Sunday, June 14, 2020

Gene Colan, Al Williamson, Harrowers #4, page 9, Marvel/Epic Comics

One of my fantasies, as a comics-phile, had always been to see Al Williamson ink Gene Colan’s pencils. I mean the Al Williamson of the late 60’s to early 80’s who drew the ‘Secret Agent Corrigan’ and ‘Star Wars’ syndicated strips. I didn’t realize that my dream pairing had actually occurred, in the early ’00’s, in issue #4 of the Epic/Marvel Comics mini-series, “Clive Barker’s: The Harrowers”, (among other places). 

This page showed up on the Heritage Auction site in early 2012. I bid on it, thinking it was a rarity, and won, only to see a plethora of other Colan/Williamson collaborations become available over the following weeks and months.

I should have looked more closely before I bid; frankly, I’m not wild about the ink work on this page. This is not the work of the slick inking machine that I remembered from my youth. In fact, it seems rather crude. I’m thinking of Frank Springer, only with more pen work. This is fine, I suppose; I own 3 Springer originals. It’s just not what I wanted from Al Williamson. All right, fan boy, get over it and look at it for what it IS, not dismiss it for not measuring up to expectations.

The whole thing has a rushed quality. From what I’ve just read on-line, Williamson was trying to communicate the energy of Colan’s pencils, but the subtlety and nuance is lost. In panel 1, the only inking I like is done on the twin’s two right-most faces, and on the frame-right man’s right-most hand. But why did W. cross-hatch (sort of) the shadow area instead of just slapping down a solid black with the brush? You know, to make it pop, setting into the foreground so it would make a proper frame along with the close-up head in the frame left?

In general terms, the pen line width is fairly dead. Though there’s pretty good thick/thin action, there’s very little attention paid to using line width to suggest depth, or create emphasis. I’m thinking specifically of the lines under the top eye-lids. It’s a drawing 101 thing; put a heavier line  under that facial feature to draw attention to the eyes, one of the most important features of the face. On this page, W. does this rarely.

Another truism (I learned this on my first portfolio review at San Diego Con 1983) don’t use squiggle lines for cross-hatching or feathering purposes.  On this page, W is doing it all over the place, leading to a messy look. It may seem self-contradictory to those following my ongoing essays: Recently I praised Caniff and Bernet for their glorious spontaneity, their muscular crudeness, but I’m chastising Williamson for the same. I can only say that there’s a difference between muscular crudeness and sloppiness. I’m not sure what it is, but (like the Supreme Court justices ruling on Pornography in the early 70’s) I know it when I see it. Or maybe I don’t. Perhaps, as I conjectured earlier, I’m letting me expectations and preconceptions blind me to seeing valid work on its own terms.





Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Colan. Vigilante, "Balance", DC Comics

This is the second page of Gene Colan pencil original art that I own.

“Vigilante (Balance)” is written in the upper margin, along with the number “5”. I have run across two other original pencil pages that appear to be from the same abortive project. I say, “abortive” because it’s not in any of Colan’s check-lists and doesn’t appear in Wikipedia, DC Comics Fandom or any of the other likely spots. If you have more information, please share it with me.

I appreciate this page for its cinematic qualities; it would serve admirably and a live action storyboard, and would only need some aspect-ratio conforming and a few added poses to serve as an animation board. Actually, the overall page layout is somewhat tame for Colan, heightening the cinematic effect. HIs compositions, both in each panel, and the page of the whole, seems focused on “telling the story” rather than showing off with bravura abstract effects.

The drawing is realistic, yet expressive, both in terms of the backgrounds, the chosen camera angles and the characters. One hardly needs word balloons to get the gist of what the characters are saying. I also like the design of the characters; they are attractive yet individualized, maintaining their likenesses from shot to shot. 

Finally, Colan’s pencil technique is a gas, really fresh and unworked. He seems to be slapping it down with no discernible underdrawing or correcting. Hell, he’s not even using a straight edge. Is this the payoff for 60 years of professional drawing experience? One can only hope I will be so lucky.









Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Colan, Meteor Movie Adaptation, Marvel Comics Super Special #14, Page 27, 1979

I own 5 original pages pencilled by Gene Colan. I figure I’d start out with the two unlinked pages in my possession.

