Sunday, October 26, 2014

Inspiration From Milestone Comics Goes On ... So What Will You Do?

It's the craziest thing. Over the past year I've stumbled into these weird pockets of mournful funk, and some of it specifically involves comics and my place in them and what I have made (or more like, what I have not made.) And it gets very emotional and weird and mid-life crisis-like.

I try not to tie in this period of mournfulness back into the coincidentally-it-was-also-the-20th-Anniversary-of-the-debut-of-Milestone Comics. 'Cause I have to look at that simply. And while I was there on opening day,  I still have to put the experience into perspective. I only worked there a shade over 2 1/2 years, close to 3 -- and that was split up over 4 years. I was still young enough (and ignorant enough) then to not have the scope of understanding that I actually had an excellent and unusually good working situation even if the pay was not glamorous. That buzz was not just comics publishing. That buzz was Milestone Comics specific and had very much to do with the people I worked with and the gentlemen I worked for.

The craziest thing is, each time I get into these super-duper painful spots, Joe Illidge has written a fantastic article about Milestone Comics, and about diversity in comics, and about inspiration, and how it just needs to happen. Like a well-timed preacher on Sunday morning who speaks a word you really need to hear, he says stuff I need to hear (or rather, in this case, read!)

For as long as it's up, here's the latest article he's written for his column on Comic Book Resources: The Mission: The Next Milestone. I would love for you to read it.

The whole article is great -- but I've pasted a chunk below for better keeping, because when that article eventually comes down off CBR to make room for new stuff, maybe a part of it will still at least still be here on this blog.

So (with apologies to Joe!) I've bolded the font on my absolutely most favorite part.

Joe Illidge wrote:

"But that's not what I consider the best answer to the question "When is Milestone coming back?",

if the question is asked of me ever again, and mind you, I'm not qualified to answer that question definitively.

But as a man who lost his father in his pre-teens, and lost one of his mentors in his forties, I know the answer to looking for leadership, for a way to the answer you want to hear so badly, is not the return of what you cannot manifest or wield or control.

The answer is to either become what you've lost, or create something new.

Or both.

To create something just as good, and potent, and creative, and imaginative.

To want to be as giving of yourself, as others were to you.

To learn from the sacrifices of those whom you admire, to emulate or improve upon the best of their actions, while hopefully avoiding the minefields, pits and bear traps they encountered.

So, honestly, I love Milestone Media, Inc., what it was for me as a younger man and extending into the present. Their heroes are my heroes. The founders are my mentors, friends, and allies.

But instead of someone asking me "When is Milestone coming back?", I'd prefer they know the answer.

I'd prefer the answer be "I am the next Milestone."

"This is who I am. This is what I can do well." And maybe even "This is when I'm going to do it."

To that, I would say...

"I can't wait to see it.""

"... (B)ecome what you've lost or create something new." I just love that!

Are you inspired yet? 

What will you do?

How will you tell your story?

What will your comic be about?

How will you share it -- online? In print? On a website? On a blog? In a mini comic? At conventions? Will you tell us on Google+ the latest page is up?

Does it have to be an epic saga right off the bat ... or can it be a slow trickle that carves out a mountainside  ...?

I echo Joe -- I can't wait to see it!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How To Use Photo Reference in Making Artwork So It's Not Copyright Infringement (ie., Really General Rules of Thumb)

Every artist learns how to draw by copying photographs, other people's drawings and by drawing from real life. So at what point is it no longer learning from and when is it flat out copyright infringement? The simplest and most obvious difference lies once an artist starts selling their work.

Say you want to draw or paint a piece you want to sell at a show, or in a store, at a gallery, or even privately to another person. What's a good guideline?

Super Basic Rules of Thumb on How to Use Photo Reference For Art:

• When you take the photograph yourself to draw the picture yourself, you can copy your own photo exactly.

• It's "Reference" when you hire a model to pose for you, they sign a consent form and they allow you take photographs of them to use in your work.
• It's "Reference" when you use someone else's photograph in order to get the details of a type of object or person correct (like the folds of a garment, the finish on a cabinet, the slope of a car roof, etc.,) but you must change actual final pose/final image of the object or figure itself in your own piece. Copying the overall image exactly is not allowed.

• It's copyright infringement when you use someone else's photograph and copy it exactly in your own drawing and sell it as your own work. The image in the photo is actually the photographer's, not your own, even if and when you draw a new and separate picture from it yourself. (Dunno how Lichtenstein got away with it pretending his comics panels swipes were "fine art" since his painted "ink lines" missed the point of the beauty of inking ... but I digress!)

• It's copyright infringement when you take someone else's trademarked character(s) or celebrity likeness, draw it and sell it as your own work. Here's where it gets hairy ... because you'd think nobody would care if you painted favorite characters in some little kid's bedroom, but some companies are really picky.

The weird and extremely rare exception for this I've noticed, falls within the comic book industry, where comic book artists at comic book conventions sell drawings of major comic book characters and they don't pay the companies a cut for the privilege. This is probably because the presumption is that the love of the fan, love of the artists and the resulting artwork all inspires and reinforces support of the comic book industry itself, which is super-cool and seems to have worked for decades.

