Showing posts with label comic books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label comic books. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Beth Varni


by Mike Rhode

Beth Varni is new to the comic book world, and has agreed to answer our usual questions about her work and life.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do? 

I do inking, pencils, and colors.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination? 

Computers, traditional, and combination.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born? 

1989.

What neighborhood or area do you live in? 

I live in Woodbridge Va

What is your training and/or education in cartooning? 

I have a BFA in Communication Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University

Who are your influences? 

Adam Hughes, Tomm Cooker, Mike Mignola, Paul Azaceta, and far too many others to name. I am actually pretty shitty at names.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change? 

Early on I had an internship comic job with a company near George Mason. I'm not going to name them, and it was all around not a great experience. I was used to make logos as an unpaid intern as the ONLY logo designer they had and they advertised it. I was stolen from the company by my art director who more than likely cut my convo with the owner and took me, and then threw fits when I wanted to be paid for my colors. All around terrible.


The Witch art by Paul Moore, colors by Varni
What work are you best-known for? 

Um, I am actually very very new to comics only a year in and I think for The Last Hunt with Amigo Comics I am getting the most inquiries about. I did the colors; Paul Moore did the gorgeous pencils and inks. I also work on colors for The Shepard by Calibur comics which I've gotten positive feedback from.

What work are you most proud of? 

I think it's my non-comic works involving my niece and nephew. I do regular art, paintings, sculptures- I think what I love the most are the paintings of my family. They mean something to me. A birth, a quiet moment with a nana, a smiling baby for the first time. Those I love.

What would you like to do or work on in the future? 

Varni colors over Paul Moore art
Character design and colors are what I love in the realm of comics and games. I really want to work with my co-artist Paul Moore on some more stuff. I'd like to do colors for an Image series and of course for Marvel. A big dream of mine is doing concept art for a Bioware game. (Mass Effect lover here).

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block? 

Play video games. Go out with my friends. Cuddle with my dogs.

What do you think will be the future of your field? 

It looks like it's headed into big growth right now. My generation's moving into the creation and profit fields- they like comics and games and movies. Of course we have different opinions than the old school creators so the art styles, panels, covers, even methods of story telling are being tested and changed. I hate when people say "this is the way we do this" well yeah, it's YOUR way to do it. Not the only way. It's fun to see what new paths comics and art in general will take in the future.

What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?
McKinnon Chronicles art by Matt Trinh, colors by Varni

Haha. I've actually NEVER gone to a con as an artist. I went to Otakon a long time ago with my friends... Tiki and the Revolution? Took home the best sketch trophy. Martial artists and Streetfighter work well together.

What's your favorite thing about DC? 

I love all the restaurants and the shows at the Verizon center. Initial reaction was I love the Cherry Blossom Festival - and the Beer festivals nearby at the Washington Harbor are very fun as well.

Least favorite? 

Traffic. I travel a TOOON so I can say we have some of the worst traffic in the world sometimes. Istanbul has us beat from what I've experienced but still DC traffic sucks.

What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to? 

I love to take them to the Mall and show them all the museums. Native American, Art, Natural History, Space! All so fun and fantastic.

How about a favorite local restaurant? 

In DC it's Zaytinya over by the Verizon Center. Took my dad there for his 60th bday- he loved it and so did my whole family. Great place; I cannot recommend it enough. 

Cunning Folk by Varni
Do you have a website or blog?

I have a website, it's my online portfolio. It has comic art, video game art, and just regular art for the sake of art- www.bethvarni.com

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Will Eisner Week exhibit at the Library of Congress

20170306_113219Last week, the departments of Serials (ie comic books) and Prints & Photographs (ie original art and posters) put on small exhibit for a couple of hours in recognition of Will Eisner's 100th birthday. In addition to Spirit comic books, there was original art by Eisner, as well as other comics and comic book pages.



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 Spirited snarf at Library of Congress 

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More pictures are on Flickr.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with J.C. Thomas

by Mike Rhode

J.C. Thomas is appearing at Big Planet Comics Washington on Saturday February 18 (2-4 pm) to sign his two books. From his press release: "J.C. Thomas is a writer, artist and public elementary school teacher from Northern Virginia. His first children’s book, Ninja Mouse: Haiku, earned acclaim from both Publishers’ Weekly and The Midwest Book Review, and won a Gold Benjamin Franklin Digital Award from the Independent Book Publishers Association. He will be signing copies of Ninja Mouse: Haiku and The Gates of Dawn, an original graphic novel by Philadelphia-based writer Benjamin Finkel. Ninja Mouse: Haiku is a collection of haiku poetry with themes of martial arts philosophy and nature and includes Japanese translations. In The Gates of Dawn, a young girl with special powers and a nomadic veteran flee across a barren stretch of Utah as they’re pursued by a dark terror. Finding themselves cornered and desperate, they’re forced to make a final stand."

