STUDYGROUP blog

And … we’re back. Hi.

We left off at me bloviating about Metallum Terra, a delightful return to form for the amazing Enrique “Quique” Alcatena.

Aside from the striking character/world design we’ve been spoiled rotten expecting from Quique on his every project, what often stands out in Terra is its narrative poetry.

That’s not poetry in the traditional, rhyming-text sense, but in how these chapters play out as stories.

When it comes to modulating irony, American adventure comics have produced a pretty narrow historical spectrum, usually arriving as a fable/O Henry/Crime Does Not Pay presto-chango button for the ending.

My translation skills aren’t so hot but there doesn’t seem to be that sort of lesson-teaching moralism here, but we’re still firmly in the land of fable.

It’s a delicate balance to achieve, so it’s a pleasure to see even on less-than-mindblowing chapters like this one.

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After the disappointing, lackluster Makabre, it’s easy to imagine Quique Alcatena was delighted to cut loose on his followup serial Metallum Terra — another collaboration with writer Eduardo Mazzitelli; eight-page chapters for the monthly magazine Cóctel in September-December 1991.


The back matter for this collection lays out a pretty bare structure for reading this work as epic poetry rather than heroic fantasy; drawing a sharp line between the two is a bit above my pay grade but I know I prefer my Quique comics to be less interested in The Hero’s Journey™ than in using a protagonist as a vehicle for exploring the artist’s visual imagination. Less Luke Skywalker, more Jerry Thompson, please.


We’ve gone on the Hero’s Journey plenty of times; make the scenery stunning, give us a few great amusements and something to chew on and we promise not to kick the seat and ask “Are we there yet?” for the next hour or two.

 


Even Quique’s most active, plot-driving heroes seem to serve more as  sub-metatextual tour guides, leading us through his environments, local characters and notable events first, then being heroes who need to do ______ to progress to their goal/the next act of the story.


The key to this sense of intent is the openness of his pages and panels — compare these pages to even the most Quiquesque of Makabre‘s art from last week and you’ll see some of what I mean. Even on its busiest page, there’s [breathing] space in Metallum that’s missing from the earlier book, which gives it a sense of the epic without resorting to full-page splashes.


At his best, Quique’s art is psychologically expansive; a double-page spread in a single panel. For a medium so dominated by action/adventure, this is a surprisingly rare talent for an artist to possess.

[Kind of a sappy ending, but we saw it or some variation on it coming, didn't we?]

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It’s to Quique’s credit that he didn’t conform very well to late ’80s/early ’90s gringo independent-comic expectations; the first dozen or so pages of this 1991 collaboration with writer Alan Grant [originally serialized in Toxic magazine] are pretty uninspired stuff, a derivative hodge-podge of tropes and action that played more to Grant’s strengths than Quique’s — albeit with a delightfully anti-clerical tone that’s always fun. The lackluster results are especially odd when you consider that Quique redrew the original 50 color pages, apparently lost in Toxic‘s collapse, as a 48-page B&W album for Comiqueando Press in 1998. But then ….

….

 

…. the Alcatena we know and love takes over for a bit, filling pages with some of his trademark showstopper character designs and vignettes.

 

This Beauty & The Splinter Beast thing’s got one sweet cellular telephone, I must admit:

 

I wasn’t sure if this book was worth covering — I obviously don’t have much to say about it, there’s just not a whole lot here for Alcatena fans to get excited about — and then I saw page 28:

 

That’s right — BLACK KINGPIN MOTHERFUCKERS. Who would have thought the pinstriped slacks were such a key to the character’s design?

The introduction to this book says that Grant wrote a Makabre sequel, of which Quique only drew one chapter before the project was orphaned by its publisher. He presumably finished Metallum Terra [which I'll begin examining next week] in its stead, so we all win.

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A big part of the Comics Journal editor’s job was reading every comic that comes into the office. Everything. EVERY. THING. You would think that reading 10-15 pounds of monthly mainstream comic books would be the hardest slog, but it was easily the 20-30 pounds [I started weighing my weekend slush-pile reading two months into the job] of minicomics/zines that made me wish I had turned the job offer down one more time.

The former type of comic was at least made with a baseline level of competence, even when the results were boring or insulting. The latter were often soul-grindingly awful in an endless number of ways — as bad as the shittiest webcomic you’ve ever seen, but only if you saw it on a grungy old monitor with a post-it note challenging you, corporate drone of Fantagraphics, Inc., to experience the genius of its truly independent spirit — and this unique awfulness made it impossible to digest without additional discomfort. Like snowflakes, no two turds are the same. [I know we're supposed to be rah-rah-minicomics-are-the-best-hooray-for-infinite-but-valid-diversity-in-infinite-combinations, but there are more than a few good reasons why there are so many cliques at even the smallest small-press shows. You know the minis I'm talking about here.]

