“Everybody could tell any of my covers a mile away on the newsstand, and that satisfied me.” –Jack Kirby
The Looking Glass World of Jack Kirby’s 1970s Fantastic Four Covers: Or, What If The King of Superhero Comics Never Abdicated?
by BK Munn
You gotta go away before you come back.
Meanwhile, Roy Thomas kept asking Jack to draw the Fantastic Four. Thomas tried to make things as beneficial and fair for Jack as possible. A top name in comics, Thomas said he’d do the writing but speak to Stan and others to ensure Jack received credit for the plots he created with his artwork. He wouldn’t receive much more money, he told Jack, but he’d be able to do as he pleased and see his name appear first in the credits. It was a decent offer, but Jack rejected it nonetheless. He’d only do it, Jack said, if Thomas gave him a panel-by-panel breakdown for each story. Thomas rightly felt this was ridiculous. “We’d have had such a closed-off relationship,” he said later, “it wasn’t worth doing. So I dropped the idea.”
But he did ask if Jack would be willing to draw the Fantastic Four in an issue of What If titled “What If the Fantastic Four Were the Original Marvel Bullpen?” In this tale, instead of Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Sue Storm, and Johnny Storm, Stan would appear in costume as Mr. Fantastic, Jack would be the cigar-chomping, rock-covered Thing, former production manager Sol Brodsky would be the Human Torch, and Flo Steinberg –who quit the company when Goodman wouldn’t give her a raise– would be the Invisible Girl. Roy Thomas wanted to write the issue, but Jack said he wouldn’t work with another writer. And if another artist handled it, he added, he wouldn’t let them use his likeness. Roy let him create the story, but after reading the final work, Stan said that he disliked how Jack’s character kept calling him “Stanley.” Roy dutifully changed each reference to “Stan.” And Jack never drew the Fantastic Four again in a Marvel comic.
–Ronin Ro, Tales to Astonish (2004)
Jack Kirby left Marvel and the Fantastic Four, for the first time, in 1970. Angry over Stan Lee’s credit-hogging and a lack of compensation and royalties for the comics he worked on, Kirby moved to DC, where he enjoyed, for a little while at least, more creative freedom and sole-authorship credit on his Fourth World series of books. Returning to Marvel in 1975, Kirby took over the reins of two of his older co-creations, writing and drawing the monthly adventures of Captain America and Black Panther, as well as a number of other original creations, including Devil Dinosaur, Machine Man, and his late-career masterpiece, The Eternals. In addition, Kirby was contracted by Marvel to produce a certain amount of covers for other titles every month. Among these covers, many very striking and iconic, were a number featuring the Fantastic Four.
Kirby’s relationship with the FF post-1970 was very problematic. The flagship title of the Marvel line, the series in which Stan and Jack had hammered out, through trial-and-error and various levels of collaboration, the successful Marvel style of the 1960s, was also one of the series Kirby was the most invested in on a personal level. Despite its cosmic trappings, the Fantastic Four was really about the importance of family and responsibility, and many of the characters, especially Ben Grimm, aka monster-hero The Thing, can occasionally be read as authorial stand-ins for Kirby. The concepts, plots and characters Kirby had provided for the FF were the foundation of the fictional Marvel Universe but also represented a real-world million-dollar merchandising empire he did not participate in financially, having been paid a straight page-rate for their creation without obvious legal claim to ownership. Incredibly, during the mid-70s, Kirby didn’t even own the original artwork for his 1960s stories, and it was not until a protracted public battle in the 1980s, long after The King had retired from regular comics making, that a portion of the thousands of original pencils were returned to him. He was understandably bitter about the situation and although he needed the work, refused to contribute any new stories or characters to the mythos of his signature series.
That didn’t stop him from illustrating covers for new stories being told by the younger artists who had taken over the assignment in his absence, a compromise that yielded a substantial number of memorable works. Kirby’s new bosses at Marvel recognized that as a former publisher and a historic innovator of genres and formats, Kirby was a past master of the art of the comic book cover as marketing and storytelling tool, and at this point in time must have known almost instinctively the importance of galvanizing reader attention through a combination of bombast, mystery, and unusual text and visuals. Kirby was also fast, able to churn out drawings to be used as inventory and emergency fill-ins. Many of his covers from this period are classics of the form; object lessons in the delicate combination of salesmanship and narrative art. Even at their most workmanlike and straightforward, his covers are concise, concentrated doses of Kirby-tude; unmistakably works by his confident hand.
Despite the rise of a new generation of artists at Marvel in the 1970s, the house style was still an ersatz Kirby –legend has it that new recruits were often handed a pile of old Kirby comics and told something along the lines of, “Draw like this.” Even in this milieu of watered-down versions of his own style, Kirby covers stood apart on the stands, and visually represent something of a separate line of superhero comics within the larger universe of the company. As a dependable workhorse, besides illustrating his own group of books, his style was also used to sell everything from bottom-tier books, marquee names, and special projects, putting the King’s stamp on up to 13 comics per month, including several of his old 60s characters: The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk, and the jewel-in-the-crown, The Fantastic Four. In a way, looking at Kirby’s 70s cover art, it’s possible to imagine an alternate history, one in which Kirby never stopped working on the series , continuing to tell the stories of Marvel’s “first family” with his signature innovative graphic approach. Kirby’s legacy of FF covers provide a tantalizing glimpse of this parallel dimension.
