Archive for ‘Waxing nostalgic’

October 27, 2016

Fall comfort food

This may seems like an odd post for a blog on “comics and comic creation”, but I’ve been working on new ways to monetize my existing cartoons and other artwork. Notecards are an easy application for the type of work I do, and since the finished product is a work on paper, it’s something I’m comfortable with. This series of illustrations  I did over 20 years ago for a set of vegetarian recipes makes a nice addition to my notecard line. But rather than re-typesetting the full recipe for the back of the cards (sometimes I really miss PageMaker), I decided to just post them here. While they may not be the healthiest of recipes, you could do a whole lot worse. And they’re all the kind of warming comfort food that feels great on a nippy fall day…

recipe-chili recipe-cutting recipe-pantry recipe-teapot

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August 28, 2016

All hail The King!

KirbyBD2015

Today is the anniversary of Jack Kirby‘s birthday. His contributions to comics– both in terms of characters and stylistic conventions– have rightly earned him the nickname “King.” I first discovered his artwork pretty much right as I discovered comics, at a time when he was working for Marvel in the mid 1970s. While his Captain America was a little too out there for this 10-year old, I couldn’t deny the power of his artwork. At that time it was gracing many Marvel titles, from characters he created such as Fantastic Four and The Avengers to newer heroes such as a favorite of mine, Nova. The fact that interior art on many of those comics were provided by more conventional– though by no means not also great– artists such as George Perez and John Buscema made for a great package and they remain some of my favorite comics from that era. I later came to appreciate Kirby’s work more fully through his creations at DC just before I started reading comics: the New Gods cycle and Kamandi, the last boy on Earth, are amazing comics to behold. Like his later creation for Marvel, The Eternals, these works were able to (largely) stand on their own without interference from other editors or a need to adhere to line-wide continuity concerns. They are definitely worth checking out, especially since many of them have been collected in trade editions within the last decade.

Last year around this time I created the above piece for Jason Garrattley’s annual Jack Kirby birthday celebration on the Jack Kirby Museum‘s Kirby-Vision blog. It was a blast to do, and while this summer’s project (which is progressing quite nicely, thanks for asking) has kept me too busy to celebrate, I plan to do it again next year to celebrate Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday!

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June 1, 2016

It really was “The World’s Finest APA”!

APA-5logoThis month marks the tenth anniversary of my last “Larry’s Kitchen” zine as a part of APA-5, the world’s finest APA!

An APA (or Amateur Press Association, for those of you who don’t know) is a group where individual members create their own zine, send it to a central mailer who assembles them all into a single publication and redistributes it to the members for comment and enjoyment. APA-5 was a great environment for me at a time when I felt disconnected from other cartoonists, and wanted feedback on my work. For over seven years I was an active part of this group of amazing creators, including Drew Boynton, JB Winter, Larned Justin, Mike Leuszler, Michael Munshaw, Brien Wayne Powell, Dan Lauer, Tom Davidson, Steve Willhite, and others.

I was happy with much of the work I created while in APA-5, and enjoyed it as a venue to share work in progress with other creators for feedback. In the years before social media posts and “likes” became the accepted way to interact online, we were able to get into meaty discussions and give thoughtful critiques of work in the pages of APA-5. As it became easier to communicate virtually it took its toll on that level of discussion, and it soon felt like the writing was on the wall for not only APA-5, but a few years later to the Small Press Syndicate’s Rap Sheet as well. While I was only able to get in on the tail end of the storied histories of both APA-5 and the SPS, I treasure the time I was able to spend as part of those groups. Not only for the improvement it brought to my work and my work ethic, but for its sense of camaraderie with fellow creators, many of whom I still collaborate with from time to time today.

The work in my 77 “Larry’s Kitchen” zines (+ assorted jams and other projects) remains largely unscanned, and unshared beyond the active membership at the time. In fact, that was one of the reasons that I moved Larry’s Kitchen into its own freestanding digest format comic in 2006– so I could share it more widely, to creators and readers not part of the group. Unfortunately, my situation at work changed, and after two more issues I didn’t have the time to commit to both Larry’s Kitchen and my Watusi projects. One had to go, but I think I chose wisely.

Of course, APA-5 had been going strong for over a quarter of a century before I joined and it went on for a number of issues without me. Among its storied roster of past members are names familiar to fans of comics and television: Mark Verheiden (who founded the group in 1972), Paul Chadwick, Frank Miller, Chris Warner, Randy Emberlin, Cliff Biggers (Comic Shop News), Mike Richardson, Tak Toyoshima (“Secret Asian Man”), Bill Nichols, Sheila Wilding, Robin Ator, Brad Kurtz, Mark Badger, Michael Monasmith, and many, many more.

While APA-5 as I knew it may be gone, it exists online here and here, and carries on in spirit in the pages of T. Davidson’s Fiver Fun Comics. Below are glimpses from a few of my favorite APA-5 moments from 1998-2006…

March 24, 2016

Anniversary year: 30 years of out-of-this-world shenanigans

FOOF30I have made no secret of the fact that I have a number of characters that– in a perfect world– I would be making better us of. Toward the top of that list is FooF, a shape-changing alien from the planet Ofhtesamename I introduced 30 years ago this month. Inspired by (of all things) the entry for Fantastic Four #7 in the Official Marvel Index to the Fantastic Four, I created FooF as a foil for my Armen Hammer character in the fifth issue of that comic. My simple conceit was a misunderstanding where both of these unique characters assumed their powers were representative of everyone on their respective planets, a twist on the typical presentation of comic book aliens with fantastic powers.

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March 16, 2016

Happy (belated) Year of the Monkey 2016!

