Posts tagged Wikipedia
Most of the creator portraits for the last couple of years have been chosen by a need for them in biographical articles at Wikipedia. As an active editor for about 5 years now, I’ve become enamored by the comics project there. A unique synergy of the collaborative encyclopedia and a medium rife with content, has made the project one of the more fascinating and informative among its sister entertainment industries.
The portrait of Al Feldstein below is the latest. In this case, the biography itself was in dire need of repair. No inline citations caused it to be saturated with obtrusive tags directing editors to try to improve the article. The few external references it had were mostly dead links that needed some research to be restored. There was also an important section hidden in the editor text box because it was a large quotation from an interview Feldstein had once given. Wikipedia prefers not to use such large bodies of text directly from sources, and advises editors to paraphrase them in their own words, to uphold encyclopedic style. I spent some time finding and formatting citations, and reshaping hidden texts, as I was joined by a project editor who helped with final polishes. The result was an effective and gratifying fix for a biography of an important artist and editor, well deserving of good representation.
Feldstein’s interviews about his early career carry some of the more fascinating and revealing stories about the “wheeler-dealers” who shaped the comics industry in its infancy. His covers at EC Comics became an imprint of look and design for their time.
My generation grew up on the editing brilliance of Al Feldstein. At the helm of Mad magazine from 1956 to 1985, he shaped one of the more memorable satiric journals to ever see publication. An era wherein an entire generation affirmed the cultural relevance that Mad had achieved. Under his tenure, the publication grew to 8 times its circulation, from the time he started editing it.
Soon after retiring from Mad, Feldstein moved into rural Wyoming and then to Montana, where he lives today, producing detailed and colorful Americana paintings of landscape, cowboys and wildlife. He also manages a guest house on his 270 acre ranch, the proceeds of which go to rescuing injured wildlife in the region.
Al Feldstein – Portraits of the Creators Sketchbook
Perhaps the artist most identified with Superman through the 1950′s, Wayne Boring’s art on the character reached for a mythical stature of the iconic superhero. It also left an indelible impression of grandeur in an entire generation of readers who catapulted Superman into cultural immortality. In that his Wikepedia biography was also lacking a copyright-free image, the legendary golden age artist now also joins Portraits of the Creators.
Wayne Boring: Portraits of the Creators Sketchbook
Norm Breyfogle is one of the all time seminal Batman artists. He’s also a dear friend with whom I share of the deepest and most personal thoughts and sentiments. Norm was subject of an article, Poet at Heart, July ’06, where his pen is seen to take a turn towards prose. A landmark celebration for Norm today and of the best reasons for a new addition to Portraits of the Creators. And we simply couldn’t leave his Wikipedia biography without an image, now, could we?
May it be a joyous and eventful birthday, Norm, bringing only good tidings ahead!
Norm Breyfogle: Portraits of the Creators Sketchbook.
By its very nature, pop-culture is most often seen and presented as a light and fluffy affair. And though there are always exceptions, or perhaps even that exceptions abound, the general thrust of major pop-culture news and commentary institutes, and especially these of the comics, is to keep their content, look and feel on the lighter, more colorful, side of the attitude scale. This is not necessarily a criticism of the prevailing phenomenon, magnified by the proliferation of such outlets on the web. It is simply a persistent reality, for better or worse, which rules the thrust of most all sources for news and information on the medium. And even though more exceptions abound in the private expanse of the blogosphere, this has not proven enough to have a lasting visible impact on the big league trend setters.
Standing apart from all these are a few notable enterprises, to whose credit a more selective and in-depth approach to news and commentary remains a mainstay. Tom Spurgeon, proprietor and operator of The Comics Reporter, whose professional origins as editor of the equally serious Comics Journal, has successfully established himself as a unique leading voice for a more insightful approach to comics journalism.
Though it doesn’t cover all the current news items appearing at major outlets, TCR has carved a niche for itself for its commentary on major events and behind the scenes of the industry. The analysis always digs deeper beneath the surface of convention to reveal new insight, driven by a prevailing sense of the betterment of the industry, and seen in a more long-range historical perspective, unhindered by what’s necessarily viewed as being currently popular.
An additional aspect of the site is the array of material it covers, bringing together the wide range of genres from Indies, manga, cartooning and mainstream superhero, and everything in between, under one roof, giving them all their due regard as equal constituents of the comics world. Every visit to the site becomes a treat of sometimes obscure but pertinent information that major outlets can’t allow themselves the time or space to carry. From publications to exhibits and other events in the comics periphery, the impression one gets from visiting the site regularly is that nothing truly eventful is able to slip under its radar.
