Channel the entity "Jeff Parker" from beyond the Ether

Monday, February 28, 2005

Dead. Lines. 

You might as well check back here next week, I'm still buried under work. I can't think of anything to say about Wondercon that Matt Maxwell didn't cover on Highway 62 (over to the left) anyway. The new Comic Relief store is terrific and huge, as big as Meltdown in LA. And here's a Hellboy piece I did for Theo, who was cool enough to send me a jpeg. Later...


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Read This Until I Catch Up 

Okay, I'll never catch up, and I'm on several deadlines. But I'll try to post about Wondercon later after I send off a script. In the meantime, Lieber has linked to an Oregonian article about Mercury Studio that ran this weekend. It's a good piece, way better than cartoonists usually get in local papers. For one, it didn't start with BAM! KAPOW! SUPERHEROES IN THE HEART OF PORTLAND or any hackneyed crap like that.


Thursday, February 17, 2005


For once I got to the airport at a nice comfortable lead-- I wasn't early, but I walked up to the gate just as boarding began. Walked out onto the tarmac in the crisp night air, admired the runway lights and stars, and stepped up onto my plane. Just as I was starting to get happy about having an empty seat next to me, the pilot said the wind shifted down at San Francisco International and that all flights in were being pushed back two hours. They sent us all back into the airport, and not wanting to miss an opportunity, I called Jill and asked her to go get some art I left back at the studio.

I'm not complaining, just sayin'. PDX is a comfortable airport where you can find seats without armrests so you can stretch out. And now they have free WiFi all through the airport. Does your airport have that? So, I'm just farting around on the internet for the next hour until I board again. Talk to you later.


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

That Mitchell Kid 

I'm looking forward to Wondercon this weekend because those Bay Area folk always ask for interesting art. I was reminded of this the other day when Bill May sent me a scan of a piece I did in his book in 2000. The theme was a nice one, asking people to draw their favorite characters from childhood. I read truckloads of Dennis the Menace comics as a kid and though Hank Ketcham was a genius of lyrical gesture, I responded to the stories drawn by Al Wiseman and another similar artist whose name I never knew. I know the Hernandez Brothers were really into those guys, and if you peruse the quarter bins at the next show and find some Fawcett Dennises, you will be too. I gave him the inverted color scheme he sometimes had, which always intrigued me as a kid, like those Star Trek episodes where Kirk wore a green shirt.

Okay, back to trying to finish jobs before leaving. Stay out of Mr. Wilson's garden.


Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Double Edged Sword of NPR (which I still enjoy, nonetheless) 

One of my favorite collaborators is now featured on NPR speaking with Neda Ulaby, Science-Comics publisher and writer Jim Ottaviani. Here's a panel from GT-Labs most recent bio-epic on Niels Bohr...

--which Jim wrote and Leland Purvis drew, but the NPR website credits the panel art to Jay Hosler. While also a fine cartoonist, Jay is in fact the creator of Sandwalk Adventures and Clan Apis. I'm extremely happy NPR is taking such an interest in comics (they featured Derek Kirk Kim just over a week ago), but I worry at some of the sloppiness in facts like this, nevermind that they actually called the piece "Holy Evolution, Darwin! Comics Take On Science!" Man, that never gets old.

Jim is all over the network too, not just talking evolutionary theory. He's also in the latest letter column of On The Media giving them a dopeslap about repeating the 60 Minutes take on Stan Lee vs. Marvel without poking into it more. Doubly infuriating since the show is about turning the spotlight back onto the media and showing the real mechanics behind journalism and entertainment. Jim was nice enough to post the content of his letter in my comments section, so I'll reprint it here. I imagine the overlooking of Steve Ditko is one of the points that bugs Jim most, since his publishing company is named for the place that irradiates spiders so they can imbue teens with groovy powers.

Letter to On The Media from Jim Ottaviani:

In your piece about Stan Lee and his lawsuit you didn't cover two
significant parts of the story.

1) Stan Lee did not sue to get profits he thought he was entitled to
merely on ethical grounds as co-creator of the properties. He sued to
enforce a contract he'd signed with Marvel.

[edited out: Like Bob Kane,
whose situation Gerard Jones noted in the previous segment, Stan Lee
was savvy enough (and in the early days also connected enough, as the
nephew of Marvel's publisher in the 1960s) to get himself in a
position for a piece of the action.]

2) Contrary to the hedging you did in your introduction ("...created
or co-created") Stan Lee created none of the characters you mentioned
by himself. He never drew a single line of art, and in a visual medium
that's significant. There were *always* co-creators:
Fantastic Four, co-created with Jack Kirby

X-Men, co-created with Jack Kirby

The Hulk, co-created with (you guessed it, Jack Kirby)

Spider-man, co-created with Steve Ditko

Daredevil, co-created with Bill Everett.

I'll spare you the geeky details of how Lee and Kirby (x3) or Ditko or
Everett typically created their characters and stories. It's common
knowledge in the comics industry and published material on the process
is very easy to find. [edited out: Heck, Gerard Jones even wrote a
book covering it.] [The had Gerard Jones on as a guest minutes
before on that very program.]

