Monday, November 28, 2005

Hey, Kids! Comics!

JLA 60Plastic Man explains how Santa Claus joined the Justice League of America, courtesy of Mark Waid. This is just the kind of nonsense you could harvest in big honkin' buckets back in the Silver Age.

I am pleased that the new 21st century DC Universe is being guided (in part) by the writer who created this book.

On the other hand, this same writer (in the pages of Birthright) established that Superman is a vegetarian, because he can see living souls.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Interesting Marketing Decisions

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usYears ago, in 1986, there was a comic book. Technically it was an underground, I suppose: Today it would be called "independent". It was as poor a fit next to Robert Crumb as it would have been next to Jack Kirby. Then, as now, there was really nothing quite like it.

It was called Omaha the Cat Dancer. It was published first by Kitchen Sink, later by Fantagraphics, written by Kate Worley and drawn by Reed Waller. I was never able to find it regularly, and the story was far too involved to follow intermittently, so I never found out what happened. In fact, nobody has ever found out, since the comic ceased publication with its creators' divorce. In recent years, there was some talk of actually completing the story, but Worley died of cancer in 2004. Now, Worley's second husband, together with Waller, are planning to finally complete the story.

NBM has released "The Complete Omaha the Cat Dancer, Volume 1", and plans to issue subsequent volumes quarterly.

(I'm prepared to overlook my pet peeve that a book called the "Complete" anything ought to be complete. "The Complete [something] Volume One" is a title begging for a punch line. In this case, the more appropriate title would have been "The COLLECTED Omaha".)

One has to ask, though, where they expect to sell the book. The cover can't be displayed openly in most retail stores. (C'mon, Publix even hides Cosmopolitan.) Comic book shops are struggling to convince parents that they are not dens of iniquity, but safe and acceptable places to allow children to shop and play Yu-Gi-Oh on Saturday mornings.

Admittedly, the content is adult, being full of hot, furry, anthropomorphic sex, and it says "Adults Only" on the cover. But never in its years of "underground" newsstand life did Omaha appear stark full-frontal naked on the cover, as she does on The Complete Omaha, Volume 1 (and will on Volume 2). This book should have been shelved next to "Maus" and "American Splendor", and instead it's going to be put under the counter next to "Xxxenophile". And only those lucky people who know to ask for it are going to see it.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

No, Erik, it's not just you

CBR | One Fan's Opinion by Erik Larsen
If I was asked to draw, say, President Bush, there are certain parameters I'd have to stick to or you wouldn't get who it was that I was drawing. If I was drawing Charlie Brown I couldn't stray far off model before he looked like some young cancer patient. Try drawing Dick Tracy without painfully copying his face line for line from a Chester Gould drawing-- he won't look much like the guy. Ditto with Archie Andrews (although the Chester Gould reference isn't the way to go with him).

The point I'm getting at is that these are people and characters with very specific visuals. If you interpret-- if you deviate-- you're lost.

Now try Bruce Wayne.

...In a crowd scene you can pick out Commissioner Gordon, but not Bruce Wayne, and that's messed up! There are times when Mary Jane Watson appears in a panel or two without being identified and she's indistinguishable from any other female in the book. Hell, there are times that the colorists don't know it's her because the lettering is added later, done on computer, and the artist hasn't drawn her "on model" enough to make MJ look like MJ to them, the guys working on the book!
From 1939 to 1964, Bruce Wayne did have an iconic, recognizable face. Of course, it was swiped from Chester Gould, but if you're gonna steal, steal from the best. From 1964 to the mid-seventies, he had a different face, but it was still recognizable, even when he appeared in somebody else's book (say, Justice League, or World's Finest).

As Larsen points out, there used to be someone at each of the Big Two whose job it was to ensure that their characters were drawn on-model, whether they had to send it back to the artist or touch it up themselves. Ah, for the days when MJ could try out a dramatically-new hair-do, a short curly perm, and still be recognizably MJ.

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I've previously noted that when Gwen Stacy's daughter was introduced recently, the artist drew her wearing the same black headband Gwen wore thirty years ago, and it still confused us readers.

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And the message forums for the month after this cover was revealed were full of, not shock, not surprise, but... confusion. "Is that meant to look like..."