Thursday, December 18, 2008
As I was just discussing the CAT awards with Jonathan I'll start with them.
Jonathan mentioned that anyone can nominate the people they think should win. That is a good point, I think, and looking at the way a bunch of cartoonists lobbied the Sun not to drop its gag cartoons, and stopped the illegal sale of cartoon art by auction in Edinburgh not so long back, I think cartoonists can argue for change and I think Jonathan is right, it is important to bring this point to your attention.
However, I'm not not sure about the Young Cartoonist award because I'm not sure how relevant it is, especially if we are honest about the future of a "young cartoonist", and especially today. Being able to draw one good, funny, cartoon, will not lead to a career in cartooning. If we are to be honest, and that is one of the things I am desperately hoping will come from this discussion, there are hardly any full-time professional cartoonists left in the UK, unless you include the cartoonists who work in book publishing and comic book production, and the CAT awards don't.
Let me just make clear the points I made to Jonathan. As a cartoonist, and one who practises capturing likenesses (not very well) I know very well that caricaturing is a skill.
As a gag cartoonist I sometimes feel life just isn't funny enough for more gag cartoons, and only the editorial cartoonists, or political cartoonists like Nick Newman, should be using the space.
But, if I make those points when I'm trying to convince everyone that British cartooning needs to become more inclusive to survive, and that the narrow focus by the London-based cartoonists on their own little universe is going to see that universe collapse, I won't make my point.
If the Cartoon Arts Trust awards, in the form they are in, is all we are ever going to have in the UK, then obviously one has to be thankful for small mercies, on the other hand, why not try to increase their scope?
My example of Kieran Meehan for comic strip artist is not because I think he is a better cartoonist than Charles (Peattie), in fact I personally prefer Peattie's drawings. But it's an example that I think is valid. Kieran Meehan has achieved, by getting his strip syndicated by Kings Features, where it has survived a name change, something that many British cartoonists over the decades have dreamed of doing. For that reason alone I think he deserves respect. I could just as easily have suggested the Rogers for Andy Capp, which continues to attract new fans in the US.I'd even put forward Roger Kettle for a lifetime achievement award for his writing on Beau Peep, Andy Capp and A Man called Horace, but these awards are, as far as I can make out, avoiding the slightest reference to modern culture.
Anyone who has read this blog will know that this narrow view of cartooning is one I have tried to counter for decades. If you read Moore and Reppion's Albion Comic, you'll know a bit of the story of IPC's burning of the comic art, and if you read this blog in any depth you'll know the whole story; back in the day before the University of Kent opened its doors to a wider range of cartoon art I tried, with the help of Liz Ottaway, to get them to save IPC's decades of comic artwork that was earmarked for incineration. At the time, only "editorial" (yes, now you're getting it) cartoons were accepted into Kent's collection and Liz Ottaway couldn't even talk the place into using a broom closet to house the comic pages - not even those by Stan McMurtry (Grimley Fiendish after Baxendale) and Steve Bell (Gremlins). It worries and disappoints me, in equal measure, that today, in 2008, we have a cartoon awards ceremony that seems to take a similarly narrow view of what is a worthy cartoon.
Anyway, it's out there, and if even one more cartoonist is talking about it and thinking about it, then that's a good thing. AS Tom Spurgeon (a belated Many happy returns Tom; welcome, officially, to middle-age) pointed out on his blog though, it was more a post focusing on British cartooning, and my own awards ceremony is the same:
Great Cartooning Acheivement: Hands down it's a tie between The Beano and Gary Northfield for Derek The Sheep, the first creator owned strip to ever appear in that publication.
Best Comic: Laura Howell's Johnny Bean (The Beano again). The winner of the Best Comic Strip at the 2006 International Manga and Anime Festival, and the first regular female Beano cartoonist, and the cartoonist behind Toxic Comic's Robin Hoodie and DFC's The Mighty M, wins hands down.
Best Cartoonist: I dislike giving this to Wilbur Dawbarn, but there is no escaping it, Wilbur is the cartoonist of the year. I pretend that the flies he draws on his character's trousers in his Private Eye cartoons look like erect penises, but he shrugs it off. I tried to sow the seeds of doubt in his mind, but he keeps on regardless.
Best Graphic Novel: Oliver East's Trains are Mint. Yes, they are.
