Tag Archives: Illustration

Review: ‘Haunted’ by Thomas F. Zahler

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“Haunted” is a result of a 24-hour comics marathon and it retains that energy. Often, a comic created during one of these all-nighters is part hot mess and part mad genius. They sometimes come out fine as is. Usually, refinements are made. For “Haunted,” it looks to me that Zahler kept much of the original by keeping to a minimal line. Lettering, coloring, and some other adjustments later, I believe he has come out smelling like a rose. The stars must have been shining down on him. That makes sense to me since this comic is full of star-gazing whimsy.

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Filed under 24 Hour Comics, 24 Hour Comics Day, Comics, Comics Reviews

BOOM! STUDIOS GOES CAMPING TO THE MAX WITH ‘LUMBERJANES’

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LUMBERJANES looks like an all-out joy ride of comics fun. This new comics series joins THE MIDAS FLESH under BOOM! Studios newest imprint, BOOM! Box. It is written by Noelle Stevenson who you may know from her webcomic, NIMONA. LUMBERJANES #1 arrives in comic shops on April 9th. Visit our friends at BOOM! Studios to pre-order here.

Press release follows:

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Filed under Boom! Studios, Comics, Comics News, Illustration, Noelle Stevenson, Webcomics

Review: Gustavo Duarte’s Monsters! & Other Stories

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Dark Horse Comics has unleashed quite a monster with this collection of work by Gustavo Duarte. But it’s not just monsters. It’s chickens, pigs, birds, a whole wacky and, quite enthralling, world.

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Guatavo Duarte is a new talent with an old soul. As Sergio Aragonés makes clear in the introduction to this book, Duarte has hit the ground running in wordless comics. He is very much in the traditon of the greats, from Otto Soglow to Jim Woodring. Duarte’s comics are truly electric. There’s a live wire quality to them that is complimented by its clean refinement. While very smooth and polished, you get that sensation of a rapidly moving line.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Dark Horse Comics

Review: DELUSIONAL: The Graphic and Sequential Work of Farel Dalrymple, published by AdHouse Books

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You too will believe in all sorts of urban legends and myths once you’ve entered the world of comics genius Farel Dalrymple. Is “comics genius” too grand a thing to say about Dalrymple? Well, you need to trust me on this if you’re new to his work. There are so many beautiful and whimsical works of art and comics that he’s created that he’s earned a place of honor. He’s won a number of awards. His art is so compelling and energetic that Marvel Comics had him team up with esteemed writer Jonathan Lethem on a very special story, “Omega: The Unknown.”

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Farel Dalrymple has been mining a certain fanciful strain of comics. Much in the way that Jim Woodring has tapped into his own unique hallucinatory vision, so has Dalrymple. It’s a world that respects the magic of childhood. It’s a world that is willing to take risks, is not afraid of being silly or odd, and is always seeking out those things that seem just out of reach.

“Delusional” is the book to get this holiday season or any season. It is a 232-page hardcover, priced at $24.95. Visit of friends at AdHouse Books.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY Unplugged

Here is a comic that attempts to tap into the elegant simplicity of the James Thurber short story. It is a delicate and precise little story: A henpecked husband daydreams he’s a hero while he goes about his mundane life. Two major motion pictures, in 1947 and in 2013, have taken this little story to great heights. This is a distillation of the original 1939 short story drawn in my take on the style of Thurber cartoons.

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And there you have it, the whole story told in only six panels. I’d like to think that Mr. Thurber would have appreciated this tribute.

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Filed under Cartoons, Comics, James Thurber, The New Yorker, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Design: NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOUR BAND by Greenwich Letterpress

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Yeah, it’s true. Nobody cares about your band. Check out other pithy greeting cards from Greenwich Letterpress here. They know style, with the discerning eye of a true New Yorker.

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Filed under Cards, Design, Greeting Cards, Illustration, New York City, Style

Seattle Tattoo Expo 2013: A Weekend of Ink, Mystery, and the Unspoken Energy that Emerges

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A tattoo artist deals with people’s desires and dreams. So do bartenders and cab drivers and let’s not forget therapists, agents, and attorneys and all manner of other good souls servicing a wide spectrum of humanity. People have needs, wishes, and frustrations. People seek answers, release, and resolution. Often they seek out the tattoo artist for more than any form of body art could ever fully satisfy. The seeker and the tattoo artist, in unspoken agreement, realize this and still they meet and arrange together a new portal toward that most elusive of goals, pure happiness. It’s at an event like the Seattle Tattoo Expo, held this last weekend at the Seattle Center, where all that unspoken energy comes to the fore and gains finer articulation by the very fact there is so much of it gathered in one spot.

