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“As more people are able to make a living doing it, I think we’re moving into an atmosphere were creators are able to define their careers more than creators in the past have been able to,” he observes. “Relying on Marvel and DC is no longer becoming a viable option, because the contracts aren’t viable and the rates aren’t set. They make the rules. A lot of people have fooled themselves into thinking that’s stability but are now realizing that it’s the exact opposite. The real stability is controlling your own career and being in a position to hire yourself, generating ideas that are enough to make you a sustainable income, and also controlling those ideas and your own destiny. That’s the new stability and that’s something people are realizing. I’m very optimistic that it’ll be something that is here to stay.”
Via a Graphic NYC
profile by Christopher Irving and Seth Kushner.
I don’t know why I didn’t think of her earlier. Becky Cloonan was featured in Oprah’s magazine for crying out loud.Becky teamed up with Brian Wood on Channel Zero in 2003. The book was originally published by AiT Planet Lair, but thankfully the good folks at Dark Horse recollected the series with a great introduction by Warren Ellis. Cloonan and Wood went on to create Demo: a beautiful series of stories about troubled youth with supernatural powers that landed her an Eisner nomination in 2005 for Best New Series. The duo also worked on Northlanders and Conan The Barbarian. In 2007 she was nominated for another Eisner for her work on American Virgin with Steven T. Seagle.
She also published one volume of East Coast Rising with Tokyo Pop, which earned her another Eisner nomination for Best New Series. Becky left her mark on Batman in issue #12, which started a new character Harper Row. She also teamed up with Scott Snyder again and provide art for Swamp Thing #12. Beckyalso co-created The True Lives of the Fabulous Kill Joys with Geard Way and Shaun Simon, and it’s set to release in June. Cloonan has been a long time advocate of creator owned comics and is currently self publishing The Mire, Wolves, and Dracula.
Here’s a special treat, everyone – Laura Howell, creator of Hell on Toast, The Bizarre Adventures of Gilbert & Sullivan, and the FIRST female cartoonist to draw for The Beano. Yes! The very first! Incredibly fun, handy with a pun, and excellent at delivering gags, Howell is one of the UK’s most underappreciated cartoonists. She also, her twitter feed informs me, REALLY likes biscuits. Incredibly prolific, she takes part in several mini creative events online every year, such as her strip-a-day marathon. Furiously funny, you can see more on her website, or find her on the twitters!
It was an inevitability that I’d mention Fionnuala Doran as one of our 24 women cartoonists. Having had work featured at various galleries around Ireland (where she hails from), she recently joined Studio YOLO under the keen, never-swaying eye of Dean Haspiel. Her work has a brilliant use of structure and style, cramping panels together in different and interesting ways to accentuate the important points in each sequence. Expressive and off-kilter, her artwork points her out as somebody I think we should all be watching out for in future. She’s my favourite!
She also has an obsession with corgis. You can find more from her over on her site!
Click the image to read Ava’s Demon
Michelle Czajkowski is sort of a big deal on deviantart. Michelle started her weekly webcomic “Ava’s Demon” in 2012, and is currently at page 392. She seems to keep her personal life private and lets her art tell you all you need to know.
This is the only photograph I can find of Michelle:
They say that behind ever Madman is Lara Allred. Fine, no one has ever said that but I still think it’s true.Laura has left her mark on countless books such as Fables, The Spirit, X-Force, Wolverine and The X-Men and award winning run on iZombie.
Laura is hands down one of the greatest colorist to ever grace comics. Laura, thank you for being so awesome and a inspiration to everyone around you.
Cynthia “Cindy” Martin worked in mainstream comics at the very WORST time to be female in mainstream comics — the 80s and 90s — despite this, she racked up a solid run on Marvel’s STAR WARS that’s considered some of the definitive comics work on the title. She also drew Wonder Woman and Spider-man. In recent year’s she been illustrating a number of non fictionYA graphic novels for Capstone. She’s also been made an honorary member of the 501st Legion—the Stormtrooper cosplay organization.
Recently seen as co-creator on Bucko with Jeff Parker, cartoonist Erika Moen is one of the many higher beings who works within Periscope Studios. Perhaps best known for her ‘naughty’ comics including DAR, her work is confrontational in the very nicest of ways. She’ll do something which you should be shocked by, only you’ll find – to your surprise – that you’re giggling along with it instead. Clean and vibrant, her art style is instantly recognisable, and she can jump from fart jokes to poignancy in an instant. Bucko was recently collected by Dark Horse, and you can find out more on her site, or over on the twitters!
Writer, artist, and part-time jouster, Emma Vieceli is best known for her work with long-form works including Avalon Chronicles, Dragon Heir, and Vampire Academy. Brilliant at conveying excitement from her characters, her work has been much sought after – when not working on projects about King Richard III, she’s giving talks on creativity or contributing to anthologies and back-up strips for books like Comic Book Tattoo or Phonogram. She’ll next be seen on the next Alex Rider graphic novel adaptation by Antony Johnston, working her magic on the young spy’s next adventure. Find more on her site, or follow her on the twitters!
First off, Kate Leth is a fan of The Spice Girls, so immediately you should be ready to welcome her into your world with open arms. Secondly, her webcomic series Kate or Die! is a fantastical piece of work, with each strip offering something new, but all drawn in her bouncy, glamorous style. Each new strip could be anything – something that happened to Leth in real life, a dream sequence, a quick gag, or a detailed explanation of how to apply othic makeup. It’s autobiographical, fantastical, informatical, hydromatical… like greased lightning! Erm, anyway. She’s currently working on a fair few projects including Adventure Time with Fionna and Cake for Boom, as well as continuing on with Kate or Die. You can find more on her site, or follow her over on the twitters!
