Holy cow, folks! What a weekend! Stumptown Comics Fest was fantastic! Thank you to everyone who came by to show support or purchase some books from the amazing artists exhibiting. Before I launch into Stumptown details, a couple quick announcements:
I have started a (hopefully) ongoing podcast with Justin Fah of In This Issue Podcast, where we analyze older comics that we find interesting or declare “must read’s”. The first one was released this week. Check it out as we discuss Green Lantern: Willworld, drawn by one of my favorite artists, Seth Fisher. Click below or subscribe to In This Issue podcast on iTunes:
REVIEWS & SUCH
Those fine folks over at Spandexless saw fit to finish up the Gary series with another kind review:
They also took the time to explore one of my older Simon comics, “Mercy”
Now on to the wacky exploits at STUMPTOWN…
Manning the table with me was my trusty sidekick (and younger brother) Logan.
He also helped create the newest Simon comic, which we had available at the show.
I did a few throughout the weekend, including this Simon piece.
I’d like to think this is just our first collaboration.
Speaking of Brandon Graham, I geeked out at how he one-upped Simon Roy’s signature on my
Prophet TPB. Farel Dalrymple also added his own touch. Dirty fellows.
including Mr. Jack Bracken, who did this wonderfully racy poem for me.
Reid Psaltis took a time out to show me around Portland’s very own IPRC. Cool joint!
And of course, there was much food and drink to be had. From left to right/top to bottom:
Broder, Pacific Pie (x2), Little Big Burger, Biwa, Blue Star Donuts, Lardo’s, Teardrop, more Blue Star.
Not pictured: Bunk, Luc Lac, Pine State Biscuits, Wurst
I’m not great about taking pictures, so you’ll have to look through the Stumptown Tumblr to find more shots of me and other exhibitors.
In the 11th hour, I was invited to participate in the famous Art Battle at the Stumptown afterparty, hosted by Ezra Clayton Daniels! My team was doomed to lose as we were the ‘away team’ vs. the Portland home team. But we gave it our best shot, fighting through language barriers (I’ve never had to explain auto-erotic asphyxiation to a frenchman before), shake-weights, and insults. Really, I thought including Robocop in our G.I. Joe team drawing would ensure our win. But hey, it was all in good fun.
I had an awesome trip. Special shout out to The Con Crew: Josh Shalek, Neil Brideau, Reid Psaltis, Kenan Rubenstein, & Jack Bracken. Finally all of us in one place! Couldn’t ask for a better group of creators to share a convention with. Also it was great to see the incorrigible Beth Hetland, the lovely Nomi Kane, and the edgy Ezra Clayton Daniels.
I have some BIG announcements coming in my next post. So stayed tuned next week for the details!
The fine folks over at Buy Indie Comics were kind enough to do a nice review of Gary. Click to see:
I really appreciate these guys taking the time to give Gary a read. If you haven’t picked up all three issues yet, they are still available at the store.
Victus is coming along. Here are some random snaps of pages in progress, and my (messy) workspace:
coffee and drawing in the morning
Go ahead and JUMP!
It’s always exciting when drawings come together and turn out the way you want. It seemingly only happens about 10% of the time for me, but that 10% success rate manages to keep me coming back for more.
What have you guys been reading lately? I’ve discovered Study Group recently. How did I miss this?? It’s filled with work by some of my favorite artists working right now. Check it out!
Stay warm out there!
We all got em. We all love em. I think the trick is narrowing down your influences to a point where they are useful in a specific project. In some ways, all your influences show up in everything you do. You can’t deny that or fight it. However, I believe that artists should be aware of their direct influences and try their best to capture the essence of those influences in creating a new work.
When I started Gary, I wanted the book to have a tone. I enjoy art that puts me in a place or mood. It’s easy to try to cram in a little of everything. Especially when you have that pressure of selling books. But when you try to make your work funny and scary and profound and sad and happy, you end up with something inconsistent and unreadable. By setting a consistent tone, panel structures, themes, character models, etc, I felt less intimidated when starting each page. These aspects become like signs and clues for your readers. As a reader, I like to to see those road signs along the journey. The little clues that I’m on the right path and there is something neat coming up and “oh man that reminds me of where I’ve been!” Structure is vital to a books success, no matter how zany it is. Of course, Gary isn’t a zany book, but you get my point. In choosing my restrictions or modes of operation for Gary, I zeroed in on a specific aspects of some of my favorite influences:
OPTIC NERVE by ADRIAN TOMINE
Restricted panelling, clean lines, zip-a-tone, neurosis, failed relationships
Tomine is a master describing his characters, but not painting them as perfect. There is a sobering reality to each person in Optic Nerve. Tomine refrains from extreme characterizations in his portrayal of faces and bodies. The subtlety of his panelling and character design were a big influence on Gary.
