Monday, March 29, 2004

Is synesthesiac even a word? 

Over at Fanboy Rampage I posted a long weird message that eventually touched on the criteria by which one should judge a comic book illustrator. In response to one of my exhortations, "Look at the rhythms of panel progression. Are they appropriate for the tone of a scene?" James Smith asked:

"How does this work? I mean, how do you figure out how to break this down?"

I posted this answer:

I wish that panel rhythm was something as easily analyzed as rhythm in music, but it's a much more instinctive matter. Shane and Ken are on the right track, but it's also a matter of elements within the panels. There's no proper vocabulary to discuss this, and why you try, it tends to lapse into the sort of hopelessly vague hand-waving you get when stoners talk about music. That danger acknowledged, here's my attempt at explaining how it works for me.

Every element within an image strikes a beat, "catching" the eye for a certain amount of time. Certain compositions lead the reader's eye in certain ways, taking the eye on a path along these elements that might be slow, sinuous, staccato, dissonant, or explosive. How these sorts of panels are juxtaposed creates panel rhythm.

A cartoonist can introduce changes in the rhythm of a page. When you deploy significant changes, you can make the reader take a beat to reassess what just happened. What kind of changes? They could be changes in value (light versus dark), in rendering style, in the content of a page (a surprising plot development, a jump to an unexpected camera angle or a cut to a new scene), or in the amount of detail (moving from a complete and environment to a vignetted figure). Or they could be changes in panel shape or panel border weight-- the sort that Shane and Ken referred to.

Now this is all done on instinct. No one counts out the rhythm a background provides. But if you spend enough time thinking hard about comics, experimenting with layout and reading analytically, you'll find that you are as aware of their rhythm as a synesthesiac is of the sounds of a series of colors.

Some virtuosos of comic page rhytmn: Chris Ware, Dave Sim, George Herriman, Jaime Hernandez.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Johnny Bacardi: A winner is you! 

I just conducted my "stick everyone who linked to Mercury Studios' weblog in a hat and pick out one name to see who wins" contest, and the winner is Johnny Bacardi!

Johnny has a choice of prizes, as I outlined when I initially plugged the contest:

The first option is the safe one: a 3 by 5 inch postcard with a original sketch of any character I've worked on. The sketch will be executed in pen and ink, (and ziptone and paint, if I'm sketching anyone from Whiteout.)

The second is only for the truly discriminating reader- a slightly beat up copy of Bruce Wayne: Fugitivo, 2de2. This is the Portuguese language edition of that milestone in the literature of ethics, Bruce Wayne Fugitive, Part 2. As it says on the cover, this is "a estarrecedora concluáso da saga!"

So congrats, Johnny B. Let me know your choice and where I should send it.

Paul Guinan's Dad. 

Paul Guinan recently returned from Chicago where he was celebrating his father's 70th birthday. Paul's father is Robert Guinan, a famous painter with clients ranging from Johnny Depp to Francois Mitterand. Dozens of international gallery shows, articles, giant coffee-table art books, etc., have been devoted to his works. Here's the text of a newspaper interview & overview of his career. And here are a few images.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Berganza on Clark. Knight on tour. 

We at the studio have had the pleasure of watching page after astounding Superman page come rolling off of Matthew Clark's drawing board, and we've been waiting for the rest of the world to see it, too. Here's a start. This Eddie Berganza interview at Comic Book Resources mentions Matt and notes just one of the many reasons why his Superman work is so terrific.

There are bigger names on the Superbooks right now, but no one, and I mean no one, is working harder at giving the fans their money's worth than Matt.

In other news, this Sunday, Mar. 28, 7pm:
Keith Knight will be in town at Reading Frenzy with Shannon Wheeler of Too Much Coffee Man Magazine fame. Reading Frenzy is at 921 Southwest Oak St. in Portland, near Powell's.

Read all about it in the increasingly popular "cartoon" format.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Quick update 

I'd like to think that it was some property of physics that sent two cartoonists to replace me in Portland while I was out in L.A., but really it was just Portland Arts and Lectures. Lynda Barry and Matt Groening. Johnathan Nicholas at the Oregonian gives his opinion of how it went here. Jeff Baker spoke to Groening for the O last week. And to honor their arrival in town, the Willamette Week asked four local cartoonists to express their admiration in comic strip form. (The comics are, inexplicably, saved in pdf format and linked from the page.)

Portland critic Kip Manley offers helpful guidelines for the care and handling of a tarbaby

And finally, we here at Mercury Studios would like to say that it's about godamn time.

That's all. I've got drawing to do. The illustrated con report from me and Parker is coming soon.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Skull, dead 

As I mentioned earlier, I'll be signing at the booth. Here's the schedule: 7-8 pm on Friday, 10-11 AM Saturday and Sunday. I'm told we'll be sitting in the shadow of an enormous skull, courtesy of the Punisher film.

As I write this, the rest of Mercury is in Portland, getting ready to make a pilgrimage to see Day of the Dead. We've been talking zombies all week. Ron Randal we learned, is new to the genre, and has been sighted carrying a dvd double feature of Romero's original Night of the Living Dead and the cult favorite Carnival of Souls. You're in for a treat, Ron.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Off, off to L.A. 

I've got a lot of stuff to get done before I'm off, so this'll have to do until I get back on Monday. Here's hoping this doesn't kill the great momentum we've been enjoying.

Paul Guinan has some updates on the growing fame of his Boilerplate site. If you haven't heard of Boilerplate before, start here to learn more. Paul has done us all a great service with his thorough and extensive research into the shamefully neglected history of Victorian robotics.

