Tuesday, October 16, 2007
MY DINNER WITH A.C.
So DC Comics finally hitched up the Green Arrow and the Black Canary — or did they? — and the task of drawing this milestone in comic book history fell to my old pal Amanda Conner, a fellow reprobate, defier and defiler of stereotypical womanhood, and one of my dearest friends since our misspent youth. As the release date for the wedding issue neared, I asked AC if I could interview her about it, along with any other stuff that may crop up in the course of conversation, and she graciously replied. So I hauled my beige ass way down the line to Sheepshead Bay’s Neck Road train stop where Amanda, accompanied by her partner in evil, Jimmy Palmiotti, and I settled in for a meal at the exquisite Brennan & Carr, a local institution perfect for a chat while stuffing our faces and famous for it’s roast beef sandwiches soaked in enough au jus to render them a comestible fistful of oozing sludge. Delicious oozing sludge, but oozing sludge nonetheless.
What follows is our conversation, and while it’s always fun to hang with AC, it’s even more fun when gobbling down a soggy sandwich that looks like it’s been pre-chewed.
NOTE: I apologize to any Jimmy Palmiotti fans for not including him here, but if you know him at all you know that not only would a candid interview with him be funny and obscene as hell, it would also be worthy of its own post, and I promise one at some future date.
Bunche: This clam chowder’s tasty. Try some.
(Amanda tastes the semen-like goodness)
Amanda Conner: That is pretty good. Have some onion rings!
(I grab a couple of the deep fried tuber slices and merrily devour them)
Bunche: So let’s get the inevitable question out of the way. (Puts on a boring and pretentious voice) “Who are the greatest influences on your work?”
Amanda Conner: Well, the most obvious first choice goes to my mom and dad. The two of them are artistic as all get out, and I guess that rubbed off on me in a big way. I’ve pretty much been drawing since I could hold a crayon in my grubby little hands, that is, when I wasn’t eating them… Did you know that crayons are made non-toxic for that exact reason? Let me tell you, it was quite a shock the day I produced a bright purple turd.
Bunche: One would imagine. I never ate my Crayolas, but I did stick a screw into my ear when I was about four, and I remember the doctor took it out with one of those dime store horseshoe magnets. Kind of an omen, now that I think about it…
AC: I also watched a shitload of cartoons as a kid. Who didn’t? I was always partial to the Warner Brothers/Looney Tunes stuff, especially the stuff by Chuck Jones. That guy knew how to make the jokes work while never sacrificing really good drawing. Look at all of those cartoons with Bugs and Daffy totally fucking with each other over the whole “Rabbit Season! Duck Season!” thing, and Daffy’s bill getting blown all over the place. Those were so funny they remade them several times, and they never got old, plus they just looked so great. The Disney stuff was an influence too. Their illustrators were probably the best out there.
Bunche: Gotta agree with you there, and the majority of their villains are pretty much a rogue’s gallery of drag queens.
AC: Another thing that had a huge impact on me was Hilary Knight’s ELOISE, you know, the children’s book about the little girl who lives in the Plaza Hotel and has all kinds of adventures there? That setup really appealed to me as a kid, and it didn’t hurt that Eloise wasn’t some nauseating, cutesy little girl like you’d find in almost any other kid’s book. She saw her hotel world as a place filled with excitement and possibilities for all kinds of adventure, and what kid couldn’t get into that?
Bunche: You’ve been awesome at drawing hot chicks for as long as I’ve known you, since back in 1873. How did that come about?
AC: Well, most girls who draw tend to start out drawing girly princesses doing girly shit, and I did a certain amount of that, but let’s face it, it’s a pretty limited field. Cartoons and comics allowed me stretch a bit because the artists had their pretty girls doing funny or super-powered things, and that’s a hell of a lot more fun to draw than Princess Beautyheart and her unicorn pal Sweetypants having a tea party with a bunch of bunnies, or some shit like that. And it was obvious that the guys who drew cartoons and comics really enjoyed drawing hot girls with pretty faces, curves all over the place, butts and boobs that defied gravity and reality, and that was the point; it’s a fucking cartoon! Why not have some fun with what you like to draw? And when it came to learning to draw women, it’s so easy for a lot of female artists because it’s not something we have to study. We wake up in the morning and every day we see a woman staring back at us, so we’re pretty familiar with the geography. That’s also probably why some women draw men that look kind of…soft, or Ken-dollish.
Bunche: I heard that veteran artist Ramona Fradon used to draw Aquaman to look like what she was into dudewise, and he looked pretty butch. Kind of like Burt Lancaster, only blonde.
AC: I don’t think I ever had a problem drawing guys, although some people have said my guys look “animated,” and I take that as a compliment.
Bunche: You should. If I had a dime for all the hacks out there who somehow get work when they can barely hold their own dicks, let alone a pencil…
AC: No comment. Where was I? Oh, yeah! A major influence on the way I draw women is Al Capp. Now THAT guy could draw some seriously smokin’ women! Moonbeam McSwine, Wolf Gal, Daisy Mae, hot chicks all. And Capp was so damned good at it that Frank Frazetta was his assistant. Frank. Fucking. Frazetta. His ASSISTANT!!! What does that tell you?
Bunche: Seriously! L’IL ABNER was one of the comics’ first major sources of quality stroke material, coming out during the height of some truly amazing pinup illustration, and it’s no surprise that it inevitably got turned into many pornographic versions in those old, illegal “Tijuana Bible” eight-pagers. Too bad the art in those was about on par with the adolescent scribblings of a marginally talented schoolboy who thought he could swipe Capp’s style and didn’t stand a chance in hell of actually nailing it. Come to think of it, even fucking Wally Wood’s porno version of L’IL ABNER in his X-rated 1970’s mag BANG! Didn’t come close, and he was great at drawing hot, masturbation fantasy chicks and imitating the styles of other cartoonists.
