Here are some things I saw this week that I thought were pretty.
Check it out. Johnny Ryan surprised me by e-mailing me this banner for my column. I think it was meant as a jab at me. He probably didn't think I would use it. But I did.
And here are some things I saw that I thought were pretty.
Look at this flyer that Roxie Vizcarra drew for the Psyched.
Look at this pretty old illustration called "Shipwrecked Sailors Attacked by Man-Eating Sharks" from JW Buel's 1887 book, Sea and Land: An Illustrated History.
Check out the Super Stupid pilot that Devin Flynn made. It is amazing and will blow your mind up. I highly recommend it to fans of Super Jail.
Check out Bao Pham's pretty art.
Here are reviews of things.
I've known Brandon Graham for years. He was an original Meathaus artist, although when I first saw his work it was kinda stiff and unformed. Over time I saw him learn how to draw beautifully and get into his own style where he shoves all sorts of visual gags into his work. I'd heard about King City peripherally from Brandon over the years. But I finally saw the huge fucking book in Denton, Texas and I was like, "Whooooaaaaaaa." Its story is acceptable and its characters are likable, but the best thing about it are the drawings of King City and the thousands of amazing visual ideas and inventions that Brandon comes up with. With this book, Brandon becomes a peer of comic greats like Geof Darrow, Moebius, and Katsuhiro Otomo. He just loads up the page with visual beauty and cleverness. Reading this book feels like you're on a tour of an amazing dreamlike world that you would like to live in, but might also be afraid of. Like Star Wars, you always feel like you're only witnessing part of a massive, awesome world. Everything is pretty and cool and interesting. Nothing is dull and there is no wasted space. Brandon Graham's love for what he's drawing comes through on every page and even the inside flaps in the book. When you open up the front cover flap, there's a character on the toilet behind it who tells you to close the door. This is one of the most fun comics you will ever read. And it's one of 2012's top ten comics for certain. Get it if you haven't yet.
And read this interview I did with Brandon.
What's the publication history of King City?
It started at Tokyopop, who mostly did Japanese Manga translations. The first half of it came out as a little paperback book and then TP went under. The rights were still tied up with them. I asked everyone I knew in comics for advice and the guys at Image went out of their way to help me. Joe Keatinge nudged his boss Eric Stephenson and Eric spent like nine months talking to TP to get it over to Image. There were lots of long phone calls and emails that I sent to TP saying, "commmeeonnn!" Eventually, It was all set to come out as 12 issues. I was just thrilled that it was all getting into print, but Image went back in for another year of talks and got the collection together and put the thing out, cheap and nicely printed. It's got French flaps and everything.
When I picked up the King City book I couldn't believe what a massive thing it was. It's a fucking brick of a book. How fast was your rate of production on each page?
I work like a tortoise. I draw a little everyday and turn out three or four pages a week. The writing takes most of the time.
You cram a million ideas into each page. Did most of them come to you in a sketching phase or during penciling? Did you ever go back and add more stuff in after you finished it?
It's a mix, I like to have some ideas when I go into it and then allow myself to do whatever as I go. A lot of it is just to keep myself entertained for the hours that it takes to draw a page. I'm pretty hard on myself but I have to be forgiving to get it done. I try to get into a mode where I'm just drawing for myself and not thinking about the outside world seeing it.
How tightly did you script the book?
I do a lot of layouts, but I allow myself to mess with the story as I go. It's all pretty loose. I feel like especially if you're trying to pull off jokes it's hard to preplan stuff. I like to have some bad puns ready and then just depict what's funny at the moment when I'm up at 4 AM kicking my feet and drawing.
Is there a possibility of a sequel or are you done with King City?
I might do a short at some point. I had an idea about showing an older Joe with a beard and the city covered in pyramids. The rights are a mess though, unfortunately. I sold a chunk of my comic book baby to get people's attention.
Have people approached you about turning King City into other things?
Mostly just foreign translations. I like my comics to remain comics.
What are you working on now?
I'm writing a monthly comic called Prophet that my pals Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, and Giannis Milonogiannis are all working on with me. It's a reworking of an old 90's comic that we made into a more hard sci-fi thing. It's set thousands of years after humanity has died off and a million clones of the same dude all wake up and restart the war that wiped out humanity in the first place.
