Friday, July 30, 2004


I don't want to draw this damn thing! Why can't I just lie back on the couch, drink coffee and read!? Huh? Why? I'm doing this in such a piecemeal fashion it's taking forever, but I just can't sit down and get on with it. If anything proves I don't have the patience to be a comic artist this is it. I just can't imagine drawing scripts that don't interest me and making a living at it. No more comics. If I do anything else it'll be for me me me!

Friday, July 23, 2004

Who's stronger, Hulk or Superman?

It's been quite a nice day, which is such a novelty this summer (yesterday the rain, thunder and lightening were of almost biblical proportions here in lovely (HA!) Nottingham), that I decided to break my 'not going into the City rule' (a rule that gets broken far more often than I'd like actually) There's not much about the City that's actually worthwhile (unless you believe the local radio station, "Nottingham, the greatest City in the world!", who in their right mind would make such a claim?), but I did buy a few comics (gosh, that makes me feel manly, I only venture out the house to buy comics, oh well) and what great buys they were. Apologies for the following ‘review’, but ah gots to spread da word.
CONVERSATION by James Kochalka & Craig Thompson pub by TopShelf
Oh boy, this is something special. James Kochalka is a comic-making machine, he cranks them out with remarkable regularity and they are all works of genius. It's hard to pick out a favourite title, but his diary comics are something special. Every day for a few years now James draws a little comic strip in his diary, sometimes it's about what happened that day, sometimes it's just his musings. The diaries have to be read in big chunks to fully appreciate what a genuine ARTIST James is, fortunately the separate issues of the diaries are pretty chunky and they've just been collected into one big fat book (called American Elf I think) that I couldn't afford today, but will be picking up ASAP. James Kochalka has quite a few detractors, and I guess I can understand why, his simple, cute and quirky art style and pretty oblique stories are certainly an acquired taste, but it's a taste worth acquiring as his work sparks and crackles with life.
Craig Thompson made quite a splash with his debut book Goodbye Chunky Rice, and not surprising, beautifully drawn, sweet, sad and charming, the story of love and breaking up gained power through anthropomorphics (using animals as humans (kinda), like Mickey Mouse or Maus for example) and marked Thompson out as a creator to keep an eye on. Blankets, his second book was quite a change.... but not. Obviously drawing on similar experiences of love and loss that he'd used for Goodbye Chunky Rice, Craig once more created a sweet, sad and warm book that tugged at the heartstrings. But this time he used humans and, wow, can he draw people. The art in GCR was astonishing, combining elements of Jeff Smith (creator of Bone) and Dr Seuss yet uniquely Craig’s own, Blankets proved that Craig had more going for him than great brushwork and cute characters. Clearly owing a lot to Will Eisner (a comics giant) but yet again, all his own, Craig produced a huge autobiographical (although not entirely, things were changed, but Craig doesn't hide being invented characters so semi-autobiographical doesn't seem like the right description) book (almost 600 pages making it one hell of a fat comic) that explores his early years and relationships with his family, peers and friends. It's a fantastically well done book, but it's really strength is not in the excellent drawing or fine writing, but in it's bravery. Craig doesn't shy from showing young love in all it's naive puppy dog glory, he doesn't distance himself from it or portray it ironically, he shows it for what it is, one of the most powerful experiences in a young persons life.
So, what happens when these to creators get together and draw a conversation? A wonderful comic obviously. James and Craig alternate pages to discuss the nature of their art and while it's not a revelation it is as charming honest and warm as their individual work. Later in the comic James and Craig draw on the same page and the work is a joy. I would never have thought they had compatible art styles (other than being 'cartoony') but they work so well together that I hope they do it again.
Craig also has a new book out that is a sort of sketchbook come travelogue that makes me grind my teeth in jealousy and admiration of his artwork.
As you can see I'm not exactly a 'critic', more an enthusiast. Still, it helps in my job, I may not be able to offer great insight into why something is good, but I can usually communicate my enthusiasm.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

all change

I do have a chunk of Simian Smith to write up and I have the perfect week to do it. My wife is a (assistant manager) care worker for people with learning difficulties and is helping a couple of people who've gone on holiday. She left this morning and I'll not see her again for a week. With the house to myself I've got the perfect excuse to get things done.
Thanks to the money draining marvel that is ebay I have the great pleasure of being able to watch Due South for the first time in years. I'm half way through the pilot episode at the moment and plan to buy more of the episodes soon. Due South, for those who don't know, was an excellent programme from the early 90's that the BBC showed in the UK. Set in Chicago it followed the adventures of a Canadian Mountie, his wolf and his regular cop partner. US crime shows are quite different nowadays (but still great, The Shield, Oz and Boomtown are essential viewing) but Due South had a wonderful feel to it not a million miles away from the much missed Northern Exposure. As well as being witty and quirky Due South pressed quite a few buttons for me, I've always been a fan of the innocent abroad kind of story. Also the Mountie himself is cut from some of my favourite character cloth. Decent, good hearted, honest, self reliable and capable, he's very much a Clark Kent/Superman, Captain America kind of guy. If that sounds dull the shows strong sense of the absurdity and the inherent difficulties of such a character made it anything but. As you can see I was a bit of a fan, thankfully it still holds up. Now I'm going to carry on watching it.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Ignore the poor deluded fool

I've not really given much away about Simian Smith have I? I'm being over cautious, but telling a potentially large amount of people what my ideas are doesn't seem terribly wise. It's arrogant to suggest the little book I'm working on is worthy of being stolen by some literary thief who searches the internet looking for works of genius that some trusting fool has put on a website. But the thing is I wouldn't be doing it at all if I didn't think it was worth publishing.
So I will tell you this. I originally started Simian Smith as a comic strip, he appeared in only 2 issues of a small press comic called BAM before the publisher put BAM on hold and I decided comics were too hard to write and draw. The book of Simian Smith is and adaptation of the unfinished comic. I still get to write and draw, but it's in a scale and manner I find much more suitable. And that's your lot.
Looking at the above I do have to wonder about myself. I mean, it does look really odd. I honestly don't think someone's going to nick my idea.
Please feel free to leave comments about this subject, even if it's only to tell me I'm being a dick.