Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Talent from New Places

When I was publishing Caliber, one of the aspects that it accomplished, and almost inadvertently, was the introduction of new talent into the comics medium. I say inadvertent because being a small publisher, I had to rely on creator owned titles simply because I wasn't paying a page rate. Of course, that wasn't the whole reason as I also thought that creator owned books were just so much more interesting. There were a lot of creators known today that got their start at Caliber, and there were others, who may not have started off at Caliber but they honed their skills to get themselves to the next level. Guy Davis, Vince Locke, Mark Bloodworth, David Mack, Patrick Zircher, Mike Perkins, Michael Gaydos, Ed Brubaker, Jim Calafiore, Philip Hester, Ande Parks, Mike Carey, Jacen Burrows, Michael Allred, Dave Cooper, Jimmy Gownley, Brandon Peterson, James O'Barr, Don Kramer, Jason Lutes, Brian Bendis, Paul Sizer, Mark Ricketts, Troy Nixey, and many others did all or part of their "apprenticeship" at Caliber. It seemed for awhile that there was no longer a spot for the "new" creators to go through the process of going beyond creation of a title and actually producing it. However, that has changed with the incredible growth...and acceptability of material posted online. But sometimes I wonder if that access that is available to everyone, even more than it was with the explosion of publishers and titles in the 80's and 90's, is limiting the growth of artists. It seems some artist have latched onto a successful gig and it continues. In the past, with the printed material, it was a constant climb for most artists to get better. Maybe it was having an actual printed comic that could be looked that propelled artists to strive to get better. I mean, on the web, it's out of site, out of mind but when you have the physical artwork in front of you...well, that's a bit tougher to just look away from. There is a sense of permanence even though in actuality, it appears the web will be the key to posterity rather than random back issues stuffed into long white boxes. I started thinking about that as I was looking at some of Vince Locke's original Deadworld work. We're going to be doing a collection of all his old work and it is very interesting to compare and contrast not only Vince artwork with himself but with his friend, Guy Davis. Both of them started at about the same time at Arrow and moved to Caliber at the same time and almost immediately, these young guys moved onto other material and left their original books...Deadworld and Realm respectively at about the same time. If you look at Vince's art in the early Deadworld, you have to remember that he was a teenager. Yes, a teenager. He was obviously influenced by the strong line work of some artists but even in the early issues, he was experimenting...sometimes loosening up, sometimes tightening up, occasionally going into an almost cartoony style and then the next issue, playing with negative space. Deadworld was his training ground and he played in a lot of different directions. By the time he left Deadworld, he had already settled into his style which is apparent on American Freak, A History of Violence, and what I think was his best work, Saint Germaine (of course, I'm a bit biased on that one...). I also loved his work on The Plague, a historical fiction chronicle I did with him. Guy, on the other hand, did a lot less overt experimentation on The Realm. He definitely grew as an artist but he stayed in the same uh, realm. I believe Guy was also in his teens when he started this D&D fantasy book. He gave it a slight anime look as that was his influence at the time. Being a series based strongly around characters, Guy kept a much more consistent look for the 15 issues he did and looking back now, it must have been a chore for him at that time towards the end. He also was looking to move beyond what he was doing with the Realm and it was evident with his next project, Baker Street. It is incredible when you look at the Realm and realize that he moved from that to Baker Street. It's two different worlds. Of course, he also developed his own style evident in his long run on Sandman Mystery Theatre, The Marquis, and BRPD (which he just won an Eisner for as best penciller). The same could be said for Patrick Zircher and Michael Lark as it was easy to see them growing by leaps and bounds with each issue they did. I look back at The Verdict graphic novel that Caliber published that was written by Martin Powell. The artists were Dean Haspiel and Josh Neufeld and now their work has spun in a whole new direction, virtually unrecognizable from their early days. I have no idea how much a lot of these web artists are evolving simply because I'm not familiar enough with their older work. It's ironic in that all of the older work is stored on some server someplace and a lot easier to pull up than searching for back issues but it today's world of immediacy, it just doesn't seem like something people search for. Don't get me wrong, I'm not implying that today's artists are not getting better, it just isn't as apparent. Actually, I think that nowadays, there is more talent out there doing their own books then there was in the past, pre-web. A wealth of diversity, not possible back then, has spun stories into all new directions with completely different looks that are accepted by a lot of the audience that wanted nothing to do with it back then. Even though the market is considered weak by a lot of people in terms of sales of comics and books, it seems actually stronger and more likely to take advantage of the new avenues opening up. In fact, it seems almost that there is too much good stuff out there, even if the "normal" comics market doesn't recognize it all yet. The next collection I have coming out is SIN ETERNAL: A RETURN TO DANTE'S INFERNO which collects the Sinergy series that updates Dante's Inferno I did at Caliber. Galen Showman, who worked with me on Renfield, is the continuity artist. For each level of Hell, it is drawn by a different artist and I think there are 30 in all. some of the levels that originally appeared have been replaced by new ones. It is scheduled for a late October, early November release. I have a new column running up at Comicrelated.com which deals with my publishing house, Transfuzion Publishing. The column, Talking Transfuzion (okay, not the most original name) deals, of course, with what's happening with Transfuzion and also spotlights a creator adn a title each week. There is also a short 5 question interview with the creators behind Transfuzion's titles. I posted some pictures of one of the conventions, King Kon, I put together a very long time ago. Guests included Harvey Kurtzman, Carol Kalish, Max Collins, Terry Beatty, Larry Marder, Al Milgrom, Don Simpson, Dan Mishkin, Deni Loubert, Richard Pini, and many others. there's a pix of Harvey on the left. I will be a guest at the Cherry Capital Convention on August 29-30 and then will appear at the Pittsburgh Comic Con on Sept. 11-13. I will also be a guest at the Motor City Nightmares Convention in Novi, Mich on October 23-25 and then I'll close out with a signing at Green Brain Comics on October 28. (and congrats to them for being picked as The Best Comic Store in the Detroit area by Metro Times...again. That's going to be it for awhile as I have a full load of teaching this semester.


