Posts Tagged ‘Jim Carrey’

Burt Wonderstone and the Wonderment of Comics

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

After finally putting to bed a huge project that we’ve been working on here at CO2 Comics (expect a big announcement next week) I snuck out with my wife for a guilty pleasure.

We went to the movies!

Beside my professional credentials as a comics creator and publisher, I am proud to admit that I am also a variety arts entertainer with a fair range of diverse skills that include balloon sculpting, juggling, stilt walking, puppetry and magic. There has been a buzz of excitement among my friends in the magician community about the new movie, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.” Sporting a great cast that includes Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Steve Buscemi, Alan Arkin and the stunning Olivia Wilde with a cameo by David Copperfield, himself, this magic parody film was hard to resist, especially for anyone that has ever dabbled as a magician.

I don’t intend that this blog post be a review of “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.” For me, movie was entertaining, though it did not live up to my hopeful expectations. I did find myself, however, identifying with the central theme which paralleled  closely to last week’s essay about Jerry Ordway and his experience as a formerly successful comic book artist now struggling to find work. The film had a lesson to be learned by all artists and entertainers which can be summed up simply as “never lose the wonderment that attracted you to your creative medium of choice.”

In the film, Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and his partner Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) rise from childhood friends with a voracious interest in magic to a world-class act that headlines in Vegas with their own dedicated theater.  Their performance, dominated by Wonderstone’s ego, becomes routine and, eventually, stale as audience numbers accordingly shrink. The new, hot attraction in town is Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) whose brand of street magic is more “Shock and Awe” a la Criss Angel than a Vegas style production like Copperfield . What classic technique Gray’s magic lacks is overshadowed by vile displays of self mutilation that engage his audiences through what he calls “Mind Rape.”

Wonderstone and Marvelton’s act is no longer deemed viable. The two are out of a job and can’t find work anywhere, now considered washed-up hacks. They must rediscover that wonderment that initially drove them to greatness before they can force their classic act “out of the box” to overcome the superficial  sensations of their competition.

This theme is a common challenge that faces all of the arts. Many artists are not prepared to accept the transitional point where the act of doing what they love becomes a job. Many artists discover an inner resentment that their creative freedom is lost because of a  necessary need to pander to a market compounded by deadlines, schedules, editors and critics. Their work becomes routine and eventually mundane. They lose the creative joy they once had as artists. They lose the wonder.

When doing what you love becomes work it can sometimes be like losing your best friend. It is either time to move on with your life, find a way to rekindle that relationship or be miserable in it. At CO2 Comics we know first-hand what a slippery slope working in the comics field can be regarding this issue and we remind ourselves every day with our tag line, “Making comics because we  want to!” For us it’s true. We love making comics and making them available to an ever changing audience. Bill Cucinotta and I have had a friendship that has endured all these years through good and bad times. It is our mutual affection for the medium and respect for each other as artists that has kept us together on this mission as comic publishers.

My clown friends in the entertainment field have a mantra that paraphrases McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc.  They say, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot!” It is a challenge to stay fresh and to continue expanding the horizons of your craft for your own self esteem and for the sake of the audience while always being grounded in the classic fundamentals.

Fundamentals are the key to longevity in any field. Those that embrace them structure their work with a classic frame that will support any inventiveness used to establish the artist’s creative signature. Art with no regard to fundamentals will usually not stand the test of time and will fade into obscurity as a dated novelty.

“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is an observation of how any medium can be distracted by the extreme. This is not lost on the cast of the film. In a Newsday article Steve Carell is quoted as saying,”It’s the idea that something that is classic and perhaps a bit well worn can casually be replaced by something that might not be considered art, but is new and shocking,” he said. “I think that not only happens in magic but in the comedy world as well. I think there are lots of parallels, especially in television, in terms of what people are watching at this point. People are getting so much info on a daily basis, you need to do something ridiculous just to garner any attention.”

Olivia Wilde follows up with, “”It’s an observation about what people want to watch, and what audiences seem to be demanding,” Wilde said. “People want to be pushed to the brink, to see what they’ve never seen, It’s interesting because it’s happening in sports and in film as well — horror, comedy. People want to be pushed to the edge. I wonder if that’s a reaction to technology and what’s available at our fingertips, or the demands made on entertainment that you pay for, because free content is so plentiful.

