Sunday, September 26, 2010

Neal Adams HE'S BACK!!!

How amazing is it that Neal Adams has returned to the company he transformed; DC Comics and the character he redefined; Batman? I’ll tell you; truly colossal, mammoth.  It is the most exciting and almost totally unexpected event in the field of comic illustration in many years.  
Neal had hinted at a return to comics  a  few years ago in a trade magazine saying “I’ll come back  and kick everybody’s ass…” this said with great affection and a sort of tossing down of the gauntlet. He is currently onboard at DC as the artist and writer of “Batman Odyssey” a major new release.
I have been a fan almost forever but not quite. When Neal came on the scene he was doing realistic stuff and that wasn’t suited to my adolescent taste and against all the norms of the time.  At the top of my   favorites were artists: Curt Swan, Gil Kane, Joe Kubert and Carmine Infantino.They were and remain great but they fit into what was expected at the time. Infantino had introduced with Editor Julie Schwartz the “New look Batman” and his work defined the character in the early “Silver Age.”Around 1967 a new character was introduced in one of the DC‘s marginal titles “Strange Adventures” a character named Deadman. The comic’s theme was a twist on the popular TV series “The Fugitive” and the character was; well…dead. Carmine bowed out after the first issue. Adams came on board with the next. It was to be among the greatest runs for a character and creator that the field would ever see. HIs style was perfect for this nontraditional character and storyline. Neal; always a phenomenal draftsman was messing with the whole idea of what a comic should look like and be.
He was doing entire pages as monochromes.  Things with the lighting that were increasingly dramatic. His nocturnes were true nocturnes. There was no question that a scene took place at night. He restructured the layouts of the book changing the very thing that comic design had been before. You never knew where you would find the panel flow as you turned from page to page. He stretched the story- telling from the top of one page across to the next. He turned the panels by odd degrees unlike the normal right angles and varied the sizes of panels to form unusual takes on perspective. He took other- wise unrelated individual panels and formed them puzzle-like into larger images. It was; to borrow from another company and a certain character from Billy Chrystal; marvelous!
Adams would go on to rescue Batman from the antics and hyperbole of the popular TV show. He returned the batman to “The Batman” while expanding on the mythology and lore of the character. He and writer Denny O’Neil set the bar for all others to follow. Others have have done glorious things since but the presence especially of Adams is always there. The team of O’Neil and Adams would reach another comic and cultural high with their updating and expansion of Green Lantern and Green Arrow.
The tough, transformational decade that had been the sixties would cross over into the comics with Green lantern issue #76.Green Arrow was added to the book and the two would be foils. It was the beginning of a new look and attitude change for the characters (a new costume for Green Arrow) and the first socially relevant comic book. This was something that came to me and many fans as if from nowhere. Comics had been insulated from the realities of the revolutionary times we lived in; the real world.
Comics were fantasy, they were escapism, and they were safe. When an elderly ; exquisitely rendered, poverty stricken  Black man steps up to Green lantern and asks  “what about me; Green Lantern…you work for the blue skins, you help the orange skins and every other…what about the black skins?” It was as if a fist had been driven into my stomach and then turned slowly. I realized the power of the medium and since that transformative issue reading  comics has never  been the same. Comics could be as moving and important as any art form. The series  went on to explore many questions   in the society during the early  seventies.  Comics were evolving and maturing as was the readership. Green Lantern / Green  Arrow was a hallmark for the team of O’Neil and Adams; a gift for us all.
Adams has moved on from DC to form his own comic and commercial arts company; Continuity Associates. His career has spanned almost ever creative endeavor. He has ranged from album covers to theatre set design from theme park attractions to movie story boards. He has won numerous awards and is recognized by his peers as a standard for excellence.  Bill Sienkiewiez, Dave Sims, Alex Ross and Jim lee all acknowledge the Adams influence. Adams has worked  to better the lives of all artist in the graphic design  field including Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. You might recognize them as the co-creators of Superman. They labored for years as company employees and were denighed  benefits  or retirement compensation.  Adams along with writer Harland Ellison lobbied and won for the pair benefits and recognition for their achievement which was no less than the founding of an industry and the creation of a national icon. Their creation Superman being  the original and the  basis of all super heroes  that followed. He is  currently   working  to grant  possession  of Holocaust artist  Dina Babbitt’s paintings to her from the government of Poland. Babbitt did the works in exchange for her life and the life of her mother.
In a recent  interview Adams was asked to describe  the character of Batman as he saw him. In his mind Batman was “first a superb  athelete  then a brilliant mind close to the  level of a  Sherlock Holmes. He has pushed himself  to the limits of human possibility, he is dedicated and deeply committed  to doing what is right and good.  Because he is the one super hero that is not super;  he is simply the ultimate  best  that he can be.”

