Saturday, February 27, 2010

An Olympic Message from former Olympian - Northstar!


That winning Beaubier smile!


Alo! Canadian celebrity, superhero, author, CEO, teacher, circus aerialist, former terrorist and deceased ninja assassin, one time elfin royalty and disgraced Oly*p*c skier, Jean-Paul Beaubier here. But you can call me by my tr├ęs chic, code name -- Northstar! (accent on the 'star', naturalment.)


As my countrymen compete with the best in the world at Vancouver 2010 Olympics, my heart has swelled with uncharacteristic pride. And so I promise on behalf of Comicanuck at least one more week of comic book Olympic goodness to help you get through those curling and short-track speed skating withdrawal pains.


Mostly I'm doing this because I need somewhere to channel all this Olympic spirit now that my so-called friends' in Alpha Flight couldn't score me a seat to today's Canada-U.S.A. Men's Hockey final. You'd think a certain hardcore hockey fan by the name Puck would be able to pull a few strings. Quel connard.


Go Canada... or else!


To start us off, mes amis, for this final day of official Olympic festivities, we have a cover gallery of comic book Olympic moments!



The Olympics have long been fodder for comicbook storytelling. It provides a recognizable hook (or macguffin as Hitchcock referred to them) and also a straightforward narrative structure -- Two or more characters compete in a variety of events to determine the eventual winner.


Add to that a kidnapped kid sidekick, a cheating or doped up competitor or what have you and the stakes are suitably raised. You can also return to the idea every few years to coincide with the actual Olympics and cash in on the buying public's awareness and spirited desire to take part in some way... like purchasing your fine comic perhaps.



The Games can also serve as a compelling and unique backdrop or setting for a tale, even if the events of the story have little to do with the Olympics themselves.


But enough of this. Let's move onto the events that are near and dear to my Quebecois heart -- the downhill events!

Ahhh... the speed and aerial acrobatic grace of my beloved skiing and snowboarding events.

How telling is it that I miss it less for the joy of competition than for the fact that no one shoots plasma bolts at you or tries to remove your head from your torso while crying out, "Die, X-men!" when you compete there?

Such a comforting memory.

Sigh... I shall pour another chianti while you and these covers conquer that mountain!



A big part of selling a comic is to make sure your character stands out to the buying public and your cover is a key to doing that. So why not put them in an unusual but relatable situation? Afunny gag sevres much the same purpose for a humour book. The cover must amuse and also reveal somethign about the main character or the contents.



Something like a super hero skiiing or, in the case of the Blackhawk shown, prehistoric cavemen on flying skis with futuristic weaponry, can draw the eye away from more the mundane covers surrounding it and raise questions in the viewers minds. The only way to get those questions answered is to buy the book.





For some fun write-ups on comic book Olympic tales check out Mark Engbloms Comic Coverage post, An (Interplanetary) Olympic Moment, Pat Curley's Silver Age Comics follow-up post, The Olympics. You can also check the Grand Comic Book Database to see the whack of stores that grooved to an Olympic beat... Sorry, I have been hanging out with Dazzler a lot lately.


And now I must content myself to watch the gold medal Mens' hockey game on my plasma screen instead at rinkside with my selfish Alpha Flight compatriots. Onwards and upwards my friends!

Beavers Up!


Friday, February 26, 2010

Wally Wood - Look Beneath The Surface


It’s hard not to love the snazzy new
ComicsComics website run by Tim Holder, Dan Nadel and Jason Miles with the kind of writing we’re seeing from it lately. Dan recently contributed a terrific summary of why Wally Wood was one of the most talented journeymen in comics history - Wally Should Have Beaten Them All - in which Nadel summarizes Wally’s undeniable talent and the key weaknesses (emotional and creative) that kept him from moving further during his lifetime.

Nadel grounds his insights firmly with concrete examples rather than relying on his opinion alone, which places the piece on a higher plane than much of the fan-based comics writing available on the web. But his writing is beautiful in of itself. Not only is it concise and direct, but the dude can also turn a beautiful phrase, as when he beautifully sums up the early, detail-obsessed Wally:
…Wood was a maximalist in a business that could not afford the indulgence. Comics were and remain published on a tight schedule and demand quick turnarounds.”
One of the great takeaways from the article, quite apart from the cautionary tale Wood’s alcoholic, chain-smoking, overworking life provides us all, is the famous 22 Panels That Always Work": or some interesting ways to get some variety into those boring panels where some dumb writer has a bunch of lame characters sitting and talking for page after page." Wood created as a reminder to keep his work simple (at least in comparison to his ‘maximalist’ compulsions). The original art and some additional background are posted at JoelJohnson.com.
As Nadel notes, “It’s an infamous document, as ingenious in its craft as it is telling about the industry it comes from.”

