Tag Archives: Illustration

ECCC 2017 Interview: Daniel Warren Johnson and EXTREMITY

Daniel Warren Johnson at Emerald City Comicon 2017

Daniel Warren Johnson at Emerald City Comicon 2017

Daniel Warren Johnson is a freelance illustrator based in Chicago. Johnson’s webcomic, SPACE-MULLET, launched in 2012, got people’s attention. It is a quirky sci-fi tale following the adventures of such characters as Jonah, a stranded Space Marine from United Earth, and Alphius, a huge Zozobian who uses too much toilet paper. As Johnson told me, the whole experience of maintaining a webcomic turned out to be the perfect way to demonstrate to publishers how he navigates through a story. This process would lead him to the helm of his own comic book series, EXTREMITY, published by Skybound Entertainment, an imprint of Image Comics.

Daniel Warren Johnson's SPACE-MULLET

Daniel Warren Johnson’s SPACE-MULLET

The world of EXTREMITY, as Johnson states, is “visually stunning in keeping with the characters.” This is a barbaric and futuristic landscape. Think Mad Max. It is a world of extremes. Johnson’s writing process focuses on the characters first and builds out from there. At the forefront, is Thea, from the Roto Clan, who has been horribly wronged by the Paznina. What makes this story different from a typical revenge tale, Johnson told me, is that it is not just one person dealing with what happens next but an entire village.

ECCC variant for EXTREMITY #1

ECCC variant for EXTREMITY #1

Story is everything. Johnson’s method is to write out a script first, let that settle in, and then pursue the artwork. He says he could storyboard the whole thing out but it’s getting that script down that proves to be the most efficient.

Johnson has a very disarming personality. He has an immediate and direct way about him. As I sat in with him for a bit at Emerald City Comicon, he worked on some art while always engaging with visitors. “I invite folks to ask me anything,” he says. One thing that Johnson has become known for are his portraits where he renders his subject as a zombie. So, if you should meet up with Johnson, maybe you should ask him to draw you as a zombie.

Daniel Warren Johnson

Daniel Warren Johnson

Take a closer look at Johnson’s artwork and you’ll find that extra attention to detail. Johnson thanks an extensive art training background starting out when he was a kid and getting private lessons from a kind but determined Italian woman named, Rosetta. “I watch out for the details. If I’m going to draw a car, for instance, it is definitely going to look like a car.” But, for what finally got him where he is today, that he has to thank his wife for.

What Johnson foresees for himself, and hopes for the future of comics in general, is a focus on story, going deeper, beyond a “crafting of cool.” “You know, stories can come to and end too. The standard model is to keep characters going on forever. It can be refreshing to break that model, tell one character’s story from start to finish, and move on.”

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Filed under Comics, Daniel Warren Johnson, ECCC, Emerald City Comicon, Image Comics, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Seattle, Skybound Entertainment, Webcomics

Interview: Edward Sorel and a Grand Career in Illustration

Edward Sorel in his studio.

Edward Sorel in his studio.

Anyone interested in illustration, art, satire, or the specific art of drawing, will know something about the career of Edward Sorel. The work of Edward Sorel covers a wide spectrum resulting in a hefty portrait of the human condition, with a notable eye to speaking truth to power.

My interest in Edward Sorel runs deep. I checked out from my school’s library Sorel’s 1972 collection, “Making the World Safe for Hypocrisy.” It was 1973 and I was a sensitive and highly impressionable lad of 10 years-old. I was filling sketchbooks with portraits of Watergate personalities, both villains and heroes. I tore into that book and marveled over Sorel’s distinctive crosshatching and his lively expressive line work. I was in awe with how he brought to life various dignitaries, politicians, and movie stars. The gold standard had been set in my mind and it hasn’t changed ever since. What really wows me now goes back to my early introduction to the work of Edward Sorel.

Quotes from reviews for Mr. Sorel’s new book, “Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936,” published by Liveright/W.W. Norton & Company:

“Life is so unfair. I tore up the old linoleum in a grungy apartment I rented years ago and found under it only schmutz, hardened chewing gum and a torn ticket stub to ‘Moose Murders.’ Ed Sorel tears up the old linoleum in his apartment and finds yellowing newspapers with headlines screaming about a scandal that gave him material for a terrific book. Not only does he then write a terrific book, but he illustrates it with his wonderful caricature drawings. Who would figure that Mary Astor’s life would provide such entertaining reading, but in Sorel’s colloquial, eccentric style, the tale he tells is juicy, funny, and in the end, touching.”
—Woody Allen, The New York Times Book Review (cover review)

“Rapier-sharp…With a tip of his pen to Daumier, the artist evokes the quaint, febrile glamour of Astor’s Hollywood, and his affectionate, conversational prose gives Mary and her story a kind of valiant dignity never bestowed while she lived.”
—Edward Kosner, Wall Street Journal

“Delightful, colorful, and occasionally cheeky.”
—Allison Sadlier, Entertainment Weekly

From "Mary Astor's Purple Diary" by Edward Sorel

From “Mary Astor’s Purple Diary” by Edward Sorel

Edward Sorel (born Edward Schwartz, 26 March 1929, The Bronx) has recently released a book from Liveright/W.W. Norton. The book, entitled “Mary Astor’s Purple Diary” is about his lifelong obsession with film star Mary Astor but it’s also a memoir of a sort. You may have read Woody Allen’s review of the book in The New York Times Book Review. Allen had the honor of introducing many new readers to the opening story in the book: It is 1965 and Edward Sorel, newly married and settling into new digs, is left with the task of replacing the old linoleum kitchen tile. Lo and behold, buried underneath is a stash of old newspapers chronicling the scandalous 1936 custody battle of Hollywood star Mary Astor. Well, the rest is history and this most engaging book.

I interviewed Mr. Sorel this last Wednesday, February 8th. I hope you enjoy it.

HENRY CHAMBERLAIN: Turning our attention to Mary Astor, what is intriguing about her is that she had a life where one plus one kept equaling three. Despite a series of bad choices, whether in lovers or career options, Mary Astor managed to persevere. Is that part of the appeal, that she took such an offbeat path?

