed. Grand Central tells me that it is due to a rearrangement of the publishing schedule. I'll have more on that, as it develops.

Look out for my interview with Method Man co-writer David Atchison, coming soon.

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Crowdsourcing Creation: Comics by Committee

The Triggerstreet announcement has me thinking about this crowdsourcing thing. Wikipedia defines Crowdsourcing thusly:

Crowdsourcing is a neologism for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people, in the form of an open call. For example, the public may be invited to develop a new technology, carry out a design task, refine an algorithm or help capture, systematize or analyze large amounts of data (see also citizen science).


As I understand it, members of Triggerstreet will serve the function of reviewing comics, providing criticism and feedback. There are a few clear benefits to this type of set-up. The most obvious is that it provides the creator a chance to gauge perception before s/he has made a final commitment to pursue a particular creative route. If something doesn't play well, the artist can change it. Additionally, it gives the creator some publicity. At it's heart, this is a promotional tool. If nothing else, it puts the creators name out there for future collaborations.

From a business sense, this kind of site makes a lot of sense for creators. It's very possible, that a commercial success will result from a Triggerstreet winner. From an artistic point of view, though, this kind of thing makes me sick. A true creative endeavor cannot be focus grouped. it has to come from the heart. Names might be made on projects like this, but I think the real innovators will come up through more traditional channels, or create channels of their own. When it comes down to it, the comic industry loves innovators over innovation.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Kevin Spacey Launches Triggerstreet Comics

via Wired article. Kevin Spacey, in partnership with Devil's Due Publishing, is expanding his Triggerstreet talent search site to include Comic Book submissions. I am not quite sure if this is for artists only, or if writers can submit scripts, as well. I plan on creating an account later, to check it out.

I don't know. I am wary of this type of thing. The idea of being "discovered" through something like this rings a little hollow to me. To me, it is like American Idol. Winning American Idol is proof that you can sell yourself and navigate the system, but I don't think that it is proof of talent. I'm not sure, if like American Idol, the work of winners will belong in some way to Triggerstreet, either.

I will suspend judgment until I know more. Ultimately, I am in favor of any medium that brings talent to light and allows artists to interact with one another. However, I would caution applicants to the site to read the fine print. Fame always comes at a price.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Batman: Gotham Knight review



I got a chance to watch the animated companion piece to Dark Knight, Batman: Gotham Knight, last night. (Lots of nights in that sentence, ha). It's an anthology and, as such, it's pretty hit or miss. For an obvious cash in, though, it's pretty good. With executive production by Bruce Timm, Gotham Knight casts Batman in many different lights. Or shadows, as it were, giving Batman different costumes, character designs, and animation styles in each piece. In terms of story, Gotham Knight portrays the little seen aspects of the Batman mythos. These shorts find Batman training in India, testing new equipment, and tripping balls, respectively. Also, a fair bit of focus is given to Batman as he is seen by bystanders, cops, and other villains. Only the last sketch, Deadshot, really gives the viewer an A to B to C story, and I think that it was the weakest of all of them. The animation quality leaves a little to be desired. There are some instances of that classic anime trick of placing a soundtrack against still cels. I would say that this merits a rental, unless you're a die-hard Bat-Fan.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Gary Panter on VBS.TV

VBS.TV has a nice little four part interview with underground comics legend Gary Panter. He discusses his Jimbo work, making the LA Punk scene, and his work on Pee-Wee's Playhouse. He seems like a really nice, cool guy. There is something about seeing an artist in his or her workspace that really makes for a compelling interview.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Enjoy.

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Comic-Con 2008

Wired's coverage of Comic-con is as good as any. At this point, the biggest Comic-Cons are Comic Con's in name only. They are essentially trade shows where the next hot movie franchise is announced and the summer blockbusters are pimped. Foremost, they are commercial, with community taking a distant second.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

On my often obscure taste

I'm often the subject of ridicule by my friends for going out of my way to read/listen/watch things that are off the beaten path. I champion these things with the knowledge that none of my friends will see what I see in the objects of my fetishism.

As near as I can tell, the reason I prefer many of these things to what they like is that the obscure offers a greater potential to personalize the art. The best explanation I can give is this:

Say that any time a book, album, or movie comes out, it has a numerical value. Let's say 100. Anytime someone actively likes something, they get a piece of that number. If twenty people like something, each person likes it by a degree of five. If 2000 people like it, each person likes it by a degree of .05.

The degree constitutes ownership, knowledge, a connection with the art's creator. By my reasoning, a higher number is better. A higher number constitutes a greater stake in the secret club of the Knowing.

I have fun knowing that I went out of my way to find something knew. I have fun staking a claim in unknown territory. I have fun defending and proselytizing.

There are a few downsides to this kind of obscurity-worship. Being the only one around to like something can be very lonely. It can be very frustrating to explain why I think something is great and worth someone's time, especially if others are in no mood for something new. Finally, when I am part of a small fan base, I tend to get lumped in with the snobs and the people who think that their ownership degree gives them license to be cruel and insulting to those that arrive late to the party. "You just don't get it," they say. "You are completely missing the point." Then the fanboy discussions of author interviews and canon ensue.

I am not like that. While I reject the things I don't like, actively and bitterly, I would never deny a person a stake in something I enjoy. As I see it, more interpretations add richness to any art. If the artist did not want his/her art to be consumed and discussed, s/he would not have released it into the wild. Keeping people out, trying to prevent their enjoyment of any kind of artistic endeavor, is the worst thing I could do.

