Archive for the 'Comics' Category

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Simon Moreton interviewed for Broken Frontier

To promote the Kickstarter campaign for his new book, Simon Moreton answered questions for Broken Frontier, discussing creativity and Plans We Made.

Personally, I think everyone can find their own voice through drawing; a style of drawing that is their own and enables them to say things that are important to them. That isn’t about drawing ‘well’, but drawing ‘honestly’; it’s not about being able to draw ‘better’ than someone else, but about drawing as truthfully to your own voice as you can.

Read the full interview here. Grimalkin Press’s Kickstarter campaign is winding down, but they’re still accepting contributions. If funded, Uncivilized Books will distribute the book this Fall.

The LA Times on Mana Neyestani, An Iranian Metamorphosis

Carolina Miranda covered Mana Neyestani and his book An Iranian Metamorphosis for The Los Angeles Times yesterday! “Rich, crosshatch images give many of the panels a moody feel (perfect for conveying the suffocating sense of imprisonment), ” she writes. “While government bureaucrats are depicted with tight, pinched faces.”

Read the piece here. Order the book from our website.

Spring 2015 offer extended!

We’re extending our Spring 2015 subscription offer. Grab new books from Jason Little, Jon Lewis and Vincent Stall (plus three free mini-comics) for only $55 (shipping included for U.S. customers).

You can purchase the Spring subscription here. You can also pre-order individual titles on our website.

Stonebreaker continues at Study Group

Chapter 2 of Peter Wartman‘s Stonebreaker is underway at Study Group! Read it here, and expect further updates every Wednesday.

We still have a few copies of Peter’s Over the Wall. Order it while you can!

Critical Cartoons: The Carl Barks / Osamu Tezuka Connection

Critical Cartoons is a book series and blog banner dedicated to comics criticism. To mark the release of Peter Schilling Jr.’s Carl Bark’s Duck, we present companion pieces to offer a little more on the subject of Carl Barks and all things Duck.

by Duy Tano

Osamu Tezuka, “the father of manga,” was an avid reader of Disney comics, specifically those of Carl Barks, the “good duck artist.” He’s said as much (and if you need further proof, notice the image above). It would be easy to look at Barks’ Donald Duck stories and see only simplicity, but it would also be a disservice to the level of craft that Barks consistently put into his work. Although he obviously had to work in the Disney style, he had a draftsmanship and a sense of gesture that was all his own, and such quality was not lost on someone like Tezuka. The creator of Astro Boy was himself a gifted draftsman who could easily convey motion while maintaining a strong sense of line.

The similarities among the two are most apparent in a page from Tezuka’s Hikari, where Donald Duck, perfectly drawn, makes a cameo. Additionally, it wouldn’t be much of a logical leap to look at Barks’ drawing of Donald Duck, and see modifications Tezuka made to the character’s proportions to create several of his protagonists (like Hikari and Astro Boy). Such characters are easily identifiable and relatable to any reader due to their iconic aspects; the big eyes, the expressive mouths and the exaggerated postures are instantly recognizable, be they humanoid or duck.

Open any of Tezuka’s early works, and you will likely find clear, concise storytelling. Grids (the panel layout of a comics page) were his predominant tool, with the action seamlessly flowing from one panel to another. It’s a tool Barks used, too. Tezuka was significantly more flexible with it than Barks. That’s because Barks was constrained by formatting issues pertinent to Disney publications, but Barks himself did experiment within the rigid structure when he could. He would change the shapes of the panels slightly at times, making them more jagged or crooked, depending on what was in them. Barks’ full array of panel tricks can be seen in “Vacation Time”, a story where he veers away from the Disney format of “four panel tiers per page.” Tezuka would take these experiments further, with bleeds and even more variety in panel shapes. He’d do so as his career went on.

The most telling connection between Tezuka and Barks, for me, is the masking effect, the act of using cartoony and simplified styles against more realistic, heavily rendered backgrounds. This gives readers a strong sense of being there by making it easy for them to project themselves into the character while simultaneously evoking all the applicable senses to give a sense of place. Scott McCloud, in Understanding Comics, says this is a manga and European effect, and indeed, open up a Tezuka book, say, Apollo’s Song, and you’ll see many such instances. But Barks did it from get-go, heavily rendering the places he would send Donald and Uncle Scrooge to, be it Plain Awful or Tralla La. Barks only really pulled out the heavy rendering when he needed to establish a strong sense of scope and place, and the sparing use of such technique heightens the impact. Tezuka was the same way, pulling out the incredibly high level of hatching or cross-hatching when it was appropriate to do so.

Barks’ influence is seen in numerous places (like in Raiders of the Lost Ark), but in this example it’s a matter of visual storytelling surpassing the physical distance and differing cultures between two artists. You see a company man subtly pushing the form, in small doses, and someone outside the company taking those ideas and building on them. It’s exciting and fascinating, and it’s all accomplished via a cartoon duck.

Duy Tano is editor-in-chief of The Comics Cube.

Full Stop Magazine reviews Dragon’s Breath

For Full Stop Magazine, writer Carmen Maria Machado reviewed MariNaomi’s Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories. “Slipping into the identity of the book’s subject becomes part of the experience — part of the radical empathy that is so important with the memoir. There is no room for judgment between these pages or in this genre; rather, only compassion.”

Read her full review here. Order Dragon’s Breath from our website.

Vincent Stall’s Structures 12-23 reviewed!

