Saturday, June 19, 2010

Less Lines, More Thought and More Life

I think that it's more daring to draw cartoons with just a few lines and details than it is to do fake "realistic" animation.
You can't hide your ideas and skills under a lot of non-essential surface extras.
In my opinion, Irv Spector here draws a million times better than all those nasty Filmation like humanoid mannequin cartoons.

In just a few lines, he shows characters with attitudes, acting, construction, design and life. Life. That, more than anything else is what's missing from cartoons today.
But here it is in all its natural looking glory.
Spector's compositions are really fun and clever too.

This is a gifted cartoonist who thinks. He doesn't just draw by rote or current trend-thinking.
This is his own unique style, but it uses all the general important principles common to most skilled cartoonists.
Even before I look close at the individual details of a panel, the whole composition jumps out at me and says "This is art!". It's coordinates a pile of difficult techniques, skills, principles and style in such a way that it makes a point - and is pleasing to the eye.
This is obviously a free-wheeling individual style that is not hampered by second-guessing what a cartoon is "supposed to be" or by tons of executives telling him how to draw.
Lots and lots of energy in just a few well-placed lines.

Compare to no energy and no commitment to a design or statement:These Filmation style characters look like they are stuck together out of individual pieces of broken glass. There is no line of action, no construction, no expression, no contrasting attitudes and no real tools of good drawing. They are not even "realistic" as I assume they meant to be. They are merely lacking in life and animation so to the executive brain that makes them like live action - only without the "live". It's design by committee and reflects nobody's particular idea or vision.

Spector is the complete opposite of the corporate fear style above.

Not only are his individual panels fun and lively...

But Spector's continuity and the way he balances his panels against each other is full of energy and contrasts.
This is cartooning doing what it does best, expressing an individual's view of the world using the tools cartoons have that other media lacks.
He is using the media to its advantage rather than fighting against it.

Lots more great Coogy strips by Irv Spector!


Anonymous said...

Too bad Irv Spector's completely unique style never quite made it onto the Paramount shorts that he wrote and directed. While they're generally very clever, funny and well-written, like "The Plot Sickens", for some reason or another, it always ends up looking like the UPA style popular at the time, except only stiffer, less stylish, and hardly any life at all in terms of the animation (yet again, most of the shorts at this time seemed to have such limited animation). Weird. Seems like the budgets were really low on those, compared to the ones he directed before Famous sold their characters to Harvey Comics. He also directed this really lackluster Porky and Daffy cartoon over at DePatie-Freleng called "Corn on the Cop."

One of Spector's Paramount shorts. I don't know if you've seen any of these before, but even something like this certainly blew Filmation out of the water.

JohnK said...

Looks like that cartoon really plays against his abilities.

All the poses are vertical and horizontal.

mike f. said...

Boy, those Coogy strips were a revelation. I'd never heard of that feature before you started posting about it a few months ago. It's like he's combined the best of Pogo and Krazy Kat into something totally original. I don't know why this strip has been such a secret for so long, until now.

I'm gonna send that Irv Spector bloglink to Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell, who are editing The Library of American Comics project at IDW. (Also, Craig Yoe and Denis Kitchen might be interested.) This stuff is much cooler than King Aroo or Barnaby, for instance. It's screaming to be reprinted, hopefully in color. Maybe IDW will pick it up for a volume or two. Who knows?...

Paul B said...

I still can't understand how anyone doesn't hires you to make cartoons.

Did you ever want to make a feature film?

Martin Juneau said...

Irv Spector and any others you mentionned shows the exact opposite of today's art. Today, they told you to draw soulless drawings with tons of details and shadows to make it realistic when it's made to hiding the wrong errors of the flat drawing.

It's such a shame that those beautiful comics will never be bring back nowadays. Today's mainstream comics (Even Canadians ones) are flat, lavish and soulless. But they have exceptions to the rule.