EDWARD SOREL:
The appeal came when I read her memoir. She was a self-denigrating and witty writer. Very observant. Somewhat cynical about Hollywood. She had an intelligence that appealed to me. Then I started seeing her movies and I was hooked on her. Her bad decisions that you refer to have to do with having had an abused childhood, not in any physical way but in a mental and psychological way.

Her father kept her from having friends because he didn’t want her to see how Americans lived, how Americans treated their children. He wanted to be the dictator of his home. And he succeeded. She was unable to break free from him until quite late in her life. And it kind of ruined her. And God knows she made a lot of terrible mistakes in her life.

Marry Astor and John Barrymore.

Marry Astor and John Barrymore.

I was watching 1924’s “Beau Brummell” and I am intrigued by the relationship Mary Astor developed with her co-star, John Barrymore, of all people. In their case, the twenty year age difference was inappropriate. However, it was what it was. And it was through Barrymore that Mary Astor learned a lot and gained self-confidence.

He did do her a lot of good but not for any altruistic reasons. He was out to nail her. He was on his way to Hollywood on the 20th Century Express. He had just completed the most successful run of “Hamlet” that America had seen. He was acclaimed as America’s greatest actor. He was on his way to the coast to make “Beau Brummell” for Warner Bros. because they were paying him a lot of money. And he picks up a magazine that has a photograph of Mary Astor about the age of 16 and under the photograph it said, “On the Verge of Womanhood.” Barrymore had a particular liking for virgins.

As I pointed out in the book, it was Barrymore who had his way with Evelyn Nesbitt, who later married Harry Kendall Thaw. And it was Thaw who shot Stanford White, America’s great architect, because he thought Stanford White had taken his wife’s virginity–when, in fact, it was Barrymore. That is a sidebar I’m proud of since I pieced together that bit of information.

According to Mary Astor, Barrymore really believed that he was going to marry her. And maybe he did plan to. But when Mary would not break free from her parents, after Barrymore offered her starring roles, because her father forbade it, Barrymore realized that she was just a child. She was completely under the sway of her father. Marrying a woman twenty years younger was one thing but marrying a child was something else. He broke her heart by calling it off.

I think it’s a cartoonist thing, as I’m a cartoonist, that we keep seeking out the offbeat. So, in the spirit of that I throw out a curveball, and ask you about your changing your last name to Sorel. You are referring to Stendhal’s “The Red and the Black.” I loved that book and the main character, Julian Sorel. Is there something interesting going on there with that connection?

I liked to think that I saw myself in Julian Sorel because he was like catnip to women, which I really wasn’t, and he hated the corrupt society of his time, as I hated mine. The first election that I voted in was the one between Eisenhower and Stevenson. I took a dim view of both of them and voted for a third party.

The other thing about Julian Sorel was that he hated his father. God, I certainly hated mine, not only because he tried to discourage me in wanting to be an artist but because he was a mean-spirited ignorant man not kind to my mother, not kind to anyone. And I didn’t want anything to do with him. I was going to be a cartoonist and I didn’t want to sign my name, Schwartz, in the right-hand corner. And I chose the name, Sorel, because of the novel. It seemed as good a name as any.

"Stagecoach." 1980 illustration for Esquire magazine.

“Stagecoach.” 1980 illustration for Esquire magazine.

I think back to myself as a boy wondering about how you created your work. You’ve spoken about “finding lines.” Could you share a little bit about that?

When you work commercially, and you’re taking assignments, you have to show the art director what you plan to do. So, you do sketches of the drawing you plan to do. And, after a while, I began to notice that my sketches had more vitality and life than my finishes did. My finishes were often dead and overworked. And so I tried to emulate the quality that I had in my sketches which meant doing it without tracing. In point of fact, that’s impossible to do if you’re doing very complicated scenes. You can work direct if you’re doing a face, a figure, a still life, or anything relatively simple. You can work direct without tracing and the work has a vitality to it. But when you’re doing complicated scenes, with many different elements, you really do have to know where you’re going. So, I found out that if I just had a light outline of where I wanted the elements to be, and didn’t trace, I could keep this sketchy quality that I think gave my art work some distinction.

"The Goodwood Races," 1939, by Feliks Topolski (1907-1989).

“The Goodwood Races,” 1939, by Feliks Topolski (1907-1989).

That quality of your art has influenced so many artists, whether they realize it or not. And, certainly, there have been other artists who have used an “expressive line.” You have talked about some of your favorites, like Feliks Topolski. There’s a certain sensibility that you both share.

Yes, well, he wasn’t trying to be funny like I always have. But his work has spontaneity, which I value in every artist. Wether its Bemelmans or Topolski. What shocks me now is to find so many artists who enjoy doing art work with a computer. I’ve seen some very nice computer art. You can get that nice flat color and can do all sorts of tricks that you can’t do by hand. But, to me, it doesn’t seem like fun. It seems like working on a machine. I just love the act of drawing. I’m a throwback. Most of the illustrations that you see today in magazines, and God knows you don’t see too many, are computer-generated in some form or another.

One compromise is for the artist to draw some of the illustration by hand, scan it, and do the rest on a computer.

It doesn’t seem fun to me but it must seem fun for them. I don’t cast aspersions on their way of doing it.

I think it boils down to being a time-saver. And, once a routine has set in, that’s the way it’s done and that’s it.

The other thing about computer art is that there’s nothing original, nothing to hang on the wall. You could have a show but it would only be prints. To each his own.

"Pass the Lord and Praise the Ammunition," 1967, by Edward Sorel

“Pass the Lord and Praise the Ammunition,” 1967, by Edward Sorel

I wanted to touch on one of the all-time classics, your 1967 anti-war illustration, “Pass the Lord and Praise the Ammunition.” The real life punchline there is that you were all set to roll out a poster when the focal point of the piece, Cardinal Spellman, passed away rendering your satire unsellable. Now, there’s some divine intervention.

