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To view online veLEVINLAND PROMO MAG.v2rsion of the LevinLand Magazine Portfolio click on cover or here.

This is the digital home of the ‘Illustrators Journal’ (dot) com, a place where you can  see great art, photography and read insights of the proprietor for those interested in the art of illustration, animation and creative expression through narrative design.

I’m looking forward to keeping you updated on the art of illustration and my experience on the road to meeting my expectations and  goals for the future

Please join in the fun, and do consider subscribing to our blog!

Millenials Like Their Comics, Graphic Novels and Gaming


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dia_0071.sqNow that I have your attention I’ll admit that this photo I took has nothing to do with whether Millenials are hooked on Comics or Graphic Novels.  However, it is in line with what captures their eyes and appeals to their “hit me with your best shot” sensibility.

The explosion of imagery in our society in the last 25 years via internet and mass media has made it difficult to capture the interest of anyone without assaulting their senses. Colorful, disturbing and fantastical art or photography is king.

Perhaps it’s always been this way and only now with access to seemingly everything from around the world at lightening speed we are seeing things that were only available to those who scoured libraries, museums or newsstands.

This is the world Millenials have grown up in. This is normal. Is it any different for Boomers who grew up hooked on TV, who see the role as if it’s a TV series unfolding before there eyes. Perhaps this is the reason Donald Trump is so appealing. He’s reality star who has cast himself in the biggest reality series now on TV, The Presidential Election!

So, is Millenial fascination with with popular culture pastimes a problem or merely part of the progression of our society? As an artist I think anyone who spends part of their time reading comics, graphic novels or playing X-Box is healthy as long as their time is balanced out between this activity and the rest of life. If they’re sitting in front of a computer screen dressed in pajamas all day and eating Cheetos™ by the handful then perhaps they have a problem.

Below is an article that gives insight into Millenial behavior when it comes to popular culture…

Saul DeGrew (Mother Jones) surveys the various complaints people have about the Millennial generation. Here’s one:

Another part of the Millennial complaint brigade is complaining about how they are still into videogames, comic books, and other activities from their childhood….I admit that I find this aspect of the Millennials staying Kids debate to be a bit troublesome but that is probably my own snobbery and cultural elitism coming in more than anything else. I don’t quite understand how explosion and bang wow movies are still big among a good chunk of the over-30 set.

Forget videogames: that’s a huge industry that spans all generations these days. Their popularity says nothing about arrested adulthood. But I was curious: just how many Millennials are still reading comic books? Not just “interested” in comics or willing to see the latest X-Men movie. DeGrew may not like “bang wow” movies, but they’ve been a pretty standard part of Hollywood’s product mix forever, and the current fad for superhero bang wow movies doesn’t say much of anything about Millennial culture in particular.

So: how many actual readers of comic books are there among Millennials? I don’t know, but here’s a guess:

  1. Diamond Comic Distributors sold about 84 million comics in 2013. Diamond is damn near a monopoly, but it’s not a total monopoly, and that number is only for the top 300 titles anyway. So let’s round up to 100 million.
  2. That’s about 8 million per month. Some comic fans buy two or three titles a month, others buy 20 or 30. A horseback guess suggests that the average fan buys 5-10 per month.
  3. That’s maybe 1.5 million regular fans, give or take. If we figure that two-thirds are Millennials, that’s a million readers.
  4. The total size of the Millennial generation is 70 million. But let’s be generous and assume that no one cares if teenagers and college kids are still reading comics. Counting only those over 22, the adult Millennial population is about 48 million.
  5. So that means about 2 percent of adult Millennials are regular comic book readers. (If you just browse through your roomie’s stash sporadically without actually buying comics, you don’t count.)

I dunno. I’d say that 2 percent really isn’t much. Sure, superheroes pervade popular culture in a way they haven’t before, though they’ve always been popular. Adults watched Superman on TV in the 50s, Batman on TV in 60s, and Superman again on the big screen in the 80s. But the rise of superhero movies in the 90s and aughts has as much to do with the evolution of special effects as with superheroes themselves. Older productions couldn’t help but look cheesy. Modern movies actually make superheroes look believable. Science fiction movies have benefited in the same way.

In any case, superheroes may be a cultural phenomenon of the moment—just ask anyone who tries to brave the San Diego Comic-Con these days—but even if you accept the argument that reading comics is ipso facto a marker of delayed adulthood1, the actual number of Millennials who do this is pretty small. So chill out on the comics, Millennial haters.

