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.]

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!

Found at Free State Comicon

I’m in a deacquisition mode with my comic collection these days, trying to thin out an overgrown collection and focus on those titles and items that really mean a lot to me. Sure, I have a nearly-complete Hulk collection that stretches back to 1968, but am I really going to reread those comics? Especially when the Essentials take up so much less shelf space, and at the same time fills in the missing issues from ’68-’73?

Still, I’m a sucker for a comic show, especially one with such a low cost of entry as last weekend’s Free State Comicon. And while I successfully steered clear of the bargain bins, I did pick up a few goodies from self-publishing creators:

FreeCon14aGooch #1 (Bookish Beasts, 2014), the latest collection from Tara Avery, compiles 48 strips starring the bisexual title character. While I had read a number of these online, it was great to read them in one sitting. In addition to her expressive, well-drawn characters, Tara has a real knack for dry humor and snarkiness which makes it fun to spend time with these characters. Especially enjoyable was the sequence where Gooch and Miguel set up Luddite bartender Martha with blogger Gretchen!

Tales of Amnesia #1 (Virtual Infinity Comics, 2014) is brand new from Kansas City’s own Mike Sullivan. While it introduces a lot of new characters and concepts (as is to be expected with a “backstory of the universe” kind of comic),  there are enough dynamic layouts and action sequences that it reads like an actual story and not just an encyclopedia entry. Mike also notes where it (along with his “There’s something happening in Crawford, Kansas” webcomic) fits into the larger tale he’s been telling via short comics and anthology stories since 2004.

FreeCon14aDaniel Spottswood‘s NIX! 2014 Annual (the author, 2014) is a fine little minicomic. Unlike some of his previous print work I’ve picked up, this is a less physically involved (think Chris Ware) product, and more slice-of-life vignettes (think James Kochalka). He’s still able to pack a lot of character and expression into his small panels and even smaller characters, and this issue includes his foray into Hourly Comic Day 2014, a comic-making marathon even I wouldn’t want to attempt!

Science Hero #1 (New Haven Comics, 2013) is an anthology written and edited by Aaron Walther. Not as “science-y” as I was expecting, it was a nice mix of SF heroics, mystery, and comedy in three different stories. While all are nicely done, the slickly stylized artwork of Grant Perkins and JAMWAH on “Muscles and Mullets” stood out the most for me…

p3coverDarren Neely’s weird science epic The Prospector #1-4 (the author, 2011-2013) jumps around in time and setting quite a bit–the author compared its multiple takes on the same events to “Lost”, which is an apt analogy. I’m of mixed mind on this effect: on the one hand, it gets tedious to jump back and forth between the same couple of scenes as they move slowly forward ; on the other, it’s a clever way to break up what could be long talky sequences with moments of action. The artwork by Chad Kaberlein & Philip Burnette improves over the issues, and issue #3 starts off particularly strong. Neely handles the lettering & coloring chores for these nicely-produced full color issues (his coloring includes a nice mottled texture that never overpowers the line art), which seems like a good way for him to exert final control over the finished product.

It’s Free Comic Book Day 2013!

fcbd13blogFree Comic Book Day, the annual day when participating comic book shops across North America and around the world give away comic books absolutely FREE to anyone who comes into their stores. And, as I’ve done for years, I’m participating with my own FCBD offering!

Free-for-All! #2 is a jointly-produced sampler comic with my friend and KC-based comic artist Mike Sullivan. It showcases our respective weekly online comic projects (Mike’s “There’s Something Happening in Crawford, KS” and my own “Watusi the talking dog”). I’ll be distributing copies at Lawrence’s Astrokitty Comics & More (15 E. 7th St., Lawrence, KS 66044), where I’ll be doing sketches from 2-5; Mike will be doing the same at Pop Culture Comix (9337 W. 87Th Street, Overland Park, KS, 66212). If you’re out and about, stop in and say hi, get some free comics, and maybe even a sketch…

Can’t make it to either of those venues? Then this is your lucky weekend! On May 4th-5th you can take your pick of either of these free downloadable .pdf editions. Just click and enjoy!

  • The printer-friendly version: duplex print your own copy!
  • The e-reader version: direct page reading order for your PC or tablet!

Any day is a great day to read comics, but Free Comic Book Day is an especially good one; thanks for making this site one of your stops!

[May 2022 UPDATE: a .pdf version of this issue (still FREE) is available from my Gumroad store!]

20 questions for Mike Sullivan

“There’s Something Happening in Crawford, Kansas creator Mike Sullivan– who provided the above image to accompany this interview– is a mainstay in the Kansas City creator community and a regular at Drawing Frenzy, the weekly meet-up of KC cartoonists. He’ll have artwork on display in the Drawing Frenzy show at KC’s Crossroads Coffeehouse during the month of October (with a kickoff event this Friday), and will be appearing at Iowa’s Comic Book I-Con on Nov. 10. I met Mike years ago and, over long road trips to I-Cons, found that we had similar favorite comics as readers as well as similar interests in the kind of comics we like to create. After filling too many long boxes with other people’s comics, Mike started making his own in 2004, and hasn’t looked back!

