January 14, 2019

A clean slate for 2019

Another year has come & gone, which means it’s that time when I like to plan out what I want to accomplish in the new year, and check in with my goals from last time. This year has been slow to get going since my holiday market ran past X-mas & into the New Year, leaving me without the time or brainpower to vision my upcoming year. Fortunately, this past weekend finally gave me time and the right mindset to think about 2019. But first, what about my goals from 2018? I wanted to focus on a few (mostly) attitudinal adjustments…

1. Wear my business hat less, my artist hat more! Even though I wore my business had less, I spent too much of my time & energy promoting a group I’ve been part of, and not enough time building up my own work. I am confident that will change (for the better) in 2019…

2. Put comics aside for a couple of days each week and give myself dedicated time focused on “art”, including paintings and prints. While I didn’t make as many paintings as I had set out to do, I had a pretty good year making & selling prints (some Memphis-themed) in 2018. Now I just need to make some Memphis-themed comics & see if that will get people around here to actually purchase reading material…

3. Draw more spontaneously. While I’m still not as loose as I’d like to be, I consciously spent more time just drawing, and that helped. My inking is becoming looser & more natural, too; sometimes I’ve even liked the inked drawing as much as the penciled one! If you’re interested in my pencil drawings, you can get a taste of them on my Instagram account, where I regularly post them (plus, they’re for sale, and that gives you first crack at buying ’em)…

4. Celebrate the Year of the Dog with more Watusi comics than I did in 2006. While it may have taken most of the lunar year to do so, I did manage to finish the Year of the Dog Watusi issue! Plus, last summer’s big Watusi in the Emerald City of Oz collection & the weekly Watusi webcomic added up to a pretty dog-friendly year!

All of which gives me a solid footing to build on for 2019! I have a tendency to overload my “to-do” list with things I hope to accomplish, which can often be an overwhelming amount of unfinished idea debt (as Jessica Abel would say). This year, I’m literally starting with a clean slate, which I can use for highlighting my accomplishments, not leaving them buried in the weeds of what I still want to do. Basically, it’s an offshoot of the “done” part of my Kanban board that will let me see what I have accomplished, something I too often ignore as I move on to my next project. Expect to see a fuller version of this post’s graphic by the end of the year!

So, this year I’m looking to build on the good habits I’ve developed to make more (and more substantial) finished work. Specific concrete goals include:

1. Find a store to carry my work year-round. While I had pretty good success doing festivals last year, I need to move beyond handselling my work at outdoor events. This year I want to try & find a location that can carry my work– not just the comics (which are a hard sell in this town), but also my prints & notecards (which seem to connect better with customers)– all year long. If you happen to run such a venue, get in touch with me at the address on the bottom of this page.

2. Attend book events and literary festivals. Most festivals around here are pretty focused on music & drinking which, while fun, doesn’t always connect me with my target audience of readers. There are a few events from last year that are worth doing again, but I can’t fall into the trap of doing shows just because I’ve done them in the past. This is likely to mean booking events further afield, which is a daunting prospect, but will be worth it if it pays off…

3. Get back to “making” on a regular schedule. While being so focused on prints turned out to be fairly lucrative, it was not as satisfying as making comics. I’ve been really happy with the quality of my published print comics, and now it’s time to make more of them. Like Dave Sim wrote, “first you get good, then you get fast, then you get good and fast”– I’m ready to get faster. They may not come out every month (depending on my schedule & bundling orders for my printer), but the concrete goal is 12 new comics in 2019.

4. Plan and participate in a proper “Inktober” project. While I’ve played around with Inktober a bit in the past, I’ve never gone all in on this event because I create inked art all the time. But after being in awe of some of the successful themed projects by Chris Samnee and JB Winter, I should step up my game for the month! I’m open to suggestions, by the way…

That’s what I’ve got in mind; any creative goals for 2019 you wish to share?

December 30, 2018

Hot off the press: Watusi #38!

For the first time in a long, long time I’m happy to announce the release of a new Watusi digest comic! I’ve long been fascinated by the Chinese Zodiac (more so than the Greek one), and this 38th digest issue is my long-overdue “Year of the Dog” issue. It features collaborative comic contributions from Tom Cherry, Rusty Mathis, Mark Morehouse, Keith O’Brien, Kemmer, & Joel Pfannenstiel, plus a 4-page story from Bob Corby’s Oh Comics! #22 (2014), a color centerspread, and my first wraparound cover in 25 years … tho if my plans for 2019 work out, it won’t be my last!

While it may have taken me longer to complete this “Year of the Dog” issue than I’d hoped … at least I got it done faster than my unsuccessful attempt at one in 2006! I’m glad it didn’t take me another 12 years to get it into reader hands!

16-page black & white digest w/full-color cover postpaid in the U.S. for $3.00; (see address in footer of this page).

I hope you’ll order a copy and give it a read!