Anyway, the minis/zines were largely awful, so when one was actually good, it was great — and when one made me laugh, it was the best. This is how I discovered Arthur Jones, whose 2002 booklet 800LB GORILLA made me laugh the hardest of any mini can I recall reading at the Journal, a straightfaced mash of Chester Brown, the Justice League, ’80s pop culture and Fort Thunder. I’ve always wanted to know more about its creator, whose now-defunct Gorillasuit site regularly served up cool stuff in the early days of webcomics. Jones went on to draw and co-host the Post-it Note Diaries series of slideshow reading series in New York, which were collected and published by Plume in late 2011.

Mr. Jones and I had the following conversation via email on and off over 2012. I’d like to thank Arthur for sending much of the art for this piece, even while moving house from NYC to Los Angeles. — MG

Milo George: So, what drew a former Jefferson City Royal Ambassador all the way to the Rhode Island School of Design for college? Someone told me you came to RISD sight unseen?

Arthur Jones: Man, you dug deep. Yeah, RISD was a culture shock; I got in as a transfer student and didn’t visit the campus beforehand. I came to Providence from a town in Kansas of 3,000 people and felt pretty overwhelmed by the move. For example, I remember seeing graffiti for the first time and wondering what language the tags were in.

On my way to RISD I drove through NYC at like 2 A.M. and was freaking out from all the traffic, concrete and lights. I’d never been to the East coast or driven in a big city — it was all exciting but I was fucking terrified. I felt like I was cannonballing into the gates of Hell. I’d grown up sheltered and assumed that the world was full of evil and Biblical snares. As a footnote: I know how silly this sounds now, but this was all pre-Internet. If I was going to RISD today I would have had a Skype interview with a teacher and surfed the RISD website. My drive to college would have been GPS-guided, not following a map drawn on the back of my hand.

George: How long did the culture shock of being in a big city on the East coast last once you got to the campus?

Jones: It was gradual. There were a number of people I met along the way who were formative, but mostly it was just about getting older and living in more cosmopolitan places. I became an atheist in my mid 20s, the same time of life when people quit their first white-collar day job and go to grad school for something like, social work or library science. As you become an adult you stop caring so much what people think about you and determine what your own worldview is.

Honestly, a big part of it was meeting gay people. Before attending RISD, I was at a small Christian college in Kansas and I shared a dorm room with a painfully closeted gay guy. He’d pace around the room reading the Bible then theatrically collapse into his bed like Joan Crawford. At first I though he was crazy, then I came to understand he was just sensitive and confused kid. After watching him for a semester it dawned on me that I was similarly torturing myself. I wasn’t gay but I needed to get rid of all that dogma to find myself too.


George: So you transferred to RISD. Were you aware of Fort Thunder and/or its offshoots?

Jones: I totally knew Fort Thunder as an entity; everyone did. I wasn’t part of their crowd — I found it a little intimidating — but I remember thinking that it must be one of the most unique underground scenes in the country. Then when Forcefield was in the [Whitney] Biennial, the legend of that loft space just seemed to blow up. For a few years, I felt like a million kids claimed to have gone there. In Providence, the Fort was viewed as cool but also hilarious — like the Island of Lost Boys in Peter Pan. There was a Fort Thunder uniform: New people would move in and immediately cut off all their pants at the shins and get a haircut that made them look like they had cranial skin cancer.

George: The Fort is our Woodstock; everyone claims to have been there, no matter how chronologically or geographically unlikely their claim. But, I imagine it would have been harder for you to make it through RISD without going there at least once.

Jones: I went to a handful of shows there and a pretty epic wrestling match. The first time I visited, I saw US Maple and was physically effected by their abrasiveness — they actually made me feel nauseous, but I sort of loved it. The thing I remember most was that the place was dissssssssgggggusting. I’m not squeamish and have lived in a number of semi-feral communal living situations, but Fort Thunder’s bathroom and kitchen were like a vegan diarrhea bomb blast zone. I knew Brian Gibson from Lightning Bolt and Brian Ralph; they were both in the RISD illustration department. Ralph made a comic called Fireball that I found really inspiring at the time. Brinkman, Ralph and Chippendale are all wonderful artists. There was a bunch of amazing bands that played in Providence during that period. I saw some of Lightning Bolt and Les Savy Fav’s first shows and I loved local bands like Thee Hydrogen Terrors and the legendary Six Finger Satellite. I left before the Dirt Palace/Hive Archive got rolling.

