Holiday piece No. 34

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2022 was kind of an oddball year for me, in that I focused much more on fine art and prints than on comics. It’s been satisfying in many ways to change gears for a while– especially since it resulted in a 10-week show at a local theatre’s gallery! “Beyond the Emerald City” was a feel-good collection of comics and other artwork from my multi-year visit to Oz in the pages of my online Watusi comic. If I do say so myself, it looked good up in the space, and I got positive responses at the opening. That said, I do miss creating comics to share on a regular basis … I guess I need to turn that around for the new year, don’t I?

Cheers to a happy 2023!

Hot off the press: “Visions of Oz”

As I was putting together “Beyond the Emerald City”, I toyed with the idea of making a proper catalog to document the show. Not sure how well merchandise would go over in that environment, I opted for something a little simpler as a souvenir…

I came up with a quartet of themed minicomics, and they do a pretty good job of capturing some of the flavor of the work in that show, featuring collaged artwork, comic panels, and pencil drawings celebrating the breadth of L. Frank Baum’s characters, as drawn by Oz illustrators W.W. Denslow and John R. Neill (filtered thru my own style, of course).

Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #23 features some favorite characters associated with the Emerald City.

Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #24 focuses on Jack Pumpkinhead and The Sawhorse.

Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #25 spotlights The Scarecrow, his corncob castle, and the patchwork girl Scraps.

Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #26 completes the tour of Oz with a visit to Nick Chopper’s tin palace.

You can purchase copies of these 8-page minis at my popup shop at Playhouse on the Square, where I’ll be with artist Martha Kelly on Saturday, December 10, 2022, from 10-1:30. Can’t make it? You can also order copies by mail via my Square store (or old school mail order; direct order info on my Contact page) for just $6.00 postpaid in the US.

Beyond the Emerald City!

2022POTS-aLong-time Watusi readers will recall that my characters and I spent a great deal of time in the Land of Oz for an extended comic adventure. While I haven’t completed making the revisions to that online comic for its print edition, I do have an opportunity to showcase some of the work from that epic alongside other Oz-inspired artwork this fall at Playhouse on the Square!

Made up of a selection of comic pages from my story, along with other Oz-inspired artwork, my “Beyond the Emerald City” show will be on display from October 14-December 28, 2022, in conjunction with Playhouse’s staging of “The Wizard of Oz”. That fortuitous timing (pointed out to me by someone else, since I had totally missed the opportunity it presented) was just too good to pass up, even if it meant completing work for the show on a tighter schedule than I’d have liked. Pushing deadlines can work when it comes to publishing comics online, but my paintings need time to cure before varnishing! Still, it all came together, and has made for what I think is a really satisfying show.

When I decided to make a comic set in the Land of Oz all those years ago by bringing my talking dog Watusi & his friends into interaction with Oz characters & settings in the public domain, I didn’t realize just how much fun I’d have playing in that sandbox! While I was familiar with the movie, once I read the later books in the series I came to have a real fondness for its wide cast of characters and an appreciation of L. Frank Baum’s world-building skill. Plus, those books are darn fun to read, chock full of wordplay & puns, much of which is still clever and humorous over a century after they were first written! Rereading illustrated editions whenever possible, I especially appreciated the design sensibilities of original Oz artist W.W. Denslow, and found his work to be an inspiration for my own treatment of the characters. Much like Baum’s written descriptions of the cast, they were so well designed visually that there was no need to “update” them! If you ever get a chance to read a color reprint of the original Denslow-illustrated edition, with its whimsical character designs and luscious two-color spot illustrations and full-page plates, you’re in for a treat! The second Oz artist, John R. Neill, had a more refined illustration style that I didn’t connect with as easily as with Denslow’s cartoonier art, but his lanky characters certainly influenced my take on Jack Pumpkinhead…

Admittedly, this show– a fan art love letter to the novels– is more comfort food than a palate-expanding meal … but sometimes mac & cheese is just what one needs, isn’t it? My hope is that viewers will find the work in this show an intriguing first step into (or a happy reminder of) the wide, wondrous world of Oz beyond the Emerald City! Like in my treatment of familiar Oz characters and settings in my own story, I hope this show has enough “Ozzy” touches to bring joy to those already familiar with Baum’s novels and piques the curiosity of those who aren’t … yet!

If you’re in the area, you are invited to join me for an artist reception from 5-7 p.m. on the play’s opening night, November 11th, 2022.

[January 2023 UPDATE: included below is the landing page that ran on this website for the duration of the show.]

landing“Beyond the Emerald City” is an exhibition of my OZ-themed comics & artwork, on display Oct. 14-Dec. 28, 2022 at Playhouse on the Square, 66 South Cooper St., Memphis.

  • Please join me for an artist reception on Nov. 11, 5-7pm!
  • I’ll be sharing a popup shop with artist Martha Kelly on Dec. 10, 10am-1:30pm!
  • To read “Watusi in Oz”, start here. You can read the newest Watusi comic here.

