Archive for the ‘Comic Books’ Category

Jaw, Meet Floor

September 29, 2012

Some stunning, stunning, original artwork from Dave Sim’s Kickstarter Campaign as rewards for the big money donations. Incredible, masterful work on display here. From a man who believes his art career is over…

Clearly.

It is not.

*Click on images for full size versions.

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The End of Glamour

September 4, 2012

dave sim

I’m worried about Dave Sim.

The final issue (number 26) of Glamourpuss contained a rather sad closing letter from Dave to his fans (“my almost totally silent audience of 2,400” as he calls us) describing what he sees as the rather depressive conclusion to what is arguably one of the most important, astonishing cartooning careers in comic book history.

If you think I exaggerate on that front out of fanboy love, well, you’re only half right. I did indeed, before I began worrying that he’d lost his mind completely, consider Dave Sim an idol of mine. As a comics lover and aspiring cartoonist in the late seventies, early eighties, it was Sim who inspired what I wanted to do. I saw the talent and writing ability but I also saw the sheer gall, the balls to set out to self-publish a 300 issue comic book, with themes including religion, politics and gender, featuring a smart-ass, self absorbed, violence prone Aardvark in the Big Two work-for-hire dominated comics landscape of the time. Think about it. The audacity, the commitment, the genuine courage it took to undertake that task.

And then. In March 2004.

To fucking complete it.

So, yeah, I’m slightly biased in my admiration of the man’s work, if not of some of the quirkier aspects of his personalty that surfaced along the way. I admire the bloody mindedness it took to do that. It took a toll on him, for sure, and Things Got Strange, but the work? The actual cartooning aspect? Who else has anything close to that on his or her resume? A mere handful in the entire history of the art form. And, oh, by the way, it is, at times, utterly fucking brilliant. Warren Ellis considers both aspects of it, in typically interesting fashion:

‘Over the course of many thousands of pages, [Cerebus] has been a detailed political novel, a comedy of the court, a drama of the church, a vision quest, a biography of the last days of Oscar Wilde, several deeply strange attacks on feminism and women in general, and an exegesis of Sim’s own bizarre personal take on religion. It fascinates because Sim is an absolutely brilliant maker of pages, a sublime cartoonist with total control of the form… and because, during the progression of the work, you can clearly see his mind crumbling under the pressure of his immense undertaking and twenty-five years of increasing solitude in which he can only express himself to the world through the agency of a talking anteater.’

So, yes, bear that in mind. Genius often pays a price. It’s not a new tale in the art world, is it? One cannot argue the merits of the work as a whole, however. It is monumental. Singular in it’s scope and execution and the independent spirit it represented. Dave Sim, as he sang to us at The Last Signing, did it “his way”.

There was a time I adored him for it, I fully admit. A hero to me he was. I read Cerebus religiously, I wrote to the letters pages, and Dave wrote me back. Hell, I appeared in the letters pages once. Four illustrious photos in issue number 154, the “Connie Lingus Backlash Photos”. Half-naked in a diaper and work boots, hat and shades, sporting beer and weapons (thankfully grainy proof below). Yeah. You might say I was into it.

ken socrates

So maybe that will help you understand the poignant sadness I feel these days when I read the last pages of Glamourpuss #26. When I see words like this, Dave Sim describing the failing sales of that book and Cerebus Archive and why he’s drawing the curtain, so to speak:

I had arrived at my career end point.

I pulled the plug first on Cerebus Archive, then on Cerebus TV and then on glamourpuss. Not really saying anything to anyone, just walking away and starting my Doomsday Scenario — selling my Cerebus original artwork as slowly as possible, and looking at ways to liquidate the Cerebus Archive itself, up to and including just sending all of it to a landfill site or paying 1-800-GOT-JUNK to haul it all away, selling the house, liquidating the last of my RRSPs and my life insurance policy and just… disappearing.

Read the full letter here at the wonderful Moment of Cerebus site.

There’s a lot of insight in there to the mind of Dave Sim, good and bad. There’s the frustrating seeming resignation to his fate, that he’s got little left to “sell” to the world and Doomsday is upon him. I have trouble believing that, myself. I still see the talent. His work is not yet that of a shaky-handed old man who can’t produce meaningful art. In Glamourpuss, especially in it’s central story “The Strange Death of Alex Raymond”, he has proven to me just the opposite, that he does indeed still have the hands of a Master. There’s a skill there that still makes me sick with envy. There were days I’d have killed for a small portion of that talent. To produce one page like the 6000+ he produced. That part is maddening, to think that, at a reasonably young age (only 56!), he’s resigned to a fate of near irrelevance in his work. This is not something, to me, that needs to be.