Graphic Novels Every Girl Should Read


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Above an episode from “The Kid From Beverly Hills” by Lon Levin


There are parts of Mary Rockcastle’s experience I relate to even though I’m a man. I too remember hiding my artistic bent from my friends and others because of the stigma my father laid on me about being artistic. He assured me something was wrong with me and the only men he ever knew that were artists were set directors (code for gay). Looking back on it I can’t help but wonder if my father ever went to a museum or was aware of Chagall, Picasso, Da Vinci, etc

It is true I did not feel I had to hide my Superman comics or my Mad magazines, although my Archie and Richie Rich comics were hidden away. So now when I see an article like the one below I am dumbfounded that this is an issue. I shouldn’t be given the current state of affairs in our world and our country (Trump and his women-hating followers) but I am. So in a small way I’d like to be part of the solution instead of the problem.

I love creating artwork for my webcomic/graphic novel panels “The Kid From Beverly Hills” I have respect for anyone, male or female who travels down the same road. Their experiences and point-of-view is essential to our collective understanding of culture in the 21st century.


Persepolis lead

By Mary Rockcastle – Graphic novels were my gateway into comic books. When I was young I felt a thick stigma surrounding the comic book world during the time when I actually cared what my peers thought of me.

I remember scurrying back and forth between the Comics section of my local bookstore and the aisle behind it, darting away whenever anyone else would notice me there. My hopeless curiosity got to me, and I quickly became hooked on the graphic novel medium.

I am by no means an expert, but these graphic novels are some of the best for women both young and old. Graphic novels, especially graphic memoirs, tend to fall into the category of “men-who-reflect-on-the-manic-pixie-dream-girl-who-dumped-them,” and once you’ve read one, you’ve really read them all. That’s why we need to support female driven graphic novels with rich stories and lady protagonists.

Here are the nine I think every girl should read in her lifetime:


Ghost World
Written & illustrated by Daniel Clowes

The perfect graphic novel for the angry teenage punk in all of us. Ghost World follows the mundane day-to-day lives of two recent high school grads Enid and Rebecca. First published in 1997, the book was adapted into a critically acclaimed film in 2001. However, where the movie tries to defy the line between cynically intellectual and box office darling, the book is rich in genuine angst and the relatable emotions that come with life changes. Ghost World is a vital read for all ladies, reformed and current punks especially.


Written & illustrated by Ellen Forney

Ellen Forney is one of the women who reaffirm my quest to become an illustrator. Marbles is the memoir of Ellen’s life with bipolar disorder, through the intense highs of mania and the unbearable lows of depression. I have to admit I’m slightly biased including this book on the list as a woman with bipolar disorder, but the book is relatable and honest in a way I’ve never seen before in the format.


Written & illustrated by Marjane Satrapi

Another autobiographical graphic novel, Persepolis is a coming of age story set in the author’s home country of Iran during the Islamic revolution. The story comes in two parts, one depicting her childhood and the other focuses on coming into adulthood. Heralded as one of the best graphic novels of all time, this book is a vital read for every woman, even if the setting seems too dark or politically charged. Lead image from Persepolis


Anya’s Ghost
Written & illustrated by Vera Brosgol

This award-winning spooky supernatural graphic novel for all ages is one of the loveliest books I’ve picked up in the past five years. The illustrations are creepy but inviting, and the story slowly reveals itself as a girl named Anya who falls into a hole in the forest one day. Underneath it’s fantasy base, Anya’s Ghost focuses on real issues about immigrant children and self esteem.


This One Summer
Written by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

Tied with another book on this list for my favorite graphic novel of 2014, This One Summer is not only beautiful to look at, but beautiful to experience. The book is subtle, following Rose and her friend Windy as they vacation together with their families during early adolescence. The story is soft like a memory but thick and foggy with intense exploration of relationship dynamics.


Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Written & illustrated by Alison Bechdel

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Bechdel Test, the simple test used to verify if a movie has multidimensional female characters in it? This book is written and illustrated by the same Bechdel who invented that test, along with the famous comic series Dykes to Watch out ForFun Home is her personal memoir about her relationship with her father, a funeral director and English teacher. The book revolves around many themes: death, literature, and sexual orientation, and spent multiple weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.


Castle Waiting
Written & illustrated by Linda Medley

This Eisner Award winning graphic novel is a hybrid of old-fashioned storytelling and modern themes. The book focuses on a cast of characters who live together in a castle, telling both their day-to-day lives and their rich backstories. I discovered Castle Waitingby reading a list of feminist-friendly graphic novels and was not disappointed by the underlying themes of gender and sexuality.