The creator of 164 Days, Kirsty Mordaunt has a lovely sense of style in her character designs, which boosts them off the page. Based in Lincoln, the flattest place in the world, Mordaunt won the Northern Design Award for illustration in 2009, and has been pushing forward with her work ever since. After setting up 164 Days in 2011, readers have seen her linework become crisper and cleaner, and her art improving with every new page. I hope she builds up a gigantic audience over the next few months, because she’s brilliant. You can find 164 days right over here, or follow her on the twitters!
When I saw Clark and Lois 4ever seven years ago, I knew Ming Doyle was going to be something. Ming started out on various anthologies like Jennifer’s Body (BOOM! Studios), Popgun (Image Comics), and doing a weekly webcomic with Kevin Church called The Loneliest Astronauts. The story is basically what if Steve Martin and John Candy from Trains, Planes and Automobiles were stuck in distant space with no way to get back to Earth. Every week that went by the duo became better storytellers and gave more depth to the story. Due to scheduling conflicts the series ended in January 2012. Shortly after the cancellation, Ming and Church co-created created a Star Trek fan fiction web comic called Boldly Gone. The series lives on but the art duties were handed down to Bruce Mcckindale.
She used to host a snazzy podcast with Alexa Rose called Make Believers. They discussed what they saw on Netflix that weekend, fashion tips, music and books they were into, and gave listeners mixed drink recipes that were named after comic book characters.
Her prolific webcomic work seized the attention of the industry and landed her on a Girl Comics anthology that featured the Women of Marvel. Doyle was recently partnered up with Brian Michael Bendis to pencil Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Infinite Comic. This past December Brian Wood, Jordie Bellaire and Ming debuted a six-part comic called Mara at Image Comics.
Ming’s one of the most prolific artists in the last decade and she has a bright future ahead of her.
If you’re a Comics Reader of a Certain Age, the name Jerry Ordway will definitely ring a bell as one of the founding creators of a Certain Age of Comics with accomplishments he lays out very well in a blog post called Life over fifty: a long run on Superman, work on Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis and other foundations of the lore of the DC Universe. Once, there was no one more respected, established or go to. But in recent times, things have been bumpy — an exclusive that meant he barely got any work, and now a dry spell:
I am thrilled to be well remembered, and respected in the comic book community, and to have fans willing to pay me to draw commissions, but I got into comics in order to tell stories, not to draw custom art. I still feel vital, and still want to be at that table. Do I think DC comics owes me anything? Yes and no. I understand that no company owes anything that isn’t contractually stipulated, but in my heart, I think I deserve better than being marginalized over the last 10 years. I’m not retired, I’m not financially independent. I’m a working guy with a family, working for a flat page rate that hasn’t changed substantially since 1995. I may have opportunities at smaller companies, companies that pay less per page than I made in 1988, with no royalties or ownership of any kind. I’m not at all looking down at that, but it is hard to reconcile, as I can’t work faster, and refuse to hack my work out to match the rate. I have pride in what I do, and always have. As to my part in the history of dc for the past 33 years, I was a highly visible and successful part of it, not a minor footnote.
As a comic reader and customer, the publishers use our older work in collected editions, for what they call first copy royalties, no reprint fees. They publish the All Star Squadron trade, for example and you buy it for whatever the cost. My royalty is maybe a couple hundred dollars, if I’m lucky, for 11 issues worth of work. On a recent Absolute Infinite Crisis hardcover, I had 30 odd pages reprinted in there, a book that retailed for over a hundred dollars– a book that DC never even gave me a copy of, and the royalty amounted to a few dollars, I couldn’t buy a pizza on that windfall. I want to work, I don’t want to be a nostalgia act, remembered only for what I did 20, 30 years ago.
Ordway’s tale is increasingly familiar, but not an unexpected one —in fact just read the comments under his post where a plethora of older, experienced comics creators sound off. Not to be harsh, but when Ordway started storming the barricades, Arnold Drake
wasn’t getting much work, and when Drake was in his prime, Mart Nodell
wasn’t the number 1 creator. And someday Scott Snyder and Matt Fraction
will be grey haired-eminences. Nobody promised you a 50-year-long career when you got into this thing.
There is no mystery to the career trajectory in any medium. We see it around us all the time. Or as Hollywood once put it the five career stages:
Who is Rock Gibralter?
Maybe we should try Rock Gibralter.
Get me Rock Gibralter.
Get me a young Rock Gibralter.
Who is Rock Gibralter?
Twitter and message boards are already afire with calls to hire Jerry Ordway, and I’m sure he already has some job offers rolling in. You haven’t seen the last of Rock Gibralter. In many creative fields, Ordway would be in the prime of his career—it’s not like comics are the music industry and a following is dependent on dancing around in tight pants. But still, Rob LIefeld — himself no stranger to ups and downs — draws a line under it:
With total respect to Ordway, who is a thorough professional with an enviable track record—he, like many others, has based his career thus far on the Corporate Comics model. And in that model when you fall out of fashion with the fans, for whatever reason, you don’t get hired any more. There’s a finite lifecycle to most careers unless you break out into superstar status, and even then no guarantees. In his post Ordway mentions older creators who were his role models, including Jack Kirby. I think there was a lesson there to be learned that Ordway did not entirely absorb.
But who can blame him? We all think we’re the one who’s going to stay on top, stay fresh and vital, buck the odds. Young people don’t buy health insurance or put money in their 401ks unless forced to do so.
