Monday, June 29, 2009

Kirby Kachina

Yesterday's "Doodle Penance" post got me so fired up that I didn't stop doodling.

I was looking at those photos of the mini-kachina statues* and couldn't keep myself from drawing this.

Tell me you wouldn't subscribe to a comic that starred that guy. Or featured him as a regularly recurring villain.

Let's call him Tokomaq, since "The Living Dynamo" is already taken.

All right, all right...

*I bought the pink-headed one that sort of resembles a dressed-up "Angry Charlie," by the way.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Doodle Penance: "make your own kirby character"

Today's "Doodle Penance" asks a question similar to one we've answered before. This time, the google query we missed was "make your own kirby character."

I said before that Ed Emberley is probably the first place to stop for these "how to draw" questions, but there's a big gap between Emberley's design sense and Jack Kirby's, so let's try to approach the question of Kirby's character design. It's a huge topic, actually, and looking at Kirby's monster comics will certainly give you a different set of examples from the ones you'd see in The Eternals or The Demon.

But let's try to generalize, working mainly with Kirby's best-known work, in the superhero genre.

Even here, there's more than one type of Kirby character:

(Not pictured: alien legionnaires, terrified bystanders, buxom dames with faces like dinner plates, crusty old guys, eldritch freakouts, etc.)

Let's suppose you're thinking about a heroic character, someone on the periphery of your main tale, but a fellow you could trust with interstellar patrol duty. You're going to need some headgear, and here you have plenty of options.

In general, I try to think of kachina designs when I'm thinking about Kirbyesque design elements.

Good design motifs include raised discs, sunbursts with triangular teeth, branching horns or forks, rectangles the shape of a Pink Pearl eraser, and shiny parts. As ever, spot blacks sell the drawing. Don't be afraid to lay down the ink.

It's tempting to put just as much design insanity into the rest of the costume as you see in the hat. But I think that simplicity is a good rule here. Remember that when you start drawing this guy, there's going to be a lot of bending and folding, and a lot of distortion due to perspective. A simple bodysuit, maybe with a few bold patterns, is what you want here.

So your next step is to start assembling the various parts. Try to keep a design "theme" going: if there are dots or circles in one place, bring them back again elsewhere.

Here's a fellow I came up with, and a hastily colored version of him in a more Kirby-style pose. Anyone have a name for this guy?

Mike, what do you have this week?

—Why, I have my own Kirby character, of course. Like you, I was puzzled at first by the sheer variety of Kirby designs available, but I decided to stick with what I know best, which is Kirby art from the first hundred issues of Fantastic Four as reproduced in cheap black-and-white editions, so here's my quick black-and-white drawing of a would-be Inhuman named Handy:

I worked from a few typical Kirby design principles:

1) Avoid drawing ears where possible.
2) Put the character's initial on the costume, even if character is from outer space or otherwise unlikely to use the Roman alphabet.
3) Hunch 'em up.
4) Shady characters have wide mouths.
5) Squared-off digits.

And since I was thinking of the Inhumans:

6) Exaggerate one trait or physical feature.

The only problem with my choice of exaggerated feature, Handy's hands, is that it's easily mistaken for the extreme foreshortening also typical of Kirby poses. But I assure you that his hands are not meant to be that close to you, the viewer: they're just big-ass hands.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Doodle Penance: "rob rockley"

We had some pretty good options for Doodle Penance this week, like "comics thesis without tear" (if only that were possible!), "hellboy craig parody," "''matt wiegle' cute," and "where can i get a mickey mouse t-shirt were mickey's face is a skull." Lots to choose from! And somehow we settled on "rob rockley."

I'm fairly sure that the page this anonymous googler landed on was the post in which I showed my sketches of the characters in Tom K's Mapjam story, whom I'm planning to use in my own story for the third round of the Mapjam.

I gave the three characters punlike names, which you'll catch if you read them out loud to a vegan in your grocery store's produce section.

As it happens, I've been thinking about the Mapjam more this week. I've been stealing a few minutes here and there to work out a new script and set of thumbnails for my story, since I've neglected it for almost two years now. I figure that if I draw a little bit on it every day—even if it takes me a month to draw a whole page—I'll have a story ready before the end of the year. Mostly I've been trying to figure out the look of the girl I'm calling Delilah, and her Paw, who doesn't appear in Tom K's story.

But hey, why not do a little pinup of Rob Rockley, the beefiest of the muck deacons?

Mike, can you tell me which cartoonist I was thinking of while I drew this? And what have you got this week?

—Hmm, Isaac, hard to say. That guy looks so much like Tor Johnson...Maybe you were thinking of Eric Powell of The Goon? Nah, that's probably just the overalls...I'm not sure. Sorry.