The day it came off the press is the day he died. It never sold in any store in America. It is in a museum in Amsterdam. One store in Chicago tried to sell it and had its window broken. Apparently, Cardinal Spellman had some fans in Chicago. That was a bad break. You get some bad breaks and you get some good ones. I was the recipient of Woody Allen’s praise on the front page of The New York Times Book Review. That was the best break I ever had.

From "Edward Sorel: Nice Work If You Can Get It," 2011, by Leo Sorel.

From “Edward Sorel: Nice Work If You Can Get It,” 2011, by Leo Sorel.

I encourage everyone to check out the short film on you that your son, Leo, did. That is quite informative and a treat. It shows you in your studio. And then the Q&A afterward with illustrator James McMullan is very impressive. Towards the end of that, you talk about the pen you favor, a Speedball B6. I’ve always had a devil of a time with steel point dip pens. But the Speedballs I could manage. And then you flip it backwards to get the crosshatching.

Yes! That was my secret. The Speedball does move and it allows you to be kind of spastic over a piece of paper.

"Nixon and Mao," 2007, The New Yorker.

“Nixon and Mao,” 2007, The New Yorker.

I wanted to ask you about Donald Trump. There was that drawing of him as Medusa you did last year. The big news at the moment is all about Mitch McConnell silencing Elizabeth Warren. I could see that as perhaps triggering an Edward Sorel drawing.

I can’t cope with Donald Trump. I haven’t done political cartooning in a number of years. I can’t deal with him. With all other presidents, you could make fun of their hypocrisy and have fun with them. But Mr. Trump is kind of crazy. And he’s dangerous. He’s cruel. Making fun of him doesn’t seem what’s called for. It’s trivializing him. He shouldn’t be trivialized. He’s really a danger. People are really scared. They wake up with Donald Trump on their mind and they go to bed with him on their mind. He’s a heavy presence in our lives now. I don’t know how to deal with that.

You can’t call him the new Nixon. At least with Nixon, there was a mind at work. It’s being very generous, but there was some sense of integrity compared to Trump. Nixon you could call a president. But, with Trump, he’s president only by title.

He seems unhinged. I think it was Bernie Sanders who called him unhinged. He seems too crazy to be in that office. I don’t know what else to say about him.

Donald Trump illustration, 2016, for Vanity Fair.

Donald Trump illustration, 2016, for Vanity Fair.

Especially living it right now. It is stomach-turning. I won’t talk about him anymore. But I do need to mention Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of Sean Spicer. Have you seen that?

No, tell me about it. I’ve been trying to avoid the news lately.

Well, Melissa McCarthy is a comic genius and she was on Saturday Night Live last weekend. She did a spot on impersonation of Sean Spicer, had the look and mannerisms down.

Oh, wait, I did see that! A friend sent that to me.

I think that has the power of a political cartoon and then some. It captivated everyone. It was an emotional release for everyone to see that.

Yes, I’m sure it was. It was very funny.

It seems to me that every artist needs a hero, someone to play off of. I see your book, weaving your life with Mary’s, as following the artist’s struggle. I think of how Mary evolved. I think of how Mary and Bette Davis were able to rewrite “The Great Lie,” turning that around into a notable film.

She did become a very fine actress. But she also became a little bit like her father, terribly obsessed with money. She twice turned down contracts for starring roles since she believed supporting roles would provide a longer career. She did indeed have a long career. She was in over 100 movies. And she was going strong until about 1959. She didn’t take chances. Maybe she didn’t believe she was a good enough actress. She missed having a chance at great roles and great performances. That was too bad.

My obsession with her has to do with my thinking I wasn’t a great artist because I didn’t have an obsession. So, I was very grateful when people called my interest in Mary Astor an obsession. Yes, it was an obsession and I do think it helped produce my best work.

"Mary Astor's Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936" by Edward Sorel

“Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936” by Edward Sorel

Can you tell us about your connection with Boston University?

I was very lucky to have Boston University buy my entire work, my oeuvre, as we say. In March, they’re having a retrospective of all my work and, as a matter of fact, I’m still packing up things to send there.

The Howard Gottlieb Center at Boston University has one of the finest collections from all walks of life. They have the second largest Martin Luther King collection. They have many of America’s great writers. They have Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They have most of the actors and actresses from the golden age of Hollywood. I’m very delighted to be part of this collection.

Mural by Edward Sorel at The Waverly Inn, completed in 2007. From left to right: Eddie Condon, Donald Barthelme, Willa Cather, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Jane Jacobs, John Sloan, and Andy Warhol.

Mural by Edward Sorel at The Waverly Inn, completed in 2007. From left to right: Eddie Condon, Donald Barthelme, Willa Cather, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Jane Jacobs, John Sloan, and Andy Warhol.

I heard a siren in the background. It brings back my visits to New York. You are a lifelong New Yorker and I know how much you love New York. Could you share some of your thoughts on the city?

I do love New York. I don’t love the crowds anymore. I do worry. When you live in a city like New York, you do begin to see a kind of science fiction future: crowds everywhere, lines everywhere. New York is kind of becoming that. They keep building these enormous skyscrapers without thinking about how the city will accommodate it. They’re not building out, like they did in Los Angeles. They’re building up. It used to be that the only crowds were in midtown but now crowds are all over. And you find yourself walking in the gutter because there’s too many people on the sidewalk.

So, yeah, I love New York. The New York that I grew up with, where the museums were free and everyone went to public school, seems to have vanished. Everything is expensive now, including the museums. It’s very difficult for young people. When The New York Times that I used to buy for three cents is now $2.50, The New Yorker which I used to buy for ten cents, is now something like $7, it’s bizarre. And, of course, the wages that young people get are pitiful. So, yeah, I love New York but I don’t like the time particularly.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

I can tell you about my next book. It’s going to be similar in structure to the Mary Astor book. It’s going to be a memoir. It will be about my growing up in New York. And it will be about the thirteen presidents that I’ve lived through.

My point is that every one of these presidents, whether I liked them or not, committed illegal acts, overthrew governments illegally, and did unconstitutional things. Starting with Dwight D. Eisenhower, who became enamored with Billy Graham. It was through those machinations that they put “In God We Trust” on our currency and inserted “Under God” in our oath of allegiance. Somehow, I regard that point in history as the slope we’ve been sliding ever since.

