Saturday, April 19, 2014

FRED EGG COMICS, YOUTUBE!

I've posted my first ever video on Youtube...


This is my reading of two of my comic stories - "The Orb" and "History of E-Mail and the Internet".
The event was DeeCAP, taking place as part of the Dundee Comics Expo. It was filmed by Stuart McAdam of Treehouse Comics.

Please click here to view.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

ADVENTURES IN COMICS at RESORT STUDIOS

I sent a two page story to the Adventures in Comics anthology this year, based on their suggested topic "The Orb".

The comics they received are being displayed at Resort Studios in Margate. If you're in the area, go along and have a look. I've seen some of the submissions and they are impressive.

I won't be able to go along. If you see my page, take a photo and e-mail it to me. I'd love to see it!

Go here to see the official Adventures in Comics announcement.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

DUMP #2 in COPY THIS!


The latest edition of D.Blake Werts' zine "Copy This!" has a listing for my comic Dump #2.

It also has a natty cover and sticker designed by Andy Nukes.

If you'd like more information, please contact Blake at bwerts@vnet.net

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

JACK KIRBY, WRITER

I've written an article on Jack Kirby's contribution to comics as a writer.
It's been published over at Graphixia.
Please go here to have a look.

"Jack Kirby’s writing came in for a lot of criticism in the 1970s after he made the break from Marvel Comics to DC Comics. And as time has gone on, Kirby’s dialogue can increasingly be read as stilted, in an age where “believable” or failing that, witty interchange between characters is much prized. He is out of step with how culture has gone because he is so earnest in his writing.
Due to their great success in the 1960s at Marvel Comics, which were credited to Stan Lee as writer and Kirby as artist, it is tempting to look at those comics,  compare them to Kirby’s later work and subtract the difference as being Lee’s contribution. There is much debate about who exactly was responsible for what though, as Gerard Jones states:
“Stan turned to Jack Kirby and through a process now eternally obscured by competing stories – both men claimed to have had all the basic ideas first – introduced Fantastic Four” (a)
Traditional notions of what a writer and an illustrator do Kirby are surely too simplistic when applied to comics, as recounted by Ronin Ro:
“When Stan saw the Surfer in his pages, he asked “Who the hell’s this?” “ I figured anybody as powerful as Galactus ought to have a herald who would go ahead of him and find planets,” Jack replied. “That’s a great idea!” (b)
Leaving aside the thorny issue of what exactly is meant by writer in these credits, amongst what one might assume to be the Lee contribution is snappy banter between characters, witty and self-knowing asides and a more general showman/ringmaster persona that he brought to the editorial side of his work.
This leaves Kirby with imaginative design in characters and environments, dramatic pacing, and a smaller or greater element of the plot depending on how detailed initial instruction from Lee was.
By the time Kirby is doing the writing and drawing at DC, the imaginative characters, locations and plots are intact (arguably even more so), and the action and story progression is still very dynamic. What has been lost is a street level, smart-talking point of entry. Lee’s writing was done in reaction to Kirby’s artwork. In a sense he was commenting on what Kirby had created in the artwork.
Kirby was always interested in creating new characters, situations and environments. In the late 60s, he proposed his New Gods ideas to Marvel, who didn’t want to use them. He took them to rivals DC instead.
Kirby often used Gods, or variations on powerful celestial beings, in his stories. His contention that he, and not Lee, came up with the idea to do comics based on Norse mythology gains credence from the fact that Kirby had already done a version of Thor at DC in 1957 before doing it for Marvel in 1962.

