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Monthly Archives: August 2013

HECATE SNAKE DIARIES VOL 2 IS AVAILABLE NOW FOR PURCHASE FROM GUMROAD

HECATE SNAKE DIARIES Vol 2
91 pgs/Full Color/$3.00 minimum/PDF

“Hecate Snake Diaries Vol. 2 is a mostly color 91-page collection of comics, art, and essays produced by Sarah Horrocks between August of 2012 and August of 2013.  The book focuses mainly on transgender issues and issues of machine consciousness alongside an interpolating static of movie scenes and quotes.  Stylistically it ranges between loose expressive pencils, and highly textured ink.

Sarah’s previous work includes the webcomic Ophelia, the print comic collaboration with Mater Suspiria Vision Dysnomia, and last year’s volume of Hecate Snake Diaries(still available for purchase).  Additionally, she is a sometimes contributor to Comicsalliance where she writes comics criticism.  She has done cover art for Boom Studio’s Adventure Time.  She resides in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.”

So yeah, I had no idea this would be this big.  The file is pretty massive because I wanted it to be high quality, and probably….technology.  I am pretty happy with it.  And I think some of the best comics I’ve ever done are here.  As with the first Hecate Snake Diaries, I wanted to sort of intersect my personal issues with sci-fi and horror topics, and see what came out.  A lot of what I do outside of these collections isn’t quite as personal, but I like the idea that each year I could put out a collection of comics that would sort of placemark where I was at at that period of time. 

Also even though, I much prefer print, and would prefer my comics to generally speaking come out in just print—I do like doing these digital only releases, particularly for such personal stories.  It’s very fast, and unfiltered and still also intimate.

Anyways.  I hope you enjoy the book.

When I was in sixth grade I went through a massive massive vampire/dracula stage.  I mean I didn’t go goth outwardly style.  But during that time you couldn’t find me without a book with a vampire in it.  We didn’t have Twilight back then, so it was uphill both ways in the snow reading books from which even Ann Rice’s vampire books would be seen as literary juggernauts in comparison.  This was before even buffy came around.  It all started with Stoker though.  I remember the first time I read Dracula.  I read it because I had seen trailers for the movie, which my mom wouldn’t let me go see since it was rated R, and the imagery just from the movie trailers was burned into my brain–so I had to get my fix somehow–so I went for the book.

I read the whole thing in a single day.  I remember it vividly.  My sister had a piano recital church thing that I had to go to, and I remember slumping down into the front seat of my step-dad’s car on the trip to the church reading through car sickness, and then once we got to the church, finding an abandoned sunday school classroom and hiding in a corner just completely engrossed.  I would say it was one of the formulative reading experiences for me as a kid.  Like that, and when I read Huck Finn in 3rd grade over like 12 hours through a fever.

Anyways.  That’s a long jog to go just to say, I will always have a soft spot for Dracula adaptions.  And though Breccia’s Dracula is very different tonally from Stoker’s work–even as he adapts portions of it, Poe’s The Raven, and I Am Legend–there is still horror at play.  It is a slinking sinister kind of horror hidden behind the jokes and cartoony absurdist facade.  There’s shit in here that will make you laugh for sure. But there’s also some stuff that will kick your souls teeth in.

I think the first thing that hits you about these pages are the shapes and colors.  Space in a panel twists and contorts like a fevered dream–everything is unsteady and amorphous.  There is no rigidity to even the surrounding architecture which seem to almost threaten not so much to fall down, but melt down into the ground which itself shifts like waves.  Here Breccia’s line is less the firm definition of object and space, than the ever shifting border between various colors of light.  This style is at once ABOUT the line, as it is NOT about the line.  Color and line almost fight for primacy from image to image.

The effect is phantasmagoriac in nature.  These art at once stain glass window paintings, as they are vulgarities gleaned from Day of the Dead celebrations.

 

In this page, where Dracula is going to the dentist in preparation for Jonathan Harker’s arrival at his castle, we can see shape/color/form as a series of interlocking bits on the page.  Look how in the right panel how the townsperson with the cross fits into that wall almost as a puzzle piece.  Here depth isn’t being created solely by color relationships.  Like often times you will see the foreground/background focus being manipulated in color by how much detail is put in to one or the other.  So if you wanted your reader to focus on something in the background, you would make the foreground all one type of color relationship, and then make the background element you are highlighting contrast that so the reader’s eye is immediately drawn to it.