In the "60 Minutes" soundbite you aired, Mr. Lee sounded hurt about
his company's treatment of him. In most interviews he gives, the fact
that his co-creators have not received even 1% of the profits from the
vast earnings their creativity generated never gets on the air. He
also rarely even mentions their names, and reporters rarely do either.
You didn't.

[edited out: Stan Lee has earned most of his money and stature and
successfully for all of it. He now has a lot of both. What he hasn't
earned is an unshared spotlight for his co-creations. Nor has he
earned uncritical reporting of the things he says.

To editorialize: Forgetting about the money, the least he could do is
share the co-creation credit verbally -- that's what one of the "good
guys" he talked about in his interview would do. The least you could
do is check the facts and find out what Stan Lee actually did to earn
him his profits.

Returning to the two points above, "60 Minutes" didn't check those
facts and report the story accurately, and you did little better than
repeat what they broadcast. I had come to expect a whole lot better
from a show I admire and enjoy as much as OTM.


WONDERCON, San Francisco 

I can't believe that Wondercon 2005 is already here, this coming weekend. Remember Bay Area people and Southern Californians fleeing to the north, it's no longer in Oakland, it's in the city of wacky hill driving and Dirty Harry. This is a big one for art commissions, so you might want to email ahead of time to let me know if you'd like a piece--people already have. Feel Pucky, Lunk? Come to the Moscone center, and Make My Day.


Thursday, February 10, 2005

Tinkering Again... 

Careful, watch your step, I'm moving things around here at the Oracle and tidying up. Mainly I'm finally updating that sidebar of blogs. It's really there for me to have easy bookmarks to ones I read, but I lazily left out many that I like when I set it up. Forcing me to have to go to someone else's blog to find a link. Only a few thousand times of that before I got tired of it... also, some stalwarts just had to go, because their hosts lost interest in posting. I dropped out the pictures because they get in the way of my clickin'. New ones might come back if I build on this proposed "third column" I keep mentioning. That could be where all the most self-serving hoo-hah of mine is contained. My percentage of blogs related to comics has shrunk a little, which is good. This should be a blogoverse instead of a blogosphere, there's no need to make the web as insular environment as the industry in the real world is. I might add a music section just for mp3-fishing. This partial reboot is courtesy my one-month-old son for waking up to eat at 4:30 am. Now he's just kicking back in his Graco swing feeling good about his contribution.


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Jeff Parker Presents... 

But, the Marvel-style approach, this started with Smilin' Stan Lee, Stan ‘The man' Lee, and I've gotta say, and this is only my opinion having seen Jack Kirby's pencils, I think that the process went something like this:

Stan Lee comes up with an idea: “Right, next issue of The Fantastic Four , like, what if there's some really big powerful threat from space, sort of – or according to some people, what if in the next issue, the FF – the Fantastic Four – fight God”. And Jack Kirby goes away, and he thinks: “Galactus…Galactus eats planets…and he's got this herald…and it's this silver guy on a surfboard and he goes before him…and this guy's so frightening that solar systems will switch off their suns so that he doesn't notice them, they'll black out their entire galaxies so that he'll pass them by, and yeah, The Watcher, he intervenes and fills the Earth's sky with illusions to keep this creature away, but it doesn't work…”. And you've got Kirby, he'd pencil five pages a day…he just wasn't human. He'd just sit there pencilling five pages a day, six pages a day, nine pages a day, and in every panel – so he'd be breaking it down into stories, he'd be breaking it down into a continuity of images, he'd be inventing the characters, he'd be writing the dialogue suggestions – very crude, very quick, but sometimes quite detailed. Then this would go to Stan Lee, who would look at the story that Jack Kirby had written , would dialogue it in his own unique way – he would put in a lot of ‘thees', ‘thous', ‘face front true believers', footnotes, and then it would go out as ‘ Fantastic Four created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby', but it was only one of them who had a share of the action on the characters, and that was…the smiling one. And that's probably why he was smiling, come to think about it.

–Alan Moore

What Moore says there in a recent interview on process sounds about right to me.
I was storming around the room the other night as the 60 Minutes II piece on Stan Lee aired. Most of it was footage from the first broadcast, and then at the end they dropped on the news about Stan's contract being enforced. The first time I saw it I kept crying "pull back and show his Malibu home! Mention that Stan's publisher who he claims to have battled was a relative! Somebody bother to watch the credits on Spider-Man and wonder what a Ditko is!" This time they did at least show a couple of Stan's cars and mention his million-dollar stipend, but they were still locked into the story they wanted to tell of the li'l guy getting his desserts so it went no further. This was all discussed more thoroughly last week by the Holy Trinity of Comics Gatekeepers: Tom Spurgeon, Heidi MacDonald and Mark Evanier

I don't begrudge Lee his millions, I just wish Kirby and Ditko had also gotten millions. Really I don't have much animosity towards the Master Interlocuter, getting mad at Stan for self-promotion is like being angry at a bird for crapping up a statue--it's just what he does. What does bug me is the climate that makes it so easy for due to be distributed unevenly and so easily. Stan didn't start it though, this crazy aunt has lived in our attic for a while.

