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It’s time to look at some comic books.

The best discussion about comic books these days is happening at the following locations:

Aaron Diaz’ Dresden Codak blog

David Brothers and friends’ 4th Letter blog

Brandon Graham’s Royalboiler blog

Comics Comics

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I am very pleased with the level of analysis and detailed focus on the comics medium, coming from these persons and groups. David Brothers’ in-depth studies of “7 Artists,” “6 Writers,” “5 Series,” etc have opened my eyes on some great work being published right now, in the broad daylight of the comics industry. Forward one of Brothers’ articles to a friend; his lengthy but fascinating critiques can serve as a wake-up call about what’s going on in these funnybook pages. Aaron Diaz’ new Tumblr blog attacks from another direction. Sitting in his artist’s chair, Diaz posts his precise opinions of what works in comics and why; illustrating with examples of his strip as well as other cartoonists. The post on focal points alone makes this blog one to subscribe to.

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I’ve been writing and drawing. It can be hard to divide one’s attention between the necessary tasks (going to a day job) and the desired tasks (making comics). My reading material/fuel has changed considerably over the past few months but the objective remains the same. These mid-week/hump-day breaks to pick up comic books have invigorated my brain cells in a way that hasn’t happened in a long time. All in all, it’s a change.

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Now Wednesdays are like having a tiny weekend right in the middle of my work week. I strongly prefer to get at least a couple of new comic issues each shipping day because it calms my screaming mind. Perhaps it’s a simple consumer’s endorphin release. Whatever it is, it feels good to read new stuff so I do.

The best thing is talking to other people who have read the same comic and are bursting at the seams to talk about it! I miss seeing that enthusiasm in comics fans. Indie comics dudes tend to be more than happy to read and quietly absorb a work. I want to hear noise, chatter, discussion, arguments, LIFE!

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On Serialization.

The serial nature of these comics is the best part. Slightly before I took the full plunge back into issue-buying, I was working on ideas for a serial comic of my own. What I quickly realized is that there’s a certain joy to reading a piece of a story at a time. The audience reads an issue or chapter, if you will, and even if they breeze through it relatively quickly, there is this period of re-reading that happens. I certainly did this when I was a kid. Reading and re-reading the issue/chapter over and over until the next issue comes out. This repetition puts readers very emotionally close to the material. Hardcore fans’ notorious attention to detail and needlepoint memories can easily be attributed to this system of close re-reading of material that they only have incremental access to.

I have found that I am far less likely (though this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule) to revisit the pages of a book-format comic than I am with a series of issues. In fact, for the most part, the books that are collections of issues are the primary exceptions to this tendency of mine. But as I said, this is not at all a “rule,” nor should it be looked at as evidence for any solid conclusion.

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Writing it all down.

As I’ve said before, one of my concerns with the comics medium is a devaluation of the writing aspect. It seems to me that in mainstream comics, the “writer” tends to be working at the orders of the editorial department of a given company. Even in this era of superstar writers, this appears to be the case. In independent and literary comics, we have the problem of cartoonists who’ve trained to draw but hardly gave writing a second thought. This isn’t an indictment of anybody in particular and I’m not saying this even applies to “all” or “most.” I just sense problems.

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Speaking of writing, I like jokes.

Character-driven jokes, plot-driven jokes, random “filler” jokes, cheap jokes, cruel jokes, puns, I wish I could laugh with more comic books. Or at least crack a smile! Obviously, I don’t expect EVERY comic to have a funny bone. Some comics are downright life-and-death. But for the comics that feature extended narratives, long-standing characters, you’d think somebody would be able to say or do something worthy of a rimshot.

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All images are taken from (C) Marvel Comics, (C) DC Comics, (C) Wildstorm Entertainment. Creative people involved were Zeb Wells + Chris Bachalo, Brian Michael Bendis + John Romita Jr., Brian Wood + Rebekah Isaacs, Peter Milliagan + Giuseppe Camuncoli/Stefano Landini, Daniel Way + Carlo Barberi, Peter David + Sebastian Fiumara.

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@darrylayo

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This page is in a folder marked “better than X-Men.”

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I grew up on the X-Men. I started with Jim Lee’s 1991 X-Men #1 and kept reading after he left the book. Maybe a year later, I picked up on X-Force through back issues that my godbrother had. I wasn’t a fan of the X-Force art, but I really loved the characters. A bunch of angry, younger X-guys living inside a mountain and fighting bad guys. I started buying X-Force when they got a better artist (Greg Capullo) and ditched Cable. It was a fun time. Those were some of the most important comic books for me, ever. This past month, I’ve been going back and re-buying those Greg Capullo X-Force issues and soaking up the memories. Sure, there were better comic books at the time (X-Factor), but this was always where my heart was.

