Wednesday, 17 June 2009

my kind of town

While in Barcelona for a few days recently in order to celebrate my friend Mike's last fews days of singledom, I took some time out to try to track down some of the city's comic shops.
Unfortunately, due to a combination of poor research, a terrible free road map from the hotel foyer and the Spanish siesta, most of those I found were closed. The two I did stumble upon that were open were a revelation.
Both had copies of the Spanish edition of Strangehaven, published by Planeta DeAgostini, in stock and on the shelves. Both shops were clean, bright and well organised with both English language and Spanish language books - with strong emphasis on the graphic nove format. I have to say the quality and diversity of the stock in both stores far exceeded the average London comic book shop.
I asked Daniel Navarro, owner of Cosmic Comics (at Castillejos 272) whether his shop was the best in Barcelona.
"Ummm... I'd say it was in the top five," he explained in broken English, modestly.
Franco of the three adjacent Freaks stores in Ali Bei near the Arc de Triomf - one each for DVDs, art books and graphic novels - appeared to be aware of who I was and said that he often had people coming into the shop asking when the next Strangehaven was out.
Finally, I paid a short visit to Barcelona's FNAC in 'El Triangle', a multi-level bookstore with a huge selection of graphic novels. I couldn't find Strangehaven in there, but I did see a Spanish edition of Dez Skinn's Comic Art Now which of course features some of my work.
What a fine city - wonderful museums and galleries, unique architecture, a glitzty marina, fantastic shopping, bars and coffee shops, parks, a terrific beach, twenty minutes from the airport, fabulous weather and comic shops to die for. Just don't mention the football.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

more by accident than design

With news reaching me that my book Comic Book Design which I spent the best part of six months writing last year is now beginning to emerge at comic shops, bookstores and the usual Internet mail order retail outlets, I thought perhaps that it is a little overdue that my own blog should better make some mention of it.
This book is something that I consider to be one of my major works. Quite apart from writing approximately 40,000 words on the subject, I had to research, locate, select and scan several hundred appropriate images in an attempt to illustrate the points I was trying to make. Packaged in a lavish 10 ix 11 inch format it contains 160 full-colour pages and takes a design-oriented view of the creation of comic books, strip-mining the depth and breadth of comics history for its example illustrations.
It's not exactly a how-to book, although there are some nice examples of behind-the-scenes materials. It doesn't include anything much about drawing or anatomy or perspective. It's more about how comics work, how creators consciously or unconsciously design a character, a story, a page, a panel; and how it all comes together to form the unique visual storytelling that only comics can offer. There are sections on lettering and colour and publication design itself, and each section is punctuated by a designer spotlight on creators like Brian Wood and Chris Ware.
The book is image-heavy in the coffee-table tradition, featuring some of the stunning best examples of comic design across the spectrum of the medium, from superhero to slice of life, spanning a hundred years of comics. That's not to say that it's light on text, but it's generally presented in easily digestible chunks, resulting in what the publisher describes as a 'dip-in reference book. My intention is to provide instruction and more importantly, inspiration to artists and designers with a passing interest in comics, as well as broadening the horizons of neophyte and professional creators alike.
Interesting to note the differences between the cover of the UK version (at the top of this post) and the US version below, both of which were based on the same initial sketch I provided.
I think probably the cover of the UK edition more accurately reflects the design of the interior pages, and which also features French flaps and spot lamination to boot. I would post some interior pages too, but my scanner is playing silly buggers, my PDFs won't convert to jpegs and I've got to pack for Barcelona. Maybe later.
Comic Book Design is published by Ilex Press in the UK and Watson-Guptill in the US and should be available from any good comic or book retailer, in-store or online.