Posts Tagged ‘comics’

My First Lunch with Russ Heath

13 February 2017
russheathshopping17feb12

Russ Heath

Russ Heath is a comics artist legend. He has been drawing comics since the 1940s. Mostly war stories and westerns, but he has done a wide variety of work over the years.

He’s now 90 years old, living on his own in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley. A nonprofit called The Hero Initiative organizes volunteers to  visit comics creators in need. Last year, I came across a Hero Initiative comic page that Heath created with Darwyn Cooke. I saw a Facebook post from Hero Initiative calling for volunteers to visit Heath, so I responded.

Yesterday, I headed up to the valley, picked Heath up. We had lunch and went grocery shopping.  (more…)

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2016 Was a Good Year for Alan Moore Comics Obscurities

25 October 2016

From around 2006 to 2014, being an Alan Moore fan meant mostly re-reading old comics. Moore wound down his ABC Comics line circa 2005, and more-or-less retired from writing comics. He did some League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics, Neonomicon, a one-off God Is Dead, and, in non-comics output Moore wrote 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom and published and contributed to eight issues of Dodgem Logic magazine. There are probably a few things I missed, but during those semi-retirement years, it seems like new Moore material would appear sporadically around once a year, and much of it was not comics.

From 2014 to 2015, Moore’s comics output picked back up with Crossed+100 (Moore’s six-issue run was 2014-2015, and he contributed the series outline for two subsequent Si Spurrier arcs), Big Nemo (2015), and Providence (2015-ongoing.)

Now, 2016 has seen plenty of Alan Moore output. Outside of comics, there have been the Show Pieces DVD, the Unearthing performance film (view trailer), and the 1,300-page novel Jerusalem. In 2016 in Moore comics appeared regularly: Moore-outlined Crossed+100 finished, Providence continued, and Cinema Purgatorio got underway.

But none of that is what I was planning to write about. 2016 has also been a good year for picking up some reprints of hard-to-find early Alan Moore stories. Many of these have been out of print since they appeared in the 1980s. I was lucky enough to have picked up Moore’s long out-of-print Miracleman/Marvelman series when it was first printed in the U.S., then enjoyed additional materials as it was re-printed in 2013-2014. This year I’ve enjoyed my first reading of 1980s-1990s Moore rarities: The Spirit, The Puma Blues, and Monster. I review each of these briefly below.

Will Eisner's The Spirit: The New Adventures, second edition, published by Dark Horse Books

Will Eisner’s The Spirit: The New Adventures, second edition, published by Dark Horse Books

Will Eisner’s The Spirit: The New Adventures collects issues 1-8 of the 1990s Kitchen Sink comics revival of the famous Will Eisner hero The Spirit. Eisner is one of comics early greats, alongside Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Neal Adams, and others. Eisner did The Spirit for a dozen years, and went on to more-or-less invent the “graphic novel” and contribute to understanding how comics work (work that Scott McCloud subsequently built on.) Eisner allowed for other folks to create Spirit stories in the 1990s, which I missed at the time. Dark Horse apparently collected these in 2009, which I also missed. This year they released a second edition, with some additional newly collected material.

There are four Alan Moore The Spirit stories, all of them very good. Moore is, of course, lovingly referential in following various great Eisner conventions: spelling out The Spirit on splash pages, having The Spirit somewhat tangential to the action, etc.  (more…)

Reading Some Books About Comics

28 April 2016
Books on Comics - by Wolk and Klock

Books on Comics – by Douglas Wolk and Geoff Klock

Recently I’ve really been enjoying reading two prose books about comic books:

How to Read Superhero Comics and Why by Geoff Klock (2006)

Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean by Douglas Wolk (2007)

I mostly found these books in search of more commentary about Alan Moore – and they’re both very good for that purpose. I’ve already read plenty of very good books about Moore himself. I recommend (in order of my favorite to least favorite): Magic Words: The Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore by Lance Parkin, The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore by George Khoury, Alan Moore: Conversations edited by Eric Berlatsky, and Alan Moore: Storyteller by Gary Spencer Millidge. If you’re interested in Moore, check out my annotations of Moore works.