For the FF and FF spin-off Marvel Two-In-One (starring the Thing), each featuring some version of his original team, Kirby drew twenty-three 1970s covers in all (the number increases when we consider the new or altered covers Kirby provided for a few issues of Marvel’s Greatest Comics, the Fantastic Four reprint title being published at the same time, as well as assorted annuals and special Treasury editions). Many of the comics covers from this period were based on designs and suggestions by Marvel’s in-house artist, colourist, inker and troubleshooting jill-of-all-trades Marie Severin, who worked closely with the New York editors in maintaining a consistent look for the line, based in part on the quality and approach to design pioneered by Kirby a decade earlier. Severin and her editors would often send Kirby (living in California by then) a batch of very rough cover sketches as part of his monthly assignment, with brief plot and character notes scrawled in the margins, and compositions indicating the basic conflicts needing highlighting. Most of these Severin layouts are fairly standard and unimaginative, with just bare-bones placements of figures and minimal backgrounds, although some I have seen have a distinct flair and graphic inventiveness. Beyond emphasizing costume details (which in any case could be easily fixed by attentive inkers), I suspect the designs Severin sent Kirby were even more basic than those given to others, since Kirby’s driven reliability was one of the reasons Marvel was retaining his services. (Severin seems to have had a closer working relationship with Bill Everett, doing detailed layouts that played to the artist’s strengths and interests on the Submariner covers they conspired on together earlier in the decade.) Regardless, the otherworldly aspect of many of Kirby’s 70s cover assignments from Marvel can in part be attributed to their origins on Marie Severin’s drawing board.
My favourite of these is the cover to Fantastic Four #180 (March 1977). Somewhat infamous among fans because it is such a red herring, the interior of this issue is actually a reprint of FF #101 from 1970 featuring Kirby art and story from the end of his initial run, and has nothing to do with the scene advertised on the exterior. Explained as a case of the “dreaded deadline Doom”  in an editorial blurb pasted onto the reprint’s splash-page, the actual story referred to by the cover was not to appear until the following month’s issue #181 (which of course featured a different new Kirby composition).
So the cover of issue 180 actually has no real referent, fittingly so since it seems to imagine an alternate universe FF composed of The Thing and a rag-tag group made up of former villains: Thundra, Tigra, and Impy, the Impossible Man. Kirby had incorporated one-time villains like the Inhuman Medusa and her sister Crystal into the FF in the Sixties (adding evil mutants Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch to The Avengers during the same period), beginning a tradition continued through to the modern era., and co-evolutionary with the tradition of substitute or second-string teams replacing original line-ups, and the Marvel writers who replaced him were no strangers to the gimmick. Even more meta, each of the characters on this cover are essentially alternate-universe intruders into Marvel continuity. Thundra is an Amazon from a parallel-world feminist dystopia; Tigra comes from a dimension of cat-like humans; and Impy from the planet Popup where an advanced case of parallel evolution has given the humanoid inhabitants control over every molecule in their bodies.
In this Bizarro World set-up, both the female characters have romantic feelings for The Thing, here usurping the alpha-male leader role from his buddy Mr. Fantastic, while the powerful yet wildly-unpredictable Impossible Man acts out an arch disdain for straight superheroics in favour of fun, novelty and a love of popular culture. His character, who a few issues earlier (FF #176 –featuring another classic metatextual Kirby cover) had actually forced his way into the offices (and onto the pages) of Marvel Comics in a weird moment of real world crossover, is a specific comic book type, modeled on the Puck-ish, other-dimensional nuisance characters Mr. Mxypltlk and Bat-Mite, eternal tormentors of Superman and Batman over in DC Comics.
The plot the cover is supposed to illustrate is part of a longer storyline by Roy Thomas and George Perez about an alternate-universe Reed Richards (who, instead of possessing cosmic-ray-created stretch powers, in his own reality is transformed into a Thing-like monster known as The Brute) who plots to strand our FF in the Negative Zone dimension –a redux of the classic Stan and Jack alternate universe tale, “This Man, This Monster!” from FF #89. Roy Thomas seemed to love doppelgangers and tributes, and his bibliography is littered with fantasy-football-style superteams made up of pet characters that refer in some way to older or alternate versions of themselves. After Kirby’s example, writer-editor Thomas was the first high priest of the “Never Create Anything Really New for Marvel Again” religion (a religion that Kirby himself didn’t fully become a convert to until 1979, almost as if he couldn’t help himself from creating and giving value for the money he was being paid), preferring to plunder past comics for characters and concepts, fan-fiction style, in the process transforming the once-innovative Marvel into a staid, brand-protecting entity, content to rest on the laurels of its 60s achievements, with only brief flare-ups of creativity and injections of novelty through stunts and slavish trend-following, occasionally enabled by licensing and blatant rip-offs.
Along with his other ongoing series, this cover teases a “what might have been?” if Kirby had stayed at Marvel instead of leaving for DC in 1970. The character designs for the aborted Inhumans series Kirby left on the drawing board famously morphed into The Forever People at DC, but doesn’t this “kooky quartet” have a glimmer of the “newness” of the Fourth World, just as The Eternals channel Thor by way of the New Gods? On the other hand, it also highlights how Kirby had become a stranger in his own house, like Howard the Duck, stranded in a world he never made. At every stage during his second act at Marvel, Kirby was second-guessed, circumscribed, plotted against, undercut, and underappreciated. Boxed in, flashes of Kirby still peak out everywhere.
The composition of the FF #180 cover is a fairly standard one for Kirby and for superhero comics generally. A classic “confrontation” or “face-off” set-up, the scene captures a dramatic moment just before a major action piece, with two opposing groups getting ready to fight it out. The colourful group at the center of the bullseye-style image are encircled by a group of soldiers, almost comically bristling with weapons, partly softened or humanized by their commander, looking over his shoulder at the reader but directing all attention to the heroes and the supine robot they are defending. Hints about the characteristics of this new team are apparent in their attitudes and dialogue. The pugnacious Thing is obviously the leader, and his word balloon suggests “this little foursome” are more confrontational than his regular, older partners. Thundra looks like a giant sci-fi punk/disco street-fighter and Tigra’s pose reveals her feline nature almost as much as her stripes and claws. (As well, both women exemplify the barbarian/monster-chic then holding sway at marvel.) Despite his great power and “advanced” evolution, Impy is ironically the weakest link, and the cover shows this. He is stand-offish, dismissing the entire scene with a gesture and a poo-pooing grimace, perhaps representing the comics fan who has seen one too many of these brainless brawls over a tin-man macguffin and would be happier with some more self-directed fan-service suited to his sensitive ego (a very 70s comics fan sentiment, I’m sure!). The scene ably illustrates a key aspect of the comic’s plot and team-dynamic while creating curiosity about the origin and resolution of the stand-off. Readers familiar with the original team’s make-up may find themselves wondering about this new quartet (Where are the original members of the FF? Who are these upstarts?), anxiously searching their pockets for the requisite three dimes to discover the answer.
