Posts Tagged ‘blog: musings’.

Happily Ever After, Even Now

Movies in which couples overcome various misunderstandings to eventually hug and kiss as the credits roll ask us to believe that their characters will be together forever.

So I got to thinking: assuming that the couples who get together at the end of movies stay together into the foreseeable future, what must they look like now? Surely they are still together, making coffee in the mornings, shuffling children off to this activity or that, taking trips to see plays and figuring out new digital cameras on the occasional Alaskan cruise.

I present the following as aids to your imagination, helping you to picture the lives of these fictional characters extended out ten, twenty, thirty years until the strange story of their first, accidental meeting is family legend retold every Thanksgiving to the grandchildren: “You know I used to fly Tomcats in the Navy — well, one day, Grandma waltzed into my classroom at Miramar, and I about flipped my lid. I told her about a MiG I’d seen recently, and she tried to freeze me out. And then I played volleyball for a while with Uncle Iceman.”

Remembering Frank Frazetta

Frank Frazetta died the other day. He was well-known as a the cover artist for innumerable Conan and Edgar Rice Burroughs books, but in truth, Frank was one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, working in oil paint or ink with equal facility. The excellent if rather showy retrospective documentary Painting With Fire is highly recommended, or for a more calculated explanation of why Frank was the best, here’s a neat blog post. My own experience with Frank’s work was very personal, and very formative.

For most of high school and my first year of college, I spent Wednesday afternoons after school with three other friends in an art studio in the San Bernardino mountains, taking lessons from a wonderfully talented illustrator named John Arthur. John was a classically-trained artist who drilled the basics of life drawing, line quality, and the importance of sketching into our still-mushy teenage minds, and I credit those Wednesdays with John with developing my creative instincts from childlike fumbling into something of value.

Every week, each of us would show John (and the others) any sketches or drawings we’d done throughout the week, but John also delighted in reading our stories, poems, comics or anything else we’d made — my friend Stephen was a prolific poet, I was working on a novel, both of us had occasional short stories to present as well, and John was always encouraging, always enthusiastic to see it all.

In return, John would teach us from the masters — as we drew in his studio, he’d read to us from Ray Bradbury or Robert Henri; as we listened, we sketched from life or copied (as best we could) from Michaelangelo, N.C. Wyeth, Bernie Wrightson or Frazetta.

Frank was John’s touchstone: to explain how light could turn a three-dimensional form into black and white lines, he’d pull out his old portfolio of Frazetta lithographs. He’d put an anatomy book next to one of Frank’s paintings to explain how to portray torsion in a muscle in an interesting and dynamic way, and compare and contrast Frank’s work with the schlocky Image comics we’d bring in for show-and-tell. And as we were packing up from the day’s lesson, John would tell the story of how Frank once goofed off playing baseball rather than working on a book-cover assignment, until the night before the painting was due to the publisher. That night, when he finally sat down to work, he discovered he didn’t have any canvas in the house — so he pried a piece of Masonite off the floor and painted monsters on it:

As wonderful as Frank’s paintings were and are, it was those lithos from John’s portfolio that always struck me the most. Mostly ink drawings from Tarzan books, they clearly showed Frank’s absolute mastery over the brush. The lines are lively, fluid, and variable in a way that John continually explored with us — they dance teasingly with negative space, volume, and texture. Frank’s linework is what’s playing in my brain every time I clumsily put pen (or brush) to paper today:

Having a variable quality of line was one of the lessons that John drummed into our drawing hands every single session. I admire cartoonists who can get evocative images out of Micron pens or thin strokes, but that came to bore me in my own art. Seeing what life Frank could breathe with his brush continues to inspire me today, and insofar as I’m anywhere, I wouldn’t be here without John, those Wednesdays, and Frank.


Frazetta, 1975


Me, 1996


Frazetta, 1969


Me, 1999

Thanks, Frank.

UPDATE: One more thing! During the time I was taking lessons from John, Frank suffered a stroke (what would be the first of many). John relayed the news to us gravely, and suggested that we call the family to wish them well. Next thing I knew, we were on the phone with Frank’s wife Ellie, each of us taking a moment to pass on our well wishes. I don’t know how John had the number — maybe they were listed in the phone book, or maybe he called the museum that Ellie had founded on their property. But it was a powerful moment in connecting with one’s heroes, remembering that for all their accomplishments, they’re people too.

