Monday, January 26, 2009

Doodle Penance: "fun easy thing s to draw"

Well, this week's installment of "Doodle Penance" seems pretty straightforward to me. Someone came to the blog this week looking for "fun easy thing s to draw." The alleged visitor spent all of zero seconds perusing our site, which makes sense, because we really haven't addressed that subject until now.

Before I go any further supplying this googler with what he or she was looking for, let me dedicate this post to Bully, the Little Stuffed Bull. I think my reasons will soon become clear.

Okay. Here's how to draw a fun, easy Thing S.

First, you make an S.

Then, you make another, more different S.

Then, you turn the S into a Thing S.

This step, by the way, is totally fun. If you have never drawn and inked the Thing's weird rocky hide, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

Finally, get out your Benday dots and stick a bunch of them down to make the S the right shade of orange. (You may click to enlarge.)

And there you go: doodle magic. Check out its majesty. That's an S worthy of the ever-lovin', blue-eyed Idol of Millions.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Same to You, Captcha.

Sometimes, when I leave a comment on someone's blog, I get something hard to type, and sometimes I get a weirdly appropriate neologism.

But I've never had anyone's blog machinery seem to curse me until this afternoon:

It's being fairly old-fashioned about the cursing, but still: that's the sort of insult that stings.

And to be taunted by random letters generated by software? That's the sort of sting that

and lasts.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Doodle Penance:
"elijah and the widow bread craft"

This week's "Doodle Penance" post comes to us from an anonymous Google-searcher (aren't they all anonymous?) who wanted to find "elijah and the widow bread craft."

I can understand why this searcher must have been frustrated. The encounter between Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath comes up fairly frequently in history paintings, as in this piece by Bernardo Strozzi

—but there are relatively few paintings of Elijah's first, rejected plea for the widow's son's resuscitation.

You see, the Bible leaves a lot of these details out, but after the widow's son dies, Elijah improvises a solution with a few slices of bread and some crusts, hoping that God will breathe the boy's soul back into a new, healthy body:

The widow is apparently not satisfied with this undeniably big favor. So Elijah has to pray again, getting the soul into the boy's old body, along with the additional request that the old body not be sick any more. What a hassle, right?

One thing the Bible leaves out, but this image makes clear, is that there was a big mess to be cleaned up when the widow wigged. Because, you see, that jug of oil was blessed in such a way that it would never be empty. When she dropped it on the floor, it kept pouring out oil until the whole room was ankle-deep in deliciousness.

But fictive things wink as they will, don't you know.

I haven't been able to track down the original Renaissance painting of this image with Google, so I guess our google-searcher will have to console him- or herself with my cartoon rendition. Still, here are a couple of notes I took when I was looking at it.

Okay, Mike— What have you got?

...Okay, Isaac! I'll show you soon! (But first, I will violate protocol to say that I really like your doodle--indeed, I LOL'ed.)

Truth be told, I understood the search term a little differently. Everyone knows the story of Elijah's departure in a mystical vessel, the chariot of fire. And many believe that someday Elijah is fated to return, to herald the coming of the Messiah. Some of those who think they know who the Messiah is have called that figure "the bread of life." So what more appropriate vessel could Elijah use for his later, annunciatory visit than a vessel made not of fire but of the staff of life, bread, itself? And what more symbolic emblem to fill the sails of the One who will overturn Death than the deadly hourglass of the black widow spider, thereby reclaiming a terrible image just as the cross, that tool of capital torture, was reclaimed as the token of resurrection to the life everlasting? comes Elijah, sailing with word of the Messiah on the S. S. The Widow, a craft made of bread. I'm sure that's what our Google-seeker was looking for.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Au Revoir, Lame Canard

I have been rooting for regime change, or anyone who could keep Bush out of office, since before George W. was "elected" the first time. But despite the many calumnies and criminal charges that deserve to be heaped upon the mass of tissue he uses for a head, there is one point of acclaim that cannot be denied to our current Decider: he's the only American President yet to appear on the cover of an issue of Satisfactory Comics. Why, here he is, in Mike's version of my doodle of him, in the two o'clock position on the cover of our fifth issue.

