Monday, January 28, 2008

117 Reasons to Hulk Out

A Hollywood Director with an encyclopedic knowledge of the TV version of the Hulk has listed every reason Banner turned into the Hulk during the series. He has counted 117 Hulk-out Moments. My favorites are the following:

19. Being pushed down a mountainside by a bigfoot impersonator.

20. Dealing with a pesky operator in a phone booth ("I DON'T HAVE TWENTY-FIVE CENTS!!!")

22. Having a burning 2x4 fall on his head while trying to get the horse out of the burning barn.

23. Being trampled by a crowd AND having hot coffee spilled on his hand while trying to get to the sniper.

24. Being tied up and fed soup by an elderly Japanese woman who doesn't understand words like "You've GOT to cut me loose!"

25. Grabbing the pipe that is below freezing temperature

108. Having several clay pots broken over his head in the middle of the now-burning room (why is the room always burning?), and then knocking an entire case of the same clay pots on to same head, and then, while lying very still and struggling not to get angry, having his pants catch fire.

The original post is here.

The Blind Visionary

It's been a long time since I've drawn something in a realistic style! This is a drawing for an illustration assignment I was given. The sketch will accompany an article about Fanny Crosby, the blind poetess and hymn writer. Though blind from infancy, this lady wrote 9,000 hymns. In fact, since hymn book publishers were reluctant to print so many hymns by the same author, she used over 200 pseudonyms. Her most famous hymns were Blessed Assurance and Pass me Not O Gentle Savior. She continued writing hymns until she died at the age of 95.

Quality images of Crosby are rare, but I did the best I could from the references I had. A lot of the shapes suggested symbolism to me. As I was drawing, I thought of her lack of sight, but tried to emphasize the Light hitting her anyway. The large bulky shape of her dress kind of reminded me of a large Rock, or the foundation of her belief.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Challenge #15: The Crescendo Comic

One of my comic strips was coming due with the theme of "Apples" --- sometimes, I have no idea where to go with it.

I'm way behind on my 52 Challenges work too! You know me, I'm always asking myself, "How can I kill two birds with one stone. Challenge # 15 is The Crescendo Comic:

In music, a crescendo is a symbol that tells the musician to transition smoothly from quiet to loud over an amount of time. A decrescendo tells the musician to do the opposite. When these two are right next to each other, it’s sometimes called a “swell.” We already know your comics are swell. Now can you make your writing and art swell in the course of some panels?

Homework for Artists and Writers:
Start “quiet” and “small” and build your comic’s intensity up over the course of 1 or 2 pages. Try to incorporate the crescendo to as many elements of your comic as possible — for instance: your writing, dialogue, art, line quality, color/texture, panel sizes, amount of action in a panel and level of zoom could each (or all) be taken from less to more throughout the course of your pages.

Well, here's my comic strip! Not every thing we make is going to be a masterpiece. Sometimes it has to be "good enough" and move on to the next thing!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Marvel Mice -- Pages from my sketchbook

One of my greatest sources of inspiration is the Marvel comics from the Silver Age. Sure they were hokey, but fun -- and I think a lot of comics creators then didn't take themselves too seriously.
My favorite book as a kid was Runaway Ralph by Beverly Cleary. I also liked books like The Borrowers, where an entire world of little creatures went unseen. Later as an adult I enjoyed things like the Redwall series and anthropomorphic comics like Usagi Yojimbo.

I think my T.A.I.L.S. comics work is a combination of these two kinds of influences. Below are some sketches from my sketchbook -- call them "studies after the masters" if will. I think they're all sketches of Kirby's work, but re-imagined as mice characters like mine.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mimi's Donuts Zine

At the Norman Rockwell Museum Educator's Symposium, I had the pleasure of meeting Marek Bennett, a fellow educator who is also a cartoonist. (Is this a new trend? --educators who are also cartoonists?) Like the indy comics creators we are, we also swapped our self-published comics. Since I got three copies of Mimi's Donuts Zine and he only got one copy of T.A.I.L.S., I definitely got the better deal!

Marek's work is a joy to read. He seems to follow a stream of consciousness train of thought as his comics veer from topic to topic, much like we do when we think. It reads like a daily newspaper strip -- only funny! The topics might deal with elections, teenage angst, biography, Stick Figure Civil War History, or anything really -- but they are always funny.

The zines are in black and white, a look very nice, but wow! They look great online in color. He puts one each week on his website. I started with the current one and read backwards for months. I highly recommend a visit to Mimi's Donuts and to Marek's Blog.

If you are like me and like to read comics you can hold in your hand, you can order copies of Mimi's Donuts Zine at his online store.

Marek also does comics workshops for kids and is a science teacher. What a creative talent! His students are very lucky.

Chuck Close and Big Bird

I was watching Sesame Street today and I couldn't believe who Big Bird was talking to -- Chuck Close (one of my favorite artists)! Chuck Close is an artist famous for his photorealistic paintings. In this segment of Sesame Street one of his self-portraits was analyzed by a group of kids in voice over as the camera pans out from the painting.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Enigma's Path

Recently I posted one of my comics at the Usagi Yojimbo Dojo and was fortunate enough to get some encouragement and constructive criticism from Stan Sakai.
One criticism I have about the art is that all your characters look about the same size in each panel. Vary it a bit with some close-ups, distance shots, even a silhouette or two, etc.
The strip that follows is my feeble attempt to follow his advice. I was also inspired by a very handy comics creating resource I had remembered seeing called "Wally Wood's 22 Panels that always Work!!"

