September 13th, 2011

smokin'

Upcoming Comics And Some Other Stuff

Two H.O.F.-related comics ship will be shipping on the 21st:

I wrote and drew a 10-page story called "Model Behavior" for Bart Simpson #63, which Sarah colored. More info here.

A new 8-page Beasts of Burden story by Jill Thompson and I will be in Dark Horse Presents #4. More info here.

Additionally:

- the Milk and Cheese collection is off to the printers.

- Sarah and I are finishing up an 8-page Simpsons comic for Bongo.

- We just finished up a fairly hefty non-comics project that...we can't talk about.

- I'm working on a spot illustration for Mad.

- Starting some new comics and, if all goes well, in a few weeks or so, I'll be starting some new scripts. Hope to be able to say what they're for as soon as possible.

Otherwise:

Things have been hectic, we've been dealing with a computer metldown that has caused a lot of troubles, we almost lost a lot of files and it's made a lot of extra work for Sarah while deadlines are looming. We're still living amonst boxes and piles post-Irene. Things could be a lot worse, of course.

Been reading a lot of YA fantasy books lately, the most recent volume in the Last Apprentice series, the Underland Chronicles series, the first volumes of the Theodosia, Spellbinder and The Invisible Order series, the final volume of the Enola Holmes Mysteries, and probably one or two I'm forgetting.

Read two Doc Savge pulps, after being curious about them ever since I saw the 70's paperbacks in a shop as a kid I was pretty underwhelmed  -- they're kind of bloodless and dull, the plotting is dopey even for an admittedly dopey genre. Both stories involved an endless series of characters getting captured and escaping and getting captured again, etc, etc. The situations aren't super-imaginative and the writing is obviously padded out for those Depression-era extra cents-per-word.. Doc Savage is a dullard with no personality, his abilities are kind of ridiculous (his super-hearing cracks me up every time it's described and explained) , and his fabled team of assistants seem to serve no purpose other than to take his instructions, their supposed expertise seems redundant and pointless because Doc Savage is so friggin' excellent at everything, except he gets captured a lot just like his pals. Wonder Woman doesn't get tied up as much as these goofs, I swear. I really wanted to like Doc Savage, I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more as a kid, I dunno. Maybe I've been ruined by reading the Spider before the Shadow, Doc Savage, the Avenger, et al, none of those have really done it for me. And the Spider, as crazy-stupid as it is, is crazy-stupid-awesome and just delivers what I want from pulp hero nonsense.

Read some Philip K. Dick book, forgot what it was, as with most of them I read it, enjoy it, and then it becomes part of a sort of Phil Dick miasma file in my memory where I can't recall particular books very well or match the plots and details I do remember to the titles. I can remember a few that stand out or I've re-read, but there's a batch of titles that are just...one...big...hallucinatory book.

Last night I read Blake Bell's book on Bill Everett, which didn't really knock me out. Like many books about cartoonists, there's really not too much to say, and the book largely amounts to a coffee table art book with a lot of nice images. Much of the text goes over Comics History 101, Famous Funnies, Superman, Timely Comics, Martin Goodman, the 50's horror bust,  Stan Lee --  but by the book's own admission Everett didn't interact much with other professionals and often distanced himself from comics, so at times it feels like Everett is a supporting character in an essay on Golden Age comics. It's nice that Bell cleans up untruths and rumors about the artist -- many originating from Everett's own mouth -- but as with the Mort Meskin book (not by Bell), I'd rather have just read a selection of the cartoonist's best work with an extended biographical introduction about the man. I think that would speak volumes more than the texts which, in either volume's case, didn't really make the case for each artist as among the true "greats" (The Meskin book also stumbles badly, imho, in the selection of his art). 

