Monday, January 29, 2007


"They poison the mind and corrupt the morals of the young, who waste their time sitting on sofas immersed in dangerous fantasy worlds. That, at least, was the charge levelled against novels during the 18th century by critics worried about the impact of a new medium on young people. Today the idea that novels can harm people sounds daft. And that is surely how history will judge modern criticism of video games, which are accused of turning young people into violent criminals. This week, European justice ministers met to discuss how best to restrict the sale of violent games to children. Some countries, such as Germany, believe the answer is to ban some games altogether."

--from "Don't Shoot The Messenger", an article in The Economist, Ja. 20th 2007.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


A pannel from my take on the classic Torch vs. Spider-man theme, appearing this month in the Fantastic Four anniversary issue. Johhny and Wyatt Wingfoot in the Baxter Building's garage, hanging out and fooling around with Johnny's sports car. Colored by Jose Villarrubia.

The car is based on an experimental model designed by Chip Foose, which is about the closest thing I could find in the real world to the kind of cars Kirby would invent for his stories. I've seen some crazier customized cars based on the Hot Wheels toys, and those are downright bizarre-- a little too far out for this story. The Foose car you could probably drive on the highway and not scare the locals.

In the real world, you never see cars like this in Manhattan since the winter weather is so rough, but when did the real world ever get in the way of Jack Kirby's imagination?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Another Burlesque drawing we had to cut from PULPHOPE due to space restrictions. This one was intended to be used as part of the HEAVY TRASH CD album art (Jon Spencer/Matt Verta-Ray's Cramps-y garage/rockabilly album, from Yep-Roc Records). Matt has a woodshop in the LES, and he makes beautiful cabinets and chairs when not on tour, a wonderful anacronism, not the first thing you'd expect from a rockstar with a pompadour. When I first visited him there, I noticed on the wall of the shop a kitschy old-fashioned nudie-girl calendar hanging up, the kind of thing you'd see in a mechanics' garage in Elvis' day. I think this image was a call-and-response to that.

But the guys pulled it-- too borderline sexist, too questionable, they said. That's the whole point, I argued, and lost. It's their record afterall. On the final album art, she's the blonde in jeans on the upper left inside:

Monday, January 22, 2007


MISS EXOTIC WORLD is an international festival which happens once a year in Las Vegas, NV. Established as an offshoot of the Burlesque Museum (founded by the original Marylin Monroe impersonator Dixie Evans), the festival is to the world of Burlesque what the San Diego Comics Convention is to comics-- a massive 3 day event attracting huge numbers of fans and top notch performers from all over the world.

On the left is my design for a 3 color 18x24 MISS EXOTIC WORLD silkscreen, finished as an edition of 100 prints, handpulled by Chris Rubino at
The full color version of this image (right) was used for the lightbox display booths outside the Celebrity Theater in downtown Las Vegas. Two twin lightbox prints were made in full color, each measuring 56x64 inches a piece, so far the largest work-for-print I've done.

I've always been interested in the possibilities of other forms of dynamic movement outside of the usual stuff we see in comics-- which is to say, the typical thing with two muscle-bound guys smashing into each other over and over. Whether it be fighting or sex or sports, the circus, music, or other different types of dance/performance, there is an almost endless range of ideas and feelings you can express through the depiction of the human form in action. Burlesque is essentially an artful form of classic strip-tease, and as such, it incorporates the best of seductive physical movement with the potent immediacy of great stage performance. As a subject, it presents itself as a wonderful subject for a cartoonist/designer.

Friday, January 19, 2007


One of the dozens of things we've had to cut from PULPHOPE. It is a drawing of a dancer I know named Bridget.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Our hard deadline for finishing all the pre-production work on the PULPHOPE book is February 23rd, a little over a month from now. The book will be in print and in stores Spring 2007--and that's including the slow boat to China we'll need to use to ship the thing back from the printer. I can't believe it's taken so long to finish the design and editing on this monster, that's been one of the biggest suprises of the last year. If I was more analytical, I would've reminded myself the BUZZ BUZZ anthology I did in the '90s was about a third of the size and only in black and white, and that took over ten months to get together and in print. And I wasn't working on anything else at the time. This one has taken something more like thirteen months and counting. Chris Pitzer at AdHouse and I are now on the fourth round of editorial revisions. We're in the painful process of chopping out material-- we have probably 40% too much content. As it is now, PULPHOPE is nearing 250 pages, and the page constraint means only the best material is making the final cut. Best meaning most unique or most timely. We nearly have enough for a second book.

