THE COMMENTARY TRACK: SPIDER-MAN FAMILY #7
My timing stinks.
Last week's Commentary Track, I'm afraid, got buried in the avalanche of WonderCon coverage that CBR provided throughout the weekend. That's why I want to mention the latest Track right at the top of Pipeline this week, because it's a special one.
We had Mark Waid, Karl Kesel, and Todd Dezago lined up to discuss their 30 page story in SPIDER-MAN FAMILY #7. It was a story done in tribute to Mike Wieringo, with whom they had all worked in the past on either SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN or FANTASTIC FOUR. You'll get Karl Kesel's guide for picking out the assistant artists he used to help finish the issue in time. You'll hear about the Fantastic Four story Mark Waid never got to do with Wieringo. Todd Dezago will provide the cliffs notes to the stories he references in this new story.
And The Looter will have tea with Doctor Strange.
It's just as loony as it sounds, but also a lot of fun and very informative.
Click on the link above and give it a read. Act now and I'll throw in scans of seven pencil layouts provided by Karl Kesel used in the production of the story. This offer is good as long as the CBR servers are serving.
While I'm here, I'd like to make a request of Marvel: Please do a hardcover collection of the Dezago/Wieringo issues of SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN. I think they're neatly self-contained, even coming out of the end of the Clone era. A simple text page introducing it would suffice to explain the first issue or two, perhaps, but the rest of that stuff is easily compartmentalized.
Coming up this week in The Commentary Track: THE NEARLY INFAMOUS ZANGO #1, by Rob Osborne. Here's a short excerpt:
This is my muse. The couch potato. A once cruel, immensely powerful sultan of savagery reduced to a slumbering heap in front of the TV. Surrounded by his sweet and salty indulgences, Lord Zango is a lover of the snack foods, and he's a shell of his former self. Fear him.
Read the whole hilarious thing on Friday!
INTERVIEW: TIM LEVINS
When I first started reviewing comics on USENET nearly 13 years ago, one of the first review copies of a comic I ever received was THE COPYBOOK TALES. Its writer, J. Torres, was passing along copies of the ashcans / mini-comics / whatever-you-called-them-then to drum up interest. It worked, as a number of reviewers at the time fell in love with the series. I was no exception. Based off that work, I've followed the careers of both its writer, J. Torres, and artist, Tim Levins, to this very day.
Hearing that they were reuniting for a new title at DC was good news. Getting the chance to interview Levins for Pipeline was even cooler. (There are moments that I'm still a fanboy at heart.) Levins went on from his days drawing independent comics with Torres to a lengthy run on the animated BATMAN comic series before dropping off the radar completely. Let's catch up with him today and see what's coming up with his new title, FAMILY DYNAMIC.
Augie De Blieck Jr.: What have you been up to the last couple of years? Aside from an appearance in TwoMorrows' WORKING METHODS (which we'll get to soon enough), I haven't seen much from you in comics lately. Was I looking in the wrong places? Should I scurry to the back issue bins for something?
Tim Levins: Well, unless you were looking for me in my house, you were looking in the wrong places -- I've pretty much been doing the Mr. Mom thing for the past three years, looking after my son. He just started kindergarten, so I now have the time to devote to working again. I did the odd SCOOBY DOO assignment for DC, as well as that John Lowe book you mentioned, but beyond that I've spent most of my time hanging out at the park, going to story time at the library, doing puzzles, connect the dots -- that sort of thing :)
It seems fitting somehow that my first big project after returning to work is a story that focuses on family -- exactly what I've been doing for the last three years!
ADB: That certainly explains it. I never got into the whole stalker thing.
Your work has often skewed younger, too. COPYBOOK tales focused on 20-somethings with flashbacks to their younger days. Your BATMAN work was clearly aimed at those who were growing up on the cartoons, as well as those of us with good taste in storytelling. And SCOOBY DOO, ditto. We'll call SIREN an outlier on this particular graph.
What interests you in this particular type of work? Do you think your art style naturally fits that readership, or is your art style formed by the audience it's aimed at?
TL: My personal taste in comics doesn't necessarily skew younger, but I do enjoy a lot of the superhero books that are aimed at kids. The stories and characters are often boiled down to the basics, stripped of confusing and convoluted backstory -- they're simple, and I mean that in a good way. And now that I have a child, I'm even more appreciative that these types of comic books are being published. When my son is old enough, I'd like him to be able to read stories that are age-appropriate and just plain fun.
As for my art style, I'd say that it's always had a cartoony look to it, which is probably why I was lucky enough to find work on books that have a similar style, like BATMAN: GOTHAM ADVENTURES and SCOOBY DOO. I studied classical animation, which taught me a lot about basic drawing skills, and I grew up poring over comic books drawn by John Byrne and John Romita, Jr. In recent years, I've been really inspired by the work of the late, great Mike Wieringo. I remember the first time I ever saw his art in the pages of SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN -- it appealed to me immediately, and I was thrilled to see that someone with a cartoony style was working in mainstream comics.I've always admired Mike's ability to blend realistic and cartoony qualities to create a wonderful, unique look.
