Posts filed under ‘internet’
When we think of the Golden Age of comics, we tend to think of the first generation of superheroes, beginning with Superman in 1938. The end of this era is disputed but it definitely has something to do with the 1954 Senate Hearings and the self-implementation of the Comics Code Authority. Here are some basic things everyone should know about the Golden Age: At their height in 50s, comics were a mass medium. Titles had circulation in the millions, and nearly every child and G.I. read comics regularly. Also, there was a tremendous diversity in genres. There were many, many people toiling anonymously or near anonymously to create comics because the profession was held in such low regard. Comics drew from pulp magazines, and have always been closely tied to radio and television. Comics were youth culture long before Rock n’ Roll gyrated its way into caucasian pelvises. Anyway, here’s a page of comics, don’t bother reading it, just kinda bounce around the pictures.
Isn’t there, well… something about the art? Look at that guy in the bottom left, what a mug! I was reading a lot of crime comics in research for my Golden Age project (more on that soon, I promise!) and I came across the above story in Crime and Justice #18 with a credit of “Stan Campbell.” Now, it was probably just a credit for the pencils, but in the Golden Age, some artists did everything short of production — Fletcher Hanks wrote, penciled, lettered, and inked (and maybe did the color separations?) for a whole book every month! So, I started looking for Stan Campbell stuff, and …
Holy Cripes! I found this awesome excerpt of Space Western on Flickr. Go ahead and read it, I’ll wait. Both Space Western and Crime and Justice were published by Charlton — which was often considered the lowest paying and often worst quality publisher — but there is a big difference in the pacing and tone between the two stories. I googled Space Western and found two free Space Westerns to download, which can easily be read with the free program Simple Comics. Now I was in pretty deep. Besides the faces, illustration like in the panel above threw me for a loop. WHO WAS THIS GUY??!!
Here’s the thing about many Golden Age creators, there is absolutely no biographic information available. To be fair, all of this digging has been on the internet, and I haven’t had time to start digging deep into Charlton, but it seems that Stan Campbell exists only as “penciller” in the history of comics. I DID find this great resource, which seems to be the best listing of everything that he worked or could have worked on. At this point I began downloading things from this list, and I came across this issue of Dell’s showcase title Four Color featuring Mandrake the Magician. This issue came out in 1956, after the Code had thinned the herd and only the non-controversial titles that employed Campbell were left. Here, in Four Color, Campbell had a whole 36 pages to tell just two stories. Crime and Justice #18 had packed in four! Take your time to read these two pages, clicking to magnify:
Now, I know it’s not perfect, but Damn! There is some great cartooning here! Campbell may not be an advanced draftsman, but I think his caricature/figure drawing is excellent, as well as his contrast of background and foreground elements. I mean, just look at that spotlight hypnosis on the first page! His clarity and style remind me of other greats from his time, such as Basil Wolverton and Burne Hogarth. So, are you sold? Do you want to see more of Stan Campbell? Well, you can’t. There’s nowhere you can buy Campbell’s work. However, I’m confident that eventually someone will publish a reprint of every single thing that Stan Campbell drew.
Special thanks to Steve Bissette for background info on the Golden Age through his Survey of the Drawn Story class. All images © Charlton and Dell comics. Some of these might be public domain but these are all just used for review anyway.
Journalism teachers always encourage you to get published, and for good reason. To get hired somewhere (ha!), you need published examples of your work, and there are usually a few places interested in student work. At AU, one of them is the American Observer, the Graduate Journalism Magazine. I submitted a piece I wrote a class, and it was published here. Please read it, I bet you can do it in a minute or two.
Now I understand that things have to be fact-checked and verified—very quickly I might add—but the original story (below) was 757 words. The edited version? 301. I can’t really complain: the essence of the article remains the same, except all the “zazz” is gone. We all learn in J-school that because the internet is a page-less medium the size of articles isn’t bound by the same physical constraints, but speediness has never been more crucial. Still, feature-y, details-oriented writing has its place on the internet, and readers still flock to it. Click through (or scroll down) to read the original story.
photo by flickr user sskennel
I was there today, all wrapped up, near the National Portrait Gallery. Above was more or less my vantage point. The video and audio was out of sync, it was nippy right around freezing, and the moving around in the crowds afterwords was trying, but I was there, and it felt important. And at the same time it was a little surreal. For those of us that largely became politically aware in the last eight years, I think things will be disconcerting for a while. The new Whitehouse.gov is already evidence of that. We’ve had our post-election breather people, let’s lean forward and read the news again.
