Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Alphabooksbeasts: Q is for Qfwfq

So: my "real" entry for this week's Alphabooks appears (as a character and as a narrator) in a couple of story collections by Italo Calvino, Cosmicomics and t zero, as well as in a couple of stories in Numbers in the Dark. Yes, my friends, as it should be, Q is for Qfwfq.

Qfwfq is impossible to draw. He has lived for many, many millions of years, since before the materials of the sun coalesced into a star, and he has lived as many different things—a sightless mollusk, a pre-terrestrial vertebrate, an essentially human (if immortal) being, and even for "about fifty million years" a dinosaur. In fact, in the short story "The Dinosaurs," Qfwfq describes himself as the only dinosaur to survive the mass extinction.

He goes on to pass in future (presumably mammal) societies, though he is still really a dinosaur and somewhat self-conscious about his status as a legendary terror and scourge. I imagine that he must change form very gradually, when his form changes, perhaps over thousands of years.

That's the moment in which I've drawn him, awkwardly making the transition from dinosaur to something more human. I hope you can tell that his beard is made of ragged little kiwi feathers.

Qfwfq is a complex guy. If you're interested in serious speculative fiction, and you haven't read Cosmicomics at least, you really owe it to yourself to get hold of a copy.

Next week: high fantasy (you know, for kids).

Alphabooksbeasts: Q is not for Quickbeam, after all

Last week I hinted that I was planning to use some "high fantasy" for this week's non-Donjon Alphabooks. And in my spreadsheet planning stage for the project I had picked out Quickbeam, one of the ents in Lord of the Rings, to be my Q.

But I've had a better idea—a better Q character who is at least technically not a human being. I'll get him up on the blog in a few minutes.

Here's the thing: I've never actually read Lord of the Rings. I don't have much emotional investment in it. I started the first book, when I was too young to understand it, and I've never tried since then. I know the story, of course, and I've done enough research to know how Quickbeam fits into it. But I don't know anything about his personality, really. I didn't have a feeling for him.

It turns out that I do have a quickbeam or rowan tree next to my driveway, though I know it as a mountain ash. It was the source of this doodle, though I'm sure I could have produced a more faithful rendition of it if I'd been sketching from life instead of memory, or trying to do this in my "official" Alphabooks style. On the other hand, there's no way I'd want to draw all that fiddly foliage with a brush.

In a little bit, I'll get my "real" Q post up.

Alphadonjon: Q is for Queen Sonya the Huge

Okay, not only is my Donjon Alphabooks entry a few days late, but it's also kind of a cheat. I mean, Sonya the Huge really is the Queen of the goblins by the end of the first volume of Dungeon: Zenith, and we do see her in that role in half of the first volume of Dungeon: Monstres, but I mostly the other characters call her Sonya the Huge, and not Queen Sonya the Huge.

She's a giantess. That absurd balloon on her head is the crown of the Goblin King. Maybe I should have put her on a palanquin borne by a brace of little goblins—if nothing else, that would have given you a better sense of her scale—but then it would have taken another couple of days, I bet, to get her here on the blog.

Sonya's actually pretty fun to draw. Maybe that shouldn't surprise me, since she's pretty obviously a Trondheim design, and his characters are always fun to draw. And I think I must have been taking a page out of Rob Ullman's book when I worked out this pose, though as usual I think I lost something moving from the sketch to the finished version.

(What did I lose? A little assertiveness? A little sauciness? Some junk in the trunk?)

Next week: I have to cheat a little (more).

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Alphabooksbeasts: P is for Pooh and Piglet

I know I still "owe" Alphabooks a canine that starts with O, for last week, but I wanted to get this week's P post done and posted last night, and since it was nearly done when I had to turn in, here it is, slightly out of order.

But you already know: P is for Pooh and Piglet.

I cannot tell you how much I love these guys. They feel as close to me as siblings. I know stretches of the Pooh books by heart, or nearly by heart. If you have not read them, get on it.

Your heart isn't finished until you've read these books to someone.

For the record, yet again: Ernest H. Shepard is one of my cartooning heroes. I do not believe in the Disney Pooh. It is, more and more from year to year, an abomination in my sight.

Next week: rare letters call for high fantasy.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Alphadonjon: P is for Papsukal and Pipistrelle

This week's Donjon entry for Alphabooks features two characters who have actually met (or at least seen each other) in the very incarnations and apparel I've drawn them in.