And I've got a series called Multiple Warheads that I'm doing. Everything on that is coming out in October. Warheads is more of a King City style thing about a girl who smuggles magic organs and her werewolf boyfriend. It's set in a fictional Russia with dragons and sphinxes and things.
Thanks for letting me interview you!
Ben Marra is a massive talent of recent comics and he's been moving more towards a stripped down Pettibon style lately. If you work in black ink people will always compare you to Pettibon, even if you're not like him. This collection of drawings is 15" by 22," which is fucking huge. Each page is high contrast drawings depicting a scene from American Psycho. It's great. Get it if you can.
Wowee Zonk Number 4
Wowee Zonk is an anthology mostly made up of Canadians. The core group is Patrick Kyle, Ginette LaPalme, and Chris Kuzma. All three make art that goes back and forth between cute, psychedelic, abstract, and frightening. This issue also has several other cartoonists including Alex Schubert, Marc Bell, Donald Dixon, and Andrei Georgescu. Some of these comics are great. Some seem to be ugly on purpose.
The people I mentioned are all stars of comics. Their comics in this book are great. There is some serious dogshit in here though, too. The first comic sucks dick real bad and looks like it was drawn by someone who never bothered to learn drawing or writing. There's an amazing series of short comics by one person that look a lot like Matt Thurber's drawings. There's also a badly drawn comic that makes jokes about badly drawn comics. The best and most forgettable comics are in this thing. Get it or look at it.
Spider Monkey #2
Jesse McManus With Austin English
Jesse McManus is a super talented cartoonist who makes characters who all appear to be made out of stretchy silly putty. You can imagine stretching them. His black and white work is beautiful. But his coloring of the cover doesn't feel right. His work might benefit if he used a more limited palette and tried to show less color. Let the linework shine, don't hide it under flashy colors. The story's a big confusing dream thing, but the art is mostly great.
Prophet #23, Prophet #25
Brandon Graham and other people
I adore Brand Graham's work and I kinda thought his version of classic shitty Image comic Prophet would be great. I just got these two issues without knowing anything about Prophet and I feel like I still don't. I read them both and found them impossible to follow. I seriously could not tell you if this comic is about anything. It seems like Brandon's trying to make a comic that feels like a sci-fi/fantasy world that Moebius would make. The thing is that Moebius creates more compelling worlds to look at. Both issues I looked at were almost entirely colored brown and the art's good but it's not Moebius. I just don't get what's going on at all. Maybe this will only make sense as a collection.
Edited by Harvey Pekar & Paul Buhle
You'd think a comic about jewish stuff would be better. Jews built the comics industry! Also, nobody I know likes Harvey Pekar's comics. People who don't know anything about comics think people like his comics because there was that movie. The people who made the movie weren't into comics either. They only made it because of Pekar's connection to R. Crumb. Maybe other people like Pekar's writing. I never met anyone who said they did though. This book sucks. Maybe grandmothers will buy it for their grandkids to try to interest them in their heritage. Then the kids will put it on their shelf and not look at it because it is dull and ugly.
Black Images in the Comics: A Visual History
Note: Since this is a book concerning representations of black people, I figured I would ask a black comics critic to guest review it. So this one is by Elona Jones, who I first met in line at a Clowes signing at the Strand. Check out her website to see more of her writing.
A few years ago, I had a friend who collected Black mammy cookie jars. When I asked her what sparked the collection she told me it was because she found them interesting. She didn’t expound beyond that. I felt this same yearning for discourse while reading Black Images in the Comics.
The book is a selected history of the depiction of Black people in comics since the beginning of the medium. One-paneled excerpts are paired with brief text describing the time period it was drawn and the artist’s background. Repetitive, old timey racist images make up about half of the book. The comics get less gruesome as they reach the present but with the short descriptions it’s difficult to understand why a particular panel is significant at all. Strömberg never desired to make an academic book, but what readers end up with is an awkward less-is-more, coffee-table-book style in pocket size. I wanted to know more about how Felix the Cat may have grown out of racist imagery or whether X-Men was inspired by the civil rights movement. Instead I was reminded of the sensation of sitting silent in a kitchen with images parodying my Black womanhood.
And here's the Moebius image of the week, two designs from Jodorowsky's never-completed Dune.
See you next week everybody!
Previously - #61