Monday, November 21, 2005

Culture & Comics...

...a combination I can appreciate, for obvious reasons!

Last week, I was lucky to be invited to the openings of the new Masters of American Comics exhibitions, that opened yesterday at both the Hammer Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art here in Los Angeles.

It's basically one big exhibit that has been split in two. And they're both great.

On Friday night, my wife and I attended the opening at the Hammer. Chronologically, this is the "first" half of the exhibit. It includes an impressive (and huge!) collection of art from the very beginning of American comics a century ago. Represented are works of Winsor McKay (Little Nemo in Slumberland), Lyonel Feininger (The Kin-der-Kids), George Herriman (Krazy Kat), E.C. Segar (Popeye), Chester Gould (Dick Tracy), Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates), and Charles Schulz (Peanuts).

For those youngsters out there without an historical perspective (and some of you older fanboys), this half of the Exhibit demonstrates how the rise of the great newspapers (and the innovations in color printing) gave birth to the popular comics medium. What impressed me, looking at all of the work in one place, is just how experimental the early comics artists were. The page & panel layouts and designs are shockingly varied, not only when comparing different artists, but comparing the strips drawn by any individual artist. I think they probably tried EVERY possible method of laying out a page before the end of the first quarter of the 20th Century. Leaving nothing more to innovate--except for improving storyines and creating compelling character! The later strips featured at the Hammer Museum show how the great storytellers, like Caniff, began to do just that. Personally, I would have also liked to see some work by Alex Raymond, Hal Foster and Burne Hogarth, to name a few, but the collection assembled at the Hammer, is mighty impressive as-is.

A hilight of the Hammer exhibit is one huge room devoted alomst entirely to the Peanuts strips. It is quite impressive to see just how long Charles Schulz devoted to his creation. The room contains several original strips from each decade that Peanuts ran. Check it out and you'll see just how much Charlie Brown and Snoopy change over the years, as well as the quality of Schulz's ink line.

On Saturday, Don Hudson and I took in the sister exhibit over at MOCA. This part of the exhibit picks up the comics timeline in the late 40's and 50's, with the medium branching out in different directions. The world of superheroes is largely represented by the works of Jack (King!) Kirby (Captain America).

The twisted projects of EC and Mad Magazine are displayed in the art of Harvey Kurtzman and his peers. The innovative (and creator-owned) work of Will Eisner (The Spirit) paved the way for the creation of "Graphic Novels" and the long, slow journey toward respectability (still in progress!). There's a large collection from the "Underground" pioneer, R. Crumb (Zap!) that is fascinating. The innovative (and Pulitzer Prize-winning) work of Art Spiegelman (Maus) again will change the way the layman will look at comics and their contribution to the art world. The amazingly detailed work of Chris Ware (Jimmy Corrigan) will just make you go blind!

When you see all this amazing artwork in one place (or TWO places, as it were) It's hard to understand why comics continue to occupy such a marginal place in our society. The origins of the medium may have been commercial--a nifty color insert to help sell newspapers--but the illustrators who created them were serious, talented and innovative artists. Perhaps a museum exhibit like this skews my perspective; I'm sure the talentless hacks outnumbered the McKays and Feningers. That's the way it is today, not only in comics, but in all media. Still, whenever I see something like this show, it gives me hope that someday, comics will get their share of respect!

Whatever--go see it! ZAP! POW! Comics are cool!

"Nuff Said (sigh).

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Boycott: The Aftermath...

So, just to follow up on the subject of my last 2 posts...

I'm happy to report that The Comic Bug DID get me the comic that I ordered very quickly. They are my new best friends.

On the subject of cool comic shops, I have been made aware of a new shop on Sunset Blvd. in Silverlake called Secret Headquarters. The photos on their website look pretty cool and I look forward to checking out the store in person. Unfortunately, Silverlake isn't really convenient for me to visit regularly (it's even farther away than Meltdown), but I WILL go by for a look in the near future. Until then...

...Rock on!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Boycott: The Sequel!

So, I bet you're all wondering how it went yesterday. Did I try out a different comic shop? How was it?? Do they ALL suck???

The short answer is that I DID try out the new place, it went well and of course they don't all suck.

The new place in question is called The Comic Bug (1015 Aviation Blvd. in Manhattan Beach) and I will be making that my "regular" spot for buying comics in the future. I say "regular" because I'll probably still visit HiDeHo, Golden Apple and Meltdown if I happen to be in their neighborhoods. Actually, I've always been a big fan of Meltdown Comics because of their large variety of foreign & indie titles. Unfortunately, these places are a hassle for me to get to in the regular course of my work week.

