In these last few years, my comics spending habits have changed dramatically. I buy fewer titles from comic shops and more original art and prints directly from artists, without my annual budget changing that much. I’ll blame social media for the shift: Once upon a time, original art sales were the preserve of agencies, and you couldn’t help but wonder where your money was really going. Now savvy artists can market themselves for free using Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., and then sell their own products with minimum fuss through a number of websites, like Redbubble or Society6, or by setting up their own storefronts using BigCartel or Shopify or a similar broker.
There’s a human side to this change, too. First through blogs, and now through Twitter and Facebook, social media means you get to know artists like you couldn’t even a decade ago. Barriers are broken; they invite you into their lives, you read as they fret about the day-to-day stuff. I suppose if I followed a load of farmers on Twitter I’d probably stop eating at McDonalds, but I don’t. I follow British comic artists. Buying art from ethically sourced, free-range creators now makes more sense to me than buying factory-farmed, battery-cage comics.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without mashup king PJ McQuade adding another couple of designs to his growing range of Star Wars-themed greetings cards. Every year I bemuse my elderly relations with such delights as the Tauntaun snow-licking “Hoth-y Holidays!” card. This year they’ll be just as baffled to receive “Jabba All the Way,” ‘Wampa in a Winter Wonderland,” “Hive a Mos Wretched Holiday” or “Merry This Christmas Is.” And, hey, I’ve just noticed that if you stick a white beard on Yoda, he starts to look a little like Alec Guinness.
Rafael Grampá’s art has already featured in one high-profile advertising campaign this year, for Absolut vodka. Now his work is featuring in an promo for Nike that strikes straight to the core of the Brazilian national self-image: soccer. For any sports lovers looking forward to the 2014 World Cup, it’s an amusing piece of film, maybe even the equal of the famous 1998 airport kickabout short.
Brazil is hosting the tournament after a year of civil unrest, which featured protesters calling for the international community to boycott the World Cup amid spiraling costs and accusations of corruption. But soccer is the true national religion of Brazil, and I expect the World Cup to result in a wave of euphoria and national reconciliation, just as the 2012 Olympics caused in the United Kingdom after the riots of 2011. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this joyous advert prompts the start of this process.
Alison Sampson describes the art project “Think of a City” as an “exquisite corpse,” the name of the parlor game played by the surrealists in the cafes of Paris during the 1920s and ’30s. The game involved a piece of folded paper onto which, in turn, each member of a group drew a part of a body, without being able to see what others have drawn. The result was a body or character of composite parts, often quite Frankenstein-looking.
Sampson’s day job is as an architect, and like many in that profession she seems very idealistic about how good design can improve the quality of life. Having followed her blogging over the years, it appears to me she brings that philosophy to everything she does, that she actively believes comic art has the same transformative power to affect us positively. Here’s the project’s mission statement:
I don’t back that many projects on Kickstarter, but The Spider King is a great-looking book, so I’m seriously considering it. I can’t remember which artist acquaintance put me on to the Facebook page of Italian artist Simone D’Armini, but the guy has a very cool style, synthesizing the influence of all kinds of the right folks (I detect hints of Ben Caldwell, Andrew MacLean, WJC and Uli Oesterle; check out his DeviantArt page here). The Spider King is one of that old chestnut, Vikings versus aliens, written by Australian writer Josh Vann, which is why those prices on the Kickstarter page might seem a bit on the high side, as they’re in Australian dollars.
It’s hard to get an idea of a comic from just a few scattered panels on a Kickstarter campaign page, but Vann’s dialog seems as witty as D’Armini’s images are stylish. They’re about halfway there towards their target, with 16 days to go, so take a look and see if you agree that this project deserves to see the light of day.
Remember Paolo Rivera’s EC Comics-pastiching variant covers for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy? Well, maybe someone at Mondo did as well when they commissioned him to draw this amazing tribute to the style of Wally Wood. The print is being released to mark the end of Mondo’s “Tales from the Crypt” gallery show at their home in Austin, Texas (Comic Book Resources debuted pieces by Francesco Francavilla and Mark Todd last month).
There will be a simultaneous release with a print of Jason Edmiston’s painting of Johnny Craig’s notorious cover to Crime SuspenStories #22, used as damning evidence during the 1954 Senate subcommittee hearing on juvenile delinquency. These posters will be made available at a random time today, and as such, keep an eye on Mondo’s Twitter feed to see when.
We’re living in an age where increasing aspects of our comics heritage is being protected, with all manner of work coming back into print in fittingly deluxe packages. However, we can all think of great comics that will probably never be reprinted, for various obscure reasons. For example, all manner of great work published by Marvel and DC in the 1970s and ’80s will never see the light of day again due to lapsed licensing deals. Other titles, other creators, simply fall from fashion, to await rediscovery by another generation. Others still end up in complicated rights battles and litigation.
One field of comics-related work that seems to be just lost to the unrelenting march of time and progress is that of the pre-Internet fanzine. Many significant figures in comics history contributed text and art to this near-dead medium, and it’s hard to see any organization having the will to invest in researching, reprinting or digitizing this lost legacy.
Colin Smith is a blogger and the author of Sequart’s “Shameless? The Superhero Comics of Mark Millar,” and as a critic has written about comics for some of the United Kingdom’s top magazines. He has a secondary blog where he has been recently sharing some great art from old U.K. fanzines and convention booklets.
