During the conversations that ended up producing the Cliff Chiang interview at comiXology, Cliff Chiang and Tucker had a couple of "what's your favorite piece of work" regarding a laundry list of artists. While some of that conversation ended up in the comiXology article, quite a bit of it was left behind. After that article's publication, Cliff was willing to take a break from drawing (literally) and add a few more responses. What follows is a transcription of those two discussions.
The Factual Opinion: Okay, let’s start this off. What’s your favorite thing by Steve Rude?
Cliff Chiang: That’s a tough one for me, he's worked on a lot of crap.
TFO: Vanguard Illustrated? The encyclopedia salesman?
Chiang: I don't know that one.
TFO: It's great.
Chiang: Nexus, probably. The Next Nexus, you know that one?
TFO: And Judah hit something.
Chiang: Oh yeah.
TFO: Actually I think I liked Judah most when he would drink.
TFO: Jamie Hernandez?
Chiang: I really liked Sloth. A lot. There's something--as different as it was for people, I liked that he was breaking away from the Palomar stuff so much. And that bizarro split halfway through, where you get a different story...I liked that a lot.
TFO: What about Speak of the Devil?
Chiang: I haven't read that one yet.
TFO: How about Troublemakers? I loved that one. Ridiculous packaging, stupid titties all over it.
Okay, David Mazzuchelli.
TFO: Say Star Wars, we'll leave it there.
TFO: The Angel story?
Chiang: No, that's Marvel Fanfare. No, this is just regular X-Factor, one of the earlier things he did, it was fairly old school.
TFO: With Louise Simonson?
Chiang: Wait, that's not a real answer!
TFO: That Fanfare story is pretty great.
Chiang: It's great. The art is way more sophisticated than the writing. That's why I couldn't say that as a real answer. Year One is the super-hero book that I love the most, and the non-super-hero book is probably Rates of Exchange. That felt like when he finally nailed that connection of between that Rubber Blanket ethos and his kind of cartoony--it wasn't aggressively stylized in one way or another. Natural.
TFO: What did you think of City of Glass?
Chiang: City of Glass. I like it, but it's cold.
TFO: Cold. I can get that. Okay: Alex Toth.
Chiang: Toth. God. When he died, I had a really hard time figuring out how to feel about it, because the guy was so fucking--he hated everything he'd ever done. And yet, if you left him to his own devices, he would do shit like Bravo For Adventure. And you know, that's not a good story. There's some really great drawing in it, but it's not a good story. Artistically, I loved the Zorro stuff, but I think what I liked the most with him was the fucking 'Ooh La La" story.
TFO: "Ooh La La"? I don't know that one.
Chiang: It's like two or three pages! This fucking kid makes his own flying machine, and they fly to this country called "Ooh la la" and he and his dumbass friend leave with the two princesses. It's great because it's him with a flair pen, and it's great because--it's not abstract so that the drawing falls apart. I'm giving too many two titles answers, I gotta stick with something.
Chiang: The Hellboy story with the baby. The one where the baby gets replaced with a goblin. The reason why I love that story is that one panel where they say "you don't understand, at night he says horrible things to me." And then it's just a picture of a baby. And it's great. The other thing I always remember from Mignola is The Wolves of Saint August. But that baby story is the one I like the best.
TFO: The right answer is the monkey with a gun.
Chiang: I do like the one with the Homunculus and the giant.
TFO: Where he kills his brother. Art Adams!
Chiang: Art Adams. Yeah, that's a definite sentimental favorite. It's not Longshot though. I don't have the same feeling for that. It's the Asgardian Wars. Storm with the Thor feathered helmet.
TFO: Kevin Nowlan.
Chiang: Nowlan would be...I think, for the writing, that Legends of the DCU issue with Robin and Superman. Kelly Puckett can really pull out a great story.
TFO: I don't think I know that comic.
Chiang: It's great. Batman is out of town, and Superman has tracked a bunch of gangsters to Gotham, but Batman is...just not around. He's in LA. He's in the Watchtower. Superman's in Gotham, and out of deference to Batman, he meets Gordon and Robin on a rooftop. He's like "I know this is your city, I want your permission to follow these guys." And Robin's like "Permission? You looking at me? Sure, whatever!" And so they team up, and Robin just worships Superman as a--like he's Robin's hero. But in the course of the story, he realizes how alien Superman is, with his powers and all that shit that's just out of his realm of possibility. And he realizes that the way he and Batman work together- -that works. There's a flashback to the Batcave, with him reading a comic, or watching tv, seeing this thing about Superman and saying "Did you see him? Did you meet him?" and Batman's like "Just remember. He's not human." And it's a great moment. By the end of the story, Superman is trying so hard, doing what he does, and then he realizes that when a bullet bounces off of him, that its going to blow Robin's mind...you gotta read it. It's great.
TFO: Goran Parlov.
Chiang: Goran! Yeah Goran's great. I feel pretty good about Goran. I feel like I sort of helped introduce him to Marvel, because I loved the stuff he was doing on this Terminator book. That was the first time I'd seen his stuff, and Jenny was looking for somebody to work with Bill Sienkiewicz on a Black Widow mini- series. Bill was going to do the first issue by himself, but after that they needed somebody really solid, and I knew that Goran's drafting was so good that he could do it and then Bill could do whatever he needed on top of it and it would be no problem. So they ended up working together, and he's been working with Axel ever since on all that Punisher stuff. Favorite thing would be...I really liked Barraccuda, for the personality, but I really liked Valley Forge, Valley Forge.
TFO: Valley Forge is the shit. Incredible art in that one.
Chiang: That's it. Valley Forge.
TFO: When Frank puts on that mask, the stuff in the cemetary...
Chiang: You know what puts it over for me is those photos that he did. They weren't referenced, you never got the sense that it was an actual photo he was taking it from, but they FELT like photos. They were composed like photos. They felt real, but they clearly weren't from anything that existed. That fucking blew my mind. And the story--it's so brutal. It's like what Tom Clancy should be.
TFO: Guy Davis.
Chiang: It's funny, I didn't appreciate Guy Davis for a long time. But when I was working on Human Target, Javier Pulido mentioned " i see a lot of Guy Davis in this stuff", which was weird to me, because I didn't read much Guy Davis stuff. But I understand it now. I haven't read that much BPRD stuff where I feel like he's really letting loose. But there's some really great Sandman Mystery Theater--but I know there's something else that I really like. I never read Baker Street.
TFO: Okay, I got a guy for you: Jim Aparo.
Chiang: As Flavor Flav said, "I got nothing for you, man." I'm familiar with his work, but nothing really springs to mind, especially since my main reference point for him is A Death In The Family. Didn't he draw some of those crazy Spectre stories? I heard those were nuts.
TFO: Oh shit yeah, some of those Spectre stories are bone-crunching. Okay here's a different kind of question for you: who best represents Batman for you? When you think of what he looks like, who is it that's drawing him?
Chiang: It's weird because I would have said Mazzuchelli a few years ago, but I've come to really appreciate the larger history and the different kinds of stories. Are you telling me a JLA story? Then I see 70's Garcia Lopez. What about a moody modern piece? Maybe Kevin Nowlan. He did a Man-Bat Secret Origins stories with Jan Strnad that's pretty striking. All these takes are great and they all come to mind now. I'd say the Batman that I draw has a Year One feel, but with some modern flourishes. I always thought of Year One as being an early, cheapie Scorcese movie. What would that story look like now, with a bigger budget?
If you say Batman Begins, I'm gonna punch you in the dick.
