Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Glamorous Life

Dave Sim and his fans and critics are going yet another round over the Cerebus creator’s attitudes towards women. I find it hard to get worked up over this issue -- Sim seems to be fairly isolated and so the only person likely harmed by his ideas is himself. Yet what does agitate me about his work is

all of the errors in it. His recent comic glamourpuss is loaded with proofreading problems; there are missing periods and misspelled words, and chronic inconsistency in the use of dashes, capitalization, possessives, and bold text.

These errors might not be important for some readers, yet I think they reveal a major problem with this comic and the production of alternative comics in general -- the lack of editorial oversight. Even more than artists, publishers and editors bear responsibility for this task. Their job is to present the artists in the best possible light: in other words, leave them alone when that benefits the work and make suggestions when it helps. Sim has no editor and proofreader (at least none are listed in the credits) and so does it all himself -- a noble goal, but in this case not the best choice. When I read comics by my favorite creators, I rarely find mistakes like this, and never to this degree -- they are obsessive types who pay attention to every detail. It’s also true that in a book of a certain length, it’s hard to avoid a few problems creeping in, even when you use a team of copy-editors. Yet a comic page typically has far less text than a prose page, so getting it almost free of these problems shouldn't be impossible.

You could argue, and you'd be correct to a large extent, that comics are different than prose, and therefore should not be subject to the same kinds of “rules” and expectations. In prose, for example, a sentence has some form of period-based punctuation at the end: ., !, or ?. But a sentence in a word balloon might not

and it can read just fine. The problem in general is one of communication and consistency. When the lack or (mis)use of punctuation leads to confusion/annoyance for the reader (the kind the artist doesn’t want), chances are something’s gone wrong. And the best reason to find and correct such problems is that a reader will stay focused on the comic and not be distracted.

If I were Sim’s proofreader, a quick count reveals around 90-100 things I would ask him about -- that's a lot for a 25 page comic (there is, granted, a lot more text on these pages than in most comics). Here are just a few of the problems as I see them in glamourpuss:

They begin on the cover: there’s no period in the last balloon.

Is this intentional? It looks OK to me, and had Sim been consistent in the book I would assume that it was intentional -- a strong artist can make any deviation seem right by the context in which it appears. The possessive of glamourpuss appears here as glamourpuss’ -- but on page 22 both glamourpuss’ and glamourpuss’s are used. Both of these forms are accepted (many prefer the latter), but why the inconsistency?

It doesn’t look to me like Sim is paying attention -- he seems to care far more about the art than the writing.


I can’t find any consistency with his use of periods. Some sentences in caption boxes or balloons have them, some don’t. Some sentences outside of these have them, some don’t. This problem exists multiple times on nearly every page. The most important reason to use periods consistently is that they guide readers as to how to read the text - when a period was absent, I would assume that the sentence continued into the next part of the balloon. Then, it seemed like he used the frame of the balloon as a period. And when I thought I had this figured out, he would violate it and continue a sentence from a part of the balloon to the next.

Sometime he will use 2 followed by 1: “word -- word – word”
Sometimes 2 by 2: “word -- word -- word”
A character’s name is spelled as Skanko and later as Skank-o.

There's no consistency when he bolds an ellipsis.
He will do this: "word word word . . ." and the ellipsis is in bold.
And then "word word word . . ." and the ellipsis is not in bold.
Page 21: he writes “Beyond Noir Style” and then “Beyond Noir Style”:

Quotes and punctuation:
Sometimes: “word.” other times: “word ”.

Part of a balloon is noticeably chopped off on page 24.

Etc . . .

And if this post seems pedantic to you, fair enough -- but "comics are art too," and why not have high expectations or at least the same expectations as those you have for other art forms? I've never met a poet or fiction writer who didn't care about such details. I wonder if comic readers/publishers have lower standards -- would they accept this level of problems in other kinds of books? here to read the rest of this post...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Volume 2

This October, Yale University Press will release the second volume of Ivan Brunetti's An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories. From Yale: "The book presents contemporary art comics produced by 75 artists, along with some classic comic strips and other related fine art and historical materials. Brunetti arranges the book to reflect the creative process itself, connecting stories and art to each other in surprising ways: nonlinear, elliptical, sometimes whimsical, even poetic. He emphasizes continuity from piece to piece, weaving themes and motifs throughout the volume." The front and back cover feature art by Daniel Clowes, who provides three new strips for the dustjacket flaps. Here's a short interview comic by Brunetti about the book:

