New comics for a pandemic springtime

It’s been a helluva spring, hasn’t it? With all my face-to-face events cancelled and all my other outlets closed for the foreseeable future, it’s been difficult for me to stay motivated about publishing new comics …

But, before pandemic-mania affected my part of the world & weighed heavily on my mind most hours of most days, I did manage to finish a pair of new comics!

First up is the second issue of the Mid-South Cartoonists Association’s The Good, the Bad, and the Sketchy! This sci-fi themed issue, edited by Jason Negen and me, features all-new comics & art from Jason, Kevin L. Williams, Jim Palmer, Lin Workman, Michael Irby, and me, along with an “Out of This World!” jam page drawn at our MSCA meetings. My contribution is “The Fantastical Order of Foofthusiasts!”, a peek at the 26th-century legacy of my shape-changing hero FooF! The Good, the Bad, and the Sketchy #2 is a 24-page black & white digest w/full-color cover. It’s available for pickup from all Memphis area comic shops ( 901 Comics, The Cellar, Comics and Collectibles — call for their specific situation, of course) as well as through the mail from my Square store. With online sales providing my only source of income, your purchase would be much appreciated (& highly motivating).

Also newly published is Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #18, an 8-page minicomic collecting some of my favorite pencil drawings from 2019. You can get your own copy from me by mail, postpaid for just $1.00 (address on the Contact page). I’ll also include a copy with any purchase of physical content from my Square store during the months of April & May 2020 …

You can also socially-distance score a copy of both of these comics by becoming one of my Patreon patrons during April or May 2020 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!

Drop it like it’s hot … Hot off the press!

For my Halloween The Good, the Bad, and the Sketchy signing, I borrowed a trick from Beyonce & released a new minicomic without any advance notice on that day. Of course, in my case it wasn’t a fully realized new album, but a remastered version of my Halloween Giant Jack comic from 30 years ago! I tidied up the lettering (done with a thicker pen than I should have used in the first place, and that hadn’t aged real well) & added an all-new photo cover! It was really fun to throw together the finishing touches to complete a project this fast. If only I could get everything done so quickly…

While I’m talking about swiping ideas from others, I came up with a sketch wrap for the issue, so I could do quick sketches at the signing (& distribute my mini at the same time). The idea for letting the customer select the elements of their monster sketch via checklist came from my former APA-5 compatriot, Steve Willhite, and I have to say it’s worked really well. Thanks, Steve!

You can get a copy of Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #17 (an 8-page minicomic) from me by mail, postpaid for just $1.00 each from the address in the footer of this page … but if you want a custom monster sketch you’ll need to become one of my Patreon patrons during the month of November 2019 (plus, joining gives you immediate access to other online bonus comics, including a full-color Human Spring adventure)!

Hot off the press: a pair of one-sheet wonders

This Friday, July 19th, is Memphis Zine Fest V, and I’ll be there showing & selling my recent comics like Sultana & the Watusi webcomic primer … along with a pair of new minicomics I completed just for this show. While zine fests always charge me up with enthusiasm for comics that can be made from a single sheet of paper, I need to remember that I don’t have to wait until a festival comes along to play around with the format! Here’s the scoop on these issues:

Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #15: This issue is another “art” mini, collecting some of my favorite pencil drawings from 2018.

Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #16: This is an (ever-so-slightly) revised version of a story I wrote & drew in 1993, kind of a proto 24-hour comic, in which a breatharian and an Elvis impersonator tribute artist confront their haunted wallpaper.

Be sure to come out & say “hi” at Crosstown Concourse from 5-8 on Friday during this annual celebration of MidSouth zines and zinesters! Not only will I have these new (and old) minis & comics, I’ll also have an early purchase opportunity for next month’s ALL-NEW digest (more on that in August, of course)!

Can’t make it? You can always get copies from me by mail, postpaid for just $1.00 each from the address in the footer of this page … or become one of my Patreon patrons during the month of July 2019 at the Correspondent or Art Lover level & I’ll mail you copies! (Plus, joining gives you immediate access to other online bonus comics, including a full-color Human Spring adventure!)

Anniversary year: 25th anniversary of Giant Jack

This Halloween marks the 25th anniversary of my long-running holiday character of choice, the grumpy, candy-loving pumpkin Giant Jack … and the 25th anniversary of my first 8-page minicomic, too!

