04/16/2018

Caleb Orecchio here with John Porcellino’s recent stop in Pittsburgh, and other news. 

—————————————————————————————————

He has seen but half the universe who has never been shown the house of Pain.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

This past Friday, John Porcellino stopped by Copacetic Comics here in Pittsburgh while on tour for his book, From Lone Mountain, a collection of his King-Cat “comics and stories” from 2003 to 2007, published by Drawn and Quarterly. This was the first signing at Copacetic I’ve attended since I moved to Pittsburgh this year. It was great. Porcellino did his song and dance at Kaibur Coffee (same building as Copacetic but two floors below) by taking us, via slideshow, through excerpts of his book and giving background details and tangents revolving around the events therein. John laid bare his soul during his presentation as he does with every annual release of King-Cat. Pain and Joy are one, and the audience often found ourselves laughing in hindsight at the misfortunes along with our hero.

After the presentation and rather intimate audience Q&A, we hiked up to Copacetic where books were signed and comics were talked about. It was great. Not only could you chat with John Porcellino, but you could also hangout with the Pittsburgh crowd: Sam Ombiri, Sally Ingraham, Juan Fernandez, Jenn Lisa, Audra Stang, Nate McDonough, and many others. I showed Sam my favorite King City gag, while Juan waxed different ways to read and comprehend information with Audra and Sally. I clumsily talked about Pittsburgh roads vs every other American road system with John P as he signed my copy of his book. I asked Bill Boichel (Copacetic proprietor) if  he agreed that Red Nails was Barry Windsor-Smith’s best work, and I think he did. Then we started talking about Kaluta. Lots of things seemed to be going on. The hours went by quickly. It was a beautiful day. Only several days before, the city was snow-capped, but today it felt like how I imagine California feels on its best days. On the Copacetic Balcony, you could see the beautiful old buildings over the hills that run through the city and the purple dusk.

 

Thanks to John P. for coming to Pittsburgh and thanks to Bill Boichel and Copacetic Comics for hosting.

—————————————————————————————————

if you don’t know, now you know

—————————————————————————————————

Suzy and Cecil – 4-16-2018 – by Gabriella Tito

—————————————————————————————————

Joanie and Jordie – 4-16-2018 – by Caleb Orecchio

04/09/2018

Caleb Orecchio here with thoughts on Plop! and other news.

—————————————————————————————————

A couple of months ago, I wrote about a 1979 article in an issue of The Comics Journal where the cover story by Steve Skeates calls for the death of the superhero and the further advocation of comics like Howard the Duck and Plop! Read all about it here if you want.

I was recently flipping through my copies of Plop! with new eyes due to Skeates’ insistence that this was the title that could have saved comics. Friends, I must say, the comics industry had to have been in such a sordid state if Plop! and Howard the Duck were the ponies to bet on.

Sergio Aragonés

I mean, I kinda like Plop! It’s silly, but rarely funny. The best part about the books are usually the covers (a la Basil Wolverton and Wally Wood). I enjoy Sergio Aragonés’ strips that ring-in each issue and then cap it off.  There is also enough Bernie Wrightson comics within the series to encourage my forgiving attitude. But ultimately, Plop! is a bust.

Bernie Wrightson

It’s not funnier than MAD or any other fellow rip-off like Cracked. It might be funnier than Crazy (Marvel’s hat in the ring of MAD rip-offs). I love Aragonés’ strips he writes and draws himself, but typically he is charming up some boring script intended to be clever. Plop! is almost 100% void of cleverness. Wrightson’s comics often are interesting to look at, but in the end are illustrating a really stupid script that doesn’t stick the landing. Each story fails, unlike its EC Comics predecessor, to end each story with a cherry on top or in a neat little bow.

Wally Wood

Oh and when the art is not drawn by Aragonés, Wrightson, Wally Wood, etc., it’s drawn by the worst cartoonists in the business. I can only assume they were in between jobs at DC and trying to make it in the newspaper one-panel strip business. Yikes, it’s just plain bad comics half the time at Plop! Not the kind of comic I’d encourage more of if I’m trying to save the industry and kill the superhero.

But why do I really buy the back-issues if they suck so bad?? The covers!

—————————————————————————————————

if you don’t know, now you know

—————————————————————————————————

Announcing the Spring Semester of thee Santoro Correspondence Course for Comic Book Makers

8 weeks! $500 bux! 10 spots available!

Rolling start date because of spring break – start NOW!

Deadline to apply is April 12th.

