Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Doffer pt. 1

Isn't that just the saddest dang shoe you've ever seen? Any foot in a shoe that sad has got to be pretty sad, too. And those scrawny legs! They're not happy at all. You can just tell that this story is going to make you cry, can't you? That, or laugh. Because Charlie Chaplin would wear a shoe like that. So, maybe it's funny. I don't know.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Draw IronHide Tom!

Because Free Comics need promotion, too!

This was Dashing Dean Trippe's idea. I showed him an early copy of The Preposterous Voyages of IronHide Tom, and he was really taken with the idea of seeing how different people would interpret my minimally-drawn protagonist. He's hard at work on his version as we speak. So join the fun! Then the fine folks at AdHouse and I will present all the different versions sometime around May 6th.

If you need additional motivation, how's this: a free copy of The Preposterous Voyages of IronHide Tom! It'll be waiting for you at your local comics shop!

What, that's not enough? Okay, howabout this: I'll send you a postcard image of IronHide Tom participating in the sports activity of your choice.

Here's some more Tom pages for reference.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Rags to Regent pt. 6

Nope, I don't have a punchline in mind for the donkey joke. Lemme know if you think of one.

Next up: a three-page, three-hanky sobfest of exploitation and human misery, The Doffer.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Rags to Regent pt. 5

My descent into comics hackery continues.

This was the trickiest part of Theodora's story. See, Theodora was born poor, and before she married Justinian and became Empress, she was an actress. But, in those days, "actress" pretty much meant "stripper." But not just any stripper: Theodora had an animal act. It involved geese. Let your imagination simmer on that for a few minutes. Now, how the hell do you you deal with that on a level that's appropriate for the dewy-eyed children, clothed as they are in innocence and wonder?

Yesterday I hosted internet wunderkind Dean Trippe. He's a nice guy who is all over the comics scene. He is the founder and editor of Project Rooftop, of which I am a reviewer (it's like Project Runway for superheroes). He has an wondeful online strip, Butterfly, which has a fun and lovely Silver Age vibe to it. He was one of the accidental architects of the Batgirl meme. And he's on the comics stands now in Adhouse's Superior Showcase #1. Oh, and about a gazillion other things to boot.

We had a great visit. He spoke to my class, we ate some good food, he drew me a picture of Abraham Lincoln solving a Rubic's Cube, and we debated the relative merits of Wayne Boring and Curt Swan. All that was missing was a shot of us running down some stairs with a giant bouquet of balloons for it to have been the perfect geek-day montage.

And, let me tell you, you may think you like comics. But you don't like comics nearly as much as Dean does. Trust me on this. The boy likes his comics.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Rags to Regent pt. 4

I was so ashamed when I drew this page. I had this image of myself as a sophisticated explorer of comics and sequential art as a visual language. And yet, here I was using the old cartoonist's gag of someone literally bowled over by a word balloon. How many lame jokes have been puncuated by two little feet kicked up from off panel? I felt that this was sinking lower than the when I used the elephant's butt. But what was I going to do? There was a lot of information to fit into a few panels, and not much time to do it. I grabbed that cliche and ran with it.

And then it occurred to me that this is what language is all about. Language is not about experimenting with a original sound with which to express yourself everytime you see a large, hairy form approaching you. It's about common agreement that that large hairy form is a "tiger" and that if you yell that loudly enough, everyone will run for cover. Comics have a rich (if not neccessarily deep) vocabulary of shorthand images crafted by the busy cartoonists of yesteryear who had tighter deadlines than mine. Why shouldn't I use that vocabulary?

So that made me feel better. I mean, I still don't think this page is great example of storytelling, but I do feel a little more in harmony with the honorable fraternity of craftsperson cartoonists.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Rags to Regent pt. 3

My biggest regret with this story is that I didn't have time to do some really intricate depictions of Byzantine architecture in the backgrounds. Panel 5 is the closest I got. Which is a shame, because, in anything set during this period, the architecture should be one of the major characters.

The "bumbling" Senators were, in my first draft, drunken senators. Historically accurate, but inappropriate for children's infotainment, obviously. Also, the original dialogue was not about radishes, but about catching syphilis from one's horse. I guess my sense of the appropriate was just completely out-of-whack that day.

Thank goodness for editors, eh?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Rags to Regent pt. 2

Rob Ullman has heeded the call, and begun posting some of his McGraw-Hill stories as well. Click on over and check them out. Scroll on down for, among other things, drawings of girls taking off their clothes, and photos of Rob laying pipe. Yes, you heard me. Laying pipe.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Rags to Regent

This was a fun piece to work on because I didn't really know much about Justinian and Theodora, and they're a pretty fun couple to learn about. Unfortunately, all the most interesting stuff couldn't be included in a textbook book for seventh graders.

The "Rags to Regent" title was a brainstorm on loan from the lovely wife.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Wide Empire of Sports pt. 5

The only gag I've ever written that I actually thought was funny is the "it's got iron spikes sticking out of it" line.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Wide Empire of Sports pt. 4

No snide remarks about the present administration, today. Just another page in the life a Roman Gladiator.

Do not check the perspective in any of these panels. It will only lead to disappointment for us all. It occurs to me now that it would have been cool to draw all three panels based on a vanishing point and horizon line established in the first panel. That way, it would almost be like a vertical pan from street level to Colosseum floor to the underground chambers.

Ah, well. These are the sorts of formal games one doesn't always have time to play when under deadline pressure.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Wide Empire of Sports pt. 3

Just two pages into the story, and I've gone from thinking that I was going to repair all the wrongs of the current administration, having that administration's mascot sit on a guy for cheap laughs.

This world is hard on idealists. Le Sigh.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Wide Empire of Sports pt. 2

Let's take a moment to revisit the exisential horror engendered by the last Presidential Election. It really shook my faith in America that it could have voted W back into office. I couldn't, and I still can't, think of any reason for this other than plug ignorance on our part as a culture. It seemed like something that required a response.

I didn't want to start making political art, because the very fact that I can't imagine a sane reason for voting for Bush is a pretty good indication that any political art coming out of me would be one-sided, strident, and, worst of all, didactic.

Politics were out. Ah, but History! History is interesting. History is narrative. And if we knew more history, we would surely make better decisions in the present, right? And comics are a great medium for depicting history in an immersive way. So, there it was: I was going to make History Comics and the world would become a better place.

And then, this job comes in to draw history comics for money! Comics that will be looked at by hundreds of thousands of middle and high school students! It seemed like evidence of some Cosmic Grace. The Forces That Be approve of my mission!

So, I get the first assignment. Roman Gladiators? Cool! I'd just recieved a big stack of reference books from Dover on Ancient Rome for another project I was thinking about. I'm ready and rearin' to open up the Roman Empire to youth of the Nation. But wait, what's this? They want it done as a parody of a Sport's Show? They're giving me suggestions for anachronistic jokes? Urine tests? Really?! Crap! They don't wany the comics to be educational vehicles at all! These comics are just "Yuks" to fill in between the real chapters! Comics don't need to be a distraction from learning, they can be an embracement of learning! AHHHHRGH!

I ended up trying to sneak educational content into the Yuk-fest that ensued. There's actually a fair amount of information on gladiatorial combat hidden in this strip. And, much to the credit of the editors at McGraw-Hill (and much to the credit of the cartoonists working for them who kept pushing the boundries of the assignments), as they saw more and more of what comics were capable of doing, they asked for fewer Yuks, and more content. Eventually, I found myself grousing in the opposite direction: How am I supposed to fit in any jokes when they're drowning me with facts?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Wide Empire of Sports!

Okay, now, to finally get down to one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place. I spent most of last year working on a series of comics for McGraw-Hill's new series of textbooks with "graphic novel" supplements. No one over the age of seventeen is likely to ever see these books, and I thought a blog would be a appropriate showcase for them. I've held off posting them for this long, however, so that McGraw-Hill would have a chance to get them into print before I put them out in some other form. It's been over a year since I did the first series of them, so I think protocol has been duly satisfied.

One of the reasons I'm eager to show these stories is that I'm extremely curious what some of the other cartoonists did for this project (there were about twenty-five of us), and I'm hoping they'll follow my example. You hear me, Rob? James? Ellen? Get them scanners humming!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Now is the time on Beeswax when you dance!

I'm working on a sequence of images for a dance performance.

So, feel free to hum along as you look at these.

The concept may totally change from what I'm working with here.

But, if this is the direction chosen,

Then these images will be the beginning of a slideshow projected behind the dancers.

The idea is that a few very simple, mundane objects will,

over the course of, oh, say, a hundred slides, develop in increasingly complex patterns.

They should, eventually, resemble mandalas or mandelbrot blots, or something,

Finally resolving into the image of the sun.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Uncle Septimus pt. 3

Extra Special April Fool's Weekend Update!

Here's the new Uncle Septimus painting. It's a slightly younger, sprightlier Uncle Septimus, still growing his trademark whiskers. The colors aren't quite as bright as this in the actual piece, but they are pretty bright. Maybe the brightest thing I've ever painted. The foliage in the background reminds me of a rainbow sno-cone.

(I still wish they'd gone with this sketch, though.)

Did you know that beard-hair is the fastest growing human hair? And that a man actually does grow about 30 feet of beard over his lifespan? Strange but true. At least, according to some webpage I saw once that didn't cite any sources.