Despite the brief presence of an abominable cretin, the book is kid-friendly.

You see, we asked a dozen people to provide "a frightening character" to use in this comic, and from our pal Adam Rosenblatt we received, as a submission, George W. Bush attaining a second term. (We made this comic back in April of 2004, you see. We had no way of knowing then how bad things would get.) Most of the other characters became figures in the story's actual plot, but Bush was brushed off quickly in a sort of a cameo appearance.

(You'd better click and enlarge.)

I put Bush and Paris Hilton (another submission) into an exhibit in the Museum of the Horrible, a corridor dedicated to the Most Horrible American Presidents, including Grant and H. M. Singeberry (who apparently gets elected some time after 2020). I had meant that guy's name to be "Singleberry," but I had a lettering lapse at the last minute...

Anyway, I've always been pretty happy with that cartoon of Bush. I think I managed to translate him recognizably into my clumsy cartooning idiom without caricaturing him too much. In honor of Mike's post from yesterday (and using just a little bit of it), I have colored that old cartoon.

And so I say sayonara to the monster. Here's hoping that the next time he's in the news, it's in the context of his trial and conviction.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I Hate W Deeply

(click to enlarge)

You may have heard that after eight years, George W. Bush will surrender the presidency of the United States of America. He recently held his last White House news conference, an event that earned a front-page series of nine close-up photographs in yesterday's Washington Post. The layout reminded me of so many of my favorite talking-head comics: Dan Clowes's real-dialogue comics for David Greenberger; Seth's chatty comics critic in the first Comics Journal Special from a few years back; our own "I Fucked Thomas Edison."

In the spirit of that last-named, deeply respectful item, I offer the preceding mash-up as a sort of valedictory valentine to 43. I used the nine photos by Chip Somodevilla as printed in the Post and simply pasted down a few balloons and captions from another favorite piece by Dan Clowes, "I Hate You Deeply." The Post's pictures were titled "A Final Face-Off With the Press"; I guess this is "A Final Kiss-Off to the Pres." Just remember: I didn't write a word of it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Not Comics: Snow and Frost

As long as Mike's posting holiday snapshots, I thought I'd put a couple of Vermont images up on the ol' blog. Who knows—maybe a cartoonist will find these useful for reference or something.

This is my first winter in Vermont, and I've really been aware of how much different snow, ice, and frost are up here, even compared to New Haven, just a few hours away. When it snows in single-digit (Fahrenheit) cold, you get a really different sort of effect than when it snows in thirty-degree mush. The flakes come down as flakes, like the ones you cut out from folded paper when you're a kid (but with proper sixty-degree symmetry, instead of ninety-degree symmetry). Sometimes they're spiky and blow around like little bits of down; sometimes they're plate-like and sparkle like glitter.

I've been trying to catch some of these pretty patterns with a camera, but it's not easy.

I increased the contrast on that image in photoshop, but I think that's fair. You can click these pictures to enlarge them a bit, as usual.

Here's some frost on my windshield a couple of days ago.

It's really wonderful to live in a place where I wake up to that sort of beauty on a regular basis.

I haven't made any postcards of these images yet, but I get the feeling I probably will.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Doodle Penance postscript: Hero of the Beach!

You may recall the doodle penance entry from a few weeks ago, on the prompt "superboy jamie muscles." There, Isaac drew a witty version of the Charles Atlas "Hero of the Beach" advertisement (which was previously made notorious via the character Flex Mentallo in the pages of Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol). I drew a six-year-old weightlifter from the Scottish Highlands, wee Jamie Muscles. But on a recent vacation to the Botany Bay beach of Edisto Island, South Carolina, I was able to put Jamie on the beach his own sweet self. Lo:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Doodle Penance: "dr. strange model sheet"

We had a lot of interesting options for this week's "Doodle Penance," and we settled on one searcher's (implicit) request for a "dr. strange model sheet." Of course, my first impulse was to come up with a character named "Dr. Strangemodel," and design bedsheets with his visage, logo, etc. adorning them, but then I realized what the googler was probably looking for.

