Friday, November 30, 2012

Slow Down, Take a Deep Breath and Calm Down About Giles Coren's Article About Comics in The Spectator

I just read this article by Giles Coren for the Spectator. It's caused a lot of people to freak out who need to calm down. I will concede that I might be giving him too much credit, and I don't think it's the greatest article, but it's an intriguing, if poorly targeted (and pompous) attempt at a jab at the comics establishment on both ends of the spectrum. This was my response:

Slow down, take a deep breath and look at this article with less of a chip on your shoulder.
I'm pretty certain this is satire, a jab at the pompousness of literary prizes in general, a jab at the way comics have been accepted over the years by critics, and how literary critics generally tend not to be very savvy about the medium. One jab at this is how he presents Maus, how Maus was singularly heralded as literature by critics in the 80s when comparable if not better works were being produced at the same time.
He points out the handful of comics that are essentially mainstream genre comics mentioned by the mainstream press as "worthy," intended to demonstrate their larger ignorance of the medium as touted by the insiders who tend to be critical of the whole "graphic novel" phenomenon, and the US centric nature of this group, who tend to focus primarily on American comics.
Then he takes a jab at the pretensions of this small press critical establishment in the US, the rejection of the term "graphic novel" by many of them--myself included--as a desperate and unnecessary grab at legitimacy, a way to present the medium to the mainstream as not comics, which, it basically is, something all of us who are into comics have had to embrace whether reluctantly or otherwise since it's here to stay.
He further takes a jab at comics as it is often mistaken for a "genre" and by the context, clearly understands the difference, even though it might sound like he doesn't.
The absurd pronunciation of the word "comics" as "karmcbwerks" is a bit mean spirited, a jab at the New York comics critical establishment that lionizes Spiegelman, something it sounds like the author resents. It's an exaggerated satirical take on the prejudice, very much on the borderline of the real thing, but I don't believe its intended as such.
His references to the history of comics as touted as a legitimate medium from their inception is also a crack at this group, and the whole I dressed as Superman and read nothing but comics as a kid thing is a satire on the sometimes over vehement expressions of enthusiasm for the medium and insiderness of this same group.
Basically it's a series of very inside jokes that someone only with a very very intimate knowledge of comics would get, but I can see how someone who was just as familiar with comics might immediately misunderstand and react negatively. Essentially I think the guy has missed his audience by a broad margin here. It's something you might see in a English comics fanzine and it's very odd to see it in the Spectator. But believe it or not, he's not actually a prick, he just sounds like one, though this too is an arguable point.
The whole thing seems to be written out of anger and with a complete lack of regard for how it will inevitably be received, which to me demonstrates a certain, precious embrace of the author's own feeling of outsiderness, the infantile romance of being misunderstood, or maybe just an impressive bout of trolling.
So unless you believe these prizes are sacred, and that the whole screwed up history of the way mainstream academics have attempted to contextualize the whole mess out of half ignorance and the one-sided battle between mainstream critics and the small press comics critical establishment in the US (a conflict that academia also largely remains ignorant of), then I wouldn't waste your time defending comics, but criticizing these opinions as presented, in an elaborate tongue and cheek way by the author.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sturgeon in Drybrush

A sturgeon drybrush painting for my wife's birthday. Selenium toxicity in sturgeons were the subject of my wife's PHD thesis. It's a really ancient fish, practically a dinosaur, and they can get really huge.  It's both one of the homliest and most difficult animals I've ever drawn, but homely in a kind of fascinating way.

 The hardest thing to draw were those ridges on its side. I just couldn't get them to look right. This was my fifth attempt, and that's a conservative estimate. They're done rather quickly, but to maintain the freshness of the piece, it's better to start new again rather than work it to death. I wanted it to be a scientifically accurate as I could make it, but I'm sure it's still a little off.

Next time I'm drawing our dog. Dogs I can handle. 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A Belated Birthday Celebration of the Great Steve Ditko!

Unfortunately some kind of political thing on TV overshadowed what would have otherwise been a significant milestone, November 2nd, the 85th birthday of Steve Ditko!

But you would probably know him (if you know him at all) better for stuff like this: 

Steve Ditko could draw. Before I go on let me post a few more Spider-Man pages just so you can drink them in:

I think there's a difference between good drawing and good draftsmanship, and the best draftsman aren't always the best artists. I consider draftsmanship an ability to record two-dimensionally that which you observe in the traditional European manner. If this were my standard for great art, it would rule out some of the most talented artists in the world, and some of our great cartoonists like Ditko.

Great cartooning, to me, is first and foremost about storytelling, and a good cartoonist has such a recognizable vocabulary of lines and symbols that it becomes their own unique alphabet. This is the kind of cartoonist Ditko was--every drawing unmistakably and immediately recognizable not only as Ditko, but evocative of his unique perspective. The dynamism of his figures, the wonderful feeling of movement, his incredibly inventive sense of pacing and storytelling, this is what makes a great cartoonist. Not simply an ability to draw accurate human anatomy.

 Frazetta and Wally Wood were some of the most amazing draftsman in American comics, but their sequential storytelling ability, while admirable, doesn't come close to Ditko's. The first thing you see when you look at a Frazetta comics page is the beautiful draftsmanship. The first thing you see when you look at Ditko is a story that makes you want to turn the page.

Ditko at the height of his Mr. A, Objectivism period.

 First an foremost when you looked at a Ditko cover you wanted to know what was going on inside those pages, and unlike many great comics covers, the interiors did not disappoint. When I saw a Ditko comic, there was never any shortage of pay-off, especially in one of his greatest creations, Doctor Strange. Ditko could transport you to another world with the simplest but most idiosyncratic drawings I've ever seen.

When I hear people argue that Ditko wasn't skilled, or couldn't draw, it's an irrelevant argument to me. It's like saying the same thing about Miro, or DeKooning. They're simply missing the point. If they don't get it, they don't get it, and I'm sorry they can't see what I see.

And yes, Ditko is in fact, still alive and still drawing! You can get some of his current work, here, though his objectivist rants dominate in the newer work, so it's not exactly my favorite stuff. Lets just say Ditko wouldn't be happy with either candidate. 

OK, I will admit that I'm happy about the way that political thing o TV worked out. I voted. I did my civic duty! Congratulations President Obama! Now for one last Ditko image:

And for those of you who are dissatisfied with the election results:

Monday, November 05, 2012

Little Red Landscape

Landscape for Little Red Man project that's not quite going to work out. His house is too close to the highway(or at least the road to the city)  and I'd like it to be more rural. Having fun with doing something without conventional perspective. It's going to be a combination of my cartooning style and something a little more in the range of a Little Golden Book.