The book is comprised of almost entirely new and never-before-seen artwork, and a lot of the poster/design work showcased has never before appeared in book form. There will be some new comics material. There are two large double-sided gatefold posters in full-color. There is a pornographic sketchbook and other sketchbook pages. There are over half-a-dozen essays, each for a different section of the book, on topics ranging from Pornography vs. Erotica to the tradition of Japanese Ukiyo-E printmaking, to a biography of Japanese Pop Artist Tadanori Yokoo, to an essay on Child Art vs. Abstract Art, to an essay on the process of working for Manga publisher Kodansha. There is some typographic design, some clothes design, a partial bibliography, and a few other suprises.

Above is a version of a design I did for Canadian rock band The Tea Party's final album, The Seven Circles (most people don't know I was handling all the art and design for this project-- and slated to design/direct the video for their single "The Writing's On The Wall", but I was, right up until 40 days before the release of the album) (long story, no punchline, the band broke up within months of the album's release...).

The Spanish palindrome in the image above translates to, roughly, "Adam doesn't give in to Eve and God gives in to nothing".

Monday, January 15, 2007


The original "burp gun" drawing.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


A study of one of my child drawings. My sister and I lived with our grandparents as kids and we were surrounded by old folks. They talked about World War 2 a lot. This was my idea of an air battle over Germany. I was fascinated by the idea of a "burp gun", a cannon which shot improvised shells made of metal shrapnel and junk. We knew one old guy named Luther who was a fighter pilot and had been shot at by a burp gun-- he said a huge metal bolt shot right through the cockpit of his jet, right between his legs, and cleared the top of his cockpit. This was a drawing of Luther's plane being shot at by a burp gun.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Hard to believe it's been ten years since I did the Berlin Batman story, but it has. It is collected for the first time in the Batman Year 100 trade paperback. Berlin Batman was my first work in "mainstream" comics and my first big comics job printed in color. What if Bruce Wayne were a Jew, born into a Germany suffering under encroaching Nazism? That was the pitch. I had just read Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories and George Grosz's autobiography, both of which paint vivid pictures of this place and time, so it seemed a natural turn of events to imagine a shadowy superhero for that world as well.

The building depicted on the page above is actually a building in Paris, a hotel on the corner of Boulevard Montparnasse at Raspail, near the Luxenbourg Gardens. Not very German. I had an old postcard with a photograph of the street corner, shot in 1926. Of course, this is a gross inattention to historical detail, something I wouldn't have cared much about at the time. If I were doing this story now, Id find a much more Bauhaus-inspired building, to make the setting feel more like something out of a German silent film.

You can also tell I didn't care much for historical detail by the fact that I set this story in the fall of 1938, and everybody who cares about this kind of thing knows Batman first appeared on the cover of Detective Comics #27, May 1939.

Historical stories are almost always equally tedious and edifying, because they require a ton of research and image reference. If you fake it, especially on a story set in the 20th century, somebody somewhere will notice. And the devil is in the details, as they say.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Dear Mr. Clifford:

I have always tried to hide my own efforts and wished my works to have the lightness and joyousness of a springtime which never lets anyone suspect the labors that it has cost. So I am afraid that the young, seeing in my work only the apparent facility and negligence in the drawing, will use this as an excuse for dispensing with certain efforts which I believe necessary.

The few exhibitions that I have had the opportunity of seeing during these last years make me fear that the young painters are avoiding the slow and painful preparation which is necessary for the education of any contemporary painter who claims to construct by color alone.
This slow and painful work is indispensable. Indeed, if gardens were not dug over at the proper time, they would soon be good for nothing. Do we not first have to clear, and then cultivate, the ground at each season of the year?

When an artist has not known how to prepare his flowering period, by work which bears little resemblance to the final result, he has a short future before him; or when an artist who has "arrived" no longer feels the necessity of getting back to earth from time to time, he begins to go round in circles repeating himself, until by the very repetition, his curiosity is extinguished.

