Saturday, November 24, 2012

Save CCSF Comic & Exhibit

Illustration by Mission Mini-Comix Crew: Rio Roth-Barreiro (CCSF Alum), Mike Reger, Audrey Soffa & Justin Gorski (CCSF student). Used by permission. See Mission Mini-Comix site
The editorial cartoon above was included in an exhibition of art works commenting the accreditation crisis at City College of San Francisco, Accreditate This! which was on view in the CCSF Visual Arts building from Oct 22 - Nov 5. San Francisco Proposition A, which is referenced in the last panel, did pass in the election, along with California Proposition 30, which everyone hopes will help the schools.

The Guardman, CCSF's student run newspaper, ran an article about the show, including artist's commentary in the October 31 issue, as well as other news and editorials about the on-going issues CCSF is struggling with.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Icons of Wimmen's Comix

left to right: Lee Binswanger, Nancy Husari, Caryn Louise Leschen, Sharon Rudahl, Trina Robbins, Terry Richards, Ron Turner, Rebecka Wright, Lee Mars, Rebecca Wilson. Photo by Paul Mavrides.
The 40th Anniversary of Wimmen's Comix - 1972 - 2012. A show of original artwork is up at the San Francisco Public Library Main Branch's Art, Music and Recreation Center, on the 4th Floor through Thursday, February 7th 2013.

The SFPL's press release says: "In 1972, a group of women cartoonists in San Francisco created Wimmen's Comix, an anthology of comics by women, challenging the sexism thet faced by the male dominated comic  book publishing industry. The mission of Wimmen's Comix was to publish a comic book drawn by women cartoonists, and to leave fifty-percent of each issue open for new contributors. There was a rotating editor or co-editors and each issue had a theme. There were eighteen issues of Wimmen's Comix published by the Underground Comic Press between 1972 through 1992, and over a hundred new cartoonists saw their work in print, some for the first time. Many other titles grew out of this groundbreaking anthology, and today we are scattered in all corners of the United States and Europe.

I'm happy to see all these pioneers assembled in one place. I hope to see it myself soon and post about the actual artwork on display. Check it out!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Gallery Views of Determining Domain

This past Wednesday night, our long talked about exhibition opened at Intersection for the Arts. Determining Domain is an investigation of intellectual property  issues like infringement, appropriation, derivative works and parody/satire and the tangled web artists have found themselves in since appropriation and/or "borrowing" has become a ubiquitous part of the contemporary artist's palette.  All the artists featured in the show are re-purposing, satirizing or paying homage to the work of another for a wide range of reasons, with great results. I hope that everyone enjoys the photos below, and can make it to the gallery to view the real thing.

Marc H. Greenberg will be doing a lecture about issues in IP at Intersection on 12/8 (Sat) from 1-3. There will also be a workshop on copyright basics (how to register, etc) for artists on 1/16 from 7-9 led by IP attorney Inder Comar.

Determining Domain.
November 7, 2012 – January 19, 2013
Gallery & Community Hours: Tuesdays through Saturdays, 12–6pm, FREE
Intersection's 5M gallery is in the San Francisco Chronicle building at 5th & Mission. See their site for directions, artist's bios (with links to their web sites) and other info. I was happy to see the show listed as a "can't miss" in today's SF Chronicle!

Scott Kildall & Nathaniel Stern, Wikipedia Art & Farnaz Shadravan's Apocalyptic bathtubs.
Detail of one of Farnaz Shadravan's Apocalyptic bathtubs based on Albrecht
Dürer’s late 15th Century woodcut series.
Marc H. Greenberg & Farnaz Shadravan

Two collages by Bigface.

Work from Sanaz Mazinani's Frames of the Visible series.
The exhibit includes several monitors that show artist's work that has been "borrowed" for commercials and other media,  and wall panels explaining what the law is and showing examples from famous cases.
An example panel on parody and satire, written by Kim Munson & Marc H. Greenberg.
Stephanie Syjuco. Raiders, which repurposes digital photos of antiquities of questionable provenance
from a museum web site. 
Scott Tsuchitani's visual commentary on the Geisha &
Samurai shows at the SF Asian Art Museum.
Scott Kildall & Nathaniel Stern, Wikipedia Art. The display includes the dialog between the artists
and Wikipedia, who sued them for infringement.
A wall of posters featuring free digital books about IP issues & piracy,
curated by Stephanie Syjuco.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Determining Domain at Intersection

Sanaz Mazinani, Redacted March, 2011 (detail)

Determining Domain, Intersection for the Arts, November 7, 2012 – January 19, 2013. A group exhibition exploring complex issues regarding intellectual property and image ownership.