This has been a rambling post, but I feel closer to a coherent viewpoint, having written it.

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American Flagg gets the Uber-Ultra-Mega-Deluxe Treatment



This week, Image Comics and Dynamic Forces team up to release the first volume of Howard Chaykin's classic, American Flagg!. I wish I could say more about this book, but I haven't read it. I am still very confident recommending it. In the last few years I've become a great fan of Chaykin, through his work on DC's iteration of The Shadow, Black Kiss, and Power and Glory. His work exudes the cynicism and vitriol of the best muckrakers, in any medium. I had planned on catching up on American Flagg! through back issues, but decided to wait for this edition, when I heard about it. I'm very excited. Comic Book Resources has a nice interview/article on the book here. Buy it from Amazon, or better yet, walk down the street and buy it from your local comic book store.

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Haiku Review: The Dark Knight



Heroes must maintain
balance of mayhem and calm
in fighting crazies

image by Bill Sienkiewicz, www.billsienkiewiczart.com

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Monday, July 21, 2008

haiku review: an explanation of the premise

I promise not to get (too) high minded in this post. I just wanted to attempt an explanation at what I am trying to do with these haiku reviews that I've been posting, in review of the block busters of this summer.

Upon organizing my comics in these last few weeks, it's occurred to me that I have a lot of stuff. Not just comics, but stuff in general. If I hear about a book, or an album, or anything I think I'd like, I often head over to Amazon or eBay and buy it, without a second thought. These items arrive and I read them, or listen to them, or watch them; whatever the case maybe. After that though, unless these items touch me deeply, I let them fall by the wayside, accumulating dust, forgotten.

When I really thought about this, I felt a little bit of guilt. For one, if I am going to buy something, I should appreciate to its fullest, as I am lucky to have been born in a prosperous country where speech is free, mostly. Further, I am lucky that I can afford such frivolities when there are those who can't. Finally, each item that I buy, consume, and (sometimes) forget is the culmination of someone's effort.

I came to think that it may not be worth writing an entire treatise on the worth of any given piece of art or writing, but it may be of some value to distill the basic impressions made upon me by it.

Haiku, in my limited understanding of it, seems to be an effective vehicle to serve this purpose. So, I will make an attempt to 'tag' the comics I read (because this is a blog about comics) with a haiku, conveying the impressions that the comic leaves upon me.

Granted, not everything I read will touch me deeply. I think that by doing this, though, I will get more out of the comics I read, like a deeper understanding of underlying themes and a greater appreciation for the effort it takes to make them.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sick Pic watch: Israel Cruz


I'm loving this cutesy (kinda Super Deformed, but not) rendition of Batman fighting Punisher from artist Israel Cruz. Check out Israel's other "Deviations" here.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sad-urday Night "Fun"

If, like me, you're a pathetic nerd, then you spend some Saturday nights avoiding social interaction, talking to your cat, and waiting for your roommate to get home from work. Also, you look for clips of cancelled Saturday morning cartoon clips on YouTube.

Stumbled on this: Frank Miller and Geof Darrow's Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot. I'm not sure if this is the whole run, but there seems to be quite a few episodes uploaded. While the cartoon doesn't have the beautifully destroyed cityscapes (sorry, I couldn't find an example online) that Geof Darrow did so well in the comic, it is still pretty entertaining.

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Unknown Soldier preview via Newsarama

Newsarama has a preview of the new Unknown Soldier series from Vertigo, written by Joshua Dysart, with art by Alberto Ponticelli. Read the press release article here. Billed as an "all new interpretation," I assume this iteration of Unknown Soldier will be closer to the Unknown Soldier of the 80's (revisited a few years back by Garth Ennis) than the Unknown Soldier that was originally conceived by Joe Kubert for Star Spangled War Stories. See wikipedia article.

I am quite looking forward to this book, as I thoroughly enjoyed the cynicism and vitriol of Ennis' version of the character. The story, centering on the political strife in Uganda circa 2002, looks like it has a lot of potential.

Here is the 5 page preview.

This preview sets the stage for what could be a very ambitious, engaging story, capable of bringing a number of very important issues to light in an entertaining way. However, I do take some issue with the script. Take a look at page two, panel two, where the translator says "The child, he say he walk to look for jack fruit in the bush. He say he find rebels, but he got away." I can tell the writer was going for a modest, but dignified, type of dialogue, but the incorrect subject verb agreement gives a connotation of ignorance that doesn't do much to authenticate the setting for me. Also, shouldn't the "Doctors!" (in panel one of the same page) be to indicate that another language is being spoken? An oversight like that creates the illusion of an even wider social divide between the Doctor and the people she is helping.

Script issues, or no, I'll be taking a closer look at this series.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bill Muthafuckin' Murray!

As long as I'm posting videos, I thought I'd put this one up. I found it on the Dial B For Blog YouTube Channel. Dial B celebrates the comic book culture of yesteryear.

Anyone that knows me at all, knows that I am a total geek for Bill Murray. The guy just drips cool. I found this video of a Marvel radio show that dramatizes Fantastic Four #4, featuring none other than Bill Murray as the Johnny Storm, the Human Torch. Enjoy!




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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Superhero

Rummaging through the YouTubes today I came across an excellent, albeit exhaustive, documentary on the comic book hero. TONS of industry visionaries sound off on what makes a good hero. It examined DC and Marvel and their differing approaches to superheroes, paying particular attention to the sixties, when a lot of dimension was added to superhero stories.