George: Could you talk a bit about how Fireball inspired you and your work?

Jones: Fireball was cool in a very teenage-boy way. It was all devils riding skateboards and kids beating up cops — keep in mind this was the early ’90s; that iconography wasn’t quite as played-out as it is now. I’d never really be exposed to minicomics before, and after that I started seeking them out.

The RISD illustration department was horrible; it taught us how to send postcards to art directors every four months and buy $3000 spreads in Illustration annuals. Very little of it was inspirational. Brian was one of those guys who was on his own path and I appreciated that. His drawings were also super great.


George: Before Fireball and minicomics, I understand you had discovered Yummy Fur as a teenager; was Chester Brown also being a Baptist a way to work your way into alternative comics?

Jones: The tiny comic shop in Jefferson City had a water-damaged box of “weird stuff” in the back under a table. Most of it was in terrible condition or used, but somewhere in there I found some Yummy Furs. “Ed the Happy Clown” was my absolute favorite. It was a nice bridge comic between the ’80s comics I loved as a kid — Usagi Yojimbo, Groo the Wanderer, Bloom County, Far Side, etc. — and the world of “underground” comics like RAW or Weirdo. Later, by association, his work turned me onto Canadians like Seth, Joe Matt and Marc Bell. The Playboy and I Never Liked You are so much better than all these emo, break-up comics that keep coming out.

George: Oh yeah. So, right-wing culture has changed radically in the last 20 years that I can’t imagine what a conservative teenage comics fan would make of things like Ed’s Reagan-headed dick anymore. Could you talk a bit about what appealed to you about Yummy Fur at the time? And did your parents know about these comics?

Jones: Right-wing culture has changed over the last 20 years and I feel like I observed the epicenter of that change as a kid. I grew up in Jefferson City, which is Missouri’s state capital; it’s a small town and a lot of kids’ parents were in state politics. I knew John Ashcroft’s and Roy Blunt’s kids. I saw Ashcroft sing before the nation got that same pleasure in Fahrenheit 911. I was blown away when that brand of Missouri religious conservative politics seemed to rule the nation during the GWB years. It was terrifying. I also witnessed the radicalization of the Evangelical church. I grew up very Southern Baptist and in the ’70s and early ’80s the Southern Baptists were actually very nice and culturally well-behaved. Jimmy Carter was America’s first popular Southern Baptist — I think he is a good example of where the church was back then.

Then the ’80s hit and the born-agains decided they need to galvanize. Mega-churches started happening. Right-wing talk radio started. Pentecostalism became less marginalized and people started talking about how there needed to be “Bible believing” Christians in government so the U.S. could become a theocracy. “Bible-believing” is the evangelical code word for being totally fucking nuts for Jesus. It means you believe every word of the Bible is completely 100% true. It creates zealotry — and people like Karl Rove know how to manipulate the blind zealots perfectly … anyway … sorry I went off on a tangent.

Yummy Fur was both smart and stupid at the same time, which is sort of everything I love. My folks knew I collected comics and perhaps had mixed feelings about that but I doubt they could tell the difference between a Spider-man comic, a Bloom County anthology and an issue of Yummy Fur. It was all kids stuff to them. Showing a comic to a parent is like making a dog watch television.


George: Your old site gorillasuit.com now leads to what appears to be a legit Gorilla Suit-selling business. Do you have any plans to collect your early comics, like 900lb GORILLA, or fold them into your primary website?

Jones: Yeah, that’s funny. Someone bought Gorillasuit.com from me and now actually sells gorilla suits on it. When the site was mine, I kept getting these emails offering to buy it from what I assumed was a spam bot; I ignored them, but the offer kept going up and up. Unbeknownst to me, I was playing hardball. Eventually the offer got big enough that I felt obliged to investigate it. At that point, the site was largely dormant and I felt okay with selling it and moving on. I paid four or five month’s rent from the sale.

I don’t have plans to anthologize any of the webcomics I did. Milo, you might be the only person who remembers that stuff. I’m flattered that it would even occur to you. I’m so disorganized I’m not sure where much of it is. I have some zip discs in my closet that the comics might be on. I really want to get back to doing comics and hope to do a graphic novel in the future. Hit me back in five to 10 years.


George: I don’t remember if it came in from one of the Journal‘s columnists or the review-copy mail, but I can still recall pictures and lines from 900LB GORILLA that made me laugh — the turd-looking monster holding up a boombox, Lloyd Dobler-style, yelling “KICK OUT THE JAMS MOTHER FUCKER” and “Superman is using his super speed to DEVASTATE this nursing home.” — but I never found out anything about its creation. I recall it having the energy of a 24-hour comic, and the book’s shape made me wonder if the comic had been made with the Web in mind. What inspired it?

