Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Years Revolutions

(click for larger image)

Man, what an amazing year! From January to December, I was filled with so much hope, even though many movements met brutal opposition and the struggle still continues everywhere. Here's to the People in 2012!

From left to right, Juventud Sin Futuro (Spain); South Sudanese secession (South Sudan); "Russia Will Be Free" (Russia); Camila Vallejo, Communist student leader and leftist dreamgirl of the decade (Argentina); Generic Union Guy; Old Man 2011 with Baby 2012; "Islam is a religion of Justice and Tolerance" (Tunisia); Egyptian Revolution (Egypt, where hundreds of protestors swept up their own mess); Wall Street Occupier (U.S.A.); "Indignants in Syntagma" (Greece); Madison, Wisconsin Occupier (U.S.A.)

Happy New Year! Proletarier aller Länder vereinigt Euch!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Just fooling around with mermaids for a potential 2012 project.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Card 2011

Hey guys. Okay, by now it should be very obvious that I did not complete (or even really begin) the 30 Characters Challenge. A busy month, what can I say.

Here's the postcard I designed for Christmas this year. The Hebrew text at the top reads "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3) and the large Latin text at the bottom says "and the Word became flesh." (John 1:14)

I knew that given my recent re-involvement with Jesus Christ I couldn't get away with a snowy, jingly "secular" Christmas image this year. I also knew that I didn't want to fall into the sort of sentimental trap of many religious Christmas cards, where the manger scene is played for cuteness or pathos or the Maji for Oriental mystery. Babies are cute, sure. A baby born in an ancient barn is an interesting story, I guess... but the point of the incarnation is that this particular baby was the same person who SPOKE THE UNIVERSE INTO EXISTENCE.


Merry Christmas, y'all! I'll probably have some more drawings up before the 25th.

By the way, if the image looks a little weird it's because it was optimized for print using a tutorial by the digital print sorceress Christianne Goudreau.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

#2 - Vincenzio "Fingers" Paganini

Relax, he's a concert violinist... you racist.

By the way, I've started reading Yo, Is This Racist? on tumblr. Worth a look!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

#1 - Slam Aleikum

This year I'm participating in The 30 Characters Challenge, where you try to design thirty characters in the thirty days of November. Character design is definitely one of my weak points. This is something I just realized after spending two years drawing characters I designed in a few hours.

All my entries won't look like this. Some will be cartoonier, some will be in color, some might be all-digital. I'm hoping to branch out a lot this month. Stay tuned!

The one thing I know for sure is that I want 15 of my characters to be female. Or I might do 14/14/2 or 13/13/4 if I decide to include characters of ambiguous gender. I wanted to start off with a strong Muslim woman character - I think there's a huge dearth of these in popular media.

Friday, September 16, 2011


I drew this picture for my old friend Elliot Kaplan, a physicist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. If anyone I know can answer the timeless question "Magnets, how do they work?" it's probably Elliot. He currently works with the Madison Dynamo Experiment. My understanding of this is limited by my own feeble brain and not by Elliot's lucid explanatory skills, but here's the gist: The earth has a magnetic field. The earth's mantle is full of circulating molten metal, and its circulation is what generates this field. In Madison they've built a large, hollow globe, which they fill with liquid sodium (a convenient approximation of the earth's mantle, which I think is mostly silicon and magnesium).

They blend the sodium around with fans and pass magnetic fields through it, measuring the results. And here's where I get a little shaky. Lightning crashes and all the scientists start laughing maniacally, God get furious, Galactus shows up hungry, and before you know it the Dynamo kills your wife on your wedding night.

Okay, so what's this have to do with my drawing? Apparently, it's a tradition for Elliot and his crew to get Chinese food before every run of the experiment. In some cryptic way, the fortune cookie fortunes have so far always predicted the outcome of the day's run. Elliot commissioned a cartoon depicting physicists divining the future from fortune cookies, suggesting that their safety gear would make for good "cultish regalia." I couldn't agree more!

... in bed!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Art for my own Release Party Flier.

Hey Apostrophobiphiles! If you read this blog then you've probably heard all about my graphic novel Savage Nobles in the Land of Enchantment, which is now available in print. I'm having a release party on Saturday, October 1st from 4-6pm at Cosmic Monkey Comics in NE Portland, OR. Below is the flyer for that event:

I am sort of please with the artwork for this flyer and sort of not. I think I am getting a better and better "knack" for composition. A big help was reading Framed Ink: Drawing and Composition for Visual Storytellers by Marcos Mateu-Mestre. He has truly amazing skills at designing compositions that are clear, pleasing, and intuitively comprehensible, even when depicting complicated action. He also has a somewhat sketchy, digital graywash style that looks so effortless it must be affected. Since "Framed Ink" is mostly geared towards storyboarding, I found myself wanting to design a SNitLoE scene with a short, wide frame like a movie screen.