Best Mini-Comic, or self-published book: I'm giving this to Gerard Whyman for his collection of his cartoons, Oddly Distracted, for two reasons, one is that you don't see enough cartoon collections these days, and the other reason is I think this is a great example of how gag cartoonists can take control of their own destiny. Also, this book is great value and Ger is funny.
Best Comic Artist: Jamie McKelvie for Phonogram: The Singles Club.
Best Graphic Story: Tom Gauld for all manner of things, including his work in Kramer's Ergot #7.
Best Web Comic: This is a tie between John Allison's Scary Go Round, a perfect example of a well-round digital universe and Darryl Cunnigham's Super Sam, presented as a series of, currently, 64 colourful and exotic pages.
Best Illustrator: Danny Allison, who this year won the Flair Illustrator of the Month award for his Nature Magazine cover of April 2008, melting Greenland.
Best Editorial Cartoon: I think Alex Hughes making a haulage truck recognisably the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, is a fantastic example of cartoon art used to make a political point, without being boring to look at. The drawing works as a political cartoon and could even be transformed into a comic or a kiddies book character. It just works as a brilliant artistic idea.
Best Caricaturist: This is better than "best caricature" which sounds like a one-off. I'm tempted to give a double award to Alex Hughes for the Gordon Brown haulage truck, and I was also tempted to suggest the Al Hirschfield-inspired Gary who has shown a lot of flair recently, I think, but instead I'm going to give this award to the rather excitable Jonathan Cusik for his illustration of John Prescott's TV show on the Class system, which encapsulates almost every aspect of the series in one drawing, and for generally being in the same league, almost, as MAD Magazine's Tom Richmond.
Lifetime Achievement Award: I'm happy with Raymond Briggs. He is fantastic, and I still have my Fungus book, and my Fungus stationary set.
Best Cartoon-related Blog: Lew Stringer's Blimey it's another Blog about Comics. A great blog, hours of fun.
Best Pocket Cartoon: Fuck Off!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
In the next post on the FPI blog, which is sort of part 2 of the current one, I attempt to offer up some suggestions about new possibilities for cartoonists in the coming, difficult, years.
Let me just remind you not to email me about this, that goes double for you Reston.
Again with the emails! Look, it should be clear to you, without having to resort to close-reading of the text, or to look for unwitting testimony, or to read too closely between the lines, that I am criticising the Awards ceremony, because it has a narrow definition of what a cartoonist is.
A more inclusive cartoon awards ceremony that recognises excellence in web cartooning (maybe Darryl Cunningham whose comic pages on the FPI blog number around 60), in comic book work (Jamie McKelvie, for instance, for Suburban Glamour or Phonogram - who, incidentally, despite a large body of work, would fit the existing "young cartoonist under 30 category"), in syndicated comic strip work (Keiran Meehan for getting his comic strip Pros & Cons syndicated by King Features), in international excellence (perhaps Tom Gauld for his work in numerous collections and in the Harvard Business Review and the New Yorker and the gigantic Kramer's Ergot 7), in graphic novel writing and drawing (Bryan Talbot for Alice in Sunderland), would surely have been appropriate now, more than ever, than simply having a teeny pocket cartoon in a British newspaper.
All these people are cartoonists, and brilliant cartoonists at that. The narrow definition of cartoonists promoted by this award ceremony, looks like a jaded and old fashioned idea that has had its time. What we have then, if we accept the challenge, is an opportunity for the Cartoon Art Trust to broaden its horizons and to embrace a wider range of categories and of cartoonists that will be more representative of cartooning in the 21st century - and at the same time will bring mainstream, web, and indy cartooning together. That, I have to tell you, would be an awards ceremony worth attending (although that voting panel would have to go and be replaced by the cartooning community at large). And I am surprised that the Bloghorn crowd are so against that idea.
The grim truth is that in what seems like no time at all to me, the 2,000 monthly cartooning opportunities that once existed every month when I was a beginning cartoonist have reduced to around 200, and that has been during a period of economic upswing. We are now in recession and heading for a depression. How many of these traditional cartooning markets will survive? I don't know, but there are cartoonists out there who are already making use of non-traditional markets, and creating excellent work, and there is a disconnect between them, and awards like this, which suggests to me that these cartooning awards lack vision.
