09/18/2017

Caleb Orecchio here with your post SPX 2017 review, and some links.

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Want to start by saying thanks to Frank Santoro for taking care and sticking his neck out for his “kids.” My SPX experience would not be nearly as fruitful or as interesting without Frank. Also want to thank Sally Ingraham who also runs herself ragged making sure us Comics Workbook “kids” are having the most beneficial experience.

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I am writing this on Monday morning, the day after SPX 2017 ended. My tank was practically empty by the end of the day as I went through all the events of the week/end in my mind. It was a really fun show where I participated in running workshops and being a gopher for Comics Workbook.

On Thursday, I tagged along with Frank Santoro, Sally Ingraham, and Audra Stang from Pittsburgh to Bethesda, Maryland where SPX is held.

Friday I got to meet thee great Gilbert Hernandez during a secret workshop Frank set up for his “kids.” We drew our “Blubber-esque” comics while Gilbert and Frank riffed. Everyone in attendance had their work reviewed by Mr. Hernandez–needless to say we all had a fantastic time–just happy to spend time with and talk to one of the great cartoonists walking the earth right now.

Saturday and Sunday were busy busy busy busy.

Comics Workbook held workshops in Glen Echo Room, four on Saturday and four on Sunday.

The excellent Juan Fernandez kicked off the weekend of workshops with roaring energy and a full house–Juan is an excellent comics educator who never ceases to impress me. Liz Reed gave tutorials on making characters out of clay–I was called elsewhere, but form all accounts the experience was really great. I, along with Audra Stang, had to be bouncers for Gilbert Hernandez’s workshop that Frank moderated. We filled the room to the brim–the hotel staff was concerned because we had to form two lines that snaked through two hallways. A lot of people had to be turned away simply because we had no room. As I stayed outside the room making sure no stragglers trespassed, I talked to Whit Taylor before she went to moderate her panel held in the White Oak Room. Gilbert’s workshop saw people like Tom Spurgeon and Noel Freibert making it in before we had to basicially guard the door. Connor Willumsen had to follow Gilbert and he killed. Connor filled the room too and led an excellent workshop.

The incredible Alexis Ziritt led the first workshop on Sunday. What a nice, talented guy. Kids both young and old drew and laughed for an hour through Alexis’ great workshop. Next up was Sally and Audra co-piloted a workshop. Both are experienced comics educators and had really excellent results. The joy in the room was bursting and the comics made were many. Great tag-team. After that, Sally helped me lead a “free-draw” workshop. I had particular topics I wanted to talk about but talked about none of them. Instead I discussed my process of making my (“daily”) comic-strip, Joanie and Jordie. I drew an improvised J&J live which people seemed to think was funny. Sally helped me to focus the workshop making great points and giving me good prompts. Had good questions to answer from the crowd too. Finally, Mardou ended the CW workshops with a reading of an upcoming book and presentation of her process. Mardou is great, there is a showmanship to her presentations and made me laugh out loud. Great presentation for those who want to up their storytelling game.

Had a couple shifts at the CW table in the main exhibitor hall. Frank’s longboxes, of course, are famous and 10 minutes don’t pass without someone commenting on how happy they are to see Frank’s longboxes there. CW was also selling my comic, a collection of J&J strips called Poor Little Joanie. I was happy to see it sold fairly well. Some people were familiar with the strip who I didn’t know which was nice. Same with Sally and Gabriella Tito’s collection of Suzy and Cecil strips. I had a couple customers who bought both. I kept my eye on the Simon Hanselmann Truth Zone collections–those things are coveted by many. Got to talk to Jim Rugg while I tabled–Jim is always very nice and attentive. A good tablemate. Saw thee great Bill Boichel and he told me he wanted to buy a handful of copies to sell at his store.

It was busy busy busy out on the floor. Got to see Alyssa Berg who I hadn’t seen since CXC last year. Her new riso comics are fantastic–she’s taking her paintings and converting them to riso for print. The results are fantastic. Got to meet Cameron Nicholson for the first time. And Tyler Landry. It was an amalgamation of familiar and new people to see irl: Kate Harmon, Kurt Ankeny, Adam Griffiths, Jenn Lisa (makes excellent cookies), RM Rhodes, Simon Reinhardt, Megan Turbitt, etc. etc.

I’m exhausted–in a good way. I’m depleted, left it all out on the court. Thanks again to Frank and Sally who lead the way for us CW “kids.”

the only photo I took at SPX

 

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if you don’t know, now you know

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Suzy and Cecil – 9-15-2017 – by Gabriella Tito

09/11/2017

Caleb Orecchio here with thought’s on GG’s new book, I’m Not Here,  from Koyama Press and other news.
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GG’s work has a lot of pain. I’ve always been very frustrated in the past by GG’s work because I felt like, though her comics are excellent, I was not being “let in” so to speak. It always seemed that the emotional resonance of her work was being muffled to the point of complete ambiguity–which isn’t bad–I just felt like something was being consciously held back. I don’t want to pretend that I know GG’s intentions, (and obviously, this is my own opinion) but I definitely feel that lately her work has taken on a more emotionally straight-forward approach, for the better–particularly with I’m Not Here, published by Koyama Press.