It is easier than even to do your own thing. Matt Fraction and Scott Snyder have something that previous generations didn’t have as much access to: they were both established creators before they even wrote a line for Corporate Comics. Snyder was an author with rave reviews in Publishers Weekly, the New York Times and Booklist. Fraction had worked for an award winning interactive design firm and had a back catalog of his own comics that already had a following. Should they fall out of savor tomorrow — or even in 10 years, I think they’d be fine.
The system Ordway was raised doesn’t exist anymore…and never really did, in terms of an industry that looked after its creators from art school graduation to memorial service. That he’ll be productive and successful for another couple of decades, I have no doubt—he’s smart, talented and creative. And adaptable.
But let his blog post stand as a warning to all: the gravy train usually has a very short ride.
It’s a Monday early in the month, you just paid the rent and you’re now wondering how you are going to live on celery for the next 27 days—that must be why so many posts on how to make a living at this here thing are coming out today. We’ve already seen Jerry Ordway plead to be taken seriously as a creator. But it’s not just the old paper and ink crowd that’s fretting this day. The webcomickers are at it too. John Allison is the creator of SCARY GO ROUND, seemingly a respectably successful webcomics creator. But even webcomickers are beginning to feel the pinch of new generations of cartoonists who don’t even have the structure of a website but just post everything on Tumblr, which Allison sees no payoff for:
Art isn’t democratic. It doesn’t take place in a caring, sharing environment. It is a huge “look at me”. We are the pre-schoolers who can still point at what we’ve done and get a sticker, and we want to keep getting those stickers forever.
I would never decry any service as worthless. There are people who have caught mass attention via Tumblr, and sold great piles of things as a result. There’s a use for everything, and an exception to every rule. The exceptions are the reasons that others try. But Tumblr sets the bar of success incredibly low. The payout will almost always be zero. Not beer money, nothing.
Matt Bors jumped in quickly, with a more whippersnapper-based response:
Yes, Tumblr is the new “Internet.”(Follow me here!) I’m old enough to remember–I am in my twenties here, folks–when only print cartoonists talked like this. Back then a few particular cartoonists who had blazed a trail for themselves online loved to laugh publicly at people who lost their jobs in print. The web was democratic, they said, and if you can’t make it work you should go die in a corner. If you followed that whole “debate,” you know what I’m referring to. If not, you didn’t miss out on anything that made you a smarter or better human being and I envy you.
I don’t bring this up to mock Allison’s financial troubles. If he’s struggling, that’s bad for all cartoonists and I’m in this boat with him. I have a sense of solidarity and constant dread about what is happening. But if your model can be completely undone by a new website you need to be more nimble. “The future’s uncertain and the end is always near,” a belligerent drug addict once sang before he abruptly died. People are raking it in on Kickstarter these days. No doubt that well will eventually dry up and we’ll move on to the next platform kids with their gizmos seem to grasp while the old and out-of-it Millennials struggle to keep up.
Frankly I think Bors is right, and Allison and Ordway are fretting about the unchangeable (even though I do the same kind of moaning and hand wringing for olden times here on a daily basis.) In fact:
“But if your model can be completely undone by a new website you need to be more nimble.”
Disruption is where it’s at, Matlock. Like ordering your movies every night on streaming Netflix? Good, because every minute of your entertainment is written in the blood of some video store/Blockbuster. Are you happy now?
This is a time for the nimble. You can bank on that.
Following yesterday’s much quoted post on wanting to be hired, artist Jerry Ordway responded to the outpouring of support with more on the perils of exclusives and the freelancers life:
DC chose 52 artists over me, and let me twiddle my thumbs for a full 3 months while they tried to find inventory work for me. I knew I wasn’t currently in anyone’s “top ten” artists, but to find that I wasn’t in the top 52 was a shock:). If any of you are ever asked to be exclusive to any company, make sure they will incur penalties if they can’t keep you busy:) I had that clause when I first signed, but the renewals did away with it because “it wasn’t really needed.” D’oh!
[snip] So anyhow, don’t feel sorry for me–I don’t want that. Don’t use this as an excuse to bash DC over their new books, but DO use this to understand the life of a freelance creator. We pay for our own healthcare, we pay an extra tax known as the self employment tax, and we all work strange long hours trying to make sure your comics ship on time. Support comics by the creators you like! Every sale helps. Support the independent publishers, and the small press comics, because they are putting their hearts and souls into their creations without any advance payments or page rates.
For whatever reason, the “exclusives wars” of the mid 00s seem to be over, and given out to only the most top creators at a company. For a mid-level creator, it isn’t really a career advantage any more.
Mark Evanier also had thougths on the subject of ageism and comics evolution:
Over the years, I became friendly with — or at least interviewed — most of the comic book writers and artists whose careers predated or coincided with mine. Some managed to remain “in demand” as long as they were able to write or draw or wanted to work. Others hit a wall they’d never expected — one they’d once been more-or-less promised would never be there. A number of very fine, experienced creators in the last decade or two have been told things like, “I’d love to give you work but they tell me here I have to look for the new, young ‘hot’ artist.”
Usually, it isn’t that nakedly admitted but sometimes it is. Not that long ago, a veteran artist came to me and asked if I could help him get work…which he needed the way anyone might need work. I knew of a comic that a major company was about to launch and phoned up its editor to suggest the older guy would be perfect for it. The editor replied, “You’re right. He would be. I wish I could use him.” I swear: “I wish I could use him” is a verbatim quote.
