When Comic Artists Attack

A place where some regular joe’s go to hang out with their friends and shoot the shit. Kind of like Cheers populated with comic artists. That is what ComicTwart is like and if you haven’t checked it out yet you should make it a part of your daily routine.

Some bright, fun artists including Mitch Breitweiser, Chris Samnee, Andy Kuhn, Francesco Francavilla and many others tackle a subject in their own unique way. It is the con sketch ala Twitter tweets.

Here is one of my favorites from new Detective Comics Commissioner Gordon back-up feature artist Francesco Francavilla, Ben Grimm, Private Eye.

Franceso Francavilla imagines Ben Grimm as a PI for ComicTwart.

European Invasion: The Prelude

Aloha Surfers. The other day i spoke to you about one of the most brilliant comics illustrators today in Marcos Martin. Now I am going to talk a little about one of the best painters in industry today. Gabrielle Dell’Otto has been producing work for Marvel domestically for less than 10 years but he is, in my opinion, the most important painter to work in comics since Alex Ross redefined the proficiency with he and Kurt Busiek’s Marvels. While Martin is Spanish, and Dell’Otto Italian it does bear mentioning that the current crop of some of the best artists working in comics today are European. We’ll examine this in greater detail in a later post.

Dell’Otto began working with both Marvel and DC’s European publishing divisions back in 1998 but his big break in the United States came with the 2002 Brain Michael Bendis mini series Secret War. In Secret War – the warm up for the return of the big Marvel summer event story arc – Dell’Otto provided painted covers and interiors and was instantly noticed for his gritty, eye-popping painting style. It is a twisted, macabre approach that seems to take traditional painting and pull it through the looking-glass a bit. He has a pinch of the Bill Sienkiewicz surrealism with a dash of more fan friendly flowing visuals that lend themselves better to sequential storytelling.

Marvel Heroes by Gabrielle Dell'Otto: I wish I knew where this baby was! Anybody out there know?

He would return to the big event book with covers on Marvel’s relaunching of their cosmic characters in the 2007 Annihilation mini series and satellite character mini’s. His work, while, very affordable for its quality is fast disappearing. His art can be found for sale on www.ComicArtFans.com and he has one of the most creative web site’s you will ever see from an artist. It is worth spending some time navigating this labyrinth.

The Mysterious Marcos Martin

One of the purposes of Panel Surfing will be to showcase great artists work for both the purposes of fun and investment. On the one hand you can’t deny that Marcos Martin is one of the best artists working in the medium today. His style is in itself fun. But his work also transcends into that realm of highly desirable original artwork. The combination of his throwback charm coupled with the subjects he has worked with so far making his work very sought after. The fact that just a few crumbs of his work have made it into collections makes fans all the more hungry for this superstar’s pieces.

Martin oozes old school brilliance. He has that certain nostalgic House of Ideas “house” style that Stan Lee insisted upon in the bygone days of  ‘ol Marvel. The fact that Martin has already worked on both Dr. Strange (The Oath mini series) and both covers and interior on Amazing Spider-Man (he is currently handling art on the 2 page Stan Lee back up features in ASM) has naturally led folks to compare his style to Steve Ditko. And they’re right. The Spanish artist does have that Ditko quality but with an updated spin. Very fluid and exuberant with modern features.

Marcos Martin cover to Amazing Spider-Man #579

While his work on Amazing Spider-Man is undeniably superb my personal favorites were his collection of alternate covers he did for Marvel’s Timely Anniversary one shots in 2009. One interview he did for Comic Book Resources noted the similarity of tone between his covers and the old World War II era Works Progress Administration (WPA) posters. I love those old posters and his covers for that special project do have that same halcyon quality and maybe that is why they resonate so strongly with me. His work (as well as Chris Samnee who looks to have a similar effect going on with Thor) is work I will be looking to add to my collection in the future.

JSA Splash from the ComicArtFans.com Gallery of Keith Richard

Joker From the ComicArtFans.com Gallery of Vigo Jose y Augustin

Batgirl From the ComicArtFans.com Gallery of Raul San

Welcome to Panel Surfing with Jason Versaggi

What’s up panel surfers? Welcome our first posting. What is panel surfing you ask? Well basically it is the scientific study of the American art form medium known as sequential story art. In actuality it is just me talkin’ about comic art.

While there are many “ages” used to mark the industry’s or hobby’s era’s of growth the American Comic Book has really been flourishing since what is known as the “Golden Age” which saw the industry explode during the World War II years between 1939-1945. While publishers today run victory laps if a title sells 100,000 copies it was nothing back then for titles to hit the million mark as Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel and Captain America became best sellers to our Armed Forces overseas and to a generation of youth in America. This is really the birth of the medium that Hollywood has fallen in love with today.

In the 1970’s and early ’80’s burgeoning specialty shops sprung up all over the country selling just comics. You could still find some treasure troves in backwoods garage sales (our forefathers ebay) if you were lucky and knew what you were looking for and comics started to become bigger business on the secondary market. There were titles published specifically for this new reader…the collector. Comics weren’t just living at the newsstand anymore…they were moving into a fancier neighborhood.

The ’90’s saw the speculator boom and bust which nearly ruined the industry when investors flocked into the stores to buy up multiple copies of issues thinking they would be worth their weight in gold in the years to come. Supply quickly exceeded demand and for the most part the quality of the product would not stand the test of time. One thing that would though was the third party grading system introduced at the end of the decade of speculation and all of a sudden comics were really big business all over again. High grade issues were now commanding 5 and 6 figure prices and the now we have those same garage sale hunters of the ’70’s and ’80’s lecturing to us in three piece suits on the safety on investing in comics over the unsavory stock market. And this less than 50 years after comic creators used aliases to work in the industry and hid from witch hunters like Dr. Frederic Wertham who said comics were turning kids into killers.

But it is true. High grade comics are tremendous investments. But that makes them hard to enjoy and isn’t that what the medium was invented for? To create fun stories to enjoy? Well the natural evolution of many a comic collector eventually leads them to original art. It is now very de rigueur for the one time geek culture that is all grown up now. The investment stats are there as we will look at and discuss in future posts but the enjoyment can be derived 24/7 as well. You don’t have to seal up your treasure in an airtight case and stick it in a vault. A frame and your favorite wall to look at will do just fine.

That is what Panel Surfing will primarily be devoted to. Studying, evaluating , and discussing the great and deep world of original comic art. From interviews with publishers, creators, artists, writers, and collectors, we’ll look to educate anyone and everyone on original art. We’ll also look to talk about trends in the hobby and medium and spotlight upcoming artists.

I also love pop culture so you are going to get my musings on that subject too from time to time. Movies. TV. You name it. I have a cartoon education so I can finally put my Warner Bros cartoon frame of reference to good use thanks to the internet. Hollywood has made the comic industry a farm system for source material and as a billion dollar industry it is a subject that merits attention.

So I hope you will stick around, contribute to the conversation, and help us all grow and perpetuate this great medium and hobby we have been such active participants in since the Golden Age…

Surf’s Up,

Jason

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