New comics for a pandemic springtime

It’s been a helluva spring, hasn’t it? With all my face-to-face events cancelled and all my other outlets closed for the foreseeable future, it’s been difficult for me to stay motivated about publishing new comics …

But, before pandemic-mania affected my part of the world & weighed heavily on my mind most hours of most days, I did manage to finish a pair of new comics!

First up is the second issue of the Mid-South Cartoonists Association’s The Good, the Bad, and the Sketchy! This sci-fi themed issue, edited by Jason Negen and me, features all-new comics & art from Jason, Kevin L. Williams, Jim Palmer, Lin Workman, Michael Irby, and me, along with an “Out of This World!” jam page drawn at our MSCA meetings. My contribution is “The Fantastical Order of Foofthusiasts!”, a peek at the 26th-century legacy of my shape-changing hero FooF! The Good, the Bad, and the Sketchy #2 is a 24-page black & white digest w/full-color cover. It’s available for pickup from all Memphis area comic shops ( 901 Comics, The Cellar, Comics and Collectibles — call for their specific situation, of course) as well as through the mail from my Square store. With online sales providing my only source of income, your purchase would be much appreciated (& highly motivating).

Also newly published is Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #18, an 8-page minicomic collecting some of my favorite pencil drawings from 2019. You can get your own copy from me by mail, postpaid for just $1.00 (address on the Contact page). I’ll also include a copy with any purchase of physical content from my Square store during the months of April & May 2020 …

You can also socially-distance score a copy of both of these comics by becoming one of my Patreon patrons during April or May 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!

A rediscovered gem

… well, “gem” might be too strong of a word….

Since I self-publish many of my comics, I usually find a spot for them (more or less) when I draw them. While digging up reference for a project (more on that in a bit), I ran across this page I drew for what would have been the second issue of a FooF comic that never quite got off the ground. Each issue featured the hero’s mad scientist foe floundering with his projects until (surprise!) one succeeded & led to a confrontation between them. Before I could get that issue fleshed out, though, a couple of other projects derailed it, projects that were ultimately more satisfying creatively: first was my alt-weekly “Continuity and Vine” strip, followed shortly by the Watusi jam comics.

But I’ve learned never to say never when it comes to dredging up old characters in new forms. One of the “anthology-like” venues I mentioned in my 2020 goals is my participation in Cartoon Loonacy, a quarterly APA. Figuring that two pages of content an issue there will equal an eight-page story by the end of the year, I’m picking up where one of those failed attempts left off to tell the shocking saga of FOOFENSTEIN! When done, I can include that tale (along with some others I already have in the works) in a FooF-themed comic. I even feel pretty confident it won’t suffer the same fate as the FOOF #2 of twenty years ago…

(Want to follow along with FOOFENSTEIN in real time? Since Cartoon Loonacy (like most APAs) is only available to contributors, I’m also posting the strips for my Patreon patrons. Not currently part of that club? You can join here for as little as $1/month!)

2020 vision

It’s taken me a while to home in on what my creative priorities for the year are, but I think I’ve arrived at them. With an overarching goal of trying to reach a larger audience– ideally one so big that I haven’t hand sold to each of them, but leveraging retail partners and online outreach to help my work reach them. Promotion has never been a strong suit for me, so it will require stepping out of my comfort zone more than I usually do. Some steps that I think will help me get there include:

1. Revamp my website: it’s been a while since I’ve done that, and my current theme has a few limitations that aren’t serving me well. I still really like the functionality that WordPress offers, so I’m not ready to ditch it for a self-run site. I think I’ve settled on a theme that will work better for me, and I’ve already begun some behind-the-scenes work to make that transition…

2. Better stock and promote my online stores: I have a few places where I sell my work online (e-comics at Selz, t-shirts & merch at TeePublic), but I want to beef up the number of items I offer that way. I also want to make it easier for remote readers to purchase my handcrafted print editions…

3. Create more short comics for anthologies: I’ve got a few anthology-like venues where I can produce stories without being so concerned with the publishing aspect. They’re a great space to make shorter comics (vs. my 200-page “Watusi in Oz” epic), so I should take advantage of the opportunity to do so…

4. Find a store to carry my work year-round: yes, this is a mulligan from last year. My local-themed artwork sells pretty consistently at festivals and markets (even when I’m not there to hand sell it), so I need to find a place where it can do that all year long…

5. Search for a literary agent: this may be a bigger step than I’m ready for, but I’ve got a pretty good track record of making comics and a pretty substantial body of work for an agent to see. Again, it’s stepping out of my comfort zone to risk failure & rejection. I think my comics are good and could connect with a larger audience than I’ve been able to reach on my own, so it’s time to see what professionals have to say about them…

