Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Deadman Travesty

Here's something that I've been griping about to anyone I've bumped into in the past week or two, but nobody seems to care but me. Either they don't care enough about comic book art or they think my concern is too out-of-date to matter. The people in the second category have a good point because I am talking about a book published five years ago, but I'm going to present my case to you anyway, and you can let me know if you are as offended as I am, or if I'm just being too picky. Here goes...

In 2001, DC Comics published an extravagant hardcover collection of Neal Adams's famed Deadman run. Deadman was a character who could inhabit the body of a mortal and control that person's actions, but because Deadman was, well, dead, he had no corporeal form himself. His goal was to find out who had killed him. It was like an existential version of "The Fugitive" but with a sorta-superheroic circus performer in the lead role (he was called "Deadman" as a trapeze artist because of his death-defying stunts, and he wore red spandex while performing, and he was murdered in mid-air).

Anyway, the series was most famous because it was the first major work of artist Neal Adams, who would go on to great critical acclaim in a few short years and be regarded as perhaps the greatest comic book artist ever. But the first issue of the series was actually drawn by Silver Age great Carmine Infantino. He had to bow out after only one issue because he was promoted within DC and so Neal Adams took over and continued the series as the main artist. The reason any of this is important is because I just paid about $50 for this fancy Deadman hardcover collection:

So this collection, published in 2001, is supposed to be the definitive collection of the series. The best of the best. The first Neal Adams story (which is the second issue in the collection, Carmine Infantino's being the first) is identified in the table of contents as "newly inked especially for this edition by Neal Adams." Okay. But let's look at some samples of the work. Here's a page from the first issue in the collection, drawn by Carmine Infantino:

Here's one of the "newly inked" pages from the second issue reprinted in the collection:

And here's a page from the third story, drawn by Neal Adams but NOT "newly inked":

These issues were originally published in 1967. Issues 1 and 3 seem like they belong. Issue 2 seems wildly out of place, doesn't it? It wasn't just re-inked! It was redrawn, recolored, and even re-lettered by Neal Adams. It might be better artwork (although I personally don't prefer it), but it's jarringly OUT OF PLACE in this collection. It's so shockingly different than ALL of the other issues in the collection that, for me at least, it ruins the integrity of the entire book. For the record, here's what the second issue looked like in its earlier version BEFORE it was "newly inked," followed by the "newly inked" version to the right so you can compare for yourself and see how extremely different it became:

Which one would flow better with the pages from issues 1 and 3 above? The "newly inked" version is ridiculously different. I wouldn't have liked it if he'd redrawn and recolored the entire book, but at least it would have been consistent. As it is now, it's a horribly uneven looking collection.

I hope DC has learned from this mistake (although, Neal Adams has apparently done something similar with the Batman books reprinting his work). It literally disgusts me. I think it's far, far worse than the modifications George Lucas made to the Star Wars trilogy. Am I wrong? Am I overreacting?

Ultimate Frisbee and Why I Haven't Posted

I haven't posted on this blog much lately--except for my two posts below (you should read them first!). Even after I VOWED to post twice a week. I lied, clearly.

Anyway, I don't have a good reason for my poor showing here, and I know all of the readers out there in blog-o-land have missed me dearly, so I make a new vow: I will post EVERY DAY for one week. Let's see if I can do that! Isn't that exciting? After that, we'll see where it goes. Maybe I'll post every MINUTE! What's the record for most entries per hour? I could top that! Yes, that's what I'll do, or probably not.

So here's a tiny excuse as to why I haven't been as productive as I should have been this past month: I have been lying on the couch watching a lot of TV and movies. Not much of an excuse, right? But I HAD to lie on the couch because I couldn't walk! I was horribly injured in a frisbee tournament! The doctor wanted to perform foot-replacement surgery, but I said, "no way--I don't want a robot foot, unless the robot foot has like a drill bit for a big toe, and a switchblade for the little toe" and then I kind of went on and on like that for a while, dreaming of my ideal robot foot, when the doctor said, "I didn't say 'foot replacement surgery,' I said, 'sprained ankle' and it will heal in a few weeks, but you need to stay off of it." Oh. I misunderstood.

How did this injury occur, you ask? Well, it was a calm Sunday morning a few weeks ago...

My team, The Justice League, named thusly because of the Superman shirt I was wearing (to match my red shorts) (and because we were so friggin' awesome!) was playing against Jason Gamache's team in the first round of the tournament. After we scored a few quick points, there was a slight controversy about a foul that was called. I thought it was the correct call, but my team didn't, and so I demonstrated the rule that was violated. I showed them what you CAN'T do when you're defending a player. As I demonstrated what not to do, I leapt into the air and bumped into my teammate Trevor (showing exactly how the foul had occurred), and I landed on his foot, and my ankled turned over with a SNAP! I hopped around, swearing left and right, because I knew my tournament was over after only a few points.