Anyway, here's my doodle:

In time, I did remember all by myself that "Rob Rockley" was your name for the figure on the far right, with a design by Tom K; but first my mind turned to similar-sounding figures like Rob Riggle (far left) and Bob Rock (middle); so here's a doodle portrait of the three of them joined at the torso, with stalks of raw broccoli in the background. Something about the finished three-headed bust made me think of a family photo, hence the frame and label.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Just a Little Doodle by Tom Motley

A couple of months ago, our cartoonist pal Tom Motley posted a doodle on his blog that I wanted to color. There was something about the combination of light fantasy and creepy intensity that I wanted to spend another ten minutes with, I guess.

Anyway, Tom said I should go ahead and color it, and this morning, with a few idle minutes to spare, I finally did:

Check out Tom's work, if you haven't. He's one of the good ones.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Doodle Penance: "what do you think of center for cartoon studies"

As it happens, this week's "Doodle Penance" term is just as appropriate to the events of the week as last week's was. (I promise that I'm not making these up. But I do get to choose from more than a hundred search terms each week, so it's not hard to find something that seems like it'll work.)

As I mentioned in my last post, Mike and I met up on Friday in White River Junction, the home of the Center for Cartoon Studies, and Mike got his first tour of the Schulz Library,* the Colodny Building, and the other facilities of the school. (Thanks again to Robyn Chapman for showing us around!)

And, as it turns out, this week someone came to our blog in a search for "what do you think of center for cartoon studies."

Mike had a really amazing experience in the Schulz Library, which I hope he's planning to blog about when he gets home from vacation. (He took pictures of a rare illustrated book, and I'm going to say no more about that now, except to note that its title is an anagram for the blog.)

Anyway, he was impressed, all around. Mike's reaction to the school can be summed up thus:

(Click to enlarge and read.)

If you haven't read Hicksville, to which Mike is alluding here, it's not too hard to find a used copy, and I hear that Drawn & Quarterly is bringing it back into print (with a gorgeous new cover) next year.

Here's my response to the same Google prompt. (The coloring is a little haphazard, but I was in a hurry this morning.)

If you don't know why I'm being interviewed with a robot, a snowman, and a piece of fruit, then clearly you've never applied to be a student at CCS.

(Thanks in advance to Minty Lewis for not complaining when I totally poached her pineapple.)

*If you're interested, here's a video tour of the Schulz Library, recently uploaded by Chuck McBuck:

At about 2:19 you can see (in the center of the frame) a boxed collection of Tales from the Crypt that I donated to the library, and toward the end of the tour I can see (from the position of Jon Chad's Shortstack and the missing rubber band on Bizarre Love Triangle) that this tour as filmed after Mike and I were there on Friday.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Storytelling Exercise with Random Brushstrokes

Last night, Matt Madden described a new and interesting storytelling exercise on his blog.

Since Mike and I were having one of our rare meetups this afternoon (this time, in White River Junction), I thought it'd be fun to try a variation on Matt's exercise. For each of these two short comics exercises, Mike and I passed the page twice: once after we'd drawn the random blots or spot-blacks, then again after we'd drawn images in pencil around the other guy's spot blacks. If we'd had three or more people, we could have run this exercise without passing the paper back to the first person.

For this first one, Mike made the original brushstrokes.

(As usual, you can click any of those images to enlarge it.)

I think my drawings presented some storytelling challenges, in that they didn't really have a consistent "protagonist" or scene—those sunflowers really came out of nowhere. But I also thought it was sort of against the spirit of the exercise to plan a story, and I was trying hard to thwart my own inclinations toward story-building.

This other exercise seems to have turned out as more of a story. The initial blots are mine.

This was a pretty fun exercise to try, and I think Mike and I might do it again some time, just because it's a good limbering-up exercise for comics-making. Our thanks go to Matt Madden for the idea.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Doodle Penance Special: "mocca"

This week's "Doodle Penance" is late because it had to wait for me to get back from MoCCA. (Don't get me started about the joys of flying out of JFK.) Usually for each week's Doodle Penance we comb through the search terms that led people to our website, find something that hadn't appeared on the site heretofore, and draw it as best we can, to satisfy the searches of subsequent googlers.

This week's search term of choice was "MoCCA."

Given where I was this weekend, I thought I could get some help with this one. Here are some doodles I collected from various cartoonists at MoCCA this weekend, illustrating the search term "MoCCA."

Jesse Reklaw shows us what the crowd looked like for most of the day both Saturday and Sunday. It was a busy show, and the floorplan in the new venue was really good for foot traffic. There really were massive crowds, and a lot of people means a lot of potential sales. I heard from many people that they'd sold a lot of books this year. Jesse had big piles of Ten Thousand Things to Do at the show. I hope he sold a lot of them.

