Entries tagged “comicon.”

Letters to Sergio

Sergio Aragonés is my favorite cartoonist and creator of my favorite comic book series, Groo the Wanderer. I’ve been a fan ever since I found a second-hand copy of In MAD We Trust!, and quickly fell in love with the spontaneity, wit and inventiveness of his work. It’s just so effortlessly hilarious.

A gaggle of Groos greet Sergio at Comic-Con 2007. (That’s my dad and I front and center!)

 Today is Sergio’s birthday, so I thought I’d share a letter of mine that saw print in issue 11 of Sergio Aragonés Funnies a few months back:

Dear Sergio,

As a longtime fan of your work, I can’t overstate what a treat it is to read each and every issue of Funnies. Your pantomime gags, Plop!-esque vignettes and delightfully jam-packed puzzles crack me up without fail, but the autobiographical stories are by far my favorite feature. It’s fascinating (and a lot of fun) to read accounts of your amazing life experiences, each bursting at the seams with your signature expressiveness, hilarity and warmth.

Your work continues to entertain and inspire me, and this comic is a treasure. Thank you for drawing it!

Your pal,
Tyler Sticka
Portland, OR

 This is actually my second letter printed in a Sergio comic. The first was six years ago in issue two of the Groo miniseries, Hell on Earth. It was a tad less reverent:

Dear Groo Crew,

Thank you for allowing me the fantastic opportunity to meet almost all of you at the 2007 Comic-Con in celebration of Groo’s twenty-fifth anniversary. Sergio’s my cartooning idol, and it was amazing to show him in-person the Groo illustration I did for the souvenir book.

More importantly, I’d like to thank you for returning to this character after such a long absence. Not because I enjoy reading his adventures and laughing out loud every issue; surely you’re all too bright to buy that sort of half-hearted line of transparent compliments. No sirs, I’m thanking you for providing the structure my life so desperately needs and, up until recently, the gourd-nosed one so diligently provided.

You see, earlier this year I tracked down the last Groo comic I needed. I had all of them, every story, in English. The pursuit of this goal had taken me through all the ups and downs of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood (the latter term applied loosely given the fact that I still read comic books). As my initial excitement for this accomplishment waned, I found myself grasping for some sort of permanence and, having been abandoned by the pursuit of the last telling of that first joke, I spiraled into an abyss of disappointment and shame. Where once I was a wildly successful millionaire philanthropist with the world at my fingertips, my motivation now dissolved until I found my only professional pursuit to be that most deplorable of occupations: cartoonist. My mental state also worsened, as I complained to my psychotherapist of strange urges to change my name “Gary Grossman” and start hunting for copies of Groo in Tahiti.

But now, Groo is coming back! Normalcy will be restored and my life will regain balance. Perhaps soon I’ll finally land that much more respectable job as a puppy fur broker, maybe even move out of this box (which is already snug due to all the Groo comics). Thank you Sergio, Mark, Stan and Tom for answering my prayers.

Gradually stabilizing,
Tyler Sticka

P.S. You’ll be receiving an invoice for the sum total of psychiatric bills incurred as a result of your elongated “break.”

(You’ll have to track down that issue to read Mark Evanier’s response.)

Here’s the artwork that was published in that year’s black-and-white Comic-Con souvenir book:

I met Sergio at the convention. He was very nice and extremely encouraging, which explains my record-breaking grin in this photo:

There’s a brand-new Groo miniseries in publication right now that pits the titular swordsman against the legendary Conan (the barbarian, not the talk-show host). It’s available digitally or at a comic shop near you (if you’re in the Portland area, my favorites are Excalibur and Floating World).

Feliz Cumpleaños, Sergio! Thanks again for so many laughs!

25 Years of Usagi Yojimbo

Creativity runs in my family, though not always as obviously expressed as through a career in art and design. I can recall countless projects undertaken by my parents, my mom’s strength being idea generation and my dad’s being execution. I dig the way my parents design their house, yards and living spaces; always warm, creative, modern and comfortable.

Oftentimes these projects would be built from scratch or from something salvageable from an antique store or garage sale. It wasn’t that they couldn’t afford to buy brand spanking new materials. They loved giving these discarded objects a new lease on life beyond what you could purchase new off a store shelf. When I take on projects like repairing and improving a broken iPod, I believe I have them to blame thank.

Growing up, I was a daydreamer. To this day I have a terrible sense of direction, partially because I was never really aware of the world outside the car window. I was too busy conjuring images of ninjas, aliens, robots, superheros and dinosaurs to pay attention to things like intersections and traffic. Similarly I was never fully cognizant of what my parents were looking for in any particular antique store, so much as I was engrossed in the task of finding comic books.

