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February 08, 2010

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DerikB

I'll second your praise of Covey's design work (excepting the page "numbers", which like the intro could have used a translation). It's a lovely book with a great rough texture to the dustjacket-less hardcover.

Your mention of Rehr's Reykjavik, which I also picked up at MoCCA, reminds me how much more I enjoyed his work in the long form than in the short form found in the anthology. It's a testament to the idea that abstract comics can be engaging and dynamic across a larger number of pages.

Charles Hatfield

Agreed. In Rehr, there's a gut sense of speeding up and slowing down that is harder to get in short excerpts. Reykjavik really shows him off to advantage.

Andrei

Actually, Henrik did not excerpt "Storms" from "Reykjavik." He first made "Storms" for the anthology, then expanded it into "Reykjavik."

Mark Badger

I just want to make clear that I'm not reading books about art to make art, more likely I scream at the books about making art. I'm honest in my "Playboys" I look at the pictures and don't read the articles anymore.

When I was referring to the typists I was probably grumpy about working with writers who give me script that doesn't fit into the space left for it, don't see the panel structure their looking at and think they know it all. If you look at for instance Mark Waid's statements about becoming a comic book editor because he knows the whole craft of comics, from concept to drawing to finishing probably even turning files into postscript for the printer. You get the impression Waid has mastered the printing press and has HTML 5 down already for their web site.

But and this is a huge but, Waid has never actually done a comic, from start to finish, pencils, inks, letters. Artists, be they writers or painters or cartoonists are craftsmen and our thinking is built by the skills we have in our bodies. So while conceptually he thinks he knows comics, none of it is in his body as a craft. Because he doesn't do comics, he's a typist. The process of doing art that is embedded in the fibers of your body aren't accessible to people working at a keyboard.

Mind you, Waid is actually great at what he does and clearly has a superior understanding of mainstream comics and his audience then I ever will or could. I'm picking on him as an example and recognize I am but a mosquito to his skills. Because he's so good, he's a good example to use and I'm pretty sure he can laugh this off. And besides I'm still working with Gerard Jones and J.M DeMatteis

Kirby is of course my foundation of what I understand as a good comic. Jack really didn't care about fancy drawing, or even story in the character plotted out sitting discussing things, but in the flow of energy from panel to panel. I think that's why so many of his comics hover two steps away from abstraction. I don't think you can capture that kind of kinetics on a page by typing in panel descriptions, the more I see of full script comics the more I realize how they lead to "bad" comics because they prevent you from reaching that state of flow. The choices he makes are conditioned by seeing millions of those shots flow out of his pencils. The interesting thing about doing abstract comics is in taking those last steps and seeing what you need to walk back to make comics. For me abstract comics opens up comics again and really does take it away from all the people hammering at Jack's legacy.

CharlesWHatfield

Mark, delighted to see your comment here! Thanks for weighing in.

You said,

"Jack really didn't care about fancy drawing, or even story in the character plotted out sitting discussing things, but in the flow of energy from panel to panel. I think that's why so many of his comics hover two steps away from abstraction."

I like this insight very much. That line about "the flow of energy" seems to match up nicely with Andrei's notion of "sequential dynamism." I have to say, though, that I believe Kirby really did care about "story"; for him, the flow of energy had to be dictated, or had to subserve, a plot or concept that he was determined to get across. At least I believe this is what he would have told himself. As he once said (see his interview with Ben Schwartz), "I've been writing all along and I've been doing it with pictures."

Now, it may be that it was the abstract flow of energy as much as anything that dictated his plots -- perhaps he didn't recognize the extent to which his storytelling was driven by his desire to draw -- but I still imagine that, when pressed, he would have always said that story was paramount. Some of his admirers might not see the work that way, but Kirby was very traditional about seeing comics as pictorial storytelling (which is why those few samples of his private, non-comics art, his collages, paintings, and so forth, are so tantalizing!). I think of Kirby's comments about his work (usually related to his characters and concepts) in contrast to those of, say, his protege Steranko, who often talks about bringing Pop Art and Op Art and other influences into comic books, but seldom talks about narrative content. Telling, I think.

"I don't think you can capture that kind of kinetics on a page by typing in panel descriptions, the more I see of full script comics the more I realize how they lead to "bad" comics because they prevent you from reaching that state of flow."

This I would be tempted to agree with. That is why so few contemporary mainstream comics appeal to me. The level of craftsmanship may be very high, but (a) the text and images are not working in concert, not really; and (b) the drawings, so often photorealistic these days, are constrained and staid and graphically dull. Sometimes the splash pages make for great single images -- like a gorgeous book cover -- but the actual narrative drawing is lifeless.

I also agree with your point about abstract comics helping to recover what is Kirby-esque about Kirby's work, as opposed to the way mainstream comics keep mechanically beating away at Kirby's bankable concepts.

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