Now, it’s done so garishly with someone like Trump.

Right. Trump, the great Christian, who apparently was much loved by the Bible Belt. I don’t think there’s anything more derogatory I can say about organized religion than that they were responsible for the election of Donald Trump.

Is part of the new book you’re working on sitting on your drawing board?

Not yet. A little bit is sitting on the computer. Nothing has been drawn yet.

I wish you well on that. It’s been exciting and quite a treat to get a chance to talk with you for a bit.

You’re very kind. Thank you so much.

You can listen to the interview right here.

“Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936” is a 176-page hardcover, with full-color illustrations, published by W.W. Norton & Company. For more details, visit W.W. Norton & Company right here.

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Filed under Art, Cartooning, Cartoonists, Donald Trump, Edward Sorel, Illustration, Interviews, New York City, Political Cartoons, politics, Richard Nixon

Book Review: ‘Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936’ by Edward Sorel

"Mary Astor's Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936" by Edward Sorel

“Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936” by Edward Sorel

If you are a fan of glamorous old Hollywood, then I have a book for you. It is a racy and juicy tale told by a masterful storyteller. I’ve always admired Edward Sorel‘s artwork with its caricatures that seem to pierce into his subject’s soul. Edward Sorel has written, and illustrated, a fresh look at Hollywood legend Mary Astor and interlaced her story with his own in “Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936,” published by Liveright Publishing Company, a division of W.W. Norton & Company. This is mainly a prose book but it is generously filled with Sorel’s illustrations, over sixty original paintings. The prose is as elegant, urbane, and idiosyncratic as his art.

Mary faints during her first talking picture, 1930's "Ladies Love Brutes."

Mary faints during her first talking picture, 1930’s “Ladies Love Brutes.”

As a writer and cartoonist, I am here to tell you that it is the idiosyncratic person who gets a project like this about the elusive Mary Astor off the ground. That is what sets Edward Sorel apart and makes his work so distinctive. Sorel confides in the reader every step of the way. It was 1965 that Sorel first embarked upon his quest. It all began with lifting old rotting kitchen linoleum from his railroad apartment. Buried at the bottom were newspapers from 1936. The big story was the custody trial of Hollywood star Mary Astor, which included her infamous “purple diary.”

Edward meets Mary!

Edward meets Mary!

Sorel runs out of old newspapers before he can find out the end of the story. But he’s hooked. He vows to investigate further. The end result is this book, which moves at a steady clip as it transports us from Mary’s humble origins on the outskirts of Quincy, Illinois, raised by domineering parents, to Hollywood in the 1920s, Mary a rising child star, still saddled with domineering parents. Poor Mary never seems to figure out how to stand up for herself when it comes to finding a mate either. At one point, Mary turns down a contract with RKO strictly for starring roles. Then she follows that up with a hasty marriage. Sorel shakes his head and raises his fists on the page and the reader can’t help but do the same. Mary’s choices will continue to be bad before they get better. Mary’s ultimate bad choice will entangle none other than the most celebrated man on Broadway, George S. Kaufman.

Edward finds Nancy!

Edward finds Nancy!

Life, in all its glorious absurdity and majesty, is on parade in Sorel’s book. With a combination of the whimsical and the world-weary, Sorel weaves a tale that includes a supernatural meeting between Sorel and Mary from beyond the grave. And, the high point for me, Sorel shares with us how he met Nancy, the love of his life. Throughout, what emerges is the story of the artist’s struggle, both of Edward Sorel and Mary Astor. Both could have used another pat on the back and moral support. Both certainly earned it.

While Mary Astor would be the last to claim to be anyone’s role model, she proved to be more than capable to rise to the occasion. That is clear to see for all time in her role as Brigid O’Shaughnessy in 1941’s “The Maltese Falcon.” Mr. Sorel’s book provides his unique and quirky take on Astor’s life and helps us to better appreciate how she blossomed at pivotal times in her life. If you are looking for a definitive tell-all, this is not that kind of book. This is more of an expanded essay, an intelligent conversation. You can be new to the facts discussed or you can be quite familiar with them already. I dare say, it is just the sort of book, with its dry wit and cosmopolitan flavor, that Mary Astor would approve of.

“Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936” is a 176-page hardcover, with full-color illustrations, published by W.W. Norton & Company. For more details, visit W.W. Norton & Company right here.

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Filed under Biography, Book Reviews, Books, Edward Sorel, Hollywood, Humphrey Bogart, Illustration, Mary Astor, Noir, Old Hollywood, Silent Movies, W. W. Norton & Company

Resist Trump: The Trump Era is Unleashed

RESIST TRUMP! Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

RESIST TRUMP! Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

As the Trump era unfolds, the opposition unfolds too. From USUncut:

Some of these numbers are subject to change, but the historically massive scale of this protest can not be denied. The protests in Washington D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City alone totals over 2 million people. Over 670 marches took place worldwide, with thousands of people also taking part in demonstrations in Tokyo, Dublin, Capetown, Paris, Vienna, and Yangon, to name a few.

For up-to-date estimates, independently calculated by USUncut and resistant house District 13, you can click here.

Nathan Wellman is a Los Angeles-based journalist, author, and playwright. Follow him on Twitter: @LightningWOW

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Filed under Donald Trump, Editorial Cartoons, news, Political Cartoons, politics, Protest, Resist Trump, USUncut

Graphic Novel Review: ‘Steve McQueen in Le Mans’

"Steve McQueen in Le Mans" by Sandro Garbo and Garbo Studio

“Steve McQueen in Le Mans” by Sandro Garbo and Garbo Studio

“Steve McQueen in Le Mans” is a new graphic novel by Swiss artist Sandro Garbo that brings to life in heroic fashion a movie steeped in heroic fashion. It’s more than that. This is what a graphic novel can do when it aims for the stars and pulls out all the stops. This is the first book in a series and it knocks your socks off!

The pit crew gathers.