Interviewed: Quesada, Kaluta, Adams, Evanier, Infantino, Simon, Sienkiewicz, Dini, Buscema, Stan Lee, Jim Lee, Kubert, and more.

Highlights:

  • Neal Adams explaining comics as "an exercise of fantasy".
  • A very intelligent extrapolation of the very obvious notion that superheroes simply don't work as well when taken out of the urban environment ("the prison-like grid"). I had never given this much thought, but when I consider it, it adds a lot of dimension to modern comics
  • Stan Lee to Marvel artists in the 60's: "Stay modern and draw what the kids are wearing."
You can see it here:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10

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Monday, July 14, 2008

D.J. Coffman Will Draw Anything For $2



A few years back, I challenged some of the artists on a Sci-Fi forum that I frequent to draw my two favorite authors in furious combat. They correctly dismissed my idea as silly and I eventually forgot about it.

About a week ago, though, I was browsing the Digital Webbing forums, when I came across a poster advertising a unique service. Apparently, D.J. Coffman, winner of the 2006 Platinum Studios' Comic Book Challenge, is willing to draw anything for $2. Before I thought of what a neat promotional tool this was, I thought of what I would want drawn for two American dollars. The price was low enough that I decided to submit a commission immediately and low enough that I didn't expect much out of it, beside a cool story about how this dude will draw anything for two sawbucks.

After about a week, I received a reply to my request. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of it. Given the relative obscurity of my two subjects, I didn't expect much research beyond a quick Googling on Mr. Coffman's part (the website stipulates that no more than a few minutes will be spent researching the subject). I think that is essentially what I got, but he captured the spirit of my request very well.

While this is no different than what other artists do at comicons everywhere, the low price that Mr. Coffman is charging makes it an enticing proposition. His artwork can be licensed, should the commissioner want to use it in a professional capacity. But, does offering his services at such low prices undermine his credibility as an artist? I don't think so, but I do think that this service is undervaluing what he brings to the table. While it does get his name out there and put money in his pocket, it also shows his willingness to acquiesce to the requests to appeal to the lowest common denominator (me, for example), as the gallery will attest. The inclusion of the concept request on the drawing gives it a quality reminiscent of a "They'll Do It Every Time" strip and, in my opinion, sends it into hacky territory (but just barely!). I am almost certainly reading too much into this.

At the end of the day, I think this is a neat marketing gimick, albeit one that I hope Mr. Coffman won't have to do for long. So, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you: William Burroughs fighting William Gibson!


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Monday, June 30, 2008

RZA Album Cover artist, Gary Alford: Interview



Gary Alford is a UK-based artist, well known for his portraits of the members of the Wu-Tang clan, which he sells at WuPoster.com, in conjunction with German Hip-Hop site Hip-Hop Dojo. Gary came to my attention through his album cover for the new RZA album, Digi-Snacks. I was extremely impressed with the rawness of his artwork and how well it defined the Bobby Digital mythos without any logos or words supporting it (the image is the whole of the album cover). Check it out above. I had a chance to catch up with Gary, recently. We discussed his work with RZA and the rest of the Wu family, his classical sensibilities, and some of his comic book interests. Enjoy.

Ian Thomas: I discovered your work through the cover to the new RZA album, but it seems like you've been at this for a while. Has the RZA cover been a big break for you?

Gary Alford:The RZA album cover has been a big break for me I guess as it is the RZA who I've been aiming to work with for a number of years and this album out of all my previous work will be the one that is most widely seen. I am happy with the way it has been received because I wasn't entirely happy with the cover myself initially. The picture that has been chosen was a relatively quick concept painting to show an intended layout. I spent a greater amount of time on a detailed oil painting which had a lot more depth and more of a story encapsulated within it. But RZA preferred the concept painting and seeing it manifested as the actual cover and that people are enjoying it means that I am happier with it.

IT: Did you set out to do album covers or was it a matter of the opportunity presenting itself?

GA: I had always wanted to album covers because I love artwork and love music and an album cover is the perfect marriage of these two things. I am into a wide range of music and appreciate just how much the album artwork can help or hinder the release. In my more fickle days, I would be completely put off an album or musician by the fact that the artwork was unattractive or became interested in someones music purely because of the artwork.

IT: On the WuPoster site, you mention all the hip hop related stuff that you have been doing lately. What is it about Hip-Hop that drew you in (no pun intended)?

GA: Hip-Hop got me at completely the right time in my life. It was 1994 just before it started becoming too commercial and you would be hard pushed to see an emcee on T.V unless it was on a late night trash program, where you might be lucky enough to catch a two minute feature on Ice-T or Snoop Dogg. I was right at that confusing, beginning-of-teens age and suddenly had no male role models around. Through Hip-Hop, I was able to hear the same kind of frustrations I had, which formed a bond between me and these people from what seemed a very far off place. It was the attraction of very different places and people than I was surrounded by seeming so familiar and kindred with myself that drew me to Hip-Hop. My way of honouring or expressing this was to draw these people. I spent most of my art lessons at school drawing emcees like Killah Priest, RZA and Xzibit and most of my time out of art lessons scrawling the Wu-Tang symbol on pretty much anything I could. When I was 18 I drew a samurai comic called The Twelve Jewelz which combined my love of Akira Kurasawa films and the Wu-Tang Clan.

