Joe Alterio's blog on illustration, comix, design, animation, and other bouts of total awesomeness.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sesame St. Animation

At the urging of a friend, I hunted down a few of the old school 1970's Sesame St. animations. They're just fantastic, both sublime and outrageous. (check out some of those other cartoons in that thread, too: yow!)It makes me weep the vapid state the visual palate kids have to choose from these days. John K., in his own insane way, is always complaining about the dull, pinked-based color junta that has taken over kid's entertainment these days, and he's right. Compared to these beauties, they look tired, sugary, and like they're talking down to our youth, which, of course, is what they have been doing for years.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Form Is Content

I've been thinking a lot lately about semiotics, more specifically in my chosen field of practice, that is, the effort to tell a story with pictures. Without getting too Scott McCloud on you, I find some interesting cultural revelations that come out of the nearly nascent connections that make between form, inferred meaning, and underlying content. Much to the programmers delight, this is one instance where form really is function. Which is why I guess I like it so much.

Comics is a language of symbols, perhaps more so than any other visual art form. While traditional painting may have it's expressionist cues, kabuki may have it's grotesque masks, and while William Safire continues to mercilessly pound all the fun out of language every week, comics is like no other. At once overty symbolic and simplistic,

...and at the same time wonderfully, mysteriously open to interpretation, as intriguing as any subtle performance of the silver screen, comics has less to rely than other forms, and thus has more symbols at it's behest. Taking for granted the fact that I believe that comics actually solidified the "Z" as a shorthand for sleep in our culture ( Doozex, thanks Mort Walker), the joke here by Schulz is twofold: the 'surface' joke of Schroeder hammering Snoopy's sleep to bits, but also the underlying joke that you can get away with something like that comics it's the visual gag of seeing something obviously ridiculous used to portary an emotion that's tough to write. Another example:

It's funny because Linus is over the moon, and it's also funny because not only is Linus is floating, but that we actually KNOW what that means, and we can chuckle in an expert way. Symbology of this level makes us all insiders, and thus makes such art even more personal.

Comics is filled with such inside jokes: the lightbulbs, the speed lines, and clouds of smoke that inform our collective knowledge. As usual, McCloud has some brilliant points about the cultural disconnect when one culture doesn't understand another's symbology, and I won't rehash that.

I will say, however, that this is all the tip of the iceberg. I'm constantly surprised that comics, and for a time, silent films, are the only art form to consistently use such intimate semiotics to make a connection with the audience. Is it the lack of multiple panels ( "canvases") that make other artists less willing to use valuable real estate on something as prosaic as symbols? Shunning of common language for the desire to create something wholly unique? Or just that such symbology is often called "comic" symbology, and still viewed a bit huffily? There are a few artists that have delved into this realm, to great affect, I think. I can't wait for some more to come out of the woodwork.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Seoul Int'l Cartoon and Animation Festival

I woke up today to find this sitting in my inbox:

Dear Mr. Joe Alterio,

This is Hong Lee, Curator of Digital, Round Two: Comics in the Second Coming of Digital Era, a sub-event of 11th Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival.

I have found your wonderful iPod comic titled The Basic Virus through, and we thought we *must* show it in our exhibition. Digital, Round Two is an endeavor to explore new comic language in a developing stage, especially on portable and interactive devices such as iPod, Playstation Portable, and Nintendo DS.

We think your Basic Virus as an exemplary work that demonstrates some highly new operability for comic narrative. For example, your horizontal or vertical panning sequence operated by click wheel may shed light on new tangible dimension in unfolding a comic narrative. In the same manner, we have also found sequence of fading out and panels rotated 90-degrees as the strong account for your creative and successful use of iPod.