I'm sitting here laughing at the sheer beauty of it. Once again, Nelson, that is so brilliant. I can't wait to use it.
And there you were thinking those cartoonists all look so innocent.
Technical note: you'll need lower case L from the Verdana font to send your greeting.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
I loved Lost in Translation, which combines a lot of elements that just do it for me. If they had spent time in Akihabara in that movie, reading manga, I'd watch it every day, instead of just once a month. Those of you who are familiar with the movie will remember being impressed with Bill's karaoke prowess.
Bill Murray giving it laldy.
So, anyway, Chris Hastings, who created Dr McNinja, is texting Ryan North, and he bumps into Bill Murray, as you do, and a Lost in Translation-type karaoke night ensues.
Couldn't happen here. In England you might be unlucky enough to get crashed by Michael Barrymore, whilst here in Scotland it might be the Krankies, or worse Jackie Bird. Any of these options would ruin your night.
Music has always been a mixture of the sacred and the profane, and Leonard Cohen's use of symbols and imagery in his poetic lyrics illustrate that perfectly. I'd have to say though, much as I love to hear the blessed Leonard sing his own work, the late, and much missed, Jeff Buckley's version of Hallelujah is, for me, the definitive version.
These days the split between the sacred and the profane in the music world is quite clear, pretty much all the singer/songwriter work is sacred and to be cherished, and the crap that spews forth from boy bands and the X-Factor, and the like, is profane. It is crass and it is hallow, and it is product. It is the musical equivalent of a sub-prime mortgage bundle. If you must have a copy of Hallelujah, make it Cohen's own, or Buckley's interpretation - or you will be contributing the the fall of mankind.
Jeff Buckley "playing and singing" Hallelujah.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Those of you who have worked on projects that involve ftp-ing the hi-res files and the lo-res files into the editor, know that all sorts of communication problems can develop even on a small individual project; let alone one on this scale. When you add those problems to the difficulties people often have fitting the actual work into their busy schedules, and around anything else that happens over the course of a year, you can understand why some larger projects just never see the light of day. That this one did survive was a testament to all the cartoonists involved, of course, and to Mister T, who nudged us over the finishing line.
I'd like to post every page here, but then why put it on its own blog, right? So I've chosen of few examples of my favourites pages (except mine which I have to add because it's my blog) from the project, which involved many of my favourite indie cartoonists. I think this list is fairly comprehensive, but if you are looking in and you took part and don't see your name here, drop me a line:
Sean Aaberg http://lambiek.net/artists/a/aaberg_sean-p.htm
Cheese Hasselberger http://www.houseoftwelve.com/
Hans Rickheit http://zeitgeist.numachi.com/chromefetus/
Tobias Tak http://www.tobicomix.co.uk/
WW Craghead http://www.wcraghead.com/weblog/blog.html
Ian Murphy http://www.greathugethings.com/
Mark Campos http://lambiek.net/artists/c/campos_mark.htm
Levi Jacob Bailey http://www.noeyescabinfever.blogspot.com/
Giles O'Dell http://www.zoonbats.com/
Peter Rapp http://www.peterrapp.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/index.html
Shannon Smith http://www.shannonsmith.net/
Michael Canich http://uselessweaponry.blogspot.com/
T. Avery (Ed) http://www.cheatingatsolitaire.net/
Matt Furie http://mattfurie.betternonsequitur.com/
Brian McKenzie http://www.bdmckenzie.blogspot.com/
Zeke Clough http://shoogooble.blogspot.com/
David Paleo http://monsterwithoutacause.blogspot.com/
Aeron Alfrey http://www.skeletoncave.blogspot.com/
Dan Steffan http://lambiek.net/artists/s/steffan_dan.htm
Alejandro Alvarez http://www.mackwhite.com/BushJunta7.html
Chris Pottinger http://chrispottinger.tastysoil.com/
Ray Frenden http://frenden.com/
David Robertson http://berserkotron.piczo.com/?cr=1&rfm=y
Andrei Molotiu http://www.blotcomics.blogspot.com/
Barry Rodges http://www.capeday.com/index.php/site/story/barry_rodges/
Jon Chandler http://bonehousebooks.co.uk/
Christopher Mostyn http://squatthrust.wordpress.com/
Marc Palm http://swellzombie.blogspot.com/
Mat Brinkman http://lambiek.net/artists/b/brinkman_mat.htm
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Monday, December 08, 2008
Anyway, apropo the post below, let me just drag something I said in the comments round to the front here, so that you can feel where I'm coming from:
I think that British cartoonists like Keiren Meehan, with his comic strip being syndicated worldwide by Kings Features Syndicate, is way more deserving of a British cartooning award than someone who draws a single-column jape for any British newspaper or magazine. I'd also put forward the Rogers', Kettle and Mahoney, for bringing a new young audience to Andy Capp, and a number of the UK's small press and mini comic producers and mainstream (DC and Marvel) comic writers and artists, who as far as I'm concerned have done much, much, more for cartoonists and cartooning than any of the names below - except the blessed Raymond Briggs, of course. Maybe that's the problem, these "awards" are designed to accomodate the old fashioned material the publication's concerned use.