That the monkey is the animal for this year’s lunar calendar completely slipped my notice until (obviously) too late for the new year festivities, when Tom Cherry asked me on Twitter if Mitchell would be celebrating. While I didn’t have specific plans in the works for Watusi’s monkey nemesis, he will at the very least be playing a large part in an upcoming storyline on my Watusi webcomic later this year.

So to dig up a proper monkey-centric piece to celebrate, I went clear back to 2009 for this mola-themed craft I made while helping with a group at the Lawrence Public Library. I was presenting a cartooning workshop the following session, so I sat in to get a feel for the group, taking a try at that day’s craft. While lacking the intricate stitching of a true mola, it does have the signature layering of cloth. Miss Jane Johnston assembled a great group of “Imaginators”, and it was fun to be a part of their group for a couple of weeks!

MitchellMola

Hope you have a happy Year of the Monkey!

February 3, 2016

“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.
December 2, 2015

From the Back Issue Bin: “Continuity and Vine”

Starting in 2001 I wrote and drew a comic strip for The Tornado, a local (Lawrence, KS) weekly. “Continuity and Vine” was my chance to snark about pop culture, art, history, and whatever else caught my fancy. Including comics about comics:

CandVCliche

Unfortunately, six months into the strip’s run the Twin Towers were destroyed and cartooning about movie marketing schemes and celebrity misadventures didn’t seem so important any more. Over the next year, the strip veered into overtly political territory and was getting darker in tone than I enjoyed. Also during that time a number of things happened to lead me to end the strip: The Tornado folded, posting strips on my website at the time wasn’t very satisfying for me, I wasn’t able to find a syndicate interested in the strip, and Watusi jams were keeping me busier (and making me happier) than “C&V” was. The final nail in the “Continuity and Vine” coffin, though, happened when someone at a show said he was glad to read my comics … so he’d know what to think about the news! I certainly wasn’t writing these strips to become some sort of political guru!

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August 18, 2015

Watusi: 15 years and hasn’t stopped talking yet!

It was 15 years ago this August that Watusi made his first print appearance, inside my Larry’s Kitchen zine in APA-5 #308! Little did I know what impact that tossed-off concept would have on my career, becoming not only the character I’m most associated with, but one that has helped me make collaborative connections with artists all over the country, some that go well beyond one panel in one of my jam comics. Best of all, Watusi is a character that I’ve not grown bored with, and I feel like there are a lot more stories I can tell using Watusi and the cast of characters that have developed around him! Here is the very first Watusi one-pager I ever did:

Watusi1stStrip

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August 13, 2015

Happy Elvis Week 1991!

It’s Elvis Week here in Memphis, when the city welcomes Elvis fans from far and wide to celebrate the week in which he died (don’t worry, the week of his birth gets plenty of attention, too, from what I understand). While I’m not diving whole-heartedly into it this year, I am fascinated by the array of events scheduled. Just like I have a kitschy fascination for Vegas jumpsuit Elvis, a fascination that may not be fully appreciated in this city.

Like with many artists who lived in the twentieth century, Elvis has appeared in my work from time to time. One of my favorite works featuring the King was my graduate promo piece from when I completed my illustration degree from KU waaaay back in 1991…

elvis1991

 

At the time, I was inking a lot of my work with a stick (yes, a stick), which gives the piece its intentionally rough finish. I really liked how it dressed up with Pantone process color film, and I’ve tried to recreate its CMYK glory as best I can with RGB. Of course, being me, I also included a story component with this image (based, of course, on the famous photo by Ollie Atkins), a story that went something like this:

See, it all started when Lex Luthor fired an atomic missile at the heart of Las Vegas (where Elvis happened to be performing in a sold-out show in the Gila Room of the Sands). Naturally, Superman arrived to stop the fiendish plot of his arch foe just in the nick of time. Of course, when Elvis heard what happened, he invited the Man of Tomorrow backstage to thank him in his own inimitable way: “Donut, Superman?” “No thanks,” he responded, arms and legs akimbo, “I need only the air I breathe to sustain me.” “Well, um, then hows about a Cadillac?”

Well, that was that until a few months later when Superman (in the guise of his everyday identity as mild-mannered reporter (then GBS-TV news anchor) Clark Kent) received a special invitation from the President of the United States himself to attend some sort of luncheon and awards reception kind of thing to thank him for all his hard work in the service of truth, justice, blah blah blah… Now, while he may have been the Man of Steel, he sure didn’t have a stomach of steel, and dealing with the President always bothered Superman’s ulcer (and Kryptonians have really strong stomach acids, don’t forget), so he needed an excuse to get out of it. Fortunately for him, Superman has these incredible powers of total recall, and this enabled him to remember that, while he had passed up Elvis’ offer of the Cadillac, he did accept Elvis’ promise to help him out if he ever needed a favor.

So one short call to Graceland (and a story about getting called suddenly out of the galaxy on a Justice League mission) later, Superman breathed a super sigh of relief, and Elvis was on his way to the White House…

 

 

 

June 1, 2015

“Railroad”

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing my friend Jovarie Downing perform this wonderful song of his, and it inspired me to republish this piece I did based on it … which has to sustain me until he records a version of it:

RAILROAD

This piece dates from a collage course I took back in 1997 taught by Lora Jost. While I really enjoyed the class, and would like to incorporate collage elements into my work, I don’t think I’m wired right to be successful with collage– I always find it easier to draw what I need than search it out. Maybe it would be easier to find images to use via the internet … except that seems kinda like cheating to me. Still, I was really happy with how this piece turned out. Lyrics to the great Jovarie Downing’s song “Railroad” are © 1997 by Jovarie Downing. Used with permission.