Bullpen Boot-Camp #1: Stan Lee
Stranski by Lorenzo Etherington
As well as drawing a couple of extra projects along side Slang Pictorial I've also started doing a bit more writing lately. It's all been comics criticism as opposed to scripting stories but it feels good to be able to stretch those muscles again. The latest thing I finished was a short appreciation of a phenomenal book that I recently backed on Kickstarter, and which will be appearing in a forthcoming issue of PanelxPanel. For now tho, you can read my capsule review here for what is undoubtedly a contender for my Book-Of-The-Year:
Lorenzo Etherington's "Stranski", an appreciation by Nick Prolix
The French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss coined the term bricolage to describe the combinatorial ingenuity of folk cultures for re-purposing the found materials at hand in new and unforeseen ways. Think of the street art sold by West African craftspeople who fashion toy cars from recycled Coke cans and think also of the glorious mash-ups that make up the cargo-cult aesthetic that is Lorenzo Etherington’s South Seas fantasia, Stranski, his first self-published hardcover art book.
The conceit of the book is that it is a collection of fictional ephemera, an art book showcasing what remains of the concept art, production stills and merchandising mock-ups that once accompanied the creation of a long-since lost, animated feature. Every imaginary building, vehicle and costume design in the anthropomorphic world of Stranski is a hodge-podge assemblage of WWII army surplus, tiki carvings, and pop surrealism, the devious improvisation of a Wile E. Coyote death-trap held together with belt-straps, jungle vines and hoodoo markings all rendered in gorgeous four-colour process and delineated with Lorenzo’s impeccable line and a true aficionado’s eye for retro design.
The genius of Stranski is Lorenzo’s mastery of the bricoleur’s art, both in his melding of different influences and disparate styles - from the gorgeous line work of a Lee Elias to the lolloping cartooning and lush jungle-scapes of Franquin - into something utterly surprising and new, but equally it is in his understanding that just as important as what you put in, is what you leave out. By not giving you all the answers, Stranski does what all great art promises, it leaves just enough of an imaginary space for the reader to dive headfirst and fill in those gaps for herself.
This past Sunday I fulfilled another comics first for me which was to appear as a guest on a comics podcast. I've been listening to The Awesome Comics Podcast for about a year-and-a-half I'd say and it very quickly became one of the staples of my weekly podcast diet. Many a Monday evening drive home from work has been accompanied by the good humour and creative insights of the three hosts and the guests they interview.
For anyone that doesn't know, the Awesome Comics crew consists of Vince Hunt, creator of The Red Mask From Mars and I can safely say, one of the most positive people on the UK small press scene; Dan Butcher, creator of British superhero comic Vanguard and someone who really knows how to put out quality product at an eye-watering pace; and Down The Tubes contributor and my fellow Cockney Kung Fu collaborator, Tony Esmond, whose weekly capsule reviews on the podcast regularly impress with the depth of attention and breadth of knowledge he brings to the work of the indie creators he cheerfully champions. As you can probably tell, I'm a big fan of the show, which is one of the very few podcasts out there that interviews UK comics creators and which in a period of fly-by-night pods and johnny-come-lately casters really stands out by having managed, at least to my knowledge, an unbroken schedule of weekly shows since its' inception.
So it was a real privilege and an absolute pleasure to be a guest on this week's show which you can listen to here and in your pod-catcher of choice. I had a great time and a proper giggle with Vince and Tony and we talked about process, collaboration and good comics and as you can hear in the out-takes, I laughed a lot, and not only at my own jokes! The gang also have a facebook group where you can take part in lively chat between episodes with fellow comics fans and creators, which I heartily recommend, in fact, I created a Facebook profile just so I could join in. Tony and I also mention our weekly Cockney Kung Fu newsletter which you can sign-up for and read past issues of here.