BLACK HOLE by CHARLES BURNS
The darkness beneath the surface, harmful & helpful relationships
Black Hole is twisted. But not twisted in light-hearted/fast-paced stylings common to many independent comics. Burns gradually takes you beneath the surface of characters’ personas, slowly revealing those emotions and thoughts that are hidden. Don’t you just love the way the book cover has that normal, flat b/w portrait, but with eyes blotted out with ‘black hole’. This person is a vessel. What’s inside that vessel?
BIG QUESTIONS by ANDERS NILSEN
Long silent scenes, clean lines, morality, lack of inner monologue
Silence is so powerful in comics. I think it’s because they are (by default) silent objects, which means to show sound or voice, they generally use text. There is also a pressure to depict only the most vital moment of action in a scene, as to not waste a panel or page. But something amazing happens when you let the scene breathe a little. When you are presented with one limited panel layout. And the characters just shut up. And you see the action unfold slowly in tiny motions within consistent panels. As a reader, you slow down with the panels and you think. I love all methods of slowing readers down into a state of contemplation.
PUNISHER: BORN by GARTH ENNIS & DARICK ROBERTSON
Morality, events that change participants, apathy, murder
Yep, a Punisher book. In my opinion, Frank Castle (The Punisher) is the most interesting character at the ‘house of ideas’. Born shows people who interact with the world in violent ways and how that affects them. Obviously, a work that directly explores a character who has murder as a constant in his life is going to be a huge touchstone for Gary.
TERRENCE MALICK films
Juxtoposition of seemingly disconnected scenes, humanity, nature
Malick has a special way of showing images in succession that are not connected in the normal temporal arrangement. Upon seeing this stream of images/sounds, the viewer is struck by an emotion or thought that is cumulative. It’s as if he’s tapped into our brains most intimate relationships with sense memory and used those to focus in on a singular state. I was extremely interested in the idea of memory and how it functions when working on Gary. Relating disparate events by connecting motions, textures, and composition is a signature of Malicks work that I tried to employ in Gary.
ELEPHANT by GUS VAN SANT
Objective view of horrible events, personal interactions, ambiguous conclusions.
An objective viewpoint is impossible to achieve 100%. However, Van Sant comes close in Elephant by allowing the viewer to just spend time with the characters. Much like Big Questions, you are able to get to know them not by a character description, but by simply being around them. When things start to dive into dark territory, you have already formed your own view of them based on your time together, and your expectations of them are your own. The last thing I ever wanted to do in Gary was TELL you WHO Gary was and WHAT he’s all about. You don’t know someone until you’ve spent time with them. Of course, no piece of art is 100% objective, but I always prefer to have a little room to draw my own conclusions when confronted with a film or comic.
Whenever I hit a wall while working on Gary, I would turn to these sources for inspiration and guidance. This was vital in creating a consistent style for the series. Who are your influences? Do you have different touchstones for different works of art? Where do you draw the line on referencing another’s work?
I leave ya’ll with a small sneak peek at what I’ve been cooking up in the comics kitchen:
So while we’re waiting for Gary: Book Three to arrive from the printers…
A very nice review of Gary: Book One from the fine folks at Spandexless:
click the pic!
At Wizard World Chicago a few weeks back, I became acquainted with the work of fellow Chicagoan by the name of Daniel Warren. His webcomic Space-Mullet is fantastic! You should be reading it…
And I leave with a sneak peak of a Simon story I’m working on…
Gary: Book Three is on the way! Can’t wait to share with ya’ll!
The first time I saw Akira, I was a freshman in high school. My brother and I were fans of shows like Dragonball Z, Speed Racer, and Sailor Moon (this was a while ago). Somehow, we found out there was more of this ‘japanimation’ in existence and we had to see it. Unfortunately, we were living in a small (SMALL) town and this was before ‘good’ internet. Hence, we drove 2 hours to the nearest city to RENT Akira and Ghost in the Shell. We watched them both in one night, and I must admit that I was nodding in and out of sleep by the time Tetsuo began his final transformation. But alas, it didn’t take long before I had purchased my copy of Akira on VHS (yes that amazing US dub with Leonardo’s voice) and watched it nearly every night while painting for the remainder of my high school years. And the rest is… well ya know.