Jones: Yeah, 900LB GORILLA was very silly. It wasn’t made in 24 hours but, as I remember, I drew it and printed it in about 3 weeks. It certainly has the spirit of a 24 hour comic. Very little of it was pre-meditated. In one of the storylines a poorly drawn Superman gets infected with some weird kryptonite, that makes him punch people who are in their 80s whenever he hears a song from the ’80s. The villain — who is a dirt bike riding anthropomorphic shit nugget — plays “Jessie’s Girl” or some Duran Duran song on a boom box and Superman, against his will, beats up a nursing home. I’m sure you are the only person to remember that. I just googled “900 lb Gorilla” and “Arthur Jones” and got TWO hits. Counting those two people and you, that’s three who perhaps remember that zine.
For you and those two fans, the backstory to the comic was this: My friend Paul Koob does a funny little minicomic called Hamster Man; he’s been doing it since he was 10. Yes, 10. In 2002, he rented a table at the Chicago Wizard World convention and asked me to join him. I accepted his invite but had nothing to sell, so I made 900LB GORILLA as quickly as I could. My only goal was to get to 32 pages, just like a real comic … not one of those eight-page doodle-zines. At the time I freelanced at a marketing company and would sneak in late at night to print things.

I remember that our Comic Con merch table being sandwiched in between Lou Ferrigno’s table and this make-shift wrestling ring where these high-school kids did WWF-style routines. Watching Lou watch these kids was my favorite part of the weekend. He looked so annoyed — you could just see the wheels turning in his head: “How has it come to this ….”


George: It’s been a little while since Post-it Note Diaries was published; can you see the book objectively — in particular, how it and its individual pieces might have been shaped by the Reading Series?

Jones: Hmmmm. I think I can talk about it objectively. The whole thing has a unconventional trajectory and I assume few of your readers have prior knowledge of the book or the Reading Series. So I have to track backwards a bit to answer.

This whole thing started with gorillasuit.com, actually. I used to make doodles at work on Post-it notes and put them on my website. It was easily the most popular thing I did on there, because it was relatable. People looked at the site while loafing at work and I was making drawings while loafing at work.

I started making little narratives from the drawings and reading them at galleries and bars as slideshows. Those slideshows turned into the Post-it Note Reading Series, which I co-hosted with my friend Starlee Kine who is a great writer and radio personality. Each show would feature four or five authors and I’d illustrate their stories on hundreds of post-its that we’d project on stage. It was half a reading, half a multimedia comedy event. The book Post-it Note Diaries is an anthology of my favorite stories from the live events and some new stories I convinced some of my favorite authors to contribute. The whole thing is the result of a series of happy accidents over about five or six years.

I loved making the book. I got to work with some amazingly talented people and I was paid to draw full time for a few months. Totally awesome. Now for the objective part: I think the project is confusing for many people. For comics fans, the Post-it notes themselves are often perceived as a gimmick. A square yellow, office product isn’t a satisfying as a drawn square. It seems less artful. And to that point, I have been frustrated that most of the press surrounding the book has been about Post-it notes being “quirky” or “fun” — not about the quality or the content of the drawings and writing. Which I think are great.


George: You and Karl Ackermann were working on a series pilot for Comedy Central — I assume this is an animation project, which sometimes ignore the boundaries of TV-pilot season?

Jones: Yeah, we wrote a script for an animated sitcom. Cable networks tend to develop content more year-round but I’m sure Comedy Central would have loved to have a Fall hit. Honestly, we went into the project wanting to keep some of the boundaries in mind, wanting to produce a really solid script that was funny, complex and structurally sound. We also wanted to produce it on time, so we’d have the best shot at consideration. Comedy Central isn’t Adult Swim and we purposefully didn’t want a psychedelic tone like Tim and Eric or Aquateen. We ended up reading more 30 Rock and Arrested Development scripts than anything else for inspiration; those shows ping pong around so much that they read like cartoons on the page.

Karl and I just wrapped up writing our pilot. They passed on it so I can speak about it a little. The writing process was really great. We were paired with John Lee, who is part of the PFFR art and TV collective. He was like our Tommy Lasorda and Karl and I were like the 1983 Dodgers — meaning we made some hustle plays, over-achieved and wrote a pretty funny script that wasn’t quite good enough to beat the Orioles in the World Series. Before that, I did some presentation shorts for FOX. TV is a emotionally irrational, crazymaking racket. You just have to cross your fingers and hope the exact right person sees your thing at the exact time they need that thing at the exact moment in the year when they have money to buy that thing, then you have to hope that person stays at the network long enough to champion your thing through its development. It’s like throwing a javelin through the hole of a rolling doughnut. At Comedy Central, we got caught up in the middle of a network shake-up and I’m not sure our script ever got a chance. It made me hungry to do some DIY projects again.

