Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I've Got Issues!

A box of my comics came yesterday. 50 copies of issue #2 and 40 more copies of #1. I wanted to be ready for a couple shows this year. If you see me in person, they are $3. If I have to mail them to you, it's a little more. Or, you can always use the links at the right.

Comics by Kids -- Math Bloopers!

Comic by Tyler, a 5th grader from last year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Weather Wizards of Ancient Times

This is my latest comic for Fun for Kids magazine. The assignment was to make a comic about the study of weather. It didn't sound entertaining at first, but I learned that some of the greats who studied weather were some real characters.

I would have loved to draw even more pages of Wang Chong. He was scathing in his confrontations of the misconceptions of his time. It was common to believe in ghosts in his day, to which he replied,
People say that spirtis are the souls of dead men. That being the case, spirits should always appear naked, for surely it is not contended that clothes have souls as well as men. Besides, so many people have died that their gohosts would vastly outnumber living people; the world would be swamped by them.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Comic Shop Offers Super Sales!

The comic shop I go to is called Heroes Your Mom Threw Out. They have a new location at 128 West 14th Street in Elmira Heights, NY.

There are some awesome end-of-the-year sales right now with a lot of buy-one-get-one-free graphic novels and even some at 75% off. There are also some $1 bins and I think some 50 cent bins of individual comics.
Above is the proprietor, Jared Aiosa.

You can see from the photo above that the pariscraft Hulk sculpture the kids at Lynch and I made found a new home at Heroes!

Store Info:

Location: 128 W. 14th St, Elmira Heights, NY
Hours: Wed/Thur/Fri 10-6 and SAT 10-4

Seeing art as we want to see it

1872 - The Bachante (Cassatt)

1879- Woman with a Peal Necklace in a Loge (Cassatt)

If you ever look at the very early paintings of Mary Cassatt, they are dark and murky and not very good. She said that when she saw the paintings of Degas,
"I used to go and flatten my nose against the window and absorb all I could of his art. It changed my life. I saw art then as I wanted to see it."

At another time, she said after seeing the Impressionists, "It was then that I began to live." Just look at how her art changed from 1872 to 1879 by looking at the two paintings above.

This is why I think it's important to expose kids to as many different kinds of art as possible. You never know which artist will be for them the one that makes it possible for them to "see art as they want to see it". I think if you're meant to be an artist, not making art isn't an option, and you discover kindred spirits. It's not that Cassatt imitated Degas, but they had similar approaches and style, and they did influence each other.

For me, one of those "aha" moments of seeing art as I wanted to see it was the summer of 1976. I was eleven years old and my mom had sent me into a 7-11 store to pick up a loaf of bread. On the way out I glanced at the newsstand and saw this...

Cracked magazine ! I stopped dead in my tracks. I knew that I was looking at caricatures of characters from my favorite TV show, Welcome Back Kotter. I ran out to the car and begged my mom for the 50 cents it would take to buy it.

Cracked was kind of an imitator of Mad, which I hadn't discovered yet. It was a little more tame in humor. It was my favorite magazine for a long time.

One of the regular cover artists was John Severin. Severin also worked in war, wester and adventure comics. As it turns out, today is John Severin's birthday. He's 87 years old and still working in comics! Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Behind the Scenes of Successful Failure

This post is a "behind-the-scenes" look at how one of my comic strips comes together. First comes the assignment. In this case, I was asked to create a three page comic strip that somehow dealt with Electricity. For three pages of comics and one page of knot instruction, I'll get $75. For the time that goes into it, it's not really worth it, but it finances the projects that I can do "just because I want to."

First comes the research. It takes a lot of it! Many times I'll read and consider ideas that I don't use. In this case, the book above inspired me to make a comic about the boyhood and career of Thomas Edison. He's a character that inspired a lot of legends and myths. Some of the biographies written for children are almost to the mythic proportions of the George Washington-cherry-tree variety. This books was intended to debunk the myths, but show what an unbelievably fascinating individual he was. Truth really is stranger than fiction.

