Monday, November 19, 2012

For a recent birthday, got a few comics related stuff. First, up was Guardians of Being by Eckhart Tolle (great name) and Patrick McDonnell. It's a book using Mutts strips to impart a little zen like wisdom to the reader. This generation's Gospel According to Peanuts or The Tao of Pooh.

I love McDonnells artwork. I would have no problem with him being listed as the best cartoonist working today. His drawings appear almost deceptively simple. A few lines here and there and he all the movement, mood and likeness that is needed. More than any other cartoonist on the newspages captures the sheer emotion and range. When the size of comics has reduced most strips to talking heads, his have running, dancing, nut-throwing, tail-wagging... his characters seem always to be in the midst of life, even if they are just sleeping.

He's an artist that knows his history. Not just comic strip history, a big fan of Charles Schulz and George Herriman. But, his strips also reference classical and pop art with abandon, especially if you're lucky to have a Sunday paper that includes the header, a title panel that is trimmed by many papers, so artists are prone to make the first panel superfluous. McDonnell uses it to parody great works of art only with his characters.

The book has a couple of allusions that sneak up on you. Such as the one panel that is a take on Norman Rockwell's "Freedom From Fear" painting. Another page of birds singing in the trees and a lake as a set of three vertical panels and I'm reminded of classic Asian art with their vertical pieces capturing birds and branches with just a minimal of brush strokes.

McDonnell's work can be found a variety of places. I have a book of his, Me...Jane a children's book about the childhood life of Jane Goodall, the beginnings of her love for nature and her love-hate relationship with the mate of Tarzan. He also currently has a children's book called The Monsters' Maker about three little monsters who set out to create the biggest, baddest monster of all. Only like the other famous monster maker, the end result is not exactly what they expected to find. I even have a classical music cd with his artwork on the cover.

Tarpe Mills and Miss Fury is a gorgeous hardbound collection of many of the Miss Fury strips. Sadly, it's not from the very beginning, but it does include one day's strip that manages to nicely encapsulate everything you need to know about the character and her status quo.  Even if it didn't, it has a nice foreword that manages to cover many of the recurring characters and themes from the strip. It also provides a nice background to the life of Tarpe Mills. I won't go into it here, go out and buy the book. But, it should be noted that Tarpe Mills was one of the first female comic book creators. Not just an artist but creating, writing and drawing strips for Centaur Comics. She is the artist behind the notable Purple Zombie. It's common knowledge that many of the artists and creators worked in comics with their eyes sighted on working on newspaper strips. She was one of the few that actually achieved that in Miss Fury. Despite running for quite a few years, and predating Wonder Woman to the presses to boot, she'd probably be more forgotten today than she is if not for Timely Comics actually printing some of her newspaper adventures in comic book form way back in the day. After all, comic books, even ones from a half century ago, are a bit more collectible and easier to come across than newspaper strips that died out before man walked on the moon. Busy with other projects, haven't gotten beyond reading the intro to this one yet. The character seems to possibly be having a bit of a revamp. She appeared in the background of one of Marvel's The Twelve issues (think it was the tie-in issue). She is also slated to appear in Dynamite's Masks mini-series alongside various pulp and comicbook heroes, though there has been no art depicting her yet. Would not be surprised if we don't see an announcement in a week or two of Dynamite publishing a mini-series or ongoing with Ms Fury, as they are calling her,
About the only Marvel NOW title that sounds remotely interesting is a new title featuring Morbius the "living" vampire. I like Morbius, he was the villain in the first Spider-man comic I ever got. A superhero fighting a vampire AND a werewolf!? C'mon, what kid is going to resist that?

Cannot say I'm a fan of the unfinished artwork that they've released. Looks a little cold and the hand of the computer looks to be evident. And, the artwork of him has him looking like Michael Jackson. Creepy for whole 'nother reasons.

The gold standard will always be Gil Kane. Can't get him, but at least get someone that draws action well and knows how to set mood and atmosphere.

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