What type of cartooning or comic work do you do?

For now, I mostly work on one-shot, short graphic novels as opposed to serialized comics work. It’s partly a preference, partly circumstantial, and partly a product of the collaborations I’ve built in the last year or so.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

I create all of my work on a custom-built PC. I use a lot of 3D models as the basis for my artwork. My main software applications are DAZ Studio, Photoshop, Octane Render, and Manga Studio. I use a Wacom Intuos for touching up line work.

I’m hoping to venture into paper and ink for some projects in the future, but for now my workflow is pretty set.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in Northern Virginia in the early 1980s.

Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?

I’m in the Washington area now because I’ve stayed here. I’m in Sterling, VA, which is about thirty minutes west of Washington. I’ve been all over, but I keep coming back to home.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

My “training” in cartooning is all informal. As a kid, I gobbled up every how-to book I could, from How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way to Will Eisner’s Graphic Storytelling. Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics was also a big part of my comics “education.” I took art throughout high school but was always frustrated with the lack of respect comics art tended to be treated with.

Who are your influences?

I probably have too many subconscious influences to count, but there are some I’m more aware of. Visually, I’d have to say Alex Maleev, Jae Lee and Michael Lark are influences. I really dig their use of heavy blacks. Pacing wise, I’ve always loved the dynamic between Garth Ennis and three of his common artists: Leandro Fernandez, Steve Dillon, and John McCrea. I’d also cite Sam Esmail, the creator and director of Mr. Robot, as an influence, especially on The Gates of Dawn. The cinematography in that show had a big influence on the framing in The Gates of Dawn. Jeff Lemire is also an influence. He’s a master of knowing exactly what to draw and when to draw it, really maximizes the impact of every panel. Essex County, Lost Dogs, and The Underwater Wielder are some of my favorites of his work.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I’d either choose to have studied something creative in undergrad, rather than International Relations, or to have studied education in undergrad. Being involved in education can really spark your creativity, and a lot of my ideas have their origins in something education-related. I wouldn’t have minded if some of those sparks were to have come earlier.

I think also I wish I had explored getting representation a bit more when I first finished Ninja Mouse. I contacted a couple of literary agents, and when I didn’t hear back within a couple of weeks, I went ahead and published it on my own. I say that with some lack of certainty, because self-publishing is great fun and very rewarding in pretty much every way except financially. But once Publisher’s Weekly released their review, agents were contacting me, but I didn’t have anything else to show them at the time. I could have probably let that play out differently and have ended up with an agent right off the bat. But the freedom that goes with being on your own is a definite perk.

What work are you best-known for?

Probably Ninja Mouse: Haiku. It received praise from Publisher’s Weekly and The Midwest Book Review, which was a pretty big deal for me at the time. It’s also the first work on I got onto Comixology, which was validating.

What work are you most proud of?

I’d have to say Ninja Mouse: Haiku again. A lot of love and work went into that project, and I was really happy with the final product.

What would you like to do or work on in the future?

Geez, what don’t I want to work on in the future? I’ve got a scifi anthology in the works that I’m anxious to finish. The second story in that project, Arcas, with writer Christopher Hutton, is almost finished and should be out in a couple weeks. I’ve also got a couple of screenplays that I plan on adapting into graphic novel format.

But the thing I’m looking forward to the most is the next Ninja Mouse project. The first book was a collection of haiku poetry about martial arts and nature, illustrated sequentially with a very loose story. The next project will be a more traditional graphic novel. I’m planning on three volumes for that one.

