If there is any true visionary in comics today, surely it is Jim Woodring. No one is able to plumb the horror and wonder of simply being alive in the same surreal and enigmatic fashion as Woodring, nor able to combine veer from whimsy to Lynchian terror at the drop of a hat. In graphic novels like Weathercraft and Congress of the Animals, he has shown himself to be not only a (wordless) storyteller of the highest order, but one whose stories feel both warmly familiar and totally alien at the same time — no small feat.
Woodring’s latest book is Problematic, from Fantagraphics, a collection of sketchbook drawings made between 2004 and 2012 on a series of pocket-sized Moleskine books. Ranging from concept sketches to figure studies to caricatures to the sort of phantasmagorical creatures that populate his universes, Problematic is both a stroll through Woodring’s unique imagination and an opportunity to see his working process — to see the “idea batteries” (as the press release calls it) up close and personal.
Woodring was kind enough to answer a barrage of questions I threw at him about Problematic, as well as his next, upcoming graphic novel Fran, a sequel to Congress of the Animals. I could have spent weeks pestering him with questions, and I’m grateful for taking the time to respond.
If you need a Kate Beaton sketchbook to go with that copy of Hark! A Vagrant and are one of the first 500 people to act, TopatoCo (an online distributor for merchandise by indie cartoonists) has you covered. There’s also a supply at Desert Island Comics in Brooklyn, which I guess means that less than 500 are available for online orders. The book was put together from scans of Beaton’s actual sketchbook. “Some are doodles, some are research,” TopatoCo writes. “You know how it goes with sketchbooks. We’re keeping the run small to make this a special thing, for fans who want something a little different and personal.”
Emerald City Comicon kicks off today and continues through Sunday at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.
Scheduled guests include Bryan Lee O’Malley, Robert Kirkman, Brandon Graham, Don Rosa, Bill Sienkiewicz, Greg Rucka, Jhonen Vasquez, Matt Fraction, Gail Simone, Ed Brubaker, Jim Valentino, Bill Willingham, Erik Larsen, Marc Silvestri, Jim Woodring, Brian Wood, Tim Sale, Mike Allred, Kurt Busiek, Darick Robertson, Greg Capullo, Dan Slott, Steve Lieber, Rick Remender, Steve Niles, Phil Hester, Joëlle Jones, Nate Powell, Chris Roberson, Tony Moore, Ben Templesmith, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Scott Wegener, Shannon Wheeler, Brian Churilla, David Petersen, Colleen Coover, Nathan Edmondson, Joe Casey, Paul Tobin, Francis Manapul, Ryan North, Jeff Parker, Ryan Ottley, Jamie S. Rich, Tim Seeley, Nick Spencer, Matt Wagner, Thom Zahler, Scott Kurtz, Joe Keatinge, Daryl Gregory and many more.
You can find the complete programming schedule on the ECCC site, and here’s a round-up of various things you can do, buy and expect to find out about at the show …
Face it, tiger-lovers — you just hit the jackpot: Check out this terrific gallery of early and rare art by Calvin & Hobbes cartoonist Bill Watterson. Included are pieces from the Kenyon College yearbook and student newspaper, covers from the political-cartooning journal Target, Watterson’s own editorial cartoons from the Cincinnatti Post, illustrations for an essay in The Comics Journal, self-portraits, a collection of Calvin & Hobbes sketches, and much more. The site design indicates that this is about a million Internet years old and thus many of you may have seen it before, but I sure haven’t, and it’s great way to see whole new side of Watterson — and a demonstration that his chops were ample even at a tender age.
That’s what organizers of King Con and members of the Drawbridge sketch blog want to know. So they’re sponsoring the King Con Drawbridge Sketchbook Competition, held as part of the Nov. 4-7 Brooklyn convention.
To qualify, entries must contain work from five different artists, and have one sketch made at at King Con 2010. The winner, who will be announced on Nov. 7, will receive the Drawbridge Sketchbook containing art by Dean Haspiel, Tim Hamilton, Simon Fraser, Reilly Brown, Nick Abadzis, Robin Ha, GB Tran, Joan Reilly and Nathan Schreiber.
“King Con and Drawbridge see the competition as a way to give back to the sketchbook collectors who commission work and support their favorite artists,” Schreiber writes on his blog. “As comic conventions grow and transform the fundamental relationship the cons are based on – that between creator and fan – runs the risk of being drowned out. The Drawbridge Sketchbook competition reaffirms this connection between creator and fan, and showcases the depth of talent and community at King Con. We’re hoping artists and fans use the competition to make and collect some amazing work!”
Ben Towle has been working up his characters for his next graphic novel, In the Weeds (which sounds like it will be set behind the scenes at a restaurant), and he shows off his thought process at his blog. The book presents some challenges:
About half of the book takes place in a restaurant kitchen and this presents a prickly problem in that everyone will be dressed the same. It’d be really easy here to fall into an “Alien 3″ situation here where you’ve got a bunch of (mostly) white guys running around in the same outfit and you can’t tell who’s doing what or saying what unless you’re seeing a close-up of their faces.
It’s interesting to see how much the characters change as he refines them.
One of the more unique aspects of comics conventions in the United States is the general amount of creativity bursting at the seems. One of the biggest signs of this is the generosity that most artists have for doing rough sketches to attendees.