The joy of reading a GG comic is the sensational drawing. I really like the below page of suburban houses and lawns. There is an undeniable beauty there that I hesitate to elaborate on just because I don’t feel like I have to explain why something like this is beautiful.

GG’s drawing is a really excellent vessel for emotion. Her “cartoony realism” style (that arguably skirts the border of realism if not for lack of detail–or rather, the use of minimal detail) feels completely comfortable to my eyes and I believe in everything I see. So, when a child cries because a precious toy must be thrown away or a mother is bent over in physical and emotional anguish, it hits like an F# note on a piano–it’s jarring and instantaneous. GG’s drawing eschews the use of impressionistic facial expressions that a less technical cartoonist must utilize to impress emotion upon a reader, and is able to directly depict emotion through face and body language. This to me is a mark of an excellent cartoonist–which, I don’t have to tell you, GG is. This has always been true of GG’s work.

 

I hope I’m not being presumptuous, but what separates this work from her past work, for me, is that this book feels particularly personal. Not that GG’s work has never been personal–in fact I’d argue all of GG’s work is intensely personal. However–I have never felt that F# note with her other work. The immediacy of I’m Not Here is undeniably pertinent–almost like we are going to the source of it all or something. The pain depicted in this book feels real as oppose to metaphorical or situational to me. Make sense?

Personally, this is (if I haven’t made myself clear) GG’s best work. I had a sigh of relief after reading I’m Not Here. There is a real catharsis to this book. If you believe in everything you see therein, like I did, and allow yourself to partake in the emotional arc of the story, you will find yourself–like you just ate a very nice, delicious meal without feeling overly full or drunk–satisfied.

-CO

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if you don’t know, now you know

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Suzy and Cecil– 9-11-2017 – by Gabriella Tito

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Joanie and Jordie – 9-11-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio

09/04/2017

Caleb Orecchio here on this Labor Day edition of the Daily News with thoughts on Connor Willumsen’s new book from Koyama Press, Anti-Gone–and other news.

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Connor Willumsen is one of thee premier drawers in comics. His prowess envelops the many styles of drawing found in comics, from expertly rendered figures, cars, and buildings–to minimal, child-like characters that would be at home in kid’s manga magazines. His new book, Anti-Gonefrom thee great Koyama Press—to me really pushes Connor’s ideas as a cartoonist beyond just the pretty drawings. I feel he’s really digging deep into his bag of “tricks,” and expanding the language of the comics medium to a degree.

First I want to say, that when I started to read Anti-Gone, I pinned it as a sci-fi comic–almost Brandon Graham-esque with a hint of Moebius (or vice versa); but as I read on, it was clear (to me at least) that this takes place in a “cartoon world.” Allow me to try to explain: In this world, you wouldn’t call a talking gorilla a “talking gorilla”–you would simply say, “that person is a gorilla.” if you would even care to make the distinction between a gorilla or human or whatever at all. Does that make sense? It’s like the fox and cat who sell Pinocchio to that puppeteer I think. Nobody says, “whoa a talking fox and cat!” they are just characters. Anyway, this detail of a cartoon world is not particularly pertinent to the story, but I felt it was worth pointing out. It’s our world, through Connor’s eyes.

Something that made this crystal clear to me was when the seemingly alien girl undos her hair (directly below). What were once strange sacks on her head were now obviously a Connor-fide version of the double braid–see Kylie Jenner reference directly below the below excerpt.

Two prominent formalistic tools Connor really utilizes well and to a very singular degree, particularly, is 1.) the economic use of visual reference, and 2.) the depiction of movement through sequential images–most notably the former, often they are used together with great success.

The below page is from the perspective of our heroes as they float along a river watching a dog in a window as they pass by. We see the buildings in the background (where we get our main, big picture reference–the buildings–a sense of place) and Connor zeroes in on the doggy in the window giving us a simultaneous impression of where we are and where we are moving to without showing the characters (whose POV we are experiencing) within the page.

Another good example is the below two-panel sequence of one of the protagonists making their way up a flight of stairs. First, Connor shows us the entire scene of the stairs with all it’s intricacies and hustle and bustle. Then he quiets it down by stripping away all the noise to show the girl going up the stairs (obviously the same stairs moments after the panel before it). This use of visual reference from detailed rendering to stripped down essential detail is both formalistically economical and tonally/emotionally important to the narrative–two birds with one stone. A+

I could go on and on about this book. Connor Willumsen is a blackbelt of formalism in comics. There is an unending sense of “thinking” in this book. Every angle and every option is considered. Highly recommend this book both for the tasteful, passive reader AND to the comics scholar looking for forward-thinking new work.

-CO

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Frank Santoro made a comic book about his parents and now he needs help making a handbound copy of the book for each of them. It’s a good story. Check out the Indiegogo campaign HERE – or if you want to contribute via PayPal, look at the campaign HERE.

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if you don’t know now you know

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Suzy and Cecil – 9-4-2017 – by Sally Ingraham

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Joanie and Jordie – 9-4-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio

 

 

08/28/2017

Caleb Orecchio here on Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday

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from 2001: A Space Odyssey; written and drawn by Jack Kirby, inked by Frank Giacoia, lettered by John Costanza, and colored by Marie Severin and Jack Kirby

 

What’s out There?

…and so I live with a lot of questions—and I find that entertaining. If my life would have went tomorrow, it would be fulfilled in that manner. I would say, “The questions have been terrific.”

