Oh, what could have been…


So, earlier this summer I took an online RISO zine-making class from OutletPDX in Portland. They were the same group that taught the RISO print-making class I took last summer, and I wanted to play around a little more with the technology & get published in one of their publications.

The theme was “Things we love about where we live”, and in June I was pretty optimistic about what my summer might look like. Alas, that window was only briefly open before Delta took hold here in the Mid-South, and I was back to mandated masking and pretty much sheltering in place before I got the chance to enjoy any of these things I love about Memphis…

An odd thing (well, odd to me) about Outlet’s Let’s Make a Zine! Volume 6 is that they didn’t want to make any extra copies available, either for contributors to purchase or even for them to sell in their own store! I’d hoped to have some copies of this multi-colored extravaganza to sell once I could get back to doing shows again, but I guess the vision of easily printed and distributed media they touted in the class wasn’t something they actually believe in practicing…

So, since I have no other way to share this cartoon (or the story behind it), here it is now (rather than my customary year after publication), in as close to its dayglo glory as is possible to scan!

It’s actually a shame I wasn’t able to have extra copies, because I did make my first tentative steps back towards doing shows at Memphis Zine Fest 6 over Labor Day weekend. It would have been an appealing item for that crowd. Instead, I took the opportunity to show off the books I’d finished over the nearly two years since I’ve last done a show. There wasn’t a crush of crowds (which was good, given where our numbers were earlier this month), and it felt okay. So okay that I’ve signed up to do another (larger) event in November…

One of the new books I showcased at Zine Fest was Monster Melee!, inspired by a format I saw in the Outlet virtual class. It was really a soft debut, as I was saving it for October’s Monster Market! I was happy with how it turned out, and was able to use some of what I learned in the RISO class to try out a new kind of coloring for me…

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

Designing a cover

I’ve been busy finishing up my latest print projects (a new Watusi issue that will serve as a primer to the webcomic, and the self-contained print edition of Sultana), both of which happened to have a pair of crowd-filled scenes for their covers. That’s not really my strong suit (or maybe I just don’t have the patience it requires), but I was happy with how they turned out. Especially the Watusi cover which, I realized as I was cleaning up from these projects, still had all of its steps of production documented in some way. So I’ll share them with you in case you want to see some of my working process…

First, I draw up an initial idea in my sketchbook, fairly small. I did try a couple of different variations for this one (which I don’t always do), but landed on the idea of characters gathered in a library:


I worked that up to actual size with a more detailed drawing. To this, I added clippings from past strips & a logo so that I could share it with local cartoonists for feedback (on the whole issue, not just this cover):


I developed that drawing into more detailed pencil art. I wanted to give Emmett Elder something different to do and have Watusi leap more actively from the screen…


I then inked the artwork with my trusty fountain pen. This image is of the raw inks that I scanned in, which shows some rough areas & notes for myself …

Primer4-inked… that I clean up in production to get this final line art:

Primer5-finalI color that using PhotoShop, which took me a lot longer than I thought it should, partly because I had a hard time coming up with the right background color scheme. The Sultana cover went quicker, so maybe I learned a trick or two from this one! I added the logo (in this case for the Free Comic Book Day variant cover), and it’s ready to send off to the printer! 

Primer7-FCBDKeep an eye out for this issue when it’s released in early May!

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

What I’m working on

Though I haven’t finished the next Human Spring story for you yet, I have been working on a few different things that I’d like to share with you. While I don’t usually like to talk about things too early in the process (since they can often just be shiny new ideas that go nowhere), these projects are starting to take shape…

March and April are going to be busy months for me, especially on the “fine art” side of things. There’s the art show at MidSouthCon (where I can just display & sell work without having to table the whole time– making drawings of dragons & monsters is a small price to pay for that perk!) and the East Buntyn Artwalk, a fun event that draws out a lot of people willing to purchase original art (no small feat in this town!)…


I also did this drawing for the Playhouse on the Square’s annual art auction. They are exceedingly generous to the artists who donate, so I’m happy to do a piece for them … like this drawing inspired by “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”. If you ever get the chance to see that show, do yourself a favor and go; you won’t be disappointed!


I’ve been working to finish up a couple of new comics in time for a book event at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library in April, too. For that, I plan to have completed the print edition of “Sultana”, a new Watusi issue, and Book 2 of “Watusi in Oz” (tho there’s still a lot of work– mainly the bonus chapter not shown online– still to go on that one).

I’ve also been collaborating with a local writer on a new comic that’s taking shape nicely. While it’s still a little early to go into a lot of detail (without spoiling its big reveal), I can show off some of its cast of Knights Templar…


Plus, I have actually finished a story this year, for Bob Corby’s moon-themed Oh, Comics! anthology to be published in April. My tale of a moon launch set between the wars involved more straight lines than I think I’ve ever drawn in a comic before!

MOONpage4So that’s what’s cooking at the moment. Most of the comic projects will eventually come your way in some form through this Patreon channel; if you want to see more of my pencil drawings, please follow me on Instagram, where I’ve been posting a new drawing nearly every day.