Other than a horde of my own projects that are in various stages of production, I’d love to do some mainstream work at some point. Batman, the Punisher, and Shang-Chi, of Master of Kung Fu Fame, are probably my favorite characters from the Big Two, and I’d jump at the chance to do work on any of them.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

When I’m in a rut or have writer’s block, I normally try to work on a different project. I ran into more than the average amount of ruts with Arcas, and each time I’d try to get some work done on something I’d put on the backburner. On one hand, that’s a positive of balancing a lot of different projects at once. On the other, obvious, hand, it can be distracting or can hinder my productivity to have a lot of projects going on at the same time. I also turn to music to get me out of a rut.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

That’s a good question…I don’t know, on the one hand, some trends in the industry make me think the future is looking a bit bleak. The sheer number of universe-redefining, multi-title events from Marvel and DC in the last decade or so has really turned me off from mainstream comics. I don’t really see that changing anytime soon. Don’t get me wrong, there’s been some outliers here and there that I really enjoyed. Jeff LeMire’s Moon Knight comes to mind. But in general, the big two have left me with the feeling that nothing I read matters, because they’re just going to undo and redo it again in a year. I think those types of trends will continue to alienate all but the most hardcore of fans.

On the other hand, I feel like this is a rich time for the art form in general and there are a lot of trends that make me very hopeful about the field. It seems to me there’s been an explosion of talented indie-creators and small press labels in the last five years or so. And we’re lucky to be in an area where there are retailers willing to take risks on small press titles and unknown creators. I’m also very hopeful about the genre diversity we’re seeing now. It used to be that you really had to scrounge around if you wanted to read something without capes and masks, but that’s not the case anymore. I think part of that is due to digital platforms like Comixology. I think digital comics will continue to grow, but I don’t think they’ll ever replace physical comics. I hope that someone… publishers, online retailers, I don’t know who…but I hope that someone can find a way for brick and mortar retailers to get a piece of the digital pie. I think there’s a lot of potential in apps like Madefire as well, which basically adds simple motions, background music and sound effects. It hasn’t taken off yet, probably because there are additional costs to making them and the return isn’t much more than a typical digital comic. But I think the potential is exciting.

I’m also thrilled to see the increasing acceptance that graphic novels and comics are being met with in schools and libraries. Comics have a place in literacy instruction, and more and more educators are beginning to embrace them.

What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?

I’ll be attending the NovaCon this year, which will be my first. I’m planning on attending the Small Press Expo as well. I had a chance to do a signing at last year’s FBCD at Comic Logic in Ashburn, VA, and it was absolutely packed. Like, line-around-the-building packed. I imagine something like that, but on a much larger scale.

What's your favorite thing about DC?

Diversity.

Least favorite?

The soul-killing traffic.

What monument or museum do like to take visitors to?

I have to admit that I don’t really take advantage of the museums and monuments like I should. But I really like the Freer and Sackler galleries. I also had the chance to explore Hillwood Estate recently, and that’s definitely on my short list of favorites.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

I can’t say I know a lot of restaurants in DC proper, but I love Clarity in Vienna. Mokomandy in Sterling is also one of my go-to recommendations.

Do you have a website or blog?

Sure do! It’s www.jc-thomas.com. I’d love for your readers to stop by.







Monday, May 16, 2016

Recalling Darwyn Cooke's 2010 appearance at the Smithsonian

by Mike Rhode

Darwyn Cooke has been one of my favorite comic book artists for about a decade and a half. He passed away over the weekend.

I had forgotten that I had written about a talk he gave at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
It doesn't seem to be online at their site anymore, so I'll reproduce it here. Also, you can hear my recording of the talk here, newly online since sadly we won't be able to hear any new thoughts from him.

(I didn't write that lede by the way)

by Mike Rhode Washington City Paper blog Feb. 3, 2010
Sure, the crowd was thin due to the snow. But the air was thick with nuggets: Darwyn Cooke spoke for almost two hours to a rapt crowd of about 40 people at the Smithsonian's American Art Museum Saturday, concentrating on his recent adaptation of Richard Stark's novel Parker: The Hunter and offering a glimpse into the mind of a successful, critically adored cartoonist. Just don't, he said, call him a creator. Cooke would rather be known, simply, as someone who entertains, and that's exactly what he did at Saturday's event. Read some of his more memorable quotes:

"I was pretty sure the Smithsonian called the wrong number when they approached me about this program, but I jumped at the chance to come down to talk about Don Westlake [aka Richard Stark] and Parker—two of my favorite subjects."

"The [Parker] books are very lean and brutal and I think that's part of what I loved about them…."

"I have to plan everything. I have to write biographies of all my characters, I have to research every scene and situation, and then I have to outline it in great detail in order for me to feel secure enough to go ahead with the work…" in contrast to Westlake's lack of plotting, backstory or details about Parker's life.