Read all about the course HERE and email santoroschool@gmail.com for more details or to apply.
—————————————————————————————————

04/02/2018

Caleb Orecchio here with a nice little Ditko story, and other news.

—————————————————————————————————

“Help” by Ditko and Lee, from Kull the Destroyer #15, 1974. Originally appeared in Strange Tales #94, 1962.

Aw man, lookit that splash page.

I was digging through my back issues looking through my Kull the Destroyers I haven’t really looked at yet. Specifically, Kull the Destroyer #15 from 1974. It’s not a particularly interesting story. Those comics usually aren’t unless they feature some strange, spirited creature. So I flip through the entire issue, kind of disappointed, when I come across an interesting Ditko/Lee short story at the end. It’s a five-pager (six if you count the title page). I had a suspicion that this was a reprint of some back-up story to an old Kirby monster comic. After some digging, I found I was more or less right. “Help,” originally debuted in Strange Tales #94 in 1962.

The story is real simple. A guy answers his phone and the person on the other line seems to desperately need help. The mysterious caller is supposedly trapped in some dark place and fears his death. Our hero doesn’t believe him, and thinks it’s a gag. Yet, stays on the phone in case it’s real. The tension is actually relatively convincing.

It’s classic Ditko. He had knack for making clever little surreal stories that ended with a neat little twist in the last panel. No I’m not going to spoil it for you, you have to look for it yourself. Go. Go to your local place where back issues lay dorment, waiting to be mined. Drink from the fountain of newsprint and ink and mylar packaging and dusty cardboard boxes. Go True Believer, go.

—————————————————————————————————

if you don’t know, now you know

—————————————————————————————————

Suzy and Cecil – 4-2-18 – by Gabriella Tito

 —————————————————————————————————

03/26/2018

Caleb Orecchio here with thoughts on A. Degen’s Soft X-Ray/Mindhunters, and other news.

—————————————————————————————————

A. Degen’s work is always enjoyable and fun to look at. The drawing is loose, but not sloppy. The images are dense, but not overwhelming. The wordless narratives are simple, yet not unsophisticated. Soft X-Ray/Mindhunters, from thee Koyama Press (May 2018), continues the trend. Degen’s work often brings to mind Moebius’ Airtight Garage, specifically the element of spontaneity and worlds-within-worlds locations, with a dash of early Tezuka minimalism. In the case of this book, particularly in scenes concerning virtual reality, I sniff a whiff of Frank Miller’s Ronin. Like Ronin, or it’s most famous exploitation, The Matrix, Mindhunters is all about dreams versus reality and the dreams within dreams. I think.

It’s a big fat book, weighing in at nearly 400 pages. Would I have preferred if it was serialized over 4 or 5 floppies? Yes. I think the amalgamation of separate-yet-intertwining stories would have benefitted from some time between them, some tension. However, I am painfully aware that a comics publisher is more likely to publish a giant tome, rather than a handful of pamphlets these days. Despite my preferences, the big book delivers the goods.

To me, the love for one’s work really comes off these pages and emits a warmth and comfort akin to Brandon Graham’s best comics. Degen’s strengths as a cartoonist is that the work is always consistent and fully developed. I don’t sense that anything has been accidentally left out. Humor and imagination come together to make cotton candy for the eyes. I am seldom let down by an A. Degen book. The work is always worth its salt.

Look for Soft X-Ray/Mindhunters in May 2018.

—————————————————————————————————

if you don’t know, now you know

—————————————————————————————————

Announcing the Spring Semester of thee Santoro Correspondence Course for Comic Book Makers

8 weeks! $500 bux! 10 spots available!
Rolling start date because of spring break – start as early as March 30th 2018.
Deadline to apply is April 12th.

Read all about the course HERE and email santoroschool@gmail.com for more details or to apply.

—————————————————————————————————

Suzy and Cecil – 3-26-2018 – by Frank Santoro

03/19/2018

Caleb Orecchio here with thoughts on a temporary comic book artist, Jeff Purves, and other news.

—————————————————————————————————

from The Incredible Hulk #349

I really liked Sally’s report last week on Paty Greer/Cockrum. I had a similar experience with a comic book artist’s name I did not recognize. For me it was the name “Jeff Purves” in a copy of The Incredible Hulk #349–I found that Purves, after some digging, had a 19-issue run on The Hulk in late 80’s with Peter David. He’s taking over after the McFarlane run, which is self-evident in the contrived effort of maintaining a McFarlane-y looking Hulk. That’s not a knock on Purves, just something I noticed. This is work-for-hire comics after all.

