Emanata: Cartoonists, Moment By Moment

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There’s a little trend in comics blogs that’s turned up over the past few months: Tumblrs devoted to a specific creator’s work, reprinting a single panel or a single page at a time, out of their original context. A Moment of Moore, one of the more prominent ones, is dedicated to Alan Moore’s work. Whoever’s maintaining it has been keeping it nicely varied–besides brief scenes from comics Moore has written, the blog has featured a handful of videos, some artwork by Moore, a photo of the Magus at an age so young his chin is visible, and this priceless riff on a fondly remembered line from Watchmen.

It’s not the first Tumblr of its kind, either: its editor has noted that it was inspired by Kevin Church’s The Daily Batman and the Moebius fan site Quenched Consciousness. Only a few months old, A Moment of Moore has already spawned a couple of similar writer-devoted projects. A Moment of Ellis is, naturally, devoted to Warren Ellis’s work, which is somewhat more of a piece than Moore’s, but also eminently quotable. (“Listen to the chair leg of truth!”) And Moment of Morrison, which generally features a full page from a comic book Grant Morrison has written each day, is another sister site, although these days Moore and Morrison themselves seem to have a rather intense sort of little sibling-big sibling rivalry going on.

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It can be a little strange to experience comics creators’ work in this sort of clip-show format–a narrative form stripped of most of its narrative and reduced to peaks without mountains below them. But it might be fairer to say that to read a Moment Of blog is to re-experience the work excerpted there. A page of Morrison or Moore or Ellis, out of the context in which you’ve seen it before, can recall the whole story around it, in an “oh yeah, that one” way. It can’t have the advantage of surprise it had the first time around, but it can bring on a little rush of associative pleasure, a long-delayed aftershock of initial delight.

In some ways, it’s surprising that there aren’t more single-excerpt-a-day comics blogs devoted to individual artists, rather than writers who don’t usually draw. (An image or a page from an artist might have a more immediate impact.) A few have already turned up– The Art of Jim Lee, for instance (it’s mostly devoted to quick sketches Lee has done for fans), or Undersea Super Train (a very new Osamu Tezuka blog, whose excerpts from the manga master’s comics work have all been from English translations so far)–but not nearly as many as you might expect. (If you happen to have found other good ones, please point them out in the comments.)

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The problem might be finding subjects whose bibliographies are varied enough to keep them fresh. It takes a long time to draw comics, and a lot of cartoonists find their groove and stick to it. Milton Caniff produced more than 50 years’ worth of extraordinary work, for instance, but most of it was on just two comic strips, “Terry and the Pirates” and “Steve Canyon.” A Tumblr devoted to Hergé wouldn’t have much to draw on beyond Tintin and his lesser series Quick and Flupke and Jo, Zette and Jocko. A Moment of Carl Barks blog would be functionally indistinguishable from a Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge fan site.

The most obvious artistic candidate in English-language comics for a daily-dose blog is Jack Kirby, whose career was so long, so all-over-the-place and so full of visually spectacular moments that it would be easy to find something great for it every day. (There’s already a Fuck Yeah Kirby tumblr, but it’s mostly reblogs from elsewhere; see also the “Kirb Your Enthusiasm” series of posts over at Hilobrow, in which 25 writers–I was one of them–each wrote about a single Jack Kirby panel.)

Still, there are plenty of other cartoonists whose artwork I’d be happy to see pop up on my screen every day. There are already several sites that prominently feature news about Steve Ditko and his work, notably Ditko Comics and the now-semi-retired Neilalien, but nothing that offers a daily burst from his decades’ worth of incredible productivity. Gene Colan and Howard Chaykin and Al Williamson all have bibliographies as notable for their breadth as for their depth. (Chaykin, in fact, still seems to be taking on some new project every month.) I’d happily look at a daily feature about the French cartoonist Lewis Trondheim, whether or not it was translated into English. And I hope that superfans continue to make sites to showcase their favorite artists of the past, if only because that means somebody will eventually build Heck Yeah Don Heck.