July 20, 2017

Hot off the press: Zines! Zines! Zines!

This week I’ve been lucky enough to assist at Crosstown Arts‘s Youth Zine Workshop led by Erica Qualy and Mary Jo Karimnia. It’s been a while since I’ve been in a teaching situation, and it’s been an instructive week for me as well as for the young zinesters. It’s always a joy to see that spark of connection when young people really “get” creation as its own reward, not just fulfilling the requirements of an assignment– when it’s the start of a way of life, not just homework! As they’ve been finishing up their zines for this Friday’s Memphis Zine Fest, I’ve been finishing up some new minicomics of my own to debut at the event…

Three new issues of Smeary Soapbox Press-ents, featuring a mix of old, reworked, and new “Bad Joke Funnies”! BJF was a series of minicomics I made when I first starting trying the 8-page minicomic format nearly 30 years ago, and it was fun to revisit them. Stop in to say “hi” at the zine fest and pick up copies for yourself… plus bring some extra dollars for work by students, participants in the recent Adult Zine Workshop, and other Memphis zinesters!

Can’t make it? You can also get copies from me by mail, postpaid for just $1.00 each from the address in the footer of this page.

May 17, 2017

Hot off the press: Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #11!

Last issue’s “Pocket Gallery” was so much fun that I thought I’d do another … who could have figured it would take me this long to finish it, though? Certainly not me!!

This issue, as you might guess from the cover, is another “art” mini, collecting images old and new: some of the same inked abstractions as were featured in Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #10, along with a spread from my sketchbook and two recent pencil drawings.

Interested? You can get your very own copy from me by mail, postpaid for just $1.00 from the address in the footer of this page.

March 29, 2017

50 cent finds – a thing of the past?

50centaEarlier this month I made the drive north to check out the first Dyersburg Comic and Pop Culture Con. It was a beautiful day for a drive, and all in all a nice little show. Joe Staton and Rick Burchett gave an entertaining Q&A, and I even met wrestling legend Handsome Jimmy Valiant! While I’m not a wrestling fan, I have drawn him in a couple of comics for Brien Wayne Powell, so I figured I was overdue to meet the man! Since I’ve been less interested in collecting for collecting’s sake recently, I went with a bit more of an agenda than usual: I was looking for some beat-up Jack Kirby comics for a project I’m working on and cheap Essentials/Showcase collections. Over the years I’ve noticed a dwindling selection of these collections, and this show was par for the course. I guess that’s a down side of printing work to fill orders: there just aren’t as many extra copies to unload cheaply after the initial demand is satisfied. I’ve noticed this most acutely with hard-to-find back issue indy comics (who publish in smaller numbers to begin with), but also when I’ve been looking for used CDs. Maybe nothing’s being produced in mass quantities any longer. So while I was expecting to come away without bargain trades, I was surprised by the lack of 50 cent boxes; $1 seemed to be the lowest price point. And that covered a wide range of material, from coverless comics to bagged and boarded recent issues. Fortunately, Shannon and the crew at 901 Comics did not disappoint, and brought a nice range of 50 centers. So here are some of my “dollar or under” finds from Dyersburg…

 Avengers Annual #9 (Marvel, 1979): A pretty beat up copy, but it featured Don Newton art in one of his few Marvel assignments. I really love how busy the cover is, and the original Avengers logo seems really appropriate to me.

Little Archie #117, 139,141, 145, 150 (Archie Comics, 1977-1980): Okay, so maybe I am still collecting some things for collecting’s sake … no apologies, because I find Dexter Taylor’s clean yet bold cartooning a joy to look at. And if I get a few Bob Bolling stories in there, all the better!

Tarzan #212 (DC, 1972): Speaking of bold art that’s a joy to look at, I couldn’t pass on Joe Kubert drawing the king of the jungle! Much like with the art of Jack Kirby and Frank Robbins, I was too young to fully appreciate Kubert’s work when I was first introduced to it. And speaking of Joe Kubert…

1st Folio #1 (Pacific Comics, 1984): a collection of work from students of the Joe Kubert School. This issue included work from Joe, Andy & Adam Kubert, and Ron Randall. Like with DC’s New Talent Showcase (#6, 1984), it’s often instructive– or entertaining– to look at early work from pros who went on to careers of their own, such as Steve Lightle, Gary Martin, Chris Carlson, Karl Kesel, and Steven DeStephano.