Written & illustrated by Marjane Satrapi

Another novel by Satrapi that couldn’t be left off this list is Embroideries, a short book about Marjane and her female family members experiences with romance and sex. The book takes place over tea at her grandmother’s house and is told by each of her family members. Readers can see themselves in at least one of the many rich stories told by the Iranian women in the book.


Through the Woods,
Written & illustrated by Emily Carroll

Tied with This One Summer as my favorite graphic novel of 2014, Through the Woods is a girl-centric compilation of short horror stories. An important read for anyone interested in horror comics or even the graphic novel as a storytelling tool, Through the Woods is thrilling, terrifying, and beautiful.

Graphic Novels Casting a Long Shadow


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Art above by Lon Levin  all right reserved. For more go to http://www.levinlandstudio.com

By Fiona Smyth, painter, illustrator, and cartoonist

In the Comics and Graphic Novels course in OCAD U’s Continuing Studies, I explore and share information about the exciting contemporary comics scene. In recent years the media has rung the death knell of publishing but surprisingly there is a wealth of graphic novels being published.

The biggest trends in comics:

An emerging cartoonist doesn’t have to rely on a large publisher to have their work printed these days:

The comics medium is currently flourishing through self-publishing, smaller publishers, and an insatiable reading audience’s search for stories told by creators outside the mainstream media.

You can learn more by registering for Fiona Smyth’s Comics and Graphic Novels course this summer at OCAD University.

Fiona Smyth is a Toronto based painter, illustrator, and cartoonist. Smyth’s first graphic novel, The Never Weres, was published by Annick Press in 2011. A collection of her Exclaim comics, Cheez 100, was published by Pedlar Press in 2001. She illustrated writer Cory Silverberg’s Kickstarter funded picture book What Makes A Baby in 2012, re-released by Seven Stories Press in 2013.

Graphic Novel Or Webisode?


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KFBH #3As I explore my own version of a graphic novel comic or webisode I am more interested in what is transpiring in this genre. As I explore I will post more and more so that those of you who follow will become more aware of the explosion of new form novels and artwork around us all.

I shook off the shackle of my illustration style a few years ago. I had been doing children’s book illustrations and animations and after three dozen books, most of which I did not enjoy doing I started to fool around with this idea of depicting my story, my history in words and pictures. I’m not really a writer per se even though I have been published as a writer (“Treehouses” published by Globe Pequot Press in 2008) I wanted to accompany my art with words. The logical conclusion was some sort of comic, graphic novel, art mismash. After a few decades of time in the commercial art world as an art director, creative director, animator and illustrator I felt I’d earned the right to do whatever the hell I wanted to do. No rules except the ones I made for myself.

To support this notion I decided I needed to split my time between a “real” profession as my father would say and my artistic exploration. Now after a few years I work as a realtor to support my art. Hence, I am liberated from the grind of wondering how can I sell myself as an artist.

What has evolved is “The Kid From beverly Hills” which I’ve posted here and there and it has gotten favorables reviews by the few who have seen it. AS I evolve, it evolves. The journey is what makes it fun and exciting not the result. More from me later…



Here is a graphic novel list compiled by Sam Thielman of The Guardia

A frame from Adrian Tomine’s Killing and Dying, one of a number of artistically ambitious graphic novels that have come out in recent years.
 A frame from Adrian Tomine’s Killing and Dying, one of a number of artistically ambitious graphic novels that have come out in recent years. Photograph: Faber
I sympathise – with the former query, anyway. The sheer variety in the “graphic novels” section of the bookstore or library contains everything from memoirs to mysteries. Plus, comics have their own grammar and syntax and often, comics fans are exhaustingly absorbed in their own favorite kind of literature, their references like an endless set of matryoshka dolls. A strand of conversation can lead from Doctor Fate to Watchmen to Detective Comics to Optic Nerve, all in a flash.To make matters worse, some of those comics are much more accessible than others. Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home are straightforward and easy to read, though they’re wildly different. Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library, on the other hand, is unapologetically challenging and often involves intricate systems of smaller and smaller pictures that don’t necessarily tell you where to start or stop reading.

Ware, like Dan ClowesCharles Burns and Lynda Barry, is drawing on a very different tradition from superhero artists and writers. It’s a kind of storytelling that evolved out of the “underground” comics movement of the 1960s and 70s, when artists like Robert CrumbAline KominskyS Clay Wilson and others were trying to find ways to make dirty, weird, intensely personal work that had more in common with the iconoclastic fine art of the period than with pulp fiction – the prose genre that birthed the first superheroes. Independent comics used to be considered as disreputable as pornography (maybe more so), but now they’re rightly recognized as fertile ground for artists.