Like Wood and his work, the panels are deceptively simple, but in fact they provide a sophisticated insight into comics and how they work. The key is not to assume these panels provide a one-stop secret weapon for interesting panel design (because that would make a decidedly unengaging and repetitive comic) but rather to learn from what the panels reveal about the comics form itself and how it can tell a story in ways no other medium can duplicate.
The Wood document (apparently notated at Marvel Comics years ago by Larry Hama) gives us examples of separating foreground, midground and background with black, white and grey. It shows how dynamic framing and design can direct the eye and how focusing on a portion of image can add intensity to a simple moment. So study it but look beyond the surface to find out what the pictures are really telling you underneath the surface.
Beavers Up!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

And Lo, A Child Shall Write, Pencil and Ink - Let go of your adult critic and start drawing!



 




I've been checking out the hilarious Axe Cop by Ethan Nicolle (Chumble Spuzz) and his five-year old brother Malachai. It's fun, hilarious and hit much-deserved, official viral phenomenon status almost the moment Ethan chose to post it online. There's nice interview with the pair over at Geekchicdaily.


It also brings to mind another generational collaboration from here in Canada -- the delightful Chocolate-Face Grace by brilliantly insane Canuck cartoonist and raconteur Rob Walton and his daughter Grace. If you haven't read it check it out.  Rob's delight in his daughter and her devious (perhaps frighteningly so) mind is evident every panel.

 

There's a freeing, "anything is possible" quality to Malachai and Grace's writing that we adults can learn from. Over the last two busy days I have contemplated returning to a ridiculous, silly comic idea I had in my youth. But my desire for perfection stops me before I start when it just needs for me to let go - draw and write without fear.

 
Alexa Kitchen gets her foot in the comic biz door

The most famous young person cartoonist today is probably Alexa Kitchen - a comic convention staple for years with her Mom since the age of 5 or 6!  Comics hold no fear for Alexa. It's her chosen method of communication. Her youth is a perfect hook, speaking to inspiring kids but also encouraging curious adults to check her out. They inevitably find themselves delighted by her work.


Layne and Peri Toth are the other famous, pre-teen creators vying with Alexa for attention. With the help of Chris Yambar, their creation Faith: Warrior Princess has sold well with its playful, Christian-friendly adventures. 

 

On his website, Yambar recently posted that he has granted all his rights to Faith back to the Toth sisters to do with what they will.  There website doens't have much information but does list a number of graphic novel "properties" they are working on.  Methinks these girls take a more cutthroat approach to the biz than many grizzled vets.

The advice for the day is -- Follow that childish song in your head and create with no fear. So what if it's not perfect or takes a surprising twist.  That's part of finding the delight and imagination that used to be a constant part of our lives.

Beavers Up! 

Mark Millar Calls for Artists - Even the best writers need an inspiring artist

I hope writers seeking an artist for their comic ideas took note of my recent post, What are artists worth? and especially the dialogue that inspired it, which was summarized in writer Mike Luoma's blog post at Cosmic Comics, Shut Up and Put Out Your Comic!  If you didn't, it's too late.  Mike's post is now gone.

In its place is a notice stating that all Mike requested the removal of all his articles "due to a difference of opinion."  I can't really comment on an argument I have no knowledge of. I an only say that I hope it wasn't one of those petty fights passionate fans get in leading them to consider one another dead to them.  I'm just disappointed such a good overview of a discussion I took part on the business networking site LinkedIn, is no longer available for reference.

The original exchange was lengthy but confined to members of the Comic Book Business for Creators and Creations discussion group.  If I ever get a whole day or two to devote to it, I'll make an effort to summarize it myself.  But that may be a little ways away.  Good things are worth waiting for.


In the mean time, you're not the only writer looking for an artist/collaborator. So is Mark Millar. The hotshot Scottish writer is the mind behind Marvel's Ultimates, Civil War, a run on Wildstorm's The Authority and creator-owned projects like Wanted, Kick-Ass and his latest, Nemesis.

Millar posted a call for unknown artists on his Millarworld message board to partner with himfor a new project. Mark is seeking inspiration outside the comic book mainstream to work with someone with a unique style.

 "If you're anime, painterly, non-sequential, cartoony or just a traditional superhero artist please post a sample below. Fame and fortune awaits."

The best part is seeing the wide variety of artists who responding to the call. Check them out on Mark's forum thread, I'M LOOKING FOR AN UNPUBLISHED ARTIST! BIG, SPECIAL NON-MARVEL PROJECT!

Beavers Up!