Green Lantern #76 (DC, 1992 Silver Age Classics reprint): for all the times this issue has been reprinted (and excerpted in mainstream articles about “relevant” comics), I don’t think I’ve ever read it before. 47 years on, it’s hard for me to fully appreciate the impact that issue had– either in light of GL #75, other comics on the stands, or even the news of the day– but it holds up pretty well.

Marvel Classic Comics #2 (Marvel, 1976): I love the ad-free literary adaptations Marvel published in this series, even if the interiors (in this case Otto Binder and Alex Nino, no slouches in their own rights, adapting H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine) didn’t live up to the exciting Gil Kane covers.

The ‘Nam #1 (Marvel, 1986): for the most part, I’m consciously not replacing comics I shed before my move to Memphis, but this issue by Doug Murray and Michael Golden is such a great issue I grabbed a new copy for myself. I doubt I’ll replace any more issues, but Golden’s mix of cartooniness and realism is on fine display here.

Mister Miracle #19-25 (DC, 1977-78): Not Kirby issues, but the later revival by Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, Steve Gerber, and Michael Golden. I’ve got a lot of good reading ahead in those issues!

Kamandi #10 & 20 (DC, 1973 & 74), Kobra #1 (DC, 1976), and Satan’s Six #1 (Topps, 1993) helped satisfy my Kirby itch a bit. More on my Kirby project as it progresses…

Blue Devil #2 & 30 (DC, 1984 & 1986): This series, combining action and character and humor, was one that I probably would have liked, but for some reason I never added it to my monthly habit back in the day. I’m starting to find a lot of issues in bargain boxes, so I may finally give it a proper chance…

Avengers Prime #1 (Marvel, 2010): someday I’ll learn to not pick up Bendis comics, even at bargain prices! Not even an artist of Alan Davis’ skill can make me enjoy Bendis’ unnecessarily over-dialogued panels. Ten word balloons in one panel? Ridiculous.

Smax #1-5 (America’s Best Comics, 2003-2004): I’ve never read this Alan Moore/Zander Cannon spin-off from their Top 10 series, but since the whole run was right there, I snatched it up. For less than the cover price of a single new monthly, even!

Airboy #1 (Eclipse, 1986): I have a real interest in 16-page comics (like this, The New Wave, and Skeleton Key), since that’s the format I often publish in. Writer Chuck Dixon and artists Tim Truman & Tom Yeates put together a good-looking comic, but paced it too slowly for my tastes. Even though published as a bi-weekly, it didn’t get far enough into the origin to compel me to keep reading.

But for good or bad, my favorite find may just be Jigsaw #1 (Harvey Comics, 1966). I have no knowledge of “the man of a thousand parts” except that he was featured in Jon MorrisThe League of Regrettable Superheroes … which is all the endorsement I need to read that comic!

 

February 27, 2017

I’m now also on Patreon!

Hi! I just wanted to share the news that I’ve finished one of my 2017 goals, and have launched my Patreon account. I could go on about it here, but the best thing to do is just show it to you; click here to see more. I hope you’ll consider my work worth patronizing.

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January 30, 2017

Where to go from here

This new year again offers me a bounty of creative possibilities, a too-long list which needs trimming down to a feasible workload. There are only 335 days left in the year, after all! Fortunately, my reader survey gave me food for thought which has been useful in narrowing my focus not only to work I will enjoy doing, but work that my readers will enjoy, too. In fact, my four word New Year’s resolution pretty much sums things up:

With that in mind, here are my priorities for 2017: Continue reading

January 25, 2017

Asking the people what they want

After all, I can’t very well give the people what they want if I don’t even know what it is, can I? With that spirit in mind, I undertook a survey of my readers at the end of 2016 to better understand their comic reading (and purchasing) habits and tastes. While the answers confirmed much of what I already suspected, I was a bit surprised by some of it, too…

