Kampung1. Tom Spurgeon posted his “50 Best Comics of 2006” before I did, just like last year, and just like last year, I wanna get up off my ass and actually get mine done (it’s currently in spreadsheet format). His top 10 comics are probably different than my own, though I think his appreciation of Kampung Boy in awarding it the top spot is good, and makes a lot of sense. As I said in my review (Nov 12 entry) of the book:

“Lat is Malaysia’s Will Eisner, a ground-breaking graphic novelist whose deeply personal stories about society, family, and religion, speak to us all.”

2. Do you people care about Video Game stuff? I do, but I don’t want to assume too much. Still, the Grand Theft Auto series had a serious impact on my personal life, and it’s done much to popularise crime-based narratives in the past few years in comics, so I figure the news of the new Grand Theft Auto 4 Trailer breaking late last week is of interest. It’s set in “New York” this time out, and the NY media are already over it with angry folks at City Hall pitching 3 kinds of fits. Sounds to me like the game is gonna be a hit!

3. I don’t like Project: Rooftop. There, I said it. I’m sick of seeing talented creators feed their time, creativity, and intellectual property into revitalising trademarked characters, and for free, no less. I understand the memes that this site sprang out of, out of the cultural response to and reclamation of popular culture, and I still think it’s a little misguided and unfortunate (it’s a short step from that to HAL’S EMERALD ATTACK TEAM) but at least memes aren’t institutionalised like this. I wasn’t going to go and strap myself to a target like this, but this morning Warren Ellis started up a similar thread on The Engine, inviting participants there to redesign Witchblade as an artistic exercise, and then pointing out that the Editor of Witchblade is on the forum, and it just gave me a chill. How fortunate that all of you artists get to be cheap research and design for trademark holders. How fun.

If you’re a smart and talented artist, first and foremost do whatever the hell you like. But if you’re here reading this and you give a shit about what I have to say, then please invest your creativity and skill into your own work, which you own.

- Christopher, Killjoy


19 Comments on “Just catching up with a few things…”

You can track this conversation through its atom feed.

  1. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I actually thought of you, Chris, right after I posted it, because of your posting on how no one had any webcomics in their best of lists. I had to go back and see if I did.

  2. Chris says:

    And you did!

    We agree on Achewood too, which is nice. No one in the comics blogosphere really talked about how batshit insane the GOF was, and how expertly put together too. The current storyline, with gay porn being the new straight porn, is pretty excellent too. :)

  3. Dean Trippe says:

    That’s okay, we’ll take the hits anyway, Chris. ;)

    To be fair, though, most folks who send us stuff have their own projects in the works and do warm up sketches of random stuff everyday anyway. Making one of those a new take on a familiar superhero (with no background, even) isn’t that big of a commitment. Heck, most of us have dozens of these things just lying around.

  4. Chris Arrant says:

    The people that submit to Project:Rooftop do so out of their own volition, putting their creative chops towards something outside of their normal field. As writers (bloggers esp.) offer their opinion on matters with words, I see this as artists doing the same with illustrations.

    Saying that creative people should only work on work they own or get profit is a rather monday morning quarterbacking approach to it all, and stands out to me with your support of the He-Man/She-Ra art show you blogged about and also writing

  5. Chris says:

    Dean & Chris- A warm-up sketch is a warm-up sketch, and again, do whatcha like. But inviting people to participate and grading the entries tends to both invite and imply quite a bit of effort.

    And the issue isn’t doing things for free, but of ownership and creative direction. I support artists in their passion, and if their passion is giving away their best ideas for free to corporations who have gone out of their way to squelch ownership and enforce unfair copyrights, then by all means, follow your muse. If on the other hand, you want to paint He-Man to raise money for children afflicted with Leukemia, you know, go ahead on that front too, but I’ll probably personally offer a little more support. Maybe that’s hypocritical of me, seeing the difference between revitalising someone’s copyright pro-bono, an otherwise paying job that companies compensate artists for all the time, and using popular culture in a fine-arts context (and it’s worth noting that those works likely enjoy considerably more protections than do the works that appear on P:R) to raise money for charity? If so, then I’m a hypocrite.

  6. Dean Trippe says:

    Not hypocritical at all, man. And it’s okay that you don’t dig P:R. I feel like you’re a little hung up on the fact that its not a paying gig, though. As an independent comicker, I’ve done far more time consuming and challenging projects that paid little to nothing, often for webcomic projects, sometimes even for notable publishers. Taking a break from paying/published gigs to draw some undiluted fanart is sometimes a welcome relief, man.