P is for Papsukal, the son of the Herbert the Duck (and, I think it's safe to say, Isis—I mean, those aren't duck ears and whiskers he's sporting). He's a nasty guy, all in all, and he becomes one of the villains of the Twilight storyline.

P is also for Pipistrelle, the little bat who accompanies Marvin and Marvin the Red on their end-of-the-world adventures, though I'm not sure I've ever seen her called anything but "little bat" in the American translations. A pipistrelle is, of course, the littlest sort of bat that lives in Europe; maybe the people at NBM thought that bit of knowledge wouldn't translate.

Anyway, look, here they are in the same panel together:

That's Pipistrelle flapping under Marvin the Red's ear on the right.

These Dungeon books are so much fun.

Next week: at least they didn't translate her epithet as "the Gross."

Alphadonjon: O is for Ormelle and Okto

This O entry for Alphabooks is a full week late. What can I say? I've been busy getting those Animal Alphabet postcards ready, but I'm trying to get back on track.

Here we see two characters in Trondhgeim & Sfar's Dungeon comics, Ormelle and OktoO is for them.

Ormelle is a dragon lady, the mate of Marvin's son Baal in the Twilight section of the timeline. She's also the lover of Marvin the Red. She has a strong, independent personality, and she seems to know what's what. She's also hell on wings, when it comes to fighting.

I regret to say that I know less about Okto, except that he is a former bearer of the Sword of Destiny, and that he introduces himself like this when summoned from the mists of time:

I also don't have much in the way of notes of false starts this time. This is probably the dullest blog post about a chicken-octopus ninja that you're going to read this week.

"Next week" (in a few minutes): a little bat and a duck-cat.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

King Kirby Day 2012

Today would have been Jack Kirby's ninety-fifth birthday.

As I have for the past couple of years, I spent a little time today copying a panel drawn by Kirby that lodged in my visual imagination when I was a kid and never completely got dislodged.

Don't look at it too closely. My work really suffered from a combination of scale and tool choice: I was drawing this way too small for it to get inked well with my ready-to-hand combo of brush pen and medium-fine Rapidograph. The colors are pretty nice, though.

Why do I do this? The pictures still, after all these years, have an eerie power for me, most of which comes (I think) from the seriousness with which I studied them when I was little.

Suppose you're walking in a ruined theater, where no one has set foot for twenty years. There's a little old upright piano in the dusty backstage wings, and out of curiosity you plink out a chord. The notes are hollow, weak, and a little sour, but you have to be impressed that they still play.

That's the way it is for me with these pictures. I think I would recognize that "organic director" in any context, even though Kirby only drew it once. (Lightray refashions it into something less horrible before we get another clear look at it.)

This year, I invited a few of my friends to join me in my observances.

Scott Koblish drew a panel from Kirby's run on Captain America.

Check out Ben Towle's Lockjaw pinup.

And dig Damien's Mark Moonrider.

I didn't have to invite Bully to commemorate the occasion, of course. He did it all on his own.

Ditto, Adam Koford, natch.

And Evan Dorkin? Nuff said.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Alphadonjon: N is for Narboni

This week's Alphabooks Dungeon entry is pretty much my only option, but I think he's pretty cool.

N is for Narboni. He seems to be an undead rabbit wizard. He wears a cassock and sandals, and his forearms are skeletal.

Narboni lives for the first seven pages of the first story in Vol. 1 of Dungeon: Monstres. He's one of the crew of monsters that William Delacour encounters, including John-John, then cons into accompanying him to locate the Dungeon. We haven't seen the last of this crew of monsters; not hardly. I think the only one of them that I won't be drawing is Metacarpus, the one-eyed zombie pirate cat with hooks for both hands.

Anyway, Narboni meets an untimely end (decapitated and then burned, since his severed head is still trying to cast a spell) before we can get to know him very well. I'm not even a hundred percent sure that he's supposed to be a rabbit.

The pose is a little awkward, but I wanted to make sure I showed off his free-bone forearms and his sandals.

I had a slightly different version, but then I tweaked the shadows a little bit. Probably the tweak is not even noticeable. I had a hard time figuring what color the shadows cast by eerie green Ditko magic would be.

What I meant when I said Narboni was almost my only option is that there really aren't many Dungeon characters whose names start with N. And this is just going to get worse in three or four weeks. I'm planning to cheat just a little bit when that time comes. You'll forgive me, won't you?