When I initially read the issue, the layouts and action were interesting to me because the clarity and simplicity of the images wreaked of professionalism (as opposed to fanboy-gone-pro, though I’m not ruling that possibility out), which to me meant he had to be some sort of successful illustrator trying his hand at comics. I was more or less right. According to Lambiek and IMDb, he’s an animator. I mean, look at that Spider-Man above, the guy is clearly an educated drawer.

 

from The Incredible Hulk #354 with inks by Marie Severin and colors by Glynis Oliver

I found Purves’ style to be bit stiff at first, but I think it had more to do with the inking of Terry Austin of issue 349; I eventually warmed up to the drawing and am now rather impressed by Purves’ professional, hired-gun vibe. I have a feeling Purves was pretty dependable schedule-wise due the successive amount of issues he contributed to. The work has both a sense of urgency and careful calculation like he knows how to bust out the good stuff that kids love, but ultimately understands that the issue must get out on time.

from The Incredible Hulk #359 with inks by Marie Severin and colors by Glynis Oliver

Just thought this was interesting. I’m interested in these weird here-today-gone-tomorrow comic book artists (though nearly 2 years is not an amount of time to sneeze at), because it adds to the wacky history of comics. This guy probably wanted to draw comics as a kid but needed something more financially stable as an adult, so he quits comics and goes to work in animation on such titles as The Simpsons and Mulan.

 

 

from The Incredible Hulk #347 with inks by Mike and Valerie Gustovich and colors by Petra Scotese

—————————————————————————————————

if you don’t know, now you know

—————————————————————————————————

Suzy and Cecil – 3-19-2018 – by Gabriella Tito

03/12/2018

Caleb Orecchio here with Dirty Plotte #1 by Julie Doucet, and other news.

—————————————————————————————————

I was rummaging through the back-issues at Copacetic Comics here in Pittsburgh, and I miraculously came across a copy of Julie Doucet’s Dirty Plotte #1. Whatta treat! The idea of finding it “in the wild” was almost as exciting as finding it period. That’s a classic Comics Workbook lesson in format. Imagine if Doucet had made her comics in various ACME Novelty dimensions, I’d never find the individual issues ever!

This encounter and subsequent reading of the issue reminded me of Doucet’s intensity as a cartoonist. An unfettered intensity and earnestness in both narrative and drawing. A simultaneity that basically went unrivaled among her comics graduating class (the exception probably being Chester Brown). Even in our current comics community, I am hard-pressed to think of any cartoonist that revels so deeply and gleefully in one’s day-to-day routine of life, fantasies and bodily functions—and in a completely fun and personal way. Which is fine, it’s just something I notice.

That day at Copacetic, I also took home Frank Miller and Lynn Varley’s Ronin #1, an old Marvel Team-Up, an issue of Special Forces by Kyle Baker, and Destroyer Duck #2 by Steve Gerber and Jack Kirby; but Dirty Plotte #1 was the real stand-out find of the day I think.

Check out Mardou’s appreciation of Doucet’s work on this very site.

—————————————————————————————————

if you don’t know, now you know

—————————————————————————————————

 

Suzy and Cecil – 3-12-2018 – by Sally Ingraham

03/05/2018

Caleb Orecchio here with, yet again, thoughts on Barry Windsor-Smith and his excellent adaption of Red Nails, plus the usual gang of links.

—————————————————————————————————

All images herein are scans from Marvel Treasury Edition #4. 

 

Long story short, I think Barry Windsor-Smith’s Red Nails should be considered a masterpiece among the pantheon of comics. Old school fandom has more or less made this claim over the years, but the later “intellectual” generation (particularly the cartoonists and distinguished readers coming up out of the 80s) sees it as “good for the time”—at least, that’s what I sense. I also think many indie comics fans look down on adaptions as if adaptions are not a valid form of expression or something; or that a Marvel sword and sorcery comic simply is not good comics as a matter of principle and should basically be forgotten except when waxing nostalgia or appreciating good inking.

I think independent comics and mini comics culture has come far enough to the point where we don’t have to demonize these old mainstream comics anymore. Yes, Red Nails is more or less violent, swashbuckling entertainment for young adults (or young adults at heart), but that’s what it was intended to be. No, I don’t walk away from it with a deep emotional revelation and it doesn’t cause me to rethink my life, but I had a damn good time looking at it.

Smith’s images return to my thoughts for weeks on end and I marvel at the visual sensationalism. Is not the basic goal of a cartoonist to make something visually interesting and worth looking at/reading? I’d argue that this is the cartoonist’s most basic goal, and I’d argue that it’s in this manner that Barry Windsor-Smith achieved one of thee great works in comics.