You can see in the photo above that as I read, I jotted down notes about things I considered most important, exact quotes of things that were said, or ideas that occured to me as I read.

Next comes the visual research. I collected images that were in the public domain to have reference material. I wanted to have the cartoon characters at least look kind of like the people they were supposed to be. I also found a few more facts from reputable sources on the internet. Because, remember, "If you steal from one person, it's plagiarism --if you steal from many people, it's research."

Next comes the thumbnails. I do these in my sketchbook. This is mainly to see how many boxes it's going to take to tell the story, and how many boxes will be needed on each page. Some artists use stick figures or scribbly sketches. I mainly get the words in there. This may sound strange, but I often leave them empty because I can "see" the pictures in there.

Next I sketch out the boxes with a t-square. This cheap little plastic device is a real time saver! It is also nice to have premarked comic paper. The lines are blue, so they're not reproducible. Yet they are there and one less thing I have to measure. It makes things go quite a bit faster.

Next I roughly sketch what will go in each box. After that, I do the lettering, and then I come back in and tighten up the pencils. I leave the backgrounds out for the most part for now.

I use Rotring lettering pens to letter. They are very handy. They come with converters that you can refill with really good ink. I would love to find a fountain pen that I could use for drawing, but I think that at this point, I like the flexible nib of Speedball tips too much. I like how the line varies as I draw. If I could find a fountain pen that made lines just like a Speedball C-6 that didn't cost too much, I'd buy it in an instant. I can't really go buying expensive pens hoping they'll have lines I like when they cost $70 plus! If anyone knows of a pen like this -- I will be forever in your debt if you'd tell me!

This is the trusty Speedball (below). It's annoying to have to keep dipping, but as I said, I like the lines they make. I go all through the comic and hit the lines that this pen is needed for. Small little details I leave alone for now.

Then I come in with a crowquill. I get the small details and textures with this.

Then comes the erasing. This is the least enjoyable part of making comics. This is the only part of making a comic which is no fun at all! All the sketchy lines need to be erased, and there are tons of them. Just when you think you've got them all, you notice more. Marek Bennett teaches that making comics is easy as P.I.E.

  • P- Pencil and Plan

  • I- Ink

  • E- Erase
Eraser crumbs are everywhere! Or, as Marek calls them, particles of error. The big white erasers work best, I think. This one is a Papermate brand.

Some artists draw in non-reproducible blue pencil, so this stage is unnecessary. Someday I'm going to have to try that. I have my suspicions, I won't like not seeing what the final art will look like until it's scan, so for now, I'm skeptical that it will work for me.
I come back in with a Micron or Prismacolor marker. These are pens with very very very fine tips (even finer than a crowquill). But if you try to erase over them, the pen marks come up too! So I use them for the last finishing touches.

In this case I made the backgrounds very sketchy and impressionistic. I would have loved to go into great detail with period buildings and settings, but the deadline was looming and I could only devote so much time!

Then comes the scanning. I scan it in two parts, then rotate the images and put them together in Photoshop. It's not as hard as I thought it would be at one time. The computer work is not really fun for me either, but a necessary evil. I would much rather start the next comic strip, but it's gotta be done!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Successful Failure

"Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won't work."
Thomas A. Edison

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cover Recovered #6: Sheesh!

The Comics Re-covery Project is my way to "study after the masters". I basically redraw an existing comic cover in my own style, which is another way of saying I ruin it.

Here's the latest. The comic cover design strategy is: Someone comes ripping through the cover from the inside of the comic. In this case, Hawkeye seems to be annoyed because, presumably, he has used his manners and crawled around the front cover in the proper manner.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Fog Mound

I have a new favorite author/illustrator team -- the creators of Fog Mound. Susan Schade and Jon Buller have created this fantastic new series of books that many are calling a graphic novel "hybrid". The story is presented in half comic strip, half chapter book format. The books in the series so far are

Thelonious is a chipmunk, who is fascinated with the tales he's heard of a race of humans that some say existed at one time. After all, the legends claim that they once ruled the earth. His sister insists that humans are only make-believe. One day Thelonious is carried away in a flash flood to the decaying remnants of a post-apocalyptic human city. He meets many friends and enemies in his quest to find the answer to this question, "What happened to the humans?" With his friends, a bear, a lizard, and a porcupine Thelonious explores the secrets of earth's past.