The slick inks that add to the appeal of this image are provided by long-time Kirby inker Joe Sinnott, his artistic “partner” in most of the late-period 1960s Fantastic Four issues. While Kirby provided very tight, finished pencils for most of the work he did from the late-50s on, including very fine detail, shading and areas of black, Sinnott famously smoothed whatever roughness Kirby’s drawing had while at the same time being very loyal to the original pencil linework he was making legible for print. Contrast this with many inkers Stan Lee paired Kirby with who actually obscured or reduced Kirby’s pencils (the infamous Vince Colleta, for example). The K/S signature in the lower right indicates that this is a Kirby/Sinnott collaboration, a “seal of quality” that assures us Sinnott is on board, doing his own part in providing continuity with the previous era as well as perhaps ensuring that Jack’s rendering of newer characters he has no working familiarity with (in this case, Thundra and Tigra) are “on model” in terms of costume. The Silver Age veneer Sinnott brought to all his work, as well as his experience with Kirby, was a great boon to Marvel after Jack’s original departure, aiding the transition to able replacements like John Buscema and John Romita and adding a bit of the familiar Kirby sheen and shimmer to the work of lesser lights who came on board later.
Between November 1975 and December 19778 Kirby was drawing between 30 and 100 pages of comics stories, and between 4 and 13 (!) covers monthly for Marvel, so not every one of these images is going to be a timeless classic, but it is remarkable how many still hold up. Most of Kirby’s later covers for the FF feature variations on two or three elementary generic compositions, including multi-figure battles, groups of characters bursting through walls, or groups of characters posing, often with giants or disembodied heads of villains floating overhead (the team had been fighting giant monsters since Kirby drew the cover of Fantastic Four #1 way back in 1961). Many are combinations of these basic ingredients, laid out in geometric, eye-catching patterns (circles, grids, crosses), and it is a tribute to Kirby’s design sense that his dynamic, boxy figures do not seem cramped but instead often appear to spring off the page directly at the reader. There is no doubt that many of Kirby’s covers drawn for the books and stories he created himself during the same period contain more detail, inventiveness, and a greater sense of storytelling, but as made-to-order examples of how to sell a comic book, these covers still pack a whallop.
As a child of the 70s, I was among the target demographic for these books and can attest to the allure and power of their effect. The worlds Kirby alluded to with his covers were bizarre, thrilling, and strangely inviting, and I wanted to dive in. I feel lucky that I got in on the tail-end of Kirby’s reign as king of the comic book spinner rack and experienced these worlds firsthand, as mass-market artifacts hot off the press. But I didn’t know they were twilight worlds, that Kirby, and superhero comics in general, were fading from the public stage. Excepting a few licensed products like Star Wars, comic sales were in long-term decline, with the propping-up effect of the direct market and a network of comic shops still a few years off. Kirby’s trumpeted return to Marvel was really a last hurrah, a weird echo of former glories largely comprised of pastiche, bitterness, and desperation-tinged exhaustion for both the artist and the genre he helped create. Kirby would finish his working life in the tv animation industry, with only a few more stabs at creator-owned comics in the 1980s. His last two published stories for Marvel (Machine Man #8 and 9) are titled “Super Escape” and “In Final Battle.” His last FF image? The cover to the giant-sized Fantastic Four #200 can be read as an allegory of the enduring Kirby theme of scrappy optimistic reason versus fascistic dread, and features a climactic battle between Mr. Fantastic and Dr. Doom bearing the legend “Fight to the Finish!”
 My favourite example of great art made from missed deadlines is from this same time period: Howard the Duck #16. When writer Steve Gerber moved cross-country from New York to California, he created a text-heavy script that reads as equal parts mental breakdown, road trip diary, and postmodern meditation on superhero comics. Accompanied by full-page illustrations by some of Marvel’s best artists, Gerber’s schizoid inner dialogue with the Howard character tackles such subjects as the superhero fight scene, character development, and comics fandom. An escapee to the animation business as well, Gerber teamed up with Kirby in the 1980s on Destroyer Duck, a comic book series sold to raise funds for Gerber’s fight against Marvel for the rights to Howard the Duck.
 Thundra was created by Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, and John Buscema (FF #129). Tigra was created through a series of stories by Tony Isabella, Roy Thomas, Gil Kane, Don Perlin, and John Romita, Sr.(Giant-Size Creatures #1), based on The Cat, created by Stan Lee and Marie Severin (Claws of the Cat #1)
 Kirby’s monthly output can be seen here at Ray Owen’s Chronology. The full list of FF-related covers: FF #164, 167, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 180, 181, 190, 200. FF Annual #11, Marvel Treasury Edition #11, What If? #11, Marvel Two-In-One #12, 19, 20, 25, 27. Marvel Two-in-One Annual #1. Marvel’s Greatest Comics #77. I’ve posted most of them at my tumblr.
21.Mar.2013 The 2013 Doug Wright Awards short-list
A feature event at TCAF, The Doug Wright Awards announced their 2013 finalists this morning.
The 9th annual awards short-list includes established creators, past winners, and many first-time nominees. They also unveiled the official poster drawn by 2012 Best Book Award winner & 2013 nominee, Ethan Rilly.