"The Hunter was written in 1962, which was actually the year I was born, which I thought was kind of neat."

"When I was a kid, I used to love series novels, like The Executioner, and all these sort of terrible B-movie type paperbacks…. but as I got older I realized that the quality of the writing in them was terrible and I moved on to more literate fare."

"[Westlake] was able to keep [Parker] completely reprehensible, and yet completely magnetic. He's certainly not a person you'd want to have to deal with in your life, but he's a very interesting, very magnetic type of character."

"Parker as a character represents something that we've seen evaporate from the American landscape over the last century and it's probably the last period of time when a character like this could have existed—that's basically a free-market anarchist. A man who makes his own rules, lives by his own rules, his own judgments and society still has room for him to operate within."

"The only thing I can compare [the plot] to is, you know when you get a phone bill for $500 for one month, and it's a mistake and you phone the phone company to get it straightened out? That's what he goes through. That's what this book is—it's a man who got screwed and is trying to communicate through a large faceless corporation that he's been screwed and he's owed something and the frustration that comes out of that. When you consider the time that the book was written, I think it's a very sly sort of indictment of the world we were all looking into."

"What can I do to reach outside the comic book audience… How can I get outside this [direct] market? How can I reach other readers with my work? The only real viable option at the time was the idea of original graphic novels. I very quickly set my sights there. … It's still a very risky creative venture. To put out an original graphic novel and hope it finds an audience is a very risky venture. We've seen some incredible books in the last few years, whether it's Persepolis, or Asterios Polyp or Diary of Wimpy Kid or American Born Chinese. These are all graphic novels that have nothing to do with superheroes…but they all have audiences that responded to the stories within the books. That really gave me the juice and the excitement to move forward…"

"DC had contacted me about doing Will Eisner's The Spirit. As much I was ready to move on, they found the one project that would keep me there. I hope this doesn't sound the wrong way, but half the reason I wanted to do this project was to make sure it didn't get screwed up by somebody else. It was purely a defensive position I was taking around the character… That was a hard year trying to live up to Will's work and deal with that character and everything it meant, so I was really thrilled when it was over…"

"At the time I started to correspond with Westlake, he was 72 years old, but his enthusiasm for this was unbelievable…"

"As for as he was concerned, if I screwed up [the adaptation], it didn't matter. Because the book's still there."

On having difficulties with character design and not receiving guidance from Westlake: "Finally I forced him into laying it out. '[Parker] is Jack Palance. It's Jack Palance from a movie called Panic in the Streets. That's what I saw in my head when I wrote it.' So from that point on I was able to fashion a character and an approach that Donald was really thrilled by."
Cooke planned on submitting the book to Westlake for Christmas, but Westlake went on vacation and died before Cooke sent it to him. "He never got to see any of it and it took about six weeks to get back to work. It really stopped me in my tracks and I realized that I'd been doing it for an audience of one person and that audience was gone. I didn't even know why I was doing the book for a little while after that."

At this point, Cooke read from the actual novel while showing the first chapter of his adaption on the screen.

"Those of you familiar with my earlier work should know I'm pretty plugged into the 'heroic ideal' and I love the notion of optimism and hope and I'd like to think that most of my work carries those messages right up front and this was a case I had to put all my instincts aside and sort of go more with Donald's."

"Nothing was better back then [in 1962] except the way things looked…"

"Anything I could do visually to immerse us in—to make us feel that we were back in that time period—was gonna help people get into the book. Everything in here was done with the tools available in 1962. There's no computer lettering, there's no digital tinting. It's drawn on the art board, the black ink is laid down, the lettering is laid down, and then I take a blue watercolor and lay it right onto the board. Nobody does this anymore…I even had the printers lay a pale yellow ink on top of every page before the artwork went down so that the book even had the appearance of being yellowed with age…"

"I'm hard at work on the second book now, about halfway through. It's called The Outfit and that's going to be out in October…I'm doing four [adaptations]."

"I've never been comfortable with the terms 'artist' or 'creator.' I think they're bullshit terms that are thrown around to make the guys who do the work feel better about themselves. For example, Jack Kirby was a creator. Jack Kirby created entire universes. Ethan Van Sciver pencils a comic book—there's a big difference there. I've always been very uncomfortable when people referred to me as a creator…I've always preferred entertainer, or storyteller. Those I'm much prouder of, or more comfortable with those designations. I'm not that deep. I'm just not."

