Release The Dragon!

It’s past time to share the news about the release of my latest comic, one my collaborator and I have been working on for quite a while: The Dragon Templar!

 It is the depths of the Middle Ages, the era of the Crusades… A time of expansion for both populations and empires, the Universal Church is committed to laying claim to the Holy Land… The legendary Knights Templar are Rome’s agents on the ground protecting traveling pilgrims and battling the Saracens, all the while harboring in their midst a power they can’t fully understand…

Writer Brad Starnes and I talk a bit about the genesis of this medieval adventure tale in the book itself, but I want to share here how excited I am to be working on this project in tandem with another creator. Even if it can draw the process out a bit, having someone else involved in this project’s creation has helped push us both, and the creative give-and-take adds a level of excitement that I don’t get when writing and drawing stories on my own. We plot out the story ideas together, then I draw it, giving storytelling notes in the margins that Brad then works into his script (what comic nerds call “the Marvel Method”). I’m really happy with how well this worked in our first issue, and Brad did a great job, raising the bar above what I could accomplish on my own! While I’d hoped we would have a second story ready to go before we released the first issue, we’d waited long enough and decided to release the first story into the wild to see what response it garners! Since I wanted to play up the Monster Market release of Monster Melee in October, I’m finally able to shift my focus to this project, one I’m thrilled to finally get into print and into the hands of readers! In the future, I guess I need to do a better job of scheduling my releases so they each get their moment to shine. Always something to improve upon, I guess…

The Dragon Templar #1 is a 12-page black & white standard sized comic on ivory stock w/ full-color cover; ask for it at your comic shop of choice (our list of retail partners is kept up-to-date on the Dragon Templar website), or get a copy by mail via my Square store for $5.00 postpaid in the US. You can also get a copy by becoming one of my Patreon patrons during the rest of 2021 at the Correspondent or Art Lover level (plus, joining (at any level) gives you immediate access to other online bonus comics, including a full-color Human Spring adventure)!

My plan, by the way, is to release a print alongside each issue of The Dragon Templar. Until I get my act together and figure out how I want to ship oversize prints, tho, you’ll need to get them from me at one of my in-person events. Like Crafts and Drafts, coming this November 13th to Crosstown Concourse…

Hot off the press: a one-sheet war!

“This is the story … of seven monsters … picked to be in a comic together … find out what happens … when monsters stop being polite … and start killing each other: Monster Melee!

After a soft debut at September’s Memphis Zine Fest 6 (my first IRL event in nearly two years, where I demo’d the folding/trimming on this book to its socially-distanced attendees), Monster Melee is getting its wide release as part of October’s Monster Market, which I think will be a good fit for it. Or at least as good as can be in a virtual shop where people can’t pick it up and play with it…

See, this minicomic is a little different than my usual Smeary Soapbox Press-ents minicomics: while this is also made from a single sheet of paper, it’s a sheet that’s not bound, but rather folded to achieve its book-ness. This summer I took an online RISO workshop from the fine folks at Outlet PDX where I was reminded of this folding format and decided to give it a try. I’ve never used it before because it’s generally done with a letter size piece of paper, yielding what to me feels like a too-small finished book, but their example started with an 11×17” sheet (as mine does), which folds down to the familiar minicomic size, and I was off and running…

Interested in your own copy? You can get Monster Melee (8 two-color pages on blue stock; trim size 5.5 x 4.25″; unfolds into 11 x 17 poster) exclusively through Monster Market (it’s a fine $2  add-on to the other items you’re going to want to order from the shop!) thru Halloween … or by becoming one of my Patreon patrons during October 2021 at the Correspondent or Art Lover level (plus, joining (at any level) gives you immediate access to other online bonus comics, including a full-color Human Spring adventure)!

The secret (finally) revealed!!

Revealed at long last– the secret origin of Watusi the Talking Dog!! Or maybe “originS” is more accurate, as told in this collection of comics by me, Matt Corrigan, Steve Peters & Daniel Heredia, Steve Skeates, Drew Boynton, Nate Corrigan, Larned Justin, Tom Cherry, Billy McKay, and J.B. Winter!

This “untold origin” project is one I’ve had on the back burner for a shamefully long time; it fell into the cracks when jam comic participation dried up before this invitational issue was filled up and other projects pushed to the fore. But it’s finally complete, and I’m really happy with how it turned out!

Watusi the Talking Dog #40 is a 16-page black & white digest w/ full-color cover; ask for it at your comic shop of choice, or get a copy by mail via my Square store for $3.00 postpaid in the US. You can also get a copy by becoming one of my Patreon patrons during the months of May/June 2021 at the Correspondent or Art Lover tier– plus, joining gives you immediate access to online bonus comics, including a full-color Human Spring adventure!

A horrific year, reflected in drawings

As you might guess from its cover, the latest issue of my Smeary Soapbox Press-ents minicomic series is another “art” mini, collecting drawings from the pandemic year of 2020. It’s no big surprise that 2020 was a difficult year (I’m sure you know why), and that mood of impending doom was reflected in my drawings from that time. Lots of monstrous images, including ghosts, murder hornets, and silent era horror movies. 

