Saturday, September 3, 2011

Comics That Were, Are, and Will Be...

Last night I attended the launch party for Infinite Kung Fu, created entirely by Toronto artist Kagan McLeod. It is an amazing work roughly ten years in the making. Top Shelf's production on the book itself is slick and stylish, yet the texture is still indicative of printed pulps and manga that no doubt inspired this work, but which it easily manages to transcend. The end result is a beautiful marriage of two cinematic genres (martial arts and exploitation films,) that looks and feels like nothing else on book shelves to date.

The art is energetic and tremendously fun. Despite the fact that for years Kagan's work has been seen in countless magazines and websites, my first exposure to his stuff was on the covers of Kill Shakespeare, another Canadian created comic that delivers a refreshing twist on the familiar. I'm thrilled that I can now dive into Kagan's finished product like the gluttonous art and comic lover I am.

The event was fine enough. A nice venue filled with interesting people that I could hardly hear or understand on account of the great music laid down by live DJ's. I had a chance to speak with the man of the hour as he signed and doodled in my copy. Perhaps it was the alcohol in our veins or the energy in the air, but I dare say he was pleased to see me. I killed a completely different conversation by talking about beards. It was awesome. After lamenting the loss of my beard to a pretty neat comic creator, he, who shall go nameless, nodded and said "O-K guys! I'll see ya..." and promptly lost himself in a sea of people. What can I say? I have the gift of the anti-gab.

I thought to myself on the drive home, "ten years? whoa." Perhaps not ten solid years, but years of work into a creator-owned labor of love. Impressive... inspiring. Although it's startling how time flies. I've worked on Teuton now for two years, and it's funny to count that time in pages produced (not that many: 112). Yet that's nothing compared to a story of my own that I've been harboring since my early teens. It's existed mainly as doodles on scraps of paper, in the margins of homework assignments, and every so often as sequential pages that are soon abandoned and re-tooled.

It began by taking a summer workshop at Sheridan college on the construction of the comic page. I think the year was 2000, and it felt like a big deal. I remember reading comics on the Oakville bus--Matt Murdock was exposed as Daredevil, and he was lying his way to (relative) safety--and watching Making Comics The Marvel Way on VHS.

In the end I had made my very first finished page of sequential story-telling. There it is on the left. I remember thinking, "I could do this every day!"

In fact, I spent the rest of that summer fully-charged and ready to make the comics world mine--by force, if necessary. Luckily it never came to that. I simply put pen to paper and got making what I then imagined was my magnum opus. I called it Century, and it was going to be awesome you guys!

The overall story followed a private organization called Century and its agents who were sent about the business of unlocking the crucial mysteries of the universe. Easy! I drew most of it in sharpie and sent photocopies to every publisher I could think of. I received a very tender rejection letter from Heavy Metal, which I thought was too bad at the time, as I believed it was the very thing they were looking for.

A few years after that, I decided to give Century another go, perfectly certain that "this" time everything would come together, and they should already begin engraving my name on the coveted crown to the comic kingdom. This just goes to show how much you actually know when you're 15. Anything is possible and attainable--which I suppose remains true, but I'm 26 now and am just getting ankle deep in the world of creating comics professionally.

Here are pages from the very first comic book I ever made, and the second comic I ever made:

I scrapped what I had done and shelved it away in my brain, all the while spawning little stories in the back of my head, imagining scenes and depictions of things I found thrilling. Essentially, I've been subconsciously writing a love letter to my very favourite genre: science fiction.

This story usually includes a gruff, animal-humanoid from race of interstellar barbarians; an outlaw space bandit in the form of a mischievous female; and a androgynous amnesiac who just might be the creator of the universe... if only they could remember. I've taken them to places filled with horror and wonderment, have pitted them against fearsome creatures and tossed them in explosive laser shoot-outs. And it almost always begins with imminent doom on a frozen landscape. It's all been terrific fun! Now, if only I could just put it all on paper.

My last attempt (but for from final) was nearly four years ago, when my good buddy John Lewis and I swapped ideas for a line of comics that would collectively be told under one banner: The Crown: A Princely Dreadful.

So What happened? Well John got married, bought a house, and became a responsible citizen with a real job at Pearson Publishing. I worked a handful of dispiriting jobs until I found work on
The Vampire Conspiracy. That imaginary playground still exists, and perhaps some day I will get around to finishing what I started three times already. Seeing guys like Kagan celebrate the fruition of a decades work is certainly inspiring, and I get to wondering what my trio of space-trippers are up to.

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