February 25, 2012

This week: Storytelling Tips.

For those of you who don't get the little joke in the image above and are wondering who this guy is, read about Taffy Thomas here.

A lot of the links this week concern people who are using well known and beloved characters and stories to make their art. When it goes wrong, it's especially galling because it feels to fans like an offense to things they care about in a very personal way. Often failure or success depends on the artist being perceptive enough to know that makes these characters and stories interesting in the first place, and even more broadly to know what makes anything interesting at all.

I really enjoyed this essay by David Brothers of Comics Alliance on how wanton, indiscriminate salaciousness can totally kill sexiness in comics, using the example of two artists currently drawing the New 52 Wonder Woman. I'm explicitly, almost extremely unopposed to sex and nudity in comics. For example, this is one of my current favorite comics. And I sing the praises of the artist of Oglaf as drawing the best cocks in comics. The argument here isn't about modesty, it's about what enhances and detracts from character. It' a concept DC doesn't understand, as many of you are keenly aware. I know many of you love the women whose characters seem so lively and vibrant and flawed and interesting in the various animated series must cry bitter tears that in comic form they are all of them reduced to this:

And it's not accidental. I'm privy to conversations amongst my cartoonist friends, and I can tell you that as editor Jim Lee has literally been telling artists working on female characters "More t&a, more crotch shots." And he's not unique in that regard, though that doesn't excuse him. Some frustrated artists fight the good fight, delivering DC better than they deserve, but not as good as they could. Others deliver sub-mental garbage offensive to the human race.

Some creators are limited by others, and some creators destroy their own work. All of you knew I was segueing into George Lucas, didn't you? Have you all see the fantastic, almost movie-length reviews of the Star Wars films (and others) by Mr. Plinkett? If you can get past the schtick, which I find wearying, they're the best, point-by-point essays evaluating what does and does not make films work and make sense that I've ever seen. A TON of editing and hard work clearly goes into them, and they're a rich resource. What I want to talk about is a question asked in the first video on this page. He asks people to describe characters from the original trilogy without referring to their job or their appearance, using only personality traits. Then he does the same for characters from the prequels. There are so many insights in these reviews about effective visual storytelling, motivations, having a coherent theme...but this point is the most devastating critique of the prequels. Star Wars could have sucked, and did in many ways, but succeeded because the characters were clear and engaging. In the Prequels, no one is a character.

This has been making the rounds with good reason: Faith Erin Hicks schools us all on what to do, and what NOT to do, adapting a written story to comics. With five pages of comics adapting a passage from The Hunger Games, and five pages of her current project, which adapts another prose novel.

Maris Wicks demonstrates her process for turning ideas into script into comics, with pikchurs!

Jess Abel and Matt Madden will be coming out with the sequel to their comics textbook Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, Mastering Comics!

Finally, this has nothing to do with this week's theme, but you know how much I love showing process art, so here's Aaron Renier showing how he did his watercolors on a separate layer for a recent project.

February 22, 2012

Saturday night's all right for Comic Tools, and fighting.

So, for awhile now since my return I've been posting whenever, but mostly on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, which were my most common days off at the art store I just quit. But the blog does in fact say updated every Saturday, and I love having weekend treats like the sexy webcomic Oglaf to look forward to, so I'm resuming Saturday posts. In the meantime, comic journalist Sarah Glidden posted about a really hilarious pen nib she found, and since it really doesn't go with any subjects I have lined up to post about, here it is:
"I found these Eiffel Tower nibs buried in a box of junk at a flea market in Italy and bought a bunch as little gifts for people...but then I actually tried it and it turns out to be the one of the best nibs I've ever used. Go figure."

February 7, 2012

This week: Sick week re-posting
(artwork by Rivkah La Fille)

I was too sick this week to make the tutorial I was planning, but I guess someone tipped off the universe because people sent me awesome tutorials to re-post instead.

My favorite came to me from Comic Tools reader David. I'll let him introduce it:

Hi Matt,

I really enjoy your blog and I've been following it for a few years now. Sorry this isn't related to the item you posted - although it was a good post and you make a great point. (I do think technology separates us from reality to such a degree that we have trouble making things seem believable despite the over-the-top "realism" seen in comics and CGI these days.) Anyway, the reason I'm writing is to point you to a post a did recently, detailing my building a combination drawing table/light box. I tried to give as much information as I could - particularly for the wiring part of it. If you're interested you can find the whole thing here at http://www.sneakydragon.com/daves-howto-lightboxdrawing-table.html
Sneaky Dragon is a podcast I do with Ian Boothby, writer for Simpsons and Futurama comics. Hope you find it interesting.

This is the table. How goddamned cool is this? This beats the Totoro inkwell, I'm afraid, for coolest reader-built tool submission:

The next tutorial link was sent to me by my friend Emily, who's writing the comic I'm working on. It's a pretty decent little tutorial on marker coloring. I hate markers as a tool, just in a tactile sense, so I don't post much about them. They're expensive, and I don't think I could stand drawing with them enough to execute a tutorial post even if I wanted to pay for them just to do such a post, so I'm happy to have this to post. Marker work can be beautiful when well done. Jamie Hewlett did some gorgeous marker colored pages for Tank Girl years back, for instance. The key is to blend them properly and not have streaky lines showing, which is not easy.

Rivkah tipped me off to French cartoonist Margaux Motin's incredibly lively, expressive ligne claire drawings. If you want to drink in a cartoonist with a true mastery of different kinds of clothing, how to use detail without cluttering a drawing, draping fabric on the human body, body language, facial expression, and a casual mastery of the human form in perspective, then grow a camel hump to hold the oasis that is this woman. I've chosen to link you to a SFW entry, but please be aware that many of her entries depict women in various states of sublimely rendered hawt nudity. (Usually followed with a deflatingly unflattering punchline, like in this example, which may be my favorite so far.)

Kate Beaton did a comic about her bad cartoonist posture, an issue we can all identify with.

Those of you who read last week's entry might have gone to your libraries to see what comics did a good job of making you really feel their environments, and which fell short. Allow me to show you a new webcomic by Ryan Andrews that conveys the changing of the seasons with great sensitivity. Look at how the light changes from summer to winter. The clothes change, the air changes, the sounds change. And yes, you can see the character's breath when it's cold. What a gorgeous, eerie work this comic is.

That's all for this week, see you next week!