Next week: a sultry dragon lady and a chicken-octopus ninja.

Alphabooksbeasts: N is for Nagaina and Nag

Well, don't look too closely at this week's Alphabooks entry. I'm not very happy with it, and I'd draw it over again if I had time, but I've been preoccupied with other stuff.

So this is supposed to be N is for Nagaina (and Nag). They are, as you may remember, the mated pair of cobras who threaten the household in Kipling's "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" (in The Jungle Book). Nag is killed by a shotgun blast while fighting the eponymous mongoose, and Nagaina swears her revenge.

Cobras are cool-looking creatures, as we all know. Doing my image-searching for this post, I discovered that people do some pretty strange things with cobras.

Next week: a canine or two.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Kickstart Some Postcards!

Have I mentioned that I'm running a Kickstarter campaign, trying to finance the publication of some postcards based on last year's Animal Alphabet project?

This is what one of the postcards is going to look like, featuring Ben Towle's "O is for Ostrich" and Rich Barrett's "O is for Octopus."

It's going well already. The project has enough backers that I am surely going to take the postcards to the press. I mention it here in case it's news to you, because if I get enough support I'll be able to publish the postcards in a larger edition and more nicely.

Late Update: If you've located this post and are interested in buying a set of the cards, please visit the Satisfactory Press Storenvy site, where the cards and a selection of other goodies are available.

Arthurian Alphabooks: M is for Morgawse

My belated contribution to the Arthurian alphabet for M is the lady Morgawse, who, in Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur, is the wife and later widow of King Lot of Orkney; half-sister and lover to a young King Arthur; ill-fated paramour of Sir Lamorak; mother, by Lot, of Sir Gawain and his brothers Aggravain, Gaherys, and Gareth; and mother, by Arthur, of Mordred.

If the names Lot, Lamorak, and Mordred mean anything to you, you appreciate the trouble that this woman finds herself in (and participates in or contributes to herself, whether wittingly or otherwise). She's pretty enigmatic because she remains only faintly drawn by Malory: the occasion of great desire in others—at one point Lamorak is overheard lamenting aloud about the emotional anguish his love for Morgawse causes him—she never gives voice to her own desires. But given her sexual history—which includes a long liaison with the son of a man whom her late husband's sons believe to have slain their father during Lot's war against her half-brother Arthur—I think it's fair to assume that she had rather strong feelings and desires of her own.

She also pays for her desire in one of the most shocking and brutal scenes in all of Malory (and that's saying something). Malory's narration of that scene includes wickedly painful details delivered in a laconic style that makes their hurt seem worse than a more empurpled prose would have done, and there's some astonishing dialogue, too.

For this drawing, I took a new tack to the preparatory phase, doodling quick rough sketches on a magnetic doodle pad that belongs to my daughter. You know, like the one Isaac used here. A pretty efficient medium for trying out visual ideas, actually!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Arthurian Alphabooks: L is for Lancelot, late [hors série]

My drawing for L—an obvious choice of Sir Lancelot—is over a week late, and my M drawing is not even begun; so my apologies to Isaac for mucking up the blog's alphabetical continuity, though he can attest that I did draw my original attempts at Lancelot several days before the deadline. Too bad they were L for lousy—so unsatisfactory that I took a while to come up with an alternative, and in doing so I broke one of my own unofficial constraints for this project, so the image above is presented hors série. It's a cartoony version of Lancelot as portrayed by John Cleese in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (on my DVD copy of MP&HG, which begins with an abortive short about dentistry, the pose crops up about 22:09 into the film, with Lancelot toward the left of the screen as part of Arthur's retinue shortly before they are accosted by God Almighty).

The rules I'm breaking here have to do with my interest through this project to discover what images of Arthurian characters I may harbor that are not consciously derived from specific prior visual interpretations—other artists' drawings or actors' faces, mostly. Where possible, I've also tried to follow the visual cues provided textually in whatever single work of Arthuriana I have taken as my reference for a given character, even in a given moment. (My first bad attempts at Lancelot were based on a description of the young man prior to his dubbing to knighthood—not yet the mature lover or seasoned fighter, but that's where the fullest physical description of him that I know of him could be found in the Old French Prose Lancelot.)