Normally I wouldn’t quote a post at such length but there is much truth in it so I’ll add this bit:
I’m not too worried about Jerry. He’s very good and some smart editor (there are such people) will snap him up one of these days. I am worried when the industry seems too quick to dispose of talented folks and it becomes impossible or even just difficult to make a long-term living in comics. I think that would be very bad for the business. When good people come along, you don’t want them to think of their time writing or drawing comics as temp work that will only last until someone younger comes along with impressive samples and no grey hair. If today I was considering a career in comics, I don’t think I’d expect it to be a very long, stable one.
The other night I spoke with Calvin Reid at an SVA course on the business of cartooning taught by Dan Nadel.
Calvin and I have been doing this every six months or so for four or five years, and every time I bring along a slideshow on different career outlets in comics. I find that I have to substantially update it every six months — and the current one has no relation to the one I started with. Syndicated comic strips aren’t even discussed, and even the “creator participation” model of comics seems to be dwindling away as companies like IDW and Boom! turn more and more to licensed books and creators chose more to participate with themselves at Image, Kickstarter or their own company. This was a large class — maybe 20 students — and when I asked who wanted to draw Thor not a single hand went up. When I asked who was on Tumblr probably half the class raised their hands. That’s a huge switch from even 5 years ago.
At the end of the day, comics, like most industries, is still a meritocracy. A talented hard worker like Jerry Ordway still has job skills that a kid on tumblr won’t develop for years and years. But I get the feeling that the career path of just wanting to grow up and draw superheroes is going to get more and more specialized.
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, Indie Comics
, Top News
, Alan Davis
, Anthony Marques
, Archie Comics
, Bob Hardin
, Curt Swan
, Dan DeCarlo
, Fabio Redivo
, Fernando Ruiz
, George Perez
, Harry Lucey
, Hoax Hunters
, Image Comics
, Joe Kubert
, Kurt Schaffenberger
, Life with Archie
, Murphy Anderson
, PS Magazine
, Samm Schwartz
, Steve Ditko
, The Kubert School
, Victor Gorelick
, Will Eisner
, Add a tag
Anyone who has ever worked with Fernando Ruiz or benefitted from his teaching skills knows what a seriously impressive contributor he is to the future of comics. From his personal work as writer and artist on ARCHIE comics and a range of other freelancing projects to the intense mileage he puts in as an instructor at The Kubert School training young artists, Ruiz is all about comics. His own passion for the medium bleeds through every aspect of his life and erupts into casual conversation, whether he’s flipping through large format reproductions of the art of Wally Wood or he’s reflecting on the life of one of his personal heroes, the much-missed Joe Kubert whose presence is still felt daily at the school he founded.
[Fernando Ruiz in front of some of his ARCHIE work at the Kubert School]
I had the good fortune to make Ruiz’s acquaintance when I enrolled in some evening classes at the Kubert School and got to witness his virtuosity as a teacher first-hand. From the solid instruction in basic art techniques to student-prodded asides into the vastnesses of comics history, Ruiz displayed his trademark versatility in all aspects of the medium. Delving into his portfolio, particularly, is bound to prompt stunned silence as his sketches vault between styles and genres with a flexibility that seems almost impossible. If it weren’t for his engaging demeanor and unassuming attitude, his students would probably slink away quietly, intimidated by his abilities as an artist. The two sides of his life, private work and public teaching, are clearly driven by an overwhelming commitment to comics, matched only by his work ethic. I knew it wouldn’t be the easiest thing to get Ruiz to talk about his life and work, since he’s a modest person, but thankfully he agreed to field a few questions for us at The Beat.
Hannah Means-Shannon: I know that you attended the Kubert School and now teach there. What courses do you teach and how long have you been teaching?
Fernando Ruiz: I was invited to teach at the Kubert school in August of 1995. I’d graduated from the school a year earlier in 1994. I started by teaching the school’s Saturday Morning Sketch class, which is largely teaching cartooning to little kids. In 1996, I joined the full time faculty teaching during the week. Over the years, I’ve taught many different classes including Story Adaptation, Design, and Human Figure Drawing. Currently, I’m teaching Narrative Art to all of the First Year students and Basic Drawing to the Second Year students. In addition, I’m also teaching the school’s evening Basic Drawing class and after all these years, I’m still teaching that same Saturday morning class.
HM-S: What do you think are the most essential qualities for someone teaching aspiring comics artists?
FR: Obviously a certain amount of proficiency and knowledge in the area you are teaching is required. Beyond that, a teacher needs patience, flexibility and imagination in order to deal with the particular situation each student might present. Communication skills are also important. It’s not enough to be able to do what you are teaching. You have to be able to clearly explain what you are doing and verbalize it in such a way that your explanation is understandable to a beginner.
HM-S: What’s the most challenging thing about teaching aspiring comics artists?
FR: Each student is an individual and can represent a unique situation. It can be a challenge to gauge a class’ proficiency and tailor my curriculum to my students’ needs.
HM-S: What projects are you working on as an artist currently? What projects are you most excited about right now?
FR: Currently, I am penciling the LIFE WITH ARCHIE magazine for Archie Comics. This is a fun project in which Archie and his friends are adults and Archie is married to Veronica. The stories are serialized in a soap opera-like style and written on a more sophisticated level than your average ARCHIE story with more mature themes and sometimes very shocking twists. In recent issues, we’ve seen Archie’s gay friend, Kevin Keller, get married, his partner get shot, and Archie and Veronica very nearly get divorced! It’s a very crazy ride.
Recently, I took over as regular penciler for the U.S. Army’s PS Magazine. This is a magazine that has been worked on by Will Eisner, Murphy Anderson, and Joe Kubert. I’m very honored to follow them with this assignment.