When looking for the true ideals of a society or a culture  look to the mythology, the legends.  Also look to those who are the keepers of  those  legends . Sometimes you will find the lines between the two to be blurred . I think that is the case with Neal Adams.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

So Grand

Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? The three questions are also the title of the painting considered by many art historians and patrons to be Paul Gaugin’s opus. This mural like phenomenon is by all accounts inspired and the product of a master. Gaugin’s painting depicts Tahitians (mostly female as was his favorite subject) of different ages and different attitudes.  Some are alone with others in small groups of varying numbers. The surrounds are a sort of decorative imagined nature. Animals, birds and a carved idol complete this symbolic while somber scene.
 Gaugin is attempting to make sense and give meaning to a life and world which remains in totality just beyond human comprehension.   Like Gauguin many of us seek and look for the answers to the same questions. We can look to many places for the answers these questions poise. Religion, philosophy, art, nature, even work can be sources of meaning. 
There is one place that I can personally look that provides me with answers to all three questions.
The one place that is actually in six parts is my grandchildren.  I want to share illustrations of special times when each question’s answer is briefly but completely clear…
When Morgan greets me (too early in the morning) with her big as the sky smile. Her eyes beaming like two little suns with the optimism only a four year old can have.
When Little “E” breaks away from two or three would be tacklers, zipping by them like Kid Flash into the open field.
When I walk into a room and Jasmine is sitting quietly reading; absorbed, totally entranced in her book. 
When Tre’ while dancing leaps into the sky in a Michael Jackson move and lands softly, perfectly in a Ninja like pose.
When Baby Alex sighs while sleeping in that comfortable, warm, safe place that is a baby’s dreams.
When Madison calls out “Daddy James…Daddy James” and laughs with the sound of the purest most beautiful music.
At these times I see all of our past, all that we are and all that we will be.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is it real? The question many artists ask of their own work and of the works of others. Painters as distinctive as Andrew Wyeth and Marc Chagall asked themselves the question and considered it critical to any piece they produced. Chagall would go as far as to put his hand in front of a painting if nothing else was available to see if his work stood up to something alive existing in the natural world. In our conscience and subconscious we judge works by that criteria every day. Does a particular work stand up to this rigid standard?  There are many artists that pass, succeed and in some ways go beyond. We generally think of them as The Masters. Rothko, DeKooning , and  Freud are examples of painters. Serra, Rodin, Puryear, and anyone named Smith (Kiki, David, Tony etc.) as sculptors. Films like Chaplin’s “City Lights”, Huston’s “The Misfits” and even Cameron’s “Avatar” make the cut. Countless examples are found throughout the universe of art, creativity and ideas.
What is real? Any work that exists as a thing unto itself. Paul Gauguin once said when looking at a painting by Van Gogh “This man owes nothing to anyone.” With no doubt Van Gogh stands without rival in his unique position. He dared to change the virtual language of painting and in doing so created a new reality.  A certain honesty is required and a strong element of truth is a must.  There must be the ring of truth  to be accepted.  As Chagall asked of himself; how does the work hold up when placed or compared with other things in reality? You be the judge. A painting always looks better with someone standing in front of it. Think of anything that you’ve truly enjoyed; a novel, a play or song and you will probably think of how real it was or is to you. Something about it spoke to you.
Does everything real remain real? Is virtual reality, reality TV and Coca Cola real? Will Rembrandt, Gainsboro and Picasso remain real? Is everything dictated by constants or is it a reflection of the fashion of a given time. In the age of Murakami, Koons and Hirst has reality changed or just our perceptions?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Faith, hope and love are three of the foundations, fundamentals and essentials of my existence. They are the basis of continued happiness, purpose and even survival in a world that can be both wonderful, continually amazing and at times; well… difficult.  Above is a painting I did not long ago that represents another essential element of my life. The painting being the fruit of my labor. The act of painting is actually something  all together different and is consider by Buddhist to be one of the highest forms  of spiritual expression. Painting and creativity are fueled by passion and need which are also basics of the human fiber. Painting is an act and result of faith. 

