Wednesday, September 30, 2009

English Comic Strips

Oh, não! It's the Bionic Englishwoman!
A friend with a lifetime's collection of odd stuff enjoys feeding me things he can't imagine anyone wanting. Last week it was MULHER BIÔNICA, which is to say, The Bionic Woman in Portugese. This roughly 8"x10" 36 page full-color booklet was published in Brazil by Ebal (Editoria Brasil-America) and bears a 1979 copyright.

This interesting comic reprints two stories from Look-In, an English comic paper from the 1970s which specialized in TV show tie-in strips. A little Googling revealed that Look-In began running Bionic Woman in 1976. The Ebal booklet's artwork is by two well-known British illustrators with credits on both sides of the Atlantic. The first, "The Bionic Woman vs. the Black Dragons," was drawn by John Bolton:

Bolton's work, showing influences from Frank Bellamy, is very nice, with many interesting color effects. While there's a lot of movement in his panels, Bolton often pulls the camera back during action scenes, robbing them of immediacy.

The second story, "The Martians," is drawn by the prolific John M. Burns. His comic-book approach is more dynamic than Bolton's. Action scenes jump from the page. Burns does insert giant character heads into too many pages, though this being a TV tie-in I suppose that's forgivable.

My biggest gripe with Burns (other than his customary sloughing off of backgrounds) is that his bizarre color choices render some panels nearly unreadable. I've seen other work by Burns with equally chaotic color schemes, so I presume that color just isn't his bag.

In my opinion most English comic-paper stories suffer from shallow, diagrammatic scripts. The comic paper format is largely to blame. Most papers ran major full-color features on the front and back pages of each weekly issue. This limited story development within a given episode. Frequently a false climax was built into the bottom row of the first page to carry readers to the continuation on the back cover. Another climax concluded that page, to encourage the kids to buy the next issue.

These factors, combined with space taken up by big heads and "poster" scenes, encouraged rudimentary stories. The greater page-counts given features in comics magazines like 2000 AD were a big step forward.

Another thing that strikes me about comic-paper features is their slapdash panel arrangements. We haven't seen layouts like this in the USA since the Golden Age: overlaps, tilted panels, odd shapes with starburst and lighting-bolt borders. No doubt this was intended to make the paper as exciting as possible on the newsstand. Printed one after the other in a book like this, the loud layouts quickly tire the brain.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Sight Unseen--6

If It's Drawn Like a Duck...
Time is rushing past at a furious rate...I've passed a major birthday since my last post. I'm trying to work out keeping up with several of these outside projects at once, but my damned job keeps interfering.

On October 2 the first Long Beach Comic Con will be held at the Long Beach (California, USA) Convention Center. It looks like they're trying to make it a big deal. Typically for comics conventions these days, there will be a handful of comics people and lots of movie, TV and gaming exhibitors. If you're in the area drop by the Pacific Comics Club / Tony Raiola Books booth (#123) and you might run into me.

I'm not sure how "unseen" today's offering is. These and similar photocopied model sheets were circulating around the studios twenty-umph years ago when I was working in TV animation. By now I'm sure they've all seen print somewhere. Nevertheless, there's always someone who hasn't seen what everyone else has, so here are some lovely lessons on How to Draw a Duck.

First up are two Carl Barks sheets describing how to draw Donald for the comics. I still smile at his dig at artists over-using silhouettes in their strips.

Next is an undated general full-figure model sheet crammed with pointers on proper proportion.
This sheet of heads dates from 1944. Nice expressions and some unusual angles.The last two sheets are cleanup notes covering the little details that make the difference between a near-miss and a dead-on duck.

Perhaps some of you Disney experts can identify the artists on these sheets. There's nothing quite like a well-drawn duck!