Monday, April 20, 2015

Old Salt

Here's a wordless WaynoVision comic for your amusement.
This cartoonist is always pleased to come up with a gag that's purely visual. Although the idea is as simple as it can be, I of course agonized over the details. 

First, I had to decide which of the nautical nonagenarian's legs would be wooden. That was a relatively easy decision—it had to be in the foreground or else it would have been hidden.

Placing the boot on the walker presented more choices. Should it be on the same side as his peg, for balance? Should there be two boots so the walker and the pirate were both fifty percent peg? Should it match the boot he's wearing?

Ultimately, I fell back on some advice I took from one of many nerdly discussions on technique and process that I've had with Bizarro mastermind Dan Piraro. Dan once told me that he assumes the reader's eye usually travels from the upper left corner of a panel to the lower right, the way we in the Western world normally read text. Following that logic, I placed the walker's boot as close to the lower right corner as possible.

I wish I'd remembered that before I produced and discarded so many sketches.

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Man

Exactly six years ago, unsuspecting Bizarro readers encountered my first published collaboration with the amazing cartoonist Dan Piraro.
I was lucky enough to work with him as a regular gag writer for more than five years, and spent three of them assisting as Bizarro's colorist. I also had the distinct honor of occupying Dan's space as guest cartoonist for two week-long stints. All told, we did over 150 comics together.

During our collaboration, Dan was always very generous with his time. I spent a few days in his home observing and learning his painterly coloring technique, and we often had detailed discussions on editing, pacing, and staging in cartoon panels. I learned a lot from him, and feel that my work improved significantly as a direct result of working with him.

Another aspect of Dan's generosity (one could even call it bravery) is that I was acknowledged and credited as a writer for Bizarro. Many people who contribute to the comics you read every day do it anonymously. Quite a few comics are truly one-person shows, but many feature the work of multiple collaborators who remain hidden behind the name of a single creator.

Having the Bizarro byline certainly helped open up other cartooning opportunities, and gave my writing and art a much wider mainstream audience.

Bizarro is my favorite comic, and I continue to learn by studying Dan's work every day.

To Dan I say: Thanks, buddy! You've been, and continue to be, an esteemed colleague, mentor, drinking buddy, and dear friend.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Time Flies

This week's WaynoVision comic features two mayflies mourning the passing of a member of their swarm.
The gag's basis is the fact that mayflies (or shadflies) live very short lives, from a few minutes to a few days. They're members of the delightfully-named order Ephemeroptera, which means "lasting a day." They apparently move quite fast to be able to carve a tombstone and bury their buddy before they themselves pass on.

This isn't the first time I've explored the mortality of insects in a comic. Four years ago, during a run as Dan Piraro's Bizarro guest cartoonist, I showed an imagined scene in Insect Heaven.
Next Monday, WaynoVision will celebrate the 78th birthday of country music legend Merle Haggard. Be sure to tune in.

Monday, February 23, 2015

3D Or Not 3D

Here's the latest WaynoVision comic for your enjoyment:
I've mentioned in previous posts that it's always satisfying to come up with a wordless gag. (We're not counting "EXIT," since that's a bit of scenery, not dialog or a caption.) This is the second silent comic to appear since we launched WaynoVision back in December. You might recall the earlier one, which puzzled a few readers.

I sometimes preview gags with friends and colleagues to get a feel for how successful they are. This one got a delayed reaction from some of my test subjects, which is nice. The teenage cyclops blends in with the other patrons, but once you notice him, he becomes very prominent, so the unresolved tension lasts for an extra beat, resulting in a little more relieved laughter when you put the pieces together.

This drawing is a bit unusual, in that crucial information is supplied by the color (in the lenses of the 3D glasses). If the gag had run in black and white, it would be difficult for the glasses to be recognizable as 3D lenses. Gray tones could have been used, but wouldn't have worked very well. In this case, having the comic run online only, in color, is an advantage.

The final comic was pretty close to my original sketch. And, yes, I drew the sketch in July of last year.
When I looked at the sketch later, I realized that the layout was reminiscent of a classic Charles Addams cartoon, showing Uncle Fester in a theater, giggling at a sad movie. The gag is different, though there's a similarity in concept, with one moviegoer being somehow different from all the others.
A little research revealed that this appeared in The New Yorker back in 1946, and that the original art sold for a little over $40,000 at an auction in 2012.