The future painter must feel what is useful for his development-- drawing or even sculpture-- everything that will let him become one with Nature, identify himself with her, by entering into the things--which is what I call Nature--that arouse his feelings. I believe study by means of drawing is most essential. If drawing is of the Spirit and color of the Senses, you must draw first, to cultivate the spirit and to be able to lead color into spiritual paths. That is what I want to cry aloud, when I see the work of the young men for whom painting is no longer an adventure, and whose only goal is the impending first one-man show which will first start them on the road to fame.

It is only after years of preparation that the young artist should touch color-- not color as description, that is, but as a means of intimate expression. Then he can hope that all the images, even all the symbols, which he uses, will be the reflection of his love for things, as a reflection in which he can have confidence if he has been able to carry out his education, with purity, and without lying to himself. Then he will employ color with discernment. He will place it in accordance with a natural design, unformulated and completely concealed, that will spring directly from his feelings; this is what allowed Toulouse-Lautrec, at the end of his life, to exclaim, "At last, I do not know how to draw anymore."
The painter who is just beginning thinks that he paints from his heart. The artist who has completed his development also thinks that he paints from his heart. Only the latter is right, because his training and discipline allow him to accept impulses that he can, at least partially, conceal.

I do not claim to teach; I only want my exhibition not to suggest false interpretations to those who have their own way to make. I should like people to know that they cannot approach color as if coming into a barn door ("entrer au moulin"); that one must go through a severe preparation to be worthy of it. But first of all, it is clear that one must have a gift for color as a singer must have a voice. Without this gift one can get nowhere, and not everyone can declare like Correggio, "Anch in son pittore". A colorist makes his presence known even in a simple charcoal drawing.

Yours gratefully, Henri Matisse. Venice, February 14, 1948

--Excerpts from a letter written by Henri Matisse (1869-1954), to Mr. Henry Clifford, from a catalog from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Henri Matisse Retrospective Exhibition Paintings, Drawings and Sculptures. I have a copy of this letter near my drawing table and read it once every few weeks.

Sunday, January 7, 2007


"Growing up in the Pop age, I keep coming back to Kirby time and again to dip
my toes in the waters of his work, a popular mythology shared by a generation
of comics readers.
The limitations of the badly-printed comic book page were unable to hinder the
scale and scope of his imagination (in fact, the rawness of the paper and garish
colours made his drawings 'pop' all the more) – from Kirby's drawing table a
vast cosmology of forms, characters and inventions sprang forth with operatic
verve and unique voice.
The immediacy of the comic artform is to me a constant reminder of the wonder
of creation – with some paper, some ink, and some inspiration Kirby casually
drops a universe of wonders into your lap. "

--Adrian at RINZEN, talking about Jack Kirby.

Saturday, January 6, 2007


The Batman Year 100 trade paperback is out January 17th, followed the week after by Fantastic Four #543 (see cover below), which includes a 12 pg. short story I wrote and drew. Both are colored by Jose Villarrubia.

Working with established characters such as Batman or the FF can be very challenging, but also very interesting. There are certain things the characters simply have to do, certain notes you have to hit to make it FEEL like a Batman or an FF story. To make something new and never-before-seen out of something old and familiar, you have to somehow add to the original without taking away any of the integrity of the original, and if you fake it people will know. Within that, there is always something new you can offer. The great challenge here is to avoid falling back on what's been done a thousand times before, which is the age-old temptation of giving the audience exactly what they want and expect. A pitfall, and a lot of the fans hate it when you deviate from exactly what they want or expect. But, even with these old characters, there is always the opportunity to present a well-worn idea in a new and exciting way. After all, the quality of being "old" isn't bad in itself, and often it's an addition. There are always new ways to find new depths possible from a character or a scenario, and that's how I approach stuff like this. It is a good excercize one can take back into his or her own personal work.