So like in this page colored by Sloane Leong in Change(Ales Kot, Morgan Jeske, Ed Brisson):

In the top panel your focus is brought to the foreground by the white coloring which pops over that pink and purple background colors.  And then in the bottom panel the foreground is purple and pink, and way in the background you see a spot of white, which is your focal point as a reader.  If the bottom panel wasn’t colored in this way, you would only have the lettering balloons to help you find the two characters, and even then the experience would be very different, and it would be visually more complicated for you to read that page, which would change the rhythm of the page.

Contrast that with how Breccia handles crowds in Dracula in this scene from the Poe short story, where Dracula has followed Poe to a bar:

With the top panel Breccia lets you know just where Dracula is going to be positionally in the room, so when he enters the bar in the second panel you kind of know where to look for him.  Notice how because of the way the crowd is colored–the image is extremely crowded, and compared to the Change page above, there is not really very much depth.  And yet Breccia is still able to keep your focus on Dracula here solely through his composition both of that panel and of the page in general.  Look how the first panel angels dracula almost like an arrow into the direction that Dracula will enter the bar in the second panel.  If you flipped that top panel, you as a reader would most likely lose Dracula as you dragged down into the second panel–it would take you an extra moment to find him that clearly Breccia doesn’t intend.  You can tell that he intends to highlight Dracula’s entrance here as well because in that second panel Dracula’s figure represents the uppermost figure in the composition.  There is a kind of triangle/pyramid moving down and out from Dracula(worth pointing out, if you did draw the triangle for the composition of this page out, you would see that the first side as you read left to right, points right at Poe.

So obviously this is a different way of denoting focus for the reader, even as you use the kitchen sink color wise.  But there is something else that is achieved here versus the scene in Change(which I’m just using as an easy comparison, if you want my thoughts on Change, they are here).  In the Change scene, the storytelling emphasis in terms of the color, the writing, and lettering is speed and clarity.  And with Jeske’s side of it, a certain dramatic space by pulling back behind the crowd.  With Breccia though, he is getting across this psychology of coming into a crowded bar looking for someone, and not being able to find them right away.  Even though we are looking at Dracula from inside the bar, the psychology of the scene is purely from Dracula’s perspective.  There’s so many people here.  Where is Edgar Allan Poe?  It takes a minute for him to get his bearings.  And then by the last panel he’s found him.

This page further plays with our notions of crowd/focus/unfocused and introduces what I would say is one of the core toys Breccia uses to masterous affect in his Dracula stories–zoom.  Again we start off with this crowd pick looking back into Dracula.  What is interesting here is that now Dracula is not highlighted directly in the composition.  Instead you follow a diagonal from the dude on the left, almost zig-zagging back up to Dracula–through Poe.  Through this Breccia has staged the entire page, that this page is about both us and dracula watching Poe from the shadows.  The second panel is this wonderful deep focus moment that is all over Dracula.

Notice in the first panel Poe is drinking.  In the second panel, Poe has started to pour another drink.  So this indicates to us that time has past.  But also notice that Dracula himself hasn’t changed from the first panel.  Nor has the composition of Dracula in relationship to Poe.  So what Breccia has done here is has frozen the composition, and Dracula himself, while both animating Poe and zooming into on Dracula.  It has an almost reverse focus effect like you are almost being pulled in by Dracula.  It’s deep like Legosi’s eyes.

The bottom panels are like a master blues guitarist bending out a note.  He freezes and unfreezes actions, as he moves the perspective 180 degrees in alternating panels.  If you did this in a movie, the audience would probably throw up on the floor.  Notice the subtle animation changes between the 1st and third panels on that bottom row.  And then the second and fourth panels.  Just subtle changes, and how that allows for the movement to be perceived by the reader.  I mean a lot of great comic artists do this kind of thing.  Al Columbia’s Pim and Francie is a horrifying exploration of these kinds of animation techniques in the comic medium–but it’s just really fun to watch Breccia noodling on these different elements of comic making.

This is the last page of this crowd scene.  Look at everyone ice grilling Poe as he gets up to leave and spills his drink everywhere.  Like cool, you’re the father of modern horror, but we all hate you–kind of looks.  The coolest thing on this page though is the two middle panels where the dude in the brown jacket mirrors the shape of the building in the next panel, and the chimney on the house next to the that building is colored vaguely like Dracula’s face in the previous panel.  The bottom panel is too beautiful for words.

