Monday, 23 July 2012

The Double-Swipe Files

The Comics Journal used to have a feature called "Swipe Files," where they would basically accuse an artist of plagiarizing, either intentionally or unintentionally.  For example, before many North American comics readers had heard of the Argentinian comics genius Jose Munoz, an American comic book artist suddenly and radically changed his drawing style and attracted a large following--that is, before the Comics Journal compared the American guy's panels to those of Munoz and found them to be exact duplicates!  This, despite the fact that the Munoz originals were from gritty noir detective stories and the American guy's were from goofy superhero yarns!   And still the American guy insisted he hadn't known he was ripping off Munoz, despite dozens of examples to the contrary.

Munoz was also a huge influence on how I tried to draw.

Carlos Sampayo and Jose Munoz's noir
detective, Alack Sinner

But the Comics Journal's "Swipe Files" feature opened an interesting can of worms... just how original is any artist's work, anyhow?  For example, superhero comics today owe a lot to the 1980's work of American comics genius Frank Miller... but now that I've been avidly reading quality reprints of 1950's and 1960's American comics classics, I can see that Miller was just ripping off Jack Kirby (as did an entire generation, and rightly so.) 
The thing is, when you're drawing you have to get the stuff on the page; you may or may not realize that the images crawling out of your pencil, pen and/or brush are derivative or imitative of another artist's work.  Then again, you may be fully aware and intend it as a sort of sly homage!

What I've realized in the past few years is that any number my own comics panels that I thought were completely original turn out to be swipes!

So I'm sharing them.  Particularly these ones, because EACH IS A DOUBLE-SWIPE.  Either in drawing, or writing, or both.  That's right!  Each of  the following examples seems to derive FROM TWO SEPARATE SOURCES!  And since the sources are so great, it gives me great pleasure to share them.

From my comic: Poopsie the Penguin getting a lift home from
his Grade 3 teacher, Ms. Milk -
from "Fear Itself" #2, 1991

Jean "Moebius" Giraud and his wife driving into the
unknown, from Moebius' groundbreaking
"La Deviation (the Detour)", 1974, pg2

President Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan and
some scientists driving to the interdimensional
portal from Chester Brown's classic "Ed
the Happy Clown," 1987, pg96

It feels good to get that one off my chest since I drew that Poopsie story in 1991, and over the years it bothered me that I seemed to be swiping both Moebius and Chester Brown... not coincidentally, two of my all-time favourite artists.

The next is both more recent, since I just wrote and drew it for the soon-to-be-released THE CLIFF: Books 1 and 2; and more ancient, since it seems to draw on sources from the 1950's and '60's!  I'm sure I must have read a reprint of "Superduperman" in my dad's pile of old Mad Magazines when I was a kid; and a reprint of Fantastic Four #11 in a pile of old comics given to us by one of my dad's high school students, also when I was a kid.

From my comic: Rabbit and Partridge Bark discuss a debt
in the forthcoming THE CLIFF Book Two:
"The Inner River," 2012

From Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood's classic Superman parody,
"Superduperman" - MAD Magazine #4, 1953

The landlady sets a mysterious stranger straight  
"The Fantastic Four" #11, 1965, pg3

The next example is no big mystery... at least the first swipe. I was on a French-learning exchange in Jonquiere, Quebec in the summer of 1993.  We had made a promise not to ever, ever, EVER speak English during our 3-week sojourn in bleuet (blueberry) country.  And I actually kept that promise, the happy consequence of which is that I can now get by in French. 

During those three weeks I hit the sketch in earnest since there was not a whole lot else to do (other than speaking French,) and I decided to do a story in... yes, French.  I was obviously far away from my comic book collection and I'm sure I thought I was coming up with all the surreal images myself; but it seems my homage to French comic book master Jean "Moebius" Giraud was more thorough than I knew!

From my comic: 2 panels from "Corrompu (Corrupted)," 1993
Dialogue in 1st panel: "The mysteries of the body."
Dialogue in 2nd panel: "So, choose a cup."

Moebius, "Le Garage Hermetique (The Hermetic Garage),"
1979, pg46

And somehow at the same time, I was also unconsciously ripping off Chester Brown's "Ed the Happy Clown" again...  

Ronald Reagan falls into an interdimensional portal
via an enormous shit-squeezing machine,
"Ed the Happy Clown," 1987, pg103

And now for two "single swipes"... the first being a nod of the light saber to the biggest possible influence on my life: Star Wars... not only the first movie in 1977 (which I saw at least 20 times, starting from the impressionable age of five years old), but also the comic book adaptation.  Especially the oversized edition on glorious crappy newsprint, several copies of which were donated to us by the same high school student of my father's who passed us dog-eared piles of Archie, Dennis the Menace and reprints of the first issues of Superman, Spiderman, The X-Men and many more.

From my comic: Sheriff Raymont Raymont of Nexus Island and the
Equivocal Smattering of Miscellaneous Territories, Etc. "apologizes" to
Rabbit for doing something incredibly violent at the Nexus Island
Tea Stall in the forthcoming THE CLIFF Book Two:
"The Inner River," 2012

Han Solo "apologizes" to the owner of the Mos Eisley Cantina
for doing something incredibly violent in the Star Wars
movie adaptation scripted by Roy Thomas and drawn
by Howard Chaykin and Steve Leialoha, 1978, pg29

The last is a straight up "Moebius-on-the-brain" swipe--if you turn around a panel 180 degrees from THE CLIFF: Book One, "My Helicopter" (2005.)  This is one of my favourite panels I've ever done, and by accident I realized yesterday that the master had inundated my synapses yet again.  And I don't regret it for a moment.

From my comic: Partridge Bark and Mutt Blue resting
on some foliage after a helicopter explosion,
THE CLIFF: Book One,
"My Helicopter," 2005

Moebius, "Le Garage Hermetique (The Hermetic Garage),"
1979, pg95

So, that wraps up my "swiping" confessions for today.  Of course it's questionable whether my work belongs on the same webpage as Moebius, Jose Munoz, Jack Kirby, Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Wood, Howard Chaykin or Chester Brown; but it's my blog, so what the hey!  Many happy swipes, intentional or otherwise, to you!

On a serious note I'd like to express my sincere love and appreciation for the contribution of Jean "Moebius" Giraud to my life. 

I first found out about Moebius from a... yes, Comics Journal interview when I was13 years old (that would be 1985,) in which Frank Miller stated that Moebius was a big new influence on his work.  My parents fortuitously took us to France that summer, and IN PARIS THEY SOLD COMIC BOOKS (OR "BANDES-DESSINEES") ON THE STREET! 

So I bought Moebius' Arzach and La Deviation/Les Yeux du Chat albums, both of which obsessed me for years to come.  Especially the "Absoluten Calfutreil" and "Rock City" stories.  I tried soooooo hard to draw like Moebius.  In fact, that's why I wanted to learn French in the first place... to understand my Moebius albums!  I even had the great luck of getting him to do a drawing for me when he visited the Silver Snail comic book store in Toronto in 1987 (When I was 15 years old.)  But that's another story for another time.

Jean "Moebius" Giraud died in March of this year.  But the endless worlds of his imagination, his poetry, his exultation live on. 

Merci, Jean. 

Thank you, Moebius.

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