The 2013 Doug Wright Award nominees for Best Book are:
- Lose #4 by Michael DeForge (Koyama Press)
- By This Shall You Know Him by Jesse Jacobs (Koyama Press)
- The Song of Roland by Michel Rabagliati (Conundrum Press)
- Pope Hats #3 by Ethan Rilly (AdHouse Books)
- Wax Cross by Tin Can Forest (Koyama Press)
The 2013 Doug Wright Spotlight Award nominees are:
(a.k.a. “The Nipper” recognizing talents worthy of wider recognition)
- Nina Bunjevac for Heartless (Conundrum Press)
- Brandon Graham for King City (Image Comics)
- Patrick Kyle for Black Mass, Distance Mover, Wowee Zonk #4
- George Walker for The Mysterious Death of Tom Thomson (The Porcupine’s Quill)
- Eric Kostiuk Williams for Hungry Bottom Comics
The 2013 Pigskin Peters Award nominees are:
(Recognizing the best in experimental and avant-garde comics)
- Hamilton Illustrated by David Collier (Wolsak & Wynn)
- Hellberta #2 and “Sir Softly” from š! #12, by Michael Comeau
- Michael DeForge, Larry Eisenstein, Jesse Jacobs, Mark Laliberte (editor), Marc Ngui, Ethan Rilly, Tin Can Forest and Magda Trzaski for 4PANEL, a special comics features in Carousel Magazine #28 and #29
- Ginette Lapalme for “So, what should we do with ourselves?…” from Wowee Zonk #4 and “Little Stump” in š! #12
The Giants of the North: The Canadian Cartoonists Hall of Fame announce that the Quebec cartoonist Albert Chartierwill be posthumously inducted uring the May 11, 2013 ceremony in Toronto. Chartier died in 2004 ending an extraordinary career that lasted more than 65 years during which he drew several popular comic strips including Séraphin, Les Canadiens and Onésime. Onésime is his most well-known work, running for 59 years from November 1943 until June 2002.
About the DWA: Founded in 2004, The Doug Wright Awards recognize the best in English-language comics (or translations of French) by Canadian cartoonists. Now in their ninth year, the Awards will be handed out at a ceremony at Toronto’s Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel on Saturday May 11 from 7:00 – 9:00 pm.
The Doug Wright Awards will also be holding a fundraising auction of original art this spring by more than a dozen well-known Canadian cartoonists, including Chester Brown, Seth, Michael DeForge, Michael Cho, John Martz, David Collier and David Boswell.
The finalists for the 2013 Doug Wright Awards were chosen from a long list of more than 120 100 works and submissions published during the 2012 calendar year. This year’s nominating committee included Jerry Ciccoritti, Seth, Bryan Munn, Chris Randle and Sean Rogers.
For more information about the DWAs:
Media inquiries: Shireen Cuthbert firstname.lastname@example.org
Been a busy week in a busy month in a, well you get the idea. Work on Dream Life still fills my days but not for much longer! And the wheels are up for the Dracula kickstarter on Monday. Busy busy. Glad for the occasional distractions from my friends. Such as these.
Item! Ty has new Buntoons! “Now that DC Comics has replaced their nearly-always-dead-Robin the Boy Wonder with Casper the Friendly Ghost, I thought it might be a nice opportunity to look back at a few other corporate, and institutional, mascots that have been replaced over the years. It’s a fascinating history.”
Item! COLOSSE NEWS! “SHOCK REVELATION: the new COLOSSUS is called HOUBA PLUS”.
It contains new comics by Catherine Lamontagne-Drolet, Francois Samson-Dunlop, Carlos Vezina, Sara Hache, Sophie Bédard, Tuan Bui, Samantha Leriche-Gionet, David Turgeon, Vincent Giard and Luc Bossé. The limited run collection is dedicated to Mael Rannou.
Item! Gerhard reveals the cover of the Cerebus comic book that Oliver Ho and Sam Noir are contributing to.
Item! Colin Upton would like you to check out his tumblr. He’s posting a great deal of his back catalog there now.
Item! Rick Trembles shared an alternate version of the Motion Picture Purgatory strip he just did for Lech (Born to Lose: The Last Rock & Roll Movie) Kowalski’s new anti-fracking doc, DRILL BABY DRILL: “This is how revolutions start” -director Lech Kowalski
Item! Bernie Mireault has started a tumblr too!
“I plan to show the comic art I’ve done here but for a first post I’d like to put up a collaborative effort put together between 8 Montreal cartoonists years ago for a slick color magazine commemorating the redesign of the Austin Mini automobile, of all things! - I got to color the whole thing as well as contribute a sequence and I think it’s a successful collaboration that deserves to be shown again.”
Item! Dave Cooper hanging in New York!
Comics & Graphic Novels Program at Camosun College announces its first annual comics conference!
Camosun College comics conference is a celebration of the artistic and literary impact of comics and graphic novels created locally, nationally, and internationally. The event is open to the public, free of charge, to view the students’ works, hear and see the process of visual storytelling, and discuss the medium with the creators, teachers, publishers, and other fans. It will take place on Sunday, April 7th from 11am until 6pm, on the third floor of the historic Young Building, on Camosun’s Lansdowne campus.
Our sixteen students will be in attendance in an “artists alley” display of their publications and original artwork. There will also be displays by established local creators Gareth Gaudin, Janine Johnston, Nelson Dewey, Ash Vickers, Glen Mullaly, Simon Roy, and Glen & Kay Lovett, as well as presentations by guest speakers Paul Chadwick (Concrete), Anne Marie Fleming (The Magical Life of Long Tak Sam), Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas (Haida Manga), and Sam Logan (Sam & Fuzzy).
Comics & Graphic Novels, a program unique in the Canadian post-secondary school system, was created to address the needs of students who have a desire to learn the language of visual storytelling. The program focuses on skills-based training for six career paths, which include creation (both in print and online) of comic books, comic strips, web comics, graphic novels, storyboards, and edutainment comics. Currently offering a one-year certificate, a two-year diploma credential will launch in the fall of 2014, which will continue the program’s focus on experiential skills-building specific to the requirements of the industry.
For more information please contact:
Ken Steacy has worked in the comics industry for close to forty years as an author, illustrator, art director, editor, and publisher. The recipient of an Eisner and an Inkpot award, he was inducted into the Joe Shuster Awards Hall of Fame in 2009, a lifetime achievement award honouring Canadian comic book creators for their contributions to the industry.
03.Mar.2013 C-list – all the pretty pictures
Max here, thought i’d put in a post, we’ve been slow with the updates lately. Maybe a good time to also mention we’re always open to context appropriate guest blogging here at Sequential, if you’re interested in generally unpaid writing opportunities check out our about page to get out mandate and let us know if you have a story.
