Tag Archives: snake

Dragon Comics 75

Nothing like a little vacation from reality to make you appreciate vacations from reality.

Nothing like a little vacation from reality to make you appreciate vacations from reality.

I love having a family, but it’s not really possible to get very much done when they’re around. People want feeding, chauffeuring, cuddling, that sort of thing. Art, for me, is an extended and quiet process. It requires long chunks of time in which to think and feel before creation even begins, and then it wants no interruption as the new work unspools.

That’s why I take writing retreats once or twice a year, sometimes with other writers, and sometimes alone. I only use the computer for work-related tasks, avoid all social media, and spend every minute I’m not writing doing something inspiring: cooking, reading, hiking. Talking about writing. It helps keep me sane. I always set a lot of rules and a lot of goals, and I usually do pretty well with both. It’s a special, sacred space and I wish I could enter into it more often.

But having a family to come home to is a beautiful thing. Even though I sometimes miss having days on end filled with nothing but writing and quiet, I would miss my family more if I didn’t have them. the The kids will be able to take care of themselves someday. Not sure about The Man, though.

Dragon Comics 61

Seriously, read M'naghten. It's the only way to successfully plead the insanity defense. And read the DSM-V, so you can discuss antisocial personality disorder without resorting to false binaries.

Seriously, read M’naghten. It’s the only way to successfully plead the insanity defense. And read the DSM-V, so you can discuss antisocial personality disorder without resorting to false binaries.

I really like that butterfly, visually as well as psychologically. It’s based off one in the butterfly house at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, and there will be a more detailed version on a T-shirt, most definitely. The way Dragon creeps after it in panel 4 is pretty adorable as well. In real life, you can’t really follow a butterfly. You’re better off sitting very still and giving it the chance to to come to you. It helps if you wear bright colors.

That always reminds me of a coyote story, which explains why butterflies fly in such unpredictable zig zag patters. It’s because once, the butterflies played the same trick on coyote 3 times in a row without his noticing, and they can’t stop laughing about it to this day.

This butterfly could be on a mission though. It might have a purpose.

Dragon Comics 60

No bears were harmed by anyone other than themselves in the making of this comic.

No bears were harmed by anyone other than themselves in the making of this comic.

I’m not a perfectionist, and I’m not vested in maintaining total control over the end of the process: my work is deliberately and lovingly flawed, and printing and shipping is up to someone else. LIke I said yesterday, marketing and sales are sort of beyond my bailiwick, and what bare interest I muster in the process only reflects a desire to continue spending 40 hours a week drawing and writing. (Obviously, I’m lucky to have The Man to support me in this endeavor, not to mention no small degree of class privilege.)

This comic is offered lovingly in honor of my friend, the bear, who creates marvelous and superlative designs, which he reproduces himself on delicate merchandise in custom colors. Each piece, and the design painted and engraved upon it, must be completely free from defect before he signs, wraps, packs, and ships it. Himself. His work is exquisite. We’ve been friends for over 20 years, and he lives 3 1/2 miles from here, and the only time I’ve seen him in the last 6 months has been in his booth at an art fair.

From a financial perspective, clearly I’m going about this all wrong, but it just sort of hit me last night that finally, after a lot of years adrift (thank you very much web content for search engine optimization) my life has finally aligned itself with true north on my heart’s compass. Life is not perfect, but all the important pieces are engaged and the sun still shines in the daytime.

For the bear, if he reads this, I think your way is successful too. You make a good tortured artistic soul in thrall of his cruel and lovely mistress and I hope you don’t take this the wrong way. You are a funny, grumpy, lovable old bear with whom I have not hung out in a long time. Text me.

Dragon Comics 57

Just the delightful buzzing of bees and the delicate swish of the butterfly's wing.

Just the delightful buzzing of bees and the delicate swish of the butterfly’s wing.

I know where this is coming from, but I’m not sure where it’s going. For instance, is Dragon’s meaning the same as my meaning? Is Dragon’s backstory the same as mine, and if not, how insane is Dragon’s backstory? (Because mine might be a little unbelievable, and I’m not even blue and scaly.) Still have a couple days to figure this out.