IT: Stylistically, do you find that it's a challenge to distinguish yourself from all the other graphic artists in the hip hop game, given the recurring themes in Hip-Hop imagery/lyrics/etc.?

GA:It is a challenge to separate my artwork from other graphic artists who work in Hip-Hop, yes. This is because, as you rightly say, of the recurring themes and imagery but also because of what the fans want to see. Most of he time the fans would want to see an image of the emcee or
emcees and the emcees would like to be portrayed surrounding by the traditional themes carried through hip-hop i.e inner city or the images of power like the girls and the money. What I do is provide these themes but in a traditional method of painting or drawing rather than in the all too
common photo-shopped images. With the Digi Snacks album I tried to take the ideas I was given by RZA and put a different, more original twist on them, so I made it all look more gothic. The girls were still attractive, but looked like something from an H.R Giger painting; pale with tubes of twisted metal coming from their backs and breathing masks linked to Bobby Digital's biomechanical chair. None of the characters had pupils. Alas, RZA preferred the more traditional approach which in fairness fits this Bobby Digital character perfectly, he's all about the super hero b-boy surrounded by sexy women. If it was a RZA album then it would be a different scenario altogether, I doubt there would be any women on the cover.

IT: Have you had a lot of feedback from the Wu artists you depict for the posters?

GA: The work I did for wuposter.com focuses mainly on the core members of Wu-Tang and the first time I got to show them was in July 2007, after a London show. I was at the bar with Method Man as he flipped through a thick booklet of my Wu-Tang artwork and he really liked it. Method Man is a fan of artwork and has a huge comic book collection. These guys don't
throw around compliments lightly. Method Man called Raekwon over and showed him a drawing I had done of him in profile with his hand to his mouth with a ring on one of his fingers. As an artist you are not always happy with your work as you always see what you did wrong or could have done better but I like this drawing. Rae gave the drawing a quick glance and said 'I lost that ring.' And that was that ! Some you win. Generally, though it's a case of if they haven't said much about it it's a good thing, it's a sign of approval. It's the wider Wu family that I get the most feedback from, like 9th Princes pople, Kinetic, William Cooper, Prodigal Sunn, Timbo King, Dreddy Kruger, Bronze Nazareth etc. because we work closely together as they have exact ideas of what they want done, they'll be over the moon when you've got it right but won't hesitate to
ask you to re-do something if you have it wrong in the slightest way and I like that, that's a good working relationship that makes sure you have the best possible outcome between two minds.

IT: How/When did you hook up with RZA?

GA: My work with RZA has it's foundation in 2004 after a Wu-Tang show in London. I took a couple of small examples of artwork I did of the guys and handed them to Inspectah Deck's then manager, Banger, at the bull run between the stage and a rather hectic crowd. Banger got me backstage to meet the guys and RZA had my artwork on him which was incredible for me to
know. We spoke briefly, I was a little dumbstruck by meeting my idol and he said we would work together. After that, I worked closely with Banger and Deck on a short comic and a range of other artwork, which unfortunately didn't really materialize in any commercial way, except for some of it being used on Deck's website and on t-shirts which was good exposure. I then worked for a period of time on Masta Killa's 'Made In Brooklyn' album with Nature Sounds records, but my artwork was replaced at almost the last minute by the work of another artist that Masta Killa knew. Then, over the next few years, I worked with and discussed projects with other Wu family artists, one of them being Killarmy's Kinetic/Beretta 9, who is RZA's man at arms. That trail went dead and then I approached Hip-Hop Dojo in Germany about selling original Wu-Tang posters as they hadn't any on their online shop and Wuposter.com was born in summer 2007. I met RZA again briefly in July 2007, but all the books of artwork I took with me with which I had
intended to give RZA, had disappeared. I knew Meth had one and a slightly inebriated GZA had lost one, so my plans for that night had failed. In late 2007, I worked on the 'Prince Of New York' album for 9th Prince, who is RZA's younger brother. Then, out of the blue in February of 2008, I
received an email from Kinetic saying that RZA wanted me to start work on the forthcoming Bobby Digital album.

It was great working with RZA because this is what I had been aiming for, this was the guy that had inspired me for years with his work ethic and life story of pushing your creativity to try and find a way in to a better life. 'Persistence overcomes resistance' is one his sayings which I always
fall back on when things aren't going well. RZA had a very set mind [for] what he wanted from the cover and there was a hell of a lot of other work that went on for the album during the mid February to May period like the numerous album covers, comic, stage banners, tour bus wrap, character designs, etc. It was a very tight schedule for such a volume of work. During this time I spoke to RZA in LA a couple of times on the phone and met him and Kinetic in London in April where we made sure we both knew each others' minds on the artwork. It was a privilege to speak with RZA in a working and creative capacity.

IT: It's a pretty rare thing to let front album cover artwork stand on its own, without a logo or anything, but that's exactly how your work appears on the new RZA album.How much artistic direction did you get with the RZA cover? How much input did you have in its conception? Was it part of the plan from the beginning to have a censored and uncensored version?

GA: I was surprised and very happy to see that this is how the cover turned out. I can't think of another cover where it has just been artwork and no logo or name unless the CD is accompanied with a cardboard slip case displaying the band/artist information.

With the cover the basics were there in my mind and confirmed by RZA: Bobby on a throne surrounded by girls. I added all the other bits like the Twelve Jewels embedded in the throne, the gong silhouette as a background and Bobby's cybernetic hand and leg. I added weapons and assassin style veils to the girls as we were working under a different title for the album which was more war based. The decision to name the album Digi Snacks came from RZA quite late. I had drawn and painted a few different covers for RZA to choose from and this was his decision. I think he preferred the emerald throne as opposed to others that I had done with a metal or wooden appearance.

