Sunday, January 23, 2011

Wonderful Cartooniness

I found a treasure trove of Dan Gordon comics at Greatest Ape.
What I like most about Gordon s that although he has an obvious animation background, he resists following exact inbred animation formula in his posing, design and composition.
His scenes exude raw energy and life. It reminds me of storyboards that were drawn for classic cartoons. It has a sort of coarse unfinished look to it - but only unfinished in the sense that it didn't go through 10 stages of toning down the ideas on the animation assembly line.
I can imagine animators wanting to put everything on model, and making the construction perfect, but that would only lesson the liveliness or originality of Gordon's style and storytelling.
Dan's scenes have a sense that all the characters are really there, they aren't mere generic cartoon characters mindlessly following animation principles.
I like his little human touches-like this dog laughing so hard that he's crying-and digging the tear out of his eye. It's not something you would expect to see in an animated cartoon.
His sense of cuteness is quirky too, not the generic 40s "animation-cute". True cuteness has an element of ignorance in it.
I like the combination of Mammy's angry expression with the cartoon symbolism of skulls in her eyes. Double the impact. Dan Gordon's comics are full of visual ideas.
He also has a kind of crude-elegance. His style pretends to be earthy and unpretentious, yet it's very thoughtful and principled at the same time. Check out the hierarchy in his grouping of the dogs. They together create a winding shaped form, rather than a scatter about as a chaotic crowd.


I love when real cartoonists try to draw realistic humans. Their heads are always too big, but I find that funny.
Gordon varies his camera angles of characters' points of view which adds dynamism and continuity to the emotions and stories.

You can't go wrong with Satan. He's a real a child pleaser in cartoons - right up there with Hitler.


I wonder who colored these comics? I think they really take advantage of the medium. I love the somber mood in these panels. Hard to pull off with basically primary and secondary colors.

Even though his characters are sort of awkward and crunchy, they still fit within well thought out compositions.

He's one of the top "happy-cartoonists", up there with Clampett, Gross and Wolverton.
His drawings are just plain fun. Not all cartoonists can achieve this.
Wolves covet pigs' arses. I wonder of that breaks their commandments?
Look how dynamic this simple scene of a bunch of happy ignorant animals simply walking is.

This comic cover is a work of cartoon art. It screams FUN INSIDE!





Here's Dan Gordon drawing in Milt Gross' style. Neat combination.
Here's a beautiful and dynamic page layout filled with a variety of angles.
Hair tubs are always funny.
You don't see a lot of over the shoulder shots in cartoons; they usually look really awkward. This does too but he pulls it off by making it funny.

Gordon's neighborhood world feels very real, gritty and inviting. It's full of nooks and crannies, sheds, basements, rickety stairs and things of that ilk that are usually disregarded in generic cartoons.
Even though Gordon's comics are mostly about talking animals, they have a lot of humanity to them.
http://greatestape.blogspot.com/search/label/dan%20gordon

24 comments:

Steven M. said...

We need a book of Dan Gordan's work. That would be sweet.

SandraRivas said...

I love it!!

The expressions look specific and really funny. Especially with Mammy's angry look. Dan Gordon's style of drawing dogs is really cute.

>>I love when real cartoonists try to draw realistic humans. Their heads are always too big, but I find that funny.<<

I think it's funny too! It reminds of the Great Piggy Bank Robbery cartoon when you see realistic human hands putting Daffy's mail in the mailbox. It's so crazy!

>>I love the somber mood in these panels. Hard to pull off with basically primary and secondary colors.<<

I really love the shadowing with different colors.

Scrawnycartoons said...

You're right, these comics look really good! Plus who doesn't love a comic where "urvrybody tok lahk deese"

Mykal said...

John: Great, great stuff. As always, I really enjoyed your insights, giving me solid reasons for loving Gordon so much. - and The Greatest Ape is a great blog into the bargain! Tons of similar stuff there!

cartoonretro said...

