Tuesday, May 31, 2011

late to the table: Minnesota Spring Con 2011

Between illness and scheduling conflicts, I've neglected my posting for a while. Attempts to catch up begin, well, now.
I attended Spring Con in St. Paul last weekend for both days and had a splendid, if exhausting, time!
Johnny Recon, a book I picked as one of my Top Comics of 2010, has not had a new issue for quite a while. This is because its creators, Mitch Gerads and Scott Dillon, have signed a new publishing deal!
Mitch and Scott, beaming at success!
They were not at liberty to divulge details, but were quite happy. Possibly this is a new model: hone your craft, do a Kickstarter for recognition, get picked up by a publisher?
The models for becoming a comics professional have evolved over the decades. Initially, an aspiring comics creator, especially an artist, would work their way up through apprenticeship. This was followed by a few dangerous years in which creators jumped into self-publishing with little regard for learning craft, and equally disastrous results.
Following that, folks began posting comics online willy-nilly.
As we worked through Web II and Web III, that evolved into a number of alternative funding models. Kickstarter, which will get a separate post soon, is the latest and, in many ways, best of those models.
In any event, congratulations to Scott and Mitch!
Appearing at the Con for the first time: the Minneapolis Roller Girls!

My old friend Jenna, from Trans Voices Choir, was also a Roller Girl. Their spirit is indomitable and contagious.
It's one thing to have folks around in really cool costumes. That's plenty of fun, but it's still in the delighful realm of make-beleive.
It's quite another to have costumed athletes in such an unusual, exuberant sport in, ahem, uniform, promoting their trade.
Even though it's still unreal, it's more real, if that makes any sense.
Other big news: after two years of waiting, the newest Uptown Girl book from Bob Lipski and Brian Bastian is out!
Here's a shot of the book from Bob's blog:
There are some differences between this and past works in this fun series. The size and format are a bit different, and the lettering is digital. It's quite legible, but I'm not sure if the font (Cooper Black, I think) is a good match for Bob's clean, spare art.
That said, the story is as much fun as always, and just as engaging. I hadn't realized how much I'd missed having a new Uptown Girl to read until I went without for a while. This was the only new book, pretty much the only book at all, that I bought at the Con.
But not the only book I got! I burned a copy of the Recobbled Cut of Thief and the Cobbler for old friend and fellow cinephile Sam Hiti, and he gave me a copy of his newest, Death-Day, part 1, in trade, completely unexpected on my end!
Sam's work fascinates me. He creates a meld of Sergio Leone, Jack Kirby, and Doug TenAppel, seemingly without effort. I wasn't able to afford this when it came out last September, so it was a welcome addition to my Hiti library!
Also in attendance: Geoff Sebesta, who I hung out with at the CBLDF benefit the first year I attended San Diego. Geoff has expanded his I Am the President of Ice Cream (I have one of the earlier versions), and I begged poverty, promising him a sale next year! Here's a shot of the smiling, charismatic Geoff at another con. His smile is usually much bigger than this:

But my personal highlight of the Con was the presence of dear friend Trina Robbins, with her partner Steve Leialoha, the cutest couple in comics.
Steve signs his bubblegum card for me as Trina smiles her wonderful smile!
I'm running out of time and will finish this post tomorrow. So much more to say!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A memory and a reflection: Jeffrey Catherine Jones, 1944- 2011

The comics world is full of people who call themselves artists, for better or for worse.
The larger art world has a similar circumstance.
Few cross the arbitrary boundaries of the two worlds.
Jeffrey Catherine Jones was one of those few.

