Monday, May 31, 2010

The Reubens!

I should be posting new work soon. It's a lot of inking work that I've been gearing towards as of late. And now for the weekend news. The Reuben Awards!

There's a nifty little link right there. Anyhow, the winner is the one guy of the three contestants who actually looked at my work and gave me feedback on my comic strips! Yessiree, congrats to Dan Piraro of "Bizarro." He's probably one newspaper panelists that best embodies the Far Side legacy and/or spirit. He won for being brilliantly funny 365 days of the year.

An interesting thing to point out is both his and Jim Borgman's reaction (the other cartoonist to respond to my work) to the current state of the comic strip. The newspaper industry is dying a slow painful death. The syndicate's and most cartoonists' bread and butter. They both said that it's suicide to get into the syndicate/newspaper business. This is not news to me knowing how many submissions that the syndicates get every year and how many they accept (ex. King Features get 5000 submissions and accept 1-2 new titles a year). Even if breaking in let's say, half the titles fail within 1-2 years. Others that survive may make 20K-40K for the first few years. Against such surmounting odds, why do I do this?

Many questions bubble in my head as to why I like comic strips most and what is their appeal to me? I'd say that ever since the comic book was born in the 30's, it continually evolved to become the graphic novel and ever-growing and expanding market for it. Comic books as well are always selling with stellar art appealing to young and adult audiences. Manga, the Japanese response to comic books and graphic novels, may not seem as popular as before, but it's influence has taken hold in American comics and are still voracious. Soooooo......what about the comic strip?

To me, the comic strip is a zen moment. It's a ritual. Those three/four little boxes tell a whole story. Setup, suspense, punch-line. Repeat the next day. As an adult now, I reminisce about reading comics in the newspaper. I don't think I'm alone in thinking this. What I miss most as a kid was reading the comics all together in one place. Reading them online anymore, I miss the connection to them as I did when they were on a sheet of newsprint.

I also love the comic book collections. Reading a Garfield book or a Peanuts or a Calvin and Hobbes collection was pure comic bliss. It was an intensely personal read.

Probably the saddest thing is that I am outgrowing comic strips. One huge reason for this is the biggest downfall of the newspaper comic/syndicate business. The comics never change! When I was a kid, I read Hagar the Horrible and found it funny. As a teenager, I read Hagar the Horrible and found it amusing and familiar. As an adult, I read Hagar the Horrible and find it out of place and horrible. I don't mean to single out Hagar, but Chris Browne is one of many cartoonists that's been doing the same character for over 30-40 years!

In the syndicate's eyes, the comic strip feature should last 50+ years. I question, why IS this?! It's too easy to say that once you have a feature and a formula that clicks and works with readers, you stick with it and build your marketing empire. Jim Davis did this and many others as well. Now look at Garfield. I love Garfield as a kid, but after the first 15 years or so (and I am being generous), Garfield is no longer funny. Yet he's still in the most newspapers worldwide. This shouldn't be!

Imagine that the comics were TV shows. Can you imagine Seinfeld being around 25-30+ years on TV? I Love Lucy being on air for 50 years? The Simpsons going for another 10 years? Sure, it's a cash for maybe two-three more years, but eventually, it peters out. This is what comic strips do. They stick around for 30+ years regardless of freshness and/or vitality. Hence they clogged up the newspaper pages and many new aspiring cartoonists and readers the pleasure or new material. What is wrong with this picture?!

Now the internet is here, and readers have responded with reading new comics without limit to buying a newspaper and so on. I propose that in order for the syndicate business and the comic strip form to survive, there always has to be new blood and fresh ideas coming forth. It may be too late as the syndicate has yet to figure out how to make profits online. However, as long as people like me believe in the comic strip, the form will survive.

The likes of The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, Foxtrot, and a good number of years in Peanuts all had very successful careers (and short ones besides the latter). They will always be fresh in my mind. They will always have a special place in my bookshelf for when I want to enjoy that personal connection again.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Looney Tunes News!

The New York Times article

I just read this while commuting home from work, and here are my thoughts.

1. Looney Tunes are unpopular now?!
2. A first grader doesn't know who Bugs Bunny is?!
3. A brand new Looney Tunes show on the Cartoon Network this fall, and new 3-d Looney Tunes shorts this summer in theatres? Sufferin' succotash!

I guess that I will start with the first point. Looney Tunes are unpopular now?! When did this come about? The article points out dipping revenue from the franchise starting about 8 years ago. 2002. As I remember, this was when there was that huge anime show craze called Pokemon. Then, for the more intense cartoon fan, Dragonball Z. So what did Looney Tunes have to do? Go anime style and get all robot intense! This show is called Loonatics. Gag me. In addition, there was the Duck Dodgers show for a bit there, the baby looney the way, Muppet Babies sucked so why would anyone like Baby Looney Tunes.