TCR also carries some of the more comprehensive listings for creator and publisher websites, along with an ongoing bibliography project, and topped off by an array of indexed compilations of comics stores, distributors, and other useful utilities. When adding Tom’s daily birthday wishes to comics and comics related notables, which is of the most extensive seen anywhere, viewing the site becomes a sojourn into another realm, unmatched in its vibrancy and rich in unique detail, leaving a lasting and fulfilling impression that there exists nothing else like it for an all-encompassing serious approach to comics related content.
Tom Spurgeon is co-author of Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book along with Wildwood for King Features Syndicate, which also makes him a comics creator and certainly a candidate for Portraits of the Creators Sketchbook. That his Wikpedia biography was lacking a copyright-free image clinched the subject for our next entry.
Tom Sppurgeon: Portraits of the Creators Sketchbook.
Well, Martin never really went away. But he’s returned to our periphery to comment on and correct a whopping mistake I made in the previous post about Kobra: Resurrection credits. It’s the first time we’ve been in touch since I last saw him around 1978 at DC Comics. But first about the mistake:
FYI, my name is listed first in the solicitation because I am the character’s co-creator with Kirby. Kirby did not, in fact, write the first issue of KOBRA, nor was his original concept the basis of the series. Surely you must have known this at some point and simply forgotten it; didn’t you drew at least one issue of the original title before the story reprinted in this volume?
I actually drew the last two issues of the original Kobra series, #6 and #7. They were of my earliest comics work, after the Kamandi backups and a Legion of Super-Heroes fill in. Martin’s right though, and has reminded me, that I knew he was co-creator and writer of the original series with Jack Kirby. It likely slipped my mind because I’d always instinctively associated it with Kirby creations… and it was done so early in my career and rarely mentioned with regards to my work. These 2 Kobra issues came at a very early stage of my learning curve as a comics artist. They stand in notable quality contrast to the DOA Conspiracy, co-starring Batman, which Martin also wrote, and was intended to be the next Kobra issue before the book was cancelled.
But then again, had I done a little minimal snooping around, it would have jogged my memory enough so as not to make such a misrepresentation. Sincerest apologies to Martin Pasko, who adds more info about Kobra’s creation in the comments thread.
Anyway, for your readers’ benefit: Gerry Conway was handed a single issue of something called KING KOBRA, which had been done for FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL and was considered unprintable. Gerry wanted no part of it and offered it to me, asking if I had any ideas about what to do with it. I did, starting with making the twins, who were 65-year-old men in Kirby’s original, a college student and a twin brother he never knew he had.
I requested stats of Kirby’s originals be made up with all the balloons whited out. Working with only the bare bones of Kirby’s story, I reworked it from the ground up, cutting up the stats, shuffling panels and pages, requesting art changes (which ended up being executed by artists other than Kirby and pasted up over the existing art), and writing all new dialogue. It was a desperate patch job, but management liked it enough to make an ongoing title out of it. The character caught on, as you know, in the sense that it has been a staple of the DC mythology ever since.
Good behind the scenes info for Kobra enthusiasts, and much appreciated. Kobra does remain a revered villain of the DC Universe. I’ve run across many comments on the web over the years from fans who’d like to see more of him. Not sure what you’re up to these days Marty, but if the new directorship at DC were to consider bringing back the Pasko/Netzer team for a new Kobra adventure, then at least the Netzer half of the team would certainly consider it favorably. Your connections are likely a little better than mine for advancing such an idea.
Martin also comments about his online presence in the comics community.
And now you know something else, too: I’m not as rarely “heard [from]” as you seem to think!
Right again. I should have looked around a little more before saying that, which wasn’t meant as a slight in the least. I simply haven’t seen or heard about Martin except for a Facebook friendship that neither of us advanced past the “accept” button. Which is understandable knowing Facebook and that we both sport more than 3,000 friends whom we can never keep track of. This is the place to say that though our acquaintance was relatively brief during the first few years of my career, Martin stood out amongst his peers in the good natured wit he exuded, which made my visits to DC Comics where we usually met an especially pleasureful affair. That said, Martin maintains a blog, Still Pesky… (named after a Julius Shwartz nickname given him back in the days), where he puts forth insightful commentary on comics and entertainment news, along with anything else that comes into his periphery. Good reading and worth a visit.
