Nov 28, 2011

Reclaiming History: The Encyclopedia Americana Entry on Comics, 1958

Welcome to a new installment of Reclaiming History, an ongoing series where the Comics Cube! tries to balance out what the history books say and what actually happened! Click here for the archive!

A few months ago, I was at a friend's house, and he had a complete set of the 1958 edition of the Encyclopedia Americana. Out of curiosity, I picked up one volume and flipped through the "Comics" entry. And then I took pictures of it so I can share it with all of you!

This is written by Harvey Zorbaugh, who was then the chairman of the Department of Sociology of the School of Education in NYU.

Here are some notable bits.

The first thing that jumps out at me is the first paragraph, in which comics are defined: "As distinguished from the single cartoon, comics consist of a series of pictorial representations telling a story, developing a situation, or at least presenting the same character in varied circumstances." This predates Will Eisner's definition of "sequential art," as given by his book COMICS AND SEQUENTIAL ART, by 27 years, and the more famous definition by Scott McCloud from UNDERSTANDING COMICS — "Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the reader" — by 35 years.

Personally, I feel that the definition of comics as having at least two images is a device for convenience — it lets us leave out more things that are clearly not "comics" than include more things that may be considered as such. For example, I would call FAMILY CIRCUS a comic, even though it's only made up of one panel. However, the thing is, if we include single images, then something like the Mona Lisa could be called "a comic, " and it's not. It should be noted though, that Zorbaugh makes a provision for the "Family Circus"–type cartoons in his definition by saying "at least the same character in varied circumstances." It's the serialized nature of the publication that comes into play. (After all, if you placed two FAMILY CIRCUS comics together, you'd pretty much fit McCloud's definition.)

One more reason I think this is good to note is that a lot of comic book armchair scholars tend to treat McCloud as the be-all, end-all of comics debate — something he never intended — without acknowledging that Eisner preceded him (despite McCloud continually mentioning Eisner in his book). Turns out that comics have been defined as having at least two pictures in sequence since at least  1958. (I say at least because I'm sure this was written before 1955 — there's no mention of Fredric Wertham and the Senate hearings in the entry.)

In addition, it does state that comics don't need word balloons or narration boxes or words at all, so whoever is still arguing that point really ought to let that go.

More bits and the full article after the jump.

Nov 24, 2011

Back Issue Ben: Chasing Gwen: An American Comic Book Collecting Tale

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

Chasing Gwen: An American Comic Book Collecting Tale
by Ben Smith

If you were to see me on the street, the first thing you’d probably think is “Boy, is he devilishly handsome.” Another thing you might think is, “Wow, why is that man not wearing pants?” What does this have to do with comics? Nothing. Except that maybe, just maybe, the next time you point at a pantsless handsome man carrying comics, you might think twice before throwing objects at him.

The real, and more sinister, purpose for me gathering you all here today, is to tell you about the great comic book finds of my illustrious career. These are the ones that stand out, the memorable ones, the ones that matter. They matter to me, they should matter to you, and they should matter to that damn parole board that won’t give me the benefit of the doubt!

As a younger lad, I grew up in the grand city(?) of Carbondale, Illinois. Home of Southern Illinois University, and their mighty mascot the Saluki, which is apparently a gangly looking dog. I frequented a comic book retailing establishment just off campus called Campus Comics. (Check out their Facebook page for pictures, of things.) Many an evening after school and certainly every single weekend I would ride my bicycle over to Campus Comics and buy or trade my way into some new comics. They had an expansive selection of new (at the time) and old titles, a better shop I could not have grown up with.

Nov 22, 2011

A Message from Dave Hontiveros: The Artist Search Ends For Now

Well, it's one day after the deadline for this audition, so here's a message from David Hontiveros!

So it’s the 22nd of November, which means we’ve safely cleared the deadline for the Artist Search.

At this point, the shortlisted will be moving onto Phase 2 soon enough.

Regardless of whether you heard back from us or not, I’d like to thank everyone who sent their samples in. As I said before, even if you didn’t get shortlisted this time around, you’re still in our “database,” and should your art style be apparently compatible with some future comic book project, rest assured, you’ll hear from us.

In the meantime, keep on drawing. If comics are your passion, then put in those all-important hours at honing and perfecting your craft. Remember, it’s not just about how well you can draw, it’s also about how well you can tell a story, how well you can navigate comic book panels and pages, how well you can mine all that potential that’s stored on the blank space of every brand new comic page.