-Jack Kirby from the Harlan Ellison hosted documentary, Masters of American Comic Book Art.

All images herein are written and drawn by Jack Kirby

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from 2001: A Space Odyssey #6; inked and lettered by Mike Royer, colored by George Roussos

Today is Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday, and though he passed away in 1994, his spirit lives on as strong as it ever was. Undoubtedly, his influence has stretched across the four corners of the medium of comics–and culture in general. Over the past months in anticipation of this day, there has been an extra electricity in the air, surely not altogether separate from the social and political shifting of the last several years. Many feel the doomsday clock is winding down to midnight and the writing on the wall says the times are changing, and I couldn’t help but think of the recent solar eclipse as a sort of omen. 

Whether the eclipse was an omen for good or bad, I have no idea; but as the Jacques Prévert poem says, The earth it turns/The earth doesn’t stop turning.

from 2001: A Space Odyssey #4; inked and lettered by Mike Royer, colored by Glynis Wein

Another recent omen I encountered, just two days before the eclipse, was a screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey in a vintage 70mm print. As you know, it’s a complete and utter visual experience–a feast for the eyes–but seeing it in 70mm left me changed by the time the credits were rolling. “What did we just watch?” was a popular question asked among friends while ruminating over shared cigarettes. I couldn’t stop thinking about Kirby.

More than a few readers will be well acquainted with Kirby’s comic book adaption of 2001 and his subsequent spin-off series. I think these works unhinged something in Kirby. The series, up to the point until Mister Machine (or later, Machine Man) takes over as protagonist, leans heavily on the evolution of early humans into a higher being: The New Seed. It’s a continuum: we’re born, we live, we die, we’re born again.

from 2001: A Space Odyssey #7; inked and lettered by Mike Royer, colored by George Roussos

During and after 2001, Kirby became unleashed. His “mature style” had fully formed. A New Seed emerged from his diminishing back and forth relationship between Marvel and DC. Back at Marvel once again for the last time, Kirby’s images obliterated the comparatively civilian drawings of his contemporaries. Smashing and gnashing his way through, arguably, some of industries worst years creatively and financially–standing as a monolith among the poor, hungry apes incapable of grasping the knowledge he was revealing to them. He, The Monolith, still stands to this day and we apes are still trying to figure out where the signal is pointing to.

xoxo
CO

from 2001: A Space Odyssey; inked by Frank Giacoia, lettered by John Costanza, and colored by Marie Severin and Jack Kirby

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select Kirby links

BONUS SPREAD

from Marvel Treasury Captain America: Bicentennial Battles; inked by Herb Trimpe, John Romita, and Barry Smith, lettered by John Constanza, colored by Phil Rachelson

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Suzy and Cecil – 8-28-2017 – by Gabriella Tito

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Joanie and Jordie – 8-28-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio

08/21/2017

Caleb Orecchio here with your Monday edition of the Daily News with some thoughts on drawing sparked by Eleanor Davis and the reputable discipline of Leslie Stein and Gary Panter–and remember not to go blind looking at the eclipse

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Recently, a friend of mine lent me Eleanor Davis’ recent Koyama Press release, You & A Bike & A Road. I read it on Tumblr when she was serializing it live (I think) as she embarked on her cross-country bike adventure which the book illustrates; but I never really took the time to notice how immediate the drawing is.

from YOU & A BIKE & A ROAD by Eleanor Davis

From what I understand, these pages were drawn first take as she was making her way through her journey, like a diary, which is really impressive. The drawings are sparse and noodley, yet feel perfectly complete–and they teem with a pertinent energy.

Last time I was in Pittsburgh, Frank Santoro talked a lot about Gary Panter and how he draws constantly. Even while you’re having a conversation, he’s just drawing away, “He’s just someone who draws all the time no matter what.” On the most recent episode of Greg Hunter’s “Comics Decalogue,” Katie Skelly talks about going to a bar with Leslie Stein and Gary Panter and, basically confirming Frank’s story, that both Stein and Panter drew while conversing the entire time they were hanging out.

me trying to be the guy that “draws all the time.” Select drawings from 08/19/17, hanging out with friends

same drawings as above, but flipped and traced on a lightbox

I think this idea of being a “drawer” is often lost on most cartoonists. I mean, we all draw, right? But how many of us REALLY draw all the time–and how many of us can draw in any other way than our “style?” Now, I’m not throwing shade to style, but I think it’s worth thinking about. When I was going to school for graphic design, the designer Timothy Goodman came to talk to us and one of his big statements I took away from his lecture was, “Don’t have a style.” His reasoning mostly pertained to the idea that having a style will basically hinder your creativity. Now, most cartoonists are not being asked to create an ad in 3 hours for Time Magazine like a highly in-demand designer like Goodman, BUT can anyone really argue that style often does limit the kind of stories a cartoonist can make? In fact, most styles can even limit a cartoonist to a demographic–speaking strictly, and generally, in marketing terms.

different variations on original drawings from memory

What am I getting at? I’m not trying to preach or sound like I have THE answers, but what I like about Davis’ recent book is the fact that it is drawn. It’s not inked with a brush with every stroke carefully crafted and feathered. It’s just drawn. Ever seen a Brian Chippendale comic? He just draws them (mostly). Crumb? Moebius? (Conflict of interest warning:) Frank Santoro? Just drawn. I like “professionally” inked comics and comics where traditional craft is essential, but there is an immediacy that is stripped at every step of the process. It’s like going acoustic, once you add a drum kit, you have to turn up the volume on everything else and the intimacy gradually is drowned out. I’m working out these thoughts as I go–thanks for reading. Next week–Kirby’s 100th birthday:)

select drawings from hanging with friend on 08/20/17 right before I wrote all this–trying to draw with one line more or less

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yikes! I’ve been so pumped about drawing and Kirby’s 100th that I almost forgot other comics existed in the world. Here are some links I found after I came back to our reality. Don’t miss that eclipse.

