Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Business Card

This is a business card that I designed for my friend Charles Drennen. If you need a good lawyer and you live in Chicago, I you should give him a call. He has a soft southern voice, so it's sort of like Andy Griffith is helping you with your DUI.

If you are interested in a business card for yourself, let me know. It's cheap!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

My Dark Secret Part 1

I have a dark confession. I often find comics difficult to read. Depending on how they are drawn, written and lettered they can be confusing or mind numbing. Many comics are so dominated by text that the images become decorative. Some are so image-centric that you have to re-wire your brain just to read them. In the last two years I've probably only read about a dozen comics that pulled me in and held me tight. Here are the ones I can remember off of the top of my head:

1)P.S. Comics by Minty Lewis
2)Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
3)David Boring by Dan Clowes
4)All Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly
5)Nancy and Sluggo Summer Camp Special by John Stanley
6)The Seeing Eye Dogs of Mars by F.C. Ware
7)Dogs and Water by Anders Nilson
8)I Killed Adolf Hitler, The Last Musketeer and Werewolves of Montpellier by Jason
9)Terminator: Secondary Objectives by James Robinson, Paul Gulacy and Karl Kesel
10)The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier
11) Batman Legends of the Dark Knight: Prey by Doug Moulch and Paul Gulacy
12)A few dog-eared Disney Comics and Stories by Carl Barks
13)I Want You by Lisa Hanawalt
14)Several minis by Joseph Lambert

I'm sure that after I post this I will remember some I have forgotten. This isn't to say that these are the only good comics that I have read lately, but these are the only ones that took me out of myself for a few minutes or hours. There are a lot of comics that I love to look at, that use the page brilliantly, that are technically excellent; but that doesn't mean that I can actually read them. I have dozens of books on my shelves that I plan to read. Maybe I will get better at reading comics, or maybe they get better at telling me a story after the first few pages, or maybe someday we will meet each other half way... but for now they might as well be written in a foreign language.

I think that often comic book readers confuse excellence and readability. Take The Dark Knight Returns for example. TDKR is readable. Every page is a perfect juxtaposition of text and image. Neither ever stands on its own. The drawings, taken without the text, are basic, clunky, having neither Frank Millers bold clarity nor Klaus Janson's immersive atmospherics. The images are almost like the images in a play-- you need the context of the story to fill in the gaps, to tell you where you are. Which, in the case of that particular comic, is a good thing. When Bruce Wayne is sitting in a chair with the silhouette of a window behind him, we don't know when or where we are--we don't even know who the man sitting in the chair is unless we read the text. But the text doesn't give us nearly enough to ignore the image. That co-dependence makes for good reading. It insures that you don't skip to the next panel without drawing all of the information out of the one you are reading. It is, in short, good cartooning. But that doesn't make The Dark Knight Returns a good story. It is disjointed, it follows almost no linear plot. You need to care about the concept of Batman and Robin in order to care about the comic. If you don't you're lost from the beginning. Or at least confused. Who cares if someone named Harvey Dent had reconstructive surgery if you don't know who he was? (That, by the way, is a plot line that goes nowhere.) So if it isn't a solid story, why do non-comics publications inevitably put The Dark Knight Returns near the top of their "best graphic novels ever published" lists? Because, even if the reader can't understand it, at least they can read it. And you can't say that about most comics.

I look for readability in comics more than anything else. I think that is why I have been draw to the classic comic reprints. Seth just can't match Carl Barks when it comes to pure storytelling, or maybe he can (I did get caught up in Wimbledon Greene) but he just doesn't want to entertain anyone. I hope that is not the case. It would be a selfish use of his great artistic talent. But I digress... This is all meant as an introduction to one of the best, most well drawn, well written, and page-for-page engaging comics being published today. BEHOLD!

Here are cartoonists and writers using comics to do what they do best--making people laugh. This comic is quite a bit different than the TV show. It is less self aware, it doesn't feature story-stopping celebrity cameos, and the stories are mercifully short. I should note that I am not a huge Simpsons fan, but I am a huge Simpson's Comics fan. Let me explain how this came to be...

Two summers ago, I became addicted to buying cheap comics on Ebay. The focus of my obsession become old Dell comics (Tarzan, Disney Comics and Stories, Little Lulu, Nancy). I would often read these sixty year old comics and laugh so hard that I hurt myself.

As the summer went on, I started to wonder where all the humor comics went. I'm not talking Johnny Ryan and Corinne Mucha. I mean real old-fashioned situation comedy humor. Fictional characters that I care about endangering themselves, physically, socially and emotionally for my entertainment. Short stories filled with physical and verbal humor. It is such a basic idea that I was genuinely shocked that I couldn't think a single comic that fit that description. Early issues of Eightball came close, but that isn't being published anymore. The backup stories in Sammy Harkham's Crickets made me laugh but it also isn't being published anymore.

I was at my comic shop having given up all hope when I saw a shelf of kids comics. I was drawn in by the obvious similarity between the covers of Simpsons Comics and old Dell comics. Compare...

Note the simplicity of both images. Neither of them are interested in catching your eye... they assume you're already looking (respect for the viewer), and they want to tell you a simple story in one image. It is a lot harder than you would think. I began to read...