Saturday, March 07, 2009

Watchmen: Portraits book review

Enos, Clay. Watchmen: Portraits. London: Titan Books, 2009.
192 pages, $50.00 (hc)
ISBN-10: 1848560699, ISBN-13: 978-1848560697

Portraits is the oddest of the three books that Titan published as companions to the movie, but it also has the highest production values and is physically the largest of the three. Clay Enos was the official still photographer, but also decided to shoot sets of portraits of both the actors in costume and the people working on the film. He shot in black and white, and used harsh lighting and a white backdrop, so every pore and hair can be seen. This gives the images a curious effect as though Richard Avedon decided to photograph superheroes. This is added to by the juxtapositions of the crew members and actors – “2nd Assistant Camera” is followed by “1940s Store Owner” who is followed in turn by “Captain Axis” all in hyper-detailed photographs. In his foreword Snyder says, “Not only do these pages immortalize individual cast and crewmembers, but they also celebrate in particular the exceptional work of our talented costume, hair and make-up departments. But beyond even that, the photos of the actors in costume capture something more. What at first glance simply might appear to be an extra dressed up as a general for a day, reveals on closer study the decades of a career spent in uniform.” Snyder’s point is somewhat undermined by the lack of identification of everyone, including him, by name. They are only identified by position. However, Enos decided to follow his muse, and a book and traveling photograph exhibit have resulted. I am not sure who this book will appeal to, but I appreciate the fact that Enos thought outside of the job he was hired for to create it.

Impera et Divide exhibit in Charlottesville, VA UPDATED

Just some quick notes and photos as Sara Duke is doing the formal writeup for the International Journal of Comic Art.

Sara and I took a meandering trip down, stopping at antique stores and trying to stump each other with obscure comics knowledge. As previously noted here, the exhibit is in the non-profit Second Street Gallery, Charlottesville, Virginia.

It has six artists - Frédéric Coché (France), Aerim Lee (South Korea), André Lemos (Portugal), Ilan Manouach (Greece), Andrei Molotiu (US) and Fabio Zimbres (Brazil) and was curated by Pedro Moura (Portugal) and Charlottesville's Warren Craghead III. Although Pedro declared that the art was all just 'comics,' these really are art comics. A companion book, Divide et Impera, by Pedro gives a good overview of the artists and their artwork. Pedro, Warren and Andre were at the show, and it was a pleasure to meet with them and talk about the exhibit. Andre did a special mini-comic/zine just for the exhibit and probably on the plane flight over. I bought a copy of this, the exhibit companion book, and many of the other publications for sale for Michigan State University's Comic Art Collection should one like to see them in the future.

The exhibit suffered somewhat from being trimmed significantly at the last moment due to a smaller gallery size than expected. The version shown in Amador in Portugal was much larger and included Craghead's work which was left out of this version. Of the artists, I was only familiar with Zimbres previously (and Molotiu's academic writing on comics). I'll leave it to Sara to get into the details, but I was especially taken with Cloche's aquatint comics - essentially he engraves a plate and prints 10 of them (according to Pedro) and then cleans the plate. He sells the engravings while reproductions of the art make up his books, 3 of which were on display from Warren's collection. Sara was taken with the work of Ms. Lee, which was eyepopping in color. Much of the artwork is for sale.

Due to the smaller size of the show, many pieces couldn't be displayed, but Pedro took us back to look through them. If you're interested, I would imagine arrangements can be made with the gallery. One could probably buy the book from them through the mail as well, and perhaps the other publications.

There's a blog by Craghead at which has pictures as well.

Here's my photographs, largely taken as a mnemonic device for writing a review:

100_7036 Impera et DivideFrédéric Coché (France)

100_7037 Impera et DivideIlan Manouach (Greece)

100_7038 Impera et DivideFabio Zimbres (Brazil)

100_7039 Impera et DivideAndrei Molotiu (US)

100_7035 Impera et DivideAndré Lemos (Portugal)

100_7034 Impera et DivideFrédéric Coché (France) books

100_7033 Impera et DivideAerim Lee (South Korea)

100_7032 Impera et DivideAerim Lee (South Korea)

Friday, March 06, 2009

International Comic Arts Forum WANTS YOU!