Above is an unpublished piece of Batman art I did while waiting to see if the Year 100 series would be approved. Always needing to conserve drawing paper, I often flip a page over once I have one study drawn in order to do another. Since I draw with my left hand, I like to have something for the right to hold onto, to steady the drawing surface. I call this kind of stuff a "ramp-up". I do ramp-ups to get a more uniquely individual sense of a character, to help set an appropriate mood for a new story. The FF story is much more light-hearted, and a lot of the ramping-up had to do with trying to really "get" The Thing. Much more so than the others, he has proven to be suprisingly hard to draw correctly.

With Batman, it took sometime to get the mask and ears right. It seems to me his mask and ears are the notes you have to hit in order for Batman to be Batman, no matter what else you do. There are many ways to portray this character and many work well since there are so many different established versions of the character to work from. In my case, I've always preferred the "slit-V" mask of Bob Kane's original version, so that's where I started. DC was cool with my re-design for Batman but stopped me when I tried to give him the original Bob Kane pink gloves. To be honest, they did look a bit silly.

Friday, January 5, 2007


"Sorting out the work that should be done by machines and the work that should be done by people is not easy. We are learning more about the ways men and machines mix and the ways they do not. We use machines to replace men when the work is in some way considered "inhuman"-- when it is too heavy, too repetitive, too dangerous, too minute or delicate for human beings.

We should realize that as robots become more complex, the more likely it will be that they will make mistakes. They will break down, grow old, get dirty, get tired. We are beginning to realize that the more complicated robots become, the more their breakdowns will resemble human breakdowns.

In most cases, the robots introduced into industry have been accepted. Now that we need no longer fear what machines will do to us, we are freer to choose what it is we want machines to do for us. In choosing, we we need to come to terms once again with what it is that makes us human. We have never before been at so decisive a turning point. The choices we make now will affect us for centuries to come."

--from COPING WITH ROBOTS, by Robert Malone, pub. 1978.

Thursday, January 4, 2007


A pannel from my teenage Human Torch vs. teenage Spider-Man story, appearing in the anniversary issue of The Fantastic Four. Here Johnny and his pal Wyatt Wingfoot tool-up Johnny's race car. I always loved those crazy machines Kirby would invent for his stories-- the Forever People had their Super-Cycle, Orion had that...whatever that thing was... and The Fantastic Four had their Fantasti-Car. Kirby's idea of a car was like someone taking one of those saucer-cupped seats from the sit-and-spin Mad Hatter ride at Disney World, re-casting it in shining steel, painting lightning bolts on the sides, and sticking giant tires, chrome pipes, and a massive jet-engine beneath the frame.

A couple of years ago, some friends and I had the good fortune to visit the M.I.T. Media Lab, which is where geniuses build the kinds of machines geniuses build when they are left alone and have proper budgets to finance their ideas. We saw experimental robots and lazers and musical instruments and computers for the blind and some other things too weird to explain without diagrams. The nanotech wing was financed by the military, and it was the only area which was off-limits, but the rest was open to us. The Media Lab is the real Baxter Building, that celebrated skyscraper where Mister Fantastic dreams up his fantastic machines in the mythical Marvel Comics universe.

In the Media Lab's automotive wing, we saw incredible designs for cars-of-the-future which were heart-breakingly far-out, strange and beautiful. They were like the kinds of things Kirby would've designed if he were born as an industrial engineer instead of a cartoonist. These were all crazy, incredible vehicles, ergonomically designed machines built around the shape of a person's reclining body in repose-- cars like sleek metal cocoons on wheels. There were other designs for cars which could fold up like lawn chairs. Still other had rounded "bubble" forms, electric engines, and a variety of three, four, or five wheeled designs built on frames which could spin freely in three-sixty rotations, making parallel parking and taking corners a breeze. There were even some which could fly. The variations went on and on, each one different and new, each one a thrill to see, each one a kind of marvellous Fantasti-Car all its own.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007


PUDDLE, M.C Escher, 1952. 3 color woodcut, 240x323cm.


Books, so the damned critics said, were dishwater. No wonder the books stopped selling. But the public, knowing what it wanted, spinning happily, let the comic books survive. And the three-dimentional sex magazines, of course. There you have it, Montag. It didn't come from the government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressures carried the trick, thank God!

Today, thanks to them, you can stay happy all the time. You are allowed to read comics, the good old confessions, or trade journals.

--from Fahrenehit 451, Ray Bradbury, 1950