Tuesday, November 30, 2010

a secret about 'Secrets'...

Before I got into mainstream comics (whatever that really even means anymore), I wanted to be an underground comic artist. They died out before I even got into comics, though... The only indy books back then were Cerebus and Elfquest. So I missed out—unless you count the Maxx (some of which looked more like it belonged in an issue of Heavy Metal instead of a super hero comic). In fact that's where I got the idea for the extra "x" in the Maxx logo; underground 'comix' were sometimes spelled with an x.

But all this aside, I was sad that I missed out on the underground stuff.     : (

Years after the Maxx, after I wrote and drew the Batman: Secrets series for DC... here's a little something you probably didn't know. Near the end of the story I tried to talk the editor into doing a Zap Comics Robert Crumb tribute... my thinking was, it's a surreal story, and old underground fans would get a kick out of it, but if you hadn't seen the back cover of Zap comix number one... here's a crappy low rez copy because I'm too lazy to scan the book myself.


So I took a shot, but the editor wouldn't go for it. I was so pissed at the time! Here he was ruining my chance to be rebellious and do my nod to undergrounds! 'Course there was the issue of Crumb being upset, but I figured we'd ask him—but it never got that far.

Here's the rejected page I submitted as the splash of issue 5 of Batman Secrets: 


Here's the printed version in the comic, all colored up and looking swell by the astounding colorist Alex Sinclair.


Looking back on it, cute as I thought I was being at the time, or rebellious, or whatever the heck I thought I was being—in retrospect, it DOES totally seem jarring to the story's style. I still like it, but it's like an inside joke... to myself.  I got enough of those out of my system with the Maxx, and in that universe, stuff like this could fly. Sorta.

It's funny. As annoying as some editors are... interesting how *sometimes* they can have a point, and, like, make the story actually better, huh? Go figure.    : )

Also... I am way behind in everything I owe to everybody, so apologies to any of you out there who are wondering why I have time to post my blog but am late with YOUR stuff. Well, my apologies! Here's one more excuse...

TOO MANY PAINTINGS...  yikes! It's a compulsion.



Need I say more?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bimbo Reflections & Literary Crap in Comics... sorta...

Here's a painting by Gustav Klimt's entitled DanaĆ«. 


It's a stunning painting (his, not mine!) and I wanted to pay tribute to it, as I did many other famous works in my My Inner Bimbo comic. So here's a painting I did from the same composition, based on Klimt's. 


I painted the fictional Betsy (based loosely on my wife) into this piece, bases it on Klimt's DanaĆ«, trying not to be slavishly imitative, yet bringing something new and whimsical to it. But something seemed missing. I didn't want to imitate it too closely, which i feel I did. The reason I shied away from this version is that it just seemed at odds with the Betsy character in the comic. 
So i did this hand-drawn one instead... with an 'apology' to Klimt, just a wink to anyone who'd say, "Hey, he's ripping off...!" 


This one feels warmer to me, more of a comic book version. (I guess I should have kept the kitty cat in the lower left corner too.)
Trouble with using literary reference in comics is seeming smug or showing off your English-lit degree (which I don't have; I'm totally self taught and suffer for it). I've no academic experience. But this also means I'm an "amateur" in the truest sense—"for the love" of it. I don't see any shame in cracking a book and enjoy the history of art. But some comic fans seem resistant to anything that smacks of contemporary art. 
At the same time I myself fear seeming pretentious about it, but I figure it's worthy risking 'pretension' if you're going to reach past an adolescent superhero vocabulary, as Justin Green's Binky Brown did at the birth of the underground comics. Or years later later Spiegelman did with MausThere would be no Inner Bimbo or Maxx if I hadn't happened across them. Both of those works were the first to mix historical context with autobiographical comics, and in my humble opinion, doing that was as pivotal for comics as Manet's Lunch was for the Salon and fine art. Both Binky and Maus changed not only how I think about the comics medium itself, but about my own life. Could just be me or where I was at when I read them, but wanted to pay tribute to them. 
So what's all this to do with anything art-related? Well, history is aside, I still feel with all the flaws (and WAY too much computer fudging and experimenting), the story itself in Bimbo is something I am most proud of. The deliberate, at-odds-with-itself in how i drew it. (Josh and Leigh only urged me on further.) For anyone who hasn't the masochistic desire to wade through the tomb of pages themselves... 

