February 10, 2018

That’s some good advice, Papa!

The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.

–Ernest Hemingway (from Rest: why you get more done when you work less / Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. Basic Books, 2016).

I found Rest to be a fascinating read, and really useful after a period of feeling stressed and unproductive. Pang writes about the science of resting, the cultural history of rest and how it’s changed over time. The book frames work and rest as equals, and how taking conscious time to rest can act as “a playground for the creative mind and springboard for new ideas.” Rest is something more important– and indeed more essential– than merely time away from my creative work!

The book is full of great anecdotes about how great minds, from writers to world leaders, have used rest to become better at what they do. My favorite was the description of Winston Churchill’s habit of a daily afternoon nap (even during the Blitz); if he could do that when the fate of the free world was hanging in the balance, is anything I’m doing really more pressing or urgent?

Pang also writes about the benefits of a morning routine, and how that can even be helpful for a night owl like myself. I’ve worked some of his tips into my mornings over the last few weeks and it’s really helped me capture the relaxed creativity I used to enjoy late at night. The best steps I’ve taken are to not read the paper in the morning, and to keep my space dark and restive to begin the day. Keeping the world from intruding– ideally fairly soon after waking from the dream state– and getting to work while my internal editor is at ebb have really changed my attitude. And the amount of work I’m accomplishing in a shorter time, too! Keeping Hemingway’s advice in mind has also helped; that way I don’t have to think about what I’m starting my day with, but can get right to it!

Reading Rest was time well spent for me; I highly recommend it!

January 31, 2018

Bouncing your way– it’s the return of the Human Spring!

While it’s been a long time coming, I’m thrilled to finally share this news– the Human Spring is back!
Of all my many neglected characters, the Human Spring is one of my favorites, and probably the one I’ve been the most frustrated at not using on a regular basis. But that’s all about to change, as the first installment of my Human Spring webcomic is coming to my Patreon patrons as a new full-color Saturday morning cartoon!

The first episode debuts this weekend, with new episodes following on a weekly schedule; it retells the Human Spring’s origin from Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #1, but with new scenes and (did I mention?) in full color! Once that storyline is done, I’ll take a break until the next “issue”, then follow weekly until that one’s done. As much as I’d love to create two simultaneous weekly features, this staggered release is what I can commit to now. I’m planning for three issues a year, mixing new and revised stories with new scenes, subplots, and supporting characters.

I’m really excited about this, and hope you’ll join me in the adventure!

(Not currently one of my Patreon patrons? You can join here! Want to find out more about the Human Spring? Read this!)

January 12, 2018

Looking forward to 2018 (and back at 2017)

It’s that time of year again, when I plan out what I’d like to accomplish in the new year, and check in with my goals from last year to see how I did on them. I’m not sure how I latched onto this New Year’s Resolution cliche, but at least it gets me to do a little self-evaluation at least once a year!

2017 sticks in mind as a year marked by too many household disasters (for me) and too much underlying chaos and stress (for everybody), so my weekly visits to Oz to write & draw my “Watusi in Oz” strip was a nice escape from the stresses of daily life. Still, I at least tried to address the goals I set at the start of that year. Here’s how that went…

1. Set up a Patreon account. Even if I’ve had a hard time attracting people to my Patreon account— and not showing up in their search for “comics” doesn’t help any– I did get this up and running. I’ve even got a carrot in the works to attract more readers to it…

2. Begin a “Human Spring” webcomic. While it’s not quite ready for publication, I did make headway on the first “issue” of it! I hope to release it soon…

3. Find a better way to promote and get more eyeballs on my work. I’m still pretty much handselling my work. I haven’t come up with a proper marketing plan yet.

4. Finish and publish old projects. While I did manage to publish Doghouse Funhouse #2, the other projects were not as far along as I remembered them being. Something to keep working at for 2018…

5. Undertake a general website/logo refreshening. While I have been consistently presenting myself as “Dale Martin, cartoonist” at shows, my efforts at a new logo got derailed, as did a website revamp. I’ll actually probably just stick with what I have for the most part, at least until I can find time to integrate this blog and my webcomic(s) into one interface, which is a bigger project than I’ll attempt on my own.

6. Make more “fine” art. I did better on this front than I have in recent years, highlighted by my contribution to Crosstown Arts’ “Potluck” exhibition in August!

