In the Spotlight: Paul Hornschemeier

June 30, 2008
Paul Hornschemeier ‘s best work — that is to say, most of it — is personal, sharp, funny, and experimental in ways you’ve never experienced before in comics — beautiful, gorgeous, meticulous, but thoroughly comics. The short story “The Bad, Bad Man,” from Forlorn Funnies #1 is the best example of his peculiar brand of brilliance; a playful, serio-comic tale of the sophistry of evil. The universe conspires to undo a moustache-twirling bad guy in a story that echoes Kurtzman and Ware but surprises with its unusually effective combination of exploration and reader engagement.

Hornschemeier’s interest in comics came at a very young age. When I interviewed him in 2004, he told me “The first thing I drew, at age 4, was a cartoon. What spurred my interest in comics as a viable medium to tell something beyond a cliche was reading [Daniel Clowes’s] Ghost World one Christmas and realizing that this thing I had done since before I could spell my own name (which is a hell of a name to spell, let’s face it) could be something so incredibly significant and stuffed with meaning and beauty.”

Sequential was Hornschemeier’s first, self-published attempt at a regular comic book series. Over the course of its seven issues, Sequential demonstrated an emerging talent eager to assay the parameters and possibilities of his chosen artform. “Ex Falso Quodlibet,” in Sequential #7, was perhaps the first indication of Hornschemeier’s ability to fulfill his creative ambitions, and something of a bridge between his two series.

Over the course of the story’s 20 pages (all of which may be read online here), Hornschemeier reaches into the depths of despair over lost love using an anthropomorphic fish-man as his lead character. It’s a harrowing examination of loss, made somehow more pointed and graphic for the inhumanity of its very human protagonist and his small, familiar moments.

The artistically more mature series Forlorn Funnies stuns with its sheer dedication to its creator’s joy of cartooning. Readers will find Hornschemeier’s recent works share a passion for design and storytelling with artists like Chris Ware and David Mazzucchelli. Hornschemeier gives us passionate, human comics that push the very limits of what is possible in the medium. When asked what motivates him, Hornschemeier told me comics gives him “Intellectual excitement and some insight into other people’s lives and beliefs…I hope [in my work] to give examples of different ways things could take shape, and, the BIG HOPE, a few good stories that escape simple gesturing and experimentation.”

His interest in experimentation — something that fairly suffuses his work — comes from diverse but complementary sources. Hornschemeier says he has been very influenced by the Beatles animated film Yellow Submarine, as well as Jim Henson, Maurice Sendek and Edward Gorey: He says “There is something in the sad, drooping, floating worlds, sprinkled with explosions of manic color and heat, that seriously colored the ways I expressed things, even at a very young age. I think these people influenced the method by which I translate the world into images, even in my mind, before any paper is brought into the equation.”

During 2003, Hornschemeier serialized “Mother, Come Home” in the pages of Forlorn Funnies #2-4. The story focuses on a young boy who has lost both his mother and father in separate but intersecting tragedies, and was Hornschemeier’s first longform novel; creatively, he feels did not meet the goals he set for himself in its creation. “I think I succeeded in parts, but I failed to carry certain parts of the story very well. There are many parts in which it fails and is unbelievable as an experience. I wanted to tell a story, and while I did do that, certain parts are distorted by a poor translator (me).” He says he enjoyed working in a longer format, but that he “lacked the skill necessary. I am still only beginning to learn what is required to create a good story.”

Hornschemeier may be his own worst critic. Dark Horse Comics editor Diana Schutz thought enough of the story to collect it as a graphic novel, and Fantagraphics Books will be re-releasing it soon in a new, expanded hardcover edition. Hornschemeier believes “every element of a book needs to be analyzed…and I think every element (paper color, paper weight, colors of ink, line quality, page layout, etc.) all serve as ingredients in the larger cognitive experience.” This attention to detail is most obvious in the last two issues of Sequential and in all of Forlorn Funnies, where the production quality increasingly plays a tactile role in the reader’s experience of the stories within.