One flea market in particular held many such treasures. It was where I found my second issue of Groo and the Space Ghost one-shot by Mark Evanier and Steve Rude. Most importantly, it was where I discovered my first issue of Usagi Yojimbo.

This was fantastic! My young eyes were dazzled by the economy and expressiveness of the drawings while my mind was engaged and enamored with the authentic Japanese history infused with a hardy sense of adventure and fun. Here was a comic accessible to me, but which didn’t talk down to me. I was in love!

Many years later at San Diego Comic Con, I had the opportunity to meet the man behind Usagi, Stan Sakai, and express my admiration. To my delight, I found him both friendly and humble. His stories alone earn him such a large audience, yet his level of graciousness emphasizes how deserving he really is.

This year, Usagi celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary. Members of the Usagi Yojimbo Dojo (a wonderful community-led forum in which Stan is an active participant) decided to put together a gift for Stan comprised of artwork, letters and congratulations from many of his appreciative fans.

While I was unable to attend this year’s Comic Con where fans presented the gift to Stan, I’m thankful to have contributed to the impressive, three-volume tome. I’m also thankful to Michael Takahara for publishing a video of the event (and for subsequently posting it to Vimeo for me to use here).

Read the rest of this entry…

There’s a 68.71 percent chance Tron Legacy will be awesome

With events featuring the vocal cast of Spongebob Squarepants, spotlights on John Kricfalusi and Brian Lee O’Malley and a conversation between Henry Selick and Neil Gaiman, it’s an understatement to say I feel like a total idiot for missing this year’s San Diego Comicon. Thank goodness for the Internet, which allows gems like this trailer for Tron Legacy to escape from the sold-out convention center’s clutches.

The original Tron is as visually arresting as it is flawed. The look of the film pioneered computer-generated effects and captured the imagination of a young John Lasseter, thusly influencing the course of animation history forever. It occupies a space in the geek lexicon somewhere in proximity to Hackers, The Matrix and the original Star Wars trilogy, yet fails spectacularly in communicating the human element of all those films. Despite a wonderful cast (with Jeff Bridges and David Warner predictably stealing the show), the abundant computer metaphors are too abstract to lend nuance to a script filled with awkward dialog and methodical exposition.

We forgive it because it looks so darn cool.

If this footage is indicative of what Tron Legacy holds for viewers, I think we’re in for a treat. They’ve progressed the look of the first film without needlessly polishing all the edges. They’ve retained Jeff Bridges as the principal human character. Most importantly, they appear to have injected the plot with a greater sense of intrigue and acceleration.

I can’t wait!

Art as conversation and the power of cartooning

Groo and Buddy HollyI was grinning ear-to-ear as I walked up to Sergio Aragonés at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, opened the souvenir book to a page of the Groo 25th Anniversary section and proudly proclaimed “I drew this.”

Sergio was one of the first cartoonists I had been exposed to outside the traditional newspaper page, initially by my father who helped me a acquire a second-hand copy of the paperback In MAD We Trust! While many of my tastes have changed since, I’ve never lost my love for Sergio’s deceptively economic line work and an impeccable ability to distill basic human nature and emotion to its most effective (and humorous) form.

Cartooning is powerful and possesses a uniquely universal resonance because it focuses on the important aspects of an object and omits what isn’t relatable. As Scott McCloud said in his fantastic book Understanding Comics, “By stripping down an image to its essential ‘meaning,’ an artist can amplify that meaning in a way that realistic art can’t.”

Though my opinions are constantly evolving, I’ve recently noticed that this philosophy carries through all aspects of the aesthetic works I enjoy. While I can admire the craft evident in representational artworks (especially that of David and da Vinci), I gravitate much more powerfully toward modern art movements such as impressionism, cubism, expressionism, futurism and modernism itself. While I attempt to maintain a fairly eclectic collection of music, I am hopelessly enthralled with rock and roll.

What do cartooning and animation in visual entertainment, modernism in art and design and rock and roll in music all have in common? All three respect a conversational view of art and communication. Purely representational works are mind-blowing for the events they describe and their impeccable level of detail, but they allow little room for personal interpretation. On the opposite side of the spectrum, more arbitrary works operating on pure expressiveness provide little foothold for comprehension. Conversational artworks are those possessing enough elements to interest, inform and/or enlighten the viewer, but with enough mystique that the audience might impart their own experiences and insight.

Like any good conversation, the best art is give and take. Of course, I maintain the prerogative to change my mind.