George: Anything you can share with us at this point?

Jones: I’m still woodshedding. I’m designing some posters and doing some animated PSAs for a place named the Center for Investigative Reporting in Berkeley. I’d like to write more and make some non-animated short films. I’d still love to do some comics. Maybe this interview will inspire me to dust off the ole Rapidograph.

For more work and info about Arthur Jones, please visit www.byarthurjones.com.
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Discovered a video of this program in a semi-private corner of the Internet and thought I’d share; the transcription and copyedit is mine. Press Conference was an early BCC television series that describes itself as a program “in which personalities who make the news answer impromptu questions from the men who write the news.”It’s charming how wholly disinterested the show’s panel of earnest blowhards/eggheads are in the camera and whether or not they’re on it.

This brief exchange, aside from another interesting example of how closely Welles paid attention to comics and other junk culture, is remarkable in how he [thumb]nails the 1960s zeitgeist a decade before it got swinging. — MG

PRESS CONFERENCE: There’s been a certain amount of criticism of the trends of American influence on things like horror comics and films. Do you feel that there is anything  in the suggestion that American influence is towards a spirit of juvenile delinquency through the world?

ORSON WELLES: I don’t think that horror films or horror comics contribute to juvenile delinquency. I think that they may encourage psychotics, and homicidal and other dangerous types — but juvenile delinquency is, I think, a symptom of the illness of our age. It doesn’t come from lack of playgrounds or bad comic books, but a great longing for youth to have something to rebel against.

PC: You wouldn’t say that children are imitative, and that they tend to imitate what they see or read?

WELLES: If they were, they would’ve come from the bear pits and the Globe Theatre to commit some rather extraordinary acts in the Elizabethan days!

PC: You don’t think that the glorification of violence, which is shown even in some of the Westerns, gives them ideas? Make them think that they would like to shoot from the hip or be quick on the draw?

WELLES: Well, you see I think that all vital periods of the drama and of literature are periods of great violence, and that all of our great plays and novels are violent. I don’t like them when they are poor novels or when they’re not works of art; they become shoddy and seem to be pandering. Usually something wicked.

PC: But usually virtue virtue triumphs there, but in the horror comic it doesn’t.

WELLES: Doesn’t it?

PC: No, I don’t think so.

WELLES: It doesn’t in Edgar Allen Poe either.

PC: You were not brought up on horror comics; they didn’t have them when you were a boy in America.

WELLES: No, I don’t suppose so, but I had horror stories and horror films.

I’m not for them; I’m very much against violence and brutality as a popular subject. I think it is overexploited. I quite agree with that.

PC: Would you prohibit horror comics?

WELLES: I wouldn’t prohibit anything; I’m very much against censorship.

PC: Even for children?

WELLES: It’s a very difficult question, but you see I don’t think children were ever hurt by Grimm. I remember that the end of Snow White in Grimm — the real ending, not the Disney one — the Witch is given red-hot iron shoes to dance in until she dies, and everybody’s terribly happy about it. I don’t think it made any delinquents out of it. And children are violent.
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As much as I love Frank Robbins, I can’t take reading these stupid comic books anymore. Here are some entertaining odds & ends I clipped and saved before throwing the rest out.

 

Instead of a pastiche of ’40s supercomics junk, Invaders #10 reprinted an real piece of ’40s supercomics junk with “The Wrath of the Reaper,” from Captain America Comics #22 [January 1943]. Al Avison & Al Gabriele’s art is no great shakes but I appreciate that they tried to ape the Simon & Kirby look, especially the slashing, almost abstract look they often gave faces. I also enjoyed the deeply cynical view of how easily manipulated the American public is by the popular media — of course, Stan Lee wrote/dialoged/whatevered this story at the same time he was in the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps, and Father Coughlin still haunted the imaginations of media-minded and/or progressive writers for years after he was driven off the air.

 

It’s a shame that, even with the graphic-novel boom and such, there’s still no money to be made in blackmailing major cartoonists with the endearing/embarrassing letters of comment they sent to their favorite comic books as children. Although, if I did the math right, Seth was 14 when he wrote to Roy Thomas. [From Invaders #14, March 1977]

 

Things I still love about comic books, despite comic books:

#1. Frank Robbins and Frank Springer.

#2. Hitler as final boss/hands-on villain who doesn’t believe in delegating any tasks to his employees.

