March 4th, 2004


The Comics Advice Q&A Thread Part 2

This has been going well enough that I'm going to end the first thread and restart it here, for logistical reasons. So, please continue to ask comic business/craft-related questions here now. When and if this gets cluttered we'll start a third go-around.

Again, the disclaimer -- I'm a working cartoonist of some twenty years or so (good lord!), but that doesn't mean I'm an expert. These are my opinions, there are many ways to break into comics, make comics, work a con table, deal with criticism, and generally have fun and frustration with comics. I'm just trying to pass along some experience and help folks avoid the pitfalls and brick walls I've encountered in my bumpy funnybook career. I have had very little formal training, know little about computers, am mystified by many aspects of the industry, and I am doing this in my "spore time" so expect a ton of typos as I type as fast as I talk. Disclaimer over and out. Ask away (And please keep 'em on topic and on target).
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Please note that I've started a new thread for the comics advice Q&A, the previous one was getting stuffed.

We've finally, finally, completed the Hellboy: Weird tales assignment. Whew. Hopefully it'll be worth the wait. The final Weird tales issue, #8, should ship in late April, unless I pushed the schedule back enough to cause it to ship late. Anyway, I've spent the last day or to since I finished the inks cleaning up, puttering around, blogging like a fiend, and setting up for the next flurry of projects I have scheduled. On the boards is the FMU t-shirt due the 8th (eep), the Bill and ted trade cover due the 15th (erk), and some Nickelodeon strips due, uh, recently (ugh). And the juggling continues with the third Metal Men issue script which I need to get back to. I don't even remember what's been going on...I think there's some robots in it...

Went out and got the mail today, and bought some stuff at the comic shop. Paradise Kiss #5 (finale) for Sarah from Tokyopop, and the latest issue of Illustration, which looks terrific, as usual. This one has the designer of those swell Dell paperbacks with the eye in the keyhole, I'm sure there's a name for that series, but I'm not a paperback trivia guy. I love these designs and am looking forward to reading up on the backstory. Illustration is like Comic Art for, well, illustration (same publsiher, I believe, too lazy to go get the issue sitting on the bed) , mainly paperbacks and advertising of various types. If you dig that stuff, check it out.