On stage: “The Wizard of Oz” (Nov. 11 – Dec. 22) – get tickets here.

Other art on exhibit at Playhouse on the Square is by Priscilla Cunningham, Gerecho Delaney, Suzanne Evans, and Martha Kelly.

Hot off the press: an Astrokitty adventure!

The newest of my 8-page minicomics has been a long time coming, but I think it turned out better because of its long gestation period! Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #22 is an actual comic story (as opposed to my recent “art” minis), and an all-new one, to boot! Written and drawn by me, it features Joel Pfannenstiel’s Astrokitty character (who was also the mascot of his late, lamented comic shop of the same name), and was intended to be the jumping-off point for other Lawrence-area cartoonists to continue the story. Alas, as so many of us (including myself) moved out of the area, that’s unlikely to happen. Who knows, maybe Joel will pick up the baton and make some of his own comics again…

Interested in having a copy of your very own? You can get Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #22 (an 8-page minicomic) from me by mail, postpaid in the US for just $1.00 … or by becoming one of my Patreon patrons during June 2022 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!

[January 2023 UPDATE: I’ve closed my Patreon page.]

Hot off the press: Watusi #41!

Watusi the Talking Dog #41It’s canine vs. contraption when Watusi accepts the challenge of Professor Harvey’s latest invention: the Motilizing Reclivator! Also featuring the talents of jam comic stalwart Keith O’Brien in the full-color one-pager “April Showers Bring…”

This issue’s main story is a substantially expanded version of a decade-old webcomic storyline, and I enjoyed the chance to punch up the rhyming (not a strong suit for me) part of the story a little. Expanding the artwork, on the other hand, was harder than I expected; it might have been faster to have just redrawn it! Even though it took a long time to put all the finishing bells and whistles on this new issue, I’m pleased with how it turned out and think you might enjoy it, too!

Watusi the Talking Dog #41 is a 16-page black & white digest w/ full-color covers; ask for it at your comic shop of choice, or get a copy by mail via my Square store (or old school mail order; direct order info on my Contact page) for just $3.00 postpaid in the US. Prefer digital? You can find it on my Gumroad store (for $2.00 US), too!

You can also get a copy by becoming one of my Patreon patrons during the month of June 2022 at the Correspondent or Art Lover tier– plus, joining gives you immediate access to online bonus comics, including a full-color Human Spring adventure!

[January 2023 UPDATE: I’ve closed my Patreon page.]

The final Guy With a Hammer dailies!

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This week’s vintage 1993 Guy With a Hammer daily strips are ALL-NEW … and the last of these strips I completed. Since the storyline was transitioning from this point into a comic book-formatted story (or that was the plan, at least), it was a natural point to take a break. I did enjoy doing them, even if the comic strip restrictions weren’t a natural fit for this character.

I really enjoy writing and pacing for continuing adventure strips (as readers of Watusi’s online comics can easily tell), tho, and am leaning more to a return to the standard 4-panel grid I used in early Watusi strips when I return to ongoing posting of my talking dog comics. Until then, you can at least enjoy the interactive “Give the people what they want” serial in my monthly newsletter! 

I hope you enjoyed this dive into the archives, because there’s more of this kind of thing in store later this year for my big 40th anniversary project…

[January 2023 UPDATE: this post originally appeared on my now-closed Patreon page.]

More Guy With a Hammer dailies!

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This week I spent a lot of time writing and editing for my big 40th anniversary project, and finished the first draft of a big part of it! I felt a little guilty going on such a deep dive at the expense of not even touching my other projects, but I think it paid off by keeping me present in the world of that story without other distractions. Now I can set it aside to rest before I revisit it with fresh eyes for a final edit next month…

Anyway, here’s another week’s worth of vintage 1993 Guy With a Hammer daily strips for your reading pleasure! 

[January 2023 UPDATE: this post originally appeared on my now-closed Patreon page.]

The Guy With a Hammer dailies!

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I’ve been spending a lot of time this month digging into some of my earliest comic book work, researching for a big project coming later this year celebrating 40 years of creating my own comics! So in addition to sifting through past printed art, and notes for things that never took shape like I’d planned, I’ve also uncovered some complete– but never printed– work featuring my very first comic book character, Armen Hammer! In the early 90s I was indulging in a brief revival of the character, renamed “A. Hieronymous Hammer”, and decided to take the character on a spin thru the daily comic strip format. It wasn’t done with any intention of submitting it to a syndicate, but to make new content for my own digest comics. It was a good exercise to see what I could do with the daily strip format, both learning its limitations (for my writing style) and how to make comics every day while holding down a full-time job. I have about a month’s worth of these, many never before seen– and the rest only little seen– that I’ll share with you here. I hope you enjoy them; it was fun for me to rediscover theses strips, even if I’m not sure any of them will end up on the page in my big project…

[January 2023 UPDATE: this post originally appeared on my now-closed Patreon page.]