Monthly Archives: June 2009

Alphabets of Desire: Playing Tag.

alphabetsofdesire

(Alphabets of Desire copyright Alan Moore and Todd Klein.)

Welcome to the second chunk of examined text from Alphabets of DesireOur introduction gives the details of its creation, now we are trying to understand the meaning of the piece. Today’s three Alan Moore sentences go like this:

Using sounds or scrawled marks we distinguish between fire and water, earth and sky, divide the world up into self and other, man and woman, good and evil, black and white and fish and fowl and sheep and goat. The whole of our experience is broken down into roughly two dozen minimal phonetic glyphs that can be recombined in almost endless permutations, can be called upon to conjure the imaginable universe and all that it conceivably contains. The world of our perceptions, the one planet we can ever truly know, is made of nothing except language, having words instead of molecules and letters in the place of atoms.

Upon birth, the human being feels the world directly through its senses. As it grows, the brain begins the process of differentiation. Raw experience is translated into language. The seamless whole universe gets chopped into bite-sized pieces. Easier to digest that way.

Unfortunately, the words create as many obstacles as pathways. Pretty soon the human cannot feel the world directly any longer. A skull full of language colors everything around it.

The Matrix movies did a good job of showing the basic theory here. After language takes over completely, the brain is helpless to know, for sure, what reality is. We think ourselves into a corner, and the walls are made of words.

Is this prison of phonics inescapable? Perhaps. And yet, with the very words that shackle, the poet patterns wings of fancy and flies to the stars, with readers in tow. We may not be able to shake the spell of language, but we can simultaneously celebrate its wonders.

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Upper Deck And Marvel Comics Are Joining Forces Again!

UpperDeck   UpperDeck

MarvelUniverse

It is the news we have all been waiting for, and it is official. Upper Deck will continue to produce the highest quality trading card games in the world using the most spectacular characters in the universe.

“We are extremely excited about the possibilities that this newest partnership opens up for us,” said Scott Gaeta, director of new business development at Upper Deck. “Gamers and trading card enthusiasts alike will benefit greatly as a result of the collaborative efforts by both companies.”

Paul Gitter, president of consumer products, North America at Marvel, added: “The Marvel Universe and Marvel Studios’ upcoming slate of feature films are ideally suited for trading cards and trading card games that will appeal to a wide audience.”

That sounds like party time to me. The first new products will be released this January, stay tuned to this station for more news as it breaks.

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Sunday Mandala: Tributes and Remixes.

DuplationMediation

What a fanglorious Sunday morning this is. Basking in the glow of one human masterpiece reinterpreted by another artist. If you open your ears all the way, you can hear countless cover versions and re-mixes of Michael Jackson’s exquisite catalog coating the entire surface of the Earth. Inevitable synchronicity dragged my eyes across the sizzle of the googlesphere toward a blinking bauble by Alex Duplation Mediation for breakfast. It is a New Day Rising.

You see, today’s mandala is an interpretation of Julie Dillon’s champagne bottle crashing with a splash against the flying angel pointed toward the horizon that launched this ship. I started the Sunday Mandala feature twelve weeks ago with her work. Today that image has been spectacularized into a morffledelic chakrabbalah map to the center of infinity equals one equals zero.

What a fanglorious Sunday morning this is.

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I Was There The Day Michael Jackson Bought This At The Mall.

MichaelJacksonsGreenGoblin

One Saturday five years ago I was waiting tables at TGI Fridays at the upscale Aventura Mall in Miami when the whole place exploded. People were running full speed from every store, helicopters were circling, and time seemed to stop.

Michael Jackson was shopping with a friend.

The restaurant had full length windows along the section of the mall leading to the door that he used to come in and out, so we got to see him in person. The local news reported his purchases on the evening news.

He bought the Green Goblin statue that I had been wishing I could afford. I was glad it finally found a good home.

Life is like a bunch of small bubbles dancing under water. When we die, we pop to the surface and rejoin the big air above. Enjoy the greater self Michael. Thanks for the music.

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Joe Quesada Confession: He Loves Squirrel Girl.

squirrel_girl_by_artnerdem

We have breaking news.

Minutes ago on comicbookresources.com, Joe Quesada, the Editor in Chief of Marvel Comics, admitted to an enduring adoration of our favorite hero:

“I’ve always wanted to do a Squirrel Girl miniseries or a Squirrel Girl event…

I haven’t been able to sell it in yet, but I keep on trying.”