After the stroke, Frank began to experience tremors and a loss of strength in his right hand. So what did he do? Taught himself to paint with his left. In his 70s. I just got done explaining how Frank was merely human, but dang if Frank didn’t try his best to make me a liar.

Ink-drawing images from Golden Age Comic Book Stories. Paintings from The Unofficial Frazetta Gallery Page.

Recommended reading:
Icon: A Retrospective by the Grand Master of Fantastic Art
Legacy: Paintings and Drawings by Frank Frazetta
Testament: The Life and Art of Frank Frazetta
Spectrum Presents: Frank Frazetta: Rough Work

2009 Errata

During our year-end review, we have discovered a number of factual errors in comics published in 2009. Please find our corrections below.

#567; O Selfless Saviors
It is an overstatement to say that no children have ever been poisoned by Halloween treats. In 1964, a woman handed out pellets of ant poison masquerading as treats; in 1974 a father gave his son a candy straw filled with cyanide. However, the man was using Halloween as a cover to kill his child, and the woman’s treats were clearly labeled and intended as a dark comment on the treat tradition. Thus, the point stands.

#526; In which it Hardly Matters
International Crossword Standards & Practices Union rules prohibit this pattern of blank squares from appearing in a regulation puzzle.

#523; In which Vince achieves Victory
Vince’s minor repair job did not actually require a wrench. It could have been accomplished with pliers.

#510; In which Rob tries to read
Rob also reads to earn fundraising pledges in his school’s Read-A-Thon.

#509; In which a Horn is overt
Sebastian did, in fact, take a lil’ blow. Just to see what would happen.

#485; The Australian Butler
Dinner was not actually ready.

Wondermark regrets the errors.

See also: 2008 Errata

Nice try, Pottery Barn

I was doing some Christmas shopping this week, trawling the ol’ mall, and discovered, in the charming little family-owned boutique known as Pottery Barn, a series of reproduction antique globes, carefully crafted with strange woods, metals and lines to give the impression of being “authentically old-timey” and thus interesting, but also brought fully and boringly up-to-date to reflect modern global political boundaries. These globes are now totally and utterly 100% accurate in every way.

nice. try.

oh wait

p.s. if you don’t get it

Notes from the Road

pack it up pack it in

I’ve been traveling this week! I was in Portland, then I was in Western Massachusetts inside the sinister obelisk that is TopatoCo World Headquarters, and now I’m in Boston. I am a California boy, and I am freezing here.

I have this feeling like I’ll look back at this point in my life and think, “Wow, I sure used to travel a lot.” I read about authors and musicians and athletes and other people who tour a lot, who have to stay in a lot of crappy hotels and ride on buses and fly coach and how they eventually get fed up with the hardship and the physical toll it takes on the body and just decide to start staying home. I hope that doesn’t happen to me; I hope our travel infrastructure makes improvements in comfort at at least the same rate that I get more decrepit and intolerant of the inconvenience.

And I cannot wait for the day when people in white coats come into my room at night, drug me and put me into a tube, and I wake up completely refreshed in New York a day later. If they will do that for me, I will even let them take embarrassing pictures of me while I am knocked out. I do not even care. I want it that bad.

I hope I get to keep traveling, because I love going to shows and events and meeting people and selling books and laughing and having a great time. I even love days like today, sitting in a cafĂ© or hotel room with my laptop, connected to the world and putting in a satisfying full day’s work that I got to design.

I’m really excited about what’s happening at TopatoCo, and I’ve never been more sure that I made a smart move retiring from my “real” job at the beginning of this year. I’ve been self-employed for several years, taking odd freelance jobs here and there (usually editing movie trailers), but back in the spring I said “I don’t got time for this noise no more” and since then I’ve never looked back.

I get to develop comics and books and posters and cool stuff for myself, and I’ve also been working very closely with TopatoCo handling promotions and helping design books and other products for other artists. Today we launched a store for one of my favorite podcasters and a remarkable internet person in his own right, Jesse Thorn.

I’ve always been adamant that there’s no real difference between “webcomics” and “cool things on the internet in general”, and maybe the fact that I’m kind of an outlier in the “comics” world per se has helped me develop that perspective in a different way than some of my friends and colleagues who’ve got cartooning deep in their blood.

I forsee a future where a business model that we’ve sort of hammered out for webcomics can help bloggers, musicians, podcasters, writers, comedians etc. all develop sustainable careers by doing ridiculous things with computers.

CHARLES BABBAGE LOOK WHAT YOU DID