08/16/2018

Caleb Orecchio here with a Kirby Fantastic Four sequence I’ve been thinking about.

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Fantastic Four no. 18, 1963; drawn by Jack Kirby and inked by Dick Ayers

I swear I think about this Kirby sequence from Fantastic Four no. 18 once a week. When I was a growing up, superheroes were becoming more and more “realistic.” That’s what the fans wanted. “Believable” superheroes. They demanded superheroes follow the logic of The Bourne Identity or something. Captain America was invading the Middle East (The Ultimates), The X-Men wore leather jackets (The New X-Men), I could go on and on. I loved that crap and still do in a nostalgic way, but as I would start investigating comics’ history in reverse I began to appreciate the unrestricted imagination of the early masters. The Golden Age superheroes had such whacky, bizarre adventures that had their own hermetically sealed logic. If you’ve ever read really early Jack Cole, for instance, you know what I’m talking about.

That’s a big factor in my appreciation of Kirby. Throughout his career, without exception, The King maintained a sense of unchained imaginative ferocity from The Golden Age that the Silver Agers didn’t quite harness (and into the modern age). This is a small example, but when I think of this sequence of The Super Skrull transforming his head into a battering ram to headbutt The Thing I am reminded of how such whacky imagery burns itself into the folds of the brain.

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08/13/2018

Caleb Orecchio here with thoughts on a Barry Windsor-Smith strip, and other news.

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from Opus vol. 1 by Barry Windsor-Smith, 1999

“You ask why? I say why not?” — BWS’ note on the above piece in Opus.

This strip has no “joke” in the traditional sense, but there is a payoff. A punchline. “POH!”

1, 2, 3, POH! It’s so simple. What is a four panel strip other than three panels that, traditionally, set up a punchline? Jack White, a musician and upholsterer, has noted that it takes three staples for a material to be considered upholstered at the bare minimum; this is his observation of the beauty within simplicity. Here Barry Windsor-Smith does not busy himself (or the reader) with a plot within three panels to bring us to the fourth, he simply stalls us and then squeezes the trigger. POH! It’s actually kind of funny, or at least amusing.

What I find very interesting about this strip, is that it isn’t contrived in any way. Obviously, I presume, this was made privately. Maybe as a joke to himself or his assistant or studio mates or whatever. It does not matter. I am simply pointing out the simplicity, looseness and playful nature of the piece. There is a solid art and drawing background behind the images: the wash, the marks, the 270 degree turn; but they all briskly collide to make the joke, POH!

This is a perfect strip. I’m not going to argue the point, but consider how few cartoonists make strips like this. Consider how few cartoonists make comics for fun. Musicians play music for fun. Football players throw the ol’ pigskin around for fun. Consider this, fellow cartoonists, for twenty minutes a day, as a warm-up, make a four-panel strip for fun that you’ll never show anyone. I guarantee you will be surprised by what will come out of that exercise. Many perfect comics are made in sketchbooks and will never be seen by anyone until the sketchbooks of that cartoonist are published, like the above example (also I think the sketchbooks of Chris Ware and Gary Panter apply).

Perfect comic strips can be painstakingly rendered by Ernie Bushmiller, but they don’t have to be. Sometimes, they are made by Barry Windsor-Smith as a joke is all I’m saying.

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08/09/2018

Caleb Orecchio here briefly comparing my old comics with Trevor Von Eeden’s.

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I was flipping through my dad’s childhood copy of Black Lightning no. 10. Look at how professional Von Eeden’s work was at eighteen. It’s good, good enough to be published by DC. The work looks Golden Age-y at times due to the artist’s unwieldy ambition combined with solid, albeit still developing, drawing chops. I enjoyed this elephant charging scene.

Hahahaha! I horse laugh when I consider the comics I was making at eighteen! Oh look, here’s one from my vault. This is from my high school newspaper. Probably late 2010 to early-2011. Don’t laugh.

