Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Daily Pugle Reviews Eclectic

No, not the Bugle, the Pugle! Eclectic Comics is reviewed by blogger and educator Ben Villarreal. Check it out here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hernando DeSoto and The Lady of Cofitachequi

This is an illustration I was commissioned to do for Hopscotch magazine. The explorer is De Soto, who pillaged his way through what is now Southern United States looking for the mountains of gold he expected to find there. He questioned natives quite sternly, and when he didn't get the answers he liked he might be inclined to, oh, set them on fire and so forth. Nice guy, huh?

The story I'm illustrating is mainly about a Native American leader called The Lady of Cofitachequi. I learned from that

Nearly every time a Mississippian chief met a European explorer, he or she tried to enlist the newcomers in a military alliance aimed at a rival chiefdom. The Lady of Cofitachequi was no different. Across the river from de Soto she boarded a canoe over which an ornamented awning was stretched. Eight women accompanied her while several men in another canoe towed the royal vessel ashore. She seated herself before de Soto and offered to do what she could to help the expedition, opening a large storehouse of corn to the Spaniards, vacating her own home for de Soto, and ordering that the newcomers be given use of half of the residences in the town. She also provided rafts and canoes for the Spaniards to cross the river. As a final gesture she took off a great length of pearls as large as hazelnuts and handed it over to de Soto, and he returned the favor with a ruby ring. Acutely aware of the importance of generosity, the Lady of Cofitachequi constantly apologized that she could not help more. What the Spanish did not understand was that by accepting her hospitality they had entered into an alliance with Cofitachequi.
So she was under the impression that this great military force was going to help her take care of enemies. DeSoto had a different take on the transaction.

De Soto wanted gold and silver, so he asked the Lady of Cofitachequi to bring out samples of the minerals her people had. They presented beautiful copper objects that the Spanish admired, and they showed de Soto a chunk of mica, neither of which satisfied his appetite for riches. Gold and silver, not copper and mica, were the ores of fame and fortune. To retain the Spaniards interest the Lady of Cofltachequi pointed them in the direction of a temple where the bodies of former chiefs were kept and told them to take as many [pearls] as you like.... The Spaniards took from the temples bags of pearls and bundles of skins, but it was not enough to warrant a longer stay. Having consumed nearly all of the food in the town, de Soto and his men asked the Lady of Cofltachequi about the location of other nearby chiefdoms where they might find more treasure.
De Soto typically captured the chiefs he visited and forced them to lead him to the next chiefdom whereupon he would either kill them or turn them loose. In May 1540 the Spanish left Cofltachequi and forced the chief to accompany them. Rather than let her ride on a horse, de Soto forced her to walk with the partys Indian slaves. The party headed for the Appalachian Mountains where de Soto hoped to find Chiaha, a tributary town of the Coosa chiefdom. As they marched, the governor ordered, one of the Spaniards wrote, a guard to be placed over [the Lady of Cofltachequi] not giving her such good treatment as she deserved.... Just before the expedition entered the adjoining province of Xuale, which the Lady of Cofitachequi also governed, she stepped aside from the road and went into a wood saying that she had to attend to her necessities. After a brief search the Spaniards failed to find her. They continued on their way, but they never forgot the remarkable welcome they had received from the Lady of Cofitachequi.
I'll be she never forgot them either!

Friday, January 23, 2009

I'm in Good Company

I was recently contacted by Robert Goodin who saw my Comics Re-covery Drawings. I'm certainly not the only one doing something like this and Robert had the idea of creating a website highlighting a whole bunch of artists who do studies of pre-existing comic book covers. The site is really interesting, and I'm the latest one to have my artwork shown on this site. Check it out, it's awesome. The site is called Covered.

Robert's own contribution is really neat -- the Wonder Woman drawing below.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cover Re-covered #7: The Infinity War

This is the latest installment of a series of pictures I call The Comics Re-covery Project. I choose comic book covers I like and redraw them in my own style as a learning exercise. The cover design strategy employed here is one I call A Bunch of Heroes Standing Around Doing Nothing. It's actually used a lot in comics of the last two decades. Yes, they're just loitering, but the looks on their faces say, "As soon as we're done posing for this picture, we are really gonna kick some butt!"