 

II.  And then the Bottom Dropped Out: Argentina’s Dirty War and Dracula…Fui Leyenda (I Am Legend)

 

The style of Dracula casts its titular hero in a kind of absurdist buffoon role, just by its very nature, and many of the Dracula stories are basically meant to be funny comics which build to a humorous final punchline.  It makes sense that Breccia would see Dracula in this way, given his background with the real horror of Argentina’s Dirty War which as part of the overarching monstrosity called Operation Condor led to the disappearance of between 9,000 to 30,000 men, women, and children in Argentina.  Among those “disapeared” was Breccia’s friend and collaborator Hector Oesterheld.  Breccia’s reality during the 70s in Argentina would have been one of the kind of nightmarish state sponsored atrocity that is real horror manifest.

So it makes sense that his Dracula would be less serious.  I mean compared to the Generals in Argentina during the 70s and early 80s, Dracula was no monster.

Enter Breccia’s Dracula…Fui Leyenda, which is his loose adaptation of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend as applied to Dracula and the Dirty War.

We start with Dracula strolling through town oblivious to his surroundings.  Right behind his head we see a propaganda poster for a military general dictator.  But then he begins to see things.  And we now see what Dracula’s primary role in this short is, which is as witness to atrocity.  To see, and to remember.

 

This second page is amazing.  We get this throng of tortured faces protesting for peace, their words and ideas overwhelming  the military who are cooped up into the corner of the page, afraid and small.  The way that electric pink and blue divides the page like a wedge is really cool.  And then in the third panel these monstrous decorated generals almost on top of each other, hidden in the windows like cowards.  One of them barks the orders, which aren’t words, just blood.  The pink and purple has pulled out of the third panel, so that that blood is the focal point.

And then we get this Guernica type vertical panel of atrocity, the violence piled on top of itself.  Almost uncomprehensible in its chaos and evil.  It overtakes the entire page.  And then the next biggest panel is Dracula drenched in blood.  Blood the very thing that vampires love and live on, but rather than be in heaven, he is in shock, barely able to comprehend what he has seen, and he is sent running from the scene.  But Breccia doesn’t even have him running away from the violence.  The direction of the last panel, is angled back into the violence of the first panel.  As if no matter how far Dracula runs, he will be unable to escape this atrocity.

A defeated Dracula wandering the wastelands, Breccia drawing his form like a ghost.  The top half of him floats in the air like casper, and his legs seem to move as if only because that’s what legs know how to do.  The bottom half of this page was probably for me the moment where this comic really just kicked my stomach in.

Notice how in the left panel Dracula is looking out at the reader, but the boards and direction of Dracula’s neck/body arrow into that last panel.  Which is a 180 degree flip.  We are actually seeing what Dracula is looking at in the left panel, concurrent to our watching his reaction to it.  It is a uniquely comic thing its timing and scope.

The body parts are being ripped off of these human beings and put into the wastebasket.  It was really difficult for me to read that panel because I am somewhat well informed about the types of things that were done in those settings, during that time, in latin america.  And knowing that I live in a country that was extremely cognizant of what was going on during Operation Condor all over South America.  And not only did we know what was going on, we were complicit, offering funding and support during both the Nixon and Reagan administrations, all because communism was this big bad thing that it wasn’t enough to go after it in our own country–we had to stem its tide in countries that had nothing to do with us!  And then you see like the things that happened this past week in Egypt…nothing changes.  And why?  Why are people doing these things to each other for politics or religion?  Why is something as inane as a combination of ideas and words, enough to get you to commit horrible atrocities on someone who is fundamentally the same as you.  In Argentina, sometimes when they would disappear a family they would give the children away to families that supported the party.  Do you know how fucked up that is?  Imagine these kids growing up and then finding out the parents that raised them aren’t their parents, and more than that, were complicit in the deaths of their real parents?  The scale of the horror of Operation Condor and the Dirty War is of a scale that challenges your ability to imagine terror.

And while the children scream, the monsters dance.  The bottom panel depicts the children who were given over to convents during the Dirty war.

The colors on this page contrast the drab colors of the lives of the protesters, creating an even more monstrous depiction of the elites.  Also notice that those in power are generally drawn as these lumpy well-fed monsters with sharp teeth, and the people are drawn more in the vein of either traditional forms, or like in the protest page, like innocent monks in some old religious woodcutting.

 

NN is the label that was applied to the plots of unnamed children who were disappeared and then buried.  Breccia has the third panel pulling down into the graves with the figures warping more and more the closer they get to the actual graves.  And then the last panel has this stretching effect.  Their long faces pushing up questioning the horror.  The distance between the top head and the skull in its hands exacerbates the effect.