Kirby ThorKirby, Thor, DC Comics, 1957
Kirby was interested in technology, machinery, and philosophy. But anyone who thinks Kirby could not deliver on an emotional level would be mistaken. Just look at this one panel from Mister Miracle …
Kirby Mister Miracle
 Kirby, Mister Miracle, DC Comics, 1974
It’s melodramatic, but even without any context, you have the sense of what Oberon (on the left) is feeling in this picture.
When Kirby returned to Marvel in the mid 70s, his contract afforded him the opportunity to officially write, draw and edit his own books, a condition that Lee was willing to capitulate to in order to get Kirby back. He set to work on Eternals…
Kirby Eternals
Kirby, Eternals, Marvel Comics, 1976
Kirby was keen to create more new stories, characters and situations, in opposition to what had become the Marvel norm, whereby all the comics fed into each other to varying extents (all characters in Marvel Comics  had to meet Spider-Man at some point, be they Howard the Duck, Transformers or the Frankenstein monster).  Kirby did not want to create stories which had to negotiate through the convoluted continuity of twenty or so years of previously published comics. As Sean Howe writes, 
“In Captain America, assistant editor Roger Stern had to rewrite a Kirby reference to a flying saucer being “the first alien space craft ever to visit the Earth, “ a description that would discount scores of Marvel adventures and not a few of the characters.” (c)
I only later read any of the background on Kirby’s self-penned comics. Summing up the industry view of him at this point, Mark Evanier writes:
“Just then, he’d stopped beoing Jack Kirby, the guy who created, or co-created, so many successful new comics. With the end of his contract in sight, he was Jack Kirby, the guy who did those wonky, unreadable books that didn’t sell so great.”(d)
Evanier also writes:
“Years after, his seventies work would be regarded more favourably, and even reprinted, right along with everything else he did, time and again. Some would even say the sales figures weren’t as dour as the rumours of the times insisted”. (d)
Anecdotally, I bought and read them. Perhaps there is a generational element to one’s appreciation of Kirby’s writing. The late 1970s Captain America were actually the first comics I read by Kirby, and I thought they were terrific as a kid. Instead of the wry, slightly arch dialogue of Lee though, in Kirby’s self-scripted comics we instead have an earnest, almost poetic series of statements. These are sentences that no-one has ever said or ever will say. They are not capturing a realistic conversational tone, they are lines which aspire to be about the magical, the fantastic, the wonderful. In this respect they are more in tune with the artwork. The totality of the comic is now Jack Kirby.
Kirby Silver Star
Kirby, Silver Star, Pacific Comics, 1983
Postscript
Incidentally, although Kirby’s dialogue and writing is unique, another writer whose work reminds me of him is Ann Nocenti. In Longshot she is also operating in a similarly fantastical environment filled with outlandish characters. See this following discourse…
Nocenti Adams Longshot
Nocenti, Adams, Longshot, Marvel Comics, 1986
Jones, G. (2005) Men of tomorrow: geeks, gangsters and the birth of the comic book, London: Wiliam Heinemann, p.295
Ro, R. (2004) Tales to astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and the American comic book revolution, New York: Bloomsbury, p.99
Howe, S. (2012) Marvel comics: the untold story, New York: Harper, pp.194-195
Evanier, M. (2008) Kirby: king of comics, Abrams, New York, p.187"

Sunday, April 13, 2014

KK's SHOWCASE at BIG GLASGOW COMIC PAGE


This week, KK's Showcase over at The Big Glasgow Comic Page has featured myself and Fred Egg Comics.

To have a look, go here and scroll down to April 10th.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

DEAN HASPIEL - FREAK MAGNET


Dean Haspiel is a talented cartoonist operating out of New York. He grew up reading Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four, later discovering autobiographical comics by the likes of Harvey Pekar. His work now displays elements of the fantastic and the personal, mixed through with a romantic philosophy on love and life. I like where he's coming from. He draws like a demon too...


David Robertson: Tell me about Billy Dogma's character and his publishing history including the new book Fear, My Dear.
Dean Haspiel: Billy Dogma and Jane Legit are a spaghetti western-inspired, modern day Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn romance. Two love titans whose hearts crave each other, so much so, their rock 'em sock 'em passion betrays a spark of hope that love can save the world.
I created Billy Dogma in 1995 and it was first published as a black & white comix strip in The NY Hangover, an east-village newspaper. Soon after, Billy Dogma appeared in Keyhole, a 2-man comix anthology I did with Josh Neufeld, and a 3-issue Billy Dogma series, published by Millennium cum Modern Comics. Later, Billy Dogma stories appeared in Daydream Lullabies, Boy In My Pocket, and Aim To Dazzle, published by Top Shelf & Alternative Comics. 


Then, in 2006 & 2007, I published a couple of epic Billy Dogma stories called "Immortal" and "Fear, My Dear," for the webcomix collective, ActivateComix.com, that I recently remastered for the Fear, My Dear graphic novel published by Z2 Comics, coming out this April. Fear, My Dear is my love letter to the insanity of love. I intend to self-publish another Billy Dogma collection (via Hang Dai Editions), featuring comix I did in other anthologies and at TripCity.net, plus new material.
DR: How was working with Harvey Pekar on American Splendor? What did you learn drawing his stories?


