WOLFSONIAN TALK, WORKSHOP, AND TEEN COMIC CRITIQUE WITH DENNIS CALERO

This past Saturday, I was privileged to attend a public talk by award-winning comic book artist and illustrator, Dennis Calero in the Wolfsonian museum auditorium.

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A native of South Florida, Calero attended the New World School of the Arts, though he has since relocated to New York City. He has done a lot of work in the field for Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse Comics, with his work on X-Men Noir earning him honorable mention from the Society of Illustrators West.

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Along with Kristin Sorra, Calero co-founded Atomic Paintbrush, one of the first computer-coloring companies working in the comic book field. He has also won fame for his adaptation of science fiction writer Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles into a graphic novel, and for his illustrated web comic version of Steven King’s short story, The Little Green God of Agony.

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During his talk at the Wolfsonian, Calero provided local teens aspiring to become comic-book illustrators ons with a look into his personal portfolio. Afterwards, he gave a live, on-line tutorial in the processes of creating illustration art using Photoshop software. A consummate web artist, in a matter of mere minutes, he was able to sketch out from scratch a marvelous image of Batman that would indubitably have taken hours using the traditional process of fleshing out an image using pen and ink on layers of tracing paper.

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He also demonstrated the digital technique of creating artwork from a still image, transforming a photographic image of himself into a cartoon before the audience’s eyes.

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After the public lecture and demonstration ended, I returned to the library thinking about the similarity (and differences) between the artistry of Calero and other contemporary comic illustrators, and the work of graphic novelists and comic book artists of the mid-twentieth century in the Wolfsonian library collection. The dark (film noir) quality of Calero’s work harkened me back to some depression-era artists prominently represented in the Wolfsonian-FIU library. The work of one such artist, the wood engraver Lynd Ward (1905-1985), is both prominently displayed in a current library exhibit, Back to Work: FDR’s New Deal for Labor, and in a couple of graphic novels recently selected by students in FIU Professor Bernadine Heller-Greenman’s American Art History class.

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The son of a Methodist Minister and an unapologetic Socialist, Ward produced the first wordless graphic novels in the United States. Ward was influenced by the German master, Hans Alexander Mueller (1888-1962), as well as by German expressionism and early silent film classics like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). Ward achieved instant notoriety for his God’s Man: A Novel In Woodcuts, a wordless critique of the deplorable influence of Capitalism on artistic integrity published just as the Great Depression hit America in 1929.

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The following year, Lynd Ward published a second graphic novel, Mad Man’s Drum, which followed the tragic history of the familial descendants of a slave-trader cursed by his theft of an African drum.

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Following the presentations, Professor Heller-Greenman was kind enough to loan me a copy of an informative documentary film, O Brother Man: The Art and Life of Lynd Ward.

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The library (and current exhibit) also features the work of Giacomo Giuseppe Patri (1898-1978), an Italian-American from San Francisco who created a graphic novel to advocate for blue and white collar worker solidarity during the Great Depression.

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He lent his artistic talents in support of leftist politics and the militant CIO unions fighting for the West Coast longshoremen in the 1930s, and to fight international and domestic fascism in the 1940s.

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GIFT OF FRANCIS XAVIER LUCA AND CLARA HELENA PALACIO LUCA

In the post-war period, Patri continued to show his support for leftist political movements by contributing an illustration to The Communist Manifesto in Pictures.

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PROMISED GIFT OF MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR.

Of course, the guest speaker is most known for his comic book illustrations, and the library does have some materials along those lines. While Calero’s work centers on mythic superheroes and villains, one comic book recently donated to the collection dating from the Second World War focused on real-life Allied heroes and Axis enemies.

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GIFT OF FRANCIS XAVIER LUCA AND CLARA HELENA PALACIO LUCA

Another WWII era comic book, a promised gift of museum founder Mitchell Wolfson, Jr., uses the image of the classic Superman character, but simultaneously reinforces the message that it is the patriotic efforts of regular war-bond buying Americans that were really responsible for defeating the Japanese war-leader Hideki Tōjō (1884–1948).

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PROMISED GIFT OF MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR.

~ by "The Chief" on April 26, 2013.

One Response to “WOLFSONIAN TALK, WORKSHOP, AND TEEN COMIC CRITIQUE WITH DENNIS CALERO”

  1. The comic not is only a light for the dark but is the way to see the time in spiral.
    Great Blog, thanks!

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