Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My 25 Favorite Comics

I decided to rip-off Álvaro Pons and write in the next weeks about my 25 favorite comics. After criticizing the comics canon (and make no mistake, that is the comics canon, or, at least, a comics canon that is highly influenced by the United States; I can only imagine a French-Belgian influenced comics canon with Hergé and Bilal and Moebius, etc... still more trash, of course...).  Anyway, I would love to promise one text per week, but I'm far from being sure that I will do that. The texts will vary in length according to my inspiration of the moment.

Finally, let you be warned that I will cheat. A lot! By cheating I mean that I'll choose one page, or one book by an artist, but I will not let myself be confined to just one item. If relevant I'll write about more than one item or more that one artist or author. Also, I'm not an expert on everything so, please excuse me in advance for any mistake or any underdeveloped theme.

Thanks!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

What's Wrong With Comics Criticism

What's wrong with comics criticism? Everything!

Remember when I said that a comics critic doesn't need an aesthetic education to write about comics? Lo and behold, here is a journalist saying that Álvaro Pons is a teacher of Optics and part of the Physics Faculty. Imagine someone without an aesthetic education wanting to write about the visual arts or someone without a degree in English (or other languages in whatever countries) wanting to be Lit Crits. They would be immediately laughed out of the room. Maybe that's the real reason why the comics canon is laughable as we have seen these last few days (it's either that or comics crits are the low of the lowest in crit skills). It's time to rest my case though. Besides, this art form is doomed anyway...

Yet Another Ridiculous List - Coda

While I was at the link below (the blog of a Summer Comics course, by the way; look at the ridiculous banner: 'nuff said!) I looked around and spotted their syllabus. It is what it is, the usual mainstream and American centric monstrosity. I'm not going to say much more about it. Except (look below)...

Capítulo 5 (de 7): El cómic español

1917. TBO [Selección de historias cortas] (AA.VV.)
1969. Mortadelo y Filemón: El sulfato atómico (Francisco Ibáñez)
1973. Superlópez [Vols. 1-10] (Jan)
1975. Paracuellos (Carlos Giménez)
1993. Trazo de tiza (Miguelanxo Prado)
2006. Bardín, el superrealista (Max)
2007. Arrugas (Paco Roca)
… y todo Keko, todo Luis Durán y todo Juaco Vizuete.

The  1980s (the most important decade in Spanish comics history) were completely ignored and down the drain went Madriz, Felipe Hernández Cava, Raúl, Federico del Barrio, etc...

Capítulo 6 (de 7): El cómic japonés

1945. La nueva isla del tesoro (Osamu Tezuka)
1972. Mazinger Z (Go Nagai)
1982. Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo)
1998. Barrio lejano (Jiro Taniguchi)
1999. La sonrisa del vampiro (Suehiro Maruo)

Where is the greatest comics artist of all time, Yoshiharu Tsuge? Where is Garo?

Moreover, where are Argentinian and Italian comics, besides the mediocre Corto Maltese, that is?

This can't be just love of the mainstream and hate of everything alternative. This is ignorance, pure and simple ignorance.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Yet Another Ridiculous List

Álvaro Pons this time:

Sorry, but I'm losing patience so I'll skip translation this time. As I put it before only fanboys write these lists. That's why I would love to read at least one written by someone normal. For once...

Please! Anyone?

1.º- The Spirit (Will Eisner)
2.º- Little Nemo in Slumberland (Winsor McCay)
3.º- Krazy Kat (George Herriman)
4.º- Príncipe Valiente (Harold Foster)
5.º- Terry y los piratas (Milton Caniff)
6.º- Mort Cinder (Héctor G. Oesterheld & Alberto Breccia)
7.º- Philemon (Fred)
8.º- Calvin & Hobbes (Bill Watterson)
9.º- Alack Sinner (Carlos Sampayo & José Muñoz)
10.º- Teniente Blueberry (Jean-Michel Charlier & Jean Giraud [Moebius])
11.º- Maus (Art Spiegelman)
12.º- Corto Maltés (Hugo Pratt)
13.º- Adolf (Osamu Tezuka)
14.º- “Obra completa” (Robert Crumb)
15.º- Spirou (André Franquin)
16.º- From Hell (Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell)
17.º- Paracuellos (Carlos Giménez)
18.º- Popeye (E. C. Segar)
19.º- Palomar (Beto Hernandez)
20.º- “Publicaciones EC Comics” (William Gaines et alii)
21.º- Flash Gordon (Dan Barry)
22.º- Valerian (Pierre Christin & Jean-Claude Mezières)
23.º- Los pasajeros del viento (François Bourgeon)
24.º- Watchmen (Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons)
25.º- Daredevil: Born Again (Frank Miller & David Mazzucchelli)

PS  As usual there are a few exceptions above: Alack Sinner, Maus, From Hell. Followed by a few more that, at least, aren't completely ridiculous: Krazy Kat, Mort Cinder, Philemon, Watchmen. But, that's it...