“If our film is a love letter to anything, it’s to a classic style of entertainment.”

So comics are not alone in their struggle to attract an audience and to maintain a classic integrity.  It’s too bad that this film is ultimately a piece of fluff that will not be taken seriously enough for people to fully digest the message. There is hope for me, however,  that classic values in comics will win-out over what I see as a current knee-jerk marketing frenzy that is destabilizing classic and iconic characters and fracturing the fundamentals of good writing, visual storytelling and dynamics. All is good in the world!

Thanks Burt Wonderstone for reminding me of the wonderment that attracted me to comics!

With all that in mind now, grab a pen and jot down these dates and events that Bill Cucinotta and I will be at in the next few weeks. Stop and see us at our booth at The Asbury Park Comic Convention in Asbury Park , NJ on Saturday March 30, 2013   and at the Comic Geek Speak Super Show in Reading, PA. April 6-7, 2013 . Both shows are chock full of classic comic book artists. Show them some love! We want to meet you too and are excited about looking at portfolios of aspiring comic creators. See you there!

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco


The Comic Company:
Duckwork

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

 

Enter at your own risk

 
An ominous, orange glow cast its pall across South Philadelphia in the spring of 1981. It was a sign plastered with fluorescent tempera paint on a thirteenth floor window of the ARCO Building on Broad and Spruce streets, home of most of the classes taught at PCA, Philadelphia College of Art which is now known as the University of the Arts, one of the most respected art colleges in the country.
 

Room with a view

 
The letters that read “DUCKWORK” could be seen as far south as Veterans Stadium where the Phillies had won the World Series just months before and marched past PCA in their triumphant parade that rocked the City of Brotherly Love.

Behind the window was the office of a motley group of art students banded together to publish a “student” newspaper by the same name.
 

John "Bondo" Rondeau settles in front of a huge print that we had "aquired" from a show at PCA that featured a famous cartoonist alumnus, Anrnold Roth, who ironically had been expelled from the school when he was a student.

 
DUCKWORK, though tacitly supported by the school, was never a school newspaper. It was a publication commandeered by an assembly of comic art enthusiasts led by myself that defiantly produced comics in an educational environment that, at the time, considered the medium to be kitsch and derivative.
 

DUCKWORK Covers 1 & 2, Cover #1 illustrated by Bill "Fostex" Foster, #2 by Gerry Giovinco with inks by Bill Anderson

 
Our pseudo-fraternity proclaimed each of us as DUCKS and, as a proud rogue clan, we wreaked havoc on the school with our publication and our mischievous pranks some of which might have us arrested if done today.
 

Bill Bryan who is now at CBR Woodworking where thay make incredible furniture for offices and corporate spaces among other things. http://www.cbrwoodworking.com/index.html


 

Evan Nurse was a Jr. Duck who attended a cartooning class on weekends at PCA for young students. Evan's senior prank at Sharon hill H.S. was to join the girls Lacross team. They let him play but they made him wear the kilt. He is now an AV instructor at an area High School.

 
PCA had very little sense of community at the time. Because of this, our little group managed to control Student Council and Arts Council giving us the opportunity to allocate funds and office space for our ventures. The DUCKS ruled!
 

DUCKWORK Covers 3 & 4, both illustrated by Gerry Giovinco

 
DUCKWORK quickly became a magnet for cartoonists especially after it became known that I was attempting to start a comic book company named Comico with two friends of mine from high school, Phil LaSorda and Vince Argondezzi.
 

DUCKWORK Covers 5 & 6, #5 illustrated by Bill "Cooch" Cucinotta, #6 by Matt wagner

 
Bill Cucinotta, my partner here at CO2 Comics, knew of me and Comico from Creation Conventions and was enthusiastically involved with DUCKWORK from the start.

Nick-named Cooch, his loyalty and ability to get the job done whenever needed along with his knowledge of the direct market derived from his experience working retail at Fat Jack’s Comic Crypt, Philly’s premier comic shop made him invaluable. It would later make him the most logical choice to fill the void left by Vince Argondezzi’s abrupt departure from Comico’s initial partnership well before our first book Comico Primer would be published.
 

