A tiny tribute to Ray Harryhausen in this week’s comic. He was hugely responsible for my love of animation & film and a big reason why I went to university to study animation in the first place.
It really does feel like the recent success of UKIP is leading to the major parties trying desperately to appeal to the far right in really worrying ways. Their inability to manoeuvre around UKIP’s smug, self-satisfied, bug-eyed leader’s obsession with immigration and the EU felt like perfect fodder for a visual metaphor.
Keeping up with the news, social media and generally staying abreast of everything that’s going on in the world is both necessary and acutely depressing. Sometimes those cathode rays provide some much-needed, if guilty, refuge.
I like Captain Social Justice. I expect I’ll be using him again at some point. It’ll be nice to have some recurring characters in In The Frame (without relying on backdated in-jokes of course).
This week’s comic marks my first six months as the New Statesman’s weekly cartoonist. Hopefully the first of many more to come! Read the six months worth of comics here.
A bit of silly satyre this week. Not much to say about this one other than it was a fun one to colour and I was really happy with how it all came out.
If you’re enjoying the New Statesman comics, please do share them around and go and leave a comment on the NS site!
I kept seeing this Dove advert pop up in my Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook feeds by people I follow and, despite the obviously inoffensive message of the video I couldn’t help but feel icky about all these people doing the job of advertisers. No matter how it’s presented, a viral marketing campaign is just a viral marketing campaign and when it’s for a company owned by the far from ethical Unilever, the constant appearance of the video in my feeds/timelines became even more irritating.
I took a chance on the colour scheme on this one and think it came out well. The internet-sharing multi-panel running across the middle was a lot of fun to draw too.
I keep seeing posters on the tube for The Crown Jewels exhibition at the Tower of London with the tagline: “Every stone tells a story” and it always makes me think “well yeah, I suppose – but those stories really don’t make anyone look very good”.
This turned into an idea that seemed fitting for the centenary edition of the New Statesman which this was printed in last week. There isn’t anything too topical which meant the comic wouldn’t feel out of date in the two weeks it’s on shelves and the larger theme of post-colonial history felt appropriate for an edition of the magazine celebrating it’s own history.
I spent a lot of time wrestling with the colours for this and making it feel like the underground without making it too dark or miserable.
One of my favourite things about Skyfall was the attempts made to reconcile Bond with the modern world. When there was fuss being made about how the budget was leaked to the Standard and on Twitter, this idea just seemed funny to me. The idea that Bond could co-exist in a world with Twitter.
I wanted the art in this to have a Sixties feel. A highly stylised design sense that evoked Steranko but without relying heavily on Bridget Riley patterns or the standard Steranko homage clichés. In the end I opted for lots of white space and a striking red/blue colour palette that looked more like a collection of abstracted images.
This was in reaction to EDF trying to sue the No Dash For Gas protestors to the tune of £5 million before a huge public backlash and online petition shamed them into withdrawing. After last week’s one panel narrative, I seem to be trying to make up for it with this panel heavy follow-up.
There’s a retrospective of Roy Lichtenstein on at the Tate until May and, amid the coverage it’s been getting, some comic artists have been asked about their opinions on his work. Marc Ellerby faced some fairly vocal criticism last week for having the gall to suggest that maybe the original comic artists should have been credited while Dave Gibbons faced barely concealed contempt from Alastair Sooke when he admitted he’d prefer an original copy of All American Men of War than Lichtenstein’s WHAAM! (currently valued at $45 million). All this prompted me to produce Retrospective this week.
Cards on the table: I love some aspects of pop art and have absolutely no problem with appropriation of imagery in the right context. There are even some parts of Lichtenstein’s work that I enjoy, but I do have difficulty with this period of his work. A cursory glimpse at the fascinating Deconstructing Roy Lichtenstein shows just much verve, vitality and beauty was lost when Lichtenstein translated original comic panels to the canvas.
While some will muddy the argument by talking about the value in the representational aspects of the original versus the cold, clinical abstraction of Lichtenstein’s work, I think what can often be overlooked is just how perfectly designed those originals are. The colour choices, the composition, the lettering, the linework… draftsmanship aside, the original work sings and there are some pieces where I genuinely can’t understand what Lichtenstein was adding to the mix. Comics are, by their very nature and the visual vocabulary they use, an abstraction already.
It saddens me to think that many who see Lichtenstein’s work will think that this is what a comic looks like. That his crude, disjointed faces, poor lettering, and kitsch clinical distance is actually representative of comics. I think it’s fairly on record that Lichtenstein had no love of comics nor viewed them as an art form in their own right. This work was never asking us to reconsider the everyday mass produced artefacts in front of us as art – in the way that Warhol’s work did. No, if anything, these pieces seem to mock their original sources. They come across sarcastic. Punching downwards at an art form that had few defenders. Another stick for the arbiters of “high” art to beat the comics medium with. That the original artists were not even credited, acknowledged or paid for this shows an alarming lack of respect for them and for their work.
I genuinely have a lot of time for post-modernism and completely understand that all artists steal, but as Austin Kleon notes in Steal Like An Artist:
I suppose what really annoys me about all this is not Lichtenstein or his work so much as what it represents about the way the medium I love is viewed and represented within the art world. And down that road leads madness really, so I should just be happy I can produce a weekly comic like this and get it out of my system.
I like breaking up the more topical comics with something directed at news reporting in a general sense and this is always something that has bugged me. You could back up any spurious opinion or analysis with the words “some say” and it just seems lazy. Someone has commented on the NS site that another mythological being, the Sourcescloseto, could also have made an appearance (which reminds me – if you’re enjoying these comics, do go and say so on the NS site and comment on the comics – it’s nice to see what people have to say about them).
I enjoyed drawing this one. It came out really well in print and I think I’m finding my groove with the colouring and voice of the comic now.
Osborne – despite his porcine, cartoonish face – is actually a lot harder to draw than you’d think. Try as I might, I found his likeness next to impossible to capture in this strip. Though I feel I started to get a handle on George’s features towards the end, I’d love to give this comic another try.
Despite the slight frustration I had with Osborne’s likeness, I’m really happy with the rest of this comic. I had a lot of fun coming up with the more ridiculous get-rich-quick schemes. I had a comment that it let Osborne come off as too innocuous and naive – which I think is fair – but sometimes a light joke gets the point across better than righteous anger.