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

I have a question for you…

… if you already read my Watusi the Talking Dog comic online– or maybe especially if you DON’T– what kind of information did/would you like to know before you dive/d into a new body of work? After nearly 10 years and more than that many different storylines, I feel the need to provide an easy introduction for new readers … so I’m assembling a webcomic primer issue of Watusi to serve that function. While I try to make work that is accessible to new readers, I’m often too involved in the process to see things from the reader’s POV. I would love to quench your thirst for understanding (& give you a better reading experience)!

Chime in below & feel free to share …

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!

Drawing for the joy of drawing

I’ve found over the last few years that I’m making a richer connection with customers and new readers not at traditional comic shows, but at reading festivals and art events. This is not so surprising, really, considering how cosplay-centric most cons have become … but I can be a slow learner at times. Or maybe just hardheaded, I’m not sure. Either way, I’m finding them to no longer be the best venue to connect with readers interested in original comics, especially those that are as far from the superhero genre as mine are.

With the intention to better present my work to art enthusiasts, last August I participated in an Open Crit at Crosstown Arts. While my hope for that critique was to get feedback and tips on how best to present & price my work for the Memphis market, I left with lots of food for thought and ideas on how to develop my work in a more “fine art” direction. I’ve been working towards that goal with a lot of recent drawings (some posted here, others on my Instagram account), and will likely continue to stay busy producing them during the month of October. Even though for a lot of artists all across the web October is better known as Inktober, since I already get plenty of inking time producing my comic pages, I’m kind of playing along from the sidelines, using the 2017 Inktober themes for my pencil drawings. I’m still a pretty deliberative artist, so thus far most of my drawings are really just character studies until I figure out how to mix them into larger, more developed compositions, most likely as acrylic paintings.


While comics continue to be my true creative love– the mixture of words and pictures in cartoon storytelling just feels like the richest form of my art– I am finding the art community here to be more welcoming of my work than the comics scene has been. And indeed, I had a better (and more financially successful) time at the recent Cooper-Young Festival than I would have had at that same weekend’s Memphis Comic Expo, at least judging by my experience there in 2016. Bringing my cartoon artwork out of the printed page and onto the wall as “art” is a challenge that I’m finding creatively energizing, too! I hope you enjoy this peek into another side of my artistic practice …

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

A meal fit for The King!

And not The King most people in Memphis think of, either … but the one and only Jack “King” Kirby!

2017 marks the centennial of Jack Kirby’s birth, and I’ve been working on projects to celebrate that anniversary. Some are coming along better than others, but one that is complete is my contribution to Crosstown Arts“Potluck” exhibition, on display during the grand opening of Crosstown Concourse.

This piece, which is a tribute to Kirby’s character and machinery designs (and his co-creation, Galactus), was a good challenge that stretched my creative muscles a little. It’s been quite a while since I worked in 3D, and in the process I used materials and tools that were new to me. I’m happy to say that it turned out pretty much how I envisioned it– if not better! Come see it (along with 80 other artist-created place settings) this Saturday!

And look for other upcoming Kirby-celebratory pieces from me, both online (like this) and in print…

“Bad Joke Funnies”, then and now

I don’t often revisit or revise old work. Once it’s published, I’m generally able to let it go and move on to the next project. One exception has been my Smeary Soapbox Press-ents minicomic series, where I’ve been collecting all of my old 8-page minicomic material. Since I lettered even rougher when I started out than I do now, I thought I should at least make them easier to read! 

Earlier this month, I exhibited at the Memphis Zine Fest, and wanted to make some new minicomics for the event. I had been meaning to reprint my old Bad Joke Funnies minis anyway, so a zine festival made for the perfect opportunity!

As I looked at the artwork to those issues, I felt some of the pages could use a little more reworking than just tidying up the lettering, so the resulting three issues of Smeary Soapbox Press-ents featured a mix of old, reworked, and new “Bad Joke Funnies”! I tried to keep the tone of the original comics, and was pretty happy with the updates. I thought you might enjoy getting a little “before and after” glimpse at some of the reworked pages…


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

Asking the people what they want

After all, I can’t very well give the people what they want if I don’t even know what it is, can I? With that spirit in mind, I undertook a survey of my readers at the end of 2016 to better understand their comic reading (and purchasing) habits and tastes. While the answers confirmed much of what I already suspected, I was a bit surprised by some of it, too…

Rather than present the survey results as just a series of pie charts, I also want to share what I was trying to find out with the questions I asked. The first section was gauging reader knowledge of my online comic. Not surprisingly, most everyone who responded (91.3%) already knew I published a FREE weekly comic online. I was more interested in their reading habits, and was pleased to find out how many read my comic every week, and that they tend to stick around once they do:


82.6% of readers read the text blurb following my comic, too, so I’ll keep using that to plug upcoming shows and comic releases. I also like it as a way to provide context or commentary on the strip.

My next question was really a backdoor invitation to get readers to sign up for my e-mail list, follow me on Twitter, or friend Watusi’s Facebook page, just in case they weren’t aware of those options already: Continue reading “Asking the people what they want”