The 14th Annual International Comic Arts Forum: ICAF 2009

October 15-17, 2009

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago


ICAF, the International Comic Arts Forum, invites scholarly paper proposals for its fourteenth annual meeting, to be held at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, from Thursday, October 9, through Saturday, October 11, 2008.

The deadline to submit proposals HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO April 3, 2009. (Scroll down for proposal guidelines and submission information.) Proposals will be refereed via blind review.

ICAF welcomes original proposals from diverse disciplines and theoretical perspectives on any aspect of comics or cartooning, including comic strips, comic books, albums, graphic novels, manga, webcomics, political cartoons, gag cartoons, and caricature. Studies of aesthetics, production, distribution, reception, and social, ideological, and historical significance are all equally welcome, as are studies that address larger theoretical issues linked to comics or cartooning, for example in image/text studies or new media theory. In keeping with its mission, ICAF is particularly interested in studies that reflect an international perspective.

For its refereed presentations, ICAF prefers argumentative, thesis-driven papers that are clearly linked to larger critical, artistic, or cultural issues; we strive to avoid presentations that are merely summative or survey-like in character. We can accept only original papers that have not been presented or accepted for publication elsewhere. Presenters should assume an audience versed in comics and the fundamentals of comics studies. Where possible, papers should be illustrated by relevant images. In all cases, presentations should be timed to finish within the strict limit of twenty (20) minutes (that is, roughly eight to nine typed, double-spaced pages). Proposals should not exceed 300 words.

ICAF's preferred format for the display of images is MS PowerPoint. Regretfully, we cannot accommodate non-digital media such as transparencies, slides, or VHS tapes. Presenters should bring their PowerPoint or other electronic files on a USB key or CD, not just on the hard drive of a portable computer. We cannot guarantee the compatibility of our equipment with presenters' individual laptops.

All proposals will be subject to blind review by the ICAF Executive Committee, with preference given to proposals that observe the above standards. The final number of papers accepted will depend on the needs of the conference program. Due to high interest in the conference, in recent years ICAF has typically been able to accept only one third to one half of the proposals it has received.

SEND ABSTRACTS (with complete contact information) by March 20, 2009, to Prof. Cécile Danehy, ICAF Academic Director, via email at:

Receipt of proposals will be acknowledged immediately; if you do not receive acknowledgment within three days of sending your proposal, please resubmit. Applicants should expect to receive confirmation of acceptance or rejection by April 17, 2009.

Mar 18: Superhuman Resources signing at Big Planet

Ken Marcus writes in:

I just wanted to let you know that we're doing a signing at Big Planet (Bethesda from 10-2 and Vienna from 3-7.) on March 18th.

Oh, here's a preview if you'd like to post. Thanks so much.

Comic Art Indigene very Quick Review

Comic Art Indigene had a press preview at the National Museum of the American Indian last night and I got to stop by.

Assumption: Tony Chavarria was a comics fan before becoming a Curator of Ethnology. Hypothesis: He combined his two interests into one exhibit. Conclusion: This exhibit is cool - it takes a few minutes for you to see how everything relates to comic art, but it's worth it.

A real review will follow this, but I wanted to get something up quick.

With apologies to John Judy for stealing his trademark title phrase.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

ICAF's 2009 John A. Lent Scholarship in Comics Studies

2009 John A. Lent Scholarship in Comics Studies

Students of comics!

ICAF, the International Comic Arts Forum, is proud to hold each year the John A. Lent Scholarship in Comics Studies competition. The Lent Scholarship, named for pioneering teacher and researcher Dr. John A. Lent, is offered to encourage student research into comic art. ICAF awards the Lent Scholarship to a current student who has authored, or is in the process of authoring, a substantial research-based writing project about comics. (Preference is given to master’s theses and doctoral dissertations, but all students of comics are encouraged to apply.) The Scholarship was established in 2005.

The Scholarship is subject to the condition that the recipient present a half-hour talk, based on her or his research, during ICAF. The award consists of up to US$500 in kind to offset the cost of travel to and/or accommodations at the conference. A commemorative letter and plaque are also awarded. No cash is awarded.

Applicants must be students, or must show acceptance into an academic program, at the time of application. For example, applicants for ICAF 2009 must show proof of student status for the academic year 2008-2009, or proof that they have been accepted into an academic program beginning in academic year 2009-2010.