Anonymous said...

I discovered one of your convention programs (1986) in a comic collection I purchased several months ago and had wondered about the story behind this convention. Thanks for the info!!

Anonymous said...

Older cons seem like they were a lot more personal...
new cons seem like going to Wal-Mart.
Is anybody else bored by San Diego already?

Amirghin said...

I collected the Tome Press classic series Jason and the Argonauts as a young college student. It struck me as more well-researched than the Wonder Woman approach to Greek mythology. The illustrations blew me away. Years later, I took a visual approach to novel writing, which though tedious, tends to produce palpable, authentic settings and scenes. I've also studied a bit about Kenneth Burke's theory of Dramatism, and apply it to telling stories. The story of your publishing ventures fascinates me. I'd like to either imitate or join your efforts. You mention that you believe the hard-copy comic/graphic novel format to be on the rebound. I believe the same thing. Here's why: comic books and their 19th century antecedents began as a way to put the wide world, and even imaginary worlds, into the hands of readers who could afford neither a higher education, nor a full-length hard-cover book. The illustrations not only served to help set the story into a visual context in which an unskilled reader could understand what was happening, they also told the story in "a thousand words" per panel, greatly reducing the number of pages of print needed to tell the story. Right now, in the middle of the Great Recession, I find full-length novels getting more and more expensive every week. I have to wait until most of them show up in the bargain bin to buy them. Kids, immersed in television and the internet, see absolutely no reason to buy or read a book. "Thank goodness for Harry Potter," many parents, teachers, and librarians have said over the past decade. But those hefty books are so steep that most kids I know are now waiting for the movies to come out rather than standing in line to buy the new novel. Comics can turn the tide, putting affordable literature into the hands of young readers. Comic books are something kids can buy and own, and maybe show off to their own kids one day, just as their parents are doing now with their old Spider Man collections as the web crawler's movies, games, toys, and underwear are making such a comeback. In my case, I'm proud to share my copies of Jason and the Argonauts with my daughter, who loves them. Thanks for making a difference in my life.

Gary Reed said...

Cons vary. It's kinda weird on how cons will take on a certain vibe, not just for a particular year but just in general.

I know a lot of convention organizers go after the mass media like old TV stars, ex-playmates, etc. and often to the detriment of the comic areas but perhaps that's what gets them the media attention and ticket sales. I don't know but obviously, since so many organizers are headed in that direction...it must.

Gary Reed said...

Well, I hope that I can let Patrick know of the impact that his Jason series had on you.

And yes, the cost of everything seems to go up but books especially. I've always been an avid book reader and a reluctant collector in that I wouldn't pay a lot of money for books and I didn't really want to hang onto the books but I wouldn't throw it away. Luckily, I live close to Ann Arbor which has a great selection of used book stores. And now my excess goes to my local library who seem to do an unbelievable business as the library is packed every time I go in there.

Some people might disagree with you about comics being affordable especially with Marvels going to 3.99 each but I think that a lot of times, graphic novels and trades are priced reasonable.

Thanks for your comment, it's appreciated.

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