Jon Lewis offers one of the cardinal rules of attending small-press comics shows. When you're walking past someone's table, judge their work, not the desperation in their eyes. Jon had an awesome new book called Cultists of North America, and the Gods Who Regard Them. I'm not sure how you can order copies of that one, but I'll let you know if I find out.

Julia Wertz, our editor for the I Saw You... project, offers one of the key rules for enjoying the MoCCA experience from the cartoonist's side of the table:

Julia was selling new copies of the second volume of Fart Party.

And Scott C. offered a good rule for MoCCA and for life in general: crush your enemies, see them driven before you, etc.

Of course, the most noteworthy thing about this year's MoCCA Festival was the new venue, the 69th Regiment Armory building at Lexington and 25th, which Calvin Wong (whose table was adjacent to ours) characterized as looking something like Thunderdome:

That image, like all of the pictures in this post, can be clicked and enlarged.

One main difference between the Armory building and the Puck Building was the cavernous size of the venue: all of the exhibitors were showing their wares in the same room. But even more notable, from an exhibitor's perspective, was the Armory's total lack of air-conditioning. By mid-day on Saturday, the room was tropically sweltering, and it didn't cool off overnight. The only water fountain in the building was broken, and all of the drink machines sold out before midday on Sunday. It was purgatorial.

Zander Cannon calls it: the place was face-meltingly hot.

Or, as Dennis Pacheco shows, health-threateningly hot.

Damien Jay illustrates a commonly circulated theory, that eventually all the rising sweat would reach the three-story vaulted ceiling, condense, and rain back down as some kind of special nerd oil, anointing us all with New York City's humid benison.

For Alec Longstreth, as usual, MoCCA was all about the comics. Looking closely at his doodle, you can see some of his picks for the most exciting debuts of the show: Julia's new Fart Party volume, the tenth issue of Papercutter, the second volume of The Mourning Star by Kaz Strzepek, Minty Lewis's new collection of P. S. Comics, and Alec's own new Phase 7 #014. They're all excellent books, and I am seriously excited to read the ones I haven't finished yet.

... But for many people, the "buzz book" news of the show was, without a doubt, the early-release copies of David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp
that Pantheon brought to the convention.

The book looks totally incredible, and absolutely worth the wait. If you weren't at the show, pre-order a copy.

When I explained the premise of "Doodle Penance" to some people, they were under the impression for some reason that we deliberately misinterpret the search terms that send people to our site. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth, but that didn't stop Partyka's Matt Wiegle ...

... who was selling a totally fun new book called Monsters and Condiments.

Our table-neighbor Sam Sharpe wrought a variation on a similar idea, demonstrating that Arabica and Action Comics #1 are two great tastes that don't taste great together. Sam had a new mini at the show, too, These Yams Are Delicious, which Zander Cannon pronounced "the best minicomic of all time," or something along those lines.

I keep using the first-person plural pronouns, and that's because I was sharing a table with a couple of other people: first, Mike's former student Cee-Cee Swalling, who provided this summary of her experience at the show...

The other person behind the table was our friend and oubapian ally Tom Motley, who seemed to get distracted toward the end of the day on Sunday...

(For some reason, Calvin, Sam, and Damien's table seemed to draw a particularly cute crowd. I'm not sure how that works.)

Motley had a new issue of True Fiction called "Made Out of 'Mac,'" and I presume that it may soon be available in his store over at Squidworks. I'll let you know if I hear differently.

For me, in the end, the show was as much about giving away free postcards as it was about selling minicomics. If you came to the site because you picked up one of the postcards I was offering, I hope you'll stick around long enough to see our summer sale, which offers comics delivered cheaply to your door or mailbox.

As for Mike, well, that little piggy stayed home.

Poor Mike! But think of all of the sweating he saved himself! (Seriously, Mike, if you want consolation, read Evan Dorkin's post about the show.)

We're guest artists at PARTYKA this month

We are honored to be this month's guest artists for the Daily Drawings feature at the website of the Partyka collective, a group of talented and award-winning young artists whose numbers include one of Isaac's former students, Shawn Cheng (The Would-Be Bridegrooms; The Monkey & The Crab), and Shawn's college pal Matt Wiegle (Seven More Days of Not Getting Eaten; Is It Bacon?). You may have seen their drawings of Isaac himself for the postcard announcing his 2008 move to Vermont, but you are hereby urged to see some of their other drawings as well, as featured on the Partyka website or in some of their beautifully rendered comics.