The pit crew gathers.

If you were a young and hip guy, like Steve McQueen, you not only closely followed race car driving, you were a race car driver. Certainly, the popularity of racing has never dimmed. But it was definitely riding a special crest of cool in McQueen’s day. In 1970, McQueen decided to honor his passion by starring in a film about a fictional 24-hour race at Le Mans. While the movie was not a box office hit, it has become a cult favorite. What Sandro Garbo and his team of artists have done is give the whole movie project a high sheen of luster capturing the excitement in a most compelling manner.

The worlds of comics and cinema are both similar and quite distinct from each other. Some things that work in a movie do not carry over so well in comics or will work in a whole different way. Where the movie, with its heavy cinéma vérité style allows the camera to gorge on each and every detail it picks up, this graphic novel adaptation chooses wisely on what to focus upon.

Gambling with your life.

Gambling with your life.

Garbo Studio has distilled what makes the McQueen movie so cool. A lot of what is going on in the movie, and in this book, is a study in cool. I’m not sure there’s one thing wrong with the movie except for satisfying more of a niche audience. The graphic novel, by virtue of its audacious vision, exemplary composition and artistry, simply soars on its own unique merits.

Essentially, all you need to know is that Steve McQueen plays the role of race car driver Michael Delaney. He has a rival who he is determined to give his comeuppance. There are thrills and chills. Both the movie and the book are visually gorgeous in their own ways. Both are as cool as hell. This is a big coffee table art book that will satisfy just about anyone, no prior interest in race cars required.

“Steve McQueen in Le Mans” is a 64-page full-color hardcover, 10″ x 13.5,” published by Garbo Studio. For more details, and how to purchase, visit Garbo Studio right here.

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Filed under Cars, Classic Cars, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Illustration, Sports, Steve McQueen

Review: ‘How to Draw Sci-Fi Utopias and Dystopias’ by Prentis Rollins

"How to Draw Sci-Fi Utopias and Dystopias" by Prentis Rollins

“How to Draw Sci-Fi Utopias and Dystopias” by Prentis Rollins

I want to share with you a book that really speaks to me as an artist and storyteller. I’d been meaning to write a review of it for quite some time and then it struck me last night as to what to say here. This is one of those books with the goal of art instruction that really gets it! And it is considerably helped along by its niche focus! Are you into science fiction? Would you like to draw work that perfectly fits into that genre? Well, then, here’s the book for you: “How to Draw Sci-Fi Utopias and Dystopias” by Prentis Rollins, published by Monacelli Press.

This is the ultimate guide for illustrators at all levels on how to fine tune their sci-fi imagery. You get the very best advice from Prentis Rollins, a DC Comics veteran (Rebirth, Supergirl, and Batman: The Ultimate Evil). Given the opportunity, I would love to pick his brain. But, let me tell you, this book is the next best thing as Rollins takes a very accessible and conversational tone throughout his instruction filled to the brim with examples. There are 32 step-by-step case studies in all created and imagined especially for this book.

Whether you are attempting to create a compelling utopia or dystopia, it all comes back to basics. Here is a book that goes through the building blocks all the way to sophisticated techniques to really rock your world. Rollins is certainly not alone in stressing a need to master the fundamentals before veering off to pursue your own thing. In fact, he implores you to not rely too heavily upon emulating the work of others. However, he also emphasizes the very real need to be inspired by others.

For Rollins, he has two main influences: American artist Syd Mead (Blade Runner, Star Trek: The Motion Picture); and the Swiss surrealist painter H.R. Giger (Alien). As Rollins is quick to point out, these two artists could not be further apart from each other. Mead is logical, clean, and rational. Giger is morbid and nightmarish. You could place one in the utopian camp and the other in the dystopian camp. And that falls well into the theme that Rollins pursues: a close look at science fiction imagery, both utopian and dystopian.

A utopian scene

A utopian scene

Consider these examples, among the many you’ll find in this book. One shows you a scene more in the vein of Syd Mead.

A dystopian scene

A dystopian scene

While the other shows you a scene more in the vein of H.R. Giger. And, yet, both resonate a certain way of doing things that is all Prentis Rollins. And that, my friend, is the whole point of the book. I hope you’ll get a chance to pick up a copy for yourself or for someone you know who would get a kick out of such an impressive art instruction book.

“How to Draw Sci-Fi Utopias and Dystopias” is a 208-page trade paperback in full color. For more details and how to purchase, visit Monacelli Press right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Batman, DC Comics, DC Entertainment, Illustration, Monacelli Press, Prentis Rollins, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Supergirl, Superman

Interview: WREN McDONALD on Comics, Illustration, and SP4RX

Wren McDonald self-portrait

Wren McDonald self-portrait

Wren McDonald is a cartoonist and illustrator. His illustrations appear in The New York Times, The New Yorker, GQ, The Washington Post, The Hollywood Reporter, and many other places. His first full-length graphic novel, a quirky cyberpunk thriller, “SP4RX,” was recently published by Nobrow Press.

If you are in the New York City metro area this weekend, you can see Wren at Comic Arts Brooklyn. CAB is taking place this weekend with the main event this Saturday, November 5th, at Mt. Carmel Gymnasium, 12 Havemeyer Street, from 11am to 7pm, in beautiful Brooklyn! You can find Wren at CAB, downstairs at Table D31.

Wren McDonald has shot like a rocket since graduating from Ringling College of Art and Design in 2013. Wren has a refreshing take on both comics and illustrations: a rare set of skills, talent, passion, and drive. So, without further ado, here is my interview with Wren McDonald, recorded this Wednesday, as he prepares for Comic Arts Brooklyn.

HENRY CHAMBERLAIN: Wren, if we were to do a virtual tour of your studio, what would we find there?

WREN McDONALD: Well, my studio is my bedroom. So, here’s my bed and here’s my desk. That’s my studio! (Laughter)

That’s the set of circumstances for a lot of cartoonists and illustrators, isn’t it?

