Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Big Bad Woof

Sorry I haven't been posting lately--you can find me on Instagram, where I'm posting a little more frequently. This, believe or not, is for a Christmas card in progress.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Hipster beards.

This was was originally meant as a gag cartoon.  I liked the drawing so much that it took me a while to realize the gag didn't work--it really have a punchline. I did come up with one for the Praying Mantises though!

So here it is:

Monday, August 03, 2015

Promise to Post More...

From Our Dog Giraud, work in progress. I've been frustrated with social media lately, and just haven't been doing much posting, so I'm starting again.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Another Book In Progress: Our Dog Giraud, and SpongeBob Comics!

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. No excuses really--I'm still making pictures. I did have a bought of minor illness in the winter, but am tip top now. A lot of projects in the works as usual.

 So here's an image from Our Dog Giraud:

I'm particularly happy with the little girl's posture and the subtle turn of her head (as you'll see, changed a bit from the original inks). This is, as usual, another book proposal. Nothing concrete. All on spec from my own manuscript.

And here are the inks,

 done in pieces and in both line art and ink washes. I like to be able to manipulate the color on photoshop, both because I'm a little timid about watercolor, and just the flexibility. But I really like this juicier look.

Also since everything prints in CMYK, the colors in watercolor aren't going to print quite the same as they look on paper, and on photoshop in CMYK mode (if your screen is color calibrated) the colors are more accurate to what you'll eventually see in print. So grayscale, for me, is the way to go.

And for those Photoshop aficionados I don't use the "color" feature because it adds black to every color, so I make the grayscale a writeable layer. This makes the colors more pure and vibrant.


So my shameless, unabashed love letter to the editor of SpongeBob Comics worked! Proving that sometimes you just have to go for it. Click on the link and see how I braved potential embarrassment by saying, "hey, Chris, I want to do this!" It's not the first time in my very short career that just telling someone what you want did at least part of the job! For instance: how I met my agent.

So at your local comic shop right now, my strip in SpongeBob Comics #46! It's a double page spread that opens up vertically! which means you have to turn your comic sideways to read it!  Here's a sample:

SpongeBob visits a microscopic world! Unusual for mainstream comics (where tasks like coloring, lettering and inking are delegated to different artists), I did the whole kit and kaboodle!Even the lettering! It was a great time and I'm very proud of it!

And while I recommend you support your local comic shop, if you absolutely can't find one, you can still get it on Amazon!

At some point I want to do a full process post on this one, but that'll have to wait.

I'm turning 42

Yep, later this month I'm turning 42. What does this mean? For me it means something significant: I'm starting my career "later in life." Nope, I didn't have kids, I didn't have a teaching or any other kind of career before this. I'm just a late bloomer. What that does mean is that I had a lot of room to fail. I also had a lot of time to figure out what I'm about and what I really want to do. At any rate, this is probably the subject of an essay in itself, So I'll hold off for now.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Why Star Trek The Motion Picture is the Best Star Trek Movie Ever

While Wrath of Khan set the mold for how Star Trek films were done afterwards, Star Trek The Motion Picture is not only a better movie, but it represents everything that made the original series work and then some.

So first off:

What’s New?

The Jerry Goldsmith Score

Everyone knows the original Star Trek theme music, but it wasn’t used at all in the film. Instead was a full orchestral score by Jerry Goldsmith. Variations of this score were used in later films (which Goldsmith also scored) and it was also used in the Star Trek The Next Generation TV show.

Better Effects. Klingons Are Aliens!

This is post Star Wars, so the bar has been raised. Fortunately, they’ve got Star Wars’ Douglas Trumbull supervising the effects, and it shows. The first thing we see is the beautifully detailed miniatures of the new Klingon ships, and the Klingons with their new look and language. For the first time on Star Trek, aliens don’t all speak English. Even the Vulcans have their own language.

Planet Vulcan

Whose idea was this hair?
We finally get a good look at Spock’s home planet with a big giant beautiful matte painting. We haven’t been to Vulcan since the glimpse we got in the original series in the episode, Amok Time, but here, Vulcan is a harsh—and literally—volcanic planet. We see Spock with bad hair going through a Vulcan ritual where he’s supposed to achieve some ultimate state of logic, which he fails because of his human blood. But he fails for another reason: something is calling him to space, and space is where he’s going to find whatever it is he’s searching for. I’m not sure how this works—something to do with his Zen-like Vulcan powers, but we go with it.