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Suzy and Cecil – 8-21-2017 – by Sally Ingraham

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Joanie and Jordie – 8-21-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio

08/14/2017

Caleb Orecchio here with thoughts on comics by Matt Seneca, and other news.

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Flipping through my some of my magazine-sized comics, I ran into my copies of Matt Seneca’s Trap; The Magazine About Drugs. Seneca is someone who I feel like doesn’t get talked about enough. Below are some thoughts:

“Frankie Teardrop” by Matt Seneca

Matt Seneca‘s comics are painfully brutal and at times seem gratuitously so. His work reads like the cartoonist has been to hell and back. The work never flinches, never covering up the grotesquely violent or sexually perverse. It has been a while since I have read a cartoonist’s work that is so consistently visceral.

You can read his debut work online, here. You can buy his other in-print comics here.

“Frankie Teardrop” by Matt Seneca

I think a lot of people know Seneca from the podcast Comic Books Are Burning in Hell and his comics criticism. I was a bit suspicious when I heard he was also a cartoonist AND a critic, but the latter he is no longer unless you count the podcast. I was pleasantly surprised by his comics. Though at first glance they seem a bit rugged, his storytelling is what won me over at first.

Seneca’s religious horror epic 200 Deaf Boys is a very conscious and complete story, a quality that seems to be lost on most self-published cartoonists (or really most comics makers in general); and though many would argue that Seneca’s drawing is a bit lack luster, I would argue that it gets exponentially better with each comic he makes–particularly when he uses color.

pretty page from “Frankie Teardrop” by Matt Seneca

In his latest and greatest work so far, Trap: The Magazine About Drugs vol. 2 no. 3: Frankie TeardropSeneca reaches new personal bests. He continues, as he’s always done, to not draw panel borders. This technique really comes to life in this particular strip where he will often alternate colors within a panel, rendering the use of borders unnecessary. He also expands on his use of not automatically using black lines as outlines. The color and use of black are one and the same for Seneca which makes for really nice and bright images that feel loose and alive.

nice spread from “Frankie Teardrop” by Matt Seneca

excerpt from “Frankie Teardrop” by Matt Seneca

Not a lot, that I can find, has been written about Seneca’s comics. The links on his tumblr to reviews have been moved, removed or deleted. Like I said before, his work is riddled with the brutally violent and sexually explicit. Their is a lot of pain and anger in his work–but it is all completely and utterly earnest with little irony which gives his stories a sense of reality that the most autobiographic of cartoonists struggle to render.

from Seneca’s upcoming The Inifinate Prison

Seneca has an upcoming comic called The Infinite PrisonIt looks great and the pencils already suggest that it will be awesome. Excited to see how it turns out.

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if you don’t know, now you know

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Suzy and Cecil – 8-14-2017 – by Gabriella Tito

08/07/2017

Caleb Orecchio here with thoughts on the painfully under appreciated DK2 by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, and other news.

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The Question by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley from DK2

“I’m much more able to approach it like I’m 7 years old than I used to be able to,” was Miller’s response to why he did The Dark Knight Strikes Again (aka DK2) in this AV Club interview from 2001.

All 3 issues. In a way, it’s good nobody likes these comic because I got the whole run for three bucks.

Recently, I’ve taken to thinking that superhero comics are the best comics. Okay, obviously I don’t REALLY think that, but I think there is a lot left untapped in superheroes than most comics intellectuals would care to admit. Many of us have our pantheon of great superhero comics usually including Watchmen, New Gods, The Dark Knight Returns; but it’s Frank Miller and Lynn Varley’s return to The Dark Knight that really makes me wet for superheroes as a genre lately.

Superman storms the Batcave by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley in DK2

DK2, to me, reads like a Bizarro World of Paper Rad, B.J. & da Dogs fan art on cocaine. Surely, DK2 would have received more love from PictureBox readers rather than the impossible-to-please nerds who masturbate to their DC Comics. Miller’s cartooning and Varley’s colors simultaneously marry and divorce each other in a chaotic fever dream of 21st Century Digital Age fury. It’s a shock to the senses and was, for many, Miller’s last straw that broke the camel’s back. He had gone too far.

I hope Miller and Varley got their royalty checks for Batman vs Superman for BOTH DK titles

Those of us who “get it,” are often smitten with this book and I personally love to argue with any hardcore superhero devotee on the merits of DK2. Though I know I’m throwing my pearls to swine, the lack of understanding from the average DC reader gives me so much confidence that my debate skills elevate to the likes of John Stewart in comparison.

no nerd can deny the ingenuity of Miller’s Plastic Man

Anyway, if it’s not clear, I love this book. To me, DK2 as a sequel to The Dark Knight Returns is a total and absolute failure. However! DK2 as a stream of consciousness art comic/love letter to the superhero genre is an unsurpassed gold medal achievement.

Superman by Miller and Varley

On another note, I’ve been doing my own subtextual “research” into how superheroes relate to spirituality. Maybe more than a few of you made a connection with Superman and the story of Moses? A baby wrapped in cloth sent away by his parents to avoid peril and eventually adopted? Others of you Kirby-connoisseurs have made many many connections with Jack’s creations and religion—most famously, Galactus. So when I came across the image below from DK2, I could not help but think of The Book of Revelation.

Lex Luther and Brainiac by Miller and Varley–to my mind, 21st Century “beasts”

Particularly, the above image made me think of these videos that breaks down Revelation (a letter from John to 7 churches in Asia Minor about his apocalyptic visions). Now, this is not some sort of effort to preach or draw any sort of conclusions about the Bible, it is merely something I noticed–a Jungian, passing down of archetypes that I can only guess Miller was consciously unaware of. Feel free to peruse the videos I linked to for more context, but to keep it short here, compare the below screenshot from thebibleproject.com with the Lex Luther/Brainiac image above.

Two “beasts” as depicted by thebibleproject.com–from Revelation Chapter 13–to my mind, a mirror image of Lex Luther and Brainiac

That’s all for today. Maybe it’s the coming of Kirby’s 100th birthday, but I’ve been channeling a lot of energy through these superhero comics and I feel like I can see the architecture of the universe. Of course, it’s all probably in my head–but does that make it not real??

Lara–Supergirl–the daughter of Wonder Woman and Superman–by Miller and Varley

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 if you don’t know, now you know

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Suzy and Cecil – 8-7-2017 – by Sally Ingraham

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Joanie and Jordie – 8-7-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio

07/31/2017

Caleb Orecchio here and I can’t stop thinking about Jack Kirby

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from New Gods #4

Kirby Complex

Not a day goes by that I don’t flip through a Kirby comic. Lately I’ve taken keen interest in the “Tales of Asgard” stories that were the back up feature for Thor. Love those 4-panel grids. And I don’t care what anyone says, Colletta was NOT Kirby’s worst inker—in fact I’d argue (at least in the case of the Tales of Asgard) that Colletta was one of Kirby’s BEST inkers. Chic Stone is the most underwhelming Kirby inker in my humble opinion—but that is neither here nor there. I’m just thinking out loud.

Hmmm…I’m stalling because I’m having a hard time collecting my thoughts at the moment. More and more each day I am convinced that Jack Kirby was a prophet. And I know I’m not the only who thinks this. Just one google search led me to this. I’ve heard others talk about Kirby amazing ability to either affect future culture or basically predict future events. Ever heard the story of how Kirby drew a mushroom cloud before the public was even aware what that was? He got a visit from the FBI. I’m having a hard time remembering where I read/heard this so you get a “No-Prize” if you leave a link in the comments to it.

Whenever I talk about Kirby to a layperson, I like to point out Mother Box. Basically, Kirby’s prediction of the smartphone and tablet. See below how Orion of the New Gods uses Mother Box to hide his real face like a Instagram or Snapchat filter—he’s practically taking a selfie.

from New Gods #5

Or this one where Orion (as O’Ryan) mentions Mother Box’s GPS capabilities.

from New Gods #3

from New Gods #4

And when I see this page, I can’t help but think of how we now have the technology to control drones with our devices.

from New Gods #3

These were just the examples that came to me off the top of my head. If the spirit moves you, dear reader, feel free to leave any other examples that struck you while reading Kirby’s work that gives evidence of Kirby’s prophetic gift. I’m sure there are those of you who have given this much thought.

Anyway, have a good Monday

from New Gods #8

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if you don’t know, now you know

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Suzy and Cecil – 7-31-2017 – by Gabriella Tito

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Joanie and Jordie – 7-31-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio

07/24/2017

Caleb Orecchio here with The Power of Kirby and other news.

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all images herein are from the collection of comics given to me by my dad and uncle from when they were kids, circa 1976 to 1978. All images are drawn by Jack Kirby.

The Power of Kirby

Jack King Kirby, the powerhouse conundrum who unwittingly created the foundation of modern day popcorn flicks, is undoubtedly thee heavyweight champion of the comic book. Often, I think, it is hard to convince the layperson of the prowess of Jack. The boys who grew to men who are now my dad’s age (just turned the big five oh) have a less fond memory of him.

At the point my dad would have seen Kirby’s work, Jack was drawing at his most “square” – that is to say, to my mind, his most “Kirby.” This was between 1976 and 1978, at the time my dad was 9, 10, and 11 and evidently a connoisseur of comic book quality. This was also arguably one of the lowest points in comics history as far as the amount of good comics on the stands and the amount of money pumping through the industry.

