Category Archives: Comics

Soy Big!

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You should have seen the one that got away.

Vegan fish. It’s not a thing. I mean, there are a lot of vegan meat replacement products—burgers, hot dogs, chicken, sausage, bacon, and I once even had a vegan duck substitute in a vegetarian Chinese restaurant—but I’ve never heard of a vegan alternative to fish.

I like fish. I hate zucchini, ever since the summer my mother grew 3 plants in her garden and no one told her that you’re supposed to pick them when they’re young and tender. Like many amateur gardeners, my mother let them grow to the size of baseball bats, amazed at the growth potential of one crop in a garden where you’d be lucky to coax a carrot to attain the width of a pencil. This resulted in a harvest of roughly 75 pounds of a vegetable that most kids wouldn’t enjoy an ounce of. And my mother never throws away food. She freezes it and reserves it and hides it in other things, so that I was gagging on secret zucchini in my pancakes for what felt like the rest of my childhood.

My mother denied this when I recently brought it up, but my father contradicted her protestations. He knows my mother is more than capable of the diabolical act of serving a picky 9-year-old zucchini pancakes and pretending they’re free of contamination. You weren’t fooling anyone, Mom.

 

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It’s a Generational Thing

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And no, sexting doesn’t count. Your mother and I paid good money for that Gardasil vaccine.

You can’t tell kids to go outside and play anymore, because that’s, like, child abuse or something? I know too many kids who don’t know how to go outside and play; everything they know is on a screen, conceived of, directed by, and produced by other people. Maybe this is a minority opinion, but when I was 16 years old, if I was watching TV, using a computer, or playing a game, it was only because it was not possible at that moment for me to be making out in the backseat of a car. Granted the internet wasn’t as exciting or accessible in the early ’90s as it is now, but I still don’t think it’s better than sex. And you know I love the internet.

Any resemblance to actual teenagers, living or staring like undead zombies into a monitor in a small room with the curtains drawn tight to prevent the glare, is purely coincidental. I swear.

I drew that Ramones T-shirt and now I can’t get…”Sweet Disaster” by Dreamers out of my head. Weird world we live in. Gen X did not expect to live long enough to get sour about the next generation. Gen X didn’t expect any of this. Gen X would like to be sedated, but Gen X is too busy to take a break right now.

 

The Trespasser

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Can’t imagine what Google must think of me after some of the queries I ran to get source images for this comic. The worst part is that I didn’t get any relevant results for “cum stained mattress” and had to improvise anyway. 

When I told the Fox that I was gearing up to write volume II of Bonnie Jo Campbell Comics, he told me that after I finished the first one I swore I would never do anything like that again. I literally have no recollection of saying that. It’s probably like having a baby, where your brain blocks out the level of pain you experienced so you’re not too terrified to do it again. I’m not terrified at all. After spending 300 hours drawing 8 pages for Linda Addison, an estimated 56 hours to draw 14 pages sounds like a cakewalk.

It seemed important to keep the style consistent between the 2 books, meaning I’m back to hand-lettering, which is very time consuming, but didn’t take as much time as I remember it taking. At any rate, I realize that even reverting to conventions like drawing most of the lines with a massive weight of 4 pixels and making people’s eyes look like tiny dots in any face that doesn’t take up the whole panel, I can’t revert entirely to the style in which I draw last year, because I learned so much in the process of drawing the first book that no matter what I do, the drawings are going to look better.

Another thing I noticed as I wrote the text was that my brain let go of the idea of summarizing. I’m not telling the story the way I did with “My Dog Roscoe.” I think this is Linda Addison’s influence, because everything she does is about poetry, including her prose. This comic seems to have more poetry to it than the early comics in the last set. It’s about “The Trespasser” but it doesn’t exactly tell you everything that’s in “The Trespasser.” It seeks to communicates the feelings and theme of “The Trespasser.”

To my mind, it’s a story that functions through juxtaposition. There are 2 girls who never meet in person, but who are heavily influenced by the artifacts of each other’s lives, and we’re forced to compare and contrast the characters while they are comparing and contrasting themselves, so that dictated the layout of the comic. This story is really rich in symbols, too, and it was hard to choose which ones to use. In particular, Bonnie Jo spends a lot of time describing the objects moved by the 16-year-old, but I think the portrait of the 13-year-old with her gymnastics trophy surrounded by bronze animals gets at the heart of it. I didn’t realize that bronze figurines of dinosaurs and farm animals were common things to collect, but according to Google Image Search, they must be.

A lot of people think of American Salvage as being a more androcentric book, but this story feels connected to the themes of Mothers, Tell Your Daughters. Don’t worry, we’ll get to the plethora of dudes who don’t understand women soon enough.