Mike and I resolved to do model sheets of Marvel's Dr. Strange, Sorceror Supreme, with the catch being that we'd draw these from memory, without consulting any reference material.

If you're not familiar with the term, a model sheet is something produced so that the artist drawing a character over and over again will get the key visual characteristics right. Doing one of these from memory is particularly perverse, since (at least for me) it meant fudging the details I could remember least well.

But I think my version actually turned out pretty close to accurate. This is a testament either to my obsessive adolescent reading of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe or to my visual memory—or perhaps (and most likely) to Steve Ditko's wonky design chops. The man could really design a hodgepodge costume.

Please click the image to enlarge, so you can read my notes. Having worked that up in my new (ungridded) notebook for 2009, I decided to go ahead and color the main sketch. Here you go.


...well, um, yeah. First, I gotta give props to Isaac, who clearly knew what he was doing. By contrast, here's my attempt:
I think I had the right idea, more or less, but this is vague in so many details. I knew the cape had something extravagant going on behind the head; I knew the cape was edged in a sort of brain coral pattern; I knew his hands were scarred; and I thought he might have a sash rather than a belt. But that shirt is wrong, wrong, wrong. I can plead genuine ignorance here: I don't think I ever owned a Dr. Strange comic, though I saw him as the occasional guest star in Spider-Man, and I skipped the Essential Doctor Strange because (a) a lot of the crazed visual effects seemed to disappear in black and white and (b) I don't really care about the character! I'm probably better acquainted with Doctor Orpheus, and even there I'm a few years out of date by now.

Anyhow, it was an interesting challenge, and it confirmed what we already knew: Isaac has a lot more Marvel in his head than I do. Like, a LOT.

Isaac replies:

For what it's worth, this is what Dr. Strange really looks like, as drawn by Paul Smith.

I definitely screwed up the collar shape, the pattern on his chest, the dots on his gloves, and the way the cape hangs over his shoulders. I might have messed up the facial hair. But I still think I did okay, considering how long it's been since I've seen Dr. Strange. Why, it's been days since I read the first Incredible Hercules collection, which shows Steve Strange in a couple of panels. (Come to think of it, though, I'm pretty sure that in those panels he's a little bit off-model.)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Doodle Penance:
"werewolf the apocalypse comics panels"

This week's "doodle penance" comes courtesy of a googly-searcher who spent no seconds at all on the site, after having looked for "werewolf the apocalypse comics panels."

When I saw this search term, I knew right away what the googler was looking for, and I regretted not having posted my notes earlier. You see, some recent panels at the MLA Convention have been shooting for a wider demographic, and one that I attended back in Chicago had a decidedly eclectic blend of speakers.

Featured in a discussion of "The Hands of Death: (Re)Membering, Manu/mission, and the Ends of the Digital Age" were three true luminaries. First, our former Yale colleague Matthew Giancarlo, whose lycanthropy was in full evidence because of the phase of the moon; second, Obsidian 20-Jaguar, the physical embodiment of the looming Aztec apocalypse of 2012; third and finally, the cartoon version of Scott McCloud. (The real Scott McCloud was unavailable.)

Like Charles Hatfield and Tom Motley, Mike and I are both incorrigible conference doodlers. Fortunately, this means that my old notebook had a little sketch of this immortal panel discussion, which has gone curiously unnoticed in other accounts of the conference.

