Author Archive | hulabula

Silence Is Golden

 

Lorraine_Toth

As I have stated before, I am new to the comic industry—but am very well aquainted with visual communication. Throughout my journey, I have been by surrounded by some of the finest teachers—some from this century and some from long ago. Yesterday, as I was browsing through the aisles in my local Borders (yes there is still one in Key West), I came across a small section entitled Graphic Novels. I picked up a few books and was quite honestly disappointed. I kept looking at one after another and they all said the same thing to me…noise.

Although the expertise used in rendering the work may have been quite superb, the overall content was crashing as if an orchestra’s cymbal player had run amuk, instead of waiting for his cue. Louder is not better, and without the subtleties of a soft melody, the music is just a dull tone. Perhaps I am becoming spoiled working daily restoring strips by artists such as Cliff Sterrett, Milton Caniff, Al Capp, Alex Raymond, and Alex Toth. As I placed the graphic novels at Borders back upon their shelves, I was struck by the fact that their covers looked no different then their “inners.” It was as if that special piece of work that used to adorn the outer covering was now all-encompassing.

I walked along the rows of other books and kept wondering why I had found this so disturbing; I guess I was still processing what I had just uncovered. I think storytelling can be muddied by over-embellishment, leaving your eye no place to rest. Many contemporary comics artists are doing a fine job of giving the reader absolutely beautiful work, but are they all beginning to look alike? This is what they need to ask themselves. I wish they would get out of the studio and wander down the aisles of the bookshops and see the work as it lines up like uniformed soldiers along the shelves—all standing at attention wearing identical attire, saying pick me, pick me—I’m really different, just give me a look!

I do not give this thought as a collector or even a person who has been in the publishing industry. I give you my thoughts as one who enjoys a good story, who likes to blend my mind within the pages and let it carry me away. I may not be an expert in this world of graphic novels, but I do know one thing. Artists of today should take time to pause, pick up a collection of any of the masters listed above, and study it. And if they are quiet and really look with intent, perhaps they will discover the secret that was known to the artists who walked before them—to learn to say more with less. Learn the art of silence.

“No publisher is more dedicated…

…to archival collections than IDW,” writes Peter Rowe in the San Diego Tribune. “The Library runs the gamut from familiar titles to obscure works that haven’t been seen in decades: “Polly and Her Pals” debuted in 1912; detective “Rip Kirby” was on the case in the 1940s and ’50s; and fanciful “King Aroo” is another ’50s revival.”

 

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Here’s yours truly in the IDW booth at the San Diego Comicon. Check out the complete link. It’s great to see such positive mainstream coverage for the Library of American Comics and classic newspaper strips in general.

The Library and IDW were triple winners at the Eisners this year. In addition to Bloom Countytaking home the Archival Newspaper Strip award, The Rocketeer won as Best Archival Project—Comic Books, and Darwyn Cooke’s amazing adapation of Richard Stark’s Parker: The Huntedwas feted for Best Adaptation from Another Work. A big round of applause for all, especially Scott Dunbier, who edited all three winners!

“Ha, fooled them again!”

“Ha, fooled them again!” is what Berkeley Breathed exclaimed when told that Bloom County: The Complete Library, Volume Two debuted in the number four spot on the New York Times Best Seller list. “Seriously, I’m happy people still enjoy this stuff. Surprised, but happy.”

In Volume Two, Breathed ramps up the volume, offering even more funny and insightful commentary than in the first volume, while context pages help fans recapture the glory of the 1980s.

Beginning with September 27, 1982, Volume Two collects every daily and Sunday through July 1, 1984, most reproduced from Breathed’s personal archives of original art. Kicking off this second installment is an introduction by journalist and former Nightline host Ted Koppel, who takes readers on a brief journey back to the Reagan years and reflects on the strips he shared with Opus.

“What’s really astounding to me is the freshness of this material after so many years” editor Scott Dunbier told me this afternoon when the New York Times list was announced. “The events in these pages are right out of today’s headlines—the economy, politics, even Michael Jackson! But, most importantly, we see them all through Breathed’s own unique perspective, which is the true joy of Bloom County.”

Volume Two also features the introduction of Binkley’s anxiety closet and boy genius Oliver Wendell Jones, as well as the fondly remembered death of the Bill the Cat storyline.

 

 

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TRACY Hits Double Digits

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No, that title doesn’t refer to the denouement of a newly-discovered continuity (though wouldn’t it be great to unearth a lost Chester Gould work featuring a heretofore unknown grotesque antagonist?). Instead it marks a minor milestone, as with our upcoming July release Dick Tracy becomes the first Library Of American Comics series to require a tenth volume. In many ways this next Tracy installment, reprinting eighteen months of continuity from September 1945 to March ’47, is my favorite of the run. While no criminal in Volume 10 is as wily as Flattop, as sadistic as The Brow, as shocking in appearance as Pruneface, time and again this group strikes close to home in ways that are tense and sometimes disturbing.

Which Tracy rogue is as amoral and tenacious as Itchy? He pursues the late Shaky’s ill-gotten gains, threatens both Junior and Tess, then teams up with a distaff member of the criminal element to ensnare Tracy in a fiendish trap. During this sequence, a great panel showcases Tracy’s indomitable will: when all seems hopeless, Tracy nevertheless manages to snarl, “Itchy – – – I promise you one thing – – – when we leave this house – – – I’ll WALK out, but they’ll be carrying you!” Look for it in the December 12, 1945 daily.

This volume also features the rotten apples hanging from a few family trees. The innocent boy-scientist Brilliant is done wrong by his relatives. Nilon Hoze and her cousin Rod connive to get their hooks into their rich aunt’s moolah, while what happens to spunky little Themesong is a reminder that in Chester Gould’s world, no one is truly safe (relevant today, when people are quick to surrender civil liberties for vague promises of “security”).

The book’s final sequence is its most spine-chilling, as Vitamin Flintheart—that overwrought thespian and “capsule receiver” (as Themesong christens him)—returns in time to cross paths with the eerie Influence, who has the power to bend others’ wills to his own. Mental take-over stories always creep me out—as a kid, I didn’t even find it funny when Dr. Boris Balinkoff used his robot rings to take control of Gilligan and the other stranded castaways! So my flesh crawled as Influence systematically seized mind after mind, cementing his unscrupulous plans, toying with people like a cat at a mouse convention. Brr-r-r-r!

I’ll admit there’s one more reason I’m a Tracy booster besides Chet Gould’s crackling good stories and the exceptional behind-the-scenes insights offered by Jeff Kersten and Max Allan Collins: I’m the guy who writes each volume’s “Previously in the Case Files of Dick Tracy” feature. It’s a challenge to compress over two hundred pages of continuity from the previous book into two pages of text and images, but what great fun to write first-person commentary in Tracy’s voice!

It’s a pleasure to salute The Master Sleuth on the advent of his tenth LOAC volume, and it’s delightful to know there are plenty more to come…

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