Focus Book

For a couple years now, I've been using little mini-comic sized books, made from scrap paper from the copy shop, folded and stapled, to keep focused each day on the day's work.  Or to free-write and warm up. This is the latest one, just finished today. I haven't been numbering them, which is unusual for me!  I also use the same format to write and take notes for the bigger projects. Now you know, right? What's the lesson here? I don't know. For me, they're less intimidating and overwhelming than sk.books or moleskines, and cheaper, and you get to the end faster. Also, they're conveniently proportional to the proportions of the comics pages I draw. Whatever works.


What It Is

In 2007, I put together a zine called New Construction #1 because I was having a hard time getting Ganges #2 done, and I thought throwing together a mini-comic of odds and ends would help me get some enthusiasm and confidence back. There were some rightly deleted scenes from Ganges #1, sketchbook exercises, and miscellaneous experiments, like this comic strip. This last strip especially made me think about continuing New Construction as a series where I’d throw together stuff about making comics from my own perspective: a “reflective practitioner” trying to educate myself and keep myself from blocks and funks.

Issue #2 was about thumbnailing and on display were many grimy USS Catastrophe thumbnails.

My plan for issue #3 is for it to be about “Productivity” a subject I've struggled through these last few years, and I have many doodles and notes to show for it. Since there’s no reason really to keep this stuff to myself, I thought I’d put together this blog, and post New Con #1 and 2, along with first drafts of the material that’ll go into New Con #3. And whatever else.  I have some ideas, and I have a lot to learn. We’ll see how it goes. This exists to help me with my own work, first of all, but maybe the public display of my slow-witted struggles can help you too. If my *real* work is going well, though, it’ll probably be pretty quiet around here...unlike now...

I’ll keep comments closed, but please write me at kevinh at usscatastrophe with corrections and comments.


Work Book 1

Word balloons, square or round...
looking at Herriman...
Roy Crane...

How Things Go


The Comics Table of Space and Time

“Whoso partakes of a thing enjoys his share, and comes into contact with the thing and its other partakers. But he claims no more. His share in no wise negates the thing or their share; nor does it preclude his possession of reserved and private powers with which they have nothing to do, and which are not all absorbed in the mere function of sharing. Why may not the world be a sort of republican banquet of this sort, where all the qualities of being respect one another's personal sacredness, yet sit at the common table of space and time?”

William James,
On Some Hegelisms

What's mistake but a kind of take?

Nancy, Solidarity, Typography

"One tired jab against Ernie Bushmiller was that he didn’t draw his characters but merely rubber-stamped them on the page...
"...if “iconic solidarity” is a formalist property common to comics in general, what Bushmiller is up to is heightening this formal property by making it as blunt and visible as possible. In effect, Bushmiller’s gambit is to make us aware as possible that we’re reading a comic by taking a key formal property and making it part of the narrative itself. Hence all those twins and mirror images. This might explain why so many comics aficionados have a special regard for Nancy, which often seems to be the very beating heart, the very distilled essence, of comics itself (for those who still believe, of course, in essences)." 

I don’t think “iconic solidarity” means the same thing as the rubber stamp.  I think it has less to do with regimentation and uniformity, and more to do with interdependence.   (The political language is maybe interesting?)  But I’m not sure about that.  I gave up on trying to figure out Groensteen for now.

The twinning is a great catch, though.  Drawing Nancy and Sluggo almost exactly the same each time, it’s like he’s making them into a font, like he’s writing “Nancy” in Helvetica.  All the drawings of Nancy are transparently Nancy the way a commonly used font will make a word "transparent."  But I think saying that Bushmiller represents the “distilled essence” of comics is like saying Helvetica is the essence of the written alphabet.  (What about Giddyup?)  It’s no knock on Bushmiller or Helvetica, but it helps to relativize the situation, to talk in terms of use, function, and keep from away from essence-talk.  If cartooning is a kind of handwriting, I'd rather say something like Bushmiller had handwriting that was  beautiful, super-consistent and easy-to-read.

Nancy gets meta, like "Helvetica" written in Helvetica.

Getting a variety of letters and pictures and marks to work together, in solidarity, that's the trick.  It doesn't have to be clean and easy.  Everyone doesn't have to wear uniforms and stand in line.  It makes it easier to do a daily strip.  It's easier to read.  The “rubber stamp” school of cartooning—where images and pages are handled like typography—is something I have an affinity for, but I’m suspicious of claiming too much for it. 

I don't know why my brain gets so hung up on this.  I'm still thinking it through.  I hope I'm not being pedantic.  Maybe it's as simple as wanting to keep clear the distinction between description and prescription.

More reading:
Here's Derik Badman and Neil Cohn working through Thierry Groensteen's System.