But back to those two books I just finished reading. I am lumping them together here, and though they overlap, they’re also pretty different. I should start by saying that neither of these books are likely to appeal to people who don’t already read comics. If you’re looking to read comics, I’d suggest starting by reading some comics first.

Klock’s book, as the title suggests, is specifically about super-hero comics. I don’t read too many of these lately, but part of what appeals to me about Alan Moore, which I initially wrote about here, is that he does have one foot in the super-hero genre comics I grew up with, and one foot in a deeper more meaningful literature that I now love. Klock explores a lot of comics as commentary about comics. Primarily 1980s and 1990s superhero comics, foremost Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, as commentary on the ways that comics critique comics continuity. This makes Klock’s book have a somewhat less broad, more insider appeal than Wolk’s.

Wolk’s book is, at least genre-wise, more expansive. Though Wolk writes some about superheroes, his focus is quite a bit broader, encompassing more serious adult comics creators from Craig Thompson to Alison Bechdel to Art Spiegelman to the Hernandez Brothers.

I don’t have enough time to write extensively about these, so I’ll launch into some excerpts about Alan Moore:  (more…)

Comics Artist Gabriel Andrade Interviewed By Flavio Pessanha

28 December 2015

Below is an interview with Crossed Plus One Hundred artist Gabriel Andrade. The interview was conducted in mid-2015 by Flavio Pessanha who administers the Alan Moore Brazil (Alan Moore Br) Facebook page. The interview is appearing in English for the first time ever here; the full original Portuguese text appears after the English translation below. The English translation was also done by Pessanha, then I edited it slightly for readability, and added links and images.

Gabriel Andrade Jr. image via Facebook.

Gabriel Andrade Jr. image via Facebook.

Alan Moore Br: Gabriel, could you please tell us about the beginnings of your career as an illustrator, and how you decided to switch from economics to art?

Gabriel Andrade Jr.: The arts – more precisely illustration and music – have always been my passion and that’s where I spent most of my time. But in my adolescence I discovered philosophy and politics, and that also fascinated me. In the end, however, I couldn’t deny my artistic streak. (laughs) I chose to read Music at university, as I didn’t see myself as a graphic designer or didn’t see that there was a market for that.

When opportunities to show my portfolio drawings started to arise, I didn’t think twice and invested all I could in this process. As I didn’t know anything regarding this field, I had help from my friends Milena Azevedo (GHQ blog), Miguel Rude and Wendell Cavalcanti (both artists and comic writers). They were already in the business and they were my gurus when it all started for me.

You have worked for Dark Horse, Atlantic and you are now with Avatar. How did you get started working for Avatar?

Lady Death artwork by Gabriel Andrade

Lady Death artwork by Gabriel Andrade

Towards the end of 2009 I had finished Die Hard at Boom!Studios and they [Avatar] needed an artist for Lady Death, so I created a fancy illustration for the poster and the final artwork. After that, I signed my first contract with them. (laughs)

How did Alan Moore find you? Were you surprised?

We both did work for Avatar’s special God is Dead [Book of Acts Alpha], but in separate short stories. William [Christensen], the editor-in-chief, showed my work to Alan and then we agreed that we were going to develop the new series.

In a recent interview with Pádraig O’Mealóid Alan Moore said that your art is spectacular and he called you ‘real old-school brilliant’, which is a humongous compliment. What are your main influences and how did you learn to draw?

My first influence didn’t come from comics, but from real life. As a child I drew everything I saw and, as my parents were teachers, at home we had a huge variety of illustrated science books, and many magazines and educational posters. (more…)

Nimona Is Awesome All-Ages Fun

23 December 2015
Panels from page 1 of Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. Image via creator's website.

Panels from page 1 of Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. Image via Stevenson’s website.

With our daughter Maeve now two and a half years old, I’ve been keeping an eye out for more all-ages comics. I’ve already introduced Maeve to Lumberjanes, Space Dumplins, Squirrel Girl, and even My Little Pony comics. She picked that last one out herself at Secret Headquarters comics store.

After hearing a bit of a buzz (at Panels and I forget where else) about I bought Nimona (and Space Dumplins) to give as a Christmas present for Maeve’s cousins. I wasn’t sure which to give to which cousin, so I read through Nimona. And was touched. I almost don’t want to give it to my brother’s kids. I’ll pick up a copy for myself again soon.

