Beguiling Manager Chris Butcher just posted an in-depth review of SHIRTLIFTER #1 over on his blog. It’s a good review — “good” not only in the sense that it’s positive (which it is) but also because of his blunt criticism of certain aspects of my art:
All of that said, there’s a distracting mechanical quality to many scenes that I find frustrating. His work feels as though it’s “inked” digitally, and the sharpness and unevenness of his finishes can often work against what he’s trying to accomplish (particularly on more delicate features). One of the most notable times this occurs is in those same crowd-shots, which feature characters on the same picture-plane with seemingly random line-weights, making them look a bit cut-and-paste. The drawing itself is often good; a solid layout, realistic characters and body language, and it can look quite impressive. But the finishing is too often problematic, and could have used more attention. MacIsaac should really think more about line-weight and relative distance of the figure/object to the “camera” (reader), as that would dramatically improve the overall consistency of his work.
His criticism is pretty bang on, and articulates fairly well my own feelings about how that issue turned out in particular, and my artwork in general. Looking back at the artwork, I think the book manages to be simultaneously the best and the worst thing I’ve drawn. Best, in the sense that I think the stuff that works works really well; however, its the number of pages that look obviously rushed which leave a stronger impression. It’s the fastest book I have ever drawn, and I think it definitely shows. Partly that was by design: I am generally fairly slow in producing work, mostly because I am an anal-retentive control freak and compulsive reviser. One of my goals for SHIRTLIFTER was to improve my writing skills; the other was to learn to draw more quickly. So when doing the book, I forced myself to let certain things go, to say “Ok, its good enough” rather than endlessly revising pages. However, because i work digitially, increasing the pace didn’t give the book a looser feel, but actually had the opposite effect; i think it looks even stiffer than some of my earliest work. Although I used the exact same illustration process as in my other comics, I didn’t spend as much time finessing each line, and used pressure sensitive brushes hardly at all. The result is a book that, while proud of in many ways, has a very dead feeling to the art. I’m addressing that deadness as I work my way through the next issue by trying a few new things in my approach to both writing and drawing this time. We’ll see if these experiments bear fruit.
Chris also picked up on an earlier post I made that Diamond Comics rejected SHIRTLIFTER because the writing wasn’t up to comic book industry standards. While that is indeed true, I should probably further clarify that the subcategory checked off on the form letter indicated a weakness was “Story Concept (our market is slow for this kind of product at this time)”. Which, months down the line, I suppose makes some degree of sense: there’s no built in direct market audience for “Gay ex-pat slice of life drama”. Even if the “gay” were removed from the sentence, I still don’ t think they’d know what to do with the book. I’m not annoyed by their refusal – after all, they’re a business, presumably they know their market, and after six months of sending out copies from my bedroom I can tell you first hand that there’s not exactly a crushing demand for this sort of thing. What DID annoy me is that their form letter classifies “We can’t sell this” as a sub-category of “You don’t know how to write.” While it may be true that both things often appear in tandem with each other, they are in fact separate and distinct. But that’s probably just my knee jerking.
Anyways, at this point I don’t particularly care that much. I am slowly and surely getting through the copies that I have had printed, and several stores have been great about ordering from me directly, or getting it through Last Gasp. Just in case anyone’s interested, you can get a copy through my online store and also through the following fine establishments:
Jim Hanley’s Universe
Venus Envy, Strange Adventures
The Comicshop, RX Comics, Little Sisters Books
A Different Light, Comic Relief