Generally artists will do these for free, or for a small fee, but if you can get your hands on one it’s well worth the effort. I’ve been collecting sketches for several years at cons, and I thought myself the norm until I first glimpsed the themed sketchbook of Oni Press Editor-in-Chief James Lucas Jones.
In 2002, Jones began having artists and friends in the industry contribute to an ongoing sketchbook centered on the characters from the 2001 Wes Anderson film The Royal Tenenbaums. It’s been years since I’ve seen it, and it’s probably filled to the brim and Jones moved on to other themes. But it always sticks in my mind as one of the first themed con sketchbooks and one of the best. Here’s a sample:
Down to the wire here, so let’s do a round-robin of a few more cool items you can get at the San Diego Comic-Con this year …
• Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba are bringing a new limited signed giclée print, which you can see to the right.
• Buenaventura Press is having a going-out-of-business sale at booth #1734. Alvin Buenaventura will be there, selling the last copies he has of Kramers Ergot 7, Boy’s Club by Matt Furie, The Gigantic Robot by Tom Gauld, original art and more.
• Gene Luen Yang has a new T-shirt he’ll be selling at the show.
• Terry Moore is bringing The Complete Paradise TOO — “a 360 page softcover book filled with hundreds and hundreds of my comic strips and cartoons, from high school to SIP to all the Kixie strips and Plato and Lizzie the axe-murderer… all for just $30.”
March winds and April showers bring convention season, and with that, the opportunity to fill your convention sketchbook with some nice, new stuff. You’ve already seen Sean’s David Bowie sketchbook, and now Spell Checkers writer Jamie S. Rich talks about how he started his Audrey Hepburn one. You can find more of his sketch collection here.
If you’ve ever had the good fortune of getting a convention sketch from Sweet Tooth and Essex County writer/artist Jeff Lemire, you’ve learned two things: 1) He can draw pretty much any character, from Doctor Octopus to David Bowie; 2) He goes all out on those suckers. If you haven’t gotten a Lemire sketch of your own, let this gallery of commissions Lemire drew at the Emerald City Con (courtesy of Top Shelf’s Brett Warnock) school you on what you’re missing. Pictured are Spider Jerusalem from Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan (above), Robin, Doctor Doom, Nightcrawler, the Golden Age Sandman, the Sweet Tooth cast, and even a character from Lemire’s upcoming Top Shelf graphic novel Underwater Welder. Feast your eyes, folks.
I’ve been collecting David Bowie sketches from comics artists at shows and cons since MoCCA 2007. What can I say? He’s my favorite superhero. In that time I’ve amassed drawings of the chameleonic musician from 97 different artists, and adding to the collection is always a high priority for me at every show. I had exceptionally good luck at this year’s MoCCA — you better hang on to yourself as we flip through this year’s haul!
Niklas Asker (above): Oh man, look at that, just look at it. How can a sketch be shiny? Niklas Asker pulled it off with maybe the most elegant and sexy Bowie of the batch–no surprise, if you’ve seen his graphic novel Second Thoughts.
“Okay,” you ask, “what does a t-shirt featuring a drawing of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, by TV on the Radio lead singer Tunde Adebimpe, being sold to raise money for Haiti relief efforts as part of the Yellow Bird Project, have to do with comics?” Glad you asked! Adebimpe is a part-time cartoonist (and a pretty good one at that), and his drawing of Bowie came directly from my David Bowie sketchbook, in which famous comics folks like Bryan Lee O’Malley, Kate Beaton, Randall Munroe, David Mack, Paul Pope, Cliff Chiang, Adrian Tomine, Seth, Gary Panter, Charles Burns, Los Bros Hernandez, and many many many more have been nice enough to offer me their take on the Thin White Duke. Be a hero, just for one day, and buy the shirt!
Jim and Frank creator Jim Woodring, comics’ master of dark psychedelia, has posted a selection of drawings from his moleskine notebook to his blog, and they are pretty much mindshattering. I seriously don’t even know where to begin, other than to say that the images above may be the least strange in the batch.
If that’s not enough, you can always take a look at our exclusive preview of Woodring’s upcoming graphic novel Weathercraft, which hits this spring from Fantagraphics.
A chance encounter at Tunde Adebimpe’s table at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival led to my discovery of Ben Herman’s impressive collection of Beautiful Dreamer sketches. In his sketchbook’s pages, the lovely telepathic New God from Jack Kirby’s Forever People is given her due by Dan DeCarlo, Dick Ayers, Ramona Fradon, Gilbert Hernandez, Mark Bode, Tania Del Rio, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Danielle Corsetto, John Bogdanove, Todd Nauck and many more. Go feast your eyes, and check out Herman’s entire assortment of ComicArtFans.com galleries — his Star Wars and Avengers sketchbooks are nothing to sneeze at, either.
Incoming Batman and Robin artist Cameron Stewart has posted a selection of sketches drawn for fans during his recent European tour with Karl Kerschl and Ramón Pérez, and the results are … uh, what’s the visual equivalent of “mouthwatering”? I don’t think it’s “eyewatering,” but this little gallery — heavy on the Bat-characters but boasting a few mutants and supporting Spidey castmembers too — may well bring a tear to your eye over the fact that you don’t live in Europe and thus couldn’t get one yourself.