Since the dawn of the medium, comic books largely have been the creation of writers and artists working hand-in-hand to produce the characters, stories, titles and universes you follow each week. Recently, however, lawsuits by comic creators against publishers — and sometimes other creators — have raised the question of where, when and how a comic is truly created. Are they the product of the writer, with the artist simply tasked to illustrate the story based on instructions laid out in a script or outline? Or is it a communal effort, with writer and artist both providing unique contributions to the creation of the character and setting, each serving as a storyteller in the planning, coordination and draftsmanship of the actual comic pages? In recent years, comics have become a writer-centric medium, for better or worse, but artists continue to play a crucial, if sometimes overlooked, role in the design of characters and transformation of the writer’s scripts into, you know, comics.
In an interview with ICv2.com, Howard Chaykin relayed a story about how an unnamed writer views an artist’s contribution as “absolutely nothing to do with the creative process in comics.” “I am of the belief that the artist does 50 percent of the ‘writing’ in comic books,” said Chaykin, who’s worked as a writer and artist for decades. “I think the guy is plum crazy. It staggered me in its limited understanding of what comic books are about.”
Sometimes I think I dreamed that DC Comics announced that they would finally collect Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s Flex Mentallo miniseries into a deluxe edition, but no, I didn’t dream it — it actually was announced earlier this year. And if you need more proof that it isn’t some sort of hoax, dream or Elseworlds scenario, today Vertigo revealed Frank Quitely’s cover for the Flex Mentallo Man of Muscle Mystery Deluxe Edition, which is due out in February.
Check out the entire cover after the jump.
Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Kevin Colden, whose comic work includes Fishtown, I Rule the Night, Vertigo’s Strange Adventures and Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper, among others. He’s also the drummer for the band Heads Up Display.
To see what Kevin and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below …
Last week’s release of a hardcover edition of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s We3 miniseries was something to behold, and not just for the new packaging. In addition to the extensive sketchbook section of the 144-page book, 10 new pages of story were added in what was the first issue of the Vertigo series.
This isn’t the first time DC has elaborated on comic series when they’ve gone to collected format; new pages were added to the collected edition of Warren Ellis and Chris Sprouse’s Ocean series, clarifying an element glossed over in the original series. Neither the creators nor the publisher have stated the exact reason the creators went back to the drawing board (literally) for this collection and not the previous softcover, but it gives fans one more reason to buy the book despite having already purchased previous versions.
After receiving early attention from Hollywood just months after its original debut, We3‘s feature film prospects have dimmed in recent years. But regardless, the We3 series remains an evocative work worth having, especially with the hardcover costing less than $25.
To see what Akira the Don and the Robot 6 crew are reading, click below.
Marvel talent scout C.B. Cebulski tweeted this image of writer Alan Moore by artist Frank Quitely from a gallery opening at Rosario, Argentina’s Crack Bang Boom Con. This Quitely kid’s quite a find, C.B. — I think he’s going places!
Boston Comic Con isn’t one of your better-known cons, like SDCC or NYCC—heck, I live just north of Boston and I never heard of it until last year—but if you’re in the area, this year’s show looks like a pretty good bet, with guests like Darwyn Cooke, Frank Quitely, and Joe Kubert.
Right off the bat, BCC is better than 90 percent of comic cons because it is not in some sterile, isolated convention center. You know how you have to walk a mile from the Javits to get a reasonably priced sandwich? No problem here; the Hynes Convention Center is conveniently attached to a mall, and it’s located in the heart of the Back Bay, which is chock full of great little restaurants, funky boutiques, and bars with atmosphere. I used to live in the neighborhood, and it’s still one of my favorite places to go. When you’re at the Hynes, you know you’re in Boston.
Another nice thing about a small con is that conflicting panel times won’t drive you crazy; the panel schedule (warning: PDF) has only one strand, so if you want to see Stan Sakai, Darwyn Cooke, and Terry Moore speak, you don’t have to be in three places at once. Just stay in your seat.
And there will be interesting things to see and to buy! Sam Costello will be debuting the latest volume of his Split Lip horror comic, complete with a back cover blurb from me! Anthony del Col and Andy Belanger, two of the creators of Kill Shakespeare, will be there with an “exclusive digital promotion” as well as the news that they just got some financing to develop a film script based on the property. The Artists Alley lineup includes Thom Zahler (Love and Capes), Tak Toyoshima (Secret Asian Man) and a panoply of Boston-area talent. I just hope the show doesn’t get too successful, or they’ll move it to Boston’s own sterile, out-of-the-way convention center and it will lose much of its charm.
“Something about this poster really rubs me the wrong way (and it ain’t just the daisy dukes wedgie). People can draw whatever they want and Frank Quietly is a great artist, but honestly this makes me want to avoid that event like the plague.”—Lisa Hanawalt
“I think if this flyer wasn’t representing a girl cartoonist I would not be annoyed like I am now. I’m just mildly annoyed. Also it made me laugh a lot because the women cartoonists I know are way sexier than that.”—Domatille Collardey
The cartoonists behind such books as I Want You and What Had Happened Was… respectively take issue on their Twitter accounts with the promotional art for a rare stateside appearance by Batman and Robin artist Frank Quitely tomorrow night, the proceeds from which will be donated to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Please note that neither person is saying it’s the worst thing in the world or that Quitely’s some kind of creep, just that it’s an odd and off-putting choice of image for the event. I was taken aback by it myself, and I say that as someone who admires Quitely’s art generally and his sexy-ish art specifically. Maybe it’s the visible underwear, giving me flashbacks to every superhero artist who’s drawn some poor woman’s thong sticking out of her jeans? Or maybe, as Collardey argues, it has something to do with the fact that the woman in question is, apparently, a cartoonist herself? This also makes me wonder how much our reaction to a given image has to do with who made it. If this had been done by, say, Greg Horn, would I be at all tempted to defend it? Does the quality of the artist’s overall body of work, or even of his depictions of women in particular aside from this one image, factor into the equation? Am I using rhetorical questions in order to avoid taking a coherent position?