Here, I'm not only relying on someone else's image of Lancelot, but on an image born in a visual medium to begin with—no Arthurian book to speak of! (Unless, of course, one accepts "The Book of the Film" as a book; and it is glimpsed very shortly before the scene where I paused my DVD for the sketch. See also Isaac's earlier ripostes to the sort of pedantic literalism about Alphabooks that in part defines my book-centric approach.)

Incidentally, one of the current Alphabooks images—an M drawing—is also Arthurian, though it is of course not one of my drawings (it's by Axel Medellin, and I recommend his Achilles and his Illustrated Man, as well!). It's another obvious, even necessary choice—M is for Merlin—and I'm glad to see Merlin get some attention there since he will not be featured in my Arthurian alphabet here. And yet, the purist in me is a bit disappointed, because while the drawing is technically excellent, it is presented as a portrait of Merlin as featured in Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur—yet it shows him with an owl perched on his shoulder. Malory nowhere associates an owl with Merlin, whereas Merlin's familiar owl Archimedes is indeed familiar from the first part of T. H. White's The Once and Future King (and its Disney adaptation, The Sword in the Stone); indeed, the cover of my paperback edition of The Once and Future King prominently features an owl, probably Archimedes himself, swooping toward the famous sword while knights and ladies are relegated to the background. (Meanwhile, for an Alphabooks drawing of Archimedes by Sarah Pittman, see here!)

For the record, I should note that I like Axel Medellin's image of a kind of catchall Merlin, drawing on a variety of widely recognized wizardy motifs; but I don't like seeing it presented as Malory's Merlin, whose appearance is a lot harder to pin down (since Malory never really describes Merlin outright, save when Merlin is disguised as someone other than himself!). Just compare Burne-Jones's famous painting The Beguiling of Merlin for an effective image where the wizard has no beard or staff or owl—but he does have the languid yet haunted expression of a man who is resigned to be buried alive because he is so "besotted" with love for Nimue/Ninian/Vivian.

(Then again, I may just be touchy about the Alphabooks image of Merlin because for a long time I had a professional interest in staying on top of the details of literary Arthuriana, and whether or not Merlin has a familiar owl seems to me like a matter of some importance. By contrast, it didn't at all bother me to see Axel Medellin's futuristic take on Homer's Achilles, and I don't think that's just because the artist copped to its being "a very, very free interpretation.")

Monday, August 13, 2012

Alphadonjon: M is for Marvin and Marvin the Red

For this week's Donjon Alphabooks entry, I am blessed with a double-barrel dose of warrior-sidekick awesomeness. M has got to be for Marvin and Marvin.

Although they are currently unarmed, they're ready for trouble. Or perhaps for a truly awesome rap battle (probably facing off against the Ill Lithids).

Marvin (the Dragon) is really one of the main characters in the whole course of Dungeon. He's Herbert's mentor and best friend in the Zenith stories, and under the alias of the Dust King, he is one of the heroes of the the Twilight volumes. He has a terrific blend of honor and pragmatism, of mischief and solidity, of wisdom and insecurity. He might really be the most interesting character in the whole series, not least because of the terrible sacrifices he makes between Zenith and Twilight.

Plus, he has a very metal wardrobe, doesn't he? For pants he wears a skull on chains as a codpiece. (Actually, he has several different outfits; this is the one from the very first volume, Duck Heart.)

Marvin the Red (a sort of demon rabbit) is, more or less, the Dust King's troublemaker sidekick in the Twilight volumes of Dungeon. He's a dangerous warrior in his own right, but he's impetuous, overconfident, and selfish. So in fact, like Hyacinthe and Herbert, these two wind up knowing each other well, but not when they're the ages they have in this image.

Well, if you're interested, here are my notes. It took me some work to figure out some good "fight-ready" poses, and I think these notes are hampered by the size of the scratch paper I was using.

And hey, we're halfway through the alphabet!

Next week: oh, just your average zombie wizard.

Alphabooksbeasts: M is for Moby-Dick

I've already drawn the Futurama analogue of this guy (in 3-D, no less), so let's say that for this week's Alphabooks M is for Moby-Dick.

It's hard to capture the size and sublimity of Moby-Dick in a cartoon drawing on a computer screen (or in a book). In fact, I have an essay in my head somewhere about the difficulties of translating Moby-Dick into comics, and one of the insurmountable problems has to be the intimate scale of the images in a handheld comics page. Really Moby-Dick needs to be cartooned on the scale of Guernica or the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Anyway, I thought one approach to the problem would be to show as little of the whale as possible. There's also a lot of talk about the blankness of his whiteness, and the way that people therefore project meaning onto it. I thought it'd be fun to make as much use as I could of the blankness of the computer screen, too.

