Monday, October 31, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
So in an effort to create more content for my blog I have decided to take advantage of the wide network of friends I have who self-publish in the comics field. I plan on submitting a list of interview questions about their comics to many of them. My goal here is two-fold. First is the completely self-serving desire to offer content and hopefully drive new traffic to my blog. The second is to highlight and promote work by people I genuinely admire. The questions below are a pretty standard list. As I move on with this project I will probably vary this to suit the various artists and writers I talk with. If you're interested in being a part of this, drop me a line.
First up is my guinea pig for this project, Marcel Walker. Marcel is a long-time friend and sometimes collaborator. He is the artist who took my little doodles and turned them into book covers for Scratch and This Creature Fair. I'll let him describe his work. Below the interview are a series of images showing his working process from initial rough sketch to full color final product.
Without further adieu, Marcel Walker...
Tell us a bit about your comics and where they are available.
The comic-book I was most well-known for, until the last year or so, was SMOKING GUNS, a mash-up of personal interests (noir-ish detective stories amidst a futuristic setting, at once idealistic and dystopian); currently I’m working on HERO CORP., INTERNATIONAL, a more ambitious project from the ground up. It’s to be a six-issue mini-series, following meta-agents (i.e. super-heroes) who work in a corporate environment, much like those we work for in the real world.
Currently, you can find my book in comic-book stores in Pittsburgh (notably PHANTOM OF THE ATTIC in Oakland and BILL & WALT’S in Downtown) and Chicago (at CHICAGO COMICS). It is also available online from COMIXPRESS.COM.
After I first read comic-books, it wasn’t gonna be anything else! I’ve found emotional touchpoints and methods of expression with graphic prose that are impossible to achieve within any other medium. That’s not meant as an insult to those other media; it’s just a fact. On some level, I enjoy exploring all forms of narrative and storytelling, and I feel a kinship with creators of all kinds.
But comics? I cut my teeth on them. I know them like I’ll never know anything else. And it’s a medium where you’re only limited by imagination and talent…and if you want to, you can do EVERYTHING to tell your stories, if you’re determined enough!
Who have been your biggest influences, both in writing and in art?
Inside of the comic-book field, Will Eisner represents what I most aspire towards. He had singular vision and foresight, tempered with practical sensibilities, and he was dedicated to the preservation of his craft. As both writer and artist, he was clearly a master of his medium, and his career stands as a testament to the power of sequential art. Otherwise…
Art: Curt Swan, Brian Bolland, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, Don Newton, John Romita, Sr., John Buscema
Writing: Elliot S! Maggin, Denny O’Neil, Alan Moore (of course!), Mark Waid, Marv Wolfman
Outside of the comic-book field, the influences are vast. However, I’m firmly of the opinion that Michelangelo would have made the BEST comic-book artist ever. And the first four books by S.E. Hinton really put the notion into my head that I NEEDED to start writing.
What are your favorite comics (whether you consider them influential on your style or not)?
I like comics that reflect a specific sensibility. AMERICAN FLAGG by Howard Chaykin is an all-time favorite. I also liked his revisionist take on THE SHADOW during the ‘80s. Concurrently, I was a big fan of JON SABLE: FREELANCE by Mike Grell. (I’m showing my age with these answers, I know!) The first six or seven issues of THRILLER by Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor Von Eeden were great. I enjoyed the full run of HITMAN by Garth Ennis and John McCrea.
Alan Moore has such a reverent-yet-revisionist take on characters, I have a fondness for a lot of his writing. His THE KILLING JOKE is arguably my favorite comic of all time. (Also, you just can’t beat Brian Bolland for drawing anything!) WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE MAN OF TOMORROW? likewise strikes some deeply emotional chords with me.
I can also never forget to mention Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s ALL-STAR SUPERMAN…’cause that’s how you make some comics, folks!
Have you studied art or writing in college, or are you self-taught?
I graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in late 1989, having ironically attended in-between periods when they offered comic-book illustration as part of the curriculum. Other than that, I’ve learned from observation and dedication, and artists who have been gracious enough to allow me into their studios. “Self-taught” is something of a deceptive phrase – we all learn from someone else; it’s just a matter of picking the correct teachers, and being an attentive student.
What’s your normal process for creating your comic?