This page saw print in Marvel Comics Super Special #14. It was a full color magazine formatted floppy. Marvel had printed boatloads of black and white magazines in the 70’s, when they were trying to drown Warren Publications out of the newsstand. I assume, at this point, they had shifted their focus to Heavy Metal Magazine.
I won this page on Heritage Auction. Like most non-superhero, non-famous character pages, this one was dirt cheap (FYI). And it’s a nifty page; great compositions, dynamic camera angles with lots of variety, a multiplicity of well staged crown shots, consistent likeness across multiple panels of unrecognized (by me) actors, and to put the cherry on top, Colan’s deft pencil handling is on display. I especially enjoy the herringbone pattern on the start’s jacket.

I poked around, and downloaded (for free- thanks, https://www.zipcomic.com/marvel-comics-super-special-issue-14) the artwork to the magazine-as-printed. Marvel.fandom reports that the comic story was inked and colored by Tom Palmer.








Saturday, June 6, 2020

Charles D Payne Jr., Brad Placard (Stripperella)


This is a piece of original art, done especially for me by Charles D Payne Jr, back in the early '00s, when we were fellow artists working on "Stripperella", for PopToons (a subsidiary of Nickelodeon created solely for the purpose of providing the studio cover for doing an adult animated series). Charles and I re-connected yesterday on LinkedIn and Facebook, so I dusted off this attractive ceramic ornament, photographed it, and am sharing it with y'all. (June 6, 2020)

Charle’s LinkedIn bio sez: Artist, Animation designer, Photographer, Videographer, writer, music writer, and Idea man par excellence. “I am a we’ll-rounded artist with skills peaking in many areas. I am intensely collaborative.

Charles currently resides in Pike Road, Alabama.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Daniel Clowes, Poster for the movie, "Happiness", Meltdown Comics, 1939/1999 (The Year(s) in Movies)

1939 and 1999 were banner years in cinema. 

1939 saw the release of “Gone With The Wind”, The Wizard of Oz”, “Stage Coach”, “Gunga Din”, “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington”, “Rules of the Game”, Dark Victory”, “Only Angels Have Wings”, “
“Ninochka”, “Hound of the Baskervilles”, “Destry Rides Again”, “The Hunchback of Notre Dam” “Gulliver’s Travels” and “Wuthering Heights”

1999 saw the release of “Boys Don’t Cry”, “Being John Malkovich”, “3 Kings”, “Mystery Men”, “Election”, “The Sixth Sense”, “South Park- Bigger, Longer and Uncut”, “The Matrix”, “Iron Giant”, “Magnolia”, “Galaxy Quest”, “Fight Club”, “The Talented Mr. Ripley”, and “American Beauty”. I want to add to this list “Princess Mononke” and “Happiness”. Technically speaking, both movies were released in 1998, but I didn’t seen them until the following year.

I acquired the movie poster directly from the artist/designer, Daniel Clowes, at a book signing at Meltdown Comics in Hollywood, California, where Mr. Clowes had various examples of his work for sale. I saw the poster and asked for it. Dan either gave it to me outright or sold it to me for a nominal fee.

I asked Dan if the poster was difficult to draw. Dan affirmed that it was; all the stars had approval over their likeness, resulting in multiple revisions.

Clowes, with his acid dark humor,  was a perfect match for “Happiness”. The poster communicates clearly that the title is ironic; none of these people are happy- they are separated from each other,  in their separate worlds. They glance suspiciously side to side, or, if looking forward, the direction of their heads keeps the gaze from being “at cam”, though the foregrounded Phillip Seymore Hoffman character comes closest. I find it interesting that PSH was given such a privileged position, since his wasn’t the most important character (in my opinion, that honor goes to Dylan Baker as the pederast, Bill Maplewood”). Of course, I haven’t watched the movie since it’s initial release, so my memory may not serve me well.

So here it is, nicely framed after all these years. Now I have to figure out where I’m going to hang it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Daniel Clowes, "Unused OK Soda Ad Art", Melt Down Comics, Independent Comics

I brought this from the artist himself at a signing at Meltdown Comics, in Hollywood, California, U.S.A.; It must have been in the early ’00’s. I choose that vague date because, at the same even, the artist sold me a copy of the poster for the film, “Happiness”, which was released in late 1998.

"Unused OK Soda Ad Art" was the only piece Mr. Clowes was selling that was within my price range; the comic book page originals were not.

I collect Clowes because I think he’s a master draftsman and an inventive storyteller. His mordant world view appeals to me. His ink technique yields benefit to close study. 