– Joe Quesada

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Okay, you heard it. Joe Quesada wants a major Squirrel Girl appearance just as much as we do.

Make it happen.

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Alphabets of Desire: Sorting It Out.

Promethea

(Promethea copyright DC Comics.)

Welcome to the first installment of our extended analysis of Alphabets of Desire. Yesterday we broke ground with a thorough introduction, which includes the full glory of the piece. Today we take on the first chunk of text. The illustration above is a page from another Todd Klein collaboration with Alan Moore. Promethea is so good that I will never get enough, and that particular page leads into the concept we will be exploring. Hang on to your hat, your head is going to be in question.

A is for apple, first fruit from the Tree of Knowledge whereby we discover that we cannot know the apple. We cannot perceive reality directly, are aware of nothing save our own awareness, an unending storm of information roaring in the ganglia, the retina and the tympanum, washed across the cobbles of the tongue and gusting in the cilia.  Attempting to construe a habitable cosmos from this chaos of sensation we evolve some form of language, words that will define distinct, recurring elements in the surrounding landscape and will separate one concept from another.

When Todd Klein asked Alan Moore to write something suitable for exquisite lettering, language was an obviously perfect choice. The result is a rambling romp through a wordsmith’s wallowing in what words really are. It starts at the top, with the letter “A”. Then it starts twisting. Why cannot we know the apple?

The Tree of Knowledge is a metaphor for the roving mind that each of us pilots through life. That slippery little self is rather clever, and it will not stop until it is convinced. There is one big problem with that. Pretty soon the mind knows that there are many things that it will never really know. Science knows how to prove, and in the case of the behavior and characteristics of subatomic particles it has already proven itself completely inadequate to explain the reality of the situation.

Don’t even get me started on the big questions. We cannot prove that we are not brains in a jar on the table of some mad doctor. We cannot prove how this all started. We cannot even begin to think about how to prove why things are.

As Alan Moore points out, the only thing we ever experience directly is our own personal array of sensory information. He uses technically poetic terms for thinking, seeing, hearing, tasting, and smelling. We feel the world. That’s all we ever do for sure.

As social animals, we then look to share our sensations with each other. Before I could explain Alan Moore’s first three sentences to you, I first needed to understand them for myself. That demands categories. Sorting the swirling input calms things down. Dividing the raw feed into boxes of thought is something that uses words as tools. We build a house of flashcards to soothe the roving mind, and then we take pictures to show our friends.

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Michael Jackson: Rehearsal For Eternity.

Some of us count our points in life by how many people get deeply blissed by our existence. Michael Jackson may be the all-time winner in that category. His music will live forever in more hearts than any other.

Godspeed.

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Alphabets of Desire: An Introduction.

alphabetsofdesire

(Alphabets of Desire copyright Alan Moore and Todd Klein.)

Alan Moore is one of the loudest bulbs in the human lightshow. Todd Klein gets my vote for Best Comic Book Lettering of All Time.

Together, they are sublime.

The series of myths called Promethea has never been surpassed, and it was the first time I was exposed to the collaboration of these two masters. It is a spectacular tome of magick written by Alan Moore. Promethea was fleshed by the drawings of J.H. Williams III, the ink of Mick Gray, the colors of Jeremy Cox, and the lettering of Todd Klein.

(Promethea copyright DC Comics.)

Promethea completed her mission in 32 issues and quit while she was ahead. Still glowing with appreciation, I figured it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Then, yesterday, I stumbled upon a gem of equal brilliance. Two of her mad genius creators joined forces again last year for more. 

It is called Alphabets of Desire. That is a term spelled out by Austin Osman Spare himself. It is a poster, written by Alan Moore and lettered by Todd Klein. It is amazing.

I will be expanding each sentence of the piece here on the blog in the coming weeks. The words are deep and dense and hard to digest, so I would like to break them down and clarify the broth. For myself, and for you.

For now, I will leave you with the full story of the creation of Alphabets of Desire in Todd Klein’s own words. Click the link in his first paragraph to purchase a print for your very own, enjoy the photograph of Todd and Alan following his incredible tale, and tune in tomorrow for the first three sentences dissected.

