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Category Archives: rant

i meant to talk about some of my own work when i was doing the blog about style in comics.  the fact that it ended up having some rob liefeld in it and ended up being yet another superior-sounding rant is pretty normal for me, though.  if you start me talking about comics and come back in ten minutes, i’ll have invariably got myself to a point where i’m talking about how diluted and unserious everything is in comics.  it’s a character flaw.

i’ve asked myself before if this is because i just don’t like anything, though, and i honestly think that the answer is no.  while on the one hand i think that comics is no different from the other storytelling media in that the great majority of its output is weak, i’ve wrestled with the question of whether i still choose comics every day i draw or whether i’m just making do with what i’m good at to tell my stories.  it’s a scary question for me, but i now know i choose comics.

i’m in the middle of scanning and doing corrections on all the pages of POISON THE CURE part 3 now and so i’m at the fucking computer all the time.  i hate it, but since i’m looking to expand our audience for the book and looking to get a better picture of the comics scene now, i’m checking out other cartoonists on twitter and looking at their work.  it brings a mixed-ass bag of different work, but for the most part it’s a good experience and it reminds me how there are still a good number of people out there who are super-talented and dedicated to what they do.  the real payoff is finding a page or an image from an artist here or there that really takes me somewhere, really makes me feel like i’m in another place, in another story–and makes me want more.  usually though, in internet exposure like this and in thumbing through books in person to check quality, that little moment’s all i get, and the main work is, for the most part, not interesting enough to me.  just being honest here.

i’d like to explain why this is, why i’ll throw down my money for so, so little work in comics.  my disapproval has four dimensions, because to me comics have four creative dimensions.  comics aren’t just a pile of drawings; they aren’t just a pile of words–and they’re not just two piles side-by-side.  whack drawings make me sick, but they’re not the end of the world.  whack writing steams me up (it is a deal breaker in the end, even if it doesn’t keep me from buying something), but good writing with bad art won’t always get a pass.  for something to get me really pumped up, though it’s gotta have art, writing, story and and one more thing.  i differentiate writing from story like this:  the story is just that, the story being told.  it’s the inspiration for the work, the actual plot along which the narrative moves.  you could call it the pitch or the kernel or whatever.  writing, though, is the way in which the story is told, the dialogue and specific things that happen to move the story along–it’s the decisions made by the author to tell the story.

(the fourth thing i’ll get to tomorrow, out of fear that this may drag out a bit . . . )

style is something i think about a lot when it comes to comics.  when i grew up drawing superheroes through high-school, there was a part of me that always thought my drawings were eventually going to be very detailed.  i hadn’t drawn anything like that yet at all.  in fact i always preferred heavy outlines and simple descriptions, but i couldn’t fight the suspicion that that was because i was an untrained draftsman.  i knew i’d eventually get good.  and surely the result of mad practice or of an art education was to make things more realistic.  and surely making things look more realistic meant making them more detailed.  it was my destiny to master detail.

this was probably the last traces of my worship of the image comics artists of the early 90’s.  man, the first time i saw a rob liefeld drawing, i crapped my jeans.  my mom had knocked on my bedroom door and interrupted me in a serious rendering of my character DRAKE, who was a whack punisher swipe i drew from john romita jr. drawings on punisher cards.  she came in and told me she had something she wanted to show me and handed me the NEWSWEEK she’d been reading.  it had both a photo of little rob and THE BEST FUCKING DRAWING I’D EVER SEEN.  i can still see it.  the character was some nobody from an issue of X-FORCE, but that motherfucker brought out the fierce in me.  i was like 11 years old and the article–a short, filler article with no apparent love for liefeld or for comics–mentioned that rob had gotten his start in comics when he was 17!  17!!!  shit was on, i decided.  that awesome drawing of a big-haired fuzzy dude with a cable-style metal arm was way outta my league.  you could just look at all the hatching and lines and detail.  i didn’t know how to do shit like that!  but i was gonna bring my game.  i was gonna show rob liefeld what was up.

i’m meandering, but all i mean to say is that to my young mind–young or stupid or unpracticed or whatever–the detail (read: the lines and marks) he slathered over otherwise weak drawings read to me as finishing polish and badass grit.  everything had all these extra lines all over it to let you know that the drawing was fuckin’ serious, that it was dark, and it was DONE.  can you imagine?  anyway, it wasn’t long after this that i decided i was grown up and that i now knew rob liefeld couldn’t draw shit.  i even walked around comicon for a few years with a sharpie-made shirt that said ROB LIEFELD MUST DIE.  but despite the conviction of my superiority, the suspicion would persist in me for many years that something was supposed come along in my work to make it look more professional, more serious.  my work was gonna be more detailed.  rob–and to be fair, mainstream comics in general, with their comics-taught artists and proprietary visual trends and gimmickry–had fuckin’ brainwashed me.