Earth is Futuristic

In the series, we never got to see futuristic earth, but this is the movie, and everything is bigger and grander, so here we have more great matte paintings with a future cityscape and shuttle port.

The Enterprise Is Really Big.

More Trumbull goodness.

We’re introduced to The Enterprise in Earth orbit. We get different angles as the Goldsmith score swells. It goes on for a while. Longer than modern audiences are used to. Clearly we’re supposed to be impressed. So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is scale. In the original show we never got a true sense of scale. But here we have multiple shuttles floating around of different sizes and guys in space suits working on the ship. It’s huge!

Later Kirk addresses the crew. The whole crew. What looks like hundreds, a few obviously alien, but now we finally see more than just a handful of people passing through the hallways.

The Transporter Sometimes Doesn’t Always Work So Well

The last time the transporter didn’t work in the original series, Kirk got transported to the evil mirror universe to be replaced by evil Kirk. But this time when the transporter fails, it’s horrific and scary. We see a deformed glimpse of the rematerializing (and screaming) crew members before what’s left of them phases back to earth.

This sets a different tone for the story that follows. The Star Trek tech was always reliable in the original series. Everything always worked for the most part the way it was supposed to, with the exception of mirror universes and the “she can’t take any more of this captain” complaints from Scotty. So now we’re introduced to the idea that Star Trek tech can malfunction and this can be very very bad.

What’s Familiar

Emotional Arcs (or Lack Thereof)

The problem with TV until very recently was, except for the odd soap, there was very little change. Someone who had never seen the show had to be able to immediately tell what was going on, and so at the end of each episode, everything had to return to status quo. So Kirk, Spock and McCoy had to basically stay the same, though occasionally some efforts were made to give the characters more depth. But in STTMP, they take a big step forward with Spock.

Spock’s Awesome Entrance

When Spock boards the Enterprise, he’s his usual stoic self, but he’s just come back from his Vulcan logic ritual with a new haircut. The old crew members are glad to see him, but Spock ignores their happy greetings and enthusiasm and gets right to work. It’s a great entrance that immediately lets us know what Spock is about, and it doesn’t take long for the crew members to get it, “Oh that’s right. Spock is Spock” but now he’s even more Spock-like and it’s a little unnerving.

Kirk Can be a Dick

A big dick.

Here, right off, we’re introduced to Kirk’s oversized ego. Kirk has talked his way into taking command of the ship from its captain, Decker. Decker isn’t pleased and says that Kirk doesn’t know the retrofitted Enterprise as well as he does, but Kirk claims superior experience and that he’ll figure it out. We always knew Kirk had an ego, but this time he’s taken it that much further, and later it comes back to bite him in the ass.

McCoy Being McCoy

Throughout the movie as in the series, McCoy calls Kirk on his shit. McCoy is often the only person Kirk will listen to, and this continues to prove true. McCoy lets Kirk know that he’s being a dick and needs to tone it down. McCoy also warns Kirk about Spock. Spock seems to have his own agenda, and they don’t know how this is going to affect the mission. It’s back to the old dynamic: McCoy respects, but is a little wary of Spock, but Kirk trusts Spock implicitly and isn’t worried.

The Rest of the Cast

Aren't these outfits better than those tacky red coats? (Aside from McCoy's Swinger neckline) 

Unfortunately the rest of the original cast gets short shrift and their performances amount to little more than cameos. This is how they’ve often been treated in the films, and it’s always been a shame. In the original series we get to know the other crew members better over time, but STTMP assumes that’s already been covered, and so this is all we get.

The Story

Kirk Gets Humbled (Sorta)

During warp, the Enterprise Gets sucked into a worm hole. I don’t know how the science stands up here, but this is where the foreshadowing of the transporter further plays out: once again, the tech goes wrong. They’re about to crash into an asteroid. Kirk says: use the phasers, Decker says “nope, it’s got to be photon torpedoes,” and launches the torpedoes instead. Kirk asks to speak privately with Decker, and Decker reveals that because of some technical jibber jabber, the phasers wouldn’t have worked. So Decker saved the day because he knows the ship better than Kirk. Kirk says something condescending because he’s Kirk, while acknowledging that Decker did the right thing and that he needs Decker after all.


When bald supermodel Iia, the ship’s navigator, first enters the bridge, everyone on the deck pauses to admire her hotness to the accompaniment of a string section (it is 79.) It is revealed that Decker and Iia had a previous relationship, and for some reason I can’t fathom Iia announces apropos of nothing that her “celibacy is on record” I guess to make sure that nobody gets frisky.


