Channel the entity "Jeff Parker" from beyond the Ether

Friday, January 14, 2005

Day of the Dude 

A few weeks ago we had an eventful day at Mercury Studio. Steve Lieber reminds us that a young cartoonist is coming by for advice and pointers, a college kid directed to us by Matt Wagner. Upon meeting Aaron, we're happy to see that his sample pages are mostly concerned with telling a clear story, and he does the exact right thing by listening to critique without getting defensive. He even takes notes, which impresses everyone. This brings out the gasbag in each of us, and Aaron gets an earful of everyone's theories on what makes good comicbooks and drawing.

Then Paul Guinan calls to let us know that Steve Rude is in town and that he's bringing the famous creator of Nexus by Mercury in a few minutes. Aaron gets to see the pecking order in stark relief as we scurry to our workstations to clean up, hiding any art or comics we might be embarrassed for "The Dude" to see. Guinan and Rude arrive, and even though we see him at conventions often during the year, it still feels like a Senator or Special Guest Star has shown up. When Rude sees that a new kid is in town to learn, he plops down on the couch to go over his pages the same way he did with me over ten years ago in Pasadena. For the full effect, Matthew Clark donates some of his vellum so Steve can do one of his famous tracing paper critiques.

There's nothing like having someone who knows the human form from every possible angle show you how to get ten more miles out of the figure you drew by working over it. Rude gives him quick lessons on using black to pop out elements and direct action throughout a scene. Join all these tentative bits of shadow into one strong solid one, create patterns, eliminate detail that doesn't have a function. Aaron knew he lucked into a special day, and left to go process the wealth of information he'd just been blasted with. It may sound run of the mill to you, but this was, we agreed, one of those defining days that puts a person on the path to a career in a chosen profession--everyone who's ended up doing what they love for a living has had this kind of day at some point.

Later we get in more quality time with Rude, who's eager to hear of interesting work that his closed home life keeps him from. Lieber showed him the Tothfans website, and once Rude sees that Alex Toth has been providing director's commentary to his old stories, he's rapt for quite a while. Then when he bemoans the lack of energy and adventure in mainstream comics (we all do!), I'm happy to have a chance to introduce him to Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier miniseries. Just looking at that turned his mood around in a snap. The rest of the time we show him our current projects and talk theory, which is where Rude never lets you down. Every show I go to, other creators and retailers are talking about the industry, and how what book is selling or not, speculating on who's making more money and so forth. Even the readers do this now, which is pretty awful. Just like when non-entertainment industry people speculate on a movie's box office returns rather than concern themselves with the quality of the film itself. It's so nice to talk about comics in the sense of the Form, and we have a great time doing it.

Since he was delivered by a comics pro, Rude has to be picked up by one, and Paul Gulacy rolls up in his Lexus around 6 to collect The Dude. Lieber and I go catch the train, agreeing that a workday doesn't really get any better than that.


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