Years ago, I worked with Intersection on a show about the origins of various symbols (the peace sign, the AFL-CIO handshake, etc...). Since then, we have been discussing, on & off, an exhibition that investigates IP/copyright issues like infringement, appropriation, derivative works & parody/satire. The time has finally arrived, and the show will be opening 11/7!

Features work by Bigface, Scott Kildall & Nathaniel Stern, Sanaz Mazinani, Farnaz Shadravan, Stephanie Syjuco, and Scott Tsuchitani.  Marc Greenberg will be leading a copyright workshop for artists in early December (still TBA). See Intersection's site for calendar and more information.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Thomas Denmark's Murder of Crows

Cover of "Art of Murder of Crows"
At the Alternative Press Expo (APE) a couple of weekends ago, I had a brief chat with Thomas Denmark, an artist and game designer, who has designed and illustrated (among other things) a card game called Murder of Crows. The object of the game is spell “murder” and when assembled in order, the cards tell a witty short story.  The gothic style of the illustrations and the humorous and slightly twisted characters, weapons & locations are a great update on “Colonel Mustard with the candlestick in the library.”

A totally random selection gave me (M) A rotting stench filled the air (U) on Lynchburg street when (R) Finnegan Faust (D) due to an inferiority complex (E) used chopsticks to impale (R) Tom Thornbritches. People are killed with poodles, nail clippers & frozen turkeys, with all kinds of wacky motivations.

I wasn’t able to find much out about the artist as his web presence seems to be in transition. He has done illustrations for a number of collectible card games: Mentalist Companion, Orkworld RPG,  Legend of the Five Rings, Warlord, Dungeoneer, Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering and A Game of Thrones, and has a day job as an artist on several video games. He does have a number of beautiful illustrations on his blog at

Friday, September 28, 2012

Comic Art Show Article in Fall IJOCA

Catalog cover featuring Warhol's Dick Tracy.
My article about the Comic Art Show, which was at the Whitney Museum's downtown gallery in 1983, has finally been published in the International Journal of Comic Art (Vol 14, No. 2, Fall 2012). I thank the following people for sharing their memories, giving me input on my numerous drafts, or other assistance:

John Carlin, Art Spiegelman, Gary Panter, Sheena Wagstaff, Ann Philbin, Brian Walker, Leonard Rifas, Denise Lederman, Kristen Leipert, Marc H. Greenberg, John Lent, and the Frances Mulhall Achilles Library and Archive at the Whitney.
The IJOCA's articles are not published on-line.Here's a link to a (legible, but not fabulous) pdf scan of the article.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bode & Walker, Metalmorphosis at 1:AM

Mark Bode mural on the 6th Street side of 1:AM gallery. Photo by Mark Bode.
Last week I saw Mark Bode & Metalman Ed Walker's show Metalmorphosis at the 1:AM gallery at 1000 Howard Street in SF (August 24-September 22, 2012).  While Bode's previous show at 1:AM was sort of a straight-head father and son retrospective, this show brings Vaughn and Mark's creations to life in a new & vivid 3D style. The show features 60 small-scale to life-size pieces depicting Vaughn Bode's major characters, which Mark and Ed created with sheets of aluminum, acrylic, Montana Colors' Alien spray paint and lettering enamel. It also features 18 three-dimensional metal sculptures by Walker.

One of the most interesting things, to me, was that Mark also drew backgrounds and dialog balloons  behind and around the characters on the gallery walls in pencil, giving the characters more context and narrative. The 1:AM gallery is an intimate space, and it felt to me like I had walked into a 3D comic. Highly recommended!

More info: 1:AM Gallery | SF Gate

If you can't see the slideshow above, click here to see it on Flickr.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Stephen Galloway, Beth Moon at Corden Potts Gallery, SF

Works by Stephen Galloway. Photo from a previous exhibition at the Bolinas Museum.
Yesterday I was checking out the galleries at 49 Geary and noticed several shows focusing on nature and natural forms. The most striking of these was Roots, Shrubs and Moss, an exhibition of the photography of Stephen Galloway, artist and photography professor (Sonoma State) at Corden Potts Contemporary Photography (suite 410; up 9/6 - 10/27/2012).

Galloway's works show plant forms in loving detail, with every leaf, branch and root shown to its best advantage. They are life size or larger, with the plant element floating in clean white space. This gives the viewer an opportunity to luxuriate in the forms, textures and colors of the natural world.  The rich color and crisp detail of the c-prints, face-mounted to plexi, left me feeling that the plants had an live inner glow, yet they also seemed somewhat preserved/fossilized in the process. A review of a previous show in ArtWeek (Brenneman, 2006), explains that he arranges the materials on a light box, and then uses a mounted camera/scanner to photograph it.  Maybe it's the light and amount of information this process allows him to capture that gives his works such a luminous feeling.

