Added 1 new A* page:I bought an actual comic book today! I... Maybe I haven't done that since my youthful collecting days ended back in the early '90s. : o A single issue, I mean. It was Detective Comics (The New 52) #35, and I generally don't buy comics these days, because I can't afford them : P, but I wanted this one for the art (you can see the cover and three preview pages at that Comixology link there); the artist, John Paul Leon, has a really nifty illustrative ink style, but doesn't do that much comic work—he's probably still best known for the 14-issue Earth X series he did for Marvel back in 1999. The colorist they paired him with on this Detective Comics issue, Dave Stewart, is really good, too. And it's just a two-issue story, which is unusual in these days where almost every comic written is at least part of a four-to-six-issue "arc," since that way the comic companies can gather them up and sell them again later in a collected "trade paperback" graphic novel thingy.|
So I traipsed down to my local comic shop (rather than getting a digital version online...I guess I still prefer my print comics in print)—there still is one!—which is also conveniently next to the supermarket I had to go to to get food. A 24-page (not counting ads) comic book is $3.99 these days! It comes on this ridiculously nice glossy paper! They could put it on regular paper and probably cut the price in half. ; P And I was reminded of the perilously slim profit margins comic shops live on these days when I tried to pay for it with my credit card and the store owner indicated that for sub-$5 sales he really really really prefers to get cash, to save the credit card company fee. Man. Hard times.
Comics these days are funny! I guess they're even having trouble selling advertising space these days: there are 13 non-comic pages in this comic, and of those, 8 are ads for the publisher, DC's, own stuff. Yikes. And the first ad page, inside the front cover, is an ad for a Disney product—Disney, owner of Marvel Comics, DC's direct competitor! Ouch. : o And one of the DC ads, for the upcoming "Flash" TV show, has additional ads of other companies' logos slyly tucked up on buildings in the ad image's background. : P Hard times indeed!
The writing is funny! About four things happen in this comic, two of which are spoiled right on the cover so I don't mind telling you about them, and I'll be vague about the other two: 1) a plane crash-lands, 2) Batman climbs aboard
where he 3) makes a snap deduction, and finally 4) a message about the plane appears, telling us the origin of the problem—no detective work needed!—and repeating the thing Batman just deduced. That's the comic! The crash-landing part alone—all seen from outside the plane—takes over half the issue. : o I'm curious to see how they'll manage to wrap this one up in just two issues, since barely anything has happened yet and we're already half-way through. : o But this is nice because now I'm less worried about the pace I manage in my own comic: I only get 20 panels done a month, rather than 20-some mostly multi-panel pages like in a print comic, but you know, if most other modern comics go as slow as this Detective Comics one, I guess I'm just about keeping up!
The writing is also funny because the writer—Benjamin Percy—doesn't seem to trust the art to show what's going on all the time, so for instance, as Batman stands in a dramatic double-page splash of the interior of the plane, where we see everyone's dead and mummified looking like we already knew from the cover, he's explaining to the single police officer who felt like coming aboard that "They're dead. They're ALL dead. And they look like they've been that way for a long time." Doesn't exactly take a Sherlock Holmes, does it? ^_^ And he repeats this, using slightly different words, when he gets to the cockpit and finds more mummified people. It's good we have him along to explain things! I heard on a podcast—hm and Wikipedia bears this out—that the writer's experience is in regular books and short stories rather than comics, so I guess it isn't surprising he isn't quite used to the visual narrative of comic books. And maybe the pacing.
On the plus side, the writer has at least set up a mystery, rather than a punch-guys-in-the-face type of thing, so that's nice. And the art is indeed good; it'll be nice to have standing by on my bookshelf in case I need some instant art inspiration.
This all made me think of one of the I think two other Batman comics I ever had, I think—not Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which is quite possibly my favorite comic ever, but rather a single issue that hm either my dad found somewhere and gave to my brother and I, or maybe a friend had it or something...anyway googling "kryptonite snow" reveals it to have been World's Finest Comics #303 from 1984, featuring a 23-page story, "Plague," in which Batman AND Superman are involved, a hideous plague of green, kryptonite-irradiated snow strikes Metropolis, and Batman (and maybe Superman?) solves the problem and saves the day, all in one little comic issue! How about that. : ) So I guess what this is telling me is that—rare John Paul Leon issues aside—I should probably spend my shekels on Batman comics from ye olde days, if it's Batman stories I want.
Oh that reminds me, the other nice thing about buying comics these days is that for all their super-gloss, you know that there's no chance they'll ever be worth more than what you paid for them, so you can just toss 'em around and not worry about them, rather than having to handle them like the fragile investments we used to think they were. ; )
Boy, today's A* page really diverged from the nice simple pencil scheme:
I think I've been looking at too much Alex Ross. : P Which was because I was re-reading his old Marvels mini-series from 1994—that was after I'd stopped collecting, but my brother picked it up and I think I read it when I came home on break from school. And I got to the point late last night after looking at his web site that gosh he did this fantastically smooth, sharp, detailed "watercolor" art on Strathmore 500 Bristol paper, maybe I should get some of that, it could revolutionize my whole method on A*, only to realize after a while that he and others were playing fast and loose with the term "watercolor," and actually meant "gouache," which yes is water-based paint but is thick and pasty and really nothing like working with traditional watercolors: I think I like watercolors because their wet-mixing, flowing, but quick-drying nature encourages working on the fly, rather than slowly and carefully dabbing a painting together bit by bit, which is kinda what gouache seemed to want me to do when I was experimenting with it.
I'm trying to get kinda more gestural and uh dang I had the right word for this when I was thinking about it earlier but anyway more on-the-flying with the watercolors, too; I seem to go through cycles of starting some art method off pretty loosely, then gradually tightening up, which is sometimes good in some ways, sometimes bad in others. Coloring a couple sketches a day or two ago—I'll show those to you next week after they've been mailed to their recipients, I think—they came out pretty well, and it seemed like part of that was because I just recycled the dried dregs of my watercolor palette from the previous day's A* page, so it already had various purples mixed from my red and blue, and I could just kind of dash them on here and there as the mood struck me, rather than having to whip up a new color mix for each spot I wanted to hit. So for the past two days I've pre-prepared my palette not just with mixes of light and dark blue and red, but also a blueish purple and a reddish purple, and I've also been lightening and darkening those on my brush simply by pre-wetting it more or less and dipping it more or less into the watercolor, which has turned out to work quite well—rather than, again, having to stop and mix up a concoction of a particular concentration of pigment. So that's been fun. I guess it leads to kinda unplanned things happening, which can be frustrating, and take up well a lot more time than otherwise, but when I look back, what comes out of those "mistakes" in watercolor is often the most interesting part.