Posts Tagged ‘Charles Schulz’

I Just Saw My First Snowflake!

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

I’ve lived in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area my entire life. I’ve experienced plenty of snow storms, built many a snowman, heaved a ton of snowballs, shoveled driveways,  skied and sledded down many a slope and never actually SAW a snowflake until today.

I’m amazed!

I was gathering wood to light a fire in my fireplace, preparing to hunker down for the latest impending storm which was expected to be a doozy. I had already overexerted myself transporting many more logs than I should have when the snow began to fall, yet I quickened my pace to prevent the remaining logs from getting wet by the accumulating, frosty, precipitation.

Then I saw it!

Caught in a spiderweb that was cast to the side of the doorway I was passing through, a tiny, perfectly formed, six-pointed, crystalline snowflake clung, suspended in majestic solitude right before my eyes.

It was magnificent!

My first reaction was that it was a manufactured piece of mylar, party confetti that had somehow fallen there. It was too perfect to be real.  It looked just like the graphic representation of a snowflake that we all agree upon but never truly witness.

I examined the tiny miracle of nature closer and was astounded to be able to determine its authenticity. Then something else magical occurred.

As I looked around I was able to distinguish individual snowflakes, everywhere,  each as unique as the next , falling, tumbling, and piling upon each other as they formed a thin layer on every exposed surface. Surprisingly, I had experienced a moment of incredible clarity that was exciting, frightening and sad all at the same time.

Why did I suddenly have the acute ability to perceive snowflakes?! Had I overtaxed my heart and was a lack of oxygen stimulating a strange case of euphoria? Was I about to die of a sudden heart attack and experiencing some kind of life altering exhilaration before I met my maker?  Or was I, for the first time in my life, just finally able to see something that was always there, observed by others but taken for granted by myself? Had I lived my whole life so consumed by a generalization of snow that I was somehow blind to the incredible individual flakes?

Since my initial experience, I’ve noticed that distinguishing snowflakes is not always so simple. I have spent the rest of the storm observing handfuls of snow and realizing that, more often than not, the little snow flakes are either too clumped together, too tiny or too damaged to be recognizable as the perfect flakes I had witnessed. I was given the gift of being aware of the little jewels at just the right time, under perfect conditions regarding temperature, and humidity.

So what does any of this snowflake stuff have to do with comics? I think it s a fine example of how, as Oscar Wilde wrote in his 1889 essay The Decay of Lying that, “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.” What I have realized by talking to others about my experience is that most people don’t see the snowflakes as I did, either, (In fact most people thought I was a little crazy or  chemically induced.) I was not alone in my previous snow blindness!

You see, though we are all taught that no two snowflakes are alike and that snowflakes all have six points all which can be verified by science and acute observation, that is not how we are conditioned to witness them, presumably because that is not how they are most often depicted in art.

Yes, they are used as symbols that represent snow and as decorations at Christmas time. They are used by children who cut them out of paper and draw them in school. We all use the iconic images of snowflakes usually, as something static that represents snow but not how we experience it.

How we perceive snow in most art is different. It would be too complicated to render each snowflake in a painting, or a film or in a comic. A field of snow is usually portrayed as a blanket of whiteness and snow falling from the sky is generally shown as little blobs of white. As life imitates art, this is how we also have grown to experience snow, as blanketed fields of white and little white blobs as snowflakes.

Depicting snow this way is a universally accepted idiom and has defined our ability to experience snow just as art defined our ability to experience fog according to Wilde, “poets and painters have taught the loveliness of such effects…They did not exist till Art had invented them.”.

My previous experience of snow is defined by Charles Schulz’s PEANUTS comic strip.  Whenever I see snow, I immediately flash to scenes of Charlie Brown and the gang playing in the snow, building snow forts, throwing snowballs and building snowmen. This reality of winter was later backed up for me by Bill Watterson’s CALVIN AND HOBBS comic strip.

Schulz and Watterson’s characters knew how to enjoy the snow and their antics in the white stuff played a major role in defining how I have grown to expect winter play to be like. As cartoonists, both men had a simple and distinctive style. It did not require a lot of lines, detail or anatomic accuracy for them to create a vivid reality. This was the brilliance of their work and a quality that sometimes is lost to aspiring comic artists who get caught up in details at the expense fluidity.

