Category Archives: comic art
His artistry was, and remains, so innovative and influential in the comic book zeitgeist that the industry named awards after him. Heck, they even named a visual image after him: the affectionately known, “Kirby Krackle.”
How pervasive is writer and artist Jack Kirby in pop culture?
You can scan the litany of comic book characters that the man created or co-created and you’d be certain to find dozens that are your favourites. From the globally renowned Captain America, Avengers, Fantastic Four and X-Men series of characters, to the populace’s burgeoning awareness of Darkseid and Black Panther, to the more niche creations of Kamandi, Etrigan the Demon and Destroyer Duck. With Kirby, the list of great characters goes on and on and on.
Without him, pop culture and comic books wouldn’t be at all what we know it to be today.
This August marks the 100th birthday of Jack Kirby and we here at Biff Bam Pop! mean to celebrate that auspicious centennial with a plethora of written accolades all summer long!
This is your cordial invitation to our #Kirby100 party!
I, like many others, became familiar with the work of Darwyn Cooke through his DC: The New Frontier (2004), a six-issue miniseries that reexamined DC Comics’ stable of superheroes within the confines of the mid twentieth century and the changing political shape of America after World War II and into the Cold War era. DC: The New Frontier introduced readers to dozens of world-famous characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash and even not-so-famous-but-beloved characters like the Challengers of the Unknown, meeting each other for the first time – in the same chronological order that they were originally published during the mid-twentieth century. It brought characters and ideas through the Golden Age of comic books (1930’s to 1950’s) to the burgeoning silver age (1950’s to 1970’s), with the story actually culminating in the foundation of the Justice League of America.
It was a brilliant idea. A tribute as much to the publishing history of comic books as it was a rollicking superhero adventure, the acclaimed series would garner multiple awards including Eisner Awards for Best Limited Series, Best Coloring and Best Publication Design. It also won Harvey Awards including Best Artist, and a Shuster Award for Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Cartoonist. DC: The New Frontier has been collected in numerous formats include a Deluxe and Absolute version, and was made into a direct-to-video animated film which preserved Cooke’s distinctive artistic sensibilities.
Things are going Ballistic for comic book fans this week, as Black Mask Studios unleashes a new series from writer/filmmaker Adam Egypt Mortimer and The Boys artist and co-creator Darick Robertson. This steampunk/futurist tour de force is something pretty amazing – it’s entirely unique. How often do we get that in comics? We’re very luck to have had the opportunity to talk to Adam Mortimer via email about the series, what to expect and lots more. This is the first of our regular feature on the series, so dig in and enjoy!
Andy Burns: Congrats on a kickass first issue of Ballistic! For everyone who is about to discover the series, why don’t you give them the basics of what the series is about?
Adam Egypt Mortimer: Thanks man! It’s taken us a while to get here and now the fun begins!
So… Ballistic is the tender story of a simple air conditioning repair man and his foul mouthed, drug addicted, psychotic gun. So it’s kind of the ultimate buddy action story, really.
An eco-apocalypse has fueled a meltdown in the western hemisphere. New forms of technology have had to replace the old, environmentally destructive forms. Here on Repo City State, technology is alive. Not only is it inspired by nature, it is grown from the endless possibilities of DNA. Red algae converters and living solar panel membranes power a city full of jellyfish streetlights and winged drones that eat off off electrical lines. Long extinct species live again and are engineered into unthinkably weird new forms.
But technology has not cured the human condition. People are still assholes. The dominant goal in this city is to be a famous gangster. So much so that TMZ-like blogs cover the styles and tastes of criminals.
Our hero, Butch, is a guy that shares this view of celebrity. He is an air conditioning repairman, but he longs to be the John Dillinger of his time. He’s in that mode of life where he is trying to psych himself up to make some kind of big move — like rob a bank — but he keeps getting in his own way. He partner and friend — maybe his only friend — is his GUN. A living weapon, it is a cranky motherfucker who essentially berates Butch for being a failure and cajoles him into making terrible choices.
In the first issue, Butch is finally propelled into taking a shot at a big heist, and when his gun does not cooperate, their cataclysmic failure sends them off into a very unexpected adventure involving a city-wide plot involving warring crime lords, tech moguls, and a disease that drives technology insane.
