Monday, June 08, 2009

Hey Kids, Comics; 9/11 Page

Shortly after the attack on the World Trade Center, a call went out to cartoonists for art to be used in a benefit/memorial anthology. This was done for Dark Horse Comics' anthology. However, in the rush to secure content, not all the art received saw print. This is one that didn't make the cut. Never found out why.
I sometimes look at things I did and wonder "what was I thinking," and "how did I do that." In this case I remember.
My first attempt/idea was sort of a piece about a guy who gets mistaken for a terrorist. That seemed kind of knee jerk-ish to me and was later pulled off better in an issue of Captain America. Patriotic fervor, now there was something. At the time pride in our country was very high, and things were a bit confusing. So what would be more appropriate than to put that into a page. I have always had the sneaking suspicion that a lot of Americans get the Start Spangled Banner and the Pledge of Alligiance mixed up. I can remember mumbling the archaic terms myself in school and in military Post theaters before the movies started! Very patriotic and at the same time confusing. So, like the former DJ I am, I did a remix.

O' say can you see
I pledge allegiance
to what so proudly we hailed,
from sea to shining sea.

By the republics gleaming,
and over the rockets red glare,
one nation
gave proof,
under God,
and spacious skies,
that the flag ,indivisible,
was still there.

O say does that star spangled banner yet wave,
with brotherhood,
liberty and justice,
o're the land of the free
and home for the brave.

As for the art, the airbrush, black and white is my weapon of choice! I wanted the art to have some emotional weight and gravity, so I used my illustrative style instead of a comic book style.
Each panel is like a stripe on a waving flag, the values alternate like the red and white. Each panel focuses on a segment of American history, a part of history, good or bad, that helps define what America is.
Panel one, like the beginning of the universe, just stars. Also there are 13 stars, one for each colony. They sort of come out of darkness, groping and moving. This was a good set up for me, I feltl it was sufficiently evocative as opposed to being literal.
Panel two is sort of Francis Scott Key, a nod to the influence off the page and the role of creativity in the birth of our nation. Plus it's got bombs bursting in air! I always wondered what that would look like and why they would burst in air. I worked to have the focus of the panels move from left to right, alternating down the page.
Panel three is breaking the chains of slavery, and uniting our country. An important step for a lot of reasons. In this panel I tip my hat to some of the great artists of The Harlem Renaissance, including Aaron Douglass, one of my favorites.
Panel four, a break in the pace and a chance to show how precarious the growth of a nation can be. I placed the flag small in a black field, the same size as the narrative blocks. The remixed copy reflects a turning point. Okay, I know that all this is not in any kind of correct order, but that's part of my point and the fun. America is a real mash-up of people, cultures, races, times and eras.
Panel five sort of brings us to current (at the time!) time frame. Does that banner still wave? Is Uncle Sam there? Yes after 911 he is there, still the superhero/mythical figure he's been since James Montgomery Flagg cemented him in our visual memory. In this shot he appears as he has in tons of comics, sleeves rolled up and ready for action, moving out of the clouds, actually to stage left. This allows me to have sort of static action with Lady Liberty in panel six. Even though there is no motion the composition moves to the right, forward. this allowed me to take some, well, liberties with the figure. My interpretation of Lady Liberty is of her more as a mythical figure than an actual statue.
This was a quick piece. A simple page that reads very very fast. More than most of my other comic book work, this is the closest to an editorial illustration. Looking at it now I still think it holds up. Although I did think of redoing the lettering for this post. But, that would be cheating.
NEXT WEEK on Hey Kids, Comics…Camper Van Beethoven comics! and That Gum You Like!


NineInchNachos said...

you draw the best hands. Rock on.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious, did DH know what your rationale was for the "mash-up" text? One tends to suspect that they may not have gone with it if A) they didn't "get" it, or B) they would think that the reader wouldn't "get" it. Wouldn't be the first time editorial decisions were based on underestimating the intellect of the reader.

Jesse Marinoff Reyes

Stan Shaw said...

Thanks, I can be lazy about hands, but on this page I did do my homework.
I'm not at all sure. The whole thing went so fast, and I had minimal contact with the editor, so I never explained the page. I figured I got bumped due to space considerations.

Jesse Marinoff Reyes said...

I think my "B" theory may apply here. I'm sure space may've been a consideration, but then the editor(s) would weigh their perceptions of a piece--and if the art is equal, the fallback criteria would be the text. And trust me, it's rare when editors think beyond the obvious.

Jesse Marinoff Reyes