Tag Archives: animals

Spring Is the Mischief in Me

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And then you have to read the next couple lines in the poem.

With the comic finally put to bed, 11 days late, I managed to get a seasonal bulletin board up; the image hadn’t been changed since mid-December and now it’s basically spring in Tucson, even though the weather has been unseasonably cold.

The quote is from Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall,” which was first published 104 years ago, yet presciently questions the point of a meaningless wall.

The letter art for the word “spring” is all original, of course, although I did look at some animal alphabets for inspiration on the S and the G. The S is supposed to be a vermillion flycatcher, the P is a lemon bud, the R is a monarch butterfly, the I is a desert marigold, the N is a long-suffering saguaro, and the G is a gecko. The small block letter are just the easiest style to cut by hand, and the lettering of “mischief” is based on a Harry Potter inspired font called “Mischief Managed.” The other animals are a hummingbird, a jackrabbit, some kind of fish, and a gambrel’s quail. I feel like it needed more animals, but The Man wanted me at home and the school is closed until Monday (in Tucson we don’t celebrate President’s Day, but we get 2 days for Festival of Vaqueros: the rodeo).

Maybe I should go back Monday and give the rabbit some whiskers, and take a better picture. We’ll see. My massage therapist also suggested that I should let my creating hand rest a little bit.

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The Origins of Super Bon Bon

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I continue to not understand why a plain black dress costs as much as an F-350 stake-bed truck.

Bonnie Jo had the idea for a comic about the origins of American Salvage, and she sent me about 6 sentences, one per panel, and then we sort of bounced the script back and forth until it worked for both of us, so this is actually the first true collaboration we’ve done in 2 books. The other 31 (thirty-one!) comics I’ve written about her work didn’t really involve any direct communication or feedback during the process. So this was fun. I love memoir.

The dog in panel 5 was named Rebar, and he only had 3 legs. The picture of me in panel 6 is totally recycled from the last book. The donkey in panel 4 is the only donkey I drew for American Salvage, while Mothers, Tell Your Daughters is full of them. American Salvage, on the other hand, features many more drawings of blood and weapons.

Boar Taint

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Can you tell that I’m pleased with myself? Can you tell that I’ve never seen a feral boar hog?

Jill is probably the Bonnie Jo Campbell character with whom I most strongly identify, because we’re both idealists who believe that, armed with only our advanced degrees and our own sense of self-righteousness, we can accomplish anything. Also, we both swear we’re only going to eat one square of dark chocolate a day. And then we both become overwhelmed with self-loathing when we fail.

I ended up cutting out more of “Boar Taint” than I intended, particularly the parts of the story that involve Jill’s awareness of being a woman surrounded by men, and of her concern for the Jentzen woman, who appears to be the only female in a household comprised entirely of men, who, presumably, are all inbred cannibal cultists. Speaking of which, those inbred cannibal cultists came out great. (Note: the text does not ultimately support the cannibal cultist theory, but it does give you the sense that Jill is walking into Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes right up to the point where she drives off with the boar hog.) Also, the panel in which Jill’s husband (his name is Ernie, and the story also lets us know that he and Jill are really in love and spend every night humping like rabbits) tries to gently explain to her that nobody is selling a high quality stud pig for 25 dollars looks pretty sweet.

Anyway, that’s a wrap on American Salvage. It took twice as long as Mothers, Tell Your Daughters but the illustrations are probably twice as good. I gave myself a deadline of New Year’s Eve to finish the 14 stories in this book, because then I wouldn’t have to change the copyright date on the bottom of my template. Deadlines are helpful. Next year, I’ll create the cover and some other supplemental material, and I understand Bonnie Jo wants to bring the print comic out in time for a literary festival in March, so look for Bonnie Jo Campbell Comics v. 2 in the spring. Fingers crossed, next year I’ll get my chance at Women and Other Animals. 

 

The Yard Man

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How could anyone fail to be charmed by an ermine?

As with last year’s “Daughters of the Animal Kingdom,” I knew that I’d have to only draw animals in this comic, but, as with “Children of Transylvania, 1983,” I knew I’d have to excise huge swaths of the story to fit it into 6 panels, especially if I was going to insist on making the animals the focus of each panel.

In “The Yard Man” we see one major theme of this book, which I categorize as, “Heteronormative Men Who Really Like Women but Aggressively Don’t Understand Women.” In Mothers, Tell Your Daughters, the main characters often seem crippled by a stunning lack of self-awareness, but in American Salvage the men tend to know who they are and what they want (love), they just don’t understand the people (women) they are trying to get that love from. Anyway, I’d call this story a little sad: Jerry and his wife are living apart by the end. Jerry still loves her, and he’d probably follow her if she asked him to, but she doesn’t ask, and he really, really, really wants to see that snake again.