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If I were to compare a tattoo convention with a comics convention, I’d say there is a certain amount of a fish-out-of-water sensation that both vendors must contend with. You’re not at your home base anymore whether it’s a tattoo parlor or a comics shop. And both of those environments have their own special vibes that are not going to be totally recreated on a convention floor. What you get instead is the next best thing. That is what you get from this tattoo expo, the next best thing to actually being at the parlor. The Seattle Tattoo Expo was created by world famous tattoo artist Damon Conklin. His shop, Super Genius, leads the way in hospitality at the expo. Tattoos are a very personal thing but Damon Conklin and his crew of talented tattoo artists will break the ice. I got to chat a bit with Colin, who is an apprentice at Super Genius, and he was very friendly and in the moment which is great since, truth be told, tattoos are a personal thing.

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What’s great about being at the expo is the opportunity to immerse yourself in the tattoo culture. You can walk in with your whole body tatted up or with no tattoo and it’s all good. But you can feel that special bond that is shared by those that are fully into tats. It can’t be made up. Either you’re really into tattoos and show them off proudly or you’re not–or you fall somewhere in between. If you’ve long admired tattoos but only from a distance, then actually coming down to the expo could be very rewarding. There’s a benefit for everyone, for those who are new to the scene as well as for all the attendees who have years of experience.

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Many people aren’t going to ponder over the mysterious world of tattoos. A fair amount of people are just going to dive in and get one. That would be a mistake. That’s where bad tattoos come from. It’s a fevered form of thinking when all those impulses suddenly rise to the surface and you act way before you’ve fully thought it through. Did you really mean to get a star tattoo? Well, nothing wrong with that but is that really what you meant to do? That particular star, on that particular place, instead of stepping back, maybe concluding that this could wait? All is not lost. These days, tattoo removal is within reach. In fact, there was a tattoo removal booth at the expo. It’s not a perfect process. Mistakes will be made along the way but it’s sure nice when you can avoid them. But mistakes are human and there are plenty of humans. It just makes those who get it right look that much better.

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What does it take to get it right? You get to see a lot of that at the expo. Whatever it is you are seeking, it doesn’t matter if it’s a tattoo or going to college or whatever your goal, you will find that you need to take the time to get it right.

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Filed under Damon Conklin, Lowbrow Art, pop culture, Seattle, Seattle Tattoo Expo, Super Genius Tattoo Parlor, Tattoos

Interview: FAR OUT ISN’T FAR ENOUGH: THE TOMI UNGERER STORY: Brad Bernstein, director and writer; Rick Cikowski, lead editor and lead animator

"Doctor Strangelove"  Movie Poster. Artwork by Tomi Ungerer.

“Doctor Strangelove” Movie Poster. Artwork by Tomi Ungerer.

FAR OUT ISN’T FAR ENOUGH: THE TOMI UNGERER STORY is a masterfully created documentary that will hit you on many levels. It is eligible for an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary and deserves that level of recognition for being so careful to detail with its subject, artist Tomi Ungerer.

I had the honor of speaking with both Brad Bernstein, the film’s director and writer, and Rick Cikowski, the film’s lead editor and lead animator. Both men expressed their love for Tomi Ungerer and provide insight into the making of this impressive documentary, distributed by First Run Features.

For me, I can appreciate what happened to Tomi Ungerer when I look at the iconic poster he created for “Doctor Strangelove.” That poster, much like his “Black Power, White Power” poster are forever part of one’s psyche. And yet, in America, Ungerer’s work in children’s books is not widely known today. That work is just as powerful and was just as well known in its day, as anything else he has created. Thanks to Phaidon, we have many of his great works being reprinted in the United States. But, for decades, it was as if he’d been wiped out of memory in America. How could that be? That is a big part of the fascinating story that unfolds in this documentary.

Tomi Ungerer is a great talent and, for a man who has had a lifelong battle with fear, he is a most courageous man. For someone who grew up under the horror of the Nazis, and went on to conquer the world of illustration in its heydey in New York City, that alone is remarkable. But going that far out, wasn’t far enough for Ungerer.

“Far Out Isn’t Far Enough” brings together a seamless narrative boiling down numerous hours of interviews with Tomi Ungerer, Jules Feiffer, the late great Maurice Sendak, as well as other notable figures like art director and critic Steven Heller. Throughout the film you are treated to very deftly purposed animation that strikes the right cord, whether humorous or somber.

As Brad Bernstein explains, the initial attraction to Tomi Ungerer was his spirited expressions like, “Far Out Isn’t Far Enough.” That really says it all. Ungerer is a man who speaks his mind and does it quite well. His life and work are a testament to a strong will and this documentary honors that spirit very well.