I was also surprised to see that the whole CD artwork package (i.e the back cover, inlay tray, full liner notes and even the CD itself) were my artwork. One of the very few and very definite guides that were mediated to me from RZA through Kinetic at the start of creating the album art was that there would be a censored and uncensored cover. The idea was that the cover with
the topless assassins would be for the dirty language version of the album and the nipple-less version for a clean version.

IT: I was really digging the liner notes comic. Are there really plans to continue it, as the liner notes indicate?

GA: Thank you. With the comic, I had completely free reign. All that was discussed with RZA on the phone was that it should have Bobby fighting crime, with knowledge of the character I already had in mind. There is an intention to carry on the comic and story of Bobby Digital. RZA has created a whole concept of the story of Bobby, of which the fans only know a very small amount, so far. There is a history of the character that has yet to be told, which RZA touches on with the story being read by the child on the intro to the album. There are a number of characters from Bobby's world to be explored, one of which, The Raven, I made sure to introduce in the liner comic. The ideas RZA has for Bobby means that this character is going to run and run, not only in albums but comics and film.

IT: You seem to feel equally comfortable laying out comic book pages and doing more design heavy poster art. Which of these is more fun for you? Which do you tend to pursue more, professionally?

GA: I enjoy both and I like having the option of both. I may have my teeth into a comic book storyline and then want a break to do more free standing, singular pieces of artwork and then straight back into the comic. I like the work ethic and regimen involved in a comic in which you
are following a narrative. And then I [also] like creating a one off painting, in which maybe a narrative isn't so clear and is done for the love of painting. If people want to create a story of their own from a painting, then so be it. It doesn't matter if it wasn't my intended story. The
beauty of art is that someone can take their own personal angle and make it theirs. In this vein, I would say that my intention is pursue more of a painting on canvas career.

IT: Who are your artistic influences?

GA: My artistic influences come from more traditional artists like Caravaggio and the beautifully realistic paintings of Norman Rockwell. I also like the almost impressionistic paintings of Amadeo Modigliani, who did very simple portraits of mainly women, but within their simple lines and flat colour there was a definite description of the grim life of the artist plagued with illness and poverty. I really admire the technical and architectural paintings of Canaletto and am inspired and in awe of the incredible attention to detail and perspective evident in the work of architect and etcher Piranesi. I also really like the morbid 16th century landcapes and town life observations of Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel.

IT: Are you into comics? If so, which ones?

GA: I can't claim to be any kind of authority on comics, I have a number of comics but they are rarely of full series. I generally buy the odd one here or there if my attention is caught by the cover. I had comics when I was a kid and was fascinated by Spider-man and Batman. I liked the sense of determination through struggle and bereavement that a lot of the comics had, like the way Batman and Spider-man carried a terrible pain around with them and turned it's potentially destructive nature into good. It wasn't until my early twenties, when I bought a cheap stack of Spawn graphic novels from a stall, that I really got into a comic book story. The period of Spawn I bought was when Greg Capullo was illustrating and I liked his style because he used heavy hatching lines to great effect, which I was always spurned for using at art college. The Spawn story lost impact for me after a while when some of the more interesting aspects were lost and
the stories rolled around a bit repetitively.
I have a stack of 2000 A.D comics dating from around 1993 to '95 that were given to me. From this pile I discovered the work of Dermot Power who Illustrated a beautiful Judge Dredd story based in Egypt called Book of the Dead amongst many other things. Each frame could hold it's weight as a painting on it's own, the attention to detail and understanding of shade and shadow in what is a tight deadline industry is inspirational. I like 2000 A.D for the very reason that the artwork was very different from what could be quite ugly, simple line and colour work of Marvel and D.C comics. While most comics had great covers, the inside artwork couldn't match up,
but, with work like Dermot's, the artwork was just as incredible throughout, as on the cover.

IT: What's next for you? If you had unlimited
resources what kind of projects would you pursue?

GA: After RZA has done his thing as Bobby, promoting Digi Snacks, we will hopefully work together on future Bobby Digital projects like the comic, a film, and a computer game.

IT: What are your upcoming projects?

GA: I have some more album artwork projects lined up, one being American Poets 2099, which includes Holocaust/Warcloud of the Black Knights, as well as the next Black Knights album cover. I am working on projects with Aslan the Black Magician, who's part of the Wu-Tang Maccabee family and runs Twelve Jewelz productions. One of these projects is an album by Aslan and Killah Priest. I have commissions here and there including one for Killa Sin.

IT: If you had unlimited resources what kind of projects would you pursue?

GA: Mainly, I want to put more focus into my own projects and paintings to build more of a reputation as an artsist here in London. I would like to get a relationship with a gallery up and running where I can spend time doing paintings to sell. I did a book a couple of years back called The Book Of Dead Children , which I would really like to get published. [It would be] expensive to do, so unlimited funds would definitely make that happen, as well as giving me the foundation to be able to do my artwork full time. My goal is to be able to spend my days creating my artwork. I don't have to make a fortune out of it, just be able to build a life that I can be happy to look back on one day and be satisfied that I spent it creating.