On the topic of his extraordinary dedication to high-quality production and presentation, Hornschemeier told me “A cartoonist is a designer, if s/he is anything. A designer is simply taking elements and employing those elements to convey a message, bringing separate components together to form a unified voice, to play upon the mind of the readers in a certain way…Nothing should be ignored out of laziness. If you do not choose to address certain issues, let that be by choice, because it will certainly play a role in the perception of the audience.” He is driven to perfection of presentation, but he is generous with what he has learned; a number of his comics have included detailed information on his production methods, which have no doubt proven invaluable to artists inspired by his example.

Hornschemeier’s desire to create “a few good stories that escape simple gesturing and experimentation” is well within his grasp, and he has as much potential to transform the perception of the artform as any living cartoonist. He seems eager to continue to grow as a creator even as he struggles with his own creative drives. He told me “I see myself producing the stories to take care of something in myself, which is horribly selfish, and I can’t understand why people support these sorts of things, but I thank them profusely for it. I care immensely for people and am very appreciative of any praise or criticism I receive, but I can’t stop writing these things down. It’s sort of awful, really.” He may be blind to the enormous gift his work has been to his readers, but his readers are not. It’s virtually impossible to read a Hornschemeier work and not be staggered by the level of craft dedicated to furthering his very singular art.

Forlorn Funnies published five issues through the now-defunct publisher Absence of Ink, and most recent work of Hornschemeier’s has been issued by Fantagraphics Books, including the collection Let Us Be Perfectly Clear and the original graphic novel The Three Paradoxes.

Fantagraphics is a larger and more experienced publisher than Hornschemeier previously worked with, and so far seems far better prepared to help him grow as a cartoonist, both in his graphic novels and in the anthology MOME, where Hornschemeier’s story “Life with Mister Dangerous” has been serialized.

Unfinished tales from his earlier series Sequential prompted me to ask if he plans to revive that title, but he says “Completing anything that was started there would feel very wrong to me at this point…I did like ‘The Suppression of William T. Andrews,’ but I would have to redraw the entire thing, and I think I’m far too lazy to actually sit down and do it, particularly when there are so many new, more complicated ideas and problems to solve.” Thankfully, although the series won’t be continued, it has been collected in hardcover by AdHouse Books, which also published Hornschemeier’s Return of the Elephant, later collected in Let Us Be Perfectly Clear from Fantagraphics.

Hornschemeier’s ambitions in the near future include three longform graphic novels. A New Decade for Eli Guggenheim is about a young man who has the ability to time travel anywhere within the year 1979. Planet focuses on desire, sexual and otherwise, and weaves in and around the lives of six people whose lives have become desperately interconnected. Finally, Life with Mr. Dangerous continues its serialization in MOME and is likely to be collected under one cover once complete. The story is about a young woman in her early 20s who takes comfort in the surreal animated TV series Mr. Dangerous (first seen in Forlorn Funnies #1).

So while Hornschemeier deals with those “many new, more complicated ideas and problems to solve,” watching him solve them promises to be one of the most rewarding and entertaining prospects any comics reader can anticipate in the years ahead.

by alandaviddoane  

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A History of Underground Comics

June 30, 2008

A new edition of Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution 1963-1975 is out now from Fantagraphics Books.

One of my pet peeves is comic book readers of a certain age who dislike the term “comix.” If you can’t parse the important difference between comics and comix, then you really ought not even be trying to talk about either in public, because you’re simply not qualified.

Patrick Rosenkranz, on the other hand, is supremely qualified to write about underground comix, their genesis and significance to the artform, and he does so in the gorgeously illustrated new edition of Rebel Visions. His qualifications come from having lived through the era close to the heart of the action, and in fact many of the revealing photos of key underground creators are credited to Rosenkranz.