I think that many elementary age reluctant readers would be pulled into the wonderful characters and exciting story that they read in the comic sections -- so much so that they would make the effort to find out what happens next in the chapter book sections.

So far there are three books in the series. I discovered them at Barnes and Noble. I was looking at the kids' graphic novel section, checking out the new stuff. Frankly, a lot of things that are new look like someone has taken a commercial property and created comic strip versions that stale and lifeless. Then I discovered Fog Mound, which is far from that! It's the just the kind of book I would have loved as a kid. Though the underlying moral that we really better start taking care of the earth could have been heavy, the illustrations and story are lively and full of humor. I think most kids would think, "We're much to smart to let this happen -- we'd better be!"

When I shared my stack of favorite graphic novels for kids at a recent Comics in the Classroom workshop for librarians, this is the book they were most excited about and hastily wrote down the information needed to order copies for their collections. If you're looking for a book series to share with a young reader, this is one I highly recommend.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What's in the Box?

This comic was for an anthology that was proposed but never published. The idea was to have several artists make stories that had to do with a box -- the contents of which would never be revealed.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's all in a Meme

Batgirl's Tea Party by Joey Weiser

What's a meme? I saw it mentioned and had to look it up! What got me curious was the Great Batgirl Meme of '06 someone pointed me to. Evidently, one artist redesigned Batgirl's costume and hundreds of artists did the same. That evolved into Fat Bat Cat drawings by a bunch of artists. It is interesting how creative ideas spread -- and how one artist's action can inspire creativity in other artists. Anyway, you learn something new every day, and here's what I've learned today!

A meme (pronounced /miːm/)[1] comprises any idea or behavior that can pass from one person to another by learning or imitation. Examples include thoughts, ideas, theories, gestures, practices, fashions, habits, songs, and dances. Memes propagate themselves and can move through the cultural sociosphere in a manner similar to the contagious behavior of a virus.

Richard Dawkins coined the word "meme" as a neologism in his book The Selfish Gene (1976) to describe how one might extend evolutionary principles to explain the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. He gave as examples melodies, catch-phrases, beliefs (notably religious belief, clothing/fashion, and the technology of building arches).[2]

Something very interesting to me is that the word for self-replication is a shortened form of the Greek word mimeme -- which looks a lot like Mini-Me!

So that's a meme, but basically in internet jargon basically in internet-jargon it means like a game that people play on blogs where one person posts something and then their friends do the same and so on and so forth.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Comics Re-covered #5: FF vs. Diablo and his Awesome Elementals

Diablo was one of the super-villains who opposed the Fantastic Four. This bad guy was a powerful alchemist in 9th Century Saragossa, who sold his soul to the demon Mephisto to lengthen his life far beyond a human span. Having lived for centuries, when the FF meet him, he is a practitioner of alchemy, science based upon the transmutation of elements, and has attained mastery of the alchemical sciences with his genius intellect. Wikipedia says,

Diablo employs a huge arsenal of alchemical potions he has discovered or concocted, that he can conceal in hidden pouches and pockets within his costume. His alchemy, which can transmute elements through means unknown to modern science, enables him to control his own body, the bodies of others, or inorganic matter. His mixtures include nerve gas pellets, sleeping potions, a potion that renders a person inert by rapidly lowering their body temperature, pellets that make a person susceptible to Diablo's hypnotic commands, other potions and pellets that enable him to transmute inorganic matter, create explosive blasts and create beings known as elementals that are composed of ancient alchemical "elements" of earth, fire, air, and water. With few exceptions, all of Diablo's potions and pellets have only temporary effect. He also has alchemical potions which grant him teleportation.

All of that would tend to make you fatigued, but get this: He coats his mustache with a fast-healing Elixir of Rejuvenation to suck on.

