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Hola, all. I’m tired so I’ll just get right into it:

TODAY ON SG:

THE LONE WOLF gets wet.

THIS WEEK SO FAR ON SG:

Saturday: HAUNTER dives deep.

Sunday: The Savage Dragon is having a bad life in my short comic Screamin’ Bones. It was originally published in the Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies collection, which I think had a fairly limited print run, so most of you are seeing it for the first time. Secret Voice will be back this Sunday and continue uninterrupted for a good long while, if everything goes according to plan.

Monday: We took Monday off. Just pretend we’re a gallery or something. Danger Country will be back this Monday!

TuesdayThe Mourning Star also took the week off, but luckily we had a new short story by Ian Sundahl called Where You Are King. Sean T. Collins calls it “impressively icky!

Wednesday: The Beast wears a crown in The Yankee, while storm clouds brew in Black Is The Color. Milo looks at the Kyle Baker drawn issue of DAMAGE CONTROL here on the blog.

I’ve got a couple links too:

- Look at this beautiful new animated webcomic, THUNDERPAW! Golly, that’s pretty. Not much there yet, just a page and some framing devices, but I’ll be checking back on it:

- Kelly Sue DeConnick is doing a comics collaboration with a young girl she met at HeroesCon, and YOU can join in!

- C.F. has a website. Has he had one for long? I don’t know, but it’s news to me.

- Oh yeah uh I started a Facebook page for myself, you should “like me.” Have you liked the Study Group Comics and Study Group Magazine pages yet?

Ok, Zack: OUT!

Only Zack Could Make School THIS much Fun!

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WELL GOLLY, I seem to have last posted an update on Monday. And here it is, (just barely) still Friday!

In my defense, I’ve had a hellaciously busy week, trying to deal with the real jobby-jobs and bla bla bla, the stuff that almost pays the rent etc.

You don’t care about that, though. I sure as hell don’t! We’re all just here for THE COMICS, right?

THIS WEEK ON SG:

Tuesday: Covert actions in The Mourning Star, and again we add a new creator to the roster: Morgan Jeske, who brings the first of his Disappearing Town series of short sci-fi stories to SG. There will be more Disappearing Town in the future!

Wednesday: Light trails and lost scarves on The Yankee, and a bit of a maritime pastoral scene over in Black Is The Color.

Thursday: The Lone Wolf loses her footing, while Titan serves up tension in the mess hall!

Friday: More psychedelic action narrative in It Will All Hurt, and if you’ve been missing Crime World, it’ll be back Aug 24th!

OK time for the weekend, there’s some surprises in store but if I told you about them now then they wouldn’t be surprises, would they?

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Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America, from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea. Let’s go to press:

“We are the vertical & the horizontal:” This Friday night In Portland, Gridlords will once more descend on The Waypost [3120 N. Williams Ave, Portland, Oregon 97227] for a night of readings/performances/comics. This month’s show will feature Fionna Avocado, John Isaacson, Jesse McManus, Jason Overby and Francois Vigneault. You should go. I should go! I may actually leave this house for this.

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The online motherlode of George Herriman rarities; much like Jack Kirby’s watercolors, you have to wonder what color comics would have looked like if Herriman’s personal coloring style had been used on the printed strips instead of the bullpen’s work.

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In addition to the tangible tributes they have posted at historically significant sites all over the city, Berkeleyplaques.org‘s “e-plaques” can boast of writing by the mighty Bob Levin on comix greats Don Donohue and Greg Irons.

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Ketcham, Ketcham, who’s got the Ketcham?

An episode of To Tell The Truth from February 18, 1962.

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I like my supercomics horizontal and brief, marinated in patriarchal chauvinism and sprinkled with art cribbed from old lingerie advertisements. BETTER KNOCK WOOD, LOIS.

From the Superman daily strip story “The Cry-Baby of Metropolis” [April 7, 1960 - May 26, 1960]

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Hey, do you need scans of Winsor McCay‘s Little Nemo In Slumberland? You probably do. They have Dream of the Rarebit Fiend there too.

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Last week’s Alcatena post led to a nice discussion of fold theory, during we encountered this handy tutorial from the Famous Artists School.

