The Ongoing Conversation About The Perception of Artists in Comics

August 1st, 2013 Posted by david brothers

There’s a conversation going on in comics right now that I think is very interesting. It’s about the role, responsibilities, and perception of the artist—mostly pencillers/inkers, but colorists and letterers as well—in the comics industry. It’s wide-ranging, and I thought it would be beneficial to gather most of the posts to date in one place, both for any journalists who are thinking about writing about it and other people who are curious, but don’t know where to start. A lot of these posts are responses to or build off other conversations.

I don’t have everything. Twitter’s a big part of the conversation, as is tumblr, but it’s impossible to stay on top of everything, especially as more voices start talking. This is just the beginning. If you see a link I haven’t posted, drop a comment below.

Declan Shalvey, comics artist, answers a tumblr question about comics reviews before talking a bit about how reviewers talk about art.

Andy Khouri, writer about comics, explored Brian Stelfreeze’s work on Day Men, and what that may mean for comics artists in general. He talks about how we credit artists, how we credit writers, and how basic logistics often forces artists into complicated situations.

Dennis Culver, artist, rounded up a few tweets he made on the subject of critics, artists, and comics. It spins from how critics do their job to why artists should be considered co-authors/storytellers, and why talking about art is vital.

I wrote about Andy and Dennis’s posts, quoting Dennis’s in its entirety, and added my own thoughts on how we appreciate artists in comics from the perspective of a fan and critic.

Amy Reeder, artist, responds to and builds on my post and talks about what drives her to buy comics, and talks about the greater trend of undervaluing artists.

Amy Reeder & Brandon Montclare, collaborators, discuss their experience at San Diego Comic-con 2013 and also the role of the artist in production.

Sarah Horrocks, artist, talks about her frustrations with certain aspects of the comics industry, springboarding off this Steven Grant essay at CBR.

Nolan T Jones, writer, takes issue with a few of Horrocks’s points and speaks from the perspective of a writer on the subject.

Sloane Leong, artist, talks about comics industry logistics by way of a Pacific Rim graphic novel, and talks about why the assembly line method of making comics actually hurts the artform.

Amy Reeder & Brandon Montclare, collaborators, talk specifically about the role of artists in comics, with plenty of frank talk from writer Montclare and artist Reeder on their expectations and frustrations.

Podcaster Pat Loika gathers artists Gabriel Hardman, Reilly Brown, Declan Shalvey, and Nick Pitarra to talk about the subject du jour in a conversation that’s as pointed as it is funny.

Dennis Culver, artist, gathers more tweets, this time discussing the economics of being a comics artist and the relationship between writers and artists.

Costa Koutsoutis, writer, replies to Dennis Culver’s recent post about economics and discusses the effort writers put forth in creating scripts.

Leia Weathington, writer, talks about her position when it comes to working with artists and honor. Weathington’s response was sparked by a tweet conversation that I believe begins here before fracturing all over the place. This was packaged into Storify from Weathington’s tweets by Erika Moen, an artist.

Declan Shalvey, comics artist, discusses working as an artist in the comics industry.

Michael May, writer about comics, builds off a statement from Declan Shalvey and talks about why reviewers need to talk more about art.

Sloane Leong, artist, discusses the differences in responsibility between writers and artists and looks at the various options creators have for deals.

Paul Allor, writer, talks about writers and artists from the POV of a working & aspiring writer, in addition to talking about the ways writers view working with and paying artists.

Paul Allor, writer, talks about the unique aspects of comics collaboration and explores ideas about the way credit is divvied up or displayed.

Bryan Hitch, artist, talks to Kiel Phegley at CBR about working on corporate comics and feeling underappreciated, despite his history with the company and position in the industry.

Pat Barrett, artist, talks about the New Yorker improperly crediting a drawing of Iron Man and (briefly) their history with comics.

Shea Hennum, writer about comics, looks at the idea of visual consistency, particularly in terms of Prophet, a comic with a fistful of artists on regular duty.

Val Staples, colorist, speaks to Steve Morris at The Beat about life as a colorist, including details on how long books take and vacations when freelance.

Brigid Alverson at Robot 6 takes a close look at writer Jeremy Holt’s comments on Twitter about pay & artists, and the large comments section discusses journalistic standards, paying in comics, and personal experiences.

The Beat (no specific byline) talks about writers paying artists and the varying responsibilities of each creator in the comics-creating process.

Antony Johnston, writer, talks about the debate in general terms and the specifics of making comics, including advice for how to do better as a reader and creator.

Amy Reeder, artist, on what artists actually do with a writer’s script, and the varying difficulties both sides have in getting work.

David Fairbanks, writer about comics, on the idea of cheapening your art by working for free, and collaborative partnerships.