ADB: Does playing Mister Mom make you a better artist for FAMILY DYNAMIC today than you might have been just a few years ago? Is this a book you could have done in the same way without that youngster in your life?
TL: Well, I've always been lucky enough to have a healthy and secure family life, and I remain close to my parents and siblings. Growing up, my experience with "family dynamics" was from the perspective of a son or a brother. Now that I'm a father, I suppose I'm more well-rounded and better able to appreciate a story like FAMILY DYNAMIC that explores the intricacies of family relationships. As a parent, I want what's best for my son, just as my parents wanted what's best for me. The problem, of course, is that parents and their kids often disagree about what's best and that leads to conflict, and the characters in FD go through all this stuff. I'm probably better suited to this project than I might have been in my younger years, because I can now understand both sides of the parent/child dynamic. As for whether or not it makes me a better artist for the book, you can tell me what you think after issue six wraps up :)
ADB: How did the book come about? I know J mentioned that THE INCREDIBLES nearly killed it a few years back, so it's been gestating for a while. Is this something the two of you had been noodling together on, or something that he came to you with already developed?
TL: J. and I have had a few ideas percolating over the years, but this wasn'tone of them. J. approached me just before Christmas and asked me if I'd be interested in doing a creator-owned book at DC. At first I assumed he meant though Wildstorm or Vertigo, because, unless I'm mistaken, a creator-owned book published by DC proper is an unusual occurrence. He explained that it would indeed be published through DC, that it would be an all-ages book, and then he mentioned THE COPYBOOK TALES and how Jamie and Thatcher's dream was to have their comic book published by a big company -- how could I refuse? :)
All in all, it seemed like a really fun project and a great opportunity. I'm glad he asked me and I'm really thankful that the folks at DC brought me on board.
ADB: Will the full story of this book's genesis be told in THE COPYBOOK TALES Volume 2? ;-)
TL: We can only hope that'll happen someday. There have to be at least 8 COPYBOOK TALES fans out there waiting for a sequel, and we'd hate to disappoint them!
ADB: How much editorial input does DC have on FAMILY DYNAMIC? Is this just you and J going crazy and sending the finished product in, a la Image or even Marvel's Icon imprint? Or does this go through a traditional editorial process?
TL: We've been working with Adam Schlagman, editor extraordinaire. He's been invaluable in helping us make key decisions on everything from logo design to plot development. The story and art go through the traditional editorial process, but Adam gives us as much creative freedom as we could ask for. And, to be honest, at times I feel like I did when J.and I were first trying to break into the business, way back when. We still have long phone conversations about story ideas and I still send him artwork -- only now it's through cyberspace instead of Canada Post :)
ADB: One of the characters J mentions in the interview, Makenzie, is Korean. Another character is Italian. There's been some talk recently in the comics blogosphere about the attempts by artists to draw (specifically) Asian characters without doing so in a stereotypical way. How do you tread the line between "white person with slightly different eyes" and "Korean?" How do you show the readers that this person isn't just another random white girl, but without resorting to traits that some might find too stereotypical or even offensive?
TL: Well, this might sound oversimplified, but basically I try to draw Makenzie in such a way that she looks Korean to me, and I just hope she also looks that way to the readers. Mak's heritage will also be mentioned and discussed in the story, so hopefully J. and I, together, will be able to distinguish Mak from "just another random white girl".
ADB: Does the city this book take place in have a name? And will it have a specific character like, say, the cities in STARMAN or ASTRO CITY have had?
TL: The Family Dynamic lives in and protects Storm City, which is across the border from Motor City (figure that one out, geography buffs!). Although there are good arguments on both sides of the debate about placing comic book heroes in real cities or made-up ones, J. and I have always liked the DCU tradition of superheroes living in fictional cities. At this point, I'm not sure if Storm City itself will be a character in the way that, say, Siren was (how could you forget, Augie?), but maybe that can develop over time. For this miniseries, I think we'll be busy enough just getting to know everyone in the extended Spencer family!
ADB: And since I said I'd get back to it at the very beginning of the interview:
How did the TwoMorrow's WORKING METHODS book come up for you? It's the ultimate process junkie book, I have to think. Look at the first chapter -- it's a crime/mafia story drawn by both you and Scott Hampton. Interesting selections.
TL: The book was the brainchild of John Lowe, and he approached a bunch of comic book artists who he felt had strong storytelling skills and asked them if they'd be interested in participating. I was lucky enough to be on his list, and I thought the premise of the book sounded really cool, so I told him I'd be glad to take part.
