When I was a kid I used to draw detective stories in black, white, and red. Why? Because old movies would sometimes only print one color like red, or sometimes the color element would be hand-colored. Of course I’d grown up with color films, but something drew me to the look of those movies. It was something different and interesting to look at. It also worked well for the subject matter. I think what I liked was how it felt like we were viewing something archival. Like something from out of it’s time that we happened to stumble upon. After movies like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and Sin City, this sort of thing is more common.
Let me ask you, what influences did you grow up on? Most webcartoonists probably have the same immediate answers. Peanuts, Calvin & Hobbes, Garfield, Foxtrot, Bloom County… I loved old Warner Brothers cartoons, like many other animators do. I also read Little Golden Books. Can you think of any up and coming webcomics that might have read some of these growing up?
Something else I remember fondly from my childhood is the Viewmaster. These were the slides that came on a roll and would create a 3D image if you looked through the special glasses with both eyes. Today with video cameras on every cellphone we take novelties like the Viewmaster, 8mm films, and flipbooks for granted. There was a time when watching film meant physically spooling it up and dealing with the projector eating it occasionally. To me this isn’t only nostalgia, considering my family only had a handful of home movies on 8mm and it was always a hassle to talk them into digging them out to watch. It was much easier to turn on the TV and watch something there. It felt more special to set up a screen and projector. It was like getting treated to a real movie with all the production that had to go into viewing it. Though I was born into the beginning of the VCR age where film was more easily accessible, I found some charm in looking to older technology.
Jeff Smith, creator of Bone, made this little video showing us around the Cartoon Books studio, as well as describing some of the research he did for the Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil book he did for DC. He brings up comic book hero clubs and decoder messages.
With that, I want to take us back to a time of pulp novel covers. Amazing Stories, The World Aflame, cover by Leo Morey, 1935 makes me think of the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons. Scientists in white lab coats surrounded by tubes and machinery and a curious light. It gets the imagination running just pondering what could be going on there. And that’s what creativity is, at it’s core – letting your imagination out to play and making things up. Since it’s Halloween season, and I just watched Creepshow and Zombie Strippers this weekend, lets look at EC Horror comics.
Yes they’re designed to be ugly and scary, but you can’t deny the style or the skill that went into them. How comic books could be producing art like this and still be considered “throw away entertainment” I’ll never know. Horror can be fun, like hearing a ghost story around the campfire or watching a scary movie. I remember I used to love Tales from the Cryptkeeper in my younger days. It’s not hard to see the impression it, Beetlejuice, and the Real Ghostbusters had on me.