Yeah, especially living in New York. It just doesn’t make much financial sense to have a separate studio. But I have plenty of room here. It’s pretty spacious. I can spread out and get my work done. I have a super big desk and an iMac. And I actually have (laughs) the extended studio in the living room! There I have a Lasergraph copier where I print out my mini-comics and zines.

That’s for serious cartoonists.

Oh, yeah!

“Did Trump and Clinton Get a Pass on Education?” illustration for The New Yorker by Wren McDonald

“Did Trump and Clinton Get a Pass on Education?” illustration for The New Yorker by Wren McDonald

I direct folks who are new to your work to go to your website, wrenmcdonald.com. There you will find a cornucopia of stuff. I’m focusing on one of your current illustrations of Trump and Clinton and they are both sitting in a classroom. These two are hyperreal, larger-than-life, cartoonish. You can’t make them up. Could you give us a window into how you created that illustration?

That illustration was funny because I got the assignment the day before it was due, which was also the day before I was traveling to MICE Expo in Boston, a comics show that I was just at this last weekend. That was like a super rush job which was really intense. The art director at The New Yorker, Rina Kushnir, who is super great, I work with her a lot, she emailed me the article. She said it was last minute but she asked if I could do it. And I said, yes, of course.

Rina needed sketches in the morning and then the final that evening, around 5pm or 6pm. So, that morning, I sent in like four sketches. They were sort of goofy and funny. Like you say, these candidates are already cartoony so it’s easy to characterize them. Rina chose the one she liked. That was at noon. From that point, I got to work on the final and sent it over in the evening.

Those jobs are always pretty stressful but I enjoy doing them a lot because I feel that I work really hard and get a real day’s work in and have something to show for it.

It’s a beautiful illustration.

Thank you.

I wanted to ask you about your evolving into the illustrator you are today. Your work is appearing everywhere. Only a few years ago you were in Florida just starting out. Could you give us the cook’s tour of how you got where you are today.

Sure, I graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design, which is in Sarasota, Florida, in 2013. When I was in school, I had a website and was posting things on social media, like Tumblr, and I think that helped me get my feet off the ground in terms of people seeing my work.

From that point, I started going to comics shows like TCAF in Toronto, Comic Arts Brooklyn, and MoCCA. I tabled at TCAF and other shows I would just go to. I’d have mini-comics to give out to help make people aware of me. It’s two different paths, comics and illustration, so I’ll talk about them separately.

The illustration stuff is, like I say, social media and tracking down email contacts and networking. And a lot of promotional stuff. You want to create a portfolio that really looks like editorial illustration. Editorial work has a snowball effect. You start to get jobs and you’re seen as a professional.

CYBER REALM by Wren McDonald

CYBER REALM by Wren McDonald

The comics stuff is going to shows and socializing. I was approached by Peow! Studio, based in Sweden, about publishing one of my short stories in of one of their anthologies, “Time Capsule.” I thought that was super cool since I was familiar with their work. I was super excited. I think that was the first comics story that I had published out in the world besides my own stuff online, on Tumblr. Soon after that, I talked to Nobrow about doing a short story (CYBER REALM) for their 17×23 series which is a platform to try out new talent. That’s a small format, just 24 pages. We did that and enjoyed working together. So, Nobrow said they wanted to try something longer. That’s what I wanted to do so it worked out that way.

It’s amazing how quickly things came together. Did you already have an idea of what SP4RX was going to be like while you were working on CYBER REALM or did one work just follow the other?

I didn’t have one story cocked and loaded beforehand. I always hear other cartoonists, or writers, when they talk about their work, saying they had this story they’d been working on since they were 10 years-old and it’s part of an epic world they’ve created. I’m not one of those people. When I sit down to write a story it’s about brainstorming and anything that peaks my interest.

For SP4RX, I’ve always been interested in the cyberpunk genre, especially movies and comics. I wanted to work in that genre. I was already creating work dealing with technology, robots, and dystopian settings. I think it just made a lot of sense to me.

We’re always hearing about the digital versus the physical. I direct people to the comic you did for The Comics Journal. How did that come about?

I’m not sure if Nobrow contacted The Comics Journal, or the other way around, but The Comics Journal approached me about doing one of their A Cartoonist Diary columns. I was all for it since I have the attitude of wanting to try something out and make it work. I had not done diary comics before so I had to think about how to do this. Mine is not a traditional diary comic since it has these fantastical elements to it. Despite it being involved with things I was experiencing, the more apt title to it turned out to be “Not A Cartoonist Diary.” That was a fun project.

Over the years, illustration is deemed dead and then it comes right back. It all runs in cycles. You’re firmly in both the world of comics and illustrations. Some cartoonists, I know, have never printed mini-comics nor done the comic fest circuit. But you love that.

Right! I love making comics, reading comics, and telling stories. I am passionate about my comics work because I am able to draw what I want to draw. Illustration is a fun back and forth since it involves work that I would not necessarily choose to draw: it’s more like a puzzle. Okay, how do I use these images to convey a specific idea, very concisely, to pair with the article? It’s a fun back and forth. Maybe I’ve been working on comics for two weeks straight, and then I get an editorial assignment. That’s great, I can take a break from comics and do an illustration, take a break from having my face too close to the page and switch my train of thought–and vice versa.

SP4RX by Wren McDonald

SP4RX by Wren McDonald

If we were just chatting, we’d end up talking about books and movies, especially science fiction and cyberpunk. I imagine that “Videodrome” must be a favorite for you.

I do love “Videodrome.” David Cronenberg is amazing but I don’t think that “Videodrome” had a specific influence on SP4RX. Instead, concerning SP4RX, I had just read William Gibson’s “Neuromancer,” which I thought was like the coolest book ever. It is considered “cool.” I wanted to make something “super cool” like that! I’d always been into “Akira” by Katsuhiro Otomo. And “Ghost in the Shell” by Masamune Shirow and his Appleseed series. And movies like Paul Verhoeven’s “Total Recall” or “Robocop.” Or James Cameron’s “Terminator II.” “The Matrix.” “Aliens.” Stuff like that. I wanted to do something in the vein of that genre.