All in all, I at least made headway of a sort on all those areas, which I can feel okay about. As for 2018…

Despite my ever-present laundry list of projects to finish, I really want to focus on a few (mostly) attitudinal adjustments…

1. Wear my business hat less, my artist hat more! I’ve taken lots of workshops to help to get better at that side of things over the last few years (even though I’m naturally introverted and am still not good at self-promotion), but it’s time to use the right side of my brain more in the coming year!

2. Put comics aside for a couple of days each week and give myself dedicated time focused on “art”, including paintings and prints. Simply put, my Memphis market is not as interested in literary product as other places I’ve exhibited. I’m making more sales from my visual output, and I want– and need— to make work that people want to buy.

3. Draw more spontaneously. I really labor over my drawings more than I need to, and I want to make doing them more fun!

4. Celebrate the Year of the Dog with more Watusi comics than I did in 2006. Which should be easy given how that year turned out…

So, any creative goals for 2018 you wish to share?

January 3, 2018

Well said, Mark Hamill!

People have always needed a safe place to escape reality, whether it’s Oz or Middle-earth or Hogwarts or the Marvel/DC Comics universe. It’s very therapeutic to go from the stress of everyday life to a place far, far away. That’s the gift of Star Wars.

Mark Hamill (from Parade magazine, 12/3/2017). The “Oz” remark helped me get newly excited about the value of working on “Watusi in Oz” again. And maybe, kinda, Wonder Valley can fit into that mix, even if its circle of recognition is much (much much much much) smaller than the creations Hamill mentioned in his quote…

December 25, 2017

Holiday piece No. 30

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!

Of course, the irony is not lost on me that I had to leave Kansas behind before I got around to writing my “Watusi in Oz” story. But that’s what it took, I guess. And even if I wasn’t able to incorporate as many collage elements as I’d planned, I’ve been happy with how the story has developed, and think it pays proper homage to the work of Baum & Denslow. There’s lots still to go on the story, so check it out— I’d love to hear what you think about it, especially if you’re a fan of the original books!

2017 also saw my first dip into crowdfunding via Patreon (look for a special patron-only webcomic coming there next year) and stepping away from comic work to do more “fine” art– including paintings, prints, and even a 3D piece for an exhibit as part of Memphis’ Crosstown Concourse grand opening.

Best wishes for a happy 2018!

December 1, 2017

Hot off the press: Watusi’s Doghouse Funhouse #2!

This collection of kid-friendly comics has been a l_o_o_o_o_n_g time coming, as I sure my contributors can attest! Originally planned as a 2010 followup to the first issue (and tied in with the watery summer reading theme at the library I was then working at), a few different things– including a never completed collaboration featuring the title character– conspired to keep it from coming together. But I’m glad to say it’s finally complete and that it turned out really well!

In addition to my own comic stories featuring Watusi and other members of his supporting cast, it features contributions from some of my favorite creators: a Thunderdawg epic by Mike Sullivan, Magnet Man by Brien Wayne Powell, Doggie & Jilly by Drew Boynton, and Little Arlo by Tom Cherry! Plus comics from JB Winter,  Ivan Martin, Joyce Steiner, and Paige Kallenberger.

It’s a 48-page black & white digest w/full-color covers, and is available by mail for $7.00 postpaid in the US (see address in footer of this page). Additionally, you can find copies at my booth in the Memphis Arts Collective Show and Sale (through Xmas Eve), and a special sale in Lawrence to support a worthy cause (details coming soon; look for an announcement on my Twitter and Watusi’s Facebook feeds). I hope you’ll give it a read– I’m really proud of this book!

August 16, 2017

A meal fit for The King!

And not The King most people in Memphis think of, either … but the one and only Jack “King” Kirby!

2017 marks the centennial of Jack Kirby’s birth, and I’ve been working on projects to celebrate that anniversary. Some are coming along better than others, but one that is complete is my contribution to Crosstown Arts“Potluck” exhibition, on display during the grand opening of Crosstown Concourse.

This piece, which is a tribute to Kirby’s character and machinery designs (and his co-creation, Galactus), was a good challenge that stretched my creative muscles a little. It’s been quite a while since I worked in 3D, and in the process I used materials and tools that were new to me. I’m happy to say that it turned out pretty much how I envisioned it– if not better! Come see it (along with 80 other artist-created place settings) this Saturday!

And look for other upcoming Kirby-celebratory pieces from me, both online (like this) and in print…

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!