Item: Starting off this line up of links underlining the update we made a little while ago to our post about Joe Ollmann‘s next book, now called Science Fiction, previously Burden. Now being published by Conundrum, previously D+Q. The book moved from D+Q to Conundrum and re-titled ”Science Fiction” after D+Q backed out. Joe noted on his blog, “my latest book called Burden was supposed to come out from Drawn & Quarterly in January. It didn’t. They feel this book is not a good follow up to Midlife and decided not to publish it. I think Burden is a good book which is decidedly more serious in tone than the farce quality of Midlife, but it’s the book I want to do right now. So, the book is now being published by my old friend the good Andy Brown at Conundrum Press, and should debut at TCAF in May. As the book was already listed in catalogues and websites, we decided to change the name to simplify the publishing process.” – Kind of surprising D+Q backed away from something more serious? I guess i’ll have to reset some of my own assumptions about them. I’ve got a preview of the new book from Joe and plan to sit down with it soon with posting a review in mind.
Item: Rick Trembles says Happy 80th birthday King Kong! A film produced by a great, great great? Cousin as it happens.
Item: The Comic Book Lounge & Gallery, just after it’s 1 year anniversary of opening, threw lots of parties, and have really established themselves as one of the prime comics masons of Toronto in a very short time. Happy birthday and a bit guys.
Item: On youtube my old buddy George sat down with Jeff Lemire to discusses his approach to Animal Man and his work on Superboy.
Item: Over on the Fredcast, Fred had a great talk with writer Conor McCreery, of Kill Shakespeare fame.
Item: Once a great curmudgeon about the internet, Colin Upton has a tumbler page now!
Item: Nina Bunjevac posted the cover for the new french edition of her book, Heartless, to appear in April from Ici-Meme, and some more examples of her great rendering skill with this shot of Zemun, Serbia.
For my own bit I’ve been busy, Dream Life comes very near being done, had the pleasure of illustrating something connected with Dr Daniel Levitin! Cool. Also had fun taking a swing at Lichtenstein for the IMAGE DUPLICATOR show being put on by Rian Hughes. Check this FB group to see more about that. See you after the page turn! – max
18.Feb.2013 “I did Maus and I did this page.”
Notes on Art Spiegelman in Vancouver @ the VAG
By David Lester
As he puffed on a cigarette, Art Spiegelman was charming and witty in conversation despite the meandering questions of Vancouver Art Gallery curator Bruce Grenville. In town for the opening of the art gallery’s retrospective of Spiegelman’s work called CO-MIX, the artist touched on his origins as a cartoonist at Topps Bubblegum; the stain glass window of art he created at the request of his former high school; the importance of Robert Crumb, Spain, S. Clay Wilson; his New Yorker covers; and making prints from stone.
In reference to a projected slide Spiegelman talked about how it was a page of art he is proud of and it “took six months to draw,” and he thought it weird to be able to say in retrospect “I did Maus and I did this page.”
He pointed out the unique qualities inherent in comics to be able to compress a story. For Maus, Spiegelman wanted the art to have a hand drawn feel but the look of a font. And how Maus “was built around language.”
Spiegelman noted the ongoing debates over comics as high art or low art, and his annoyance at Roy Lichtenstein. “Lichtenstein did no more for comics than Warhol did for soup,” he said.
Art Spiegelman CO-MIX: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics and Scraps runs until June 9, 2013 at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
11.Feb.2013 Flashback: Arken Sword no.21, 1987
I own one of 500 copies of this 80s UK zine, a cherished item. Bought it new back in the day.
It featured large B&W reproductions of some of my favorite artists’ inks. Picked it up to study their lines.
Growing up in Toronto I also took note of this issue as it contained a section about home town talent.
“Mister X” feature with Chris Kelly art 1pg, Dean Motter & Seth interview with photo from UKCAC 1986 3pg, Dave McKean “Mister X” three-panel strip (“I asked Dave for a Mr X illo. The illo turned into a 3-page strip, which he has sent to Vortex on spec”) 1/2pg,
09.Feb.2013 C-list in the snow
Max here, waiting for the sun to come up so I can see how bad the balconies are and dig them out. We’ve been spotty getting back into posting the C-lists, here’s a summery of things we’ve posted on our Facebook page that are still relevant/current…
Item: Much as William Moulton Marston was in his day, Dr Will Brooker was tired of seeing female characters in pop culture that fell short of his ideals, overly relied on tight cloths, high heals and physical attributes. So he set out to invent a new icon. ‘My So-Called Secret Identity‘ [site is not up yet but their Facebook page is], drawn by Suze Shore, is the tale of Cat Abigail Daniels, the smartest person in Gloria City. She remembers everything she reads, sees how everything connects. And she’s getting tired of pretending, hiding, acting dumb to save other people’s feelings. If they won’t take her seriously as Catherine Abigail Daniels, the student and cop’s kid, maybe they’ll take her seriously in a costume. Looks pretty good, I like the primes and goals a lot.
Item: Due to the SNOW, Sherwin’s Toronto launch of Serial Villan has been postponed until March. He spent the evening playing video games in his hotel room. Sounds like his idea of a nice evening off!
Item: In the bigger picture of north american comic, CNET posted “Bizarro world! Print comics boom as digital sales rise. The common wisdom is that as a medium goes digital, the physical sales plummet. But when it comes to comic books, the common wisdom needs a new guru.” – read the full story here.
Item: On counterpoint to some extent, Robin at Inkstuds has a fantastic interview with teacher writer and comic artist Stephen Bissette. They talk for three hours, broken up into two parts about a lot of things. In all seriousness this is one of the best big picture views of the highs and lows of making comics today. Between his own time working at DC to his front row seat watching the current generation of creators he helps to train at CCS, If you want to make comics go listen to this. If you already make comics, go listen. If you gave up, yeah, go listen. Part 1 – Part 2.