The Partyka site doesn't just showcase the work of its members; for years, now, it has also featured the work of guest artists, fellow travelers in the worlds of comics and drawing. Our contributions this month feature a typically collaborative approach with material that is somewhat more haphazard than usual. Our series of images, called Satisfactory Lecture Doodles, began with a selection of doodles that we absent-mindedly sketched into our various notebooks during classes, conferences, and meetings during grad school and after (which of course meant we had YEARS of material to draw from). Please note that none of these images was intended for later viewing, not even by each other; indeed, I think some of them predate not just our collaborative interest in comics but our very acquaintance. Each of us then sent his own favorite doodles to the other guy to color digitally. The titles of the finished color images reflect the original circumstance of the particular doodle; thus yesterday's drawing, which you might think is called "Terrible Threat!", would appear in the catalogue as "Plenary Lecture."

Keep checking in on the PARTYKA website later this month for further thrilling images such as "Driving Directions" and "Modern American Literature." And for your convenience, here's a glimpse of the first image, the unforgettable "Faculty Meeting":
(You can also check out some later images in the series by clicking the first link in this post, but where's the fun of that?)

PS: And while you're here, don't forget our BIG SUMMER SALE, featuring both comics work and sketchbook projects by this month's Guest Artists at PARTYKA.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I'll Be at MoCCA

Everyone seems to be announcing their plans, so let me say quickly that I'll be at the MoCCA Festival this weekend. If you didn't already know that, you might not have scrutinized the programming schedule yet. First thing on Saturday, I'll be talking with our friend the comics scholar Charles Hatfield about Jack Kirby's "Technological Sublime." I'm really looking forward to that.

I'm also splitting a table with our friend the cartoonist Tom Motley. There aren't any new Satisfactory Comics publications for this year's MoCCA, but I'll have copies of Satisfactory #7 and #8 with me, plus a lot of promotional postcards that will, I hope, send more people to the site and our big summer sale. We'll be at table 809, all the way across the hall from the main entrance.

As usual, you can expect a photographical report from me within a couple of days of my return to Vermont.

The True Face of Satisfactory Comics

Behold...and tremble!!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Some t-shirts temporarily offline

I've learned that a couple of our images weren't printing well on the Zazzle shirts, so I've taken some of the t-shirts in our Zazzle store offline temporarily. They should be up and running again in a few days.

This guy, however, should look better than ever!

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Ten Doctors by Rich Morris

Like many a young nerd who watched PBS back in the day, I was once a pre-teen fan of the BBC science-fiction classic Doctor Who, featuring a long-lived, time-traveling alien from Gallifrey, a canny Time Lord known only as the Doctor, who moved through space and time in what looked like a '60s-era British police call box and who could regenerate his body when catastrophe threatened him with death (which coincidentally tended to happen whenever an actor was leaving the title role). So taken was I with the program, and particularly with the seemingly definitive performance of the great Tom Baker as the fourth incarnation of the Doctor, that I briefly took up knitting in order to begin my own version of the fourth Doctor's trademark extra-long scarf (I never finished), and for many years I wore a version of the fourth Doctor's trademark hat (which sadly went up in flames in a car fire during college).

More to the point of this blog, I even made a bunch of Whovian doodles back in the day. Here are some selections from a page full of Fourth Doctors, K-9 robot dogs, and TARDISes I drew in fifth or sixth grade:

I even made a pitiful stab at Chris Ware-style toy construction (long before I ever heard of Chris Ware) with these notes on how to make a model Dalek out of washers, dowel, and a container of Dry Idea deodorant, while the Fourth Doctor himself could be fashioned out of dowels and cotton balls:

Anyway, time travel to my own misspent youth is profitless, especially when I really started this post to shout this joyous news from the laptops: not only has Doctor Who been revived in a successful and entertaining new BBC series—which I think is fantastic—but Rich Morris, Who-fan and cartoonist extraordinaire, has now completed his mammoth feat of comic-strip fanfic, the 247-page magnum opus The Ten Doctors, featuring all ten incarnations (thus far) of the Doctor:

You can read the first nine pages here, and you can download the whole shebang here. I still haven't read the whole thing myself—I've read it off and on since last spring, checking in every now and then to see how much further the story has advanced—but I'm confident that Rich Morris has kept the mix of humor, action, and convincing characterization intact to the end. His cartooning is sharp—sharp enough to make for compulsive reading even though most pages are scanned direct from pencils, with no ink or color—and his caricatures of the various actors are economically recognizable without designy cheating. This story has appealed to fans of both the classic Doctor Who series (1963–1989) and the revived series (2004–present), whether or not they are familiar with all ten iterations of the Doctor (usually termed "regenerations," though that seems off for the First Doctor). If you've enjoyed official BBC Doctor Who adventures, chances are you'll enjoy these, too—and it's one of the only ways you'll ever see ten Doctors together in one story.