...you CAN boil the whole Inner Bimbo comic down to these brief excepts: 'perceived inequities' 


In Lo's muddled mind, he claims his porn fantasy of subjugation is balancing out an 'inequity' of women holding such power over him. But the Bimbo, who slips from her innocent role, shows her growing impatience with his faulty argument by correcting Lo that it's not an inequity, but only his perception that women hold the cards. She then tells him off, that she or anyone has more power than him justifies him looking at smut to solve what's basically an inner problem. Then she jumps into his pants gleefully, possibly undermining her point—or rather, HIS, since he's talking to himself here. 
'Course, sometimes erotica-porn doesn't always mean misogyny. Sometimes a fantasy is just that. Fun. Frivolous. Defendable. Regressive. I didn't want the bimbo to make a social point about  porn overall, or the sex industry in particular—that's another story, and a social dilemma. This is a personal story. 
And buried in the middle of this dense pile of panels, this, which may over-explain the case but at least it's boiled down two panels: 



Note Lo starts explaining, and the bimbo finishes his point, hinting at self-integration. Now this isn't the ONLY point of the story. But it is some resolution to Lo's bimbo-ish refusal to grow up. It's not a sex addiction story, it's an avoidance story. We all escape into some "fix": In and of themselves, these aren't good or bad. But anything in excess CAN be a handy excuse. 
Another classic painting I paid tribute (or tried to) to was Edward Mante's Lunch on the GrassIf you've taken art classes, it's a pivotal painting that helped open the door for impressionism. 


i used the bimbo (really Lo) viewing the painting in an art class and and having an 'ah ha!' moment. It seems a woman staring back at him, making him self-conscious, is the perfect opiate for a guy who's working his ass off to remain so estranged from his own feminine side. Hey that takes a lot of work—trust me, i know!   : ) 
Here's the original 'Manet awakening' layout for it that I did 8 years ago, very crude, just thumbnails I did in crude marker. 


Years later: the finished comic page... probably a little too overworked, but it's interesting to see how ideas... gestate... warp, bubble up, then get spewed out on the other side into printed comics. 




And lastly, in the comic Lo gets his wedding ring cut off by a jeweler because he gains weight and it starts digging into his finger... 




...so in case you ever wondered if that ever happened or not... here's your proof: 






Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bats up for Auction & Dana & Trout Lore.

Okay gang,

Quickie Update: Yes, I posted this bat pic before, but this is the FRAMED version of that Bat piece I did that's up for auction... 


...to raise some bucks for my pal Terry's University. It's online, and you can bid on it here: www.viu.ca/festival/auction This time it's NOT for some sleezy cartoonist like me, looking to make a few cheap bucks. This time, it's for a good cause (plug plug)... The only two avid collectors of my sam stuff i ask NOT to bid are my mom and my art dealer, Albert Moy. Okay, Albert can bid. But not mom. That's too pathetic! think about it—my own mom buying MY art online, I mean come onnnnn... I *know* her, for pete's sake! :) 

Now onto other fun crap...

TROUT MUSINGS


Work on the monumental Trout Books toils on. Nice to cross a few off and know others will follow. Mucho thanks to Vassilis drawing Nola, and Leigh Dragoon doing Lust Police, for sticking with me. Tim Kelly too; he'll still be doing stuff for the Trout world! Here's Leigh's take on Dana and her sister Nola in an upcoming book:


I'll show some sneak peeks from Vass' NOLA trout book next week. It's been hard to let someone else draw a story that's already in my head, already written by me and laid out. It's like I have my own version of the same characters running around inside of me. But it's been awesome seeing what someone ELSE brings to it too... makes them come alive even more when I see another artist's take on them. They have taught me a lot, both as friends and artists. 


