Alex Toth’s comics have a way of putting the entire enterprise of comics into perspective. The above pages are from a comic book called Hot Wheels which is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a comic to promote the little toy cars. It is one of the most glorious and brilliant comic books your eyes will ever gaze upon. That’s why I don’t think too highly of 99% of the comic books that people create with the goal to “elevate the artform.” Go kick rocks. I don’t believe in elevating the artform by attempting to transform children’s entertainment into “grown up” entertainment (circus clowns covered in gore). But I suppose it is an easier goal to strive at faking an imagined ideal of “serious art/literature” than by advancing the craft on its own terms.
Kate Beaton agrees.
Here’s the entire Comix Cube gang at last weekend’s Pete’s Mini Zine Fest. I don’t know about L. Nichols and Kevin Czap but I really enjoy the flavor of zine fests more than indie comics conventions. People seem more curious. More open. Less jaded. Comic people, all I ever want is for you to be less jaded and more excited to read and look at art.
When I’m talking to you about how cool mainstream comics can be and to stop retreating from attention–I see this Doonesbury strip by Garry Trudeau as a fine example. Part of what is excellent about Doonesbury is that it is not sold to a tiny number of interested people at a premium price–it’s shoved into the faces of the American public. I so much of what you cartoonists have to say is muted by the fact that you only say it when you’re “safe” and “among friends.” So I submit to you that making art for a small subculture is fine, but some of you should be talking to the public at large.
And then there is the matter of money. I don’t have it. Neither do most of you. This is one of the hardest-working yet underfunded professions. Most of us “professionals” are technically amateurs. We do this as a hobby even though we resent having to think of it as such. I want you all to be successful. At comics.
My body began noticeably breaking down about four years ago. I’ve been getting treatment for about two years now. The thing that’s killing me is the same thing that’s keeping me treated: my job. Stress, anger, resentment. Ultimately, dependency upon the thing that gives me so much stress in the first place.
We think of artists, particularly visual artists as being introverted. I definitely have a strong introverted side but I also have a powerful extroverted side to me. One that has always been left out to dry. The time spent in the company of other people can be intoxicating. I’m in the wrong business. I should have become an animator and then worked in a studio with peers whose energy I could build with, grow upon. The worst thing about making comics, about being an “independent artist” is not being able to socially connect with peers, even rivals. Just stuck in some chamber or cell. Who was it? Derek Kirk Kim who said “I could be in prison.” It’s true. I could kill a person right now and come out ahead because I could sit in my cell and draw all day. Then NPR could do a human interest story about how a lifer expressed himself with art, ugh, whatever.
Honestly, do whatever you want.
I got into an argument with a guy whose name I can’t remember. We argued about the Internet. It was an argument because I was attempting to speak and he cut me off in the middle of my sentence (without knowing what I was saying), changed the subject without realizing that he’d changed the subject, and then said that since he was such a big time comics publisher that he knows what’s what and while at it, he might as well say a bunch of more words too.
Which provides an excellent counterpoint since the reason why we become “independent artists” is to keep idiots and blowhards out of our lives.
Apropos of nothing, this is Jack Kirby drawing the original “Avengers versus X-Men,” from X-Men, No. 9.
I’d always respected Kirby at a distance but this is the panel sequence that made me fall in love with Kirby. Nobody else in comics has a brain that thinks this way. This is bonkers. This is a game-over, show-closer. And it wasn’t even the main event. When I say that Jack Kirby knows physical bodies in motion, I mean this sequence exactly. This is the moment for me when I understood that the gulf between Kirby and other cartoonists wasn’t a gulf at all–it was oceanic.
Jaime Hernandez and his brothers Gilbert and Mario hit thirty years of comics this summer. They are a good example of not compromising one’s art while constantly adjusting how one puts the art into the marketplace. Because it IS a marketplace. All of the talent in the world don’t mean a thing if you have to work at a place that gives you high blood pressure and asthma just to keep the rent paid.
Then there’s Wally Wood. The point is balance. You want to be at a place where you always love what you make and what you do. Where you can support yourself on the work that is meaningful to you. Wally Wood killed himself. Obviously, that’s not what I want for you. There is a balance, cartoonists.
People want your work. They don’t always know that they want your work. But they do. Comics might not be the prime concern for every person but I’m sure that most folks will enjoy a strip or a book that is readily available and that fits their tastes. Unclench yourselves a bit. Reach out to the public outside of other minicomic cartoonists. There is a wide world of people who love pictures. We can all make a decent living if we approach it sensibly.