“Whaam”, “Blam”, Thank You, Ma’am

Roy Lichtenstein's "Blam" which along with other Pop Art paintings by Rosenquist, Warhol, et al, introduced the idea of appropiation into modern art.
Roy Lichtenstein’s “Blam” which along with other Pop Art paintings by Rosenquist, Warhol, et al, introduced the idea of appropiation into modern art.

I’m done teaching workshops till January. I’m mostly done showing work this year, too, though I am available for appointments, just click “Contact”.

I am also sending some images to G44 Gallery, where they will be available for online purchase soon. I’ll link to the site when it’s up. My own online sales gallery is coming, but slowly- after Christmas looks like a good bet.

I’m also trying to keep up with routine tasks and especially, sketching, but mostly right now, ’tis the season for relaxing with friends or reading. In order to keep this blog somewhat timely and diverse, I’ll be posting about books and comics for a while, until the art happenings ramp back up. I love comics, and I make art. I often considered comics as a career, and have dabbled in comics over the years. But it’s a labor-intensive and lonely career. I’ve always loved the social aspect of fine art.

Here’s a subject that struck my fancy. It combines the two loves- one of the classic Silver Age comics artists who was “reinterpreted” for Roy Lichtenstein’s Pop Art masterpieces, such as “Blam”. It struck others’ fancy, too. When I googled “Russ Heath on Roy Lichtenstein”, it turned out there was quite a bit of commentary. Most of which was inspired by Heath’s own views, expressed humorously and in typically stylish fashion in this one page comic about his experience, which oddly depicts “Whaam”, a Lichtenstein appropriation of a different artist’s illo from the same comic. It’s a plug for Hero Initiative, a non-profit which aids comics artists, like Heath, who toiled during the days when publishers and the reading public treated them like hacks, and the medium like infantile tripe. Non-profits are work horses in the arts, for the simple reason that most artists- in any medium- have stories more similar to Heath’s than to Lichtenstein’s.

Heath, in the lingo of comics artists, would have called Lichtenstein’s use of his image a “swipe”. Lichtenstein, in the slightly more “elevated” lingo of Pop Art, said: “I am nominally copying, but I am really restating the copied thing in other terms.” Either way, the purpose of Lichtenstein’s use of Heath’s illustration was to ask questions about what constitutes “art”. However, neither Lichtenstein nor his estate has never recognized Heath’s work as anything except anonymous, generic source material. When I googled “Roy Lichtenstein on Russ Heath” I found no unique quotes. In other words, it was a one-way conversation.

This panel, from DC Comics' All American Men of War No. 89, is by Russ Heath.
This panel, from DC Comics’ All American Men of War No. 89, is by Russ Heath.

I enjoyed a lot of Heath’s work as a kid reading war comics. Even now I still admire his contribution to the sublimely surreal Western/War/Romance/50’s Ruiz bondage comics mash-up (with writer Michael O’Donahue) “Cowgirls at War” in National Lampoon. His turn of the century comics forebears launched mass market newspapers and gave voice to a new demographic in American cities, but his own generation of creators was subject to crass commercialization and censorship in the xenophobic 50’s. As his modern successors find success in movies, The New Yorker, and mainstream book publishing, his is an interesting tale that mirrors comics’ struggle for respect as an art form.

Russ Heath did this strip about his experience with "Blam" and Hero Initiative, a non-profit that aids Comics Artists. For some reason, the strip features "Wham", also appropriated from All American Men of War #89, but by Irv Novick.
Russ Heath did this strip about his experience with “Blam” and Hero Initiative, a non-profit that aids Comics Artists. For some reason, the strip features “Wham”, also appropriated from All American Men of War #89, but by Irv Novick.

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