Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #268 (June 6th, 2007)


Fifteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast That Make You a Good Feminist

1. A mother who works a full-time job and delegates to strangers the raising of her children eight hours a day, five days a week does just as good a job as a mother who hand-rears her children full time.

2. It makes great sense for the government to pay 10 to 15,000 dollars a year to fund a daycare space for a child so its mother - who pays perhaps 2,000 dollars in taxes - can be a contributing member of society.

3. A woman's doctor has more of a valid claim to participate in the decision to abort a fetus than does the father of that fetus.

4. So long as a woman makes a decision after consulting with her doctor, she is incapable of making an unethical choice.

5. A car with two steering wheels, two gas pedals and two brakes drives more efficiently than a car with one steering wheel, one gas pedal and one brake which is why marriage should always be an equal partnership.

6. It is absolutely necessary for women to be allowed to join or participate fully in any gathering place for men, just as it is absolutely necessary that there be women only environments from which men are excluded.

7. Because it involves taking jobs away from men and giving them to women, affirmative action makes for a fairer and more just society.

8. It is important to have lower physical standards for women firepersons and women policepersons so that, one day, half of all firepersons and policepersons will be women, thus more effectively protecting the safety of the public.

9. Affirmative action at colleges and universities needs to be maintained now that more women than men are being enrolled, in order to keep from giving men an unfair advantage academically.

10. Having ensured that there is no environment for men where women don't belong (see no.6) it is important to have zero tolerance of any expression or action which any woman might regard as sexist to ensure greater freedom for everyone.

11. Only in a society which maintains a level of 95% of alimony and child support being paid by men to women can men and women be considered as equals.

12. An airline stewardess who earned $20,000 a year at the time that she married a baseball player earning $6 million a year is entitled, in the event of a divorce, to $3 million for each year of the marriage and probably more.

13. A man's opinions on how to rear and/or raise a child are invalid because he is not the child's mother. However, his financial obligation is greater because no woman gets pregnant by herself.

14. Disagreeing with any of these statements makes you anti-woman and/or a misogynist.

15. Legislature Seats must be allocated to women and women must be allowed to bypass the democratic winnowing process in order to guarantee female representation and, thereby, make democracy fairer.



"The Library of Horror" THE THING #13 (April 1954)

The really interesting thing about this one, and something that I had never seen before, is the similarity of Steve Ditko's early drawing style to Joe Kubert's work. It's particularly noticeable in Ken's posture in panel 2 on page one, Allen's face in the next panel. Ken's figure in the last panel on page 4, the panel where Ken and Marion Welles meet for the first time on page 5. If you had showed me those panels on their own I probably would have guessed Kubert (around the time of the first run of TOR). As far as I know Joe Kubert was in the business before Ditko but certainly not much before Ditko. Does Ditko count him as an influence? It certainly wouldn't be the first time. Creators who enter the field around the same time that you do tend to have a magnified presence in your life that isn't apparent to others. The fact that Bill Sienkiewicz was the first person to make a splash in comics who was younger than me made my Bill Sienkiewicz phase inevitable. I remember Jeff Smith telling me that he sensed that kind of relationship with Mike Allred since they both arrived on the comic-book radar screen at the same time and were both working in a brush style that was further over in the direction of "cartoon-y" relative to everything else that was coming out. I don't know too many people who would think of Jeff Smith and Mike Allred as sharing a context but as soon as its pointed out to you, you go, "Oh, right, of course."

Ditko and Kubert. How could I have NOT seen it until this story?

I'd have to say the best panels in the story are panel 3 on page 6 and panel 4 on the same page. Of all the "otherworldly" panels this one shows the nascent Ditko style to the best advantage and shows what's coming up ahead.

The story itself limps around a little bit with Ken being the only one (including the reader) who really doesn't get what's going on and, consequently, is also the only one who ends up being surprised by the ending. Too many "gods out of the machine" on the last page to qualify as "playing fair" with the reader, a basic necessity in twist ending horror stories.

Same Kubert look on "The Vanishing Martians" (MARVEL TALES #147 June 1956). Absolutely amazing.

"Build Me A Machine!" ASTONISHING #53 (Sept. 56)

This is an interesting one, particularly with the extensive use of extreme close-ups which would become something of a hallmark in Steve Ditko's work. Page one panel one, page two panel one and panel 4, page 3 panel 5, page 4 panel 3 and panel 6. Most especially panel one on page two, though: so extreme a close-up he can only get one eye into the panel for each character! It's also interesting to see the extent to which spotted blacks have gone the way of the dodo in his work since the Kubert look of two years before. These guys had to be productive and that must have always been a question mark: why am I composing these pages with proper balances of black and white when someone is just going to put lousy colour on top of them anyway? And, by lousy colour, I mean unbalanced colour – a huge swath of purple in the upper left corner with everything else done in pastels, so your eye is drawn to the huge swath of purple no matter what the artist has done in balancing the areas of solid black.