Wolverine here seems to be saying, "Listen here, bub! I hope you bought your tickets -- for the GUN SHOW!"

I always feel like --

-- somebody's watching me!

Sketch of The Watcher

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Stuff of Life

In The Stuff of Life, the main character Bloort 183 is an interplanetary biologist assigned to study the planet earth. After compiling his findings, he presents them to his leader Floorsh 727. This is the premise of a new educational graphic novel called The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA. I received this in the mail the other day. I don't know how I got on their list of review copy recipients, but I'm glad I did. I would love to receive any kind of graphic material for the purpose of review.

After reading selections of this book, I'm convinced that this book is a great example of how the medium of comics can be used to take material that might be complicating, confusing and dry -- and present it in a way that is entertaining, amusing and fun. As the main character Bloort presents his findings, he has to really break it down for his dim-witted boss. That makes it easier for people like me to grasp it as well!
In a recent interview, the artists involved in the project give their own insights.
Artist Kevin Cannon explains, "Complicated scientific concepts like DNA are best understood through viusal metaphors." He continues, "I dropped out of an A.P. biology course in high school because I was having trouble grasping the basics of DNA and genetics, so I guess my experience is having once been the ideal audience for this book."

If I were a science teacher who taught this subject matter, I would definitely want at least one copy of this book. I'm sure it would be useful to explain some material to students who just weren't "getting it". If possible, I'd get enough copies for a whole class and use it as a supplemental text. As a parent who sees more and more of this topic being covered in school, I'm grateful to have it for my kids to read. I think it will promote understanding of some difficult concepts.

That being said, I will also say that at times some of the controversial aspects of the subject matter come across a little like heavy-handed propaganda. For instance, the author questions whether objections to cloning are based on ethics or superstition. I'm also going to open up a huge can of worms here -- evolution. Now, I'm not a scientist. As an individual, I have come to believe in God and that there is much Truth revealed in the Bible. If I can go off on a tangent here, I think some of the quandaries in reconciling science to the Bible are based on misinterpretations and mistranslations. For example, the "Seven Days" of Creation presents a problem to a lot of thinking people. However, the Hebrew word translated day in Genesis 1 can also be translated age.
I recognize as a parent that it takes a huge leap of faith to believe in the super-natural and it's not Science's job to teach that. However, the book summarizes where life came from in this way

5 billion years ago (the earth) was no more than a river of dust and rocky
fragments circling...its sun. Over enough time, even dust clotting together can
gain enough mass to create a gravity chain reaction...The transmutation of base
elements and compounds jump-started by a supply of energy into self-perpetuating
It just all happened by itslef at random? I'm sorry -- I just don't buy it. To me, it takes more of a leap of faith to believe that! I guess the point I'm making is that while it isn't Science's job to teach faith -- it wouldn't hurt them to respect it.

"The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom." -Lady Bird Johnson

Early Publications -- Part 2

This is something I did when I was a senior in high school. It was for our school's literary magazine. For a rural school in 1983, it was a very sharp little magazine. Since it was called Expressions, I did extreme close-ups of a few celebrities. See if you can find Tom Selleck, Richard Pryor, and Bo Derek. I can't remember the rest of them.

If you have to explain it...

...then it isn't funny! The comic in my last post got mixed reviews. Some said it made them laugh out loud, others seemed a little confused. I appreciate the feedback, since a cartoonist doesn't always know how his work is received. The feedback will help me decide which comics make the cut for the next issue of Eclectic Comics.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009)

I think it's really sad that Andrew Wyeth died today at the age of 91. You wouldn't know it by looking at the art you see here, but he has always been one of my favorite artists. Of course, much more serious than the work I do. What I most admire about his work is that they aren't just people of people places and things. Every image means something -- it is so full of meaning.

Don't Talk Back -- to the Mystic Yak!

