BEAR ALLEY BOOKS

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Monday, February 08, 2016

Illustrators #13

The latest issue of Illustrators leads off with a lengthy appreciation of Mitch O'Connell, the self-proclaimed "World's Best Artist" from Boston, although nowadays based in Chicago. A lover of kitsch, he revels in the lowbrow, trash culture of America. Growing up on comics and monster magazines, he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and American Academy of Art, quitting when he began receiving commissions from Heavy Metal, Playboy and the Chicago Sun-Times.

After a couple of years as art director at a role-playing games company, he drew the graphic novel The World of Ginger Fox (1986) and commercial illustrations. His most lucrative assignment was creating clip art for ad agencies, newspapers and magazines. His books have included Good Taste Gone Bad, Pwease Wuv Me and the 2013 retrospective Mitch O'Connell: The World's Best Artist.

Diego Cordoba's feature is heavily illustrated with O'Connell's brightly coloured pop art cartoons which range from tattoo designs of Elvis to unused character designs for Dastardly and Muttley.

I'm usually more at home with painters and illustrators of a more realistic persuasion, so the article on Sep E. Scott is a real delight.Primarily a poster and advertising artist during the years before the Second World War, Scott's bold use of figures made him an excellent choice as a cover artist for comics in his latter days. Usually chosen to tackle swashbuckling characters, Scott's figures in heroic action were a highlight of Thriller Comics Library in the 1950s.

David Ashford provides many examples of Scott's earlier poster work, delightfully promoting various destinations served by railways, and adverts for Mars, Lifebuoy and Players. There's also some interesting comparisons made between some of Scott's later covers for War Picture Library and the film stills he used for inspiration.

Jeff Miracola is a fantasy artist whose work I was unaware of as his work was for the role-playing trading card company Wizards of the Coast, with later work appearing from Blizzard Entertainment and Warhammer; he's also worked in design for toys and games.

 
Editor Peter Richardson also interviews children's book illustrator Brooke Boynton Hughes, who paints beautiful, simple images in watercolour, and the issue is wrapped up with a brief look at the work of Tor (Victoria) Upson who has worked in theatre design and illustration.

For more information about Illustrators and back issues, visit the Book Palace website where you can also find details of their online editions. Issue 14 should include features on Tara McPherson, Joe Jusko, Maurice Leloir and Adam Stower. 

Ace O'Hara ep.71


Friday, February 05, 2016

Comic Cuts - 5 February 2016

Attempt Number Two.

I'm writing this to an accompaniment of chainsaws as one of the trees just outside the ex-garage that I call an office is chopped into little pieces. This is attempt number two to write this opening as the guy operating the chainsaw managed to cut through his own wire. It didn't trip the fuses but there was a lot of swearing that had me thinking the worst and that paramedics were going to find it difficult to get along the passageway between garage and fence now that the tree was horizontal and not upright. But it wasn't a limb, only a wire that was severed.

It has been quite a lively week compared to my normal dull and tedious existence. Over the weekend I managed to get the Harry Bensley book almost finished—I've broken the back of it now and it just needs a day's work to tidy up a couple of things and write some copy for the back cover. I'm hoping that I can do this on Sunday and get the ball rolling on getting a proof copy printed.

Monday I was back on Hotel trying to catch up with the endless stream of mail that people send in. The junkiest of junk mail—I'm talking here about my work e-mail, not my Bear Alley e-mail address!—tends to come in over the weekend and I'm tempted sometimes just to highlight and delete anything that arrives on a Saturday or Sunday. Trouble is, you never know what might turn out to be interesting or useable, so I have to go through every mail. Opening mail and reading even only the first paragraph takes time. If there's an attachment or pictures, that can double or treble the amount of time you spend on it. Multiply that by 200 and add the 70-or-so mails that are dropping into your in-box throughout the day and it's easy to see how you can get to the end of a day without actually writing anything or even subbing any copy.

Tuesday rolled around and it was another trip to the dentist. I've one more scheduled visit (next week) and that will be it for a little while. At some point, in a few month's time, I've got to have root canal work on one tooth and a crown fitted, which is going to involve six visits. I'm not looking forward to it.

Wednesday was a pointless but fun work meeting. Pointless because we'd already run through everything that we needed to during the previous meeting, but fun because we just sat around and chatted. We'll be saying goodbye to one of our team at the end of the month, which is rather a shame as we get on well. The good news is that it's maternity leave, so she'll be back in six months.

Which brings us back to this morning and an early start made on some repairs that have needed doing for some months. The tree that is being taken down has always caused problems. It has grown too close to the fence, pushing the garden fence over. It has spread its branches over the fence and over the neighbouring garden in one direction—they've chopped it back in the past, but I'm sure it was still an annoyance. It's in the other direction that I'm more concerned. There is a small, plastic-roofed area at the back of the (former) garage, described without a hint of irony as "the conservatory" by our landlady but in truth it's a utility room with a leaky plastic roof.

The "leaky" is the problem. Part of the problem at this time of year is huge clusters of berries weighing down the branches and resting on the plastic roof. Firstly, it cuts out all the natural light to my office and I'm sure this is one of the reasons my eyesight has been getting worse over the past year. Secondly, it weighs down on the plastic and opens up gaps where the old seals have rotted or been damaged. Trickles of water seep in and when it rains heavily there's a steady drip, drip, drip from the corners of the roof.

Now that the tree is gone, the roof panels will eventually be resealed and I won't have to lay towels down on the floor any more during rainstorms!

To cap off this week of getting stuff sorted, I managed to sort out my problems logging onto HMRC's website and, tomorrow as I write but today if you're reading this on Friday morning, I'm off to the opticians to get my new glasses. All 360 quids worth. Plus £25 for the eye test! Thanks, Boots Opticians!

Random scans. I've managed to pick up a handful of SF Masterworks (and one Fantasy Masterworks) recently, which I'm more than happy to share with you. The artwork on the original series is gorgeous. I'm not so keen on the later issues and re-issues where the publisher manipulated and reversed-out colours. Like a fool I sold off copies that I used to own and only started picking them up again in the past couple of years. I probably have about thirty of them, so still a long way to go.

 
 
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Ace O'Hara ep.68