Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Closing Down the Blog

It's with much consideration and no small feeling of regret that I'm typing out the last post I'll publish on this blog. This thing started out as an idea to write a travel blog back in 2012 as I was preparing for a trip that never transpired, a year abroad studying illustration in Edinburgh. It leapt to life with the calamity of the Aurora Theatre shooting, and built some traction as a place for my thoughts on comics and cultural matters, as well as periodic art school updates. And it's fallen into disuse and disrepair in the past few years as other projects and undertaking have absorbed my time and energy. It's time to retire this writing space.

I thank all of you who have been regular or irregular readers over the years. Your visits to this site have registered as numbers in my analytics feed and have encouraged me in my writing with the knowledge that a few people out there care enough to check and see what I think about...stuff. It's been a great platform for a few serious rants. It's been an excellent place to pen replies to other posts I read and to engage friends of mine in discourse in a sort of internet-age analog to the Letters to the Editor pages that are disappearing with the newspaper industry. It's challenged me to research and build arguments and not fly off the cuff about things I could easily be reactionary about. I've had people let me know that things I've written here have challenged them, gotten them and people around them thinking and talking in directions they might not otherwise have taken. I think it's made me a better writer, but so far I'm the only one who's told me that.

By no means am I going to stop writing; I'm merely pulling the plug on this particular platform. Any new blog posts and artwork I produce will be published first and foremost on my professional site at www.ajkomics.ca. Selections of what's written there will make their way over to my Medium profile at www.medium.com/@ajkomics; I haven't done anything with that platform in years, and it's worth trying out again. This website will remain here, dormant, as a lingering archive of what I've written. I'll dust off a few pieces from this archive and re-post them to both the AJKomics.ca blog and to Medium as a way of introducing a ready body of content to these new platforms and hopefully sparking some interest in what I have, and have had, to say.

And that's that. I'm turning out the lights here. I bid you all a very fond farewell; I'll see ya out in the Grid.


Sunday, 1 November 2015

A Few Good Eggs: Crowdfunding 'The American Bystander'

I had one of those mornings today that felt like it had great narrative cohesion. You know the sort. In this instance, the feeling was brought about by an email I received from Mimi Pond at the precise moment that my order of coffee, hashbrowns, and eggs arrived.

Mimi was dropping me a line to alert me to the existence of a crowdfunding campaign for a new humour magazine, The American Bystander, being run on Kickstarter by Mike Gerber (The New Yorker, The New York Times, SNL). Quite frankly, it looks great. It helps that the project is being put together by a handful of old-guard humour writers who have seen print humour rise and fall over the years and taken a good long look at what works and what doesn't. They've put together a solid-looking editorial model: no advertising impinging on their editorial freedom, a diverse crowd of established and emerging writers, and fair compensation for their contributors (none of that "We'll pay you in Exposure!" bullshit). Mimi happens to be one of those contributors, and from what she tells me and what I'm reading this magazine will collect folks who have lent their voices to SNL, The Simpsons, Monty Python, National Lampoon, and some other chuckle-worthy corners of our culture. The campaign has 11 days left in it, and I'd love to see it hit a couple more stretch goals before it runs its course (particularly because that would include the chance to submit a cover illustration for the thing). I've pitched in a bit so that people can be funny in print; head on over there and do the same!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Why Make Prints?

Last week my printmaking instructor, the inimitable Briar Craig, assigned us a thinking project: namely, to come with an answer to why exactly are you doing this thing? As printmaking students, something we get from our friends a lot is, "So, what's the point of this...why don't you just print your art out digitally?"...which is a pretty good question. And I figured, since I'd left the blog dormant for so long (though many of you have continued to come back and read old pieces, which is really cool to see), that this was the perfect place to work out my thoughts on this and give you something new to chew on.
As artists each of us will be drawn towards specific imagery, ideas, and media for personal and specific reasons. Whether you intend to be a printmaker or not each of you have chosen to study printmaking at an advanced course level and perhaps it is time to start asking yourself why you make prints. Why not make paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, digital based works or use performance? What do the media of  printmaking offer you and your creative urges that the others may not? How do the media of printmaking supplement or add to whatyou may be working on in other media? How do the media of printmaking support the ideas that you have for imagery?
Bear with me while I think "aloud" here for a bit. My medium of choice is and has always been drawing. In the past few years, the drive to draw has solidified somewhat, found direction as an invested interest in the comics form, in its theory and history, and in my own production of comics as an art object. So when it comes to printmaking, I find it reasonably easy to identify what draws me to it. A significant part of what attracts me to comics is the material nature of the form. I have a deep and abiding love for printed material. It's the reason I have shoeboxes full of minis and zines and postcards, ephemera collected from
conventions and festivals. It's why I spend unreasonable amounts of money on limited edition print portfolios. It's what sends shivers down my spine when I finally hold my work in print, even if it's just a mini run off the printers in the school library.