Beginning her comics career with some one-off stories for Charlton and some work in the undergrounds, notably on her stunning solo book Spasm!,  Jeffrey's work first gleaned national recognition through the pages of the National Lampoon. 
Her strip IDYL, stunning in its clarity, was a series of sardonic and melancholy short moral tales, often strangely out of place among the strip's peers, but always welcome and eagerly devoured by the readers. During this time, Jones also took up with Bernie Wrightson, Micheal Kaluta and Barry Windsor-Smith in the short-lived adventure known as The Studio. Wrightson spoke to me concerning The Studio at San Diego a couple years ago. To paraphrase from my spotty memory, "It was this huge, rat-infested space with great light. We only worked there together a short time (he specified the time frame, but I don't recall specifics- it may have been less than two months) until the whole thing caved in. But we produced some incredible work." Shortly thereafter, Jones shared an upstate New York home with Vaughn Bode', a colleague from the undergrounds, another collaborator with Wrightson (on the Purple Pictography strips for Swank), and another artist with transgender leanings. Bode' and Jones were fast friends by all accounts, and some of their adventures living together are documented in the Comics Journal special issue on sex. The article is reprinted at this link, on the website of Vaughn's son Mark Bode'. 
Vaughn's strip Jones Goes to Bones is a loving jab at Jeffrey's perspective that her art would make her immortal. I'll add the strip to this post as soon as I can get a decent scan of it.
I have no direct knowledge of the problems Jeffrey faced in the subesquent years. She finally had her sex-reassignment surgery fairly late in life. 
She had personal problems following her surgery, but based on secondhand reports from mutual friends in the comics community, these were problems she had experienced prior to surgery as well. Her bouts with mental illness have been documented, by her, on her website. She appeared to be in recovery in the final years of her life.
I wrote her in the early 1990s as part of my research for my book on GLBT comics.We struck up a brief correspondence thereafter, truncated by her aforementioned illness. 
Her reply to my specific query about her sexual identity, which I promised to use verbatim:
"That I am a transsexual is a matter of public record. But I am a woman first and an artist second and wish to be seen on those terms. I find no others acceptable."
I reconnected with her via Facebook, as did so many others. I suspect she was surprised to find out just how large a following her work had. 
L to R: Wrightson, Jones, Kaluta, Smith: The Studio

A Jones Tarzan painting

Ms. Jones in recent years

In the spate of obituaries I've seen today, there is a bit of well-intentioned stumbling over pronouns. My response is direct. She chose the terms of her life. Respect them in her death.
Finally, here's a video obituary that includes the trailer for a recently funded documentary on the life of Jeffrey Catherine Jones. Like Roy Orbison, she was lucky enough to live to see a renewed interest in her work.

Goodbye, Ms. Jones. I would have liked to have known you better, but I feel honored to have known you at all. Your work made all our lives a bit richer.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

a miscellany: Spider-Man Meets 'mazing man!

The contest is still going! Let's have your comments!
After a day filled with minor irritations and a few positive notes, I decided to unwind.
It's Photoshop time!
Once again, inspired by Rob's blog, I'm posting a cover composite.
This one features Marvel Team-up, the book that spotlighted Spider-Man in various teams. Here. I've matched him with one of my favorite zany populist heroes, 'mazing man!


The balance is a little off, but then, so are both heroes.
There's an odd aspect to Ditko's work, and I find its charm in keeping with the 'mazing man character.
This is just a fun thing. Unless the current class and Spring Con eat all my time, look for the promised page of A Private Myth this Sunday!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Original Art Sundays No. 92: Surrealist Cowgirls, It Does This, p. 6

Remember, the comments contest still has about a month to go! Post your comments!
On schedule with the next page of Surrealist Cowgirls.

Overall, very happy with this one, and with the way the story is progressing.
There are a couple niggling things that give me grief. The stipple pattern I really like is too light for reproduction, so i have to push it more than I'd care to, either on the page or in levels.
Also, Whalemule's eyes don't look closed. I haven't decided yet if she sleeps with her eyes open, if that's the way it soolks when her eyes are shut, or if I just want to find another way to do it.
Whalemule is such fun to draw.
I also need to decide if that's her name: another contest? Possibly when the issue goes to press and another is in the hopper....
Getting into drawing the rocks. Too bad they're heading out from the steppes in the morning, on the next page!
Next week, another page of A Private Myth.

Inspiration: Batman and Strangers in Paradise

The comments contest is still going on, so comment away!
This is NOT an Original Art Sunday, just a piece I've been playing with for a couple weeks.
Inspired by my friend Ross over at the Brave and the Bold: the Lost Issues, I took a shot at a pastiche cover!
Here's Batman and the Strangers in Paradise girls!
Not completely satisfied with this, but reasonably so. The soft Nick Cardy "painterly" image of the source cover is a bit jarring when juxtaposed with the hard line art of Terry Moore, but here the Match color command is our friend. Katchoo and Francine look more like they "belong" as the colors are more consistent with that palette.
Thematically, this plays on the whole crime lord thing that was one of the less plausible, but quite compelling, subplots of Strangers.
I might take another shot at this with different images sometime down the line, perhaps even draw one from scratch. But I like the collage/pastiche thing a lot too.
These are frustrating, but they are also fun, and serve to keep my chops current between infrequent assignments. Most of my art is traditional line art these days, and it's important to not let any skills atrophy. That's why I still practice my guitar, even though the lump sum of income I've generated in my life as a musician is one dollar.
Of course, there's the whole joy of doing it thing too.
Still have just a touch of inking to do on the next page of the Surrealist Cowgirls, and I will be able to get it done today. Presuming scanner access, look for another post sometime before midnight Central Standard Time.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Original Art Sundays No. 91: Tranny Towers no. 16