DH: Collaborating with Harvey Pekar was a unique experience. Limiting in one way as there was never room to alter the pace of his carved-in-stone words but quite challenging in another way wherein I had to excavate the narrative gold from his dialogue. There's only so much inspiration you can derive from a talking stick figure so the artist truly becomes the co-author in comix terms. Not only did I become a better visual storyteller but I also learned to listen. A lot of what Pekar wrote came from his ability to listen to the people around him so that we could "hear" them, too, in his comix. I miss Harvey very much.
DR: I’m interested in the work you’ve done with regards to fostering a sense of community between cartoonists. Can you talk a bit about the studio you work in, and the online and/or any other real world projects you’ve been involved with?
DH: I've had the desire to be part of a comix community ever since I first learned of the Hollywood "Rat Pack" and read about the legendary "Marvel Bullpen" in Stan Lee's Soapbox columns (which turned out to be more a fantasy than fact, for shame), coupled with the year (1985) I spent working as an assistant at Upstart Studios in the garment district of Manhattan to cartoonists Howard Chaykin, Walter Simonson, and Bill Sienkiewicz. I remember fondly my subscription to The Comics Buyers Guide and the days of getting new comic books once-a-week at my local comix shops: West Side Comics, Funny Business, Forbidden Planet, Rocketship and, nowadays, I still make the occasional trek to JHU Comics. When I finally decided to take a leap of faith and work full-time freelance as a cartoonist it was a lonely time, drawing in my Brooklyn apartment. Luckily the internet invented blogging platforms and I took advantage of that to create ACT-I-VATE, a webcomix collective on Live Journal, which became a virtual studio until some of us decided to rent brick-and-mortar space in Brooklyn and form DEEP6 Studios for 3-years. Later, I formed Hang Dai Studios and experimented with an online salon called TripCity.net. Hang Dai is where I currently make my comix among a good mix of artists and writers and I don't know that I'd ever want to work alone again. The different energies of various artists engenders new ideas, sparks spirited dialogue, and fuels the will to create in the face of crippling economics and ornery business practices. We share information, uplift our fellow cartoonists, and fight the good fight, together.
DR: I want to take you back to those early days in the 1980s. Please indulge me; at the time I was an avid reader of the Keith Giffen/J.M DeMatteis Justice League comics, and the first time I saw your work was when you drew a “bonus book” for that series. What do you remember about how that job came about?


DH: I cherish those classic J.M. DeMatteis/Keith Giffen/Kevin Maguire Justice League comics and I just had the honor of collaborating with JMD on The Fox #5! Otherwise, I can't stand what I did on that "Maxwell Lord" Bonus Book featuring Booster Gold and Blue Beetle. In fact, I have a hard time with most comix I do within a year of their publication but I can't let the perfect get in the way of the good. Anyway, I was discovered by DC Comics editor, Joe Orlando (formerly of EC Comics/Mad Magazine/Creepy fame) and he liked what I did on The Verdict mini-series that I drew and co-created with writer Martin Powell for Eternity Comics. Joe recruited and hired me to pencil a Bonus Book for Detective Comics. He was a great cartoonist in his own right, as well as a kind editor, but what I drew didn't come out very good. I knew then that I wasn't ready for prime time. Hell, I'm still not ready for prime time. Anyway, I figured I blew my one chance and DC would never call me back and I started drinking a lot of 40 oz. bottles of Olde English 800 while drawing my Tommy Rocket comix strip for The Load, the college newspaper at SUNY Purchase I was attending at the time. Somehow, Joe took a liking to me and I got a second shot at drawing another Bonus Book only it was for Justice League International and I was asked to pencil AND ink the story. I felt I could redeem myself and I penciled the story as best as I could and then I fell off the college library, a three-story building, breaking both my legs (my left ankle/heel and right knee), tore the ligaments in my right drawing hand and bent the bottom of my spine. DC Comics gave me a little grace period to start my slow recovery process but, deadlines are deadlines, and I wound up inking that comic with a broken hand while sitting in a wheelchair. I didn't work for DC Comics again until editor Dan Raspler hired me to draw a Dr. Fate pin-up.
DR: Wow, I had no idea. You mentioned The Fox. Tell me about that series and any other projects you have in the pipeline.


DH: I just finished a 5-issue The Fox mini-series called "Freak Magnet" for Archie/Red Circle Comics. It was co-written by Mark Waid and J.M. DeMatteis and colored by Allen Passalaqua and lettered by John Workman with a Shield back-up feature drawn by Mike Cavallaro. My favorite superhero collaboration to date. I'm currently drawing a Batman '66 story written by my pal Gabe Soria for DC Comics while developing the story for the next Fox mini-series that I'll probably start drawing in mid-April. I'm also drawing a Little Nemo comic for Locust Moon Comics and preparing to self-publish some new comix via Hang Dai Editions while hyping Fear, My Dear: A Billy Dogma Experience.