He's amazing, an extinct breed of cartoonist. Great point about the character of his cartoon neighborhoods, with the basements and sheds and alleys. Frazetta's funny animal comics have that quality as well.

That sense of a real cartoon world has been replaced with self-conscious and cold retro styling.

Clampett was great at that, especially in Hep Cat.
S.

Kristen McCabe said...

Holy Smokes! I love Mammy's angry expression. I love how he drew her anger wrinkles.

Thanks for posting these.

Martin Juneau said...

I agree with you that even for talking animals, they have a lot of humanity behind the characters. They have a lot of specific expressions who can be translate well into a animated cartoon. Have you heard about Columbia's attempt to made SuperKatt as a cartoon character when it's on? It's at my opinion less expressive than the comic style unfortunately. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7VAmpyyXjE

Guy Cx said...

Satan looks absolutely superb!

Seth Nicholas Johnson said...

These are great! Thanks for posting them.

HemlockMan said...

When I was a comic dealer I don't recall ever cracking the cover of a GIGGLE COMICS. I'd just check to see if I'd bought any of the ones with "Frazetta text illos" in them and put them out for sale. Looks like I'm the poorer for having ignored the contents.

Sherm said...

Comics don't get any better than Dan Gordon at his prime! Thanks for keeping these great comics in the public eye.

Also an FYI: here's the Dan Gordon biography article I wrote for The Comics Journal a couple years ago: http://bit.ly/DanGordon-bio

Trevor G. said...

John you might like this, http://tinyurl.com/4flet4p

This artist is who came to mind immediately when you said it was hard to make mood with just primary and secondary colors.

This guy is sort of the master of that. All us kids remember his art from the Zelda guides.

FeeDee said...

Amazing use of red as an accent too!

C said...

I like the cat! A lot of artists seemed to have it in for cats for some reason. I guess because they pick on cute mice. And I love that blog because it has a lot of Bob Bolling in it. Who was a master of scenery and cute.

Sorry for the off-topic, but I thought this expression sheet might be of interest to people here. Too bad you can't slap the eyebrows off of every Dreamworks poster you see.

patrick sevc said...

I love those raw & real posts of yours. Great stuff for those of us learning the basic principles to remember.

robward said...

It's the absolute Lack-Of-Cute that makes this the best cartooning in the world! Like Dickens or Tarantino, it hits you before you've had time to understand that it's an artform. It's good because it transcends it's medium. The truth and ugliness (real ugly, not arty angular crap) of the poses and expressions kick you in the balls before you even realise you've been looking at it. I am amazed. Thanks John.

K-T said...

I kinda disregarded this post this morning, but looking at it again makes me notice how great those look!

I wasn't born in the age when comics looked like this, I'm from the age of clutter, so this all looks great.

Frank Forte said...

These are great! he's one of the best! Doesn't get enough credit. Yeah--we need a Dan Gordon art book.

Kirk said...

Zoot, huh? Potrzebie.

Nicol3 said...

I'm guilty of gobbling up everything you post; but this is especially wonderful. You have no idea (well, I'm guessing you've got SOME idea) how inspiring this particular post is.. it's a real treasure chest.

I'll look into more of Dan Gordan's work-- you've just made another fangirl outta me.

Nicol3 said...

I'm guilty of gobbling up everything you post; but this is especially wonderful. You have no idea (well, I'm guessing you've got SOME idea) how inspiring this particular post is.. it's a real treasure chest.

I'll look into more of Dan Gordan's work-- you've just made another fangirl outta me.

MOVIKID said...

Dan Gordon has been an influence on me since 2008. Hey John, do you like Antonio Prohias, creator of Spy vs. Spy in MAD?( I'm actually on my friend;s computer)

Crimson said...

"I love when real cartoonists try to draw realistic humans. Their heads are always too big, but I find that funny."

That's not exactly true. We've just all been looking at a certain kind of idealization for too long; even the live action film industry is stacked with freakishly tall people. Your average 5'11" individual, if viewed through the lens of that 7-heads idealization, does seem to have a big melon.

Crimson said...

ftr