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Crepax

Bogart!

But yeah seriously.  That is some break your mind composition.  Besides color, the Anita Live series is from this era of large angular panels.  Venus in Furs is sort of proto-this.  When I get a moment, I want to write about Anita, Emanuelle, and Venus in Furs.  I need to scan in Venus in Furs at some point.  It’s alright.  It’s like a little too serious and stiff.  But I just sort of lock that Velvet Underground song in my head, and roll.

The Anita Live series is one of my favorites.  It’s just this Anita character masturbating to her television, I think this is before Videodrome.  She’s basically a less literate Bianca.  It’s like Crepax’s concession to the fact people stopped reading books in 1977 or something.

Also there aren’t really much in the way of gutters in this later Crepax stuff.  Which makes sense, because these works are very concerned with having the most page space possible, while still doing Crepax things.  The rhythms and the type of panels and digressions Crepax does visually are all still there—but it’s all so much more assured in my mind.  The first image is as complex in three panels as a Bianca page with thirty panels.  Panels are just one of many ways you can drag time across the page in comics.  There is no reason to be overly tethered to them, beyond as an aesthetic choice.

 

The first and second panel are amaaaazing.  This page is built on the way Crepax has bent Anita’s body in the second panel.  It warps the whole page and is what is holding the whole thing together.  I can’t look at it without at least feeling a little dizzy.  and that’s without the third panel occurring on the freaking ceiling.

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I love this page from Crepax’s Hello Anita series.  The way those two top panels are cut diagonally across the same image—which accentuates the diagonal pull of Anita’s shirt.  It’s like a Sergei Parajanov type of move.  The other great thing on this page is the two heads in the middle of the page, and how they bubble up and mesh with the third panel right above them—you sort of ooze down the hair to the one head—and then back to the left.  Without knowing french, I don’t know if the far left “Qua, Qua” part is actually supposed to be read last in that panel—but compositionally you would read it last I think—both because the eye will go to the nearest speech bubble in a comic—and that movement is amplified by the way those two panels bleed into one another.

Also that faint blue box over the bottom panel—which I suppose could be a part of the scanning(I don’t own this particular Anita book, I have the later one)—but it’s positioning suggests a particular kind of intent anyways—and it’s almost a beautiful glitch flare type effect.

These are some more pages from Hello Anita—I picked them for a more broad point about Crepax which is that his pages and rhythms tend to work along these two types of axis of which this is one.  On pages like this—he kind of segments off a quarter of the vertical sides of one of his pages—in these instances the left side of the page—so the left side will have a longer vertical rectangle going down the side of the page—and then the right side of the page will have smaller panel sort of zig-zagging their way down the page—which creates a tension as a reader—because take the third page here as an example—I think your natural inclination even with the rule of speech bubble eye following IS to go down the vertical left section of the page like a scroll and THEN move back up to the top.  The bottom right panel helps in this because she is looking back up the page—sort of hinting “hey you should look up there too”

What is interesting to me about this kind of composition is that I think it forces you as a reader to step back from the panels and see the page as a whole first.  Which fights against the immersive qualities of a comic that’s like say on a very strict grid.  It’s even more interesting that crepax is using this approach for erotic art.  Which I mean—you actually will see this kind of construction in comic porn a lot really—I think it’s because in some ways it is the allowance of the page itself to become the pinup—and it is allowing it’s reader to sort of zig zag through what turns them on perhaps.  I also think it speaks to the distance that is in much of Crepax’s comics.  He doesn’t make immersive porn comics really with a few exceptions.  He is very interested in form and composition—and the comic for comic’s sake.  Or at least that’s what his pages tell me.

And then one last page from Hello Anita by Guido Crepax.  This page is fantastic.  And it’s also got this really cool thing going with the red phone.  The phone is where the speech and sound on the page are so your eye would naturally go to it.  But making it red—it’s sort of even more so.  Plus the way the phones Z across the page they make the eye sort of drag across the erotic portions of the page at a kind of corner of the eye glance.

There’s also the cool thing of her eyes seen from upside down—concurrently both sort of above and below her masturbating.

Also I think the bisected single image is one of the more beautiful things in comics.  It takes a singular moment in time and refracts it through comic time to create this lovely sort of slow mo stuttering effect.  It might be my favorite thing in comics.  Morgan Jeske did some absolutely beautiful ones in Change(Ales Kot, Sloane Leong, Ed Brisson as well).

1.

“My way of telling stories is so remote from tradition that young artists – rightly, I confess – choose other models.  I have no desire to serve as a model.  My universe is truly my own.”~Guido Crepax, quote from the introduction to the Evergreen Edition of Bianca, Emmanuelle, and Venus in Furs

I like this quote because I think it speaks to the degree to which, even when he was adapting work the world he creates with his pen is solely his own—he’s not trying to copy anyone—he’s speaking his own language, creating his own unique universes.