In fact, the two parts of the industry are increasingly coming together. AvatarImageDark HorseDynamite and Boom all publish plenty of creator-owned, artist-driven books. In many cases, they’re by people who made names for themselves writing superhero comics and want to write with more freedom at a place where they own their work. The state of the industry makes for some strange bedfellows: Top Shelf publishes pensive ruminations on life and absurdity by Eddie Campbell and Jennifer Hayden, but they also publish Alan Moore’s action-packed pulp-fiction mash-up The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

For longtime comics fans like me, it’s a kick to see the form evolving in so many fascinating ways. Image in particular has landed right at the nexus of art comics and action comics and produces books driven by beautiful, often hilariously strange art (James Stokoe’s Orc Stain, Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey’s Injection) and old-fashioned high-concept sci-fi action, sometimes on the same page. The innovation is opening up the form to a whole new generation of readers.

Here are the 16 books I recommend to get you started, if you’re so inclined. They’re all in print, they’re all readily available from Powell’s or even a local independent bookstore, and you don’t have to do any preliminary reading to understand them. Happy reading. And looking. And good luck finding space for them all.

The Calculus Affair, by Hergé

The Calculus Affair, by Hergé.

 The Calculus Affair, by Hergé.

All 23 Tintin albums follow the globetrotting boy reporter and his companions, chiefly his dog Snowy and his tipsy, short-tempered sailor friend Captain Haddock. But there’s a long-running debate about which is best; the settings are vastly different, ranging from China to the Moon. My vote is for 1960’s The Calculus Affair, a thrilling and lighthearted story of cold war espionage and a secret weapon in the Balkans.

Hergé’s characters have exaggerated features, but they exist in a meticulously detailed world where there are no misplaced lines or scratchy pencil-work anywhere on the page. Joost Swarte, a cartoonist and illustrator who admires Hergé, coined the term “ligne-claire” (clear-line) to describe it. The phrase didn’t just stick, it came retroactively to describe the whole coterie of cartoonists who came after Hergé, called the Brussels school.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant, by Roz Chast

Roz Chast is probably best known to non-comics readers for her wry and wordy New Yorker covers, and her cartoons for same. You’ve probably seen them – they’re often lists of anxieties and phobias and distractions. In her half-prose, half-comics memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Chast pitilessly itemizes in excruciating and hilarious detail exactly the share of suffering allotted to her beloved parents as they rapidly enter the last years of their lives.

Chast’s sense of humor never deserts her even when her parents’ bodies fail them, and the resulting volume, which won a National Book award, is both an ingenious depiction of a part of life most people studiously avoid thinking about, and a slow-burn dissection of Chast’s own obsessions, and her love of distraction as a momentary respite from entropy.

Ice Haven, by Daniel Clowes

Ice Haven, by Daniel Clowes

Daniel Clowes has been pretty open about his love for both Nabokov and for Charles Schulz’s Peanuts cartoons. In Ice Haven, he combines the two melancholy artists’ styles to beautiful effect.

Clowes’s formidable skill is anything but cold: the little book (only 88 pages) follows the interlocking lives of a few people in a small town and works out childhood fear, teenage ennui and grownup eccentricity. These themes play out across pages designed to look like comic strips from the local newspaper; it’s so subtle and sweet you might not even notice the kidnapping at first.

Top 10, by Alan Moore, Gene Ha and Zander Cannon

Top Ten #2, by Alan Moore, Gene Ha and Zander Cannon

 Top Ten #2, by Alan Moore, Gene Ha and Zander Cannon.

The premise of Top 10 is so fundamentally opposed to the way superhero comics work that most writers would have run from it screaming: what if everyone in town, from the hot dog guy to the mayor, was a superhero? Bursting with flashy costumes, terrific sight gags and all the strange settings you’d need to build a city for such a diverse populace, the book isn’t so much an introduction to superhero comics as it is a hilariously off-kilter sci-fi detective novel.

Top 10 is also some of the most purely fun comics storytelling available, thanks to a first-rate script by ingenious Northampton comics writer Alan Moore and art by Gene Ha and Zander Cannon. The three work together as seamlessly as a jazz trio: The story is a complex procedural involving multiple murders that follows our heroine, Robyn, as she joins the force and gets used to having a boss who’s a dog, a partner who’s a Viking and a workplace filled with drinking buddies who range from the figuratively hotheaded to the literally radioactive. Though he’s perhaps better-known for Watchmen and V for Vendetta, Moore’s unparalleled skill at making the reader look left when the plot is just about to go right might be at its very best here.

