Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Hey, Thanks, Tim!

My longtime Bava-lovin' Watchdog-publishin' Throat Sprockets-projectin' Renfield-ravin' comrade-in-arms Tim Lucas wrote me a birthday sonnet -- and posted it online. Garsh.

Sing along with
  • Tim Lucas's Watchblog Birthday Poem for Bissette,
  • and thanks one and all! (Scroll down to the Watchblog's March 14th's post if you're seeing this after that date.)

    51 is sweet.
    Another Link

    My Montreal contact (among many) Richard Gagnon generously sent the following link, noting I'm "being used as an example in this essay (positively, I might add)" -- click on over to
  • The Essay
  • and see what you think. Thanks, Richard...

    In his online essay, writer Kevin Colden writes:

    "I believe that an artist has to learn their craft, and they have an obligation to work to the best of their ability as often as possible. Many indie artists seemingly eschew learning traditional craft at all, seeking rather to experiment than to present a clear, clean story and be perceived as "boring". Similarly, many mainstream artists learn only established craft and apply it, creating overall clarity, but leading to many comics looking cookie-cutter. There is a middle ground somewhere, and I think finding that place is a noble goal indeed. Someday we'll get there, but it will take an overall strengthening of industry sales to allow us to really flex our creative muscles."

    He goes on to cite the collaborative efforts of Alan Moore, myself, John Totleben, Rick Veitch and our stellar Swamp Thing colorist Tatjana Wood (one of the real masters in the day) as an example of "a masterful juxtaposition of words and pictures, neither one overpowering the other," which is of course the synthesis Alan, John, Rick, Tatjana and I worked so hard to achieve.

    Thanks for the kind words, Kevin, and appreciate your recognizing and articulating our best efforts in the context of your broader point... which, by the way, succinctly addresses some of the primary factors of 21st Century comics my friend John Totleben cited in conversation last year as his reasons for leaving the industry at last.
    "Hey, Mr. Guy. Where Are You, Mr. Guy?"

    Welllll, it's happened again.

    The daunting task of wading through days of emails (with only slow-speed dial-up as my venue) has meant my limited computer time over a hyper-busy few days kept me from the blog.

    Fair warning: That'll be the case much/most of the rest of the week, too, sorry to say, but I'll get back to daily status next week.

    So, just to sort of 'catch up' and provide ample reading for the coming days while I'm away, I'll do a flurry of multiple posts today, including some fave links provided by the Center for Cartoon Studies students. There's a couple of doozies!

    Publishers Weekly is interviewing me sometime this week about the coming Lost Girls complete/collected by Alan Moore and sweetheart Melinda Gebbie.

    As some of you may recall, Lost Girls was launched in the pages of Taboo, remaining our one-and-only color serialized graphic novel. It was a real leap of faith from Alan & Melinda at the time, and a momentous gamble for Taboo, especially since the higher production costs for color repro only tipped Taboo further into the red. It was also a bit of a kamikaze move, since the fraying relations between Taboo and Tundra were only further ravaged by the ongoing struggle over the From Hell collected editions, which effectively deep-sixed what little momentum Taboo had maintained in the direct-sales market.

    But what Alan & Melinda wanted to do was, to my mind, worth the gamble -- a truly adult graphic novel with sexual relations defining its heart, soul and being. Some argued at the time (within Tundra) that Fantagraphics' Eros line was a more suitable venue, but Alan & Melinda very specifically wanted Taboo to showcase their new creation: at the time, Alan and I were still enjoying good relations, and he and Melinda knew I'd fight to the end to maintain their complete autonomy on the series, sans censorship. This was immediately tested by the simple act of prepping Melinda's exquisite (and quite delicate) art for production: the necessary technical tasks would have to be done in the UK, as the potential for US customs seizing the pages was too high, and the delicacy of her chosen media (including pastels) were too vulnerable to damage en route, however carefully packaged.

    This added enormously to the expenses connected with the production, but Tundra was willing to indulge and bankroll the necessary steps. En route, I also negotiated with Melinda reprinting one of her earliest underground comix stories -- it was vitally important, to my mind, to assert Melinda's own critical creative dynamic in the new series, and an archival showcasing one of her most potent underground solo stories seemed the ideal vehicle. Melinda was overjoyed, and we quickly saw to the necessary payment and delivery of print-ready stats, and the story was scheduled for what would have been Taboo 8. Sadly, the cumulative toll of another Moore project -- the ambitious and unfortunately now-notorious Big Numbers -- the ongoing Taboo/Tundra friction (over a multitude of matters), and finally the cumulative weight of Tundra's own mismanagement and fiscal losses brought it all to a ragged end. Taboo 7 brought the series to an abortive end, and by the time Denis Kitchen and I pulled together the loose ends of the Taboo legacy for the series closers Taboo 8 & 9, Lost Girls and its promise were no longer my concern as an editor or co-publisher.