Item: In Afin de subventionner adéquatement les auteurs, ”To adequately subsidize authors”, du Journal Montréal’s DB blogger Jean-Dominic Leduc posted last month about the so far unsuccessful attempts of Voro to get backing for a comics project relating to the province of Quebec. The post is mostly an open letter to ACC & CALQ, requesting an increase in funding of their grants for the medium. Check it out, and if you’re a fan or practitioner of comics in Quebec, consider writing your own letter, emails are provided in the post. More funding for comics! It’s a good idea. More posts by Jean-Dominic can be found here.
Item: Thumbs up review here from CBR for the big finally of the Rotoworld storyline, and Andy Belanger’s first DCU story/job. I had the pleasure of reading it a day early while scanning some old art and suffering a sugar crash. I haven’t been following the books so it was a bit of being dropped smack in the middle of madness, Andy should have played me some of his metal i think! Would have gone well with this. Art is good stuff, solid as always. Colors a bit heavy handed, did not help in distinguishing the detail in Andy’s stuff. First are always a little disappointing. I’ll bet they had to be done in a week or something. Crazy. Yanick Paquette’s Cover art looks really nice on the review site, unfortunate about the ‘graphics’ on the printed edition. Congrats for a very respectable first DC headliner Andy!
Item: Kevin A. Boyd on the Shuster blog posted this link to an article for the Hamilton Spectator, about Aram Alexanian’s contributions to Canadian and American Golden Age Comics before he went to work for the family carpet business. It includes a discussion of the Canadian Whites Walter Durajlija & Ivan Koczmarek.
Item[s]: A positive review of Salgood Sam’s [yes that's me!] Revolver Quarterly, from Rachel Fenton, a reader of the digital edition in New Zealand. All places equal distant on the internet. Éric Thériault has a new facebook page to like, Jai Granofsky posted some fun new doodles on his blog, George Todorovski posted a cool ‘Regulators’ trailer for Visionary Comics; A comic he worked on “a while back”. Kalman Andrasofszky joined a collective! This is from their most recent show. Sleeping Lion Heart. Acrylic and silver leaf on wood. 3′x4′ – with the plywood collective for their “HEROES” exhibit. Ramon Perez sightings at Angouleme! Here and here. Having fun doing a victory lap in the EU. Check out this cool set of photos by and of David Boswell: Cartoonist, Photographer, Illustrator, Jaded Roué. Oh hey, it’s the Comic Book Lounge’s 1st Anniversary Minicon and Industry Night today! Congratulations guys!
Ok, sun is up, time for some food and morning exercise! Keep up with us on our facebook page here.
11.Jan.2013 Friday Flashback: Who was M. Leake????
Reader Jim Brigham writes:
“Something came up recently on the Comic Book Daily site about Anglo-American artists and there’s an unfamiliar name on one of the strips (sample attached), Dr. Voodoo, from the Canadian edition of Whiz Comics.
Who the heck was M.Leake and how long did he (or she) work for Double A?”
If you have any information about this artist, please let us know through the comments or the email link at right.
Dr. Voodoo by M. Leake, Whiz Comics #11.
Rural Route by Walter Ball, Star Weekly Magazine, December 24, 1966.
Ball’s Uncle Elmer character has his annual run-in with Saint Nick, but this year ends up seeing double and getting involved with a labour dispute along the way. Love the skinny Santa and the inky question marks; Ball’s great composition. Classic “vernacular Canadian cartooning” for the second-to-last Friday before Xmas.
by BK Munn
Yesterday I bought a bunch of old comics.
One of them was Young Romance #56 from 1953. Young Romance was the comic book series that started the romance genre. It was created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, who edited the series until 1959. During that time, Kirby drew 1,936 pages of art for various romance comics published by Prize Comics, including many covers. One of the few Young Romance covers NOT illustrated by Kirby was this cover, one of a myriad of photo covers used in the series. But doesn’t the loverboy on this cover look like Jack? The eyes. The grey temples? The hirsuteness? The square fingers? (Jack has a story inside, too: the 9-pager “On Your Honor”).
Not sure who the woman is? (She looks similar to the woman on the cover of YR #60.) Maybe the whole thing is just some stock photo acquired by Joe Simon from one of his regular suppliers? Who can say? Check out this history of the Simon and Kirby romance comics by the recently-retired Harry Mendryck.
While the future of the book is in question, and independent Canadian publishers struggle just to stay afloat, Drawn and Quarterly is thriving.
In the earl 90s Chris Oliveros wanted the comic strips that he and friends drew to find a larger audience. On that kitchen table, he put together the first issues of a little magazine he called Drawn and Quarterly. Now D and Q is one of hottest publishers of graphic novels on the planet. David Gutnick’s documentary about them is called Graphic Chicken Soup for the Graphic Soul. 21 minutes 33 seconds.
Player appears after the bump.
16.Nov.2012 Do They Still Publish Tomb of Dracula? A Lapsed Marvel Zombie Reviews Marvel Comics: The Untold Story
“I can’t call it the Marvel Age of Comics because I don’t believe in rewarding thievery. I call it the Jack Kirby Age of Comics.” –Frank Miller
Marvel Comics: The Untold Story
by Sean Howe
review by BK Munn
What was the name of Jack Kirby’s childhood street gang? Why did Stan Lee shave his beard? What did Chris Claremont call “the quest for the cosmic orgasm”? Why did corporate raider Ike Perlmutter fax pages from the Old Testament to Carl Icahn? These facts and thousands more make up the exhaustingly engrossing content of Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, an unauthorized history of the pop culture kingpin recently published by Harper Collins.