My research also confirmed that the characters who came to be known as The Addams Family, by way of the mid-1960s TV show, only acquired their names when the show was in development. They were never given names in his cartoons.

New Yorker
cartoon editor Bob Mankoff discussed the work of Charles Addams in reply to a series of questions from New York Times writer Patrick Healy back in 2010.

Thank you for reading the blog. Please check out WaynoVision every Monday. Each mouse click brings me closer to that new pencil sharpener I've had my eye on.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Honeycomb Hideout

Today's WaynoVision comic presents a familiar domestic scene, with an apian twist.
This panel is a replacement for an earlier (and much less elegant) gag based on the idea of bees being sexually attracted to flowers.
Last December, I was talking shop with fellow cartoonist Hilary Price over drinks (naturally), and shared some comics I had in the pipeline. We've collaborated in the past, and both enjoy dissecting and analyzing comics. I asked Hilary and her knowledgeable, literate, and funny girlfriend Kristin about this specific panel, because after I'd completed it, it seemed a little crude in its execution. They both agreed, and we brainstormed over other ways to present the premise.

We thought that there were several elements to like in the original version. Depicting worker bees as construction workers was fun; the magazine title Playbee made us giggle; and the plaid Thermos bottle was a nice prop. However, the line "I'd pollinate that!" brings to mind an all-too-common vulgarism that's truly ugly. Also, the worker bees shown here are obviously male and hetero, and the stamen is the male part of a flower's anatomy, so the whole thing breaks down (certainly for an over-thinker like your humble cartoonist).

Riffing on the flower on the magazine cover, Kristin, Hilary, and I then discussed the possibility of working a Georgia O'Keeffe book into the gag. O'Keeffe's paintings of flowers were (and still are) widely interpreted in Freudian terms, as representations of female genitalia—a view the artist rejected. And the drawing in the comic was in fact based on her work. A minute later, Kristin suggested a mother bee discovering an O'Keeffe volume under her kid's mattress. We all laughed out loud at that, and I knew we'd hit gold. The final comic is funnier, subtler, and much more effective, and is a testament to alcohol-assisted collaboration.

I do miss that plaid Thermos, though.

Please check in at GoComics.com every Monday for a new WaynoVision panel, and add a micropayment to my bank account. There are hundreds of other great comics on the site as well.

Once again, while drawing the comic, I had music playing in my mind's ear. This time it was "Momma Bee," by the wonderful Neil Innes, whose music I have enjoyed since my youth.



Monday, February 09, 2015

Saint Valentine's Day Massacre

Today's WaynoVision comic features one bad-ass Cupid.
This guy's serious about romance!

The gag was inspired by that old standby
character, the rogue cop, typified by Clint Eastwood in his Dirty Harry films. In an earlier sketch, I showed the pugnacious cherub toting an Uzi with a heart painted on its side.

Revisiting the drawing a few weeks later, I felt ambivalent about the choice of weaponry. It just didn't seem very funny to me, what with the numbing regularity of gun-related deaths taking place in the US. Although I'm not an editorial cartoonist, the gag looked to me as if it might be championing guns, which is certainly not my intent. The subject of guns, particularly automatic weapons is so loaded (sorry), that I felt it distracted attention away from the gag.

Not wanting to abandon the idea, I pondered it for a few more days, and decided to try it with a crossbow, which delivers the gag without the baggage an Uzi brings to mind. Perhaps I over-think these things, but the crossbow struck me as funnier, being a ridiculously souped-up version of the simple apparatus usually associated with Cupid.

Thanks for following the blog, and please visit the GoComics WaynoVision page regularly. Remember, every click puts a fraction of a penny into my pocket!

We'll close today's post with a musical take on the Eros myth, from good old Martin Fry and ABC: "Poison Arrow," from their 1982 debut LP The Lexicon of Love. This song was playing in my head when I drew the cartoon. Enjoy.




Monday, January 26, 2015

Making a Boo-Boo

Today's WaynoVision comic shows a happy user of the new "Thinning the Herd" iPhone app.
 
This panel was drawn months ago, but its publication is timely, after this weekend's news reports of several bears dying in the New Hampshire woods after "sportsmen" baited them with chocolate, which is toxic to many animals, bears included. Apparently, trapping bears is illegal, but baiting is A-OK. Baiting is the practice of luring the animals to the hunter's location, where they can be picked off with firearms.