Understand of course that this is just my personal opinion, as a cartoonist and illustrator who sells his work worldwide . Your opinion may differ, but if it differs substantially write it on your own blog, don't jam up my fuckin' email box with your rants, you peckerheads.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Okay, I know you'll think this is weird, but I can't write anything at the moment because of the Feng Shui (wind water). I'm afraid my Qi is just all messed up at the moment, man.
I have two set-ups you see, computer, scanner and printer, in one area and it faces "in-the-way" (no directional sense , sorry - might be East). In the other room I keep a laptop and all-in-one printer where I draw. Where I draw faces "out the way", through a picture-window, to landscape - it's the opposite of this. That is my writing area. However, my laptop AC adaptor blew, and I have to get a new one, but I forgot and ordered P.G Wodehouse's Woodhouse Playhouse; thanks largely to Brian Fies and Mike Lynch and I suppose Raina Telgemeier,
because a conversation concerning all three was on my mind when it should have been Fujitsu cable.
So here I am, reluctantly sitting at the computer facing the wrong way, and for some reason it makes me uneasy and unproductive, so I'll leave shortly and go watch John Alderton as Mister Mulliner, and Pauline Collins as a variety of very attractive, plummy gels.
If you ever wondered why cartoonists are lone creatures who dislike working with other people, you now know why - they are just a little bit off-kilter. I'll be back when the Feng Shui works, and when my new cable arrives.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I'm putting the finishing touches to a post that I'm hoping Forbidden Planet International will run, it is about getting your cartoons, illustrations and books out there on new media. I mean, I don't know if you've noticed but newspapers are closing left right and centre, and some big titles have limited cash, and rely on firms that are going bust to fund their print editions through advertising. Many of these titles, some through choice and some through necessity, with publications like the Christian Science Monitor lighting the way, are going to appear only online. They can, of course appear on other media, and it might be a good idea if you know how to deliver your work on the same devices.
Meanwhile, I'd recommend a good hard-copy of the book (click here to go to LULU) because it has nearly 200 cartoons and it represents excellent value for laughs delivered - click here to see a chart I made of the laughs per page ratio - kidding; but go buy it.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
My attention has been drawn to this thanks to Fantagraphics Dirk Deppey being ever vigilant and Drawn and Quarterley's Peggy Burns helping to spread the word. This is hopefully going to be just an oversight - I'm sure.
The odd thing is, this ties in with a piece I'm sending to Joe at Forbidden Planet about the importance of "some" illustrators, later tonight.
Okay, listen up, especially you, my Canuck chums, although every illustrator out there should be interested. This is very important because although it might be a simple oversight, a mistake, and I might have to eat my words, it could be, although I'm sure it is not, the written word-worshipping literati of Canada flexing their muscles and trying to regain primacy in the face of the increasing popularity of graphic novels (we are stuck with the term so suck it up). In what could be be, as I have just said, simply an oversight, Skim, the tale of Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a goth girl in an all-girls school in Toronto, is up for, at least the writer, Mariko Tamaki, is up for Canada's very prestigious Governor General’s Literary Awards. The thing is, and once again I'm sure it is simply a horrible oversight, the illustrator of the book, Mariko's cousin Jillian Tamaki, has not been included in the nomination.