AC: You’ve gotta show me that stuff.
Bunche: Wood fan though I am, I’ve gotta say you’re not missing much. It’s just a passable ABNER parody where Abner whips out his huge hillbilly cock and plows Moonbeam McSwine or Daisy Mae, I forget which.
AC: Wow! You’ve got a great memory for porn, and if you aren’t sure on the details it must be pretty boring.
The GREEN ARROW/BLACK CANARY WEDDING SPECIAL. On sale now, so buy it already!
Bunche: Moving right along, you drew and inked the recently released GREEN ARROW/BLACK CANARY WEDDING SPECIAL — which is some of your finest work, in my humble opinion — the supposed culmination of one of the comics’ longest-running soap opera threads. I’ve been a major fan of both of the characters since I was a kid and as a result I’m very hard on how they’re handled…
AC: You said “hard on!”
Bunche: …and I always dug the Canary’s nonsensical-but-sexy fishnets look, so when you told me you’d landed the wedding gig it just seemed like a natural fit. How did you approach the way you depicted Dinah (that’s the Black Canary's real name, for you non-geeks)?
AC: When I sat down at the drawing board to draw Dinah, I had a classic cute 1970’s blonde in my head, so I gave her the hair and ample ass that goes with the type. I also considered what she does physically, so I made her kind of athletic. And for her face I figured on a TV star, Barbara Eden look.
Bunche: You and your Jeannie fixation!
AC: Hey, if something works, you stick with it! And Barbara Eden always had that sweet but mischievous face that had just the right sassiness that would get across Dinah being able to handle Ollie’s, the Green Arrow’s, bullshit.
Bunche: How about your take on her outfit?
AC: I know they don’t make any kind of sense as fighting gear, but I always liked the fishnets when I was a kid, so I had to keep them. Other than that it’s a more modern version of her basic look than a total redesign, only adding a leather jacket and replacing the pirate boots with something that looked more believable for stomping ass.
Bunche: I dunno. Her original look would be right at home at someplace like Greta’s House of Discipline, and I swear I’ve seen some domination porn where some chick in exactly the same boots that the Canary wore stomped and ground her stiletto heel into a willing victim’s naked ballsack.
AC: Jesus! That makes me squirm and I don’t even have balls.
Bunche: Believe me, they’re more trouble than they’re worth sometimes... So what would be your dream project?
AC: I’d love to do a story featuring Tigra ‘cause she’s fun to draw and she’s all fuzzy and stuff.
Bunche: A “plushie’s” dream woman.
AC: I’d also like a shot at Big Barda. I’m a Wonder Woman fan, but there’s so much more you can do with Barda when it comes to her visual and her personality. Wonder Woman’s an icon and makes for some great art in the right hands — COUGH! Adam Hughes! COUGH! — but Barda rocks that whole Kirby-designed Cleopatra/premenstrual Valkyrie look with that kickass helmet, solid gold breastplate, scale-mail, and red cape, plus she’s kind of an obnoxious bitch to nearly everybody but her husband, so that’s fun too.
Big Barda and Amanda Conner: a match made in comic book heaven! Make it happen, DC Comics!!!
Bunche: Hey, she’s an actual warrior-goddess, as opposed to Wonder Woman having been created by a the Greek pantheon’s answer to THE VIEW for the confusing purpose of being a pacifist who preaches, peace, love and unity while planting her boot right up some bad guy’s ass. Plus Barda’s a couple millennia old so she must have scary, mad fighting skills honed during that time — I always thought of her as the female equivalent to Orion of the New Gods — and she has no compunction against ripping off an enemy’s head with her bare hands and taking a big, Apokolips-style shit down their gaping neck wound, so I could see you having a ball with her.
AC: When I do my Barda comic I’m stealing that visual!
Bunche: Good luck getting that one past Paul Levitz. And that’s one of the laundry list of things I adore about you, namely that you are one funny, filthy and ribald lady, and the world is a lot poorer for having so few of you in it.
AC: I’ve got a pretty juvenile sense of humor and a lot of people tell me that part of me reminds them of a guy. Whatever. It’s fun getting to constantly be a thirteen-year-old and enjoy potty humor my whole life. I love it!
Bunche: So that’s an upside to what you do, but what frustrates you about the comics biz?
AC: I’ve gotten pretty lucky with my editors, but I’m frequently frustrated by what some editors do to people who are close to me…
Bunche: I’m not touching that one, but I will quote filmmaker/madman Ken Russell on the subject. (Fumbles in shoulderpack for copy of PHALLIC FRENZY) Well, it's not about editors per se, but he describes being a director with a vision as "striving for artistic integrity against people who never create and only conspire."
AC: I heard that!
Bunche: Got any advice for any girls who’ve bypassed the family computer’s safety protocols and are regularly reading this horrid site?
AC: Advice on what? How to cram a bowling pin up themselves without causing permanent damage? I can’t help them with that one, but I can provide tips on how to sneak a camel toe past even the most attentive editors, even on Wonder Woman…
Bunche: Fan though I am of Amazonian lippage, I meant advice on what to expect if they want to break into comics, and what kind of bullshit they can expect in an industry built on being pretty much a boys’ club for arrested adolescents.
AC: Oh. I’d say try not to take personally whatever criticism you get, and try to learn something from every bit of it you hear. And for fuck’s sake, be persistent! The comics biz is pretty tough to break into… Well, it used to be. I don’t know how it is now. And try not to get discouraged!
Bunche: And if you do get discouraged, there’s always our old friend Jose Quervo!
AC: (assuming a monotone voice) “The views expressed by the Vault of Buncheness do not necessarily reflect the views of Amanda Lydia Conner.” Personally, I recommend straight turpentine!