MalcolmLittle in "HardlyLand"

Archive for September 2010

Chris Ware’s upcoming graphic novel “Acme Novelty Library No. 20” will be released shortly and original pages from the book will be shown at The Adam Baumgold Gallery in New York City. The exhibition began September 16 and the gallery can be found at 60 East 66th Street.

No. 20 will focus on the Rusty Brown story-line. More information about the exhibition can be found here.

I remember hearing Chris Ware say that he didn’t really care for showing his work in such an unfinished state, and especially without color, and that the books were what he saw as the intended medium to see his work. The illustrations were meant to visualize a story that was to be read.

Chris Ware’s illustrations are breath-taking in how well they are constructed and how the panels are laid out on the page but it is the emotional impact of the stories and the characters that really makes his books dear to me.

One small part in the Acme Novelty Library collection called “The Acme Novelty Library Annual Report to Shareholders” is Chris Ware’s brief history of art. In one strip called The Hopeless Romantic a painter tries to make a perfect portrait of a lost love (who, of course, dies shortly after the angst-ridden and self-loathing man finally dares to express his feelings). After countless tries he manages to capture the woman’s likeness and he is of course over-come with sadness and joy. He however wakes up the following morning finding himself struck blind. He fumbles around his home trying to find the correct portrait but never knowing which is the right one. He grows old surrounded by his paintings, endlessly trying to figure out which one is his love.

“Until, one afternoon some young moderns, bouyed by the boredom born of their age, pay our hero a visit.”

The young moderns walk right into the old artist’s house, take hold of the paintings and begin to destroy them, stomping on them and throwing them out of the house.

“The more anguished his cries, the more hearty their laughter.”

The young men leave and the old man, infinitely small, is outside his home, crawling in the wilderness by the mountainside.

“The shards of his work scattered in the sun, he left to seek them among the stones, sticks and dust. But soon he loses his way, and, unaware that he is inches away from her true likeness, cries out in loneliness, and dies.”

Here are some images of Chris Ware’s original illustrations that has been shown at the Adam Baumgold Gallery.

Cover of issue no. 1Nothing really new again, but illustrator and pop-culture enthusiast Bill Mudron has begun to produce a self-published comic book on the history of the biggest game company in the world, namely Nintendo. He has already published the first part and there are still a few copies of the first issue available at his shop.

Mudron often draws on imagery from video games, movies and comics. At the bottom of this post is an image of popular video game side kick characters Elena from Uncharted 2 with Alyx from Half-Life 2. More imagery can be found on his livejournal.

Nintendo through the eyes of Bill Mudron

Characters from the games Half-Life 2 and Uncharted 2

There is a game I love to read about. I have yet to play it. It is called Dwarf Fortress. The basic premise is that you have a small group of dwarves at your disposal and you need to build them a home. You decide what skills/occupations to give them and you order them around, telling them to dig, build and produce items. The dwarves have wants and motivations and they need to be kept (reasonably) happy, (preferably) sane and alive (for as long as you can manage).

An artist named Tim Denee has illustrated two different attempts at bringing prosperity to his dwarves. Tim, an obviously skilled player, creates advanced and intricate fortresses but doom is always looming near in Dwarf Fortress. The life of a dwarf is a life of strife.

The game is hard. The complexity is mind-blowing. The interface is dense, almost esoteric. Just placing your fortress in a favorable spot on the map (randomly generated by the game, complete with thousand year history and scores of denizens) is a tough choice, seeing as you need your base to be near mountains (for ore and for shelter; the dwarves shun sunlight), large bodies of water (above- or underground) and forests (for wood). It is in every way a strategic simulation game but it shares a lot of with a RPG sub-genre called “roguelikes“. Like many roguelikes you need to study a lot before even attempting to play. It is daunting. It is why I have yet to try the game myself.

Another similarity it has with the roguelike is that it has practically no graphics; the visualization is done through ASCII characters symbolizing the different items, surroundings and creatures in the game. One reason for this is probably so the developers of the game do not have to bother with graphics. At all.

One aspect that makes Dwarf Fortress truly great is that playthroughs leave great anecdotes. Similar to the Sims, Dwarf Fortress gives players such experiences that the retelling of these tales of legendary triumphs (and legendary defeats) are genuinely interesting to people who haven’t played the game. A friend of mine told me in an off-hand manner that goblin raids often attack his fortress and sometimes manage to steal away a few of the dwarves’ children. The children often return when fully grown and attack my friend’s base with the rest of their new goblin comrades.

Tim Denee’s illustrations are quick and to-the-point. They show nicely how he envisions his game sessions, which is what makes a game with basically no graphics so magical. You get stories like this. Hilarity ensues.

1: Denee’s first illustrated fortress “Bronzemurder” [Updated link]

2: His second chronicled fortress “Oilfurnace

This might be a tad old but I recently found the November-December issue of the literary magazine The Believer (no. 67 to be exact), with cover by comic creator and master illustrator Charles Burns (as is often the case for The Believer). He does a version of Edward Hopper’s “Cape Cod Morning” depicting characters seen in the respective comics of Chris Ware and Jerry Moriarty.

Chris Ware interviews the painter and sometime comic artist Jerry Moriarty in the issue. They talk about Moriarty’s artwork and the recently reissued collection of Moriarty’s “Jack Survives” comics. Chris Ware, describing Moriarty’s work, writes that “it’s poetry—I believe the first that comics has ever seen—and poetry as fresh and affecting now as when first drawn”.

Jerry Moriarty explains his own views on “Jack Survives”:

At forty-two I was part of a community of catoonists who were the smartest people I had (and have) ever met. True artists. But the wannabe hero-painter in me resisted the cartoonist label. I spent five years dedicated to Jack Survives with side trips to refresh my painter’s “chops”. Once I left the comics world and, in time, looked back, it was clear that Jack was my first truly original art. Everything I did before Jack had the stink of PAINTING.

Comic artists Aline Kominsky-Crumb and Peter Blegvad are also interviewed in the magazine (the interview with Blegvad can be read in full at The Believer’s website).