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Taking Part In Battles Without Honor and Humanity

September 13th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

My friend Sloane Leong is putting on an art show at Floating World Comics in Portland. It’s yakuza movie-themed, which has been something near and dear to my heart probably ever since I saw Takeshi Kitano’s Brother for the first time. I was young, it was cheap, and I don’t think I’d ever heard of Beat Takeshi before I found that DVD in a BX. Here’s the trailer, if you’re curious:

It’s easy to see why I got into this stuff.

Sloane’s art show sounds pretty awesome. Here’s the official descrip of Battles Without Honor and Humanity:

This exhibition will be based loosely around yakuza/crime noir films by directors such as Akira Kurosawa, Takeshi “Beat” Kitano, Takeshi Miike, Kinji Fukasaku, Seijun Suzuki, Yukio Mishima, Sogo Ishii and Shinya Tsukamoto. As a genre, yakuza films are divided into two subsets: ninkyo-eiga or “chivarly films” featuring honorable outlaws caught between duty and compassion. Then there is jisturoku-eiga, the modern yakuza films which feature the stifling brutality of a life of crime. The artists and writers in this show will explore and pay homage to this powerful and unique genre.

Sounds pretty ill, right? Here’s some of the art from the show that I pulled off tumblr:

Yowza. Lotta good stuff, especially Sophia Foster-Dimino’s homage to Akira Kurosawa’s Drunken Angel. (New People, a local theater, put on a Kurosawa film fest and I got to see that and a bunch of others on the big screen. It was awesome.) From left to right, that’s Sophia Foster-Dimino, Ryan Andrews, Roxie Vizcarra, Ron Wimberly, Jeremy Sorese, Ian Macewan, Hwei Lim, Hunter Heckroth, and Emma Rios. The big image at the top of the post is by Logan Faerber. There’s more art, of course, and you can buy a limited edition zine called Yakuza Papers at the show or online. It’s got 23 illustrations, twenty-eight pages, and it’s eight bucks, plus shipping. You should go for it. (You should also buy The Yakuza Papers, Vol. 1, because Bunta Sugawara is on that Mitchum/Mifune/Nakadai level of cooldude.)

Here’s some vital details:

WHO: Artwork and zines by Ralph Niese, Maritsa Patrinos, Joanna Kroatka, Alexis Ziritt, Andrew Maclean, Logan Faerber, Andrew Maclean, Robert Wilson IV, Sophia Foster-Dimino, Rebecca Mock, Roxie Vizcarra, D-Pi, Ian MacEwan, Zack Soto, Morgan Jeske, Hunter Heckroth, Emma Rios, Vlad Jean, Aluisio Santos, Frank Teran, Jeremy Sorese, Ryan Andrews, Hwei Lim, Amei Zhao, Kris Mukai, David Brothers, Stanley Lieber and M. Dominic
WHAT: Yakuza film inspired art exhibit
WHEN: Saturday, September 15th, 6-8pm; artwork on display until Sept. 30
WHERE: Floating World Comics, 400 NW Couch St.

and there will be a special movie, too!

WHAT: Screening of Seijun Suzuki’s masterpiece, Branded To Kill
WHEN: Saturday, September 15th, 9:30pm
WHERE: Hollywood Theater, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd.

So the show opens on Saturday, with a movie screening right after. Wish I could be there. It sounds like a good ti–wait a minute, David who is in the art show? David Brothers? Well dang.

Sloane likes to solicit text-only zines for her shows, and she was kind enough to let me grab a spot. So: I made my first zine and now I’m going to talk about it some because I’ve never done this before.

I didn’t go into it with any type of plan, really. I figured I’d write a story, print it, and ship it. It’s that easy, right? So I wrote a story that came in around 4500 words, maybe a little more, and fiddled with it until I mostly liked how it turned out. Then I turned it over to a few friends, asked what they thought, and fiddled with it some more. (I think they call that “editing.”)

After that, I had to figure out how to make a zine. I don’t know word one about zines, beyond the fact that they exist and had words in them and involved a lot of tedious folding and stapling. I emailed Liz Barker, who creates Strawberry Fields Whatever with Laura Jane Faulds and Jen May. (Liz and LJ made a set of Beatles-inspired zines that I picked up and greatly enjoyed last year.) Liz gave me some good advice and warned me about some pitfalls, and that was enough to get me prepared enough to go at it. I poked around online for tips, too, and I found a Word template that would help me with laying out the zine properly. I also hung out and talked with Katie Longua about folding and stapling things, since she self-publishes her comics (and other art). She let me borrow her long stapler, too, which was a life-saver. (I also asked a coworker a few dumb design questions, and she put me on game, too.)

