R.C. Harvey writes our obituary for Lee Holley, the creator of the long-running teen strip Ponytail who also worked on Dennis the Menace and many iconic Warner Brothers cartoons.
UPON RELEASE FROM THE NAVY, Holley took advantage of the GI bill and enrolled in famed Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and was later hired by Warner Bros Studios. Although he aspired to do a comic strip, doing animation was a great experience.
“I was surrounded for the first time with people who were professional artists and cartoonists,” Holley remembered. “I was working with the most talented people in the animation business, and it was a fun environment. I was an in-betweener for a couple of months when they moved me into Friz Freleng’s [award-winning] unit as assistant to Virgil Ross. Neat guy. He was a great animator, very quiet and low key. Virgil worked real rough, and my job was to clean it up. I worked hard at it for years. The animators from that era really couldn’t draw well, but they could animate like gangbusters.”
For Chuck Jones, he worked on “What’s Opera, Doc?” in which Elmer Fudd is singing “Kill the wabbit!”
“I later found out that Chuck asked for me and another fellow to help because we could draw so well.”
Over four years, Holley worked on three cartoons that won Academy Awards—one with Yosemite Sam, another with Sylvester and Tweety, and another with Speedy Gonzales.
Holley moved up from assistant animator to a ‘B’ animator and got small scenes to animate. “It was really great training,” he said, “but I persisted in dreaming about a comic strip.”
We also have an excerpt of Ben Sears's Ideal Copy, which you may remember we reviewed earlier this week.
And finally, Jason Michelitch reviews the latest true crime comic from Rick Geary, The True Death of Billy the Kid.
Rick Geary has been doing pretty much the same thing for over thirty years. This is not a criticism. Though his long career as cartoonist and illustrator is dotted with a variety of interesting tributaries – strips for the National Lampoon and RAW, illustrations for the New York Times Book Review, and drawing Gumby comics, to name just a few – the main arterial flow has been his steady stream of historical true crime comics. Fascinated from the start by the myth and mystery of American murder (his first comics work was inspired by reading the file on an unsolved murder he got from a police officer friend), Geary’s work took shape as a long-term project in 1987, with the first volume of A Treasury of Victorian Murder, which combined with its sequel series, A Treasury of XXth Century Murder, is up to 22 volumes. Add to that a number of historical and biographical side projects, and you find a slowly accreting magnum opus, a life’s work of capturing society’s weird dark substructure.
The True Death Of Billy The Kid is one of those side projects, though to call it that might wrongly imply that it is a minor work. It is not, though neither is it necessarily a major one. Part of the nature of Geary’s project is the relatively egalitarian relationship among his various books. Each volume, whether in the Treasury of Murder series or produced outside it, performs more or less the same task: to map another event in Geary’s history of (mostly) American infamy. The impact and importance of a given book is roughly the same as any other, differences registering in millimeters rather than miles.
—Reviews & Commentary. Over at the Smart Set, Chris Mautner reviews Eleanor Davis's Why Art?
Right away, however, we can see this book will be anything but an academic discourse. For one thing, Davis’s narrator begins by separating art into some odd categories. Under color, for example, we are presented (in black and white no less) with “blue” and “orange” objects. One of the blue objects is a small pig. No mention is made of the rest of the spectrum.
From there, the narrator notes goes on to discuss “mask” artworks, “mirror” artworks, and the popular “concealment” art which hides unpleasant things from view (“Some of us have student loans to pay off” exclaims a defensive sculptor in the midst of creating such a work). The narrator also darkly reminds us that there is some art “meant to remind the audience of things we’d rather forget, things so awful they shouldn’t be true.” This type of art is represented as a simple black square the slowly grows to consume the page. “Many people try hard not to look at this type of artwork,” we are told.
At the New York Times, Ed Park reviews the latest books from Nick Drnaso and Michael Kupperman.
Not yet 30, Drnaso has topped his virtuoso 2016 debut, “Beverly,” which had a cheerful palette gleefully at odds with all that roiled beneath its speckless Midwestern skies: class friction and psychosexual urges, brain-draining sitcoms and kneejerk racism. (Nearly everyone in Drnasoland is white.) Some of the visual shocks in “Beverly” lodge in the head, like certain demonic glimpses from “The Shining” — but “Sabrina” goes deeper, risks more. It’s an unnerving mystery told by a rigorous moralist, a profoundly American nightmare set squarely in the first year of the Trump presidency. Politics is never mentioned, but the dread is everywhere: on the airwaves, at an open mic, in a kid’s activity book, and — most barbarically — online.
For Print, Michael Dooley explores Black Comix Returns.
Black Comix Returns isn’t simply about black comic books. More expansive than that, it’s a celebration of African American independent comics art, spotlighting nearly 100 cartoonists in practically every genre and category: educational, experimental, erotic, horror, humor, kids, and sure, superhero. This lineup includes established pros like Lance Tooks, Keith Knight, Ben Passmore, and Afua Richardson, whose World of Wakanda covers were part of that GLADD award. But mostly it presents relatively unknown but praiseworthy rising art stars.
Many have done licensed material for the mainstream majors, but the majority are developing their own, creator-owned projects. One of the book’s authors, cartoonist-scholar Damian Duffy, explained to Women Write About Comics that “the ‘x’ in ‘Black Comix’ is there because its focus is on independent work, which often means work sold outside or alongside the local comics shop market. Indy comics are put out by everyone from amateur artists to storyboard artists to fine artists to commercial illustrators. Some work is self-published, or only published online.”
And finally, Eddie Campbell explains to Entertainment Weekly why he's coloring From Hell.
The good thing about computers is they have a million colors. I remember when we used to hand-separate colors. We would cut up zipper tones and overlay them on four separations to make the colors for our comic covers back in the ‘80s. We were stuck with a dozen or so variations of colors, because we couldn’t afford to buy every possible zipper tone, but with the computer you can get all kinds of muddy and subtle shades. It’s enjoyable. It’s Eddie Campbell coloring, it’s not regular comic book coloring. I did something for Marvel once, and there was a shine on people’s kneecaps and elbow points. They always like to put these glistening highlights on everything. But here, there’s lots of evening fading into night, where it starts in evening and colors fade until they disappear, and then suddenly we’re in the darkness and gloom, where things are only dimly glimpsed.