The Sound of Printing part ii

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This is probably the most people who are actually supposed to look like real people that I’ve ever drawn into 1 comic. 

Page 2 of “The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Printing.” Took a little extra time as I wasn’t 100% sure of what the client wanted in panels 1 and 3, partly because creative people in fits of inspiration tend to have atrocious handwriting, and partly because (as only realized much later) I only read 1/2 of the notes. Also, the panels got cluttered pretty quickly, so I had to figure out which graphic elements to ditch (mostly people’s feet; originally there were a number of cowboys boots in this comic). I also had to leave off the speaker on the sound booth in panel 2 because the sound booth is already tiny and I couldn’t make it look good. Just imagine that the technician’s voice is coming through a speaker. Still, after it seemed done and uploaded, I decided to go back and add some fringe on the singer’s shirt in panel 4. It didn’t seem flashy enough for cowboy couture.

I’m especially pleased with the little pop-out heart for the gospel singer. It was a perfect compromise when it became apparent that a box would take up too much space.

I learned several things in the course of drawing this comic. The first thing was what a steel guitar is. Apparently whatever I thought a steel guitar is was wrong, but luckily, I had The Man around to set me right. The second thing was that The Man knows way too much about music. I had to look up “Little GTO,” but when I asked him if he knew the song, he could just start singing it. That song is like 50 years old; it came out 10 years before he was born. Then he gave me a short lecture about GTOs. Because he also knows way too much about cars. Of course, I did look up the Hi-Lo’s and WMU’s Gold Company. This comic will be distributed in Portage, so its intended readers will already know that WMU is Kalamazoo’s Western Michigan University, where I earned my MFA, but did not hear of the Gold Company.

The Sound of Printing part i

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Those are some big speakers. I guess print shops are noisy places. You need big speakers.

Here’s something new: working for money. The printer who made my Bonnie Jo Campbell comics, Craig Vestal of Portage Printing, hired me to draw a promotional comic for his shop. He wrote the script and drew the thumbnails. This is the first page I’ve created from his notes.

I had just read a Smithsonian article about Wes Wilson, the designer who created the psychedelic-style concert posters in the 60s, and decided to draw the title in the same style as the original Sound of Music movie promotions, which has that groovy ’60s feel even though the movie is set during WWII. Craig sent me photos of all his classic stereo equipment and of the Brown Brothers.

This is page 1 of 3. I don’t know what number comic this is, but apparently Craig has hired a number of artists to create a quantity of comics detailing the history of his shop. Clever. Comics are the best.

All the Colors of the Whine

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If you think that’s colorful, you should see all the purple prose I left out.

It’s weird how dialog is always full of swear words in my head. Like, it seems funnier when it contains f-bombs. But I edit them out anyway. If you depend on that kind of language for humor, you might start substituting shock for actually being funny. This is still cute when it’s rated G.

This comic was fun to draw. I had to go back and put little faces on all the natural wonders to anthropomorphize them. And then I had to write about it so I could use the word “anthropomorphize” in my blog.

Also, I really like the white test on a black background. I have an entire story I want to tell that way. Realizing that doing all the letters in all caps would increase readability.

Summer in the Desert

Serves you right for wearing a fur coat.

Serves you right for wearing a fur coat.

This is more or less a true story, as long as you accept the premise that I have such a deep personal understanding of my cat that I understand the precise meanings of her vocalizations. Fairly certain this translation is accurate. The only thing that I’ve exaggerated is the size of the lemon tree and its proximity to the pool. Everyone knows you can’t plant trees that close to an in-ground pool.

It’s hard not to feel sorry for someone who has to walk around in a heavy black coat in the desert summer, but at the same time, she also has the option of hanging out in the air conditioning and waiting until the sun goes down to hang out outside. I get that she wants to be near me, but given her typical feline disdain for swimming, it’s hard to see why. Like, we don’t have to be together all the time (that you’re awake), Cat. When I’m doing stuff you don’t like, such as hanging out in the sun or submerging my body in water, you’re not required to join me. It’s your choice, meaning it’s really not cool for you to complain about it the whole time.

Fortunately for desert cats, there are always cool tile floors upon which to splay ones furry limbs.

For the record, the cat is perfectly capable of swimming. I once saw her swim the entire length of the pool to get away from a another cat that was threatening her. So she could totally jump in and join me instead of whining about it.

Anyway, this comic took about 5 hours to draw, and it among the best ones I’ve done so far. I’ve come a decent way in a year and a half. Maybe I will be ready for my next big project when the script is finished, hopefully in August.