Okay, that’s what I’m aiming for in 2020; I’ll report back with results in about a year…

Putting 2019 in the books

Another year is in the books, and even if I didn’t meet all my goals from 2019, it was still my most successful year as an artist yet– and I was able to do it while keeping comics front & center in my merchandise mix! I feel good about a lot of what I was able to accomplish last year (a gallery show with my friend Julie Nouwen, starting a new ongoing project with the Mid-South Cartoonists Association, stepping up my fine art game, & more) and it gives me a good base to move forward from into this new year. Last year’s “done” board worked really well to highlight my completed projects (as well as showing me where my actions as the year evolved didn’t align with my priorities at its start), and is an approach I’ll continue in 2020.

While I’m filing away 2019, tho, I figured I’d look back at my goals for that year. How’d I do? Well…

1. Find a store to carry my work year-round. I never pursued this as actively as I should have. But I did really well at most of the pop-up shows (including two month-long events) I participated in during 2019, so my work is able to connect with an audience that way. I generally feel like I’m a terrible salesman (tho you’re invited to prove me wrong by becoming one of my Patreon patrons; you’ll get free comics, including immediate access to over two dozen patron-exclusive posts!), but I need to step out of my comfort zone and address this if I ever hope to move beyond handselling my work at events.

2. Attend book events and literary festivals. In 2019 I appeared at Bookstock, the Memphis Public Library’s local author festival, tabled at Memphis Zine Fest V, and was shortlisted for a small press expo in St. Louis. I was proud to be able to have new titles for each of the literary shows I “booked”, but disappointed I connected worse with a comic-buying audience at these events than I did at my “art” events.

3. Get back to “making” on a regular schedule. While I could fudge a bit & say I met my concrete goal of 12 new comics in 2019 (seven new issues, six revised & reprinted, plus one more as editor), I didn’t feel like I was super productive. Of course, I’ve always felt like I don’t make as many comics as I think I should be able to. At least I was very proud of all the issues I did publish in 2019!

4. Plan and participate in a proper “Inktober” project. Boy did I ever– I finished ahead of schedule, and even got a new book out of it! It’s unlikely that I’ll attempt this as an annual project, but at least I didn’t get burned out on the daily deadline like I did the last time I tried it…

What do I have in mind for 2020? I’ll articulate those plans soon…

Holiday piece No. 32

Another year, another “Watusi in Oz”-themed holiday piece! As many of you know, 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 my websites, FB, Twitter, & Instagram) 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!

This year’s piece gives a peek at some of the adventure that occurred in my Watusi comic in 2019. My Baum-length epic is entering its final phase, so check it out while you can (new episodes every Wednesday); I’d love to hear what you think about it, especially if you’re a fan of the original Oz books!

Besides that comic’s weekly presence in my schedule, I published seven other issues (including a collaboration with my friend Tom Cherry), helped kick off the Mid-South Cartoonist Association’s new ongoing comic series, made a dozen new prints, seven new paintings, and shared a gallery show with my friend Julie Nouwen. All in all, it was my most successful year as an artist yet!

Best wishes for a happy 2020!

Hot off the press: an Inktober Ramble!

For those of you who followed along with my “Inktober” adventure on Instagram (or even if you missed it entirely), I’m happy to announce that it’s now available in a classy little print edition! It will debut at this Saturday’s Crafts and Drafts event (presented by the Memphis Flyer); I’ll be exhibiting indoors, sharing a space with my friend, the talented multimedia artist Angi Cooper. Stop in, drink some beer, buy some art, & say hi!

I’m happy with how my Ramble turned out, both as a month-long drawing project, and as a finished book. As a drawing project, it helped me get comfortable inking with a brush again. I have an upcoming project that needs inked that way, so it was especially helpful in that regard. And telling a story linking this year’s Inktober prompts helped keep me from getting burned out on the daily assignment aspect of the project like the last time I tried it. As a book, I chose to make it an artier book than my typical comics, giving it a smaller trim size (5.5 x 7″) that allows for full bleeds and makes for an intimate reading experience in one of my rare forays into silent storytelling.

You can purchase your copy at Crafts and Drafts, as well as my table at the upcoming 69th (& final) Memphis College of Art Holiday Bazaar on 11/22-23. Ramble is a 36-page black & white digest w/full-color cover (in one of four options). It’s postpaid in the U.S. for $8.00 … or become one of my Patreon patrons during the month of November 2019 at the Correspondent or Art Lover level & I will mail you a copy! (Plus, joining gives you immediate access to other online bonus comics, including a full-color Human Spring adventure!)

