New page of
The Heavy Adventures of CAPTAIN OBESE
by Don Lomax is now available.
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As I begin to write this week’s blog the East Coast is hunkering down in preparation for landfall of Hurricane Irene. Here in South Jersey all of the shore points have already been evacuated and Irene isn’t expected to hit for two more days! I live inland about forty minutes from the coast and I am getting nervous about the potential for the severe damage that can be caused by this historic storm. Today we received a rolling message from the electric company warning about the very real threat of drastic power outages and informing us that those outages could take days to correct.
Those of you that follow this blog know that Tuesday is the regular day for this to post and fortunately Bill Cucinotta will be finalizing the post from Philadelphia, which is also in the path of the storm but significantly inland. Thankfully the city is not nearly as susceptible to damage and outages caused by trees as we are buried here in the heavily wooded Pinelands, home of the fabled Jersey Devil.
I hope against odds that come Tuesday I will be able to enjoy reading this post and be able to visit all of my favorite places on the internet. More importantly I hope that everyone in the path of this storm fairs well and comes through this ordeal safely.
All of this talk about the lights going out is making me think about how dependant we have all become on our computers and other electronic conveniences for our information and amusement. I’ve started reminiscing about those simpler times when I looked forward to reading a stack of pulpy comics on a rainy day. I have to wonder how kids today will get by without power to supply their iPods, iPads, gameboys, cell phones, laptops and televisions.
Even the creative process grinds to a halt when the lights go out. More and more writers and artists are dependant on their computers as their primary tool with which to create. I know I’d much rather peck away on the keyboard, making corrections instantly as I clack along. The option of writing this blog with pen and paper is now just about as obsolete as writing it in hieroglyphics.
Regularly, I review old-school comic creating techniques, most recently looking at the basics of just drawing a line without the use of a computer program. Sure, artists are always dependant on tools to execute their ideas but in the past primary tools were simple and more dependant on the skillful hand of the creator than a complex program brought to life by the power grid.
Have we become so dependant on creating digitally that we are in danger of losing the freedom of our voice as creators when the lights go out? I think that Irene may teach us a brief yet tough lesson, especially if some of us are without power for several days. Besides the fact that milk will go bad in a warm fridge, some of us are about to find out that we need to maintain our ability to create with analog tools like paper, pencils, ink, ruling pens, brushes, nibs, and rulers.
The ability to create with our hands not cuffed by a computer will give us the opportunity for greater spontaneity, greater freedom and greater control of our own creative destiny. I am not insinuating that we should abandon the use of the computer for creating. Absolutely not! In many ways digital art has opened up an infinite number of doors for creative opportunity. I am suggesting that just as a little league ball player has the fundamentals pounded into his skill set to make him a better player, young artists should master the use of the rudimentary yet traditional tools of the medium to assist in making them better comics artists.
Someday, when and if the lights do go out, It will be the comics artist that has mastered the basic skills that have been used for decades that
will have the advantage and be able to create without the use of a power cord.
Making Comics Because I Want To
Last week I covered the digital side of producing our Monkey & Bird Mini-Comic. I told you about the layout and printing process of our little book so we wouldn’t arrive empty-handed when we went to the Philadelphia Alternative Comic Convention. Going to PACC gave me the impetus to actually go ahead and get it done!
The digital work was all out of the way. We had two stacks of signatures fresh from the printer. Now came the hand-done part of folding, assembling and stapling our Monkey & Bird Mini-Comic! Tina and I cleared the dining room table of dinner dishes; got out our supplies; neatly stacked the two signatures within easy reach; tuned in Pandora on the Roku box, and had ourselves a folding party.
I recently had an opportunity to reread and old blog post by Tom Spurgeon on his site The Comics Reporter. In the blog post Tom takes a look at one of our old Comico publications, AZ by our late partner Phil LaSorda. Tom questions the cultural impact that such an obviously crude attempt at making comics may or should have on the market and the medium.
Now I along with my current publishing partner Bill Cucinotta who was also a partner back in those early Comico days may be biased but we also have a unique perspective just by having been there. We know, retrospectively, that the work we did in those days was seminal at best and was often criticized as being crap. It is easy to look back and be embarrassed by our rudimentary attempts to both create and publish comics. The irony, I suppose, is that as rudimentary as that material was, we are both still very proud of it for many reasons, so much so that we published it all again, right here on CO2 Comics.
SLAUGHTERMAN and SKROG may not have had many more redeeming qualities than AZ but they were all cornerstone publications that established a foundation that Comico, one of the most influential independent publishers of the eighties, was built on. For this reason alone, despite their critical ineptness, yes, they had, and continue to have cultural impact.
I remember a scathing review by Cat Yronwode in the Comics Buyers Guide that questioned, “who gave us the right to publish such crap?” My fiery response was that we all have the right to publish what we want to in America and that, crap or not, it will be the market that decides the success of the product. I wish I had those CBG articles today.
One thing we did well at Comico, in those early days, was to learn from our mistakes. It did not take long or us to realize our success would come from publishing others. It was, however, our relationships that we had developed hanging in artist alleys at comic conventions, and our ability to relate to young and maturing talent that allowed us the opportunity to work with the likes of Matt Wagner, Bill Willingham, Sam Kieth, Chuck Dixon, Judith Hunt, Neil Vokes, Rich Rankin, Reggie Byers and many many others.
We also published a new talent showcase called Primer where we published the earliest work of many other budding artists who were not quite ready for the Big Two.
To me the biggest impact that Comico had on the comics industry, was that it gave evidence that if a handful of guys with apparently limited talent and experience could build a company that at one time was ranked #3 behind Marvel and DC in monthly sales, then maybe, just maybe, anybody can.
I believe we created an opportunity for creators to get bold enough to publish their own work or feel more confident when presenting it to others. We all did it as artists, looked at other work that we considered weak and say, “hey, I’m at least as good as this, if this can be published than so can mine.”
We may have been naive or overconfident when we launched Comico but we had one mantra that we held to that was first spoken by Phil, “We don’t want to look back years from now and regret that we didn’t try when we had the chance.” To us, the fear of failure was never as great as the fear of never having the opportunity to make comics professionally. To do what we loved.
Today the internet is the greatest thing for young comic artists and for the entire medium. Anyone can publish on the web and, yes, there is a ton of incredible crap out there but more people than ever are taking a shot making comics and we fans of the medium are the winners because tremendous comic talent that may have never tried before is now offering our eyes a feast of variety that has never existed in comics.
So to answer Tom Spurgeon’s quote: “The question that many of us near comics ask — if only to each other — is if the art form can survive without the occasional cycling back to cruder efforts like this one, unpretentious material devoid of any hope for life or riches beyond its publication schedule that helped revitalize the art form four or five times during a low ebb.”
No! The art form, or more accurately the medium of comics or any medium for that matter, cannot survive without a cycle that includes cruder efforts. No crude efforts would imply no young talent and with no young talent to revitalize a medium, that medium will die a death of eventual mediocrity.
To paraphrase McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, “When you’re green you grow. When you’re ripe you rot.”
So, be brave and create! Express yourself as well as you know how and be willing to show the world. Make mistakes. Learn from them. Never stop growing. But when you do someone new will begin making their own mistakes and we will all have the pleasure of witnessing their adventure.
Holy crap, it’s the circle of life, comics style.
Making Comics Because I Want To
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