Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Greatest of Marlys

Annie Mok at TCJ reviewed The Greatest of Marlys, a compilation published by Drawn & Quarterly.

This is one of those occasions in which I couldn't resist stealing, so, here it is: this is what a comics masterpiece looks like:


Lynda Barry, The Greatest of Marlys, 2016 [1988].

By the way, let me remind you: nothing happens except life. And that's what really matters, isn't it? Life...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bradford W. Wright's Intellectual Dishonesty

Bradford W. Wright wrote a book. The title: Comic Book Nation published by the Johns Hopkins University Press in 2001 (my copy is the paperback edition published in 2003). On page 246 the below page is reproduced in black and white:


Stan Lee (w), Gene Colan (a), Joe Sinnott (i), Artie Simek (l), no colorist was credited, "The Sting of the Scorpion", Captain America # 122, February 1970 (3).

Below is the caption in Comic Book Nation (247): 

 
Wright's thesis is that superheroes, a fascistoid genre if I ever saw one, was leaning towards the left of the political spectre in the early 1970s. What he "forgot" to show was page 5 of the same story. I'll do it for him (you're welcome!):


Stan Lee (w), Gene Colan (a), Joe Sinnott (i), Artie Simek (l), no colorist was credited, "The Sting of the Scorpion", Captain America # 122, February 1970.

Martin Luther King was spawned by the establishment? Really Mr. Lee?... What this page basically says is: let's stop with this liberal nonsense and go on with our fascist escapism business as usual, shall we?!...

PS As for Mr. Rogers' tastes in literature: no comment!...

Monday, August 15, 2016

My Main Criterion

  
 Yoshiharu Tsuge, Garo # 47, June 1968. The greatest comic magazine ever published... (My good condition copy which, in the weird lingo of comics collectors really means: my worn, wrecked,  damaged copy.)

Raquel Garzón conveyed beautifully my main criterion to judge great art (my translation; she's talking about novels, but, to me, it may be applied to any art form):
Novels lacking events and fury, without winners and epics. Novels which base their mastery in the details and are read with the same ease with which we listen to the rain falling. Novels in which nothing out of the ordinary happens while we flip the pages forward.
As Raquel also says, nothing happens except life. And that's what really matters, isn't it? Life...

Fake Comics Part Two - Coda


Héctor Germán Oesterheld (w), Hugo Pratt (a), Gisela Dester (a), "Ticonderoga". Sgt Kirk # 29, November 1969.


Héctor Germán Oesterheld (w), Hugo Pratt (a), Gisela Dester (a), "Ticonderoga". Frontera # 12, March 1959.



Héctor Germán Oesterheld (w), Hugo Pratt (a), Gisela Dester (a), "Ticonderoga". Frontera # 12, March 1959.

If the idea is to transform a landscape page into a portrait one I would say that the solution is to put two pages on top of each other. This is far from an elegant solution and it may be argued that the layout is false again. Agreed... these matters are never easy and subjectivity rears it's ugly head with each step (what really bothers me is that, apart from yours truly, nobody cares; this art form deserves to die!). In any case I accept this solution, which, contrarily to what he chose to do when Ivaldi reprinted "Sgt. Kirk," is what they both did for the "Ticonderoga" reprint in Sgt. Kirk magazine.

The washes, if we can call those blots that, in the Italian edition, are just senseless textures. But that's another problem, of course. Only recently, with the rise of the graphic novel, publishers and editors who care, and better technology, did production values reach great levels.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Fake Comics Part Two


Héctor Germán Oesterheld (w), Hugo Pratt (a), no colorist was credited, "La barca del Missouri" [the Missouri barge], Kirk Western # 1, 1976.

We all know the story. Hugo Pratt spent more than a decade in Argentina where he mostly drew Héctor Oesterheld's scripts. After that he published most of this material in Italy under his name alone. It breaks my heart to read the flap text in Mondadori's Ernie Pike 1976 edition claiming that "during this fecund period he [Pratt, of course] created famous comic strips and characters: Kirk, Ticonderoga, Ernie Pike, Anna [of the Jungle], Wheeling." Reduce that to two: the mediocre Anna and the so so Wheeling. Genius simply isn't for everyone...

But enough... it's not this that brings me here today. Why are the Italian editions of Sgt. Kirk, like the one above, fake comics? Because the layout was altered (from landscape to portrait), the drawing suffered additions and cuts, and some of the text was cut off. This goes against Nelson Goodman's print rule which states that every copy must come from the original source. Besides, even comics fans (who adore Hugo Pratt) will understand that, if the additions weren't drawn by him (and I don't believe that I own something drawn by Hugo Pratt, frankly) we can't say that the drawings are entirely his, can we?

