Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Visuals Revisited

I’m a visual guy.

Much of this comes from a rather unique childhood. My father collected rare children’s books, from the turn of the last century to the 50s. I grew up with an appreciation for illustration. My mom owned every Dr. Seuss book, and both parent’s houses were flooded with picture books. Both my parents liked art, so these books were chosen in large part for their visual value.

Rarely have I posted about this. I have posted an influence map, though, which is strikingly visual: Dr. Seuss, Hiyao Miyazaki, Salvador Dali, Alan Aldridge, MC Escher, Mercer Meyer, Graeme Base, Disney, Maxfield Parrish, Jim Henson, Dinotopia. All from childhood. The Disney visual element I wrote up once talking about Mary Blair. Also included in that influence map was The Mind’s Eye series, which I saw at an impressionable age. It, along with the 1993 game Myst, were the most influential things I saw in digital imaging.

I once wrote up what art I want to have in my house when I’m older. Some of those things I already own. Indeed, I just spent a tidy sum framing a number of prints I intend to keep for the rest of my life. It was a birthday and Christmas gift to me. Those now framed are: Mucha’s ‘Four Seasons’, Magritte’s ‘The Treachery of Images’, Giorgione’s ‘The Tempest’, Banksy’s ‘Weapon of Choice’, Panini’s ‘Picture Gallery with Views of Modern Rome’, Picasso’s ‘Three Musicians’, Escher’s ‘Drawing Hands’, and Raphael’s ‘School of Athens’. There is other art on my walls besides.

Last year I taught art history, and already have a lot of art books on my shelves, from ‘The Louvre: All the Paintings’ to beautiful coffee table works such as ‘Kashmir’, ‘The Orient Express’, ‘Medicine: A Treasury’ and ‘The Art of Alice in Wonderland’.

In the slightly more plebian realm I own a number of graphic novels, from ‘Bone’ to ‘Ed the Happy Clown’. I have Miller’s ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ and Gaiman’s ‘Miracleman: The Golden Years’, but this is as close as I get to trade paperback comic books. Ours was not a family, really, of reading X-Men and Wonder Woman, although my sister briefly was interested in the former.

Not that there weren’t comics. We had collections of ‘Foxtrot’, ‘Doonesbury’, ‘Bloom County’, ‘Calvin and Hobbes’, ‘Dilbert’, ‘Adam @ Home’, ‘Sally Forth’, ‘For Better or Worse’ and ‘The Farside’. As time went on we added more. I now have a good collection of ‘Sherman’s Lagoon’, my mom collects ‘Pearls Before Swine’, and I have particular collections of ‘The Boondocks’, ‘Get Fuzzy’, ‘King Aroo’, ‘Bizarro’, ‘Farley’ and ‘Gordo’.

I did once write something up on here of “20 Comics Artists (if you’re serious aboutcomics) and notably three of them were known to me from their web comics: Kazu Kibushi, who did ‘Copper’, Jeph Jacques, who does ‘Questionable Content’, and Aaron Diaz, who does ‘Dresden Codak’. The only web comic artist I might add to that particular list would be Vitaly S Alexius, who does ‘Romantically Apocalyptic’. This is a beautiful comic, but is not entirely hand-drawn, and so it would be sort of cheating to include.

Web comics are a part of my daily life and routine. Way back in this blog’s infancy, in 2007, I mentioned something to the effect, back when my writing style was pure Jon Carroll wannabe. Way back in 2002 I started reading ‘Sluggy Freelance’, with an impressive archive going back to 1997 or so. I got the books, loved the characters, followed it through high school and on through college. I don’t read it any more. I gave up somewhere around 2009, I think. Maybe later. I own four or five collections of it though.

You never know with web comics. In 2006 the great ‘A Lesson Is Learned But the Damage is Irreversible’ ended, only to publish a new comic in 2012. And for the past almost a year now – nothing more added but that one comic. ‘Mac Hall’ ended, only to be replaced by the same cast in ‘Three Panel Soul’. ‘The Meek’ was a very well-done online graphic novel, and hasn’t updated since November, 2012. Kate Beaton very rarely touches her ‘Hark a Vagrant!’ anymore, it seems. ‘Copper’, mentioned above, stopped updating with a random update in 2009. Little has changed since my ninth post on here, all those years ago.

Every Sunday there was a race between me, my sister and either my mom or dad (mom was more into the race, dad would often just read a different section and wait) to see who got the funnies. Every day, when the paper was delivered, there played out the same ritual. I no longer read any ‘newspaper’ comics except ‘Doonesbury’. I finally gave up on ‘Pearls Before Swine’ and ‘Get Fuzzy’ when I stopped laughing. Web comics have the space and creativity now. ‘Dresden Codak’ isn’t a punch line strip, but I want to know what happens, and am willing to wait months in between beautiful panels to see. Yesterday I got my kickstarter reward for backing his book project, namely an attractive, bound copy of his work. It went right next to the ‘Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics’, collecting the works of Herriman, McKay, and the other pioneers of the genre. The visual legacy I inherited continues on.

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