I didn't really know where that love stemmed from until I dove into my research at Durham this past year, and realized that what draws me to print is the democratization of art and literature. There's an undeniable beauty in old manuscript illuminations, to be sure, and in print I am definitely drawn to the aesthetic of multiplicity that emerges as an edition of something is produced. But there's a restrained sort of power in producing an image or a body of text en masse, even on the cheapest pulp paper, and releasing it into the world in a form that a multitude of people can obtain and share, knowledge and thoughts in material form that will change hands and work its way into the strangest little corners of the world and stick there until someone else finds it, dislodges it, and sets it in motion once more.

There is, decidedly, a point where these ideas come up against the primary motivations of a Fine Arts education, a gallery artist's education. Most of us are shooting for a career in the White Cube, the sanctum sanctorum  of the art world. We're creating big, bold, well-crafted, generally expensive pieces of original art...except that I want to make small, sometimes bold, well-crafted, cheap pieces of original art. Not everyone out there can afford original work, and I think that's where the democratization aspect of printmaking has taken on new life in the digital age: where these processes used to be the only way to print, they now hold arcane status as Art. These are hand-operated processes, sometimes with mechanical elements, which produce some variation in the final product. Typeface wears over time. Ink transfers to textured paper a little differently every time. The colours we mix change a bit between editions. We don't produce copies; we produce multiple originals.

So when I pull a screenprint, and later this year when I start learning lithography, letterpress, and bookbinding processes, this is what drives me. I want to make small, affordable pieces of pleasing original art that people can pick up on a whim, read, lend to a friend, put in a library, art that can go out and
have a life of its own. It's the evolution of a drawing student into a cartoonist who wants people to read what he makes, and wants his touch visible in the object that the reader holds in their hands.

Or maybe I'm just a guy who's been reading too much Walter Benjamin.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Crowdfunding News - The Broken Frontier Comics Anthology Needs Your Support!

Listen up, you mugs! I've neglected my duty to this project for far too long, and now with only four days remaining and $26,000 to go it's high time I remedied that.

Broken Frontier: The Boldest Comics Anthology in the Galaxy
by Tyler & Wendy Chin-Tanner

That real cover shot
Every once in a while a really worthwhile, well-assembled, creator-owned comics project comes along, and you can tell by looking at the roster of writers and artists who have come together to make it happen that it's gonna kick some serious ass. The Broken Frontier Anthology is that project. Now, I may a touch biased because that roster includes some of my own friends and colleagues - like Sacred & Sequential's own A. David Lewis, Canadian sensation Salgood Sam, and the SVA's phenomenally skilled and cordial Nathan Fox - but that really just makes me all the more confident in the quality of the comics that Broken Frontier is collecting in this edition.

This anthology has come together as a collaboration between two proponents of creator-owned comics: the comics news site Broken Frontier, headed by editor-in-chief and writer Frederik Hautain, and Tyler and Wendy Chin-Tanner's publishing company A Wave Blue World, which has been putting out comics without sucking the life out of their cartoonists' IPs since 2005. It's a deadly team. Hautain has assembled a crew of comics makers possessed of a slew of untold stories that they've been dying to realize and offered them the means to do exactly that. All they need now is a little...push. That's where you come in.

And really, could you have asked for a more gorgeous volume to grace your shelves than this? Robbi Rodriguez's (Spider Gwen, FBP) cover for this edition is stunning, and is further complemented by a Farel Dalrymple bookplate and exclusive prints from PJ Holden (Judge Dredd), Robert Sammelin (Cimarronin, Sleepy Hollow), and Toby Cypress (Rodd Racer). After that, let's not leave out names like Greg Pak (Action Comics), Tom Raney (Stormwatch, Avengers Academy), Noah Van Sciver (Blammo, Saint Cole), Steve Orlando (Midnighter), Cullen Bunn (The Sixth Gun, Magneto), Alison Sampson (Genesis, Mad Max: Fury Road), and Box Brown (Andre the Giant). The book promises to be packed full of stories that explore the unknown, from the edges of the universe to the wilds of Alaska in a host of genres from steampunk to sci-fi to fantasy (with Vikings!) and all the cracks in between.
But enough of me rambling at you. Go check out the campaign at br.oken.fr/anthology. Take a read through Bleeding Cool's promotion of the anthology. And get yourself over to Reddit, where the team's doing an AMA session through to the campaign's close on Friday, by which point you've hopefully realized that you didn't need to eat next month anyway and backed this project all the way.

