Archive | September, 2011

It’s not writing; it’s not drawing; it’s cartooning

30 Sep
By Darryl Ayo

The only way for me to comprehend what exactly it is that I get out of Frank Miller’s work is to describe it as “fearlessly physical.” After a long period of being far too sophisticated and mature to read those quaintly violent comics of my teenage years, I read Miller’s Holy Terror. What immediately springs forth is that this is comics.

This is comics.

This is cartooning.

Miller shows with several jagged brushstrokes what is missing from most contemporary (and let’s face it–classical as well) cartooning. He shows a complete fearlessness of the human form, directional propulsion, weight and gravity. He draws like jumping off of a building ain’t no thang. Which shocks the reader into recognizing that it ain’t no thang and nobody can get hurt, but suddenly every other physical/body-cartoonist save maybe Frank Quitely seems like a coward because they’re too scared to jump upside-down and backwards off of a building, even when it’s just ink on a white page.

What makes Frank Miller special isn’t that he’s a great writer (he’s not) or that he’s an expert draftsman (he is, though)…what makes Miller special is that he can make things look heavy and light at the same time. That he can have “Batman” vault through the great expanse of the hazy, scratchy page and land roughly, awkwardly and gracefully at the same time.

I set my copy of Holy Terror down but I couldn’t get it out of my head. Something was echoing in the back of my mind. David Brothers mentioned offhand that “Frank Miller doesn’t have a subtle bone in his body.” And I think that’s the key.

While it varies from day to day and from cartoonist to cartoonist, a large point that seems to bother me about modern cartooning is the way in which contemporary cartoonists tend to emulate contemporary adult prose and cinema. “Subtlety.” There’s nothing wrong with understated tones and values, absolutely nothing wrong. What bothers me is that in many cases, the tones of The New Yorker, The New York Times, Criterion and other cultural influences deemed respectable have had such a powerful influence on the art of cartooning that comics practitioners have seemed to surrender the most uniquely “comics” tools in their arsenals.

Consider caricature. In Holy Terror, Frank Miller lays down some of the most exciting and on-the-mark caricatures of contemporary political figures from Dick Cheney to Barack Obama with the same apparent ease that he catapults his heroes across rooftops.

And take another look at the previously-cited physicality of the human bodies in Miller’s book, particularly as they collide with each other. Human objects read on the page as being graceful, and…beautifully ugly. Densely textured and warped in shape, the human forms nonetheless shift their weight across the pages, pulled by their heavy black shadows through the overlapping white rain textures, fuzzy lines and solid white of their world.

I’d like to see Daniel Clowes do that.

Miller shifts the weight balance of his pages and his figures and his characters (and plot) move like pinballs, more at the mercy of gravity than of “literary” writing’s notion of inhibition. Stripping his characters of story-contrived inhibitions, Miller invites the reader to also abandon caution and to bound recklessly forward until the final page turn stops all momentum cold.

There are different schools of comics and Miller belongs to a school that asks us to do away with timidity, inhibition, self-doubt, and yes, self-reflection as well. To make assumptions and then assume those are right. To reflexively react, rather than dilute the purity of intention with rationalization or cerebral analysis. Or compassion.

Holy Terror is a mean book, make no mistake about it. It’s an angry and unfair accusation and cry for revenge against a vague shadow of a notion. However, the same qualities that make Miller an intellectually incurious xenophobe are the qualities that make him a graphic artist capable of such emotionally-driven forward-momentum markmaking.

Perfect Balance

28 Sep
by Kevin Czap

I was reading the new James Kochalka book, Fungus #1 (from Retrofit Comics) and it struck me how complete Kochalka’s drawings were. He’s developed his cartooning to a point where he’s able to strike that perfect balance between black and white on the page. The simple imagery, however, disguises just how hard it is to get black and white drawings look this good.

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Michel Fiffe – Zegas

27 Sep
by L. Nichols

Over the past couple of years, I’ve kept an eye on various Act-i-vate projects out of curiosity. Honestly, I have a really hard time reading anything at-length and in-depth on the internet, so I use sites like Act-i-vate more as a way to gauge if I might be interested in purchasing something if and when it’s published in a paper form.

Of all the work on Act-i-vate, Michel Fiffe’s work has always caught my eye and really intrigued me. I find his style and use of color particularly exciting. So when I saw the first issue of Zegas at Bergen St. Comics (I was super bummed to have missed the release party!), I just had to pick it up.

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Freestyle Friday: Unprocessed Gems

23 Sep
By Darryl Ayo

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C.R.E.A.M. – SPX 2011 Haul

21 Sep
by Kevin Czap

nods to Becky Cloonan for title (and of course the Wu-Tang Clan) – comics rule everything around me.

There’s a lot of ground to cover, so I’ll direct those looking for a preamble to my post last week. Ok cool, let’s get into it.

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Hand on the Bible

16 Sep
By Darryl Ayo

Facing south, standing in the curb cut in front of my parents’ house in Mount Vernon, New York. It is odd to me that one cannot see the end of the street from here. Just beyond those trees is a great stone wall which holds aloft the Metro-North commuter train, separating the North side from the South side of Mount Vernon. Take a right at the wall and go directly to No-Thank-You-Ma’am. Such is life, here on the cusp of infinity.

Welcome back to Comix Cube and thank you very much for your patience in our technical slowdown. This past weekend was Small Press Expo and our team celebrated its very first all-hands-meeting since…well, the previous year’s SPX, before Comix Cube’s inception. Go team! Continue reading


15 Sep
By Darryl Ayo

Let’s Go.

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SPX 2011: Moment in Time

14 Sep
by Kevin Czap

SPX 2011

While I was having an absolute blast at the Small Press Expo this past weekend, I couldn’t help but keep thinking about lofty things like history and community. Part of that preoccupation was a side-effect of having this weekly column, and wanting to have something substantial to write about. The other part was just from the sheer experience of it all – with each convention or expo I attend, I feel that much more enveloped in this big wonderful thing. When I started going to shows not so long ago, just being around one’s own people was satisfying to an overwhelming degree. That feeling is still there of course, now with the added texture of feeling that you’re a part of something. History and culture are not simply texts, these things are literally the accumulation of present actions by people doing their thing.

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Take a Trip – 21 Journeys by Cloudscape Comics

7 Sep
by Kevin Czap

21 Journeys

Learning about the all the different comics scenes that inhabit the various cities of the world has become an increasingly important pursuit of mine over the past year. Inevitably, this has led to learn a lot more about Canadian geography than I had retained from high school, and now I have a much clearer idea of where each province is in relation to Cleveland (for future travel purposes). Anyway, today I’m taking a closer look at a portion of the Vancouver scene, in beautiful British Columbia, Canada (I have that phrase ingrained into my mind from the little bit of Nardwuar I’ve listened to). The occasion is the up-coming release of Cloudscape Comics‘ newest anthology, 21 Journeys. I was graciously let in on the book for review purposes, so here we go.

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