By my own experience, today i was at a big store and found a in-house comic i remember hearing it. It was made in Quebec by Julie Rocheleau as the drawing artist and Emilie Villenevue to the writing. And this is kinda interesting in a sense that they don't trying to follow the last nasty trends who occupied the others mainstream comics nowadays. It's maybe stylish and a bit abstract but it's the kind of comics mature peoples really wants to read today.

Chris_Garrison said...

Man, what could be better than Coogy?! Prob'ly nuthin'!

(hey, somebody visit these comic sketches of mine, willya?)

RooniMan said...

I definately would think making a great, solid, thoughtful drawing with life in just a few lines be difficult.

Irv Spector makes this look easy.

J Lee said...

Spector's Herald Tribune comic strip pretty much came and went before he really started clicking with his one-shot stories for Famous Studios, when that style might have made it into the shors, while his best stories came in the later part of the 50s, after Paramount cut their animation budgets and began relying on limited animation with no in-betweens.

The designs he used on his 1961 shorts (dig those square breasts!) are almost an attempt to take the UPA style to it's most absurd conclusion (though it's also true that some cartoons probably worked better with more abstract designs -- based on Famous Studios' love of violent gags, God only knows what "Chew Chew Baby" would have looked like if Irv had written the cartoon in 1951...)

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Irv was great! It looks like he was a fan of Walt Kelly.

Peggy said...

Huh. He really looks a lot like Walt Kelly to me. Both in how he balances shapes against each other, and in how he textures things when he decides he needs to.

Were they both influenced by the same person?

kurtwil said...

Very interesting career arc, Nice to know about another cartoony artist - something mostly missing in these days of superheros and mutants.

Does anyone else feel Irv's comics have a similar (but more cartoony) quality to Frank Cho's "LIBERTY MEADOWS"?

And yet per IMDB's database, Irv Spector worked on some Filmation and HB shows. I wonder what he animated on TARZAN ?

Yowp said...

I'd have loved to have seen Irv do more layout than story work, considering his sense of composition. I love the design of his characters, too. I don't know how even he would have put together a scene with those human characters, though. Is the blond grabbing the other guy's butt?

John, while you're talking about composition and such, I'd be interested in a comparison of layout styles between Walt Clinton and Ed Benedict.

Paul B said...

Hey John, What do you think about Cordell Barker and Richard Condie work?

pappy d said...

It lacks life because it lacks animation.

Anonymous said...

Waaa uber cool. thx for sharing john!

Elisson said...

Great post. Thanx.

Spector reminds me of the child Walt Kelly might have fathered on Jack Kirby (yeef!). Brilliant technique and great sense of humor.

As for Filmation, it's almost a waste of time pointing out how sucky their animation was... it's nothing but belaboring the obvious. Ed Wood was so bad, he was (perversely) good; Filmation was just plain bad.

Isaak said...

This is a very interesting blog. Have you ever saw the blog of Jim Emerson, called Scanners. The blog mostly examines movies, but uses multiple examples to back his claims much like you. That much effort into rigorous thinking is such a rarity that you and Emerson are a rare breed.

Also, did you see the new Toy Story 3 movie? The short before it, I hate to admit, showed more cleverness in animation then the feature. Despite this, Pixar offers good storytelling for what it is.

JohnK said...

That's Disney, not Filmation.

drawingtherightway said...

All this talk about cartoony vs realistic cartoons brought to mind Chuck Jones' 1939 Porky Pig short Old Glory. I don't think you ever covered this short John. It was very bizarre as a kid to see Porky interacting with a realistically drawn Uncle Sam. In fact if I remember correctly Porky was the only cartoony thing in the whole damn cartoon! Maybe Chuck had a psychic prediction of what was to come and he tried to warn us!

Isaak said...

If you were replying to my comment, isn't that a good sign? I checked ImdB and the creator of that short was an animator for a good portion of Pixar. Thus, there are at least some people to keep animation alive.