Interested in your own copy? You can get a copy of Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #21 (an 8-page minicomic) from me by mail, postpaid for just $1.00 … or by becoming one of my Patreon patrons during April or May 2021 at the Correspondent or Art Lover level … plus, joining (at any level) gives you immediate access to other online bonus comics, including a full-color Human Spring adventure!

Celebrate the 901!

The membership of the Mid-South Cartoonists Association are back doin’ what we do, this time celebrating The Good, the Bad, and the Sketchy about our own hometown! Memphis may be known for Blues, BBQ, & Beale Street …. but it’s much more than just that! This issue kicks off with my own 3-page “The Legend of Robert Church”, and includes comics & art by Kevin L. Williams, Grace Smith, DaMarco Randle, Jim Palmer, Michael Irby, Charlie Forrester, and Jason Negen; Beale-tastic cover art by Charles Ettinger.

The Good, the Bad, and the Sketchy #6 is a 20-page black & white digest w/ full-color cover, and is available in the area at 901 Comics and Comics and Collectibles & by mail via my Square store for $4.00 postpaid in the US.

Hot off the press: Double Dip #3!

Well, maybe “warm” off the press, since Tom Cherry and I finished the latest issue of our two-person anthology Double Dip at the tail end of last year. With the holiday rush behind us, now is a great time to share this issue’s release with the wider world! As always, it’s a joy to team up with Tom to serve you a heaping helping of our different but eerily simpatico cartooning sensibilities…

In Tom’s half of the issue, Dadman & Sonny confront an unexpected visitor, while the alien FooF reveals his secret origin in my story, which incorporates a tactile structure that can only be appreciated in its physical form!

I was thrilled that Tom and I were able to finish this issue in so much less time than it took to finish #2, and that’s even with drawing two covers for it! While I’m not a big fan of variant covers, Tom’s cover gag was such a winner (and of the moment, too!) that it’d be foolish to not use it. My gag was … well, kinda what I used on the first issue, but that’s what happens when there’s a years-long gap between issues #1 & #3, I guess…

Double Dip #3 is a 16-page black & white digest w/ full-color cover; ask for it at your comic shop of choice, or get a copy by mail via my Square store for $3.00 postpaid in the US. You can also get a copy by becoming one of my Patreon patrons during the months of January/Feb 2021 at the Correspondent or Art Lover tier– plus, joining gives you immediate access to online bonus comics, including a full-color Human Spring adventure!

Man plans, and God laughs

I can’t help but think about that Yiddish aphorism “MAN PLANS, AND GOD LAUGHS” whenever I look back at 2020. Coming off of a successful year in 2019, I had some goals that sounded within my reach, but needless to say, my year turned out nothing like what I expected. All my IRL events were canceled, which kind of bummed me out in April … not so much come November, when the situation had gotten even worse. I’m blessed with a roof over my head and a partner who didn’t get sick & tired of me during months and months of living like hermits, so I focused on staying as productively creative as I could, even on the many days when I struggled to keep the real world at bay enough to undertake the deep imagining my work draws from …

SILVER LINING! I was able to collaborate with a number of artists in similar situations. While not all of those collaborations were successful or have reached fruition yet, strengthening those connections was valuable in its own right, especially in a year like 2020. Still, I did manage to work at my goals set early last year, even if they weren’t fully or successfully completed, either…

GOAL 1! Revamping my website was one of those goals, and I pretty much accomplished what I set out to do on that front, as you can see right here. Not sure it’s necessarily connected with readers as much as I’d hoped, tho, as my stats have continued their downward trend of the past few years. Of course, I didn’t post as much as I have in the past, either. My WATUSI webcomic saw a slight uptick in visitors and views per visitor, which is surprising (and gratifying!) considering that strip is in the final episodes of a years-long epic!

GOAL 2! Kind of a subset of that goal, I wanted to better stock and promote my online stores. Still not doing a bang-up job with promotion, but I did set up an online SQUARE STORE that features prints, printed comics, and original art. That’s in addition to my SELZ SITE for downloadable comics (never a big seller for me; I may work to integrate them into my SQUARE store), and my TEEPUBLIC SHOP for t-shirts & other merch.

GOAL 3! I had wanted to do more short comics for anthologies in 2020, and while I missed out on the deadline for one of them, I was able to use my pages in CARTOON LOONACY and the MSCA project THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE SKETCHY to get some short stories & other art completed and shared with readers. Actually, 2020 turned out to be one of my better recent years for finishing comic stories; in addition to my weekly WATUSI webcomic, three SMEARY SOAPBOX PRESS-ENTS minicomics, an issue of DOUBLE DIP, and editing four issues of THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE SKETCHY, I finished another 35 pages, plus more that I just need to finish adding grayscale tones to…

GOAL 4! Not as successfully, I still had no luck finding a store to carry my work year-round, tho I had an even better year at MONSTER MARKET, the one (virtual) pop-up shop I was involved with in 2020.