We should be making more announcements in the near future, so keep an eye out here on the Cube for those.

Before I go, I’d also like to thank Duy, for being the gracious host for this Search.

Also, as an aside, I’d like to thank everyone who passed by the table at the recently concluded Kon to support Bathala and all the other Alamat titles.

It’s good and enthusiastic people like you who make what we do worth it.

Keep on drawin', Cubers!

Nov 20, 2011

Komikon 2011!

Komikon was a blast! I was there the whole day and barely realized it. It makes a big difference, I learned, to be going to these events with actual people instead of being a lone wolf who'd drop in, buy comics, and then leave.

To give you guys some context, I'm part of a Facebook group of comic book lovers, so me and the other Filipino members in it decided to hang out at Komikon together. It's nice to have people to talk to about this stuff while you're there, as opposed to kinda looking around, buying stuff, and then dawdling for the next event. So I said I'd be there all day 'cause I wanted to cover the event. But I'm an idiot, you see. Danry, my co-writer for this past recommendations article (which was featured in The Inquirer on the day itself), was there by 9:30 in the morning, when the gates opened at 10. As for me, not only did I have no ticket in advance, even though I had six or seven opportunities to get one prior to the day itself, but I took a cab and gave myself 30 minutes to get there. Of course, since it's Christmas shopping time, the traffic was heavy, the meter was high, and I ended up getting into the convention itself at 10:30, at which point I spent 15 minutes looking for Danry.

While I wasn't there, though, Danry was already going around, hanging out with the likes of Gerry Alanguilan (ELMER), showing him his copy of CAPTAIN AMERICA ANNUAL #8 (with the iconic Mike Zeck cover):

Gerry then set the tone for the day for us by solidifying Danry's status as the number 1 local komiks fan by giving him this.

That's right, that's an original drawing of ELMER personalized just for Danry for all his support.

If that's not a sign that you're appreciated by the creators you support, I don't know what is.

More info and even more pictures after the jump!

Nov 19, 2011

Final Thoughts Before Komikon 2011

The Komikon is in a matter of hours, so I figure I'll do some final plugs before I head off to bed!

I picked up the first issue of WIPcomics by Hub Pacheco and Ted Pavon at Planet X yesterday. It is a fun slice-of-life story that at times breaks the fourth wall. I was actually gripped for a good 20 minutes while reading it — and for you Pinoy readers, it's fun to spot the in-jokes. Click on the image to read the webcomic! Go visit their table at the convention, too! Buy it!

There's a new app on Facebook called ComixTrips! It's a whole app where you can read some Filipino komiks -- for free!!  TRESE! KIKOMACHINE! FILIPINO HEROES LEAGUE! Check it out!

Don't forget, aspiring artists! Your deadline for submitting samples to me so you can have the chance to work with Dave Hontiveros is this Monday. Check out this post for more details.

BATHALA: APOKALYPSIS 1 and 2 by Dave Hontiveros and Ace Enriquez are now available via for the Kindle. Check 'em out here:

Enjoy Komikon, folks!

Nov 15, 2011

Top 5 Frank Miller Parodies!

Making fun of Frank Miller seems to be the name of the game this week, because of some rather inflammatory things he said about the Occupy Wall Street movement. I'm not really sure why people are up in arms about it. I mean, it's Frank Miller. Why should his political opinions, which have always been pretty extreme if you look at his work, hold any value whatsoever? It reminds me of when I was in college and Art Spiegelman came out with IN THE SHADOW OF NO TOWERS, and it became the talk of the town for about a month. Yes, it's inflammatory, but even Spiegelman in the book says he's not really thinking very clearly and is paranoid, so why should anyone get angry? Even if you agree with him, do you really want Frank Miller being the flag-bearer for your movement?

But on the other hand, we did get this from Ty Templeton.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Now, it may be cheap, but I never said I had any class, so here I am, about to show you the top 5 Frank Miller parodies! I'm avoiding things like DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN and ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN, even though I'm convinced they're parodies and Frank couldn't have degenerated that much, since I have no way to actually prove my conviction. But that's okay. There's plenty more to pick from. Ready? GO!

Nov 12, 2011

Komikon 2011 Recommendations by Danry and Duy!