Not to seem to pretentious, but it's like each Trout-a-verse Character is an archetypal part of me. I basically took 12 phases of my life, assigned them goals, trials, fears and neuroses and some relief at the end of a long tortured life. Then, unlike me, I peppered them with race, age, sexual orientation and various peccadilloes, hobbies, hang-ups and quirks I may or may not have myself... just to make it interesting.


Over the last ten years this has all been percolating inside me. Especially Dana. Mother/Daughter struggles. I wanted to be even-handed to each character, showing no bias in whatever their beliefs, and write about people who I didn't always agree with or even like. 


I isolated Dana's figure on this piece of art, not to be clever with layers in photos, but to separate her from an otherwise busy sketch of her I did and to highlight her visually, in your minds.



The main focus is Dana, whose whole life gets FOUR separate graphic novels alone! (Most only get one graphic novel to a character.) And four stages of Dana's life, which somewhat mirror my own. (Minus being kidnapped by feminist, being a lesbian, or being obsessed by trouts and toilet seats.) 


Why am I telling you all this crap YEARS in advance of you reading it? Because ...INSIDE of me it's already been *told*. Dana's childhood's a done deal, her adolescence (Lust Police ) is happening right now, her turbulent twenties (Cute), uneasy alliance with her sister Nola and cataclysmic fights with her mother (Dislexic Sex slave) are the stuff of legend. Well... in my head anyhoo. 

If I croak today, none of it matters. 

Dana's life is divided into the four books, and four phases: 


Innocent: In her teens, struggles to rebel (read: differentiate) herself from her mother by writing a dirty story online which catapults her into being kidnapped by various radical feminist groups. It's over-the-top for an opening, but it's too late to stop now! 

Orphan: In her twenties, it's about leaving mom for her older lesbian partner, Allie, and a third older wise woman she meets online. Surrounds herself with older women, and either secretly struggles against them, or capitulates and grouses. Either way she 's the architect of her own 'passivity' and steadfast refusal to grow up. She hides in food, erotica, her partner, an army jacket and helmet, and her mother's shadow. She also collects Trout paraphernalia, magic boxes, people who'd seen trouts, etc.  

Warrior: After Dana's partner's deterioration, Dana is forced to grow up, butches out a little... cuts the locks and sheds her army jacket for some cool army pants. Creeping up on 40, she's either at the peak of her powers or starting a long slide down. She's also facing down the two most powerful woman in her life, online wise woman and mother, face to face for a change. 

Fool: Old age, wheelchair bound, she's a ticky old lady whose phobias have come home to roost. Everything Orphan-like in her 20s now is reclusive in her 60s. Luckily her sister Nola tries to track her down when she wanders the streets, ever in danger of becoming a bag lady. Dana finds hope in a younger woman who transcribes her trout and erotica stories for her, and they drift into a relationship-dependency-kinkery. But can Dana use this last chance to really grow up? or will she just keep milking dependency like an old dusty coat her mother left that she wears, one that she's clearly outgrown? 

There! NOW you don't have to sludge your way through all four those graphic novels, huh? :) 

STILL SCANNING ART, TONS OF IT... WAY TOO MUCH ART...


Scanning continues...(snore)... nothing sexy about scanning. I figure since it's all on the floor already, I may as well scan the titanic 'Three Volume Art Book' right now too (so it won't be in crappy orange folders, but printed and bound like a really NICE art book)...


...but the Three-VOL sucker will have to wait for now! First up, the waaaay long overdue 'Art of Sam' book... 


...which WILL be out by San Diego Con next year, even if i have to drive it from the printer myself!  And No, I am NOT going to be at the Con. Ever. Done with cons. Sorry. Nothing personal. :) 

Next? 

I really like this little gal that sits overlooking my art table. 'The Great She-Elephant' is an idea Dana's mother dreamed up, of a supreme female leader who all women bow down too, which in Dana's mothers mind, is her! 

More on that in some other blog, I've wasted enough of your time on this one.  


  



Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jason Brubaker pin-up

Pages piling up this week so a little behind — (betchya thought I was gonna flake again for another three months, eh? don't blame you if you did).

