Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In Comic Book Stores Today



THE WEB #8 hits comic book stores today. In the Hangman co-feature written by me with art by Tom Derenick, Bill Sienkiewicz, Guy Major and letters by Travis Lanham, The Hangman finds himself the victim of a deadly imposter, hunted by the authorities, and discovers some startling secrets about the nature of his powers. 

The main feature, starring the Web, was written by Matthew Sturges with art by Roger Robinson, Hilary Barta, Guy Major and letters by Travis Lanham. The cover is by Stanley "Artgerm" Lau. Published by DC Comics. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tim Burton at MOMA


Last Thursday I was fortunate enough to take in the extensive Tim Burton show at  the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. The show which ran from November 22, 2009 ends today.


It took me over three hours to examine everything on display. Some of this was because the show was packed with attendees, but mainly it was because the show was packed with art. Paintings, drawings, writings, childhood ephemera, and television screens covered the walls as did sculptures. There were also more sculptures on display throughout, movie props, stop motion animation puppets, costumes, storyboards and concept art by artists working on Burton's movies and more.


I watched every bit of film being shown (except for VINCENT, which I've seen many, many times) and was happy to see movies he did as a kid (two of which were uncannily close to movies I did as a kid), as a Cal Arts student (including STALK OF THE CELERY MONSTER), HANSEL AND GRETEL, some STAIN BOY cartoons. commercials and a music video,  and some stop motion test footage from MARS ATTACKS!. As you'd expect, his juvenile efforts were, well, juvenile, but amazingly already exhibited much of the themes, content, and visual imagery that would later become staples of the Tim Burton "look."


I couldn't hazard a guess at how many pieces of two dimensional artwork were on display, but it was easily in the hundreds. Again, pieces ranged from juvenilia such as a pencil portrait of Vincent Price done in High School, and some art that won him contests and were featured in local advertising, including anti-littering signs mounted to the sides of Burbank's garbage trucks. Unlike his early movies, his early art style was clearly based on Dr. Seuss, and then through a Gerald Scarfe/Ralph Steadman phase until it became purely his own. It pained me a bit to encounter three pieces in the show that I nearly bought when I lived in Los Angeles. I definitely felt some heavy twangs of non-buyer's remorse.


Props on display included stop motion puppets from VINCENT, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, THE CORPSE BRIDE, and MARS ATTACKS! It was particularly exciting to see the puppets from VINCENT even in their decayed state. The level of detail on the puppets for TNMBC and TCB was astonishing. Photographs don't do them justice. Also on display were a pair of severed heads, a scarecrow, and the Headless Horseman's cape from SLEEPY HOLLOW, various helmets from PLANET OF THE APES, the razors from SWEENEY TODD, a cookie cutter robot and the full costume of the title character from EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, three of BATMAN's cowls, Catwoman's costume and the baby carriage that carried an infant Penguin in BATMAN RETURNS, the funhouse door and angora sweater from ED WOOD, striped elongated sleeves and a prop newspaper from BEETLEJUICE, a clock from HANSEL AND GRETEL and the above animatronic figures from CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY.


The exhibit also included some original sculptures made by Burton and others by collaborators, as well as a large, dark Christmas themed Stainboy diorama with music by Danny Elfman.



The exhibition space was also well designed with a fantastic themed entry way which can be seen a couple posts back. While the majority of the exhibit was housed on MOMA's third floor, more of it spilled into the rest of the museum including a replica of one of the topiary animals from EDWARD SCISSORHANDS in the sculpture garden, a gigantic inflatable "Balloon Boy" on the main floor, a gallery of movie posters, some more three dimensional pieces and oversized polaroid photos in the basement. the museum also ran Tim Burton's movies and movies that shaped him such as JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.


Only two things disappointed me. I was hoping to see more of Burton's photography. I know there's a lot more of it than what was on exhibit, and had hoped it was going to be included. Also, the exhibit had a strictly enforced "no photography' policy and the guards were alert and quick in coming down on anyone trying to get around that. There is an excellent book that accompanies this exhibit, well worth the price (and except for the MOMA store, only available at the website linked here), and crammed with Burton's two dimensional art from the exhibit, but not including images of any of the three dimensional pieces, or pre-production art by others. I would have loved to have taken a few shots of the props and animation puppets, or at least seen a companion volume that included all of these as a nice alternative to missing out on taking photos.