The other thing is that I would definitely consider myself as a student in his school.  I’m fairly obsessed with picking apart what he does—and that comes across in how my comics read.  Especially so the last say 15 pages I’ve penciled—which I haven’t gotten to show a lot of—but I would definitely describe them as me working with the lessons I’ve learned from studying Crepax.

The page above is from Anita Live—which is in my opinion the best colored Crepax work.  I own the physical copy of that, and it’s pretty big pages—and really beautiful.  Beyond the composition of his pages—one of the things I love about Anita Live and Emmanuelle is how long and languid his characters are.  That’s not always the case in work like Bianca, Valentina, Story of O and work like that—but Anita and Emmanuelle have these sort of stretched out long bodies which I really like.  I think you can see the advantage of it in the next to last panel on this page—where you can sort of feel a stretching of the figure, which is I think a kind of erotic tension also present in Schiele.

2.

“Many people dislike the erotic aspect of his stories because it seems cold to them.  The fact is, Guido is a voyeur by nature.  He likes to represent erotic scenes without identifying with those he portrays.  There are artists in this field who do much more to stimulate the reader’s imagination.”~Luisa Crepax,

(Paolo Caneppele and Gunter Krenn. Three Women: Bianca, Emmanuelle, Venus in Furs. Emmanuelle, Bianca, and Venus in Furs. By Guido Crepax.Germany: Evergreen Press, 2000. Print)
This speaks to something I talked about when I wrote about Bianca for Comicsalliance — there is a detachment in most of the eroticism of Crepax(I say most, because I think works like Emmanuelle are very directly erotic—and almost highlight how much Crepax hangs back in other work) where his focus as the artist is not getting off on what he is drawing—or that is not how it is presented to the reader.  Rather, his focus is on form, technique, and storytelling—and he explores those elements almost fatalistically.  In that way, a work like Bianca isn’t really successful as pornography—but it is in a sense comic porn—like if what gets you off is seeing someone push and pull the medium itself.

This distance is how he is different from someone like Manara.  Not better or worse.  Just different.

This distance is also one of the things that drew me into his work so much, because my own relationship to eroticism is very detatched, and I think I tend to be more interested in the aesthetics of the artwork associated with it—than I would ever really get off on it.  I’ve said elsewhere/before that what interests me about erotic art is the blurry boundries between erotic art and surreal horror—I am very interested in the way that that narrative can sublimate into lower miracles in the subconscious.  I’m not interested really in character A is like x,y, and z, and does this in the third act, blah blah blah progression—I’m interested in how if character A is shown this way in these sequences, it almost hypnotizes the viewer into a dreamlike state whereby the boundries of storytelling sort of float away—and it becomes like a looped, dragged song—and you sort of haze into this really affecting atmospheric place.

I am interested in the steps toward creating the sublime.  I am not interested whatsoever in plot points, character growth, or any of the other million things that so many critics and creators have decided is important in this day and age.  That I am ever interested in those things—is the way they can work in service of the creation of the sublime.

I don’t care particularly about who does what in Tarkovsky’s Mirror.  Only that magical feeling you get as you move through that wooden house and see that house on fire, as if in a dream.

I feel that Crepax, particularly in Bianca creates rhythms that are important in this direction.  Getting to finally read Bianca in English I am convinced more than ever of Crepax’s utility in this direction.

The above page is from Bianca.

3.

“What I like about ‘Bianca’ is the unrealistic structure I have given her stories.  Compared to Valentina, whose adventures belong to a particular reality(so real she even has an identity card), I had fun making Bianca a completely free character.  She has no profession; she could perhaps, be a student.  I created her to give myself a little more freedom[…] The structure of the Bianca stories is not homogenous, there is no real beginning and no real end.  Without ever intending it, it eventually became a big book.  I just made image after image, put them one after another, and all of a sudden I had some two hundred pages”~ Guido Crepax on Bianca

(Paolo Caneppele and Gunter Krenn. Three Women: Bianca, Emmanuelle, Venus in Furs. Emmanuelle, Bianca, and Venus in Furs. By Guido Crepax.Germany: Evergreen Press, 2000. Print)

This probably speaks a lot to my adoration of the Bianca stories—because they are the primacy of the image and the sequence.  And it is in these stories that I think Crepax is at his best—because I think that at his core, that is what he is best at conveying his passion for.  His strengths in rhythm, paneling, and form are most allowed to run around to their logical endpoints in Bianca—where in other works, he is perhaps constrained somewhat.  I find that when I read Valentina, that is my criticism of it—that in some ways, she participates in adventures—that I am not really that certain matter—but because of the rigidity of that world, there is a linearity that in parts of Valentina she has to adhere to.  Now that is not always the case.  There are sections of Valentina that are very much like Bianca in how they transition seamlessly through different narrative tracks.