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund will be at WonderCon this weekend (booth #323) with a lot of cool stuff that Frank Quitely fans should dig. First up is a stunning print, above, that they’ll sell for $20, along with a signed and numbered black and white facsimile edition of the original art that’ll cost you a $50 donation. It’s limited to just 50 pieces
In addition, they’ll have two sets of CBLDF Signature Series postcards. Each set is a $10 donation, with one set featuring Quitely’s full-color character designs and the other set featuring some of his figure sketches.
This weekend WonderCon rolls into San Francisco’s Moscone Center, featuring special guests like Joe Quesada, Frank Quitely (who drew the cover for the program book, above), Jason Aaron, Robert Kirkman and many more.
If you’re a comics company, professional or retailer who is exhibiting at the show or has something special planned this weekend, we want to hear from you. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with details on your show plans, along with any related art, and I’ll include it in a roundup this Thursday.
“Blackheart” part 2 in Dark Horse Presents #92 (1995), page 1 panels 1-3. Frank Quitely.
Sequence is what puts the component parts of comics — individual panels — together. It’s as fundamental to what the medium is as anything else. It provides comics with their high-flown academic code name, sequential art, and it’s what makes this a form that we read rather than look at. But there’s not much as far as a definition for “sequence” as it applies to comics art. What is it? It’s nothing that looks a certain way, or even acts in a certain reliable fashion. In comics as they’re most often drawn, it’s not even anything that gets put on the page; the closest sequence comes to a visual identity is the blank white space between the panels. It’s not a shape, it’s not a size, it’s not a color, not even really a single formal device or artistic conceit. It goes beyond that. It’s more universal, subject to as many interpretations as there are artists who have used the medium. Sequence is what makes comics comics, and as such I’d argue that the ordering of images is the most important aspect of a comics work that anyone, whether writer or artist or both or otherwise, can contribute to.
The different forms sequencing takes — its refusal to be pinned down as one thing or one way of things — is what makes it so difficult to think about. One of the few common denominators between comics sequences of all kinds, however, is movement. Movement through space comes to mind first; the physical motion readers’ eyes and story contents alike are subject to as panels progress across or down a page. But just as inherent to sequence, and every bit as interesting, is movement through time.
Awards | Barry Deutsch’s Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword has been nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America as part of the prestigious Nebula Awards. “When the nice lady from the Nebula committee called me, she said this is ‘essentially the Nebula Award for young adult books’,” Deutsch writes. Although graphic novels are specifically mentioned in the Andre Norton Award guidelines, this appears to be the first time one has been nominated. The award was established in 2005 in honor of prolific science fiction and fantasy author Andre Norton, who passed away that year. The winners will be announced May 21 in Washington, D.C., during the Nebula Awards banquet. [SFFWA]
Passings | We’ll collect reactions later today to the sudden death of respected comics and animation writer Dwayne McDuffie — Comic Book Resources has remembrances from more than a dozen industry figures — but I wanted to go ahead and point to a handful of links: The Associated press obituary; a few words from Christopher Irving, accompanied by a beautiful portrait of McDuffie photographed by Seth Kushner on Feb. 13; the origin of Static; and a look at Spider-Man anti-drug PSA comics written by McDuffie. There’s also McDuffie’s message board, where he interacted candidly with fans on a regular basis. Two threads are devoted to the news of his death and memories of the creator they often referred to as “the Maestro.” The site’s administrator has posted a message last night on the main page: “Dwayne’s family and friends would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of condolences. They are much appreciated in this difficult time.” [Dwayne McDuffie]
Another day, another huge announcement from DC Comics, via Vertigo’s Graphic Content blog: After a over a decade in quasi-legal limbo, DC will release Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s Flex Mentallo in a deluxe hardcover format in Fall 2011.
Long one of the most eagerly sought-after “uncollectible” books in comics, this four-issue 1996 spinoff from Morrison’s storied Doom Patrol run featured, in the person of its titular hero, a parody of the famous Charles Atlas bodybuilding ad “The Insult That Made a Man Out of Mac” — and thus attracted the legal ire of the Charles Atlas company. Though the courts found in favor of DC, the Charles Atlas company’s trademark-infringement/dilution lawsuit apparently spooked the publisher bad enough that their plans to collect the four-issue miniseries, scrapped when DC received Atlas’ original cease-and-desist notice, remained mothballed even despite the rise to superstardom of its creators on books like New X-Men, All-Star Superman, and Batman and Robin…until now. As such it’s the most high-profile example yet of DC’s post-Paul Levitz willingness to (re)publish books previously considered verboten, a la Warren Ellis and Phil Jimenez’s long-suppressed school-shooting Hellblazer story “Shoot,” which helped launch the “Vertigo Resurrected” initiative. It just goes to show you: There’s no resisting the Power of Muscle Mystery!
What’s that you say? You didn’t know there was a secret? Well, various internet wonks have been kicking around a very intriguing theory about Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All Star Superman — the Absolute Edition of which hits stores tomorrow — involving its villain, Lex Luthor. In his latest column at Techland, Douglas Wolk sums up the All Star Superman secret theory and runs down all the available evidence for it. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys picking apart literary mysteries for which there aren’t obvious answers present in the text — from Mulholland Drive to the end of The Sopranos — this is very much the article for you. And even if you aren’t, it’ll give you a whole new way to look at one of the past decade’s greatest superhero comics, which is always a good thing.