This apple bites back.alphabetsofdesiredetail

Behind the scenes for the birth of a masterpiece, from Todd Klein’s blog:

I’m proud to announce the publication of ALPHABETS OF DESIRE, an 11 by 17 inch print, with newly written text by Alan Moore, design and lettering by me. This is the secret project that I’ve been working on for the last few months, and it’s now on sale exclusively on this website HERE. How did it come to be? You’re about to read the complete story.

I launched my website and blog on July 3rd of this year, and as part of it I included some items for sale: two prints I produced in the 1990s, the book I co-authored on lettering and coloring, some original lettering on overlays, and two music CDs. The first week sales were brisk, and I made enough to recover most of my setup costs for the site, so I was very pleased. The second week sales were pretty good, the third week so-so. By the middle of August, they’d trailed off to almost none. Obviously the old stuff had reached everyone who wanted it. I began to think about producing something new to sell. But, what? Another Lettering Sampler? I’d done that, and a variation didn’t seem likely to be a big success. Then the thought came: what if I asked one of the writers I work with to write something for me to letter? Call in a favor, so to speak. The most obvious choices were Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore, but Neil is always so busy, and usually gallivanting around the globe on promotional or signing tours. Alan seemed like the one to approach first. He’s usually home, he usually answers the phone when I call him. The worst that could happen was that he’d say no.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Alan Moore is one of the most acclaimed writiers in comics history, for titles such as WATCHMEN, V FOR VENDETTA, FROM HELL, PROMETHEA, and THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. Alan and I have only met in person twice, the second time at his wedding to Melinda Gebbie this past May, photo above, but we’ve had a great working relationship for many years. Still, it took me a few weeks to get up the nerve to call him about writing something for me. I finally did in mid September, and his reaction was very encouraging. He thought it sounded like a great idea.

“You may have to call me a few times and remind me about it,” he said. He was busy working on his new novel and another project. But when I explained that I wanted something new to sell on my site, he volunteered, “If we both sign it, I’m sure it will do well.” That made me very happy indeed, as I wasn’t sure if he’d be willing to do that. I began to think this might actually work!

I’d told him about my Lettering Sampler print, and Alan asked, “Did you want something like that, with a lot of lettering styles, or…?”

“No,” I said. “Anything you want, really — a story, poem, fiction, non-fiction. Just something you think would look good hand-lettered. About a thousand words.”

“Right,” he said. “Perhaps something about letters and magic. Let me think on it.”

That night I told Ellen, “I believe he’s really going to write something for me!” I was over the moon.

I called Alan a few more times, as he’d suggested, to remind him. The third time, in early October, he surprised me by saying, “I’ve just started working on it,” and read me the first paragraph, the one that begins with “A is for Apple.” I thought it sounded wonderful.

“Can you get it to me by the end of October?” I asked. “I’d like to have it ready to sell in December, and that should give me enough time.” Alan said he should be able to do that.

About another week later, in mid October, my fax machine spit out a few pages.

From: Alan

Subject: Alphabets of Desire.

Memo: Hi, Todd. Here it is. A little earlier than anticipated and exactly a thousand words. Hope you like it. All the best. Alan

As I read through it, I began to smile and then laugh with amazement. It was perfect, much better than anything I’d imagined. I called him, and he said he’d just been reading it to Melinda. I told him how thrilled and pleased I was.

“What does Melinda think?” I asked.

“She’s on tenterhooks, waiting for the finish,” he said with his usual dry wit. I thanked him profusely and said I’d get to work.

So, now I had the text, and the rest was up to me. Over the next week I laid it out on an 11 by 17 inch piece of art paper. I knew I wanted a decorative title and credits at the top, and to begin, a large letter A. Putting an apple there was an obvious choice, and allowed me to enliven the text with a small bit of art that I later hand-painted red on each print. Around the outside, as I had mentioned to Alan, I thought a border using various old alphabets would look good. But rather than just random letters, I wanted them to say something. I drew elements from Alan’s text for that. I hasten to add that I didn’t translate them into other languages, just copied them out in other alphabets. So don’t email me about the Greek, please, I know it’s not Greek words. (But in old manuscripts from the middle ages, this sort of thing was sometimes done, so I think I have a precedent.) All those elements, the titles and border, I pencilled, then inked with my smallest-point technical drawing pen.