I sat on the sideline, icing my ankle as it swelled to mythic proportions. But I couldn't just sit around and watch, so I told my team I'd rest a bit, tape up my ankle and wait for the finals to make my return. Yet even waiting for a few minutes, I grew bored. So I had teammate Mitch Maselli tape up my ankle so I could play in the very next game. It hurt to play on it. A lot. I couldn't really run. I could start to run, and then quickly hop on my left leg for a bit. That's about it. But I still played. And played. And played.

We made it to the finals, of course. And the finals were best-out-of-three (which we won in two), so that means I played 5 games on a badly sprained ankle. Not smart. At the end of the tournament, we recived gold medals, a team trophy, and two of us received individual trophies. They had kept stats for all the games, and they awarded Mitch with the "Most Touchdowns Caught" trophy, and I received "Most Touchdowns Thrown." That's right, even though I was barely able to walk, I was the hero of the tournament, the idol of millions. My teammates began calling me Curt Schilling. (I'll be travelling around New England with my trophy--check your local paper to see the dates and times.)

So I limped toward my car, trophy in hand, drove the 45 minutes back home, basking in my own glory, crawled to the front door of my house, and told my wife, "I need to go to the emergency room. Now."

The x-rays didn't show a break, luckily (which I knew anyway--I wasn't dumb enough to play on a BROKEN ankle), but the sprain was really bad and my entire foot (from the middle of my shin down to my toes) had swelled up enormously--it looked like a giant rubber hobbit foot. Blood had pooled below my ankle, beneath the skin on both sides. The doctor said it wasn't very smart to keep playing on it. I said, "check out my trophy, bizzatch," and she was immediately silenced.

I've had to wear an air cast since. I'm supposed to wear it for another week (although I didn't wear it when I went out yesterday, and my ankle is throbbing today), and I'm supposed to stay away from frisbee for 6-8 weeks.

So that's why I had to lie on the couch and watch all those TV shows and movies.

And that's why I couldn't blog. (Without a laptop, it's hard to blog and keep your foot elevated.)

But school is starting soon. And that means frisbee season is starting up at Drury. Can I wait two months to play? Nah. I'll just play with the air cast on! It will give me another horrible injury to blog about.

The Callahan Gallery--Samurai Squirrel

Here's a drawing I did last Spring to amuse my AP English class. I had already drawn Ninja Gerbil (co-created by Erin Floriani) and pinned it to the wall (and if I find a copy of that illustration lying around, I'll post it here someday), and we had watched Kurosawa's "Throne of Blood" earlier in the year and just finished reading Nabokov's "Pnin," so I had samurais and squirrels on my mind anyway.

If you've been in my classroom, you've seen this drawing. Most people think it's a photocopy of a coloring book page or something. But nope--it just looks that way because I outlined the figure with a Sharpie to give it a bold presence.

You can't go wrong with putting armor on a cute little furry creature.

My Lunch with Howard

I went to lunch yesterday (without wearing my air cast--I'm a rebel) with the amazing Howard Cruse. I'd asked him to make an appearance at Word Street--to show up as a "special guest" in my Graphic Novel course that was supposed to take place this summer, but that course was cancelled due to low enrollment. But he still wanted to meet me, and of course, I certainly wanted to meet him. His "Stuck Rubber Baby" graphic novel is one of the greats, and it's one of the few graphic NOVELS that actually deserves the term (it's not just a bloated short story like so many of them).

You should all buy it.

Anyway, our lunch went very well, and he was kind enough to let me browse through his bookshelves when I picked him up. Like any writer or artist, I love to see what people have on their shelves. I was glad to see Crockett Johnson's "Barnaby" visibly represented. You know Johnson from his "Harold and the Purple Crayon"--that was a huge influence on me as a kid. It was probably my favorite book for a time. I think "Barnaby" is out of print these days--but if you see a collection of it on ebay, you should snap it up.

We had a long discussion about Mad magazine, and talked about education and art and writers and on and on. Howard is a kindred spirit, and I was glad to get the chance to hang out with him. We'll definitely do it again.

He was disappointed that I didn't bring any of my artwork to show him. I was way too embarassed to show my amateur hackwork to a professional (award-winning!) artist. But maybe I'll send him some minicomics. I promised him I'd at least post some more of my work on this blog, so he could check it out (with the added bonus that the entire world can see the awesome and awesomely bad stuff I've drawn). So over the next few weeks, I'll constantly update this blog with pieces of work from the past and present.

(Actually, when I went though a pile of artwork to see what I should post, I found a few things I did over 15 years ago--and it's fun for me to think about why I decided to draw that stuff and why I chose that particular style back then. In many ways, my art was better back then, maybe because I was more serious about it--I was going to go to art school I thought--but it also reflects my interests of the time. Not that my interests have changed that much since I was like 5 years old--I liked superheroes and space ships and swordfights then, and I like that stuff just as much now.)

So, buy Howard's graphic novel, (actually, buy all of his stuff), and keep checking back here for illustrations from my pile.