In the end Dracula is completely terrified out of his mind.  He sees the car rolling up behind him, and fears he could be next.  The way he is slinking in the top panel shows his internal paranoia, and the way Breccia has now given him this shadow against the brick wall, as if he is ready to be stood up for execution.  And then you get him just completely cracking in that middle panel.  His top hat comes flying off.  His legs are going in one direction, his hands and torso in another direction.  He is out of his mind.

The punchline to the comic which I’ve not included here is that he runs straight into a church for sanctuary and becomes a monk.

World cold enough to drive a vampire to Jesus.

The style of Dracula casts its titular hero in a kind of absurdist buffoon role, just by its very nature, and many of the Dracula stories are basically meant to be funny comics which build to a humorous final punchline.  It makes sense that Breccia would see Dracula in this way, given his background with the real horror of Argentina’s Dirty War which as part of the overarching monstrosity called Operation Condor led to the disappearance of between 9,000 to 30,000 men, women, and children in Argentina.  Among those “disapeared” was Breccia’s friend and collaborator Hector Oesterheld.  Breccia’s reality during the 70s in Argentina would have been one of the kind of nightmarish state sponsored atrocity that is real horror manifest.

So it makes sense that his Dracula would be less serious.  I mean compared to the Generals in Argentina during the 70s and early 80s, Dracula was no monster.

Enter Breccia’s Dracula…Fui Leyenda, which is his loose adaptation of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend as applied to Dracula and the Dirty War.

We start with Dracula strolling through town oblivious to his surroundings.  Right behind his head we see a propaganda poster for a military general dictator.  But then he begins to see things.  And we now see what Dracula’s primary role in this short is, which is as witness to atrocity.  To see, and to remember.

 

This second page is amazing.  We get this throng of tortured faces protesting for peace, their words and ideas overwhelming  the military who are cooped up into the corner of the page, afraid and small.  The way that electric pink and blue divides the page like a wedge is really cool.  And then in the third panel these monstrous decorated generals almost on top of each other, hidden in the windows like cowards.  One of them barks the orders, which aren’t words, just blood.  The pink and purple has pulled out of the third panel, so that that blood is the focal point.

And then we get this Guernica type vertical panel of atrocity, the violence piled on top of itself.  Almost incomprehensible in its chaos and evil.  It overtakes the entire page.  And then the next biggest panel is Dracula drenched in blood.  Blood the very thing that vampires love and live on, but rather than be in heaven, he is in shock, barely able to comprehend what he has seen, and he is sent running from the scene.  But Breccia doesn’t even have him running away from the violence.  The direction of the last panel, is angled back into the violence of the first panel.  As if no matter how far Dracula runs, he will be unable to escape this atrocity.

A defeated Dracula wandering the wastelands, Breccia drawing his form like a ghost.  The top half of him floats in the air like Casper, and his legs seem to move as if only because that’s what legs know how to do.  The bottom half of this page was probably for me the moment where this comic really just kicked my stomach in.

Notice how in the left panel Dracula is looking out at the reader, but the boards and direction of Dracula’s neck/body arrow into that last panel.  Which is a 180 degree flip.  We are actually seeing what Dracula is looking at in the left panel, concurrent to our watching his reaction to it.  It is a uniquely comic thing its timing and scope.

The body parts are being ripped off of these human beings and put into the wastebasket.  It was really difficult for me to read that panel because I am somewhat well informed about the types of things that were done in those settings, during that time, in latin america.  And knowing that I live in a country that was extremely cognizant of what was going on during Operation Condor all over South America.  And not only did we know what was going on, we were complicit, offering funding and support during both the Nixon and Reagan administrations, all because communism was this big bad thing that it wasn’t enough to go after it in our own country–we had to stem its tide in countries that had nothing to do with us!  And then you see like the things that happened this past week in Egypt…nothing changes.  And why?  Why are people doing these things to each other for politics or religion?  Why is something as inane as a combination of ideas and words, enough to get you to commit horrible atrocities on someone who is fundamentally the same as you.  In Argentina, sometimes when they would disappear a family they would give the children away to families that supported the party.  Do you know how fucked up that is?  Imagine these kids growing up and then finding out the parents that raised them aren’t their parents, and more than that, were complicit in the deaths of their real parents?  The scale of the horror of Operation Condor and the Dirty War is of a scale that challenges your ability to imagine terror.

And while the children scream, the monsters dance.  The bottom panel depicts the children who were given over to convents during the Dirty war.

The colors on this page contrast the drab colors of the lives of the protesters, creating an even more monstrous depiction of the elites.  Also notice that those in power are generally drawn as these lumpy well-fed monsters with sharp teeth, and the people are drawn more in the vein of either traditional forms, or like in the protest page, like innocent monks in some old religious woodcutting.