Let’s focus back on SP4RX: a super hacker going up against corporate enslavement. How close are we today to corporate enslavement?

There’s a lot of parallels that I was drawing from. Basic stuff that I’d see on the news. Even just going about my day-to-day, going shopping or whatever, that would end up in SP4RX. It’s a world with hover cars and sci-fi elements but there are plenty of parallels to our real world throughout. For example, I’d be watching some crazy video on YouTube with one newscaster harassing another newscaster and I would basically copy and paste that into the book. Within a sci-fi setting, you can focus on the human element. You don’t get caught up in a specific nation or political agenda. It’s just people in this science fiction world.

Everyone may not get a hover car but we’ve got plenty of the weird and nefarious stuff already. What do you think about Edward Snowden and us being monitored? The future is here.

Yeah, it makes me think that the cyberpunk genre and movement is more relevant than ever. When the internet was first coming about, that genre seemed so cheesy. It’s fun to laugh about it but there’s so much of it that’s relevant. Like you say, that NSA stuff is really happening. It’s important to pay attention to that and be aware.

Panel excerpt from SP4RX

Panel excerpt from SP4RX

Is there anything you’d like folks to know about that you are currently doing?

It depends upon when you think this post will go up. There’s Comic Arts Brooklyn this weekend.

I can push things up and get this out by Friday. I’d love to go to CAB. I have my own book I’m working on that is very much science fiction oriented. It’s about the science fiction writer George Clayton Johnson. His career and life’s journey has a very intriguing arc. He began with writing the story for the Rat Pack classic, “Ocean’s Eleven” and crescendoed with co-writing the novel that was the basis for the cult classic, “Logan’s Run.”

Oh, yeah, that movie has a nice sci-fi cheesy quality.

Well, the thing with George was that he kept to his set of values and the integrity of his storytelling. “Logan’s Run” is an example of a big studio having its own ideas on what the story should be. It’s totally fun though and I think a remake would be great. The original novel is very different. I think you’d enjoy it.

I will check it out.

Comic Arts Brooklyn

Comic Arts Brooklyn

But getting back to CAB.

Yes, I will be at Comic Arts Brooklyn this Saturday, November 5th. You can find me downstairs at Table D31. So, come by and say hello! And I have a new mini-comic that will debut at CAB and then be available on my site which is called, “Dirt Dart,” a 12-page story about a soldier lost on another planet.

Well, it’s been fun talking with you, Wren. I know that you’re having the time of your life.

Yes, staying busy!

Thanks so much, Wren.

Thank you, Henry. When you’re in New York, stop by and we can have a drink.

Will do.

You can listen to the interview by clicking the link below. I did not make any edits so you’ll pick up on some slight differences from the transcription which is a smoother read. One thing to mention here is that I was not aware of the title, SP4RX, being pronounced “Sparks.” I must have been firmly in the mindset of George Lucas and his 1971 classic, THX 1138:

SP4RX is out now. Find it at Nobrow Press right here. Visit Wren McDonald right here. And, if you are in the New York City metro area, be sure to visit Comic Arts Brooklyn this weekend. Visit CAB right here.

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Filed under Brooklyn, Comic Arts Brooklyn, Comics, Cyberpunk, George Clayton Johnson, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Interviews, Logan's Run, New York City, Nobrow Press, Sci-Fi, science fiction, The Comics Journal, Wren McDonald

Kickstarter: Seymour Chwast’s AT WAR WITH WAR

"At War with War: An Illustrated Timeline of 5000 Years of Conquests, Invasions, and Terrorist Attacks" by Seymour Chwast

“At War with War: An Illustrated Timeline of 5000 Years of Conquests, Invasions, and Terrorist Attacks” by Seymour Chwast

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez flanking a Seymour Chwast poster, 1964. Photo: Courtesy SVA Picture Collection.

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez flanking a Seymour Chwast poster, 1964. Photo: Courtesy SVA Picture Collection.

Legendary graphic designer Seymour Chwast has chosen to run a Kickstarter campaign in support of his latest book project, “At War with War.” Kickstarter, at its heart, is community based. And the issue of war resonates with each and every community. What Chwast has done is review war in a unique way by illustrating five centuries of conflict, chaos, and violence on a continuous timeline. The book is made up of 35 two-page spreads featuring a series of Chwast’s black-and-white pen-and-ink drawings and woodcuts. The Kickstarter campaign will run from 26 April to 7 June 2016. You can find it right here.

Anti-war poster by Chwast, 1968

Anti-war poster by Chwast, 1968

Subversive. Personal. Obsessive. Radical. There is no mistaking the work of Seymour Chwast. As co-founder with Milton Glaser of Push Pin Studios, he led a revolution in graphic design producing bold, vibrant work that pushed the limits of nearly every visual medium: posters, advertisements, book jackets, magazine covers, album covers, product packaging, typography, and children’s books. His pioneering role as a designer, author, and activist continues to influence and inspire 21st-century designers.

Seymour Chwast and Milton Glaser at Push Pin Studios, 1968

Seymour Chwast and Milton Glaser at Push Pin Studios, 1968

For more than six decades, Chwast, who celebrates his 85th birthday this year, has used his signature blend of design, illustration, and social commentary to wage a campaign against war.

Excerpt from AT WAR WITH WAR

Excerpt from AT WAR WITH WAR

Chwast finds, “It’s the ongoing relentlessness of the thing, the seemingly never-ending urge to resolve disputes with deadly conflict, century after century. That’s the nagging notion through the years that keeps bringing me back to the subject of war.”

Excerpt from AT WAR WITH WAR

Excerpt from AT WAR WITH WAR

Among Kickstarter rewards offered to backers, Chwast has opened the doors to his archive, with both new and vintage items. Included among the special items are three of Chwast’s personal copies of his first antiwar publication, A Book of Battles, which he self published in 1957; his Vietnam War era poster “War is Good Business, Invest Your Son”; and a one-of-a kind four-color mechanical for a book he wrote with Steve Heller.