In addition, I’m currently penciling a story for Image Comics’ HOAX HUNTERS. This is a short back-up story that will appear in their next trade paperback. It’s a different type of story than I usually work on so it’s a lot of fun and exciting.
[Ruiz draws The Avengers]
HM-S: How did you decide to become an artist? What influenced you to attend the Kubert School?
FR: I’ve always enjoyed drawing, comic books, and cartoons. I read comics from a very early age and almost immediately made my own with crayons and notebook paper! As I grew older, I knew I wanted to try for a career in comics but I wasn’t sure how practical or feasible that was. I attended Caldwell College in Caldwell, NJ where I became a Fine Arts major. After graduating, though, I was still attracted to the world of comics. I really wanted to give it a shot. I learned a lot about the fundamentals of art at Caldwell, but I didn’t feel I knew enough about the technical aspect of producing commercial art suitable for reproduction. This led me to enroll at the Kubert School, the best learning institution around for comic book art.
[Ruiz draws The Ultimates]
HM-S: What comics have you found inspirational in your work? What creators have influenced you the most?
FR: You can’t be an artist for Archie Comics without studying the work of all the great artists who came before you. I looked at guys whose work I enjoyed as a kid. Even before I cared to look for their names in the credits, I was studying and copying the art of guys like Dan DeCarlo, Samm Schwartz, and Harry Lucey. When I first started at Archie Comics, I was very fortunate to live close enough to their offices that I could deliver my work in person. Victor Gorelick, Archie’s Editor-In-Chief and the guy who hired me right out of the Kubert School, would ask Dan DeCarlo to sit with me and go over my pages, and give me pointers on how I could improve. Dan was a kind, generous guy and I can’t state enough what a helpful experience that was.
I also learned a lot from other guys who’s work I was reading and copying from as a kid. Among these guys were Steve Ditko, George Perez, Alan Davis, Kurt Schaffenberger, and the great Curt Swan, whose Superman remains my favorite comic book character.
[Ruiz draws Nova]
HM-S: What motivates you to commit your life to so many aspects of comics creation?
FR: I love comics. They’re the perfect storytelling fusion of writing and art. I’ve enjoyed comics ever since I was a kid and nothing makes me happier than being able to make a living creating them. I not only get to draw comics all day but I also get to spread my passion for the medium in my classes.
[Ruiz's work on EPICS]
HM-S: Are there any upcoming projects you want to spread the word about?
FR: In addition to my work on LIFE WITH ARCHIE and PS Magazine, I’m working on a self-published project called EPICS. This is an anthology comic I started with three of my fellow instructors at the Kubert School: Anthony Marques, Bob Hardin, and Fabio Redivo. We each wrote and illustrated our own original six-page story. The first issue was published in September 2012 and we will be publishing our second issue later this year. Working on a completely original story like this where it’s my own creation and I’m handling both the writing and the art makes it extremely satisfying and personal for me. I’m having a great time working on it. We got a lot of praise and attention for our first issue and we can’t wait to put out our second!
[Ruiz's work on EPICS]
HM-S: Where can comics fans find your work?
FR: Folks can check out my work at my website.
[Ruiz's work on EPICS]
HM-S: How can readers find out more about your classes?
FR: Visit the Kubert School’s website to keep up with upcoming courses and events!
HM-S: Do you have any advice for new artists who wants to work professionally in comics?
FR: Be versatile. Learn how to draw everything in every possible way. Don’t just learn how to draw Batman because you’re a Batman fan. If those very few Batman jobs out there are taken, you’re going to have to know how to draw something else. The more you can draw, the more employable you become!
HM-S: Ruiz is a tough act to follow, but he inspires his students to approach comics with respect and a certain amount of grit when it comes to pursuing personal success. He’s an asset of the highest caliber in the classroom, and I wasn’t surprised to learn, asking around, how many comics artists I know who have studied with him and gone on to influence the direction of comics. We wish the best of luck to him on his upcoming projects, hopefully showing off that range of style that makes such an impression on students. If you happen to see him at The Kubert School open house coming up on April 20th, feel free to embarrass him by praising his work and contribution to teaching!
Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.
Webcomics, TV and Kickstarter you say? Speak of the Devil.
STRIP SEARCH, the reality show about a house full of cartoonists competing for $15K and a year of “being embedded” at Penny Arcade, debuted earlier this week. You can watch the first episode above and the second episode is now up as well. The show is produced by the Penny Arcade crew, with Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins as judges. (They ran a half million dollar Kickstarter to fund the show last year) 12 cartoonists — six male, six female, are flown to a house in Seattle to compete for the prize, in the classic format. The 12, chosen from a thousand entrants, are mostly webcomickers, but more on that in a bit.
I’m not a reality contest addict, but I watch a few. American Idol (because you CAN’T be a nerd all the time) and I’m back watching the Ultimate Fighter this season. In fact I watched last night’s Ultimate Fighter immediately before I watched these and it was fun to see reality show staples transferred to the comics milieu with greetings, threats, and a big house stocked with alcohol at their beck and call. In addition. STRIP SEARCH has elements that will be all too familiar to anyone who is or is involved with a cartoonist:
• The cartoonist who cannot leave the house until she finishes sending a file
• A fridge stocked with hot pockets and soy milk
• Severe self doubts about being good enough to win
• Excitement about pudding
In the first episode we meet the 12 contestants and they travel to the house to see who they are up against. The female cartoonists seem to be way more established than the men, including Erika Moen, who I would say is a star already, and Katie Rice, who works on Kung Fu Panda. Not too much happens in the first episode, but it’s a good set-up. Surprisingly, unlike the MMA fighters who bodly predict victory until they end up lying in a puddle of their own blood, the cartoonists are all given to huge self doubts. Many don’t think they are good enough to win, and they all doubt their art chops. Yep, this must be a house full of artists all right.