 

NN is the label that was applied to the plots of unnamed children who were disappeared and then buried.  Breccia has the third panel pulling down into the graves with the figures warping more and more the closer they get to the actual graves.  And then the last panel has this stretching effect.  Their long faces pushing up questioning the horror.  The distance between the top head and the skull in its hands exacerbates the effect.

In the end Dracula is completely terrified out of his mind.  He sees the car rolling up behind him, and fears he could be next.  The way he is slinking in the top panel shows his internal paranoia, and the way Breccia has now given him this shadow against the brick wall, as if he is ready to be stood up for execution.  And then you get him just completely cracking in that middle panel.  His top hat comes flying off.  His legs are going in one direction, his hands and torso in another direction.  He is out of his mind.

The punchline to the comic which I’ve not included here is that he runs straight into a church for sanctuary and becomes a monk.

World cold enough to drive a vampire to Jesus.

When I was in sixth grade I went through a massive massive vampire/dracula stage.  I mean I didn’t go goth outwardly style.  But during that time you couldn’t find me without a book with a vampire in it.  We didn’t have Twilight back then, so it was uphill both ways in the snow reading books from which even Ann Rice’s vampire books would be seen as literary juggernauts in comparison.  This was before even buffy came around.  It all started with Stoker though.  I remember the first time I read Dracula.  I read it because I had seen trailers for the movie, which my mom wouldn’t let me go see since it was rated R, and the imagery just from the movie trailers was burned into my brain–so I had to get my fix somehow–so I went for the book.

I read the whole thing in a single day.  I remember it vividly.  My sister had a piano recital church thing that I had to go to, and I remember slumping down into the front seat of my step-dad’s car on the trip to the church reading through car sickness, and then once we got to the church, finding an abandoned sunday school classroom and hiding in a corner just completely engrossed.  I would say it was one of the formulative reading experiences for me as a kid.  Like that, and when I read Huck Finn in 3rd grade over like 12 hours through a fever.

Anyways.  That’s a long jog to go just to say, I will always have a soft spot for Dracula adaptions.  And though Breccia’s Dracula is very different tonally from Stoker’s work–even as he adapts portions of it, Poe’s The Raven, and I Am Legend–there is still horror at play.  It is a slinking sinister kind of horror hidden behind the jokes and cartoony absurdist facade.  There’s shit in here that will make you laugh for sure. But there’s also some stuff that will kick your souls teeth in.

I think the first thing that hits you about these pages are the shapes and colors.  Space in a panel twists and contorts like a fevered dream–everything is unsteady and amorphous.  There is no rigidity to even the surrounding architecture which seem to almost threaten not so much to fall down, but melt down into the ground which itself shifts like waves.  Here Breccia’s line is less the firm definition of object and space, than the ever shifting border between various colors of light.  This style is at once ABOUT the line, as it is NOT about the line.  Color and line almost fight for primacy from image to image.

The effect is phantasmagoriac in nature.  These art at once stain glass window paintings, as they are vulgarities gleaned from Day of the Dead celebrations.

 

In this page, where Dracula is going to the dentist in preperation for Jonathan Harker’s arrival at his castle, we can see shape/color/form as a series of interlocking bits on the page.  Look how in the right panel how the townsperson with the cross fits into that wall almost as a puzzle piece.  Here depth isn’t being created solely by color relationships.  Like often times you will see the foreground/background focus being manipulated in color by how much detail is put in to one or the other.  So if you wanted your reader to focus on something in the background, you would make the foreground all one type of color relationship, and then make the background element you are highlighting contrast that so the reader’s eye is immedietely drawn to it.

So like in this page colored by Sloane Leong in Change(Ales Kot, Morgan Jeske, Ed Brisson):

In the top panel your focus is brought to the foreground by the white coloring which pops over that pink and purple background colors.  And then in the bottom panel the foreground is purple and pink, and way in the background you see a spot of white, which is your focal point as a reader.  If the bottom panel wasn’t colored in this way, you would only have the lettering balloons to help you find the two characters, and even then the experience would be very different, and it would be visually more complicated for you to read that page, which would change the rhythm of the page.

