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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan Kwanzaa, or Non-Denominational Celebration

Or if you choose not to celebrate anything, that's ok too. This is the first year I've actually kind of been into it. At least since I was a kid, but that might've been more about the anticipation of getting stuff. Actually I'm still really into getting stuff, and Reg and I have been having fun giving one another early Christmas gifts.

For instance, Reg got me this, the first good new newspaper strip in over 20 years, Cul De Sac. I love this strip! Buy it immediately! It has an introduction by Bill Watterson, and he just doesn't do that kind of thing!

Reg also got me collections of old post code "New Direction" EC comics, like Extra, and MD and Piracy, and for my birthday, my favorite, Psychoanalysis. If you don't know what I'm talking about it's because you have to be really into this stuff to a geeky extreme to even know it exists, and you're probably not missing anything.

You may or may not have received or be receiving a card with this picture on it:



If you haven't, or don't soon, just ask and you shall receive. I have plenty of them.

I haven't posted in a while because I've been spending most of my time working on a 13 page comic book story that has a lot of very hard things to draw in it. I'm very proud of it, and it should be done in about another month. It is also wordless.

Other News:

Two of my posters, The bicycle Tree and The Rooster, and my postcard sets are currently available for retail at the framing department at Ace Hardware here in Davis CA. We're looking into other retail possibilities in the near future, and are in the process of setting up the website for retail, though we have yet to "go public" with the whole retail thing.

I've also got an ultra top secret hush hush poster in the works that we're going to sell in conjunction with the inauguration guaranteed to make Mark Martin's eyes glaze over (Shhhh).

More Comics On Top Shelf

My superman strip, now titled, "Crime Fighter" is currently up on Top Shelf's website. And of course, it's also on the previous post, so you can check it out there as well if you haven't already.

I must thank Leigh Walton, editor of Top Shelf's online comics, for requesting to post the strip after finding it on my blog, thus proving that someone actually reads this thing.

The Blue Kid

Top shelf has also posted the complete Blue Kid, and all strips can be viewed here.

No news yet about print publication of The Blue Kid. It's been sent to all likely parties, but I've yet to get a yay or nay. If all else fails there's always the Xeric.

Friday, November 07, 2008

New Wordless Comic: Superman Story

Here's the first in what I hope will be a long series of black and white wordless comics. This one is a Sergio Aragones-style humor strip.

This strip is based on a revelation I had as a kid about superheroes. When I was 13, it occurred to me that Spider-Man was an asshole. Spider-Man would routinely wrap up the bad guys in his web and hang them from a lamp post for the police with a note. But then what? What happens to these people after they've been hanging there for a while and the police find them? It's not like they can arrest them. Where's the evidence of a crime? Are they supposed to take Spider-Man's word for it? Is it somewhere in the note?

And then there was the Super Friends. For some reason during the late 70s and early 80s people were even more paranoid about TV violence, and superheroes weren't allowed to punch people on TV. So Superman's default method of capture was to wrap a lamp post around the bad guy. You would think that there would be obvious consequences to this kind of casual damage to municipal property, and that punching the guy would have been more civically responsible.







For those curious about such things, I made the tones by doing a series of dry brush and pencil textures that I then used as a palette to clone from in Photoshop. This way I could get a lot of natural looking textures while still maintaining a good deal of control. I like the effect better than your standard flat photoshop gray tones or airbrushed modeling, and I'll probably use it a lot more in the future for my black and white comics work.

And yeah, either the van or the car in the last panel is on the wrong side of the road. It just worked out better that way compositionally.

A lot of the characters here are left-handed probably because I'm left-handed, and when it occurs to me I try to make people right-handed because more people are right-handed than left-handed.

Obviously I've been over thinking this.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

This Is Happening



It's really happening. Just a few weeks ago I wouldn't have thought it was possible. I've never been so excited and enthralled by the outcome of an election. Obama's acceptance speech was genuinely moving. Obama has the potential to be one of the truly great presidents, maybe to be among the greatest presidents in history.

Unfortunately he's inherited a big mess, but so did Franklin Roosevelt. This is a genuine opportunity to make revolutionary change. So don't blow it Obama!

Edit: It looks like prop 8, the proposition to ban gay marriage, is going to pass here in California. As excited as I am about Obama, prop 8 is a real setback for California.