At least I do know that some part of the world wants my art, because I got another sort of T-shirt commission. I’m not being paid for the design, but based on early response to news of the design, I expect to sell more than 1 as soon as it’s ready, which could be as early as tonight. It’s a commemorative T-shirt for an event come up next month, and the people attending are already a) able to afford novelty clothes and b) interested in the design’s subject matter. Most likely, you can read about/see this stunningly depraved example of outsider art in this space tomorrow morning. It’s quite different from the stuff I draw for myself, but it also helps me see how far I’ve come since I drew my first sketch on the Wacom tablet.

Dragon Comics 56

La la la...do you hear that? Sort of sounds like the wind. Some kind of really annoying wind. Actually, I don't hear anything at all.

La la la…do you hear that? Sort of sounds like the wind. Some kind of really annoying wind. Actually, I don’t hear anything at all.

Misery, by Stephen King, is a decent scary story about a guy held captive by a deranged woman, and for most readers, and anyone who’s only watched the movie, the plot is the key. What always struck me as most interesting, though, was King’s discussion of the writing process. The movie more or less glosses over Paul Sheldon’s process, while the book not only contains big chunks of several of Sheldon’s novels, but also provides a wonderful description of what it feel like to be a writer “in the zone” (Google Mihály Csíkszentmihályi to learn more about this concept), how the creative process unfurls, and what the art of writing feels like and means.

One of the metaphors King uses to illustrate Sheldon’s ability to survive is the game of “Can You?” a competitive form of storytelling the character played as a child, which involved making up stories with cliffhangers, then tagging the next player to help the character escape his predicament by continuing the story is a believable way. The other player then voted on whether or not they bought this section of the story: Can you? Sheldon always could, and, as he struggles through his ordeal, he realizes he is playing a real life version of Can You? and that yes, he can.

This is one way of looking at the creative life: every day is a game of Can You? If, every day, you play the game, most likely, you find that you can. If you can’t, you probably give up and do something else. But if you can, it sustain you even when the snake slithers around hissing insults in your ear. When you remind yourself that you can, it’s easier to ignore the ones who keep saying you can’t.

Dragon Comics 40

My medium is metaphor. Mixed metaphor, I guess.

My medium is metaphor. Mixed metaphor, I guess.

It’s merely a coincidence that this 40th Dragon Comic publishes on the day on which the world marks my 40th trip around the sun. I assure you that this has no bearing on my maturity level. I do like how this arc comes sort of full circle, from satisfaction with art, to dissatisfaction with art, to depression about art, to straight up depression, to comedy about depression, and back to satisfaction with art.

There’s something classically right about black humor (thus, Dragon holds a copy of Hamlet, one of the best examples of gallows humor, in panel 1) because as long as we can laugh at our terror, our pain, and our uncertainty about life, we know that these things have not yet consumed us. When Hamlet fools with Yorick’s skull in the graveyard, it gives him, at last, the presence of mind to consider his own inevitable death while stirring in him the sensations of life. Ophelia’s death, and the clowning around it, spurs him on to the death and violence of the play’s conclusion. We all die, so why not keep merry? Whether or not Hamlet avenges himself on Claudius, he and Claudius and everyone else will die, like his Yorick, like his father, like Ophelia. Love cannot save us from death, but humor can save us from fear.

I’m 40. I’m mortal. I’m going to die. But until then, I’m going to laugh. Even when I’m depressed, I’m going to laugh.

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.


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.

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.

Dragon Comics 26

Sigh…optimistically, I’d like to believe that writing a sizable number of comics (let’s say 100, in which case we are 25% of the way there) should help develop my cartooning skills to a somewhat higher level. And yes, they are improving, but realistically, I think I need some more formalized instruction, if only through some kind of web module.

What I’m saying is that Dragon jumping up on down on the snake’s corpse is not quite right. There’s something missing from my depiction, both in terms of accurately portraying the act of jumping up and down in a recognizable form, as well as in terms of the comedic value that such a drawing should communicate to the reader.

Not funny enough?

Not funny enough?

However, The Man asks a perfectly cromulent question. How long has Dragon been sitting inside that magical cave, drawing? Also, the expression on The Man’s face, and the way he’s desperately trying not to look, maybe are kind of funny.

In panel 3, the way the snake is lolling on its back, it’s sort of asking for a beatdown.