The narrative isn’t limited by the author’s memories and perceptions, though. Much of the prose consists of quotes from creators like R. Crumb, Trina Robbins, and many others who founded and perpetuated the underground comix movement. The narrative occasionally jumps back and forth in time, as it moves from creator to creator in retelling their firsthand experience, oral-history-style.

It’s frankly a thrilling story that Rosenkranz recounts; the coming-together of the various houses and factions of underground comix creation was almost an accident of destiny, and the resulting explosion of comix spans the spectrum from the most hackneyed of crap to some of the most sublimely brilliant and mind-expanding stories ever told.

Rosenkranz allows the cartoonists plenty of room to relive their memories and share their theories, and the oversized dimensions of the book allow the reader to be immersed in the amazingly diverse examples of art from the era.

The underground comix are a far clearer antecedent to the artcomix movement of today than most modern-day readers probably realize. Fans of Geoff Johns or Brian Michael Bendis would be hard-pressed to find stories from any underground title that would interest them in the slightest, but readers who follow creators like Joe Matt, Chester Brown, Phoebe Gloeckner, James Kochalka or Roberta Gregory would certainly find lots to love about the undergrounds, and will absolutely find much of interest in Rebel Visions, one of the greatest historical recountings ever dedicated to the artform of comics. I mean, comix.

by alandaviddoane  

The Unluckiest Characters in Comics

June 16, 2008
The Unluckiest Characters in Comics — Friday the 13th always brings thoughts of bad luck, even to the least superstitious of us. Here’s a look at some of the characters with the worst luck in the history of comics…

 

Uncle Ben Parker — Bucky is back. Jason Todd is back. Gwen Stacy’s clone’s had more revival tours than Kiss. But Uncle Ben?

 

Despite the occasional tease — most recently courtesy of Peter David and the late Mike Wieringo in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, poor ol’ Ben Parker just seems to stay dead, dead, dead.

And staying in the Spider-Man mythos for a moment… 

Harry Osborn — You’d think it would be great, being the carefree son of a multi-millionaire industrialist. The chicks, the cars, the pills…oh, the pills…!

Even better, though, when Harry’s old man — who constantly berated him for failing to live up to his expectations — died as an accidental result of his own misdeeds, Harry inherited his wealth and even his secret identity as The Green Goblin.

But, Harry failed to live up to his father’s dreams even as a supervillain, continuing to never quite reach Norman’s expectations, and finally dying, poisoned by his father’s own Goblin formula.

Even more unluckily, Harry is now reborn in Marvel’s wrongheaded “Brand New Day” storyline, destined to be retconned

out of memory sooner rather than later.

Joe Chill — Ever heard of this poor fellow? He was directly responsible for the creation of Batman.

Now, Joe Chill lived to a ripe old age and never really suffered the fate due him for the double murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. But how unnerving would it be if Batman showed up and confronted you with the truth?

So of course, Joe Chill did what any sensible hood responsible for the creation of every gangster’s biggest nightmare would do…he told his fellow criminals.

And, with forgiveness and understanding, those fellow criminals thanked ol’ Joe the best way they knew how.

He’s really chillin’ now. And, in my opinion, the all-time champion #1 unluckiest character in all of comicdom…

Shermy — Originally one of the stars of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, Shermy was in fact the first with a speaking role.

Alas, over the years Shermy faded into the background along with (non-Peppermint) Patty, Violet, and other ultimately minor characters as Snoopy, Lucy and Charlie Brown came to dominate the strip. Ivan Brunetti paid tribute to Shermy in “Whither Shermy,” one of my all-time favourite comic strips (available in full-color in Schizo #4).


I always look for Shermy to pop up at baseball games and in line for movie tickets as I read along through the decades in The Complete Peanuts, the great, ongoing reprint project from Fantagraphics Books. Alas, with the series now up to the mid-1960s, we’re well past the point where Shermy will ever play a significant role again (his very last appearance came in 1969). It’s a sad way to end up for the guy who started the whole thing off. And people think Charlie Brown is unlucky!

Have a comics-related question for Alan? Send it to alandaviddoane AT gmail.com and he will answer it in a future post.

