-Request Day part one: Chris from Two Guys Buying Comics has suggested I comment on Keith Giffen's recent list of things related to the end of 52. Chris is particularly interested in Giffen's comments re: Greg Rucka, which might be considered playful, cranky, or both. Actually, I was much more interested in Giffen's comments about the art. The relevant comments:
"38) About our anchor artists, the three Bs: I’d been a fan of Bennett’s and Batista’s work long before 52, but Barrows took me by surprise. He was a Wacker inductee and thank God for that.
37) Why we didn’t make more use of Phil Jimenez and Dan Jurgens is still a mystery to me.
30) As a goof, in the breakdowns, I drew that new Zatarra kid in Zatanna’s fishnets-and-corset getup. The penciler actually drew him that way. My pleas to let it go through like that went unheeded.
3) I still think Wizard should give some serious props to the 52 artists. For that matter, so should DC."
It's kind of universally accepted that the art was one of the weakest (maybe THE weakest), elements of 52; this almost seems like a reaction to these criticisms. Strangely, Giffen seems to have escaped blame, even though he laid out every issue. Does he deserve to get a pass? Try comparing his layouts to the finished project. Giffen's work is frequently superior to the finished art. His panels are much more tightly composed, his action more dynamic, his character work more expressive. The composition is the big thing, though. The finished art frequently lies dead on the page, as though the pencillers didn't account for negative space or eye movement or any of those things you're supposed to learn in high school. Which is frankly baffling, given that Giffen's involvement was presumably intended to prevent just these sorts of problems.
You know, this whole thing has actually increased my respect for Giffen. He was producing these layouts at an exhausting pace, but they're much, much better than the composition one sees from artists who labor over their work for much longer periods of time. 52 would have been a much more satisfying reading experience if the artists had followed his layouts more closely, or at least spent more time thinking about the decisions Giffen made. We'll see if the Countdown artists learn from this lesson.
-Request Day part two: An English teaching friend from the (literal) old school tells me that he's seen a lot of educational graphic novels in the vendor's area of a couple of recent conferences. Unfortunately, they're bad. Real bad, like. The art is terrible and the word balloons hastily and sloppily constructed using a Times Roman-type font. (Kind of sounds like Cracked, c. 1989, so far.) The subjects are certainly educational--examples include George Washington Carver, Trail of Tears, and Atlantis (I don't get that last one either)--but the execution is so bad that they might poison the well for future efforts. I might add that being forced to read bad comics in school might make it even less likely that kids will try good comics.
Anyone familiar with these products? I assume that the Center for Cartoon Studies-produced books published by Hyperion are partly intended to compete in this market. I'm sure they compare very favorably to the products my friend describes, but I wonder if the damage might already be done.
-That terrible college newspaper top five comics list is really making the rounds. The comments on Blogarama (that's my new name for it) are worth noting, though, because the one and only Avi Green shows up with his own unique list:
"– Marvel Two-in-One #91, featuring the origin of the Sphinx, Anatha Na-Mut.
– The Flash: Terminal Velocity.
– Asterix and the Roman Agent.
– Avengers: The Kree-Skrull War.
– And I enjoyed the whole storyline featuring Terra, who infiltrated the Teen Titans, from beginning to end."
Awesome. My own list:
1. Deathmate: Yellow
2. The collected lettercolumns of Who's Who, first edition (there's an awesome running debate about how to pronounce "Ra's Ahl Guhl")
3. The issue of Marvel Team-Up where Reed Richards zaps off Spider-Man's black costume, and Spider-Man has to go home wearing an old Fantastic Four costume with a paper bag over his head, and I think also a "Kick Me" sign which the Human Torch affixed to his back.
4. The entire first wave of Dark Horse's Comics Greatest World--you know, the ones that were all $1 each--except Hero Zero, cause it featured art by Eric Shanower, whose values clash with the sense of morality instilled in me from reading Marvel Team-Up and Deathmate.
5. Antique Bakery
I defy anyone to find fault with that list.
-Related: Does Avi Green know the difference between Brian Bendis and Ed Brubaker? Someone needs to track down Jesse Baker for me. I've got an idea for a weekly debate column featuring these two. I think I'll call it "Fuck You/Counter-Fuck You."