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

My Friend Colin


My friend Colin, whom I met on a discussion board, is making his first steps into comics. It's been very cool watching him improve on his blog.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The NYOIL interview



Like the masked crusader in his "Cap'n Save A Hoe" video, roaming the city in search of misguided females, NYOil is a man on a mission. His mission is to save the Hip-Hop culture, the culture he loves, from the forces of blind materialism and, more importantly, mediocrity. Like many superheroes, his true identity is not known for certain. From behind his ever-present shades, he is free to rail against that establishments that would seek to retaliate, should they become aware of his real name. It seems fitting that such a personality would have some history with comic books. I recently had a chance to speak with NYOil about huge crossover story arcs, his animated videos, and his upcoming album. Hope you enjoy it.

IT: First and foremost, do you consider yourself a comic book fan?
NYOil: Of course. I love comic books. In my later years I had to fall back because I had some serious differences with Marvel Comics, which was my main company. I felt that they must have decided to go corporate cause they started sacrificing a lot of ethic to make money. I watched comics go from 25 cents to $1.00 in like 2 years and that was outrageous. Then, they had this thing they would do with putting up like a John Byrne Cover and having friggin' [Different Artist's Name-it] art in the book. . . But it got worse when they started the Secret Wars saga. That’s when they figured out they could sell a rack of books that were doing shitty if they somehow spread the story across a rack of titles. I hated that cheap marketing ploy. There was a time you could buy a comic book and it had an ongoing story and some back story, preludes and prologues, allusions to the next issue and events to come, but you STILL HAD A COMPLETE STORY THAT MONTH. Now, you gotta flip through about 29 different titles just to see a fight with some half rate villain. People keep dying and coming back. It just got lazy and corporate. But in all honesty, it was the fact that they started charging so much for a book full of advertisements and shitty art that turned me off. I’ve been thinking about collecting just graphic novels.

IT: Do you have any favorite characters or creators?
NYOil: Captain America. I love Captain America because, when i first was introduced to him, he was simple. No bells and whistles just a man who trained himself to the peak of human perfection, granted he had the super soldier serum, but I just looked at him as someone I could be. I damn sure couldn't shoot Optic Blast from my eyes, turn into Organic Steel, or turn my body into various levels of the light spectrum, but i could pick up a garbage can lid and run around like Cap. I even began training myself to become a real world hero. I always wanted to be a hero and to some extent I am living out that dream with my music and persona as NYOIL. You'll notice the emphasis is on keeping my identity secret and not even showing my face much. [Favorite artists include] John Byrne, Arthur Adams.

IT: Do you have an interest in any of the other "Dork Arts", like anime, sci-fi, or video games?
NYOil: I love Wind Ninja Chronicles, or Ninja Scrolls by some accounts. I loved Fist of the North Star, and a rack of shit that came out years ago when my brother worked at J&R music world back when they were the only place you could rent video tapes from in NEW YORK CITY. That’s around the time I first saw Fritz the Cat, which was crazy. I watched some of it the other day and tripped at how trippy that shit is and wondered how I “got” it back when I was like 12 (the movie was old when I was young).

IT: Your videos seem to be getting a lot of play on YouTube. Were you surprised at the controversy that surrounded the initial video for "Y'All Should All Get Lynched"?
NYOil: Well, YSAGL was, in the original form, the video I put together while teaching myself to use Microsoft movie maker. . . I knew the song was making noise at the time (2006) , so a video would make it tip. So, when I did it, it blew up (at that time 6000 views in 48 hrs was a big deal). As for the video being pulled, i was outraged at first, but i thought to myself: they just made me a martyr. And the fact is they did. It made it legendary, made it a story, and made people curious to see what was going on.

IT: You also have an animated video for "Y'all Should All Get Lynched", as well as an animated video for"Cap'n Save a Hoe". Can you describe the process of getting videos like these made?
NYOil: The animated video [For YSAGL] took a long time. It was produced by Titmouse studios and directed by Tyree Dillihay. They started on it like Feb of 2007 and didn’t send me the completed version till like Jan 2008. Honestly, it was so out of my hands that I couldn’t tell you much about it. As for "Cap’n Save A Hoe!", that was a fun video I made with Drayonis of thedogyears. com. He’s an exciting artist from Texas that’s putting in great work. We met on a mutual site we both frequent. He reached out to me and said he’d like to do “Something”. We were going to put together a Flash Animated series and post it on the Source. com, but it was a larger task than we could accomplish with no budget. So I was working on the 9wonders digital EP and figured this song was a hot one and decided to do a video to that. After he sent me the flash files, I re-edited the piece on Sony Vegas to make it suit me a l'il more and there you have it.

IT: You mentioned before that you attended the world famous High School of Art and Design in New York. Has the time you spent there influenced what you're doing now, either musically, or from the perspective of the visuals that you include in your promotional materials?
NYOil: I learned that I wasn’t a true graphic artist. And I damn sure wasn’t a penciler. I was a fan and I had to accept that. Now I can draw much better than the average person, but I draw good enough and know art good enough to know I’m subpar. Funny thing is what I did discover there was eMCee’ing. I met Kwame’ the rapper (with the Polka Dots) and he was like the illest dude at that time and he and I would rhyme. I was good with the freestyle but I hadn’t written anything at that point. But we were rhyming one day and I decided to go home and write my first rhyme. And the man some day to be known as NYOIL was born.

