Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Looks like a pattern is beginning to emerge...
I'm talking about our new series here at Plopish! - Premium Panels, and the question of what it is that attracts me to these selected slices of the narrative stream we now know as "the comic book".
It must be...
Yes, and no better example than the panel above, taken from Ambassador of the Shadows, volume six of Christin and Mezieres legendary Sci-fi saga of two space agents from the future world of Galaxity, Valentin and Laureline.
Ambassador of the shadows has always been my favourite from the series, maybe because it is set in what is basically a multi-dimensional metropolis: Point Central (I actually prefer the name used in the Danish language version: "The Navel")
Around Point Central you can travel both up-down, in-out, left-right, and of course also in time and other dimensions, as Valentin and Laureline discover at the end of the story. Since Point Central is conceived as a meeting place for all races of the universe, it is bereft with endless pleasures, dangers, wonders and maladies, very much like our own metropolises here on Earth.
I'm not going to elaborate on Pierre Christin's skills at constructing a both complex, exciting and compelling story, which includes replacing the traditional element of the male hero at the very beginning of the story ("traditional" as in: dating back to Homer's The Odyssey), nor will I add too many precious lines heralding the sombre colour spaces and slinky lines of J-C Méziéres superior drawings.
Because what we're talking about here is that one remarkable panel:
Laureline is searching for Earth's ambassador and Valentin, kidnapped by mysterious thugs.Accompanied by Colonel Diol (vice-officer of Protocols, and generally useless...), she travels from cell to cell, encountering not only some highly peculiar beings, but also passing through some truly breathtaking places, like the one in the panel.
A term for these sceneries is not easy to find - "space city scapes"?.. but this particular image really caught my imagination as a teenage boy back in the 1970's, not only because of J-C Méziéres talent for creating designs that were both futuristic and organic, but mainly because of the whole idea that a construction (Point Central) could be so large that inside of it were structures of super-gigantic proportions, in fact: so large that the space between them seemed to just recede into motionless darkness. Empty space. In empty space...
And that's what Art can do, not?
(and: Point Central had a Red Light district, equally mind blowing!)
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
And since we feasted on the European ligne claire virtuosity of Hergé last week, why not go to the direct opposite - the gritty darkness of American underground artist Robert Crumb!
The panel above taken from his early masterpiece "Fritz bugs out", appearing at the very last page where Crumb's character Fritz the Cat (a rambunctious, free-spirited but also egotistical proto-hippie) has to face a serious come-down from his careless escapades as he ends up in an big unknown city and staggers lonely and bewildered through its industrial wastelands.
Crumb's panel catches well the eeriness of the floodlight-lit industrial area, set against the blackness of the night sky, and is drawn in his early "easy-does-it" -style which was sloppily artistic enough to find the appreciation of the underground and counterculture crowd, but beneath the surface lies the basic craftsmanship which set Crumb apart from so many other practitioners of underground comics: control of perspective and proportion, balancing of solid areas and line, etc, etc.
Such skills were partly the product of one of Crumb's many obsessions: walking around odd and remote parts of Cleveland, where he lived in the early part of the 1960's, drawing what he saw into one of the sketchbooks he was always (and still is) carrying with him.
Fritz the Cat...party animal, tin-pan Casanova, paper maché revolutionary, master bullshitter...
Here he is, walking down a lonely and deserted street in an unforgiven environment, heading for disaster (he gets mugged in an alley a few moments later) and not really grasping any of it!
To me this panel represents the dark seriousness that is part of great art like Crumb's. A basic knowledge of the sad fact that we could be partying for our lives today, only to face pain, death and destruction no later than tomorrow, and if the main ingredients of your life is to stay hip and up to the moment, you better pray that moment lasts forever.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Welcome to Premium Panels!
The brand new section here at Plopish, where on Wednesdays we'll be showcasing select panels from comic books, of course with a few lines added, explaining why we think these particular images deserve special mentioning.
And today's selection comes from non other than the great Hergé, from his 1950 masterpiece Destination Moon. And speaking of masterpieces, I would not refrain from calling this particular panel a true work of not only comic book art, but modern art.
And what do we see? - we see two mechanic-metallic vehicles, speeding down an equally metallic and brightly lit subterranean corridor, the gates they entered through closing behind them, signalling a point of no return. Where are they going?.. what lies ahead?.. the existentialist, post-Hiroshima nature of these questions are taken to the fullest by the subtle addition of, not explanatory text, not dialogue, not faces twisted in agony and despair...but the simple addition of abstract graphic symbols: two question marks.
And then, at the bottom, the signature of HERGÉ, which is found nowhere else in the entire volume...
(go on, check)
Hergé knew what he was doing. He knew that this was a powerful image, conveying a sense of mystery, unease, and wonder. Provoking thought.
don't you think?..