One more thought to leave you with. Something that warms the cockles of my heart is seeing anthology projects that buck up and pay their contributors properly for their work. This project seems to be doing right by its writers and artists and that, I think, is something worth putting a little cash towards.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

RANT - Jared Leto's Joker and Just How Done I Am With Fans Right Now

Geek fandom is a realm of asinine inconsistency.

I am currently embroiled in a comment thread on The Nerdist's Facebook page discussing the ups and downs of the new Call of Duty: Black Ops III teaser, something I wouldn't normally give a rat's ass about except that this time they've gone full-cyberpunk, and I think it looks kinda rad.

The folks behind landmark cyberpunk video game series Deus Ex, which itself recently released at stunning new trailer for their upcoming title Mankind Divided, responded with some good-natured ribbing on Twitter.
Which fans proceeded to take way too seriously. Facebook has erupted like a bad rash of whining fanboys convinced that Treyarch "stole" or "ripped off" the Deus Ex setting, which would be a valid argument if we knew anything about the new CoD game beyond the deliberately vague tonality of a teaser trailer. It doesn't have a setting; it has a feeling, a suggestion of ideas, direction, and mood. In other words, it suggests a genre, and like every other piece of genre fiction ever made it is guilty of a tonal resemblance. Nobody shit on Interstellar for ripping off the Star Wars setting because they're both set in space, just like no one got mad at Beethoven for ripping off Bach when he wrote "Symphony No. 9 in D Minor": "Dude, J.S. already wrote his "Double Violin Concerto" in that key, you can't do that, man!"

And as for you schmucks running around the web peddling that lachrymose "lack of originality/it's all been done before" garbage, I have news for you: we've been copying each other's work since one guy drew a buffalo on a wall and the next guy went, "Dude, I should do one like that..." There have never been any arguments for the so-called Death of Creativity that stand up to real scrutiny. You create, or you don't.

Now yesterday, something beautiful happened.
Comics fans have been waiting for months to see what Jared Leto's Joker would look like, teased by rumours leaked from Suicide Squad production that he'd be losing his signature suit, that Leto was bulking up for the role, etc. And then they finally reveal their new, revolutionary, dynamic Mr. J...and everyone loses their minds!

I have seen every inch of the spectrum of opinion spewed across Twitter since that picture came out, and none of it adds up to anything sane. The same people are saying in one tweet that they hate the new design, it's too different, too weird...and following it with a complaint that DC's cinematic universe is too cliche. For crying out loud, which is it??

There's not a lot more to be said on this. It's the way it's always been with the hype machine, and it's not bound to change anytime soon. And, for that matter, I'm not bound to change either; I'm always gonna be the guy sitting off in the corner, staring at my phone behind a pint and quietly foaming at the mouth while I scroll through my Twitter feed. Because it all just pisses me off: the arrogant entitlement of consumers of culture to be spoon-fed exactly what they want by their favourite media, and the vehemence with which they lash out at people who are pouring their heart and soul into a creative vision, for not creating exactly that thing they really wanted. If you want it that badly, get off your ass and make it yourself! You create, or your don't. It's that simple.

What are we really fans of? Fans of the characters, their worlds, and their creators would support that creation, would uphold hard work and innovation and the effort that goes into bringing new design and iterations of these things into being. But we don't that. As a cultural whole we bitch and whine about changes that are made, about things that don't fit what we wanted, the way we thought it should be. More often than not, the way we wanted it was the Old Way, like wanting Jared Leto to be Jack Nicholson's Joker all over again. Hell of a lot of respect you've got for the actor there, folks, asking him to take a couple years out of his life to recreate someone else's performance. Shame on you. We're not fans of comics, or movies, or characters. We're fans of our own bleeding nostalgia, and we'll cheer for whoever most makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside by validating the things we love to consume.