It’s good to hear [from] Martin Pasko again. Having learnt my lesson, I’ve done a little snooping around and found his Wikipedia biography also in need of a copyright free image. Along with an opportunity to add another entry to Portraits of the Creators Sketchbook, that’s good enough reason to have produced the image below.
Martin Pasko – Portraits of the Creators Sketchbook.
Had Vince Colletta been the type of comics artist whose self esteem was dependent on his peers’ opinion of his work, it’s very likely that he would not have lasted out his career as a comics inker during the 60′s decade at Marvel.
Those familiar with the controversy over Coletta’s craftsmanship, know that perhaps no other comics creator has been the subject of personal and professional criticism of the type leveled at him. While he also elicits notable praise from the comics readership, many of the great artists whose work he embellished have been noted to say that he was the last choice they would make for an inker of their pencils, and such are not of the least flattering comments. Writer/historian Mark Evanier, of Colletta’s more vociferous critics, who led a charge to remove the inker from Jack Kirby assignments at DC in the early 70′s, explains his position here and here, in response to favorable commentaries on Colletta’s art by Eddie Campbell and Stuart Immonen.
Artist Eric Larsen also posted an opinion on the debate, opening his short essay with the statement: “Vince Colletta was one of the most prolific inkers in the history of comics.” Considering the duality inherent in any controversey, the following quotation currently adorning Vinnie’s Wikipedia biography, stands out in its praise of his inking over Jack Kirby pencils in their critically acclaimed run on Thor during the 1960′s. From Marvel Comics in the Silver Age, by writer and comics historian Pierre Comtoise:
. . . Colletta’s hair-thin, detailed inking style . . . seemed devoid of large areas of black, [which are] used to give figures weight and heft but an artistic concept yet to be fully explored by the time of the Middle Ages, an era whose crude woodcuts most reflected the art style needed by the Thor strip[. It] captured the elusive quality of otherworldly drama that the strip would increasingly demand as [Stan] Lee and [Jack] Kirby took it away from the everyday world of supervillains to a mythic plane where the forces of evil were on a far more gargantuan scale. Despite the serendipity of the two men’s styles, Colletta would later be criticized, with good reason, for compromising Kirby’s artistic vision by eliminating much of the detail that the artist put into his work. Be that as it may, what Colletta chose to keep, he rendered in such a way that showed off aspects of Kirby’s art that no inker before or since has ever been able to reproduce.
Our good friend Daniel Best has also posted extensively, and quite forthrightly, about the Colletta controversy over the years. Childhood comics reader “Dan McFan” dedicated an entire blog in praise of Colletta, named after his contentious view of Evanier and other detractors, where he cites a remark I once made at Imwan Forums about the personal nature of Vinnie’s reputation amongst his colleagues. Forum discussions such as this 98 page thread at Comicon.com, or these here, here, and here at The Comics Journal Message Boards, paint a largely accurate picture of the love/hate sentiment in comics fandom for the legacy and art of Vince Colletta.
Immersed into the world of comic books at youth, I remember having a reverence for the Thor comics, much for the same reason cited by Pierre Comtoise. All that changed, however, as I edged closer towards fandom and came into contact with other aspiring artists. The mere mention of Vince Colletta was often synonymous with “the worst inker ever in comics”. The phenomenon only intensified when I became a professional artist working at Continuity. Still, Vinnie was art director at DC where I’d pretty much settled in as a penciler – and he was inking a great deal of books at the time. One can thus imagine my apprehension upon learning that he’d ink the fill-in issue of Wonder Woman, #232, that I penciled in 1976.
It wasn’t the type of apprehension based on an independent artistic assessment of the pros and cons of such a collaboration – rather on how that work would be viewed by the professional and fan community which largely saw Vinnie’s work in a negative light. In retrospect, I have nothing but good sentiment towards that project today as it’s clear to me that Vinnie’s sensitive line and professional experience contributed towards making that early work look a little better. The same is true for a Flash story I penciled in World’s Finest Comics that Vinnie inked several years later. There was a similar tension in the air then about Jack Abel inking my Legion of Super-Heroes stories, but it never reached the intensity that it did with Vinnie – perhaps because Jack was working from Continuity and was considered one of the good guys, while Vinnie was mostly villified as a distant “hack”, worthy of the most dire slander as a destroyer of comics art, by the sometimes overly proud community of artists that we are.
As a pertinent digression into the expectations that a comics penciler has regarding their work, it seems that submitting pencil art to be inked and colored by others is by itself a relinquishing of any rights the artist holds over the finished work. Though we should hope for the best effort possible by everyone contributing to the final product, the nature of the beast necessitates that we understand how unenforceable such expectations truly are. In that some artists are able to command a better personal result for their work, it cannot be said that any such collaboration is able to entirely satisfy a penciler’s expectations. This is inherent in the nature of a collaboration and has little to do with the degree of proficiency or artistic merit of an embellisher.
More so, there exists a quality to pencil art which an ink line can never capture for print, and which further stretches the divide between the potential inherent in the pencils and the finished product in a printed book. Thus, every inker must take a certain measure of liberty in order to interpret pencil art. And regardless of the degree of liberty taken, the finished product will never live up to any penciler’s vision for the potential their art holds for them. When compounding an independent artistic vision of an inker, such as Vinnie had, and considering his propensity for keeping the trains running on time, it’s more understandable how he’s come to evoke such a polarized range of sentiment regarding his work.
This is not, however, about the artistic merit of Vince Colletta. Not about his 1950′s, mostly romance, comics which he penciled and inked exquisitely. Not about his subsequent inking for Marvel and DC beginning in the 1960′s, for which he gained the unflattering reputation. It is not even about whether it’s fair for a community of comics creators and fans to so injuriously malign one of our very own, whose contribution to the medium is indisputable. No, good readers, this is not about any of these. It is only about the unfathomably resilient spirit of Vince Colletta. An artist who was more than confident about his approach to inking some of the best pencil art of his time. Certain of his own self esteem and unique uncompromising artistic vision, balanced by the time commitments he made. Resilient in that he never allowed his colleagues’ resentment of him to sway from the path he charted. Good natured in that he never answered any of his detractors in kind, and maintained a warm and personable friendship with everyone whom he knew was maligning him behind his back.
It was a privilege and honor to have known and collaborated with you, Vinnie. Time to join Portraits of the Creators Sketchbook and perhaps finally offer a copyright free image for your Wikipedia biography. If this portrait doesn’t quite live up to the standard of others I’ve drawn, the only explanation I have is that it’s the best I could do in the short time I could allow myself to do it.
I simply had to hack it out.
Vince Colletta – Portraits of the Creators Sketchbook.
* Most images of Vinnie’s art borrowed with gratitude from “Dan McFan”
Two additions to Portraits of the Creators Sketchbook.
Legendary inker of Superman, Legion of Superheroes, Iron Man and many more, since the early 1950′s. Portrait based on photo by Greg Theakston, taken at Continuity studios circa 1977. I shared this room with Jack, Terry Austin and Bob Wiacek for a while, as Jack inked many of my Legion of Superheroes stories for DC, along with his other assignments. Portrait appears at the Jack Abel Wikipedia biography.
Prolific dark fiction writer and critic, good friend and colleague. Portrait adapted from an illustration of Dave Cockrum, Bill Messner-Loebs and Clifford for the back cover of The 3 Tenors: Offkey from Aardwolf Publishing. Also appears at the Clifford Meth Wikipedia biography.
When Dave Simons departed from us last June, succumbing to a long battle with esophageal cancer, I was well out of the loop of the web community. I received the news and grieved his untimely departure but had little recourse to even mention it at my website or add to the tributes from across the comics world. I opted to let the silence speak for the loss, instead of trying to force a few words within a situation which wasn’t allowing it.
A profile and portrait of Dave tell of the close and dear friendship we had. Daniel Best compiled an excellent Wikipedia biography of him which ran into an initial snag with editors there and gave birth to “The Inherently Notable Dave Simons” Facebook drive to show Wikipedia editors just how well known and loved Dave Simons is. Dave’s Facebook profile page remains active today as friends and acquaintances continue to express their longing to see him again – as if he hovers over the web expanse reading every word. It’s a mistake to believe that Dave Simons is no longer with us. His warm resolve, tantalizing wit and great talent remain embedded in everyone he’s touched. The countless tributes from all walks of the comics community and coverage at Daniel Best’s blog tell volumes of the impact he had on the hearts of everyone who knows him.
Have peace dear Dave. Our world is made a little less bright in your absence, but memory brightens the heart longing.