Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Cream City Coverage: Project Freedom

Hello everyone! I hope you enjoyed those last two 'conversations' as well as the review of Heavee Underground on the AICN website.

Early on, I stated this blog would be a place I'd use to promote and inform on my work as well as the work of other creators. So far, I've been focusing on creators I [personally] know. What I'd like to do... for a spell... is write about creators I've read little about and became familiar with only by happenstance.

Over the years I've seen several trends come and go.

In the late '90s it seemed everyone and his brother was aping Art Adams, Jim Lee and/or Joe Madureira. In the case of Jim Lee, it seemed he was recruiting artists heavily influenced by Neal Adams... as he had been before them. In the case of Art Adams, it seemed he was having none of it. It had gotten to the point he was drawing parodies of artists he felt were 'ripping him off'. Joe Madureira went so far as to make sure he included in-comic jabs and uppercuts to one particular artist he felt was borrowing too much. I never understood that last one 'cos Madureira was mixing Art Adams with Masami Obari's Fatal Fury to achieve his style.

And, if you weren't seeing that stuff, there was no shortage of people influenced by Japanese comics.

In the earlier part of this decade there was a major surge of mainstream creators influenced by the likes of Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz and Mike Mignola. And who could forget all the people continuing to completely rip off Frazetta?

In the second part of this decade there has risen a keen interest on animation styles of the '40s-'50s, which I think is really cool. I just don't want those styles to take over the market as the styles before them have.

All this trend stuff is great. In fact, most great artists pick up new techniques where they can. It becomes a problem when the trend becomes the 'new rule of craft'. There is no magic formula to creating great comics... apart from freeing yourself up enough to create... great comics.

... which brings me back to writing about artists/creators I've recently come across through happenstance...


Let's face it, the people responsible for creating this artform rarely, if ever, had to contend with trends 'cos... well... they were busy creating this artform. One great trend I've seen in comics, a trend I feel is long overdue, is looking to the past in search of the future.

This search is not creating new George Herrimans, E C Segars, Frank Kings, Charles Schulzs, Will Eisners and/or Harvey Kurtzmans. Nah... to claim that would make no sense at all. This search is uncovering the freedom to create first time cats like...

Jordan Crane
The Clouds Above; a book which appears to be a children's novel but is anything but. The dialogue in Clouds is nothing short of magical. Crane writes the way people talk and that's no easy task. It's very easy, with dialogue, to take it too far... to go over-the-top. This book is pretty. I mean, the character design and overall style of the book is one thing. But Crane didn't stop there, he decided to use a color palette you don't usually see in a graphic novel.
The Last Lonely Saturday; a short graphic novel... gentle-looking enough for a child. But this book is filled with a story that is more likely to touch people over 30. And Crane accomplishes this without any dialogue and a completely different treatment of color and tone.

Jacob Chabot
The Mighty Skullboy Army; a book starring a boy with a skull for a head dressed in what appears to be a Brooks Bros suit - hellbent on corporate takeover. This is a task he believes he can exact from his classroom. Skullboy is aided by a robot (Unit 1) and a monkey (Unit 2). His adversary? Mod Dog... is by all accounts... just a dog doing whatever it is dogs do.

This is the kind of stuff I can imagine being created in the early days of comics, yet, they feel altogether modern... 'cos they are. The point isn't to copy an idea, crystalize a hypothesis or dump all you've done before to follow a trend that is happening now.

The point is to regain the freedom the early days of comics afforded its creators. And, if that be case, it isn't a trend at all... it's a paradigm shift.

Who's up for some comics gumbo?!