Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Arzach


Let's look at some more Moebius. Arzach first appeared in 1974, in the pages of Metal Hurlant, the star of four silent strips that caused a sensation in the artists' native France. Although the quartet of tales seem relatively simple, they actually operate ( like a lot of Giraud's work ) on a whole other, subconscious level. Full of dream imagery, and dream logic, the Arzach stories are like convoluted little riddles, with meaning & understanding always tantalizingly out of reach.
As I've said before, Moebius is one of those rare artists where, when you look at his work, you genuinely feel like you're gazing into another universe. Here's the first excursion of Arzach's world.









And here's a much later piece, explaining some of Arzach's back story. As beautiful as this strip is, I kind of didn't need it. Having been immersed into the other stories, an actual explanation of what's going on, and who Arzach actually is, spoils the fun a little bit. I liked the mystery better.






And as a closer, here's Lee Marrs' fun take on the whole thing, via Imagine.

Monday, 29 June 2009

This, That & Some More


Just a quick round up of random things today, for a change. Firstly, can I point anybody yet to see it in the direction of the How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way video over on youtube? It's a lot of fun, even if you're not interested in learning how to draw like John Buscema, plus you won't be able to stop laughing at Big John's increasingly pained expression as Stan pulls yet another terrible gag out of his seemingly endless bag.


Also, finally got to see some of the new Brave & The Bold cartoon this week. Unlike a lot of the Saturday morning cartoons based on our favourite characters (Wolverine & The X-Men, the other Batman cartoon) this has a lot of style to it, and, again, it's fun! Bats is drawn as if by Dick Sprang, which is cool. And the writers are clearly fans of B &B god Bob Haney, 'cos it makes no sense whatsoever. Also liked the prologue's, where you get another guest star for your money, in an unrelated to the main story bit. For instance, in the Aquaman episode, The Atom cameo's, and in the Kamandi one, Mister Miracle pops up. The only other kids cartoon of recent years I liked was that Teen Titans one, and this is that good.

Finally, following on from the post on brit fanzine BEM, I got to thinking about all those kids we knew, who would just never swap anything. The two worst offenders for us were a couple of guys called Dean Willetts & Andrew Holder. Dean, particularly, would let you go through the whole rigmarole of going through his entire collection, taking out the ones you were interested in, before putting 90% of them back in the box, with a smug 'no, not that one.'
It didn't matter what you had to swap, you could've had Action Comics no. 1, He just would not swap anything good.
Andrew Holder, meanwhile, wouldn't even let you go through his collection, if I remember rightly, just sort of show you the covers from a distance. I think I tried to get Neverwhere, Sabre and Stewart The Rat off him, none of which he even liked. And none of which he'd swap.
And you know what makes it worse? I guarantee both of 'em gave their collections away years ago for next to nothing. I absolutely guarantee it.
So let's name & shame these people! Who were the worst offenders? And are any of them still collecting & still not swapping? You bet they are.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

BEM

Back in The Bronze Age, before anybody ( with the possible exception of Jack Kirby ) had even conceived of such a thing as the Internet, there was really no such thing as Fandom. At least not for me and my friends in our home town of HaverHell. As I've mentioned before, the concept that we could actually go to a comic convention, and meet other kids like us, seemed as remote and impossible as a trip to Barsoom. In fact, I doubt the idea ever occurred to us.
Not that we cared particularly that the rest of the world couldn't see what we could see in comics. Outsiders are drawn to outside pursuits, and the fact that comics put us even more on the edges of popularity mattered not at all. In fact, I'd guess we took a kind of pride in it. So when the first fanzines started appearing in England, it wasn't a case of finding other brethren, more like just enjoying something else cool to read. And the best, certainly the easiest to get hold of fanzine, had to be BEM.


That's the cover everyone remembers from BEM's run ( 1978 to 1981 ), a real early Brian Bolland. Inside there was also a Dave Sim piece done especially for the mag, with Cerebus & Howard The Duck facing off against each other (which, alas, I don't have ).
BEM had huge, sprawling interviews, and in those days, none of the big comic companies had quite got their publicity spin act together, so you read stuff in BEM you probably wouldn't see today.
Like this excerpt from an interview with Steve McManus, then editor of 2000AD:


How different to these days, when all you hear about is how this summers' 'event' will change the face of that companies' universe permanently and forever. Until next week.


What BEM also had was letters pages. Holy God, did it have letters pages. In type even smaller than the rest of the mag, fans went on ( and on ) about the issues of the day. Still, it was alive, it was exciting, it was incredibly difficult to read without a magnifying glass.
The age of the fanzines is long gone now. It's just a lot easier to do it via the net, plus you reach more people, but it's not quite the same buzz as getting something through the letterbox, is it?
As you've noticed, several soon-to-be pro's contributed covers ( and interiors ) to BEM. Here's a few more for your delight & delectation.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Solomon Kane: The Right Hand Of Doom

This is the first Solomon Kane story I ever read, which obviously means it's my favourite. Truth to tell, the dour Puritan is little more than an observer in this story, but what's great about it is the artwork of the criminally under-appreciated Steve Gan. As excellent as all the other artists' who worked on Kane were, Gan seems to me to be the only one who managed to make his world look real and historically accurate. I keep expecting Oliver Cromwell to wander into frame, or Adam Eterno at the very least. And just look at the fourth panel on page 2. That is Kane to a tee.










Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Alex Toth


Alex Toth was born today. I'll admit it, when I was a kid, I couldn't see what everybody saw in Toth's work. Too cartoony, too simplistic. Natch, now that I'm a lot older and hopefully a bit smarter, his work astonishes me. His art is the perfect example of the ' less is more ' principle. In an Alex Toth strip, there isn't a single line wasted. There's a great story where Neal Adams bet DC's longtime colouring supremo Jack Adler that he couldn't colour a Toth strip without making at least five mistakes. Adler took the bet, and sure enough, mistook the sand on a beach scene for the ocean, mistook a window on a building for a shadow, and a ton of other errors. That's the thing with Toth, it looks simple, but it really isn't. Everything's there for a reason.
Here's a great example of Alex's work, from Sal Quartuccio's Hot Stuf', a throwback to those pulp serials and radio plays of the '30's: The Vanguard! Just try colouring it, I dare ya.










Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The Wraith

Quack! was Mike Friedrich's short-lived adult funny animal book, ostensibly begun in order to put Frank Brunner's mallard based strip Duckaneer into print. Frank had just left Marvel, one of his issues at the time being what he saw as a lack of credit in the success of Howard The Duck, and Duckaneer being his riposte to the nay-sayers. Quack! pretty obviously rode in on Howard's coattails, and was never gonna last long, but did produce some great strips in it's 6 issues, including regular character The Wraith. This was Michael T. Gilbert's loving homage to The Spirit, and like it's template, flitted between laugh out loud humour and serious drama in it's short run. Here's one of the funny ones, a scattershot satire of big business and the publishing industry, with some instantly recognizable ( and pulse-pounding ) guest stars.














And finally...