    One reason I like P:R (and founded it) is that as an artist, I think costume design is its own skill, and should be treated as such. I enjoy fashion and have some experience in theatre, and I was heavily influenced by Alex Ross and Bruce Timm’s superhero redesigns of the 90′s. So as an artist who was weaned on some of the best redesigns in superhero history, things like dog-collar Kyle Rayner and stripper Supergirl and Iron Spidey have been pretty insulting. Rather than allowing whoever is hired to pencil a specific series to radically redesign characters, I think the BIG TWO should have expert costume designers for major characters. There are mainstream artists who are specifically good at this, like Jim Cheung and Darwyn Cooke.

    Secondly, the best thing about Rooftop is that we spotlight these talented folks who should be getting snatched up by major publishers (Big Two or otherwise), and help network creators themselves together. Our site gets a lot more hits than most of our contributors’ blogs, and we’re happy to share the traffic.

    So as the dude that helped kick off the Draw Batgirl meme, the recent Draw Supergirl meme, and founded P:R, I obviously disagree with you, but really do understand where you’re coming from. I personally want to see more paying gigs or creator-owned projects from every one of the artists we’ve spotlighted. I just don’t feel like what we’re doing takes up much time on the contributors’ part, or is a waste of what time it takes, since a P:R post is often pretty good p.r. ;)

  7. Joel Priddy says:

    My $.02: Project Rooftop is fandom, pure and simple. A big part of the appeal of escapist fare is projecting yourself into that world. If you read comics as a kid, I bet you also pulled out the crayons and drew superheroes. That’s all that’s going on. I have no interest in doing work-for-hire at any of the mainstream publishers on any of their properties, but I do enjoy fiddling with them in my sketchbook, once in a while.

    And it’s an opportunity to vent about whatever fannish dissatisfactions you might have. It’s pretty much typical blog/chatroom grousing, only visual. I agree that if P:R were sponsored by DC, or if the publishers were actually poaching our redesigns, then it would be an entirely different kettle of fish.

    Have all the P:R editors chimed in now? What’s the hold up, Vito?

    And yeah, Kampung Boy is great. I hope we’ll be getting a lot more of Lat’s work in English, soon.

  8. Warren Ellis says:

  9. Chris says:

    Dean: No, I’m sorry, I don’t think you are understanding me. I’m not hung up on the fact that it’s not a paying gig, I could give two shits about that. Payment is not the same as compensation. As a dude who’s been writing on the internet for free for 10 years and who’s done his fair share of time consuming and challenging comics projects that paid little-to-nothing, I don’t care. Honestly. But I know that every word I ever wrote is mine, forever, or at least until I decide to sign it away to someone. My choice, my property, my compensation. I’m really sorry if you don’t seem to get that, you seem like a nice guy who maybe isn’t familiar with comics history, but it’s littered with the corpses of people who did what you’re doing. There are plenty (plenty) of artists who’ve done a redesign, pitched a series or a revamp, or even a whole line of comics only to be rejected and have their shit done anyway, with their work going uncreditted and unpaid for. By hacks.

    There’s a great big “Yet” floating over everything you’ve posted, Dean. Everyone’s having fun, no one’s been screwed over. Yet. It could never happen; DC and Marvel’s editorial and publishing departments, not to mention every single freelancer that is, has been, or ever will be employed by them could be the most ethical people in the world, who would never dream of appropriating the work featured on your site, claiming it as their own, and then telling you to fuck off. That day could never come, however unlikely that it is. But that it might happen? Isn’t that enough to make you NOT want to inspire people to participate?

    If that’s what you honestly want, to break into mainstream comics so badly that you’re willing to give your time, energy, and creativity away not only for free, but at the detriment of other work (whether it takes ‘just a little time’ or not)? Like I said, go right ahead. That’s your right as an artist. But to inspire others to do the same? That’s downright shitty.

    Joel: My sketchbooks have pages and pages of redesigns for the Teen Titans. Wonder Girl’s costumes have always been atrocious in particular, and I like my redesign a lot. I’ve got a whole pitch for a series of teen X-Men, it’s actually really great, in my head at least. I’m happy to bitch about nerd shit, but I’m not gonna do it online. The worst feeling in the world is someone stealing your idea… it feels crummy when you know there’s no way that it could have happened; sometimes two (or more) people just have the same idea and that’s life. But when the possibility exists that it could? That feels so, so much shittier.