Contrast that with how Breccia handles crowds in Dracula in this scene from the Poe short story, where Dracula has followed Poe to a bar:

With the top panel Breccia lets you know just where Dracula is going to be positionally in the room, so when he enters the bar in the second panel you kind of know where to look for him.  Notice how because of the way the crowd is colored–the image is extremely crowded, and compared to the Change page above, there is not really very much depth.  And yet Breccia is still able to keep your focus on Dracula here solely through his composition both of that panel and of the page in general.  Look how the first panel angels dracula almost like an arrow into the direction that Dracula will enter the bar in the second panel.  If you flipped that top panel, you as a reader would most likely lose Dracula as you dragged down into the second panel–it would take you an extra moment to find him that clearly Breccia doesn’t intend.  You can tell that he intends to highlight Dracula’s entrance here as well because in that second panel Dracula’s figure represents the uppermost figure in the composition.  There is a kind of triangle/pyramid moving down and out from Dracula(worth pointing out, if you did draw the triangle for the composition of this page out, you would see that the first side as you read left to right, points right at Poe.

So obviously this is a different way of denoting focus for the reader, even as you use the kitchen sink color wise.  But there is something else that is achieved here versus the scene in Change(which I’m just using as an easy comparison, if you want my thoughts on Change, they are here).  In the Change scene, the storytelling emphasis in terms of the color, the writing, and lettering is speed and clarity.  And with Jeske’s side of it, a certain dramatic space by pulling back behind the crowd.  With Breccia though, he is getting across this psychology of coming into a crowded bar looking for someone, and not being able to find them right away.  Even though we are looking at Dracula from inside the bar, the psychology of the scene is purely from Dracula’s perspective.  There’s so many people here.  Where is Edgar Allan Poe?  It takes a minute for him to get his bearings.  And then by the last panel he’s found him.

This page further plays with our notions of crowd/focus/unfocused and introduces what I would say is one of the core toys Breccia uses to masterous affect in his Dracula stories–zoom.  Again we start off with this crowd pick looking back into Dracula.  What is interesting here is that now Dracula is not highlighted directly in the composition.  Instead you follow a diagonal from the dude on the left, almost zig-zagging back up to Dracula–through Poe.  Through this Breccia has staged the entire page, that this page is about both us and dracula watching Poe from the shadows.  The second panel is this wonderful deep focus moment that is all over Dracula.

Notice in the first panel Poe is drinking.  In the second panel, Poe has started to pour another drink.  So this indicates to us that time has past.  But also notice that Dracula himself hasn’t changed from the first panel.  Nor has the composition of Dracula in relationship to Poe.  So what Breccia has done here is has frozen the composition, and Dracula himself, while both animating Poe and zooming into on Dracula.  It has an almost reverse focus effect like you are almost being pulled in by Dracula.  It’s deep like Legosi’s eyes.

The bottom panels are like a master blues guitarist bending out a note.  He freezes and unfreezes actions, as he moves the perspective 180 degrees in alternating panels.  If you did this in a movie, the audience would probably throw up on the floor.  Notice the subtle animation changes between the 1st and third panels on that bottom row.  And then the second and fourth panels.  Just subtle changes, and how that allows for the movement to be perceived by the reader.  I mean a lot of great comic artists do this kind of thing.  Al Columbia’s Pim and Francie is a horrifying exploration of these kinds of animation techniques in the comic medium–but it’s just really fun to watch Breccia noodling on these different elements of comic making.

This is the last page of this crowd scene.  Look at everyone ice grilling Poe as he gets up to leave and spills his drink everywhere.  Like cool, you’re the father of modern horror, but we all hate you–kind of looks.  The coolest thing on this page though is the two middle panels where the dude in the brown jacket mirrors the shape of the building in the next panel, and the chimney on the house next to the that building is colored vaguely like Dracula’s face in the previous panel.  The bottom panel is too beautiful for words.


(paul pope, random paul pope comic, a division of random house, a division of snakes and werewolves, a division of general motors and otaku everywhere, blahblahblah–paul pope drew that, obviously)
I think in general the need of audiences and critics to explain a work of art by its nearest comparison of work points to a certain overarching lack of ability to appreciate art.

Influence is interesting to talk about for sure.  And creating that kind of historical discussion of growth and digression is important.  I’m not denying that whatsoever.

But it is the predominant way that people talk about movies, music, comics–whatever.  “This, reminds me of that”.

And really what you’re talking about there is yourself, not the art.  You are talking about the context you have brought to the piece as a viewer.  It’s the music critic who needs to show how deep their record collection is, before they can even begin to talk about the work in front of them, if at all.  It is self-service, and done ostensibly for the aggrandizement of the person who is rattling off the comparisons.

