Sunday, November 28, 2010

Original Art Sundays # 69: Surrealist Cowgirls Paper Dolls # 2

Made it on time this week!
Fairly happy with this, though I don't have quite as firm a sense of Louise's character as I do Maggie's.
While I will not abandon A Private Myth, I'm developing a real affinity and passion for the Cowgirls.
Also, I did find a couple more interesting paper dolls in comics, though not the ones I expected to find! A new blog entry featuring them will be posted later this week!

As the semester winds down, I hope to maintain the pace and keep posting new work, despite having just scratched the surface of my drawing and comics created archive.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Hey kids! Comics and Paper Dolls!

When I gleamed on posting on paper dolls in comics earlier this week, I figured it would be quick research of something that shows up sporadically.
I could not have been more wrong.
Paper dolls in comics turns out to be a labyrinthine topic, covering the entire history of comics!
The first thing that comes to mind, of course, is Sugar & Spike.
Sugar & Spike remains one of the most imaginative, smart, least appreciated and least reprinted comics in the history of DC.
These two babies, who spoke their own language, the language all babies talk regardless of species (or age- they're able to speak baby-talk with Spike's grandpa, who has entered his second childhood), are next-door neighbors and sort-of boyfriend/girlfriend (Sugar calls Spike "dollface"). The babies  have their own language and amazing adventures. Smart, funny comics for kids that stand up to grownup readings.
The paper dolls included fashions submitted by readers, who were sometimes rewarded with original art.
As a sidebar, early in the development of the kids' cable network Nickelodeon, they were light on programming, not having a lot of ready cash for licensing. So they hired an animation company named Klasky-Csupo to make animatics of comics- a hceaper license. They'd move the camera from panel to panel, zoom in and out and pan a bit, and dub in a soundtrack based on the script of the comics.
Needless to say, one of the comics they used for this was Sugar & Spike.
AS K-C picked up steam, they developed a property named Rugrats- a story about babies who speak their own language and have amazing adventures.
The next thing that comes to mind is fashion and romance comics!
The best-known of these in contemporary circles, if the 1950s on can still be considered contemporary, are Marvel's "chick comics", Patsy & Hedy and the various Millie the Model series. Both families of books changed tone repeatedly, bouncing back and forth from gag books to soap opera career narratives (before becoming the super-mutant Hellcat, Patsy Walker was a nurse, and Millie and her rival Chili worked for the Hanover modeling agency).
Again, reader-inspired fashions figure in.  I have an original Al Hartley paper doll page that I'll add to this entry after I can get at the scanner again.
But the grandmama of all comic book paper dolls just has to be Bill Woggon's Katy Keene! The character, begun in 1947, still has revivals to this day in the Archie line, but none can compare to Woggon's original work.
This one dates from 1947, and was featured on a webpage devoted to the Paper Doll Convention!
Paper dolls were, of course, marketed as toys on their own apart from comics.
The earliest paper dolls I've ever seen in comics were in Vincent Fago's Peter Rabbit comics. Here's an example of Fago's charming, energetic art.
The first black woman cartoonist, Jackie Ormes, also did paper dolls in her strips. However, these were not reader-inspired, but were based entirely on Ormes' own designs, possibly related to her doll-marketing strategy. While her character Torchy (no relation to the Bill Ward character) did not have a doll, Ormes did market a high-end baby doll for black girls.

Two more come to mind.
The first is Katherine Collins' (nee' Arn Saba's) Neil the Horse. Since Katherine dropped off the map after moving back to Canada (our mutual friend Trina thinks Katherine's Leukemia may have returned and gotten the better of her), this piece may be the last Neil the Horse page to be published. Again, posting Neil paper dolls will have to wait till I have scanner access.

Finally, we cannot discuss paper dolls without mentioning Trina Robbins.
Trina's paper dolls range from Barbie Comics to California Girls and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a queer street troupe of cross-dressing nuns in San Francisco.

Trina's also the only comics creator I know of to do a paper doll of herself!

Obviously, this is far from exhaustive and more research/posting is in order.
For now, Let's leave it with a Batman paper doll from the Sunday Superman strip of the 1980s!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Original Art Sundays #68 : Surrealist Cowgirls paper dolls no. 1

Well, here we are, officially caught up with Original Art Sundays again.
I've been thinking about the Surrealist Cowgirls a lot lately. They're my favorite creations and I've doen relatively little with them. I'm in the process of preparing a submission for a new queer-freindly comic magazine in which I'd like them to be an ongoing strip.
They epitomize an attitude that I'd like to see more of. Good stories don't have to be grim. It's possible to tell a story that's lighthearted and have the story hold its dramatic weight. Look at Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys. Hardly his most profound tome, but very nicely crafted, and it still manages to tell a significant story and have its moments of crisis.
That's what I'd like the Cowgirls to be.
To that end, I'm doing my bit to revitalize a proud comic book tradition: the paper doll!
I'll post separately on comic book paper dolls later this week, but I did want to get this out there. If all goes as planned, Maggie's lover, the other Cowgirl, Louise Bunnywell, will get her fashion extravaganza next week!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Original Art Sundays #67 : Lassie, Come Home!