There’s also in there, his stubborn, admirable loyalty to his long time Cerebus art partner Gerhard, with whom he shared all the business rewards of their work at a 60-40 percentage and how, in honoring that agreement, part of what has left him so thin monetarily is paying off Ger what he was deserved from a business that, according to Sim, was steadily failing. He did so in 2011, to his utter credit. That you cannot help but respect. Whatever else may be said about Dave Sim, you can never question his integrity, artistic or otherwise. The man stands by his word, he stands by his beliefs. For good or ill, he will continue to do so.

So why does it bother me so? I haven’t spent this much time thinking about Dave Sim and Cerebus in decades. Well, perhaps that this news coincides with the recent Kickstarter Campaign I contributed to which had me rather excited to revisit my love of Cerebus. In fact, I just received a few very nice autographed items from Dave and John Scrudder, the architect of the campaign which would give us a digital version of High Society replete with high resolution art scans, audio and other goodies. Fascinating project which, tragically, has been delayed by an unfortunate fire (see links below).

That this was beginning to reignite an old flame in my heart only to be tempered by Sim telling us he was entering his very own “Latter Days” scenario, is part of it. It’s much more, however. It’s almost a “rage at the dying of the light” situation for me. I can’t stand the thought, cant stand it, as I grow a bit older, that an artist with so much former potency, is willing to just let it all fade away like this. It feels like a gut punch. It’s selfish, perhaps, on my part. Unrealistic, even. I don’t actually know Dave Sim, I have no tangible idea about what his life is like nor any place advising him what it should be. I’d be a fool if I thought I could do so. Period.

However. Speaking, as a longtime admirer of the work. A “fan”, if you will. Who has invested countless hours of his life in pure delight at the man’s art and writing. I feel like pleading to him to not give up like this. To find other avenues. I feel there is an audience, there has to be. Not to revisit Cerebus, which he obviously sees as his defining work, but to find new things, new creations. Whether it’s the gorgeous explorations of photorealism in comic art in “The Strange Death of Alex Raymond”, admittedly not the idea with the most potential for monetary reward, or something as yet completely unimagined. I’d be interested. I’d buy it. Many others would too. It doesn’t have to be The End.

It’s a blank page, at this point, Mr. Sim. An empty piece of S-172 illustration board. Its sits before you ready to be filled and you’ve years and years ahead of you to do so. Good years, I think, if you want them to be.

I’ll be here, waiting to see. Hell, I stuck with you for a 27 year long illustrated novel. I can wait as long as you need me to.

I’m a patient fucker.

P.S. Those of you new to this subject or who, like me, might have wandered for a time, there is a lot of great information available. Dave Sim can be heard from, sometimes, at Dave Sim Art. The site is run by communications director for Aardvark-Vanaheim Inc., Sandeep Atwal, who was also the gentleman scanning the High Society negatives when a fire struck his residence and destroyed them. Help him out if you can, details here. I’ve mentioned Moment of Cerebus already and there’s a wonderful Cerebus Facebook Group I’ve been lucky enough to join where a lot of active information can be garnered from some very astute folks.

Gerhard, the sublimely talented backround artist on Cerebus, who deserves a post entirely unto himself at some point, can be found here. Suffice to say, I consider him one of the all time great pen and ink artists I’ve ever seen.

Update: As of today, September 5th, Dave Sim Art has suspended all sales and the future of the site seems in doubt due to the fire. However, Cerebus Downloads seems to be pressing ahead for the September 12th launch of High Society Audio Digital.

Joanna Marlowe?

September 18, 2011

joanna marlowe

“Um. Who wants to know?”

John Bolton, Epic Illustrated Number Eighteen.

There’s 26 More of These To Go? Really?

September 14, 2011

swamp thing

I’m making my way, like alot of other comics loving folk, through the so-called “New 52”, the much-hyped DC Comics reboot of it’s entire line of comics and, while they’re at it, Universe. I had envisioned a series of reviews talking about various books but let me tell you right now it’s not going to happen.

I’m just too damned bored with it.

