Saturday, August 08, 2015

It's Not Easy Being Green

Here's my third gag to appear in Hilary Price's multiple-award-winning Rhymes With Orange over the past month.

And, for those interested in the process, here's my submission sketch.
Hilary's version is pretty close to mine, though she changed the dialog from normal English to Hulk-speak. I like that revision, as well as the expression she put on his face.

I find comic book superheroes to be absolutely ridiculous, and have no interest in them other than as fodder for gags. The Hulk is a particularly tempting subject, in no small part because "The Incredible" is part of his name. 

And let's not forget the fact that when he makes the transformation from skinny twerp Bruce Banner, quadrupling in size, his white shirt and purple pants stretch, but never to the point of shredding and falling away. They just enlarge right along with him.

Earlier this year, I commented on this character in my comics feature, WaynoVision.

I've been contributing the occasional gag to Rhymes With Orange since 2011. They can all be viewed in this blog's Orange Crate.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Puppy Love

I'm happy to share today's Rhymes With Orange, which features my latest collaboration with the comic's creator, Hilary Price.
As is usually the case, the final comic has changed a bit from my very rough rough submission sketch. Hilary tightened up the dialog and made the interaction more of a conversation by showing the two dogs strolling along as they speak to each other.

During a recent Q&A session, I was asked if it's easier to write gags about people or animals, and I somewhat glibly replied, "Even when they’re about animals, they’re about people." To be sure, sometimes an dog or cat gag is no more than a clever comment on the animal's attributes, but I almost always use animal characters as surrogates for people, to comment on the human condition. I think that's the case for most cartoonists who aspire to any depth in their work.

This gag also highlights a consistent theme in Hilary's work—using anxieties and fears as a springboard for gags. She often discusses this when talking about her comics. I had hoped that this gag about making a good impression on a date would resonate with her, and it did.

As I've mentioned before, it is a true pleasure to work with other cartoonists, particularly someone as excellent as Hilary. She won a Reuben Award from the National Cartoonists Society this May, as well as an Inkpot Award this month at San Diego Comic-Con, so don't just take my word for how great she is. Both awards were well-earned.

As always, thanks for reading and commenting!

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Mimes With Orange

After a long break, here's a new Rhymes With Orange collaboration with my good pal Hilary Price:
This one percolated for a while before taking its final form. It started as a doodle in the margin of a sketch for another panel, and originally depicted a mime ventriloquist holding a dummy that looks just like him:
I thought the image was interesting, and had some promise as the seed of a gag, so I sent a larger sketch to Hilary to see what she might come up with.
Hilary thought that the ventriloquist shouldn't be a mime, but possibly a a novice, starting off with a mime dummy; or maybe a dissatisfied customer returning it to the store, saying "I couldn't get it to work." After further consideration, she came up with the very funny gag published today.

This is a perfect example of the way Hilary and I collaborate. Her final cartoon is often quite different from the submission sketch. My rough usually serves as a springboard for her own take on a concept, and the results are always surprising and rewarding to me. It's a joy to work with other cartoonists from time to time, and to gain a fresh perspective.

In fact, this sparked yet another idea that I just might use sometime in the future...

We have a few more joint comics in the pipeline, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you are invited to peruse our previous collaborations, archived in this blog's RWO Suitcase.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Don't Haze Me, Bro

Today's WaynoVision cartoon presents an imaginary phone conversation.
Last week, I drafted a lengthier post about this cartoon, but deleted it in favor of letting the panel speak for itself, at whatever level of meaning each reader may find in it. 

I'll close with a brief (if less than eloquent) exchange from a Twitter Q&A session that GoComics hosted last month:
Q: Which do you prefer, puns or slapstick?

A: A joke can be fun nonsense, but the best gags have a point of view and make a comment. I prefer a layer of truth beneath the layer of funny.

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.