You can listen to the interview with Brad Bernstein and Rick Cikowski by clicking the link below:


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And, as the say, tell your friends and spread the word about this documentary. You can visit the official site here and also follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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Filed under 1960s, Art, Art books, Children's Books, Design, Documentaries, Erotica, Illustration, movies, pop culture, Protest, Social Commentary, Tomi Ungerer

Movie Review: ‘Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story’

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Tomi Ungerer was a household name. He was the most popular children’s book illustrator in America. He is also a masterful artist of subversive and erotic art. That’s what got him into trouble within the children’s book community. His career was derailed. But he wasn’t. “Far Out Isn’t Far Enough” is a powerful documentary about a most remarkable man and artist. Tomi Ungerer’s life and career spans World War II, at the hands of the Nazis, into the high flying life of New York City in the “Mad Men” era of the ’50s and ’60s, and into the heart of the counterculture movement. It’s a life, not unlike Robert Crumb’s, full of explosive expression and heroic turns.

Director Brad Bernstein has brought into focus the life of Tomi Ungerer in a variety of ways. First and foremost, is Tomi Ungerer, who eloquently speaks his mind and is the guiding force throughout this film. It is his expressions, like “Don’t Hope, Cope” and “Expect The Unexpected,” that are used as chapter headings and repeated in various ways to draw out their meaning. Tomi’s life story is so compelling by itself too but, with the help of an impressive group of individuals, we hear his story told from many vantage points. This is a wonderfully structured documentary that alternates with grace between interview subjects and vivid use of animation (thanks to Brandon Dumlao, Alain Lores, and Rick Cikowski) that makes Tomi’s already powerful images jump out at you all the more.

We quickly take in Tomi Ungerer in the opening scenes. We see an older gentleman, with sad eyes and a mischievous smile, who has seen more of the world than has been good for him. He is also full of life and happy to joke around. But his comments can be cryptic: “I always have nightmares. I’m always being arrested in my dreams!” There is sadness and gaiety as he says this. He was once the most celebrated artist of children’s books in America. He was a rock star among illustrators. And then he disappeared.

Born in 1931 in Strasbourg, France, Ungerer and his family would come to know their Nazi neighbors all too well. Alsace, Strasbourg had only been French for about 300 years so its identity was split evenly Franco-German. This fractured identity would inform Ungerer’s life and his work. While under German occupation, it was forbidden to speak French and German culture prevailed. However, after the Allied victory, Ungerer’s German upbringing was a severe liability. The French, he found, treated him just as poorly as the Germans. And there was no regret by the French to burn German literature. It was very absurd, Ungerer concluded. Life was absurd.

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At age 25, with only sixty dollars, Ungerer moved to America. He had always managed to cope and to prosper as an artist and so he would try to make a living from it in New York City. As luck would have it, Ungerer’s arrival in 1956 was a perfect time to break into the wildly lucrative world of illustration. Not only did he manage a foothold, he brought with him a whole new style that peeled away at conformity. The problem for Ungerer would be that, as he reacted to the times, he would just keep peeling away to the point that he crossed a line.

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The musical score, by Nick Dei Rossi, dips into an ominous tone once Ungerer has come into his own and matured as an artist. He always loved the children’s book illustration he was known for but now he was reacting to the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the Sexual Revolution. His peers, artists like Maurice Sendak and Jules Fieffer, admired what he was doing. Both are interviewed extensively in this film and provide great insight. They both loved Ungerer. But there was nothing they could do when Ungerer met his Waterloo.

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Ungerer’s life, post-America, is not a sad story. He did give up children’s book illustration for 25 years but he discovered a whole new life, a life with new challenges and old fears that needed to be overcome. We come to realize that there will always be a touch of fear in this man’s life but it’s a good kind of fear, the sort he can use as a challenge. He seems to already have come to terms with the fear of death. Even if it should turn out to be vast nothingness, he is encouraged that this will be an opportunity to fill the nothingness with something from his mind. In the end, he remains encouraged and eager to continue crossing a line, pushing the envelope. The Tomi Ungerer expression used for the film’s title, “Far Out Isn’t Far Enough,” proves to be his way of life.

“Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story” is currently in theaters. Be sure to visit the site here for details. If you’re in Seattle or Minneapolis, you can catch it this weekend at one of your Landmark Theatres. Check it out here.

And you can listen to my podcast interview with the director/writer and lead editor/animator of this dazzling documentary here.

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Filed under Design, Illustration, New York City, politics, pop culture, Tomi Ungerer

Review: THE GRAPHIC CANON, VOLUME 3, Edited by Russ Kick

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Not all the work here is by cartoonists, per se, but most of it is and everyone here is part of the larger world of the graphic arts. We still live, may always live, in a world that, for the most part, thinks of cartoonists as only one thing. However, “The Graphic Canon,” edited by Russ Kick, and published by Seven Stories Press, gives you a taste of what is possible. You are certainly in capable hands with Russ Kick, bestselling author of “You a Are Being Lied To” and “Everything You Know Is Wrong.”