Beth Moon. Odin's Cove series. Platinum/Palladium Print, 28x22" 2012.
The same gallery had a couple of photos up from the Odin's Cove series by Beth Moon, who recently exhibited there. The subjects of the photos are a pair of Ravens, which is a subject dear to my heart, and I am sorry I missed seeing more of her work. In her introductory notes, Moon explains the close relationship between the mated pair (they mate for life) and the dynamic that developed between herself and the birds.  I have the same relationship/experience with a pair of Ravens myself, who have adopted my ocean front balcony as part of their territory and come over everyday for some peanuts and a chat. By an odd coincidence, I recently connected with another artist named Kim Munson, who lives in the San Jose area and happens to draw and paint Ravens as well.

Other shows I noticed focused on natural forms were the works of Ryan Bush at Modernbook Gallery, and the works of Charles Burchfield and Ralph Eugene Meatyard at the Fraenkel Galley.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

True Blue - Simone Gad & Ingres

I was knocked out by this beautiful painting/collage by the LA artist Simone Gad, who is participating in the True Blue show organized by Charity Burnett at Sangria Fine Arts (LA, opening 8/31/12). True Blue features small pieces by over 60 artists who have become friends, or have invited friends, through social media.

Simone Gad. hommage a ingres painting collage.
copyright simone gad 2012/all rights reserved
First, a little context from Simone about her body of work: "I started out as a fabric artist in 1969, and then moved to making collages on fabric/then collage and assemblage with painting about hollywood icons during the 1970s thru the 1980s. In the 1990s, I started to incorporate art history collage elements into my works -acrylic on canvas with objects, then self-portraits, the holocaust clowns with pinups series from 1998 to 2012, small pinups with building facades also, the art history collages in the 2000s as well as making paintings without collage, continuing my self-portraits series, and now - fudogs paintings, chinatown, and pinups with rescue animals drawings on paper".

As an art historian, I was fascinated with the inclusion of Ingres in this work. Simone explained her concept, beginning with the title: "The painting I have in True Blue is an homage to Ingres and the Princess - hence the title - Hommage a Ingres.I have always loved art history and have incorporated from time to time collage elements in my paintings of building facades re Belgium Art Nouveau - since Brussels is my birthtown; Old Los Angeles structures - ala Victorians, Craftsman homes, some Art Deco, and Chinatown Plaza pagodas, etc... in my funky expressionist style of heavily built up acrylic in layers on canvas. I love Ingres' paintings and bought this postcard of Princesse Albert de Broglie during one of my trips to the Metropolitan Museum in NYC, which I incorporated into one of my buildings of Atwater Village/Los Feliz area of So California. The Princess wearing her lavish blue gown, inspired me to make my building facade in the same shade of blue".

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (French, Montauban 1780–1867 Paris). Béarn (1825–1860), Princesse de Broglie. 1851–53, Oil on canvas, 47 3/4 x 35 3/4 in., Robert Lehman Collection, 1975, 1975.1.186 Metropolitan Museum of Art.
I have always loved this painting, and took this occasion to refresh my memory of it. The Princess, who was renowned for her elegance and beauty, sat for one of the last commissioned female portraits Ingres undertook. He also painted her sister-in-law, the Comtesse d'Haussonville in 1845 (hanging right down the street at the Frick Collection). Unfortunately, the princess died of consumption at age 35. Her husband kept this portrait in a prominent place, draped with dark curtains in tribute to his lost love. Simone and I discussed this story, and agreed that this kind of loyalty is the very meaning of "True Blue."

Simone has an upcoming solo show (her 4th) at the L2kontemporary gallery (Hill Street, Downtown LA) January 5 - February 9, 2013. This page from her previous show at the Bleicher/GoLightly Gallery features a great photo of her studio. Other works by Simone can be seen on the bluecanvas site.

Karrie Hovey & The Other New York 2012

Karrie Hovey, an SFSU MFA alumni who just finished a residency here in SF at Recology (previous post here), has just installed her work at the Everson Museum of Art (Syracuse and Onondaga, NY September 22, 2012 - January 6, 2013), for their multi-venue biennial The Other New York: 2012. Shown in at 14 participating venues (museums, outdoors, & other public spaces) the project is intended to showcase artists in Upstate & Central New York, and encourage interaction between the artwork and the public.

Karrie's work builds on some of the past projects I've loved, such as Mum, a piece she began while doing her residency at Recology, utilizing the endless supply of discarded books they received.

Karrie Hovey, Utica, NY (b. St. Johnsbury, VT, 1971).
Mum (detail), 2012. Site-specific installation, salvaged books, variable.
About Mum Karrie says: "In many parts of the world the chrysanthemum (a mum) is seen as a flower of mourning and grief, while in other cultures it is a joyous flower of rejuvenation. I have constructed a field of chrysanthemum inspired forms from discarded books. Playing off an alternate definition of “mum” as a command to not speak, the repeated pattern mourns the loss of physical books and laments the silencing of their content. On the other hand, given the current efforts made to digitize all printed volumes, many written works that historically have had limited availability are giving a new life. I see books as a symbol of potential and knowledge, a resource for personal and societal growth. I reference a circular trunk-like form to suggest the forests of trees destroyed in the creation of the books".