(click for larger version)

So while I think the composition is basically sound, I have a lot of qualms about the artwork itself. While I'm glad I rendered the desert mountain beyond a simple sandy mass, I think I might have gone too far the other way - the characters, especially Theo, get lost among the jumble of lines in the rocks. Somehow I am not differentiating enough with my inking between "flesh," "cloth" and "rocks." The blacks are not well placed. There's something wrong with pretty much every single hand in the picture, and some of the proportions are way off. Oh well, it's just for a flyer that'll probably get torn down anyway!

Two things to note: Yes, "algebraic" is misspelled - I corrected it on the finished flyer. And no, a scene like this never occurs in the actual story - but neither does the scene I drew for the cover of the book. Only Tonya and Greg discover Utopiopolis, and they are not dressed that way when they do.

Friday, September 9, 2011

SNitLoE Pre-Orders.

You can now pre-order the print version of SNitLoE from my online store!

I will mail your copy (or copies) as soon as the books arrive, probably on or around the weekend of September 24th. Books cost $15 each, plus a one-time shipping charge of $5. If you like, I will sign your book and draw a little doodle of one of the characters on the title page.

The store page also has a free download of the entire comic as a .cbz file. If you have friends who enjoy the soulless experience of reading immaterial comics by the cold blue glow of an iPad or laptop, please tell them about this download!

The store also has buttons! But these are not really worth buying unless you are also buying a book!

Lastly, if you live in PORTLAND FREAKIN' OREGON, you should definitely save yourself $5 in shipping by purchasing a book from me directly. A good place to do that might be my release party on October 1st at Cosmic Monkey Comics. But you can just as easily accost me in the park, at the Max station, in my own bed while I'm sleeping, etc. and I will gladly sell you a book on the spot.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Benjamin Franklinstein!

Today is Independoween, the holiday that is calendrically equidistant from Halloween and the 4th of July. The holiday was the brainchild of my friend Xavier Lyles, who envisions Independoween celebrations as containing the best of these two holidays: fireworks AND costumes; backyard barbecues AND candy; jingoistic patriotism AND a spooky sense of the macabre. You could carve an American flag into a pumpkin. Or you could dress up like Independoween's unofficial mascot, Benjamin Franklinstein:

It would have been really cool if Xavier and I were the originators of Ben Franklinstein, but unfortunately that isn't true. I discovered that people have been mashing these two together for quite some time. There's even a YA book about the character. Alas, there is nothing new under the sun. It is with great sadness that I've decided not to suggest this idea to Dylan Meconis as a potential follow-up to her werewolf/Enlightenment and vampire/French Revolution franchise.

However, my unoriginality is not simply a coincidence. A quote from Frankensteinia, an all-Frankenstein-all-the-time blog:

The connection between the Franklin and Frankenstein has been explored extensively. The real-life Franklin and the fictional Victor Frankenstein were contemporaries, and both were electrical experimenters. Frankenstein observed a tree shattered by lightning, and Franklin apocryphally flew a kite and a key in a thunderstorm, inspiring movie Frankensteins to release kites, capture lightning and zap monsters to life.

Mary Shelley was familiar with Franklin and his experiments. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was tutored in politics by Dr. Richard Price who supported the American Revolution and corresponded with Franklin. One of her publishers, Joseph Johnson, had released Franklin’s works in London, and her lover, Gilbert Imlay, was American and a Revolutionary fighter. Mary Wollstonecraft’s husband, William Godwin, was influenced by Franklin’s politics and he was a member, as was Franklin, of the scientific Royal Society of London. Mary Shelley’s companion, Percy Bysshe Shelley, studied Franklin and was conversant with electrical experimentation.

There is frequently quoted speculation that Mary’s choice of name for her scientist was inspired by, and perhaps even an homage to Franklin, though “Frankenstein” was not a rare name and Mary had almost certainly encountered it in 1814 during her trip down the Rhine and a stopover in the vicinity of Burg Frankenstein. Nevertheless, it is said that Franklin’s electrical experiments were so widely known and notorious that the novel’s original readers, back in 1818, would have easily made the Franklin/Frankenstein connection. Many scholars have since explored the influence of Benjamin Franklin on Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, Percy and Mary Shelley, and its reflection in Mary famous novel, making Founding Father Benjamin Franklin one of numerous men of science of the era who are thought of as the “real” Frankenstein.