Remember, the comments contest is still going! Comment on any current or back post to be considered!
Back on schedule, and with a viable layout for the next pages of the other two storylines, we'll stay that way for the nonce.
I really like this one. It was big fun playing with the blinds/ shadows.
I might rescan from the original, since some of the nuances of the Coquille board are lost in the reproduction from which this scan is taken. working pebbled board and China marker gives a great tonal range. I had a whole graphic novel planned with its use in mind, but I ran afoul of potential copyright issues over the material from which the story springboarded, and decided not to pursue.
Next week: Surrealist Cowgirls, page 6!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hey kids! WIN Alarmingly Bad Comic Art!

Hi, folks.
According to the counter on the side, I've had over 9600 readers of this blog to date.
The cynics and naysayers try to persuade me that most of those are robot hits (which must really hurt, them being metal and all).
But I say thee nay! I know at least some of you are out there in flesh and blood and all the icky bits contained therein!
So here's what I'm agonna do.
Fanfare please....

(Of course, that's not my work, but John Byrne doing two of his best characters in the style of the late great Don Martin!)
I have two back to back summer teaching contracts starting on June 10.
Post a response to ANY post you've read at this blog on or by that date. If you like what I'm doing, hot socks! If not, let me know that as well.
I will post all responses in their appropriate topics, and the Top 5, judged by arbitrary criteria like most insightful, most challenging, most fun, or closest to what I had for breakfast, will win. Each of the Top 5 posters get a signed copy of my first comic book from 1994, Ink Tantrums No. 1, along with anew piece of art for each.
Ink Tantrums is the book that my friend Katherine Collins said had "alarmingly bad art". She did, however, praise the writing endlessly. And she really liked all of my follow up book, so there was some vindication.
This book also contains the first appearances of the Surrealist Cowgirls.
I'll do a piece of original art for each of the winners as well, and will do something a bit better than Alarmingly Bad!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Original Art Sundays revisited: #88: oddment: sumi-e and haiku

Got a very pleasant e-mail from a talented gent, Jordan O'Leary.
He's starting a new blog to chronicle his new adventure, living in Japan.
To that end, he's requested use of part of one of my Sumi-e images in his blog's masthead.
Of course, I agreed.
We had a brief but delightful email chat about Buddhism and Sumi-e and this and that, and then I saw, with great pleasure, his use of my piece.
Here's his work with my work.

I find his documentation of this adventure very exciting, and I am happy to cross-link to his blog here. It will be added to the blogs on the left side, and I eagerly anticipate updates.
Happy adventuring, Jordan!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Original Art Sundays No. 90: Oddment: NY Photos, 2009

Once again, resuming the rotation:
An oddment (something outside the storylines, a fun piece), followed by
A Tranny Towers page, followed by
A Surrealist Cowgirls page, followed by
A Private Myth page.
This week's oddment: photos taken at the 2009 GORGG!
We took a boat tour of the city, from whence comes this odd little panorama.

The distortion caused by the action used in Photoshop to merge the seven images that created this one is both charming and a tad annoying.
The boat tour itself was unexpected, a revelation. 
This is a panoramic view of Harlem from the harbors. As hinted above, the buildings really do stand up straight!
I also caught this shot of friendly dock workers!

I love this. I love the depth of field, I love that the image is so complex and yet so clear in its subject matter. Most of all, I love the attitude. For some reason, I'm very good at getting positive response from subjects in candid shots. I've known many less fortunate in that area!
On our way back to the train to Connecticut, one of the locals in our cadre suggested we stop at Times Square. Not thinking anything of it, I turned a corner and saw this.

Oh my Lord.
Day for night indeed!
Loud, tacky, opulent and elegant all at the same time.
We saw a small jazz combo playing afront a backlighted staircase. People were dancing. Everyone was free, and nothing could hurt us.
It seemed to me to be New York at its best.
This is the underside of the backlit staircase.

In two very short visits a decade apart,  I've developed a passion for New York.
I don't know when I'll go back.
But I know I will.
Next: more Tranny Towers.