The Scholarship competition is adjudicated by a three-person committee chosen from among the members of ICAF’s Executive Committee. Applications should consist of the following written materials, sent electronically in PDF form:

* A self-contained excerpt from the project in question, not to exceed twenty (20) double-spaced pages of typescript.

* A brief cover letter, introducing the applicant and explaining the nature of the project.

* The applicant’s professional resume.

* A brief letter of reference, on school letterhead, from a teacher or academic advisor (preferably thesis director), establishing the applicant’s student status and speaking to her/his qualifications as a researcher and presenter.

PLEASE NOTE that applications for the Lent Scholarship are handled entirely separately from ICAF’s general Call for Proposals (which can be viewed at Students who submit abstracts to the general CFP are welcome to apply separately for the Lent Award.

Send inquiries and application materials via email to Ana Merino of the ICAF Executive Committee, at The deadline for 2009 submissions is May 1, 2009.

Dave Astor's new Huffington Post column started today

Dave Astor, the great former E&P syndicate reporter, has started a new humor column at Huffington Post. Check it out - the first one is a good start.

Watchmen: The Art of the Film book review

Aperlo, Peter. Watchmen: The Art of the Film. London: Titan Books, 2009.
256 pages, $40 (hc).
ISBN-10: 1848560680, ISBN-13: 978-1848560680

Unsurprisingly, The Art of the Film complements and somewhat overlaps The Film Companion. It focuses more on the film’s design and special effects. Of special interest to comic book readers is concept art by Adam Hughes, David Finch and John Cassaday, prop art by James Jean and new art by Dave Gibbons and colorist John Higgins including three pages drawn as a new alternative ending to the comic book, and thus the movie.

The only word to describe this movie, and this resulting book is ‘lush.’ An ad for The Veidt Method (Page 13) quotes comic books’ one-time ubiquitous Charles Atlas self-improvement ads. Dozens of prop newspapers hang in a hallway, with decades spanned in their headlines, waiting for approval to use in the movie. Production manager Alex McDowell explained part of the rationale for such detail, “This film is interesting because environments really have to represent the characters iconically, because you are in this very complex, fluid time stream back and forth. You need something to ground you when you cut back to something that’s 1970 or ’77 or ’85.” (p.28-29) The small black & white television shown in the original Nite Owl’s apartment on p. 39 is actually the same model that this reviewer had in his bedroom as a teenager.

The Introduction chapter gives the basic rationale behind the design and look of the movie. Concept Art has the initial redesigns of characters, the storyboards and the new ending by Gibbons and Snyder. Several pages focus on James Jean’s painting of Silk Spectre I’s World War II propaganda poster. Jean painted her in both Norman Rockwell and Vargas’ styles. Production Art focuses more on how a scene is actually laid out and what it will look like – an example is the cemetery for the Comedian’s funeral which is shown as a painting and a set of elevation drawings. This leads naturally into the Sets chapter, which again shows design artwork and stills from the finished movie; here a good example is Dr. Manhattan’s apartment or Adrian Veidt’s office.

Props drills down into more detailed pieces especially, and unsurprisingly, weapons although it also includes the newspapers seen waiting for approval in the Introduction, Rorschach’s diary, Watchmen action figures from Veidt’s office (sculpted for the film by Neville Page, but the viewer can now own a set as a result of the movie, as reality and fiction intertwine). Moore and Gibbon’s original story had a secondary story running through it – a knock-off of an EC pirate horror comic called The Black Freighter. Interleaving that into the movie would have been impossible, so Snyder created an animated direct-to-video version which went on sale before The Watchmen opened. A few pages show artwork from the ‘comic book’ and the resulting animation.

The Owlship, a flying version of Batman’s Batmobile, gets a chapter to itself, as do Costumes. Both are filled with production artwork and the final results. The book ends with a look at the multiple poster campaigns designed for the movie. Like The Film Companion, this book is well-done and should appeal to those interested in more information than the movie alone could provide.

Watchmen movie reviews and other bits UPDATED

Gene George Gustines says the NY Times is starting a best-seller list (online only) for graphic novels.