Faith simplified is the belief and trust of the unseen but not the unknown. We can know God and have continued faith because of countless manifestations of his existence. Prosperity, the dawn of a new day, the birth of a new child are all gifts from God. What is greater than a new life entering the world and literally changing the world’s dynamics merely by being born? Birth is simple (at least from the male perspective) repeated continually while ever profound.  Faith in God and faith in one’s own self are a powerful combination. Add to the mix faith in others that are close to us and the formula is unbeatable.  

Hope is brought into life along with a birth. With that a new purpose and a deeper commitment to life itself. Hope is simply another word for optimism. Without it the world would disappear from existence. It is that critical. Talk to someone that has lost it. To not have hope would be the separation from God and everything that makes us try it one more time. Whatever that it is. Hope is the longing and the expectation of something better. To want and desire with all our hearts is to hope. Combine it with faith and again there is great power. Having hope is to always have promise. The promise of the good and true wealth that life brings. If you are excited  about the wonder and greatness each day can bring than you have hope.

Love…There is no need to tell you the things it can do. You have found it, lost it, shown it and known it  Given it, received it, jaded and made it. I’m certain you’ve cried, laughed and denied love. You’ve spoken of and tried; used it to guide. It can abide and lovers have died for it. Some even hide as many have lied for love. Because of it we forgive and who wants to live without love.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Tea Party

A picture is worth a thousand words. Add a word balloon or caption and the picture becomes a cartoon. A   thousand plus whatever the number of words used in a given cartoon. In this case say one thousand seven.
The comparison of the “curiouser and curiouser “movement known as the Tea Party to the tea party in Alice in Wonderland  is irresistible. They couldn’t have picked a more apt name. I know they are referencing   a different tea party but that’s also a different cartoon. We’ll look at that one in a future blog.
I not quite sure what the Tea Party is but it’s beginning to resemble a very bad “B” movie.  Sarah Palin the unauthorized but symbolic leader is the Doctor Frankenstein in this misadventure. She‘s busy cloning herself to a frightening level of accuracy.
Maybe Palin’s come up with a machine like the one used to create the Bizarro Superman in the comics.  The Bizarro Superman was a distorted reverse version of Superman. This creature was the opposite of Superman. Where Superman is handsome;  Bizarro Superman is ugly . Superman, intelligent;  Bizarro Superman, unintelligent. Sorry… with that scenario the Bizarro Palin would have to be near genius. Not a good comparison.
They’re also  coming  up with candidates that have a  “Son of Sam” like strangeness who want to give their dogs appointments if elected to office. I don’t understand.
I do believe the Tea Party’s agenda is simple: If Obama is for it than the Tea Party is against it. Obama says  yes; the Tea Party says no.  Hey…They are the Bizarro Obama.
A good slogan for the Tea Party would be “We’re not Obama “

Friday, September 17, 2010

"The American" George Clooney

George Clooney’s latest film” The American” opened a few weeks ago to the number one box office slot. The reviews were mixed and among those that saw it there was a lot of disappointment. I personally enjoyed the film and I’ve heard that some showings ended in applause. It has since steadily dropped in number.
After reading comments to a Yahoo news article and seeing so many negative comments I decided to post my thoughts. I was able to get a good number of comments posted about my own comments. This was pretty amazing for me. I actually ended up with many people voting thumbs up or down on my comments and I was glad that I ended up 50/50. This put me; at the end of a very unscientific poll at dead center. I like to see myself as a moderate who can swing from extreme left to extreme right on given issues. I was pleased.
By this time you have seen “The American” or perhaps written it off. Maybe you plan to see it on DVD. I recommend you do.
I’ve attached my Yahoo comments to this blog along with some of the replies. I hope you enjoy reading my Yahoo comments as well as the replies I received.

My Yahoo comments:

The American was a brilliant piece of film. Clooney's effort to expand American Film through the use of understatement and minimalism has worked to near perfection. The camera work unfolds in ever changing, interesting compositions that use every inch of the screen as a gigantic canvas. Many scenes unfold with little or no dialogue. This is pure film that is in itself a tribute to the mastery of Hitchcock. There are many nods to Hitchcock beyond the pacing and tone including a subtle version of his famous line drawing self portrait.
Clooney's character Jack is not so much a hit man as a craftsman. He constructs and customizes weapons and even repairs vehicles while exploring the essence of  life; man's spirituality, sexuality and his own ultimate emptiness.
A brave movie that goes against today’s low expectations for film. Well acted, directed and photographed with a limited but powerful dialogue that is actually enunciated when needed.
Thank you George...where are we going next?

