Hey folks — glad to be back after a week and counting of superstorm Sandy. Compared to what happened to many others, things weren’t too bad for us: power, phone service, and heat have finally been restored, and other than a bunch of spoiled food, some apparently minor roof damage, and a newly stressful commute, we’re more or less in the clear. That isn’t true for a lot of other people of course, and I won’t go on about it very long because most of you who have had the internet and television over the past week are probably sick of it, but consider helping out if you can manage it. There are many places to donate your much needed time, food, clothing, or money.
But back to comics. Today, we have Ken Parille’s latest column, this time featuring a close reading of Steve Ditko, and his use of abstraction, text, and motion. Here’s an excerpt:
In The World of Steve Ditko, author Blake Bell recounts a story about the publication of Ditko’s Static, a superhero tale serialized in the first three issues of Eclipse Monthly in 1983. Eclipse Editor Dean Mullaney initially altered Ditko’s script for the episode in #2 because it was “too wordy, and visually unappealing.” Bell agrees with Mullaney’s assessment, noting that Ditko’s debt to Ayn Rand “continued to have an impact on the quality of the storytelling” (145). Ditko, however, rejected the changes, and the story ran as he originally intended.
Mullany’s criticism reflects a widespread belief about comics storytelling: comics is primary a visual medium and so the text must always be dramatically subordinated (at least in terms of the space it occupies) to the images. But I think the intensity of Ditko’s sequence visually depends upon the fact that, as we move through the first three panels, words take up an increasing amount of space while the image decreases (with the fourth panel echoing the first):
We also have something I haven’t read yet, but am super-excited about: a review of Charles Burns’s The Hive written by The Orange Eats Creeps author Grace Krilanovich. Here’s a brief clip:
The cast of characters found in Nitnit land includes mutant, decrepit or aged quasi-ethnic shopkeepers and loiterers, or otherwise quasi-human piglet men and humanoid lizard drones. The creases, scars and raw wounds on their hyper-specific faces contrasts sharply with Nitnit’s smooth (Caucasian) mask face, fixed in an expression of frazzled dismay.
The Hive references the pre-PC ethnic caricatures of Tintin comics and presents an Orientalist fantasy realm that is confusing and disorienting on purpose. In Nitnit, words, faces, roles and customs are indecipherable. Our comfort in recognition is partially dismantled. It looks almost like a place we could inhabit, and yet that only makes it more troubling as we strain to find a way to make sense of the gaps, where it betrays us. Johnny 23’s confusion is ours. Aggro lizard dudes berating you at every turn certainly don’t help.
And finally, we are also republishing a 2006 interview with Joost Swarte conducted by David Peniston and Kim Thompson. Here’s an excerpt from that:
PENISTON: Can you name a few of your favorite artists or designers that you admire or who have had an influence on your artwork?
SWARTE: Well, when I was still studying industrial design, I learned about artists that worked for the De Stijl movement and the Bauhaus movement.
PENISTON: Like Gerrit Rietveld?
SWARTE: Yes, exactly. And I was very much interested in it because they seemed to work in the artistic field without making a choice on a medium. Rietveld started out as a furniture designer, as a carpenter, and he developed his interest in this field and just enlarged his disciplines. Besides him, there was the Dutch artist Theo Van Doesburg, the leader of the De Stijl movement, and he started within the funny borders of the Dada movement, which had an idealistic side. That is to say that Dada was a reaction to what happened in the First World War and they were artists that didn’t understand that culture, although everybody was always proud of European culture. But even within this culture it was still possible to have a disastrous war like the First World War and they reacted with their Dada movement. Now, I don’t know exactly if the war was the main goal, the impetus for it, or maybe the culture was already ready for a movement like Dada, but they made fun of whatever they liked to make fun of so it was sort of a ‘nothing is sacred’ movement.
SWARTE: Not necessarily “anti-everything” because they had their own things they liked and wanted to do but nothing was sacred, which means also that they almost worshiped individuality so they gave freedom to the artists to do whatever they liked. Now if you at that period had said, “I like to make beautiful paintings,” that wouldn’t be considered as very Dada. But the reaction of the whole European culture, well, it was fun in a way and it made me also think. What made a great impression on me as a youth was the Provo movement in Amsterdam. That was young anarchists that made fun of the police, etc., and I thought it was very funny.
And links to comics pieces elsewhere are going to be relatively light, as I’m about a week out of date right now. (I’ll try to go back and repost anything big that got missed as time goes on.)
—Occasional TCJ contributor Michel Fiffe has some thoughts on Ditko of his own, including his own interactions with the artist.
—Tom Spurgon interviews Gabe Fowler, proprietor of Brooklyn’s Desert Island, editor of Smoke Signal, and co-founder of the Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Festival, which I can’t believe is this weekend.
—At Comics Alliance, J. Caleb Mozzocco interviews Steven Weissman about his new comic-strip collection, Barack Hussein Obama, one of the weirdest books of the year. Still haven’t wrapped my head around it, though I am enjoying the attempt.
—The aforementioned Joost Swarte has a video interview up right now (via):
—And finally, in the Not Comics category: Alan Moore has released a single: