Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Abandoned Troll Design

This was an early pass at a troll design for the next Creeps book, Internet Trolls, basically an alligator head with ears and tusks.  I've moved in a different direction, and as such feel free to share it now!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ten Books that Stay With You

My friend and former student Liz Enright challenged me to that ten-books-that-stayed-with-you thing.  So here's a handful!

The Hollywood History of the World, by George MacDonald Fraser
Fraser’s critique of period/historical films, how the measure up with real history, how they measure up as movies, and when it’s okay for the former to stray for the betterment of the latter is my moral compass for dealing with historical fiction.

Women and War, vols 1 & 2, by Bernard A. Cook
I was dismissive of the idea of black history month, women’s history month, etc, when I was younger, not understanding why folks weren’t just ingrained into regular history lessons.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I found the problem.  I’d read probably two or three dozen books about the American Revolution that never touched on the black experience outside of the context of slavery, and it wasn’t until (at the request of one of the editors of my study guide) I went actively looking for that information that I found tons of stuff about the black loyalists, which served as the basis for an admittedly clunky short comic that I did in 2012.  I was really pretty shocked – how was this stuff not included in any of the general histories, many of which were long and expansive works?
The same thing was the case with women in their role in history, especially warfare.  Cook’s encyclopedia is a great jumping off point to many women who did extraordinary things but who are largely ignored in history books, and provides great references and bibliography by which one can find the primary and secondary sources for each entry.

Don’t Know Much About the Bible, by Kenneth C. Davis
The first book I ever read in which the historical, social, and literary contexts of the Bible are addressed, even though content is the book's key focus.  I grew up in an area where biblical literalism (by my reckon an extremely short-sighted theological stance that passed its one-hundredth birthday earlier this decade) held a lot of sway, but which kind of falls apart on critical consideration… or at least, it did for me, and did for many of my friends.  Seeing how the church's interpretation of faith changes radically from generation to generation is what allowed me to keep mine.

The Synonym Finder, by J. J. Rodale
It might be weird to put a thesaurus on the list, but this is one heck of a thesaurus.  The first time reading it gave me a glimpse into the nearly limitless sea of words that I’d always taken for granted.  I know folks who read the dictionary, but the dictionary sucks, it’s like 90% plants.  The synonym finder gives you all the good stuff without the chaff.

Marvel Masterworks vol. 1: The Amazing Spider-Man issues 1-10 (and Amazing Fantasy #15)
I got this book as a kid, probably eight or nine years old.  The crux of Spider-Man’s origin story isn’t the radioactive spider thing, it’s this: He saw a robbery and did nothing to stop the robber.  That robber later kills his uncle, the man who raised him.
That stuck with me hard as a kid.  Inactivity equals responsibility is what I took away from that, and I believe it.  If someone, say, is driving at night without his or her headlights on, and I don’t flash my lights to alert them to that fact, then I am responsible for any accident that they might get in.
Though there’s a hypocrisy to it, this idea pretty much only applies to my day-to-day interactions.  If it were a real driving force for me, I would be somewhere doing something selfless instead of sitting around drawing comics.  I love drawing comics, but it’s not giving anyone fresh drinking water.

Under the Black Flag by David Cordingly
The first nonfiction history book I ever read for fun as an adult (probably 20ish).  Cordingly’s book did something important for me – it argued that our popular conceptions of history are often rooted in fact (in this case, pirates wearing striped shirts or having parrots) that becomes such a part of the stereotype/cultural impression that we begin to think that it must be wholly fictional, a cartoon.  This sort of notion carries to many different periods and identities, and it’s important to keep in mind before stripping away the genre conventions when those genre conventions are often deeply rooted in history.

On Writing and Dance Macabre by Stephen King
I’m lumping these two together because it’s tough for me to distinguish them in my head.  These were the first books-about-making-stories-by-a-storyteller that I read, and they’ve likely had no small impact on me.  I’m a sucker for the applicable criticism memoir genre, and these are two of the best.

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
Vowell’s joy in examining both the merits and deficiencies of the puritans of New England underlines something often lacking in history – a gleeful enthusiasm for the subject and a refusal to use said subject to illustrate a stance.  Vowell approaches her subjects as people.  They may be jerks sometimes, but they’re good sometimes, too.  You get the feeling like she’s talking about her relatives, which, in a way, she is.

King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard
I read this 1885 novel in college and found it to be one of the most propulsive and gripping adventure yarns I’d ever gotten my hands on.  It got me hardcore into late 19th century history which got me into history in general, and sent me on a mad dash to read as many old swashbucklers as I could get my hands on.

See Through History: Medieval Knights
This is a kids picture book that I stumbled across as a sixth grade social studies teacher.  I’d more or less forgotten about it for a few years and when I found it again it served as a reminder that great info can be found in unexpected places.  A score of history books for adults might not yield as much usable visual info as one well-done picture book for kids with a top-notch research illustrator.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

DragonCon Badges

So I drew a bunch of badges this weekend at DragonCon, which is great fun because it lets me stare at people's faces while I draw them. Usually (airports, subway, etc) I have to pretend that I'm not staring at the people I'm drawing. These aren't all of them, but it's a pretty good sampling.