Hey, you know what's happening this weekend?

That's right, Komikon is happening this weekend! It's the 7th Annual Philippines Komikon, and it's gonna be a blast. Now, you're going, I'm going, my buddy Danry is going, and we're all excited! Tickets are only 100 pesos, which is a freaking steal when you consider that a back issue sold by one of the vendors that would normally go for 200 will be going for 50. That's getting a return on your investment right away right there.

So I'm sure that you know what you're gonna buy, yes? TRESE book 4 by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo, ELMER 2nd edition by Gerry Alanguilan, THE FILIPINO HEROES LEAGUE by Paolo Fabregas, the latest PUGAD BABOY by Pol Medina Jr. That's great, and you SHOULD buy those books, because those books are awesome and you're supporting the local scene.

But Danry and I are here to recommend some more stuff for you to get, because we want you to support our local artists, and get even more of them into National Book Store and Powerbooks and Fully Booked, and really get it out there, to people! So Danry and I picked five comics each in an alternating fashion (i.e., he picked one, then I picked one, until we had picked five each, or ten), and then we wrote about it, why we're looking forward to it, and the price, just so you guys have a budget guide. So here are your hosts, me, Duy Tano, and my buddy, Danry Ocampo.

Me on the left, Danry on the right.
Ready? GO!

Nov 10, 2011

Comics Cube! Reviews: SKYWORLD 1–3

Mervin Ignacio and Ian Sta. Maria's SKYWORLD was recommended to me by a Comics Cuber, Danry Ocampo, a couple of months ago. I took a trip to my favorite indie/komik store, Sputnik in Cubao X, and bought the first three volumes, each at 150 pesos, on the strength of Danry's recommendation.

Each volume — entitled APOCRYPHA, TESTAMENT, and PRODIGAL, respectively — tells one part of a four-part epic. (Part four, REQUIEM, will be out on this upcoming November 19 Komikon.) It plays on Filipino folklore, with one of the main characters, Makabo, being a tikbalang (a horse that walks like a man), and another of the characters, Kaptan, being the son of Bathala, the pre-Christian Philippine skygod. They're there to fight Rianka, an aswang with her own agenda for the world.

Nov 8, 2011

Read Alan Moore's JUDGE DREDD Script!

Back in 2003, when he turned 50 (so I guess he's turning 58 in 10 days), Alan Moore got two books devoted to him. They were full of tribute art and testimonials by fellow artists and writers. One of them, THE EXTRAORDINARY WORKS OF ALAN MOORE, even printed two Moore scripts that were never illustrated.

One of those scripts is Moore's first-ever attempt at writing a comic book script (he had been doing comic strips prior). With guidance from his friend Steve Moore, Alan wrote 2000 AD's flagship character for the only recorded time in history. Editor Alan Grant never bought the script (presumably because they were doing fine with John Wagner's stories), and it's not as "stringent" as Moore's scripts would later come to be known (he doesn't even demarcate the page numbers here). It's an interesting look into the evolving process of one of comics' greatest writers, and is a true historical artifact.

And if you're one of the Filipino artists trying out for The David Hontiveros Project and don't have a script to work with yet, well, here's one for you.

This script is copyright Alan Moore.

Check out more Moore-related features in these two books!

Nov 6, 2011

Artist Audition! Get a Chance to Work With David Hontiveros! Do YOU Have What It Takes?

Howdy there, Comics Cubers! Wouldn't you know it — I got an email from David Hontiveros, writer of DHAMPYR, KADILIMAN, HORUS, AVATAR, and BATHALA: APOKALYPSIS, as well as the horror novellas TAKOD, CRAVING, and PARMAN, and the e-novel PELICULA, asking me if I knew of any local artists who may be a good fit for his next project. I don't, but what I do have is a Cube where I can hold auditions. Do you think YOU have what it takes? Then read on for the mechanics.

Here's the deal. The Chosen One (TM) will get a chance to design and develop the characters and the universe of the story in question, and will therefore receive co-creator credit for the comic. Unfortunately, just due to the nature of the business, there is no pay upfront, but there'll be a 50% split on royalties, so the Chosen One will get paid half of the profits when the book starts selling and earning money, whether it be in print or in an e-comic format. Due to the nature of this deal, entering artists can only submit individual entries; the only guy you'll be collaborating with is David Hontiveros. Do not enter as a team. Also, this audition is only open to citizens of the Philippines.