Took a much-needed break last night and watched some movies for the first time in weeks. We watched Roman Coppola's CQ and John Huston's Asphalt Jungle. CQ was incredibly pretty, incredibly self-indulgent, incredibly underwhelming. Too many cliched indy moments, hell, too many student film moments (If I've seen one overhead b&w shot of a cup of coffee during my NYU days I've seen a hundred. And now I've seen CQ). I didn't hate it, I guess, but I was really losing patience as it went on, with the film, the script, the characters. A well-financed student film, with cardboard cyphers waltzing around Europe and a lot of pretentious babbling about art, film, and other NYU cutting room floor guff. Any movie that has a character filming the minutiae of his own life is too damned precious, even if there's supposed to be a satirical edge to it. At least I think there was a satirical intent to that subplot/characterization -- hard to tell with the valium sheen hanging over everything. Maybe I'm too vyulgar to get it, maybe it was just tepid as heck. The cross-cutting between fantasy (the not loopy enough barbarella/Modesty Blaise pastiche/parody sf film) and reality, nothing new. Observations on filmmaking, very nothing new. Guess what -- the protagonist is nice and has ideas and goals and everyone else in the film industry is a moron, an opportunist, a phony or all three. Yawn. It's a very decently made film, technically, but it's a terribly written, pretty pointless and empty film. Nice art direction, nice late '60's clothes and ephemera, one or two funny lines, some very attractive ladies, Billy Zane's smirk. The film editor lead/stand-in for our filmmaker is a complete, vapid blank, I don't care what happens to him, and at film's end, despite the appearance of conflict and drama, you realize he really didn't have to struggle to achieve or learn anything. He gets fired off a film, he gets rehired in the next scene over the phone. The dumb clcihed bad phony young new director has an accident, he's hired to finish the film once the obvious jokes are made about young phony untalented pretentious film directors. He falls for the lead actress, because she's pretty. She shows no personality, so it must be because she's pretty. He has trouble with the ending of the film, sort of. He comes up with an ending. A reel of the film is sabotaged, it doesn't seem to cause any problems other than two characters say it is a problem. A film can is stolen, it is then quickly returned, in a fumbling scene, to boot. There is no sense he will fail, lose his job, lose control of the film, get in trouble, pay for his aloofness, his ill treatment of his girlfriend, his vapidity, his luck, his hubris, his being a cliched film student, anything. I was never sure why I was supposed to care about this guy. He lives in France with a girl, and edits films. protests and life never touches him. Is that intentional? I don't know. He's estranged from his family, but it's played for a pithy indy film set piece with Dean Stockwell in the airport. Girl troubles? She's a shrew, he's a zombie, we never saw them happy save for a few seconds in his dumb art film. She conveniently leaves so he can hook up with the actress,and she was a pain in the ass spouting on the nose dialogue anyway, so screw her, as long as this clears the way for our hero to nail the hot actress. Our hero punbches a few walls but it's step outline struff, not emotional or convicning, he needs to show some remorse and anguish, because, well, that's what happens right? He gets over it very quickly, like, in the next scene. Is this deadpanned satire? Sly parody? Gross self-indulgence on the part of someone whose dad should have gotten him a story editor along with some backers? I pick C. Ultimately the film suffers most for me because it's about a fillmmaker in the late, turbulent 60's, in fashionable, crazy Europe, who wants to make art and love and find truth, and the character -- like the film -- is simply and astoundingly devoid of passion about it all. Dead formal crosscutting, beautiful but distracting art direction, lucite eroticism, and no passion. Now I can understand why the positive buzz on this indy semi-darling seemed to revolve around the soundtrack, the period stuff, and the chick in the spacesuit. All good, bit not nearly enough.

On the other hand, the Asphalt Jungle is just friggin' great, perhaps the Citizen Kane of caper flicks, impact-wise, influence-wise, cinematography-wise, detail-wise. A beautiful example of the crime procedural, in beautiful black and white and shadow and glistening pavement and smoke, chiseled noir elements, solid characterizations and not an inch of fat on it's tough 1950 body. I've been wanting to see this for two decades now, and it was more than worth the wait and exceeded my high expectations. Sterling Hayden is, well, top dollar Sterling Hayden, The Killing rock stolid Sterling Hayden. Louis Calhern is excellent, and I'm a sucker for James Whitmore and San Jaffe in just about anything, and they're both great here. Ditto Jean Hagen. Eyeball bonus, Marilyn Monroe in a small but pivotal role, pre-nose job, which I always found more attractive, personally. If you haven't seen it, seek it out, it's worth it, imho.

Couldn't sleep last night until about 8:30 am, just couldn't, so I read comics and did crossword puzzles until I finally dropped of. The GYO wrap-up, is , well, insane, disgusting and fascinating. Human corpse death-stench gas-powered mechanical crawlers. Fish and animals, too. O-kay. I especially liked the second bonus story, a real Lovercraftian type of creep out. For fans of clean, western endings, non-clean, non-western edning alert. But if you read Uzumaki you might be aware that expecting clean anything in an Ito story is a goofball pipe dream. But I must say, his horror stories are the only ones to creep me out and unsettle me as much as the EC stuff did back when I was ten years old and fell upon tales of baseball games played with body parts and vampire drinking parties with human on tap. His drawing style and out of control imagination, lack of sentimentality or discrimination towards his protagonists and grim, bleak demeanor conveys the sort of impact many wonk 70's and 80's indy horror/exploitation movies had. Better you spend your dough on this than the latest Hollywood scare flick.

Nitey nite.
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