Monthly Archives: November 2014

Dragon Comics 39

Depression sits right on your chest.

Depression sits right on your chest.

Don’t feel sorry to me. I had an excellent weekend and had to scramble to finish this comic even though it was halfway done Friday afternoon. But instead of drawing, I had a good time and enjoyed myself in every possible way from then to now. I am not personally depressed now, but I do know what it’s like to have depression sitting on your chest, weighing down your every thought. That experience is known to me.

 

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Dragon Comics 38

I'm not kidding. If you can't handle painful symbolic representations of brutal reality, go read Ziggy. Or Garfield. Or Marmaduke. This is nowhere near as bleak as it's gonna get.

I’m not kidding. If you can’t handle painful symbolic representations of brutal reality, go read Ziggy. Or Garfield. Or Marmaduke. This is nowhere near as bleak as it’s gonna get.

If you’ve been following the adventures of Snake and Dragon (make sure your brain reads that to you in the voice of Boris Badenov ) this all makes perfect sense. If you haven’t, let me know what you make of it. As I may have mentioned, short fiction has never been my forte. Stories and characters develop over time, and this arc is far from completion.

Brutal honesty is something that I do, but typically only when it’s either directed outward, or, if it’s directed inward, when there’s no one else there to notice. Broadcasting my own issues is pretty far beyond me.

When I was a kid, I was frequently told what an incredibly and offensively selfish human being I was, and, probably as a result, I grew up into a martyr and a nurturer with zero instinct for self-promotion. Possibly, promoting my faults is not the path to commercial success, but at the same time, I don’t really know a single artist who doesn’t deal with these issues in some way. When your sole goal in life is self-expression, it’s easy to fall into the trap of fear. Artists have to project a ruthless belief in themselves. You cannot make art if the snake or the parrot or whatever is sitting there over your shoulder screaming about how badly it sucks, how badly you suck.

We all have the snake, but until we either tell it to shut up or learn to ignore it or stand up for our own belief in what we’re doing, we don’t get to create.

When I just considered myself a writer, I wrote about 4 hours a day. Now, I typically draw between 5 and 8 hours a day. That doesn’t mean I don’t hear the snake. I’ve just been telling it to go to hell every 30 seconds since the beginning of the year. Once you get the habit, it gets easier not to care about the snake’s definition of failure. The act of creation is the measure of success.

‘Tis the Season

Although Christmas decorations that come out before Thanksgiving enrage me, when it comes to holiday bulletin boards, I do have to start early. I always do Halloween/All Souls, which leaves me with 6 weeks before winter break, so I can either scramble to do something sort of late autumny followed immediately by something early wintery (why is “wintery” a word, but “autumny” is not?) or I can stay on the one-every-6-weeks or so schedule and encapsulate the entire holiday season into one comprehensive thought.

Here’s my thought for the holiday season 2014:

Don't worry; be happy

Don’t worry; be happy

Originally, and for many weeks, I had intended this bulletin board to somehow feature hands. First I was thinking of a photo of people with different skin tones making a sort of hand mandala, but I don’t have access to that kind of paper anyway, so I considered another idea. Before I did any of the above paper cutting, I first cut a piece of brown paper into the shape of two hands forming a heart, like so:

Like this, except, you know, more cordate.

Like this, except, you know, more cordate.

Then I cut the big red heart to fit inside the finger heart and made some rough cuts for the flames, at which point I laid everything out on the tab and realized that the hands were going to obscure the fire. By then I had already settled on the quote (I just Googled “joy quotes,” because that’s what I always end up with for the holidays anyway) and I figured the flames were going to look cooler than the hands, but I thought I could reposition the flames to make it work. At that point, I rolled everything up into a couple tubes and took them home, intending to cut all the letters at night. Instead, I drew Dragon Comics, so that when I went back to school Wednesday I was no further along than I had been on Monday.

For about 30 minutes, I fine-tuned the flames so they were not all identical, and pasted the colors together. I lightly affixed the heart to the bulletin board and arranged the flames underneath it, stapling and gluing in various ways I have learned best keep paper stuck to cork in a windy courtyard. I went to add the hands, saw there was no way to make them work, and that they didn’t look that great anyway, and discarded them. Instead, I hastily cut and paste the lettering, which is all very freehand with only the scarcest guidelines or regard for size.

I think the font offers a sense of joyful abandon.

Total time: about 6 hours (although I do spend a lot of time kibitzing with the librarian while I work).

Joseph Campbell was a great thinker, and I would hope the entire world could become familiar with some aspects of his work. He certainly did a great deal of research into the human condition, and with it, what makes people happy, and what makes them miserable. Understanding culture, and using it to maintain our humanity, is a more favorable choice than not understanding culture, and being crushed or dehumanized by it. He’s probably a pretty good example of a self-actualized human being, and a man who was able to find his life’s work in doing something he loved, and apply his life’s work to making the world a better place. I think that makes him a hero, even if his hero’s journey might not have been quite what he would have described as classically heroic.

Dragon Comics 37

 

Too many snakes spoil the view.

Too many snakes spoil the view.

In retrospect, axes and stilettos are not particularly funny weapons. Maybe battle axes are funnier than forest axes, and I’m thinking stiletto heels are almost certainly funnier than stiletto knives. I’m still working out this visual humor thing. Maybe I need to watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit? again. But in fact, this comic is a bit of a bridge, so maybe it’s more important to showcase Dragon’s anger than Dragon’s comedic timing.

Do I owe it to the reader to be funny all the time? My tradition puts the story in front of the tone. Maybe Friday’s story will lend itself to a better punchline. Definitely next Friday’s story will, in a cerebral way. But this arc is a little darker than usual.