Seriously, folks. So far there is almost nothing new happening inside these books and, in many cases, a lot of just very ordinary superhero storytelling. Stale, tired plots and action so predictably like what we’ve seen a thousand times before in the most everyday, mediocre comics of the last few decades. I can’t see very much originality happening. Certainly no risk-taking. A lot of yawning while reading, however.

On top of that, the whole thing seems a bit inconsistent and confusing when you go from book to book. Which Superman is Grant Morrison portraying in Action Comics? Because it doesn’t look to be anything like the one appearing in the Justice League. The world of superheros is once again fresh and new to planet Earth (as shown in JL) but, wait, Green Lantern’s Sinestro is still playing out a leftover story line from Brightest Day. And Batman and Robin seem to have not missed a beat in continuity from issue #22 of the most recent run to this new #1. Same storyline, same creative team. Different universe?

No clue.

It’s not all bad, though. Above you’ll see a panel from Swamp Thing #1. And while the story is nothing astonishing, Yannick Paquette’s artwork is just beautiful to look at and it’s worth reading the book just for that. The new Animal Man book looks intriguing and I like the liberal minded viewpoint expressed in that and Action. I don’t know. I still have a few more from this week to slog through (including J.H. Williams III’ Batwoman which also looks beautiful) and maybe one of them will surprise me.

I’m betting it won’t be Deathstroke #1, though, will it?

Sigh.

Mining Epic

September 2, 2011

I have a soft spot in my heart for Epic Illustrated. It was an adventurous mag, a no apologies imitation of Heavy Metal published by Marvel’s Epic Comics starting in 1980. Ran thirty-four issues, the last of which hit the stands and comics shops at the dawn of 1986.

Actually had an impressive line-up of artists contributing. Fine stylings from John Bolton, Joe Jusko, Steve Bissette. P. Craig Russell and Charles Vess. They let Rick Veitch do some insanely hallucinatory stuff. Just go completely wild. And who knew Jim Starlin could paint like that? Brilliant looking shit.

So here’s some few I’ve culled from my recent readings. It’s stuff too good to not see the light of day for so long.

As, such. Click on pics for full size.

joe jusko

Joe Jusko from a story called “Because It’s There”. Written by Ralph Macchio, published April, 1981.
jim starlin

Jim Starlin, Metamorphosis Odyssey: Absolution, June 1981.
rick vietch

Rick Fuckin’ Veitch.

Summing It Up

August 30, 2011

Pretty funny viddie about the much hyped DC Comics relaunch.

“Superman has kneepads!”

Bat Porn

August 14, 2011

Is it just me or is the following video, Anne Hathaway’s stunt double in full, skin tight Catwoman uniform from The Dark Knight Rises shoot, the most erotic piece of spoilerish set video ever recorded?

Le Tornado Rouge

August 12, 2011

The inquiries about this story are becoming somewhat relentless so I present it to you here to make it a bit easier to find.

HOLLYWOOD – He was a trusted, valued member of the Justice League of America. He stood beside such awesome figures as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern in that mythic panthoen of heroes and, with the use of his awesome ability to control devastatingly powerful wind funnels, helped save the world time after time. His beginnings were humble, however, and his is the story of a tortured soul, warring against terrible odds and bitter adversity to better himself and his adopted world, striving for nothing more or less than the simple humanity that we all take for granted. It is a grand tale, a sweeping epic, full of love, loss and heroism, tragedy and triumph and android angst gone wildfull article.

Moebius & Hendrix

August 1, 2011

moebius and hendrix

    “I stand up next to a mountain

and chop it down with the edge of my hand.”

Two men that have been on my mind of late. Both giants in their chosen professions. Both seemingly gifted with an otherworldly imagination. The true abiltiy to look at the elements our reality in an entirely different way than anyone else and the singularly monstrous talent to be able to give others a window into the fantastic worlds that existed/exist only within their own supremely individualistic minds.

I had forgotten the real world connection between the two until browsing through and old Epic Comics book, The Art of Moebius, published in 1989. You remember Epic, right? Small offshoot of Marvel devoted to more “graphic novel” type stuff, as it was called at the time. One of Jim Shooter’s few rational acts as head beanbag at Marvel back in the day, edited by stalwarts Archie Goodwin and Al Milgrom, it was supposed to feature creator owned stuff but eventually blended in the Marvel Universe.

