Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Powwows, Printing Plates &
Prep for Bush's Craving for Victory

Awoke to the news of America's attack on Somalia -- oh, excuse me,
  • the air strikes against "Terror Targets" in Somalia --
  • -- "terror targets" reportedly responsible for the 1998 bombings of two East Africa-based U.S. Embassies. Ah, pressing "targets."

    What the fuck???

    When I heard this, I felt like I did when I was a lowly high school student and President Nixon interrupted the evening TV broadcast to announce his bombing of Cambodia -- like, "Oh, no, he's completely out of control. No one is going to stop this insanity."

    This reminds us, natch, that President Clinton took far, far more heat from the right and from the US population for the 18 troops killed in Somalia in the 1990s than Bush has taken for the 3000+ US troops and estimated 500,000+ Iraqis killed thus far in this unprovoked lunatic binge in the Middle East (not to mention the uncounted contracted corporate employees killed, and countless wounded, maimed and traumautized on all sides).

    [Note: HomeyM of Jamaica, VT brings to my attention this anonymous post from iBrattleboro.com: "So we are now at about $500,000,000,000 (500 billion) in cost for the Iraq invasion. We have killed about 500,000 Iraqis. So, we have spent about $1,000,000 (1 million) for each Iraqi man, woman and child we have killed." True enough, though the White House refutes any body count figures proffered for civilian casualties. Now that Bush's spending decisions face the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. David Obey, D-Wis, we're finally hearing some plain English in the Land of Nod: "How can you ever expect to get a balanced budget if you're spending $100 billion a year on Iraq borrowing the money to do it, if you're giving $50 billion a year in tax cuts to people who make over a million bucks a year and paying for that with borrowed money?"]

    This Somalia air strike is of course uncannily timed to precede President Bush's Wednesday State of the Nation speech about the Iraq War, for which we've been primed to expect a troop surge or escalation (neither term, reportedly, favored in the White House). "Stay the course," he promises to stubbornly assert, claiming this is somehow a new strategy (given the fact he's proven he doesn't know a tactic from strategy), but, now, like, LOUDER, I reckon.

    The atavistic craving for "victory" this President maintains, despite the nation's clear loathing for this war, means this air strike provides a taste of "victory" to whet his/our appetites (his will never be slaked), even as the National Intelligence Estimates for the Iraq War (last delivered in 2004) are delayed yet again.

    No sense letting reality get in the way of Wednesday's bombast.

    For anyone who thought getting Rumsfeld out of the picture might have evidenced sanity at last, today's air strike should nix that misapprehension.

    I evoked Hitler's bunker mentality two days ago; we may be seeing it manifesting already; "No hope for good new from Iraq prior to the big speech? Nail those sumbitches from 1998, that'll rally everyone 'round the Prez."

    On other, far less volatile fronts:

  • The Trees & Hills Comics Group
  • has lined up some events for the coming weeks, and here's the lowdown, compliments of Colin Tedford:

    Wed. 1/10 (6pm) - Cartoonists' Schmooze at Amherst Coffee (details below). Socialize w/ other creators. (Amherst, MA)

    Sat. 1/20 (12-5pm) - Trees & Hills Drawing Party. Come socialize & draw at T&H cofounder Dan Barlow's apartment! More info: barlowdaniel@gmail.com (Brattleboro, VT)

    Tue. 1/23 - Western MA Comic Art Guild meets at Modern Myths. Topics: more productivity and fun. More info: Hector at hero2five67@aol.com. (Northampton, MA)

    Wed. 1/24 (6pm?) - "Trees & Hills And Friends" release event at Modern Myths [which is, BTW, the area's best comic shop, bar none - SRB]. If you are in the anthology, come sit with us and potentially enjoy some adulation, or at least join in a jam comic! If you're not in it, come say hi! (Northampton, MA)

    Wed. 1/31 Release event for the Cartoon Art Guild's "Psychosis" anthology at Modern Myths. (Northampton, MA)

    Thu. 2/1 Hourly Comics Day. Draw a journal comic for each hour of the day! More info:
  • here.
  • (geographically dispersed - but maybe we should set up some evening get-togethers?)

    Happy comic-making!

    About that upcoming Amherst powwow, here's some more particulars:

    "Wednesday, 10 January, is the date for our next Schmooze -- hope you guys can make it!

    It'll be at 6pm at Amherst Coffee, a combination café-bar in downtown Amherst. Coffee, tea, sodas, wine, and whisky are available. Menu, as far as I can tell, is pretty much just pastry, so if you want something more substantial for supper, I suggest that you /not/ arrive hungry.

    Amherst Coffee (256-8987) is at 28 Amity Street, in the Amherst Cinema Building. If you are coming via Route 9, when you get to the Common, go north one longish block on South Pleasant Street, and turn west at the first traffic light; that is Amity Street, which at that intersection is opposite (somewhat off-kilter) from Main Street. The Amherst Cinema Building will be on your left, roughly across the street from the Jones Public Library.

    I'll be going on foot, as I live a half-mile away, and since many PVTA bus routes (www.pvta.org) go through Amherst Center, some of you may be able to make it by public transport. Drivers will have to find
    parking, which I explain below.