{Both images are from the listing for the book} here to read the rest of this post...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Guitar Not Comics

This is the cover for a revised version of an instructional book I wrote that has just been re-released. I didn't come up with the title and the picture is not of me . . . here to read the rest of this post...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Shamrock En Espanol

Recently I received out of the blue a copy of a Spanish edition of Mome in the mail, published by La Cupula. While I can only be awed and bewildered by the seemingly thankless effort involved in translating my work, I can also see how it must have proven difficult. In panel two, 'This be a sham reel" has become, near as I can tell, "This dance is pure theater." Also, "Stamps: They Can't Be Licked" has become, I think, "Stamps: Without Rival."

In the future, I suggest translating Mome as Momias...

Or even better perhaps, "Psychological Traumas from the Secret Archive of a Psychiatrist." I bought this historieta last year in San Diego mainly because of the box of Premium crackers in the upper right. here to read the rest of this post...

(Trapped Inside) The Magic here to read the rest of this post...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Clowes New Yorker Cover

The May 12th issue of the New Yorker features Dan Clowes art on the cover(s)! here to read the rest of this post...

Friday, May 2, 2008

Wizard Top 200

Dan Clowes's Enid Coleslaw, Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan, and Jaime Hernandez's Maggie and Hopey appear on the "Top 200 Greatest Characters of All Time!" list in the current issue of esteemed industry news and investment advice periodical Wizard. An interesting and surprising piece is the sidebar "Who's Sadder: Jimmy Corrigan or Earth-2 Aqualad?" Spoiler alert: Number 1 is here to read the rest of this post...

Comics: Art versus Action

Do you like fight scenes? I do, and Ted May's Injury Comics 2 has some of my favorites.

What makes the comic so unusual is the way it combines what could be considered a staple of art comics—autobiography—and a staple of mainstream comics—the fantasy action/adventure story. Jeff Wilson and May scripted the first of the comic’s two stories, “Hair of the Dog,” a tale of metal-heads, stoners, carnies, and failed romance based on Wilson’s teenage years during the 1980s and drawn by May, who wrote and provided layouts for the second story “Your Bleeding Face,” with finished art by Jason Robards. Continued from Injury 1, it features a cyborg named Manleau who takes on a gang of punks known as The Barnyard Animals. As Manleau and the Farmer brawl, the cyborg breaks out a number of his patented moves (at least I assume they are patented; they have names . . .):

The story has a lot of great pages like the one above; there’s a real interest here in creating layouts that change as the story moves from dialogue/conversations to action. Those who are interested in intelligent but not overly-clever layouts will find a lot to look at. The sci-fi inflected Manleau story is not a parody of or a self-conscious commentary on mainstream comics, but rather a straight-up action story done with a genuinely humorous approach (with many great jokes and puns) that I rarely see in Marvel and DC comics. I don’t want to spoil too much of the goodness, but here’s a tease of a panel plus a little extra that continues in the fight mode:

This story works well in the stapled comic book in part because it’s the type of ‘tale’ we have associated with this format since the 1960s. Also in that spirit, May’s information page reads a little a Stan Lee “Soapbox,” with funny descriptions of the stories and invitations for readers to write in with comments and to participate in a fill-in-the-word-balloon contest. And the back cover has a Kirby-flavored full-color drawing:

Yet, it would be wrong to think of this comic as a nostalgic throw-back; and “The Hair of the Dog” is certainly nothing like a Marvel story:
[Well, maybe Gobbie's "metal-sense," which tingles when the dudes crank up Witchfinder, is Marvel-esque.]

And, for no particular reason other than I like it, here's a great series of expressions from "Your Bleeding Face," especially the one on the Veronica-inspired character Pig:

The comic contains over 40 pages of story in crisp black and white, beautiful color covers, and no ads. A more detailed preview can (and should) be checked out here. It’s refreshing to read a comic whose only pretense is to entertainment and yet is so intelligently done that it encourages re-reading rather than a trip to the long-box to file it away.

[Disclaimer: I was involved in a small way with the production of this comic--so that makes this post not a ‘review’ as much as a little ‘boosterism’ for a comic I really like.] here to read the rest of this post...