"I love stories about people who've found ways to live without having to suck up to The Man."

"Heroes aren't heroes anymore; they're just people with power. And I think that it's a shame."

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Friday, February 06, 2015

Scott McCloud in Conversation with Michael Cavna (February 6, 2015) UPDATED

The recording of the event, 1 1/2 hours long, is at this link:
This may be the only recording as I'm not sure if the store recorded it. Someone was videoing it, but they weren't from P&P.

Nice things were said about local cartoonist Richard Thompson, and less nice things about Bob "Batman" Kane. McCloud had some things to say that rang true to me and I'll try to excerpt them in a post early next week.

More photographs by me are online here.

Better photographs by Bruce Guthrie are online here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March 26: Comic Book Panel Discussion at Library of Congress



As always events are free and open to the public. The West Dining Room is on the 6th floor of the Madison Building near the yellow elevators. All inquiries should be directed to the John Kluge Center, 202-707-3302




Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wertham papers in Library of Congress add fuel to 60-year old battle

 If video killed the radio star, psychiatrist Fredric Wertham did the same for comic books. His papers in the Library of Congress have been recently opened, and Carol Tilley wrote article about his research methodology that's getting some big media attention.
Scholar Finds Flaws in Work by Archenemy of Comics
By DAVE ITZKOFF

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cartoons to see in the L.o.C.

The Library of Congress has several cartoon and comics exhibits up now.  Here's a quick overview.

101_5203 District Comics at LOC

You can buy District Comics in their gift shop in the Jefferson Building. My story on the Army Medical Museum is around page 90, wink, wink.

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Also in the Jefferson Building for another month is  "Down to Earth: Herblock and Photographers Observe the Environment" curated by Carol Johnson and Sara Duke. Carol's the photograph curator, Sara the Herblock one. I thought this was an excellent exhibit. The photographs and the cartoons really complemented each other, and the unlikely pairing made for a stronger exhibit than either alone would have.

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There's a small brochure for the exhibit, although you have to get it at the Madison Building's Prints & Photographs department.


At the same location is "Herblock Looks at 1962: Fifty Years Ago in Editorial Cartoons," an exhibit curated by Sara Duke. This smaller exhibit focuses on President Kennedy.

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Obviously Sara made curatorial choices to influence this in both exhibits, but it's still depressing how relevant 50-year-old cartoons are:

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The third exhibit is a small one on comic books featuring Presidents that Megan Halsband did in the Serials Department (in the Madison Building) for President's Day. The majority of these comics are from Bluewater's current biographical series, but she did find an issue of Action Comics that I don't remember seeing.

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The Prints & Photographs division showed off its new acquisitions this week. Sara Duke showed some original comic book and strip artwork:

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A piece by Keith Knight, and two pages from Jim Rugg's anthology. They collected the entire book except for the centerfold. Not shown is...

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Above are voting rights prints by Lalo Alcaraz, possibly selected by Helena Zinkham.

Martha Kennedy had some great acquistions this year, including works by James Flora, editorial cartoonist Signe Wilkinson, Garry "Doonesbury" Trudeau, and Charles Vess' entire book of Ballads and Sagas:

101_5171 Flora
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101_5166 Vess
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This artwork isn't on exhibit, but you can make an appointment to view it.









Monday, November 12, 2012

Shattered Asian American Comics Anthology photos

101_4620 Shattered - Michael Kang, Jamie Noguchi, Keith Chow, Jeff Yang

Shattered: The Asian American Comics Anthology - A Secret Identities Book - had a booksigning at Busboys and Poets, Washington, DC, with editors Jeff Yang and Keith Chow, filmmaker Michael Kang and cartoonist Jamie Noguchi. The talk went for about an hour and a half and culminated in a 'design a supervillain' crowdsourcing event. The Stain is the audience-designed character drawn by Noguchi. The talk was enjoyable. I read a few stories in the book while waiting and enjoyed the ones by Kang and Noguchi; Bernard Chang's was disappointing because it concludes online somewhere. More pictures are online here.

101_4625 Jeff Yang, Jamie Noguchi, Keith Chow

101_4631 Jamie Noguchi, Jeff Yang

Julian Lytle who does the Ants webcomic shared my table, and multitasked by working on his strip:
101_4624 Julian Lytle