 

 

 

—————————————————————————————————

if you don’t know, now you know

—————————————————————————————————

Suzy and Cecil – 3-5-2018 – by Gabriella Tito

 

 

02/26/2018

Caleb Orecchio here with more on Barry Windsor-Smith, and other news.

—————————————————————————————————

Cimmeria excerpt from Savage Tales #2; 1973

It’s just another Saturday morning in the big city. June 9th, 1973. Eastbound 26th Street is blocked by two refrigerator trucks who stalled at the Lexington intersection. Horns resound in fury. Barry Smith looks up from the desk he’s working at to see the commotion. His mind starts to swirl. The window from the apartment looking over New York City becomes a vision of sublime psychedelia. Cosmic phenomena burst forth displaying a beautiful array of heavenly bodies, he can see lightyears away. Smith feels a nudge to his perceived center. This was the second time in 24-hours Smith had experienced this happening. He will have a much more intense revelation tomorrow.

Cimmeria reprint excerpt from Robert E Howard’s Conan the Barbarian #1; 1983

It’s springtime in London, 1966. Barry Smith and a friend are strolling across a field, a couple and their dog walk just ahead. The dog turns and barks. Everyone looks over their shoulder. Above the field hovers a UFO. Smith can just make out the details of the underside’s tubes and ducts, shadowed by the blinding light emitting from the cluster of lights that blazed from the center. The ship rises and eventually disappears to the west. Everyone left the scene without a word. Five years later in 1971, Smith’s aforementioned friend tells our hero about a dream he had recently. He describes the spaceship he and Smith saw in 1966. Our hero is unable to tell him that it wasn’t a dream.

Cimmeria reprint excerpt from Robert E Howard’s Conan the Barbarian #1; 1983

Back to 1973. It’s Sunday, or it was Sunday June 10th, 1973. Smith has had his third vision in as many days. In fact, the encounter lasted into the next morning. It’s now Monday, almost 4:00 am. His body is rendered completely and utterly exhausted. He can hardly stand. He stumbles from the studio, down the stairs and into the streets of New York in 1973 on the corner of 26th Street and Lexington Avenue. Two men are fighting just outside the door. A cop car wails past them, making them scarce. Smith heads for home just a couple blocks down. Every ounce of strength the experience left him with sustains his balance as he heaves one foot in front of the other. Just short of a football field from his destination, two men emerge from the shadows. One brandishes a knife. In an act of sheer survival, our hero emits a barbaric and violent scream—charging headlong towards his foe. The would-be assailants step aside, letting our hero pass in peace.

Cimmeria reprint excerpt from Robert E Howard’s Conan the Barbarian #1; 1983

In the summer of 1973, Smith was no longer the regular artist on the Marvel comic book series he had started with Roy Thomas, Conan the Barbarian; but he was working on an adaption of “Red Nails,” the last Conan story by Robert E. Howard, for the new Marvel magazine Savage Tales. On top of this, he was adapting, for the same mag, Howard’s poem, “Cimmeria.” Not to mention helping his friend and studio-mate with concepts for advertisements for big-name clients.

Cimmeria reprint excerpt from Robert E Howard’s Conan the Barbarian #1; 1983

Stories of June 1973 taken from Opus Volume 1 by Barry Windsor-Smith. UFO story from Streetwise, an anthology of autobio comics; Smith’s story is called “UFO POV.”

—————————————————————————————————

if you don’t know, now you know

—————————————————————————————————

Suzy and Cecil – 2-26-2018 – by Sally Ingraham

—————————————————————————————————

2/19/2018

Caleb Orecchio here with Barry (Windsor-)Smith, and other news.

—————————————————————————————————

“Red Nails” drawn by Barry Smith: Savage Tales version (1973)

“Red Nails” was the last Conan the Barbarian story Robert E. Howard ever wrote before he killed himself. It is almost undoubtedly, to my mind, his greatest story–which is also, appropriately, the best and most faithful Conan comic book adaption, drawn by Barry Smith in 1973. Obviously, Barry Smith was and is thee great Conan adapter despite the fact that John Buscema would eventually become synonymous with the character; but “Big” John never could match the intensity of Barry Smith–an intensity that eventually caused him to see ghosts and psychedelic phenomenon in his NYC apartment.