It's self-serving time. Laura Gjovaag has reviewed WHITEOUT and MELT on her blog. Always glad to see these books find new readers. If you're curious about WHITEOUT, go here , and read the entire first issue for free.

We were very glad to hear about this:
"Marvel Comics and artist Dave Cockrum have reached an agreement on a contract that will allow Marvel to continue to fully own the many characters Cockrum created for the company, while compensating Cockrum for his years of service and the seminal characters he created."Read the rest here.

The Cockrums still have a long way to go, with a lot of bills to pay. We encourage our readers to pick up the tribute book and watch for the benefit auction. You can see my piece for the book by clicking on the thumbnail above. David Hahn gave the auction a beautiful original page from an issue of Vertigo's Lucifer that he illustrated, and studio buddy Jeff Parker contributed an original Batgirl page and a copy of his graphic novel The Interman with a cool sketch on the title page.

Speaking of Parker, I'll be sitting next to the filthy wretch at Wizard World L.A. Stop by, mention that you saw this, and as time permits, I'll do a free quick sketch for you.

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Prose novelists meet panel fiction 

The New York Times has an article about prose novelists writing comics, with quotes from Michael Chabon, Brad Meltzer and Greg Rucka. Nothing new there for the people likely to be reading this, but the article does mention no less than four comics containing work by Mercury members, and it's nice to get the ink. I'd love to see a more in-depth article on the subject of crossing media from prose to comics.This Jerome Charyn interview from a few years back shows how different the process is in Europe.

What other prose novelists have crossed over into comics? Sara Ryan is the first that comes to mind, of course. There's Gary Phillips, Samuel Delany, Laura Esquivel, Caitlin Kiernan, Lucius Shepherd. I must be missing a ton. Use the comments and help me out here. The two best stories of my career were both by novelists taking their first crack at the medium. I'm wondering if any other artists out there have had a similar experience.

NYT Link via The Hurting

Like being paid to go to art school. 

I'm working on the third On the Road to Perdition novella right now. I pencilled and inked the second one last year. On this one I'm just inking, and I'm having the time of my life, because the pencils are by one of the best artists in the business: Jose Luis Garcia Lopez.

For those that are curious about such things, the thumbnails below link to a pair of pages in both pencils and inks.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004


The update page at Sandman.tv is crawling with scans of new convention sketches by Mercury members. Looks like they've got stuff from Pete, Rebecca, David, Ron, me, me, Pete and me.

There are also great sketches from artists like Alex Maleev, Phil Noto, Dave Johnson and Jason Pearson, and a handsome pair of paintings from my old Kubert school classmate Felipe Echevaria. It's an impressive collection. Explore.

"...I’ll give my superiors a better report on him" 

Here's an odd interview with David Hahn, from a site called In too Far. David is doing top notch work on Bite Club, the first issue of which ships real soon now.

I begged and you came through 

I've had a number of responses to my pathetic give-away for links to this site. Use Once and Destroy , Gus Dahlberg , Safe as Milk , Charlie Chu , and the Reverend Dan Evans were all kind enough to oblige, as was my wife which isn't all that impressive, but if a comic book guy can't be a completist, who can?

If you link to the site, let me know before I get back from Wizard World L.A. next Monday, and I'll put you in the hat for the prize-drawing linked above.

In other navel-gazing news, I've taken Grim's advice and dropped the use of the third person. Looks like I won't have Steve Lieber to kick around anymore.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Actual content. 

We've posted some black and white art from Lieber's story in the first issue of The Escapist. Readers have been snatching up copies for weeks, and the book has been a big success. Click this link and you'll see that Lieber had nothing to do with it.

Recent Reviews 

Pete Woods draws Batman monthly in Detective Comics. The latest issue is #792, and Silver Bullet has a review up.

Steve Lieber's all over the place this week, thanks to his story in the first issue of Michael Chabon Presents...The Amazing Adventures of The Escapist. Read all about it: Newsweek | MediaSharx | Breakdowns | Fourth Rail | The Trades | Silver Bullet. Fourth Rail also had a great review of Hellboy: Weird Tales.

Drew Johnson is the penciller on Wonder Woman and he's getting serious acclaim for the work he's doing, as you can see in these responses to his most recent issue, #200. Cinescape | The Trades | Fourth Rail

Karl Kesel writes The Human Torch and inks Mike Weringo's pencils on The Fantastic Four. Some reviews of FF #510: Broken Frontier | Fourth Rail | 411 mania.

Matthew Clark's first full issue of Adventures of Superman isn't out yet, but the back up story he drew in #625 gave his readers a taste of what he can do. Here's what the reviewer at 411 Mania thought of it.

And we just spotted this review of the VOX trade paperback collection, written and illustrated by Leland Purvis, a friend of the studio

An apology. An appearance. 

Many, perhaps even most of the first few posts here will be about Steve Lieber. This is unfortunate, but there's a good reason. Steve's doing this on his own initiative and hasn't even mentioned this blog's existence to his studio mates.

We at Mercury know how soul-crushingly awful an excess of Lieber can be. Why not tell Steve how disappointed you are in person? He'll be a guest at Wizard World L.A., at the Long Beach Convention Center, March 19-21. Look for him in artists alley, or at the Illuminati Entertainment table.

I know, not much of a Mercury presence- not like we had two weeks ago at the Emerald City Con in Seattle. Paul Guinan has put together a photo album.

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