In episode two, there’s a game of Fax Machine (artists take turns sketching based on sayings or writings sayings based on sketches) and it turns out they are all very talented, and able to turnout funny sketches pretty quickly. And the first character begins to emerge: Amy Falcone who had to quit her data entry job in Noank, CT in order to compete. Amy thinks she will clash with the other women in the house, and seems to be the most ambitious and insecure of the lot, based on the fact that she wears fingerless gloves inside while drawing.
Aw, see now, I’m doing it. I don’t know Amy Falcone. Her comics are cute. But already she’s fallen into the “reality show” jungle of viewers making assumptions about who she is as a person. I only know one of the contestants personally (Moen) but it’s going to be weird seeing them transformed like this.
The episodes are only 15 minutes long, but someone is going to go home on the very first day. I already feel bad for whoever that person is.
Production is competent if a bit sparse. I believe host Graham Stark (Loading Ready Run) is also the narrator, and here is where I wish hat they had the lady from Snapped or some other portentous voice. Even if it isn’t quite ready for The History Channel, STRIP SEARCH is well enough done, and the premise is engaging enough, that I’m going to be back for more episodes—if only to see mild-mannered indie cartoonists uttering reality show staple lines like “I didn’t come here to make friends!”
I tell you what would be great though, an Ultimate Fighter/Strip Search crossover. The fighters could scribble and the cartoonists could eat six hard boiled eggs for breakfast and see who felt more comfortable in the end.
And what do YOU think? Will you watch “America’s Next Top Webcomic?”
Feeling adventurous I journeyed out to an unfamiliar part of Bushwick last night for an opening night party for the new issue of World War 3 Illustrated. Founded in 1980, this comics magazine has been charting politics, struggle, and social causes around the world for more than 30 years. The latest issue’s theme is “The Other,” surely a propitious one. I’ve yet to read the whole issue but the parts presented last night were quite striking.
The new issue was edited by Hilary Allison and Ethan Heitner, two recent SVA grads. Part of the WW3 process is getting new cartoonists involved, and it wouldn’t have lasted this long with it, said co-founder Peter Kuper, who showed a slideshow covering some of his cartooning life. The evening started out with Sabrina Jones talking through “Kemba Smith” an excerpt from her just released book Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling an adaptation of Marc Mauer’s book on America exploding imprisonment rate. “Kembra Smith” is about a 24 year old pregnant woman from a good family with no previous record who was sentenced to 24 years in prison for various offenses related to her boyfriend’s drug dealing, such as owning the car he used for deliveries. Smith’s family mortgaged their house to pursue some justice for her, and after 7 years in prison, she was was pardoned by Bill Clinton—it’s the kind of tale of injustice that comics can present in quickly relatable fashion.
Cartoonist/filmmaker Sandy Jimenez read “Single Lens Reflex” a story from his childhood in the devastated South Bronx about two foreign exchange students who came to take pictures of him and his friends. Jimenez did something I’ve never seen at a comics reading before: at the climax of the story—the two youngsters barge into an exhibit of the photos of them—and stopped and said “What did they see? To find out you’ll have to buy the issue!” Needless to say, I was glad I had a copy! His story was powerfully written, the art just along for the ride to get the point across—a fairly common style for WW3.
Kuper’s slideshow was a whirlwind tour through 30 years of political unease, from the dread of impending nuclear disaster that gave the book its title to 9/11 to Occupy. Kuper is currently teaching a comics course at Harvard University—surely the most expensive comics class in the world.
Next, another comics event innovation, an interview via Skype with Ganzeer, an Egyptian cartoonist and muralist who has been involved with the continuing political unrest in Egypt. It was a fascinating look into a world where your art can not just draw nasty comment threads—it can get you arrested or worse. His art appears in small zines but much of it is street art—political graffiti. Ganzeer said he grew up reading American superhero comics but “I would go to the store one month and there would be one issue of Spider-Man, and the next month one issue of something else. I never knew how the stories came out!” He’s currently involved in distributing thousands of posters spotlighting sexual harassment. Asked about th dangers of his job, he said he had been arrested once but the worst was when an angry mob had been drawn to a mural criticizing the military he was putting up. “I got away but the mural didn’t,” he said.
There were further readings by Kuper and Seth Tobocman, but I had to depart due to an incipient allergic reaction to something in the sprawling art space that housed the event. (About that art space, The Silent Barn, I wandered around some of the other rooms and there was one piece that actually made me scream aloud in fright: a garbage bag full of mysterious pink liquid that suddenly began shaking when I walked over to look in it! Good one! it’s also home to the D!tko Zine Lbrary. )
All in all another night in the vital tapestry of the New York comics community. WW3′s comics don’t fall into the beautiful or striking schools of indie comics—a lot of the art is raw and emotional, which gives it power. It’s very much in the underground tradition of the just collected Anarchy Comics. As rough as it sometimes is, it’s still a vital example of comics’ ability to influence and editorialize.
Before I left I got a chance to chat with Jones, a longtime cartoonist whose day job is as a scenic painter for the stage. Her current gig is working on Saturday Night Live—only two days a week but a frantic two days.
As I waited for the train home on the bitter cold platform, an icy snow swirling around me, I thought about how SNL and WW3 are both long running examples of New York’s creative scene (granted one is big and commercial, one barely makes money), and how both have seen constant change and evolution in their creative line-ups. Perhaps my biggest takeaway of the evening was gratefulness that Allison and Heitner have stepped up to keep WW3′s unique legacy relevant.