Ain't that fascinatin'? Happy Independoween, everybody!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Disney Princess Color Analysis

You know how sometimes you have an idea as soon as you wake up? This morning, this was mine:

It's a combination of Scott McCloud's approach to analyzing Golden Age superhero costumes, and Dustin Weaver's recent observation that, with her bold, primary colors and jet black hair, Snow White is basically Superman.

Just as we involuntarily, subconsciously know that purple + green= Hulk, red + gold = Iron Man and gray + bluish black + a tiny bit of yellow = Batman, we can't see that unique combination of blue-green, red, flesh and lavender without immediately thinking (in a Jamaican accent) "Ariel!" We can instantly recognizable all the Disney heroines from their color schemes alone. I haven't tried it with any other characters, but you can easily imagine similar color swatches for villains (Ursula, Gaston, Jafar, Scar, and Radcliffe all have wonderful and very distinct color schemes), heroes (think of Beast, Aladdin, John Smith, or especially Quasimodo), or even supporting characters (though characters like Flounder, Genie, Phoebus, or Mushu tend to be colored from much simpler palettes.) In every case, the colors are as unique as the character designs themselves.

(Notice that with the exception of Snow White these are all characters from the post-1989 Disney Renaissance. Disney had some terrific character designs in the 30's, 50's and 60's, but the color element doesn't particularly stand out for me. Quick! What color was Aurora's dress in Sleeping Beauty? ...See? Even if you know, you had to think about it.)

I don't understand color. I barely understand how it works in real life, and I'm certainly not to the point of being able design with color in an appealing way. What Disney does (or did?) is simply amazing to me. They can paint with all the colors of the wind!

(By the way, here's a link to a cool artist who drew many of the Disney princesses as superheros.)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cartoon for Ali Farzat

Ali Farzat is a great Syrian political cartoonist. Recently he was kidnapped by paramilitary thugs (believed to be working for Pres. Bashar Assad) and brutally beaten. They deliberately broke both of his hands.

(click for larger version)

I was going to write a long tract about the metaphorical dimension of this horrible attack, but it's all pretty obvious, really. Farzat spoke Truth to Power and met a fate similar to so many who do. I'll just add that Farzat's cartoons are awesome, and he's obviously a man after my own heart, my very favorite type of political cartoonist. Google him some time. It's purely visual storytelling - no patronizing labels or captions, none of the gags based solely on dialogue or wordplay which have made our own editorial pages so trite and boring. What's even better, Farzat seldom caricatures specific individuals. He rarely, for instance, draws the tyrant Assad. Rather, he seems to draw "types," the archetypal plutocrat, politician, pauper, or proletarian. This is such a great way to de-emphasize transitory "personality politics" and keep the focus where it should be, on the long-term conflict of classes.

By the way, on the off-chance that somebody wants to read my cartoon right-to-left, here's the Arabic version:

Get well soon, Ali. Get well soon, Syria. Ash-sha`b yurid isqat an-nizam!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Titanzer Fan-Art!

I drew some fan-art for my friend Kevin Wilson's giant-robot webcomic Titanzer!


The image depicts the titular titan, Titanzer, having his ass handed to him by the immense evil alien robot Inert, whom I internally refer to as "Fisto Punchalot." In the foreground is Titanzer's distressed owner/operator, has-been celebrity Johnny Yamamoto.

In addition to being a fun and hilarious guy who draws a great webcomic, Kevin is also the person who lent me a button machine to make promotional buttons for Savage Nobles in the Land of Enchantment. Below are the three designs:

Check out Titanzer everybody, and DON'T! GET! FISTED!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Calico Jack Guest Comic

I did a guest comic for my friend Patrick Devine's comic "Calico Jack," which reassures us that in the 26th century there will still be punk rock, piracy, and (apparently) floppy disks! The more things change, huh?

The comic re-depicts an incident from issue 2, page 13. Jack has obviously taken some creative liberties in the retelling. Capt. Miller is nowhere near as villainous or confrontational in the original story, despite working for an organization, the Federal Union, whose initials are "F.U."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

More Figure Drawing w/ Periscopers

Glad I used ink this time instead of my usual scratchy 4H pencil. Without light, form is meaningless.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Life Ain't No Ponyfarm Fan-Art

My friend Sarah Burrini is visiting Portland this week, all the way from Cologne, Germany! She has a great biweekly webcomic in German AND English called "Life Ain't No Ponyfarm" which I recommend you check out, especially if you "sprechen zie Deutches." I decided to honor her visit by drawing some of her characters.