Both men certainly did not depict snow with any detail and I defy anyone to find a sample of comic art that does.  I’m sure it exists somewhere and I am sure it is as rare as those snowflakes that captured my attention today.

The lesson learned is that wether snow is observed or depicted in all of its infinite detail or in the usual gross generalization, snow is snow and it can be as fun and as treacherous either way.

This analogy could come in handy when comic artists are challenged by wether their work is too “cartoony” or too “realistic.” Does it really matter if the message is clear? I can guarantee that no matter how realistic an artist’s style might be, if they draw snow it will be just as cartoony as Charles Schulz and Bill Watterson’s snow.

I saw my first snowflake today and, in fact, many more. It was amazing and I will always keep my eye out for more but that will never stop me from enjoying and experiencing snow in all its simplicity thanks to the world of artists out there that chose not to imitate life.

I will also think twice before judging a comic based on it’s cartoony or realistic style and give the creator the opportunity to create a reality that will affect how I may observe the world.

Who would have thought that one little snowflake would have inspired me so much?

Now there is a foot of the stuff to shovel off my drive. C’est la vie!

Gerry Giovinco

How to Get Rich Making Comics

Monday, February 6th, 2012

First and foremost, if your reason for making comics is to get rich quick, get prepared for a big disappointment! Making comics is an art and, like most art forms, there is a long line of practitioners aspiring to emulate the success of a limited few. Those that have attained riches from making comics are a rare breed and thanks to unscrupulous publishing practices that have been the norm of the industry for decades many deserving comic artist have been deprived of fame and fortune.

I remember reading a list of the top ten grossing entertainers in the world sometime during the 1980’s. Two on the list were comic artists, PEANUTS creator Charles Schulz and GARLIELD creator, Jim Davis. They were right up there with entertainment titans, Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby! That was when I first realized the full fiscal potential of making comics. Schulz and Davis were both syndicated comic strip artists proving that there was commercial power to mixing words and pictures on the page.

This type of economic success was not available to comic book creators at the time for one key reason, Work for Hire. Most comic strip artists maintained ownership of their characters but in the comic book industry the publishers owned the characters and creators only received a page rate for their services with no ability to share in the success of the work through royalties.

This all began to change in the 80’s as the industry pushed for creator’s rights and independent publishers sprang up, willing to publish creator owned work. The newly devised Direct Market made it possible for these new publishers to explore the potential of sharing profits with creators. It also made it possible for creators to self publish their work.

1st five Comico Covers

Comico's 1st Color Books

This was our motivation when we created Comico. We knew that the best option for profiting from comics was to work for ourselves rather than be just another cog in the works of industry giants. As this same notion began to proliferate throughout the industry, comic artists did begin to realize the wealth that was possible. Two major examples of the earning potential of comics can be attributed TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird and SPAWN creator Todd McFarlane who all made millions from their creations.

So, if you want to get rich making comics there are a few things to know.

Creating a successful comic or character is like winning the lottery. The odds are so great. It gets even more depressing when you see the long list of incredible talent that are the competition but no one can guess what will strike the nerve of the market. Like the lottery, you cannot win if you do not play, so jump in and create!

Do what you love and love what you do! Many will tell you this is the key to success. Bullshit!

But this will make the struggles a hell of a lot more bearable. Creating comics needs to be your passion. Make them because you want to and love doing it. Create characters that you know and love and need to share with the reader. Your ability to bring those characters to life is what will make them desirable to readers. Passion is infectious when it is executed with skill.

NEVER GIVE  UP THE RIGHTS TO YOUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY!!! Own your characters, never sell them unless the price is so unimaginably mind-boggling that you can’t say, ” no”. If you do sell your characters, don’t look back, it is time to reap what you have sown.