 

Published Friday, June 13, 2008 8:38 AM by alandaviddoane  

Comics, Toys and Games Newsletter, June 2008

June 16, 2008
Comic Header June
 
Meet Your Community Manager

Featured CollectionHello to all! I’m Chris, your Community Manager for Comics, Toys, and Games. I am excited to have the opportunity to develop an interactive community centered around your interests. This month we will see the release of some blockbuster movies based on comic books, including The Incredible Hulk and The Escapist.  In addition, we have seen the release of the newest action figures from The Dark Kight movie, Watchmen, and Gremlins.  Father’s day is coming up, and now is the time to find those perfect gifts for the collector in him!

Feel free to message me about current or upcoming comic book releases, your favorite comics/toys/games, or any suggestions you may have that will enhance iTaggit. I hope you enjoy the newsletter.

See you next month!

 

This Month's Featured Item

Incredible Hulk #180The Incredible Hulk #180-182

m0re r0n has a killer comic book collection, with titles ranging from X-Men and Spider-Man, to The New Mutants, Dazzler and Power Pack.  However, it is his run of The Incredible Hulk #180-182 that is the attention grabber this month.  These three issues are the first appearance of the now super-popular Marvel mainstay, Wolverine!  This run is a major collector’s item, coveted by experienced and newbie collectors alike, and as Wolverine’s popularity continues to grow, so will the value of these three key issues.  Check out the rest of m0re r0n’s comic book collection, or message me if you would like to be featured in future publications.

 

This Month's Featured Collection 

RC Helo

Radio Control ModelsAkbar’s collection of radio controlled flying machines is a great example of the diversity of items here on iTaggit.  He has 2 airplanes and this yellow and black RC Helicopter.  It sure looks like akbar knows how to spend his free time!  Check out the collection by clicking here.

 

Featured Blogs

Exploring Kochalka’s “We Hunger” – By Alan David DoaneIn the Spotlight: B. Krigstein – By Alan David Doane

Joe Hill Breaks Into Comics – by lwallace38

Read more blogs on comics and games, or write one of your own. 

 New and Improved
 
Having trouble finding the value of your item?  Use our new Valuation Wizard!!  It gives you access to all of iTaggit’s valuation resources, and is conveniently located on your personal home page!  It is easy to use and very effective.Check this blog to get more information.

 
 

ADD’s Comics in Review

May 21, 2008

Summer’s nearly here, and with it the opportunity (for most of us, anyway) to relax with a good book or two. If you’re including comics and graphic novels in your reading plans (and if you aren’t, why not?), here’s a look at some recent titles that might catch your eye.

2 Guns — This Steven Grant-written crime comic (published by Boom Studios) involves two criminals who are each not quite what the other thinks; there’s plenty of double-dealing, reversals of fortune and, toward the end, moments of revelation that were solidly planted in earlier chapters. The art is somewhat problematical — there’s a good design sense throughout, but a lack of backgrounds and an unfortunate tendency toward xeroxed panels. Grant’s story is solid enough that you’re drawn through to the end despite these flaws. Grant’s Damned with artist Mike Zeck came out a few years back, and is an even better bet if you’re looking for an excellent crime comic. You also can’t go wrong with Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, published by Marvel/Icon.

MOME Vol. 11 — Summer, 2008 sees the release of the 11th volume of the excellent Fantagraphics anthology of new and established cartoonists. This time out we get excellent offerings from Tom Kaczynski (a truly riveting tale about corporate immersion, one of his best stories yet, and he’s always interesting), Dash Shaw (an outstanding story about art and jealousy and fakery and self-deception), and an amazing text piece (illustrated, yes, but mostly text) by Paul Hornschemeier. Hornschemeier also contributes another chapter of his ongoing “Life with Mr. Dangerous” serial (actually the most intriguing outing yet), but the text piece, “The Guest Speaker,” is a real stretch, a prose exploration of a single character that feels like Hornschemeier’s creative voice, exploring new boundaries of his storytelling. Also in this volume, Gary Groth interviews lettertype cartoonist Ray Fenwick (coinciding with the release of Fenwick’s new Fantagraphics release Hall of Best Knowledge, and the result is a fascinating look at his process and creativity. Cartoonist Al Columbia is in here with four pages of mood and colour that are worth the price of admission all by themselves.