Smith’s adaption (according to the book’s credits, Roy Thomas “wrote” the adaption, but the comic is so faithful to the source that I regard Thomas’ role as merely editorial given what we know about the “Marvel Method”) is so electrifying to the eyes, that the original black and white version (first appearing in the magazine, Savage Tales #2 and #3 in two parts) nearly makes me cross-eyed. The amount of detail crammed into each panel is staggering and almost intimidating, yet the beauty of each image and prowess of the hands that made them is simply undeniable. Thus, the release of Marvel Treasury Edition: Conan the Barbarian #4 gave “Red Nails” the release it deserved, finding it newly colored by Smith and in an oversized deluxe format.

“Red Nails” drawn and colored by Barry Smith: Marvel Treasury version (1976)

I don’t want to show my hand just yet, but I felt it important today to point out the sheer blood, sweat and tears Barry Smith (later Barry Windsor-Smith) put into this work. Of course, this kind of  ambitious, detail-oriented work is not realistically feasible on a monthly deadline and would cause Smith to miss said deadlines, cause fatal distribution problems and as I mentioned before, see things. Still, the results speak for themselves. I want to share more of my thoughts on this work, but I have to wait until next week. See you then.

“Red Nails” drawn and colored by Barry Smith: later reprint version from the 1983; the colors were probably taken from Smith’s 1976 guides and then slightly modified in translation–often Smith made his colors specifically for the particular paper they’d print on. The Red Nails colors were meant for newsprint, so this version, being printed on nicer, heavier paper, is over saturated and lacks the subtlety of the Treasury Version.

—————————————————————————————————

if you don’t know, now you know

—————————————————————————————————

Suzy and Cecil – 2-19-2018 – by Sally Ingraham

—————————————————————————————————

02/12/2018

Caleb Orecchio here, come back with me to 1979, and then back to the present with other news.

—————————————————————————————————

I find right now to be a purgatorial time in comics. Comic book sales have reportedly went down significantly in 2017 making retailers nervous, while superhero movies seem unable to not make money. So when I read my copy of The Comics Journal #47 from 1979, I couldn’t help seeing spooky parallels to the present. Most significantly, comic book writer Steve Skeates’ cover article, “THE DEATH OF THE SUPERHEROES.” 

Skeates’ vehement essay “persuades” us on why Marvel and DC should let their superheroes go away and never return, and rather focus on other genres of comics—i.e. Howard the Duck and Plop!. He gives many reasons superheroes should die, mainly that superheroes are stupid, fascist, endlessly-recycled and not making any money on the newsstand (you’ll notice, True Believer, that this is around the time the direct market started to become more and more dominant). What Steve did not take into account is the fact that the big wigs at these companies do not actually care about the success—financial or intellectual or otherwise—of the comics themselves. The Big Two are more interested in the products that make actual money, like movies and TV.

Towards the end of the issue, Reich Benasutti and Lawrence Speerloop report on a conversation between Stan Lee  and Jenette Kahn (then President of DC Comics) at Temple University (pg. 59). The article reads,

From his opening gambit, “Hello Culture Lovers,” Lee dominated the session with his customary one-liners, covering his sometime astounding ignorance of the current Marvel line with a mixture of glib repartee and a disarming bafflement.

It goes on to say,

Lee spoke with considerable candor on the subject of television shows based on Marvel characters.

And, for me, the kicker:

Lee was quite gallant toward Jenette Kahn, compelling the audience to give her a hand: ‘She could be in an ivory tower somewhere because of the Superman movie,’ said Lee, ‘but she still comes here. I think that deserves a round of applause.’ The audience agreed.

All the above made me think of last year’s announcement that Netflix had bought Mark Millar and his company, Millarworld, out to create comic books that could, or could not, be adapted into Netflix series, depending on the market. Of course, his comics have a great track record for becoming successful movies, and one could argue that his comic The Ultimates basically gave Marvel their movie mealticket. It’s marketing. Comics are disposable marketing collateral. These companies are basically glorified ad agencies keeping the pot warm and stirred for all the fans so they spend money on the products that actually make these companies real money.

So, to Steve Skeates, yes, maybe superheroes should go away and The Big Two should stop recycling the same old garbage decade after decade because they could make such better comics! But The Big Two don’t care at all if they make good comics in the end—as long as the comics bring the nerds and geeks and fans to conventions, movie theaters and the television screens, they don’t care. Period. So don’t be surprised if the executives at these companies don’t shed a tear for the comic book stores who have to close their doors permanently due to low sales of crappy comics.

—————————————————————————————————

if you don’t know, now you know

—————————————————————————————————

Suzy and Cecil – 2-12-2018 – by Sally Ingraham

—————————————————————————————————

Joanie and Jordie – 2-12-2018 – by Caleb Orecchio