We've seen on this blog already how those changes negatively affected the work. But that's not my concern today, either. Today it's about fakeness and fakeness only.


Héctor Germán Oesterheld (w), Hugo Pratt (a), "Cerco de muerte" [deathly siege], Misterix # 300, June 18, 1954 (page 409 of the "Sgt. Kirk" series).


Héctor Germán Oesterheld (w), Hugo Pratt (a), "Cerco de muerte" [deathly siege], Misterix # 300, June 18, 1954 (page 410 of the "Sgt. Kirk" series)..


Héctor Germán Oesterheld (w), Hugo Pratt (a; with someone else?), "La barca del Missouri" [the Missouri barge], Kirk Western # 1, 1976 (mock up for page 34).

As you can see above page 34 of the Italian (Cenisio) edition reprints one panel pf page 409 of the series (with the left arm of General Harper and some trees added on the left) and the first tier of page 410. The second panel of page 34 is also considerably altered with some ominous wind coming from the right side of the panel added and general Harper separated from Kirk and Dr. Forbes. To do this the anonymous drawer needed to add another left arm: Kirk's this time. The caption on the left of General Harper's daughter was suppressed, the shape of the speech balloons was altered also. In the end there's more negative space in the Cenisio edition and everything is less organic. You may say that the Italian edition is less cluttered, but it the decluttering is at the expense of Oesterheld's text, well... Again, though, this is a fake comic if I ever saw one.

Just for the fun of it I'll give you another example (lacking also the original, beautiful color) with the printed page this time. Notice the Ivaldi number "304" that the Cenisio hack didn't even bother to erase. The cuts reduced the pages from 398 to 304.


 Héctor Germán Oesterheld (w), Hugo Pratt (a), Stefan Strocen (c), "Cerco de muerte" [deathly siege], Misterix # 298, June 4, 1954 (page 398 of the "Sgt. Kirk" series).


Héctor Germán Oesterheld (w), Hugo Pratt (a; with someone else?), "La barca del Missouri" [the Missouri barge], Kirk Western # 1, 1976 (mock up for page 14).


Héctor Germán Oesterheld (w), Hugo Pratt (a; with someone else?), "La barca del Missouri" [the Missouri barge], Kirk Western # 1, 1976 (page 14 as reprinted in the magazine).

PS  I noticed that the last but one panel of page 398 (last panel of page 14) may show another hand on the left side in the cross-hatching. Maybe I should say, then: art by Hugo Pratt and anonymous ghost artist. It's known that Hugo Pratt used ghosts, Gisela Dester and Mario Bertolini among them. This doesn't mean that the Editorial Abril page is in any way a fake. It just means that some hands remain uncredited.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Julio Schiaffino and Leopoldo Durañona

I interrupt these two posts about fake comics (to write the second post I'm waiting for a magazine which is god knows where right now) to complain about 2016! What a year! I just read that Julio Schiaffino and Leopoldo Durañona died recently. Julio Schiaffino died June 23 and Leo Durañona died last February 22.

Julio Schiaffino was a chameleon who could imitate any drawing style. I remember him mostly for some of his covers for Frontera. Below is my favorite El Eternauta cover.



Héctor Germán Oesterheld (w), Julio Schiaffino (a), cover of El Eternauta [The Eternaut] # 2, December 1961. 

Leopoldo "Leo" Durañona started his career at Columba before he worked for Héctor and Jorge Oesterheld's Editorial Frontera. To me he will always be the illustrator of Héctor Germán Oesterheld's Latinoamérica y el imperialismo, 450 años de guerra [Latin America and imperialism, 450 years of war] serialized in the montonero magazine El Descamisado [the shirtless]. Living clandestinely already Oesterheld dictated his stories to him over the phone. Latinoamérica y el imperialismo, 450 años de guerra was published between July 24 1973 and March 26 1974. Leopoldo Durañona eventually fled to the United States saving his life, but I don't have a lot of interest in what he did over there...


Héctor Germán Oesterheld (w), Leopoldo Durañona (a), Latinoamérica y el imperialismo, Doeyo y Viniegra, 2004. The cover image is a combination of two panels by Durañona: the foreground was published in El Descamisado # 42 (March 5, 1974), the background was published in El Descamisado # 35 (January 15, 1974).