APE

After that this seems pretty trivial, but here I am at the Alternative Press Expo that was held this last weekend:



The picture's are a little blurry since I forgot my camera and we had to use Regina's picture phone. It was pouring down rain, so from what I heard, the turn out wasn't what was expected, but despite this we did really well. To the right of me is Mari Naomi, author of Estrus Comics, autobiographical comics about her love life. She was really a neat woman, and it was good to meet her.



Here's our spread. We sold out of the elephants print, and sold a ton of the smaller bicycle tree print. We had a larger bicycle tree print, but the small one had a little color, and people seemed to like that one better because of the color. The Baby God minis did Ok, but I sold very few Blue Kid minis for some reason. Since the Blue Kid is the thing I'm most proud of right now this was a little disappointing, but I did learn that people really really seem to like these two particular prints. I didn't have business cards, and I'm not set up to sell anything on my website, so I'm probably going to have to do something about that. Regina is the one hiding behind the table. She won't let me include any pictures of her on the blog.

This was my first sighting of the elf:



To the left of me is Ben Costa, author of a really amazing comic called Shilong Pang and another really cool guy.



More elf. Just in front of the elf is another talented cartoonist that was seated near us. His name is R. Carrasquillo according to his mini comic, The Heights, but I don't remember what the R stands for.To the very far right is Morgan Lee Kessler who had mini zines and prints. She was responsible for our first sale, a Baby God.

And here's the elf in all his glory:



For some reason he reminds me of Doug Henning.

I vowed this time not to buy anything at APE that I could buy anywhere else, something that, for the most part, I stuck to. My major purchases were from the one and only Jason Shiga. Most of his books are hand made, and all of them are amazing. This year he even recorded a rap album! "I Love My Shigacorn" and "2Pac Lives" are my favorite rap singles of all time!



From top left, clockwise: Shiga's rap album (I bought three), Hello World, a choose your own adventure type of comic that is mindblowingly complex (Shiga is a mathematician and often uses math in the formal presentation of his comics), and last, Empire Park, Shiga's newest. Shiga is not only amazing with the formal aspects of comics, but he's great at writing characters and dialogue and, in the case of his books Fleep and Bookhunter, suspenseful plots. His books get very poor distribution so he's the best kept secret in comics.

You can buy his books and music here.

Other highlights included the new giant Kramer's Ergot which is mindblowingly huge and mindblowingly beautiful but also really really spendy. Ted Stearn has a very funny and underrated strip called Fuzz and Pluck. His new hardbound is called Splitsville. Lets see, Jesse Reklaw's Diary Comics, the new Acme Novelty Library, too much stuff to recount, but I didn't really get as good a look around as I would've liked since I was so busy selling things.

I almost forgot:



The Wuvable Oaf! The sweetest gay bear comic you will ever read. It's also very funny and beautifully drawn!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mini Comics! (The Making of)

I recently printed some mini comics at the print shop where I work. I meant to include some pictures of the press, but I accidentally deleted them.

 So after making color separations and plates, the pages were printed and trimmed, and this weekend we finished putting them together. Thomas Thomas graciously volunteered to colate them (that's not a typo, Thomas' first and last names are Thomas).



I stapled them.



And made the final trim.



And the finished product:





I also made another, smaller mini with a two color cover and black and white xeroxed interior, called, Baby God:






And these full color postcards sheathed in this lovely vellum envelope:





And you can purchase these and more at this years Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco on November 1st and 2nd!

If all goes well, I'll also be showing color copies of the rest of the book, which by then should be about 66 pages in all. I plan to do one more short story, but won't likely have it finished by APE. The mini will cover the first nineteen pages, and you can currently view the first 21 pages on Top Shelf 2.0!


Edit: That's actually the first 41 pages on Top Shelf!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

More Blue Kid! Also, The Snowman, Bad and Good Adaptations

More Blue Kid!

Here it is. I know it's been a while. They should be posting this next story in two parts. This is the first part. There are at least a couple of my favorite pages here. This one is 22 pages in all.

At the moment I'm working on pg 58 and 59, and I should be wrapping the whole thing up in another couple of weeks. Phew. This is my longest sustained effort in comics.