For anyone unfamiliar with WORKING METHODS, the basic concept is to compare and study the working methods and creative processes of different comic book artists interpreting the same script. It's really a great idea, and the results are fascinating, especially when comparing the work of artists with completely different styles, such as me and Scott Hampton. I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in how comic books are created.
ADB: In rereading that chapter, I noticed that their introduction mentioned you were working on something for Wildstorm. Whatever came of that? Did it die on the vine? Is it still coming out some day? Did I oversleep and miss it completely?
TL: I was supposed to do a fill-in issue of NINJA SCROLL, a Wildstorm series that was written by none other than J. Torres and edited by my GOTHAM ADVENTURES partner, Scott Peterson, but unfortunately the planets just weren't in alignment. I drew a model sheet for Jubei, the main character, but that's as far as I got. Several months later, when I read my chapter in WORKING METHODS and saw the Wildstorm mention, I cringed because I had completely forgotten to update John. Actually, I'm kidding -- I was really just trying to pad my resume and figured no one would catch me on it. Thanks a lot, Augie!
Thanks to Tim Levins for stopping by Pipeline World Headquarters to chat for a little bit. It was fun to catch up with him and hear more about FAMILY DYNAMIC, which you can learn even more about in CBR's interview with J. Torres from a couple weeks back.
ORIGINAL ART: SCOTT KOLINS
When I add something to my art collection, I often look for something that samples a favored artist's work on a particular book. I know I can't afford to buy some splashy pages of very popular artists' works, so I look for smaller moments. I look for the cheaper pages that can be a sample in my collection of a series I enjoyed.
This week, I want to look at the FLASH page from my collection, penciled by Scott Kolins and inked by Doug Hazlewood.
It's not a terribly splashy page. Nobody appears in a costume, though Magenta does exhibit her powers. Magenta was also featured in the first issue of THE FLASH that I ever bought -- also Mike Wieringo's first issue of the series. One villain shows up on the page, and it's just his eyes. On the other hand, they're Gorilla Grodd's eyes, so that makes it very friggin' cool.
Kolins' style on the book stood out in the crowded superhero market. It featured a relentlessly detailed art style that left no background element without detail. It featured little in the way of solid blacks. It had no feathering or fancy brush stroke techniques. It reminded me of some of the European comic art I've seen. Producing this level of work on a monthly basis for DC must have been labor-intensive. It was beautiful stuff, and a high watermark for the series. For me, the book never fully recovered after Kolins left it.
This week's images are details from the fifth page of THE FLASH #178. It's from a time when Geoff Johns was busy unionizing The Flash's hometown, showing it as a blue collar town in the DC Universe. So it is that two truckers are discussing union business while transporting Gorilla Grodd through the busy city streets. Doesn't sound so fascinating, does it? But look closely at the lines on the page. Look at how there's a slightly thicker line around the items that are meant to grab your attention the most in a given panel. You can see them around the two people in the second panel and around the truck in the third. Those lines are used in the first panel to push the bridge abutments further into the foreground while the truck and other cars drive behind it.
Take a look, also, at all the background detail in the panels. Look at the bridge on the right side of the first panel. Look at all the windows drawn into the buildings in the backgrounds throughout -- all perfectly in perspective, with a thin line that's broken up just often enough to make it recede from the front of the panel.
The panel in the bottom left corner of the page is particularly interesting. It shows off everything I've talked about here so far -- thick outline on the truck, minor details drawn into the background -- but it also tilts the panel. There's great perspective shown in this one drawing, and it's broken up neatly by the telephone wires that cut through the top and left part of the panel, across the city street. There's even a helicopter above it all. I love this kind of stuff, particularly when it doesn't distract from the story or the scene at hand. It adds verisimilitude and looks impressive. Really, don't we want our comics to look cool sometimes?
I would love to see an ABSOLUTE edition of this stuff. It's so detailed that I think it would blow up to a larger page size nicely. At the very least, a slightly oversized hardcover collection of the Best Of those issues would be welcomed to my comics library.
One last perk: Gaspar Saladino's lettering is done directly on the page. Pure pen and ink. No computers. You can see the imprints on the page in spots from where he erased his pencil guides, too.
Trivia buffs: Inker Doug Hazlewood (from whom I bought this page) won the inking portion of the Marvel Try-Out contest that Mark Bagley so famously won the penciling portion of. Even more trivial: The lettering winner was Robin Riggs, currently inking up a storm at SUICIDE SQUAD.)
Next week we'll take a look at some of Tim Levins' art. I have a small stack of his BATMAN work here. Surely, I can narrow it down to a page or two worth analyzing.
If you're really interested in what daily news bits grab my attention in the worlds of tech and comics and more, the best way to track is it at the Google Reader Shared Items. Several items are added to that page every day. I'm an RSS feed junkie.
The only social network I regularly appear on is Twitter. It's a very fun place with low overhead and the least number of annoyances of any Web 2.0 site, aside from an unstable infrastructure.
More than 800 columns -- ten and a half years' worth -- are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.