December 25, 2018

Holiday piece No. 15

 

At the end of every year I send out a holiday piece to friends and family who have had an impact on my life during the year, but as my audience has grown to include readers (via website visits, Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter follows) I don’t know personally, I want 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 colored version of my curmudgeonly one from 2002 … but while coloring it for use as a notecard this year, I couldn’t help but notice that 2018 was featured as one of my projections. If anything, I was being too generous, as Christmas promotion has already leapfrogged Labor Day– heck, there are places that stock decorations year round! (grumble grumble) Anyway…

Best wishes for a happy 2019!

August 28, 2018

The King dreams big!

Today is the anniversary of Jack Kirby‘s birth in 1917. His contributions to comics– both in terms of characters and stylistic conventions– have rightly earned him the nickname “King.” I first discovered his artwork pretty much right as I discovered comics, at a time when he was working for Marvel in the mid 1970s. While his writing went pretty much over the head of this 10-year old, I couldn’t deny the power of his artwork. At that time it was still gracing the covers of many Marvel titles, from characters he created such as Fantastic Four and The Avengers to newer heroes such as a favorite of mine, Nova. I later came to appreciate Kirby’s work more fully through his creations at DC just before I started reading comics: the New Gods cycle and Kamandi, the last boy on Earth, are amazing comics to behold, and were able to (largely) stand on their own without interference from other editors or a need to adhere to line-wide continuity concerns. They are definitely worth checking out, especially since many of them have been collected in trade editions within the last decade.

Last year I created the above piece, which saw publication in Jason Garrattley’s Jack Kirby 100th birthday celebration on the Jack Kirby Museum‘s Kirby-Vision blog. Even though my inking’s a little rougher than I’d hoped, it was a blast to do, and sums up Kirby’s ability to dream big (such as in what came to be my favorite of his Marvel series, The Eternals) and bring those dreams to life on the page.

For this year, I produced a more “101”-style piece, which you can find in Jason’s 101st (and final) Kirby Birthday Gallery.

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August 1, 2018

Seeing double

I don’t often have the occasion to have more than one copy of a comic (well, aside from those I publish myself), but a recent project gave me just such an opportunity… and even though it was luck of the draw, I was surprised at how very different these two copies of Super Powers #3 (DC, 1985) actually were!

One of the copies must have come earlier in the press run when there was more ink on the press, which led to many overinked panels shown here on the right. Thing is, even though it sometimes obscures Greg Theakston’s inking of Jack Kirby’s pencils, I kind of like the mystery and sense of foreboding it lends to the art. And/or the nice texture it gives to stone, whether statues or Darkseid…

(And for those of you who might be wondering, I’m pleased to say that my own recent publications, including the extensive greytones I used in Watusi in the Emerald City of Oz, have consistent results!)

 

June 27, 2018

Hot off the press: Watusi in the Emerald City of Oz!

With my latest print project, I’m kind of leaping over some past storylines with the reprinting of my Watusi the Talking Dog webcomic. The plus side is that I’ll be able to promote the current storyline while it’s still going on; the downside is that (following the most recent Watusi issues) it will seem like I’m obsessed with emeralds…

Either way, it’s (if I do say so myself) a pretty sharp-looking collection! Watusi in the Emerald City of Oz contains 34 full-page strips, new chapter headers and cover art, plus a vintage Minerva Stone solo comic from 1999! It chronicles Watusi & friends’ arrival in the Emerald City, has a fair amount of “Ozzy” touches for readers familiar with Baum’s novels, and includes the turn of events that kicks this epic story into high gear.

I’ll be promoting the book at my upcoming shows, and whatever stops I can wrangle on my summer road trips. Look for info on signings and other events on my twitter feed, or just sign up for my e-mail list to stay in the know!

Watusi in the Emerald City of Oz is a 48-page black & “white” (interiors are on green paper!) standard comic w/full-color covers. You can order it directly from me (at the address on the bottom of this page) or thru my online store (via the link below) to get a copy delivered right to your mailbox!

 

April 25, 2018

“How to draw comics the Dale Martin way”

As I was working on a talking head sequence for my next publication, I couldn’t help but think of this oldie, so I dug it up for you. Enjoy?

This dates from March 2000 (APA-5 #303); I presented a lot of the content for my “Larry’s Kitchen” zine (especially early on) as myself, so it seemed like in those days I was drawing more talking head self-portraits than was healthy! At least in the new piece, “I” have Watusi to banter with…

(Of course, like all GeoCities pages, the old APA-5 website is long gone. But if you’re curious about the hand lettering technique I mentioned, you can still find it here.)

March 28, 2018

Hot off the press: Copy This! #49

 

Yeah, hot off the press… just not off my press!

I was lucky enough to be the subject of D. Blake Werts’ 30-page feature interview in the new issue of his fine info/news zine, Copy This! He asked some great questions that touched upon my work in comics and other art, influencers, libraries, webcomics, art history, the value of a creative peer group, collages, comic shops & cons, and lots lots more. Blake may regret letting me ramble on that much, but I had a great time. And I don’t think I stuck foot into mouth, either!

Interested? Contact me at the address in the footer of this page, and I’ll see if I can hook you up!

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!)