Karrie Hovey. ...the Garden Grows : Cultivate Garden 1
In addition, she installed ...the Garden Grows : Cultivate Garden 1, a work that reuses cast-off materials from retail stores (such as wrapping paper and shopping bags) to construct a fantasy garden.  Encypher is a map project based on the museum's floor plan, area freeways, and other local topography, with materials supplied by Golden Artist Colors and The Sam and Adele Golden Foundation. She explains her process in the video below:

if this video isn't working right, click here to see it on YouTube.

Karrie Hovey. Encypher.
See more of Karrie's work on her web site.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Steampunk at SDCC: Bruce Boxleitner's Lantern City

Custom cover sketch by Joe
Benitez. Lady Mechanika 2
Aspen Comics
Steampunk elements have been appearing consistently in all kinds of media. In comics, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Joe Benitez's Lady Mechanika are good examples. Steampunk concepts have been appearing on television as early as 1965 in The Wild Wild West series (and the 1999 film), and are easy to find in current series like Dr. Who, Sanctuary and Warehouse 13.

Bruce Boxleiter's Lantern City, a television series in development, was soft launched during Boxleiter's signing session at San Diego Comic-Con. The new web site contains a through description of the parallel world of Hetra, the walled city (Lantern City), and all the characters that are trying to find the city, get out of it to the mythical world outside, or protect the status quo. Politics, intrigue and opportunities for exotic technology abound.  The production plans to incorporate fan ideas and designs into the show.  I was fascinated by this concept of fan participation, and wondered how they planned to do this. I was able to address my questions to Matthew J. Daly, writer for the Lantern City series. 

KM: What did you think of San Diego Comic-Con? Had you been to it before? What was the response to Lantern City from people who heard about it?

MD: I thought that SDCC was incredible. I had never been to this Con before, but it was as wonderful as I imagined it would be. I loved the panels and costumes and freebies and meeting a lot of great people. The response for the show was amazing. Many people have visited the site and we have had various interviews so far. The important thing for us to do is keep the momentum going.

KM: Why do you think Steampunk is interesting to so many people?

MD: I know why it is interesting to me and I assume these reasons also attract others. I love that it is rooted in history and/or alternative history and it prizes science and inventiveness. The rules are always being written, which allows for flexibility (meaning, if you asked ten different people to define Steampunk, you would have ten diverse definitions that wouldn't be wrong). It also attracts me because it does not have a work that defines it - the fans have driven this for years.

The above is an introductory video by Executive Producer Bruce Boxleitner (Tron, Babylon 5).
If you can't see it, click here to see it on the Lantern City site.

KM: I see that the production is encouraging fan participation. If all goes well, how do you plan to incorporate fan designs & ideas into the show? What are you looking for?

MD:The concept is that the fan submissions will be an ongoing contest. We will look through
the submissions and choose pieces that interest/inspire us. People will not be paid, but
they will receive credit and be featured in a special section on the website.

KM: When I was reading the series description on the web-site, I was looking for opportunities to see some wild gadgets. I noticed Killian (the ruler of the walled city) has a "secret facility," is this a place where we will see fantastic inventions? Would this be a spot you would share some fan designs?

MD: Killian does have a facility where he trains and designs weapons. There is a factory that can produce weapons as well, but it isn't used often. Most of the weapons are holdovers from previous generations that the current citizens will refashion for their own use. This could certainly be a place where we use fan submissions.

Concept art of Lantern City
 KM: The guys on the "collaborators" page, Art Donovan, Thomas Willeford, Tom Banwell and Joey Marsocci, look like they will really shape the look of the Lantern City world. Tell more about how they came together and how the production found them.

MD: These four guys are some of the most respected artists working in the Steampunk community. It was important to us to collaborate with people that the Steampunk community trusted; they have also helped us in assuring that we are remaining within the world of Steampunk. Trevor and I reached out to all of them and it is wonderful to have working artists on board. 

KM:  Where are you in the process? Any possibility this could begin as webisodes like
Sanctuary and some other Syfy series?

MD: The series bible and two-part pilot are written (and have received great response). We are currently preparing for Dragon Con (taking place Labor Day weekend in Atlanta). We have a panel and are properly introducing the show (with a trailer and concept art, neither available on the website yet). The show feels like too big of a production to do as a web series, but we have not closed any doors yet.

KM:  Are you planning any other media? Publications? A Lantern City Comic?