    I'm overjoyed Lost Girls is finally going to see light of day. I'll be buying my copy as soon as its available (no expected comp 'freebie' for this past-publisher; so it goes), if only to complete, as a reader, an adventure I was part of in its initial stages. We published a number of chapters of Lost Girls and I blew a nut over a truly mortifying Lost Girls TV series promo reel shown at the one-and-only "Tundra Summit" -- an event which was arguably the last straw in the strained relations between Tundra, Kevin Eastman, and yours truly.

    Per usual, I highly recommend you pop over to
  • to pre-order your Lost Girls ASAP.

    More on other subjects later in the day...
    Cool Link

    According to Lauren at CCS, this is
  • The Best Blog Ever.
  • It's pretty damned amusing -- check it out.

    [PS: The same blogger also has
  • this blog
  • which links to his many other blogs and preferred links.]

    As Lauren notes, "this guy also writes really lame christian gag cartoons which you can read at"
  • this link...
  • and she's right, they're pretty lame. Still, his other blogs are all of interest, on a number of levels.
    All Hail CCS!

    Yesterday's session at CCS was one of those flying leaps a teacher sometimes takes -- and it worked out fine. It was, in fact, pretty fucking cool and great fun.

    A planned and eagerly-awaited guest speaker had to cancel due to an unfortunate injury to his back -- so I dumped the planned day's events and immediately constructed a "Plan B" that involved the use of a live model (we've been drawing for 90 minutes to two hours from a live model for about five weeks now as a core part of the current phase of drawing studies) in a unique way.

    Fortunately, James Sturm -- our beloved Grand Omnipotent CCS Stomper & Lord of All That Flings Ink -- also called in the AM to alert me to the likely arrival of none other than Brian Walker this week, asking if I'd like to have Brian come by during class. Brian is a vet comic strip cartoonist/writer, currently best-known for his ongoing tenure on Hi & Lois, and celebrated by this particular cartoonist/instructor for his extraordinary two-volume The Comics: Before 1945/After 1945. He was utterly candid, relaxed, and comfortable with the class, answering questions posed by James and I before fielding the student's questions, packing 45 minutes with as much deceptively casual insight, information and "insider" scuttlebutt as any speaker we've enjoyed thus far (and we've had some great ones, with more to come!). Thanks, Brian!

    We were joined for the first half hour by a friend's teenage son, Jamie, who was interested in scoping out the CCS and audit a bit of the class. I am always open to this, and Jamie got the ten-cent tour of the CCS facility, met most of the students, and CCS Anchor & Cartoonist Extraordinaire Robyn Chapman took the time amid a busy day to chat with Jamie and provide him with some of the school's info and literature. Here's hoping we see Jamie again -- perhaps, down the road, as a student.

    Before Brian arrived, I outlined the plan for the day's sweatshop session: circulating copies of this week's World Weekly News, two volumes of the Best of the Sun (the infamous UK tabloid), and two histories of the most lurid US tabloids, we were going to recreate the sort of 'brainstorming' sessions Silver Age DC (then National Periodical) editors used to depend upon for their covers (the fertile soil from which the famed best-selling 'gorilla' covers emerged).

    Breaking the class into four groups, each group was responsible for cooking up the most outrageous proposed headlines they could come up with in short order. They then had to choose their 'top' lead, the intent being to crack up the rest of their classmates (thus, a "best seller"); once our adventurous model Penelope arrived, they were then given timed sessions to pose the model as needed for their cover layout art. As each group completed their model session, they were then free to move to another part of the CCS facility and pull together their cover layouts -- all I was asking for were tight thumbnails/roughs from each group, clear enough to share with the class by the class's final half-hour. I also timed this so every group could, if they wished, have one followup modeling session with Penny to either recompose or tighten up their final roughs -- only one of the four groups needed to work with the model a second time.

    For one of the covers, James Sturm joined Penny in a needed pose (in which Penny was a beaming mother, proud of her adult offspring); the cover concept hinged completely on whether or not James could or would pose, so I broke the ice and dared to ask our CCS honcho the unaskable -- and he gamefully stood tall and very, very still for a full ten minutes. Whew!

    Thus, by 4:25 PM, we had four never-before-seen or imagined tabloid covers or cover leads with the needed image. They were corkers, one and all... and no, sorry, I'll leave it to the CCS students to post their respective cover copy here as comments, if they so choose. It's their property, not mine, to share!

    We managed all this -- plus the scheduled student presentation (one of the requirements of my class is that every student do a ten-minute illustrated class presentation on an artist, cartoonist, or art movement) and three one-on-one student/teacher assessments (this was our first session, being at last at mid-term) -- and all on my birthday.

    As I prepared to head home, I called my wife Marj and we arranged to meet at one of my fave restaurants in Brattleboro, the Thai Garden. We met right on time, shared a marvelous meal topped by a gratis dessert and round of sung "Happy Birthday" from the restaurant staff, and then headed home.

    All in all, a fine day.

    51 is sweet.