It always starts with an idea…and sometimes they germinate for YEARS, during which time I’ll write notes and draw sketches. But once it’s time to get down to business, I tend to be pretty methodical. The current routine is to start with a scroll of paper thrown onto the floor of the studio, and laying out a story in black marker. This is the most free-form part of the process for me, and I’ll do everything from character design to page layouts to scripting dialogue to plotting future issues at this stage.
This may take a full day or two, and then I’ll create tighter individual thumbnail layouts from the best of my rough marker layouts. I scan and print these pencil layouts at the full 11” x 17” size, and they then become the basis for the full pencil artwork. I lightbox and finish the thumbnails to retain the looseness and “snap” from the original idea.
I then ink traditionally with a brush and Higgins ink. (I keep other inking tools around as well though, like tech pens and quill pens. One never knows…) The artwork is scanned and cleaned up in PhotoShop, then I add lettering in Illustrator. I know purists decry anything other than hand lettering, but I save that for specific things or effects.
My hands-on approach has also led me to print some of my own books as well. It’s safe to say I know a little something about do-it-yourself comics!
How do you promote your work?
Honestly, not frequently enough! (Although, I also only promote when I’ve got something to promote, so that’s the hard part – keeping the work flowing.) I have the requisite aFcebook page for HERO CORP., INT’L, as well as a blog. The best networking though is just getting out into the world and meeting people, and being as fearless about that as possible. I try to attend conventions and expos whenever possible, even just as an attendee, and talk to other creators. I tend to spread the word about my stuff pretty thick when I’ve got something new to promote, and I’m not shy about it.
Often though, I’ve found good work tends to promote itself. Just over the last few days, some people who I thought knew I made comics found out about H.C.I., and asked for copies. I would have never predicted their enthusiasm! Apparently, they were passing them around between coworkers, because I had other people complimenting the work all day. THAT’S a great feeling!
What do you enjoy most about being a comics creator?
What do you find most difficult about being a comics creator?
What's more important to you: Telling a story or pushing the bounds of comic book art?
That’s kind of like asking a parent, “Which of your kids do you love most?” The best answer I can give is one I heard a parent give in regards to child rearing: I love them both equally, but sometimes one will require more attention than the other.
Why self publish instead of submitting your work to the majors? Have you done both?
If you’re familiar with my continuity (and if not, read the back-issues!), you know about my history of pitching to the majors. That said, I believe continual self-publishing, with an eye toward always improving your craft, is the most assured path toward finding work with a major publisher.
That said, in this day and age, with so many avenues of publishing available, self publishing opens up a LOT of avenues. Being creative doesn’t have to stop with the printed page anymore.
What are your long-term goals with comics?
A self-sustaining career that flourishes.
Where can you be found on the web if anyone wants more info?
Find me on that Facebook-thing. Or contact me at MagnificentMarcel@gmail.com. Or run my name through a search engine. I’m a pretty big deal; you can’t miss me!
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
Sunday, October 2, 2011
I just finished reading David Bowie: Starman by Paul Trynka. What follows isn't a review as much as it is personal observations.
Anyone who knows me knows that I've been a music fan from a very early age. It accompanies me every day. I listen at work. I listen in the car. I listen when I'm writing. I'm listening to an obscure Bowie release right now (In Bertolt Brecht's Baal). I'm a fan of music, but as a part of that I have always been a fan of the musicians. For me to really get into a band or musician I need to be fascinated by them as people. I follow careers.
I'm just young enough to have missed the whole Glam era of David Bowie, and as much as The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars is respected now it wasn't a massive hit in the United States when it was released. I didn't become aware of Bowie until his single, Rebel, Rebel was released in 1974. The opening guitar riff of that song is one of the key moments that made me a rock and roll fan. The other was the opening of Alice Cooper's School's Out. Nothing can make me twelve again like hearing either of those.
I bought Rebel, Rebel and played it over and over on my tiny, mono speaker record player. The b-side was the song Lady Grinning Soul. At the time this song did nothing for me. I think I only played it through a couple of times. Now I love it. I was thrilled to see this was the song that Dakota Fanning, as Cherie Currie, lip-synched in full Aladdin Sane makeup in The Runaways.
I saw very few pictures of Bowie during his glam years back then. Diamond Dogs was the first album of his I was consciously aware of. Either he wasn't getting a lot of coverage in the music mags I was reading or he had moved into his Thin White Duke persona by then, wearing tailored suits instead of colorful spaceman outfits and makeup. If I had seen the Ziggy or Aladdin Sane outfits I'm sure I would have bought the albums. I'm pretty aware that it was the costumes and makeup that made me interested in Alice Cooper, KISS, and even Elton John at the time.