First off: lets establish that the spaceship, V’Ger looks badass. This is Trumbull doing what Trumbull does best. It’s just a gorgeous design come to life. Back then, it was no easy task to take a production painting and turn it into a convincing special effect, and guys like Trumbull had to practically be magicians to pull this off. These weren’t CGI composite shots like today, but practical illusions that had to be invented on the fly. Like the Enterprise, there are a lot of long pans to show how awesome V’Ger is, because it is genuinely awesome.

So the Enterprise is supposed to intercept and try to stop the potentially nasty alien ship, V’Ger which is headed towards Earth. When they reach V’Ger, Kirk asserts his Kirkness, and Decker freaks out when Kirk orders that they don’t activate the shields. But what Decker doesn’t know is that earlier V’Ger zapped a Federation space station (along with those Klingon ships) out of existence because it perceived the shields as a sign of hostile intent.

So V’Ger sucks the Enterprise into itself and closes the door behind it, but this time when it zaps the ship, instead of disappearing the ship, it disappears Iia. Decker is upset when Iia is zapped away, but also, not so much. While Shatner can overact, I think the actor playing Decker could have been a little more invested here because his relationship with Iia is the whole crux of the story.

So, Iia, or Iia robot probe clone reappears on the ship, announcing that the crew are “carbon units” infesting the ship, which it thinks is sentient. With the hope that original Iia is in there somewhere, Decker attempts to appeal to her human nature, but that doesn’t work out. Iia insists on meeting “the creator” which is supposed to be on earth.

Spock Gets a Real Emotional Arc!

This is where it gets interesting. Spock does his nerve pinch on some random crew member, gets a spacesuit, and heads deeper into V’Ger because he senses that whatever he’s been looking for is there. But he only has enough jet propulsion for a one way trip. Assuming he probably won’t be coming back, he records his observations. It’s a tense scene.

So he discovers V’Ger comes from a machine planet and has been collecting all this information through its travels, and is ready to transmit the information to its creator. That’s its mission Spock decides to mind meld with it, this hurts Spock’s brain, and he’s repelled back towards the Enterprise.

Kirk, dons a spacesuit and intercepts Spock, yells at him to wake him up, but Spock is completely out of it. They bring Spock back on the ship. McCoy says, “brain trauma.”

Then Spock wakes up. This is the best part. His whole affect has changed, and we see a warmth we’ve never seen from Spock. It’s a great performance from Nemoy. He holds Kirk’s hand. He explains that V’Ger lack the fundamental thing that makes us human and that makes Spock human, (or at least, half human): emotion and a sense of meaning and purpose. Spock has found what he was seeking: he couldn’t go through with the Vulcan ritual of logic because he had to get in touch with his emotional side.

If you don't think this is more powerful than the death scene in Khan, you have no soul.

So here’s Spock’s emotional arc. This experience changes the interior life of the character in a fundamental way. This is one of the most important moments for the character and the series. He soon returns to his stoic self, but there’s no denying a change in him has taken place.

The Star Trekky Ending

So V’Ger reaches earth, sends a message to the creator and doesn’t get a response. So it decides it’s going to eliminate the infestations of all those carbon units.

She surely won't be able to able to hear us as we talk about her at full volume literally behind her back.
So McCoy makes one of his down homey country doctor observations: V’Ger is like a child and should be treated like a child. He says all this in earshot of Iia, so I’m not sure how she’s supposed to ignore all this, but Kirk does his Kirk thing and bluffs. He says that he’s got the info V’Ger needs, but won’t give it up unless he can meet with V’Ger. So this is at best a stalling tactic, but also, Kirk is curious. This is at the core of Star Trek—the “to boldly go where no man has gone before” part. It’s about curiosity and discovery.

So they find out that V’Ger is the original NASA Voyager probe, (V’Ger—Voyager—get it?) it slipped into a black hole and found this technological planet. The machine planet “fixed” Voyager and made it sentient.

So they find the old code response to the original Voyager message in their archives. Kirk explains that the “carbon units” are V’Ger’s creator. V’Ger insists that it has to “merge with its creator.” Decker volunteers because he just can’t get over Iia, and Iia is still in there somewhere. So he joins with V’Ger, and they become a new organism.

And this is why Star Trek is Star Trek. It’s always been about this. It’s what Sci-Fi does best—explore ideas.