YOU WILL NEVER GET RICH JUST BY MAKING COMICS! This could change if the digital market takes off but there is just not a big enough comic reading market today to make you filthy, stinking rich. You may get pretty comfortable but not uber-loaded. Creators make the big bucks through licensing and merchandising. The comics are the launch pad for your property, where the character comes to life and proves it has legs but from there it is time to go to market and make movies, toys, pop tarts, you name it. That is where the money is.

What’s that? Your a comic artist not a salesperson? Then get a publisher that will do the work for you or get yourself an agent or a marketing agency. Go find Jerry Maguire and start yelling, “SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!” Video game developer, David Perry, does a great job explaining the need to merchandise here in one of his lectures.

It’s an awesome read and though it’s about licensing video games, you can easily see how it relates to comics because his point is that characters drive licensing and merchandising more than anything else.

Now you know that, yes, it is possible to get rich making comics but it requires a lot of love, a lot of work, a lot of luck and a lot of wheeling dealing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

See you at the bank!

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco

Baseball Cards, Slurpee Cups and Comic Books

Monday, June 20th, 2011

It has been popular lately to reminisce about personal early comic book reading experiences. We all remember the moment that our imagination was permanently captured by the medium and, of course, the experience is unique for everyone. Don Lomax who’s CAPTAIN OBESE comic is a feature here at CO2 Comics recently talked about his early comic reading experiences and how they influenced his comic creating in this interview.

As for my own experience, comic strips were my first introduction to sequential art. I remember, when I was a very young child, anxiously looking forward to the Sunday paper each week so I could sprawl out on the floor and be mesmerized by the colorful pictures that seemingly came to life on the expansive sheets of paper. I couldn’t read but I had a good sense for what was going on especially in the action comics I was drawn to like Buck Rogers, Prince Valiant, Popeye, Alley Oop and Dick Tracy.

Buck Rogers, Prince Valient, Popeye, Alley Oop, Dick Tracy.

Silly Putty made reading the comics more tactile as I was fond of capturing the images on the rubbery clay and distorting them with seemingly limitless possibilities.  This was probably how I conjured the first notion that I could exercise my creative urges with comics.  A long weekend afternoon of rolling gleefully on sheets of newspaper  would leave me fully smudged with cheap ink, my toddler’s clothes permeated with the musty odor of newsprint and my imagination broadened with the endless creative potential that was  exhibited in those color drenched comics.

My local newspaper, the Norristown TIMES HERALD had a weekly supplement for children, it was a four-page, black-and-white,  pull-out called TINY TURTLE that was mostly a cartoony activity sheet that encouraged children to color, draw, do puzzles, read and learn. It featured a monthly calender and was always specific to the season. This came in the Saturday edition of the paper ensuring that my childhood weekends were fairly occupied by my local press.

Gerry Giovinco after open heart surgery

Collections of Charles Schulz’ PEANUTS were my first recollection of enjoying comics bound by covers. My uncle would bring the pocket book size collections over to amuse me while I recovered from open heart surgery. I was nine years old and I would read them front to back before ever putting them down. They were the best distraction from my physical ailments and proof that laughter was, in fact, the best medicine. Nothing was funnier to me than the exploits of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang and I would torture my family by reading the gags aloud and describing the pictures. Somehow the jokes were never as funny when I retold them but my own sides still split with laughter upon each retelling.

I was an avid reader in grade school and gravitated toward adventure and mystery stories. I remember enjoying series books like The BOBBSEY TWINS, The HARDY BOYS and TOM SWIFT. During this time I remember Big Little Books capturing my attention as well.  Big Little Books were chock full of illustrations on every other page and I found myself just as drawn to the images as I was toward the words.

Trips to the barber shop were where I first encountered comic books. I remember there being two magazine racks in the back of the shop, one for the men and the other for the boys. The men’s rack was chock full of PLAYBOY magazines and the best way to get a glimpse of their voluptuous subject matter was to spend as much time as possible by the other precariously close rack that contained comic books.

Though the comics were at that point a precocious end to a means, I would spend a lot of time thumbing through them and I soon discovered that there was a difference between the Marvel and DC comics. The DC comics at the time had a lot of short stories in them and I found that I could enjoy them more because I could get a full story while I waited. The Marvel comics always left me hanging and though I found the images and story more dynamic, I would always be left disappointed, not knowing how the story ended.