The photos shown in this post were all taken from elsewhere on the web, mostly from press coverage of the exhibit. I apologize for not citing where I found them. I grabbed these initially for my own personal use as a substitute for being unable to take any of my own, without noting where they came from not originally intending to post about the exhibit. I am including some of them here for illustrative purposes. If any of these photos belong to anyone reading this, please email me, or comment below, and I'll happily credit you. 











So, did I have a favorite piece in the exhibit, and what was it?  You can see it below. It's called "Carousel" based on a pastel on black paper piece of art, which in turn is reminiscent of Beetlejuice's circus tent costume with carousel hat. It spins, it lights up, it has music, it's otherworldly, it's amazing. 





For more photos of Carousel, including detail pictures of all of the creatures hanging from it, as well as a thorough documentation of the setting up of the complete exhibit, take a look at this fantastic series of photos on flickr.




      

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bride of Frankenstein turns 75


Today, what I consider to be an absolutely perfect horror movie turns 75. BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, a sequel to 1931's FRANKENSTEIN,  was released on April 22, 1935, a perfect blend of horror, humor, social commentary, art direction, acting, direction, writing, costumes, special effects and make-up, and one of the best and most memorable scores in cinematic history composed by Franz Waxman. 



Boris Karloff returns as the monster, and Colin Clive as the man who created him. Introduced this time is Ernest Thesiger who steals the movie with his campy yet threatening performance as Dr. Pretorius, who is a true mad scientist as opposed to the repentant Dr.  Frankenstein who has clearly suffered from a nervous breakdown. 

The film also introduces a new monster to Universal's cannon of iconic creatures, and it's first (and only long lasting) female monster. While it could be argued that Valerie Hobson, who plays Elizabeth, wife of Dr. Frankenstein is truly the bride of Frankenstein in the same way that Frankenstein is the scientist and not the monster he created, Dr. Pretorius christens the new creation, meant to be the monster's mate, "the bride of Frankenstein."



Given her roughly five minutes of screen time, the Bride is completely captivating. Elsa Lanchester based her birdlike performance on the swans in Regent's Park, London. The Bride's movements suggest a confusion of being brought back to life as well as brain damage. The Bride's overall look with her gowned bandage covered body, long neck, scars, wide unblinking eyes, capped with that shock of dark hair with it's twin white streaks, like a dark cloud releasing the twin bolts of lightning that brought her back to life, is completely striking, and as original and iconic as what Jack Pierce did when creating the make-up for the Frankenstein monster. It's impossible to imagine a way of depicting the Bride superior to what's here. 











     

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Finally...


After months of promising myself I was going to get down to NYC to see this,  I'm heading down today to take in the Tim Burton exhibit at MOMA.

I'll also be taking in some work related meetings, but this will be the highlight of my trip.





  

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mighty Crusaders Interview



THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS SPECIAL from DC Comics goes on sale May 26. The special teams up The Web, Inferno, the Shield, the Comet, and the Hangman, leading the way for THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS mini-series out in July (the cover for the first issue of this is shown above). The special was written by Eric Trautmann, Matthew Sturges, Brandon Jerwa, and myself with artwork by Javi Pina and a cover by Stanley "Artgerm" Lau.

Comic Book Resources has an interview conducted by Rik Offenberger with the four writers involved in the project. You can read it here.

Countdown to Halloween



Halloween may still be six months away, but Shawn Robare has been a busy little mad scientist doing a fantastic job sprucing up the Countdown to Halloween site, the official launching page of links to every blog participating in this annual event (now in it's fifth year).

Head on over, take a look at what's new, and revisit some blogs you may not have checked in on since last October.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What I've Been Reading

After commentary and questions regarding my old comic book, XOMBI, and various requests, the email I most often receive are questions about what I've been reading. I get that. Being a writer implies that I'm also a reader (though when I lived in Los Angeles I visited many a writer's home where not a single book could be found which I found baffling). I guess if you're someone who likes my work, you might seek what I'm reading for further reading enjoyment of your own, or I suppose some way of uncovering some insight into how I approach my own work. Whatever the reasons, I too often ask writers I like what they've been reading, so I'm not immune.

Seeing as how I've received a number of requests over the past few weeks, I thought I'd post three books I've recently completed. If there's any interest in this sort of thing here, versus the form of an individual emailed response (which I'm really bad about doing) I'll try to make this a periodic, yet regular feature here.


