Thursday, August 28, 2008

Friday... El Diablo is Almost Out, and a Thrilling Image by Milton Caniff!

I'll keep it brief today. I'm jammed up on work, and too high on the Obama speech tonight to stay at this for too long.

I will take time, though, to mention again the EL DIABLO comes out next week. Jai Nitz writes, Phil Hester pencils, yours truly inks, and Guy Major colors. It's a damn good book. Please check it out. At the very least, take it from the shelf and just flip through the damn thing. I think you'll dig it.

Okay, onto today's art scan. I hope the ghost of ol' Milt Caniff will forgive me for giving him short shrift. This panel is clipped from the TERRY AND THE PIRATES strip that hangs directly over my computer workstation. It was published in 1937, as Caniff was really coming into his own, thanks in large part to his studio partnership with the amazing Noel Sickles. By the way, a Sickles hangs right next to the Caniff strip, much to the chagrin of Howard Chaykin, but that's a story for another day.

This is the first panel of the strip, and look at the action we have jumped into. Hard to believe it was cool back then to show a dude with his whole damn head on fire in a popular strip that kids were reading, but there it is. No worse than what was going on in Chester Gould's brilliant Dick Tracy strip at the same time, now that I think of it.

This panel is fascinating and exciting to me. The composition is pretty static, but the action is so thick that I think it works. We are certainly being led into the next panel efficiently.

One more technical note, thanks to Derek asking: Caniff used a blue wash on his original for a few years to denote where he wanted the syndicate (or the papers... not sure how that worked, actually) to apply a gray tone. He didn't do the work himself, I assume, because a consistent dot screen was the best way to ensure good results, and the printers could offer a better approximation of what would work than Caniff could. Or, maybe it was a time-saver for him, or maybe he couldn't get good zip-a-tone... I guess I can't say for sure. I do know that the blue wash adds a very nice depth to the originals.

I always say that a great work of art has to do one thing well... it has to make you FEEL something. This panel makes me feel something very intensely. It makes me feel exuberant. The crazy lettering, the incredibly bold inking, the action, even the fact that Caniff's pen snapped on him and he didn't bother to white out the little ink explosion (under the flaming guy's right arm)... it all speaks to Caniff's joy in creating his work.

When I look at this strip, I see Caniff and Sickles, pushing each other to creative places they could not have found alone. I see two young men rejoicing in what they can do with this medium that we love. After a long day at the drawing board, a long day sometimes spent feeling uninspired or under-talented, looking at this strip makes me feel like a kid again.

Okay... enough outta me. Enjoy the genius! The blog and I will be taking Labor Day off. Have a great holiday weekend, and I'll see you back here Tuesday.


I wonder who owns publishing rights to Terry these days... Fantagraphics, perhaps? Anyway, someone does, so be good!


Derek said...

Hi, Ande.

What's with Caniff's use of blue coloring? I'm assuming it's marker? Does that come out as grey? Or is it a non-repro blue that is used as a guide for greys added later? Why not just use a grey wash while inking?

Really been enjoying your blog so far - keep them coming!

Ande Parks said...

Good question... one I should have answered in the blog itself. You're right. It is a guide for a gray tone. I'll edit the post to say more, and thanks for asking!


Shawn Crystal said...

Juicy Juicy Brush Strokes...drool...