Cartoonist Nate Powell (left) along with Rep. John Lewis and writer Andrew Aydin—all collaborators on the upcoming graphic novel March—walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma AL, March 2013, where in 1965 600 marchers protesting for civil rights, among them Lewis, were tear gassed and beaten with clubs by police.
Photo by Sandi Villarreal.
Hat tip Tugboat press
The 90-year-old creator of NonNonBa, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, and such yokai masterpieces as GeGeGe no chows down with relish. As recounted in the semi-autobiographical Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, Mizuki lost an arm in World War II, but that hasn’t prevented him from going to McDonalds.
By: Heidi MacDonald
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Towards the end of his life, witnessing the rise of the graphic novel as a format, Will Eisner commented on the fact that his books formed a subsection of the graphic novels display at a large bookstore by clarifying that his desire was to see his books shelved in the literature section alongside works by Jewish-American novelists of his generation (as expressed in an interview with David Hajdu). It’s enough to make you chuckle that he wasn’t pleased enough with the impact his books had on pushing the graphic novel format forward in American comics, but at the New York Comic and Picture-Story Symposium on the 11th of March, an Eisner-Week event critiqued the comparison between Eisner and his generation of fellow writers to see if his work stood up to his own claim of similarity. Speakers Jeremy Dauber (Professor in Yiddish Studies at Columbia University) and Danny Fingeroth (educator, author, former Marvel Comics editor and Chair of the Organizing Committee for Will Eisner Week) investigated Eisner’s use of setting, dialogue, and themes, as well as common cultural references he shared with his generation, to place Eisner in context and challenge the divide typically assumed between prose and comics media.
[Dauber and Fingeroth]
Dauber pointed out, in opening, that Will Eisner’s work is not usually considered in comparison to novels. He’s known for his prose, and often narrative-heavy work, but close textual comparisons between his writing style and those of his contemporary prose-writers is sparse, or even non-existent. Born in 1917, and “coming of age” in the 20’s and 30’s, Eisner, Dauber said, “was present a the foundational moment of Modern American Jewish Literature” and surrounded by the same influences and trends of major novelists of the period. Abraham Cahan, for instance, who fled from Czarist Russia to become a longtime editor of Yiddish newspapers in New York, was a “break through writer” in establishing Jewish-American literature. He often described the “urban landscape” as “something that’s alive”, as artist Andrea Tsurumi observed during audience participation. In comparison, Eisner’s CONTRACT WITH GOD gives a strong sense of place, and often speaks in a “high register” of prose, like Cahan’s work.
Another prose writer who became a “household name” during Eisner’s childhood was Anzia Yezierska, the “Cinderella of the tenements”, who often found herself in conflict with her parent’s generation, forged her high school diploma in order to attend college, and found herself exploring the conflict between the old and new world in her prose. Her use of dialogue, contrasting idiomatic Yiddish-English with her own more formal style of English speaks to a tension also visible in Eisner’s dialogue. Dauber presented novelist Henry Roth’s work as a final comparison in the use of dialogue to show differences in cultural background also found in Eisner’s Dropsie Avenue inhabitants. Dauber also pointed out a similar fascination with religious experience as a “transforming” force between Roth and Eisner.
While Dauber explored prose comparisons between Eisner’s work and other Jewish-American novelists, Fingeroth took a more visual approach to putting Eisner in context. He addressed the fact that many of the novels of Eisner’s generation and milieu found their way into film adaptation, like Philip Roth’s GOODBYE COLUMBUS (1969). This forms a visual link to Eisner’s own graphic novels and work as an artist. Like Saul Bellow, Eisner also embraced a strong sense of comedy in his work, whereas authors like Bellow didn’t seem to acknowledge comics as an expression of their generation. In a video clip Fingeroth played for the audience, Eisner described himself as “growing up in an environment of prejudice and exploration of identity”, a theme certainly visible in many of the Jewish-American novels of the period. Eisner’s injected his characteristic humor by adding that writing was “inexpensive long term therapy” for these issues.
Fingeroth described the “Jewish-American assimilation experience” as a common feature of Eisner’s work and his novelist contemporaries. CONTRACT WITH GOD, the “first thing” Eisner created in his long career that “wasn’t an actual assignment” allowed him the freedom to revisit these very personal experiences. Fingeroth also noted that a common cultural reference among these writers was Baseball, as seen in Philip Roth’s THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL, and in Eisner’s artwork on “The Adventures of Rube Rooky”. Writing about baseball, Fingeroth explained, was a “leveling process” between cultures that became part of the assimilation process. Visually speaking, Fingeroth said, Eisner was a “master of this craft of depicting urban life” found in celebrated Jewish-American novels. Particularly in A CONTRACT WITH GOD, Eisner, “given the freedom to do what he wanted to…came up with stories based on the Bronx of his youth”, like other writers of his generation.
Fingeroth reminded the audience that exploring Eisner’s prose shouldn’t take away from Eisner’s own assertion that he “wrote with pictures”, though. According to Dauber and Fingeroth’s research, Eisner wrote “as well as anyone” else prominent in his generation. To understand Eisner’s legacy, we have to keep in mind that he “thought of himself as someone who wouldn’t be complete without pictures”, Fingeroth said. So, after this careful textual and cultural comparison between Eisner and the Jewish-American novelists of his day, what was the verdict? Could Eisner’s works be placed in the “literature” section of a bookstore next to the novels he felt expressed the same messages? “Will made it”, Fingeroth confirmed, “He belongs there, too”.
