Saturday, 9 March 2019

George Barr and the days of my youth

Forty years ago, when I was a much younger and much more impressionable, I fell under the spell of the magical art of 
George Barr.


Within a couple of years, I also got a chance to see the wonderfully camp, Flesh Gordon, probably at the Nova Con of 1977 but I cannot be certain!

There were four artists, in the Fantasy and SF fanzines of the time, that I really took to and George was one of them.  The others were Alicia Austin, Stephen Fabian and the amazing Tim Kirk.

In the years since 1977, I have been fortunate enough to meet George Barr and by an illustration from him, when he attended the Winnipeg WorldCon, in 1994.

I also met Alicia Austin, at the Boston WorldCon, in 1980.


Stephen Fabian... well he was just a casual e-mail acquaintance and we only wrote to each other once. But I did manage to tell him, how much his artwork had meant to me.

The central theme, of my addiction to the art of the fantastic and the cartooning of comic books, has always been the almost sensual effect that those works have had upon me.

I LOVE them and they have have always been there for me, like the best of friends, ready to help me cope with the everyday problems and disappointments, that the world drops on us all... from time to time.

Although his work was introduced to me, in a slightly different way but still, through the association I had with Dave Holmes and 
The Andromeda Bookshop,
Vaughn Bode and his smart assed, foul mouthed character, 
CHEECH WIZARD
were an integral part of the mix too.

Last but most assuredly, not least, was the stunning artwork of the amazing Richard Corben and his wonderful underground comic book, Fantagor.


There are many, many more artists, that have left an impression on me and I will write about them all, given enough time and motivation.







Wednesday, 6 February 2019

The Nuts and Bolts of Drawing Cartoons and Comic Books

I have been a collector of comic books, art books and just about any books that professed to be able to make me into the Cartoonist, that I always wanted to be.

As you might imagine, over the course of the last fifty years, I have amassed a rather large collection and these days, when I go looking for items, that I know I own, I spend a lot of time just trying to find them.

There was a sense of guilt, even after I retired, in spending time, unproductively and it has taken me five years to get over it.
These days, with an eye to my own mortality, knowing that there are fewer years ahead of me, than there are behind me, I have had an epiphany... if I don't enjoy the collection and actively pursue rereading the books that I own, 
THEN WHAT IS THE POINT IN OWNING THEM?

A good case in point, would be the volumes written by 
Scott McCloud:

Understanding Comics and Making Comics.




I bought my copy of Understanding Comics, when it was first published, way back in 1993 and I was rather disappointed in it, at the time, because it didn't give me what I was looking for... the quick and easy secrets to being able to draw comic books, like the cartoonists that I admired.

It has taken me 25 years to realize, that all of the information, that I have laboriously dug up for myself, by dissecting comic book techniques, was already given to me, right here in this book and I was just too blind, back then, to see it!


Making Comics, for some reason, perhaps my disappointment over Understanding Comics, was a much later addition to my collection but once again, the insightful Scott McCloud has been miles ahead of me, at every point and has already answered questions that have only just occurred to me.

There are many more, similar volumes, in my collection and one of the earliest of them was
Alan McKenzie's, How to Draw and Sell Comic Strips...


which has been a steady companion, ever since I found it, on the shelves of the now, long gone, World's Biggest Bookstore, here in Toronto.

One of the best parts about the book, was that much of the art, done for demonstration purposes, was executed by the very talented Steve Parkhouse.

I can heartily recommend all three books, to any aspiring comic book cartoonist and I wish you all well, on your own quests to draw like a professional.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

R C Harvey & Zero Hero, Part Two


I promised this material, quite a while ago and I kept on failing to get around to it...

Procrastination, is my biggest sin!



Zero Hero the Second Strip









Zero Hero the Third Strip




Zero Hero in RBCC 150th Issue


And there you have it!

R C Harvey was a great cartoonist and I wish he was still making them but those are the breaks and after years of plugging away, one day, he just decided that he had enough and went into writing full time.

Thank you R C for all you gave us.










Monday, 21 January 2019

Invisible Dick

A silly post, every once in a while, is good for the soul.

With that in mind, 
the double entendre of "Invisible Dick",
especially to my old British pals, 
is irresistible. 