My next project is most likely a longish illustrated children's book, and to keep my hand in comics, some wordless comics stories. The last Blue Kid Story is also wordless, and I think I've been building up to this with the previous pages, depending less and less on words to tell the story. The last story has some interesting formal stuff going on, some novel solutions to the problem of telling a story without words.

I've been really excited about Raymond Briggs lately. Have I already mentioned that? I've yet to read The Snowman but I really liked The Bear, and The Puddleman, and Ethel and Ernest.

There was this incredible animated film made of The Snowman that, as you can see, is gorgeous:



I haven't seen the whole thing in years, but I remember coming upon it by accident when I was a teenager, never having heard of it before. Briggs is huge with the brits, but it seems like we're quieter about him over here. Maybe it's because there's a lot of very English stuff in them when it comes to what people eat and how they talk and what they do with their free time, and American kids can't relate, I don't know.

There's this stage show too, and though the art direction looks decent enough, it kind of freaks me out for some reason:



Some stuff just isn't meant to be live-action, you know? Like all these recent Dr. Seuss train wrecks--32 pg books that weren't intended to be stretched out into 90 minute movies, let alone acted out by comedians with Planet of the Apes prosthetics. There's something very grotesque and frightening about these movies and their horrible all over the place merchandizing.

The worst piece of merchandizing I've ever seen was this book called, "Dr. Seuss' Cat In the Hat Storybook". It was drawn in a Dr. Seuss style almost identical to the original, but it wasn't The Cat in the Hat. It was a storybook based on the movie, The Cat in the Hat. It was this totally counterfeit but officially Seuss estate sanctioned Cat in the Hat book that could easily be mistaken for the real thing by someone unfamiliar with the original. It was one of the most disturbing things I've ever seen.

I've always wondered how much merchandizing and adaptation dilutes the original. Alice In Wonderland is a good example: It's getting harder and harder to find the unabridged Tenniel illustrated version and some people are only familiar with the Disney Film. Winnie The Pooh is a similar casualty. Some people don't even know that there were books in the first place, and the Disney versions are so different than the source material that they don't even resemble the original characters. The original books are also very British, and when my dad tried to read them to me as a kid, I just didn't get them. It didn't look like the Winnie the Pooh I knew. The Disney version is more modern and accessible I guess. At least to the kid I used to be.

Now there were some perfectly good and very faithful animated versions of Dr. Seuss' books done with Seuss' involvement in collaboration with Chuck Jones and Ralph Bakshi and others, the running time stretched out to 25 minutes or so with songs with lyrics by Seuss. But people love these books so much they're gladly willing to smother them, and I'm a little worried about this upcoming feature length live-action Where the Wild Things Are movie. Maurice Sendak is involved, but he was also involved in the Where The Wild Things Are indoor theme park at the Sony Metron in San Francisco, with an In The Night Kitchen themed pizza parlor. My impression last time I was there was that it was a very bad idea, which goes to show that sometimes the artist's aren't the best custodians of their own work.

At least the original is always there to be found if you look hard enough. But how many awful movies were made based on very good books that people who have seen those awful movies won't have anything to do with?

Then there's stuff that far exceeds the source material, like The Godfather. The book is fun, but very pulpy. I saw David Cronenburg's Spider after reading the book, and I hated the book, but loved the movie. And I'm sure there are other examples, and I'm sure the authors have more faith than I do in the quality of their own books.

Monday, June 30, 2008

What These Are Supposed to Look Like

These images were originally done at 38x50 inches. Which is enormous. I tried to take photos of them. I tried to get other people to take photos of them. The photos sucked. So I finally broke down and scanned them. Piece by piece. It took the better part of one weekend and one day to scan and reassemble these. The tree took about 30 scans and the elephants about 50. Finally I have decent images of these. The tree was scanned at 600 dpi and the elephants at 300, and were assembled at actual size. The object was to make clear enough and large enough images to make decent-sized prints.

So now you can see that the tree isn't so dark, and the elephants not so brush strokey, and the buildings in the background do not look like mud. I changed the lines in the buildings to a dark red so that the buildings would be more pink, and so the windows in the background wouldn't get muddy. So this is pretty much what these are supposed to look like, and soon I will make prints out of them.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Future of "The Blue Kid"

Whoever you people are, you shan't see any more of "The Blue Kid" comic strips at this particular locale. Have I given up the ghost?

Touche!

Soon, very soon, my dear reader, you will be joined by other readers if you venture to this site.