Historical anecdotes about Marvel are like mother’s milk to me. As a child comic book reader in the 1970s and 1980s, I devoured Marvel Comics products and strove to learn everything about the company’s characters and creators I could. This early fannishness translated into a lifelong fascination with comics in general and, more specifically, an appreciation for the formative Marvel creators Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko as two of the most important and original figures in comic art, period. As a youngster, before my discovery of comics fandom and fan histories of comics, my historical education benefited from the easy availability of the cheap reprints of classic 1950s and 60s stories Marvel flooded the market with in the 70s (Marvel’s Greatest Comics, Marvel Tales, and the horror and sci-fi stories reprinted in such titles as Where Monsters Dwell), as well as from the series of self-aggrandizing histories Stan Lee penned for Simon and Shuster beginning with The Origins of Marvel Comics. As a burgeoning Marvel zombie, I was entirely under the spell of Stan and his huckster tales of The House of Ideas and the hijinks of the jolly Marvel Bullpen, a legendary Valhalla of comic art geniuses nontheless subordinate to the genial genius-in-chief Stan the Man, the All-Father Odin of all that was good about my favourite fictional universe.
Cut to 2012 and a world in which the Marvel Universe is a planet-wide phenomenon that sits astride the world of movies and merchandising like It, The Living Colossus, and Stan Lee is a cult folk hero and minor celebrity known as the chief Marvel spokesperson, with a resume of campy cameos in a handful of Hollywood blockbusters (sorry, it’s hard not to drift into alliteration when writing about Stan). While long-time former fans like myself have a lifetime of reading about the dark side of Marvel under our belts, including the bitter memories of the battles for control and compensation of the creations of Kirby, Ditko, Steve Gerber, and Gary Friedrich, among many others, I suspect most people probably think of Marvel, if they think of it at all, as a glamorous multimedia success story in which Stan Lee is a sort of benevolent Walt Disney figure and the various studio executives, producers, directors, and stars form a modern Marvel Bullpen of creative and financial geniuses. Sean Howe’s Untold Story is a welcome corrective to this narrative, a well-researched, breathlessly-paced history of the company, its owners and employees, and their creations, a history stretching like a time-traveling Reed Richards from Marvel’s genesis in the down-and-dirty world of 1930s pulp magazines to its current place as a 21st-Century entertainment giant and Disney cash cow.
Howe does a good journalistic job synthesizing a history of Marvel from available sources, including previous fan histories and interviews, combined with 150 new interviews and a close reading of key Marvel comics and editorial content in the context of their historical creation (World War II, the 1960s Civil Rights movement, and the 1960s and 70s counterculture). What emerges is a more-or-less unbiased account of the creation of characters like Spider-Man and The X-Men, and the transformation of what was once known as Timely Comics from a small operation run by a few hardworking men in an office of Martin Goodman’s Magazine Management mini-empire to its current incarnation, along the way humanizing all involved and giving faces to the men and women behind the newsprint fantasies. Beginning with the bestselling success of early superheroes like Carl Burgos’ Human Torch, Bill Everett’s Submariner, and Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s Captain America in the early 1940s, Howe traces the quick growth of Marvel from a publisher of pre-packaged sweatshop-produced action comics to an idea factory overseen by writer-editor Simon and one-man art-machine Kirby.
Howe breathes some new life and insights into the often-told tale of Stan Lee’s ascendancy from annoying teenage office boy, hired because he was a cousin of the publisher, to the head-writer and editor-in-chief who oversees the slow decline of the company through the late-40s and the censorship crisis of the 1950s through to its revitalization at the hands of Kirby and Ditko in the early 1960s. The golden thread Howe follows in this narrative is the growing fissures in the corporate ediface and the creative differences between Goodman, Lee, and the other writers and artists that would eventually lead to a destructive dual culture of management and labour (or fleecers and the fleeced, as the case may be). Howe writes of the creation of “Lee’s most important non-super-powered characters: the merry members of the mythical Marvel Bullpen,” a metaphorical construct that spun gold from the base metal of the dysfunctional atomized group of bitter middle-aged freelancers and the handful of production staff and office workers who occasionally shared Stan’s tiny cubicle. Having first described the creation of the Bullpen mystique, Howe next spends over 300 pages on the bizarre evolution of the concept and the comings and goings of subsequent generations of creators leading up to the transformation of the company’s culture into a more corporate environment through the 1980s.
One of the highlights of the book is Howe’s detailed treatment of the rise of the first generation of post Lee-Kirby-Ditko fans-turned-creators beginning with the hire of 20-something schoolteacher and fanzine publisher Roy Thomas in the late-60s and continuing through the motley crew of 70s stalwarts like Steve Gerber and Jim Starlin. While even the most casual reader of Marvel’s 70s output must have wondered about the level of drug use and the nature of the spiritual-philosophical-political beliefs of Captain America writer Steve Englehart or Black Panther scripter Don McGregor, until now a coherent profile of this group has been largely elusive, limited to the scattered odd fanzine interview or blog post. Howe provides an almost month-by-month, comic-by-comic history of the takeover of Marvel by the younger generation, breezily incorporating capsule biographies and juicy, hilarious anecdotes about Al Milgrom and Alan Weiss stumbling through “Death Wish-era Manhattan” on LSD, dreaming up plots and settings for Master of Kung Fu. The reinvention of Kirby and Lee’s Cold War parable X-Men as an A-list sci-fi soap opera helmed by Chris Claremont and the promotion of Jim Shooter to editor-in-chief are told with microscopic, entertaining detail, as are the behind-the-scenes backroom corporate deals, battles, hirings, firings, betrayals, and nervous breakdowns that finally brought Marvel into the world of 1980s schlock movie production and set the stage for the 1990s corporate raider takeover and strip-mining of the company, bankruptcy, and the defection of the Image Comics artists.
The book’s real value lies in its accounts of the past three decades of business and editorial boom and bust cycles at Marvel; how bad decisions, big egos, and mistreatment of creative artists led to personal tragedy and the near-death of the company and of the North American comic book industry as a whole, and Marvel’s inexplicable success despite a spectacular lack of artistic creativity or vision. As Howe makes abundantly clear, the fact remains that unlike even new owner Disney, Marvel has not produced a new character or story with mass appeal since about 1978 and remains essentially an empty shell devoted to maintaining and promoting a handful of lucrative properties first imagined by Kirby, Ditko, and a few others. Under the harsh glare of Howe’s prose, modern Marvel’s success is exposed as the combination of inertia, historical accident and the determined efforts of a few canny operators to leverage any stray scrap of intellectual property they could lay their hands on into Hollywood currency.
