Sunday, April 25, 2004

The Kindest Cutter.

What with Fans looking like a Who's Who of great online artists for the next several months, this blog risks becoming a lovefest. But it wouldn't be right if I didn't say a few words about John Barber.

John belongs on any list of webcomics pioneers. From one-shots like Kicking Hitler to Death to his grand postsuperhero epic, Vicious Souvenirs, he's developed and practically redefined the "animatic," a form of storytelling not quite comics and not quite animation-- you'll see what I mean in Fans soon enough. He's a master of managing information-- he can be ambiguous to the point of sadism or use storytelling clear as a summer day.

That's the only summery thing about John's work, though. Minimalist and sharp, it usually suggests a world of dark possibilities, of deep, abiding angers. When I saw that he'd already been a guest artist for Outside the Box, I had to have him. I knew he'd do well with "Take Two," which takes several of the Fans characters to some ugly, secret places. (To check out the comics I'm referencing, click here.)


Sunday, April 18, 2004

Crawling Back Up (AP Furtado, Lucas Phelps, and More)

Updates will be Sunday-only for the foreseeable future.

I have such plans for this blog, but their full glory will have to wait. A contract writing job has made severe demands upon my time, and Fans and Rip & Teri eat up all the remainder, allowing a little (not enough) time for friends and family. I know, I know, same lame excuse as everyone else: "I'm sorry it's weak but I'm soooooo busy!"

However, a couple of artists have forced me to post again, one by the disastrous turn his life has taken, and one by his overall excellence.

My friend Lucas Phelps was sentenced to 15 years for manslaughter this week (eligble for parole in 3.5 years). There has been an outpouring of sympathy from his fellow Graphic Smash cartoonists, most of whom know him as I do, as a funny, quirky writer, a great cartoonist (Kafka meets Disney, basically) and a thoughtful member of the GS community.

However, he did plead guilty to this charge. And several people have also expressed anger.

I have to come to terms with my own hypocrisy, here. If I had known the victim and not Lucas, I would probably hate Lucas for this. How many others have I condemned in my thoughts as totally evil based upon a single moment of astonishingly poor judgment?

Don't misunderstand me: manslaughter is a grievous wrong. And I accept that he deserves punishment. But I insist he also deserves the chance to continue his art. He plans to: as I write this, his wife is working to get him art supplies. As I said in the original announcement about this, "he will be missed, and his return will be welcomed."

On a brighter note, a few words about A.P. "Tony" Furtado.

If there's anything I'm unwaveringly proud of, well, it's my brother and family. But if there's anything ELSE, well, it's my ability to attract stupendous guest artists. Furtado responded to my invitation some time back, and I knew he'd be perfect to take us from the drab, computer-filled world of a young Internet company to the endless fields of Southern heaven. Sunlight suffuses his work, and his plant life has such organic curves that I find it criminal that DC Comics could publish Swamp Thing today and not headhunt him for the job.

Check out his illustration portfolio, and see what I saw.

Finally, I'm not going to do any more SF roundups until we start publishing this blog a bit more frequently, but those who want a little taste should check out this piece on the Nebula Awards.