Monday, May 15, 2017

Yet Another Ridiculous List - I Give Up, I Guess!...

Imagine yourself being a managing editor of a newspaper or a general interest magazine (if you are one you may leave your imagination alone). Imagine also that you want to publish an article about comics. Who do you invite to write it? A comics critic, obviously.,,

Is there such an animal though? There is, there is, but... Where do these animals come from? Where is their habitat? In what pastures do they eat?

 Through word of mouth our putative managing editor may find him/herself in front of the following "comics critic":

1) He, it's usually a he, read and liked comics since infancy.
2) He has no paying job related to the arts or literature or that branch of philosophy called aesthetics (curiously enough such trifle details as an aesthetic education is not deemed important to write about comics).
3) So, he may come from all walks of life, but what is his diet? Well, mainstream comics obviously.

And so, our vignette ends up here. If you don't read Spanish allow me to translate:15 essential comics to those who never opened a comic. The ridiculous list (two or three books excepted) is as follows:

Watchmen
Sandman
Maus
All-Star Superman
V For Vendetta
A Contract With God 
Akira
Daredevil: Born Again
From Hell
Los surcos del azar [the grooves of chance]
Marvels
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
13 rue del Percebe [13, Barnacle street]
The Incal
Understanding Comics

This is one of the most ridiculous things that I had the misfortune of seeing, ever! I would understand such an inane list if the article's title was 15 essential comics for fanboys or 15 essential books to prevent laypersons from reading a comic ever again. But not this... in a national newspaper!

Another Spaniard says here something like: we, comics readers, stick to criteria marked by 11 year olds. How true!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Nagual de Dinis Conefrey

Diniz Conefrey é um dos autores de banda desenhada mais interessantes e mais persistentes (o que em Portugal, é obra!) daquilo a que poderíamos chamar a Geração Lx Comics. Reconheço três vertentes particularmente interessante no seu percurso, uma formal e duas temáticas (embora estas diferenciações sejam artificiais): refiro-me ao seu interesse pela estética da banda desenhada abstracta, pela adaptação de obras literárias (Herberto Helder e Joseph Conrad), e pelas culturas do que se convencionou chamar a América Pré-Colombiana. (O que, convenhamos, enferma de uma terminologia duplamente italo ou eurocêntrica já que de uma assentada se referem dois navegadores italianos.)

Ler os livros de Diniz Conefrey sobre o tema americano é, pelo contrário, imergirmo-nos numa cultura absolutamente estranha à nossa. E, para além de considerações formais que, com mais tempo e noutra altura (fica prometido) poderia fazer, é isso que é fascinante...

Depois de O Livro dos Dias Dinis Conefrey apresenta-nos agora, dentro do mesmo universo narrativo, Nagual. Apresento as duas capas em baixo...


 Dinis Conefrey, O Livro dios Dias, 2014.



Dinis Conefrey, Nagual, 2017.

Friday, May 5, 2017

BilBolBul Cambia Pelle


BilBolBul, besides being a racist caricature (see below), was a comics con in Bologna, Italy. I received their newsletter with the news that it will change from a con to a project that will be active all year. But that's not why I'm writing this post. The real reason why I'm mentioning BilBolBul's newsletter is to quote it:
La formazione di un nuovo pubblico nei confronti del fumetto ci sembra il più urgente obiettivo da perseguire. [comics public formation seems to us the most urgent objective to achieve.]
Exactly! If the comics public implies the lowest common denominator (as it unfortunately does, that's what explains the ridiculous canons) the industry may be healthy, but the art form is in big trouble.


Attilio Mussino, Corriere dei Piccoli Vol. 1, # 1, December 1908.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Problems One Faces When Restoring Sgt. Kirk

In my previous post I wrote, "being [the coloring] an allographic process, it all bogs down to personal taste," but there's an instance in which this isn't true. Imagine a colorist who wanted a certain effect and let clear indications to the separator that s/he wanted black to be printed before the primary colors. In that case printing the reverse would be a mistake that would result in a false comic. It's likely that the restorer has no access to the color guides, but if the separator was part of the original process too, shouldn't we follow the original printing order of the colors? Maybe not because, if we consider what happens in allographic art forms, like theater and music, the interpreter is free to interpret what's in script and score, but is such freedom allowed to the restorer? I don't think so, but, in any case, there are always instances in which, due to lack of information, restoring is interpreting.