Hurtling through the cosmos on a meteor rides the Mystic Yak. The cover is drawn with ink, and I'm going to color it with Photoshop, but I thought first I'd color a copy by hand to see if I could make my color choices before hand. I'll use this color sketch as a guide while I try to teach myself Photoshop.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Swiping Steranko

This classic Steranko cover is one of the most famous Hulk images. The one below is one used in a recent Incredible Hercules comic. They look a lot alike don't they? Is it a swipe or a tribute?

According to someone who knows a lot more than me,

Comic book covers based upon famous images, from other comics or elsewhere, are
commonly referred to as “homage covers”. As the term implies, homage covers pay tribute to revered “touchstones” of comic book, pop cultural or even “real world” historical imagery. They also provide a sense of fun and community, as seasoned fans recognize the visual as the hat-tip, the nod, the gentle satire or the arcane “in-joke” knowledge it was intended to be.
I think the whole idea is great, but I also think that certain images end up being over-used, and the Steranko Hulk cover is one of them. Not wanting to be left out, I've decided to use it as the image for the next Mighty Mailbag page.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Goals for 2009

Crayola Marker Sketch with Collage

Success Comes in Cans

-- not in "can nots"! They say that people who write their goals down are more apt to achieve them. I wondered, would it be possible to create an art lesson that encouraged children to set goals? I came up with "I-Can-Do-It Cans".

On the outside of the can, we drew ourselves with images that represented our goals. I told the kids that they were magic. If they wrote down what they wanted to achieve in sentences on slips of paper, and if they put them in the cans -- they just might come true!
You might think I was pulling their leg, but there's a lot of truth to this. I read a book once called Write it Down, Make it Happen by Hennriette Anne Klauser. This book explains the science behind why this is true.
There's a part of our brain called the reticular activation system,

Your reticular activating system is like a filter between your
conscious mind and your subconscious mind. It takes instructions from your
conscious mind and passes them on to your subconscious. For example, the
instruction might be, "listen out for anyone saying my name". can deliberately program the reticular activating system by
choosing the exact messages you send from your consicous mind. For example, you
can set goals, or say affirmations, or visualize your goals.

Have you ever noticed that after you buy a car of a certain model and color of car, suddenly you see cars just like it everywhere. They were always out there, but now you notice them. It's the RAS that's involved there. Likewise, a mother can hear a baby cry from several rooms away and know whether it's her baby or not!

Why does writing your goals down make it more likely that you'll achieve them? In my own words, I guess what happens is that by writing your goals down, you're clarifying in your mind exactly what you want. Then the opportunities to get toward that goal stand out more clearly.

I know they say to set realistic goals, but I figure it doesn't hurt to write down things that might seem wildly implausible. I notice in my own I-Can-Do-It Can from years ago that I had drawn and written that I wanted to own a house. That seemed impossible due to financial circumstances at the time, but it's happened!
What goals will you set for this new year?

Draw Yourself

A "Wreck this Journal" assignment
Crayola Marker

Monday, January 12, 2009

Early Publication

The image above is the first drawing I had published. Before you judge it too severely, keep in mind that I was in sixth grade! Back in the days before copiers, schools used ditto machines. The ditto machine (or spirit duplicator) used two-ply "ditto masters". The first sheet could be typed, drawn or written on. The second sheet was coated with a layer of colored wax. Writing on the first sheet created a mirror image on the back of it. The first sheet was fastened on the drum and copies could be printed -- in our school, usually in blue. I remember getting those worksheets hot of the presses and taking a deep whiff of the rapturously fragrant aromatic ink. Maybe that explains a lot.

Well, suffice it to say, children weren't usually allowed to write or draw on ditto masters. One day in sixth grade, a teacher put one of those masters on my desk and asked me to design a cover for the Spring Concert Program. I didn't really cut loose too much because I was afraid of messing it up. I can remember being thrilled to see a stack of the programs and knowing that my drawing was on every one of them! And then, looking out at the sea of faces at the concert and seeing that everyone in the audience had my drawing in their hands. This could be where I got bit by the publishing bug. The only other thing I remember about the night is that we sang "Blowing in the Wind" by Bob Dylan.