MD: Besides the fact that we are going to be at Dragon Con, I am developing a comic book series that deals with important events that take place before the show (it will be a stand-alone story that will add a dimension to the viewing experience or simply please comic book fans); I am going to start proposing it to comic book publishers soon.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Steampunk at SDCC: Darick Robertson & Oliver

Steam-punk Buzz Lightyear.
Photo by Raymond Francisco,
posted on Xerposa.
One development I've been watching from year to year at San Diego Comic-Con is the exponential growth of the Steampunk community. The costumes are amazing; people are not only creating new characters for themselves, but they are also recreating familiar characters (like Buzz on the left) in the Steampunk style.  In the next two posts, I've asked creators who announced new Steampunk projects at the Con why they think Steampunk is gaining such popularity. 

One observation I had myself while people watching at SDCC is that anyone with a creative spark can enjoy it and put together a great costume. You don't have to have the body of Wonder Woman or Superman to have people "ooo-ahhing" and asking to take your picture. It also looks like a fun & supportive community. I started shopping for some goggles myself!

In part one of my Steampunk exploration, I'm talking with comics creator & illustrator Darick Robertson (Spider-Man, Transmetropolitan,The Boys) about Oliver, a new comic loosely based on the familiar Dickens story set in post-apocalyptic London, to be published by Image Comics.

KM: What did you think of San Diego Comic-Con this year?

DR: It was fun and crazy, as it is every year except bigger, always bigger... I did sense a real attraction and support of more than just movie and established character stuff though. The enthusiasm for actual comics seems to be back at Comicon.

Darick Robertson at
SDCC hanging at the Comic Outpost
booth. Photo by Kim Munson.
KM: I heard the big cheer your announcement got at the Image panel. What has the response been to Oliver so far?

DR: Overwhelmingly positive. I half expected a lot of enthusiasm for my co-created project HAPPY! Because it's written by the incredible Grant Morrison, but I thought Oliver might take a little more time to warm on people, but on the contrary, there seems to be a real curiosity and excitement for the whole concept!

KM: Why do you think Steampunk is interesting to so many people?

DR: I think that we are living in a time wherein we are finding our way back 'down the mountain' in some ways, due to tough economic and turbulent times, people are trying to make sense of their world and make due with less, as well as make a little go further. Yet we are simultaneously engulfed in incredible technology; the stuff I only dreamed of as a kid only a couple of decades ago! We're now carrying around devices in our pockets that make Star Trek look antiquated. But since there is no going back, we also collectively long for days in our zeitgeist wherein you could make a little go a long way. Innovation was something you could create in your garage, the way Steve Jobs and Bill Gates did, with their wooden boxes full of tomorrow's triumphant technologies.

The idea that you could invent something wild and new with your own two hands from parts in your yard, things in your workshop, with smelting pots and hammers, gears and clock-works is romantic. Steam-punk captures the idea of imagination and magic combining into useful tools. There's something about Nikola Tesla that reaches out to us from the past and invites us to be inventors, and discoverers. At the turn of the century, technology was something that anyone could harness, now it's a matter of convenience. I don't know that I could open up my I-Phone and make it work again, or fix it if it weren't reliably functioning on it's own. Ralph McQuarrie's designs for Star Wars look like Steam-punk to me.

A Steampunk world, offers the illusion of technology for everyman, with a little bit of elegance and a lot of innovation and imagination. Oliver is such a natural fit for this genre that in some ways, the genre found it's way into our concept rather than the other way around.

KM: Could you briefly describe the characters and setting?

DR: The main story follows the theme and loosely, the plot of Dickens' Oliver Twist. Set in a future London after it's been ravaged by war, young Oliver discovers that he is, in writer Gary Whitta's words "...a Hybrid, the extremely rare offspring of an illegal union between a pure-bred woman and an IVC male. Inheriting the genetically-programmed superior strength, skills and combat instincts of the IVCs (clones) but with none of their weaknesses, Oliver is a unique specimen with astounding, superhuman powers – and the most reviled form of social outcast, declared too dangerous to live and marked for termination by a government fearful of the unplanned evolutionary leap that he represents"..."The cloned humans known as IVCs (In-Vitro Combatants), created in haste by the western powers to fight the war and now its veterans, have become a global underclass. An entire generation of disposable people, not considered legitimately human by society and now surplus to its requirements, they have been abandoned, forced to live in confinement and slavery inside the bombed-out, irradiated cities that have long since been deserted by “pure” humankind".

"Oliver is a unique specimen with astounding, superhuman powers – and the most reviled form of social outcast, declared too dangerous to live and marked for termination by a government fearful of the unplanned evolutionary leap that he represents."..."As Oliver gradually uncovers the clues that will unlock the secrets of his mysterious origins – and meets his one and only match in Dodger, a cocky and willful bandit girl whose martial arts prowess is matched only by her attitude – he will meet an incredible destiny that has awaited him since the day he was born, and which will change the course of all England’s future."

