News from all over the place today:
§ We may only have a month to live — but at least there’s a comic book about it.
§ Heavenly: Hervé St-Louis looks at Milton Caniff’s influence on Alex Toth and Hugo Pratt. (Above, cover by Pratt.)
Older than both Italian-born Hugo Pratt and his American counterpart, Alex Toth, Caniff influenced several artists but the latter truly were cartoonists that borrowed from him to create extremes comic book work that expended the master’s reach. I would argue that Pratt and Toth are flip coins of each other as storytellers and cartoonists and that they both distill the essence of Caniff and expended on his storytelling and techniques.
§ Tom Spurgeon interviews John Pham, whose SUBLIFE is one of the most eagerly awaited comics of the remaining year.
One of the things I’ve always loved about long, serialized comics work like Jimmy Corrigan, Peanuts, even superhero stuff, is the perceptible growth and change you can chart from the early pages of the strips all the way to when they mature. Even a dumb strip like Garfield., which I loved as a kid. You can see how characters were drawn differently, how the rhythms of the story sort of fluctuate, or how the themes have yet to crystallize. And then the work blossoms and solidifies; it gains its own sort of momentum and coherence in theme and style. And the great thing is the process is transparent, you can sort of experience the artist’s discovery as they experience it.
§ Michael Kimmelman in the NYT looks at the work of caricaturist Arthur Szyk:
Szyk (it’s pronounced shik) was a Jewish caricaturist who spent roughly the last decade of his life in the United States. He’s unknown here, hardly familiar in America. Born in 1894 in what is now Poland, he fought with the Russian Army on the German front in World War I, then moved during the 1920s to Paris, like many young artists. There he studied at the Académie Julian, declining Modernist abstraction for an old masterly, illuminated-manuscript, miniaturist style of eye-straining detail. Perhaps he was influenced, or fortified, by the “return to order,” as neo-Classicism in that era was called.
§ Mike Downey looks at the trials and tribulations of Gil Thorp:
Everything from teen pregnancies to interracial romance has been examined. A recent football story line took a look at affirmative action when a white receiver, Von Haney, and his best friend, black quarterback Nick Zollar, both applied to an Ivy League university. One was accepted, the other not. “The tension hurt their friendship and along with it the team,” Rubin explains.
Daily News: How difficult was it to keep this a secret?
Scott McCloud: I was always scared I would accidentally let it slip at a panel or a convention or something. I was terrified that I would be talking about non-fiction comics and I would just trod out this example of something I was working on and five minutes into a long expository blabber I would realize what I had just done [laughs]. But it didn’t happen. I was a good boy. I kept it under my hat the whole time as did everyone else. The only leak turned out to be the mailroom I guess on Monday [September 1st]. I was told 34 copies had just gone to Europe and that was that. The rest is history.
§ 12-year-old aspiring cartoonist Crystal Wormack and her strip about a cockapoo get a huge feature in a local edition of the WaPo:
Neither deluded classroom doodler nor widely published wunderkind, Crystal, 12, occupies a lowly but eccentric place at the intersection of her chosen profession and her status as a middle-schooler. Her cartoon, based on her family’s cockapoo, Angel, has not been published as a regular serial. But Crystal, the daughter of a pastor and a Mary Kay representative, strives in a manner uncommon for an age group whose goals tend to be oriented toward honor roll and good cafeteria tables.
This work process led to struggles with Marvel on seemingly every step of the way. As a director Favreau noted how you’re obsessed with every detail anyway (he likened it to “picking rat shit out of pepper”). On top of that was Marvel’s nitpicking at every turn, even on issues as trivial as the green power smoothie Stark is drinking after his first flight. One of the first questions asked at the inevitable post-screening Q&A was “how do you fight?” Favreau said that so many people in show business are motivated by fear. Once you subdue that initial feeling of dread you can take the next step and try to get your idea through. It’s clear that Marvel and Favreau had the same goal, namely make a great superhero movie. It’s how you get their that they differed on.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.