Replies to my comments:


I have NOT seen the movie, but reading James Review I see such a disconnect between the want to be entertained American public and wonderful film making as a craft as seen thru the eyes of a student of art, not a filmgoer..........Very Interesting Conversation between the two camps,,,,,,,,,,

This was NO Hitchcock it was boring the action scenes where boring. The beautiful country side and Clooney emoting was really tiresome after the 1st hour. The pay off was who cares. The "I am going to hell" lines in Machete.
In short it is an art film. Of interest to art students and those wanting to Clooney with no shirt.
It should have been advertised that way it is not a spy thriller, An assassin thriller, or James Bond like.
It is what is is. The masses will be bored. The "effort to expand American Film through the use of understatement and minimalism" Fails if the story is weak contrived. the Biggest drama was will he shoot is girl friend.
The dialog minimal yes powerful no.
The American: " God has no interest in me" mumbled.
Machete "Were are my with and daughter" " with God" "Then I will not see them" while dying. Shoot'em up movies should not have better lines then "art"


Seriously? Go back to art school you douche. Nobody wants films like this except film study rejects with too much family money and no common sense.


understatement and minimalism = paint drying

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Choosing a Title

My friend Addae and my daughter Gail were actually the ones to suggest I do a blog. When I told them I was considering doing it they wanted to know what I would name it. Among the considerations for a blog the title is an important one. I imagine that like a book it can intrigue the would be reader and should give some glimpse into the contents.  I started to toss around ideas for this blog and I  began to write a few down .The next day with a short list of five or so I started to ask my co-workers  what they liked  thinking  I would  get some sort of consensus. I didn’t ….it seemed that among the people I showed my short list; each preferred a different one.  As I talked and exchanged ideas more possibilities grew and my list got longer. I showed more people; still nothing in common. Everyone actually liked a different one.
That evening I emailed the list that had grown to twenty to Addae and Gail. And you probably know; no repeat choices. They each picked two totally different ones.  Without anything definite I knew now that I would at least need a working title. I decided on” Why Not: A Blog”. It can be read different ways and even references the line from John Kennedy;”Some see things the way they are and ask why. Others see thing s the way they could be and ask; why not. I like that idea . It speaks to the element of limitless possibilities.
I going to include the list of titles that I came up with.  One might appeal to you, have a certain ring or have some subtle meaning for you. Let me know what you think. If I can get the elusive consensus I might change my title even now. It’s still very early in the blog’s history.
        Blog Title’s
1.       For All We know and Don’t Know
2.       The Things We Know…Even  More We Don’t
3.       A Long Story/Short
4.       Versions of a Long/Short Story
5.       What’s The possibility
6.       Take a look…
7.       Let Me Know What You Think
8.       Oh Yeah!!!
9.       The Eternal Now
10.   Something like That
11.   Replies Welcome
12.   What’s The latest
13.   It’s about the Journey
14.   Something Read
15.   When Black and White is Red
16.   What About a Blog
17.   Why Not: A Blog
18.   Hey Bert!!!
19.   Let’s Listen
20.   As Yet Untitled

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Long/Story Short: (Intro)

Freedom   of speech; what a marvelous thing. We use it more often and to greater advantage than any other freedom. I love it and am certain that most of the people I know cherish it at least as much as I do. What other than that is a blog? To blog is to be free.
I work as an electrical test tech by day for a government and private sector supplier. It is global in nature and many employees are originally from other countries. Let’s just say the conversations are vast and varied. We cover many things and leave little out of our discussions. It’s a pretty good place to work if you’re looking for good and sometimes hot conversations. Yes; the work is interesting too.
My other work and true calling is the creation and pursuit of art. I’m involved with painting, sculpture, animation and more. The art world is amazing and opens up to whole other levels of discussion. The interesting thing is that my two worlds do overlap and if you follow these blogs you’ll see.
This is a beginning. An opportunity to engage in new things as well as old. Even old things are new if we haven’t experienced them. We are certain to end up in places yet to be imagined. I hope this will be interesting, funny, thoughtful and unpredictable but never, never a bore.