During the question and answer period, discussion turned toward Eisner’s overwhelming drive to raise awareness of comics as a medium. Fingeroth described Eisner as being on a “mission to explain his own life and to legitimize comics”. It’s a puzzling thing that Eisner apparently wanted graphic novels to be seen as “mainstream” literature rather than as a separate format, but the answer may lie in his sense that graphic novels were still being segregated from literature and therefore not treated as equal creative achievements. The double presentation of Eisner’s work in context from Dauber and Fingeroth made a strong argument for Eisner’s status alongside novelists of his day, especially in terms of subject matter and prose style. Dauber and Fingeroth presented reasonable evidence that Eisner’s work could be reshelved in the literature section at any bookstore, but it might cause quite a tug of war with those who see his work of “legitimizing” comics as most at home in a separate graphic novels section of books. “Ideally, all sorts of books could be shelved in more than one section of a bookstore or library,” Fingeroth added in a follow-up comment, “but a variety of practical reasons make that unlikely for the time being. Online venues seem to be able to do it, though, so hopefully some version of that will come to brick-and-mortar outlets, too.” So, why not place Eisner’s books in both locations? It might remind readers, for one thing, to view Eisner as a cultural peer of many of the novelists he revered.
Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.
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BY JEN VAUGHN – For anyone who has ever performed any improv, there is a simple rule: ‘Say Yes.’ Say yes to a situation when presented to you because your fellow troupe member has a story line. You can add even more “yes and…” The same rule applies to a game called Fiasco, which calls itself the ‘make your own Coen brothers film’ game. You create a story without props with high stakes, characters with high ambition and low impulse control AND with a traditional story structure. The first time I played was with Comics Journal editor and gaming partner Kristy Valenti and the heat was oppressive, adding to our Western setting. Center for Cartoon Studies professor and cartoonist (most notably for BERLIN), Jason Lutes, has taken the narrative he created with five CCS graduates and turned it into a 72 page full-color comic book called BINGO BABY.
The creators include five CCS graduates Donna Almendrala, Bill Bedard, Joseph Lambert, Amelia Onorato, and Denis St. John and Jason Lutes is their whip-cracking editor. It’ll be interesting to see this story that was created rather on the fly by creative storytellers and then coaxed into comic book page submission. Each of these young cartoonists are drawn to rich stories, no matter what genre or style. Based on the video, they draw a lot from the quiet mountain town of White River Junction, full of its share of characters from the meth addicts to the Vietnam War veterans to the bougie retirees to the dueling bingo venues crammed with hardcore players. You can do the ol’ Kickstarter pre-order now for only $10.
Lutes is known at the school for his board game nights. Wish there was a reward that included Lutes coming to YOUR board game night and teaching you a thing or two about wheat or stone trades. Rewards include the book itself, a shirt, hell—some original Lutes artwork!
Jen Vaughn is a Seattle-based cartoonist and marketing manager at Fantagraphics. CAVEAT: she’s played board games with all these creators and they are magnificent bastards.
I’ve mentioned Lala Albert here before but she continues to fascinate with her disturbing but compelling mythology of three eyed women. Much concerned with myth and alien life, her work can be seen in Vice and on her website. Her day job involves designing textiles such as this.
Alvert is interviwed at Berserker Magazin
I see a similarity between this and nature documentaries and books. We don’t really know what anything else is thinking and we can only assume. I’ve been really into exploring the similarities of different types of creatures. I have these DVDs Life in the Undergrowth, Life of Birds, Blue Planet. I started watching all of those around the same time and it was really overwhelming to see how the behavior of birds is the same as fish is the same as insects, and if you look, the same as people and other herd animals. I imagine the aliens I draw to be the future, what humans are evolving into. As we explore space, the way we are conscious and the way we communicate changes and we become the alien invaders. I see us starting to live like ants or termites. I like to draw my characters sharing a hive mind and crawling on each other.
Women’s History month is wrapping up, but we at The Beat don’t feel we celebrated it properly, so for the next 24 hours most of the Beat staff is collaborating on “24 Hours of Women Cartoonists” to spotlight some of our favorite creators.
* * * *
First up:Helen E. Hokinson, a single panel cartoonist and illustrator from the mid 20th century — a period where the contribution of women to comics seems to have been mostly uncredited or in parallel fields such as picture books. The New Yorker of the period was not without female contributors, however, and among the most renowned was Hokinson (1893-1949) who contributed 68 covers and over 1,800 cartoons to The New Yorker. She was the definitive delineator of the stuffy Turtle Bay matron, a rarefied creature of habit and privilege. She was well known in her day producing half a dozen books of her own cartoons and illustrating many more. She died in a mid-air collision in 1949.
Hokinson’s reputation has perhaps suffered from reports that she illustrated staff captions rather than writing her own cartoons—a common practice at the time. There’s much more about her and other women cartoonists at The New Yorker in Liza Donnelly’s history book, Funny Ladies: The New Yorker’s Greatest Women Cartoonists And Their Cartoons
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Currently working on Monkeybrain’s Bandette series with Paul Tobin, Colleen Coover possesses the cleanest linework of any artist possibly ever seen. Well known for her breakthrough work on Small Favors, Coover works very often with members of Periscope Studios, most notably Tobin and Jeff Parker – with whom she worked on a series of stories in X-Men: First Class for Marvel. Moving between work for companies like Marvel and her own creator-owned projects, Coover’s sense of expression and artistic glee comes through in everything she does. Whether it be Spider-Man hiding from Mary Jane on the roof of her lounge, or talking squirrels in Gingerbread Girl, there’s an innate sense of humour and fun to her art style. You can find more on her blog, or follow her on the twitters!