Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Ira Schnapp

Sounds like Gerhard Shnobble or one of those made-up names from Eisner's The Spirit.

He was the designer of the Superman comic books masthead/nameplate (admit I had to google for the right term: according to which side of the pond you live the masthead/nameplate is the "title logo" that magazines or other periodical publications sport on the front cover).


I was actually looking for the person who designed the definitive "S" shield logo.

One of the many thropes of the super hero genre started by Superman, was the idea that a hero's costume would implement some sort of symbol, emblem or crest, often boldly displayed on the chest.

I can only speculate where this idea could have originated.
Frank Miller proposed his theory in a conversation with Will Eisner (conversation transcribed for the posterioty in the must-read book "Miller/Eisner" - a book that still injects me with some residual respect for Mr. Miller, or at least for his past output, but I digress..) that the printing quality was so shitty that characters had to wear their name spelled out in order to be recognized.

The Superman symbol went through a number of permutation in its eighty-years history, and gets regular redesigns to this day with every new reboot, be it on paper or on the silver screen.

However, one version of the symbol got to be the "official" (or rather trademarked) variant and I wanted to know who did the job.

Unfortunately I was not able to find out. But in my internet scouting for an answer I stumbled upon Ira Schnapp.

Comic-books historian and man with a taste for flamboyant outfits Arlen Schumer has a full lecture on this lesser known artist, who helped shape so much of the DC graphic identity over the years.

Likewise, calligraph extraordinaire Todd Klein dedicated quite a few posts to him on his blog. It' all worth reading.

Comics are a visual medium. On the top of my head I can only think to advertisement as the only other discipline that worked that extensively on the cusp where words become VISUAL OBJECTS, with meaning emanating not only from the IDEA sealed in the word, but from its visual presentation.

But advertisement is not an art (a pretty big statement I do not want to unpack here, even though I anticipate some antagonism to it), while comics is (note the singular).

Monday, 19 June 2017


("kans"= chance, opportunity + "arm"= poor, low, lacking)
 A Dutch word literally meaning "lacking opportunities" or "disadvantaged"
It is the preferred word in the public discourse for low-income/lower class people, often immigrants (or children thereof).
For some reason this word sits uncomfortable with me.

It's like we do not want to say "poor".
Like, "they wouldn't be poor, if they only had the opportunity".
Like, we cannot call these people poor, because they have SOME money.
Or like we don't want to offend them.
"Poor" sounds more like a condition you cannot change.

Why don't call them "wealth-challenged"?
(I must say the term "underprivileged" is as much as lame. It's like "we are all privileged. Just, some are more privileged than others")

Well it does not take living under a bridge to be poor. It all depends on how your neighbors are doing.

I promise you, if you TODAY, with your current wage, your current house, car and family would move to Beverly Hills, between Brad Pitt and, I don't know, Miley Cyrus or whatnot, you would feel f***ing poor. You would look with CONTEMPT to your shabby l'il house, your cheap furniture and your crummy-ass garden half covered in weeds, half covered in burnt-brown grass.

I thinks it's denial.
Saying "She's from a poor family", is too definitive and confrontational.
It means poor people exist.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Big Decisions

Often what we call "big decisions" ain't nothing but small velleities.
Take me. I was chatting with my friend Fabio, in the typical internet hyperbolic fashion, and wrote "Sometimes I just want to get it over with everything and become a stand-up comedian!".
So this idea keeps hanging around in the back of my head for a couple of days and I think "hey, I should really get serious about it"
But you understand pretty quickly you ain't going to have much of a career in comedy when the first thing you do after making that decision is to google "how to come up with jokes".

Tuesday, 26 April 2016


Some new stuff, once more for a card/invitation (it seems it's all I do nowadays)

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

From Life

Spidey, Lee, Kirby, Chabon, factoids and pics

I didn't know about this interesting story appeared in the New York Post

Long story short: Spider-Man name and outfit could have been inspired by an Halloween costume produced by the company Ben Cooper, Inc.

Nobody actually claims it and it could be a bit of a stretch, but there are some clues that make this theory fascinating.

1) The outfit has a webbed motif, and the mask presents a spider-web centered between the two holes for the eyes.

2) The name Spider-Man was printed on the suit

3) The model was discontinued by the company, who replaced it in their catalog with an actual licensed Spider-Man costume, the first licensed Spider-man product (or maybe even Marvel's first licensed product) in early 1963, long before Spider-Man reached popularity.

4) In his book The Silver Age of Comic Book Art Arlen Schumer claims that the creation of the Hulk may have been the popularity of the Frankenstein 1961 toy, which displayed a green-skinned creature on the box (hence the mandate to color Hulk green, instead of its original grey) - This as well is an assumption, not supported by any evidence, but if true, it reinforce the idea that Marvel was not shy of picking up ideas and trends from toy producers

I must stand with Ditko, who rebuts the "accusations" (if we can call them) and says that clippings alone do not equal proof. Besides, Spider-Man suit design, however unusual, is very much in line with other Ditko stuff.


On the theme of creatorship and credit, I discovered Michael Chabon has written a short story about two ageing comic book creators, who essentially are a thinly-disguised fictional version of Lee and Kirby.

I haven't read the story... yet.

More on it soon.


It was John Romita's idea to kill Gwen Stacy.


This Supergirl illustration is beautiful.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Best of the worst

Friday, 8 April 2016

A long essay about INKING

Still swamped by family and work obligation that keep me away from the drawing board, I try to move things along anyway.

I had plenty of story ideas, didn’t need a new one, but a friend of my challenged me by passing me a short poem and challenging me to make a comic out of it.

I took the challenged and scripted the thing in a couple of days.