I have to apologize for that snake. My picture does not do it justice. I probably should have drawn it as a red blur moving through the grass. Bonnie Jo reminded me that snake’s identity is meant to be a mystery, but the snake is not a symbol. It’s just a snake, she said. Pretty proud of that ermine, though.

As I told the Rabbit, I see both sides of the issue. The creatures are amazing. There is poetry to a wall full of honey, to an ermine returning to land where ermines have not been seen in years. But also, you can’t live like that, with bees inside. When I lived in Michigan, I had to help a friend remove bats from his house a couple times, and I had encounters with deer, snakes, and spiders. Never had any problems with honeybees, though, and I’ve never even seen a wild weasel. Once, in Kalamazoo, I was out in the woods. And you know how sometimes you’re walking in the woods and you step on a stick and it makes a loud crack and suddenly some deer, which you never even knew were there, jump out of the undergrowth? I had the opposite experience. I was standing quietly in the woods not noticing some deer walking along the ridge and one of them stepped on a stick and the crack startled me and I jumped a couple feet in the air. I could see the deer peering down the ridge looking at me like, “Isn’t that sad? Poor, dumb animal.”

Random Animal Facts

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La la la I can’t hear you and if I can’t hear it it doesn’t exist.

It just gets worse and worse, and although the Rabbit reassures us all that everything will turn out fine, it’s still hard to hear. Today was not in the least a funny day. I made the observation on Facebook that we’ve moved through Orwellian to Kafkaesque. There isn’t actually an evil order behind events. There is a complete lack of order whatsoever. Nightmare chaos despair insanity stubborn pernicious confusion. Reason no longer exists in American current affairs and we citizens can expect no better existence than the lives of despised giant bugs and no reward greater than the release offered by death.

Ha ha! Just kidding! Or am I?

Random animal facts have greater meaning than the news. Just read an article on a new book about octopus intelligence in The Atlantic, even though I already know a lot about octopuses. Did you know that octopuses have 3 hearts? And, in effect, they have 9 brains: 1 big one in their big squishy heads, like us, and 8 nerve bundles, one for each arm, that are big enough to be analogous to little brains, in my opinion. Even the longest-lived octopus species only live a few years. The males become senescent almost immediately after they mate and then die shortly thereafter. The female waits until her eggs hatch and then she achieves senescence and dies.

Octopuses seem pretty smart. Maybe they have the right idea.

Nope Nope Nope Nope

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I mean, right in the face. You know what I mean?

We’re having this little altercation with the city concerning the state of our yard even though we’re working on those stupid weeds. All. The. Time. So anyway I decided to tackle some amaranth and some kind of little tree growing in a very narrow space between the house and the neighbor’s wall, maybe 3 feet wide. And this lady is just hanging out with her massive abdomen right in my face, 4 feet off the ground in the middle of her 3 foot wide web.

After recovering my composure and documenting the event with my macro lens (and then gently relocating the dear thing in her massive home with the farthest end of my loppers and then hacking away at the weeds for 15 minutes) I determined that I had likely encountered a female banded garden spider. With a surprisingly large abdomen and distinctive stripes, it’s seems like an easy identification. They’re also prominent in the autumn. According to the internet, they probably won’t bite you unless you really tick them off, and that their bite is only mildly annoying if they do.

Higher res image hosted at imgur. 

Daughters of the Animal Kingdom

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If you’ve never Googled “slug love dart,” go ahead and do that now. We’ll wait. 

Yesterday’s comic being so busy, I wanted to get back to a simpler style, but, having already decided to only draw the animals mentioned in the story, rather than any people, I sort of got carried away with their various textures. Still, this took less time than any other story out of Mothers, Tell Your Daughters so far.

In the story, the narrator doesn’t answer her mother when her mother asks her where she was, but the reader knows that she was at the women’s clinic, getting an abortion, because having a baby at 47 when you’re already a grandmother several times over and your husband is a dog and you’ve been working on your PhD thesis forever is bad idea. I totally feel this one. It’s such a tremendous relief–throughout the whole story she is thinking nice things about being pregnant and having a baby, but she’s also thinking about everything she’ll lose, and more to the point, all the complications that come with sexual reproduction and the raising of an autonomous individual who feels like they’re part of you but makes independent decisions you don’t want them to make–and when she makes the choice that’s for her, not her husband, or her daughter, or her mom, it’s like a wave of possibility washing over the last page. And there’s the sweet parallel with the silkie walking away from her nest (isn’t that a fluffy silkie I drew?) except chickens are kind of dumb and don’t have tons of potential besides eggs and meat, and the woman is really smart and still has a lot of things to accomplish in her life.

I’m bummed I couldn’t find a good picture of a love dart sticking out of a slug. But that’s a love dart, zooming toward the slug (magnified for clarity). Sexual reproduction is really complicated. And ridiculous.

If it doesn’t make sense, read the book.