And the City Paper recommends John Malloy's show in Maryland - "Sunday, March 8, at Art Whino," By Mike Riggs, Washington City Paper March 6, 2009: 37.

Now, Watchmen reviews from local papers:

"Men (and Women) in Tights: Watchmen is a slog; Ballerina is a poignant spectacle," By Tricia Olszewski, Washington City Paper March 6, 2009.

"Watching the Watchmen: Movie Review," By Michael O'Connell, Springfield Connection / Connection Newspapers Thursday, March 5, 2009.

"Blight 'Watchmen': Graphic Novel's Edge Is Dulled in Adaptation," By Philip Kennicott, Washington Post Staff Writer, Thursday, March 5, 2009; C01.

Slate intern Katie Rolnick sent me these next two links - thanks Katie!

"The wizard of "Watchmen": Alan Moore talks about his career, his favorite characters and his bad influence on the comics world,"
By Andrew Firestone, Salon Mar. 05, 2009.

"Alan Moore's environmental monster: The genius behind "Watchmen" redefined both the audience and the narrative possibilities of comic books with his newly reissued "Saga of the Swamp Thing."" By Andrew O'Hehir, Salon Mar. 04, 2009.

and finally I was interviewed at Arlington's Lost Dog Cafe for this article - "Real World in Four Colors: Movie, comic book fans find a world of entertainment in graphic novels," By Michael O'Connell, Springfield Connection / Connection Newspapers Thursday, March 05, 2009. I stand by my conclusions.

Ok, not quite finally - the Onion had 3 comics pieces today:

The movie review - "Watchmen" which got a B from Keith Phipps, Onion March 5, 2009.

A Rorschach interview - "Jackie Earle Haley," by Tasha Robinson, Onion March 5, 2009.

In the physical paper, this is 5 - "In the wake of Watchmen: 24 more graphic novels we'd like to see made into movies," by Chris Mincher, Genevieve Koski, Leonard Pierce, Noel Murray, Steven Hyden, Tasha Robinson, and Zack Handlen, Onion March 2, 2009.

And a podcast - "A.V. Talk: Watchmen" directly here.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Takoma Park librarian on Amelia Rules

See "Corner Books: Comics for kids" By KAREN MACPHERSON, Scripps Howard News Service, March 4, 2009, for her look at Amelia Rules! by Jimmy Gownley.

Watchmen: The Film Companion book review

Aperlo, Peter. Watchmen: The Official Film Companion. London: Titan Books.
176 pages, $19.95 (pb), $29.95 (hc)
ISBN-10: 1848560672 (pb), ISBN-13: 978-1848560673 (pb), ISBN-10: 1848561598 (hc), ISBN-13: 978-1848561595.

Watchmen, a movie that I thought would never be made due to its absolute need for familiarity with comic book superhero tropes, is generating merchandising and spinoffs just like the original comic books did over two decades ago. The movie audiences’ familiarity with DC Comics characters such as Superman and Batman apparently carried over to acceptance of the Watchmen characters which Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons had based on Charlton Comics’ superhero knockoffs of the DC heroes.

Titan Books has put out some handsome volumes on the making of the movie. To long-time American readers, Titan was best known for repackaging DC and Marvel comics for the British market, frequently collecting material like Neal Adams’ Batman in black and white. More recently, they have been the source for reprints of British works including comic strips like the excellent James Bond series. Now, as it publishes high quality books about the making of movies based on comics, the company has moved into a market held by Chronicle Books and Hyperion. This business decision was probably partly motivated by the success of books such as “The Art of (Our New Animated Movie)” which now accompany every new animation release.

The Official Film Companion is a lovely book. It is largely a photography book with a small amount of text, as these books tend to be. The printing is of excellent quality, and is far higher than earlier books of this type such as those that came out for the first Batman series. The book is divided into seven chapters: Pre-Production, World of Watchmen, The Characters, Production, Post-Production, Making Manhattan and Conclusion.

