Sunday, February 22, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Needless to say, those very qualities that put me off back when I was a kid are exactly the ones I cherish in Robbins' art today. His pages are so alive--and utterly without pretense. Without resorting to splashy layouts or graphic gimmickry, Robbins invests every single line, every figure, every object, every page-- with animation. These pages live, man! You can feel the sweat off of his characters--and its not because Robbins felt he had to draw the beads of perspiration dripping down a forehead.
Despite his success as a respected cartoonist in the hallowed land of the daily adventure strip, amidst the likes of Caniff and Gould, Frank Robbins had the bad luck to follow fan favorite artists on at least two titles in the Seventies: The Shadow--which he picked up after what has become a legendary run by Mike Kaluta on the first issues of that title--and then stalwart Sal Buscema on Captain America. The outcry was intense-particularly after Robbins took on C.A.--which, in the hands of Steve Englehart and Buscema had developed a particularly compelling storyline and a devoted audience. Buscema had left his mark via a rather bland but dependable application of Marvel's 1970's house style--and Robbins, whose work was nothing if not highly individualized--was like a smack in the eye to readers who'd grown accustomed to Buscema's non-offensive conventionality. Initially I was among those who was irate at Buscema's replacement--and for a moment I wavered in my support of the title. But this was the "Nomad" storyline--and Englehart kept me coming back for more. Somewhere through my second reading of CA #182-I was hooked. Robbins characters were so passionate, his figures so contorted, twisted and alive. Nomad's travels across city-rooftops were imbued with animation and danger-- Robbins' figures in space could just as easily fall to their deaths as traverse the alleys between buildings.
Robbins stayed with Cap for another year or so--and then with Roy Thomas he originated "The Invaders" --and left his mark on one of the first truly post-modern adventure groups in the Marvel canon He continued to produce "Johnny Hazard" until 1977. How he did comic books and comic strips simultaneously is beyond me. I lost track of his career--I've read he retired, quite happily, to Mexico after "Hazard". He certainly didn't need to hang around and take all of the crap heaved at him by irate fanboys calling for his head after Buscema left C.A. But I cherish those issues of Captain America, those dark and inky Batmans. I keep that work accessible to me in my studio-right along my copies of Kirby and Canniff and Eisner. I refer to it frequently---hoping a little of the life in his drawing seeps into mine.
But Frank Robbins was inimitable---and the qualities that make him great are those of personality and sensibility, they come around once and once only.
*"Batman" copyright DC Comics. images from Detective#426. Oct 1971. "Captain America" & "Nomad" copyright Marvel Comics. Images from CA. # 182 and #183, Feb. March 1974-75. apologies for the bad scans!
Monday, February 16, 2009
Rob Caprilozzi and his wife and their website: http://www.comicmonsters.com/ , where you will find everything you ever wanted to know about monster comics new and old. It's a terrific site, chock-a-block full of interesting material--particularly the "Making of..." feature--which highlights the creative process of just about everyone working in the genre of "Monster Comics" today. I've been asked to contribute a piece as well-and I'll be putting that together in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile---The Big Bad Wolf asked me some questions about "Look Out!Monsters!"-
and that interview is right here:
So check it out!
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Yet is strikes me that Rahm Emanuel has it right when he says that every crisis offers an opportunity (or something to that effect) and for those well positioned, now would seem to be the time for the establishment of a serious and distinct small press/alt-comics distributor.
What would that look like? For starters, I imagine an online only catalogue;-a fully functioning, well maintained and attractive website that presents its vendors well and is user-friendly for retailers and potential customers. In order to draw customers to the site it would have to offer at least a few big independent publishers and a number of well-known independent creators. There'd have to be a big promotional push, advertisements and interviews, signings and events.
I'm not a distributor, nor do I know the intricacies of coordinating hundreds of publishers with thousands of retailers. It takes organization, a good chunk of money and decent technology. It takes more than one person in the office. But there are people out there doing this already-it would seem that now is the time to step up the effort and while it sounds crazy, put some money into the enterprise. It might require small press publishers to pay some kind of annual fee-$100. or so-as in a co-op. Obviously this wouldn't cover expenses for the distributor-but it might fund the website. and that's a start.
Easier said than done, no doubt. But as the mainstream has its single source in Diamond, perhaps if there was a single source for alt-comics, interested retailers, art galleries and bookstores would be able to locate and order our work easily.
Freedom from the mainstream might also encourage the cultivation of a broader array of retailers. Jettisoned from comics shops, alt-comics might begin to find a place in galleries, bookstores, coffee shops and other venues. The model exists, undergrounds sold out of head shops-why shouldn't alt-comics sell out of bookstores and art galleries?
My feeling about Ka-Boom ( the POD printer that has recently announced a direct-market distribution service) is that there are too many limitations. Distribution with Ka-Boom requires printing with Ka-Boom and while that works for some things, I couldn't have done "Look Out!Monsters" or "Nice Work" under those circumstances. No, I don't think tying POD to distribution is appropriate to a movement that seeks to break with the norms in all manners of packaging and content.
These are random thoughts, not fully thought out, admittedly--but the important point is that there exists an opportunity in the fallout from this economic wreck. What form it will take-that has yet to be determined. More web-comics? you bet. An "Image"-style publishing house for art-comics? Hey-that's a whole 'nother post. But ideas are flying now--and its time to contribute to the discussion.
While the dust continues to settle-I'll be in Artist's Alley at the NY Comic-Con this week--with the entire line of L.o.M. books--"Look Out!Monsters (made it onto another "best of 08" list! check out Adam McGovern at Comiccritique.com ), Nice Workand Dr. Speck, the all ages alt-comics "super" hero (well-- his head inflates, what kind of power is that?)--and I'm introducing some brand new posters. In these dour times, I'm looking to have some fun--and what better place to find it than at the Javits Center this weekend?