So be it. I’m not for everyone. If you don’t get it, you can always go read The Family Circus.

Looking back over my notes, I see that I missed the marginal note explaining that, in panel 4, Dragon should be carrying a burlap sack, a coil of rope, and a roll of duct tape. I leave it to the reader to decide whether that would have made panel 4 funnier or bleaker.

Road Trip Memorabilia

The day before we left on our epic Grand Canyon adventure, I was at Target looking for things to entertain kids when a thought occurred to me. The Man doesn’t use printed maps anymore, depending entirely on his phone for directions, so I thought it would be fun for the kids to buy a state map and mark our route on it as we traveled. It could provide a sense of perspective that you don’t get from a 5.7 inch diagonal display (The Man is a fan of his ZMAX phablet).

But what would we do with this map afterward? Would its destiny be to moulder amongst other forgotten relics of road trips past?

Perhaps influenced by my Trickster’s Hat experiments, I had another idea. I saved up all the ephemera from the trip (national park handouts and such) and printed out a couple dozen photos. (When was the last time I printed out photos? Maybe 2006! We didn’t even print our wedding pictures.) Then I mounted the photos on the map.

6 days of no holds barred sightseeing, compressed into a single rectangle.

6 days of no holds barred sightseeing, compressed into a single rectangle.

As it turned out, there wasn’t room for the ephemera. There were empty spaces, but none big enough for the inset maps or other things. Instead, I printed out a second round of photos with small details like flowers, petroglyphs, and animals, and added them like marginalia.

Close up on (most of) the route.

Close up on (most of) the route.

Then I remarked the route, color-coding it by day so you can easily see where we drove on each leg of the journey. We were gone for 6 days, which allowed me to make the color code a rainbow. Then I bordered each photo with the corresponding color so you can easily see on which day any particular image was taken.

Use this product to stick things to paper.

Use this product to stick things to paper.

This project is perhaps a bit craftier (rather than artier) than the stuff I usually do. As evidence, I present this glue product. I wasn’t sure what to use, so I asked the Cat, who is an accomplished scrapbooker. She recommended this stuff, which is a very sticky glue loosely affiliated with a waxy tape. You just run the device over the thing you wish to glue and the glue transfers effortlessly from the tape to your picture, and doesn’t wrinkle the paper like some glue does.

You have to be careful because it is extremely sticky. If you run the device over a spot you’ve already gotten glue on, it can jam the works; and once you place your image, it’s pretty difficult to get it back up again, so you need to get it right the first time.

I had the map professionally framed, because it’s a weird size and there was no way I could buy a frame off the rack. Although lately I wonder if I ought to learn how to frame things myself. They mounted it and made it look quite professional, and I picked it up this afternoon. The kids loved it. The framers loved it too.

Detail from days 5 and 6: hiking Boyton Canyon and the Sinagua ruins near Sedona.

Detail from days 5 and 6: hiking Boyton Canyon and the Sinagua ruins near Sedona.

 

Dragon Comic 36

Obviously, there is nothing cool or fashionable about snakeskin.

Obviously, there is nothing cool or fashionable about snakeskin.

Yesterday I sat down and wrote 2 weeks of scripts all in one go, 3 pages single space. Go me. Sunday was Tucson’s All Souls Procession so I had to plan ahead since I presume I will have been downtown all day. Sitting down and writing by hand in a notebook is really pleasurable. It sort of stimulates the child mind and sends me back into the past.

The Fox was telling me about attending a writing event and being forced to participate in an activity he felt was a waste of his time. He decided to “get back his roots” by writing a short story in the margins of the handout for the session. It reminded me of the novel I started writing in pencil in a black and white composition notebook during American history junior year.

It’s a different way of writing entirely, completely selfish and self-involved. The paper draws me in, in a way that a computer doesn’t. It’s hard to ignore distractions on a computer something’s always flashing, there’s always another tab. You can flip from thought to thought without taking your eyes away from the screen. It’s harder to look away when you’re actively engaged with a piece of paper.

I actually started a short story on paper during our Grand Canyon trip, but, like the 4 other short stories I’ve started this year, it just sort of drifted away from me. They’re all ideas I was really excited about, but short fiction has never been my forte. I’m more successful seeing through to the end vast sweeping epics. And now this comic, which is like an epic series of microfictions.

Dragon Comics 35

dragon comic 35_edited-1

 

In the high stakes arena of men’s fashion and personal grooming, there is no competition more manly than the World Beard and Mustache Championship, an event currently sponsored by the World Beard and Mustache Association (WBMA). Beginning with (probably) a German club in 1990, this event celebrates shocking, luxurious, and artistic facial hair, which has been judged and found worthy by men of discerning taste.

Here are some details:

  • The beard modeled by The Man in panel 2 was grown by a German man named Willi Chevalier, winner of the Freestyle Chin-Beard prize in 2013, described as a “world famous international bearding superstar.” The super cool T-shirt is, of course, 3 Wolf Moon.
  • In panel 3, The Man is wearing nyan cat, and sporting the even more ludicrous 2013 winner of the Freestyle Full Beard competition, grown by Aarne Bielefelte, whose Facebook fan page identifies him as an athlete and “self taught beardgrower.”
  • Panel 4’s look has been lifted wholesale from rock and roll legend, facial hair enthusiast, and all-around dangerous hombre Billy Gibbons. The guitarist and vocalist for ZZ Top is immediately identifiable by his wild red beard and favors a hat resembling a dirty mop.
  • In panel 1, the man is not picking flowers, but pulling weeds, specifically, a pernicious invasive species in the American west known as goathead. Dragon is demonstrating the yoga pose uttanasana, a standing forward bend.