Otomo is a powerhouse creator. Very few creators have accomplished the sheer volume of work that Otomo has. Many people know of Akira, Otomo’s magnum opus, but he has a breadth of work that is astonishing. I find his influence seeping into my art-making process on a regular basis. Every time I view Otomo’s work, I’m amazed and inspired.
Recently my dear friend and fellow artist, Rinko Endo, brought me two collections of Otomo’s short stories straight from Japan. I wanted to share some images from a the collections that highlight why Otomo is my hero. I will apologize for some of the blurriness on the scans, but I refuse to dismantle my books for better scanning. Also keep in mind that these are scans from the japanese editions, so they read right to left, top to bottom.
Otomo is a master of pacing and motion. He explores methods that constantly direct your eye through the page and control the speed a viewer takes in information. We all know his ‘big moments’ in Akira (say, the destruction of an entire city… twice), but those only work due to his pacing and panelling on preceding pages. He can show speed, tension, and motion simply through his panel layouts and framing:
Exhibit A: A gunfight breaks out over cheating in a card game. Notice how the paneling gets less linear as the events grow more hectic. He also pushes the camera in tight to highlight details. Then he brings us back in context of the overall scene with the last panel escape out the window.
Exhibit B: A scuffle between men handcuffed together. It’s common that people see action lines and think they are doing more work than they are. The real work is in the gestures. Notice how the arm positions in panels 2-3 push your eye through each panel then on to the next. Additionally, Otomo flips perspective in mid action (last two panels), so you’ll see a man in mid-air in two panels. This slows down the manner in which we perceive the action, enhancing the impact of key moments.
Exhibit C: Something is amiss at my boring office job. I absolutely love this page. Subtle but powerful. Notice how he breaks up the motion portrayed by inserting telling expressions. He also uses tiny motion lines and cast shadows to full effect in showing the tiny pencil’s journey.
APPROPRIATE & VARIED STYLISTIC CHOICES
Otomo’s work will always be recognizable as Otomo. But he is constantly exploring new ways of rendering and enhancing the visual experience, using a variety of techniques and tools.
Exhibit D: Battle suits & robots. This entire strip makes use of 4 distinct techniques, showcased on this page: Traditional pen & ink, solid areas of ‘out of the tube’ color (panel 1), collage texture in backgrounds (panel 5), a video ‘filter’ in panel 4 (to show video the view from inside the helmut).
Exhibit E: War with a creature from beyond. Here Otomo uses a pastel-y watercolor technique and larger panelling reminiscent of european comics (I hear he loves Moebius). You’ll notice how each panel is more of a self contained illustration, showing multiple elements of the narrative.
Exhibit F: Squidly Diddly. This is a panel from an odd little story about aliens in conflict on a far away planet. The entire strip consists of the cephalopod creatures with very expressive eyes. This helps create a more whimsical atmosphere than his more realistic renderings.
Exhibit G: Spooky murder scene. Pen & ink with pencil enhancing the lighting, textures, and patterns on clothing. Simple but effective, adding an aged look to this piece, set in feudal Japan.
Otomo’s title pages introduce visual qeueus for each piece, while maintaining a stand-alone punch that causes pause in the viewer. They don’t tell the whole story, but they give you the key to understanding what’s within.
Exhibit H: mmm… that BLUE…
Exhibit I: A boy and his guitar.
Exhibit J: And of course, Otomo has HIS influences as well. What better way to introduce a story about artificial intelligence than with an Escher reference?
I highly recommend that everyone, artist and otherwise, give Otomo’s work a look. I’m sure he’s done something you’ll dig. Here are some books that are fairly easy to get your hands on in the US:
– Akira (I would recommend the Dark Horse collection released in early 00’s, rather than the colorized marvel series)
– Domu: Fantastic piece that explores similar themes from Akira, but on a smaller scale
– Akira Club Art book: If you enjoy special features on dvd’s, this is like a book of special features for the Akira comic book.
– Akira (animated film)
– Steamboy: A very under appreciated film, but probably one of the most beautiful animations ever produced.
If you can find em…
– Memories, SOS, Sayonara Nippon, Kaba, Kaba 2, Batman: Black & White 4, Roujin Z
Thanks for listening to my rambling. Who inspires YOU!?
Wanted to point you all to a fantastic comics review and interview site called Panel Bound! They were kind enough to review Gary: Books One & Two this week