February 21st, 2004

smokin'

Where we are now

Has it really been almost two weeks since my last regular post? That doesn't seem possible. Then again, these days I have absolutely no conception of time whatsoever. For a while we were waking up at all hours of the day and night, we finally settled the sleep schedule earlier in the month but I've been slipping, I didn't get up until after 2 PM today. Couldn't sleep last night, actually, haven't slept well in a week or so, all signs of burn out.

As you may have guessed, the Hellboy strip is still not yet finished. It's become a real hassle, mainly due to my overloading the pages with too much detail and with my inability to let go of the pages. I don't think well on the page for color, not having much of a background of using the stuff, so some panels are a nightmare for Sarah to deal with, even with knockouts, it's heady to work on. I'm having flop sweat problems on the final pages and it's pretty dispiriting. it's one thing to be a bad freelancer and duck a job and sit on the couch or go drinking while the clock ticks, another thing entirely to actually be working 10-12 hours a day for a month and still not hit your deadline and it's because you're overdoing it. Tight detailed pencils that took a long time led to detailed inking that I've screwed up in several key places, I've had to redo several panels and drop in new panels, heads, effects, like crazy. Like Mad. Like Cracked? Anyway, hopefully this job will be done in the next few days and Scott Allie and DHC won't kill me too badly. I've apparently caused the last Weird Tales issue to be late, not by much, one hopes, but my slow going has led to my blowing the deadline by a week now. Ugh.

Not much else happens when you're chained to the board. Oh, sure, I almost broke my toe dashing a little too quickly out of my tiny studio -- bashed my foot into the second volume of the Famous Artist course books from the '50's, the heavy metal ring caught my middle toe as I bashed it, and wrenched it sideways. Sarah told me to ice it but I didn't, being stupid male-like and wanting to get back to work. So, of course, that night my middle toe turned a plum-like deep purple and we were afraid I'd actually broken it. It doesn't seem to be the case, the toe never ballooned, just got awful-looking (it looked like I had one zombie toe in the middle of my foot, very cool/creepy). It's taken a few days for the bruise to start fading but everything seems okay. I'm not limping anymore, at least, that was truly pathetic, people staring at me in the Shoprite like I was Darkman or something.

I've been reading a lot of old EC comics as of late, which I am wont to do when in need of pure escapism. The large size of the Cochran volumes helps, because if I'm drawing my hands tend to crab up and it's hard to hold smaller books. So, these gigundo hardbacks are easier to hold onto. A couple of mild observations: I've been really getting more and more into Johnny Craig's work, and am still not quite sure why he seems to be in some ways the odd man out when folks discuss EC. I mean, sure, he gets (and deserves) more ink than solid stalwarts like Kamen, Orlando, Evans, but I think more essays if not a book on the man would be really welcome. I also find these days that I enjoy Jack Davis crime and horror and war work far more than his humor work in Mad. I know most folks think of Davis as a humor artist, big feet and hands and broad expressions, energetic, full to bursting brush lines and crosshatching, insane anatomy, monster texturing and fold theories gone mummy wild -- but I find his actual Mad stuff really constrained and oddly unfunny. Even the often stiff Wally Wood's Mad stuff moves more for me, even though the figures aren't as kinetic as Davis'. A Davis figure standing around doing nothing automatically has more life than the average superhero artist's action poses, but I think his overwrought style brings more to the overwrought Feldstein horror comic than the humor stuff. Ditto his war stuff, which really benefits from his ability to portray muck and dirt and sweat and movement. His humor stuff almost seems perfunctory, like he can draw funny so he brings nothing extra or special to the job, he seems more engaged by a Civil War story or a Crypt Keeper splash, even though reports say he didn't really like the horror stuff. Well, I think his stuff clicks on it, whereas I can't think of a single Jack Davis humor piece that works for me or sticks out in my mind. Wood and especially Elder, but not Davis, who ended up a wealthy man due to his humorous illos and cartoons.