A few years later, I discovered Akira, also thanks to my godbrother. Akira felt like the X-Men concept enhanced by a more plausible set of scenarios. All of the superhumans in Akira are psychokinetics with various specialties. I really liked the idea that the superpowers came from a single extra-natural concept rather than the (rather creative) hodge-podge of weird powers which defined the X-Men. In Akira, I could see how different characters would use this same powerset in very different ways, according to their personalities, personal strength and circumstances. Just like in real life, there are different kinds of strength or intelligence with various applications thereof.

My godbrother and I conspired to make a comic masterpiece that was a rough rip-off of Akira with some X-Men-style soap opera drama. Oh, the notes we had! I hope those notes did not survive the years, they were even embarrassing when we were teenagers. Anyway, as an adult, I periodically have the idea to revisit this theme and do an X-Men/Akira-inspired comic book. And then I saw Warren Ellis’ Freak Angels, which basically did everything that we wanted to.

I really love Freak Angels, I read it every Friday (or Saturday if I’m too busy…look how cool I am). It’s one of my favorite webcomics as well as one of my favorite currently running comics of any kind. The thing that gnaws at my insides is how much I wish I threw my hat in the “psychic teenagers” genre sooner. Because I feel like anything that I do now will be placed directly in the shadow of this work, specifically. It has the same sort of blend of Akira/X-Teams concepts that have been chewing the insides of my brain since the 1990s. Not one or the other, but a descendant of both.

While I was writing this post,

I was talking to my pal Sarah Oleksyk who tipped me off to this highly relevant blog post that she wrote the other day. Honestly, you can stop reading my post now and just click over to Sarah’s.

Regarding the page up top:

I am drawing this thing digitally, but I messed up the formatting, so I’m going to start over. It’s just the rough pencil phase, so no big deal whatsoever. This is a storyline that is still being fleshed out. It’s a story in which the setting plays a crucial role in the conflicts. Writing takes so long!

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Here’s a sketch page for a similar comic that I’m trying to flesh out. This one relates to the same world and circumstances as the above-mentioned story, but at a slightly different point in life.

I know that I misspelled “malefactor.”

Although now that I know how it’s spelled, do you think there would be any confusion about the type of comic it is? Title “Malefactor.”

;-)

Thanks for listening!

@darrylayo

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UNDERGROUND_LYRICS

New York Mining Disaster 1941 – The Bee Gees

I haven’t posted in a while. Those photo comics are fun but they are more work than I thought. I hung it up for a bit in order to focus on writing. Those of you following my Twitter may have picked up that I’ve been spending the past two weeks writing. I’ve been sharpening my craft by focusing on fanfiction–the X-Men, if you must know. It’s some of the best fun I’ve had in a long time. Something about playing with other people’s ideas and creations opens up a door in my head and allows me to truly cut loose. Perhaps it’s due to tapping into something outside of myself–larger than myself–that makes it feel so very exciting.

Why I have trouble making comics:

Comics have to be exciting. Comics cannot be boring. I don’t want to hear that “comics can be any-which-way” stuff. Boring comics get thrown into a large pile of refuse at my house. And I’ve made a LOT OF BORING COMICS in my days. I still do. The panel above? Boring. The rest of the strip that it’s from? BORING. Part of me thinks that I’ve got to get it out of my system. Part of me knows the truth. The truth is I’ve been running in place for years.

How come?

I am a trained artist. I taught myself the best that I could as a teenager and when I went to college I majored in illustration. No mistake about it, drawing well takes a great deal of time and is mentally taxing. It’s FUN! But it’s difficult. Through all of this, I have fallen into the mistake that so many of our comicky brethren have: spending so much time on the crafting of the comic that the crafting of the intangibles (story, character, etc) are lost in the shuffle. It’s my instinct: I want to draw a comic, so I sit down and draw one…without having an idea of WHAT to do, so any ole thing will suffice. In that sense, I’m an incomplete cartoonist. I’m unable to reach my potential because I haven’t taken very much time to fully engage the other half of the process. I’ve taken a couple of writing classes, but no deep, intensive personal study.

I know that many other cartoonists suffer the same affliction. The drawing tends to be what we love and so we throw ourselves into producing for the sake of production but don’t really have a full mind behind the work–or a full heart.

There is a traditional aversion to collaboration in the indie/alternative comics world. Cartoonists who draw stories written by other people are derided as “just illustrators.” Meanwhile, fifty-billionteen minicomics come out every convention that center around personal grooming habits, really basic vignettes and other nonscenes and nonsense.