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If you’re living in the Toronto area or are thinking about visiting the city this weekend, you’re in for a treat. The 10th anniversary of The Toronto Comics Arts Festival (TCAF) is happening on Saturday and Sunday – and if you’re a fan of sequential art and storytelling in all of its forms, TCAF is the place for you to be!
If you haven’t been before, this isn’t your usual run-of-the-mill comic book convention. No, it’s much, much more interesting: truly a celebration of art, storytelling and the small-press and independent comic book industry by and for the people that love to create in unison with the people that love to read.
Love is a word that can be used often with TCAF.
The festival is indeed an international love affair and you can find out more info and some highlights after the jump!
I’ve been waiting for some new Paul Pope work.
Sure, there have been covers, short stories and the other whatnots in the comic book industry, but what I would really like to see is something a bit longer-form. I’m curious to see what comes next from the writer/illustrator and acclaimed Eisner Award winner of Batman: Year 100, the sci-fi Heavy Liquid, 100% and the absolutely amazing Adam Strange weekly serial that ran within the pages of Wednesday Comics, published a few years ago.
All of these works (available in smart hardcover compilations, too) point to new directions from a beloved creator of sequential art. But even with today’s release of The One Trick Rip-Off + Deep Cuts, we’ll all still be waiting for that new material (his Battling Boy is on the way, we’re promised). You see, today’s release compiles work from the 1990’s – early stuff in Pope’s career.
But to see where an artist is going, you need to see where an artist come from.
Fan Expo 2012 is about to hit Toronto and for the weekend of August 23-26th, nerds will rule. This marks the 18th year of Fan Expo and probably the 3 or 4th time I’ve attended… going to comics, sci fi, horror, anime, gaming conferences steels you against the extremes of fandom.
I expect this to be another crazy, cosplay filled, celebrity spotting type of conference; certainly nothing out of the ordinary for Fan Expo.
For a quick look at what’s in store and schedule hilights, read on.
The Comic Book History of Comics is a treasure that any comic book fan will want to own; a detailed homage to the absolutely unique story of comics, in comic book form! And thanks to Biff Bam Pop, you can win a copy of your very own.
From the award-winning team of Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, this collection out from IDW offers something truly special for comic book fans. The Comic Book History Of Comics includes all the most important figures in comics/manga history: Jack Kirby, R. Crumb, Harvey Kurtzman, Alan Moore, Stan Lee, Art Spiegelman, Osamu Tezuka and many more.
We know Biff Bam Pop readers are serious about comic books, so we’re giving away one copy of this epic history of the comic book industry to one of YOU! Read the rest of this entry
All month long at Biff Bam Pop we’ve been featuring various origin stories. Today I asked comic book creator Emily McGuiness to share her own origin story and that of her graphic novel, Ties. Take it away, Emily!
My name is Emily McGuiness and my origin story is quite a tale. I am a comic book creator and all around art maven. I am the writer, penciller and inker of my slice-of-life comic book Ties: A Chronicle of Letters and Scotch. I also have my hands in about a million other projects like gallery shows, film, illustration, etc.
It’s a shame to say that I had preconceived expectations of the negative kind heading over to Toronto’s Fan Expo this year. Last year’s convention of all things comic book, sci-fi and anime was messed up. Too many people made for too many lines and staff, under the pressures of overcrowding and (rightfully) demanding patrons, broke down and showed their worst, most uncooperative and unaccommodating sides. Read the rest of this entry
In preparation for the latest film in the X-Men film franchise, this week at Biff Bam Pop we’re counting down to the Friday release of X-Men: First Class with a series of x-focused articles.
It seems like the X-Men have been around for as long as comic books themselves. The various characters that make up the superhero team: Professor X, Cyclops, Beast, Phoenix, Rogue and Wolverine among others are so ingrained in our consciousness that they seem like good friends. We know them all and we know them well. We know them through their comics and graphic novels, books, toys, video games, cartoons and, of course, films. But since X-Men was first released in the fall of 1963, those characters have undergone stylistic changes, both overt and subtle, by the writers and artists that put pen and pencil to paper.
With X-Men: First Class soon upon us, I thought it might be interesting to go back over the decades and briefly look at three seminal artistic runs on the titular comic book and make note of the changes inherent in the visual representations of Marvel Comics foremost superhero group.
Come. Walk with me.