i ain’t mad at rob, though, and i ain’t mad at mainstream comics.  while i think that on the whole they’re just artless, uninspired rehash, unfit for any critical reader, they were still a big influence on me at one point.  and let’s be honest.  lots of indies have their gimmick, too.  and an indie book isn’t automatically better than a mainstream or  big-two book.  the emo auto-bio, the cutesy relationship auto-bio, the antihero-auteur auto-bio, the robot-pirate-ninja schlock–they’re gimmicks.  and indies have their own pitfalls of visual style.  won’t name names, but i’ve seen people just FULLY swipe the style of prevailing indie bigwigs.  there are indies who can draw their asses off but can’t think of one meaningful thing to write about.  there are indies who can’t draw but take on an affectation in their visual style to disguise it.  there are indies who don’t have a shred of talent one way or another and their style is to pimp their shit by cons and social media.  GIMMICKS.

any genre, art-style, trope or networking flair that an author or artist thinks frees him from the BASIC NEED of having something to say and a way to say it in comics is the same fucking thing as a rob liefeld drawing to me:  you might have some use for it at first, but once you’ve been around the block a bit, you won’t even turn your head anymore.  if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all–and they suck.

i was wondering today what the last comic was that really blew me away.  sometimes i get to thinking that i’m just an impossible snob when it comes to comics, and it kinda gets me down.  i’m not about to pretend i like shit that does nothing for me, but it’s an ongoing source of confusion for me whether i’m a just an ass when it comes to comics or whether there just isn’t enough material out there that’s excellent.  this is probably an unanswerable question, but i’ve realized that there’s a reason for this confusion.

every time i’m sitting down to draw, it’s to satisfy the part of me that wants to see a certain kind of comic.  this isn’t at all to say that everything i do (or even that much of it) actually gets me that satisfaction, but i’m always trying.  and when i’m looking at comics, i’m always holding up other people’s work to this totally theoretical perfect comic i’m trying to achieve.  it’s a compleltely unrealistic yardstick.  but it’s not just about the art.  lazy comics artists irritate the hell out of me, but even some who don’t have a gift for lovely drawings really inspire me.

it’s about stories and about the craft of comics-making.

i can’t shake the snobbery–for all my desire to be more tolerant, politically correct, likeable, etc–that if a comic artist doesn’t love both stories and comics-craft, he will eventually stop wasting his time with comics.

and while i mumble this to myself about another artist i look down on, he’d be better off for quitting!  making comics is hard as hell.  it wears fools down.  i see it every time i get with my bros to draw or even when i take a break from my own shit.  it’s hard, long, brain-melting, self-hating work to do the problem-solving it takes to put together a tasty-looking page that does its job.  and it doesn’t pay anything!  other artists, get yourselves PAID.  make some REAL money.  comics is for us snobs, for us holier-than-thou dipshits who’d rather be right about why your pages have weak-ass blacks and aren’t paced elegantly than have a fucking dollar.  it’s for us comics know-it-alls who scoff at your computer lettering, your clumsy inking and your thinly written characters–while we’re penniless and unknown.

yeah, the laugh’s on me.  when these other artists design a website or a rock flyer or a shoe box or go work on an animation team or at a real job, they’re gonna make money i can’t even dream about.  i’ll tell all my friends i’ve won and i’m better–my friends can vouch for that, no joke–but i’m just a worn-down, loveless ass and i hate myself.

something that pains me–something that truly, truly pains me–is the inferiority complex the world of comics has.

in hearing the talk that surrounds our industry, from the creators to the retailers to the fans, i’ll often see in print or on a t-shirt, or i’ll hear from someone’s mouth that comics gets less than its due–less credit, less play, etc.  i hear us argue that comics aren’t acknowledged as an art form (or not enough), that comics themselves aren’t taken seriously.  comics aren’t considered literature!  comics have a second-class designation in this country!  comics are only seen as genre work!  and so on.

i hate this crybaby argumentation.  i really hate it.  comics is comics.  it’s not a movement; it’s not a question; it’s not what could be done;  it’s not the entitled insistence that we’re just as good as anyone else, no matter how smartly stated.  fuck all that.  comics is THE WORK DONE AND BEING DONE.

nothing credits or fuels an argument more than its being stubbornly denied.  all it does to say ‘comics are art [or literature], too!’ is to very clearly acknowledge the prevailing argument to the contrary.  and fuck that.

what’s our anxiety about anyway?  if you love comics because you read good ones, why do you need anyone to agree with you?  what changes about the comics you love when someone doesn’t agree that they’re good?  if you need the consensus that comics are worthwhile, legitimate, artful, etc. in order to like, make or feel good about comics, then who needs you?

maybe it’s fair to say that in europe and in japan, the same stereotypes aren’t so in place around comics, if they’re in place at all, but it doesn’t matter if this is specifically an american problem.  let us forever NOT GIVE A FUCK when the rest of this country or when anyone anywhere thinks comics are for kids, are nothing but superheroes, are only the lite-beer version of movies, etc.–fuck all that.

WE DON’T GIVE A FUCK.

comics doesn’t need defensive cheerleaders.  all it needs is the real shit, the work:  badass comics are the only irrefutable evidence that comics are badass.  let’s stop crying “no fair” and let’s concentrate on making, sharing and talking about these comics.

pictish2012

they’ve got my vote.

http://www.newradiocomics.com