I’m at the point in my education where more than half of my classes insist that I read The New York Times or The Washington Post daily. The WaPo is interesting if you live here, but the Times is already my go to news source, and more than that, the place I go to when I have nothing to read on the internet. In the dorms (years ago now), I would occasionally grab a free copy, but there was something about the arrangement that didn’t quite work for me. Now that I can split the price of subscription (at a student’s rate) with my roommates, and it comes right to my door, as you can see.
There’s something nice about holding a paper; it’s good to support a failing industry; blah blah BLAH. Truth is, I’ve been reading the Times since high school. Maybe it’s because I know the paper more, or maybe I just know more about the world, but I’ve never enjoyed it (the whole thing) more than I do now. And as a journalism major and graphic design minor, it’s interesting to me that I read the website differently than the hard copy. With the paper in my hands, I start with the front page: continuing articles into the back, coming back to the front, and working my way through; elaborately folding the whole way. With the website, I check often for breaking news and I look at the most e-mailed. That list is often what’s interesting but it’s also telling to know what other readers are reading. Now, it’s a new sensation to look at headlines in one format or the other and remember that I already read the corresponding article — elsewhere.
So, this weekend, it was rainy, and I pulled out the “Son of Mad Libs” book I had brought from home on a whim. We played a couple of them and in a way rediscovered the format. I really enjoyed it, and recognized the same kind of feelings I get when playing a game like Scatagories or Apples to Apples. And while Mad Libs is kind of fun in the way that old lame things are fun, we thought it might also be fun to try and update it.
So now some friends and I have embarked on a new project, and we’re calling it Rad Libs. Every week day we’ll have a new one up. Our goal is for each to be funny, relevant, and doable. We want you to be able to print it out and enjoy it by yourself or with others, or to just read it and smirk. And isn’t that the point of internet humor? We think we’re on to something here, and I hope you’ll agree. I might be blogging a little bit less while we get this going, but I imagine I’ll soon incorporate it into my routine like I have with this here blog.
As I’ve written about before, illustration is no longer incontrovertibly linked to design. In this world of stock photos and cheap digital cameras, being able to draw is no longer a requirement. But is illustration going down the crapper? In some arenas, illustration is not only the best format, it is essential to design.
Take for instance Threadless. This post-internet-bubble startup t-shirt company sells only t-shirts that online participants vote for and choose. What ends up for sale ranges from the stereotypically emo, to the visually punny, to the ambiguous and perhaps deep. And believe me, it’s not a piece of cake to the approval of your peers; take a look at one of my high school attempts. People can be pretty harsh. But what do all of the t-shirts being sold have in common? They are excellent illustrations! The design is meticulous and often very aesthetically pleasing. As the website continues to grow, they do more (such as interviews) to emphasize the role design and illustration plays in their products. I just wish they would do more $10 sales.
So, I’ve been thinking about illustration a lot recently. Personally, a lot of my thoughts about illustration revolve around how I’m not capable of doing it and how jealous I am of people who are. It was best articulated for me by the Chair of the graphic design program at AU, who explained the difference between the traditional track and photo track in the graphic design major (I decided to minor anyway). Basically, if you don’t have the years of structured drawing skills, you do the next best thing—photography. However, illustration’s role in Design (as opposed to design) has definitely changed from an either/or kind of situation. This is well analyzed over in an article on Design Observer.
But even more recently, a Phillip Greenspun donated $20,000 to Wikipedia expressly for the purpose of paying illustrators for top notch accompanying illustrations. According to the proposal, Greenspun touts many advantages of illustration found in the above DO post: “What can take pages of text to explain may be understood in a single picture. A visual representation can inspire understanding of a novel concept far more quickly than the textual equivalent.” Sounds great.
But wait a minute, isn’t Wikipedia free from monetary compensation? Who’s to say that words are less valuable? (illustrations will go at $40 a pop.) I wasn’t sure myself, until I read this blog post by Greenspun himself, saying, “To me, paying an illustrator is like paying a typesetter or someone else who assist in preparing a manuscript.” In fact, it’s like paying the programmers who keep Wikipedia up and looking great. And how will it work? According to the post:
1) author sketches in pencil, scans, and uploads to a queue, (2) illustrator somewhere in the world downloads the pencil sketch, reworks competently, and uploads to an approval queue (email notification to the author), (3) author reviews to make sure that the professionally drawn illustration is consistent with the pencil sketch, (4) illustrator gets paid and drawing goes live on Wikipedia, with hyperlink credit to a page where all of the illustrator’s contributions are shown and that has contact information for that illustration.
I think this is a really positive and interesting development for the design community and the internet. As opposed to new technologies that limit creativity and streamline information into one soulless format — Amazon’s Kindle only allows black and only has one typeface — Wikipedia is opening a new market for a timeless skill. A skill of which I am still very jealous of people who possess it.