KM: It sounds like you found a couple of great collaborators, Grant Morrison on HAPPY!, and now Gary Whitta (Book of Eli). What's your process of working together?

DR: Grant is a fantastic collaborator in that he knows what he wants and also sees the value of creative input. We communicate our ideas to each other candidly and respectfully. It's been a joy creating HAPPY! with him. Of course, he travels a lot, so it becomes necessary to do everything through e-mail, and his incredible wife, Kristan, is an essential part of the process that makes it all work.

With Gary, he's local to me and we grew a friendship before starting this project. So we are working together in a way that I rarely, if ever, get to enjoy with a co-creator, in that we get together and hammer out ideas in person. I'll sketch out pages in the same room with him and we'll discuss ideas. That way, spontaneous inspiration and clever ideas are captured in the moment, and find their way into the finished work. Usually in collaborations, everything is so over-thought, edited and reconsidered, that what is in the final product of a comic is either over cooked with too many chefs in the kitchen of ideas or the opposite with distance making it so that it becomes too much one creator's vision, and in turn, I create reactively. With Oliver, we're two friends working together to create something more than what Gary originally came up with when he wrote this as a screenplay years ago, and having fun in doing so. We have a real enthusiasm and excitement to bring to this as we have been patiently waiting for years to actually put this together! I always believe when the creators are having fun, be it in music, or acting, whatever it is creatively, that the audience can sense that element in the work. If we're having fun, the audience has fun too. At our cores, Gary and I are both big sci-fi geeks and we love the genre as much as produce it.

KM: I saw some of your early sketches for Oliver. Is this book an artistic stretch for you? Do you have to do research?

DR: I wouldn't say it's a stretch, as I'm quite comfortable in what I'm doing with this, but it is a new genre for me. I like to draw things in a gritty way, and create worlds that feel tangible. I like to work in detail and I love to be imaginative with design and structure. I always hope to push myself as an artist and for Oliver, I have an opportunity to design and create a whole cast of characters in a world where the Steampunk and Victorian themes have a way of weaving their influence in naturally as opposed to an exploitative way. I actually traveled to London last year and took multiple reference shots to ensure that when I draw my future, war torn London, that I am building upon the real thing.

KM: What are Image's plans for the book?

DR: Image is supporting us in our desire to break the story into a trilogy, with three arcs of four issues each, and in the end, an omnibus. Gary and I have discussed ways to make each arc it's own event, and create a natural beginning, middle and end for each arc. Then we get a breather in between. Which will be good for me as I tend to juggle more than one project at a time and that will help me to keep calm and carry on...

KM: There was just a great article about Image in the New York Times about their support of creator-owned work.

DR: The exciting thing about what is happening right now at Image Comics is that publisher Eric Stephenson has created a business model that allows creators like myself, Grant Morrison, Ed Brubaker, Joe Harris, Greg Rucka, Matt Fraction, Howard Chaykin, James Robinson, Brian K. Vaughan and more, to create titles that we are truly inspired to do. It's more of a structure designed to get the books to the fans reliably but also leaves us to guide our own projects individually, rather than pushing a company meme.

What my colleagues are of doing within their titles doesn't affect what I'm doing in mine, and they are all truly creator owned. The incentive to get the books done and have them be all they can be falls squarely on the creators' shoulders and that's a good thing, as we all have skin in the game, so to speak. When you're drawing or writing someone else's property, you're doing so from a nostalgia for the property, and personally, I try to bring my 'A' game to everything I draw, but there's something wonderful about bringing to those that like my work, something that comes from a real inspiration and desire to collaborate with people who challenge me artistically. And in doing so, bringing out something totally new. Image has provided me a platform to bring new writers to the comics medium and really co-create.

KM:Is there anything you'd like to add that I haven't asked?

DR: I want to say thank you to the fans that are supporting this movement with such enthusiasm, as a party is no fun if no one shows up. The turn out for the Image panel in San Diego and the response Image is seeing in sales figures and attention says to me that there has never been a better time for creators to push the envelope and and really find the potential of this incredible format to tell stories. Like Steam-punk itself, comics look simple, but the combining of great words and great art, is always a bit of luck and a lot of passionate, devoted work to create something that works and entertains.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Comic Arts Conference Wrap-up SDCC 2012

One of the most amazing things about San Diego Comic-Con is that it contains more universes than that bag of marbles at the end of Men in Black.  There are so many different communities getting together that it would be just about impossible to touch on all of them. I’ll never forget the year that I went into a room early to catch a spotlight on J J Sedelmaier, and found myself in the middle of the Klingon Lifestyle Presentation, an annual drama featuring the crew of the IKV Stranglehold. It was so cool! And great costumes!

