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.]

A monster inking job

MikeMonsterPlants colortest

As you know from reading my comics, I try to put most of my creative energy into my own creations. But every once in a while I take a detour into the world of fan art; one such recent time was when my friend Mike Sullivan proposed collaborating on a Halloween project featuring plant-based monsters created by Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics. It sounded like fun and– since I needed to get some more inking practice before I dove into my next project (more on that soon, as it gets closer to publication)– I took a stab at it … and was pretty pleased with how it turned out, even though I don’t often provide finishes for other artists.

[A technical aside to some of the above terms: traditionally, drawings for comics needed to be rendered in black and white for reproduction, so artwork drawn loosely in pencil had to be finished as stark black/white inked artwork (usually by a different artist) before it was then colored for the final product. You can see this progression– from Mike’s pencils, to my raw inked drawings, to my final artwork prior to Mike’s coloring job– below.]


Here’s what Mike had to say about this piece:

“Halloween falls on a Saturday, during a full moon– BEWARE!! THERE MAY BE MONSTERS ON THE PROWL! CREATURES ON THE LOOSE! And these alien entities have assembled from the plant kingdom to seek revenge on the human species this year from way-out in space and from way-back to the past of the 1950s! This double-page spread is an homage to those stories from Atlas and early Marvel Comics by Jack Kirby with Larry Lieber filling in the dialogue (maybe a few words from Stan Lee). Check the key (below) so you can identify these pernicious plants if perchance you should encounter them this weekend! And STAY AWAY from Where Creatures Roam and Where Monsters Dwell!! Happy Halloween!!”

MikeMonsterPlants Guidet

Happy Halloween, indeed!

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

Introducing the Old Guy!


This story from 1999 is another of the pieces I really enjoyed creating during my seven & a half years of Larry’s Kitchen zines (more about that here). I recently got it scanned & tidied up for my compilation project, and thought I’d share it with you here. It’s the prequel origin of the Old Guy, the venerated hero in my very first comic from 1982, a character who I came to enjoy more under the name Emmett Elder … and who you might know better as Watusi’s sidekick in “Watusi and the Emerald Serpent”! I wanted the visuals for this story to be like that in some of the B-character features from Golden Age comics, so I dug out my 1970s treasury reprints and used “Johnny Thunder” and “Spy Smasher” for inspiration. 



(And for those of you aren’t comic book fans, the last gag is that Emmett is made entirely from wood … which just so happened was also the Golden Age Green Lantern’s weakness!)

By the way, I never completed that “Comic Hero Primer” I mentioned … I just found comics that were more fun to make that superhero comics, whether straight or satirical! Tho I do still get a kick out of mimicking the simple art and sometimes wonky story flow from those early days of comic books…

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

“Quantum Leap” revisited

Qleap-1I’ve been gradually getting work from the seven & a half years of my Larry’s Kitchen zines (more about that here) scanned for a compilation project. This piece, from APA-5 #345’s “revisions/revamps/revivals” theme issue was one I was pretty pleased with, even if my contribution was a really short one…

Qleap-2[January 2023 UPDATE: this post originally appeared on my now-closed Patreon page.]

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 (see the shop page) or thru my Square store to get a copy delivered right to your mailbox!

My Oz model sheets (a sneak peek)

As I’ve been planning and working on Watusi’s adventure in Oz, I wanted to not only include some of Baum’s characters, but have my original characters look like they belong in that world, too. Fortunately, original Oz illustrator W.W. Denslow  had a lovely cartooniness to his illustrations that are easy for me to translate into my style. John R. Neill‘s designs from later books are a little more more lavish, but I can still simplify those characters to fit the needs of cartoon storytelling (versus storybook illustrations).


I plan for the Tin Woodman & Scarecrow to look pretty much like they originally appeared, but I think I’ll play with Jack a little more: not only will his intelligence be determined by the particular pumpkin atop his shoulders, but his personality, too. The head in this sketch is a hipster head, but he may have another one if the story dictates it by the time he appears…

Oz-MyModels-2I also wanted to update the look of the Munchkins, Hammerheads, and  Winkies for a story set 100 years after Baum (although a more traditional Munchkin garb will appear, too). The bottom row are my main original characters for this story; not sure about the title for the “Governor” yet or the rhyming name of Itsch’s brother (Kitsch or Etsch). Any thoughts on which is the most appealing?


Look for the first of these characters in today’s Watusi the Talking Dog episode!

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

“Foxtrot” ala “Duke”

foxtrot with border

After I included this image as part of my recently added Art and Illustration page, I decided to post a copy to give it a proper home here, too. I originally did this back in 2011 for Joel Pfannenstiel and Greg Smallwood‘s short-lived “Visual Audio Club” blog, in response to their challenge to translate my favorite album’s cover.

When looking through my favorite albums, a lot of them didn’t have covers that inspired me … but then I hit upon doing Genesis’ “Foxtrot” album (Paul Whitehead, 1972), the best of their 5-member era, in the style of their “Duke” (Lionel Koechlin, 1980), the best of their 3-member era.

It’s “Draw Crabby Day”!


When Tom Cherry declared today “Draw Crabby Day”, I was excited by his choice. I’ve long loved Patrick McDonnell‘s expressive ink line in his daily “Mutts” comic strip, and this was a great chance to study his technique more closely. While I tried to turn it into a “Draw like Patrick McDonnell Day”, too, my character designs just don’t yield the same charm as Patrick gets with Earl and Mooch!  Thanks for a fun challenge, Tom!

(While you’re here, be sure to check out my “20 questions” interview with Tom Cherry)