Rather than present the survey results as just a series of pie charts, I also want to share what I was trying to find out with the questions I asked. The first section was gauging reader knowledge of my online comic. Not surprisingly, most everyone who responded (91.3%) already knew I published a FREE weekly comic online. I was more interested in their reading habits, and was pleased to find out how many read my comic every week, and that they tend to stick around once they do:

surveychartc-d

82.6% of readers read the text blurb following my comic, too, so I’ll keep using that to plug upcoming shows and comic releases. I also like it as a way to provide context or commentary on the strip.

My next question was really a backdoor invitation to get readers to sign up for my e-mail list, follow me on Twitter, or friend Watusi’s Facebook page, just in case they weren’t aware of those options already: Continue reading

January 3, 2017

2016 in the rear view mirror

2016endblog

It’s that time of year again, when I look back to last January at what I hoped to accomplish. And I’ve got to say that this year fared better than many past years have done, even for a year as hard as 2016. In addition to all the dire news of death and doom we’ve all heard on the national level, it wasn’t an easy year for me on a personal level: a death in the family, an emergency hospital stay, and uprooting my studio for the second time in less than a year. Getting resettled and back into a decent work habit has been a struggle for the last half of my year, but I’m still excited about what this new year has in store for me! More on that (including the compiled results of my reader survey) in future posts; right now it’s time to take one last look in the rear view mirror at my 2016 goals

1. My main creative priority continues to be my Watusi webcomic. Aside from one little glitch (my first missed strip in over seven years), I was able to keep on track with this. I was proud of the work that went into “The Ghost Dogs of Wonder Valley”, and am excited about what’s in store next. Not bad for a project that’s been going on as long as this, I think!

2. Get print publications back into the mix of my comic output. I was pleased to finally get the first long storyline from my webcomic in print (as “Watusi and the Emerald Serpent”), and have enjoyed the book tour that accompanied it. It was liberating to just talk about one concise story, instead of the whole run of Watusi comics (and all my other projects, too)…

3. Publicize my work better. I’m still not very good about this, but I did a better job at tooting my own horn than in the past. Certainly taking my work to new audiences (besides the audience of other creators and comic convention attendees) has helped.

4. Get actively involved in the Memphis art scene. This has been the highlight of the year in some ways. The fine arts scene here has been especially welcoming and enthusiastic, and I’m excited to get even more involved with it.

5. Clear old projects off my plate so I can move forward. Even if they didn’t see print, I made headway on some of these old projects. And considering how long I’d wanted to get “Watusi and the Emerald Serpent” into print, I think that counts, too…

6. Blog posts and website updates. While I didn’t finish the “about the cast” section on the Watusi site, I stuck to my posting schedule here. Stepping back to a looser schedule while I focused on finishing up “Watusi and the Emerald Serpent” was a good thing to do, though.

I may not have accomplished everything I set out to do, but I at least touched on them in useful ways, which is more than I can say about many years! Next time, I’ll present the results from my readers survey. Some of the answers may surprise you… they certainly surprised me!!

December 25, 2016

Holiday piece No. 29

feliznavidad

At the end of every year I send out a holiday piece to friends and family who have had an impact on my life that year, but since my audience* has grown to include readers (via website visits, fb & twitter follows) I don’t know personally, I wanted to share the joy with my “virtual” friends as well. Thanks for taking the time to visit this blog or follow my weekly Watusi webcomic. It’s much appreciated!

Longtime readers may recognize this year’s holiday piece as a reworking of the one from 2009 … but since 2016 finally saw the print edition of that year’s Watusi webcomic storyline (as the 7-issue “Watusi and the Emerald Serpent” miniseries) and an accompanying book tour, it seemed like an appropriate recycling effort to represent the year that was.

Best wishes for a happy 2017!

(* I’d love to learn more about my audience! If you haven’t had the chance yet, please take my reader survey. If you complete it before the end of the year, you’ll get a code to download a FREE .pdf copy of Festive Funnies. Thanks for your help! )

December 7, 2016

Hot off the press: Festive Funnies!