I wasn't aware of this hunting situation at the time, but wanted to comment on our tendency for over-documentation of experiences (real or fabricated). A pet peeve of mine is watching a musical performance through the cellphone camera of the person standing in front of me.

I'd also recently read reports of the fad for dudes to have their portraits taken in the company of exotic animals for posting on dating sites, which eventually led to today's gag.

Amazingly (to me, anyway), according to an article in today's Telegraph (UK),"bear selfies" are actually a craze that's causing concern in the US Forest Service!

Thanks for following the blog, and please visit the GoComics WaynoVision page regularly. Every click puts a fraction of a penny into my pocket!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Rough Draft

Once again, I've had the pleasure of working with East End Brewing Company, designing a label for one of their special bottlings. This time around, it's Sketchy Beer:


Sketchy is appropriately named, given its long and circuitous journey to the swingtop bottles it currently occupies. It began its odyssey in 2013, when Scott Smith and the EEBC gang brewed the third incarnation of Illustration Ale, a project I've served on as "curator," recruiting six Pittsburgh artists to create labels, and shepherding the art through the Federal approval process along with Scott.

There was a spot of trouble with the yeast, which, like any live organism, doesn't always follow orders, and it didn't condition the beer properly. The original bottling had insufficient carbonation, and was not up to East End's quality standards, so they started over with a re-brew, and Illustration Ale was released to great acclaim, with labels created by six terrific artists.

Ever game to experiment, EEBC carefully transferred all of the original batch—over a thousand bottles!—into red wine barrels, and did an additional slow fermentation/aging of the beer with a brettanomyces culture. The beer aged in the barrels for nearly a year.

When they did a tasting panel to assess the barrel aged brew, it was found to be an excellent beer. Some tasters judged it to be better than the original base recipe. It was bottled in October of 2014, and while it conditioned and carbonated, we started talking about a label design.

All along, Scott knew this would be named "Sketchy," but beyond that, he was open for ideas. After a few false starts and wrong turns on my part, we decided on a label that calls to mind a well-worn blueprint. While working on the layout, Scott sent me a handwritten flowchart describing the path the beer took, as if we'd planned it all along. A sketchy plan, indeed. Rather than re-draw the flowchart, I thought it would be perfect to have the brewer's hand featured on the label, and just rearranged it to fit into the design.

I've yet to taste this one, but am of course looking forward to it!

To view some of my previous work for our good friends at EEBC, browse the blog's beer cellar.

Monday, December 01, 2014

See You In the Funny (Web) Pages

Today, thanks to the nice folks at Universal Uclick/GoComics, my new weekly comic panel hits the net. Here's the very first installment:
Click for a closer look, if you dare!
To kick things off, we'll run five new ones this week, Monday through Friday. The regular weekly schedule will begin on Monday, December 8.

Please check back regularly, and if you are a regular GoComics visitor, I hope you'll consider adding WaynoVision to your favorites. 

The GoComics mobile app is a nice tool for setting up your favorites to read as they're updated. I use it to follow The Fusco Brothers (as well as J.C. Duffy's other comic, Lug Nuts), Wiley Miller's Non Sequitur, Maria Scrivan's Half Full, Dave Blazek's Loose Parts, editorial comics by Jen Sorensen and Matt Bors, and many others.

As always, every comment is very much appreciated, as is every click on the GoComics site!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Like, Purr, Man

Here are a couple of recent animal-related pieces.

First up, we have Jazz Cat and Art Dog, two characters I worked up for the Manchester Craftsmens Guild Jazz Program. The Guild is one of Pittsburgh's cultural gems, a center for education and a place to hear great music, and it's always a pleasure to work with them.
Next, a piece of fan art, created for the award-winning webcomic Untold Tales of Bigfoot.
Vince is a very talented cartoonist and storyteller, although he's very soft-spoken and humble, and would disagree with any compliment that may come his way. UTOB has been running online every week for more than two years, and in 2013, won the National Cartoonists Society Reuben Award for Best Online Comic in the long-form category.

Speaking of online comics, I've spent the past few weeks hoarding gags and drawing them for on a new web comic of my own. It will be a weekly gag panel, and as soon as we set a launch date, I'll spread the word.