Anyway, as teachers, I think we should take the opportunity to use the work of budding artists, rather than take the easy way out and grab a clip art image. It takes just a little bit more time, but we can provide publication opportunities to the future writers and illustrators in our care.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Mystic Mighty Punster

This page was created by my friend, artist Paul Bozzo. He's a painter and photographer, but lately has been experimenting with digital scrapbooking. I like how there are elements from his paintings in the background and the definitions of mystic, mighty and punster. Thanks a lot, Paul!

Check out Paul's website to see some really neat works of art: Bozzo Art.

Friday, January 9, 2009


Crayola Marker Sketch 1/8/09
The site of an erupting volcano has got to be the worst place to have a super-villain smackdown.


This sketch is meant to illustrate what it's like to dream. Is it just me, or do all kind of random things get mixed together in dreams?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Comics Go to War

Some people think comics are just for kids. Others think that comics for adults is a relatively new thing. When I researched the history of comics for my master's research project, I learned that they were quite popular with men in the armed services during World War II. It was said that they were “passed from man to man until there is nothing left of them” (Zorbaugh, page 198). The New York Times reported that during wartime, one of every four magazines shipped to troops overseas was a comic book (Wright, 2001). I just recently saw these photos online, and wished that I had found them when I was working on my research project In Defense of Comics.

Wright, Gary. (1979). “The comic book – a forgotten medium in the classroom.” Reading Teacher 33(2). Pgs. 158-161.

Zorbaugh, Harvey (1944). The comics – there they stand! Journal of Educational Sociology 18 (4). Pp. 196-203.

I Wonder

I created this quick one page comic and made copies to handout at a teacher inservice I was presenting a while back. It was our first activity -- an icebreaker. My goal was to get teachers thinking about how it can be so easy to want to just approach our classes with an objective and try to yank them out of where there thoughts currently are. Even teachers sometimes have their minds on other things! Are there some times when we can make good use of what our students are obsessing about as a writing or drawing prompt?

Monday, January 5, 2009

The World's Fastest Cartoonist -- Sergio Aragones

When I was a kid, my parents encouraged us to read and pursue our own interests. One way they did that is by providing lots of reading material -- even "fun" reading like comics and humor magazines. They weren't stingy when it came to stuff like that and I think that's why we all became readers.

I liked comics, of course, and I also enjoyed reading books made by cartoonists. My favorite cartoonist was Sergio Aragones. He's the artist who drew (among other things) the Mad Marginals. If you've ever looked at Mad magazine, there's little tiny spot cartoons in the margins. The great Sergio Aragones has contributed cartoons for every issue of Mad since his debut in 1963, except for one issue. The post office actually lost the artwork Aragones created for that issue. As he approaches his 45th year anniversary of working for them, that's quite a record!

As a kid, I looked forward to seeing his work in every issue of Mad, but imagine my delight when I discovered paperback collections of his work in book stores! I liked how he always drew himself in a self deprecating way.

I had all of the books shown above and more -- and I still have a few of them!

When my older sisters were little, my dad actually took an old chicken coop and remodeled it to make a "play house". There was even electric lights and outlets in there. When my younger brother and I came along, we took it over, and re-enacted many western movies there. When we outgrew that it became my summer studio. I'd sit at a desk and make copies from the Aragones books -- one after another. Then one day I discovered, I could just think of something and draw it. It even looked a little like how Sergio would have drawn it! To this day, I think I see his influence in my cartoons, although I'm not as fast as he is!

One day I in the late 70s I was passing a comics rack and stopped dead in my tracks -- I discovered that there was a new comic book called Groo -- drawn entirely by Aragones! Groo was a spoof of the Conan and Sword & Sorcery comics. I collected that comic for several years. I really liked how he took a character type that was supposed to be super-heroic and made him goofy.

At 70, Sergio is still very prolific. He's had a prodigious career that includes virtually every major cartoon award—he’s received a National Cartoonist Society Reuben Award, multiple Eisner Awards and is a member of the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. In a recent article, Aragon├ęs revealed his indefatigable optimism. "I love what I do. It's like doing it for the first time every time I do it."