I bought the single for Fame and even then I think I would have listed it as one of my favorite songs of the era. But for some reason, as I moved on into buying albums instead of singles, I never picked up a Bowie album. At the time I was most into KISS and Queen, Bowie was recording his Berlin trilogy of albums, Low, Heroes, and Lodger. The singles from these didn't get a lot of airplay in my market then, and even if they did, these albums were so experimental that I don't think my 1970's KISS-addled Rock and Roll brain would have appreciated them.
Around 1980 I bought a used, dull primer gray-colored Ford Granada with an 8-Track player built in. The previous owner had left his copy of Heroes in the dash. This was the first time I ever listened to an entire Bowie album. Like I said, it was experimental, and not what I was used to at all. But something about it clicked. I loved the album, weird instrumentals and all. The song Heroes quickly became a favorite and remains one to this day.
Even then 8-track players were becoming a thing of the past, and I installed a cassette player. Most of what I played in it were home recordings of the vinyl albums I owned, but I did purchase a few new cassettes. Ziggy Stardust was among them. Somewhere in there it became a desert-island album for me, one of the few records in my life that I think of as a perfect album (and I recognize how debatable that statement is about any album).
But I still didn't really go back and explore his career or catalog. He was always there in some form, but for some reason he remained on the periphery of my musical life. In one of my early excursions into the world of dance clubs and bars a friend and I went to a club in Wheeling called Tin Pan Alley. There was a lighted dance floor straight out of Saturday Night Fever, playing all the disco hits. I settled into a chair in the smoky attic room and listened to a cover band. The only song of theirs I remember is Space Oddity (Ground Control to Major Tom). I did buy that album around then, along with Aladdin Sane.
Bowie was part of the video revolution of the 80's. I remember seeing the videos for Let's Dance and Ashes to Ashes and liking them. I loved the song Blue Jean and remember seeing the extended 20-plus minute short film. I cracked up at the antics of Bowie and Mick Jagger trying to outdo each others mugging for the camera in their Dancing in the Streets video (which I remember first seeing on the big screen in a theater for some reason).
I saw Bowie on his 1990 Sound and Vision tour, billed as the last time he would ever perform his hit songs. That wasn't true of course. This was my first trip to the Star Lake Amphitheater. The show was amazing.
Finally, as part of the CD revolution, I started going back and picking up Bowie's back catalog of records. They were being released with tons of extra tracks, so my timing was good. In the intervening years I've become a little obsessive and have most of his available work.
Back to the book.
I enjoyed the read. Bowie is a complex person, and I don't think I know him any better now than I did before. But that seems to be part of the theme of the book. Lots of people who know Bowie don't seem to know him very well. I don't read a lot of biographies, so I don't know how this one stacks up. There was a lot of information, and reading what was going on at the time of the recording of the various albums gave me new insights into a lot of the songs.
But, what I found most interesting wasn't inherent in the book itself, but the multimedia experience it became for me thanks to modern technology. In the introduction Trynka describes an early appearance of Bowie performing Starman on Top of the Pops in Great Britain and the effect it had on the country and an entire generation of viewers. He described it in great detail: the costumes, the implied bisexuality, Bowie wrapping an arm around guitarist Mick Ronson. While reading I wished I could watch the video. I quickly realized that thanks to YouTube, I could.
This proved true throughout my reading of the book. I had seen many of the videos, of course, but it was fascinating to read of some specific performance and then to be able to watch it immediately. This added greatly to my enjoyment of the book. I read about Bowie's coke-infused appearance on The Dick Cavett Show, and then saw it for myself. In the section that described the writing of the song Jean Genie the point was made that the guitar riff came straight from the Yardbirds version of Muddy Waters song Mannish Boy. The musicians were afraid to release it, but did so anyway. Three months later, glam band The Sweet released their song Blockbuster with the same riff. Thanks to YouTUbe I watched Muddy Waters, then the Yardbirds, then Jean Genie, followed by Blockbuster. These are all songs I'm very familiar with but hearing the musical throughline once it was pointed out to me was amazing.
If you're a Bowie fan, I recommend the book. Keep your computer nearby to enhance your experience of it. Someday books like this will have these things embedded right in the text (like I've done a little bit of in this blog).