For the text itself, I chose a wedge-tipped Speedball dip-pen and thought I’d use my calligraphic style of lettering. That seemed the best way to go. It took several attempts to lay it all out in pencil before I was happy, then I went on to ink. I worked on it over several days, between other jobs. When I’d done the best I could, I scanned the result at high resolution, made small corrections where needed, and reversed the outer border so that the black letters became white letters on black.

It was time to order paper, and I found a good source online for that. I wanted something thicker than regular copy paper, but not so thick it’d be hard to roll, as I planned to ship the prints in mailing tubes. I settled on a 67 pound Bristol Vellum, and hoped it was the right choice, as I had to buy it sight unseen. Alan had agreed to sign 500 copies, but I bought 1000 sheets, to allow for printing damage and so on. I wanted to try to print them myself on my own 11 by 17 laser printer, but I wasn’t sure if that would work, as it doesn’t always handle large paper well. I might need to have it printed elsewhere.

The paper arrived, and it was just what I wanted, the perfect thickness, and an attractive cream color. I set up the art file and paper for printing, and gave it a go. Amazingly, my printer hardly messed up at all, I was able to print the entire run with barely a hiccup, though I did have to hand-feed each sheet into the printer.

Now I had the prints, and needed to color the apples, the big one at upper left, and a small part of the apple core at lower right. I found a cherry red acrylic ink that seemed right for the job, and spent parts of another few days painting apples. This proved very relaxing and therapeutic, though I kept thinking of that scene in Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” where the cards are “painting the roses red,” and hoping I wasn’t ruining the whole project. In the end, I think the red works fine. Another day or two spent signing my name to the lower right with a wedge-tipped marker, and I was ready to send them to Alan.

This was the most nerve-racking part of the job. I packed the prints well, wrapping them in bubble-wrap, then in the original paper box, then in a larger box around that. I thought that would work, but if the prints were lost or damaged in transit to Alan, or worse yet, back to me after he’d signed them, I’d have to start over. I couldn’t afford the time to carry them to England myself, so shipping them was the only alternative. I sent them off, letting Alan know they were on the way.

I put off calling for almost two weeks, not wanting to bug him, but when I did call, Alan told me they’d arrived safely, he’d finished signing them, and would mail them back to me the following day. “I signed with a red Biro, thought that would look good,” he told me. Anything he wants, I thought to myself, anything at all. Another week and a few days went by, with me worrying, and then, finally, the package was here.

A little worse for the two trips, but when I opened it, the prints were fine, and oh, so delightfully added to in red Biro! All that remained was to write my press release, prepare some prints for mailing, write this blog entry, and then sit back and wait for orders.

I’m excited about this venture, the first time I’ve tried something quite like this. I have no idea how the print will sell or be received, but I’m hopeful. If it does well, perhaps I’ll do more. Egad, would that make me a publisher?! In a small way, yes, I suppose it would. Please don’t hold it against me, okay?

alanmooretoddklein

(Todd Klein and Alan Moore. Our heroes.)

Examination of text Part One.

Examination of text Part Two.

Examination of text Part Three.

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Marvel Masterpieces: Squirrel Girl.

marvelmasterpiecesquirrelgirl

What a beautiful little day this is. First I found that original drawing of Squirrel Girl by Katie Cook on a Marvel Masterpieces Sketch Card. Then I got permission to start an expansive new project with one of Alan Moore’s most obscure masterworks.

Life is good.

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Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter Exposed.

johnnydeppmadhatter

In less than one year, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland will hit theaters. Today you get the first studio photograph of Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter.

Curiouser and curiouser…

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X-Babies Intense.

x-babies

That is not an official Marvel Comics drawing of the X-Babies. Unfortunately.

Eddie Lee draws them intensely.

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The X-Babies Are Back.

xbabies

HeroesCon in Charlotte, North Carolina was the scene for some pretty stunning revelations. None of them tops this.

The X-Babies are back. Marvel Comics announced a new four-issue mini-series starring the ultimate in Costumed Chibi. Check this out.

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Gregg Schigiel and Jacob Chabot are in charge of the terrific tikes, and they are taking us back to Mojoworld. It seems the X-Babies have gotten too cute for their own tastes. In the course of fighting to regain their edge, they get to play with the obscure myths of Star Comics, including Wally Wizard and Royal Roy.

These books definitely have my toes tingling, due to the honor Upper Deck gave me when it comes to X-Babies. I need to break out my cards and start flipping. I can’t hardly wait for this “shiny, happy stuff”!

x-babies

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