Star Trek the Motion Picture Vs. Khan

While The Motion Picture focuses on exploration and ideas, Khan is more of a standard adventure story. Khan wants revenge. Kirk thwarts him. It’s a well cafted adventure story, but it’s not very Star Trekky. The Genesis bomb subplot—and it is essentially a subplot—is the only true sci-fi element in the story. Everything else is space opera. The original Star Trek was seldom space opera.

Spock’s Death is Cheap

I'm dying but not.

Set aside the fact that Spock is brought back from the dead in the next movie: his death—even if we assume he’s actually dead-- doesn’t change anything. Spock and Kirk are close. Spock makes a Spock-like sacrifice. Spock is stoic. Kirk is emotional. It’s played for sympathy, a cheap way to manipulate the audience’s emotions, while in STTMP, Spock is the only character with a real emotional arc. While the death of Spock is frequently held it high regard as key and poignant moment in the series it isn’t as powerful or meaningful as Spock’s transformation in STTMP.

Star Trek Is Reduced to Space Opera

So with the assumption that STTMP was a failure and Khan a success, the subsequent movies essentially followed the same pattern, more space opera than sci-fi. The Next Generation series is much better at carrying on the spirit of the original, but the movies are more about action and less about ideas, the recent reboot even more so. The new Star Trek movie franchise barely borrows the superficial elements of the original and completely misses what makes Star Trek unique.

So STTMP is really the most Star Trek of the Star Trek movies. No film better captured the essence of the show and its intention.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Tar Pit Trouble! La Brea Tar Pits! And Science!

So this is a mock-up  cover for a picture book I'm submitting about The La Brea Tar Pits for a Calfornia publisher. One of the edtors was a friend of my agents, and said that they were looking for California-themed books, and I suggest La Brea, and showed them a comic strip I made a few yearss back with a similar theme.

All they wanted was a manuscript and one image, which saved me the trouble of doing a dummy.

This was my first version of a wraparound cover before I did all my homework:

But then I discovered that the La Brea mammoths were not wooly at all, but hairless imperial mammoths! So I had to depilate my mammoths (no easy task):

This also gave me an opportunity to add grass and trees and give it more of a sense of place.

The lettering was done by mixing up ink with acrylic matte medium and dribbling it to make the letterforms.

So they liked the image, and  I'm in the process of editing the manuscipt.  And soon we'll send it out and see what happens.

Also the original of the bison  (since I work in pieces), is available in my Etsy store!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Black Cat.

Sorry I've been neglecting this blog lately. Between teaching responsibilities and several projects in flux, I just haven't had a chance to update.

So here's Peace Cat, so named because I drew it during an unintentionally intense Facebook discussion and posted it as a way to interupt the flow of craziness. Things can't get out of hand entirely too easily on the internet.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sketch Card Samples

So this is me answering the question, "can you do sketch cards?"

"Sketch cards" are, from what I understand, hand drawn cards inserted into packs of trading cards as a bonus. Each drawing is trading card size.

Since I didn't think the people who commission these things was going to look at my portfolio and say, "yep, this is the guy we're going to have draw Star Wars cards" I made these samples. This is actually the first time in my adult life I've drawn Star Wars anything, and since Star Wars dominated my childhood, it was a good time! I even had Star Wars trading cards as a kid!

Also Mars Attacks, which is what I'm more likely going to end up doing. For those unfamiliar, Mars Attacks was a series of trading cards done of the 50s that have seen a recent revival. Also, that Tim Burton movie "Mars Attacks" was based on these very same cards. Here's what they looked like back then:

Monday, March 23, 2015

Ms. Marvel Is the Superhero Comic We Need

Adults stole superhero comics from kids. 

I love superhero comics. I love them dearly. But I can't read the majority of the superhero comics as their written today. The genre I once loved has become alien to me. It's become off-putting and humorless.

I'm not sure exactly when it happened. I suspect sometime in the late 90s, when superhero comics began to be sold at direct sales comic shops exclusively.Consequently, the superhero comic book audience became stagnant. With no new blood, the readership was aging. Superhero comics began to develop interwoven story lines so byzantine that you couldn't keep up unless you bought multiple titles.This meant that if you wanted to read superhero comics and enjoy them, you had to be be a die hard fan and willing to spend hundreds a dollars to do so. It was impossible to become a casual reader, and the culture became increasingly insular. The content became not so much more sophisticated, but designed to appeal to this largely adult male audience. It became more violent and fetishized.