Most recently, I read BAMBI by Felix Salten. Most of you have probably seen the Animated Disney adaptation, but not read the novel. Like the movie it follows a young deer named Bambi as he finds his place in his world. The animals do speak in the book, but remain animals and not extensively anthropomorphized animals. Their behavior is consistent with the behavior of their real world counterparts. If your a parent who thinks the seen in the movie where Bambi loses his mother is too frightening for kids, then don't even think about reading this to your young ones. This book is far more violent and frightening. Animals prey on other animals, scavenge the carcasses of others whom they were familiar with in life, and the scenes with the human hunters and the wildlife is far more horrifying than anything in the movie, and without any cuteness or sentimentality to be found. I found it to be a pretty riveting read. And, yes, this is something I read in the context of a project I am working on.


Before this I read MAYFLOWER by Nathaniel Philbrick.  As you would probably guess this book is about the Pilgrims who settled Plymouth, Massachusetts and who are now immortalized in the form of Thanksgiving. As someone who grew up, and currently lives, within half an hour of where the Pilgram's settled, I was stunned by how much I didn't know about this historic time period, or the events connected to the settling of this area by the English. Unfortunately, American public schools seem to only teach about the Pilgrims in first grade, then never again, consigning them to the same grade, and same context as the craft project of tracing your hand on a piece of paper and turning it into a turkey. This book was filled with excitement, action, and political intrigue. It would make an amazing television series, and as a book is always fascinating and often times a riveting page turner. I can't recommend this book enough. Yes, I also read this in the context of a project of my own. In fact, it's the same project I read Bambi for.



Before that I read THE RUINS by Scott Smith. This is an engrossing novel about a group of tourists who take a day trip into the Mexican jungle in order to retrieve the brother of one of the central characters from an archeological dig where he's become involved with one of the archeologists. Things begin to go very wrong once they get there and get progressively worse, and worse. The book has a a driving sense of dread that propels the reader to turn the pages to find out what's coming next, and doesn't dish out any revelations or exposition until it's absolutely needed--when it's usually too late. It is a horror story and people do die horribly. This was a book I simply could not put down and I recommend it quite a bit. It may be the best horror novel I've read since PET SEMATARY by Stephen King (which crazy as it seems, is apparently out of print). This one had nothing to do with anything I'm working on. 

     

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Art of Mike Mignola


The Art of Mike Mignola is the new official website of Hellboy creator and extraordinary storyteller, Mike Mignola. The site is up and running as of today, and like his art (of which there are many beautiful pieces on display) is a thing of beauty in itself. The site also has news updates and stuff you can buy. I highly recommend it.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Car Talk meets Car Chat



This showed up in my mail today from Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the entertaining hosts of NPRs "Car Talk" and inspiration for their counterparts, Tim and Roy, hosts of "Car Chat" (shown below) from SCOOBY-DOO #153, published by DC Comics.


This story was written by me with Matt Jenkins handling the drawing, Rob Clark Jr. doing the lettering, Heroic Age tackling the colors, and Harvey Richards editing the whole thing.

Tom and Ray were delighted by their appearance in Scooby-Doo, which is much better news than receiving a letter from their lawyers, Dewey, Cheethan, and Howe.

Thumbnail Illustrations



For a few years I did a number of projects for the now, sadly, defunct Shaman Drum bookshop in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The work ranged from small in-store displays, larger window displays, an enormous installation for the children's section and some images for their website.

The images shown here were all done as illustrations for the website, meant to symbolize various categories of books being sold. The images were also designed to be viewed at a small thumbnail size of less than an inch in height, which is how they appeared in their header locations on the category settings.

The actual pieces weren't much bigger. Most were less than five inches in height. The visual components had to be simple and easy to read at such a small scale and also to visually encapsulate what they represented. I also tried to stay away from obvious clich├ęs.

Since Shaman Drum is no longer with us and their website is now simply an announcement of closure, I've decided to post the images I created here, in an easier to view size. Click each image to enlarge. Keep in mind these were meant to be viewed much, much smaller.

The image at the top of this post was for "cultural studies."


                                                                       "Business"



 I think this one served double duty on "cookbooks" and "wellness."


"Environment and Science"


"Literature"


"Michigan and the Great Lakes"


"Language"


"Classical Studies"


"World Studies"

There were other categories that I never got to such as "History," "Philosophy" and "Poetry." There were some that were made for categories that ended up being dropped, and one other that I completed for "education," that I can't find the image for.

To see some of the other work I did for Shaman Drum, including the unused images for the dropped categories, look here and here.