    There is a very small parking lot adjoining the Amherst Cinema building, with metered parking. There is also metered parking along that first block or so of Amity Street, and along both sides of South Pleasant, as well as along North Pleasant (as Pleasant extends north); but the North Pleasant spaces fill up quickly, and some of the spots are short-term "loading zones." Also, there are somewhat larger parking lots on the Common itself, also with metered parking, and along Boltwood Ave on the other side of the Common from South Pleasant. Metered parking extends eastward on Main Street for on both sides for a couple of blocks, and on
    the north side an additional long block near the Evergreens (Emily Dickinson's brother's house). There's a little bit of parking behind the CVS on North Pleasant (accessible by a driveway right next to CVS), but much of it is reserved for CVS customers.

    But the hidden gem of parking in downtown Amherst is the Boltwood Walk lot behind Amherst Chinese Food, accessible on the north side of Main Street; in addition to aboveground parking, there is a ramp that goes to an underground parking area. Both aboveground and underground parking in this lot is paid for by tickets that can be purchased from a vending machine, and should be placed on your dashboard. This lot is also accessible from Kellogg Street, but you have to turn in /after/ Rao's Coffee, not before -- there's a tiny lot, even smaller than the one near Amherst Cinema, on Kellogg just /before/ Rao's, but I wouldn't have my heart set on finding a space in it; you're better off in the Boltwood Walk lot/garage. BTW, the pillars in the Boltwood garage are painted with colorful designs which you might enjoy.

    Everybody please say farewell to Michael Finger, who was at our first Schmooze at the Dirty Truth last month, but won't be able to make our next one as he'll be flying to Texas for his new job. He did a great
    job of starting up the comics creators' meetings at Modern Myths, and he'll be missed. Scott Sheaffer is taking over the reins of that group, and we'll be going to a monthly format, the better to accommodate the
    expected monthly meetings of the New England chapter of Comics Artists Group (CAG), of which Hector Rodriguez is the Mass. liaison.

    See you next Wednesday,
    E. J. Barnes"

    OK, that's that -- hope some of you can make it.

    And finally, as promised -- printing plates!

    In the realm of comic art collectors, the printing plate -- the actual metal (and later, in the mid-'70s, plastic) plate used to print the comics -- have become curios and collectibles in and of themselves. I have a couple plates in my own collection, but thanks to Mark Martin (contact point) and collector Angson -- who shot the photos from his own collection of the Saga of the Swamp Thing 1980s rarities displayed here -- Angson and I can share a few of these with you today. (Thanks to Angson for granting permission to run these images here today.)

    The cover plate above and below (the second shot shows the full cover plate spread, front and back covers -- back covers naturally being ads) are from Saga of the Swamp Thing #24, the last issue to feature a Tom Yeates cover (Tom was the original artist on the 1980s series), and the first to share my byline, though I can't recall what, exactly, I did on the cover.

    If memory serves, I simply worked up a rough cover concept, including chainsaw, from which Tom did the final pencils and inks; I know I didn't have a hand penciling, as that Swamp Thing is Tom's baby, not my overgrown moss-and-vine tangled saladman. (BTW, that's Angson's hand, bunkie!)

    Angson also sent along these shots of cover plates from later Saga of the Swamp Thing issues I did do the covers for -- the first by John Totleben and I, under new editor Karen Berger's helm, for SOTST #25 -- shown solo, and then paired with its back cover ad (and Angson's hand):

    Note that these cover plates represent the drawn and printed images in reverse -- and the fascinating conversion of those images (lines, tones and colors) into sculpted forms that serve to configure ink to paper as they must be printed.

    These are in and of themselves compelling objects and mutant forms of comics art, hence their allure. These are among the oddest 'original art' artifacts to be found, especially for anyone interested in printing and the technical 'behind the scenes' elements of how comics are created and printed.

    And finally, the cover plate for the much later Swamp Thing #53, John Totleben's knockout solo art issue (and a giant-annual page count, at that) fulfilling his long-harbored desire to do his own Batman vs. Swamp Thing opus. Here's my penciled-and-inked front cover image, all on its lonesome, rendered as print plate:

    And the full front-and-back cover spread printing plate, below, sans that hand from beyond! Dig it, without that hand, the plate's curved nature is more evident in this photo. Because these plates were designed to fit over a roller (the printing press roller), they all bend; you can see here, without Angson holding down the plate, the way the light hits the curved surface. These can be tough to store or display as a result, a minor issue if you're into 'em.

    This cover was a particular favorite of mine, rendered all the more unusual when inverted for printing purposes.

    Remember, too, that each cover and page had more than one printing plate -- these all appear to be the black plate (black linework/tones) -- for four-color printing (black, red, blue, yellow, in plain English). I've never seen individual color plates, that I know of, though I'm sure they're out there. Those would feature even more bizarre abstractions of the cover imagery, though that's neither here nor there:

    I'll eventually post these alongside the cover images themselves, as I'm sure these simply look like bizarre abstract images to many of you. But, alas, no scanner set up here in the Windsor digs as yet, so -- enjoy Angson's curious collectibles in their naked state, unaccompanied by their companion printed images. Maybe I can remedy and revisit this soon!

    OK, I gotta run. Contractor is coming -- the room's painted, I've moved and covered everything I can to maximize Dave's work space and access -- plumber is hopefully going to show (every faucet in the house needs attention), and I've got a big Center for Cartoon Studies 4 PM faculty meeting to prep for.

    Enough of this high-speed access junkie-fix -- I'm outta here!

    Have a great Tuesday, one and all!

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