Anyway, not so many costumes at the Comic Arts Conference, the comics scholarship conference that celebrated its 20th anniversary at this year’s convention. The instigators, Peter Coogan and Randy Duncan  (still co-chairs and active participants) were awarded the Inkpot this year in commemoration of this feat.  The CAC room is like a sea of tranquility in the midst of a hurricane of craziness, and I am constantly slipping in & out of the room while the festivities are going on. You never know who you will see; comics professionals, independent scholars you never see anywhere else, professors from around the world, students & young scholars presenting for the first time … it’s a great experience.

The first CAC panel kicked things off with Subaltern Counterculture and Strengths of the Underdog, a group that opened my eyes to all kinds of viewpoints I hadn’t thought of. These included Crisis on Indigenous Earth: Comic Art Indigene Mateo Romero and Antonio Chavarria (Museum of the Indian Arts & Culture); Mexico City as the Field of Signification: Creating a Subaltern Hero in Daniel Munoz’s El Pantera Sam Cannon (U of Texas, Austin); Cyber-Blackness and the Ethics of De-Racialized Characters Kane Anderson (UC Santa Barbara) and Rebel Yell: The Physical and Racial Identity of Storm Ayanna Dozier (Chapman University). This last one, with her discussion of the “bad girl” punk version of Storm, really set me up for the next panel I was going to, CBLDF’s forum on women’s issues in comics.

I caught a number of great presentations on Friday, beginning with a humorous and provocative look at US comics from the Canadian perspective (it’s not all about you, USA) called “So that’s what an angry Canadian sounds like!” Fan Responses to Alpha Flight by Amanda Murphyao (Carleton University). Following her was the Revolution & Reaction panel, kicked off by the always amazing Trina Robbins (Lily Renée, Escape Artist) talking about her recent research on the art and life of Holocaust survivor Lily Renée Wilheim, one of the most successful women cartoonists during World War II and Fiction House's only woman cartoonist to draw covers as well as interior stories.  The rest of the panel was also interesting with a theoretical look at McCay, UM-CHOW: Winsor McCay’s Political Object Relations Eyal Amiran (UC Irvine); Make Way for the Fat Fury: Herbie and the Postwar Consumer Matt Yockey (U of Toledo) and a fascinating look at the comic-book-style evangelical tracts of Jack T. Chick by Cori Knight and Sean Sagan (UC Irvine).

Lily Renee. A great story by Trina Robbins
Following this were two important panels on Kirby. I’m sorry to say that I missed the first one, Jack Kirby and the Auteur Theory of Comics with Arlen Schumer & Randolph Hoppe (Kirby Museum) joined by Kirby scholars John Morrow (The Jack Kirby Collector); Charles Hatfield (Eisner Winner!) and Craig Fischer (Appalachian State University). I am happy to say that the whole thing was caught on video, and has been posted on Comics Journal for your viewing pleasure. Schumer’s article is also included in the current International Journal of Comic Art (Spring 2012), along with a rebuttal by Barry Pearl.

As regular readers of this blog might know, I have long been interested in researching and writing about Jack Kirby’s collages, so the next panel Jack Kirby, Modernism & Abstraction turned out to be one of the most exciting panels I witnessed at the Con. Andrei Molotiu (Indiana University; Abstract Comics Anthology & blog) and Mark Badger (Batman: Jazz, Martian Manhunter) succeeded in tying Kirby’s work not only into works I’ve written about before (Richard Hamilton, Hanna Hoch) but also Modernist masters like Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Kline, Lyubouv Popova and the theories of Clement Greenberg. It might not seem like it works, looking at this tiny picture of a Kline on my blog, but when you see Kirby's vibrant work and these dynamic paintings side by side on a big screen, it's a really strong argument.

Franz Kline (American, 1910-1962). Mahoning, 1956. Oil and paper collage on canvas.
80 x 100 in. (203.2 x 254 cm). Purchase, with funds from the Friends of the
Whitney Museum of American Art. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
© 2009 The Franz Kline Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Saturday brought us a visit from John Lent (publisher of the IJOCA, and more books on international comics than I can name) who came to speak in San Diego as a sort of detour between Malaysia and a conference in South Africa (bet some airline owes him A LOT of miles).  The Pioneers of Comics Scholarship panel, moderated by Randy Duncan (Eisner nominee!), included Lent, David Kunzle (History of the Comics Strip), Vicki Green (The Indian in the Western Comic Book) and Joseph Witek (Comic Books as History, editor of the Conversations series for U of Mississippi Press). It was great to hear the stories of how they all started researching comics, how they overcame discouragement, and where they thought scholarship was going in the future.