At this point in time Kirby was working on such Marvel titles as Devil Dinosaur, Machine Man, Captain America and Falcon, Black Panther, 2001: A Space Oddysey, Captain America Bicentennial Battles, some Thor covers, etc. Basically, titles that have become very revered by today’s cartoonists. My dear ol’ dad would have none of it though. This is how I know…

My dad had ZERO Kirby comics in his collection as a child. I know this because I inherited these comics when I was seven – my first comics! My dad really liked The Hulk, Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Champions, The X-Men, Marvel Team-Up, Marvel Two in One – stuff like that. It wasn’t until I convinced my uncle (my dad’s younger brother by a year or two) to give me his collection from the same era that I was exposed to Kirby. HE seemed to like Kirby whether he knew it or not. He had a few of the reprints Marvel put out like Marvel Super Action (reprinting Captain America runs) and Marvel’s Greatest Comics (reprinting Lee/Kirby era FF). I have a feeling the covers caught his eye. He even had The Mighty Thor #252 that had a Kirby cover. My dad would have never got a comic with a Kirby cover.

How do I know he’d never knowingly buy a comic with a Kirby cover? Well one day I was meeting him for coffee. I live in Dayton, OH and he was driving from Cincinnati to Columbus for a conference. If you don’t know, Dayton is more or less in between so it’s what inspired my dad to ask me to meet for coffee. Anyway, I thought I’d get to the coffee shop way before him and so I brought along one of those 80’s reprints of New Gods to read while I waited. You know the ones? They had new covers by Kirby and mostly dumb essays by Mark Evanier in the back. Recolored and all that. Basically, my dad would have not been aware of these.

He got there and saw the comic and pointed to it, “That’s an oldie but a goodie.” You have to understand he was referencing his familiarity with Kirby’s drawing style rather than his affinity for the work or his familiarity with the particular book sitting on the table.

“What?” I said, “You didn’t have any of this guy’s comics in your collection. How do you know him?”

He replied with a sour face, “I never liked him. He drew too square. Too blocky.”

“But you know this is him?! This comic came out in the 80’s! You read comics in the seventies!”

“Yeah. His style is distinct.”

This, true believers is one of the many facets to Kirby’s genius. He carves his lines right into the lining of your brain. Whether you like him or not, you cannot forget Kirby. Now, if I had, say, Conan the Barbarian #99 at that table that day I met with my dad, he still would have said that’s an oldie but a goodie but he would have meant it. And he would remember having that comic and reading it and that he liked it probably, but he wouldn’t have known it was by John Buscema or written by Roy Thomas or anything particular like that. He may have just said, “It was cool and I liked the art.”

Do you see what I’m trying to say? Do not underestimate the King. Kirby IS comics. He can draw his way into your dreams and nightmares. He can brand his vision into your eyes forever. So much so that after 40 years have passed, whether you like him or not, you can spot a Kirby drawing wherever it may be – namely at your son’s table at the coffee shop in Dayton, OH.

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if you don’t know, now you know

  • I think it’s interesting when the mainstream media tries to be hip to comics. They almost always drop the ball. The real cartoonists tend to get the shaft. Like this LA Times article that spends more time on Wayne Brady than it does on the fact that the Hernandez Brothers made it into the Eisner Hall of Fame. Kudos to Rob Clough for fighting the good fight and getting some good nominations out there this year.
  • There’s going to be a lot of post San Diego Comic Con news this week. Here is one about comics for kids, particularly girls.
  • The proliferation of Wonder Woman fandom is pretty interesting. I think a lot of it stems from the new movie obviously, but also from the book by Jill Lepore. And I’d be remiss not to mention Ron Regé Jr. So when I saw this trailer, I was both surprised and not surprised.
  • There is a roundtable discussion over at TCJ.com concerning Gary Panter’s latest book. Also if you didn’t know, Panter is on Instagram now:)

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Suzy and Cecil – 7-24-2017 – by Sally Ingraham

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Joanie and Jordie – 7-24-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio

07/17/2017

Caleb Orecchio here with my week in Pittsburgh at the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency

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I come into Pittsburgh
At six-thirty flat.
I found myself a vacant seat
An’ I put down my hat.

-Bob Dylan

a face drawn by Cameron Arthur

Lo and Behold!
or Where The Wild Cartoonists Are: A Pittsburgh Story

And thus it came to pass that I returned to Pittsburgh, PA, the land of the wild cartoonists. I say wild because they certainly are not domesticated like most cartoonists who live Brooklyn or LA. The Comics Workbook crew being the most savage and barbaric of the Pittsburghers—I should know, I am one of them. Though I am not a native, I have been taken in and raised as their own. I’ve been taught the ways of the wolf and to speak in tongues. I come out of desert and back to Pittsburgh when I am called.

This story largely documents my meeting and interacting with the young Texas cartoonist, Cameron Arthur.

The Cast:
Cameron Arthur
Frank Santoro
Sally Ingraham 
Audra Stang
Juan Fernandez
with a special cameo by Nate McDonough
and narrated by me, Caleb Orecchio

Our Story begins…

I left Dayton, OH for Pittsburgh, PA on Sunday to pick up Cameron Arthur who was flying in from Houston, TX. My dog, Zoe, looked at me with the look she gives when she knows I’m leaving her for an extended period of time. Thankfully a couple friends, including comic-book blood brother Jason Hart who agreed to babysit her at his house, took care of her. I am eternally grateful for these pals.