The book has some really nice Bill Everett work in it and the basic story of his largely sad life is interesting if relatively slight (a drinking problem, cigarettes and a problem with authority being the dramatic crux of things), if you're a serious Everett fan you'll probably enjoy it. I got it for store credit, hoping the text would prove to be more substantive than I found it. Maybe I was wrong to expect more of a dense biography. The recent Alex Toth book strikes me as how you really need to do these things to do them right, and that maybe some creators don't deserve the bang-up treatment when the material is a little skimpy. Sometimes your personal favorite artist doesn't have much of a story to be told, or there's too little information for an entire book, and the narrative can fit into a good-sized Alter Ego article. Obviously that isn't as cool or celebratory or potentially lucrative as a hardcover book, and today we're seeing books on a lot of things that years ago would have been a fanzine piece or a TwoMorrows special. Not that this is some terrible thing, I think it's cool to see these guys getting their due, and who am I to say someone shouldn't write a book about an artist they're passionate about?  I just kind of think that when all's said and done, creating Sub-Mariner and co-creating Daredevil is really neat, and certainly more of a legacy than many creators will ever have (myself included) but it isn't exactly earth-shattering to anyone besides Roy Thomas and other serious Golden Age die-hards who would probably buy a $40 Carl Burgos book if someone put one together (not knocking Burgos, y'know?).

Bell makes several claims for Everett I don't agree with, one being that his 50's horror work was the equal to the best of the EC stable, for one. I admire Everett a great deal -- otherwise I wouldn't have picked up the book -  and I like his horror stuff a lot, but, in my opinion, while he turned out some wonderful pages and solid stories (and his covers are a riot), he wasn't as good as the best, Craig, Davis, Krigstein, et al. He wasn't the stylist Ingles was, and I'm not the world's biggest Ingles fan. Obviously this is arguable. True, it doesn't help that he had largely crappy scripts to work with at Timely/Marvel/Atlas, but in my opinion Everett slopped out a lot of pages and even his better stories are inconsistent. I think he comes in a cut below the best EC horror guys. No crime. I also found it odd that when Bell indicates Everett's legacy and influence on later cartoonists it is mostly backed up by several comments from Kim Deitch about the artist. Deitch is great, but one cartoonist hardly constitutes an overall impact by Everett on modern comics. That impact may exist, and probably exists, Everett is hardly unknown amongst professionals, but still, you have to put your evidence on the page, and quoting one guy after making that statement isn't super-convincing.

Writers make broad claims for their favorites far too often as if they're truisms and not personal opinions. Bell does this in his Ditko book, as well, stating that Ditko could have easily been one of the great humor cartoonists if he decided to pursue that route (actually, he may have said this in the first FBI Ditko Archives that collect his comics). Which is opinion, of course, and speculation. The sole humor work included in the Ditko book didn't strike me as coming anywhere near the humor work of Kurtzman or Elder or Wood or Barks or Beck or Briefer or Cole or the Archie gang or name-your-poison to any degree at all, in fact I thought it was pretty sloppy and weak. It's not a crime or anything, I just don't follow why an opinion on a creator has to be offered as accepted fact, and why so often that opinion isn't more strenuously backed up. It's a fannish tendency that doesn't help the creator or the writer, one should keep in mind that the audience might not be as familiar or convinced as you are about your subject.. Everett is described as "ever the innovator"  at one point, and while the creation of the Sub-Mariner was an innovation, I didn't understand exactly why Everett merited the description. Kirby is someone I'd think of as continuously innovating. Kurtzman, sure. Everett? Created Sub-Mariner...made him an anti-hero...tried a different coloring process for some covers...that's what he'd done up to the point where he was described as "ever the innovator". Am I nit-picking? Probably. But I always cringe a little when I'm reading about a creator or a comic and the writer seems to be digging, exaggerating or padding in order to present their subject in a greater light. I think Everett's work was really good, rather than capital-G great -- and I'm not the biggest Sub-Mariner enthusiast on the Earth -- maybe that's why I'm perhaps overly critical of the book. I just didn't find a compelling argument in the book as to why Everett is one of the greats. As with the Meskin book, I wanted to believe, but I couldn't. I understand Everett's status and importance more than his greatness, if that makes any sense.  I dunno, maybe it's just me. it's all just opinions.

Yeesh, I gotta get back to work. I wasn't planning on writing a bunch of crap today. At least, not for the blog. Ha ha.

Later, skaters.