Nimona is written and drawn by Noelle Stevenson, one of the co-creators of Lumberjanes. It is a ~300-page comics novel, marketed for teens, but with plenty of humor that will go over kids heads. It is funny, but also full of heart, with a well-crafted pace and story arc. The drawings are simple but very expressive and fluid.  (more…)

Gabriel Andrade Pencils, Inks and Color for Page 8 of CPOH2

13 July 2015
Crossed Plus One Hundred No.2 P8 - art by Gabriel Andrade

Crossed Plus One Hundred No.2 P8 – penciled, inked and colored. Art by Gabriel Andrade, image from his Facebook page. Colored by Digikore Studios

Here are a couple more Crossed Plus One Hundred images from artist Gabriel Andrade’s Facebook page. Above is a comparative image showing his process from pencils to inks to final colored comic page (click on any image to enlarge.) As much as I am really enjoying Andrade’s excellent work, that comparison image makes me more appreciative of Digikore Studios coloring job – especially the sky. And below is another Andrade piece, (more…)

More Crossed Plus 100 Questions

14 May 2015

Readers solved many of the comics annotation reference mysteries I put out in this February 2015 post. A couple more issues of Alan Moore and Gabriel Andrade’s Crossed Plus One Hundred have hit the stands; I have posted annotations for No.3 here and No.4 here. But there are things I haven’t figured out, so I am going to toss out some more questions to readers.

Movie theater marquee from CPOH No.3, Page 14, panel 1 - art by Gabriel Andrade

Movie theater marquee detail from CPOH No.3, Page 14, panel 1 – art by Gabriel Andrade

1. What does the Chooga movie marquee say?

In Crossed Plus One Hundred No. 3, there’s a movie marquee in the human settlement in the year 2108 Chattanooga that has some letters left over from when it last showed films in the year 2008. It’s clear that one of the films was “Mama Mia!” which was released July 18th, 2008. On the right side of the marquee it says “_WR__R_” and “_LO_REI_” which should also be partial names of 2008 films. The “LO_REI” one could more-or-less be “Cloverfield” released January 2008, and suitably apocalyptic to match the CPOH world. I haven’t found anything else these might stand for. They’re probably the names of 2008 films, though they could say something like “coming soon,” “double feature,” “air conditioned”, or “eat popcorn”. Any ideas?

Images of 2008's The Surprise from the first pages of CPOH No.4 - art by Gabriel Andrade

Images of 2008’s The Surprise from the first pages of CPOH No.4 – art by Gabriel Andrade

2. Are these The Surprise scenes from earlier Crossed comics?

Crossed Plus One Hundred No.4 opens up with three pages showing what was happening a hundred years ago during “The Surprise” – the initial 2008 Crossed epidemic outbreak. The first panel shows Andrade’s version of an airplane crash that took place in the very first Garth Ennis / Jacen Burrows issue of Crossed. The subsequent panels show fairly specific scenes (in snow, in Japan) that I suspect are from other Crossed comics that I haven’t read yet. Any Crossed readers out there recognize these images?

3. Outstanding questions from earlier issues  (more…)

Mini Sneak Peek at Upcoming Crossed Plus One Hundred Gabriel Andrade Art

3 May 2015
Gabriel Andrade at work inking pages of Crossed Plus One Hundred. Image via GA Facebook

Gabriel Andrade hard at work inking pages of Crossed Plus One Hundred all night. Image via GA Facebook, his caption:  “7am, eyes swollen”

With four issues of six out, and plenty of ominous foreshadowing, Crossed Plus One Hundred is nearing the end of Gabriel Andrade’s and Alan Moore’s run. I was alread a big Moore fan, and am really enjoying Andrade’s art too. I’ve been annotating the CPOH issues and covers out so far, and reading through some Crossed comics antecedents, and exploring Moore’s Lovecraft-inspired works in advance of Providence.