You can tell me whether you think that's effective. I will acknowledge that I ripped off the composition, in part, from a painting that Scott McCloud brings up tangentially in Understanding Comics.
And I have another image for you.

I once visited Arrowhead, Melville's home in the Berkshires, where I was told that, in the winter, from the window of his study, Mt. Greylock looked like a white whale. It seemed implausible to me. But I figure that if you have whales on your mind, over time almost anything will start to look like a whale.

Like, for example, this cloud I spotted earlier this summer.

Maybe it'll help if I show you what I mean.

Is it just me? Have I started seeing whales?

(Really I think that cloud looks more like a bowhead whale than a sperm whale, but I swear that before I got my phone ready to take the picture it was a much better Moby-Dick likeness.)

You know Moby-Dick's not really supposed to be uniformly white, right? He's sort of marbled.

Next week: a married couple you wouldn't invite to a dinner party.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Alphabooksbeasts: L is for Lockjaw and Lockheed

This week's non-Donjon Alphabooks entry comes from some of my favorite books when I was a kid and a teenager. That is, if you're willing to count them as books.*

I think it will surprise no one to learn that I read a few Marvel Comics between the ages of four or five and fifteen or twenty. I was pretty into The X-Men during the Byrne-Smith-Romita years, but nowadays I'd toss those books on the pyre in favor of some old-school Stan-and-Jack Fantastic Four. That's the real stuff.

So let's say L is for Lockjaw and Lockheed.

Can you tell from my inking which of these characters I'm more fond of?

This is another drawing that didn't get much time to develop (owing to the fact that I only finished "K" yesterday and had three ideas for entries today). In fact, I used my preliminary doodle as pencils, taping it into my notebook and tracing with a brush through the flimsy Moleskine paper. Here's the doodle:

Do you recognize the pose, or the background I swiped for the finished drawing? Identify the source (of both; it's the same source) in the comments section below, and I will happily send you a couple of alphabet minicomics or some other suitable back-issue prize.

Next week: things get deep (and briny).

*I know I'm stretching the definition of "books" for the second week in a row. All I can say is (a.) comics, even superhero comics, are fair game, (b.) these guys are definitely in some "books" now if they weren't then, and (c.) if you're anxious about it I have another post for you.

Alphabooksbeasts Bonus: L is for Larry

As with last week, I find myself thinking that I should do a quick extra Alphabooks entry, so as to be sure I really have a complete and legal alphabet by my own self-imposed standards.

So, all right, here's a little lost dog from a book I bought a little less than a week ago: L is for Larry.

Larry is the star of the Larry Gets Lost series, from which I found Larry Gets Lost in Portland while I was browsing at Powell's. It's attractively cartooned in a sort of simplified retro style, and it actually turned out to have some good tourist information in it for a first-time visitor. Without Larry's help, I might not have noticed the Portlandia statue, and I might not have sought out the Portland Dog Bowl.

Larry does not, at least not in the book, visit Mill Ends Park, the smallest park in the world (at 24 inches in diameter). If you like, you can think of my drawing there as supplementary apocrypha. If you're heading to Portland, why miss Mill Ends Park?

Well, to tell the truth, I was never able to get into Mill Ends myself. If I'd tried to put one of my feet in it, I might have crushed a third of its foliage or warped its solitary sapling. It's designed for smaller folk, of course.

Give me a few minutes and I'll put up my "real" post.

Alphadonjon: L is for Lothar, Luxor, and Lublino

My six-month love letter to Trondheim and Sfar's Dungeon comics continues with this week's Alphabooks entry, showcasing three characters from "Night of the Lady-Killer," the fourth volume (in the American editions) of Dungeon: Monstres.

L is for Lothar, Luxor, and Lublino. They basically appear only in this one volume. (Lothar has like a walk-on cameo in the second Early Years collection.)

Lothar is an enforcer of sorts for Dr. Hippolyte, who brings a lot of stray monsters into the castle that will one day become the Dungeon. (This volume is set during the same time period as the Early Years volumes.) All we know about Lothar is this: he's "faithful and devoted ... so long as you give him a deer every day to devour."