You'll be assessed by a panel of three, two of whom are me and Dave. I'm not telling you who the other one is. You can guess if you want, but I'm not telling you.

Now, for the rest of the requirements, heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Dave!

Greetings, Earthling.

As Duy has pointed out, I’m currently in search of the right comic book artist to collaborate with on a title that’s in the superhero genre, with action and drama, rock ‘em and sock ‘em, angry punchy bits and weepy, sniffy, talky bits.

If you think you’re the right artist for the job, we’d love to see your stuff. The four pages of sequential, finished art (pencils and inks) you’re sending in as your sample don’t necessarily have to be new, but they should be some of your best stuff. You need to show us that you can kill a comic book page, not just with your art style, but your storytelling as well.

Show us how you’d approach spandex and capes and masks and all the other trappings of the superhero genre we all know and love.

Think rhythm and pacing, mood and tone, setting and atmosphere. And of course, action and dynamism and Biff, Bam, and Pow! too.

Samples should feature pre-existing characters (by DC or Marvel or any other comic book publisher, including local ones) and not any of your original creations.

Samples should be in black-and-white, though if you’d also like for us to see your coloring capabilities, then knock yourself out.

You don’t need to have prior comic book work experience (though that’s always a plus). Whatever your level of experience in the medium though, it is advised that you have at least a passing familiarity with the vocabulary of the comic book script.

Just email your samples in to Duy (comicscube(at)gmail(dot)com), along with your name, contact details (email address), and details of any prior art-related work (such as, if you’ve worked on a comic book in the past). And if you have any art that’s online (such as on DeviantArt), include the links, so we can see what sort of range you have.

Only the shortlisted candidates will be contacted by us once we’ve come to our determination, so just wait to hear back. Don’t bug Duy about any samples you sent in; he was gracious enough to have the search hosted on the Cube, so let’s leave the man in peace.

And, should you not hear back from us, that doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t like your art style. It may mean that we feel your style doesn’t quite gel with the title we’re currently looking for an artist for; but it may be the right style for something else that’s waiting in the wings or that’s in development right now.

At the very least, your sample will be in our “database,” and rest assured, if your art style seems to be tailor-fitted to some other title, you’ll be hearing from us.

As Duy also pointed out, this project will be paid out in royalties, so we need to have the comic completed first, then have it either published in the traditional dead trees format, or as an ecomic, then have the comic sell, before we’ll be seeing any kind of financial return. That goes for me, too.

Which is why we also need artists who are doing this, first and foremost, for the love of the craft and the medium.

The scripts are all done, just waiting for someone’s pencils and talent to see the light of day. So, if you think your art style will knock our collective socks off, and you’re willing to make this kind of a commitment, then email your stuff in!

We’re eager to hear from you.

Send me four pages of sequential art not featuring original characters by November 21, 2011. Include your name, contact details, and any links to your art online, as well as some additional info that you think might help you. And remember, you should use pre-existing characters, not your originals.

Well, what're you waiting for? HOP TO IT!

Nov 5, 2011

Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November

As most readers of the Cube will know, I had a total fanboy moment when David Lloyd showed up here back in May, as he drew on my copy of V FOR VENDETTA.

V, of course, is a comic predicated on this day, the fifth of November, which is Guy Fawkes Day in the UK. I first read it when I was seventeen years old, and it changed my way of thinking, even if almost half of it — namely the political bureaucracy, most of which I was disinterested in at the time in real life — went well over my head. But the ideology presented (that of anarchy, real anarchy, not punk rock anarchy) really got to me, and although I must admit I don't subscribe to the ideology as a whole, it has factored in significantly into my way of thinking.

But honestly, V FOR VENDETTA holds a special spot in my heart for two reasons.

The first reason is that it is, to this day, the only comic book to ever make me cry. Those of you who have read it will probably be able to figure out which part of the book did it for me. It's the "Valerie" chapter, in which Evey, the female protagonist, finds a letter in her prison cell, which was written by the previous inhabitant of that same prison cell. The letter is one about Valerie's life, the acceptance she sought, the love she lost, and the end of her days. Most importantly, it's about standing up for who you are and what you believe in, and for whatever reason, that really resonated with me back in 1999. And it still does.