Alongside incomparable writer Stan Lee, artist Jack Kirby, himself a legend in the comic book world, created the X-Men. Stories focused on themes of prejudice and racism, concepts at the forefront of the American zeitgeist of the time and, really, ideas that remain constant and true to the series – and Marvel Comics – today.
Kirby was the perfect artist for the times. Just as the American civil rights and anti-war movements were gaining strength, Kirby drew his characters as monumental as those ideals, as if they were sculpted from immense stone boulders, a style that perfectly echoed the speeches of Martin Luthor King Jr. and John F. Kennedy.
Looking at the cover of the first issue of X-Men (and saying nothing about Iceman’s poor aim with his snowball attack!), Kirby’s characters are squat in appearance, but full of kinetic energy, ready to quickly uncoil and snap into action. Indeed, they could fly right off of the page! His inked lines here are thick and deliberate, giving a sense of weight and gravitas to the page while his powerful, artistic storytelling is truly evident. With one look at these new characters, the reader, simply by glancing at the cover and following the action from the top of the page to the bottom, knows the powers of each of the main characters – a very clever form of visual storytelling, inherent to the sequential storytelling medium.
Even though they are costumed differently than what twenty-first century audiences are used to seeing, Beast, Angel, Iceman and Cyclops are easily identified – a testament to Kirby’s design sense and the timelessness of those characters.
The decade of the 1970’s saw a drastic change for the X-Men in that many more characters were brought into the team. Still, the stories of this decade were built upon the themes that had come before. Where once X-Men was about human rights, it was now about diversity in all of its forms. The character of Colossus, he of communist origins, was brought into the fold, as was Storm from Kenya, the Native American, Thumderbird, and the character called Sunfire from Japan.
Dave Cockrum lent his considerable cinematic artistic skills to the series through the middle part of the decade and the beginning of the next. Coupled with esteemed writer Chris Claremont, the duo took a more realistic, gritty, noir slant to storytelling. In fact, this new sense of realism would arguably be what Marvel Comics would become synonymous with over the years.
In the above example, taken from page 3 of X-Men issue 147, one can see that noir realism evident. Cockrum makes strong use of black inks on this page, imbibing it with a sense of extreme drama at Nightcrawler’s near drowning, tricks akin to a Hitchcock or Scorsese film. His storytelling is another strength on this page witnessed in the lonely, long plunge into darkness in panel four, echoed in the plaintive gasp for air in the sixth panel. Cockrum, in one page, makes the reader feel the intense despair and isolation of the character – but not before letting us know that the hero survives this dance with death, if just barely. We need to turn that page!
X-Men, during this time, would flourish as a monthly series and become one of the tent poles for Marvel Comics. Dave Cockrum was instrumental to that success, his stylistic choices tapping into the imagination of that decade’s audience.
The 1980’s, specifically, the latter part of the decade, was one of extreme makeover for the comic book industry. The realism of the 1970’s gave way to hyper-realized, nearly abstract art.
Audiences craved more and more action in their comics and a new breed of young artist would heed that call. The late 1980’s saw the rise of pencillers like Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Eric Larsen, Todd McFarlane and Marc Silvestri. Interestingly, it was the artist now that was becoming the superhero – where names alone could sell hundreds of thousands of units of a single comic book!
Silvestri worked on X-Men for nearly three years and reinvigorated the action found both on and between the covers of the comic. His style was loose and highly kinetic. Backgrounds were secondary to foreground combat. Movement, speed and force were sought on the page and audiences clamored for more of this innovative type of design.
Characters were, of course, recognizable, but they were elongated, stretched or inflated to suit the action occurring on a panel. The female form was drawn with accentuated legs, high hips, (sometimes nearly no rib cage) and large breasts. Bypassing realism in this way had the visual effect of adding a sense of energy to the drawing, helping to entrench these characters beside their male counterparts as a realistic physical threat. If they were abstract, so too was their intimidation. The merits of this style are debatable.
Silvestri’s run on X-Men was highly acclaimed and he garnered a strong and loyal following. Eventually, he would leave Marvel Comics and co-form Image Comics along with some of the biggest names the industry has ever seen.
X-Men has had a very successful twenty-first century thus far, with new, fan favourite artists like Frank Quitely taking turns on the infamous characters. With the new film, X-Men: First Class, the ideas first investigated in the pages of the monthly comic book in 1963 look to be revisited yet again, a testament to the longevity and universality of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original vision.
Enjoy the film and as Stan would say: “Excelsior!”