Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Dave Sim's blogandmail #58 (November 8th, 2006)



Quite a bit of mail came in again this week. I'm afraid it really has become an either/or proposition—I can either do the Blog & Mail or I can answer the mail personally but I can't do both and get all of my other work done. The best I have been able to manage is print-outs of postings mailed to the relevant individuals and even there my record is spotty. This was the first week that we didn't get any trade paperback orders since I started the Blog & Mail September 13, so I'm still inclined to keep going at least for the time being. I figure by the end of January it will be clear whether this is working (or "working") or not and I'll make up my mind then.

Anyway, to the mail:

Letter from Manuel Ruiz Galan in Torre Del Mar, my Spanish connection for Rip Kirby books. Seems there might be a follow-up series. No, I haven't read Eddie Campbell's The Fate of the Artist yet. Didn't even know it was out. Manuel writes "God! This comic blew my mind…the conclusion with its rendition of the O'Henry tale shocked me a lot." I'm planning a trip to Toronto next week so I'll keep an eye out for it at the Beguiling. He also enthuses about Rick Veitch. "Another comic of this year I haven't read, but is going to be published in Spain is Can't Get No by Rick Veitch. Have you read this? It seems terrific. The One was good. The Maximortal was amazing. In December The Bratpack will be published. But this Can't Get No seems unlike anything I've read before. Like James Ballard, Philip K. Dick and William Burroughs together." His three favourite comics he read this year were Rip in Time by Richard Corben and Bruce Jones ("Do you remember poor Rich? It was very unfair what happened to him. One day he was on top, and the next, everybody started with no reason to criticize his work, and he retired from the comics for a long time…When Rich was famous I was only 14 years old. I couldn't buy his comics. So, I actually try to get everything by him. My last acquisition, has been this Rip in Time, a great comic of adventures in GLORIOUS black and white."). "Poor Rich". I hope he's doing okay, I assume that anyone that talented and hard-working is going to end up landing on his feet either inside of or outside of comics. Sometimes the comic-book field just…does that to people… particularly if you've staked out your own territory as Corben has and as the late Jack Jackson had. You go out of fashion and it can take years for you to become fashionable again…or you never do. I still think that quality will tell in the end and Corben's work, personal preferences aside, is irrefutably good. Manuel's other two favourite books were Male Call by Milton Caniff and Voodoo Child by Bill Sienkiewicz.

Manuel also holds out the possibility of a fully restored edition of Prince Valiant in black and white! from a publisher in Portugal. Yes, I'd definitely like to get the address of the publisher. I've been waiting for that for years.

Coincidentally, the next package contains Rick Veitch's Abraxas and the Earthman (evidently the precursor to the above-mentioned Can't Get No) which was originally serialized in Epic Magazine twenty-five years ago—two copies, one for me and one for Ger from the Veitchmonster his own self. It certainly reflects an enormous amount of Photoshop work: much of it (and the best of it) reminiscent of and measuring up to Richard Corben's pioneering airbrush effects (some of which were actually done with colour and some of which were—talk about mind-boggling—painstakingly hand- separated using gray airbrush to build up each value of yellow red and blue on overlays). There is a certain amount of residual flat colour and opaque paint from Abraxas' first go-round but Rick takes full advantage of modern technology in devoting his energies to getting the look of virtually everything microscopically right. He's certainly exploring new areas of proportion that have been previously unexplored, witness the cover with the reduced inset image of the flying insect and the earthman contrasting with the form of Abraxas. I suspect Rick must have been "re-mastering" this for months if not years. It's too far over in the Absolute Fantasy/Science Fiction realm of things for my personal tastes—the reason that Moby Dick (which Rick mutates into a science fiction story) works, for me, is in large part attributable to the size of the book so that Melville's stirring prose can lay the groundwork for the enormity of the final confrontation by grounding everything in a fully developed history of whaling, whaling communities and shipboard travel. Here, instead, we have a multi-hued kaleidoscope pastiche of a protagonist literally stripped of his skin, a second protagonist who is a severed head, universe spanning whales, a whale planet, a sphinx that emerges out of nowhere and a strange Art Suydam influenced mÈnage a trois between two horny female Schmoos and…uh…Well, there were moments when I thought, "How many pages would it take to make this plausible?" How many pages would it take to convey the enormity of everything being presented (and make no mistake, everything in Abraxas and the Earthman is enormous)? How big a picture would you need of Abraxas, The Great Red Whale and how far along into the proceedings would it need to appear to measure up to the laborious groundwork that set the stage for the appearance of The Great White Whale in Moby Dick? And then how would you either sustain that size or revisit it often enough from there on to maintain The Great Red Whale's core pre-eminence in the story? I had a headache by the end of the forty minutes it took me to read it which, I would be willing to bet was probably just the 50-year old equivalent of having my mind blown which is really something better suited to 20- and 30-year old minds (like the one that Rick Veitch's was when he created Abraxas and the Earthman at the age of 30) since twenty minutes later and my headache, she was gone.

Within its limited frame of reference of roughly a hundred pages and with the implied limitations of the eight-to-ten or so pages of the original segments and all of the microscopic detail enhancement, it's certainly worth every penny of the $16.95 cover price. As Rick wrote on the title page of my copy: "To Dave – Took me twenty-five years but I finally got the sucker right." It's no small point, considering especially the limited palette of colour options he had at the time of the story's creation: Dr. Martin dyes, a certain amount of airbrushing and collage (now mercifully replaced with less jarringly invasive effects), coloured pencils, and that was about it. White paint never quite reproduces as white but with the miracle of Photoshop it can and does here. Every page just screams "Here, this is what I was TRYING to do back in 1981. This is what it was SUPPOSED to look like." Epic Magazine had state-of-the-art big budget colour reproduction for its day, but this just goes to show how limited that reproduction was and what a revolution in printing we're experiencing these days.

Rick's certainly has his ups and downs in the comic-book field but I would guess that posterity will be inclined to treat him favourably because he has maintained a very coherent forward momentum in establishing a body of work with his Heroica Trilogy and his Dream Comics as well as being productive in the "meat and potatoes" freelancing end of things. Like Jimmy Gownley with his metaphorical block of concrete, Rick is just someone who isn't going to take maybe for an answer.

As with Richard Corben, I sincerely hope that all is well "behind the scenes" and—as with Richard Corben—I can't imagine that anything could get in Rick's way any other way but temporarily. Who else would even consider painstakingly recreating enhancing and adding nuances to a twenty-five year old work micro-inch by micro-inch in Photoshop?

Can't think of too many off the top of my head. There's also an Al Williamson inked pin-up that is, speaking as a terminal Williamson junkie, to die for.

And he dedicated the book "to Archie" which I will certainly do, as well, if the proposed Cerebus colour volume ever happens. We're both Epic graduates. Hard to believe that was a quarter century ago, but there it is.

No wonder I just get a headache these days when someone tries to blow my mind.






If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:

Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Station C
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2

Looking for a place to purchase Cerebus phonebooks? You can do so online through Win-Mill Productions -- producers of Following Cerebus. Convenient payment with PayPal:

Win-Mill Productions

Or, you can check out Mars Import:

Mars Import

Or ask your local retailer to order them for you through Diamond Comics distributors.