Lublino (the pig) and Luxor (the rat) are among Horus's classmates in necromancy at the college in Antipolis when Alcibiades arrives there. They're both pretty unsavory, to tell you the truth, and they probably deserve whatever Lothar has in store for them.

There wasn't a lot of "process" with this drawing. I didn't give myself much time to think about it. I wasn't planning to put Luxor and Lublino into the drawing until I realized I needed for Lothar to be doing something. It's easier to come up with a pose for these drawings if I have someone else for the character to interact with.

One thing I messed up between doodle and pencils, as I can see now: Lothar should be a lot broader than he is in my finished drawing. Maybe shorter, too, but definitely broader.

Next week: two of the most important and most dangerous warriors in the whole Dungeon series.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Alphabooksbeasts: K is for Katalpa Kwakk-Wakk, Kolin Kelly, Kiskidee Kuku, and Krazy Kat

My other belated "K" entry for Alphabooks takes us away to the desert Southwest, to the precinct of Kokonino, in the same neck of the woods as Monument Valley and the Elephant's Legs (or Feet).

Once I got it into my head to draw a character from Krazy Kat for the letter K, I couldn't limit myself to just one. For the record, the busybody duck, Mrs. Katalpa Kwakk-Wakk, was the first to occur to me, but she's not the only Kokonino denizen to sport those initials. There's also the brickmaker Kolin Kelly, and of course Krazy him/herself, and his/her erstwhile love interest, the sensational character find of 1930, Kiskidee Kuku. (He's a poodle.)

Kiskidee Kuku's appearance in Kokonino unsettles the natural order of things. Offissa Pupp and Ignatz Mouse are on the outs with Krazy, no bricks get tossed, the jail remains untenanted, and eventually pretty much everyone just up and leaves town. Over the span of several Sundays, things go wobbly, then (of course) everything settles back down again.

Anyway, there's a picture of the problem jauntily trotting into Kokonino.

I tried to keep the colors in my drawing close to a duotone print, because I don't really think of Krazy as happening in color, despite the splendor of Southwestern geology and the fact that the Sunday Krazys were in color for years.

I "get" Herriman's doodles about as well as I get Trondheim's character designs (I can fake Herriman's backgrounds all right, and I can do a passable Ignatz from memory), though I wasn't sure about replicating them with a brush instead of a nib. And let's face it: drawing Krazy Kat is like forging someone's signature. Herriman drew all of these characters as doodles, really, and if you draw the same doodle several times a day for decades, it's going to pick up some personal idiosyncrasy.

I hope I have at least rendered Krazy &c recognizably. Please let me know what you think.

Now, if you are a purist and don't consider Krazy and her compeers to be "characters from a book," I have two things to say to you:

First, although they were designed for a more ephemeral medium, I know them from books. It's true that I saw Krazy in the local free weekly, or maybe the Daily Texan, while I was an undergrad, but I knew her/him first from the collection edited my Patrick McDonnell and others and from the weird novel by Jay Cantor. And my love for Krazy has only been extenuated and enriched by the Fantagraphics collections.

Second, I have a post that will "count" anyway. So there.

Next week: a couple of Pet Avengers.

Alphabooksbeasts Bonus: K is for Kriss

This isn't my "real" Alphabooks submission. It's just a speedy doodle that I colored very quickly. Maybe you've seen these Monster "graphic novels" (albums, really) by my hero Lewis Trondheim.

I only have a couple of them, and I have to admit I've only glanced at them so far, but they look really fun. Monster Dinosaur, in particular, seems to have a kind of funky jam-comic quality to it, involving dinosaurs drawn by a host of French (and other?) alt-comics heroes. I can spot one, for example, by David B., and I think there's one by Craig Thompson, too.

Anyway, I don't know much, but I can tell you that the family's eponymous monster is named Kriss.

Also, he is totally fun to draw, like so many Trondheim creations.

Okay, hold on. Let me get the real entry online.

Alphadonjon: K is for Kadmion

I'm sorry this week's Alphabooks submissions are coming so late. I was traveling last week, and while I was traveling I was reminded of an essay deadline that had passed back on June 1. Immediately on returning home I had to pretend to be a scholar, instead of pretending to be a cartoonist.

Anyway, better late than never, right? The Donjon entry for K is Kadmion.

There's not a lot to know about Kadmion, apart from the fact that he's the Dungeon's head administrator. (He's in charge of things like making sure the monsters get paid or fed.) He has been an associate of Hyacinthe's since the latter's days running an underworld syndicate (before the Dungeon itself was conceived), and he seems to be stalwart and sturdy.

