Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Book Review: The TOON Treasury of Classic Children's Comics

The TOON Treasury of Classic Children's Comics

Vintage "Comic" Comics

This is an awesome collecton of some of the nicest comics that one would have read and relished as a little kid.

First of all the book is very well put together physically.

* The size simply stuns you!... humongous book
* Stacked with page after...page after..page of full color comics
* Printed in an amazingly thick matt (non-glossy, non-shiny) paper
* Brings out the vividness of the pen/brush art and the true colors
* The soft off-white page color makes them as they appeared in the originals
* The binding is perfect, nice to grab and handle.
* There is enough margin space, and the author/story name is printed along

Other publishers should take a note from this book. The glossy/shiny papers that we have suddenly become fixated with, ruins the art.

This lovely collection includes comics from the 40/50s of
* Unca Scrooge
* Donald Duck
* Dennis the menace
* Little Archie
* Little Lulu
* Pogo
* Fox and Crow
* Captain Marvel

to name a few.

Each character is present in one,two or three stories max, and hence makes a nice mix of all the nice stories.

There are 67 stories in total grouped into five categories,
* Hey, Kids
* Funny Animals
* Fantasyland
* Story Time
* Wacky & Weird

This is a must for the oldtimers who want to get back in time to catch up on some of their best times, and this is awesome for newcomer kids(as well as adults ofcourse) to get introduced to some of the nice stories and comics of a simple, innocent and happy era.

Kudos to the editors and the publisher. we want to see more of these.

You can't go wrong with this one, that too with the steep discounted price!

This is an extract from my review at Amazon.com, You can find more of my reviews here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Herge's Guide To Comic Book Compositon

This is an extract from the refreshing book on Herge's life , Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin.

1. Find a story line sturdy enough to hold for the whole course of the adventure. A simple chase connecting gags is not enough.

2. Find a story that is believable enough to seem true. Jot it down on paper, in twenty lines, maximum.

3. Divide up the story, panel by panel, plate by plate. Each page has to conclude with an element of suspense.

4. Penciling-in stage: sketch the figures with a cursory background drawn with 9-cm (3.54-in) squares on Steinbach paper measuring 51 by 36 cm (20 by 14 in) in size, within a useful format of 40 by 29.5 cm (15.75 by 11.6 in), which is to say twice as large as a book page. Divide the sheet into four strips of 9.5 by 29.5 cm (3.74 by 11.6 in ) each, separated by a blank space 6.5 cm 2.55 in) wide. (The blank areas were used as scrap paper, combining all the early versions. All sorts of notations were scribbled there: portraits, objects, landscapes, lists of names, addresses, and telephone numbers.)

5. Final drawings are copied square by square to offer a better selection and re framed and placed on another white page, which Will become the definitive plate. Touch-ups and final details are added. Copy is moved around. Herge ceaselessly sought simplification. is objective: hide the scaffolding.

6. Coloring stage: focus on the costumes and the background decor, relying on a solid base of documentation. Exactitude is required, as the settings (desert, sea, moon, jungle) aren't static.

7. The inking stage is done on Schoeller-Parole paper, with a Gillott's Inqueduct G-2 pen(made in England) of stainless steel, which can be cleaned in water and has a small ink reservoir. (Herge stocked up on these pens before the war. Thirty years later he still had a few. He used to sharpen them with a steel file to conserve them as long as possible.)

8. Photographed by the photo engraver, the black-and-white plate is transferred to transparent film accompanied by several proofs on blue-gray paper.

9. More coloring: the colors applied in flats do not take into account for bright colors, and, if necessary, gouache for opaque colors. (Herge established standard guidelines. For example, there were to be two superimposed layers for Tintin's sweater to bring out the color's full intensity.)

10. Set out the dialogues on the typewriter to gauge the exact number of letters for each vignette, to calculate, with the help of a grid, their position in the dialogue balloons. Draw in the letters. Lettering is delicate because it poses numerous problems. (At these times they also had to consider the English translators, who had to change the French Milou into "Snowy", the only acceptable name in five letters that would not exceed the line when Tintin spoke to his dog.)