Festive Funnies No. 1 cover art by Dale MartinInspired by my parent’s traditional Christmas letter, in 1985 I began a holiday tradition of my own, creating original holiday pieces to share with my friends and family. Sometimes these have been woodcuts or poems or die cut cards … but my favorite pieces (not surprisingly) have been comics!

For most of the past decade, these pieces have centered around Watusi the talking dog and his supporting cast from my weekly adventure strip (new each Wednesday at www.watusithetalkingdog.com), often tying into the storyline then running in it:

  • “Watusi’s White Christmas” (2003) was originally published as a minicomic.
  • “Wrapping up Christmas” (2008) came with a customized gift tag as part of its cover.
  • “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (2006) was the first solo Professor Harvey and Mitchell comic.
  • “The Green Line” (2005) had a hand-stencilled cover. It’s been fully colored for this collection. (And I laughed when I read it, in spite of myself)

Hapless hot dog vendor “Flamin’ Frank” (1999) was a character I used frequently before Watusi came along. Sadly, much of what would have been his supporting cast has been co-oped by Watusi, too! The original version of this comic came singed as my way of wishing readers “all the warmth of this holiday season.”

Likely my favorite holiday comic– certainly the most elaborate– is 2000’s “Three Wise Men”. Adapting my favorite part of the Nativity story, I did research into King Herod and the historical period, gaining new respect for the Magi in the process. Kings in their own right, they were crossing into the kingdom of a ruler beset with illness (Jewish historian Josephus described him as “suffering from uncontrollable itching, coughing, fever and worms”), haunted by the spirits of the wife and children he’d already murdered, and allied with the powerful Roman Empire. These men put their own lives on the line, all to pay homage to a newborn baby. It certainly gave me a new sense of their bravery and what a powerful effect that star had for them.

I hope you enjoy these comics with my best wishes for the season; they’re available in two formats:

  • A .pdf version is available in my online store for $2.00.
  • A print edition is available for $3.00 postpaid in the US (see address in footer of this page).

But, for those of you who read to the end of this post, you can get a .pdf copy for FREE! As 2016 winds down, I’m conducting a survey to better understand my readers, their reading habits and interests, and their thoughts on my comic. I hope you’ll take a moment to share your thoughts (survey starts here); complete the survey before the end of the year, and you get a code for a FREE copy of Festive Funnies. Thanks for your help!

November 8, 2016

Hot off the press: Smeary Soapbox Press-ents 100-Page Inventory Closeout Super Spectacular

ssp100pageI’m gearing up for my appearance this weekend at Wichita’s Air Capital Comiccon and I’ll be bringing a new comic (in addition to my “Watusi and the Emerald Serpent” roadshow) along with me. Well, maybe “new” isn’t quite the right word; here’s the story behind it…

The Smeary Soapbox Press-ents 100-Page Inventory Closeout Super Spectacular is my way of thinning out my backstock in a way that also pays homage to DC’s 100 Page Super Spectaculars of the early 1970s. Assembled from extra copies of my one-shot comics, each copy has its own unique mix of content (although I did make sure they each contained the characters mentioned on the cover: Watusi, Flamin’ Frank, FooF!, Professor Harvey, and the Guy with a Hammer!), as well as an original convention sketch. Given that nature of this collection, the material included varies, ranging from just a few years ago back to my earliest days as a self-publisher in the 1980s! The mix could include a sampling of my earliest superhero parody comics, a smattering of the annual holiday comics I’ve made since 1985, one-off comic “singles”, and/or comics featuring Watusi and his costars. The drawings may be rough, the stories may be silly, and they may even take me down a path I ultimately decided not to follow. But many of these comics are work I’m still proud of, if for no other reason than they led me to become the creator I am today.

I had fun “curating” the material that went into these copies, and I think my binding comes pretty close to capturing the feel of those great old 100-pagers. Check it out if you’re able to make it to the Air Capital Comiccon– I hope to see you there! But if you can’t make it, here’s a selection of some of the better sketches that ended up in the copies…