Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Happy Birthday to Them

The Walrus Comix site just turned one - and rather than sitting around shitting its diapers and crying about it, the bouncing bundle of joy posted a pretty decent review I wrote on a pretty remarkable new 'how-to make comics' book. I have now discovered the joy of free review copies.

Anyway, give it a read. And, as ever, take a moment to read other features you'll find there. The roster of writers and site mandate have expanded quite a bit recently, with neat-o features on video games and new music. Although the newest video game review is actually the reviewer critiquing his old girlfriends Nick Hornsby style, so maybe I'm missing the gist of that feature...

Anyway, over to you, Dave:

Welcome back. In local news, today was spent marching through the jungle. I suppose the proper term here is 'tropical rain forest.' As though there were a distinction. Perhaps in order to be a jungle, you need a tiger? This being Puerto Rico, the best they can cough up is a Chupacabra and some coquis, so 'tropical rain forest' it is.

But I digress. The tropical rain forest in question is El Yunque, and is really well-maintained by the sole competent division left to our Federal Government, the National Parks Service. I have to say - not to wax political here, folks - but if the Parks Service can survive eight years of the Bush/Cheney Environmental Bonanaza ("Everything Must Go!"), those are some really dedicated Ranger Ricks.

And the coquis are wonderful, and never fail to make me smile and look at Yesenia when I hear one, echoing off the dense foliage. You never do see them, though. The coquis are loud but tiny, tree frogs about the size of a nickel. They are also bright green and live in the greenest fucking place on the face of the planet. Yesenia spent twelve years living on this island and has never seen one. But you hear them constantly - like the traffic in New York or the voice of doom nattering away at the back of your head, day and night. Only this is the good kind of constant sound, like breakers on a warm summer night, or a light sea breeze rustling the palm fronds outside your window - coincidentally, sounds you'll also find in abundance here on the island.

I'll be sad to go, and not only because it means I won't be seeing my wife for another six days. It's really a great place. But then you go to every restaurant and see the same limited four items over and over again as the entire menu and you're ready to come home. Really, I like deep fried plantains as much as the next guy, but I assure you, there are other things that you can serve as a side dish.

The sign I'm ready to come home: I had a six inch Subway turkey & cheese with Sun Chips tonight, and I was pathetically grateful for it.



Anonymous said...

Great article.. seems like an interesting book.. Would you rate this above the McLoud books?

Dave Kopperman said...

They're so different - DWWP is a textbook, whereas McCloud favors an informative, breezy (though highly structured) essay style. And the way the knowledge is presented and filtered flows directly from the individual approaches.

Specifically, for learning tools, the two books in direct competition are "Making Comics" and DWWP. And, really, it depends on the individual artist. So for me and you, I'd say DWWP.

Of course, hands down, "Making Comics" is vastly more entertaining, and a better read. But that's not what it's all about.

Of course, "Understanding Comics" is really indispensable. And McCloud is much more openhearted about what makes good comics - whereas I kind of feel the editorializing in DWWP is too biased towards one approach.

BTW: Why no comment section on the article?


dodo said...

which is better those 2 books, or 'drawing comics the Marvel way'?

Anonymous said...

Did you ever run across Plop! on DC before??

Anonymous said...

"BTW: Why no comment section on the article?"


Fixing now...

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Yeah MCloud basically says anything goes.. definitely doesn't make you feel like shit for using computers for lettering and stuff.. in fact HE uses a computer to illustrate the book..

Making Comics is my favourite of his.. good stuff.. my boss gave me a copy of understanding comics as a gift when he retired and while I really liked the idea.. there was nothing in it that I didnt already know either consciously or unconsciously..

Dave Kopperman said...

It's been years since I read How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, but I recall it being really, very good. I'm sure the intended readership is serious-minded teen, because I do recall it getting in to some specifics.

I do need to pick up a copy of that, you know?

Again, it's probably which direction you're intending to go, but Stan Lee & John Buscema really are masters at their craft, and on the level of pure draftsmanship, Buscema could draw circles around Abel, although she's definitely his equal as a storyteller, which is a far more fundamental skill to comics.

Leah had a few Plop!s lying around when I was a kid, grouped in with the Dynamites and Pizzazz. Wolverton is kind of intense for a little kid - well, for me, at any rate - and I couldn't deal with him. Love him now, though - one of my favorites. Have you ever seen his illustrations for the Book of Revelations? The most harrowing thing you'll ever see. Haunted.

I don't mind that there's NOT a comments section, there, but it seems if we're going to discuss it, that might be the place to do it? Unless you were trying to keep the man down...


Anonymous said...

Not at all... just mustve forgotten to add the code for it..

I have the DVD for How to draw the Marvel Way.. definitely some good tips.. but way too short and cursory..

Dave Kopperman said...

Understanding Comics affected me more deeply than I think I can ever uncover - although, like you, many of the ideas were around and nothing was a total left turn.

But (and here's the important thing), none of that art-school stuff had really been applied to comics theory before. I think it's safe to say that UC is probably the most important book on comics theory that was ever or likely will ever be printed.

Reinventing Comics may be my favorite of his, oddly enough - most likely because you can see him really getting enthused by the discussions of technology (his history of the internet is great!) in general and web/comics in particular. That, to me, is the definitive book for webcomics theory. Still valid, even though it's almost a decade old.

Might even be more useful for you than me, since you're the one who actually RUNS a comic site...


Dave Kopperman said...

The Marvel book is 160pp, which is hefty enough (it's oversized, too). I seem to recall it being at least a little detailed, but, again, it's been over twenty years.

You know what else was pretty great? The Marvel "Try-Out" book. Not so in-depth with the how-to text, but it was great in the show and tell department.

Gary Martin's Art of Comic Book Inking is REAL useful, too.


Anonymous said...

All those kinds of books are really fun..

What do you think of Jeff Smith?

You used to have a bunch of Bone comics, right? I remember reading them at your place back in the day...

Dave Kopperman said...

That Jeff Smith thing is a massive essay in and of itself. Short version: brilliant amazing cartoonist, Bone works better collected than serialized, and I unfortunately read it serialized and had long ceased to care by the time it was done - although I do have every single issue! Maybe I'll reread in a few years in one go.

Shazam was awesome, though, and RASL is pretty promising so far - only one issue in.

One thing I'll give Smith - he may be thought of as kind of a cute and safe cartoonist, but he does flat-out creepy better than almost anyone.