11. Last, add the graphics of sound effects, which consist essentially of "Crack!" "Bang" "Bzzzz".

Friday, December 25, 2009

Marcinelle School

Franco - Belgian comics have a charm that is so unique. It has produced a vast volume of still growing comics of various categories. The most popular output from this part of the world is undoubtedly Herge's Tintin, and Goscinny - Uderzo's Asterix. Ever wondered how these two look so different yet so similar?

What is distinct about these comics? ...The style.

Herge and his group of artists such as E P Jacobs (Blake and Mortimer) evolved a style that uses uniform lines, more schematic in appearance, with a simple and straight forward narrative, with realistic (sometime mechanical) backgrounds and props. Even the palette was unique adding to the charm. The story was more realistic mostly related to the current happenings at the time. This has a great appeal and following and one can see this followed today in works such as The Simpsons.

This style came to be known as the Brussel's School or the Ligne Claire to mean a Clear Line.

While this was happening there was a parallel approach to graphic story telling that had more of fantasy, cartoonish realism, fun, humour and physical dynamic action. The lines are mostly made of brush and have varying thickness, similar to classic Disney cartoons. Uderzo's Asterix was an example of such style. Artist Jijé (Joseph Gillain) is credited for his contribution towards establishing this style among a group of artists. One can see this style in Lucky Luke, Oumpah -pah and a variety of other works. One can see this tradition followed till day in the publications such as Dupuis.

This style came to be known as the Marcinelle School or École de Marcinelle, after the namesake town in Belgium near Charleroi.

Well these are academics. Marcinelle or Brussels.. who cannot love them both?!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Book Review : Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin

Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin by Pierre Assouline (Author), Charles Ruas (Translator)

Interesting Insight into Herge's Life

For anyone who is a fan of Herge's works, be it the evergreen reporter Tintin and his adventures, or his funny Quick and Flupke, or the more familial Jo, Zette and Jocko , there is no such thing as enough when it comes to any literature related to the artist or his art.

Last few years has seen a surge in books on Herge and Tintin, Michale Farr's works in particular, and the newly translated Art of Herge series have given new insights into the working of Herge. How he went about creating the stories, what he used for his ever so detailed art work as reference, etc.

This book by Pierre Assouline is a refreshingly new look at the life and times of Herge. The focus is now on the happenings in the background as Herge went about spinning tale after tale of adventure and fun. It gives a very balanced and unbiased view on Herge, his political social situation, his views and attitudes, and how the political situation in Europe during the early twentieth century was shaping the creativity of Herge and others like him.

It talks about interesting things that artists, readers and anyone interested in Tintin, French/Belgian, European art/journalism in that part of history, will find very informative. This also gives a good coverage on some controversial aspects such as racial stereotyping and such. And how Herge was simply being himself, in tune with the times, plain and straight and not worrying about "political correctness" or being a hero. Those were indeed strange times, to learn that Herge was imprisoned for alleged 'collaboration' with the German occupation and some even thought he should be hanged!!

The book is full of little stories that give answers to so many questions that we might have, artistically and otherwise, for instance, here is a story about how Herge hired a very talented Jacob who influenced Herge in bringing in meticulous details to the mechanical drawings of cars and airplanes. Numerous such stories fill the book. How people, events and situations influenced the artist in his creation are a very interesting read.

The book takes the reader through the life of Herge during his creative professional years, evolution of the stories, evolution of the formats, how it all started as political journalism, as newspaper strip with the journalist investigating communist Russia, colonial Africa etc., and how the Tintin series itself matures and became more sophisticated as time progressed, with adventurous stories such as the Red Rackham's treasure and the The Destination Moon sequels. We also learn about how the series was revised, reformatted, colored and transformed into a uniform series, and how much of time and labour went into it.

The book is very well paced, like that of an exciting novel, that you want to finish it all in one go. but being a great fan of Herge and his works, one wants to sip it in ever so slowly, enjoying every bit of it as we enjoy Herge's works.

This is an extract from my review at Amazon.com, You can find more of my reviews here.