This fantastic resource gave me some great ideas for practical ways to mix it up a bit.

This comic strip will appear in an upcoming issue of Hopscotch magazine. The theme I had to create a comic for was "Riddles".

Comics can be used to Teach

I just got back from a trip to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The topic of the conference was the use of comics and graphic novels in education. This was held in conjunction with an exhibit on display there right now on the art of the graphic novel. There were original artwork pages by Steve Ditko, Art Spiegelman, Frank Miller, and many others.

I was invited to present on the topic of how comics can be used to teach on the elementary level, but during the rest of the day, I learned quite a lot myself.

Our keynote speaker was Jay Hosler. Jay is not just a cartoonist, but a biologist and professor at Juniata College. He has created his own educational comics Clan Apis, a comic about bees and The Sandwalk Adventures, a story about two follicle mites that live in Charles eyebrow. Both of these books are hilarious, while at the same time making scientific concepts easy to understand.

"My hope is that comic stories will present science in an engaging fashion and provide students with a context that will help them retain the material," says the artist and biologist.

Jay stressed the immediacy of images and how they immediately communicate concepts. My favorite quote of the day was, "Pictures are like intellectual crack -- right to your brain!"

"Some people ask if this is pandering," he shrugged. "Hey, if it would help students understand scientific concepts, I would tap dance!"

Visit his website to see a lot more about this extremely intelligent and very talented cartoonist/scientist.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Persepolis -- The Movie

In the post below I described the graphic novel Persepolis. Here is a link that shows the behind-the-scenes process of making the movie. They are using traditional hand-drawn animation to maintain the spirit of the graphic novel.

The Best Graphic Novel Ever

In my opinion, the best graphic novel ever made is Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. In some circles, people who talk about art differentiate between "high art" and "low art". Of course, comics gets lumped in with the low art. Admittedly, a lot of sequential art is very commercial in nature. However, if words can be Literature and images can be Art, isn't it possible that a graphic novel could be Art with a capital "A"? What is it that makes one thing Art and another thing not? Is it that something very important is being expressed?

Persepolis is the biography of Marjane Satrapi in comic strip form. Marjane was a small child growing up in Iran at the time of the Muslim Revolution in 1979. Often, those of us in the west have a stereotypical image of "those Iranians", but her story reminds us that people are people everywhere. We can't characterize everyone in a nation based on what a few extremists do who are making the news.

The first time I read this book, I was immediately captivated by the charm in her simple child-like drawings, as she told the story of the revolution from the perspective of a precocious ten-year-old. As the story progressed, I was very moved by the tragedy and horror her family experienced. I concluded that this book is a work of Art.

If you ever get a chance to read this book, I highly recommend it. (Although, I should point out, that the tragedy being described makes it a book that probably isn't for small children). They are making a big-screen movie adaptation of her graphic novels. It looks to me like the movie will be a masterpiece as well.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

They Say it's Your Birthday! (Happy Birthday to You)

Nineteen years ago today little Anna Wales was born. She couldn't wait two more days and be born on my birthday! Tonight we celebrated both birthdays since we'll be on the road back from Massachusetts on Jan. 12.

In the picture above I am wearing my gift -- a t-shirt festooned with the awesome art of Jack Kirby -- the King of Comics! (I picked that one out myself!)

Below is a birthday card made for me by Dan the Man. We are doing our best to keep our hard-earned dollars out of the hands of the greeting card industry. Home-made cards are always the best!

For Anna, we got a mug from CafePress with one of her comic strips printed on it. Dan colored it for her first.

The Many Faces of Eustace Tilly

The New Yorker is having a contest on their website. The challenge is to create your own version of Eustace Tilly, their trademark character. What would you do to put your own take on this character, or how would you use this iconic image in your own artwork?
There is no prize -- just the honor of being included. Details of the contest are here.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Shiver me Timbers!

I was challenged to draw a pirate, but since I was drawing during the debates, all I could think of were donkeys and elephants fighting over the treasure. Here's the first one, but don't worry -- a donkey will soon follow!

Friday, January 4, 2008

News From California

I hear that it's common for bloggers to feel as if they're sometimes talking to an empty room. That's why it's really nice to hear from someone who says they've gotten something useful from what you've written. Yesterday I heard from someone in California! They wrote,

Hello and Happy New Year! I work for the literacy department of STAR Education, an afterschool organization. The sites my department primarily services are in Los Angeles public schools and students attend free of charge.

We aim to provide positive and authentic experiences with reading and writing. In addition to our skills curriculum, our teachers implement enrichment projects in ten-week sessions. The upcoming curriculum is "Clever Comics."

Your blog has been very informative. Thank you! I'm wondering if you have any suggestions for our curriculum. I'm open to all suggestion, and have particular questions about teaching dialogue and narration.

Your link to and examples of have also helped us in our curriculum development. Would it be alright if we gave copies to our teachers to share with their classes?

-- Aarti, CA

The internet has definitely made the world a smaller place, hasn't it? And, I'm more than glad to share anything I make with other teachers who are looking for ways to teach with comics or art!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A New Face on the Blogosphere

Paul Bozzo, a friend of mine has started a blog that describes his very interesting art-making process. He used wood panels, joint compound, and a whole lot of "stuff" to make some awesome paintings.

His site is Bozzo Art -- check it out!