Killing and Dying, by Adrian Tomine

Killing and Dying, by Adrian Tomine

Adrian Tomine’s most recent collection follows six different sets of characters through six different styles of artwork so distinctive they appear to have been drawn by six different people. It’s a feat of virtuosity that could only have come from Tomine, who has been telling tender stories like these for over a decade; with its incredible stylistic diversity – always surprising, never jarring – it’s his finest hour so far.

In each story, Tomine seems to announce he’ll be telling one kind of story only to tell a completely different one in hints and suggestions. Like his friend Clowes, Tomine’s ambitions are primarily literary and comics are simply his chosen literary mode. Here, he makes a compelling case for comics as a medium for the same intricacies as contemporary fiction – and for the possibility that comics can do some things prose can’t.

Cages, by Dave McKean

Cages, by Dave McKean

Dave McKean’s sprawling, generous graphic novel about life, sex and jazz is a necessary jolt of pure, intelligent optimism among a lot of very dark work from his contemporaries. The artist is probably best known for the beautiful collage covers that became his trademark at DC Comics’ “mature readers” imprint, Vertigo, but he’s a formidable writer on his own, here drawing the parallel stories of a half-dozen people living in the same apartment building and falling in and out of love with art, life and each other.

The book is bigger than most – tall and wide, as well as almost 500 pages long – but it’s a surprisingly fast and engaging read, with McKean’s beautiful, scratchy two-color linework giving way at strategic points to breathtaking pages-long sequences of full-color collage and painting in which McKean illustrates a weird and charming cosmology of his own devising.

Hawkeye vol 1-4, by Matt Fraction and David Aja

Hawkeye, by Matt Fraction and David Aja

It hasn’t been easy to find Marvel Comics stories that let the new reader in the front door, but Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye is arguably the best of the company’s recent crop of beginner-friendly comics. (Dan Slott and Mike Allred’s kid-friendly Silver Surfer is a close second.) Marvel’s books are carefully orchestrated across a universe that spans more than 50 years of material, but Hawkeye ignores most of that, to its great benefit.

The book follows the least reputable of the Avengers as he tries to keep sleazy Russian crimelords from stealing his apartment building out from under his working-class neighbors. The book’s vision of factions fighting for a piece of gentrifying Brooklyn is dead-on, and Fraction’s cast of offbeat characters could be culled from the co-op next door. Aja’s artwork is spare and clever and the pair hit a serious Lennon-McCartney groove near the end of the second arc, in a story told entirely from the perspective of a dog who listens in on scenes from previous issues with a deep understanding of human emotion but a very limited English vocabulary.

Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel

In Fun Home, Bechdel steadfastly refuses to sentimentalize the way her discovery of her own sexuality paralleled her discovery of her father’s secret life. The book is beautifully constructed, with her declared annoyance at her father’s fussy, baroque tastes informing her work’s own spare beauty. And for all her teenage self’s eye-rolling over her funeral home director dad’s love of artifice and adornment, Bechdel’s ability to draw her characters’ most revelatory tics and habits remains razor-keen, often painfully so, for the length of the book.

The love between a father and daughter is complex in the best possible version of the relationship, and Bechdel and her dad’s is particularly fraught, not least by the latter’s suicide. Because Fun Home is ultimately an exploration of devotion and longing, its frankness is that much rarer and more precious.

The Portable Frank, by Jim Woodring

The Portable Frank, by Jim Woodring

All of Jim Woodring’s glorious Frank stories are so terribly inviting that it is difficult to pick just one. Woodring draws the wordless adventures of a bear-cat-chipmunk-type creature named Frank, whose travels take him around a surreal black-and-white world populated by adorable creatures and nightmare horrors, and nearly all those travels manage to end on an unexpectedly poignant, funny or terrifying moment. Woodring’s style is fanatically controlled – every panel looks like a woodcut – but his monsters are unspeakably inventive, like something Hieronymus Bosch would have made in pottery class.

The plots are as simple as the art is complex: Frank usually makes what seems like a reasonable decision from the his own perspective and a horribly, horribly wrong one by the standards of the broader world. (Come to think of it, that is probably the shortest possible biography of anyone alive, from a certain angle.) Fantagraphics’ collection of short Frank stories is a great sampler, like a glass of water from the Challenger Deep.

The Sandman: Endless Nights, by Neil Gaiman et al

The Sandman: Endless Nights, by Neil Gaiman

For the better part of 20 years it was very difficult to pick a volume of The Sandman to introduce readers to its charms. Neil Gaiman doesn’t hit his stride until the second book in the 12-volume series, and the art doesn’t really take off until then, either. But who wants to begin in the middle?