IT: Comic Books and Hip Hop are both very powerful, albeit underestimated, forms of media. At their best, I find them to be galvanizing and inspirational, but they are also highly commodified and its difficult in both forms to be heard/seen among the garbage and bullshit. In hip-hop, how do you keep yourself from being associated with the negative stereotypes? Do you think there is any hope for small scale artists, be they comic book creators, rappers, or anything else, to truly prosper without first being "legitimized" by corporate backers?
NYOil: I think it is about creating a market and creating an acceptable success gauge for oneself. For me, it’s being able to support my family and be comfortable in this economy. . . and be at peace. If I can do that, then I won’t need to fear the “sell out syndrome” because I can continue to do what I want for the right reasons. But when you want to be the ruler of the world and be the biggest star there ever was, then you find yourself willing to compromise a lot to get there. Do what you do because you love it. Find a way to live off it and you will be a huge success.

IT: There is a little less than a month until the official release of your album. Do you have any touring planned for it?
NYOil: They are working on it now. GOD WILLING cause I’d like to take this show on the road and touch the people and talk to them face to face. The net is cool, but I am a people person and I want to be amongst the people. Hip hop is too corporate. It’s lost touch with it’s base, as I believe much of the comic and sci fi world has. We need to find a way to touch the people again and the people need to reclaim their power and right in these genres. My name is NYOIL and I approve this message!!

NYOil's album, Hood Treason (Deluxe 2 CD Edition), will be available

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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Haiku Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull














As sad as it seems
Childhood cannot be regained
Though it's fun to try

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Friday, June 6, 2008

new NYOil music video. Remember music videos??



Before I received a promo email from Babygrande records, earlier this week, I'd never heard of rapper NYOil. Apparently, he made a video that got banned from YouTube, in support of his single "Y'All Should All Get Lynched" (I couldn't find it, so put it up in comments if you know where it is). I haven't seen this video, but if it was more incendiary than the video featured above, it must have been pretty wild. I'm posting it because it's one of the most visually stimulating and expressive music videos I've seen in a long long time. According to NYOil, it was directed by Tyree Dillihay of Titmouse Studios, who many of you will know from Afro Samurai and Metalocalpyse, and produced by BET. The song itself is fucking awesome. If nothing else, it's a conversation starter. His album, Hood Treason, comes out July 8th.

P.S. Thanks to NYOil for his quick response to my request for info!

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Monday, May 5, 2008

Haiku Review: Iron Man The Movie

Rob Downey Junior
Flawed Alcoholic Jackass
Perfect Iron Man

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Muttpop Vinyl






When I started reading Juxtapoz, I began to follow the Vinyl Art Toy scene. Artists create their own toy molds, release them in limited runs, and charge exorbitant prices for them. It gets meta when the artists get their artist friends to produce alternate "colorways", variations on the decoration scheme of the mold.




The reason that I've become interested in Vinyl Toys is because I don't understand them. I don't completely understand how they are made. I'm still getting my head around how people can spend hundreds of dollars on them.They are slick looking characters, like those found in comics. Unlike comics, though, they don't serve any type of purpose, but to look good. They rarely have any type of backstory beyond a small blurb that the artist uses as a jumping on point to create the piece.




The toys I am most interested are the Lucha Libre figures from MuttPop. They have a little bit of a back story, but mostly they just look awesome. Thanks to the Internet, you can enjoy them without dropping your hard earned cheddar. Via Vinyl Pulse, here is a great flickr set from the recent MuttPop show at Delkographik in France.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pittsburgh Comicon 2008




Just returned from Pittsburgh Comicon 2008 with a pretty decent haul. I sticked to the $1 comics and half price trade paperbacks. Here's what I got (and why).


DC Bizarro anthology: DC Characters through the eyes of indie darlings like Evan Dorkin, Chip Kidd, and Tony Millionaire. Sweet cover by Matt Groening, too. It was only ten bucks.


Dirty Pair: Run From The Future: Adam Warren draws chaos better than just about anyone. Eight bucks.


Power and Glory by Howard Chaykin. Not sure what it's about but I got all four parts for a buck a piece. It's Howard Chaykin, so that's a steal.


Shanna The She Devil-Page after page of Frank Cho cheesecake. Very pulpy.


Kick-Ass #1 and #2-This is one of those new titles that keeps me hopeful about the comic book medium. A real life superhero that fails and fails, but keeps coming back for another beating. I've loved John Romita Jr's art since the Hearts of Darkness thing he did years ago. Mark Millar (Marvel's Civil War) does a good job at script, though the dialogue is awkward at times. I recommend this title highly, anyway.


Transformer's Spotlight: Hot Rod: He's my favorite transformer and this was a dollar.


Comicons are great.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Marvel Invades your wallet once again

So I guess Marvel's Secret Invasion is underway. For those of you that don't care enough to click the link (I don't blame you), this is Marvel's latest excuse for you to buy any and everything so you can stay up to speed on canon. Apparently, some Skrulls have been posing as well known Marvel characters for a long time. Yeah. When you tell your friends that comics aren't silly and over the top kids stuff, make sure to leave this one out of your argument.

Anyway, Erik Larsen, creator of Savage Dragon and the best artist to ever draw Spider-Man (and female breasts!) talks about how he wanted to reveal Elektra as a Skrull years ago, mainly as a fuck-you to Marvel for bringing Frank Miller's beloved character back from the grave. It's here.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

5 Reasons Why The Comic Book Industry Deserves To Live

If you read this blog, you know that I think there are quite a few things wrong with the comic book industry. I say it with love, though, because I hold comics in such a high regard. I don't like to see the industry represented in a bad light and I, among many people, see the potential for something greater. I've been knee deep in these funny books since I was in second grade. Here are five reasons why the comic book industry deserves to live.