You'll notice that Cartoon McCloud is citing a piece of theory articulated by Kyle Baker. Baker describes the palm-up, hand-extended gesture of elucidation—what Joe Matt calls "the explainin' hand"—as one of cartooning's great sins: an "enemy of all cartooning." I know I've been guilty of using it a time or two. Baker says, about this "Hand of Death," that it's an unnatural gesture, and that it's lazy cartooning. I basically agree with the second assertion—there's almost always a better way to make exposition more interesting—but by now I have seen that gesture (and drawn it) enough times that I do find myself making it on occasion. So I'm not sure that I'll be able to declare it completely off-limits in my cartooning. But I can try to avoid it. There's a new rule for a New Year: one pair of feet on each page, and no more Hands of Death.

You can find this advice from Kyle Baker, and lots of other helpful tips, in How to Draw Stupid.

Mike, add what you will ...

...Okay, Isaac. Here's what I'd like to add:
Naturally, this is a drawing of a "tribulation locust" as described in the Werewolf version of the New Testament book of the Apocalypse of St. John, chapter 9. You may be familiar with the regular human version of the text, which begins thus in the Douay-Rheims translation:
1 And the fifth angel sounded the trumpet, and I saw a star fall from heaven upon the earth, and there was given to him the key of the bottomless pit. 2 And he opened the bottomless pit: and the smoke of the pit arose, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke of the pit. 3 And from the smoke of the pit there came out locusts upon the earth.
The Werewolf version is similar, but there are some slight but telling differences. I have indicated these in boldface in the following extract (a continuation from chapter 9, the description proper of the tribulation locusts):
7 And the shapes of the locusts werewolf like unto horses prepared unto battle: and on their heads werewolf, as it werewolf, crowns like gold: and their faces werewolf as the faces of men. 8 And they had hair as the hair of women; and their teeth werewolf as lions: 9 And they had breastplates as breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was as the noise of chariots and many horses running to battle. 10 And they had tails like to scorpions, and there werewolf stings in their tails; and their power was to hurt men five months.
Incidentally, when it comes to How to Draw Stupid, observe that I have included one and a half pairs of feet in this doodle. I appear to have forgotten that even tribulation locusts have two hind legs. I'm a marked man now!

I should also give credit to Dan Clowes for inspiring me with his far more awesome drawing of a non-lycanthropic tribulation locust, as printed in his nonfiction comic "A Preview of the Coming Apocalypse." This brief but essential guide was unaccountably omitted from Twentieth Century Eightball, but it may be found in Clowes's earlier collection Lout Rampage!
Feast your eyes:
By the way, that's not foliage in the background there: it's the top of a mushroom cloud. Apocalypse, folks!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Post-Holiday Superhero Shopstravaganza,
... or,
If I Were Famke Janssen

I don't know about you, but Boxing Day usually finds me staggering through the aisles of Rite-Aid or Sav-On or some other misspell-hyphenated all-nite drugstore, looking for cold pills or scarfing up rejected holiday cards and candy. Then I buy a bunch of discounted toys and wrap them in discounted wrapping paper. This way, I can pretend it's Christmas all winter long.

Actually, that's a lie. I spent Boxing Day in airports. I was in the local drugstore getting a prescription filled months ago when I took these pictures, and it was only the image in Gerry Canavan's New Year's post that reminded me to put them up on the blog.

You see, I am unreasonably interested in crummy superhero toys, though not interested enough to purchase them. I usually take crummy picturephone photos of them to send to Mike.

For example, here's a picture of a smug-sarcastic-friendly Batman, and his super friend, a dopey, doe-eyed, L'il-Abner Superman:

Ready the Bat-Smirk, Robin! I've got a doofus Kryptonian to mock!

And then there's the atrocious "Phoenix" I spotted. Now, Famke Janssen is generally considered to be a fairly pretty lady. She was even a Bond girl, you know.

But here's what happened when she went through the action-figure machine:

"Jean's Fen-Mask" is an anagram of "Famke Janssen," by the way.

Here is a page where the product packaging allows you to compare movie screenshots with the action-figure sculpt. What can I say? I think If I'd spent years of my life playing Cyclops's dead-again-alive-again ladyfriend, I'd be fairly miffed.