#3 A Special Belt-Apparatus universal translator that lets a “Ja” and “der führer” go by, which apparently makes for “perfect English.”

4. Cap’s Skippy/Little Orphan Annie eyes.

 

 

FWAP. [Panels from Invaders #17]

 

Pretty conventional subject matter, but this is the weirdest looking cover of the series to my eye: the Cap is clearly a John Romita figure and the other Invaders look like heavily redrawn Romita/Kane, but the Hitler looks like a Jack Kirby drawing and the soldiers & overall layout look like Gil Kane’s work. What the hell? Also, what is the Human Torch doing, aside from using his powers to catch the attention of children?

 

 

BLONG BLONG

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Jason and I. This is the best shot we could get of the table b/c of the crowds.

OOPS! You might have seen this post go live without any text in it! That’s because I set up a placeholder post and meant to get back to actually, you know - writing it sometime before Thanksgiving. Like all (my) good plans, something went horribly wrong and I forgot.

Juj and I - photo by Lamar Abrams

ANYHOW, Jason, Julia and I went up to the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Fest at the beginning of the month, and boy howdy did we have a good time. This was my third year at BCGF, and PRESS GANG‘s second (we’d just celebrated our first year of existence one week earlier at Short Run in Seattle!). As usual, it was insanely crowded and overflowing with mind-meltingly good comics and art.

Jason was debuting a new newspaper, SKYFACE SENSRMAP, by Brenna Murphy and I was debuting the new  full color SECRET VOICE v2#1. I’ll have ordering info for SVv2#1 up real soon, but  for now I’ll post a couple shots of me as a proud poppa:

Clearly, I missed my calling as a hand model.

Full bleed, baby.

Oh look, how cute! It’s my first new book in forever.  Response to the book was very gratifying. More on that later, but there’s more pics over here.

It’s always a great thing to get to go to NYC and soak up some hustle and bustle, since while Portland is one of  my all time favorite cities, it’s got a pretty sleepy vibe.

I imagine BCGF is also a great place to do some shopping for comics, if you’re not an exhibitor. I wouldn’t know, because it’s SO FUCKING CROWDED and hectic that I was only able to get away from the table about once or twice, so I literally only bought two things: Michel Fiffe’s COPRA and Ian Anderson’s THREE STORIES. Not for lack of trying, it’s just the way it worked out. There’s no time or space to talk to people you want to see or to browse for things you think you might want. It’s just that crazy.

BCGF is clearly experiencing some growing pains, and may have finally outgrown it’s venue? It’s one of the best shows in North America, without a doubt, but I’d personally like to see a second day added. It might alleviate some of the crush of the one day show, and extend potential sales for traveling exhibitors. Obviously, the church that houses BCGF negates the possibility of Sunday being that day, but a Friday lead in day might be worth looking at. In any case, we had a great time, as well as great sales as per usual with this show. Because of the fast pace of the show floor, a lot of the interactions tend to be pretty quick, but I managed to chat briefly with some favorite faces: Tom Spurgeon, Tucker Stone,Tony Shenton, Leah Wishnia, Robin McConnell, Jordan Crane and Lamar Abrams all stopped by the table briefly. I waved “hi” to Gary Panter as he surfed past through the crowd. On my brief foray away from the table I saw Annie Koyama, met “Tumblr’s own” Jane Mai, high-fived Fiffe, and perused the Hic & Hoc table before I had to get back to the booth. I’m probably forgetting someone or several someones.

After the show wrapped up and before the always legendary afterparty, I managed to sneak away for dinner at a local dumpling house with old friend Nick Abadzis (and new friend Tom Motley). Getting to talk with Nick is the highlight of any convention we manage to make that happen at. I’ve been a fan of his since I was a teenager reading Hugo Tate in Deadline, but we have been pals for about 10 years or more since he came over for his first SPX. He and T Edward Bak and I ended up bar-hopping around Bethesda and somehow survived to tell the tale. I don’t know, I’m getting all misty just thinking about it – that guy is aces in my book.

Then it was off to the After Party at Cartoon House, where show organizer Bill K (among others) hangs his hat. It was pretty insane. Good times, I barely remember you. One good  thing is that because the show was earlier this year, all the smokers smoking in the room didn’t pitch a fit when the windows were opened so that everyone else could breathe, like last time. Jason has some photos from that night up on his Facebook, I’m not sure if everyone can see those.  There was a friendly but competitive wrestling match, detailed here by “Chuckles” Connor from the Closed Caption crew. I put in some solid hours at the party, but I didn’t quite rock as hard as those guys or SG pal Chris Cilla, all of whom passed out in various nooks and crannies of the show. I eventually made it back to where I was sleeping, and spent the next day at my cousin’s house in a hung over fugue state.