1. Your first published comic, the full-color Virtual Infinity Comics Presents #1, was an ambitious project, so different from my own simple minicomic roots. How did that come about?
Just a few years prior to my first self-published work, I’d been gathering some history about the Marvel Universe that I wanted to put together and propose as a series to Marvel Comics. It was huge and epic and dealt with the entire history of the groups of characters, created by Jack Kirby, like The Inhumans and The Eternals and how they fit into Marvel Universe continuity (which has since been blown apart by multiple reformatting storylines). I had even sketched a two panel drawing featuring Sersi, an Eternal, looking into a mirror and saying “Mirror, Mirror on the wall – -“ with the second panel of her turning to the reader saying, “what?”

I wanted to present it as a continuation series under the title of Marvel Tales with the heading “Where Have You Been for the Last Million Years?” I still have some of those pencil panels somewhere.

Anyway, I’d just been to a convention here in Kansas City in 2003. At a previous convention, I’d met a guy from Oklahoma that was showing his portfolio. I ran into the same guy a few months later and he now had published his own comic and had a table. It dawned on me that I could do that. I needed to do that.

A comic with my own characters, who had been rattling around in my brain since high school, became my priority for the next nine months. If I was going to do this, I needed to do it all. Writing, art, lettering, AND color would be necessary to prove to myself that I not only could do it, but needed to do it.

On the way home from the convention, I plotted out what I was going to create. I started drawing almost immediately when I got home.

Continue reading “20 questions for Mike Sullivan”

Free Comic Book Day 2012 preview

Free-for-All! number 1Free Comic Book Day is coming up this Saturday, and I’ve just finished my item for this year: it’s a jointly-produced comic with my friend and KC-based comic artist Mike Sullivan. Free-for-All! is a sampler of our respective weekly online comic projects (Mike’s “There’s Something Happening in Crawford, KS” and my own “Watusi the talking dog”); while there’s not much in the way of content that our regular audiences haven’t seen already, it will hopefully get our work in front of the eyeballs of some new readers.

I’ll be distributing them at Lawrence’s Astrokitty Comics & More (15 E. 7th St., Lawrence, KS 66044), where I’ll be doing sketches from 11-1; Mike will be doing the same at Pop Culture Comix (9337 W. 87Th Street, Overland Park, KS, 66212). If you’re out and about, stop in and say hi, get some free comics, and maybe even a sketch…

Any day is a great day to read comics, but Free Comic Book Day is an especially good one; hope you’re able to take advantage of it!

[May 2022 UPDATE: a .pdf version of this issue (still FREE) is available from my Gumroad store!]

Comic lettering, part two: My custom font

After years of doing my own hand lettering I’ve become frustrated with how much cleanup work is required to finish my pages. Open spaces in the characters of my scanned lettering were filling in at an alarming rate, coupled with the fact that my letterforms were getting waaay too inconsistent for my tastes, led me to spend too much of my production time cleaning up individual letters. But how to retain the mark-making of my hand lettering while reducing my workload? The answer: a custom font!

Knowing nothing about how to create a font, yet knowing that other artists (John Byrne and Jeff Smith, for instance) had done it, I took Kansas City cartoonist Mike Sullivan up on his offer to create a font based on my lettering. He did a great job with it, adapting my lettering into a full character set, a bold alphabet, and a variety of dingbats & special characters.  I was a demanding customer– I asked for a full keyboard set, including non-dialog characters like |, {, %, and + not typically used in comic lettering, but Mike worked with me to get the results I was after at a very reasonable price, even suggesting options I wouldn’t have thought of.  If you’re interested in a font of your own, and don’t know how to do it, I’d definitely recommend hiring Mike for the job.

Rather than just a collection of drawn characters, I set out to design a more consistent font than my lettering had become. I filled them out to a consistent height, balanced out the symmetry, and evened out the curves … but I may have gone too far in that direction, as I’m not entirely happy with how some of the characters turned out. Certainly not because of Mike’s translation of them, but rather because of how far I designed them away from what my lettering looks like (or at least what it looks like these days). It’s taken me a while to warm up to how the font looks after seeing my hand lettering for so long, but I’m enjoying it more and more as I continue to use it and fit it into my working method.

In fact, if there is any downside to the change in process, it was how little experience I had using a font before I designed mine. I wish I’d tried lettering some pages with a font first– even just as a test case– to better understand how I’d be using it in actual pages. Sadly, it hasn’t yet been the time-saver I’d hoped it would be, and I still find myself preferring some of the variety in my hand drawn lettering, especially for emphatic bolds and punctuation elements. Overall, though, I’ve been happy with the improved legibility the font has brought to my recent strips, which was the whole purpose of the change.

Meet the artists!

Looking or a fun weekend activity? Maybe you’d like to swing by Astrokitty this Saturday for a Doghouse Funhouse signing – featuring Dale and Thunderdawg! creators Mike Sullivan and Bill Hook! Here’s the scoop:

AKFLYER0909And to make the offer even more appealing, you can ride the T for FREE! Routes 1,2,3,4,6,7, & 11 all come within a few blocks of Astrokitty! Hope to see you there!

[January 2023 UPDATE: this post originally appeared as a footer to that week’s Watusi episode.]

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.]