“Defrost” is officially done and out the door. I made it! And my hand didn’t fall off!
I’ll let you know when you can read it as soon as I know.
• Ben Katchor in Heavy Metal (from The Comics Reporter). Really. As the linked post and the comment with it attest, Heavy Metal actually used to be a magazine worth reading and was a big influence on many of us, even though we wouldn’t be caught dead reading it now. Damn you, Kevin Eastman!
• Harry Clarke’s Faust. I bought this book back in high school, from Bud Plant, I believe. If you’ve never seen Clarke’s work before, he’s like a darker, more macabre Aubrey Beardsley. I think his illustrations for Poe are his best, but there some wild stuff going on in those Faust illos.
And for Halloween…
• Two from John Carpenter up at YouTube: Prince of Darkness (1987) and In the Mouth of Madness (1995). Both showcase Carpenter’s ability to build tension and creepiness. I prefer In the Mouth of Madness: I love Sam Neil’s acting, there are some great creepy scenes, and it goes into an H.P. Lovecraft end of the world scenario that few movies attempt much less pull off.
• The Grapes of Death by Jean Rollin (1978). This film has a horrible title. It’s not a mistranslation or something either; the original French title is Les Raisins de la Mort. If you look past the title you’ll find a nicely creepy little film. It’s not great perhaps and the episodic nature of it may undercut the tension, but it’s still engaging. This film gets classified as a zombie flick, but labeling that just brings up certain generic expectations that don’t apply here. This is a plague film and it has more in common with literature about The Black Death than it does zombie flicks. Here, the plague devastates a wine-growing community and a young woman, Elisabeth, attempts to navigate her way through to find her fiancé. What’s nice here is that Elisabeth is not some whiny, stumbling horror movie heroine. She’s scared, sure, but she also knows how to use a gun and can think on her feet. The ending, though perhaps not surprising, is nicely done and fitting. The final shot is great. Just be aware that since this is a Jean Rollin film almost every woman here takes her top off or has it removed.
“Defrost” is approaching its conclusion. I’m on to page 22 now. I’ll finish the story by the November 1st deadline, but by the skin of my teeth. And, as you’ve probably noticed, this story employs a bold new innovation in comics. Words.
It seems like the front page and the administrator control panel are loading r*e*a*l*l*y slowly. I’m not sure what’s going on. The other pages don’t seem to have this problem. Anyway, I’ll see what I can do…
Awhile ago, my dad got me a subscription to Before & After Magazine, which deals with issues that professional graphic designers face. What struck me immediately was how smart and well-written the articles were. Well, the magazine now is publishing little movies on YouTube and I just saw the new one about using white space.
The ideas that are presented relate to a comic I want to do in the future, but I think can also be applied to comics generally. I like the idea, for instance, that what graphic designers do is to create a visual narrative with the information they are given. They make visual the story that the details are telling. Design elements–formal elements–reinforce the meaning. I also like the bigger idea here that white space is itself a design element and can be used as such. Off the top of my head, the gutter space in comics is one such white space that is sometimes used, say by making it larger, to show a greater amount of time is happening in the narrative. It is also often used to show stillness and/or silence. Or the loneliness of a character may be reinforced by shrinking the character and increasing the white space. I’ve done this myself, like in “My Grandmother’s Funeral.” When I think of comics artists that use white space intentionally I think of Sammy Harkham and Tom Gauld. I’m sure there are many more, but those two pop to mind. Anyway, I think many of us get obsessed with details, about what to include, about filling the space, and we tend to forget the power of empty space.
On pages 61 and 62 of Carnivale, I gave the guitarist a Thundercats t-shirt. Well, this year at the APE I must have seen four or five guys wearing Thundercats t-shirts. Did I foresee a trend? Or did I just peg a certain type with my characterization?
I don’t have any photos or sketches or anything. Sorry.
So let me run through a few thoughts about APE 2010. Keep in mind that I stayed behind my table the whole show (except for one little peek around with my daughter) so my perspective is pretty skewed.
Money-wise, this APE was on par with other years. But overall, a lot fewer people actually came up to my table and looked at what was there. Sunday was especially bad. People just seemed to cruise down the halls without stopping. Maybe the large size was too much for people and they got overloaded. Maybe it was the rain. I don’t know, but Sunday was slow even though the amount of people didn’t seem less than Saturday.
The increased size was a little odd. The layout this year seemed funky to me. The big staircase that dominated the main floor really interrupted the flow of the hall. Also, the added amount of exhibitors didn’t mean an added amount of comics. If anything, there seemed to be fewer comics. There were a lot more plushies and art prints. A l*o*t more. I have nothing against these things per se and there were some pretty cool creations, still the “press” side of Alternative Press Expo seems to have less importance these days. Maybe it was just where my table was, but my wife thought that some art teacher must tell his/her students to present their final projects at the APE. There did seem to be a lot more art students who seemed to be presenting prints of their end of term projects. Again, there was some nice stuff, but this is a change and made the amount of actual narrative art seem less.
This brings me to a distinction that I’ve been thinking about. This isn’t a new observation perhaps, but I finally have terms to describe it to help it make sense to me. There seems to be two competing aesthetics going on at the APE. One aesthetic is for art as art object. The focus is on the quality of the paper, the printing, the presentation, etc. The other aesthetic is art as narrative experience. Here the focus is on character, plot, mood, pacing, etc. Maybe this is simply the old art versus literature dichotomy that comes up in comics. Cons like the APE lend themselves to the first aesthetic, because time is short and surface detail is easier to take in quickly than narrative detail. So this preferencing of art as art object is nothing new, but it seemed pronounced this year. Or maybe I just noticed it more. One example is that Barron Storey, himself an art teacher, came up to my table and saw the cover of the new printing of Kit Kaleidoscope. He commented on how he liked what I had done with it and seemed to want to move on without checking out the interior of the book. My wife was behind the table at this moment and had no idea who Barron Storey was, and said “there’s more inside the book, too.” He gave her a rather perplexed look. Maybe it was her tone, or maybe it was that his focus was so much on the art as an object that he had forgotten the realm of narrative. Anyway, he moved onto the next table where the guy making buttons had taken a class from him. In his defense, Storey seems like a very supportive teacher. And perhaps he knows how difficult it is to take in narrative at a show like the APE and so doesn’t even try. Or maybe he’s part of the first aesthetic I named above.
Anyway, there’s one story I wanted to relate. The guy involved (John?) may be reading right now. Well, he came up to my table saying that he found my website (this one yer at right now) through Tom Spurgeon’s The Comics Reporter. Spurgeon had linked to my whining about the APE. This guy read that, came to my site, liked what he saw, and decided to buy to some of my stuff at the APE. As he put it, “your article about not making any money at the APE made me want to give you money at the APE.” This was one of the highlights of the show for me.
I got Lark’s new children’s book, Mr. Elephtanter, which is beautiful and made my daughter laugh. I completely forgot that Renee French was going to debut a new book at the show. I guess I’ll get that later. I didn’t get anything else except for one trade. As I said, I didn’t really make it around.
Back to finishing “Defrost”…