Eamon Espey stares deep into the void

On Monday, I managed to make it over to Bergen Street comics for the first time. It’s a well laid-out store, and the people I talked to were super friendly and helpful. Peeked through the windows of a closed Desert Island and vowed to make it there next year, and met up with Jason, Julia & Rikki for a Kinokunia trip before meeting up with eternal badass Randy Chang for our now-traditional post-con steak dinner. It was really good to have a quiet moment to catch up with Randy removed from the whirlwind of the rest of the weekend. That’s another solid bro. Afterwards, I slumped back to Williamsburg and my comfy bed for an 8am flight.

Standing in the shadow of Takehiko Inoue's greatest work.

Standing in the shadow of Takehiko Inoue's greatest work.

Overall, a very fun and engaging show as usual, and I’m looking forward to next year, even if I hope there might be some changes made to deal with the crowding. Thanks to Dan, Bill, & Gabe for a fun weekend full of comics! See you next time. xoxoxo

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So, when last we left them, Enrique “Quique” Alcatena and Ricardo Barreiro had taken the legendary viking mariner Ulrich through a haunted-boat Alien retread that only sparked up a bit once we got to the hot Viking-on-Alien action. Appropriately for an ancient seafaring epic, the rest of the album shifts into a more episodic, scattershot narrative, freeing Quique to do what he loves/does best ….

… really cool designs, presented in startlingly clear vignettes.

Literally every page-spread of the book’s second half features one of these bravura scene/tone-setters.

I can’t quite put my finger on why these work so well for me and similar pin-up-style panels don’t — I guess it’s the level of detail, which shows that it clearly wasn’t done to cut corners and save drawing time, the sheer volume of thinking that went into rendering the textures and weights of the figures and objects, like a wispy precision in drawing a perfect block & tackle rig that would be barely visible in the construction panel above. It’s all deliberate, almost adamant when these panels don’t necessarily move the story forward much.

At times, Quique’s inks in this half often achieve a look that’s confident but somehow rough and delicate at the same time, like Joe Kubert inking P. Craig Russell and making that work.

GUNSHOW! Here are a few full pages to give a sense of these showstopper panels in context. The amount of texture given to the walrus-mustachioed guy’s cloak, in a panel with at least three other figures plus a decorated roof and a picture window — it just kills me.

Toward the end, these more integrated chapter pages start appearing — perhaps the earlier ones were cut from the serialized original to this collection, I don’t know — and they’re quite effective. Although that LEMURIA looks like something out of a ’70s APA.

At this point, I no longer understand what the hell is going on in the story, and I don’t care. They could have tipped-in a handwritten note reading “Hey Milo, we’re just going to fucking pelt your eyeballs with one amazing image after another until we run out of pages. Is that OK with you?”

[✓ ] Yes [ ] No

and

and

That’s right, smiling dolphin-headed creatures in cloaks, observing an aquatic Gotterdammerung. If you made it this far, this should not be a dealbreaker.

“….. I thought I was having a dream …..”

I like this panel because it reminds me of the brief period in Mike Mignola’s development when his core style was set but he still squiggled quite a bit in his inking. The End.

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One of the problematic parts of enjoying what little is available of Enrique “Quique” Alcatena’s work is how much of it seems cobbled together from the popular junk from the U.S. and Europe. It comes off less like the work of an artist processing his influences and more like the repackaging of imported art for a very small, isolated market’s domestic consumption. Still looks totally fucking cool, regardless.

For example — a fine cover, but I’m almost positive I’ve seen this pose/layout before, maybe in a Milo Manara album?

In Ulrick [published in 1988], Alcatena and longtime writing collaborator Ricardo Barreiro present another serialized epic journey, but unlike the theatrics and cool designs of El Mago, this one starts off pretty creatively listless, although I applaud the use of Ulrich the semi-legendary sea explorer and settler as a way to draw vikings fighting Aliens, all the way down to the shipwrecked humans taking refuge on a haunted-house of a ship.

Hey, I got the image for your shitty band’s next show flyer:

 

Nice use of that Kubert-style floating window of panels here, getting a boring talking scene done while underlining that our mariners aren’t in much better a place now than when they were floating in the sea. The facial inking is a bit random, isn’t it? Sometimes a little Russ Heath-ish, others almost Wally Wood/Ralph Reese-like clammy:

Because skeletons and I’m a little light-headed from the Yom Kippur fast:

Here, Quique picks a way to chisel out his grim Norse faces, and it’s so good. The establishing-shot-as-background is always clever; here, he uses it to heighten the sense of unease by not providing a clear sense of where we and our heroes are in all that rigging:

You’ve probably been wondering impatiently where this promised “Vikings Vs. Aliens” action came in. That’s OK, I won’t judge. First, the ritual of seeing what’s left of the lone survivor of the pre-story carnage ….