After a four hour drive, I arrived in Pittsburgh where the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency resides. As always, Frank and Sally greeted me with the warmth and welcome that makes me feel like family. We hung out for a bit before I had to go pick up Cameron. Sally left to hold down the fort at thee Copacetic Comics Company. The proprietor of Copacetic, Bill Boichel, was “at the beach” so he unfortunately does not come into this story. I got settled in and claimed my room at the Rowhouse and went back to hangout with Frank who showed me secret works of art that left me shattered and speechless. My tongue was cut out so I couldn’t speak to him about them, but it grew back in time to talk to Cameron at the airport.

Caleb and Cameron photo by Frank

Cameron came out of the terminal glowing with excitement. He never gets to talk to cartoonists in real life so he was purging all the comics-related thoughts, and we’d had a million different conversations before we even left the airport; plus a million more on the way to Copacetic—the first stop on Cameron’s Pittsburgh journey.

Cameron Arthur is a really bright kid from Texas, the land of his heroes: Gary Panter and Matt Brinkman (what 17-year-old has the taste to know Gary Panter is the greatest? Cameron does). I’ve “known” Cameron from corresponding online for years now. He was 14 then. This is the first time we’ve met in real life. This is the summer before his senior year in high school and already he is a powerful cartoonist. The force is strong with this one. Maybe you don’t like his drawing or storytelling or whatever, but you fail to see the boundless potential that is below the surface. This week, he would start to unlock it.

The Savage Sword of Cameron

Cameron and I arrive at Copacetic to find Sally working and Audra Stang shopping (I think I saw Blaise Larmee exiting the coffee shop that resides in the same building). Audra is dear friend, a terrific cartoonist, and recent Pittsburgh resident. At some point in the week she did over 40 portraits of students from the school she works at. Juan later told me, “I know those kids–she killed it.”

We chatted and hung out with the dynamic duo before closing time. As Sally was locking up and we were leaving, we saw Nate McDonough (a Pittsburgh resident with some connections to my Dayton). I love Nate. I told him we should get together this weekend and have a beer. I always say that when I’m around, but I never have time. Please forgive me Nate!

Audra went home and Sally, Frank, Cameron and I talked comics back at HQ. Frank told stories of Gary Panter and Fort Thunder and PitcureBox and Paper Rad and Francesco Clemente and Jack Kirby and Stan Lee and PeeWee Herman and Bob Dylan and Alan Moore and Cold Heat and Basquiat and Andy Warhol among many other things. Cameron and I went back to the Rowhouse full of knowledge and weary from our travels.

Our Story continues…

What follows is most of the week as I remember it. Specific days and activities are blending together so I will do without keeping track of exact times and dates. This is my impression of the week that already seems so long ago now that I’m back in the wilderness of Dayton, OH.

Cameron and I drew a lot over the week of course, but we talked just as much as we drew. I feel that we really got to know each other, like I have another brother in comics. I felt that we clicked immediately being two easy-going dudes who just want to talk about comics all day. He really schooled me in the ways of Gary Panter and Fort Thunder and the surrounding entities. I could school him in some aspects, but his breadth of knowledge at his age is staggering. He just knows whats up.

He also schooled me about his homeland, Texas. The land of western fever-dreams finally had a human face that I could talk to. He knew a lot about his homeland. Had some interesting personal stories of friends and family.

Cameron the Barbarian

In the beginning of the week, he drew very slow. Drawing his comics almost exclusively first-take, he developed a painstaking pace. Frank, and by extension, I, would work to unlock the maniac in him. At night, when we would go to Frank’s to talk and listen, Frank would give Cameron exercises to quicken and loosen Cameron’s drawing up. He talked about the difference between Matt Brinkman and other more traditional cartoonists. Most cartoonists try really hard to get their point across. “Multiforce just is,” I remember Frank saying. He showed him how Brinkman can draw very large and very small. He talked about how Gary Panter is an artist. “Gary Panter wouldn’t have to do eight months of research to learn cubism to do a comic about cubism, Gary Panter IS cubism!” Frank showed us a photo of one of Panter’s latest paintings—our brains blew out the back of our heads and we went back to the Rowhouse and tried to be cartoonists again.

Frank, Sally, Cameron and I went to New Dimension Comics. It was amazing. More $1 back issue boxes than I’ve ever seen in one place! And we didn’t even get to see the basement that they open up to the public once or twice a year. I hardly got through a small section of the place before we there for a while and had to go. Throughout the back-issue digging, Cameron and I would show each other the cool shit we’d pull out. So many Kirby comics, Ditko’s Shade the Changing Man, Archie, Charlton comics, romance comics, sports comics, dusty comics, fresh comics, comics with covers, comics without covers, comics with artists mimicking Kirby, comics with artists mimicking Neal Adams, comics by Neal Adams, comics about Boris Karloff, propaganda comics, how to comics, how to not comics, good comics, bad comics, ugly comics, comics by men, comics by women, comics by boys, comics by Kentuckians, comics by West Virginians, comics comics comics. Frank would periodically bring over a stack, “Here a made you a stack. You don’t have to buy them…” He gave me look a of disappointment when I put back an oversized Dick Tracy collection for two Barry Smith Conan Treasury Edition books. Frank bought the Dick Tracy book. We went back to Frank’s to look at our booty and a wondrous time was had by all.