Drop it like it’s hot … Hot off the press!

For my Halloween The Good, the Bad, and the Sketchy signing, I borrowed a trick from Beyonce & released a new minicomic without any advance notice on that day. Of course, in my case it wasn’t a fully realized new album, but a remastered version of my Halloween Giant Jack comic from 30 years ago! I tidied up the lettering (done with a thicker pen than I should have used in the first place, and that hadn’t aged real well) & added an all-new photo cover! It was really fun to throw together the finishing touches to complete a project this fast. If only I could get everything done so quickly…

While I’m talking about swiping ideas from others, I came up with a sketch wrap for the issue, so I could do quick sketches at the signing (& distribute my mini at the same time). The idea for letting the customer select the elements of their monster sketch via checklist came from my former APA-5 compatriot, Steve Willhite, and I have to say it’s worked really well. Thanks, Steve!

You can get a copy of Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #17 (an 8-page minicomic) from me by mail, postpaid for just $1.00 each from the address in the footer of this page … but if you want a custom monster sketch you’ll need to become one of my Patreon patrons during the month of November 2019 (plus, joining gives you immediate access to other online bonus comics, including a full-color Human Spring adventure)!

Hot off the press: a Halloween hullabaloo!

Inspired by last summer’s Memphis Zine Fest V, members of the Mid-South Cartoonists Association decided to dive in with an ongoing publication of our own: The Good, the Bad, and the Sketchy! The first issue, edited by Jason Negen and me, is now available, featuring work by Jason, Lin Workman, Jim Palmer, Janet & Anakin Wade, Michael Irby, Kevin L. Williams, DaMarco Randle, and me. My new contribution is a prequel to an earlier Watusi comic, giving some background to one of his foes from the story in Oh, Comics! #25– it’s called “The Sordid Secret Story of Snaretron!”

It was good to be a part of this group effort, and hopefully upcoming issues will bring out more work from our membership. Until then, you can find copies of the first issue all around town (901 Comics, The Cellar, Comics and Collectibles, and (until 10/31) Monster Market). I’ll also have copies at my upcoming events– I’ll be doing monster sketches Halloween afternoon at 901 Comics, and I’ll have a booth (with multimedia artist Angi Cooper) at Crafts and Drafts on November 9th. You could also become one of my Patreon patrons during October or November 2019 at the Correspondent or Art Lover level & I’ll mail you a copy! (Plus, joining gives you immediate access to other online bonus comics, including a full-color Human Spring adventure!)

The Good, the Bad, and the Sketchy #1 is a 20-page black & white digest w/full-color cover.

 

Let the Inktober adventure begin!

Back in January I set the goal to plan & participate in a proper “Inktober” project … and I am! While I don’t have as many drawings banked as I would like, I did improvise a little story around this year’s list of prompts, and am diving right in! I plan to do at least one drawing a day, which I’ll post to my Twitter and/or Instagram accounts; follow my progress there if you’d like!

[November 2019 UPDATE: my Inktober drawings have been collected in Ramble; get more details here.}

Thanks for the reprints, Patreon patrons!

When I had my work accepted into Memphis’ Monster Market (“a freaky pop-up shop for weirdos like you”), I knew it would require new printings of the Halloween comics I was running low on. Not only would it be an opportunity for me to include my current contact info in them, but it would also let me produce them with digitally colored covers (instead of hand stenciling each copy, which can get a bit tedious when I’ve got to spread out a full run to dry). Rather than going full color with their covers, I kept the new color files in the spirit of the original two-color issues, and I’m pleased with the results!

In addition to the Halloween issues, I was able to restock three other comics (including my very first comic, from 1982!) that I had sold out of, thanks to my Patreon patrons . It enabled me to more easily handle the reprints in my printing budget, and at a price that will help make my Monster Market stint more successful!

These are all 16-page black & white digests (w/ color covers in the case of the Watusi issues), and are available by mail for $3.00 each ($2.00 for The Guy With a Hammer! #1) postpaid in the US; see address in footer of this page. You could also get copies by becoming one of my Patreon patrons during September or October of 2019 at the Correspondent or Art Lover level & I’ll send the set your way. If you prefer, I could even spread the love & send your copies as gifts to your friends; just let me know their name & address. (Plus, joining gives you immediate access to other online bonus comics, including a full-color Human Spring adventure!)

As always, thanks for reading!