He's also a lot of fun to draw, as a character design. Some of the Dungeon characters seem to make sense to me right away, and it was easy to start filling my margins with Kadmion doodles.

I even drew him a bit during my recent travels. (Here, I am drawing him in Chicago, at the beginning of a layover.)

And yet, as much as I enjoy drawing Kadmion, I had trouble deciding what to make him do. I guess dungeon administration doesn't lend itself to interesting poses the way that monstering or Olf-monarching does.

I figured I could have him a little shocked by something unseen on a scroll. Then I realized that I should make the scroll reveal how late he was for his own deadline.

On Monday: a really great monster who somehow vanishes before the Dungeon is a Dungeon.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Arthurian Alphabooks: K is for Klinschor

Here's a version of Klinschor, yet another character from Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival:
His name appears as Clinschor in the manuscripts, but it's commonly spelled with a K in modern German, so that's my excuse for drawing him this week. Fair warning: this will not be the last time I use spelling variations to fudge my way through the Arthurian alphabet! (And incidentally, on the subject of names: Richard Wagner further changed Klinschor's character, his role, and his name in creating the part of Klingsor for his opera Parsifal; a final change for the wizardly knight came with his transformation into Corporal Klinger in M*A*S*H*. Ha, I kid! Moving on...)

Klinschor was a knight and Count of the Terra di Lavoro in Italy, but he had the misfortune to be castrated by his lover's husband. (Nevertheless, the part of Klingsor in Parsifal is sung by a bass.) Thereafter Klinschor turned to the arts of magic and created threatening traps for other knights in his Castle of Wonders (Schastel marveile), until the spells therein were defeated—or at least survived—by Gawan (Wolfram's version of Sir Gawain / Gauvain).

The technique this week is a bit of an experiment. I did a very quick pencil sketch from life, as a guide to the shadows, principally; then I put down the vellum and attempted to ink the image with a minimum of outlines, hoping to build up the shapes out of hatching (not unlike the way John Totleben might ink, though very unlike his way in the care taken and the effects achieved):
That turned out okay, but it lost a lot of the shadowy contrast I'd been hoping for. So I tried again by inking the pencils directly with a bias toward direct black and white opposition instead of gradations of shade (though not exclusively, as you can see below):
I liked that one better, overall, but just for fun I decided to lay the vellum over the original inks and see how that composite would look when scanned. And lo, that's how I got the version I submitted to Alphabooks and that appears at the top of this post. Not exactly the best of both versions, but I think the overlaid image is more interesting than either of its layers alone. And to spare you any scrolling up for a recap, here it is again just before the post ends:

Next week: a foregone conclusion for the letter L...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Arthurian Alphabooks: J is for Jeschute

Sorry I'm late. In this week's Arthurian alphabet image, J is for Jeschute:

Jeschute is the name Wolfram von Eschenbach uses in his Parzival to designate a character who goes nameless in his source, Chrétien de Troyes's Perceval, or The Story of the Grail. In both texts, the character is a woman who is twice victimized: first by the titular hero, whose abusive behavior can in part be explained (though not excused) by his vast ignorance of society and courtesy; then she is tormented over a longer period by her own husband, Orilus, the Proud Knight of the Plain.

Soon after Parzival has left his home in the Waste Forest to find Arthur (in hopes of being made a knight), he encounters the beautiful Jeschute lounging in her pavilion. Misunderstanding his mother's  instructions about how to treat women, Parzival grossly mistreats Jeschute, forcing his kisses on her, stealing a ring from her finger, and eating her food before riding off, completely oblivious to his violations of courtesy and insensitive to Jeschute's tearful protests. (The first time I taught this text, several of my students described him bluntly as "a jerk.") When Orilus returns to see the disorder in his tent and the distress of his wife, he assumes that Jeschute has betrayed him with another man and strips her of her finery, cruelly taunting her and refusing to believe her protestations of innocence.

As (badly) depicted above, Jeschute next appears in the text some time later. The main descriptive detail provided by both Chrétien and Wolfram is that her clothes are in tatters, little more than the collar of her shift and a few rags that reveal more than they conceal. I assumed her hair would also be in some disarray and that she would look rather pained.

