Category Archives: comics
Over at Robot 6, Brigid Alverson wrote a very eye-opening piece on how-to draw manga books, and that you should proceed at your own caution. Ms. Alverson has an MFA in studio art and has edited how-to books, so she’s someone who definitely knows what she’s talking about.
So here’s the advice I have for all aspiring comics artists everywhere: Draw from life. You’re better off using those how-to books in an interesting still-life setup and drawing that than copying the illustrations you will find inside.
Those illustrations are the end point of a process you are just beginning. The flaw that I see in a lot of amateur manga is that artists fall in love with the stylization before they are able to create a convincing form in space. How many manga characters have you seen that have big eyes but no back to their heads? Or elaborate costumes but no three-dimensional presence? Start with what’s in front of your eyes and see where that takes you.
If you open these richly illustrated manga books, what you will find is a series of character designs. Again, they are carefully thought out and beautifully drawn, but they have a sort of generic feeling to them. If you aspire to drawing a particular genre of manga, then presumably you are already reading that genre and you don’t need someone to point out the standard features of demons, peach girls, or semes and ukes. (If you aspire to drawing a particular genre of manga and you aren’t already reading it, stop right now and either switch genres or start reading.)
The other problem is that there is a lot more to making manga than simply designing interesting characters. For some reason many artists tend to stop there — go to the Artists Alley of any convention and you will see page after page of pin-ups of manga-style characters but very few actual comics. Storytelling is a lot more than character design, it’s storyboarding and composition and pacing, and actually having a story to tell to begin with. The manga character books deal with none of this.
Ms. Alverson also offers some of her own recommendations of How To Draw Manga guides that actually are useful. But the point remains: if you’re making a comic, you’ve gotta know how to tell a story visually.
I have a feeling that the Justice League Detroit era wouldn’t have been quite so roundly mocked if it weren’t for the fact that they were moving to Detroit. For years, the team had been opening out of a satellite from space. They consisted of an all-star super team from DC Comics, which included Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern.
And then, in 1984, it was time to shake things up. Super teams staffed with the World’s Finest was suddenly out of vogue. What was cool? Tight knit teams high on the soap opera. Teams like the uncanny X-Men, and to a lesser extent the Team Titans. Team comics were for B-list characters to shine!
So… One fateful day, Aquaman exploited a loophole in the Justice League constitution. Using his power as one of the founding members to disband the team whenever he wanted, the King Of Atlantis decided that the old Justice League of America was no more… and a new one would take its place. One that wouldn’t be based in the lofty confines of space … but rather in an abandoned warehouse in Detroit.
Incidentally, it’s later revealed that Aquaman dissolved the old Justice League because he was having problems with his wife. Yup, this incarnation of the Justice League was pretty much DOA.
The modern political cartoon has its roots in two realms: ugliness and illiteracy. The “ugliness” comes from the caricature portion. The one and only Leonardo Da Vinci, star to Assassins Creed and legendary Ninja Turtle, is credited with the earliest known use of caricatures. The great artist and inventor would often hire models with deformities to study, exactly, what the difference was between that and beauty.
The other major pioneer behind political cartoons is famed Reformer Martin Luther. There were two factors in his use of cartoons: first, that people of his time couldn’t really read, and second, that the printing press (and, especially, woodcuts) made it much easier to communicate ideas to the people at large. So when Luther wanted to expose the evils behind indulgences, he drew a cartoon where Jesus was driving out moneychangers, while the next panel showed the Pope acting as a moneychanger. You didn’t have to be a Rhodes scholar — or even a graduate of the First Grade — to get to the meat and potatoes of what Luther was trying to say here.
The tradition of political cartoons continued proudly in the United States. Benjamin Franklin is credited with creating the first American cartoon, with his infamous “Join, or Die” showing a cut up snake, each segment representing a different state (or group of states). The cartoon would become one of the major propaganda pieces used by the Revolutionaries to turn public sentiments towards independence.
The apex of American political cartoons, though, would arrive more than a hundred years later. The famed Thomas Nast would start the ball rolling. His are large footsteps to follow, considering he took on Tammany Hall, popularized the elephant and the jackass as symbols of the two political parties, and invented the modern conception of Santa.
However, there were men willing to step in in shoes. AMong them was Joseph Ferdinand Keppler, founder of the the magazine Puck.
Greetings, boils and ghouls! Imagine you lived in a day with no iPads, no smartphones, and no internet. Chilling, isn’t it? But dig back further. Imagine a day where not everyone had a television… and those who did had only three channels! Positively ghastly! How would a young man or woman like you spend the day? I’d imagine that most days would be … deadly boring.
But for some people, there were comic books. Bright four-color magazines stacked at your local five-and-dime. Surely, this was harmless fun! Perhaps you’d read about a man zooming about the clouds! Or stories of little children getting into troublesome shenanigans! Maybe there was a story about an elderly duck who goes on globe-trotting adventures! There was a lot of fun in comics. Little do you know that your innocence is about to be be murdered.
You find another comic. One whose cover is full of lurid imagery and a bold, drippy title. You open the book. Before you know it, you’re introduced to a dark, demented world of wickedness and gore. Yur mind becomes filled with violent and seductive thoughts. Wicked, murderous thoughts flow through your veins. Oh, and what is that ad for in one of those paiges? Is that an air rifle? It would be a bloody shame if you decided to take things too far….
That’s the line of thought that pervaded the Seduction of the Innocent, Fredric Wertham’s infamous book critiquing the gruesome images in several crime/horror titles, especially those published by EC Comics. Among those titles was one whose reputation would eventually outlast the Comics Code: a titled called Tales From The Crypt.
Today, Google is a webcomic. Specifically, a comic tribute to one of the most influential cartoonists of all time, Winsor McCay. The Google Doodle is an interactive pop-up book of Little Nemo. It’s filled with fun animations — a sly tribute, I assume, to McCay’s pioneering contributions in the field.
(h/t to Nonsensicles via comments)