The Comic Bug has a few good things going for it. First, only the Marvel & DC books are organized by publisher. The rest are grouped on an other wall alphabetically by title. This seems more reasonable to me and, it seems, it isn't a hard & fast rule. Mike Wellman is the manager of The Comic Bug and I know him from his work as a writer on Mac Afro and Gone South. I put him to the test and asked him where HE'D rack a book called Weasel Guy/Witchblade, and he answered, "by Witchblade, of course." Good for him.

Secondly, they're trying to make The Comic Bug a cool place to hang out. They're still working on it. They have a couch by the window that encourages people to relax (as opposed to the "Dis ain't a liberry!" cliche). They have a drawing table set up for "guest artists" to work and/or publicize their comics. Mike showed me a new comics rack in one area--they plan to redo the whole "wall" of books with the same shelves. Should look sharp. Not that I plan to hang out there necessarily, but it shows that they're trying to fix the place up & make it customer-friendly.

One of the best shops I've ever been to (if not THE best) is called "Isotope," in San Francisco. They call it the "Comic Book Lounge." It's not a huge place, but they have a slightly "mod" atmosphere with seats & benches for customers. They also have an artists' station and plenty of art displayed. They've created a nice, user-friendly shop with a good "vibe." It isn't one of those dark holes that seem to be designed to scare away regular folk. Or women. I think The Comic Bug is working on building a similar image. I've been there only once, but I'm rooting for them to pull it off. I guess I have "Isotope-Envy;" I wish it were in LA instead of SF. James Sime, the owner of Isotope, looks a bit eccentric, but he's also very hospitable. Me like.

So, what about the selection of titles? It's probably about the same as my unnamed local shop. Lots of the "big two" and a decent assortment of indies. Not as good as HiDeHo, Golden Apple and Meltdown, but the store IS smaller. They also have the usual toys and back-issues, which I did not really look at.

The Comic Bug did NOT have the new book I was all jazzed to pick up (Paris, by Andi Watson and Simon Gane, Slave Labor Graphics). That WAS a disappointment. But Mike WAS immediately helpful and said he'd order it for me. My Local shop has NEVER offered to order a book they did not carry or were sold out of. Maybe it's because I know Mike, who knows. The other shop may very well have ordered Paris and may have it in stock, but I will wait to see if The Comic Bug comes through. I have plenty of other stuff to read in the meantime.

Thanks for your comments yesterday, I look forward to hearing from you again on this...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

My Own Private Boycott

So, without naming names (should I name names?) I have decided today to boycott my local comic shop.

It's a personal choice and my reasons may not apply to anyone but me. Over the past few years I have spent a couple of THOUSAND dollars there, twelve to twenty bucks at a time. I went to the store in question because it is close to my house and they seem like nice enough guys. I don't hang out there and I don't mention my "pro" status to try and get a discount. It's just a convenient place to drop by to get my latest 100 Bullets or Hellboy fix. Maybe I'm lazy.

They carry a reasonable assortment of indie comics along with the mainstream stuff, but when it comes to the books I've personally worked on, they never cease to IRK me.

I first noticed this back when my Weasel Guy/Witchblade comic was published. You see, my local comic shop organizes their comics by publisher. I know everyone has a system but, call me crazy, don't comic shops want to SELL their books??? Weasel Guy/Witchblade was published by Hyperwerks before they fell under the Image imprint. Therefore, the shop did NOT display the comic near the Witchblade comics, but on a foot-level shelf far away from them. Just because that's where they hid the other Hyperwerks titles. Does anyone out there think that's a good way to sell a book called Weasel Guy/Witchblade?

Maybe the store is a non-profit organization.

A couple of years later, when we were putting out our Comiculture anthology magazine, Rob Tokar and I went to several local shops, introduced ourselves and dropped off preview copies to the owners. We told them that we were local artists and wanted to do whatever was necessary to sell the book. Two comic shops in LA that I don't mind mentioning are HiDeHo and Golden Apple Comics. Both of those stores greeted us with enthusiasm and set up in-store signings so that we could help push our new product. But my local shop barely greeted us with lip-service. The owner recognized me as a regular customer, but that didn't really help matters. Maybe we got him on a bad day. He ordered 3 or 4 copies of each issue and naturally hid them in a hard-to-find space. Not near other anthologies, but near some magazines ABOUT comics. That tells me that he didn't listen to our pitch or open the magazine to see what was inside.

Today is Wednesday and there is a new book coming out that I'm eager to get my hands on from Slave Labor. I don't know if it will be available at my local shop, but I really can't bring myself to go there because I know they did not order a single copy of my latest book, Belle Starr: Queen of Bandits, published by Moonstone Books.

Am I a moron, or what? Why have I continued to give these people money? LOTS of money?!

Today I "Mapquested" a comic shop that is a few miles farther away. I've never been there, but I know the manager a little bit. He deserves my money much more that these other guys. I don't know if HE ordered Belle Starr either, but that isn't the point. Even if the trip is less convenient, I feel like I should stop rewarding the other place for running a shop that infuriates me.