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Cement Mixer – 8-9-18 – by Caleb Orecchio

08/06/2018

Caleb Orecchio here with early morning thoughts and other news.

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Brandon Graham, 2007

“Sometimes I think that I know too much.”

Talking to a friend recently while he was visiting Pittsburgh, we discussed this feeling of knowing “too much” about comics. The thought seems silly in retrospect. Obviously you can’t know too much about comics, but the breadth of history and accessibility of the medium can be overwhelming. We asked ourselves:

Should I try to draw like Jaime Hernandez? Should I try to write like Alan Moore? Should I learn to paint? Will I ever be as good as my heroes? Who is better, Ditko or Kirby? Ware or Mazzucchelli? Bushmiller or Schulz? Fisher or Herriman? Crane or Caniff? Does it matter? Will there ever be another publisher like PictureBox? Was Moebius actually a good cartoonist? Do these pants make my ass look fat? Have you been eating your vegetables? Do you watch gladiator movies?

We are frustrated to find that our work does not live up to our knowledge. “It’s a slow process,” we have to remind ourselves. “But Mazzucchelli was working at Marvel while still in college! And Trevor Von Eeden started working for DC on his own character when he was 17! And don’t get me started on Xaime!”

 

Trevor Von Eeden, 1977

 

David Mazzucchelli, 1984

Hahahaha! We had a big laugh at the expense of our lack of confidence. What else can we do? Quit? We put the success of our heroes aside, and went back to our drawing boards.

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if you don’t know, now you know

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08/02/2018

Caleb Orecchio here with a Kirby and Toth collab!

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Look! At New Dimension Comics in Elwood City the other day, I found this comic I didn’t know existed! Did you?

Kirby on left; Toth on right

I mean, it’s really not that great of a comic. Neither genius shines particularly bright here, and the inker is nothing short of BORING! That’s okay. I just like looking at this spread and seeing both cartoonists side by side. Just the idea of it. Plus Kirby drawing his old team! The Challengers of the Unknown were kind of the beta stage for the Fantastic Four if you think about it.

I can’t help but assume Toth was re-drawing some of his pages that were probably originally Jack’s for the finicky DC editorial staff. You know? Surprisingly they kept Kirby’s Superman face. Was Swan too busy to “fix” it?

That’s the beauty of the back issue bins folks. After three hours you tend to run out of gas and start to feel hungry and depressed but, once you have recovered, you realize how happy you are that you spent the day this way. Right? Right! Especially when you find gold such as this!

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Cement Mixer – 8-2-18 – by Caleb Orecchio

07/30/2018

Caleb Orecchio here, as usual, with your Monday edition of the news!

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Paul Kirchner

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if you don’t know, now you know

 

Steve Ditko

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Suzy and Cecil – 7-30-18 – by Sally Ingraham

07/23/2018

Caleb Orecchio here as always for the Monday edition of The Daily News! 

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from Garden by Yuichi Yokoyama

Okay so I was at Frank’s house and he had to answer some important emails or something so I sat in a comfy chair and started flipping through a bunch of Yokoyama books he had laying around. I started reading World Map Room when Frank turned on some music by Daily Life; you know, the band CF is in. The smooth symphonic melodies created this really nice atmosphere in the house that synchronized with my reading. The characters in the book started marching to the pace of the music. It was as if I was standing on some inter-dimensional harmonic crosshair. I was hypnotized by the coupling.

I forgot Frank was a few feet away from me and I became one of Yokoyama’s characters moving through space, taking note of my bizarre surroundings. I felt myself sink further into the chair as if I was becoming more susceptible to gravity. The feeling was akin to dipping into a hot tub in winter.

I finished World Map Room and began Garden. The record had repeated once or twice by this point and the familiarity with it’s pattern and with Yokoyama’s pacing intensified the hypnotic effect.

Eventually, the mood changed. The music was turned down and the books set aside for conversation. I was back on Earth.

