Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Gone for a little while

I'll be away at a funeral this weekend and will probably be unable to answer e-mails and the like for a few days. One of my best friends, Eric Myers, was found dead on Monday of what appears to be a heart-related condition. As far as I know, he never had any health problems, aside from horrible, horrible snoring (which was rectified), so this comes as a complete shock to everybody.

He was, without question, the best guy I ever knew. He constantly gave of his time and energy to whoever needed it, volunteering a lot and never mentioning it or making a big deal of it; he always put his friends and family (and strangers) before himself; he was one of the few people I know who have strong moral convictions AND live up to all of them; and he was perhaps the most fun and vibrant person I've ever known - he made any room into which he walked into a party, he constantly set stuff up for people to do, and he was a unifyer... you could put him in a room full of black panthers and skinheads and they'd all be singing tavern songs within twenty minutes. It hasn't really sunk in yet... I can't imagine visiting Hopkinsville and not seeing Eric. Christmas, the movies, sparring, hanging out - I simply can't see any of these things without expecting to have Eric there.

Please keep your thoughts and prayers with his family, especially his fiance'. Eric was a notorious commitophobe, and Kristen (with whom we've been friends ten years) lit up his life - they were going to be married in a couple of months. I can't even imagine what she's going through, so please keep her comfort in thoughts.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Name that actor!

Often, when designing characters, I have an actor in mind that I use as the basis. Usually this model becomes more and more heavily stylized until the likeness is invisible to all but me. Usually I just go off of my recollection of what a particular actor looks like, but on occasion I'll pause a movie and do a sketch if someone has features too good to pass up.

There's a character in the next book whose appearance will likely be based on this fella:

It's a British actor from the sixties. I know him, but as far as I know he ain't a household name, so if you know him and leave a comment identifying him, you win a drawing! Not a commission, but I'll send you something.

I've also been watching tons of Musketeer movies lately, and did this quick sketch of D'Artagnan. He's supposed to be an athletic and enthusiastic country bumpkin, so I gave him that husky country boy look.

After I did it I realized that I may be subconsciously ripping off my friend Cara McGee - she did a series of sketches reinterpreting the characters from the Princess Bride. Her Westley has a vaguely similar look - a hunky farm-boy straight out of a romance novel. Ha! Check 'em out - her man in black is also very sinister.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Page a Day, Art Speigelman, and an Emerald Miner

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted! It's been a long and exhausting couple of weeks. A while back I set myself a pretty rigorous schedule in order to complete Crogan's Vengeance by April 30th, and sticking to it has been doable but draining. I'm supposed to be finishing an average of one full page a day, and so far have gone a little past that, averaging about nine a week. But it's hard! I have a rough idea as to what happens (example - "Crogan and D'or get into a fight") but no real details nailed down in terms of dialogue, shots, pacing, etc. I'm making it all up as I go, scene by scene (each scene usually being about five pages), thumbnailing and tweaking and tweaking and tweaking and then doing about two or three finished pages in a day. Sometimes it's great - other times, like this week, it's unpleasant, and I pace around the apartment all manic and grumpy, waving my hands around in the air and reciting potential dialogue in piratey voices.

Anyway, here's a couple of panels from the recent batch:

On a slightly less-piratish note, I've been doing a lot of twenties/thirties adventure sketches in my sketchbook lately... rickshaws and overgrown temples and gorillas and sky pirates and that sort of thing, and have had some ideas as to what to do with the subject matter... but, like everything, it's subject to how much time I have (which isn't a lot, if referring to spare). But I was thinking about doing some adventurer archetypes - maybe a new one with each post, just to keep me fresh.

I decided for certain to do this when reading the amazing Matt Kindt's blog this week - he and Brian Hurtt are collaborating on a really, really, REALLY cool looking project together that seems to fall into this same vein. It got me wondering who else is feeling this sort of thing? If you're a cartoonist, and YOU are, post it up somewhere and put a link in your comment - I want to see them! High adventure is where it's at! Here's adventurer archetype #1: the Miner.

Since I pretty much NEVER update my gallery pages, I thought I should post THESE jobs here as well... I've also finished a few to which I've previously alluded, some of which were seen in-progress - The first is that Arthur poster:

Next is that Captain Morgan Saint Patrick's Day thing (or at least a crop of it):

And last is a safety goals poster for CSX, the railroad company:

In terms of news, Art Spiegelman came last week and was a really amazing guest. He did a Q&A for Scad Students, after which he, Allen Spetnagel, and me went out to the front to smoke and chat.

(Allen and Mr. Spiegelman, photo by Charles Taylor)

Later that evening Spiegelman gave an amazing lecture, the details of which are too varied and long to try and do justice to here, but it was truly an eye-opening and exciting talk. One of the things that really got me going was some examples that he showed by Töpffer, who made comics in the early nineteenth century. A Swiss, I might add pridefully.

Anyway, I've always been extremely wary of claims of pre-newspaper comics. There's a school of thought that earlier examples of sequential picture narratives (such as the Bayeux Tapestry) are the first comics, but I think that this is an oversimplification - as with most art, I think that motive is everything and as such these works are NOT comics. I feel like it's an attempt to give artistic legitimacy to a medium which has always struggled for it simply by virtue of age and pedigree, and I think that's selling ourselves short - an academic equivalent to claiming that one's ancestors came over on the Mayflower, knowing full well they came through Ellis Island.

Thus I'd never read (or really looked at) Töpffer's stuff, but Speigelman showed a comic which was of men giving a series of toasts. I read it, and thought, "that's good, but you know what would make it better? Showing them drinking after the first toast, and therefore implying a drink after eah additional toast without having to show it," and then I realized that the comic I was looking at had almost the exact narrative structure of one of my own (the Goodbye Beard)! I thought I was being quite clever with mine, but apparently I was almost two hundred years late. It makes me insanely curious as to what other gems Töpffer has, what styles and syntaxes he may have invented that haven't been subsequently employed. Hmmm...

Anyway, afterwards we (Shawn Crystal, Doug Dabbs, me, Dr. Griffis, and some SCAD administrators) went to dinner with Mr. Spiegelman, and had a great time. At first the conversations were a little more rounded - what it's like to teach AND be a cartoonist at the same time, anecdotes, etc - but before long we got into some heavy shop talk about brush pens and fountain pens and ink and papers and all that good stuff, and I fear that we temporarily excluded the non-cartoonists at the table as a result, but all in all I think that everyone had a great evening. I know I did!