I was happy to spot a couple of photos on Gabriel Andrade’s Facebook page that are pretty clearly nearly-completed artwork for an upcoming issue of Crossed Plus One Hundred. Enough to tide us CPOH fans over until the next issue appears, No. 5, probably in May or June 2015.  (more…)

Comics Vocabulary: Page-Turn Reveal

6 February 2015
The set-up for a page-turn reveal. Crossed Plus One Hundred No.2 Page 3, panel 5 detail. Written by Alan Moore, drawn by Gabriel Andrade

The set-up for a page-turn reveal: Cautious Optimism Kriswyczki sees “something” that readers don’t see until we turn the page. The full reveal is shown below. Click on any image to enlarge. Crossed Plus One Hundred No.2 Page 3, panel 5 detail. Written by Alan Moore, drawn by Gabriel Andrade

(Spoiler Note: very minor Crossed Plus One Hundred spoiler after the jump)

I enjoy exploring the story-telling vocabularies that are unique to comics. Many of these are explored in Scott McCloud‘s comic Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art and his follow-up books, also Will Eisner‘s book Comics and Sequential Art. Those books are excellent, and look at broader sweeping subjects like time; I can get into seemingly trivial panel-by-panel detail, though.

Earlier I’ve written about comics multi-panel pans (also called a polyptich or super-panel – which I compiled a hundred year index of examples), fixed-camera sequences, how covers work, and even how Art Spiegelman plays tricks with comics vocabulary.

Lately I’ve been geeking out annotating Alan Moore comics: recently Splash Brannigan and underway now Crossed Plus One Hundred. In the first two issues of CPOH, Moore has been using a clever trick that plays with the action of turning the page.

I am going to call this comics vocabulary a “Page-Turn Reveal.”

How a page-turn reveal works: At the bottom right of the first page, there’s some hint of what’s coming. Generally some character sees something that the reader doesn’t see yet. Then the reader turns the page and sees what the character has already seen. For a full-on page turn reveal, the first page is an odd page, so the bottom right panel precedes a page-turn. Often the second (even) page is a larger panel, or even a full page panel or a 2-page spread.

Note that these reveals are a three-dimensional experience a little bit difficult to convey clearly via the two-dimensional computer screen blog. I guess I could film turning the actual page to really tell this story better… but I’ll do the best I can here.

These page-turn reveals seem unique to comics. In other page-turning media, say novels (non-graphic – just text), the pagination is such that the author doesn’t really know where the page turn will occur. The exception to this is chapter-to-chapter transitions, which are sometimes page-turn reveals.

In some ways, maybe page-turn reveals are slightly analogous to a cliffhanger to-be-continued ending in any episodic media: comic books, comic strips, serialized literature, TV, radio, probably others. But it’s a somewhat low-stakes version of a cliffhanger-episode-ending, because the reveal comes just a page later; the comics reader doesn’t have to wait for the next episode. They’re slightly reminiscent of the way a TV show might do something suspenseful just before an advertising break, in order to keep the audience tuned in, then reveals something after the break.

Though these page-turn reveals have probably been around a while, I suspect that they’ve been fairly sparse. One big reason for this is commercial. The comics of my 1970s youth had plenty of advertisement pages. In many cases, comics artists and writers probably couldn’t count on a given page-turn to not be rearranged by re-pagination in a case where a publisher decided to make some change to the way the ads were inserted.

I suspect that the interspersed ads also inhibited 2-page layouts that span the central page fold. Though those are also somewhat limited by printing technology that couldn’t assure that the left and right images would line up precisely. The exception to this would be the fold in the very middle of the issue.

The exceptions to these historic pagination uncertainties are the first three pages. Page one of an issue is traditionally a full-page single-panel splash page. Pages 2 and 3 typically did not include ads. So, occasionally, earlier comics creators used page 1-3 for a page-turn reveal.

The artist who comes to mind who exploits the page-turn from page one to two is Jack Kirby(more…)

Spotting Some Crossed Plus One Hundred References

28 December 2014
Crossed Plus One Hundred No.1, future tense variant cover (left) which is an homage to Ralph 124c 41+ cover (right.)

Crossed Plus One Hundred No.1, future tense variant cover (left) which is an homage to Ralph 124c 41+ cover (right.)

As I wrote about in this earlier post, I’ve been going through Alan Moore‘s new comic Crossed Plus One Hundred and annotating it. For folks interested in the details of CPOH, see my annotations and glossary pages. I thought I’d post three of the more visual gems I found. Click on any of the images to see larger versions.  (more…)