Back in the, now, distant past, I lived in Birmingham, England 
and one little known fact, comic book related, 
about Birmingham, is that it was the location of the first ever Comic Convention held in England.

That was 1968 and this was the cover, of one of the publications that they produced for the event.


Drawn by the talented Mik (Mike) Higgs, who, at the time was drawing The Cloak, for the British comic book POW!

Steve Moore and Phil Clarke 
rounded out editorial crew.

Steve was a writer and working at the offices of IPC, down in London, while Phil was a budding comic book dealer and Nostalgia & Comics was still a glint in his eye.



Aspect, was a great little fanzine and was also published by the talented Steve Moore.

Orpheus, which


was essentially Aspect number three, has the distinction of being one of the earliest fanzines that I ever bought.
 I admit, that I bought it because 
Barry (not yet Windsor) Smith, had contributed to it and I was in completely in the thrall of his Conan comics.

I also admired the work of a name with which I was unfamiliar, at the time, Steve Parkhouse.


Strangely, almost 50 years later, I am much happier to have this, early example, of Steve Parkhouse's artwork, than the Barry Smith artwork that is also there.

Steve Parkhouse and Peter Hogan, have, for the last few years, been collaborating on a great little comic book, 
Resident Alien,
over at Dark Horse Comics and it is one of the few titles, being published by anyone, that I will actually order from my local comic book shop.

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and it would appear, that the next story arc and mini-series, due in 2019 or 2020, will be their last.

Such a shame and such a great run... if you haven't read it, I can thoroughly recommend it.







Saturday, 12 January 2019

Almost Two Weeks Later...

It is absolutely amazing, to me, 
that time, the older I get and the slower that I move, 
seems to be passing a whole lot faster than it did, 
when I was a teenager.

My last post here, was almost two weeks ago and yet, it seems like only yesterday...

Blogging, as a pastime, seems to be losing ground lately and even venerable Blogs, like Lew Stringer's "Blimey!",
are being put on the back burner, by their writers.

I ran across another Blog, this morning, that surprised me with it's short life.
The premise, of an obviously British comic book fan, was the commissioning of artwork, that depicted older and newer, 
British comic book characters, in a single scene.

An interesting idea but it ran out of steam, in less than four years and in two of those years, there was only ONE posting!

Blimey!  To coin a phrase but that writer almost makes my meagre efforts seem prolific.

Moving on.

Anyone, who has taken the time to look through my postings, will know how much I admire the cartooning of 
Paul Grist 
and this one, will comment on one of the things, that he used to do really well... back in the days, when he was a drawing to meet a deadline and tell a story.

One of the tricky things about drawing cartooning, as I well know, is learning the language and iconography of the craft
AND
knowing how and where to apply graphic indicators, like motion lines, speed lines, sweat drops or impact stars!

What I had missed, until fairly recently, was that most of the cartoonists that I admire, whether that is Jack Kirby or Paul Grist, actually use such special effects, sparingly!

For example, in this scene from Jack Staff, Paul Grist has the character of The Spider, hit Jack Staff, across the back of the head, in a violent motion and there isn't one motion line used!


I "thought" that there were motion lines... heck, even in looking at the third panel, I could almost swear that they are there 
BUT THEY ARE NOT.

It has all been shown with relative positions and body language.

The only Special Effect used, are the STARS behind Jack Staff's head, denoting that an impact (the broken off part of the staff, in the hands of The Spider) has occurred!

In a similar vein, in the third panel, on the page below, the use of Sound Effects, "Beep, Beep", add life and perceived movement, to a static scene 
AND
once again, without the use of any motion lines!


I have often speculated, on the similarity between prestidigitation and cartooning because they both require the adept practitioner to make their audience believe they are seeing something that they are not.

Studying the art and craft of cartooning has been my passion for years and years but it is only in the last five years, where I feel as though I am finally understanding things.

Every time I return to 
Scott McCloud's,
Understanding Comics or Making Comics,
I am struck by the realization, that despite reading them, many times, some change in my own perception, allows me to finally grasp what he laid out, in detail, all those years ago.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Welcome to the Future


I am amazed and humbled, to be alive, in a future, that seems just a little bit unreal... I mean to say, aren't we supposed to be attended to by robot servants and zipping around in flying cars?

That was the future that,
The Jetsons,
showed us all living in, back when I was a child.