There are a lot of auto-bio webcomics out there, let's face it. But "Ponyfarm" is exactly the type of auto-bio comic I can really get into i.e. one that is full of lies. Though Sarah herself is the main character, she is only sometimes the focus of the story - the other characters are Ngumbe, an elephant who wants to be Miles Davis, "El Fungo," a hot-headed Mexican mushroom, and Buttercup, who is just an adorable pony.

Here's the color version - I sorta rushed this, but I sense the potential for greatness.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Super-Old SNitLoE Sketches

This week my dad is visiting me here in Portland, OR. Even though we're having a blast, hanging out with him is definitely slowing down the process of preparing the book for print. However, his visit is not all bad news for SNitLoE fans: in the dark recesses of my old bedroom back in New Orleans, my parents uncovered an ancient dusty sketchbook which contains the earliest known sketches of the Savage Nobles. Check out this ancient history:

The one of Kafir, I think, is the oldest. "A lot of surly teenagers think of themselves as being imprisoned by their parents," I thought. "But what if a guy's actual parents were his actual jailers." Then I drew this image and it was the springboard for creating the entire character. I kinda wish I'd kept the earring!

The early Tonya and the early Theo were both modeled on baristas that I knew. There is one even older drawing of Theo somewhere, which I can no longer locate.

The less said about my drawings skills in the spring of 2009, the better.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

VJ Day in Times Square... With Dinosaurs!

My friends and teachers over at Periscope Studio have a weird and wonderful weekly sketch challenge. This week's theme is "World War II and Dinosaurs." After seeing Ben Dewey's pitch-perfect propaganda piece and the extremely creepy entry by Cat Farris, I knew I had to jump on the bandwagon. WWII-Dinosaurs are surely destined to succeed ninjas, pirates and zombies as the omnipresent emblem of the ironic pop-cultural zeitgeist, and let no one say I wasn't into them before they were cool.

By the way, this really is just a sketch, not like like the gorgeously rendered and researched finished pieces that often pass for "sketches" at Periscope. Way to set the bar impossibly high, guys.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Heat Rises

Boy oh boy did it feel good to draw something other than Savage Nobles in the Land of Enchantment, I can't even begin to tell ya. This comic is for the "Summer" issue of Stumptown Underground and draws heavily on my own personal experience living in Brooklyn 4th-floor walk-up apartment during the summer of 2007.

Following the lead of Benjamin Dewey, here are my thumbnails (more like toenails!) for those of you interested in my, ahem, process. A big, special thanks to everyone at Barry Deutch's Graphic Writers' Workgroup for looking these over. They gave me the idea to add the scent-lines on page one, and the idea to make the protagonist black. Guys, if you read this and notice I didn't take your other suggestions, it's not because they were bad! It's because I'm stubborn!

Aside from personal experience, my main inspiration for this comic was Will Eisner, the man who evoked New York City, in all its glitz and gristle, better than any cartoonist ever has or ever will. Eisner's short-story anthology, "New York: The Big City" undoubtedly did more to get me into comics than any other book. Will Eisner also drew the world's most beautiful picture of a pile of uncollected garbage. Look at this:

Without any irony, I can call that beautiful. I can only dream of one day handling graywash the way Eisner did.

To close things out, here's my number one summer jam. There are a lot of songs that remind me of summer in New York City (i.e. pretty much any track on Sublime's self-titled album, a perennial campus favorite on the first warm day of the year), but this song by is actually about summer in New York City! Read my comic again while listening to this!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

2028 Tonya Sketch

When I wrote the script for Savage Nobles in the Land of Enchantment back in the spring of 2009, I specified that in the final scenes Tonya should be wearing "a sort of ninja-guerilla-superhero-Zorro costume." It became my task two years later to interpret what the heck I meant by this, so before drawing page 170 I did a preliminary costume design:

Even though this was a pretty rapid sketch, I'm pleased with how it turned out. The outlandish costume and hair is a good foil for Sen. Greg's new straight-laced look. The posture is believable and the proportions are a lot more naturalistic than one can usually expect from me. I've actually had to be a consciously cartoonier in the finished artwork for the sake of consistency.