TFO: Nah, my first response was Gangs of New York, which probably means Mignola. Nowlan's an interesting choice. I mostly associate him with covers (striking images, icon-play) nowadays. I can't think of a storytelling example by him off the top of my head, and that's what strikes me most when i look at Year One again. I was showing it to somebody who had never seen it at the store, and Mazz doesn't have a lot of Big Boom panels in it. It's mostly the gorgeous little vignettes, with splashes devoted to Gordon sitting on the bed, that kind of thing.
Chiang: Yes, Year One is really best for its quiet moments. You remeber scenes being quite large in your head, and then you see it's only a third of the page.
TFO: I tried to show a newcomer that "you're the one who shot at the cat" part, but the impact was muted. I think that's a good thing, though. It means you can't just cut and paste a panel and recreate a story. i think that's what it means.
Chiang: No, it's true. One of the things that I find fascinating about comics is how most drawing usually falls apart a little bit if you stare at it too closely, but while you're reading it you're caught up in the flow and it's magic. It's like playing music live. You can flub a note, but as long as you don't stop and call attention to it, no one really cares.
TFO: Let’s talk about Jack Kirby.
Chiang: It's funny. I never really connected with Kirby the way a lot of artists do. I recognize that it's great work, but it doesn't grab me. Same thing with Eisner. I read a lot of the Fourth World stuff when I was working with Walt Simonson, and I think it's cool but I don't have a soft spot for it.
TFO: Frank Miller?
Chiang: Ronin. It was one of the first Frank Miller books I read. I love Dark Knight Returns, but I just loved that Miller was following his muse, doing Moebius style drawings. It's not a perfect book by any means, but i think it symbolizes a lot for me. Plus, boobs.
TFO: Joe Kubert!
Chiang: I think Elektra Assassin is pretty brilliant, but my sentimental favorite is the New Mutants slumber party issue. I loved that the teenagers looked and acted like kids. And on top of that you got all those crazy, powerful drawings of Warlock and his dad. It was a good mix of things.
TFO: Kyle Baker!
Chiang: Why I Hate Saturn. It's got such fluid cartooning combined with that ear for dialogue. It's one of the books I used to give to people who didn't read comics, but at the same time, it's not a simple work. It's just easy to read and accessible.
TFO: Throw me an underrated artist, somebody you think doesn't get enough attention.
Cliff Chiang: That would probably be Tony Salmons. I remember seeing those great Dakota North ads when I first started reading comics, but never found those at the local 7-11, so I didn't see any more of his work until I was an adult. He's able to combine great storytelling and powerful drawing in a way that always surprises me. He's a giant, and I hope I can be that fearless someday.
TFO: Those Dakota North comics actually hold up. I bought them off of Frank Santoro at Mocca. Great dialog, best side characters ever.
Chiang: That's really interesting. Look, I don't want to be a dick, but I've got...stuff. To do. Can we wrap this up?
TFO: Oh, yeah. Uh. Let’s hit a writer and call it quits. You can't answer with Doctor 13 unless you really just hate everything else he's done. Brian Azzarello?
Chiang: 100 Bullets is a phenomenal work and achievement, so it's hard for me to talk about it quickly. For a single issue, I think the story that really captures Brian's gifts as a writer to me is the Tangled Web issue with Crusher Hogan. He was able to find a new interesting angle on this bit character and it was just so compelling and heartbreaking.
TFO: Oh yeah, I love that comic. There's that part where he's in the kitchen with his wife
Chiang: Yeah, I read it. Are we done?
TFO: Yeah, totally.
Chiang: I'm going to hang up then, it's really late.
TFO: Oh I guess it is. I can stay up pretty late, reading comics and blogging and stuff. One time I fell asleep at my desk!
Chiang: [hangs up]
TFO: I woke up and my back really hurt, like one of those guys who is always "my back hurts". Pretty crazy. I need to make friends with one of those people who always have muscle relaxants. You know what I'm talking about? So crazy.
-Cliff Chiang, Tucker Stone, 2010
The conversation may or may not have ended the way it is described above.