I think it also tries to view art as a con.  Like “oh, oh, look they tried to get this over on us, but I see the Paul Pope in you”

It’s like the person who thinks they are talking about Led Zepplin by spending 75 percent of the time talking about blues records.

Regardless of what influence you think you see in a piece of art, influence is not description, is not criticism, is not analysis.  Even if an artist is just straight up covering another work from another artist–what is there is still an individualistic statement about the work which is in front of you.

If I made a zine that was just photocopied Love and Rockets comics and passed it out–even though the art and content would be completely one hundred percent beholden to the hernandez brothers–what you are dealing with in terms of the art in front of you is me, and what it means that I’ve passed out these photocopied copies of Love and Rockets and what I’m saying with that.

If you spent the whole review just talking about how these are love and rockets comics, and how much you like love and rockets comics–you would be completely missing what had just happened in front of you.

By focusing in on an artist’s influence, you are literally losing the forest for the trees.  Or trees for the forest.  Or sharks for the tornado.  I don’t know how you kids talk.

And I know at the end of the day all criticism, despite it’s pretensions is about the ego of the critic.  It’s just like a lot of people aren’t even trying to hide that fact, and there is a threshhold there where you are damaging the level of discussion about the medium you are a critic for.

A fun experiment would be to form an anonymous collective of critics where everyone posted under the same name, and tried to write pure criticism as divorced from identity and perspective as possible.  Every work engaged on its own grounds.  As close to the bone as possible.  Of course even that eventually would just become “who are these masked critics?!”

Identity is fucked up.  It corrupts everything.

I’ve often thought about doing a series of interviews with creators where we just talk about a comic that is important to them, but other times I think that would be the absolute worst thing.  It just invites the audience to glue works together and pollutes the experience.  And besides mostly what I’m interested in with that approach is just trying to get at how an artist sees art that is not their own.

A variation on that that might work, is interviewing a series of creators about the same work–and have that work as your control.  I think you’d have to do them all as a series before you released even one of them though, so you didn’t just end up with artists agreeing with one another.

Why do I spend my time thinking about these things?
Anyways.  I’m just saying.  All respect to Jae Lee.  I don’t draw like him.

I’m getting a lot of Alberto Breccia in this month, so this will probably the first in many entries on Breccia comics.  Once I read all of Perramus I might do a long thing on it, just because it is the only one of his work that is in English.



Theory #1: He’s a pervert who only getes it up for monsters…beauty inhibits him.
No.
Theory #2: That girl was his daughter, who showed up without his knowledge because she didn’t want him to do this.

No

Theory #3:  “Falo” Juarez is a sham and this whole thing is for the ratings, to sell a false image of democracy…

no.

(Closeup)Definitely not.

Theory #4: “Falo” Juarez fell in love for the first time.  And he realized that the human carrion who’d put him up to this have never loved, that its not the same thing, the same thing….

Yes…

From Alberto Breccia and Juan Sasturian’s Perramus..
Probably my favorite comic page in a minute.  I love the poetry and rhythm of the writing.  It has that call and response of a blues song–line, repeat, repeat, punchline.  The way Breccia bends that note on “definitely not” is so insidious in its dripping sarcasm.  And then the final beautiful answer for why Falo Juarez couldn’t perform we get that panel with everyone cast in shadow.  Notice how as the page descends the shadow slowly creeps in and overtakes the characters on the page–reflecting the darker and darker nature of their questions as they get closer and closer to the truth.

These are from these beautiful old fantagraphics magazine releases of Perramus which I was able to pick up this past week( I have all of them except the first issue).  It is really beautiful stuff.  This particular chapter reminded me of what I enjoy in the films of Godard and Bunuel.

On the other pages notice how Breccia shrinks and enlarges the panels on the page to replicate the motion of sex–and the effect that has on speeding and slowing down time.  Look how much bigger the panels are before the competition starts, and how big they are when it ends.

Also look at the jagged thick expressive line around Breccia’s figure work.  It’s something I’ll see a lot more of when my copy of Dracula finally arrives–but it’s interesting to see in one of Breccia’s very last works, how he has fused together so many of his different experiments over time in form.  It’s very refined by this point.  And I mean, I kinda miss the rawness of something like his Cthulu Mythos–but this is still undeniable in it’s beauty. And getting to actually read it in english is a huge treat.  Juan Sasturain is a poet.  I love when I read a comic and can actually not feel insulted by the words in it.  Comics can be so beautiful.  Maybe we can all start talking about Breccia on the internet, and get a new collected edition of this?  Or Mort Cinder even.