    Warren: One humourous submission 23 messages in after 10+ serious, reasonably innovative redesigns. I thought this was the same reason you’ve been on-and-off LiveJournal, people posting original IP in the comments and you not wanting a goddamned thing to do with it?

  10. Dean Trippe says:

    I realize now that we’re not having the pleasant disagreement I thought we were. It’s clear you don’t know very much about me or my cadre of P:R reviewers, or the motivations of our contributors.

    I respect your opinion on this…which I guess is the difference between us.

  11. jesus christ says:

    wait? you weren’t online when GTA4 trailer just crashed everyone? Honestly you missed that? Serveres were brought down to their knees from the the massive amount of viewers logging on. That was a serious problem. There was a moment where you had to have been there where you hoped to see something amazing before the simple 40 seconds of no gameplay, cars models riding on rails, bump mapping on clothing, and particle systems generating buildings.

    About Project Rooftop.
    Do you know how many people don’t like to exercise in any medium? No matter if it benefited them, they didn’t want to practice their own skills. There are millions of artists who don’t want to go to coffee shop and draw people walking by. There are millions of artists who don’t want to step outside into a farm and study animals, there are millions of artists out there who don’t want to study french archtectures, they don’t want to study perspective, they don’t want to study anatomy, they don’t want study color, and form, composition, fashion, facial expression, line weight, motion, art history, ect.
    Go to any art school, there are students spending well over $40,000 of their parent’s money, and the majority are skipping their life drawing classes to huddle around their computer to see the latest fan-sub anime.
    Regadless if it’s copywriten characters, it gets people to exercise.
    You know what that makes them a better artist for it.

  12. henri says:

    Hello,
    Saw this on my rss feed. Felt compelled to post a comment because I m one of the guys who jumped in the witchblade thread on the engine. (The guy who made the overdosed photoshop cthulhu girl) but i work in a totally different industry and am really an outsider to the whole thing. Hence the hopefully interesting take on the matter.

    I’m not trying to get an illustration gig. I m not even an illustrator, I can’t draw for peanuts. What I am is an FX artist so i know my way around images (24 of them every second) in an ok way.
    I hang around the engine because it is an insanely creative and reflexive community. Things happen in there.
    Let me take an example from a totally other field .
    There is another forum called highend2d/highend3d for people working in the holywood fx industry, where I hang. You think free witchblade concepts are a problem ? On this forum people share their FX techniques, how they did their shots. Free. We are talking an FX sequence at 300 dollars a frame here.
    But no one there complains about “explaining to someone else freely how to do an FX shot”. For the simplest of reasons : we are professionals, and we know by sharing these techniques and reading about them, we as workers grow in skillsets.
    also in cg, if you’re not sharing AND complaining, you’re kinda of an ass.
    back to P : RT and the engine. It is fan art. I would never have posted anything (not an illustrator, not in the comics industry) if it wasn’t for the crazy energy warren’s post oozes. Just look at the thread, the ball is rolling, people are posting slicker an slicker entries because a friendly competitive “oh oh look at what I have in my head” thing is going on. This is what we look for. Not only to check what people can come up with, but what I can come up with after seeing all the insanely great entries.
    Also, you shouldn’t steal responsibility and work ethics from the people posting to P : RT or the engine thread. They are not stupid. If they decide to share there concepts on the interweb, they know it’s a freebie, and they know it’s going to be checked out by the industry, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. Never heard of Rob Levin before he made me cry laughing with his witchblade. Now I plan on buying his books.
    P : RT is about the people, get them talking , showing their stuff. The idea is just an excuse.
    Revamping power girl, revamping witchblade ? please. it’s the creative equivalent of “Kids, everybody ? draw a house. Let’s see how you see houses. ”

    cheers, now i m off to check your site :)

  13. Diana says:

    Whoa, the internet is serious business. =/

    Two sides of thought here for me: I don’t think the big two will steal my idea and I don’t like the idea of graded fanart…

    Honestly, those guys at DC and Marvel don’t want most of the ideas I’ve seen for these “redesign a superhero” memes. For one thing most of them are all too practical and not slutty… er sexy enough.

    For another a lot of the people drawing these pictures are not in anyway DC or Marvel’s demographic. I mean I drew Batgirl… and I haven’t paid for a superhero comic in over ten years that wasn’t an elseworlds, also I’m a girl, they don’t want my ideas. Here take a look at it, I don’t think I have anything to worry about: http://www.ghostcircles.com/dxs/archives/art/i-draw-the-batgirl/ Also as marketing tool, I can’t imagine it would be of any use to the big two either as most of the commenters don’t agree on what would be the best outfit at all.

