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The Value Of Art

Although the best rule one can follow on the internet is Never Read The Comments, I find it for somewhat obvious reasons useful to go through those at this site. The post from Tuesday of this week attracted some comments that caught my eye, not only for their length, but for the mention of something that’s been on my mind a fair bit. Responding to my commentary on his latest Kickstarter, the probable cover identity that self-identifies as Eben Burgoon discussed his logic for resubmitting an initially-unsuccessful crowdfunding campaign; here’s the important part:

I really fundamentally looked over the Kickstarter last time and rethought my plan of attack. The main thing –- hire Lauren as the artist and do so with my own pocket money so that my goal was far more reachable. She’s an incredible talent, deserves to be paid for her hard work, and if I am going to ask the internet for money to help see this work to it’s end –- I sure as hell better pony up too.

The Lauren referred to would be Lauren Monardo, a colleague via the Brainfood Comics project, and creator of several comics that aren’t really accessible on the web right now¹. Monardo’s credentials (which are excellent) aren’t the point here — the important part is the bit about deserves to be paid for her hard work and I sure as hell better pony up too.

Burgoon’s regard for his artist made me happy, particularly because I’ve spent entirely too much time reading Ryan Estrada’s For Exposure twitterfeed and watching his dramatic re-creations of people that don’t think artists should be paid. Hopefully (although in truth, I hold out very little hope for this), the bozos who have provided Estrada with so much material will look at Burgoon’s example and realize that their pathological short-sightedness is not the only way to approach making comics.

  • Speaking of art having value, there are times when you can get away with not paying a creative collaborator — when said collaborator finds value in something other than up-front cash², or volunteers to work for free, or is dead and the work is out of copyright. That last one doesn’t come up too much, but may do in the not-too-distant future.

    Evan Dahm (whose work you should be familiar with, seeing as he’s put a few thousand pages of it out there for you to enjoy for free) has of late been noodling around with images inspired by The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; that would be the original Wizard, the novel by L Frank Baum, adapted a few million times³ since it was first published in the dawning days of the twentieth century.

    Many people have taken their artistic whacks at the Oz milieu since W W Denslow’s original illustrations, notably the work being done presently by Skottie Young for the Baum novel adaptations being published by Marvel. Dahm isn’t talking about doing a sketchbook though, or an adaptation; he’s thinking bigger:

    My name is Evan Dahm and I would like to illustrate and publish an edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It was published in 1900 and is now in the public domain. I like it a lot and I think I can illustrate it in a way that works with the story and has a visual character that’s distinct from other interpretations.

    I can’t recall anything like this happening previously. There was an edition of Huckleberry Finn with racist language softened a few years back (which prompted an emulation with the n-word replaced with robot), and there have been some pretty beautiful comics editions of classic works (Kipling seems to be a favorite there), but I can’t recall somebody producing a new edition of a prose work to do their own spin on illustrations.

    And what illustrations! Dahm’s new Baum-sketchbook Tumblsite is full of promise as he starts what will likely be a lengthy project; he’s set ground rules for himself that guarantee that it’ll be years before The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum with illustrations by Evan Dahm sees print. However long the wait, I’m ready to grab a copy.

  • Also speaking of art having value, here’s an emergency commission announcement from Dean Trippe. whose MacBook had a crisis and requires replacement as soon as possible. If you like Trippe’s meld of clean line and capes, he’s declared an impromptu convention complete with bargain pricing for superheroic inked drawings. DeanCon lasts through the weekend, so get your requests in now while you can.

¹ The Slightly Askew Adventures of Inspector Ham & Eggs leads to a dead page, the Brainfood Comics page has a bunch of unreadable symbol placeholders and a Call of Duty 2 ad, and may be somebody squatting on Monardo’s former domain.

² Possibly an ownership stake.

³ Sadly, a Google search for “wizard of oz” puts Baum’s novel (the first of 14 in the Oz series) sixth behind various references to the 1939 film, although some of those are because one of three surviving Munchkin actors died at the age of 89.

Funny you should say that you can’t recall anyone doing what Dahm’s doing with Oz, considering it is a tradition as old as books (from illuminated editions ofthe Bible, to Blake’s Paradise Lost, to Kalman’s recent interpretation of The Elements of Style…). Were you limiting yourself to comics producers? That seems… odd.

This comment brought to you by the admonition that you should never read the comments.

And I just came back from the bookstore, where I very accidentally discovered another recent release of an illustrated edition of “Oz” by a single illustrator (!). It looked okay, maybe, but I bet Dahm’s would be a lot nicer. I already dig his character designs more than what I saw.

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