Of course, these guys all came from the same background (Raymond, Foster, Caniff) so looking at the work of their own heroes, they would always get drawn back to doing good drawings. But they did end up having at least two different drawings styles: a spotted blacks style and an open style. This is Ditko's open style. Coming from a background where all of my decision-making was in black and white I'm terrifically impressed when someone can put together a page with seven (count `em seven) panels like page 3 of this story composed entirely of single brush strokes and with only a handful of spotted blacks and have it WORK. I don't know what colour they had on panel 5 on this page (Screaming Crimson? Chocolate Brown? Deep Purple?) but there's the argument against spotting blacks. Even with the colour knocked out of most of it (as Blake has done here) the panel is like a compositional black hole sucking your eye into the bottom left corner.

Not a bad shock surprise ending although saving a crucial piece of information until the fifth last panel is a bit of a cheat, still it's like the Superman origin story told sideways.

"The Faceless Man" JOURNEY INTO UNKNOWN WORLDS #51 (Nov.56)

The open style again and this time unmistakeably Steve Ditko and you can see his thinking starting to come through in terms of "How do you make your artwork immune to the ill effects of lousy colouring?" Something he would use pretty extensively over the years is cranking up the wind machine. The key point of the story is the unsettled nature of the title character so the best way of portraying that is to crank up the wind the moment he steps outside, to have it mussing his hair and causing his tie to flap around him and leaves to be blowing past. Even the most unsympathetic colourist can't un-do any of those things. The leaves need to be coloured (although I bet a lot of them just had a flat colour dropped over them), the tie needs to be coloured (you can picture Ditko begging, mentally, PLEASE give me a solid yellow on the tie or something that stands out – I wouldn't bet the farm that the tie wasn't done in more than one colour depending on the panel and a colour that just blended in with the surroundings) and the reader is instantly going to see the page as having an unsettled mysterious quality. The mussed hair is a little more problematic. For what the colourists and separators were getting paid you were still more likely to just get a blob of colour as a giant halo around the guy's head (close enough for government work) but you can still see Ditko working to minimize that risk by doing a) very clearly defined locks of hair b) to use very few of them c) to make sure they're all curling in different directions and d) that they are rendered as sharply defined brush or pen strokes with the open areas for colour kept as far away from the hair ends as possible. It's interesting the extent to which this became part of Ditko's iconography – Ditko Hair.

It's a pretty good story, good twist ending and you can see Ditko responding to it with his best drawing chops.

"Mystery Planet" STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES #36 (Mar. 58)

Okay, now we're back to some serious black spotting. I'd have to guess at who he had been looking at. Judging by the machinery in the first panel I would say Wally Wood's EC science-fiction stories…

(I had a mental question a while back about Wood's legendary space ship interiors. Didn't Wayne Boring do basically the same things in Superman? I checked some of my old Superman Annuals and, sure enough, there they were. What was the earliest Wayne Boring space ship interior and what was the earliest Wally Wood interior? Of course Wayne Boring's aren't a patch on Wood's when Wood really decided to go nuts on the submarine pipes and dials and tanks and things. The only person who really tried to compete with Wood on that – and ended up kicking his ass around the block -- was Frazetta with one of his FAMOUS FUNNIES Buck Rogers covers, but it would be interesting to see who was first into the pool with the concept.)

panel 5 on page 2 is very uncharacteristic of Ditko and shows what I think is a Dan Barry influence—particularly the hatching on the goggles and the thin lines of white painted through them. The space ships – both the angles they're shown at and the thin motion lines have a Dan Barry quality to them as well. Ditko ordinarily didn't go that thin with his motion lines. Page 6 panel 3 – ordinarily Ditko would not go that close with a foreground figure in an action panel and seems to have done so to prove he can do Dan Barry glossy highlights in the alien eyeball with the best of them. Which he can. Dan Barry was huge at this time with what he was doing on the FLASH GORDON daily strip. Julie Schwartz's avowed ambition in the mid-50s was to make everything he edited at DC look as if it was pencilled and inked by Dan Barry.

The rest of it is one hundred percent primo Ditko.

Silly-ass story though, I must say.






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