This is a remarkable project that takes on the world of literature on a grand scale with Volume 3 dedicated to the 20th Century. Ah, the 20th Century, it was a time dominated by the most heroic and romantic of rebels. You are sure to find your favorite rabble rouser in this colossal book, heroic in its own right. It weighs in at 564 pages, literally a phone book worth of literary artistic expression, so the odds are in your favor.

Like a classroom full of gifted children, each artist here has taken their chosen work of literature, immersed themselves in it, and turned in their best effort. Not all the contributions here are exclusive to this book but most are. And, like thoughtful and caring students, these artists don’t let ego get in the way or stray too far from the goal. They fall into two lines of attack: illustration and adaptation. Within these two camps, we get just about everything under the sun, an exciting array of talent, over 80 artists, that will please hardcore lit fans and newbies alike. Among previously published work, there is Robert Crumb’s rarely-seen adaptation of Sartre’s “Nausea.” Another gem is David Lasky‘s unique take on “Ulysses.” Reproduced here, you get the original 1993 mini-comic version.

"Ulysses," adapted by David Lasky

“Ulysses,” adapted by David Lasky

Check out the first pages of this book to find a homage to “Heart of Darkness.” Matt Kish is known for creating illustrations for each page of “Moby Dick.” Here you see him bring that same level of obsession to Joseph Conrad’s masterpiece. Reproduced are some selected illustrations with the promise from Kish will go on to fully illustrate “Darkness” page per page.

"Heart of Darkness" illustration by Matt Kish

“Heart of Darkness” illustration by Matt Kish

Ellen Lindner‘s illustration for “The Bell Jar” sums up in great measure the internal struggle that Sylvia Path attempted to endure.

"The Bell Jar" illustration by Ellen Linder

“The Bell Jar” illustration by Ellen Lindner

Tara Seibel provides some fanciful illustrations for “The Great Gatsby” that evoke the jazz age.

"The Great Gatsby" illustration by Tara Seibel

“The Great Gatsby” illustration by Tara Seibel

Among the adaptations, Julia Gfrörer gives us some very intriguing images inspired by Umberto Eco’s “Foucault’s Pendulum.” In the introduction, Russ Kick helps the casual reader to relate by jokingly suggesting that Umberto Eco’s masterwork is a much more complex version of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” Full of metaphysical and philosophical observation, it centers on three characters who work at a vanity press who concoct elaborate conspiracy theories and then discover that maybe they’re true. Julia Gfrörer is clearly up to the task.

"Foucault's Pendulum" adaptation by Julia Gfrörer

“Foucault’s Pendulum” adaptation by Julia Gfrörer

I think this unusual adaptation by Julia Gfrörer is a good place to linger since it goes a long way in representing the best you will find in this book. Gfrörer has taken on a wildly complex novel, found an opening, what she entitles, “The Chymical Wedding,” that explores the alchemical wedding in “Foucault’s Pendulum” and runs with it. This certainly doesn’t come across as Lit 101 filtered through comics. No, it does what you’d hope for: Gfrörer wears Umberto Eco like a well-worn pair of pajamas. Is that appropriate? If you don’t feel comfortable with what you’re doing, how will your reader? Gfrörer lets herself go and, without trying too hard, turns in her assignment. It’s just what editor Russ Kick would have expected.

This is the thing, there are any number of ways to go about your adaptation. “The Mowers,” by D.H. Lawrence, for example, is pretty straightforward and has a deft and gentle touch by Bishakh Som.

"The Mowers," adapted by Bishakh Som

“The Mowers,” adapted by Bishakh Som

Another ethereal and arresting approach comes from Caroline Picard with her adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s “The Voyage Out.”

"The Voyage Out," adapted by Caroline Picard

“The Voyage Out,” adapted by Caroline Picard

Emelie Östergren provides her heart-felt interpretation of “Naked Lunch” by William S. Burroughs.

"Naked Lunch," adapted by Emelie Östergren

“Naked Lunch,” adapted by Emelie Östergren

“The Graphic Canon, Volume 3″ is such a mighty undertaking that you just can’t go wrong. I come back to the idea of a powerful vehicle that demonstrates what’s possible. We’d be fools to think we’ve got literature and fiction all figured out. And we’d be fools to think we have the comics medium all figured out. It’s a post-postmodern world, but that’s no excuse. There is something very traditional about writing stories and creating comics and that’s quite alright.

Issues of storytelling will not be resolved in the 21st Century and never will be. If Russ Kick is around (gee, anything is possible), or maybe a descendent or disciple, we will find that Volume 4′s tribute to the 21st Century (available only digitally?) will continue the good fight for a good story. And we will find that all three volumes of “The Graphic Canon” have held up considerably well.

Visit Seven Stories Press here. You can also find “The Graphic Canon” by visiting Amazon here.

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Filed under 20th Century, Comics, Fiction, Graphic Novel Reviews, Illustration, Literature, Novels, Russ Kick, The Graphic Canon