Kirby: King of Comics — Author Mark Evanier delivers a generously illustrated biography (published by Abrams) of the man born Jacob Kurtzburg, better known as Jack Kirby. Evanier was friends with Kirby from the time he was a teenager, and gives us the scoop on both the humiliations and the triumphs the greatest superhero artist of all time experienced. Kirby’s vision and contribution to the comics artform so transcend normal boundaries of accomplishment that it’s impossible to overstate his importance and place in history. Kirby: King of Comics is a treasure, a celebration of one of only five or so true geniuses of the comics artform entire.

Lifelike — Dara Naraghi’s been writing small press comics for about as long as I have been writing about comics, and he finally gets a chance in the spotlight with the beautiful hardcover collection Lifelike, published by IDW. Naraghi writes all the stories in this anthology, with a strong collection of up-and-coming artists illustrating his vision. Some, like Steve Black and Tom Williams, are welcome, familiar names; others, like Jerry Lange and Tim McClurg, are new to me. But they all bring their best work to Naraghi’s scripts, resulting in a book that is visually diverse but beautiful to look at, and held together by the strength of Naraghi’s writing. The stories in Lifelike span a variety of genres, from autobiography to EC-style suspense (the excellent “Double-Cross at the Double Down” with artist MP Mann). But virtually everything here has the spark of genuine creativity and the power to entertain. It’s twenty bucks you won’t regret spending in the least, and if you’re new to Naraghi’s writing, a very good entry into his world.

That Salty Air — Tim Sievert’s first graphic novel, published by Top Shelf Productions, is a parable of frustration, rage and grief, with a strong and confident use of black ink that defines the ocean that creates the “salty air” that the protagonist, Hugh, professes to love. The blackness of the ocean hides depths of despair and resentment, in addition to the wondrous creatures of the deep that seem to hover around the edge of Hugh’s consciousness. Sievert’s story becomes stranger the more it unfolds, and the unknowable oddness of the deepest undersea life is a fine metaphor for the ways in which we are unable to process the most profound and unwelcome moments of our life. That Salty Air concerns itself with Hugh’s choices and his ultimate decision, and is a very good first graphic novel from a very promising young talent.

Yearbook Stories 1976-1978 — Top Shelf co-publisher Chris Staros writes the two tales in this comic book, one longer one illustrated by Bo Hampton in lush black and white, and a shorter one drawn by Rich Tommaso. “The Willful Death of a Stereotype,” the Hampton-drawn story, is about Staros attempting to reinvent himself by running for 6th grade class president. Of such stuff are Afterschool Specials made of, but thanks to Hampton’s brilliant artwork and Staros’s forward-driven narrative, “Willful Death” becomes something special. Great, truthful little moments and a genuinely reflective conclusion leave the reader with real insight into Staros’s personality — hell, even into his inclusive vision of comics. Good autobio comics tell you something about their creator while they entertain you, and “Willful Death” does both. “The Worst Gig I Ever Had” is the pleasant after-dinner mint of the book, a short story about the weird things that can happen to high-schoolers who form a band. Tomasso illustrates the story in an inky sort of Paul-Grist-Meets-Kevin-Huizenga groove, and it ends on an amusing note that would shock and awe the Staros found in the previous story. Top Shelf has priced Yearbook Stories at a hugely reasonable $4.00. It’s a nicely-formatted slightly-larger-than-digest-sized pamphlet that will please anyone who’s into comics.



Have a comics-related question for Alan? Send him an email to alandaviddoane AT gmail.com and he will answer it in a future blog post.