Seymour Chwast, at work, 2016

Seymour Chwast, at work, 2016

Be part of a significant book, “At War with War: An Illustrated Timeline of 5000 Years of Conquests, Invasions, and Terrorist Attacks.” The Kickstarter campaign seeks funding for the production of the book, which will involve a master letterpress printer and a specialised process used for creating fine and limited editions. At War with War will include an introduction by former editor and publisher of The Nation, Victor Navasky and edited by renowned graphic design writer, Steven Heller.

Excerpt from AT WAR WITH WAR

Excerpt from AT WAR WITH WAR

The Kickstarter campaign runs run from 26 April to 7 June 2016, and you can find it right here.

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Filed under Crowdfunding, Edward Sorel, Graphic Design, Kickstarter, Milton Glaser, New York City, pop culture, Protest, Push Pin Studios, seymour chwast

ECCC 2016: The Business of Comics

Alex de Campi, author of Smoke/Ashes, Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight, Lady Zorro, Valentine, and more.

Alex de Campi, author of Smoke/Ashes, Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight, Lady Zorro, Valentine, and more.

“Living is hard. Creating is harder. I am here for you on the weeks you write zero words and the weeks you only write 500 and the weeks it all flows out of you like salt water and you’ve written 10,000. I see you when you look back over it and wonder if any of it is any damn good at all. Keep it. It’s good. Keep going. You can edit when you are done.”

Alex de Campi

You are so right, Alex! The above words are from a writer who knows the struggle front and back. I am with you, Alex. As a writer and artist, I get kicked twice. Do I have good work out there for people to see? Of course! Look here! Do I stop and ponder what happens next? Sure. But I’ve been at this long enough where I am not seeking approval. I am not asking permission to create. And, best of all, I am never stopping. Criticism, I have come to see time and time again, is all too often faulty. You take what you need from reviews. You take what you need from rejections. And you take what you need when you do get that beloved approval. Alright, with all that said, I share with you one of the most insightful panels on the whole business of comics. It came on the last day, on the last hour, of Emerald City Comicon: Running Your Career Like a Business, moderated by Marissa Louise.

The Business of Comics. Yes, it’s not all fun and games, as the actual creators of pop culture content can tell you. Consider this: legendary artists on iconic characters like Batman and Superman can be found at conventions doing sketches for forty dollars just so they can keep up with their medical bills. It’s not a pretty picture but that is what can happen to some in the comics industry. Rest assured, comics is an industry even at the indie level. It’s just a matter of how savvy you strive to be.

The general rule of thumb is that you want to mix and match what you do. Sure, everyone wants to be part of one of the superhero properties they grew up with as a kid. Who doesn’t want to work on a Spider-Man book? Just keep in mind that it will be more of an honor than a financial boon. However, the name recognition helps to bring readers over to your own original project. A cycle begins. Your creator-owned work will catch the eyes of the big publishers leading to another big title project. Rinse and repeat.

C. Spike Trotman and David  Walker

C. Spike Trotman and David Walker

Down the road, you gain in stature, your work is in demand, and you get paid what you deserve. As the panelists were quick to point out, there will be many bumps in the road. Even when you make it, you will still fall, and you need to prepare to make it again. David Walker shared his story about writing for the popular Marvel Comics revival of “Power Man and Iron Fist.” “It’s like the monkey’s paw. Be careful what you wish for. I signed over a thousand books for fans this weekend. But I did not actually sell any books.”

One of the biggest questions posed by aspiring creatives is, “How does it all start?” Alex de Campi offered up the quote by Peter Schjeldahl: “You move to a city. You hang out in bars. You form a gang, turn it into a scene, and turn that into a movement.” But, just as essential, de Campi was quick to emphasize: “You need to be careful about contracts. Get a good attorney!”

C. Spike Trotman of Iron Circus Comics, the most successful cartoonist on Kickstarter with a number of quality projects funded, is the first to say that the indie route is great but it will be a slow process. Leila del Duca, a member of the creative collective, Helioscope, would recommend working as a group if possible but she seemed just as open to working alone. In many ways, there is no one road map to success. And, as artist Alison Sampson will tell you, at some point, you need to do what your heart tells you to do. At age 46, Sampson returned to her love of comics and she has no regrets.

Ultimately, remain fierce. Things will fall into place in due time.

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Filed under C. Spike Trotman, Comics, David Walker, ECCC, Emerald City Comicon

Review: POP PAINTING by Camilla d’Errico

Pop Painting Watson-Guptill

“Pop Painting,” published by Watson-Guptill, is an essential guide for artists and anyone interested in contemporary art. The art world can seem like a murky and mysterious place depending upon where you look. However, some things about art are pretty straightforward: successful art requires a focus on theme coupled with a dedication to craft. I know this as an artist and art lover. As a working artist, I juggle a number of tasks. And, at those times when I could use some inspiration, I’m always pleased to find great art books from Watson-Guptill that demystify and enlighten.

Pop Painting Watson-Guptill 2016

Camilla d’Errico is a professional artist who follows a certain routine and way of seeing the world. She presents a highly engaging collection of work that falls within the category of Pop Surrealism. This is an art movement that, in a nutshell, takes various elements in pop culture and places them in a dream-like environment. The results can be quite stunning. In her new 248-page full color book, “Pop Painting,” d’enrico shares with the reader her views and her methods. She takes an honest step-by-step approach providing real examples with real solutions.

Pop Painting Camilla dErrico

In the world of art and art-making, there are many things that remain constant and always will be: art training still involves life drawing, perspective, and actual hands-on work. As we bring in other disciplines, we still respect, and need, traditional methods. In the last twenty years, right alongside digital art, we have seen an explosion in interest in art-making stemming from the basic sources of drawing and painting. This had led to the comics medium being acknowledged as an art form in its own right. And this is something that Watson-Guptill has whole-heartedly embraced with books specifically on all aspects of comics from drawing to writing. So, it is no surprise to see this latest book, “Pop Painting,” with its unique focus on Pop Surrealism. It will be of interest to anyone, from the generalist to the specific fan. For more details, visit our friends at Watson-Guptill right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Drawing, Painting, Pop Surrealism, Watson-Guptill Publications