A few people asked me what prompted the badges, and it's because I made one for "Welcome to Night Vale" Carlos costume last year. I showed it to some of my friends and they wanted me to make badges for them for the Night Vale meetup, too. And then they showed their friends and so on and so on. I'd been doing little watercolor portraits and I figured I could just give people a badge with 'em. I only printed up so many of the night vale templates so when I started running low I also started doing from-scratch badges where I drew everything.
Anyway, it was a really fun way to have a little more time with the folks who picked stuff up at my table, and I had a fantastic DragonCon all around. Thanks to everyone who had so much patience waiting in line and for being such a fun and enthusiastic group.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

So I did a Guardians of the Galaxy commission, and decided to color it, because, well, I color everything these days.

I replaced the nine producers on the poster credits with one producer and the eight guys who created the characters around whom the movie revolved. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Henry Morgan

Henry Morgan died 326 years ago today!

Those of us lucky enough to carry around mental images of famous pirates will usually recall Henry Morgan (the famous buccaneer for whom the rum brand is named) in his later years. Portly and dressed in the dandiest of fashions as the lieutenant governor of Jamaica, he seems a far cry from the stories carried through the years of his exploits.
But Morgan was a very physical man, and was a lot more than a pirate - he was a military genius who likely carries as much responsibility for the way things played out in our corner of the world as George Washington.
At a time when Spain dominated everything West of the Atlantic, Morgan (first under Commodore Mings, then to a much greater degree on his own) found chinks in the armor of the Spanish trade monopoly and ruthlessly exploited them.
In his 20s he personally led large bands of men through hundreds of miles of seemingly impenetrable jungle to attack rich Spanish towns, choosing his targets with precision and strategy and rarely losing men in battle, amassing huge fortunes and putting into place a community and methods that would eventually destroy Spain's stranglehold on the economy of the New World, making English trade, and eventually the US, possible.
We can learn a lot about the inevitable dangers of exclusion rather than incorporation from Spain's mismanagement of the Americas under Philip IV and how other societies (including our own) might suffer from similar policies, but that's boring!

Thursday, August 21, 2014


I started watching Supernatural for one and one reason only: Jim Beaver was in it.  
Like a lot of his fans, I first noticed him on Deadwood, and since then he's done fantastic turns on a lot of my favorite shows, including Justified and Longmire. 
Pictures of him in Supernatural kept popping up my tumblr feed, so I decided to give it a go, and am really glad that I did.  It's a terrifically fun show, and one that I've really enjoyed, and its dozens of episodes have been great to watch while I'm drawing away.
Anyway, I figured if anybody merited a poster, it's Jim Beaver's Bobby Singer.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

100th anniversary of the 20th century

Hard to believe that World War 1 started a hundred years ago today. Although in theory a century begins or ends with its actual numerical quality, it's cultural impact is rarely so cut and dry. The 19th century really starts in full when the Napoleonic Wars end in November 1815, and the 19th century really stretches on until WWI, whose start - culturally - marks the beginning of the 20th century.
Look at photos of people from WWI. The dress, the hair, etc, they're really not all that different from how a lot of folks look today, whereas a picture from five year earlier seems like a whole different era... because it is.
I'll throw some WWI history y'all's way over the next few days. It's a very misunderstood war, less cut-and-dry than some others, but to me it's extremely interesting because it really does mark that big shift. I mean, you start the war with horses and end with airplanes, in an extremely short span of time. It really is the crucible in which our modern era was forged.
Here's a couple of guys to start off the week, A stormtrooper and a Tirailleur Senegalis.

This is a WWI Stormtrooper. That's right, SW kids, there were real stormtroopers, and they were terrifying. Poisonous, burning mustard gas would be launched into trenches, and then, from the haze, these guys would appear to royally mess you up. To make things even more terrifying, sometimes they'd be riding blanketed horses and stabbing with lances. There aren't many things scarier/more intimidating than a horse in a gas mask.

Here's a Tirailleur Senegalis.  Time in the trenches often lessened sctrictness over uniforms. I had this guy paint the Yellow Kid on his helmet, because he would have been a cultural icon to the folks fighting, the same as someone putting the Tasmanian Devil or Spongebob on the side of a tank.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Shadow Hero

I've gotten terrible about updating my blog lately.  I'm good about my social network stuff - twitter, facebook, instagram - but I forget to do it here!  Sorry.

So I REALLY enjoyed Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew’s The Shadow Hero, a new book that First Second Books released this week. It’s an origin story of an existing pulp hero, the Green Turtle, and it’s an engaging, very funny, exciting story. 
There’s some great supplemental material about the original 1940s Green Turtle, the first Asian-American superhero, and the clever ways in which its creator circumvented the publisher’s mandate that he had to be white.
I’m a sucker for books or films that I recognize as being shoe-ins for the I-would-have-flipped-my-lid-over-this-if-it-had-been-around-when-I-was-a-kid stories, and SHADOW HERO definitely fits that bill. There are a few books that I get multiple copies of whenever I run across them to hoard as gifts; this one will join that list.
Anyway, I did a poster!
Liz pointed out that I forgot to put a quotation mark ending after the title on the poster.  oops!  I'll fix that later.