I'd like to know what possesses a man who's lived for hundreds of years to choose to dress this way. Maybe the thought process goes like this:

Diablo: If I'm going to be a super-villain, I'm going to need a flamboyant outfit. Hmmm....I'll go with magenta tights with green trim. Let's see, wings on the ballet slippers and long flowing black sashes. There! That's just the look to inspire fear.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Year, New Comic

“The creative mind plays with the objects it loves” - Carl Jung

I wasn't familiar with this quote until tonight, when I saw it in a book at Barnes and Nobles. It seems to fit the cover above though.

I should get my first copies of Eclectic #2 early in January. It won't be long after that before it can be purchased online at Ka-Blam. There were many setbacks to this -- computer crashes, etc.
I had the cover all colored once and the computer died before I could save it. The file could not be retrieved. Oh well, just had to do it again!

Finally the work is done. I'm happy with how it turned out.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

"I Was There when Words Collided"

My work was mentioned in the recent When Words Collide column by Tim Callanan. How cool is that? See it here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Comic Books Re-covered #4: The All-Star Squadron

(colored with Crayola markers)
The comic book "re-covery" project goes like this. I pick a comic cover that amuses me in some way, then I redraw it in my own style. I hope that I'm learning about comic cover design strategies, like this one: Good Guys vs. Bad Guys Slugfest.

This comic came out in 1983, the year I graduated from high school. I wasn't buying comics at that time, and probably wouldn't have bought this one anyway. The story is as confusing as the cover. It takes place during WWII on DC's Earth 2. According to Wikipedia,
Earth Two was created to explain how Golden Age versions of characters such as The Flash could appear in stories with their Silver Age counterparts. Its continuity includes DC Golden Age heroes, including the Justice Society of America, whose careers began at the dawn of World War II, concurrently with their first appearances in comics.
Confused? So am I! In the first 3 pages we are introduced to 17 characters, most of whom I've never heard of. As you continue, more and more costumed characters climb aboard as if it were a Pre-Crisis Noah's Ark. The Ultra-Humanite has gathered bad guys from her own day, some from the future '80s, and some from a place called Limbo. This is one of those comics that is so bad it's good, giving us hilariously absurd characters like the Monocle -- who can shoot blasts from his spectacle.

"Drive...Breathe Again" (100 Themes -- Update)

I like the idea of "comics improv". You might also call them word association comics. We've all seen "Who's Line is it Anyway" when someone yells out a word and the comedians do the best they can with it, on the spot. I like drawing comic strips that way, responding to challenges, giving myself a time limit, and doing the best I can with it.

One of the challenges floating around now is called 100 Themes. The challenge is to draw one panel or illustration for each. Part 1 (above) I did back in May. Six monthes later, I've got another page done.!

Here is the complete list of themes.

The Themes:

1. Introduction
2. Love
3. Light
4. Dark
5. Seeking Solace
6. Break Away
7. Heaven
8. Innocence
9. Drive
10. Breathe Again
11. Memory
12. Insanity
13. Misfortune
14. Smile
15. Silence
16. Questioning
17. Blood
18. Rainbow
19. Gray
20. Fortitude
21. Vacation
22. Mother Nature
23. Cat
24. No Time
25. Trouble Lurking
26. Tears
27. Foreign
28. Sorrow
29. Happiness
30. Under the Rain
31. Flowers
32. Night
33. Expectations
34. Stars
35. Hold My Hand
36. Precious Treasure
37. Eyes
38. Abandoned
39. Dreams
40. Rated
41. Teamwork
42. Standing Still
43. Dying
44. Two Roads
45. Illusion
46. Family
47. Creation
48. Childhood
49. Stripes
50. Breaking the Rules
51. Sport
52. Deep in Thought
53. Keeping a Secret
54. Tower
55. Waiting
56. Danger Ahead
57. Sacrifice
58. Kick in the Head
59. No Way Out
60. Rejection
61. Fairy Tale
62. Magic
63. Do Not Disturb
64. Multitasking
65. Horror
66. Traps
67. Playing the Melody
68. Hero
69. Annoyance
70. 67%
71. Obsession
72. Mischief Managed
73. I Can't
74. Are You Challenging Me?
75. Mirror
76. Broken Pieces
77. Test
78. Drink
79. Starvation
80. Words
81. Pen and Paper
82. Can You Hear Me?
83. Heal
84. Out Cold
85. Spiral
86. Seeing Red
87. Food
88. Pain
89. Through the Fire
90. Triangle
91. Drowning
92. All That I Have
93. Give Up
94. Last Hope
95. Advertisement
96. In the Storm
97. Safety First
98. Puzzle
99. Solitude
100. Relaxation