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Remarkable Panels And Fake Comics Part One


Robert Kanigher (w), Alex Toth (a), "White Devil ... Yellow Devil!," Star Spangled War Stories # 164, September 1972. As republished (in b&w) in Nemo # 5, November 1990 (scanned from the magazine mock-up).


This post could also be titled: White Flowers... Red Flowers.

I started writing about comics more than 25 years ago in the so-called fanzines Nuxcuro and Nemo (I don't like the term because I'm no fanatic, of course). That said, Manuel Caldas' amateur magazine Nemo was first published in 1986. I came on board in # 4 of the second series (August 1990). 

So, as you can see above, very early (in the next issue, really) Manuel Caldas accepted my suggestion to include a "Vinhetas Notáveis" [remarkable panels] section. What he doesn't know to this day, because I never told him, is that the above was not the remarkable panel that I intended. The real one is shown below:


"White Devil ... Yellow Devil!": I don't know who the colorist was? The Grand Comics Database doesn't help. Neither does Alex Toth.

This remarkable story was republished in Sgt. Rock Special # 8 (June 1990). This means that it was fresh on my mind and it impressed me enough to ask Manuel to open "our" brand new remarkable panels section with one of its panels. Below: Greg Theakston's colors for the same panel:


"White Devil ... Yellow Devil!" as republished in Sgt. Rock Special # 8, June 1990.  

The dirt was colored differently.
According to what I call my Nelson Goodman theory of comics fakes recoloring should be banned. Below we can see the first page of the story as originally published:


Robert Kanigher (w), Alex Toth (a), "White Devil ... Yellow Devil!," Star Spangled War Stories # 164, September 1972. The writer was the star of the show.

Anyway, let's see what Alex Toth said about it:


Caught here.

Now, Greg Theakston's colors (wrongly called Theakson):


Robert Kanigher (w), Alex Toth (a), Greg Theakston (c), "White Devil ... Yellow Devil!" as republished in Sgt. Rock Special # 8, June 1990.

There are few issues in the area of film preservation that arouse more anger than the issue of colorization. That is because it is an issue involving taste, and, to put it bluntly, anyone who can accept the idea of the colorization of black and white films has bad taste. 
I wholeheartedly agree, but I don't think that this is just a matter of taste. It's also a matter of a legitimate historical artifact vs. a fake. It's as if someone painted something over a Rembrandt or if someone rebuilt some part of St. Peter in Rome in some modern style. In the end, though, this is also a matter of taste because bad taste favors what's fake and flashy over what's authentic.

Why did (and does) the comics industry and comics readers accept  such a thing? Because, you see, not all comics creators were born equal. There's a hierarchy that mostly goes like this: 1) the drawer; 2) the writer; 3) the editor; 4) the inker; 5) the colorist; 6) the letterer. As you can see above the header of "White Devil ... Yellow Devil!" was erased from the republished version. This happened, methinks, because it gave the writer too much of a star status (which is too much for a # 2). This means that colors can be changed, but changing some master's drawings isn't easily accepted by readers (or should I say, watchers?).

But let's go back to the first page of "White Devil ... Yellow Devil!"... Among other minute differences Greg Theakston corrected the anonymous colorist's, according to Alex Toth, mistake: the white flowers at the end were colored red at the beginning. I would say that this (the correction, I mean) shouldn't have been done and yet... 

Greg Theakston's recoloring in this story is quite good and in many ways quite faithful to the original color. There are hundreds or thousands of horrible recoloring jobs out there (mainly using the worst nightmare of comics coloring: computer generated gradients that turn every surface into pristine plastic). So, I would say that this is a really bad choice to attack fake comics. And yet, I chose it for a purpose: since it is a borderline case between what should (only the original material should be reproduced) and shouldn't be done, I'm inclined to agree that correcting a blatant mistake is acceptable. On second thought the democracy of comics creators tells us that the original colorist has as much right to the integrity of his or her work as everybody else (the colorist was usually a woman, which is an additional reason, in the boys club that is the comics industry, to disrespect colors). I'm not even sure if we can call the red flowers a mistake. Alex Toth didn't own the story. He certainly didn't own the colors, so, if the colorist chose to color the flowers red on page one who is he to say that it was a mistake? If Sheldon Mayer, the editor, said nothing, the colors on the first page were always meant to be red, the color of blood, period. (Kindness is what kills both "devils" and we can metonymically link kindness to flowers.)

In the end the question is: who created this comic? Is Greg Theakston one of the creators? The answer is obviously and rotundly, no, he isn't.