Resuming regularly scheduled programming…..

OK– I didn’t want to use up all my “stashes” too quickly, so I thought I’d give things a bit of a break over the weekend. I might start doing that regularly, or not. I’m still playing it by ear, but I’ll let you know in advance if I’m NOT going to be posting over the weekend on Fridays if I decide to go that route.

Over the weekend, I saw a wonderful program on the African mountain Gorilla on the DISCOVERY CHANNEL. It documented the daily life of a particular family of Gorillas– and it was amazing to watch them go about their routines of… well, mostly eating, resting and playing. They are very gentle creatures, despite their reputation built up by years of mis-representation in Hollywood as being fierce killers. Of course, the huge males– or Silverbacks, as they’re called– will valiently defend their families and “tribes” with great force if threatened, but barring that, he’s just as laid back as the rest of the troop. In fact, the Gorilla’s only natural predators are Leopards—- and of course, MAN. They’re being slowly wiped out by poachers looking to steal the babies to sell to zoos– and to take the heads and hands to sell as trophies. Like most of the natural wonders of wildlife in this world, human encroachment and greed has dwindled the Mountain Gorillas numbers to a dangerous level. It’s very sad to think of these gentle creatures in such dire peril. So, having said all that– what do I do…? I got inspired to do a sketch of a Gorilla, but I made him a gladiator. So sue me. And I think his head’s too big.

And here’s another layout from that SHE-HULK/THING one-shot. This one doesn’t even have a corresponding finished pencil page. There’s a couple like that–so I got more done on the project before it was cancelled the first time than I even remembered.

Tim O’Neil over at THE HURTING has what he calls “AN OPEN LETTER TO KYLE BAKER”. It doesn’t exactly address Baker personally, but it’s a great post. He laments the precipitous decline in sales of Baker’s PLASTIC MAN at DC. This is my favorite part of the letter:

“I feel bad for Kyle Baker. He gets nothing but praise for his graphic novels, which are perrenial “real world” successes. His latest, Birth Of A Nation, written by The Boondocks’ Aaron McGruder, will almost undoubtedly be a success as well, perhaps his biggest to date. But whenever he comes back to the ghetto of mainstream comics, he gets a proverbiual heap of shit for his efforts. Never mind that The Truth was a beautifully produced, thought-provoking and intelligent examination of racism and war – there are hundreds of retailers across the country who are using unsold copies of the book for insulation. The reason for this can probably be placed on Baker’s artwork. Only in comics could an instantly accessable, easy-to-read and blatantly commercial art style like Kyle Baker’s be so radically unpopular. The man is one of the most gifted natural cartoonists of his generation, and in the superhero direct market he can’t even get arrested. No wonder he’s so fucking cynical.”

This highlights what I see as an ever-growing (as much as something can GROW in the stunted and inbred community that the comic book crowd is these days) trend among comic book fans– in specific, the fan of the super-hero. More and more these days, I read on message boards the phrase (or variations of) “Ehh– that artists work is just too cartoony…!” The negativity over Baker’s work on THE TRUTH was so overwhelming, that the fact that the story was an incredibly innovative addition to the CAPTAIN AMERICA saga (and despite the annoying braying of the many nay-sayers to the contrary– WONDERFULLY illustrated) got lost in the mix. In a time when comic book writers are desperate to tack on their own little “addendum” to the history of a character, THE TRUTH was the greatest, most logical addition to CAP’s “myth”. But, by gosh, Baker’s work was just SOOOO CARTOONY…! Marvel has stated a new policy of moving away from more “cartoony” and “manga” styles (something so many fans seem to get confused about– many consider cartoony=manga– writing them both off as “trash”)– and more and more of the new books and new artists I see coming into the industry seem to be in the “realistic” vein. More and more young artists seem to be using photographic reference for their work– Alex Ross is still KING.

On the massage boards over at FANBOY RADIO, Kyle Baker was raked over the coals after a recent interview for the show, for stating that he would like to see stories that were more whimsical and full of wonder in superhero comics if he were going to read them instead of the boring rehashes of episodes of LAW AND ORDER or THE WEST WING (my examples, not his– see any issue of DAREDEVIL) they have become. ALL of this noise has led me to believe that another facet of the debates that have raged recently over kids comics vs. NO kids comics, “realistic” styles vs. “cartoony” styles is this: many comic book fans have lost their ability to use their imagination. In a society with instant gratification as its primary product– these fans don’t want to have to think about their comics anymore. They want to be spoon-fed every detail in the artwork– and they want their stories to be mundane to mirror what’s going on in the real world. Heaven forbid they should have to use any imagination to actually fill in some of the details themselves– or to have to stretch to lose themselves in the wonders of epic battles of good versus evil. No– it’s much easier to read stories where DOCTOR LIGHT is a rapist, or Hank Pym is a wife beater. The only stipulation they have is that these folks have to be wearing superhero tights when they’re doing their raping and wife beating.

So– to my mind, it comes down to this: these fans are so embarrassed to be reading superhero comics that they need to be able to point out to people that they’re “no longer for kids, by God…!”– and they don’t want to have to actually use their IMAGINATIONS when they read them. If these kinds of people were the majority of the fan base when Cole, Kirby, Infantino, C.C. Beck, Ditko and so many others (who gave us the fanciful characters that are still being published today) were working, the comics world would be so much poorer because these folks would have booed those creators off the stage.

That’s a world I don’t want to try to imagine.


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