November is a month when creative people of all types set themselves all kinds of challenges, like NaNoWriMo (the National Novel Writing Month) and its junior equivalent PiBoIdMo (the Picture Book Idea Month). For artists, there’s also SkADAMo (Sketch A Day A Month), in which the challenge is to post … well, it’s self-explanatory, really. My favorite participation has been that of cartoonist Martin Hand, who’s been posting charmingly crude, Panter-esque, comic swipes paired with unlikely but always fitting quotes from literature, advertising and music. I was almost crying with laughter when I saw that Ulik the troll/R Kelly mash-up above turn up in his Twitter feed. There’s a lot more below.
One of the best new artists to break through at 2000AD in these past few years is Tiernen Trevallion. His style reminds me of all the right people (Kev Walker, Mike Mignola, Simon Bisley, Kevin O’Neill), and his inking is always deliciously thick and glossy.
I don’t often check on the progress of my old blog, but when I do, I tend to notice the entry from November 2009 on Trevallion’s designs for the Doctor Who animation “Dreamland” still racks up a fair few hits every month. And when not engaged in comics or as a conceptual artist, he has a third string to his bow, creating fine art of that low brow, transgressive kind I love so much.
On Facebook, Trevallion has been going on a big pre-Christmas push, selling prints of assorted images he has produced for 2000AD, and some images from the “Samovar of Filth,” an ongoing series of tributes to the art of sleazy 1960s paperbacks. It’s all great stuff, and he encourages everyone to email him for details (firstname.lastname@example.org) of what he has left, quotes for worldwide shipping, etc. Drop him a line.
We’ve featured street art by the collective EndoftheLine before (this post from July 2012 included murals in the styles of French maestros Moebius and McBess), but it’s recently posted images of some impressive new projects, again making it abundantly clear how much the group is influenced by comics.
Last week EndoftheLine unveiled a piece in London’s Hoxton district celebrating 30 years of 2000AD‘s “Slaine” with this spot-on tribute to the work of Simon Bisley, painted by founder Jim Vision.
One of the funniest insults I’ve heard in recent years was Noel Gallagher’s judgement upon his brother Liam: “He’s the angriest man you’ll ever meet. He’s like a man with a fork in a world of soup”. The two ex-Oasis frontmen now seem to communicate purely through insults traded via interviews with the music press. One of the regular sticking points between the feuding rock’n'rollers is Liam’s ongoing preoccupation with the fashion world. Now Liam’s fashion label Pretty Green have teamed up with the UK charity the Teenage Cancer Trust to bring out a range of T-shirts featuring illustrations by Jamie Hewlett.
We’ve written about the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center project a few times before, most recently a week ago when we mentioned it was finally opening a physical presence, in the form of a pop-up in the artist’s native Lower East Side Manhattan called “Prototype: Alpha.” That name strikes me in itself as being a particularly Kirby-esque flourish.
The location opened Monday, and the last few days we finally saw tantalizing glimpses of what to expect on the museum’s walls leaking out via social media (via the museum’s Facebook page and the What if Kirby Twitter account). Here are three behind-the-scenes shots of work being installed into the Delancey Street space:
Sean Howe’s Tumblr is full of interesting supplementary material that work as visual erratta to his great book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Now the author has highlighted a series of letters sent to the young Jim Lee (as recently posted by Lee to his Instagram account); they’re great, a fantastic lesson for any artist at the start of his or her career: keep trying, keep growing, keep submitting.
As dangerous as it’s proved in the past, I’m refining another theory. Comics fans are divided into two schools: those who like expressionist comic artists, and those who like realist art. Were your tastes decided by what comics you were exposed to first? Or did you start off liking one school, and develop into a love of the other?
I can see a pattern emerging through my comics-reading history where I start off as a kid loving the Kirby reprints I’m first exposed to, grew up loving Mick McMahon’s work in 2000AD and came back to comics as an adult under the spell of Mike Mignola. In my time, I’ve admired the work of realists like Neal Adams, Brian Bolland and Bryan Hitch, but it’s the work of those three expressionists that I always return to.
So imagine the pleasure I got seeing McMahon sharing his process for a cover for Dark Horse Presents #32. The January solicitations had passed me by, but that issue really is one for the old -chool 2000AD fans — the collaboration between Mignola and McMahon is joined by a new strip by Brendan McCarthy, “The Deleted.” Now that I think about it, a collaboration between McMahon and Mignola has a fairly inevitable feeling about it. No two comic artists have ever sought to refine their styles so much, constantly paring their work down in a pursuit of minimalism.
I’m very fond of the output of artist David Roach. The Welshman has been an on-off contributor to 2000AD since 1988, as well as regularly working as an inker on the strip features in Doctor Who Magazine. I don’t remember him working much recently in the United States, where he regularly turned up at DC and Dark Horse both as a penciler and inker. He comes from a family of academics, and has been developing a parallel career of late as something of a comic book and illustration historian.
Roach regularly uses his Facebook page as an art blog, showcasing artists of all stripes, just as likely to be a fine artist as a comic illustrator, as well as occasionally featuring art from his own collection. This week he has been displaying scans from what he calls “surely the rarest collectible in the comics history.”