A clean slate for 2019

Another year has come & gone, which means it’s that time when I like to plan out what I want to accomplish in the new year, and check in with my goals from last time. This year has been slow to get going since my holiday market ran past X-mas & into the New Year, leaving me without the time or brainpower to vision my upcoming year. Fortunately, this past weekend finally gave me time and the right mindset to think about 2019. But first, what about my goals from 2018? I wanted to focus on a few (mostly) attitudinal adjustments…

1. Wear my business hat less, my artist hat more! Even though I wore my business had less, I spent too much of my time & energy promoting a group I’ve been part of, and not enough time building up my own work. I am confident that will change (for the better) in 2019…

2. Put comics aside for a couple of days each week and give myself dedicated time focused on “art”, including paintings and prints. While I didn’t make as many paintings as I had set out to do, I had a pretty good year making & selling prints (some Memphis-themed) in 2018. Now I just need to make some Memphis-themed comics & see if that will get people around here to actually purchase reading material…

3. Draw more spontaneously. While I’m still not as loose as I’d like to be, I consciously spent more time just drawing, and that helped. My inking is becoming looser & more natural, too; sometimes I’ve even liked the inked drawing as much as the penciled one! If you’re interested in my pencil drawings, you can get a taste of them on my Instagram account, where I regularly post them (plus, they’re for sale, and that gives you first crack at buying ’em)…

4. Celebrate the Year of the Dog with more Watusi comics than I did in 2006. While it may have taken most of the lunar year to do so, I did manage to finish the Year of the Dog Watusi issue! Plus, last summer’s big Watusi in the Emerald City of Oz collection & the weekly Watusi webcomic added up to a pretty dog-friendly year!

All of which gives me a solid footing to build on for 2019! I have a tendency to overload my “to-do” list with things I hope to accomplish, which can often be an overwhelming amount of unfinished idea debt (as Jessica Abel would say). This year, I’m literally starting with a clean slate, which I can use for highlighting my accomplishments, not leaving them buried in the weeds of what I still want to do. Basically, it’s an offshoot of the “done” part of my Kanban board that will let me see what I have accomplished, something I too often ignore as I move on to my next project. Expect to see a fuller version of this post’s graphic by the end of the year!

So, this year I’m looking to build on the good habits I’ve developed to make more (and more substantial) finished work. Specific concrete goals include:

1. Find a store to carry my work year-round. While I had pretty good success doing festivals last year, I need to move beyond handselling my work at outdoor events. This year I want to try & find a location that can carry my work– not just the comics (which are a hard sell in this town), but also my prints & notecards (which seem to connect better with customers)– all year long. If you happen to run such a venue, get in touch with me at the address on the bottom of this page.

2. Attend book events and literary festivals. Most festivals around here are pretty focused on music & drinking which, while fun, doesn’t always connect me with my target audience of readers. There are a few events from last year that are worth doing again, but I can’t fall into the trap of doing shows just because I’ve done them in the past. This is likely to mean booking events further afield, which is a daunting prospect, but will be worth it if it pays off…

3. Get back to “making” on a regular schedule. While being so focused on prints turned out to be fairly lucrative, it was not as satisfying as making comics. I’ve been really happy with the quality of my published print comics, and now it’s time to make more of them. Like Dave Sim wrote, “first you get good, then you get fast, then you get good and fast”– I’m ready to get faster. They may not come out every month (depending on my schedule & bundling orders for my printer), but the concrete goal is 12 new comics in 2019.

4. Plan and participate in a proper “Inktober” project. While I’ve played around with Inktober a bit in the past, I’ve never gone all in on this event because I create inked art all the time. But after being in awe of some of the successful themed projects by Chris Samnee and JB Winter, I should step up my game for the month! I’m open to suggestions, by the way…

That’s what I’ve got in mind; any creative goals for 2019 you wish to share?

Hot off the press: Watusi’s Doghouse Funhouse #2!

This collection of kid-friendly comics has been a l_o_o_o_o_n_g time coming, as I sure my contributors can attest! Originally planned as a 2010 followup to the first issue (and tied in with the watery summer reading theme at the library I was then working at), a few different things– including a never completed collaboration featuring the title character– conspired to keep it from coming together. But I’m glad to say it’s finally complete and that it turned out really well!

In addition to my own comic stories featuring Watusi and other members of his supporting cast, it features contributions from some of my favorite creators: a Thunderdawg epic by Mike Sullivan, Magnet Man by Brien Wayne Powell, Doggie & Jilly by Drew Boynton, and Little Arlo by Tom Cherry! Plus comics from JB Winter,  Ivan Martin, Joyce Steiner, and Paige Kallenberger.

It’s a 48-page black & white digest w/full-color covers, and is available by mail for $7.00 postpaid in the US directly from me. Additionally, you can find copies at my booth in the Memphis Arts Collective Show and Sale (through Xmas Eve), and a special sale in Lawrence to support a worthy cause (details coming soon; look for an announcement on my Twitter and Watusi’s Facebook feeds). I hope you’ll give it a read– I’m really proud of this book!

[Feb 2020 UPDATE: You can now order a copy of Doghouse Funhouse #2 (and the first issue, too) from my new Square store!]

