Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
In 1940 Abner Dean was hired by United Features to do a cartoon similar to Grin and Bear It by George Lichty, who had recently left the syndicate. Dean’s gag panel, which he named Funny Side Up, followed the template of Lichty’s: a single-panel humor strip with no recurring characters, drawn in ink and shaded with crayon (a shading technique that Dean seldom used).
In 1941 Dean wrote of the “ordeal” of creating over 300 Funny Side Up cartoons: “for the greater part of the last year I was doing a daily and Sunday feature. . . . It appeared in over a hundred papers, was a wonderful experience in discipline, but proved to be not sufficiently rewarding mentally to justify spending the next five years as its slave. After about ten months of a night and day routine I decided to abandon it and return to the work that syndication had forced me to leave.” “I’m still unsettled in my work,” he continued. “I’ve experimented a great deal and gone off on many tangents which justify themselves, but I haven’t yet found the balance between the well known economic structure of things and the work I want to do. I find time occasionally to paint and experiment in clay, but the demands of commercial art are so great and lead so far away from the purer forms that I don’t believe a compromise between the two is ever possible. Those who pretend it is are perhaps over-stating their validity in one or the other."
["It's funny . . . I can dance this way all night and my feet never get tired."]
["The senior class at Yale voted him 'most likely to succeed' . . . so who was I to stop him when he tried to kiss me!"]
["Wrap up the price tag . . . If she likes that I'll come back for the necklace!"]
To my knowledge, the above three cartoons have never been reprinted in any form - the one at the top of this post is the only reprint I have found. (I apologize for the microfilm quality of these images.) Dean is not know for this type of cartoon, but rather for the kind you can see here, which he published in book collections released after Funny Side Up.
Dean revived the Funny Side Up name for filler material in at least two United Features-owned comic books during 1943: Sparkler Comics and Tip Top Comics. It's nice to see Dean's work in color and on newsprint:
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
In his recent book on Steve Ditko, Blake Bell uses the above page as evidence of his claim that Ditko's late '90s work is characterized by a "positioning of characters [within a scene that] was static, with characters standing straight up in the same position from panel to panel" (167). But I think Bell's criticism is off; he looks at the figures, but does not take into account the many ways in which Ditko's figure placement and posture relate to the narrative.
In panels 2-5, the character Reck is at his parole hearing. The stiff, upright position of the figure in panel 2, flanked on the left by the parole board and the right by a prison guard, suggests Reck's outwardly submissive posture (with semi-clenched fists to suggest his internal tension) while standing in front of those who would determine his fate. Bell says that "characters are standing straight up in the same position," yet the 'camera' position and size of the figure change (as does how much of him is visible) from 2 to 3 to 4. And we would expect a prisoner at a crucial hearing to stand unusually still. What's of primary interest to Ditko seems to be the way the character's body and face reveal different things throughout the sequence. And he creates visual interest (the thing that Bell claims his later work lacks) in a number of ways, such as by waiting a panel to reveal the character's face and by moving closer to the subject in each consecutive panel.
Note how the lines on the glass echo the direction of some of the bars.
And the images of a still Reck in panels 2-6 find their release in the last, and largest, panel of the page; now Reck is free and in motion:
[And note the variety of postures of the characters in this panel: the different angles of their heads, the hand gestures; some people are standing, others are in motion . . .]
I think that Ditko sets this sequence up very carefully, and it's indicative of the fact that his storytelling and design/layout skills are clearly visible in the later work.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Yesterday, I mentioned that Kramers Ergot 7 was so big it was on both sides of the family, but did I also not mention that Ivan Brunetti's Anthology of Graphic Fiction Volume 2 set a blizzard on fire and threw typhus in prison? Kerrang called it "SKULL SHRIVELING MAYHEM...(BRUNETTI) BLEW OFF MY FUCKING FACE TO A PRIME INTEGER." Gladys Merriwether at Good Housekeeping noted that it was "Easier to tote than Comic Book Tattoo...(Provides) endless source material for scrapbooking and decoupage."
Unfortunately, because I am in the book--full disclosure--and because the publicity department of Yale University Press may have indirectly requested blog entries, I suppose to create some sort of imaginary viral phenomenon, and because Mr. Brunetti himself may post on this blog, I may not be at liberty to tell you I find the book inspiring. Brunetti has a neurotic taxonomic associational sense that will draw a parallel between Naughty Pete and Ron Rege or between the washes of Ben Katchor and Frank Santoro. He's also able to parse a seriousness of purpose in Eugene Teal and Elinore Norflus. This is not 52 pickup, but a book I can imagine being taught in school, to which I can only exclaim, "Hooray!" and/or "Rats!"
Monday, November 10, 2008
Kramers Ergot 7, the book 9 inches smaller than the fist of Chuck Norris, will be celebrated at a release party at Family Books in Los Angeles this Sunday, November the 16th, at 7:00 pm.
Alvin Buenaventura, Martin Cendreda, Matt Groening, Sammy Harkham, myself, Jaime Hernandez, Walt Holcombe, Geoff McFetridge, John Pham, Ron Rege, Johnny Ryan, Souther Salazar, Josh Simmons, and my parents will be in attendance.
There will also be an exhibition featuring original art from the book.
Ivan Brunetti on An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Vol. 2 from Yale University Press on Vimeo.
Ivan Brunetti on “An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, & True Stories, Volume 2” from Yale University Press – Video director John Kuramoto brings together dozens of images from leading indie comics artists featured in the book, along with commentary by its editor, award-winning cartoonist Ivan Brunetti. For more info, click here.
Posted by Alvin Buenaventura at 8:44 AM