Edwin Arocho is now a fine artist and musician living in San Juan, Puerto Rico

 
The list of colorful guys and gals that frequented DUCKWORK’s office is peppered with talented artists that went on to creative careers. I’ve included photos of several DUCKS. It is easy to see that besides comics, we were seemingly, also influenced by the movie Animal House!
 

Danny "Hank" Lange followed his dream and actually learned to play that guitar. He recently did a sound track for an award winning film. Check Dan out here: http://www.myspace.com/buskersblues


 

The fall of 1981 brought a new landscape to PCA. Two older buildings across the street had been purchased by the school and turned into dorms. One of these dorms would quickly become a DUCKWORK annex and be dubbed the SWAMP. The SWAMP was home to new DUCKS, Matt Wagner, Mike Leeke, and Dave Johnson, three guys that each would later play a role in the accomplishments of Comico.

 

Joe Cursio was another Jr. Duck who hung out at DUCKWORK and is now living

 
DUCKWORK was populated by students that lived on campus and commuters who often crashed at the office or the SWAMP. SEPTA strikes were usually great bonding experiences for the commuters of which I was one.
 

Joe "Zig" Zigler rarely showed up with clothes on... Joe is a fun pal that we've managed to lose touch with. Joe, if you are out there, drop us a line!

 
One commuting DUCK who recently has emerged on the web-pages of CO2 Comics with his wife and former PCA alumnus, Tina Garceau, is Joe Williams who has recently posted several great flashbacks about DUCKWORK on his blog at www.willceau.com.
You can read Joe’s 5 part DUCKWORK retrospective here.
 
By the time the spring semester had ended in 1982, a total of six issues of DUCKWORK had been published.

It was the end of my junior year at PCA. Phil Lasorda’s older brother Dennis had just purchased a duplex in Norristown for his Physical Therapy practice. He had offered us the opportunity to run Comico out of the half he was not using.

It was time for this DUCK to sink or swim. I left PCA to pursue a dream. Cooch came along as well. Without its leaders DUCKWORK quicky faded away but Comico was about to become official.

When it came time to take the big leap of faith, Vince chose not to commit and Bill took his seat at the drums. Phil, Cooch and I were now the standing partners of Comico as we began to solicit our first publication.
 
Matt Wagner was a prolific contributer to DUCKWORK and continued to contribute as Comico took off. Matt’s feature Grendel first appeared in Comico Primer #2 and went on to become an iconic character in comics. Comico also published Matt’s Mage the Hero Discovered.
 

Matt Wagner, The Comic Artist Discovered.

 
Mike Leeke was significant as an artist on ROBOTECH and later went on to pencil Bill Willingham’s popular ELEMENTALS.
Mike’s contributation to CO2 Comics. The Amazing Liberteens, can be seen Here.
 

Mike Leeke, who would later become the penciler extraordinare of ROBOTECH and ELEMENTALS is just thrilled that he can hide all of his mechanical pencils and rapidograph pens in his tremendous fro!

 
Dave Johnson was also a penciler on the ROBOTECH series.
 

Dave Johnson, former denizen of the SWAMP and penciler on ROBOTECH The Next Generation for Comico.

 
Joe Williams along with his wife Tina Garceau creates Monkey and Bird which is featured here on CO2 Comics.
 

Joe Williams is now a featured artist here on CO2 Comics with his wife Tina

 
Bill and I have ironically redeveloped our webs. We’ve gone from DUCKWORK to Web Comics with a long history in between.
 

Bill "Cooch" Cucinotta reclines on a cardboard 3-D project that was retired to the hall in front of the DUCKWORK office

Ouch! Gerry Giovinco, is another Duck trapped in a world he never made!

 
NOTE: In 1984, two years after the DUCKWORK crew had disbanded at PCA, Jim Carrey makes his Hollywood debut in an NBC television series titled “The Duck Factory” about a quirky group of animators trying to keep their studio alive. Kinda makes you wonder…


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