Anyway, this post is about something a bit different. Below is a Sgt. Kirk page as it appears, tanning and all, in Misterix magazine + how I scan it... (as you know by now, I'm sure, the writer was Héctor Germán Oesterheld, the drawings are by Hugo Pratt, the colors are by Stefan Strocen).

  
Misterix # 317, October 15, 1954.

It seems that, presto!, all problems are solved with a click of the mouse, but alas, nope, look closer (literally).


Everything is stained and the lettering is a mess. I gave up restoring the letters after awhile because there are thousands of letters. It was an impossible task. As for the white space I can always clear things a bit, but, then, some lines disappear. Below is a panel as it was published in Misterix (left) and the same panel as published in Sgt. Kirk (right).


Misterix # 311, September 3, 1954.
Sgt. Kirk # 25, July 1969.

The lines that aren't there are not the only problem. Look at how sttagering the difference in line quality is between these two images. Again: Misterix on the left. The panels are uncleaned this time.


Misterix # 317, October 15, 1954.
Sgt Kirk # 26, August 1969.

The line quality may be mediocre, but if you can read Spanish, you'll notice how elegant the caption is. Compare it to the ugly utilitarian and redundant caption in Italian. Isn't it a crime against the Castillian language that one of its best writers was ignored being Sgt. Kirk translated (!) in Spain from the Italian? Imagine people in the UK having access to Shakespeare's plays only through, say, translations from French translations! Only in the comics milieu, with our pitiful comics publishers, is such a thing possible.
 
Printing quality in the color pages is better, but are those clean? Judge for yourselves below...


Detail from Misterix # 322,  November 19, 1954.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Back to Business As Usual

I've been discussing my restoration of the color pages of the Sgt. Kirk series with pro restorer Manuel Caldas. It's an old discussion in which he defends thick black repro for drawings and I don't because I think the lines should be affected by the colors. If yellow ink falls over a black surface it will turn olive green, methinks, so, it's no longer just black. Also, in some instances, the thick blacks may detract from a shadow or other effect (as we can see below and was shown also here). As Manuel put it, black was printed first so the yellow fell over it. On top of that there may be some lack of black ink in this particular newspaper page. Anyway, it looks more convincing to me as it is than if the black was really a thick black.


Frank King and anonymous colorists, Gasoline Alley, August 29, 1926.

The real problem, if there is one, is that until now no one thought about comics restoration theory. As many things in comics, this is a field almost untouched by scholars. The first point that should worry us, as it worries any restorers in other visual art fields, is authenticity. I thought about it, with Nelson Goodman's huge help, here. Contrarily to what you may read in the aforementioned post it's precisely the color (when it is not what the French call "couleur directe" [direct color]) that I don't think is autographic. Kim Thompson made me see my mistake. The colorist's work is autographic, but the color guides are not. Colorists and separators are not the same people, that's why there are notations for colors in color guides and that's why coloring in comics is not an autographic process, but a allographic one. This doesn't mean that the latter isn't obliged to follow the former's indications of course, but since the process is two stage with notations linking them it is, by definition, definitely allographic.

This answers one of my questions: does the printing technique matter? Being the coloring process allographic, after all, the answer is no, of course not.

That said, who's right?, yours truly or Manuel Caldas? We both are because, being an allographic process, it all bogs down to personal taste. The truth is that I'm a Ben Day dots fetishist and I love old newspaper comics coloring (but so does Manuel), out of register colors and all... In the case that the restorer is also a colorist s/he must follow the original color guides. If the restorer is just that, a restorer, s/he must leave the colors alone cleaning ink blots and erasing the effects caused by the passing of time (mainly by the tanning and foxing of the pulp paper). Scanners may help in recovering the vividness of the original coloring.

A few days ago I decided to make an experiment. I decided to randomly choose a Sgt. Kirk page and do what Manuel wanted me to do. I also increased the color saturation as Diego told me to. You can see the result below. I hope that you like it. I have to confess that, contrarily to my beliefs I like it a lot, but the process is so laborious that I doubt I'll do another one.


Héctor Germán Oesterheld (w), Hugo Pratt (a), Stefan Strocen (c), "Cerco de muerte," Misterix # 316, October 10, 1954.

PS Look at the rich textures of those surfaces and the smooth transitions and tell me if I'm not right in being a dots fetishist! Imagine it all flat and dull. It would definitely ruin everything.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

And Now For Something Completely Different... Yet Another Ridiculous Comics Canon

Most people couldn't care less about comics. Some people say that comics are crap. And, then, there are the fanboys.