Anyway, rambling tangents aside, they put out a decent Moebius retrospective and I spotted this while leafing through it for the first time in 20 years. Jean Giraud’s cover for this French album is an astonishing display of his style and talent. And it’s a lure to wander the pathways of Hendrix’ music, as well, to become entranced by that wonderfully blood pumping rock sound, so fucking raw and strong, so seductively trippy. I would stand in awe of each man if I wasn’t sporting such an embarrassing envy-boner for Moebius’ art in this piece. I wish I could draw like this, I really do.

Click on the pic for a larger copy. See the ridiculous level of detail and interest in even the smallest corner of the drawing. The alienness of everything, the miniature containers of nebulous articles. A man in the grip of His Particular Substance. The drops of blood.

Giraud’s notes for the piece are slightly jarring, poignant.

“When I was asked to do the cover for this French Jimi Hendrix album, I felt good because it was a unique opportunity for me to openly express by[sic] feelings about Hendrix. For me, he was a genius, an incredibly free a deep musical genius. A source of inspiration. At the same time, the whole experience was sad, even dangerous in a way. I put a lot of feelings inside that drawing.

I felt that maybe Hendrix had killed himself in order to reach higher levels. I tried to show this by drawing things coming out of his head. And the drugs are symbolized by what he is shown eating – things that are alive, yet alien. I also showed the world around him, an insane and violent world. and Hendrix is doing his thing, alone and apart from that world. It is very sad.”

Therein lies the core of it.

The Gates of Geek Heaven

July 23, 2011

avengers movie

I’m starting to feel like we are fast approaching a sort of Geek Singularity right now. The Peak of Geekness lies before our very eyes, ready to blossom in it’s sci-fi/superhero/fantasy fullness. There are many signs that this is the case but allow me to list a few from my own Inner Geek’s Perspective.

These past few weeks are a great example for me. We have seen:

Trailers for Dark Knight Rises, John Carter (a.k.a. Warlord of Mars), and, today, The Avengers, have appeared online as, seemingly, all of the adored heroes of my childhood are coming to life. The Avengers was my favorite comic as a kid. Of Burroughs’ creations, John Carter was the one I adored the most, thanks not only to the magnificent adventures but those gorgeous Frazetta covers. Batman, as realized by Christopher Nolan, is another dream come true.

It’s amazing what we have seen in recent years, really. A faithful adaptation of Watchmen. Sin City. The Marvel films, most of which are wonderful fun, have the right spirit in them. Folks are finally respecting creators’ visions when they adapt material. Hell, there was even an attempt at another comics favorite of mine, Green Lantern, however middling it ended up. Another Superman is on the horizon, as well as Sin City 2 and a host of other fascinating projects.

I’ve always said that, if I could go back to 1977 and bring forward in time that little boy and show him what’s happening now he fucking die on the spot of some sort of astonished overload of shocked pleasure. Laid out on the floor with an ear to ear smile in front a 46″ HD TV showing the Iron Man Blu-ray, an iPad full of sci-books and comics in one hand and a PS3 controller in the other.

It goes on, to the fantastical realms. Game of Thrones has shown us just how adult and edgy great Fantasy can be. If you like it a bit sappier, the Lord of the Rings Extended Editions are now on Blu-ray and you won’t believe how fucking good they look, my friends. I have in hand the latest tome from George R.R. Martin, I should mention, as well. A Dance With Dragons clocks in at about 1000 pages and I can’t wait to devour it. Joe Abercrombie looks interesting and Richard Morgan owes us the sequel to Steel Remains.

In television, Doctor Who is going as strong as ever. In sci-filiterature, Iain Banks, Alastair Reynolds and Neal Asher continue producing the hard space opera of my dreams. In comics, Mark Millar, Grant Morrison and Warren Ellis are regularly taking superheroes where they have never gone before.

It’s a veritable bounty of Geek Goodness. I’m wallowing in Geek Gluttony.

It’s almost too much. Almost.

I can’t tell you how much I am going to enjoy it all. The truth is, I’ve never quite grown up. Those of you who know me know that I have no need for an “inner child” as the child remains very much on the surface with me. I Like to have a good time and my imagination, thankfully, has never died and festered like some folks my age. It burns still, open to new and different magic, like that wide eyed kid who stood in line for Star Wars in 1977 and had his world forever changed as his eyes were opened wide to strange new ones. Just like that kid devouring all those Marvel Comics in their four-color, newsprint splendour back then. Just like that kid reading Dune for the first time.

Here I sit, all these years later, still hungry for more.

Bring it on, I say.