As I became a little more independent I would make frequent trips to the local 7-11 convenience store that could be reached through a network of shortcuts through neighbors’ yards. The mission was always the same, milk and bread for Mom, baseball cards and Slurpees for me and my brothers.

The Slurpee cups at the time had images of baseball players on them and my brothers and I were avid collectors, especially hunting for cups of our beloved Phillies.  We were always on the prowl for cups featuring our heroes Steve Carlton, Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa and Mike Schmidt. Inevitably we had stacks of those baseball cups featuring stars from every team in MLB. This went on for a couple of seasons then one day everything changed. The Slurpee cups featured something different… Marvel characters!

Captain America 167

I had already been picking at comics and had, despite my earlier convictions about Marvel comics, recently been enamored with issue #167 of CAPTAIN AMERICA and the FALCON by Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema. I remember rushing home and reading it beneath a peach tree in my back yard on a particularly balmy fall day, I then spent  the afternoon recreating the cover while sitting at the dining room table.

Captain America Slurpee Cup

The Slurpee cup completist in me along with the Marvel story arcs  fueled my need to collect the comics and soon I was a master at knowing the delivery dates of the magazines of every convenience and drug store in my immediate area. I started collecting only CAPTAIN AMERICA then titles that featured CAPTAIN AMERICA soon I found Cap crossing over into title after title and before I knew it I was hooked on the whole Marvel Universe.

In the process I was collecting those Slurpee cups too and found that I loved to copy the classic images off the cups. I probably learned more about drawing the human figure from those images on the cups than any single other resource at the time.

By the time I got to high school my fate was sealed. I knew I wanted to make comics when I grew up and that became the focus of my education until I left college to co-found COMICO the Comic Company.

Making Comics Becuse I Want To

Gerry Giovinco

The Language of Comics

Monday, March 28th, 2011

I’ve looked over a lot of portfolios of young comic artists in my day and the most difficult thing to do is to explain why a budding creator is not ready yet. My insecurities about my own work have always made that task that much more daunting but also gave me an opportunity to understand the frustration of a developing talent.

Complicating the issue further is the subject of style. Some artists aspire to exquisitely detailed imagery while others depend on a minimalist abstract style that to some may imply that artist has little if any drawing skills.

My explanation to a creator that still needed to grow, especially one that on the surface understands the technicalities of the medium, was to equate creating comics with learning a second language. A student can understand all the vocabulary in that language that is possible to know. They can learn to conjugate sentences and even attempt to grasp an understanding of the culture of the language. Even with all this foundation that student may go to the country that speaks that language, open their mouth to speak and still be an obvious foreigner.

Full mastery of the language can only be attained when the student finally has the opportunity to live and breathe the language while communicating to others that fluently express the nuances of the language. Eventually even a dialect can be mastered that pinpoints the speaker of a language to a specific region or subculture of the language.

In short, expertise is acquired by exercising the knowledge. You improve by developing a fluidity that can only be achieved by repetition of action until your skill set is second nature to you. This is true when creating comics, mastery is achieved by a constant commitment and act making comics.

Many comics artists, especially the ones with the most simplistic styles, actually create their own language of communication. The comic artist develops unique and specific visual idioms and trains the reader to understand them through consistency of use.

I always marveled at how well Charles Schulz’s Peanuts characters emoted with just the use of simple lines. The furrowed brow defined by a single squiggly line denoted anger. Double parenthesis around the eyes indicated despair. These along with many other idioms were indigenous to his work and every reader learned to understand and relate to them in a way that made the Peanuts a national treasure.

Comics require a certain visual literacy to be understood. Creators need to understand this and take an active role in conditioning their readers to allow them access to the message the comics artist is trying to communicate.

The new wave of comics that is targeted at young readers has a responsibility to develop this understanding of visual literacy. As comics become more accepted by educators and are used to support education in literature at any level it will be as important as ever to stress that each comic has its own unique language that establishes a communicative relationship between the comics artist and the reader.

Making Comics because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco

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