SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
Making comics, as we all know, is hard work. And — particularly if you work in the “indie” side of the aisle — it’s not always good-paying work.
Small wonder then that many talented individuals leave the medium to find a career in illustration, animation, sales, or hell, anything that paid better than comics.
Still, while I understand the financial necessity, there’s a number of artists I wish would come back to the fold, if just for old time’s sake. For example:
1. Aaron Augenblick. In 1999 Augenblick created a charming little mini-comic, Tales of the Great Unspoken. It was inventive, clever, superbly crafted and very funny. It won a Xeric. It was, all in all, a great debut that showed enough promise to suggest that Augenblick had a great career ahead of him in comics. Then he decided to chuck it all and make animated cartoons for Adult Swim and MTV.
It’s a shame. The kid really could have really made a name for himself. Still, it’s not too late Aaron. You could give up all that sweet, sweet Nickelodeon money and come back to comics anytime …
2. Brian Biggs. Like Augenblick, Biggs left the world of comics for greener pastures, though in his case, those pastures consisted of illustration and children’s books, with a smidge of animation here and there.
For a while there in the 1990s, though, it seemed as though he was one of the up and coming stars in indie comics. Books like Dear Julia and Frederick and Eloise brought a whimsical, storybook approach that never seemed overly twee or sweet. Indeed,they were often grounded by some dark undercurrents, not to mention backed by some serious artistic chops.
Biggs still dabbles in comics occasionally, but those are mainly one or two page pieces. I’d love to see him attempt a longer work once more.
3. Gary Larson. A gimmie perhaps, but significant enough to warrant inclusion here nevertheless. Seriously, has Larson done anything since the release of his children’s book There’s a Hair in My Dirt? I’m really tired of reading third-rate Far Side retreads in my newspaper — they just make Larson’s absence all the more frustrating. I’m not asking him to return to the grinding daily schedule that made him retire in the first place, but surely a collection of cartoons every few years or so wouldn’t put too much of a mental strain on him. And he’d have some new material for those calendars he cranks out every year.
4. Dave Cooper. For one brief shining moment, Dave Cooper had climbed up to the upper pantheon of Fantagraphic artists. Surreal, mind-warping books like Suckle, Ripple and his ongoing series Weasel, which chronicled a number of sweaty, paunchy, disturbingly neurotic and oversexed characters, had Cooper earning acclaim equal to the likes of Clowes and Ware.
Sadly, he became more interested (and no doubt found he could earn a better living) in painting and illustration (he recently wrote a children’s book of all things) and abandoned comics, apparently permanently. Perhaps he said everything he had to in those various graphic novels, but I’d sure love to have him come back and try again, even if he does end up repeating himself.
5. Mary Fleener. I’m not including that recent story she did for The Beats book and neither should you, since a) she didn’t write it and b) it wasn’t up to par with her best work.
No, I’m talking Fleener’s entirely self-produced work. The kind of stuff found in issues of comics like Slutburger, the G-rated Fleener and the x-rated Nipples and Tum-Tum. Even though she hasn’t produced a single 32-page comic in years, she remains one of the most original voices in comics, with an art style that’s completely her own (no one draws a sex scene like her). Really, comics probably needs her a lot more than she needs it.
6. Bill Watterson. An obvious choice really. Indeed, Watterson must be the patron saint of people who have turned their back on the comics industry. Watterson retired in 1995 and hasn’t uttered nary a peep since then except for the occasional introduction or commentary in one of those Calvin and Hobbes collections.
And god, how I miss him. I don’t care if he brings back Calvin and Hobbes. I don’t care if he tries to adapt the works of Herman Hesse. I don’t care if he decides to tell the adventures of “Bundle of Twigs and Mulch Pile.” I just want Watterson to be back at his drawing table and making comics again. Like, right now.