The writer solved this problem by penning seven stand-alone short stories for the one-off volume Endless Nights. The result was as attractive a volume of comics as a superhero publisher (DC, in this case) has ever managed to produce. In it, readers meet the seven Endless, Gaiman’s pantheon of anthropomorphized abstractions including friendly, frank Death; moody Dream; alluring hermaphrodite Desire and his/her twin sister, Despair. Every story is illustrated by a different artist and each one is worth getting to know, particularly the great Italian artist Milo Manara and P Craig Russell, probably best known for his stylish comics adaptations of operas by Wagner and Mozart.

The fun with The Sandman – like Gaiman’s best novel American Gods, a calculated hodgepodge, if there is such a thing, of stories short and long – is often the way the author allows insight into his otherworldly central characters through the pinhole of a seemingly normal, knowable person’s perspective. Here, he’s mastered that technique. The adroit short pieces are one of the reasons the series remains so popular despite its far-flung sci-fi and fantasy conceits: it’s less a three-course meal than a box of candy you didn’t mean to eat in its entirety.

Co-Mix, by Art Spiegelman

Co-Mix, by Art Spiegelman

For people needing a primer on grownup comics, the ur-text didn’t really exist until two years ago, and that’s because the evolution of high-art comic books from greasy underground innovation to literary supplement is largely the work of a single guy: Art Spiegelman.

Spiegelman is justly famous for his comics memoir Maus, about his father Vladek’s escape from Auschwitz and the relationship between Art and Vladek in the years when the book was being composed. But Spiegelman was also the editor of Raw, an anthology series that drew together the best and brightest of the underground comics world at a time when the market was sagging under the weight of too many people trying to ride the same gravy train.

As other publishers collapsed or radically shrank, Raw became the Paris Review of comics, every page risky, bizarre and invariably beautiful, with Spiegelman’s own work as the book’s anchor. Co-Mix is partly an exhibition catalogue of a Spiegelman career retrospective bearing the same name; it’s also a collection of excerpts from Raw and other ephemera, and a wholly necessary study of the form’s escape from the gutter and (in this case literally) into the museum.

Hark! A Vagrant, by Kate Beaton

Hark! A Vagrant, by Kate Beaton

Kate Beaton’s hyperliterate webcomic is on the cutting edge of any number of social realities. Her Sexy Batman strips are as clever a parody of tightly clad contemporary superheroics as anyone has written. But she’s also fascinated by the arcane, the old-fashioned and the obscure, particularly as they pertain to women through the ages. Never preachy or shrill, the strip’s meticulous consideration of history’s funniest footnotes run counter to her excellently messy artwork.

It’s often said, and correctly, how smart the comic’s writing is, but artistically Beaton has few equals and fewer competitors; she’s working in a style almost no one practices anymore, where what looks like a quick pencil rough is specific enough to convey a whole range of complex emotions. Beaton lists Ronald Searleamong her favorite artists, and it’s easy to see the great illustrator’s influence.

Seconds, by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Seconds, by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Bryan Lee O’Malley is probably best-known for his series of manga-style action comics about a slacker living in a version of Toronto that plays by the same rules as a video game, Scott Pilgrim. In Seconds, he’s in the same place – well, Canada – but his twist is more fantastical than science-fictional.

Without giving too much away, O’Malley is an accomplished chronicler of post-adolescent longing. What if we’d taken this job instead of that job? What if we’d never broken up with that guy or that girl? His heroine, immature, compelling and unhappy, gets to find out – it’s like if It’s a Wonderful Life was a fantasy manga about restaurant workers. O’Malley is that rare artist who works in confessional and speculative modes simultaneously; his world may have fantastical quirks in it, but it also has quotidian heartbreak.

The Fixer, by Joe Sacco

The Fixer, by Joe Sacco

Nobody is doing what Joe Sacco is doing; the writer-artist has visited some of the world’s worst war zones and not merely written movingly about them but carefully drawn them, as well. The effect is transporting – Sacco drags readers into war-torn Bosnia and gives them both a sense of place and a sense of urgency, and like the best journalists, he’s got an eye for the rich, contradictory, infuriating people who can make you care about something you ought to care about.

In the title story of this astonishing collection of short nonfiction, Sacco focuses on a bored ex-mercenary with nothing to do after the end of the long and horrifically bloody war. On the one hand, it’s about wartime abstractions like reparations and displacement; on the other, it’s the incredibly urgent tale of an edgy, frightening guy who’d rather be killing people and may yet get to.