I spent some time fiddling around with fonts and font sizes, trying to get the best-looking text to fit into the most amount of space. I ended picking Georgia, size 11, from a pool of Arial, Times New Roman, and Georgia. That left every page mostly full, and was easy on the eyes besides. I meant to indent each paragraph, and even worked up a mockup with indents, but botched that when I went to print. I did a single test print of the three typefaces and took a sheet of the cardstock cover color I wanted home with me to see how it looked. I printed the story on natural-colored paper, I think it was called. The Kinko’s lady asked if I was doing a resume, so maybe it was resume paper. Either way, it’s nice.

With all of that under my belt and in the back of my head, I was ready to go. I wanted a fancy cover originally, and reached out to a friend to see about designing one. Then I realized, wait. I’m broke and it would actually be kind of cool if every zine I printed was entirely my own. So why not do a cover myself? What could possibly go wrong?

I soon realized that I didn’t have a title, not a proper one, anyway. I like one-word titles, and the file name for the text was just “daisuke.txt.” “Daisuke.” would be cool, but I decided to go with something different: I’d just write the first sentence of the story on the cover and let it serve as a semi-title. I wanted the text to fit mostly evenly on the cover, semi-justified basically, and that meant I needed to know how to adjust my handwriting. I did a few tests with a leaky pen (the only pen I own!), none of which I particularly liked, but the bottom-right was moving in the right direction:

I moved on to Sharpie, and also began working out other front and back cover elements. The Sharpie is closer to how I write in real life than the pen, strangely. I also factored in that I would mess up, and wrote a few patch words so I could adjust the whole shebang in Photoshop:

Oh… covers shouldn’t have crooked text on them, huh? I grabbed a piece of paper and a mechanical pencil and ruled a page up right quick and rewrote everything. It ended up much better, I think. It’s not perfect, my handwriting will never be perfect, but it works.

The next step was getting it onto a computer so I could edit it and adjust a few things on the fly. Scanning is tedious. I wish I had an intern to do it every time I have to do it. Turns out the only thing more tedious than scanning is scanning paper and then having to chop out text. For some reason, I couldn’t just go to Levels or Curves or whatever and make the text dark black and the paper bright white, to ease the cutting. So I did it by hand, with the eraser, magic wand, and a 400% zoom. I eventually ended up with this, which has a transparent background:

After that, I was ready to print. I decided to go with plain type for the back cover. In part because that previous step was the tedious-est, but also because it felt like a better idea. Here’s how the front and back covers worked out after I printed:

One pitfall I didn’t expect were my own terrible math skills. I wanted to print 25 copies, in addition to my one proof I printed earlier. The story worked out to twelve folded pages. That means six unfolded, plus one for the cover. However, when planning, I for some reason counted folded pages when deciding to do 25 copies, and estimated that I’d be bringing home 300 pieces of paper to fold and staple. Ha ha ha, it was only 150. Anyway, here’s a rejected back cover copy attempt I scrawled with a ballpoint pen I found at work. You can tell when I decided it was a bad idea. I’m surprised I finished the word “and.”

At this point, I’ve got the cover, I’ve got the guts, I’ve got a stapler, and I’ve got no idea how long it’s going to take to put this thing together. Luckily, I’d been slacking on watching TV, so I just caught up on Louie, Black Dynamite, and Children’s Hospital while I folded. 25 doesn’t sound like a lot, but boy does it feel like a lot of work when you’re in the middle of it and half done.

Physically, it was an easygoing process, though I was definitely tired of it and bored by the time I hit the end. But it was nice to be distracted by tv while I worked. I usually write with music for that exact reason. It gives me something to ignore, or lets me ignore and get some distance from what I’m working on. I can work in quiet, but it’s easier with a little bit of familiar noise.

I managed to fold almost every one of them perfectly straight, too. Here’s a peek:

I had half an idea about using old polybags as a container, but the size was all wrong for that. So I figured I was about wrapped up, but there was one problem: they didn’t lay flat. For some reason, despite having an apartment full of books, I didn’t go for the easiest solution. Instead, I stacked them up under my laptop and Katsuya Terada’s Rakugaking (and Felipe Smith’s Peepo Choo apparently) overnight:

And then, the next day at work, I found out that they all would fit in a Priority Mail package and that was that.

For a long time, I wanted to get published, to have somebody cosign my talents and put my work out there for me. Then I grew up, made my own site, and lost interest in getting signed. Why do I need somebody else to tell me what I can do? And for that matter, why do I need to print something for it to feel legitimate? I don’t. So I didn’t.

I liked doing this, though. It’s not something I’d do too often, and it is super cool to be even a small part of a show with a bunch of awesome artists. I’ve discovered people whose style I like a lot, and people whose art I already dug are present and accounted for, too.

Hit the art show on Saturday, if you can, or swing by Floating World after to check out the art. I sent Sloane twenty zines, so… keep an eye out for them? Maybe?

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