A series of coincidences led me back to reading mainstream comic books on a regular basis. It has been almost a decade. Ā But the difference between the professionalism that I had grown to accept as normal within the indie comics scene and the professionalism that exists in the mainstream is night and day. I don’t just mean DC and Marvel when I say “mainstream,” but I also mean Image, Dark Horse, Oni Press, IDW, Boom, et cetera. There’s something very driven about this work and after a decade of fumbling in the darkness, their clarity of purpose feels like a glass of ice cold water on these New York summer days.

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I don’t know, I wish there were more people talking about comics without talking ABOUT COMICS.

-Darryl Ayo

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Back, forth, forth, back, yes, no, yes, maybe.

Sorry that I haven’t been updating the comic much. I have a lot of things swirling in my head and in my computer.

First of all, I’ve been continuing to make photo funnies, as you can see above. I have been attempting to do longer strips, say five to eight pages, and I don’t want to post anything until the entire story is complete. To avoid in-progress service interruptions. Secondly, also evidenced above, I’ve been tinkering with making more Little Garden Comics. Why. Oh. Why. I can’t quit them, it seems. Am I haunted and cursed to work on Little Garden so long as these old bones roam the earth? Maybe. When it comes down to it, these are the fullest characters that I’ve ever made. I have more of a handle on them than I do on the other characters that I’ve worked with. Perhaps that’s more of a sign that I need to just keep working with the new characters though. I don’t really like teasing Little Garden readers with half-considered returns and such. In any case, this was my week.

Anyway, the page above isn’t what you could consider “finished.” It’s not really a “work in progress” either. I’m just at an impasse. I should not keep opening the Pandora’s Box of Little Garden. It only makes it that much harder to move on.

anyANYway, More comics to come later!

@darrylayo

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I’ve got something on my mind. It’s because you’ve got something on your skin. I’ve been reading comics ever since I could read. In all of those years, I can count on my left hand the number of comic characters who have tattoos:

Spider Jerusalem (I’ve gotĀ Transmetropolitan: Back on the Street right next to me)
Popeye (he yis wat he yis)
Cutie McPopperton from Ross Campbell’s WET MOON with the Borg tattoo.
one of Jim Mahfood’s GRRL SCOUTS
and…Tattoo

Yes. The only five tatted characters I know and one of which apparently has the superpower to…create tattoos.

This doesn’t include cartoon versions of real people in autobio comics like Liz Prince or Erika Moen. But even those are rare.

In real life, I am in a cafe surrounded by everyday people who have tattoos all over them. Well maybe not this instant, this is the wrong moment–right now I don’t see anybody in the coffeehouse who has visible tattoos. Except her. That woman’s got a tattoo on the backs of her arms. Okay, but GENERALLY SPEAKING, I see tattoos on so many people, mostly folks under forty. My last girlfriend had like eight or nine tattoos and logically would have only continue to collect more since I last saw her.

I understand why there aren’t many tattoos in comics. It’s a lot of work to come up with a design that would be legible in various scenarios (far away panels in which the figure is drawn small would be particularly challenging), but I think that it’s our responsibility–well maybe just MY responsibility to bring that extra bit of realism to the page.

Me, I don’t have any tattoos. I have some scars. Scars have traditionally been more popular with comic artists. (1) Scars show that a character has survived something. Comics still lean heavily toward action as a genre and a scar is a good way of showing that a character has “a history with violence” (pun intended) (2) Scars are MUCH easier to draw and keep consistent. The “manga scar,” which consists of an “X” on the cheek or the “Cable scar” (worn by Marvel’s Cable and PREACHER’s Herr Starr) are pretty popular. In less actiony comics, the good ole trope “cutter scars” are super easy to draw and add instant backstory to your character. I am not making light of cutting, please don’t be offended. Or do.

However, tattoos are rarely seen, even amongst such badasses as we find in hero comics. Wolverine, logically can’t have a tattoo, his body would “heal” it eventually. But what about dudes who have been to war, been around the galaxy and back, died and returned? Hell, even a guy like Cyclops has got some cause to get a sleeve’s worth of decoration. The guy’s got two dead wives and like three missing children. Missing siblings and parents. Just because a dude’s straight-laced doesn’t mean he doesn’t have ink on him. And if you think a guy like Charles Xavier who has the arrogance to name his entire fifty-member supergroup after himself doesn’t have a giant “X” tattooed on his penis, you’re very naive.

END OF DISCUSSION ABOUT FICTIONAL TATTOOED PENISES

But really, will any of the comic artists, writers and character designers reading this join me in my quest to make comics even MORE difficult to draw?

anyANYway:

Here’s a random comic page which implies something awful:

didnt do anything 500

Do it for comics,

@darrylayo

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