Here's one for fellow comic creator dude Jason Brubaker. He's got a killer day job at Dreamworks doing the Kung Fu Panda flicks, but he's got a pretty awesome creator-owned book called 'reMind' that he'll be publishing on his own.  There're a ton of creator-owned comics dying on the vine right now. So I don't mind plugging another artist's labor of love.

He asked if I'd do a pin up for it, which I did right here... I started to color it in the upper left, then remembered I wanted him to color it.


I shot it over to him, and here's his colored version below. Pretty cool huh?


I really like how raw and unfinished he left her face; he's got a gutsy coloring style, but also a tender way with luminous lighting flooding a room.

Here's his blog if you wanna check out some more of his stuff...

http://www.remindblog.com/

Next Tues., more of *my* crap! : )

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Batman sketch & Old Maxx art


My old pal Terry Fitzgerald asked me if i could scrounge something up for a charity auction for the Alumni Association of Vancouver Island University (VIU). Thus, this batman doodle:



I thought I'd throw it up here so a few more folks can see it than who might stumble across it on ebay where they'll action if off. I'll post a link next week or so where you can find it on ebay, if anyone's interested. I usually don't hawk my work online, but this is for a good cause. 


DEMON PAGES

Still doing the Demon for DC... Same deal as Lobo: Scott Ian writes and I confuse the hell out of everyone with a surreal combo of monster muscular bad-ass dudes, cartoon violence and twisted humor. 



Here're some Demon pages & sketchbook art cluttering my art table right now.  Yes, I made the colored tabs on the sketchbook—I neurotically color-code everything, don't ask why... 


Scanning MAXX CHAPTERS from 'Art of Sam Kieth' book...

I can see these waaaaay too much unpublished maxx art to ALL fit into the Art of Sam book! Yeah, we give two whole chapters to it, one to the comics and one to the cartoon, but there's still about 200 pages of unseen maxx crap, so i may have to throw that into the Monster art book, or maybe parcel them out into the sketchbooks... dunno yet. 

Here's a good example: one of the maxx trade covers in its original 'non-digital' form: 



I reversed a stripe with Julie, but looking back now I think it was a mistake—too late now. 



A lot of art we'll print in 'Art of Sam' book are old maxx or MPC covers you may have seen. Why? Mostly because they're larger, sometimes full size... and because they printed so poorly in the original comics. Not always, but sometimes. So, I figure you won't mind checking out some originals, because in some cases, it IS almost like seeing a new piece of art all over again. But tons of unpublished crap will be in there too, if that's your thing. 

I don't mean to harp on maxx, but those are the chapters I'm knee deep in right now. Here's one of a ga-zillin little color 'roughs' littering my studio closet: 



Nice to get them out there so people can see them before they crumble to dust. This has been a very emotional experience, looking back on all this art I've piled up all these years. Sort of like a visit from an ex-wife at times. 



But it's a blessed relief as well. So many regrets, so much I'm thankful for. I hate to seem so melodramatic... but there's a crap load of ambivalence about whatever 'comes out of me'. But what artist doesn't drive those he lives with crazy with moody-assed dramas? 



Here's a wide painting we used in the old maxx animated series—I did it specifically for them to 'pan' across during one of the shots. I'm amazed it's still in good shape, as watercolor can be so friggin' fragile. 



One good thing about bad art? At least it's all Landfil once we pass on. I don't mean that bitterly, I just get sick of my own trivial personal little dramas all artists get stuck in. How cool is it to not BE here anymore? Wiped clean. Like a blackboard. Poof. Chalk dust.  I don't mean suicide or anything, I just mean naturalness of death. Like autumn leaves turning brown and curling and drying up. Like all the characters disappearing at the end of the maxx series, one by one... Like you and i will someday. It's almost cathartic in a way. 


And yes, that's budget crude 'white out' I used on the creature. :) 

So I hope I haven't depressed you either, that wasn't my intention. We're alive TODAY. You're reading a goofy comic book post, and I'm writing one. Another day. Anther chance. How cool is that?