My main regret is that at some point while drawing this the ol' hormones must have taken over, because I made Tonya look sexier than she's really supposed to be. (What's with those gams? And isn't she supposed to be 43?) I always intended Tonya to be a proxy for the reader, a sympathetic punk rock everywoman with real life dreams and problems etc., and I think making her a super-hot babe gets in the way of this. I worry that on certain pages of the comic, especially as my own knowledge of constructive anatomy improved, I probably lapsed into some unwarranted horndoggery, and if so I apologize. That's also a betrayal my own principles: DC and Marvel's ridiculous body imagery and unrealizable physical ideals, both masculine and feminine, were a huge part of what repelled me from reading any comics whatsoever for most of my righteous teenage years... and a desire to smash these norms is part of what brought me back to comics in my mid twenties.

Friday, June 10, 2011

I Am So Great

I just finished what I consider to be a particularly good page of Savage Nobles in the Land of Enchantment, maybe one of the best. Not counting thumbnails, I did the entire page from start to finish in one day - actually just about 7-8 hours if you subtract all the time I spent singing in choir, hackey-sacking in the park, applying online for unemployment compensation, and queuing at the Department of Health and Human Services.

(please click the image to see the full-sized version!)

Though I am pleased with almost every aspect of this page (the page layout; the blocking of the figures; the human anatomy, gesture, and costume; the sweet but not saccharine tone, lightened by a little humor; the foreshadowing of Manaka's concerned glance) there are, as always, things I wish I could do better. Pro-inker Gary Martin, who graciously carved me a brand new anus while reviewing my portfolio at this year's Stumptown Comics Fest, wants me to focus on my line weight. So although I was already trying to use heavier lines opposite my light source, I'm trying even harder now - it worked pretty well on Theo's face in panel 4. I don't necessarily want the uber-slick look of some of Gary's (admittedly amazing) inking for my own comics, but even if I ultimately opt for a smudgier/sloppier treatment, it's still a skill I should have under my belt. Some of my lines, I think, are still way too thin, and I am still struggling with ways to create grays - my crosshatching is hopelessly haphazard and 165 pages later I am still smearing my drybrush all over the place inadvisedly.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Figure Drawing with Periscopers!

I went by Periscope Studio on Wednesday night for a figure drawing session they organized. Surrounded by the greats, it was pretty dang intimidating!

Great model! Though I'm feeling a little rusty. When SNitLoE is done, I wanna get back into figure-drawing regularly.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Theo a la Theo

Here's a picture I did of Theo and the other characters from Savage Nobles in the Land of Enchantment in the style of local cartoonist Theo Ellsworth. Consider it my modest tribute to this awesome artist.

I actually got to chat with Theo Ellsworth over burritos last weekend when we were both in Washington for the Olympia Comics Festival. Even though I was bumping elbows with much more famous comics artists during the festival, none of them intimidated me so much as Theo. I feel as though in this candid photograph of the two of us you can actually see the nervousness in my facial expression and posture.

Why would this be? Festival guests Larry Gonick and Paul Chadwick are both excellent artists, but I basically understand how they got that way. They practiced a lot, studied the works of artists they admire, probably read a few instructional books on art or storytelling, or got pointers from fellow cartoonists. By contrast, Theo's artistic process is completely opaque to me. If his comics are to be believed, he basically gets inspiration by delving into some weird interior mental zone and meeting a bunch of thoughts incarnated as fantastical creatures.

This might be why meeting him in person was so intimidating - anyone else who's met him can tell you that Theo has about the gentlest, least intimidating personality you could imagine. The cognitive dissonance comes from knowing that his mind is nevertheless capable of concocting bizarre mystical visions, and may be doing so at any moment. As he was talking to me, was he imagining tassled antlers springing from my head or little monster-men driving on my shoulders in tiny cars?

Even though I've spent the past year honing my "craft" by studying the Masters, and even though I have a long-standing aversion to the "Vesuvius" school of creativity - i.e. the muse strikes you and you simply spew out its inspiration on the page, there's something I still seriously admire about this kind of self-taught, highly personal/intuitive creativity.

When I was a younger and less technically schooled artist, I loved putting little weird things in my drawings, cramming every inch of a picture with whatever quirky idea struck me at the time - sometimes without even knowing what to expect would come out of my pencil. I sort of miss that now!

(By the way, don't take any of this to mean that I don't think Theo's work is also technically very good - it is! Nor is all of it psychologically ponderous - it can be very lighthearted as well.)

(Also, just so you don't think I'm an obsessive fan-boy, I named the character Theo long before I had ever heard of Theo the artist. It's a coincidence, I swear!)
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