Pre-Production features some interesting artwork by other comic book artists, but is mostly devoted to background material such as set and prop designs. World of the Watchmen demonstrates the inherent difficulty of a book like this – the ‘history’ of the Watchmen’s world is written straightly and shown in photographs. Then director Zach Snyder is quoted. “What does [being a superhero] do to you?” Snyder asks … “Does it make you crazy? Does it make you a recluse? Does it make you lose touch with humanity?” (p. 38). The book then continues on describing the formation of the Minuteman team in the 1940s. The Characters, a chapter describing each one in some detail, has the same problem differentiating between the character’s reality and the actor’s reality. The next three chapters examine how the movie was actually made, especially the special effects. The chapter on Dr. Manhattan has many pictures of the motion-capture suit, and decisively settles the issue of how much of Billy Crudup’s anatomy is actually shown on the screen: none, except for his face.

Overall, this is a very well-produced, typical example of this type of book. If you are interested in knowing more about the film, or if you like looking at cool photos of props or special effects, you’ll find something of interest in the book.

Soon to come - reviews of The Art of the Film and Portraits.

Thanks to Katharine Carroll of Titan Books for providing review copies. A revised copy of this review will run in the Fall 2009 International Journal of Comic Art.

New Batman book written by local DC guy Kronenberg

In "HOLY INFO! EURY & KRONENBERG BATMAN COMPANION," by Jennifer M. Contino, Comicon's The Pulse February 24 2009, the interview with the two writers ends with "MICHAEL KRONENBERG: I’m primarily a graphic designer. I just wrapped up the designs for Batcave Companion and Hopalong Cassiday: An American Legend for Russ Cochran. I’m currently designing Grailpages: Original Comic Art and the Collectors for TwoMorrows publishing. I’m also the ongoing designer for the EC Archives, Twomorrows’ Rough Stuff magazine, and I’m Michael’s cover designer for Back Issue. Like Michael, I do have a day job; I’m the art director for a large environmental firm in Washington, DC." Another unsuspected local comics laborer revealed! Check out the whole interview for more details on the book - I like most of TwoMorrows productions because they're so obviously labors of love.

Watchmen in today's Express

The paper version has a Watchmen story from Angela Dawson and a Wonder Woman animation story from the LA Times Hero Complex blog, but their online version has an article by a new reader of the graphic novel - "Graphic, Not Novel: Who Reads the 'Watchmen'?" Stephen M. Deusner, Express at 9:30 AM on March 4, 2009.

Comic Art Indigene opens on Friday at American Indian museum

Here's the press info:

Comic Art Indigène
March 6, 2009–May 31, 2009
NMAI on the National Mall, Washington, DC

Storytelling has long been a part of Native American culture. Comic Art Indigène examines how storytelling has been used through comics and comic-inspired art to express the contemporary Native American experience. Under the larger definition of narrative art, comic art is more related to Native American art traditions than one might expect. The earliest surviving example of such narrative art is rock art. The historic examples used in the exhibition, such as photographs of rock art, ledger art, and ceramics, are meant to link Native American art traditions with contemporary voices.

Monday, March 02, 2009

March 6-7 Washington Antiquarian Book Fair

I imagine there's cartoon and comics material there. Washington Antiquarian Book Fair, Holiday Inn Rosslyn at Key Bridge, 1900 N Fort Meyer Dr in Arlington. 301-654-2626. It's Friday 5-9 pm and Saturday 10-5, $14 for both, $8 for just Saturday.

Richard Thompson at San Diego Comic-Con

Now it can be told! Even if he's not on YouTube, Richard will be a guest at the San Diego Comic-Con this year - he's got a link to an interview the Con did with him up now.

Live-action Avatar movie casting in Arlington

See "In Va., Casting About For Mongolian Actors," By Dan Zak, Washington Post Staff Writer, Monday, March 2, 2009; C01 for information on Avatar: The Last Airbenders leap from tv animation to movies. The article also talks about the controversy around the casting of the lead actors who are all white. Earlier this year cartoonist Derek Kirk Kim wrote about his objections on his blog - "New day in politics, same old racist world on the silver screen," January 20 2009.

NY Times calls out Post on Doonesbury reprints

The Post started running the Doonesbury Flashback (ie repeat) strips where they laid off Rick Redfern and then stopped last week, and then restarted them. I didn't really think this was a story since they'd already run the strips about the Post firing Rick Redfern closer to the time that they actually laid people off. However, since the Paper of Record has noted it, we will too - see "Washington Post Corrects a Goof on Doonesbury," By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA, New York Times March 2, 2009.