Crepax, Valentina

Time stutters, stops, starts again, rewinds, zooms in—beautiful to watch.  And the way those chopped panels set off the longer beautiful panels.  You don’t even need a full splash page to get that effect—you can almost make it more dramatic on the same page—because any sort of large jump in time either backwards or forwards in a big enough panel, coming after this stutter effect is going to read pretty huge.

I also like how in the first panel of the second page here(I’ve cropped both of these pages to focus on the part I like the most)—the bars of the bed frame and how they tease you with the notion of the panel frame

One of my favorite things that Crepax does, and one of say the five things that most looms over how my pages layout are these vertical strips of panels running down the side of larger panels —or running underneath them—it’s not just that they are there—but they run at a different rhythm to the rest of the page—they are like the flickering of a film strip that is about to break—it’s like fft fft fft—and then big image like fffshhhhh.  I love that sort of stuttered lurching interior rhythm of the page.

It’s like sort of watching your twitter feed crawl through your phone in one eye, while a movie is playing in the other.  Which I just find intensely modern.  I think when Crepax was doing it he was obviously sort of referencing film—but I think that multimedia rhythm still feels like NOW now.  It’s like music and you’re dragging a part of the page.  I like it a lot.

There’s a slight flip on this that you see in stuff like(I mean everywhere, but I’m just talking about artists I read a shit ton) Taiyo Matsumoto where he’ll go x, x, x, monkey face, x—I think it’s related to that act structure for narrative that Ales Kot posted a few weeks back where you have thing that’s happening, complete other thing, end—as opposed to conflict leads into this leads into this—hollywood filmaking spellbound typa approach.    In some ways these out of time strips work like that, without being per se haiku or non-sequitar or whatever.

There’s a great spot in Change #1 by Kot, Jeske, Leong, Brisson where things pop off and you’re about to get a bunch of action and it breaks into this lower bracket of smaller panels that are sort of chaotic but make sense too.  I dunno, that’s like a lesson that film learned in the 60s and 70s, and fine art before that—but you don’t see it played with quite as much in western comics.

I’m rambling.  But yeah—Crepax is the master.  I find it really useful to vacillate between looking at how Crepax does pages and how Brandon Graham does pages—because they are almost opposite approaches—one is very much about the primacy of the panel and the rhythms and angels of moving through panels—where I think Graham is a master of the page itself and space.  He can make a single page feel so expansive—you’ll get this whole open page—and then that smaller bank of panels sort of riffing on the page itself—especially in his multiple warheads work of late—you’re sort of seeing rhythms and ways of seeing pages that are pretty revelatory and game changing.  I play with that stuff and then a lot of montage/collage time stuff within panels which the only other person in comics I can really look to who is also playing THAT game is Emma Rios.

And then sometimes I just jack my page compositions from Basquiat paintings because I think the way those use space and words are super useful in terms of keeping myself from getting to micro on a page—he forces me to look at the page as a whole, as a singular entity.

It kind of sucks too though, because when you are really locked in on these rhythms and creative ways of using space on the page—there’s a whole bank of comics out there that it’s like you have to come out of space just to read them.  I think Ales Kot was saying on twitter the other day about flipping out about reading a comic where someone was just flat out wasting space.  I can sort of agree with that.  There are so many possibilities, but for a variety of reasons there’s a lot of very rote comics.

I mean that’s something you can’t really fault the image founder guys—I was looking at this Deathlok spidey Erik Larsen comic I had when I was a kid, I was looking at it the other day and there is no way an editor at either of the big two would let a comic hit the shelves with layouts like this.  Those extreme comics were playing around constantly with layouts and composition.  Characters were popping out of panels.  There’s Liefeld pages where a character is completely removed from panels that are only really there as strange texture.  It’s crazy.  Larsen was on twitter the other day saying one of the editors for one of the big two had a rule about artists having to keep their characters inside of the panel boundaries—which is such a hysterically wrong rule for specifically superhero comics.

I mostly just wanted to write about that Crepax layout though.  But I pretty much spend every hour of my day thinking and rethinking about these things—and it’s probably like five artists I’m going to end up talking about if I talk about comics long enough.  But I’m just saying.  Rob Liefeld X-force comics are the realest thing.  That was the premise of this I think.

Oh I also have those old Sam Keith Wolverine stories.  Sam Keith is someone no one including me pay enough attention to.  Not that I am.  I’m reading Dungeon while noodling on a draft of a huge Change review.  That’s what I’m about.