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Oops, I missed the 16th anniversary of the late, great Paul Ollswang‘s death by a little less than two weeks — this is what happens when you count on your memory rather than external words to keep track of upcoming events/notables — here are some great pages of Ollswang remembrances, art and a photo with a less-uncomfortable-looking-than-normal R. Crumb.

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Once again, Portland’s loss is Brooklyn’s gain: Revival House Press is opening up shop there this week.

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02909.com does us all a great service by hosting an archive of Fort Thunder’s dead website.

-30-

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[The following is an expanded and revised version of an old blog post; you've probably never read it before. The Internet seems to have misplaced its single-video version of this film, so I dug up a complete but five-part copy. Sorry. You should probably watch them first, then come back for my stupid thoughts here if you really have nothing better to do.]

BTW NSFW, but then I would hope watching an 87-minute movie isn’t something safe to do at work in the first place.

How can a film adaptation be completely faithful to its source and yet still do it a disservice?

I know almost nothing about Teruo Ishii. I know a little about Yoshiharu Tsuge. I definitely know that their 1996 film collaboration NEJI-SHIKI should never ever ever been retitled SCREWED for its U.S. release — also, that nothing is more unseemly than larding your opener with sell quotes from John Woo and Quentin Tarantino, which are plastered all over the DVD box and opening leader.

Anyway, that new title really jumps out as something you want to watch, doesn’t it? All it did was vaguely remind me of a Norm McDonald comedy I still haven’t seen. It seems no one has noticed the movie was released on DVD a few years ago except for some Asian film/culture nerdsites. I only accidentally stumbled over the news of its release while Googling for information about Kazuo Umezo’s KAZUO UMEZZ’S HORROR THEATRE series, and bought a copy right away — admittedly, as much to see if the DVD-ROM “Virtual Comic Book” was a straight copy of the translation that Bill Randall, Kosei Ono, Alan Gleason and I did for TCJ #250 as the movie itself. I have no excuse to be outraged; the comic is a literal mash of stills from the movie and Tsuge’s original drawings presenting the movie in thumbnail.

Obviously, a straight adaptation of the short story wouldn’t be long enough for a feature film, so Ishii & Tsuge panned through the artist’s oeuvre for more material, sort of like what Zwigoff and Clowes did for GHOST WORLD but possibly avoiding the half-and-half aftertaste of a cartoonist’s and filmmaker’s interests and styles not quite fully mixing. Again, I haven’t seen a lot of Ishii’s movies but I didn’t sense a moment where the movie completely unmoored from its source material to go somewhere that only the director was interested in visiting.

This straight-ish-forward condensing of Tsuge’s work comes through in the first post-credits shot — by the way, I like that the opening credits [topless women writhing on all fours while a handful of male grotesqueries ungulate] is filmed in the same Pantone orange that the first few pages of “Neji-Shiki” was printed in — which is of a page of comics art containing many of Tsuge’s characters. The movie is strangely  pedestrian in execution, more interested in typical dramatic shorthand; the cartoonist protagonist, a Tsuge stand-in played by Tadanabu Asano [ICHI THE KILLER], tears the page up in frustration. He’s an arteest, see? He’s wearing a turtleneck sweater and he’s all unkempt, sullen and anti-social. The film relies a lot on character types, which Tsuge used in his manga but with a specific personal and/or metatextual intent that this movie’s Greatest-Hits cramming never seriously considers.

Ishii is “long considered the primary force in the cinema of transgression” — I guess his TOTALLY FUCKING CRAZYSEXYREGGAECOOL idea for that here was to shoehorn in as many live-action copies of classic Tsuge-comic moments as possible; between those moments are a few clots of uninspired gristle stitching them together. You can’t say that the individual pieces of the original manga aren’t presented as verbatim as film allows, but the whole adds up to something far less brilliant and subtle than its original pieces. At times, the effect in the individual pieces comes off less like an adaptation than a forgery.

Doing its best to unify the parts of this Frankenstein’s monster is the same orange as the credits sequence. I’ve never encountered a convincing interpretation for why “Neji-Shiki’s” first eight pages have an orange two-tone, so I’m afraid the film’s embrace of the hue is lost on me. This is the orangest fucking movie I’ve ever seen.

