Category Archives: Comics

The Trespasser

american salvage 1 trespasser_edited-1

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.

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The Sound of Printing part ii

sound-of-printing-2_edited-1

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.

Upstream

I actually don't see what you did there.

I actually don’t see what you did there.

Another serving of strangeness out of my virtual sketchbook. A fish camouflaged as an eyeball with so many rippling little fins that it almost looks furry makes perfect sense. Also, it was fun to draw. The water effect for the background really did come out beautifully. Just yesterday I was watching the ripples of sunlight on the bottom of the swimming pool and thinking how difficult it would be to capture that effect in paint. But really it’s easy with basic Photoshop tools. The little tendrils look sweet, too.

Today was another non-starter for me, but my censorship article went up on Panels and got a great reception: retweets, comments, Facebook shares!. It’s called “I Expected Batman and Robin, Not Pornography” and it’s just a little rant about people who don’t get the concept of liberal arts education. Go on and click it you like comics, dislike censorship, or just enjoy stories about clueless people or straight up ranting.

Nothing to Report

I have no new art to upload today; the new design isn’t quite finished yet. The last bits are the hardest. Basically what I have to share with you is this:

Time flies.

Time flies.

Yes, an entire year since I started this blog, although I was doing the art bit for a few months before that. In some ways the blog has superseded the art, but I’m trying to get away from that, probably by changing the blog schedule as soon as I figure out the new plan. The blog is still a useful tool for me, and I have 130 followers, 98% of whom are total strangers who liked my work well enough to follow me. Thanks for caring. Tell your friends.

Other than that, all I have is a hilarious article about The Savage Sword of Conan coming out Tuesday morning. For a long time I’d thought about writing something in the style of articles from Cracked or Buzzfeed, sarcastic and mocking but also loving and full of admiration. I love these books, which transport me to the sort of world I loved as a child, even though the adult me can’t help but unpack the insane messages it contains. The thing is, yes, Conan does something that’s worth joking about, but it does that thing incredibly well.

I could probably write another article from a feminist perspective and tell the story in a very different way, but maybe simply pointing out the ridiculous can be just as effective as dissecting and analyzing it.