It was a prediction, based on the all encompassing belief that SCIENCE would save the day
BUT
as we can plainly see, that isn't happening and despite all of the rhetoric, it is unlikely to happen.

A sad statement, on the idiocy of the human race and our ability to delude ourselves, even in the face of calamity.

Ah, well... on a lighter note


I loved Calvin and Hobbes, for the years that it ran and I still do.  I own all of the reprint volumes, except for that amazing and huge, collection that came out in 2012.

Bill Watterson was at the Festival of Cartoon Art, 
way back in 1989 and his speech was a high point of the show. It is still the only occurrence of the Festival, which is now known as the 
CXC, or Cartoon Crossroads Columbus,
that I have ever attended but it was most memorable!

Way back, in the September of 1977, when I first visited Toronto, Ontario, I had no idea, that in three short years, I would be living there.  With that in mind, I spent most of my holiday money at 
The Silver Snail comic emporium
which, at that time, was located at 
321 Queen Street West
and was just over a year old.

One of the best things that I found there, 
was a copy of CPL #12


which had oodles of art by the John Byrne, 
who was making waves in the comic book pool at the time, 
taking over Marvel Comic's flagship title
The X-Men
and combined with Chris Claremont's writing and Terry Austin's inking, made for a memorable run of art and story on that title.

The other day, I was amazed to discover, that someone not only owned the original artwork for that cover but that they had posted it too... for our edification!


I found it interesting, that the price of the issue, was included as part of the artwork and obviously, somewhere between the artwork being made and the publication of the issue, the price had risen!

That explains the staining over the "60 cents", because someone had to letter up an overlay, adjusting the price to 75 cents and stick it down on the artwork.

For me, discovering images like this, is the best part of the future that we live in.  Our ability to share documents has never been easier and I, for one, am grateful for it.

Happy New Year.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

A Personal Best

I have managed, by trying to be a fairly regular Blogger, 
to have stacked up more postings, in this year, 
than any of the previous years in which I have been here!

Most of what I have to say, is very inconsequential and borders on the banal, I am sure but it is fun to have somewhere to post these idle thoughts to.

Today I am going to create a mixed bag of stuff, with only a tenuous connection between the individual items.

Of course, this being my Blog, that tenuous connection is related to my fascination and collecting, of comic books.



 This is the very first Anniversary Poster that the venerable 
Silver Snail comic emporium, ever had.

If I am not too much mistaken, the store would have still been located at, 
321 Queen Street West 
because they wouldn't have yet moved next door, 
to the premises at,
323 Queen Street West.


Speaking of 323 Queen Street West:

Way back, in 1979 or so,
Tom Stormonth is waiting, with Ron Van Leeuwen, Mark Askwith (mostly hidden) and Carlos, for Uli to unlock the door and let them in!


George Zotti, who started working for Ron at around the age of thirteen and who, after many years and a parting of the ways, for a time, became the part owner of 
The Silver Snail,
before being squeezed out by his partner.

I have known George, for going on thirty five years, although, for much of that time, our connection has been faint, bordering on nonexistent.

I have always admired him, for charting his own course and for successfully having dealt with Ron Van Leeuwen, over the years, which was not an easy task!

After buying the business, from Ron, George and his partner eventually moved the store into it's present location, 
at 329 Yonge Street, here in Toronto, just north of Dundas Street.

I was surprised to discover, when I looked George up, the other day, that he has returned to the fold of RBC Insurance, which was where he spent the years he was estranged from his position at 
The Snail.

George is now around fifty years of age and as the photograph, borrowed from his Linked-In page shows, 
he is every inch, the solid, dependable business executive today.

Congratulations to you, George, you are an inspiration.

I will close this rambling missive out, with a couple of covers by Alex Toth.



God knows, 1988 doesn't seem that long ago but when counted out, it was still thirty years ago!

For a variety of reasons, I did not buy these covers when they were published and today, I only own a copy of #3... never having seen a copy of #4!

Alex Toth was an amazingly complex person and a phenomenal artist.  

It is only recently, that I have come to see the similarity, in approach, between the artwork of the illustrator Robert Fawcett and the stylistic theme of Alex Toth's work.

Anyone interested in doing their own research into that similarity, should search out this fine volume, which was published by 
Manuel Auad, who had also published a couple of great volumes about Alex Toth too.