GOAL 5! My search for a literary agent kept getting put on the back burner, especially when I had a hard time focusing for so much of this past year of disruptions. Still something for me to work at…

A REALIZATION! I’m often slow on the uptake, but I noticed that over the past few years my “creative” goals have really tended to be “business” goals. And they really should be more than just that, shouldn’t they? With that– and the experience of having my 2020 plans so easily sidelined– in mind, I thought I’d try a less list-like set of goals for this year, and focus more on the “why” I want to do things instead of just a list of things to do…

GIVING UP ON COMICS? Comics have been a dwindling proportion of my sales (again with the business, but it comes around to creativity, honest) over the last few years. And they take considerably more time than single-image prints, which seem to connect better with my audience, anyway. Since that’s what people gravitate to, it only makes sense to give them more of what they want, doesn’t it?

NOT GIVING UP ON COMICS! Of course, I don’t think I will fully eliminate comics from my plate, as they’re a key part of my public persona as “DALE MARTIN, CARTOONIST”. So while I plan to flop my focus from “comics, then art/prints as time allows” to “art/prints first, then comics as time allows”, it won’t be an easy change for me to make, since “cartoonist” is also a key part of my own internal persona as an artist…

WANT MORE COMICS? Of course, there’s a simple way to keep me making comics a more frequent part of my creative mix: BUY THEM. They’re available in stores locally, from my website, or via regular PATREON patronage. If they become a larger part of what my audience invests in, I’ll happily invest a larger part of MY time and focus in them, too!

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING? While I happily incorporate NOSTALGIC ELEMENTS into both my cartooning and my publication design (as evidenced by the layout of this very post, for those who notice such things), if TWITTER user (and fellow CARTOON LOON) @MJacobAlvarez is right, I may be leaning TOO heavily into them! My cover to THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE SKETCHY #5 reminded him of a DELL comic, a comic publisher that predated my own comic reading habit (and with no conscious effort to do so on my part, either)!

GETTING OFF THE TREADMILL! I’ve been thinking for some time that I should take a break from my weekly webcomic, and plan to do so in the next few months. While I’ve enjoyed doing it, the reader interaction of its earlier years has dropped off considerably over time. More than that, though, I’d like to get away from such rigid deadlines to be able to take a deeper dive into processes (get into a solid penciling groove for a whole story– plus some of my landmark prints– before moving on to do the same with inking, for instance) or content (I’ve had a hard time making time to research my next MEMPHIS history comic). Since I was planning for shorter comics following WATUSI IN OZ anyway, this feels like the right time for that…

SO NO LIST OF GOALS FOR 2021? I’m just gonna cool it with my annual laundry list o’ goals & play things more as they come. After last year, I’m only going to look ahead a few months at a time!

CHEERS! To a better (it’s gotta be better,right?) new year!

Walking in a winter wonderland…

While it’s not really winter yet (not that it ever is here in the MidSouth), once I dust off my holiday CDs for their annual spins I can’t help but think about winter & snow & the like. Fortunately, the members of the Mid-South Cartoonists Association are feeling that way, too, in the latest issue of The Good, the Bad, and the Sketchy! It features comics & art by Jason Negen, Jim Palmer, Lin Workman, Kevin L. Williams, and me. I even did the cover for this one, featuring my take on some of the characters appearing inside! The Good, the Bad, and the Sketchy #5 is a 20-page black & white digest w/ full-color cover, and is available at comic shops all around Memphis ( 901 Comics, The Cellar, Comics and Collectibles) as well as by mail via my Square store for $4.00 postpaid in the US.

Thankful for collaborators (and for comics)

Like for most artists, this pandemic year has been a challenge for me. With all my IRL events for the year canceled, I’ve been working on a number of collaborations with other artists in a similar situation. While I love collaborating with others, I’m especially thankful for it during this year. And even though most of these projects have not reached fruition yet, one of them sees print in a new collection released this month…

Take a walk on the wild side in the animal-themed fourth issue of the Mid-South Cartoonists Association’s The Good, the Bad, and the Sketchy; it’s led off with a Watusi/Muley crossover by Kevin L. Williams and me. For years now, I’ve wanted to work on a story with another artist where we could both draw our own characters on the same physical page, and at long last I’ve been able to do so! I think it turned out pretty good, too! Other comics & art in the issue provided by Jim Palmer (who also drew the cover), Jason Negen, Jack Cassady, Kevin Thorn, and Lin Workman; co-edited by Jason & me. The Good, the Bad, and the Sketchy #4 is a 24-page black & white digest w/ full-color cover, and is available at comic shops all around Memphis ( 901 Comics, The Cellar, Comics and Collectibles) as well as by mail via my Square store for $4.00 postpaid in the US.

Also newly published is Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #20, another arty collection of my daily Instagram drawings, a more or less real? fictitious? document of my hair during our month of shelter in place. Can’t help but feel there are more sheltering hairstyles in my future, tho… This full color (my first!) 8-page minicomic is available from my Square store or from me by mail, postpaid for just $2.00 … or by becoming one of my Patreon patrons during November or December 2020 at the Correspondent or Art Lover level … plus, joining (at any level) gives you immediate access to other online bonus comics, including a full-color Human Spring adventure!

I hope you all have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!