Thursday, February 25, 2010

New Interview - and Some Reviews

First, I have an interview with ACME COMICS, a store in North Carolina at which I'm doing a signing in March. Give it a read! Secondly, the reviews of Crogan's March have been popping up.  Give them a read, too! School Library Journal Kleefeld on Comics Newsarama Graphic Novel Reporter Innocent Bystander Geek Girl on the Street Also, here's a drawing, so that this isn't too boring a post! 

 (click on the picture for a bigger version of the same picture) One of the Crogan Adventure Society agents requested a drawing of Matthew Crogan, a character whom I haven't done much sketching with.  After finishing his, I was warmed up, and decided to do a drawing of him standing next to Sir Harry Flashman, the main character in George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman Papers series, the reason I'm doing historical fiction in the first place.  Since both characters are in India at the same time, I figured, aw, heck, why not draw 'em enjoying a drink together?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Crogan in Color

For a signing poster I made, I colored a couple of panels. While I definitely prefer the Crogan series to be in black and white, I do enjoy working in color, and her's a taste of what the new book might look like if it I weren't so obstinate a black-and-white snob.

I'm not into Black and white because it's artsier, or anything; I like it because 1. The comics I grew up reading (first, comic strips in the newspaper and their book collections, and later comic books like Usagi Yojimbo and Bone) were in black and white, and my aesthetic sensibilities generally lean towards that approach, and 2. there is less interference between the artists' page (the artist in this case being me) and the reader.  I love comics because I love seeing how each artist chooses to depict their given worlds, and in black and white it is easiest for me to see exactly HOW they're doing that.  Color often adds a kind of artistic middle-man for me, even if the color is done by the same person drawing. I have some old black-and-white reprints of some of the old EC war comics, and it's amazing what some of those artists, especially Jack Davis, could do with a brush.  But it's harder for me to see that craftsmanship when the value dichotomy is muddied by color.  There are exceptions - Matt Kindt, for example, makes color (by hand) such an intrinsic part of the drawing that it'd be impossible to remove it from the equation.  B.P.R.D.'s color gives a great sense of mood and doesn't pull any attention away from what Guy Davis does with his inks.  The colors on the first two volumes of Pierre Alary's Belladone books pull give his rather open pages a depth that makes the art some of the best comic work ever made.  But me, I like to work in black and white. EXCEPT when I'm working in color, which can be lots of fun.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lars Brown's "Northworld"

I finally got around to reading Lars Brown's third Northworld book, Other Sagas. I should note that I'm not a big fantasy fan, at all.  I tried to read the Narnia books as a kid, and found them irredeemably dull.  I felt like Lord of the Rings was far too ambling and aimless, I never tried any of the Robert Jordan stuff, I never cared for Conan the Barbarian, I never played Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, or Heroquest.  I liked the ideas, I liked the subject matter - big monsters based on those found in mythology (which I loved), medieval settings (which are fascinating to me), and swordfights, which are right up my alley.  Yet the way the stories were presented were entirely unpalletable to me.  There are the occasional exceptions - I loved T.H. White's The Once and Future King, I very much enjoyed the Harry Potter books, and I liked the Spiderwick Chronicles a lot.  But none of these are written in the psuedo-mythic language you find in post-the Hobbit Tolkein and his emulators.  Pyle is the only writer whose embrace of this affected language I can remotely stand.  But, on the whole, me and fantasy are hardly comfortable bedfellows.

Which is why I was so surprised at how much I liked Northworld, ESPECIALLY this newest volume.  It would seem to rely heavily on a readers' familiarity with the tropes of the fantasy and fantasy gaming genres... and yet, to one so unfamiliar with those tropes, it still reads clearly, without ever making me pause to collect myself and try and figure out what Lars is talking about.  Part of what makes this work so well is that he is (presumably) writing what he knows - people his age, trying to make a splash in a world which may or may not be open to them doing so.  People dealing with going back to their hometowns.  People dealing with less-talented "peers" getting far more acclaim than deserved.  People dealing with the changes from late adolescence to early adulthood, seeing friends change, responsibility, burgeoning romance... all thematic concerns that any reader can relate to. 

Though it deals with the day-to-day of life with these other elements, this isn't Magic Realism in the vein of Eternal Sunshine or Be Kind Rewind, or many of the best stories from Tugboat's Papercutter anthology - make no mistake, this is genuine fantasy.  But it's really, really engaging to someone not easily seduced by the genre, as well as fulfilling those genre requirements... the fantasy folks with whom I'm friends enjoy it a lot, too.  My biggest regret with this book is that it is the perfect comic for a friend of mine who passed away a couple of years ago, and the whole time I was reading it I was thinking about how much he'd like it.

I don't often use the blog to schill the works of other cartoonists, but I was on a reading high from this one last night, and resolved to write something up.  Lars' draftsmanship, storytelling, and dialogue continue to sharpen with each new project he releases, and, though I very much liked the 2-volume Epic of Conrad, this book surpassed it in terms of reading enjoyment.  It's a collection of short stories set in Northworld, a land in which pizza delivery places and supermarkets coexist with wizards and manticores.  It may sound anachronistic, it may sound like it wouldn't work, but it does, and I strongly reccomend anyone looking for a fun read - or looking to give their kid a fun read - pick it up.
He's got a number of the comics contained in the book on his website, including what may have been my favorite (it's hard to pick one): In the Mall of the Mountain King.