Ayúdenme indeed, you poor bastard. I love that Alcatena [perhaps originally Barreiro] diligently lights almost every panel [maybe not that establishing profile of the survivor, it's never clear exactly where he is in the hold] from the angle that the torch would cast — you would assume that the survivor gets his own light scheme but, being on the floor, he would be lit from above by the torch just as Ulrick and friend would be lit slightly from below. Details!

Enough talking, now head bursting and axe fighting:

Next week: The triumphant return of Quique the maker of designs so cool you briefly forget that pin-ups are lazy bullshit when used more than never in an adventure-comics story.

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Here’s your semi-regular “what’s goin’ on” post.

TODAY ON SG:

THE LONE WOLF gets wet.

Later on today we’ll have a new TITAN episode. Did you notice that Titan is back on a weekly schedule? I don’t know about you, but that makes ME happy.

LATELY ON SG:

Fridays: Psychedelic mega-quest comic It Will All Hurt continues on towards the end of part 2. Crime World has returned with the second installment of the hard-boiled hijinks you’ve come to know and love. Casual murder, racism, and tough guy antics continue to be the order of the day in this bleak workplace dramady.

Saturdays: HAUNTER continues her journey into the lush ruins.

Sundays: Peepers, our resident bizzaro-space race comic continues to baffle and amuse the rubes. Secret Voice part 3 has begun. If you read the Adhouse comic version of this story, you might have noticed that the whole beginning up to now has been completely rewritten and redrawn. Part 3 is where my new intro synchs back up with the old material. I liked the fight scene I drew way back when and didn’t want to scrap it. So sue me!  Anyway, if this stuff looks different than the pages leading up to now, that’s because it was drawn 6 years ago. U_U

Mondays:  Danger Country  nears the end of chapter 1!

Tuesdays: Kaz is getting ready for PAX (he works in video games) so The Mourning Star took the week off, but Klive & co. will be back Sept. 4th.

Wednesdays: The Yankee has gone on hiatus while Ian works on some other projects (including a PROPHET back up!). It’ll be back in October with Chapter 2.   Black Is The Color continues to  keep Weds wet and creepy. Speaking of which, the 2012 Ignatz Award nominations have been released and BITC was nominated for “Outstanding Online Comic!” Huzzah!

NEW SHORT STORIES ON SG:

We haven’t stopped posting complete, awesome new work just because we’re clearly on the cusp of societal breakdown. The barbarians would want us to give up, right? Check these sweeties out if you’re against the heat-death of the universe:

Tales of The Cat Killin’ Coat – by Tim Root (nsfw)

Disappearing Town – Polaroid – by Morgan Jeske

LINKYS:

Just two important links today.  First: Just one more day to help crowd-fund The Projects! Even the best comics shows in America tend to operate on a dynamic closer to a flea market than a celebration of an art form, but some friends of mine are trying to take a cue from the way European countries often run comics shows: no tables of sad-eyed people hoping you’ll buy their mini comics, just 3 days of workshops, socializing with artists, and appreciating comics qua comics. I’ll be helping out with a couple workshops and just straight up breathing comics for that whole weekend. You should consider making it up to PDX for the event if you’re into the comic art form. Should be worth it. In any case, those non-commercial festivals across the pond tend to have government grants and such backing them up, but we all know that’s crazy talk here in the USA, so the organizers have turned to Kickstarter to help make their dream a reality. Even if you can’t make it to the fest, I  urge you to  consider backing The Projects. There’s a bunch of cool incentives, including a way to get both recent Study Group publications and a cool print for a discounted price. Ok, that’s my spiel.

Second: Aidan Koch is the first SG alum to take her webcomic from the site to print, and she’s having a Blonde Woman book release in NYC to celebrate, as well as accepting pre-orders! The book looks beautiful. Says the artist herself:

You are invited!

To the official release party of The Blonde Woman in NYC!
Party will take place on September 08, 2012 at 8pm at the Cartoon House, 282 Broadway #2, Brooklyn NY.
The will be refreshments as well as beautiful company to enjoy the evening with.
Come flip through some books and celebrate with me.
Copies will be available.
If you do not live in NY you can pre-order your copy now!
I will also be attending this year’s Small Press Expo September 15-16 as well as the New York Art Book Fair September 29-30.
Thank you so much, and I hope to see you all soon
<3
Aidan
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