Hot off the press: Watusi and the Emerald Serpent!


Well, maybe more “warm out of the oven,” since I’ve taken this collection to my last two events (with two more on the horizon: the Memphis Comic Expo, Oct. 22-23 and Wichita’s Air Capital Comiccon, Nov. 12-13) . But with the print copies now in hand, and my shipping costs figured out, I’m happy to share these comics with those of you who aren’t able to catch me at one of my appearances!

Watusi and the Emerald Serpent is the story of an ordinary talking dog thrown out of his comfort zone into a crime-ridden island paradise! Watusi finds himself pitted against an outlaw gang and its lunatic leader in his most epic adventure yet! Inspired by the Kenneth Robeson Doc Savage novels and Floyd Gottfredson’s “Mickey Mouse” strips, this story may be my favorite project so far. Certainly my favorite Watusi story.

As I wrote a couple of months ago, I’ve been working on a print edition of this story, and I’m very pleased with how it turned out. This print edition has been edited and expanded from the story as it was first published online (46 of its 84 pages have new &/or updated content), and I think the changes help the story flow much better. And look better, too! In addition to interior art improvements, I’m also really happy with the full-color covers– I think it’s my best color work to date– and the full-color guest art from JB Winter, Billy McKay, Mike Sullivan, and Tom Cherry really rounds out the package in a classy way. As you can tell, I’m trying hard not to overdo the hyperbole, but I’m really proud of these comics, and hope everyone who reads these issues enjoys them as much as I did making them!

You can order all seven 16-page issues (b&w interiors with full-color covers) as a set from my Square store & have them delivered right to your mailbox!

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…

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 Continue reading “Watusi: 15 years and hasn’t stopped talking yet!”

Why create anything?

whyIn a recent USA Weekend essay by Michael Wolff, he posed an interesting– and as a creator, a somewhat daunting– vision of the near future as more content becomes more freely available:

This is, curiously, a crisis for the media business– a business that, even as we felt it encroach on our lives, actually thrived on scarcity. We wanted it more because there was relatively little of it. … Now everything is available at any time– there is not only more media, but soon all media that ever was will be instantly servable– vastly diluting the attention for, and value of, any one media experience. Supply has overwhelmed demand.

So in a world where my humble Watusi comics must compete with not only other currently active web cartoonists … where the $1.00 outlay for a physical issue must measure up to two great fifty-cent bin comics … but where even the time it takes to read my comics must compete with more widely available classics from Kirby, Toth, Aparo, Buscema, Gottfredson, and so many others … why should I work so hard making my own comics? Why create anything?

I asked this question of my fellow Dime Bag Comics creators, and here’s what they had to share: Continue reading “Why create anything?”

Gallery-worthy comics

DimeBag2014When I saw the flyer for the Percolator Artspace‘s “Dime Bag Show”, a joint fundraiser for the gallery and Lawrence’s Social Service League, my interest was certainly piqued. The challenge: purchase a bag of thrift store items for $10, and make artwork out of it. Of course, I’m not the kind of artist who would make a “collage, assemblage, fabric, poem, video, a song or a dance” out of the items … but I am the kind of artist who can make comics inspired from them!

And thus Dime Bag Comics was born.

When the realization of the short timeline (about 5 weeks) sank in, I knew I couldn’t fill up a book with my own new stories in that time, so I asked if some of the other artists I know would be interested in taking on the challenge, too. Fortunately for me (and Dime Bag Comics readers), a number of them were, and the comic is so much better for the variety of styles they brought to the project. Dime Bag Comics features all-new short drawn stories by J.B. Winter, Tom Cherry, Greg Smallwood (soon to be of Moon Knight fame), Drew Boynton, Matt Levin, Keith O’Brien, and Dale. Signed and numbered limited edition (of 50) 28-page black & white standard comic w/hand-cut accent on the outer wrapper for $7.00.

Since it was initially produced for the gallery fundraiser, I’m giving them first crack at selling copies, after which I will make them available from other retail outlets and direct from the publisher. The “Dime Bag Show” opens Final Friday, June 27th.

[Feb 2020 UPDATE: You can now order a copy of Dime Bag Comics from my new Square store!]

Hot off the press: Watusi’s Doghouse Funhouse #1!

"It was in all the papers!" -or- Mail call (pt. 2 of 8)My new Watusi comic, the first in far too long, is a giant-sized issue featuring work from some of my favorite cartoonists: Tom Cherry, Drew Boynton, Matt Levin, Mike Sullivan, Bill Hook, Mark Morehouse, JB Winter, and Ivan Martin! We all contributed stories & art designed specifically for younger readers, and I’m really happy with how it turned out! You can find out more about it at the Smeary Soapbox Press shop at Etsy.com, where those of you out of the area can easily get hold of a copy if so inclined (if you’re in the Lawrence area, you can pick one up at AstroKitty, of course).

Watusi’s Doghouse Funhouse #1 is a 52-page black & white digest w/full-color covers.

[Feb 2020 UPDATE: You can now order a copy of Doghouse Funhouse #1 (and the second issue, too) from my new Square store!]
[January 2023 UPDATE: this post originally appeared as a footer to that week’s Watusi episode.]