So I'm totally gonna do it, and see if I can fly out there to attend. Dude, I'm HUGE in Korea.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

"Escalation" by Ward Kimball

Wow. I was slogging through a post about symbolic representation today when BB keyed me in on this. Readers of this blog will recognize my love of all things, Ward Kimball Disney animator and conceptual madman, and his family has just released this short animation about the 1968 escalation of the Vietnam War. In light of recent events, I couldn't have said it better myself.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


One of the nice things about The Global Worldwide Internet Web of Interests is that you check out art in cities where you maybe can't afford the rent. In that vein, I invite you into the digital gallery of Clip/Stamp/Fold, a new show at the Storefront for Art gallery in NYC. It's a show of architectual proto-zines from the sixties and seventies, and while the content is interesting I'm sure, taken all together, it's a also just a great survey of design trends from the era. Now, I don't know much about architetcure, but Holy Smokes: if this is the design architects come up with, what did the designer's 'zines look like?

(The site is a little hinckey, but looks great: bear with it.)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Edisyn album artwork

(click to enlarge)

I just got hired to do Edisyn 's new album artwork, which is totally rad. Supercool music by supercool kids. I did a poster for them a little while back (above), after a night of bad enchiladas. Beware, the squid cometh! And, for the record, I was drawing squids before it was cool to draw squids.And look! Cyan!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Game Over

I don't usually comment on current affairs- I leave that to more capable hosts - but something, or maybe everything, has gotten to me about this Boston-ATHF-bombscare-thing. I promise this will be brief, and I'll get back to comics soon.

Firstly, in the spirit of full disclosure, I am from Boston, or near enough, and I admit that the thought of The Greatest City On Earth being vaporized off the map gave me more than a few palpitations. And so it was with baited breath that I read of the anxious, world-shaking reports about Boston Being Bombed!...Well, there's Bombs In Boston!...Well, OK, there's Things That Look Like Bombs In Boston!...Alright, Fine, there's Things That Actually Don't Really Look Bombs, But They're Definitely There To Cause Terror In Boston!...and finally, OK, You Got Us, There's Some Guerilla Marketing In Boston!

There's several odious elements about this whole messy affair, the most obvious of which is the disgusting salivating the mainstream media did in their breathless reports about the Next Big Scare. Nowadays, with his approval ratings lower than Urkel's, it's popular to slam The Decider in the media, and cluck our tongues at the silly yes-man puppeteering most of the media did after 9/11. Don't get me wrong, I still mourn what happened that day, but I think we can all agree the media dropped the ball after that calamity, and they Just Haven't Felt Good About Themselves Since, which is why we have a furrow-browed Anderson Cooper meekly questioning the war now. But this little incident has shown we're still stuck in the same garbage: cautious rationality doesn't play well with the 18-24 demo.

This blog is about media and art, and I can't actually think of better scenario to let play out when talking about both. Art is about, and please excuse my lack of formal training here, puncturing the mask of daily existence. And media, in the end, is just the commodification of that trend: it's a realization that, somewhere the line, you could actually sell that insight to the family next door. Everything from street craft fairs to Disney TV is based on this secnario.

As any good lawyer will tell you, the meaning changes with intent. Did Interference Inc. mean to cause that response?

Let's take both sides, to see how it plays out in each scenario as "art". I'll break with some my more mainstream compatriots, and say that, if they did mean to provoke an emergency response, that's not just media, that's art, and actually a pretty interesting statement. And this is coming from a guy that HATES "happenings". Was it wrong? Yup. Was it irresponsible? Oh, yeah. Should they be punished? Probably. BUT: did it make us look introspectively at ourselves and our collective actions? I'd say that's a big 'Yes'.

But here's where it gets tricky, and where I actually think the truth lies: that it really was just a marketing scheme gone awry. If it is just a instance of hysteria, I think that makes the statement even greater. Now, we live in a country where anything with wires can be left out on the street, and can be the focus of a nationwide Freak Out. And it wasn't even ON PURPOSE. Like the monster under the bed, we wanted to see it, so it was there. Woe be the next man that leaves his broken blender in the trash.

I love art and guerilla media. I also love my country. I want us to be safe for a 1000 years. But when we run around willy-nilly, accusing people, shutting down cities, and putting on our most sober faces to discredit some lite-brites on a freeway overpass...

...folks, The Terrorists have won.