Thursday, October 10, 2019

Hangin' in there... and you?

As I write it’s twenty one years to the day from the first time I stumbled off that plane at Barajas Airport and into gorgeous Madrid for the first time. This led to that and the rest is herstory; it’s both the best and worst decision I ever made, but I’d fall into this hole again in a heartbeat!

 So what have I been up to the past two years while actively neglecting this modest page of mine? Here as always, in no coherent order is a whooole mess of stuff that happened… it faithfully mirrors the orderless state of my affairs.

 Let’s start in my other favorite city, New York, New York. I rented a table two years back at the Schomburg Library in Harlem, to sell and promote my work at the 5th annual Black Comic Book Festival. I was happy to see cartooning luminaries like Jerry Craft, Alex Simmons and John Jennings and Damian Duffy, as well as friends, fans and (especially) family. My sister Kim drove us to and from Atlanta, and we hit the road way too soon, mostly to avoid the Maga Morlocks running loose during King Trumpanzee’s inauguration. I’m trying to get back home for a visit soon as funds permit, but just before I left, Al Cayne interviewed me for his webpage. (I'd rather be an artsit than an artist any day!) Most of the works in progress I described there didn’t happen, simply because other things did, as you will see.
I was extremely fortunate soon after, to be included in the BLACK COMIX RETURNS coffee table book, edited by the aforementioned John Jennings and Damian Duffy. More info here…  it’s available now, online and wherever finer books are sold. (No idea where that may be, as I’m a dinosaur in a tiny apartment, who hasn’t purchased a real book in this century.)
 CLICK HERE...
 I returned to Spain, and after sharing an exhibition at Madrid’s beautiful Casa Seferad with fine artists Margarita Gokun Silver and Elisabeth Louy (see previous blog entry) I was invited to participate in a very popular show at La Casa Encendida with artworld sensation DIS Collective. I’d met them in Harlem months earlier, which led to a fun collaboration with them in the massive cultural space mere blocks from my doorstep. I’m planning a small event with Encendida soon, and would love to work with DIS again someday.

 CLICK HERE...
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 Next stop, the isle of Gibraltar, where I was invited two years in a row to participate in their first and second ever Comics Conventions! (Can't say I was ever a Motion Capture artist, but I've done my share of rotoscoping, back when that was a thing.) I met the nicest folks; the cheekiest Rock monkeys and amazing actors from Game of Thrones and various Stars projects (both Wars and Trek). I can’t wait to return soon. 
CLICK HERE...
 I contributed character designs to the amazing Ace and Sons animated short for the StoryCorps Project, in which visual artists assist real people in bringing to life their personal stories. It was a joy to be a part of an animation crew for the first time since… well, the twenty years I spent doing it back home in New York City. Thanks Richard O’Connor, for remembering me.

 Black Panthers for Beginners, my comic book history of the Civil Rights organization (written by historian Herb Boyd) is back in print. A must read historical Graphic Novel, there’s more about it here…
CLICK HERE...
 Herb Boyd was kind enough to ask me to be a part of a new critical essay collection which debates the cultural significance of the popular Marvel blockbuster. (The OTHER Black Panther!) I modeled the art after my cover for the previous Panther book, and it marks the first time in my life I was ever paid to draw a superhero! Being that February of this year also marked the fortieth anniversary of the day that a sixteen year old Lance Tooks was hired as an intern at Marvel Comics itself, it personally feels a bit overdue. The less incendiary actual title of the book is Black Panther… Paradigm Shift, or Not? (Edited by Herb Boyd and Haki R. Madhubuti)
 Here’s a left field link… Infinite Variety, a short five page romance comics piece I wrote and illustrated, only to see it rejected by the pretentious arthouse publication that commissioned it, only in turn to have it swiftly rescued by the mighty Cry For Dawn creator and publisher Joseph Michael Linsner for his own classic series over two decades ago… has been turned into of all things, a heartfelt spoken word podcast by a group of fine people I’ve never met. You can listen to it here…
 TO LISTEN, CLICK HERE...
 Shalom, a long gestating original Graphic Novel project is dear to my heart. Like all of my stories, it’s a hard book to sell but I’m still trying. You can read an excerpt here, on my friend and Narcissa editor Deborah Cowell’s Medium page…
 Meanwhile, here’s a chapter from my NBM Graphic Novel Lucifer’s Garden of Verses volume four - Between the Devil and Miles Davis. I retell a true story I heard first hand about one of the most loathsome wretches to ever walk this earth. (…and it sure AINT Miles Davis.)
 My life in Madrid isn’t just relegated to creating comic book art. In addition to acting in short films and tv spots, doing studio voice overs and testing the sound systems (and audience members’ ears) in various karaoke bars, I’ve been a member of several local writing and poetry groups. One of the most enjoyable events for me have been the open mics, where I get to read aloud my comics, poetry and prose. 

Here’s my piece Six Single Mothers, interpreted in public by yours truly, just last week. Originally published in Fantagraphics’ Girl Talk anthology (Edited by Sabrina Jones, Ann Decker and Isabella Bannerman) the piece has had a life of it’s own, having been cited in a book by Trina Robbins on Women’s Comics, feted at an event celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues and included in the Resist! Anthology (Edited by Francoise Mouly and Nadja Spiegelman) which was created for the Women’s March in DC. 
(Thanks again to Amelie Yan-Gouiffes for shooting the video beautifully without my realizing it!)

 I just turned 57 on September 15th. One of the best birthday presents I got this year was a kind writeup acknowledging my work from cartoonist and peer Samax Amen. I appreciate it!
 Then along came this piece from writer Morgan Fagg’s No Hemingway blog…
 A few weeks ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger held his European Arnold Bodybuilding Classic in Barcelona and various Spanish cartoonists were asked by the Asociacion Espanola de Amigos del Comic to participate in an art exhibition there, paying homage to his first big film success, Conan the Barbarian. I guess I’ve been here so long I’m a Spanish cartoonist now! What an honor to be included alongside Esteban Maroto and the like. 
(Gracias, Emilio Gonzalo Mayo)
 So… you see why I haven’t been around these parts much lately. These are the things that happened, like the Walrus said, while I was making plans. I’m involved in a few other things as well, which I’ll share with you next time. But truth be told, the last couple of years have been complicated/ exhausting. It was a lot easier making funny books back when palefaced fiends weren’t trying to destroy this world on a daily basis… but when exactly was that ever not the case? The best I can hope for is to enjoy the love of my friends and family and hope that some small trace of the Tooks family’s life’s work survives the radiation. Of course I hope you do too!
 Lance Tooks

Hey! Here’s my Instagram page to keep you company!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

"Everytime I think I'm out... they pull me back in!"

 After a bittersweet visit to the United States, (seeing family and friends was the "sweet" part, 
all the rest was Trump and the Aryan hemorrhoids that dangle from his crack) 
…I returned to Madrid for (drumroll) an art exhibition!
 I'll be forever grateful to Margarita Gokun Silver and Elisabeth Louy for sharing their stage with me and making our show an amazing success. I'm honored to be in the presence of such gracious and talented creators! Click on their names for links to their sites and enjoy for yourselves.
 I've been filling up two sketchbooks a year since 1982, my last days as an assistant editor at Marvel Comics, after cartooning legends Marie Severin and John Romita Sr, advised me that I should draw every day if I truly wanted to improve my skills. I've kept those books by my side through my many years of labor and travel, and can chart my own artistic and personal evolution over three and a half decades. Half diary and half "unlimited source of ideas and illustrations," many of which have found their way into my comics work, they've sat on my shelves at home like a numbered encyclopedia and only a few friends have seen them. I'm glad for the opportunity to share them publicly for the first time. I've been asked to donate them to a highly respected curator back home in a few months, and I'll tell you more when the time is right.
There are advantages to exhibiting in a proper museum space over the humble "bar-galleries" where I hung work last year… improved security when it comes to hanging original art and improved resources in the form of display cases and gallery lighting, to name two examples. One drawback is that hours are limited in a government run institution, so you're forced to make do with the time you have. I still shake my head that the place is closed on weekends… but what can you do?
 Another first in this show is that I'm selling original art from my various short stories and graphic novels. I've hung originals in the past but wasn't ready to sell back then. I've created images specifically for the show as well, if you're interested 100 euros will get you anything that's on the wall. Have a look.
Also available are several of my graphic novels in Ingles y Castellano… the English books being the four hardcover volumes of Lucifer's Garden of Verses at ten euros each, the full set of four are a bargain at thirty euros. In Spanish are my most popular work Narcissa, and my brand new full color short story collection Sin Miedo, both for the reasonable price of ten euros respectively.
Here are a pair of videos that'll shed a bit of light on what I've been up to in recent years,,, the first is a 2012 interview I did with the incredible Black Tribbles Radio (you owe it to yourself to track them down online) accompanied by a slideshow of my various illustrations over the years and assembled by my gifted nephew, video game designer Sean Tooks.



The other is this quick look at my room at Casa Sefarad, at least until May 16th! There's more 
than I'm showing here, so come down and see for yourselves! You won't be disappointed!
Lance Tooks

PS… after the video, have a tiny taste of the available illustrations on the walls at the exhibition, including images from my upcoming Thelonious Monk biography for Duke University Press. 
 













PSPS… another highlight of my U.S. visit that I neglected to mention, was my 
appearance in the Martin Luther King weekend Black Comics convention at the 
Schomburg Library in New York City!  I'll tell you more next time! 
L.T.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Last Tango in Madrid...

Hard for me to imagine that it's been twenty-two years since my first time in Spain, more than thirteen since I came here to live. Three years since I've been home to New York and a full decade since I published a full length original graphic novel. I've created a ton of short pieces for various anthologies over the past thirteen years, mostly biographical pieces and mildly unnecessary adaptations of literary classics, and it's not quite what I'd hoped to have accomplished by now, to be honest. With years comes the inevitable decline in health and vigor, accompanied by a wisdom acquired through lessons learned, or so I'm told.
 A gallery setting really isn't my natural habitat. I've always loved drawing and telling stories, with the goal of eventual publication. I love the look, smell & feel of a printed book, the unique qualities of digital work notwithstanding. I'm able to hide it fairly well, but I'm truly a fish out of water when called upon to stand in front of people to present my "best possible self." It's all an act, a talent unto itself, something that I wouldn't pursue if not for the fact of it being a necessary factor in selling my work. "Being the artist" and "playing the artist" are two separate things entirely. After nearly forty years as a freelancer, I still aspire to be the former, especially when circumstances conspire to make me the latter.

After thirteen years, Spain's not been an easy country for me to find a creative foothold in. There's less work for cartoonists here, as in most countries the most popular genres are superheroes & Japanese manga, neither of which interest me very much. I worked in animation for two decades in New York, progressively building up my name and bankroll until the beginning of the twenty first century, but in Spain there's little work to go around and a surplus of brilliantly talented young artists who live with their parents and are willing to work for nothing. (Much like me when I started out... It's the "circle of life," to borrow a phrase from an "old" cartoon.)

All of my work in this century has been for publishers stateside, not an easy task at all during the Bush years. American publishers paid me for the work I sent them over the internet, in miserable US dollars, severely weakened by President Caligula's ill-considered oil war and its devastating effects on the economy.

Spain's been great for me on the one hand... I still enjoy sketching in bars, I mostly like it for the folks I meet & the unpredictable energy of Madrid's nightlife. I've appreciated the support of Spanish friends like the late Josep Maria Berenguer of Barcelona's legendary publishing house La Cupula, Alejandro Casasola of Granada's La Veleta & Salon de Comics and Emilio Gonzalo Mallo of Madrid Expocomic. I've gotten to know a host of marvelous Spanish cartoonists as well... Sadly, after nearly two decades of participating in various conventions and events over here, I can't say I was ever able to find the same level of camaraderie that I took for granted among my artist friends back home. I've attended countless gallery openings, events and book launches in support of my Spanish peers... but not a solitary one of them ever so much as made an appearance at one of my events. More's the pity. (Or the self-pity, depending on your point of view… you're allowed to have one.)
 So, a year ago I started showing art in Bar/Galleries, an accessible alternative to exclusive art galleries which are a difficult marketplace to promote comics art in general, and mine in particular.
 Images from my 2015 exhibitions at Bar Donde Chelo and Taberna Fin Del Mundo are spread across earlier blog entries. This year I presented work at Bar The Gallery and Bar Casa Pueblo. The Gallery was a cozy spot in barrio Lavapies run by Michel from Guinea, Africa and boasted of a warm multiracial atmosphere of music and food from the region. Here are a few images from my brief but enjoyable stay there throughout the month of April 2016.







 Unfortunately the past year for Bar The Gallery has been a difficult one, and my event was the last one they were able to present before closing its doors for good. Shame too, as Michel & Elena are wonderful folks. I'm forever grateful to both of them and wish them all the best.
 In May, I presented a show entitled "Last Tango in Madrid" at the Bar Casa Pueblo in barrio Huertas (de las Letras). It's a much larger space, so I've been able to hang a large variety of work from the various shows I've done. Casa Pueblo was the first bar in Madrid that I felt comfortable sketching publicly in, nearly a decade ago. The legendary Paco ran the bar back then, and it's also where I met Chelo, who I followed to La Taberna Encantada and later, to her own wonderful bar Donde Chelo. Thanks to Arturo for inviting me to show here at the new Casa Pueblo... That brings us full circle, so here are some photos from the current exposition, which runs there until May 31st.
















































 The day after the inauguration, I ran into my friend Nicole Pearson while en route to Casa Pueblo. She leads a popular group on wine tasting tours throughout the city and she brought the whole gang along with her! A grand time was had.





 So, after a long year of exhibiting and planning exhibitions, I did indeed sell quite a few pieces. I'd like to share a few more images, sent to me by folks kind enough to have purchased my art, mostly expat friends and dear Spanish family who chose to share these photos of their homes with us. That's a luxury few artists ever get... the work belongs to the client now. It's a rare opportunity, for me anyway, to view my designs in such a personal context.


















 Thanks to all. As to whether this will truly be my "Last Tango in Madrid," I can't honestly say. There are so many factors, both financial & emotional swirling around me right now that I'm doing the most intense soul searching of my life. Knowing what one needs to do and finding the courage to do it, are once more, two separate things entirely. But in a year when so many of my favorite artists are passing on, I'm uncomfortably reminded that everything has an expiration date. Including cartoonists.

Lance Tooks