I've read Chris Ware's stuff, I've read GOOD-BYE CHUNKY RICE by Craig Thompson. I've read a lot of the "tugs on your heart" stuff, but this one chapter of this one comic book by Alan Moore and David Lloyd is the only one to actually elicit tears from my eyes.

The second reason this book has a special place for me is that it's my fiancee's favorite comic book. You could probably tell that as she was with me when I met David Lloyd to get her own copy signed.

And perhaps by complete coincidence — or is it fate? — today, the fifth of November, happens to be Peachy's birthday.

Much like my brother yesterday, this site wouldn't exist without her, as she encouraged me to start it, well over a year ago. So everyone greet her a happy birthday! NOW!

Nov 4, 2011

Easter Eggs in Comics: The Flash in the Marvel Universe

Welcome to another installment of Easter Eggs in Comics! Click here for the archive!

A little bit more than 20 years ago, I was in the third grade and I really really liked The Flash. Didn't matter if it was Wally West or Barry Allen, I just thought the costume was cool and the power to run really fast was the best thing ever. But DC wasn't cool in my school, so I had to ask my brother who the Marvel counterpart of The Flash was. Now either he didn't know who Quicksilver was or the way I phrased the question was "Who is the fastest superhero in the Marvel Universe?", because his answer was the Silver Surfer, who then turned out to be the first character whose series I ever collected, and kicked off a love for the comics medium and its history that has never died to this day.

What neither of us knew then was that the Marvel counterpart of The Flash was actually... The Flash! Let's recap, shall we?

Barry Allen died in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS in 1985 by kind of running himself to death:

Then in 1990, in QUASAR #17, a story called "Reborn to Run," the Runner, a being who exists purely to run, gathers Earth's speedsters together and makes them race.

The Whizzer, Captain Marvel, Speed Demon, Super Sabre,
Black Racer, Quicksilver, and Makkari!

Halfway through the race, a complete stranger shows up from out of nowhere:

And he actually wins the race! But who was he?

"Buried Alien." Hm. Sounds familiar, eh?

Why do I mention all this now? Because it's my brother's birthday, natch! And without him, I wouldn't be collecting comic books, and thus you wouldn't be reading this right now! So everyone wish him a happy birthday!

Thanks to FLASH: THOSE WHO RIDE THE LIGHTNING for the info and images!

Nov 2, 2011

Gateway Comics: Jeff Smith's BONE

When the world was new, and dreams had not yet receded from the waking day, dragons ruled the earth. The first dragon was a queen named Mim. She nurtured the Dreaming  by encircling the world and holding her tail in her mouth. As long as Mim held her tail in this way, there would be balance between life and death, and good and evil. And the Dreaming would fluorish. Mim watched the Dreaming with care, and all creatures lived together in peace and harmony. Until one day, a spirit known only as the Locust became unhappy. The Locust was a nightmare creature without shape or form who could exist only in the spirit world. To move on the face of this world, he must take possession of a mortal being's flesh. He chose the most powerful mortal of all -- Mim, Queen of the Dragons. The Locust entered her mind and the queen went mad. Balance was lost, and the world grew dark. The dream became a nightmare. To save the world, the other dragons were forced to move against her. A terrible battle ensued. As the dragons fought, they crashed back and forth, pushing up rocks and mountains. On and on they struggled, with many valiant dragons losing their lives. Until at least the dragons despaired of saving their queen, and were forced to take desperate measures. They knew it would be the end of their beloved Mim, but for the good of the world, and to destroy the true enemy, they turned their queen into stone, trapping the Locust inside her until the end of times. Later, the land cooled, and the valley was born. Never again would the balance be perfect, for the Locust lies hidden below the surface, waiting for the end of times.

The preceding is the most-repeated passage in the saga of Jeff Smith's BONE, which I would call the most surefire gateway comic — the comic you give to a non-comics reader to get them into the medium — ever published. It was not the first comic I ever gave to the Resident Kid, my nephew, but it was the first one that he unabashedly loved.

I bought the BONE One-Volume Edition back in 2004 when I was in college. I had heard for a long time about BONE and how it was a benchmark for indie comics, and I was at that point both interested solely in indie comics and utterly sick of the depressing and almost always semi-autobiographical indie fare. It was nice to start reading something that was lighthearted and fun.