I draw Juan

Juan Fernandez, a valiant cowboy of comics. He’s the man behind the curtain—along with rest of the CW crew—educating the young minds of Pittsburgh about comics. He stopped by to meet Cameron and chat. It was good to catch up with Juan who is a genuinely sweet guy and a great thinker of comics. His enthusiasm for comics is only outmatched by the hours in the day. Still Juan tirelessly carries on against the wind. He is a key figure in comics, though he probably won’t be truly recognized for it until later—he is one of the Wild Ones. Let no one stand in his way.

Juan draws me

One night, Frank was showing Cameron and I how to better our respective drawing styles. When Frank teaches you something, it almost changes your entire life because you level up just by one interaction with him. He stressed to me the importance of being able to draw with one line and equated it with Dylan. He showed Cameron how to draw as his heroes draw. He showed Cameron how to draw in color. A loud “YES!” rang through the house once Cameron figured it out. Cameron went back to work on his comics, determined to fulfill his destiny. Frank also drew for me, upside down, his best Kirby impression. Frank is the best because he can draw in any way shape or form.

Frank drew this quickly in, like, 10 seconds, upside down

Another night, Frank brought out a bunch of comics and books to look at. I zeroed in on a Kirby collection that had a bunch of Xeroxed pencils of Thor, while we watched Masters of American Comic Book Art. Kirby is the greatest. We’d been talking about the great Gary Panter all week. Gary Panter an artistic and cultural phenomenon regardless if you know it or not. Really he can do it all. Panter, Mazzuchelli, Westvind, Herriman, you name ’em; true masters of the form. But anyone can learn all they want and practice and practice – there is only one Kirby. I almost had an emotional breakdown looking at his pencils, quite literally read and wept.

For most of the days, I was Cameron’s primary teacher. I quickly realized that Sally and Frank had tricked me into it. I can not thank them enough, because I had the extreme pleasure of seeing Cameron LEVEL UP:

Cameron was starting to feel the burn. Comics Workbook expects you to draw until your hands hurt. A lot of the drawing is redrawing the same thing over and over. This was starting to tax Cameron and he wondered if there had to be somewhere out of here. I sensed his pain. His drawing was starting to slow down again. “Faster!” I screamed. “NO! Don’t slow down!” I made him draw four 8-panel one-page gag strips. “You have thirty minutes to do each one! Start in color and then go to black like Frank showed you! Pretend your Gary Panter!”

We are about to make the jump to lightspeed!

The ground shook and the winds were a gail! I looked over and Cameron’s hands were on fire! Sweat poured from him and he breathed heavily. He was doing it. He was Luke doing a handstand with Yoda on his foot and moving rocks with the force. He was Goku gathering the energy of the people in the tri-state area. In the middle of the frenzy, I get a call that a friend’s relative had died. Cameron’s power was reaching the far corners of the universe. He was unstoppable. The hairs on my neck stood on end. I tried to capture the event but no man or woman could render the awesome might of Cameron’s breakthrough.

Cameron’s Breakthrough as drawn by me

When he was done I noticed one of his hairs had turned gray in the process. He was a man now. We looked at the four comics he had done. Remember, one comic page per 30 minutes. He did each one in less than that and the last comic was his personal best at 21 minutes. These four comics were the best he’d ever done. He had willed them into existence. They floated, crackling lightning, fresh from the fire. They just were.

Cameron the Destroyer

Our story ends…

After Cameron’s great breakthrough, we had tacos. We met up with Sally, Audra, and Frank and had a good ol’ time. I bragged about Cameron who was still recovering from it all. It was great to hang out because tomorrow we would be gone—the last hurrah. Got to talk more with Audra and Sally, while Frank had Cameron do more and more drawing.

Sally and Audra and I talked endlessly about our current and future comics. Who we liked, who we hated. Sally and I discussed the woes, pros, and cons of the daily strip. I cursed Audra for being such savage cartoonist. Sally too. We talked about our old embarrassing poetry and past adolescent romances and mix tapes and hopes and dreams. Some real solid quality time with my comics family.

Joanie and Jordie fanart by Audra Stang I found while snooping through her sketchbook–very flattering

As I looked around at Sally, Frank, Cameron, and Audra I felt a real sense of family. I’ve never lacked a loving family, fortunately, but this family seemed more like a wolf pack kind of family. We learn as a pack. We go to shows as a pack. We draw as a pack. We kill as a pack. We eat as a pack.

The dreaded morning came when Cameron and I had to go. I grow weary as I type this overlong account so I’ll keep it short:

I love all the cartoonists I mentioned and I feel really fortunate to have finally met Cameron in person. This stupid blog post does not do the trip justice. It was life changing–as always when I meet up with the CW crew. And now I’m back in the wilderness until it’s time to go back home again.

Frank and Cameron

THE END

Goin’ back to Pittsburgh
Count up to thirty,
Round that horn and ride that herd,
Gonna thread up!

-Bob Dylan

special thanks to everyone mentioned above, particularly Sally Ingraham who did a lot of the leg work to get me and Cameron here at the same time and kept the machine working; and of course Frank Santoro who is undoubtedly the master and without whom this past week (among other things) would not exist.

“Bringing It All Back Home” by Bob Dylan

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anyone still here? Well if you are, here are a few links

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Suzy and Cecil – 7-17-2017 – by Gabriella Tito

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Joanie and Jordie – 7-17-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio