Friday, December 29, 2006


"There are, broadly speaking, two types of drinkers. There is the man whom we all know, stupid, unimaginative, whose brain is bitten numbly by numb maggots; who walks generously with wide-spread, tentative legs, falls frequently in the gutter, and who sees, in the extremity of his ecstasy, blue mice and pink elephants. He is the type that gives rise to the jokes in the funny papers.

The other type of drinker has imagination, vision. Even when most pleasantly jingled, he walks straight and naturally, never staggers nor falls, and knows just where he is and what he is doing. It is not his body but his brain that is drunken. He may bubble with wit, or expand with good fellowship. Or he may see intellectual spectres and phantoms that are cosmic and logical and that take the forms of syllogisms. It is when in this condition that he strips away the husks of life's healthiest illusions and gravely considers the iron collar of necessity welded about the neck of his soul. This is the hour of John Barleycorn's subtlest power. It is easy for any man to roll in the gutter. But it is a terrible ordeal for a man to stand upright on his two legs unswaying, and decide that in all the universe he finds for himself but one freedom--namely, the anticipating of the day of his death. With this man this is the hour of the white logic (of which more anon), when he knows that he may know only the laws of things--the meaning of things never. This is his danger hour. His feet are taking hold of the pathway that leads down into the grave.

All is clear to him. All these baffling head-reaches after immortality are but the panics of souls frightened by the fear of death, and cursed with the thrice-cursed gift of imagination. They have not the instinct for death; they lack the will to die when the time to die is at hand. They trick themselves into believing they will outwit the game and win to a future, leaving the other animals to the darkness of the grave or the annihilating heats of the crematory. But he, this man in the hour of his white logic, knows that they trick and outwit themselves. The one event happeneth to all alike. There is no new thing under the sun, not even that yearned-for bauble of feeble souls--immortality. But he knows, he knows, standing upright on his two legs unswaying. He is compounded of meat and wine and sparkle, of sun-mote and world- dust, a frail mechanism made to run for a span, to be tinkered at by doctors of divinity and doctors of physic, and to be flung into the scrap-heap at the end."

--from John Barleycorn, by Jack London

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Ceramic teeth.

I was thinking of Max Schrek's performance as Nosferatu in the old Murnau film, specifically in the classic scene on the ship where the vampire stiffly rises up from out of his rat-invested coffin. THAT'S how Batman should come across.

I did a run of Catwoman covers a couple of years ago and a lot of the old time fans hated them-- I guess there was too much "cat" and not enough "woman". I learned an important lesson from that.

The opposite of which has held true for Batman.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


"I worship freedom; I abhore restraint, trouble, dependence. As long as the money in my pocket lasts it assures my independence; it relieves me of the trouble of finding expedients to replentish it, a necessity which always inspires me with dread; but the fear of seeing it exhausted makes me hoarde it carefully.

The money which a man possesses is the instrument of freedom...Therefore, I hold fast to that which I have, and desire nothing."

From The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau(originally published anonymously in 1783)

Sunday, December 24, 2006


For weeks now, Frank Sinatra has been stuck in a piped-in tapeloop, dreaming of his White Christmases while Burle Ives, complete with backup singers, dreams of his own. Bing Crosby and Barry Mannilow, doomed to endlessly rolling up snowmen with their nameless dates like a pair of seasonal Sisyphuses, face an eternity of telling imaginary Parson Browns no, sir, we aren't married, and together dream of a time later on when they can retire to conspire by their own individual fires.

Incidental holiday muzak. The Phantom Zone graveyard of old popstars with hit Christmas records. The stuff is burned into everyone's mind.

Elsewhere, almost completely unobserved, Rasputin, dressed like the veritable scarecrow-cossack-king he is, furcapped and cloaked, glides across a wind-ravaged Siberrian icescape bearing a half-frozen fish and a half-drunk bottle of vodka. He emerges from behind a wall of snow-haze and approaches the shivering figures of Corto Maltese and Shanghai-Li.

Who can say what dreams invade Rasputin's strange mind? He majestically staggers off his wooden sledge alongside a harnessed flank of twelve belled reindeer, lurching toward the couple with his arms opened wide. He takes a momentary pause to slug another unceremonious pull from the bottle then tosses the fish toward Corto and offers the vodka around with a magnanimous bow.

"Joyeux Noel, Corto," he declares with a rakish grin.

Friday, December 22, 2006


The Thing sending a text message, courtesy of removeable prosthetic thumb devices built for him by Mister Fantastic.

(If you don't read comics you have no idea what this is all about...)

Thursday, December 21, 2006


I'm intrigued by the extreme horizontal/vertical picture compositions often seen in old Japanese Ukiyo-E prints, and that inspired this THB poster set. I was curious to see if I couldn't make a two pannel "cartoon strip" with these images, a kind of poster set which is actually two large "stealth" comic book pannels telling a kind of sequential story. Again, the logo designs are by myself and RINZEN.

We worked out the new THB logo in the same way we did the Year 100 logo. In this case, I wanted to emphasize the exotic desert setting of the THB stories, to suggest a sense of the mysterious, far-away, almost fairy tale mood of the book.

The design briefing was to find a logo which worked like a piece of intricate Islamic calligraphy, like something resembling a mobius strip-scimitar, or a tapered ribbon tied in a loose calligraphic knot. We tried to imagine the classic COCA-COLA logo as if designed by a Victorian-era Persian typographic artist, working on a project with an Arabic H.G. Wells.

RINZEN and I will be collaborating on the logo and book design for my upcoming French bande dessine book PSYCHENAUT, to be released in 2012 from Dargaud.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


For the BATMAN YEAR 100 trade dressing, given that the tone of the story has more than a little bit of Orwell's 1984, I wanted to find something which felt like a logo you'd see on an old heavy metal album--like an Iron Maiden or Motorhead record cover from the '80s. Those album cover designs always lean toward upsetting, oppressive imagery (especially if the guys in the band aren't particularly good looking)-- crude symbols of militarism and decay, images of Kaiser's ridiculous, pointy-tip helmet, rows of yellowed skulls under frayed national flags, crumbling Egyptian pyramids, jagged mountain peaks under lightning-scarred skies, gleaming motorcycle chromes belching great bursts of red flames and smoke--etc. etc.

If these designs had a scent, they'd smell like brimstone and sulphur and gunpowder and rotting flesh. This stuff is like catnip to upset, oppressed adolescent boys.

Whoever it was designing those old albums seemed to agree, by commitee, conformity, laziness, or default, aside from apeing Frank Fratzetta, nothing works better typographically to convey a sense of overwhelming gloom than applying what used to be called "Blackletter", an historically significant and greatly misunderstood typeface:

Blackletter was the basis for the Year 100 logo primarily for its heavy metal associations, although there is also a nod toward the birth of modern offset printing in there as well. The other, more subtle reason-- the Yin reason-- is because I love early cinema, especially German silent film, and particularly Fritz Lang's Die Nibelungen, which is probably my favorite film. Blackletter is used extensively throughout the film.

I started with the basic, organizable shapes of the word BATMAN, trying to find an "in" into the letter arrangements as they might appear in different, possible geometric formations. Eventually I worked up an acceptable logo template. Next came a more finalized, hand-wrought version, which is how I prefer to create logos, by hand, but in this case we needed something re-formattable and slick. And slick means vectors.

Since I don't know if I trust my skills in Illustrator enough to create slick-looking vector-based graphics, I called in my sometimes design-collaborator RINZEN.

RINZEN, of course, got it, but wanted to add a touch of graphitti street art to the design. Although I have serious problems with what you might call graphitti typographic design aesthetics such as they are (basically, on the whole I find graphitti as a kind in-itself to be often clubbishly hermetic and deliberately illegible, two disasterous qualities when it comes to trying to convey any message other than confusion and ostracism), I have absolutely no problems with RINZEN's design aesthetics, typographically or otherwise. Here are two of the more recognizeable forms (we had others) which we submitted before we came upon the final, print-ready form:

...what we wound up with was basically a logo from a heavy metal album cover circa 1984.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


While I was still working on the first 50 or so pages of Batman Year 100, I lived down in Chinatown and had a separate studio where I would work. Sometimes I'd work during the day, sometimes at night, depending on what it was I had to do. I'd prefer to go in around 7pm and stay all night since it was the quietest time, walking home in the early morning hours along Grand Street just as the garbage trucks were starting up their routes, just before dawn.

There's a school down there, and when the winter weather was rough, a big wet flag on top of the roof would whip and unravel furiously in the howling wind, an eerie, lonely sound. It reminded me of a line in Frank Miller's afterward to Batman Year One, describing an impressionistic vision of Gotham's urban legend:

"A shadow fell across me, from above. Wings flapped, close by and almost silent..."

Every night I'd hear that flag in the wind, without thinking about it, I'd also be thinking about that line of Frank's. "Wings flapped..." Those words were so evocative to me.

Those two things unconsciously informed this pannel from the opening scenes of Batman Year 100, but it wasn't until later when I re-read Batman Year One that I remembered the association between the sound and the words.

There are many references to Batman Year One and to The Dark Knight Returns in Year 100, not to mention many other Batman stories, and I don't see how it could've been any other way. At the time, however, I thought of this image as a conscious attempt at capturing the spirit of the classic cover to Detective Comics #27 featuring Batman's first appearance in print, 1938.

To my ears, his huge cape-like wings would've sounded like a wet flag whipping in the winter wind.

Monday, December 18, 2006


The classic "Kirby Nine-Pins", from my OMAC story in SOLO #3, from DC Comics.

Got Kirby on the brain.

But it's a professional obsession which makes it justifiable, I guess. I'm finishing a 12 pg. Fantastic Four story for the upcoming FF anniversary issue this week. Teenage Human Torch vs. teenage Spider-man, corny jokes and all.

The deadline-hairshirt, the old story. Coffee, poor sleep, tired drawing hand, eraser shavings.

What a blast.

Among the top flight artists to have come after Kirby, and there are many talented ones to have walked a mile in that muddy trench, I think Tony Salmons is the one who 'groks' Kirby the best.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


He was even right about this.


One thing I find you lose when you get into the field is the ability to use a xerox machine at a Kinkos without some total stranger coming over to ask you the usual questions... did you draw that? Do you make a living at that? What's that for? I have this idea jotted down on a napkin someplace for a great comic book idea, maybe I can hire you to draw it for me? How can I get my ideas copyrighted? etc. etc.

The other day I had this happen and it took real patience not to tell this guy to fuck off. Nothing about my body language or tone of voice should've suggested to him I was interested in talking. I had a splitting headache and about ten minutes to do what I was doing. He was one of those ghoulish guys with dirty elbows who is always at a Kinkos late at night, xeroxing a mountainous stack of newspaper clippings as if God Himself issued the urgent task of preparing some sort of cosmic ledger detailing the endless evidence of mankind's inhumanity to other men, and the animal kingdom too, for the Day of Judgement. These guys always need a bath and a pack of dental floss and a book with a title like "Rhetoric: The gentle art of persuasive speech."

I was xeroxing some new pages I've been working on with big splashy pannels of The Fantastic Four. These are very recognizeable characters, I can't blame the guy for wanting to see the artwork. I understand that. But within two or three sentences, this guy was trying to convince me Marvel Comics had stolen all their ideas from ancient Mayan temple statuary (funny, I thought they came from Jack Kirby...) and that somewhere in Newark, New Jersey there is an artifact which proves this. Then to add insult to injury, he distingushed himself as a "fine" artist as opposed to a comic book artist, and asserted that he was an cultural archaeologist (as opposed to a nut).

In a sense, cartoonists are entertainers, and you have to be magnanimous in situations like this. At least it doesn't happen in public restrooms.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Black and white line art for the first page of my story THE PROBLEM IN KNOSSOS, which ran in SOLO #3 from DC Comics. At the last minute, Walt Simonson saw this page lying on the desk of Mark Chiarello's office and pointed out I had misspelled the word "Knossos". I spelled it "Knosos". Like the cops in Poe's "The Purloined Letter", I had overlooked it and so did all the proofreaders upstairs. I took the page back home that night and cut-and-pasted-in a new handlettered logo right onto the original. Logos are difficult, often requiring almost as much time as a page itself. Sometimes you have to convert them to vector files when they are being used a thousand times at different sizes, but not here. Photoshopping in a corrected logo didn't even occur to me-- the more I've been at this, the more agressively analogue and lo-fi my cartooning sensibilities are becoming. As I find myself spending more time interfacing with computers because of work, I find myself practically craving the hand-made object and image which is a drawing. I do make an exception for digital coloring though, as it is a triumph of speed and edit-ability to have an UNDO function in the uper left-hand corner. It is that and certainly not a love of the pixel. We've always valued painters but in this day and age, an artist who can expertly mix colors on a palette and apply them with skill and conviction becomes a kind of alchemist of mystery, an image-wizard of rainbow-strangeness. As for the Knossos tableau, I wanted it in some way to suggest the claustrophobic atmosphere of a 1953 painting by a Canadian schizophreniac/artist named William Kurelek, called THE MAZE:


I've been thinking a lot about Alex Toth recently. I need to get faster and better and there's no more suitable teacher for that than Alex Toth. By now, probably anybody who cares at all about this kind of thing has seen Toth's handwritten letter to Steve Rude, with the harsh and perceptive critique of Rude's work on JOHNNY QUEST. To be perfectly honest, there is very little in the critique I find myself in disagreement with. I had coincidentally just re-read that story a few days before reading Toth's letter to Rude so it was very fresh in my mind.

What is invaluable about Toth's letter is that it is a rare opportunity to see an indisputable master of the field deliver a startingly rough and very unvarnished critique to a younger cartoonist who is himself arguably one of the greatest cartoonists working today.

It is also remarkable because of how caustically brittle and pedantic Toth comes across as sounding.

In many ways, Toth is directly responsible for my life in comics. When I was barely out of my teens, years before I was published, I sent him xeroxes of some of my early work, and he-- incredibly-- took the time to write me back with his methodical criticisms. He was the first person in the field I reached out to, and for years he and I had an epistolary relationship which consisted mainly of me periodically sending him copies of my latest attempts and him sending them back to me covered in big, angry slashes of red. He would redraw my own pannel compositions on the backs of the pages to illustrate how he would've laid out a particular scene, how it could all be done so much better and more economically. Each bloodied stack of xeroxes was accompanied by a long, urgent handwritten letter saying in substance what he is saying here to Steve-- THINK BETTER, WORK HARDER, YOU CAN DO BETTER THAN THIS!

These letters were like rocket fuel, or a telescope. Each time I read and re-read them I kept discovering new dimentions of meaning. Each one came in a plain white envelope with a funny little duck scribbled on the side, usually with a blue felt-tip pen. After about three years of this, Toth abruptly told me at the end of one of his letters, literally, "Okay, kid! I've had a bellyful of you! I've done all I can. Come back when you have something worth showing me!" And that was it.

I never wrote him or sent him anything again. I know he's seen my work over the years but as far as his parting words go, nothing I have done has lived up to that challenge.

I know there are others in the field who had this kind of relationship with Toth over the years. He could be a generous teacher, and he gave much more to the field than he took from it. His letter to Rude is like a snapshot of a long lost relative who has been gone for a long, long time. The reason his words are so harsh is because he knew Rude could take it. His letters to me were more patient, more paternal, although in essence he was saying the exact same thing. He was fond of quoting Isaac Stern, "Make it so simple you can't cheat..."

The other reason his letter to Rude is so harsh is undoubtedly because Toth didn't give a flying fuck if you or me or anybody else liked him or not.

I know a lot-- a LOT-- of people who had gotten close to Toth and eventually wound up getting hurt somehow. He must've been a very difficult person to have as a friend. He had a legendary temper. The things he loved, he loved. The rest of it he couldn't care less about. I had many chances to meet him over the years and never wanted to for this very reason. I didn't want either of us to be disappointed. He was and is too important to me.

To be perfectly frank, it seems to me that often when young cartoonists say they want critiques what they are really after is praise and flattery and not the honest truth. I believe just about everything worth saying about comics-- and about the entire process of thinking as an artist-- is summed up in those terse words from Toth.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


The color version of the "Edelmann" drawing. Adhouse is releasing it as a die-cut sticker to coincide with the spring 2007 release of the PULPHOPE book.

Monday, December 11, 2006


I was looking at a lot of drawings by German animator Heinz Edelmann recently, and then drew this. Edelmann's name is not well known but his style is-- he did the Beatles' film YELLOW SUBMARINE. It might be difficult to make out, but the tiny picture taped to the wall at the bottom is Picasso's guitar player (blue period) and a post-it note with the name Su-En Wong.


Coffee is a great power in my life; I have observed its effects on an epic scale. Coffee roasts your insides. Many people claim coffee inspires them, but, as everybody knows, coffee only makes boring people even more boring.

Coffee affects the diaphragm and the plexus of the stomach, from which it reaches the brain by barely perceptible radiations that escape complete analysis; that aside, we may surmise that our primary nervous flux conducts an electricity emitted by coffee when we drink it. Coffee's power changes over time. [Italian composer Gioacchino] Rossini has personally experienced some of these effects as, of course, have I. "Coffee," Rossini told me, "is an affair of fifteen or twenty days; just the right amount of time, fortunately, to write an opera." This is true. But the length of time during which one can enjoy the benefits of coffee can be extended.

For a while - for a week or two at most - you can obtain the right amount of stimulation with one, then two cups of coffee brewed from beans that have been crushed with gradually increasing force and infused with hot water. For another week, by decreasing the amount of water used, by pulverizing the coffee even more finely, and by infusing the grounds with cold water, you can continue to obtain the same cerebral power.

When you have produced the finest grind with the least water possible, you double the dose by drinking two cups at a time; particularly vigorous constitutions can tolerate three cups. In this manner one can continue working for several more days.

Finally, I have discovered a horrible, rather brutal method that I recommend only to men of excessive vigor, men with thick black hair and skin covered with liver spots, men with big square hands and legs shaped like bowling pins. It is a question of using finely pulverized, dense coffee, cold and anhydrous, consumed on an empty stomach. This coffee falls into your stomach, a sack whose velvety interior is lined with tapestries of suckers and papillae. The coffee finds nothing else in the sack, and so it attacks these delicate and voluptuous linings; it acts like a food and demands digestive juices; it wrings and twists the stomach for these juices, appealing as a pythoness appeals to her god; it brutalizes these beautiful stomach linings as a wagon master abuses ponies; the plexus becomes inflamed; sparks shoot all the way up to the brain. From that moment on, everything becomes agitated. Ideas quick-march into motion like battalions of a grand army to its legendary fighting ground, and the battle rages. Memories charge in, bright flags on high; the cavalry of metaphor deploys with a magnificent gallop; the artillery of logic rushes up with clattering wagons and cartridges; on imagination's orders, sharpshooters sight and fire; forms and shapes and characters rear up; the paper is spread with ink - for the nightly labor begins and ends with torrents of this black water, as a battle opens and concludes with black powder.

I recommended this way of drinking coffee to a friend of mine, who absolutely wanted to finish a job promised for the next day: he thought he'd been poisoned and took to his bed, which he guarded like a married man. He was tall, blond, slender and had thinning hair; he apparently had a stomach of papier-mache. There has been, on my part, a failure of observation.

When you have reached the point of consuming this kind of coffee, then become exhausted and decide that you really must have more, even though you make it of the finest ingredients and take it perfectly fresh, you will fall into horrible sweats, suffer feebleness of the nerves, and undergo episodes of severe drowsiness.

I don't know what would happen if you kept at it then: a sensible nature counseled me to stop at this point, seeing that immediate death was not otherwise my fate. To be restored, one must begin with recipes made with milk and chicken and other white meats: finally the tension on the harp strings eases, and one returns to the relaxed, meandering, simple-minded, and cryptogamous life of the retired bourgeoisie.

The state coffee puts one in when it is drunk on an empty stomach under these magisterial conditions produces a kind of animation that looks like anger: one's voice rises, one's gestures suggest unhealthy impatience: one wants everything to proceed with the speed of ideas; one becomes brusque, ill-tempered about nothing. One actually becomes that fickle character, The Poet, condemned by grocers and their like. One assumes that everyone is equally lucid. A man of spirit must therefore avoid going out in public. I discovered this singular state through a series of accidents that made me lose, without any effort, the ecstasy I had been feeling. Some friends, with whom I had gone out to the country, witnessed me arguing about everything, haranguing with monumental bad faith. The following day I recognized my wrongdoing and we searched the cause. My friends were wise men of the first rank, and we found the problem soon enough: coffee wanted its victim.

COFFEE by Honore de Balzac, via Jay Babcock.

[from Harper's magazine: "Balzac died in 1850 at the age of 51; according to his physician. The cause of death was 'an old heart complaint' aggravated by 'the use or rather the abuse of coffee, to which he had recourse in order to counteract man's natural propensity to sleep." Balzac wrote 85 novels in 20 years.]

Sunday, December 10, 2006


A study of a pannel arrangement by Silvio Cadello, from Le Deux Jaloux, written by Jodorowsky. This strange story ran in English in the early '80s in Heavy Metal magazine as "The Jealous God". Cadello's fairytale characters are infused with a sinister, almost erotic quality which is repellant and familiar at the same time.

Cadello was working for Kodansha during the same time I was over there. At the Kodansha offices in Tokyo I saw an entire graphic novel he had done for them-- at least 200 pages of original story and art, board after board of crisp black and white drawings, gorgeous and weird and exciting. Sometimes before or after meetings I would sit with this story and just look at it. I surreptitiously xeroxed a bunch of his pages and smuggled them back here and still look at them from time to time.

He was another artist Kodansha contracted to create original material for the Japanese market, and to my knowledge the work he did over there has never been published either.

Saturday, December 9, 2006


Above is a line art study of a watercolor by Hugo Pratt, called COMBAT. The world of Pratt's Indians looks very much like the world I lived in growing up in northern Ohio. Tecumseh's last stand (The Battle of Fallen Timbers, 1794) and the ancient astronomical Serpent Mound are both right there.

While in Spain over the summer, I picked up two copies of a beautiful book called PERIPLO IMMAGINARIO, a massive retrospective of drawings and paintings by Hugo Pratt, published by Lizard Edizioni. This huge book serves as a multi-lingual catalogue for a travelling exhibit of Pratt's work, and goes well beyond the familiar images of the sea-wandering Corto Maltese series. One copy alone is as heavy as a slate floor tile, carrying two was like carrying pancaked bowling balls. The day I bought these books I sat on a beach of the Mediterranean and drank red wine and looked at the lines on the palm of my drawing hand. I wondered--without really wanting to know-- which of the lines on my palm was my fate line. According to the legend of Corto Maltese, he had a gypsy read his palm, only to discover he had no fate line at all. Alarmed by this, Corto (whose name means "cut" in Italian or "short" in Spanish) slashes a line into his palm using his dead father's shaving razor. He then runs away from home to take up a life at sea, like his father before him. Strangely, this significant, formative event in the life of Corto Maltese is one Pratt never actually depicted in the stories. Neither did Pratt show us the death of Corto Maltese. Like Mifune's wandering ronin and Eastwood's cowboy drifters, Pratt's alter ego's fate is to float suspended in a self-contained world of fiction-time, beyond the reach of death.

Friday, December 8, 2006


Chief Paul Strange Horse of the Upper Brule Sioux.

Thursday, December 7, 2006


Sitka Charley smoked his pipe and gazed thoughtfully at the POLICE GAZETTE illustration on the wall. For half an hour he had been steadily regarding it, and for half an hour I had been slyly watching him. Something was going on in that mind of his, and, whatever it was, I knew it was well worth knowing. He had lived life, and seen things. He had never learned to read nor write, but his vocabulary was remarkable.

We had struck this deserted cabin after a hard day on trail. The dogs had been fed, the supper dishes washed, the beds made, and we were now enjoying that most delicious hour that comes each day, and but once each day, on the Alaskan trail, the hour when nothing intervenes between the tired body and bed save the smoking of the evening pipe. Some former denizen of the cabin had decorated its walls with illustrations torn from magazines and newspapers, and it was these illustrations that had held Sitka Charley's attention from the moment of our arrival two hours before. He had studied them intently, ranging from one to another and back again, and I could see that there was uncertainty in his mind, and bepuzzlement.

"Well?" I finally broke the silence.

He took the pipe from his mouth and said simply, "I do not understand."

He smoked on again, and again removed the pipe, using it to point at the POLICE GAZETTE illustration.

"That picture - what does it mean? I do not understand."

I looked at the picture. A man, with a preposterously wicked face, his right hand pressed dramatically to his heart, was falling backward to the floor. Confronting him, with a face that was a composite of destroying angel and Adonis, was a man holding a smoking revolver.

"One man is killing the other man," I said, aware of a distinct bepuzzlement of my own and of failure to explain.

"Why?" asked Sitka Charley.

"I do not know," I confessed.

"That picture is all end," he said. "It has no beginning."

"It is life," I said.

"Life has beginning," he objected.

I was silenced for the moment, while his eyes wandered on to an adjoining decoration, a photographic reproduction of somebody's "Leda and the Swan."

"That picture," he said, "has no beginning. It has no end. I do not understand pictures."

"Look at that picture," I commanded, pointing to a third decoration. "It means something. Tell me what it means to you."

He studied it for several minutes.

"The little girl is sick," he said finally. "That is the doctor looking at her. They have been up all night - see, the oil is low in the lamp, the first morning light is coming in at the window. It is a great sickness; maybe she will die, that is why the doctor looks so hard. That is the mother. It is a great sickness, because the mother's head is on the table and she is crying."

"How do you know she is crying?" I interrupted. "You cannot see her face. Perhaps she is asleep."

Sitka Charley looked at me in swift surprise, then back at the picture. It was evident that he had not reasoned the impression.

"Perhaps she is asleep," he repeated. He studied it closely. "No, she is not asleep. The shoulders show that she is not asleep. I have seen the shoulders of a woman who cried. The mother is crying. It is a very great sickness."

"And now you understand the picture," I cried.

He shook his head, and asked, "The little girl - does she die?"

It was my turn for silence.

"Does she die?" he reiterated. "You are a painter-man. Maybe you know."

"No, I do not know," I confessed.

"It is not life," he delivered himself dogmatically. "In life little girls die or get well. Something happens in life. In pictures nothing happen. No, I do not understand pictures."

From THE SUN-DOG TRAIL , by Jack London.


Rick Veitch. I've known him a long time but I haven't seen him for years. I got a chance to reconnect with him not long ago, and it was really great to see his infectous smile. We talked about his infamous RAREBIT FIENDS dream comics. I told him after re-reading all of his work I was inspired to start a series of Rarebits of my own on, a couple of which will be in PULPHOPE.

As far as I know, it was Windsor McCay, that titan of both comics and animation (having almost arguably invented both), who invented the Rarebit. He was dreaming in comics long before any of us were even born. But having invented the idea of telegraphing dreams into comics is about the same as having invented the triolet. The dream comic is a mode rather than a genre.

Apparently, a "Welsh Rarebit" is cheese on toast (with or without mushrooms), the idea being if you eat one before going to sleep you'll have nightmares.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006


Merkley. He takes no prisoners.


The collected trade paperback edition of BATMAN YEAR 100 will be in stores January 17th 2007. We (meaning myself and asst. art director Amelia Grohman--with a little help from Chris Pitzer of Adhouse Books--) put the cover and interior designs to bed last week. The book contains a lot of extra supplimental material not featured in the original series--something like 30 pages worth of stuff. Along with the full Year 100 story and all the "Batman sightings" police and media reports, there is the obligatory cover gallery showcasing all the original series covers. We're also running the 18 page "Berlin Batman" story I did in 1997, warts and all, which was not only my first Batman story, it was also my first big job in mainstream American comics.

Finally, there is a special "making of.." section showing some of the prep sketches I did for the costume design (especially stuff for the utility belt). If we had the room, I'd have liked to add further sections for Batman's motorcycle and the various BATMAN logos RINZEN and I did before finding one that worked, but alas.


A short documentary film of LVHRD's innaugral BI-FOLD event, featuring a "team-up" between myself and musician/songwriter Mark Denardo can be seen here. If you look carefully you can see one of my kid drawings of Batman. The film (number 42 in the series) appears on a new dvd release called COOL HUNTING, a collection of 50 short films done by New York based filmmaking team, M SS NG P ECES. The Cool Hunting series chronicles modern day developments in technology, design, fashion and even flora. The Bi-Fold event (the first of many, sponsored by The Happy Corp Global) was held June 2006 at the Film Archive in nyc. You can learn more about The Happy Corp and LVHRD here.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006


This fall, the Italian clothing company Diesel asked me to create a piece of art which would be a suprise birthday present for the company's owner and founder, Renzo Rosso. Renzo turned 51 on Sept. 13th (twelve days before my own) and I had just done a big store installation for them for their fall fashion week campaign. I suggested rather than have me to do a single drawing for Renzo which he would hang on a wall someplace, we could instead do a nice screenprint edition using one of their new CHELSEA HOTEL designs and make it available to other people as well, and that's what we did. The work was challenging and for a couple weeks, it was literally 24/7 all-Diesel-all-the-time. The drawing above is one of the designs I did for the screenprint, working out how to interpret the patterns on a particular pair of wool stretchpants from the line which I liked a lot. Diesel was totally open to having me do whatever I wanted, so long as it was sexy and rock'n'roll. The final print uses a black denim catsut from the line, which I thought was more in the vein of what they were looking for-- something kind of trashy-glam with a science-fiction atmosphere.

Renzo's birthday party was held in New York, and it coincided with their big fashion week party, one of those slightly absurd(ist) parties with the shitty velvet rope treatment, plucked-eyebrow culture vultures, hangers-on, various 8 ft. tall super models and other b-list celebrity types, freeflowing top-rung booze, popping flash bulbs, and go-go dancers on platforms. The scene was like something out of a Fellini film from the '70s. The party was held at a big private club in midtown, a huge place with stone columns and a non-descript, bank-like edifice. James Brown was the suprise musical guest. He and his 8 piece band rolled in around midnight through a secret entrance in the back and they proceded to run through a perfunctory cattle call of greatest hits, bam-bam-bam, totally professional and succinct. People danced and everybody had a good time.

There was an afterparty later at a downtown bar. A friend of mine was there and asked The Godfather (who insists on be called "Mister Brown") (you'll be reminded of this by his flank of 12 ft. tall bodyguards if you ever get the chance to meet him) if there were any new bands he was into.

"Can't get no heat without havin' no oil" was his reply.


...two more studies for the CHELSEA HOTEL silkscreen for Diesel. Trying to work out the complex patterns on the wool leggings while also channelling Guido Crepax's sexy '60s Valentina fumetti. Mi piachi la bella regaza!

Monday, December 4, 2006


"In the old days pictures went forward towards completion by stages. Everyday brought something new. A picture used to be a sum of additions. In my case a picture is a sum of destructions. I do a picture-- then I destroy it. In the end, though, nothing is lost: the red I took away one place turns up somewhere else.

It would be very interesting to preserve photographically, not the stages, but the metamorphoses of a picture. Possibly one might then discover the path followed by the brain in materializing a dream. But there is one very odd thing-- to notice that basically a picture doesn't change, that the first "vision" remains almost intact, in spite of appearances. I often ponder on a light and a dark when I have put them into a picture; I try hard to break them up by interpolating a color that will create a different effect. When the work is photographed, I note that what I put in to correct my first vision has disappeared, and that, after all, the photographic image corresponds with my first vision before the transformation I insisted on." (Picasso to Christian Zervos, 1935)

In one of his very few published interviews, Picasso calls his pictures "a sum of destructions". Even from decades beyond the grave, this prolific painter-sculptor-printmaker telegraphs to us the startling, singular image of artist-as-destroyer. Every cheerful demolitionist, loving his job, knows that in order to create you must first create space. It's only logical. You must remove what was there before-- you must destroy it-- you must destroy the blankness of the white canvas or the white page as the demolitionist destroys the old building or carpark, consume it with colors and lines and forms as the cheerful demolitionist consumes his with dynamite, nitro, and implosion-physics. You must swallow the thing with work in order to build something new in its place. Picasso's destructions led to Cubism.

One must destroy in order to create. This is a poetic notion and perhaps not properly a philosophy, however the idea suggests to me what I take to be an elemental truth of our world-- Life exists by eating other life. This sad observation is my credo. Life itself is an ignited consumption, a violence, a continuing energy exchange, sometimes conscious, sometimes unconscious, beginning with birth and ending in death, consumption, and destruction. Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward.

This is the secret meaning behind the term "Comics Destroyer".

For a working cartoonist to call himself a "destroyer" of comics, when what he primarily does is create comics, it must be understood as a form of the Greek double negative. It is to say, "I do not not create". It is a kind of linguistic pranksterism-- a verbal-visual joke, even more so because the metaphor is continued through the symbol of the cartoonist as a soulless, mechanical machine-man-- the "Popemek". This image itself is intended as an ironic one-- since a machine cannot create anything, it can only perform a task it was designed to accomplish. When I first started thiking along these lines, I was doing nothing but eating, sleeping, and making comics. I felt like a machine of comics. I wondered if perhaps the artist, like the machine, is only capable of doing what it was created to do. A cartoonist makes comics. The "Comics Destroyer" became a kind of personal symbol, a self-assigned mandala, magic, a new-name. It was secret initiate's knowledge, and it helped push a tired brush through many long nights.

"In order to save comics, I had to destroy it." This Destroyer statement is agitprop, of course, and like all agitprop, it is intended to confuse and alarm the uninitiated and reward those in-the-know. It is a way of saying both "I embrace change", and "Comics must change if they're to survive." As indeed I do, and indeed they must-- continually and evermore.

I take it as a moral imperative to question all traditions and presumed rules of the comics medium. As an artist, I will cleave to the traditions which point to real, true, and vital rules of art. I will borrow traditions and rules of other art media if they can be applied successfully to comics. I will discard (i.e. "destroy") all local, static, inflated, and worn-out edicts which serve only to keep the medium of comics in stasis-- rules which may've worked at one time and in one place, but no longer do.

This intolerance of the shop-worn and trite applies even to my own standards and rules, as it did when returning from Japan, having learned so many new traditions and techniques from manga, so many new ideas which challenged or broke even the most basic presumptions of American and European comics, I realized the only comics I was destroying was my own. As it continues today, working from America for a ever-widening international audience, moving into various multi-media areas of creative collaboration, looking back through what has come before with this American-Euro-manga lense. Looking up and out toward what is possible. What old plot is that over there, just waiting to be smashed so that we may build up something new? What is that fresh horizon?

In the end is this affirmation: The art form of comics itself, like all others, is elastic, open-ended and expansive. The comics medium has the power to contain and express all human thought, feeling and experience, from the most sacred to the most profane, and back again. There is absolutely nothing you cannot express through the medium of comics. As long as there are artists-of-comics who wish to create, and ideas they wish to express, this one true and unchanging rule remains indestructable.

Sunday, December 3, 2006


Since mid-2004, I have been working on a series of drawings based loosely on Napoleon Bonaparte. The idea of "Napoleon" is very vague but evocative, and can be stretched in a million different ways. I began this series while working on the Batman book, as a diversion from what was proving to be a very challenging project. The Napoleons have gone on to become an extended graphic exploration of different aspects of poster making, of discovering new ways of combining dynamic images and dynamic typographics. This one began life as a freeform erotic drawing and gradually worked itself into a proper "Napoleon".

When I went to Europe this year to promote BATMAN YEAR 100, I had the opportunity to do a new seriagraph for the French market, and I thought the time was right for a "Napoleon". It was the first time I worked on digital separations for a hand-pulled screenprint, which was something I was pretty nervous about. It was a reluctant necessity in this case, considering the printer was in Brussels, the publisher in France, I was in New York, and we had less than a week to get the print set-up, finished, dried, and shipped to Paris. A fresh seriagraph smells like rubbing alchohol because of the thinners used in the inks and it's always a bit of a gamble knowing how exactly the colors will work together as a final piece. Trial and error.

I'm not sure who she is yet but her name is, of course, "Napoleon" and she has since become a super-villian in the new book I am working on for French publisher Dargaud, called LA CHICA BIONICA.

NAPOLEON by Paul Pope. (dim: 18 inch x 24 inch.) 6 color silkscreen, edition of 150. Available from


(Translated excerpts from an interview for the Polish fashion/culture magazine EXKLUSIV. This ran in their November 2006 issue...)

EXKLUSIV: I've heard you talk about your childhood artwork quite a bit....

POPE: It's been a recent interest of mine for about a year now, really
trying to understand how a child thinks when he/she is trying to make
a picture. I've been studying my own childhood art and reading Rudolph
Arnheim's writings on child art and psychology.  Paul Klee is another
interest of mine, as a thinker.  He tapped into this a bit too.
According to my mom, I was drawing before my 2nd birthday-- I have
stacks of old drawings to prove it.  I just started looking at them at
some point, getting curious about the little person who made the
drawings.  It's a little person who doesn't exist anymore.

EXKLUSIV: Can you talk a little about how this work relates to what you're doing now, and what you discover through reexamining it?

POPE: Well, for one thing I was suprised to discover that the little
person I was really was trying to draw pictures with a sense of
stylized realism.  I am interested in how it was I could come up with
certain things in my child drawing which I would call abstract--that
is, I think I had a way of thinking and a way of picture-making which
I am more or less unable to do now that I am grown up and, I guess you
would say, trained and skilled.  In many cases my child "style" was
due to the fact that I was very artisically naive and not really in
control of my motor skills enough to really use my hand and the
drawing tools in any other way.  But still, some of the pictures are
very interesting and strike me as valid, successful artistic
compositions. This is a very Bauhaus idea.  Although I wouldn't say
the work is faultless of course.  I would like to reclaim some of the
best parts of that period of picture making --a certain looseness of
approach and boldness of gesture-- and use it in my future work.

EXKLUSIV: I've also heard you talk about being influenced by European comics. Which ones do you find particularly inspiring?

POPE: Most of my favorite cartoonists are Italian-- Hugo Pratt, Attillio
Micheluzzi, Guido Crepax, Sergio Toppi, Piero Dall'Agnol... these
cartoonists are brush masters. I also love Joost Swarte, Blutch, Guy
Peeleart, Jean Gir/Moebius.  Daniel Torres' old work.  Early Silvio

EXKLUSIV: What other interests do you have besides making comics?

POPE: Certainly music is one, fashion and fashion design is
another.  I love poster art, particularly fin-de-siecle French and
Austrian print and type design.  I am interested in Greek and European history and,
in a wider sense, historical biography-- the lives of great men and
women are a huge source of personal inspiration for me.  RW Emerson is
one of my heroes.  I am interested in cultural history and comparative
mythology.  The future of space exploration, early animation, silent
film.  Weiner-Werkstatte design.  I am fascinated by Honda's attempt
at making a humanoid robot, the thing they are now calling Asimo.
Which I am convinced will one day--likely in our lifetime-- be used
as some sort of military weapon.

I have also recently been interested in the whole
phenomenon. I don't think it is healty or good but I haven't figured
out exactly how or why yet.  I am absolutely against censorship, but
that is different from social critique.  I think it can't be good for
a person's psyche to be able to type in "horrible car crashes" and see
hours of videos of horrible carcrashes.

EXKLUSIV: How does making comics about the big established superheroes (your recent Batman work, for instance) compare to making your own books?

POPE: I've always compared doing American superhero comics to trying to
write hit pop music.  It is trying to write in a certain style for a
chart-topping audiences' ear.  My personal comics-- what I call "pure
comics"-- if more like free jazz.  It is sonic picture making, wild
and full of energy.

EXKLUSIV: Do you have any unusual work habits, or unusual processes you go through when creating your work?

POPE: I've resigned myself to the fact that I am a very anxious artist, and spend half of my creative process
completely stressed out and tense.  I pace a lot and waste precious
time, although I've come to see that is probably necessary, at least at
this point.  Partly this is because the skills required to do things
like interviews, meetings, phone calls and etc. call for a certain patient
gregariousness which I find to be the opposite of the personality I
really am--or become when I am cartooning.  Once I cross between the
two I am fine, one way or the other. This is why I prefer to work
without interruption for days on end, alone in a room.  "When I paint,
I leave myself outside the door," as Picasso is quoted as having said.

EXKLUSIV: What the best advice you could give an aspiring young comicbook-creator?

POPE: Oscar Wilde advises against giving advice, especially good advice,
and I tend to agree with him, never the less, in an unvarnished way I
would say:  Study the great artists of the past --not just
cartoonists-- and understand how and why what they did was valuable.
Acquire the best well-rounded culturally humanistic education you can.
 Do not proseletyze through your art; rather respect your audience and
never write down to them. Never stop being a critical thinker and
remember "No masterpiece was ever created by a lazy artist." Salvadore Dali
said that and I believe it's the truth.

Saturday, December 2, 2006


Two poster designs I did for recent events. The one with the balloons is a limited edition print I did with Adhousebooks for the upcoming release of PULPHOPE:The Art Of Paul Pope, and it debuted at SPX in September. The HARVEST MOON print was done for the Batman Year 100 release party in NYC early in 2006. We had a big, sexy burlesque show with a loose "superhero" theme...and the club was packed. I wound up throwing the posters into the crowd since there was no way everyone at the place could've gotten one-- Solomon's choice.


My dad had a huge record collection. I would sit for hours staring at the album covers while listening to the music on big, clumsy headphones. One of the reasons I wanted to publish oversized comics like GIANT THB in the first place was because I remember how huge album sleeves seemed when I was a kid, especially the gatefolding ones which you could open up.


I've been drawing since before I can remember. This is one of my child drawings-- a line up of my favorite monsters. I was probably 5 when I did this one. The title refers less to the fact that I liked King Kong than it does to the fact that his was the only name I could remember how to spell.