Illustration was once a bigger deal than it is today. It sold publications and made the difference which magazines and books thrived or vanished. Readers recognized the work of Rockwell or Gibson like their modern counterparts would know about actors on the WB and Fox. But television and movies usurped the attention paid to illustration (and reading for that matter) and that great artform diminished. Photos do most of the work of enhancing periodical writing, or quickie spot-illustration. The place that those traditions of life study and time-intensive drawing live on today is in the medium of comics.

Yet. It's not the same relationship of story and art. N.C. Wyeth's covers and plates sold a lot of copies of Treasure Island. People enjoyed those prints yet no one thought of the story as by anyone but Robert Louis Stevenson. The illustration served to enhance the story, it wasn't an integral part of it.

The way graphic storytelling works though, it is. Comics stories don't advance without the drawing. You can have some narration in there that does move it forward, but if it's doing all the work then you're not reading a comic book anymore. To quote my studio mate Steve Lieber (co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Creating a Graphic Novel), "in illustration the pictures decorate the text, in comics they are the text." Yet we're still treating the artist like a mere illustrator who doesn't figure in much towards whether a story succeeds. Look at the articles in our own comics press...

The majority of coverage goes to writers in comics. Readers constantly speculate about what Writer X will do with certain characters, which direction he'll take the book. As if it's all about what happens in a story rather than how it happens. I understand that it's much easier to write about plots and ideas than about the process of designing and drawing. But the overwhelming bent towards the former truly belittles the importance of the latter. And there are magazines that talk about nothing but imagery and art, it can be done. But really, you don't even have to do that. Did the story strike an emotional chord? Then some artist probably made the characters "act" very convincingly. Did it have authenticity and feel convincing? Then someone with a pencil likely did some real research and has some opinions about subtley and detail that go into pulling off such a thing. Don't worry, I'm not drudging up that pointless argument about artists vs. writers from the letter column of Comics Buyer's Guide ten years ago. I know the importance of a good writer.

And I'm not going to name how many articles I see where the writer talks about the process like he's the only one in the pipeline. Start looking through these things and see how many times the artist gets mentioned beyond a tossed-off complement. By the nature of the time it takes though, writers have more time to go around talking about their books. In the end, it's all about The Marquee.

Namely, the name, and whose gets prominent billing. Consider another medium and it's successor-- theatre. In stage productions, the writer was always top dog. This is a Shakespeare or a Wilde play. But when movies muscled in, the director became the first name after the title. Except for a few standouts like Charlie Kaufman, screenwriters are a mystery to the viewing public while they can identify if Ridley Scott or Spielberg was the director. You would think comics credit would have skewed more towards the way film did, but we're still saddled with legacy of illustration as decoration. For about 30 years, Marvel Comics began with "Stan Lee Presents!", and there's a reason only one man was featured on 60 Minutes II.

I don't know if this perception can ever be changed, and obviously not all collaborations are of equal weight. But we can at least draw a line in the sand when it comes to the creation of a character. Unless an originator drew the first work as well as wrote it, that person is a co-creator, not a sole creator.


Friday, February 04, 2005

You Just Wait, True Believer 

I started earlier to write a few thoughts I had after watching the Stan Lee segment on 60 Minutes II, and it grew and grew and grew, and now I feel I need to sit on it for a day before finishing it. And now I have to finish packing and get ready before David Hahn comes by to collect me for the caravan to Seattle tomorrow. It looks to be a good show with an impressive guestlist. Naturally I'll write about it when I get back. After you sit through my manifesto.


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Night Gallery 

Hey, I wound up in a gallery show. A print of one of my comics pages will be on the wall at the Pushdot Gallery on 830 NW 14th Ave. here in Portland, running from February 3rd through the 22nd. This is for the Comics in the Digital Age exhibit, featuring work that is partially or completely produced by digital means. In my case that mostly refers to how I color a page, but on this one there is some drawing done on the computer after the scanning stage. The showing opens tomorrow night, which is known for a few months each year here as First Thursday. That's when lots of arthouses open up with new collections and private homes in several neighborhoods temporarily become galleries, and much of the town walks around looking for art. Artsy town.

Also: other artists in my studio have contributed more pieces to the Bill Loebs benefit auction. Here's the link to the complete list on eBay so far. There's some primo stuff in there that you might want anyway, and it will go to help a deserving guy.


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Benefit Auction for Bill Loebs 

You comics readers may know about the plight of writer Bill Loebs, and maybe you've enjoyed some of his stories in the past. I drew a couple of his stories over ten years ago when he was writing Wonder Woman, and Steve Lieber worked with him for a big stretch on Hawkman. Steve's put up Several Auctions on eBay from himself and other Mercury Studio artists to build up a little something to send to Bill soon. It also looks like they're revving up to help over at Millarworld so peek in there too. If you enjoyed his work, maybe drop him a line at bloebs@yahoo.com and let him know that, and that you're rooting for him. Moral support can go a long way.

Bill mostly writes, but when he draws he has a heavy Will Eisner influence. So even better: if you're a publisher, give him some work to do, he's a consummate pro with a world class imagination.


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