A week late, but I'll have a second post tomorrow to make up for it.
Like my last art post, this has never been published before.
It's also one of the oddest things I've ever done, and that's saying something!
The first page of a two-pager, I wrote and laid out the second page immediately after completing this one, 12 years ago. To this date, it's not done.
Possibly one of these days...
Great fun playing with layout and border elements on this one, no worrying about style or trying to make it look "professional". Just letting go. Page 2 is sitting in my head, but I was so tickled by the way this came out, it gonna take me a bit to get up the noive to do page 2.
Until then, here it is, Pure experimentation. Lassie, Come Home! page one.

Tomorrow: new work again!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Gravediggers of Comic Art

I'm coming around on the Lichentstein issue.
Two days ago, there was a Christie's auction. A Lichenstein painting, based on (some would say stolen from) a comic panel, set a record price.

Lichetnstein irritates the beejezus out of me. His work dissects comic art and parades pieces of the cadaver. While he had every right to paint what he chose, I have a right to my view of his work too.
And my view is that Roy was working with no respect for his source material, yet taking full advantage of said material.
I get the theory behind it. He's made the paintings about period-specific production techniques, a sort of deconstruction/reconstruction.
Strangely, people who object to the inclusion of once-living tissue and creatures in art have no such objections to the dissection of art itself.
But the fact that he never once acknowledged his sources beyond the vague "comic book panels" speaks directly to a dismissive attitude towards the source material. David Barsalou has done a scathing one-to-one comparison of Lichtenstien's paintings with his "source works".
Art Speigleman said, "I have all sorts of issues with the idea that a Lichtenstein painting of a comic book panel is art but the original comic panel it draws on is not considered art. I hate that whole attitude and way of looking at this stuff. Lichtenstein did for comics what Warhol did for Campbell's Soup - it had nothing to do with comics. It had to do with exploiting the form without any of the content."
Speigleman's response was also represented in his work, specifically this piece, High Art Lowdown, done in response to the tepid treatment of comics at MoMA's High Art/Low Art exhibition.

I modified my views a bit when I read about Roy attending a National Cartoonist's Society meeting in 1964.
Mort Walker, creator of Hi and Lois and of Lois's nephew Beetle Bailey, offered a remarkably kind memory of that experience. Walker is a keen observer of comic history, and the seeming simplicity of his work belies his profound understanding of the mechanics of the medium of comics.
As such, I respect his perspective a great deal.

"Thanks for saving my life."
Okay, then. But you still felt no need to give back to the art form that gave you so much, did you, Roy? You could have at least given proper credit to the creators whose panels you, ahem, adapted.
My friends from other parts of the art world take me to task for this attitude. They contend that I'm rather thin-skinned when it comes to comics being taken seriously.
Maybe so.
But until I see an Alex Toth original, or a Hugo Pratt, scoring this kind of dough and being taken seriously by the "legitimate" art world, until that work is shown in museums alongside the Lichtenstein works, I don't think comic art has yet attained its proper position in the art world.
I'll grant we're closer than we ever have been, but there's still work to be done!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Original Art Sundays #65 and 66 : Squirrel, Cat and Car

Wot, two at once?
Well, since I missed last week entirely, yes.
As a result of some unexpected crises, like a rock through a car window that caused a cascading series of interconnected sequential irritations, I spent most of the last two weeks dealing with present and future career and finance issues, and as such, only had time to begin the layout for the next page of A Private Myth.
It's shaping up well, so have hope. Both the next page and the career, that is.
To make amends to my faithful readers, I am offering a complete six-age story this week. This was done about four years ago for an anthology that never saw print. Lots of those out there, or more accurately, not out there.
This has never appeared before publicly in any form.
So here's Squirrel, Cat and Car.

As always, please click on the images for larger versions.
There is a followup story, Deer and Car, telling of events after my Mother's funeral. it's not quite what you'd think from the context and the title.
Technical notes now. Minor Photoshop cleanups, kept some gray values from the scans, otherwise the images are as originally drawn. Pen and ink on Bristol, crowquill, a bit of marker.
As you might imagine, this was not the easiest story I've ever told. The sights and sounds of the kitty in our dirt driveway are with me to this day.
I'm working on my Top 10 (or more) comics for 2010 already, a good chance to review the year's reading as the list takes shape.
Meanwhile, the next page of A Private Myth will be with us next week, God willing and the crick don't rise!