Acme Novelty Library #20, by Chris Ware

Acme Novelty Library #20, by Chris Ware

Chris Ware is intimidating. The artist’s biggest works are pointedly impossible to read from the beginning – just trying to get past the dust jacket on Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth can take days. But the final “issue” so far of Ware’s long-running Acme Novelty Library is a little hardbound graphic novel that follows one man from birth to death and many strange points in between. In just the first few pages, Ware invents new narrative tools to describe learning to recognize your own name, discovering colors, and what it feels like when you see your father hit your mother.

Eventually, the book may simply end up a footnote in Ware’s ongoing graphic novel, Rusty Brown. But at the moment, it’s the purest distillation of his ingenious use of hard lines, flat colors and an engineer’s genius for describing complexity without reducing it.

All-Star Superman, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

All-Star Superman

You can leave most superheroes off a list of great comics at this point, but not Superman. The Man of Steel’s mark on American culture has been indelible, and it has also resisted updating – the last four Superman films have been disastrously lame.

But in All-Star, writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely strike exactly the tone that film-makers have missed: modern and clever without being snide or ironic, optimistic without naiveté, and, thanks especially to Quitely, utterly beautiful. The artist’s rendering of the Man of Steel is sneakily reverential – if the cover of the book looks like you’ve seen it somewhere before, that’s because it’s a fairly overt homage to images of Jesus at the last judgment. It’s also playful and fun, with a gorgeous sequence on the inverted-logic Bizarro World (the planet is square, of course) and the kind of lighthearted interplay with Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen that aren’t usually found outside much older books.

The Kid From Beverly Hills Strikes Again


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Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s in Beverly Hillsand Los Angeles was quite the experience. We regularly saw great performers at the Whiskey,Troubadour and Hollywood Paladium, went surfing at Topanga, Malibu and Point Dume. and hung out at Randy’s Doughnuts, Ships and DL’s. These webisodes are design to give the viewer part of that experience.


Children’s APP is Where It’s At!


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PINK PIRATE2Once upon a time I dreamt of marrying my stories and images to the internet and combining words, music, voices and pictures. Of course that’s all being happening for a while. One of the early adapters was and is Roxie Munro, who I’ve interviewed and talked to numerous times. The article below includes her and beyond. It’s a good article that covers this new form which is coming of age.

Once upon a time, some crazy smart person got the idea of taking a children’s story previously passed down through oral storytelling and turning it into a book. This spawned a whole new tradition, and an industry that has thrived for centuries with a work-flow process that involves several distinct phases and teams that take several years to achieve the goal of creating an illustrated story book.
It works like this:

An author first creates a manuscript that is acceptable to an editor. The editor will then work with the author to bring that story to a point of excellence, at which point this editorial team passes the story off to a design team.

The art designer will select the perfect illustrator, who must then be given ample time to realize his or her vision. The designer then lays out the book, selecting fonts and other design elements, and drops in the finished artwork.

The combined effort is provided to the production team in the form of print-ready galleys eventually to be published. And while proofs are being run to test for color and trim accuracy, the marketing team revs up the process of distributing the book to reviewers just as the sales team works to get it into stores.

It is a proven practice and will remain the preferred method of making an illustrated story book for many years to come. Because it works. For books.

But the job of realizing the electronic cousin of an illustrated children’s book—the story app—requires a very different process and a new cast of characters. It works something like this…

In the digital ecosystem, production speeds up with teams working more in lock step, rather than relay style. New editions are possible with the click of a few buttons, making it possible—even favorable for testing purposes—to publish a work in iterative chunks; that is, not in a fully finished state, but a simplified one that is added to over time.

The authoreditor, and publisher tend to collaborate more at the outset to realize a manuscript not limited to a story text, but requiring content for interactive elements, text boxes, navigational instructions, etc., as well. And the creative team expands, adding to the ranks of editorialdesign, and production teams, the following contributors:

  • Development, or programming, team
  • User experience (UX) designer
  • User interface (UI) designer
  • Game developer, if the app is to include interactive learning elements and features
  • Animator, if images are to move
  • Educational consultant, to assure that the app is developmentally appropriate to the target age
  • Beta-testers, to ensure that the book and design are intuitive to use

To wit: It takes a lot of people-power to realize a great story app.

Team efforts overlap. For example, in our current process, as author Mary Hoffman and team editor Emma D. Dryden have been working together to perfect the manuscript for In the Footsteps of Giants, I’ve been working with our art, user interface, and user experience consultants to design the look and feel of our future story app.

Mary and I have been preparing a list of image suggestions to pass off to our photo editor, Cynthia Carris Alonso, who has begun the process of researching and obtaining rights to use the visual content to accompany Roxie Munro’s original artwork commissioned at the start of the process.

