Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Teaching Cartooning: Streetwise (2000)

Here's the autobiographical short story I created for TwoMorrow's Streetwise (edited by Jon B. Cooke in 2000). It begins with my experiences teaching a non-credit workshop in cartooning for the Community College of Allegheny County in the early 1990s, which was a wonderful experience, and where I met my wife (the marriage lasted a decade). Then it deals with my experiences with a shabby but venerated "art" institution in Pittsburgh, which had its moments, but to which I would not send an inmate on parole (it is a notorious for-profit tuition-fleecing operation). Since then, I've had the far more uplifting experience of teaching workshops for the Carnegie Museum of Art and completing my PhD at the University of Pittsburgh, so despite some early rough spots I am still very much an arts educator. Live and learn!

Friday, July 26, 2013

King Kong Cover for Amazing Heroes!

Perhaps the best piece of art I created for the entire King Kong adaptation I drew for Fantagraphics' Monster Comics imprint in the early 1990s never appeared as part of the series. Instead, it was the cover for Amazing Heroes, the little sister publication to their more upscale publication, The Comics Journal. Here is a look at the original colored blueline.

As I've said before, King Kong was perhaps the most poorly marketed comic book in history. After years of effort to get the Kong license, Fantagraphics' strategy was to serialize the work in six bi-monthly issues (as if readers could be kept in suspense for over a year when they already knew the film's ending), with guest cover artists. I was drafted as a semi-name to write and draw the adaptation from the novelization (securing the RKO movie rights was prohibitive), and I like to think I did a creditable job. With no advertising, the household-name status of the property was supposed to sell itself. Naturally, sales were disappointing. But Fantagraphics was of the mindset that commercial success in comics = lowering your artistic standards, not making a creative effort at marketing.

To be fair, this was also an era in which the entire industry was still thinking in terms of serialized comic books and was not instantly repackaging them as graphic novels, which came later. If there was ever a series that should never have been a series in the first place but have gone straight to a graphic novel it was King Kong. In my view, Fantagraphics frittered away a golden opportunity to market this project as the definitive King Kong comic book adaptation and at the same time pioneer the field of original graphic novels.

Years later, when the Peter Jackson remake came out, Dark Horse Comics, which had secured the license for a new adaptation, maliciously maneuvered to keep my adaptation off the market (by that logic, sales of the old film on DVD should have been halted so as not to interfere with sales of the new version) . Unfortunately, the co-copyright I own in this work (which I share with the Merian C. Cooper estate) gave me insufficient leverage to enable this work to be collected as a graphic novel, as many people thought it deserved.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Jim Pascoe: Pittsburgh Zombie

Below is a sketch of Jim Pascoe, drawn in a coffee shop on Carson Street in Pittsburgh some time in the late 1990s. You can tell it is late at night because I tend to want to sketch like Moebius when I’m tired.

Here is a detail of the same page. Jim seems to have a jaundiced eye, but that is my mistake. I tried touching it up, but I had used some fountain pen I had been trying out with water-based ink, and painting over it with white watercolor didn’t work too well. What that Bill Sienkiewicz-like doodle is doing in the upper right corner I have no idea.

Jim wrote a zombie script for some kind of anthology some time in the mid-2000s, which I thumbnailed below.

Here is one of the penciled pages. I regret drawing it in 11 x 17” format which I found to be constraining. That’s one of the main reasons I never finished it. As I’m getting older, I need to draw bigger originals just to see what I’m doing and to be able to put in all the detail, such as carnival backgrounds in this case.

I liked these drawings a lot, though. I had to do some research on drawing children to get the right age. I like the dynamism of the figures. But I did not leave enough room to letter, which became part of my frustration with this job. I think I must have been going to school already by this time, and I was really out of practice. My instincts were just off.

Here’s the top tier of the last page I attempted to pencil. I had school and other commitments that made it impossible for me to complete this project; the inker ended up completing the art from my thumbnails. I wish I had gone that route in the first place! Jim later showed me the finished art.

Air Shark 3000: Spacecraft for Suburbia

In an attempt to channel Raymond Loewy and Ralph Mcquarrie, I sketched out this vehicle for Border Worlds sometime in the early 2000s. I recall looking at a remaindered book I had gotten on military aircraft. Notice the garage with the basketball backboard and hoop in the background.

See also Border Worlds: The Aftermath

Paleo-Girl: The Wild Child

I’ve always loved this drawing, dating from the mid- or even early-1990s, which would make it 20 years old now. I call her Paleo-Girl, for lack of a better moniker. She takes up less than a quarter of a 14" x 17" Strathmore 400 Series drawing sheet, with the remaining space to be taken up by her pet dinosaur or something. I never knew exactly what to do with her. Being semi-nude, she couldn’t appear in Bizarre Heroes without substantially changing the nature of that series; besides, with the spear and animal skin, she’s a bit too close to the Phantom Jungle Girl, shown below (although Paleo-Girl is supposedly an actual prehistoric feral child, while PJG is a modern urbanite dressed as a cave woman). The stories I can imagine for Paleo-Girl all tend to be rather on the erotic side, but not to the extent of Wendy Whitebread. They also range from the prehistoric to the post-apocalyptic, suggesting that she travels through time. Possibly she’ll wind up as a guest star in the Ms. Megaton Man sequence I’ve been toying with in my spare time for many a year now.

(Below is a sketch of the Phantom Jungle Girl for comparison.)

Speaking of semi-nudity (which, growing up in the ‘70s, we all thought would be completely legal now, along with marijuana and liberal politics) and post-apocalypticism, one of the great post-underground comic book series will soon be back in print with improved lettering (but no doubt the same overwrought, clumsy prose): First Kingdom by Jack Katz. Well, you have to be willing to take your epic sweep with a lot of melodramatic banality (which is no worse than most comics anyway, I suppose). My only wish is that it was being issued all in one volume.

Border Worlds: The Aftermath

Three sketchbook pages from c. 2000 that envision a scene from Border Worlds following the events of Marooned #1. Jenny takes leave of Sparky on her jetpack but soon runs into problems...

(See this same sequence, expanded and in color, on  my new Border Worlds blog!)

(See this same sequence, expanded and in color, on  my new Border Worlds blog!)