What do you think?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

My Other Blog...

Okay, so this is not a substantial post in and of itself, but I wanted to point out that I've just started a second blog--which will act as a home page for my comic book WEASEL GUY. Please check out the link on the right that says "Weasel Guy," or go to WEASELGUY.COM and bookmark it!

Weasel Guy, was a comic I created that was published a few years ago by Image Comics. The new website is still in-progres, but contains information about the book and the history of the character. This week I will be posting profiles of all the major characters in the "Weasel Guy Universe." Should be fun stuff. Check it out!

If you want to read the original comics Weasel Guy/Witchblade or Weasel Guy: Road Trip, copies are still available from our online store at COMICULTURE.COM.

A worthy use of your valuable time.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Regarding Blogs

Haven't posted for a while. And I don't know if I've posted anything truly interesting AT ALL!

Blogs are a curious thing. I figure there are only three ways to blog if you're truly interested in having people reading.

One is to provide some valuable information on a regular basis. Maybe share some expertise on a subject. Like an ongoing lecture or a "how-to" article.

Second is to be really entertaining. That means that regardless of the subject matter, the blogs have to be well written, pithy, clever, full of irony or whatever. Full of SOMETHING to make people want to read more.

The third is to be REALLY OPINIONATED. In that case, it helps to have both the aforementioned qualities. Whether you're talking about politics or critiquing movies, books, comics, et-cetera, it helps to have SOME expertise in the subject matter (or nobody will take you seriously) and it helps to write entertainingly (or people will be bored.)

So far, none of my posts have these qualities.

At best, I've shared a TAD of information about myself and my current comics-related projects, which MIGHT be of vague interest to fans of Comiculture, Weasel Guy or my other work.

For this, I apologize.

In the future, I hereby vow to include more substance to my blogs! I will go into greater detail about my projects! I will share my knowledge and opinions regarding comics and the comics industry, publishing and whatever else tickles my fancy!

Of course, some feedback would be nice. Is there anything out there YOU want to know about? Is anyone even reading this? Am I all alone here??? I...I feel so...cold!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Look at This Thing

Isn't this the cutest dog EVER? Her name is Tiki, she's our 9-month old Havanese.

I'll have more to say about this important topic later.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Today I Be Colorin'

Here's an image from the latest issue of Manhunter that I'm coloring. It represents how I feel at this exact moment, trying hard to meet a deadline. Dios mio. It's been a rough week...

(art by Javi Pina & Palmiotti...I think)

Friday, August 05, 2005

J-14 Magazine

So, every month I have this fun illustration job for J-14 (Just For Teens!) Magazine. I do the spot illustrations for the "Embarrassing Moments" feature. I have some of them posted on my online portfolio.

Well, Yesterday, I did a drawing that is, so far, my favorite to date. I call it... "Puke Boat."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

DVD and Book Recommendation

OK, this is really another test to see if the links below work out! But please, read on...

I've been on a "New York Kick" lately and I watched this great PBS documentary about my old hometown. That got me interested in the life of Robert Moses and I'm currently reading his biography "The Power Broker." I'm about halfway through it's 1200+ pages and it is an incredible book! In a strange way, it is an epic comparable to "The Agony and the Ecstacy" which I read earlier this year (that's a novel based on the life of Michelangelo, FYI). Moses is a much darker figure, but AT LEAST as interesting! Here are some links if anyone is interested. I highly recommend both!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Belle Starr: On Sale Now. Yee-haw!

Hey All! The first issue of Belle Starr: Queen of Bandits is in comic book shops everywhere right now! Belle Starr is an offbeat western written by Mark Ricketts and drawn by Yours Truly. This two-part limited series is published by Moonstone Books.

Here's a sample image from issue #2. I hope you'll check out the book!

An image upload test

This is a test to see how Blogger uploads images. If you care, the image below is an illustration I did for J-14 Magazine. Isn't she cute???

Howdy, Everyone!!!

Hello! Welcome to my new BLOG and updated Comiculture "Creator's Page."

As of this writing, we're still in the process of a total redesign of the Comiculture website and this nifty BLOG feature (courtesy of Blogger & google) is part of that. Soon, all the "Creator's Pages" will have this feature and, hopefully, the creators will use it to update everyone about their various projects.

Who am I? As Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of our Comiculture Anthology and magazine, I'm the guy most responsible for this loose organization of comic book creators. With a WHOLE LOT of help from my friends, that is! If you want to learn more about me, check out my bio (up on the right by my profile) and portfolio pages.

Anyway, thanks for visiting our site. We hope you come back soon (and buy all of our products!)

Email me at MY EMAIL !