In the meantime, our marketing team, including Dan Blank and his team at WeGrowMedia is already strategizing plans in anticipation of a June launch. And I am now on the hunt for vocal talent that can record and send to us raw files that we will then engineer with added sound effects. (If you’re interested in auditioning, contact me here.)

We couldn’t do any of this without at least a draft story to work with. But neither did we need a completed manuscript to begin production. Indeed, the first and last piece of the puzzle to be signed off on will be the manuscript, for it will likely change again once we are inside the recording studio.

Which is why I say that creating a story app is a team sport, and a highly collaborative effort at that!

Will Human Artists Become Obselete?


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TWO STUPID ROBOTSNo is my answer. Even if a robot can be fed data that will turn out any kind of artwork style i.e.: a Picasso, Rembrandt, Warhol is that what we want? Is commerce more important than someone expressing themselves uniquely. Oh I’m sure a robot with artificial intelligence one day will argue they have souls too but I would hate to see the dystopian future that will create. Glad I won’t be around. Here an interesting article about “Robot art”



Laura Carlin : Children’s Book Illustrator


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In an effort to find and spotlight the finest and most innovative children’s book artwork, the Illustrator’s Journal will bring to our readers the IJ Children’s Book Spotlight. 

Presented here is the artwork of Laura Carlin.


Laura lives and works in London. She graduated from Buckinghamshire University and the Royal College of Art, where she received a Masters and won the Quentin Blake Award. During her MA she was also awarded the Uniqlo Fashion Illustration Award, which enabled her to travel to Shanghai and Tokyo. The drawings from her Tokyo trip were published in a book entitled Ten Days in Tokyo.

Laura has illustrated many children’s books for Walker Books, including The Iron Man by Ted Hughes, winning a V&A Award and an honourable mention in the Bologna Ragazzi Award. In November 2014 another Walker Books title illustrated by Laura ‘The Promise’ was selected by The New York Times as the best illustrated title of 2014. For The Folio Society Laura has illustrated four collections of Anton Chekov stories and Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain Fournier. She illustrates a weekly column in the Financial Times as well as being a regular contributor to Condé Nast Traveller, The New York Times, The Guardian and The New Statesman. She has worked on advertising campaigns for American Express and British Airways as well an identity for The Dorchester’s Coworth Park Hotel.

laura-carlin-page-23In addition to her commercial work, Laura currently works with Quentin Blake in advisory role for the development of the House of Illustration.

Laura has been voted, by the Art Director’s Club of America an ADC Young Gun, one of the 50 most influential creatives under 30 years of age.

Alongside her illustration career, Laura also works as a ceramist. Her work is for sale at The New Craftsman and Yorkshire Sculpture Park as well at privately hosted sales.

In October 2014 her book A World of Your Own was published by Phaidon, her first work as an author. Using a gentle chronological narrative of one day, the book encourages looking, drawing and making – initially from life and then from imagination.

For more info or to hire Laura click here http://www.lauracarlin.com

Finding Winnie illustrator Sophie Blackall wins 2016 Caldecott Medal


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As part of the Illustrators Journal efforts to increase our footprint we’re going to cover and write about artists who we feel are relevant and current.

Sophie Blackall fits that mold and so here’s some of her very beautiful and sensitive artwork and a recent article about her Caldecott win.

Sophie Blackall Artwork

Tuesday, January 12, 2016 | 0

finding-winnie-blackall.jpgSophie Blackall illustrated Finding Winnie, written by Toronto author Lindsay Mattick. (HarperCollinsCanada Ltd.).

New York-based illustrator Sophie Blackall has won the 2016 Caldecott Medal – America’s most prestigious prize for children’s illustration – for her artwork in Finding Winniewritten by Toronto’s Lindsay Mattick.The book tells the true Canadian story of Winnipeg, the black bear from Ontario who became a mascot for soldiers during World War I and later inspired author A.A. Milne’s most beloved character, Winnie-the-Pooh.”Children will be enchanted by Winnie’s journey from the forests of Canada to the pages of the Hundred Acre Wood. Blackall offers a tour-de-force of visual storytelling,” said Caldecott Medal Committee Chair Rachel G. Payne in a press release.Edwin Speaks Up children's book

One of the best picture-book artists working today, Blackall offers winsome art that is interesting in its use of perspective, perceptive in its depiction of family dynamics, and just plain adorable in its effort to make ferrets fetching. (Not always an easy task.) Parents and children will agree, this is a book that’s clever in every sense of the word: skillful, original, and witty. —Booklist (starred review)