Published Wednesday, May 21, 2008 8:30 AM by alandaviddoane Edit 

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Censorship’s Impact on Comic Book Value

April 17, 2008

By Jamie

I found this really interesting clip about censorship of comic books in the 1940s and 1950s. Apparently, Dr. Fredric Wertham along with two senators attacked the comic book industry with hearings and a huge smear campaign.

Wertham, who worked with juvenile delinquents, found that one common tie between them was that they all read comic books. Of course, at that time comic books were widely popular with most young people, but Dr. Wertham failed to make this important realization.

Just like today’s hearings about music and video games, the comic book hearings resulted in a rating system. The comic book publishers banded together and decided what to publish based on strict censorship rules. The Comics Code Authority approval had to be granted before any comic was to be published.

Comics were heavily shaped by this code. Super heros like Superman, Bat-man and Wonder Woman all changed their behavior to make people more comfortable. Check out the video for yourself.

I can’t even begin to imagine how huge of an impact this must have had on the comic books we read today. Imagine where the natural evolution of the books would be today if it hadn’t been interrupted. What a shame that so many people who might have enjoyed reading comics, have never even picked on up because the readership levels were cut so sharply, years ago. It is so strange to see that our culture has a way of repeating itself even though the past has proven against it.

I suppose there are some good things that came from this terrible situation. Today’s comics prices might have been higher if demand for them was greatly increased and the worth of comics from before the Comics Code Authority must be astronomical. Collectors are probably foaming at the mouth to get comic books in a more pure form. I’m not sure how long the approval system was in place but comics with the seals of approval might even show up for high dollar amounts in a comic price guide if they are hard to find. I’d be shocked if these comics appraisals weren’t effected by this at all. All comics appraisers know that a collectibles value is often shaped by historical events.

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More Iron Man News

April 11, 2008

Rumor has it, the new Iron Man game is going to feature multiple Iron Man suites, including both new and classic suits. Apparently, the game will feature seven suits, all of which will be playable and unlockable. Both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 will have an additional platform specific suit. So unless you own both of those systems I’m afraid you won’t get to play with all nine. We don’t have long to wait to see if this rumor is true. The new Iron Man game debuts on May 2, 2008.

The Iron man game has been under development for a long time and they’ve worked extra hard on making a game and controls that can handle all of Iron Man’s abilities. If that sounds exciting to you and you can’t wait to hear more, you are in luck. I’ve found a cool video all about the making of the game. Check it out!

The game featuring multiple suits is likely to have an effect on Iron Man collectibles value. Figurines of all the different suits are sure to follow the release of this game. There will be more Iron Man memorabilia available now than ever before.

Once the movie and game release don’t forget to reevaluate your comics prices. Considering the success of the movie and the game, prices are likely to change. Comics appraisals might be in order. Keep an eye on your favorite comic price guide to be sure.

By Jamie.

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Marvel Comics Brings Us Behind the Scenes Footage of Incredible Hulk

April 9, 2008

By Jamie Gilliam

With the release of the new Incredible Hulk movie only 65 days away, Marvel Comics is making sure we’re ready. Today the top story on their official site was the release of some behind the scenes footage. Check it out!

Personally, I love behind the scenes footage, and that clip didn’t disappoint. Seeing the producer’s and director’s comments was really interesting and I’m even more excited about seeing the movie now.

If that wasn’t enough Hulk for you, don’t worry there is plenty more where that came from. On Marvel’s site you can check out the Hulk’s bio and get photos, videos and wallpaper for your computer. If that still isn’t enough, you can also find more info about the Incredible Hulk video game due out this June.

I think it is really cool that they are making this movie. The Hulk has starred in lots of movies and shows and I think it is time that they finally do it right. For a character who has been around since the time when comics prices were well under a dollar. It amazes me that his story is still so relevant and interesting today. As I’ve said before, I’m really excited to see what this movie does to the worth of comics featuring the Incredible Hulk. I hope the comics appraisers are ready!

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April 9, 2008

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