Unfortunately the last ones are those who build the canon and that's, dear readers, why all comics canons are ridiculous.

To the penultimate I say: I hear you and I even think that, from your point of view and being in your shoes, I would say exactly the same. However, you're committing a mistake: it's the comics canon that is crap, not the art form of comics.

Below is the awful cover of a book by the Brazilian comics scholar Moacy Cirne: Quadrinhos, Sedução e Paixão [comics, seduction and passion - can you detect the fanboy in the title?...] (Vozes, 2001).


At some point the author includes his list of the best films ever created, as you can also see below.

#2 Persona
#14 Eclipse 
#18 My Darling Clementine 
#19 Brief Encounter 
#20 2001: A Space Odyssey 
#21 The Passion of Joan of Arc 
#22 Ugetsu 

The above isn't the film canon, mind you, it's just someone's list of favorite films. I could argue that some directors are sorely missing (Rossellini, Ozu), others are scarcely represented (John Ford) or are scarcely represented and not by their best film (Mizoguchi), or are overrated (Antonioni, Resnais), but anyway, if all lists are debatable what's not debatable, methinks, is that this is a great list of undeniably great films.

And now, brace yourselves please, here's Cirne's best comics list:


Do I need to say anything? Isn't the contrast between the two lists violently blatant? This is a mix of mediocre comics (The Spirit, Valentina, Sin City, Tarzan, Flash Gordon), so so entertainment (Little Nemo, Sandman, Fritz the Cat, Freak Brothers) and a couple of - sometimes - great comics (Krazy Kat, Ken Parker). Fred is one of the greats in my book, but not because of Philémon (ditto Oesterheld / Breccia with Mort Cinder even if there are a couple of great stories in the series). Others (the Brazilian ones) I have never read, I must confess, so I'll say nothing about those...

I can't be the only person on earth's surface who thinks that these "great comics" lists are ridiculous, or am I? Maybe in the comics milieu I am, but not among the others, those who rightfully scorn comics because, picture this: you are invited to dinner at someone's house and they feed you junk. What would you say afterwards? Maybe something like: "Don't go even near that place! There's nothing in there but crap!"

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Definitive Sgt. Kirk Reprint Edition Vol. 1 - Coda # 2

Today it crossed my mind that a page margin is important, so, this is how my Sgt. Kirk pages would look like.


Héctor Germán Oesterheld (w), Hugo Pratt (a), "Cerco de muerte", Misterix # 304 (July 16, 1954).

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Definitive Sgt. Kirk Reprint Edition Vol. 1 - Coda



This is lots of fun. It's a shame that none of this will ever exist.
By the way, this cover is more in proportion with Misterix's dimentions than the previous one which was (before I changed a couple of details) the cover of Hora Cero Suplemento Semanal # 49 (August 6, 1958). The above image was taken from Misterix # 349 (June 3, 1955).

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Definitive Sgt. Kirk Reprint Edition Vol. 1

Today I imagined the design of my Sgt. Kirk reprint edition. It will be hardcover, it will have a cloth spine, and the reprint paper will be slightly beige. It will have the approximate Misterix dimensions: 9 x 6 inches.




Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Calling Diego Cordoba

Hi Diego!

After your comment I downloaded Photoshop so, my total amount of Photoshop working hours is approximately 5 minutes. Even so, what do you think? I just added saturation. I'm not a big fan of saturated colors if saturation hides the drawings, but it doesn't seem to me that it happens here.



Sunday, April 2, 2017

The 100th

Below is the 100th "Sgt. Kirk" page that I restored. I'm almost finishing the "Cerco de muerte" [the siege of death] story arc.

As you can easily understand, it's not easy to go from this:


 Héctor Germán Oesterheld (w), Hugo Pratt (a), Stefan Strocen (c), "Sgt. Kirk: Cerco de muerte", Misterix # 316, October 8, 1954.

...to this:


Monday, February 27, 2017

Viola

video


Viola Davis has nothing to do with comics, but since I started writing about the art form, more than 25 years ago, that this, exactly this, is what I thought comics were capable of and weren't doing being too occupied (the industry is what they call it) churning out ridiculous stories.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Jiro Taniguchi

Jiro Taniguchi died yesterday. The Crib is becoming poorer and poorer...


Saturday, January 7, 2017

More Sgt. Kirk

I didn't post anything this last month because I continue to restore Oesterheld's and Pratt's "Sgt. Kirk".

Here are some more pages published in Misterix # 298 (June 4, 1954) and # 299 (June 11, 1954), the last page, which was never published in Europe.