The ultimate problem with the movie is that it retains none of Tsuge’s mastery of symmetry; his short stories are near perfect clockworks, the narrative/graphic/metatextual equivalents of perpetual-motion machines, all cleanly coupled to the master’s passions and obsessions. “Neji-Shiki” itself is a great example of this — it mirrors itself in almost every way, balancing plot, iconography, language, etc. — leaving its hero radically transformed but literally right where we met him in the end. Ishii makes a game effort to lay in Tsuge-style echoes, foreshadowing and inversions throughout the movie, but the filmmakers’ game attempt just underlines how far from the master they stand. I did like the bits of business like Tsuge getting up from his drawing table, where he’s drawing what looks to be a “Neji-Shiki” page, and leaving his apartment after being insulted, winding up on a bridge where the frame’s composition places the cartoonist between a river and a passing train for just a moment. But for every brief grace note like that, there seems to be two triple-underlined clunkers like Tsuge looking at his shadow after being thrown out of the hospital, taken straight from “Neji-Shiki.”

The director seems to perk up a bit when it’s time to present the title story but he unforgivably lops the vital concluding page of the story off the film, instead jumping to an end-credit sequence that looks like it was shot as a stag reel for a salaryman’s 1978 bachelor party. I did enjoy the Jew’s harp on the groovy soundtrack, though: dundundun BOWN dun dun, dundundun BOWN dun dun, dundundun BOWN dun dun.

Having known for nearly a decade that a film version of “Neji-Shiki” exists, I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it. That said, I don’t know what the hell I was thinking, expecting it to not be a letdown.

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Still crushed on deadlines, but I wanted to tell the world: A lot of Jack Kirby’s Invaders covers are terrible.

I don’t know if it was always there and it just took the wrong inkers to bring it out — the two Kirby covers in this post were both inked by Joe Sinnott, which makes this even more baffling — but The King’s figures developed a certain teddy-bear proportion that gave even Hitler a cuddliness that I hope wasn’t intended.

The most extreme example of this has to be the cover of The Art of Jack Kirby, inked by Kevin Eastman:

I couldn’t find a scan of the back cover, which features the most hugable Red Skull, Dr. Doom, Darkseid and Galactus you will ever see.

[11PM Edit: By My Victuals, BETRAYED! -- Jeremy "Eagle Eyes" Pinkham just pointed out that in the above Invaders cover, "Thor looks like he's struggling with a painful bowel movement, and lo and behold between his legs we can clearly see he's literally shitting bricks."]

One of the more baffling aspects to Kirby’s post-1970 career is how often editors had his faces re-inked to make them slicker, more delicate; his Superman heads at DC redrawn mostly by Murphy Anderson, but then John Romita and/or the Marvel bullpen touch-up artists would do the same to Jack when he returned to the company a few years later. Here, in the focus of what’s an otherwise pretty straight-forward late-1969-looking Kirby/Sinnott image is a rather dainty Romita face for Captain America, a character Kirby never learned to draw correctly, and what looks more like a JRSR face for Master Man as well.

[Hello, humorless nerds who have stopped reading this to jump straight down to the comments box to chew me out about CLEARLY NOT KNOWING THAT JACK CO-CREATED CAP IN 1941 LOL.]

What’s especial odd about the above cover, considering the alterations, is the Human Torch’s face; that’s a Johnny Storm face and hair [and maybe his uniform, too; the WWII Torch had yellow cuffs], not a Jim Hammond. I really like the open-lined faces and oddly Fosteresque solutions for drawing eyes that the K/S team developed toward the end of Kirby’s Fantastic Four run; it’s nice to see that again, even though that style got the wrong Torch onto the cover.

In comparison, Gil Kane turned in some snazzy, dynamic covers:

They’re nothing to give Alex Schomburg a sleepless night, much less Paul Bacon, but this pair of Kanes are nice to look at. I always liked when his figures looked chiseled out of instead of rendered in.

By the way, the above are covers from issues I have nothing to say about, except maybe “Wow, this comic was cheap, stupid and lazy, in the bad way.”

Because I can’t post much of anything without dragging poor Frank Robbins into it, here’s a page from issue #3: I would be very surprised to learn that it wasn’t dragged out and used as a cudgel as least a few times during the last few years of shitty/inconsistent characterizations of Captain America.