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07/16/2018

 

Caleb Orecchio here with thoughts on “copying,” and other news.

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WHAT IF

Orecchio after Ditko (a warm-up)

comics adopted this attitude that resembled folk music where, particularly during the revival in the fifties and sixties, someone who wrote their own material was an anomaly as oppose to a  standard expectation? The majority of folk musicians learned to play songs like “John Henry” and “Old Blue” before they wrote “Blowin’ in the Wind” or “Black is the Color” and so on. In fact, I’d argue that the reason folk music from that era remains so listenable to this day(to palated ears) because it was so rooted in tradition. These musicians understood this tradition and fused it with their modern sensibilities which created this new understanding of the past and present.

Now, I’m not saying comics could or should mirror musical trends of the fleeting Greenwich Village folk revival, and yet, I am amused at the ideas of comic “covers.” Not that this is a new idea. Below is probably my favorite Paul Pope comic, and it is a “cover” (or I guess we can use the word “adaption” since cartoonists make books and not records) of OMAC #1 by Kirby. A reinterpretation, with a 21st Century shake-up. It’s a good comic, and I think worth looking at.

The idea is more or less excepted (or expected) among the big two. One of my favorite recent comics is Ed Piskor’s X-Men comic, and part of my infatuation lies in the idea of Piskor making this elaborate yet condensed adaption of the X-Men saga. On top of that, I can’t count the times I’ve come across the rehashing of a Spider-Man or Batman origin story. These are practically folk tales in and of themselves.

Or, for you readers who read exclusively indie comics, Kramers 8 features a story by Kevin Huizenga that he adapts from a comic in the Public Domain. I find that interesting. There are actually many other examples in indie comics, but they always tend to be put in the “apocryphal” category of the comics bible. Which I understand, but I wonder if we could change our attitude about these things?

I don’t really have an “argument” to convince you, dear reader, that covering or adapting comics into a new comic is a good idea. I just think it’s something to consider. I think the idea would bear fruit. Of course, I hope cartoonists don’t stop making their own stories, but be honest, how many comics really contain good stories these days? Seriously. I think one should at least consider “covering” comics as an exercise when they start out down this winding road of cartooning.

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if you don’t know, now you know

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Suzy and Cecil – 7-16-18 – by Sally Ingraham

07/09/2018

Caleb Orecchio here with brief thoughts on Steve Ditko, and other news!

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from Charlton Action Featuring “Static” Vol. 2 No. 11, 1985

You’ve probably heard by now that Steve Ditko has passed away. Thee great Steve Ditko. I’ve been going through my annual Ditko obsession these past few months which makes his passing all the more surprising. For a while, I’d figured he’d live forever–and he will, being survived by his work.

Often, I can’t decide if I’m more in awe of his strange imagination, his incredible storytelling chops, his amazing formalistic skills or his unstoppable work ethic. Ditko is a true inspiration to cartoonists, or at least to this cartoonist.

I could go on and on, but am wary of adding to the noise. “What can be said that hasn’t been said before?” I’ve already written multiple columns about Ditko’s work and will continue to do so, so I’ll not exhaust my praise and admiration here.

I constantly find new challenges as a cartoonist, formalistically and idealistically, in Ditko’s work. I am constantly blown away by the man’s innumerable innovations. I am sure he is on the Astral Plane, navigating the cosmos with the other long-lost comic book greats. Or maybe not. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d spend the afterlife working in isolation, and mastering his art as he did in this life.

Below are three of my favorite Ditko spreads lately. Two of which I’ve written about on this site.

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from “The Hanged Man” from The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves Vol. 11, No. 68, 1981 (Charlton)

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from “A Voice in the Fog” from Haunted Vol. 3, No. 14, 1973 (Charlton)

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from “Dream World!” from Chamber of Chills Vol. 1, No. 19, 1975 (originally from Tales to Astonish, 1961) (Marvel)

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if you don’t know, now you know