I did some preliminary sketching and now I’m off to the actual drawing.
Funny thing is that the opening panel (that has now become the opening splash page) is the hardest thing in the whole story.

So I’m taking my time with it, not wanting to mess it up right off the start.

And of course I’m already fearing the moment I’ll have to ink the mofo.

I’m a pretty bad inker. My good friend Taiyo still satirizes me about it. And for a reason.

I tried to look at the masters to see what I can pick from them, but still I felt very much like a guy on a first date as described by Louis CK: “A blind dick in space, thrusting into infinite directions”.

And it’s not that I don’t know what style I want to work with (which is a problem, but a problem I do not want to solve by just picking one style and sticking to it, but rather through sheer perseverance to find MY style).

It’s that I don’t know what I’m doing when I ink. Am I tracing? Am I drawing? Am I improvising?

I often thought it was the pencils. Should they be tight? OR not? It’s the pen or brush I’m using?

So I sat down. And started to think.

And suddenly I think I have it.

It’s about RENDERING.

The comic art I grew up on and I still love, it’s as much a product of the artists as it is a product of the limitation of reproduction techniques (and I’m no longer talking about vision-challenged genitalia).

The solid black line art so typical of comics was dictated by the inadequate printing tools and the poor paper used for comic books and newspapers for many decades.

Because of this, artists had to develop this specific graphical language that could suggest reality.
Out of this necessity a sort of “grammar of the lines” was born, a grammar stillin use today.

This "grammar" was further advanced by the fact that comic books were printed in colors. Cross hatching, dry brushing and other visual devices were no longer used to represent different tones. This solid-black-lines-based style emphasize CONTOURS rather then TONE VALUES and somehow cemented in my mind the idea that LINES were the fundation of the art.
Well, WRONG.


I've written it large and centered, so I won't forget it.
I should put it on a cue card and place it above my desk.

Of course there are a whole lotta elements that need be there in an illustration or a panel: composition, anatomy, body language, use of negative space and so on.

Cartoonists should better be good at a LOT of things that do not always come together.

But when time comes to finish an illustration, rendering is vital.

Hair, tone, textures, reliefs, clothing. The ink drawing has to suggest the tone, rather than draw the contour.

So I have come up with 4 tips, four exercises for myself first, but hopefully for anyone who may be struggling with inking.

1) Practice ALLA PRIMA ink drawings.
Either copying other artists' stuff, or photographs, or out of your own head, practice drawing with no pencil drawing or sketch underneath (maybe just a few marks to get the proportions right).
This should help developing this skills
a) build up confidence, which usually translates in fresher, more appealing drawings
b) train you to think in terms of final inked art.

2) Copy the artists you like the most and whom you consider the best inkers IN PENCILS
Since my issue in particular with pencils art that does not instruct or even suggest much about the actual final inked rendering, I decided to do some reverse engineering and train myself to think in terms of final art FROM THE PENCILING STAGE.
Make the pencil pass not only about getting the proportions, the pose, the expressions right, but be mindful of what the final art will need.

3) Shamelessy rip-off shorthand ways to do stuff.
My shortcomings as an inker come across more blatantly with some aspects rather than others.
One way around this is locating those problem areas (rendering of hair, thickness of contour lines, placement of shadows) and JUST COPY SOLUTIONS from artists you think solve those problems brilliantly.
This approach in general can be applied to a lot of other aspects, not only the inks, but layouts as well.
I do not see much disgrace in borrowing or even stealing solutions from the masters. There is a downside, though: this way you do not think about how the artist came up with his/her shorthand way of rendering something in the first place. And lack of knowledge or awareness usually translates in poorer art and will limit your range when faced with a new problem you cannot find a solution for in one of your masters' ouvre.

4) Don't do anything.
Which seems pretty much a in contradiction with what I just written, but stay with me for a second will ya?
While my inking has been mocked since those distant school days, my skills as a draftsman received some praise. This is not the place to brag or even defend my work, but I think it's safe to assume I have some skills and that my sketches do have some value.
Since modern technology does no longer require inking in solid black and white, why bother? Why not just use the techniques I'm most comfortable with OR just do with INK what I do with pencils or any other tool, without the urge to learn how to render?
Play to my strengths.

I should give this a try.

I suppose I just need practice and that improvements will come as a result of all of the above.

I'm not certain this long rambling made any sense to anyone other than myself, but I really needed to put it down.

Here below some links.

this tutorial is so far one of the best I've ever found.
Even the greatest masters are often unable to deconstruct and rationalize about their own processes, making art teaching a very rare skill
MAD illustrator Tom Richmond has the ability to break it down in a very accessible and straightforward language and deals with the "pressure" element of inking with actual ink (the irreversibility of the process makes it often a bit scary) using tools like brushes and quills which we do not use much in "real life".


It is not like taking a class or practicing, but it provides some very good insights.

The following tutorial by Joe Kubert suffers from some of the flaws I was writing about: Kubert is not breaking down HOW he does it, but even only watching a master at work is of some help.

Comic Books Youtube Bonanza

It looks like the only thing left about the internet I still enjoy is browsing through YouTube looking for insightful video or audio documentaries.

here are some about comics:

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Just links

I'm terribly lazy and I have no time for a proper Blog entry.

Still these is pretty good stuff and I don't want to forget to share it




Tuesday, 1 March 2016


I wonder if there is some way to use THIS TOOL showcased in this video

to essentially create wire sculptures in a virtual environment


the possibilities for a very interesting hybrid of hand-drawn and 3D animation really give me the tingles...

And as a continuation of last post:

check this other interesting Kirby article

and well... just check the whole blog.

Monday, 29 February 2016

Kyrby's 2001

I definitely gotta get me a copy of Kirby's adaptation of 2001: a Space Odyssey.