A very thoughtful review of Vincent Stall’s Structures 12-23 was written by Phil Leblanc. “In 24 wordless pages, Stall forces the reader to reflect on current environmental issues and the very nature of our exploitative ways and environmental destruction.”

Read the full review here. Check out our Structures series if you haven’t.

Critical Cartoons: A Duck with a Thousand Faces

Critical Cartoons is a book series and blog banner dedicated to comics criticism. To mark the release of Peter Schilling Jr.’s Carl Bark’s Duck, we present companion pieces to offer a little more on the subject of Carl Barks and all things Duck.

by Quincy Rhoads

It was Carl Jung who first recognized that, through time and across cultures, humanity’s collective efforts result in common traits, or archetypes. Joseph Campbell later refined Jung’s observations and directly applied these archetypes to mythologies in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Any standard nerd worth their weight in collectibles is familiar with Campbell’s work because it was a large influence on George Lucas, especially Star Wars.

The work of Carl Barks can be considered just as influential. Lucas and Steven Spielberg admitted that they were heavily influenced by Barks’ Uncle Scrooge comic “The Seven Cities of Cibola” when creating Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Lucas has gone on to speak highly of Barks’ work in other ways. Star Wars and works of Steven Spielberg represent their own sorts of mythologies, but frankly they wouldn’t have been nearly as successful without the work of Barks before them.The comics of Carl Barks are significant because they tap into the same deeply influential archetypes that appear across world cultures, and in many ways, they establish this practice in the comics medium.

Nearly every story follows an archetypal mode; comic books are an excellent form for this to thrive in. They feed our human need for storytelling with their use of broad strokes in writing and art. Many comics, particularly those preceding the Modern Age, work with a clear-cut moral code. They reinforce humanity’s need for certainty in a cold, certainty-free universe. The actions of superheroes and villains, like the wrestling described in Roland Barthes “The World of Wrestling”, explicitly depict the interior lives of the audience in an unambiguous, simplified way.  Barthes says: “This emptying out of interiority to the benefit of its exterior signs, this exhaustion of the content by the form, is the very principle of triumphant classical art.” This analogy is easily extended to the oeuvre of Carl Barks, and particularly the behavior of Donald Duck as told by Barks.

Throughout his numerous iterations, Donald Duck, like Superman, Captain America, Hercules, or Hamlet, is a character with firmly established characteristics. This is the norm across mediums, but it’s especially familiar in the realm of comics where money-generating licensed properties appear again and again. The core characteristics remain the same but, as in Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman or David Tennant’s portrayal of the eponymous Hamlet, artists may leave indelible marks on properties that they do not hold the copyrights to. It’s worth noting that for many years Barks was simply known amongst his fan base as “the good duck artist” because only Walt Disney’s name appeared on the series’ cover. This infuriated many fans, especially Peter Schilling Jr. (as he states in his introduction to Carl Barks’ Duck). Fortunately for Barks, this faithfulness and persistence from his fans has afforded him the attention he’s due, securing his name as a visionary of comic book craft.

Carl Barks is known for creating Duckburg and many of its inhabitants (a fact that especially resonates with millennials whose first real exposure to the works of Barks were through the cartoon Duck Tales), but it’s his deployment of archetypes through Donald Duck that is especially significant. In many of Donald’s adventures, Barks places him in situations that turn him into a sort of everyman. Through Donald’s ever preset quest to succeed in get-rich-quick schemes (much akin to Scrooge McDuck, but in a significantly lower tax bracket) he becomes a stand-in for the American middle class, the same audience who made up Barks’ audience. Donald and his nephews work jobs that are, frankly, bizarre—particularly the kelp harvesting business in “The Ghost of the Grotto”, and their quests for unicorns, the gold of various Northern and Southern Native Americans (in several different storylines!), square eggs, et al. Yet these jobs have a simple commonality: the procurement of wealth, the elusive stretch Rolls-Royces, the parity to Uncle Scrooge.

Of course, Donald rarely keeps his reward. He even returns the expense money advanced to him and the boys in “Trail of the Unicorn” because that’s the honest thing to do. Donald, as written by Barks, is not just a caricature of anger and greed, as many of Walt Disney’s other iterations have shown him to be. Rather, he is the model American—a duck readers can aspire to be. The cynical critic may write this off as capitalist hegemony, but to do so would be to ignore the craft behind Barks’ writing. Carl Barks is not known for creating the most riveting dialogue or narration, but his imaginative plotting is unparalleled. With crisp, clean line work he developed a kinetic energy and a limitless sense of adventure that has influenced comics ever since.

The world of comics is vastly different from that of Carl Barks in the early 40s. Pop culture’s views on comics are ambivalent—they kill at the box office, yet local shops flounder. What has remained a constant, though, is the world’s need to reassert values—to see our experiences reflected and clarified through the 4 color lens. The comics of Carl Barks embody these needs more clearly than any other creator. They inspire adventure, they assert right from wrong, and they are identifiable. Carl Barks’ Duck is more than a corporate license. He’s a stand in for us all.

Quincy Rhoads is a freelance writer. He’s written for HTMLGiant and Rain Taxi.

Grimalkin is Making Plans

Our Minneapolis neighbors at Grimalkin Press are doing a Kickstarter for Simon Moreton’s new book, Plans We Made. It’s great looking book and we’re planning on helping them with distribution. After just a couple of days it’s already 40% funded! Check it out, and give ‘em a little push to get closer to their goal.

Less Than 2 Weeks Left

Less than 2 weeks left until our Spring 2015 Subscription offer expires! Don’t delay!