As a result, an entire generation of kids ceased to read superhero comics or comics in general. Japanese comics--Manga--began to fill in the gap with a largely kid audience, but this, too, was a niche market. Now there are a growing number of comics for kids, but few of them are superhero comics, and while kids and adults both have great affection for superhero movies, they're not buying the comics.These comics still have a very limited audience.

There's some justice in this. Superhero comics have dominated the market ever since the 60s. Back in the 50s Superheroes represented a very small part of a larger and more diverse market of humor, crime, horror and adventure comics. More than 50 percent of the audience was female.And kids read comics. It was just something all kids did.

I think Diversity of genre in general  is a good thing. But superhero comics still dominate more than they should. More women and girls are reading superhero comics now, but if they want to read superhero comics, they have to tolerate this boys club attitude,comics that are often sexist and ugly.

And I don't just mean ugly in the content portrayed behind the covers. I mean outright ugly. If you're a kid, and you go to the comic store and you want to buy a comic about Supergirl--a super. girl. This is what you find:

  I'm talking straight up tacky. Look at the average comics rack and the covers are filled with cheesecake and porn poses like this one:

This is Supergirl. A girl with superpowers. But the message is clear: these comics are not made for you.

Despite this kind of sexism, girls have been proven to be more willing than boys to read comics with protagonists who are their gender opposites.This is true in middle grade and YA fiction--which tend to be more gender progressive--as much as it is true in comics.

Superhero comics are often criticized as male adolescent power fantasies to the extent that the phrase has become a default dismissal of the genre. But the truth is that they are power fantasies. And adolescents--both boys and girls, often feel powerless, and superheroes are a great outlet for those fantasies. And maybe some of the adults who read these comics feel powerless too. But adolescents and tweens shouldn't be excluded from a genre that was originally written for them. And it was written for them. Superhero comics were written with kid's in mind much for longer than they were written for adult men.

So now kid's--and girls-- are finally getting their own superhero comics in the form of Ms. Marvel.

Ms. Marvel

Ms. Marvel is about a Pakistani teenager who gets superpowers.But it's not about her being Pakistani. Or Muslim. Although that's part of it. It's a truly great superhero comic.

It's kid accessible without being condescending. It's fun, filled with action and humor and it doesn't take itself too seriously. It's also beautifully drawn without the giant mesomorphs and porn poses you see in most superhero comics. Just solid, good cartooning. And the dialogue is sharp, and witty  and contemporary. And while it touches on Marvels crazy overburdened larger continuity, you don't need to know anything about other Marvel Comics to appreciate it.

 A lot has been made of her muslim/pakistani background, and for good reason. It's a glimpse into a culture that most of us Westerners aren't familiar with. But it's not a lesson, and it doesn't dominate the narrative, though the immigrant experience is an important part of it.She's very much who she is.And it's nice to see a superhero who isn't the white, male default.

This is how more, if not most superhero comics should be written. They've tried doing "kid versions" of Marvel and DC heroes based on the cartoons--of varying quality--some of them good, some not--but kid's don't want the kid version. They want the real version. This is the real version. And Ms. Marvel has proven that a good kid friendly comic about a superhero can sell.

 Why isn't Spider-Man written like this? Why have we lost touch with this core kid audience?

Adults have no problem reading solidly written YA fiction these days, so it's not a question of sophistication. So give kids back their superheroes! Enough of the gore and the porn poses and the rape (which is more common than you'd imagine in contemporary superhero comics).

 Let's see more comics like Ms. Marvel.

Friday, March 13, 2015


So while I was researching this book I'm working on I discovered there were once camels in California. Big ass camels. They were huge. So here's a camel.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dire Wolves!

Also for a work in progress. I always liked that they were called "dire" wolves. It sounds so menacing. It's like something George Lucas came up with for a Star Wars monster. So here are some prehistoric dire wolves.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Sabertooth Cat!

Another part of a work in progress. I've really been neglecting this blog so I want to try to make up for it with more art!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Here's another animal from my work in progress:

Monday, March 09, 2015


I've been neglecting my blog lately, most because I've been busy with projects. I just finished a 2 page comic strip for Spongebog Comics, (which I'll be talking about more when it comes out) and I've got my crowdfunding class coming up (sign up here, or for the free webinar this march 13th!)

I've also been writing essay for the site, Pyragraph, which you can read here.

Then there's a bunch of other projects I don't want to talk about yet. This is for one of them. A bison. I'm trying to work a little looser and a little more expressionistically, adding more exageration and cartooning into my work. This was a fun one!