Maybe this will be a stupid tangent, or will end up in some incomprehensible puddle of whatever at the end of whatever.  But I was talking about colorists as professionals vs. colorists as artists last night a bit on twitter, and was kind of interested in putting some of those thoughts down before I forgot them.

 

These came about because I was reading the pretty excellent Cloak and Dagger: Spider Island comic that Emma Rios drew and Javier Rodriguez colored–and I was really struck by how Rodriguez was using blue on this one page(on this 80s anime cyberpunk kick–so blue is interesting right now to me)–and really in general how he was navigating color in that book was really beautiful.  So I was like “hey I’d like to see some more of this” so I fumbled through comixology hunting for books he colored, and most of them were not what I saw in his Cloak and Dagger book.

vs.

 

And it occurred to me that this is something you see a lot with colorists, even the highly regarded ones.  For every dope Batwoman or Hellboy colored page Dave Stewart has done, I can find ten shitty Conan pages that don’t even look like they’re from the same dude.  Like I’d say what Stewart does best as a colorist is he knows how to set his palette up so a specific color on a page will absolutely pop.

vs.

vs.

 

This is what being a professional colorist looks like right now I think.  Because the pay is so low that you have to try and be able to take on as much work as you can get, if you want to pay your rent as a colorist, you have to be almost chameleonic in terms of what you can do.  This is because a lot of times it seems when companies or writers, or artists are hiring a colorist, they are hiring them to execute what their aesthetic taste is.  Follow the recipe type of work.  

And so a lot of colorists you don’t really get to see explore coloring, get better, take chances, try and advance the medium.  As a professional they are not in a position to make that move.  And don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for colorists to toss off directions from artists and writers.  What I’m more thinking about is how we see colorists, and how writers, artists, and publishers see colorists.  

The colorist is a co-equal collaborator, and has as big an influence on how a book works as the artist or writer do.  Great color can make art and a story absolutely sing.  It can make a book go from just being the same old same old thing on the shelves, to being something that stands out.  But the colorist is not viewed in this way by the industry as a whole.  Their contributions and instincts as an artist are not really being given room to grow or express itself.

Right now the mark of a great colorist seems to be the one who can get the most work, no matter how they have to subvert and ignore their own impulses and strengths and vision to do so.  The value right now in comics is toward professionalism in the colorist, not their creativity and vision.

But what I would say is that if your creative team says “hey I want to hire such and such colorist”–then surely the reason you are picking this colorist vs. any other colorist is because on some level you trust their vision and instincts.  Instead of trying to close off that space with too much direction–and in the case of publishers the enforcement of a house style of coloring–why not let them work?

I feel like you can tell which creative teams are approaching colorists as co-equals in the comic, and which ones are approaching them as an employee to do what they say.  And some of that is that a lot of writers and a disturbing number of artists have ass taste when it comes to colors, and are more interested in getting something that looks like everything else on the shelves, and huddling around mediocrity like its saying something–than actually pushing the medium to it’s limit.  Trying things that sometimes don’t work.

It would be condescending to hire someone like Sloane Leong to color a book, and then tell her how to do it.  But one of two things are happening–either people with no taste are stifling colorists from not making shit decisions, or there are a llooooot of shitty colorists.  It is probably a combination of both things really.  But I do think what we’re looking at in coloring across really several mediums: film, comics, anime–is a systemic issue of top down dictation of how color should work, not as a creative decision, but as a business decision.

I don’t know what the answer is.  Or even it’s something that needs an answer.  It just is how it is.  It’s annoying, because while I think the approach of a colorist to be able to sublimate their shit to get the job, to do the job–I understand it, I also think there’s so much ground in coloring to explore in comics, that you are wasting your own time to play it like that.  Do you have something to say, or are you just about collecting a check?  Are you a part of the background of a scene, or do you have a voice in the scene?

Everything I say, it’s like it’s gotta be some kind of revolution.  I don’t mean it like that.  I know how it sounds.  I sincerely am just following a train of thought.  The baseline of all of this was that Javier Rodriguez rocked the shit out of those colors in Cloak and Dagger–And neon crazy shit flowing under Emma Rios art is aallllll kinds of ridiculous.

Plus I know I’m shit at coloring or whatever.  But I’m not shit at understanding color.  And with practice the latter will fix the former.  Which I only say because I know the move is to see something you disagree with from an artist, look at their art, and then measure what they say against that.  I see you.  You small fuckers who basically chased Matt Seneca out of criticism, when he was one of my favorite critics.  Briiiing it.

Whoa.  That got way defensive.  I’m fundamentally nice.  And I’m just saying that.