While much of the material collated here has been previously covered in the pages of The Comic Journal and in books like Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon’s Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book and Ronin Ro’s Tales to Astonish, and corporate-sanctioned tomes like Les Daniel’s Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades, Howe’s approach, that of a business writer with a human concern for the interior life of his subjects, coupled with a newspaperman’s love of local colour and gossip, elevates the stories of the people behind Marvel into something resembling real history; both tragedy and farce combined. The only thing lacking is visual documentation –being an unauthorized, warts-and-all history, permission to reproduce comic art or related images was understandably hard to secure– but Howe has set up a wonderful tumblr blog to showcase all the weird ephemera and art he unearthed in his research. Old fans like myself might wistfully resent the occasional lacunae (the 1940s “Golden Age” heyday of the company and oddball artists like Harvey Kurtzman and Basil Wolverton barely figure in the book) and proofreading gaffes (I’m pretty sure Marvel never published something called “Millie and the Models”), but the book is probably the best and most balanced history we are likely to get of “The House That Jack Built” for quite a long time.
Cellophane ad by Richard Taylor (1902-1970). Maclean’s 1930s. Toronto-based Taylor created comic strips and this memorable series of bug-eyed advertisements in the 1920s and 30s before moving to the U.S. and a career with The New Yorker.
30.Oct.2012 C-List | the facebook roundup
Item: Conor McCreery from Kill Shakespeare was on Main Street [halifax cbc radio show] talking about their popular book series and how they came up with the idea.
Item: Frozen Light Comics Presents Canada’s Newest batch of Superheroes for an all ages audience.
Item: Son Of Gothra: A new Indy comic by Fred Kennedy & Jeff Brown, art by Vincent Sunico & Charles Prichett, cover by Kalman Andrasofszky. “Abrax is capture by the feared Imperial General Findalpha and begins his transition from tribal raider to stallion of the arenas. The slave of an Empire in turmoil, Abrax of Gothra must navigate his way through the intrigue of the courts and the violence of the arena.”
Item: Brad Mackay suggests If you’re in the Burlington, Ontario region Friday you should go to this.
Item: Becky Cloonan said : A little preview of Swamp Thing Annual, where we lull you into a false sense of security with all the cute romance. Written by Scott Snyder, out Wednesday. The issue features some bits by her beau, Andy Belanger.
Item: Eugene Zhilinsky said: “We did it! The latest (and already popular!) novel of Editions Tchai – Rock Testament – even better than our pilot version we did last year – it’s twice thicker, printed on better paper and has nicer cover color. This is the whole cinch of printing a big run offset. This book was already presented at TCAF 2012. More in our blog here.”
Item: The Drink & Draw Montréal site is seeking new bloggers and content creators.
Item: La Mauvaise Tête presents “Pinkerton”. by Alexandre Fontaine Rousseau & Francois Samson-Dunlop. Two newly single friends, sleeping away their failures, discover that their troubles have something to do with a nostalgic affection for the music of the 1990s. An album of this period holds their attention in particular. Will they finally overcome his bad influence? Pinkerton was a great success as a zine. A bittersweet comedy about love, music and drunken nights that end around a poutine. The Graphic novel includes an afterword by Nicolas Tittley. 176 pages, black and white. French text. In stores November 2012.
Item: Also, Les recrues de l’année | The rookies of the year. News about the studio of La Mauvaise Tête. A tight crew of talented Montrealers.
Item: NSFW: Rick finally gave in, and has done a brand new Motion Picture Purgatory for Noboru (Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead) Iguchi’s DEAD SUSHI: “How to Get Rid of Vaginal Odor!”
Item: Colin Upton wrote: “I have unleashed my pent-up drawing comics rage! Ah! Finished the art of another new mini-comic, this one the first Famous Bus Rides in more than a decade! This one is drawn on black paper with black, white and grey coloured pencils. It’s the story about being stranded in the urban Hellscape of Columbus, Ohio while being too cheap to take a cab!” One assumes you can acquire the book from here.
Item: Robin McNerdel of Inkstuds said: “Hey, I posted an interview with Michael Deforge. I like that guy, and so should you!”
And that’s not even all of it. We’ve been very active on the Facebook fan page, come check it out, like, and keep up on the latest of Canadian comics!
26.Oct.2012 Friday Flashback: Atomic Chartier
Some Cold War hijinks from this undated Onésime strip by Albert Chartier (1912-2004). Reprinted in the Quebec version of Archie comics published by Éditions Héritage (Archie #111, 1980). Look at those lines. Great figures, composition. Great comics!
19.Oct.2012 Friday Flashback: Jimmie Frise, 1931
27.Sep.2012 The C-List : The Facebook editon
Been spending a little more time than ussual on Facebook
the last week, promoting a crowdfunder.
In my spare moments collecting stories that float by
and posting them to our page a lot, here’s the last few days worth…
Item!: Bernie Mireault has posted a great long entry about his attending the latest Montreal Comic Con, and joining the EN MASSE crew there for the weekend. He was a regular at the Montreal Comic Jams over the years, he introduced me to them in fact. Sounds like he had a lot of fun with it. And he’s got photos of George Perezz painting with the EN MASSE crew too! Like Zoro!
Item!: New Snail is open, look forward to checking it out next time i’m in Toronto [been a long time since i had a good reason to be on that part of Young] in the mean time Ty took his kids and got to be the first customers, again!
Item!: Photos of a “drawing concert” with Philippe Girard, Todd Picard, Reine Du Mambo, Mathieu Girard, Fred Lebrasseur and Joe Ollmann!
Item!: J.Torres has been posting notices about contributors to his new comcis antholagy and Indigogo project True Patirot. Here’s linkts to their Facebook Page, and posts about Howard Wong & Adrian Alphona, Tom Fowler, Agnes Garbowska, Jay Stephens, J. Bone, Jack Briglio & Ron Salas, Ramon Perez, Andy B, Scott Chantler, Faith Erin Hicks, and the book itself [1st]. Their funding drive on Indiegogo goes live Monday, October 1st.