Even when faced with a true, not merely existential, global threat to the freedom and safety of America, Cap won’t let a teammate even pimp-slap a Nazi officer.

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Just a quick note to let everyone know PRESS GANG (in the form of Jason from Floating World and myself) will be at the Emerald City Comicon this weekend,  on the corner of the Top Shelf booth, #803. Brett was kind enough to offer us a presence at the show when our last ditch efforts to table fell through.

So come say hi and pick up the new  Elf World #3,

Study Group Magazine #1,

 DIY Magic

& Object 5!

I think that’s all we’re bringing this time around.

 

PS: has everyone been reading the new serials JACKS and THE BLONDE WOMAN? Pretty cool, huh!

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One of the great revelations of the Study Group site for myself and some others I’ve talked to, has been the transformation of DANGER COUNTRY from sparse, wide open black and white line drawings to deceptively simple but insanely lush full color. The addition of color to DC revealed something to me that I should have realized before, from his stand alone illustrations: Levon Jihanian has a badass color sense. I’m not the only one who noticed: I Will Destroy You is set to release a print version of Danger Country sometime this year. I asked Levon if he wouldn’t mind summing up his thoughts on coloring for the SG blog and he kindly obliged with the following insightful essay. (zs)

 

I’ve been getting some positive feedback on my coloring, and while it is only a relatively minor part of making comics, it’s also something I’m very proud of.

You can get good instructions on the technical aspect of digital coloring on Dustin Harbin’s blog here: http://www.dharbin.com/blog/how-i-do-it-coloring/ . This article is just a series of my own extremely valuable opinions.

I think that most proper cartoonists make color decisions without really thinking about them. Maybe they read up on color theory or took a class on it, but it’s counterintuitive to see color and aesthetics as a “science”. I’m not trying to say there’s only one way to approach color, but to me it’s important to be able to justify to myself my different color choices, so I set some rules for myself. Here they are.

This photo was taken during a big fire just off the highway. Light and color are the prettiest when they show us more than what we expect.)

 

1. Iconic vs. Real

The first question you want to ask yourself when coloring is do you want your colors to tell the truth, or do you want them to give the illusion of your own subjective reality? Yes this is a loaded question, and yes, the correct answer is you want your colors to tell the truth. By the truth, I mean that your colors should tell the reader about the characters, situation, mood, or whatever. Our brains simplify and compartmentalize certain things into certain colors. I mean…the sky is blue, right? and grass is green? right? right? WRONG. The full spectrum of color is alive in all things. Trees have purples in them. There are really very few limitations you should place on yourself for the sake of making something look “realistic” because your human perception of reality can not be trusted.

You can use color to codify your characters. Spider-man can walk through a rainy forest for a day and even though he’s covered in mud, he’s still bright red and blue. Why? because in a comic you’re responsible for upholding the truth and in Spider-man comics, Spider-man is red, black, and blue*.

Color can be used for more than describing what something looks like. A color can set the mood or simply make the panel look pretty. Realism can really limit all the different tools you have at your disposal.

2. Color the page, not the thing

I decided that each page, or even spread, should be treated as one picture. even though the reader reads one panel at a time, she also sees the whole page at once. It’s important to me that the page looks cohesive most of the time. The exception to the rule is when changing scenes within a page. I think the reason for this is that you want to use the color identity of the page to be a bigger representation of the scene.
The first 2 pages of Danger country has a broader color palette than the rest of the first chapter because it’s a sort of quick overview of the entire world, and I wanted to make it colorful to bring a sense of wonder.

The nighttime scene uses a medium brown in place of the black because I wanted to keep the values sort of close together so that the fire and the night sky end up making it a little harder to see a lot what’s going on in the foreground. Lack of contrast makes it hard for the eye to settle on any one area of the panel, and that makes it look more chaotic. That’s the plan, anyway.

The third scene is actually 2 scenes. Evan’s encounter with the elves and Evan’s encounter with Uncle Rodger. I wanted it to begin as a stark contrast to the previous scene, so the darks are much darker and the light areas are much lighter. I also wanted to use cooler colors (greens and blues). As Evan speaks more and more to Uncle Rodger, I wanted the background sky to shift subtly from grey to pink. This was for a couple of reasons. 1) I wanted to codify the scene as being separate from the encounter with the elves, and 2) I wanted to give the illusion of sunset, and bring a sense of urgency, gravity and intensity to Rodger’s wound situation.