Andy's Weekend Adventure -- Part 2

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to participate in a workshop for librarians called Graphic Novels: Comics in the Library. Many of those attending new kids were crazy about comics, but didn't know where to begin building their collection. I enjoy sharing how I use comics to teach a multitude of essential skills, but every time I participate in one of these I'm convinced I learn as much as anyone else from the other presenters.

Robin Brennar got us started with a presentation called What are Comics? We learned that comics are a format, not a genre. She shared how comics can help with literacy skills -- especially the 21st century set of skills for information in today's very image-oriented information age. She knew about of slew of new really great books I hadn't heard of. Now I have a long list of new things to look for.

Then it was my turn. I like the photo below, because even though it's a little blurry, it looks like I know what I'm talking about. My presentation evolves slightly every time I present. I now include what I call Comic Book Readers Theatre, Cartoon Drawing Building Blocks, and how comics can be used to teach the writing of dialogue and the literary devices of onomatopoia, alliteration, and hyperbole.

I met one of the other presenters, Tim Callanan the night before. In the hotel lobby we watched the new Brave and the Bold Batman cartoon and talked about comics for two hours. This guy is a walking encyclopedia of practically every comic ever written. Tim is an English teacher, but also writes columns and reviews for Comic Book Resources and has written a book about comics and edited another. We had a great time comparing notes, and I enjoyed his presentations the next day. I think we made a great tag team duo, since I presented the building blocks of drawing comics and he followed up with a panel layout and drawing exersize. His second presentation was 50 Graphic Novelists you must Know.

After sitting for five of six hours, and looking forward to a five hour drive, I decided to stretch my legs a little before driving home. I visitted the Outer Limits comic shop in Waltham. This place was wall-to-wall comics -- new stuff, old stuff, hardcovers, everything. In addition, I've never seen so much vintage retro stuff. If one was so inclined, you could buy one of the toys I had as a kid and threw out for, oh, $300 or so. I'm not about to do that, but it was a great walk down memory lane.

Andy's Weekend Adventure -- Part 1

Saturday was the day I was invited to speak at a workshop for librarians called Graphic Novels: Comics in the Library. It was in Waltham, Massachusetts. I figured out that by adding just a couple hours of driving time, I could visit a place I've wanted to see -- The Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. It was a last minute idea and a longshot, but I emailed one of the teachers there who happens to be one of my favorite cartoonists. Alec Longstreth graciously agreed to give me a tour of the school, and I sat in on part of one class.

The only bad thing that happened this weekend was that I forgot my camera, so the photo essay you see below is compiled by photos swiped from various sources on the internet!

The school is a really neat place. The main building is an old department store downtown, that they have refurbished into a school. I think it's neat that they've maintained some of the characteristics from days of yore in the building, like the Colody's sign they discovered when cleaning the place and restored. Below is the lobby, which had an exhibit of original comics art pages. This in itself was worth the trip to me. By seeing the original art page it's possible to analyze the artist's process in a way you can't when you see the work in print.

In the basement is every kind of imaginable printing equipment from electronic to silkscreen.

In a separate building is the Charles Shulz library. There the students have access to a huge collection of cartoon and comic reference books and anthologies.

Alec Longstreth was my guide. Unfortunately he wasn't teaching that day, but it was cool to meet him. He is unbelievably tall, while still being down to earth.

In my next post, I'll write a little about the actual workshop.