In the case of "Unused OK Soda Ad Art"  for instance, I find the faux-magnifying-glass inset instructive in the way he subtly “feathers” the close-up shapes as they curve away from cam, where in the “unmagnified” larger image these same shapes are described with single lines. I also am intrigued by the fact that each line is of a single thickness, but avoids the “rapidograph” feel by consistently tapering at their ends (whenever they aren’t bisected by another line.) 

I love the oblique composition of the magnifying-glass insert, both by itself and how it fits in with the over-all piece. I recognize the subtle asymmetricality of both the composition in total and it’s invidiual components.  All in all, I find "Unused OK Soda Ad Art" simple yet somehow deeply satisfying.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Colby Bluth, "Pen-Demonium", Crow Quill Pen Demo

This is not original art, but might be of interest in any case. It’s a piece designed to demonstrate and explore various pen nibs. It’s by fellow Comic Artists Professional Society (C.A.P.S.) member Colby Bluth. I think it’s pretty cool, and when I get done with my current big side projects it is my intention to accumulate and test all the nibs presented here. Thanks, Colby!

























Saturday, May 2, 2020

0scar Edward Cesare, "European PowersConvening", New York Times Magazine (?)


I won this piece in auction from Heritage Auction.com on October 2, 2016. The auction notes credit this piece to Oscar Edward Cesare’. It is signed by him in the lower right. It has a an image area of 18” x 7”, on a  21.5” x 11” sheet of gray charcoal paper, painted in gouache over light pencil sketching. On the reverse side is hand-written, “European Powers Convening”, and “N.Y. Times Magazine, Oct 9, ’60”. However, Wikipedia states his life span as being from 1885 to July 23, 1948. So, apparently whoever wrote on the back was incorrect about the provenance of this piece.

To further quote Wikipedia:
“Cesare was born in Linkoping, Sweden. At eighteen he moved to Paris to study art, then traveled to Buffalo, New York, to continue his studies. In 1903, he moved to Chicago, and by 1911 he was living in New York City.

“Cesare worked at several publications throughout he is career, including the Chicago Tribune, New York World, New York Sun, New York Evening Post, Our World, The Century Magazine, Bookman, Outlook, Nation’s Business, Literary Digest, Fortune,The New Yorker and The New York Times Sunday Magazine.”

Wikipedia classifies Cesare’ as a caricaturist, painter, draftsman and  editorial cartoonist. All of these abilities are on display in this marvelous painted drawing- drawn painting? Gouache drawing? I have made crops of all the characters/caricatures, in order to luxuriate more sybaritically in the virtuoso skill on display in all 4 above categories.







Friday, May 1, 2020

Allen Carter, Damn Tourists 1, Page 3

I won this page at the C.A.P.S. (Comic Artist Professional Society) Annual Fundraising Auction a couple of years back. It is a page from the first issue of “Damn Tourists”, now in its 5th issue. It is independently published by Carter Comics, which also publishes “The Figure of Speech Mongoose”, and Cosmic Force (now in its 6th issue).

Allen and I are fellow members of C.A.P.S.; I’m not sure how long I’ve known him, possibly 4 or 5 years. I’m most impressed by his dedication to the craft of marketing and promotion: he seems to know the venues that allow independent publishers to vend their wares, and how to hook up with the promoters of said events. Along the same lines, I admire his persistence and drive. In 10 years, he’s produced a substantial body of work, and is doing all he can to get them out into the world. This is an inspiration to one such as myself who has made abortive attempts along similar lines.




Monday, April 27, 2020

Milton Caniff, Steve Canyon, April 27, 1960

This daily was published 60 years ago this very day. Far out.

This is not one of my favorite pieces. I’m not sure why I bought it, 25 or so years ago at San Diego Comic Con (as it was known in those halcyon days). I don’t particularly like it now. I only like panel 2 out of the four. The woman, Miss Barker, annoys me; she’s a dead ringer of Summer Olsen, Poteet Canyon, Bitsy Beekman and Stalky Schweisenberger. Which is to say all of his women looked alike by this time in Caniff’s artistic evolution.

The only enjoyment this particular piece gives me is from studying panel enlargements to luxuriate in Caniff’s fearless freehand brushwork. He makes it look so easy. I suspect his penciling was minimal, that he did most of the drawing in the inking stage. I cite the generous swaths of white paint on the reclining figure in panel 1 as evidence of my theory.






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