1. Comics are the modern myths. They've moved me to tears and laughter. They've helped me through the worst of times. They've been a muse to my favorite entertainers. Their iconography shapes our popular culture. If you're reading this, chances are they've had a lasting effect on you. If they haven't moved you similarly, believe me when I tell you that they could. There are a lot of things to love about today's comic book industry. Here are some reasons why the comic book industry deserves to live.

2.The Internet (duh.)

It has never been easier to find comics that suit your taste. And once you find them, chances are it's also pretty easy to get in touch with their creators and tell them how much you enjoyed their work. And if you can't find them, you can hook up with other creators and make them.

While many of the main sources of comic book industry news are not making use of the technology available to them as a result of Web 2.0, there are still plenty of industry giants that are. That has a powerful and far reaching effect, because it results in comic books being mainstreamed as another viable source of entertainment. Through sheer access, the Internet is smashing down the walls behind which the industry has barricaded itself over the years, by marketing only to its loyal fanbase.

3.Omnibus Editions

Even if you hate what today's comic book industry has to offer, there are glory days to be relived! Through series' like Marvel Essentials, you can do just that. These collections are essentially (ha!) the foundation of Marvel canon, reprinted on low quality paper in large chunks of about 25-30 issues each. The result is very reasonably priced, bare-bones editions of fan favorites. They look pretty good on the shelf, too. DC has something similar going, but I can't speak to those, as I haven't purchased any, yet.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, omnibus collections can give you a garish, "as it was meant to be" experience that allows the work to be showcased in a better light than it had when first published. Case in point, the Jack Kirby Fourth World Omnibus Collection. This type of collection gives the reader, typically, I'd imagine, one that holds the collected material in high regard, something more substantial and weighty on which to hang his/her admiration. An added benefit of these collections is that, through the inclusion of additional materials, their effects on culture can be examined and historical context can be given to the collected material.

4. More With Less

Comic books tell a huge variety of stories with a minimum of resources. At their best, comics can be as epic as the grandest movies, or as introspective as the most brooding character studies. As a visual medium in an increasingly visual world, comics can deliver everything that movies and television can, on a more cost effective scale. They can be used to tell visual stories that would be deemed too weird for television airwaves, or the big screen. When they do hit, comics serve as a dry run for bigger things.

5. Walt Simonson

Walt Simonson is fucking awesome. When he draws, he makes use of blank space and that makes his art just jump off the page. Words can't describe it.

Photobucket

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Monday, February 25, 2008

5 Reasons the Comic Book Industry Deserves to Die

1. Giant, Plodding Crossovers-
Crossovers accomplish two things for comic book companies. First, they instill a sense of the epic. Having a story that is too big to be told within the framework of a single title gives the reader a sense of the vastness of the universe that houses their favorite characters. It shows readers that the actions of their favorite characters have far reaching consequences; that what their heroes do (or don't do) really matters. Conversely, when a character has his/her own book and is forced to deal with the actions of other characters in other comics, it has a tendency to water down characterization. Not only does it become an issue of too much going on at once, but it turns our heroes into reactionaries. I read comics for the myth. A young boy, after witnessing his parents' violent murder, takes on the mantle of a bat and metes revenge on the world of crime. Holy shit. That is something I can really get behind. But I have to read about why Batgirl and Green Arrow are bickering, instead.

Second, crossovers are a tried and true way to boost sales. They instill the sense of vastness that the canon-obsessed superfans demand. It is here, though, that the big companies are missing the forest for the trees. By occupying the well known, iconic titles with canon heavy crossover stories, the big publishers are insuring that new readers that pick up the book have no clue what the fuck is going on. I know they summarize what has gone before, but fuck summaries. Comics are, by their nature, a medium that was meant to be immediately immersive. They are basically building barriers that keep casual readers out. In order to foster growth, for every large scale epic, there should be at least two jumping on points to get new readership involved. Which, at least partially, brings me to point #2.

2. Lack of Commitment to New Ideas
I can't tell you the number of times I have passed on buying something new that looked really cool because I didn't have faith in the publisher to see it through to completion. It is understandable that such a fledgling industry must be selective in allocating valuable resources, but I can't abide leaving stories, once begun, unfinished. Publishers are not always to blame either. I think this problem is just as attributable to fickle creators.

3. Fickle Creators
Your favorite artist or writer is going to draw or write your favorite character for your favorite book! This is going to take things in a whole new direction and completely change the character! Awesome! Then once you settle in and really start to trust in where s/he is taking things, s/he will get a better deal to go do something else! Coo--wait, what? Sadly, I think that legendary runs are a thing of the past.

4. The Speculator Boom
Nothing really defines the ugliness that the comic book industry is capable of quite like the Speculator Boom years (1985-1993). In this period, originality was large scrapped in favor of gimmicks like sealed polybags, multiple covers, and the supposed deaths of iconic characters that publishers guaranteed as great investments. To meet high demand for these books, publishers printed them in record numbers. With so many copies in circulation, the effect was the opposite. The bottom fell out of the industry, tons of stores had to close, and Marvel even had to declare bankruptcy. In short, the industry got greedy and the fans allowed themselves to be suckered. Everyone ended up looking kind of dick.

5. Sleepwalker
Man, Sleepwalker sucked. Look at him. He looked like a fetus.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

There is a nice Charles Burns interview at viceland.com

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