Ridiculous, I know, fortunately two of Canada's most high profile illustrators, Chester Brown and Seth, have been moved to write a strongly worded letter to the awards committee asking them to reconsider for the following very, very, important reasons:
We're guessing that the jury who read SKIM saw it as an illustrated novel. It's not; it's a graphic novel. In illustrated novels, the words carry the burden of telling the story, and the illustrations serve as a form of visual reinforcement. But in graphic novels, the words and pictures BOTH tell the story, and there are often sequences (sometimes whole graphic novels) where the images alone convey the narrative. The text of a graphic novel cannot be separated from its illustrations because the words and the pictures together ARE the text. Try to imagine evaluating SKIM if you couldn't see the drawings. Jillian's contribution to the book goes beyond mere illustration: she was as responsible for telling the story as Mariko was.
Chester Brown (Author of Louis Riel)
Seth (Author of It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken)
Just to quickly illustrate this point, I've snaffled the following page from Dirk Deppey:
It's clear from this drawing that the words "Dear Diary...it's snowing." and the drawing above are working in consort to convey a mood and a meaning that is beyond what is written on the page. This is not a tacked-on drawing illustrating redundantly illustrating the obvious, in a way that one would find opposite a page of text in a picture book. The description of the scene is non-existent because that information is conveyed in the drawing, along with the hallow triumph of creating the pointless message in the lonely landscape. It is, at once, a beautiful, and sad, moment.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Fake That, the Take That tribute band, were in trouble in Spain, where they were performing, after fake Robbie Williams ran across the room and started fighting with fake Gary Barlow. If it's true, there is no no need for cartoons.
Anyway, I think I made a post on the brilliant Manga Blog because there is a competition going on - or I may have imagined I did. If I didn't imagine the whole thing, you have the opportunity to win some Black Jack manga - go for it, or not, depending on whether or not it's all in my head.
The manga I mentioned on my post on the site is the manga that inspired the anime below, Soul Eater. It looks like a new sort of manga to me, one that appeals to a broad church. It's full of marvelous images.
Now here a thing; the last time I had flu this bad I was much younger, a teenager, and I was in bed, watching TV and I saw a TV show that nobody else I have ever met, ever saw. For years and years I searched for proof that the show wasn't the product of my fevered imagination; but I found no proof that the very surreal "live-action" Babar I remembered existed - until recently that is. So here it is, live-action Babar; I want you to imagine how weird it was looking at this spectacle through the misty, drugged up haze of a fluey-funk.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
I was in two minds, but I've decided to go forward with a flat cartoony look because I enjoy comics that look like comics so that makes the redrawing much faster.
I'm also putting a colour version together, and again I'm going super-flat. Once again this is a reaction to the dreadful over colouring you see today in so many comics.
I've reworked a couple of pages already and with luck, when the pen comes, things will speed up and it'll be finished before the year is out.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
My Halloween mini-comic, The Ballad of Jack Palance, A Halloween Tale, is a free download as a PDF (Acrobat) and a CBR (Comicbook Reader or GonVisor) file over at the Forbidden Planet International blog.
If anyone doesn't know how to put these things together, PDF or CBR, just email me and I'll give you the skinny.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Outside, the rain pounded against the window like a crazy-mad dipso' trying to get into his favourite bar. I steeled myself against the wind, the boiler was on the fritz again - lousy Kraut engineering. I shifted uncomfortably in my chair, and perused the paperwork again - something about this case smelled bad. I looked at this character Urasawa's previous work again, Yawara, Pluto, Monster, 20th Century Boys, 21st Century Boys...
Of course the hacks were out in force the moment it was announced that Kodansha's Morning magazine was launching Naoki Urasawa's new comic, Billy Bat, this October, there was always going to be a feeding frenzy. Details were scant; once again the famous Mangaka would be teemed with Takashi Nagasaki, and there was talk of a missing "great American hero-type comic book character of the 1940s", but that didn't square with the photo I was looking at, this looked retro okay, but it looked like a bad cross between Mighty Mouse and Black Sad.
Thankfully, Angel brought me the answers. The first episode was a MacGuffin. I should have known, the facts had been staring me in the face all along.
And there was more...I can't believe I hadn't noticed - I looked back at the logo, Billy Bat, the comic, was credited to some mug called "Kevin Yamagata", a made-up name if ever I heard one. That was the point in the story where these two dicks, call 'em Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, burst into the story, grab the cartoonist, this so-called Kevin Yamagata, and reveal the move.