A more technical description of avoiding copyright infringement is available at the very fine Graphic Artist Guild website, and there you can even get a free PDF booklet on the subject.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mike Madrid's Vixens, Vamps & Vipers: The Lost Villainesses of Golden Age Comics

I received an advanced review copy of Mike Madrid's Vixens. Vamps & Vipers at the end of August. I was so excited I literally jumped up and down inside the post office lobby ... silly of me, I know, but I was really delighted! Especially because it showed up out of the blue on the heels of a terrible, terrible work week where I was dealing with rain-and-mold destroyed art supplies and delayed curriculum, which was just depressing. (Yeah, I get it. I'm emotional. Okay.) This ARC cheered me up a huge amount!

I did wait to post my review of it until the book was actually out, since I personally find it frustrating to see a great trailer only to find out at the end that the movie's out in like a year, or to read a great book review and not be able to buy it right away if I so chose... This book released on October 7th, and now I can blog about it!

Madrid's Vixens, Vamps & Vipers is a fascinating counterpoint to his previous Divas, Dames & Daredevils, which I also thoroughly enjoyed. What makes this new book so interesting is not only his choice of villainesses to feature in the stories he picked (Some of them are shocking! Fantastic film-noir influences!) but also his observations about their character, and their resultant behaviors. For example, I loved this quote of his: "Crimefighting females lived secret lives, while villainnesses were able to do and say what they pleased." Because it made me think -- Yeah!  But then that's also basically true of male heroes, perhaps, too (Batman, Spiderman, right?) But why is it that villains/villainesses don't have secret identities? In his wrap up Madrid writes how true villany is a sign of free will  ... and it is ... But I also did notice that villainesses -- when they stay bad -- tend to die! While villains tend to live to exert evil another day ... (and why is that ...?)

It's also fascinating to note his observation of how villainesses could fall for the male hero and try to seduce them -- but male villains didn't usually fall for the female heroine. "This romantic double standard suggested that love, and a women's emotions, could prevent her from being a successful villainess." Amazing how flashy sexuality and the power in villainy go hand-in-hand for the female ... while the dorky heroine tones hers down in her secret identity so she doesn't get hassled. Good girls don't seduce men -- not even for the greater good. LOL

I enjoyed Madrid's wrap up, too, where he observes how today's comic book "An antiheroine... [or] A villainess ... don't fully commit to either virtue nor vice." and thus become "less powerful". I agree they pay the price for their inability to commit because they become a character you can't really trust. They don't know where they stand, so we as readers don't know where they stand. While in real life you give grace to friends when they do something stupid, after a person changes behavior on you enough times you then learn to not trust them. It's safer to drop them for your own peace of mind so you don't have to keep watching your own back around them! So I wonder if loss of overall comics sales could be primarily from the huge spread of titles featuring the same character and secondarily from characters' lack of commitment to be truly good or evil. Both factors just make it easier for readers to drop the book(s) out of frustration. Real life is gray enough!

Madrid has grouped the stories into types -- those that feature power-hungry wartime women in tales of political intrigue and film-noir endings. Women whose beauty (or lack thereof) motivated their evil machinations; villainesses of color (because apparently back in the Golden Age it was easier to accept anthropomorphic heroines rather than actual heroic women from minority groups!) and "Crime Queens". It's a great and fun sampling.

The two books compliment each other -- and if you're going to get one, you really ought to  get both -- because together they present such a fuller picture of what very interesting female characters there were during comics' Golden Age. It's sad how nowadays what we're offered in (especially mainstream) comics is often so lackluster.

Enjoy these spectacular and crazy comics from a bygone and bolder age! And thank you, Mr. Madrid, for caring so much and finding these treasures to share!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

West End Farmer's Market: Blue Vine Woodworks -- their Gorgeous Handcrafted Kitchenware

One of Tyler's Seriously Gorgeous Cutting Boards

I get into spaces where as much as I want to be more supportive locally I don't have the time to get to the places I want to visit. Then I feel terrible because we all should be more supportive of each other locally with stuff we create and grow, and taking the time to share (like the free days at the Frist or the Schermerhorn!!) So, sometimes you need to shove things aside and Just Make The Time.

We have several easy-to-get-to Farmers' Markets on the West Side and I finally started to stop by to visit some again because the produce, the foods and the people are just amazing.

I thought I would start to highlight some of the delicious foods and useful items and wonderful people you can go visit at the West End Farmers' Market, too, because they need to be discovered by an even wider audience.

One of the tables at the West End Farmers' Market is for Blue Vine Woodworks. A sweet young man by the name of Tyler creates useful kitchen items -- cutting boards, bottle openers, test tube spice racks --  in wood. It seems to be his passion, (and I say that even before I read the FAQ page I just linked to there) primarily because the wood items he fashions are just so intensely beautiful. You can totally see it in the work. His patterns and finishes in the worked wood are -- to put it simply -- works of art.

The Blue Vine Woodworks website and the Blue Vine Woodworks Etsy shop are pretty good indicaters of how terrific his pieces are. But I highly recommend you go see him in person at the Bellevue or West End Farmers' Markets, because you'll totally see in person and for yourself how it would be worth saving up for a useful kitchen treat like one of Tyler's wares.