    It seems like Project Rooftop is mostly a fandom thing both for people who like superheroes and people who would like superheroes if it was somehow made for them and thus not like what the other people like about superheroes. Most of the people probably want the attention that it generates and the ability to put their wacky super hero ideas down where others can see them in context to what they wish the superheroes would be like. I don’t know about getting a real comic job from it… and ERGH, I can’t imagine graded fanart… /=O

    Getting to the thieving question, there is always the possibility of losing control of an idea if you post up anything anywhere ever, draw anything physically, write stuff down, or talk about your idea to anyone. If you don’t want people to have the possibility of stealing your idea the best way to avoid that is to not ever draw it or talk about it… but I kind of think that’s a bit extreme myself.

    Honestly, if anything the people posting have more to worry about their fellow artist using the design for something non-licensed. Every single one of the people I know who had someone steal their ideas in real life, the thieving was done by people the artist knew personally or had pitched ideas to for a paying gig. =[ The random internet thieving companies are really rare, it could still happen but it’s sort of like getting hit by a meteor, it’s not likely.

    Where was I going with this…? Hmm, well anyway those are my thoughts on this. I’m not personally a big fan of graded fanart but I don’t think there will be much thieving either.

    -Diana

  14. Adam Aylard says:

    Chris, I thought I should chime in as someone who has just started to do a couple of memes and is thinking about doing a Rooftop spot. I doing it because it’s fun and it keeps me drawing. And I realize the possibility of somebody poaching my ideas (however unlikely) for one of these trademarked characters and I really don’t care; because I don’t ever really intend on working in mainstream comics.

    And I kinda hope they do steal some of the ideas from Rooftop, because quite frankly a lot of the stuff the big two are putting out now isn’t very good (in my opinion). And I think Rooftop was partial founded in the hopes that the big two would notice and see it as the public knocking on their door and saying “stop dicking around , and start putting some actual work in your properties.”

  15. Dustin Drase says:

    As a complete outsider, it seems that the main arguments here are thus:

    Chris: Revamping costumes of franchise owned characters without monetary compensation is a waste of time, and will most likely end up in the ideas being stolen by the owners of the characters.

    Dean and the Project Rooftop editors: Posting some sketches and costume ideas of beloved characters on the P:R site, is for artists, very much akin to discussing it via words on a blog. The P:R is done from a love of the medium and gives the artists more recognition than they would normally get on their own.

    I’d have to say that I find the efforts of the P:R staff to be exceptionally admirable. As someone who cannot draw, it’s fascinating to see the process in which artists go through when really interpreting the characters. The dialogue and critique process only serves to help strenghten and improve my own thoughts on comic characters. If anything were to be “stolen” from this exchange of ideas, then it will probably be for the best. Analyzing the costumes behind some of the most recognizable characters in comics truly does invite some fascinating discussions.

    Chris, as someone who has also toiled away as a writer for various internet publications for close to a decade without pay, I definitely understand your point about compensation and ownership. However, I can see the artistic benefit of participating on P:R as one of growth for the artists. Add to that, something I think you have obviously missed about the site….it’s fun! Just as writing about your favorite new record, or book or whatever, has some inherent joy in sharing your love with others, so too does adding your sense of style to characters that endeared you to the medium in the first place.

  16. Chris says:

    If you’re a smart and talented artist, first and foremost do whatever the hell you like. But if you’re here reading this and you give a shit about what I have to say, then please invest your creativity and skill into your own work, which you own.”

    …and I’m done.

  17. JessFink says:

    SO PR is to blame if a corporation steals an artist’s idea? That’s bull. It’s a fan site, it’s for shits and giggles. Any corporation could ripp off anyone they want. T-shirt designs that I’ve gotten paid for have been ripped off, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop making them and it doesn’t make up for the feeling of being ripped off.
    If you don’t like PR don’t make it personal, just don’t go there.

  18. markus says:

    what Chris said concerning P:R

  19. Tinderblast says:

    “I’m really sorry if you don’t seem to get that, you seem like a nice guy who maybe isn’t familiar with comics history, but it’s littered with the corpses of people who did what you’re doing.”

    It’s not that you’re not raising a valid concern, Chris, but DUDE. Overweening superiority at six o’clock! Are you actually trying to convince Dean and the other P:R folks, or just getting your shots in?

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