Following this was an interesting trio of papers on the ideas of economics, ideology and politics in the writings of Grant Morrison by Marc Singer (Howard University); Jason Tondro (UC Riverside) and Karma Waltonen (UC Davis). Singer’s presentation, Morrison, Incorporated was particularly interesting because he collected together several storylines where Morrison made corporations a villain, or even an actual character, and I thought it was a good commentary on the Occupy movement and the financial crisis we find ourselves in. I also enjoyed Jade Hidle's (UC San Diego) presentation on comics exploring the Vietnamese view of the US/Vietnam War experience. In one of those "only at SDCC" type stories, she's a local girl and long-time Con attendee, there to present for the first time with her Dad in the audience, who finds that the writer/artist she wrote about, Eisner nominee GB Tran, was there and wanted to sit in on the panel, and it was moderated by Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics) who she cited extensively. I was so happy for this girl, and she did a great job.

My husband Marc and I couldn’t help comparing the Pioneers panel with the panel that closed the conference, a presentation of field studies by students that were looking at the culture of comic-con (organized by Matthew J. Smith, Eisner nominee!). Many of them were Con virgins, and it was interesting to hear their responses to fan culture, endless lines, getting into Hall H, mega-marketing, etc.  Stephen Cunningham (U of Central Arkansas) commented that it was the first time he’d ever been to a Con, and the first time he’d ever been to California, and he was shocked how nice people at the Con were in comparison to people attending a Razorbacks game. As I listened to the response from the audience (“oh, you didn’t see this person push me”… “oh, this line was terrible”), I was thinking to myself, “Boy… you people have never been to a Raiders game have you?” People at Comic-Con, with all 120,000 (plus) of us jammed in together do actually try to be mellow and get along. We are all happy to be there, with our peeps, in the one place all of our separate universes collide.

A Raiders fan in the Black Hole. Who knows? Maybe
he comes to SDCC dressed as Skeletor...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sherman, Nottebohm & Clerque in SF

Saw the Cindy Sherman (born January 19, 1954 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey) retrospective at SFMOMA yesterday. Although it was laid out more or less chronologically, I viewed it backwards (as usual) seeing her most recent work, the Society Portrait series first. These ¾ to full body heroic scale portraits were stunning. I'm sure I’ve seen all the women she is referencing, old money; the aging trophy wife; the philanthropist; the New Yorker with terrible teeth and a bad dye job. As a female person of middle age, I recognized the struggle of these characters beneath the glossy surface, trying in vain to hang on to beauty & status.  I also couldn’t help thinking about Renaissance female portraits and the the abundant symbolism employed in them to tell the viewer about the good qualities and status of the sitter, with the obvious symbols of wealth and taste like diamonds and Hermès scarves standing in for pearls, rubies, and the other traditional signifiers of purity & devotion.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #465, 2008;
chromogenic color print; 63 3/4 x 57 1/4" (161.9 x 145.4 cm);
courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York; © 2012 Cindy Sherman

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
This left me in the perfect frame of mind to view Sherman’s History series, in which she parodies the styles and motifs often seen in classical European painting. These works, with their exaggerated prosthetics and deft manipulation of the subject matter, consider changing artistic processes, social mores and gender roles in Western society.  The giant noses, bellies and breasts make an interesting commentary on the changing meanings of words like “sexy” and “desirable” from one era to another (good article on these here). Seeing these very theatrical portraits juxtaposed with the raw vulnerability of the Centerfolds series in the next gallery was a breathtaking contrast. I finished at the beginning, with the photos that first brought Sherman to prominence, the Film Stills. It was great to see these all together in order. I was lucky to be there on a weekday, and there was space to step back and see entire series as a composition. They have a rhythm together that you would never get looking at them individually in a book. Comparing these with her newest work (the Society Portraits in the next gallery), I felt that the artist has great awareness of humanity & inner life, as seen through the lens of the culture she skewers so well.

Andreas Nottebohm. AN-2001, May 2012, oil on aluminum 29 x 48" at Modernism

Around the corner from SFMOMA, I stopped in at Modernism, where the works of Andreas Nottebohm (born 1944, Eisenach, East Germany) and Lucien Clergue (born 1934, Arles, France) are on display. While Sherman’s work delves into the inner life of her characters, these works are lovely and very much about the surface. Nottebohm distresses the surface of aluminum panels with power tools, and then paints them with glazes of oil. They have a luminescent holographic quality that has to be seen to be believed. The most interesting (to me) of Clergue’s photographic works were a series of female nudes striped by the shadows of venetian blinds.

Lucien Clergue. Zebra Nude, 1997. gelatin silver print, at Modernism.
 Nottebohm and Clergue are at Modernism on Market Street July 11 - August 25, 2012.  Cindy Sherman is at SFMOMA July 14th - October 8, 2012