I would have liked to have made her look a bit more aggrieved, rather than just wounded, and I would have liked to have made her more beautiful (at least by my lights), but I had a really hard time making a satisfactory drawing this time around. I made various attempts at inking a pencil sketch, on vellum tracing paper and then directly on paper, before I gave up and tried to get a decent freehand image. The first few passes at a freehand drawing were also pretty lousy, but the one above I can live with. I do wish it looked more obviously medieval, however; the hairstyle's disarray masks my original design, which had a more ancient appearance, and the tatters of her shift look dismayingly like a worn T-shirt. Oh, well.

Incidentally, an affecting (and effectively disturbing) cinematic treatment of Jeschute's character—or, more accurately, that of her nameless Old French forebear—may be seen in Eric Rohmer's film Perceval le Gallois (1978). It hews fairly closely to Chrétien's text, apart from its ending (in that Rohmer attempts to supply a conclusion to Chrétien's unfinished narrative, which abruptly breaks off in the middle of an episode with Gauvain/Gawain).

Monday, July 23, 2012

Alphabooksbeasts: J is for Jeremy Fisher (and Jack Sharp)

As I said in my "Alphadonjon" post, I'm traveling this week, so this post is actually being composed at 3:30 AM on Thursday night, for scheduling, instead of Sunday night. Maybe I'll be able to keep it brief.

Okay, J is for Jeremy Fisher. You know his story, right?

Maybe you'll even remember (I hadn't) that the stickleback he catches is named Jack Sharp.

I'm not wild about the way this drawing turned out. I wanted to emphasize the smallness of the characters (I mean, he's just frog-sized), but apparently I couldn't be bothered to draw a setting for him to be small in. (I drew this several weeks ago, knowing that I'd need to be away.)

This was one of those drawings that, like my Gurgi and my Pushmi-Pullyu, went through a lot of problems, even up to a completely inked version of the drawing that I decided to scrap. This time, though, it wasn't a problem of character design.

I just couldn't seem to get the character or the pose to look good. Here's the scrapped ink version, very much like the final version in some ways, but missing even the tiny bit of energy I was able to get into the finished one.

I leave it to you, in the comments section, to diagnose what has gone wrong here.

Next week: a koffeeklatch of ko-konspirators. Wish me luck.

Alphadonjon: J is for John-John

My concession to the fact that I am traveling this week is that for this installment of Alphabooks I've only drawn one character from Donjon. Sort of.

You see, J is for John-John.

You can see John-John in the background of lots of the Zenith and Parade books, but it's only in the first volume of Monstres that you'll discover why he looks that way.

Do you remember when I told you that the Sword of Destiny can cut without wounding? Well, before he met Delacourt, John-John was a big four-legged potato of a guy. Then there was an altercation, from which followed an alteration.

John-John is a sweet guy, though, and although he's technically one of the monsters in the Dungeon, my impression is that he's a lot less dangerous than Grogro.

Some doodles:

Next week: the very model of a peristeronic dungeon administrator.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Arthurian Alphabooks: I is for Sir Ironside

Here's another knight from Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur—the Red Knight of the Red Lands, whose given name is Ironside:

As usual, physical descriptive details are few in Malory, but we are told that Ironside is attractive, at least. He's also proud, and a wily fighter. Indeed, when he's in combat with Sir Gareth, his foe in the first part of The Tale of Sir Gareth, his cunning style of fighting serves to educate his young opponent, who up till then has prevailed against his enemies through straightforward strength and skill.

He's also a pretty vengeful heartless fiend—at least at first. When Gareth embarks on his inaugural quest, he does so to answer an appeal to save a beleaguered woman from Ironside's unwanted attentions. In the meantime, Ironside has cultivated a creepy habit of hanging the bodies of the woman's would-be deliverers, assembling the corpses of his knightly victims in a large group that dangles from a tree. When Gareth sees this, he's not sure what to think, but he's certain that it's not chivalric behavior.

It's something of a surprise, then, that Ironside gets recuperated: his life spared by the victorious Gareth, Ironside renounces his hateful ways, explains that it was all 'cause he loved a lady, and ends up welcome at the court of King Arthur. Go figure!

But all that redemptive stuff comes after the drawing above, which is meant to show Ironside in his pitiless days. He could maybe do with still more of a sneer, but I hope it's at least marginally credible that the face above is that of a man who is pridefully ready to hang a bunch of his fellow knights just because his would-be squeeze won't give him the time of day.