3. Color wheels work, damn it.

When coloring on a computer, easy access to a million colors sometimes makes me feel lost. A lot of colorists decide to extremely limit their palette, but I don’t think that works either. A color wheel is a good compass when I have certain set colors I have to work with (like the colors of a character’s costume), and I’m trying to figure out what color to use next. I can go into a whole art school basic color theory lesson here, but instead I’ll direct you to this page that I found by googling color wheel. http://www.tigercolor.com/color-lab/color-theory/color-theory-intro.htm Check out the parts about color harmonies and warm vs. cool colors.

Again, don’t let realism bog you down. Coming up with a good color harmony outranks color expectations any day. This is why I think of a blue sky as the page killer. Speaking of blue…

4. Blue is not a color.

Blue is not a color. What I mean is, blue is not just 1 color. Blue is like 3 or 4 different colors. Treat blue very carefully. If you don’t want it to print as green, go into the color palette in photoshop and make sure there is no yellow by clicking on the “Y” field and putting it to 0%. Use the color picker or swatch palette at your own risk. I’m not saying “don’t use blue”. I’m just saying to try not to use more than 1 kind of blue (navy/teal/aqua/royal) per page. You can make it work if you’re Kali Ceismier or you want to spend a week on it and pull your hair out. But really, just cool it with the blues.

5. Swatches are dumb

Before I started coloring a page, I used to set up a series of swatches first, and place them together and see if they worked. Or sometimes I would make multiple color versions of the same thing and chase my wife around to get her opinion on which she thought was better. It’s just self-torture. Now I just use the hue adjustment slider, and click the preview on and off until I find something that works. Just trust your instincts and don’t dwell on it.

6. Break it, then fix it. (The 4 color rule)

One thing that I do is I try to keep my color brain tuned by doing a safe color harmony, and then adding a stupid color like purple or teal, and then adjust things to make it work. It’s easy to default to proven color harmonies that have worked for you in the past. I think people really notice and respond to when you change things up so it’s sort of important to do it. Use 4 colors at the very least.

7. Put some yellow on it.

This is sort of an indie comics secret passed down from cartoonist to cartoonist. Jordan Crane taught it to me. If you add 4-8% yellow on top of everything, it just makes everything more cohesive. I personally like to use a multiply layer, but that’s your call. It is like magic. I’ve also begun using other colors as panel overlays, for different effects or just to add variety or shift the mood.

8. Web and print are different.

A note about web vs. print. On the web you lose a little bit of control over colors but it’s sort of forgiving. You can add some black to your colors or some dirty texture, as I do with Danger Country. But for each page, I create separate web and print versions. The print version doesn’t have that dirty paper texture, because paper can get dirty all by itself. It doesn’t need my help.

This is also when you have problems with the blue. Blue is insanely hard to print right. It always comes out darker, and greener than you expect. Then you yell at the printer and the printer gets all pissed at you and hangs a picture up of you in the bathroom with a mustache and goatee. And there are a bunch of darts sticking out of it.

I keep remembering more and more rules. A lot of this stuff comes from doing it for a long time and messing up a lot. Or they are just approaches that worked for me. Obviously there is more than one way to skin a cat. All of these rules can be broken. I think they’re just there so that I don’t stagnate with indecision. The most important thing is to come up with rules for yourself, and form your own opinions, and let the inner essence of your being shine through onto the page.

* Except for when he isn’t. But that’s a whole other thing.

Links:

Color Theory 101 - http://www.tigercolor.com/color-lab/color-theory/color-theory-intro.htm
Kali Ciesmier – http://www.ciesemeier.com
and while we’re at it, Sam Bosma – http://sbosma.com
Jeff Soto (always pushing his own color palette) – http://jeffsoto.com
Dustin Harbin’s Article on coloring - http://www.dharbin.com/blog/how-i-do-it-coloring/
Jordan Crane (everything has a 8% layer of yellow on it) – http://whatthingsdo.com
The legendary and a little outdated Re Pro Guide (some still-useful tips on offset printing and setting up your color files among other awesome things) - http://www.scribd.com/doc/86312853

 

- Levon Jihanian

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