Speaking of Elder, yeah, I finally picked up the massive Fantagraphics retrospective/bio tome. Wonderful, essential stuff. My only complaint -- the minute I got the book home the sucker spread, or splayed, or whatever bibliophiles would call a book where the cover "warped" and wouldn't lay flat once the book was cracked. And the pages got kinda wobbly for lack of a better phrase, sorry, I don't know bookseller terminology or justafold books and handle them with gloves, I just buy 'em and read 'em. Anyway, this is an expensive book, $70, and I was disappointed that the damned thing won't lay flat. Even after burying it under a pile of EC libraries for a week the cover still curves away. A friend of mine in the biz testifies that his copy has the same problem. For shame, for shame. A book as beautiful as this shouldn't have binding trouble, or whatever led to this. Anyway, relatively minor quibble, I'm sure it'll look fine on the shelf and it's not falling apart of anything (like my copy of Prince Valiant #7, which tumbled from the binding the other day while I was looking through it). The book is essential to any comic fan/lover/aficionado/nut's library, but if you're not Elder-mad or a book nudge or on a budget and without a discount at yer local hole, get the paperback. Me, I wouldn't trade the HC for anything (save an Elder original, mayhaps), binding glitch aside. I love this book like a kitten.

Speaking of Fantagraphics, while limping through the comic shop Thursday before going shopping for cabin fever provisions, I picked up the latest Comics Journal, mainly for the Steve Ditko section of essays. I enjoyed the issue by and large, but I was disappointed with the Ditko material, too little, too inconsequential. It felt like I was reading a slightly more substantial/critical issue of Jack Kirby Collector or Comic Book Artist, the essays are chockablock with plot summaries and lukewarm observations. nobody really takes the bull by the horns and wrestles with "DITKO". Everyone gets into the Objectivism a bit, the Lee/Ditko relationship a bit, but the essays are short, a little monotonous and I wasn't exactly floored by new observations or insights. True, Ditko is an enigma, but maybe someone could have talked to people who have met him and worked directly with him. I've heard stories from David and Maria Lapham about Ditko working at Valiant that revealed more about the man that these essays did, and while he wasn't Joe Gregarious, he did deliver his Marvel work personally for quite some time, people dealt with him, met him, talked to him, he wasn't in a cave sending comics off in a bottle. Anyway, that wasn't the point of the section, obviously, but it might have shed some light into the mysterious traveller. I really wasn't expecting a round robin of short essays on Shade the Changing Man, Ditko's drawing of hands, and Ditko versus Kirby as a plotter, which was really TwoMorrows material, no matter how erudite the language used. I was left unimpressed and unenlightened by the Ditko section, as a cover feature, it seemed oddly insufficient and wispy. I would have liked a critical overview of his career, perhaps, I dunno, something to tie it all up and set everything in context, the essays to have been sharper and more on topic (the hands/giant monster and Mr A pieces stray quite a bit, esp. for short articles), to have relied less on plot summarization, to have not all gone over similar ground re: Ayn Rand, and as with most Journal pieces, I would have liked to have seen more art, and better examples, to boot (as a personal aside, I cringe when I look at the art selected for my own interview). If I had a dime for every TCJ article that discussed a specific piece of art and didn't actually reprint the piece, I'd be able to afford Popeye volume 1 on e-bay. Anyway, I'm not erudite, these are just my working class impressions of the "Steve Ditko" issue which promised, but for me, didn't deliver. I loved the Gilbert Hernandez/Craig Thompson panel talk, wish it was longer, nice to see actual cartoonists give actual opinions about actual cartoonists and work. And I always liked panel transcriptions, myself, but good panels are few and far between, especially nowadays, when con panels are mostly fanboy clusterfucks or publisher press shills. I read the issue cover to cover, it's been a while since I picked up a Journal, owing more to time and money than interest, and I enjoyed it. But, imho, if you're looking for revelations on Ditko, I don't think you'll be satisfied by this issue. It leaves a lot out and leaves a lot to be desired.

And speaking of the Journal, those of you who pay attention to comics must know by now that Journalista is on hiatus as Dirk Deppey takes over the editorial reins of TCJ, in place of the booted Milo George. I will miss Journalista and hope for its return ASAP, to be honest, these days I found Journalista more essential to my life than the Journal. Not knocking the Journal, just the way it is, without Journalista I'm floating, I can't read the bulk of comics "news" sources (which are either fanboy clusterfucks or publisher/creator press shills), Indy is a sporadic enterprise and Egon, while worthwhile, just isn't the same animal. Anyway, I'm curious as to what Deppey's Journal will read like, and here's to hoping he's able to resurrect Journalista in his "spare time".

Okay, there's a post of no consequence, but it ends the radio silence. I have a slew of HOF updates and announcements to make, which I'll post next time I step up to the keyboard. Hope everyone's well, type to you soon.
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