My point is that Warner Brothers has seriously screwed up the Looney Tunes franchise. So it makes sense that they're unpopular. And that brings me to my second point. Why SHOULD a first grader be watching this crap? I may watch too many kid shows or cartoons, but I believe that I have a good radar on good/bad kid shows. I didn't watch this crap that WB has been putting out. Nor should a kid.

When I was younger, my parents had many VHS tapes that had a number of Looney Tune made-for-TV movies that integrated many of the old Looney Tunes cartoons. Then sometime in elementary school, Looney Tunes aired on Nickelodeon after school (I think the revitalization of classic animation from Steven Spielberg like Tiny Toons and Animaniacs helped bring the Looney Tunes back). Needless to say, I fell in love with the cartoons that were popular 50 years ago. The slapstick humor, the perfectly fitting classical music, one man doing almost all the voices, the formula of the gags, the falls, the violence (and no, I did not want to go falling off cliffs and think I'd be fine). Everything was perfect.

My favorite was Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner. The most bare-boned, pure chase sequenced, formulaic duo of them all. Those cartoons are almost like comic strips where the same thing happens every time and the punch line's always the same. The question was how were the animators going to take you there! I loved it!

After seeing many reruns over and over, it stopped airing probably at the turn of the millennium. The old cartoons do not appear on TV to this day (unless Boomerang has them, let's say basic cable). So kids today are missing out on what I watched over and over as kid growing up. Instead, they are growing up with anime, more 3-d animation, 50's-60's style animation.

So the third point. They're coming back. The show this fall will have Daffy and Bugs be roommates in a modern day cul-de-sac. Then the rest of the cast are neighbors.....this does not sound good. As much as I want the Looney Tunes to come back, I don't think that the new show will capture the same spirit. When Looney Tunes finally hit its stride come the mid 40's to the late 50's, there were mainly 3 directors that produced all the classics: Frix Freleng, Robert McKimson, and Chuck Jones. Surely, there was Tex Avery and Bob Clampett that got down the outrageous slapstick and are true pioneers to the WB animation department, but it was the great three that took the slapstick and refined it into almost "witty" slapstick. Remember there being a wacky Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny? Just pure slapstick until Chuck Jones took them and gave them those classic gazes and become the dynamic duo they are now. In fact, I would dare say that the Looney Tunes are nothing without Chuck Jones' sensibilities. He virtually perfected the chase sequence and made a number of the characters who they are.

So what can a WB animation department do to perfect something that's already been perfected? It will take a lot of creative talent to redefine who the Looney Tunes are. It can be done I think. Many things like Superman, Batman, and other superhero have undergone many transformations and are always appealing to new generations. I just hope that the Looney Tunes will become a part of that tradition rather than the alternative route....

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Inking Vicente Alcazar

Inking Vicente Alcazar was a dramatic departure from Frank Cho. In terms of detail, rendering of the brush to subject matter. Vicente Alcazar's work is very dramatic, with some great clothed figure renderings that remind me of old illustration masters Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, etc. Very gruesome too. The latest Jonah Hex (which Alcazar is a regular artist for) is just plain awesome. I'd recommend it if you like gory things and emo kids.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Design Work?

I am currently putting my design portfolio together to help me find a new job. One that pays better! that will be super fun! Hopefully...... and so on.

I don't know when this particular idea came to fruition, but over the past couple weeks, I've been reading about human population growth and how civilization constantly tries to work around critical mass, the level at which a population begins exceeding its environment's resources. Needless to say, the tripling of the human population in the past 100 years now brings to mind what will be the next invention or revolution to continue to support the human population. I don't like particularly thinking about what may happen in 40 years when the human population reaches 9 billion and all of earth's resources being exhausted. It's a strange feeling.

Anyhow, I came up with this idea out of my head, and put it to paper. I wanted to use a really bold, slab serif typeface and chose Rockwell extra bold. Then I tracked the letters as close as possible to make a crowded feeling which serves the theme well. Then making the o's were fun.

I realize that I do enjoy making design, but I like the handmade stuff so much more. Using the computer as a tool, it does help me give many new viable options. However, drawing is the best part of the work. Drawing about 500-1000 tiny faces I say and then block painting them was the best. It looks the coolest! I think I rambled on too much.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

New Political Cartoon

I like the ink splots. It's fun.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Inking Frank Cho

I love Frank Cho's work. Though I do love his slapstick, Looney Toon-esque writing and comedy, I feel that he was always into the craft of comics more. I can't complain. It's very very precise and tight.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

New Political Cartoon

New cartoon!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I just Ralphed

The next book on my reading list is "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." But I couldn't wait to stare at Ralph Steadman's maniacal ink work! I like the immediacy of black and white work, and Ralph Steadman's drawing's smack you right in the face. Such alive work. A good couple ideas to keep in mind.