Not yet though.

For those not in "the know" the above "this" will lead you to Top Shelf 2.0, online comics from the much esteemed alternative comics publisher, Top Shelf! The folks at Top Shelf have recently deemed my strip 2.0 worthy, and so, if all goes as planned, once I've knocked out a few more of these things, the first installment will appear and be resumed there. By their request, so that the content will be "exclusive" to Top Shelf (assuming it's being seen at all at this point)I'll be removing the strips from this site shortly.

But that might be a few weeks. Continue to watch this space for more news!

In the meantime you may feast your eyes on these two handsome devils from Chefferey's Bistro:



Ever since I stopped actively seeking out Freelance, it seems to be finding me. In this case, the fine folks at Sac News and Review have asked me to do a couple of caricatures for a local ad.

The second guy came out a little toothy. It's so weird that a big white boxer's tooth guard-like mass with a few vaguely defined gums at the bottom ends up looking like teeth in the cartoon vernacular. Inexplicably, when you put the gums at the top of the white mass the teeth end up looking very wrong. This is no joke! Try it at home!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sacramento News And Review "Re-Thinking Green"

Update: was out of town for a couple of weeks (more on that later) so I'm just now getting around to posting this.

This is a cover and some interior illustrations for The Sacramento News and Review. Andrew Nilsen was the art director--he was very easy, and very accomodating--the only stipulation was that I include a green brain in the composition. The headline was "Re-Thinking Green". I'm not sure if I came up with the best solution but here it is:





This is my favorite portrait of the three:



Its the first time I've applied a combination of pen and brush work to my illustrative figures, and I like the lines. They seem kind of Hirshfeldesque to me. I like the sharpness of penwork, and I'm including pen more and more in my work.

These two were a little less sucessful, but more or less resemble the people they're meant to. The theme was "different shades of green" which is why I decided to go black and white with the fleshtones. I thought it would be nice and graphic, and there would be continuity on the page.




Another update: Nilsen gave me a very gracious call after all was said and done, saying that the writers editors and subjects were pleased with the results. I don't usually get calls like these--usually its just a "thanks" or a "good job" and the checks in the mail, so that was very gratifying.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Blue Kid pages 7 and 8

Blue Kid to be seen on Top Shelf 2.0 soon!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Blue Kid Pages 5 and 6

The Blue Kid to be seen on Top Shelf 2.0 soon!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Blue Kid pages 3 and 4

This is the second two-page spread. Color separations were a bitch-- as I mentioned before,I'm doing the whole thing so it's press ready. My self-confidence and general output has been at a real low eb, but today I listened to this pep talk from Zefrank and found it generally encouraging, so I was inspired to finish the coloring today. I've been sitting on it for a while, stuck on some really unimportant things, like the typeface (I ended up using the one I made myself years ago) and my failure to execute this cartoon perfectly.

The general Zefrank message seems to be that you're never going to do anything if you wait around till conditions are ideal, so it's important to just make stuff, even if it's bad stuff, because there's no way to make good stuff unless you make some bad stuff first. Good ideas don't mean much if you don't do the hard part and get off your ass and make something. So I'm going to get making.

Edit: Sorry, no strips this time. The Blue Kid to be seen on Top Shelf 2.0 soon!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Blue Kid, 1&2

When I was in my 20s, I did this strip called, "The Blue Kid". I posted one a week on my website at the time, I'm not sure how many I did in total, maybe a dozen or so. Recently I decided to redraw some of those old strips. This is the first one. It's meant to be a double page spread--I'm doing this with the idea towards eventual publication in two colors--blue and red, doing seperations as I go. I've been having trouble committing to projects, and this is written very episodically, with each segment resolved in a short number of pages. It's less intimidating this way--it's not so sprawling that if I abandon it in the middle I won't have something to show for my effort, and at the moment I need a project that will bolster my confidence.

What I like about the strip and the character is that it's more of a pure cartoon world, like Peanuts or Jim Woodring's Frank, with it's own logic and it's own rules. The "town" is an abstract concept, sort of like the adults in Peanuts--it has a mostly implied presence--but I won't try to analyze it to much, it is what it is. The strip will be drawn simply, and I'm going to try to avoid getting too illustrative. Another model for this strip is Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon, and of course, Winnie the Pooh.