"I'd say almost every cartoonist I know is really good at being able to sit down in front of a drawing desk for eight hours and just pound out the pages. That's probably the most important trait for a successful cartoonist, even more than something like artistic ability or writing ability."
- Jason Shiga, in a recent inferview in The Comics Journal
Jason Shiga's a favorite cartoonist of mine. His writing is clever, his art style is cartoony, his skill makes it all look effortless, and his voice is uniquely his own. And he has a playful, wild, subversive, sometimes really dark sense of humor. His comic Demon is one of my favorite comics. It's dark, funny, smart, creative, and a thrilling page-turner. It's best read the first time without even knowing the premise, but it's still excellent on re-read. Shiga self-published Demon, just recently finishing the series, and publisher First Second will be bringing it out in three volumes (the first and second can be pre-ordered here and here). He's also done a choose-your-own-adventure comic called Meanwhile, a 1970s detective/action comic called Bookhunter about two-fisted library detectives, and an arty romantic comedy called Empire State which had a marriage proposal hidden in the end papers (she said yes). Shiga's about to move with his family to France for a year to be Angoulême's cartoonist in residence, where he'll spend his time writing and drawing an ambitious new choose-your-own-adventure comic called The Box.
I've been watching early episodes of Seinfeld recently. I bought the box set on sale last year but have only just gotten around to starting it. There are a lot of episodes I never saw before, as I wasn't allowed to watch it when I was growing up. I've started at the beginning, and it's interesting to observe how they're finding their voice as writers and how the characters develop; there are traits of the characters early on that get forgotten later in the series, and facets that develop over time. The character of Kramer originally never left the apartment building, and Michael Richards' famous physical comedy wasn't first utilized until partway into season two. There was an early episode in which the character George, who would eventually become shallow and selfish to the core, went out of his way to help a bellboy he'd accidentally gotten fired (the attempt ends in hilarious calamity, but it's a gesture that later-George would never try). There are even supporting characters who got recast after their first appearances!
Thinking of early Seinfeld makes me think of the early development of Bill Watterson's classic comic strip Calvin & Hobbes (available in entirety here). The characters didn't settle into their final "on model" look till Watterson had been doing the daily strip for over six months! Going through the earliest strips is a little strange, because although Watterson's wit and artistic skill were already strong at that point (and would only get stronger), Calvin and Hobbes don't look quite right.
I'm serializing my webcomic Flesh Machine weekly; though I have the basics of the whole story all worked out, I'm finishing drawing the pages not long before I post them online. So I can only wonder how different Lucy Olmos and the rest of the characters will end up looking between the early pages and the end. I'm trying to keep the characters fairly visually consistent, but we'll have to see...
You can read new pages of Flesh Machine today and every Tuesday at MichaelAvolio.com, where the whole story up to this point is available for free. Please pass it along to anyone else you think may like it.
Thanks for reading!