Also, if you want to see the nadir of animation, watch Danny Phantom. It seems to have taken less effort to animate than South Park.

Also, if you did, thank you for responding to my comment. I own the first two seasons of Ren and Stimpy and am surprised at the sophisticated humor I missed as a child.

Roberto González said...

Wow! That's a great comic strip and I didn't know anything about it. I liked it more than Pogo, at least the visual aspect is more interesting to me. I have to study it to improve my drawings and comic narration, fantastic stuff.

And I completely agree with the less lines=more life statement.

kurtwil said...

Which Pocahontas did those stills come from: Original, or the unbelievably bad sequel?

Meanwhile, Peter Emslie's blog's showing a neat traditional clip from the 2010 Palm Sprints festival.

Zoran Taylor said...

"It's like he's combined the best of Pogo and Krazy Kat into something totally original."

I can definitely see that. I see a bit of Kurtzman, too - but I see a bit of Kurtzman in everything I like. Seriously, I once saw "a bit of Kurtzman" in a ham sandwich. It was the most subtly stylish sandwich I ever tasted.

Also: A conversation between Mike and Craig Yoe.....I'm gonna say that would be entertaining. And that is all I'm gonna say.

Isaak said...

I am not an animator, but I have an interesting idea if you are willing to hear it.

Catch 22 is arguably one of the best works on World War II.

Bugs and friends were valiant in the effort to attack the Nazis.

Why not combine the two? Bugs could be Yossarian. Of course, Daffy would be Milos, the man (or duck) who tries to burn the candle at both ends. Elmer Fudd would be Major Major, and both characters are similarly ridiculous.

This would be perfect because both Looney Tunes and Catch 22 would be horrible in a literal format. Have the estranged Italian woman be a henpecking rabbit. Throughout the feature, Bugs would show his true acting prowess and go from asking at the beginning if he took a left turn from Alberquerque to being horrified at the madness that surrounds him. It would also give Bugs the coolness you opined was lacking. Perhaps in your subconscious you have decided who would be ideal for each role.

The problem is studio bosses wouldn't look kindly on this experimental work. What do you think?

If that doesn't interest you, you can hear my idea about Chinatown becoming an animated movie? Of course, the tragic ending would have to be kept.

Shawn Dickinson said...

Amazing! I love the loose brush strokes he used for the inking. Great thicks & thins!

Jorge said...

This stuff looked like it inspired the hell out of Mike Kazaleh!

thomas said...

One thing I notice in the full pages, is that there's a rhythm of frames that are full of things, along with frames that are empty spaces. You know, kind of like music, AABA.

I'm not arguing against your point, which is obviously true, but are you comparing apples and oranges when you compare a frame from a comic strip and a frame of animation?

JohnK said...

>>are you comparing apples and oranges when you compare a frame from a comic strip and a frame of animation? <<

I would imagine that if you can get that much movement and animation into still pictures, then an animated cartoon should be even more lively.

Kim said...


The flash cartoon advertisement at the top right is really slowing down the site and making it choppy.

thomas said...


For 50 year old comc strips, they aren't out of date; the writing's that good.

Isaak said...


Have you seen El Tigre? It has a lot of life and would easily trump the stills of the later Disney movies you show.

Best of all, it has the courage to have as its hero a troublemaker.

Also, did you ever talk with or associate with any people during your time at Ren and Stimpy who created shows in similar eras, such as Adventures of Pete and Pete?

Thank you

Also, this blog reminds me of an episode of Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares in which the restaurant he tried to help had horrific gravy and Ramsey convinced them to make gravy the right way and popularize it. Hopefully you will help bring animation to the station of gravy in being recognized.

p spector said...

Thanks for your accolades of my dad's work. I just came across this post during a search. (I missed it last summer when I was traveling and w/o a computer.)

btw, my blog should be ramping up with more in the semi-distant future.