I created Giant Jack for a Halloween minicomic in 1987 as a kind of reverse trick-or-treat item: I would deliver it to all my friends instead of begging for candy from them. After the success of that first appearance, in which Jack found something besides terrorizing children to enjoy on Halloween (while he still enjoys a good (though good-natured) scare, he developed a real sweet tooth as a result of that comic) he found his way into other holidays as well, in comics like:

  • “A Halloween Treat With Giant Jack” (10/87, 8 page minicomic), which introduced the giant pumpkin with an equally large sweet tooth. For my first minicomic I did a really lousy job of leaving decent printer margins; I later reformatted it and tidied up the lettering for 2004’s Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #5, which I was much happier with…
  • “Giant Jack’s First Love” (2/88; 8 page minicomic) was Jack’s first foray into another holiday. Valentine hijinks ensue as a cupid tries to change Jack’s grumpy attitude.
  • “The Wearin’ of the Green” (3/88; 8 page minicomic) was a downer of a sequel to the previous Valentine’s Day story, as Jack gets his grumpy mojo back.
  • “The Spooks Convene” (10/88; 8 page minicomic) provided a peek into the annual gathering of Jack and his Halloween pals. I relettered this one in 2004 for Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #6.
  • “Giant Jack Knocks ‘Em Dead / Still More Bad Joke Funnies” (10/89; 12 page minicomic flipbook) was a more surrealistic Halloween tale, chock full of bad jokes and bacon. [November 2019 UPDATE: the Giant Jack part of this issue was relettered and released as SmearySoapbox Press-ents #17 in time for Halloween!]
  • This Comic is Free number Wednesday, October 31, 1990 (10/90; 8 page minicomic) was, like most of this series, an odd little duck– drawn in the scratchy style I was using in illustration class, it was more of a Giant Jack scene than a story, along with a couple of Halloween puzzles.
  • “Giant Jack Meets Scatman” (10/92; 8 page minicomic) featured a rather unpleasant interaction between Jack and his friends with the vile avenger and his sidekick, Vomit.
  • “Another Foggy Christmas Eve” (12/92; 8 page minicomic) finally gave Jack a Christmas story as he tried to help Santa on his rounds, with decidedly different results than when Rudolph came to Santa’s aid.
  • “Giant Jack’s Lost Love” (2/95; 16 page minicomic with stickers and postcard in envelope) was an epic tale of nearly-lost love. It came with stickers to let the reader create their own favorite ending.
  • My ArtWalk 2000 Comic Sampler (10/2000; 16 page digest) was Jack’s longest– and so far last– appearance in “The Night of 1001 Pranks!” Showing up a day early due to leap year, he joins some of his spooky friends in Mischief Night pranks. That comic is also notable as the first appearance (outside of the pages of APA-5) of Watusi, the talking dog.

Since then, Giant Jack’s role as my holiday go-to guy has been eclipsed as I’ve done holiday pieces tied more to my current projects: first “Continuity and Vine”, then Watusi-related pieces. Sounds like it’s time to dust the old fellow off, though. Who knows, maybe he’ll even pop up in Wonder Valley some Halloween…

Anniversary year: 10th anniversary of the Human Spring … and Smeary Soapbox Press-ents, too!

Before Smeary Soapbox Press-ents existed as this blog, it was a series of minicomics which debuted 10 years ago with the introduction of the Human Spring! Of all my many neglected characters, the Human Spring is one of my favorites, and the one I am the most frustrated to not give regular exposure to. In fact, I started the year planning to introduce a Human Spring webcomic to mark his 10th anniversary, but have been unable to fit the necessary time into my schedule.

Back in 2002, after working on my weekly topical strip “Continuity and Vine” for over a year, I wanted to turn to a simpler project, using only paper and a pen, and get away from relying on computer tones so much. So I began Smeary Soapbox Press-ents, a series in what I’ve always thought of as the common currency of small press — the 8-page minicomic! It was a chance to showcase some of my older characters as well as new concepts, celebrating light-hearted fun in the creation of comics instead of the more cynical work I’d been producing in “Continuity and Vine”. While SSPress-ents was never published as frequently as I’d have liked, partly due to the success of a certain talking dog, I produced some of my favorite comics in the pages of this series, especially those starring the Human Spring– he was a perfect character for this project, and one I really enjoyed playing with. Here’s his story…

When factory worker Steve Springer found himself caught in the heavy machinery which twists steel rods into coiled springs, he was wrenched through a full cycle of the menacing mechanism … and miraculously survived! Somehow, he not only came through that harrowing accident alive, but found he’d gained the strength and flexibility of a spring in the process! Now he can be spotted– as only a human spring can— bounding from rooftop to rooftop … and in the following comics, as well:

  • Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #1 (8/02) Featured the amazing origin and first appearance of the Human Spring; 8 page minicomic.
  • Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #2 (7/03) “The Peerless Plan of Professor Preparedness!” in which the Human Spring inadvertently crossed paths with a devious criminal mastermind; 8 page minicomic.
  • Smeary Soapbox Press-ents#3 (7/04) “The Perfect Plan to Defeat the Human Spring!” in which Professor Preparedness put into motion the dastardly plan described in the title; 8 page minicomic.
  • Watusi the Talking Dog #14 (9/04) The Human Spring had a brief cameo in “Watusi Visits the Big City”, an issue-length crossover between Watusi and JB Winter’s Izzy the Mouse character; 16 page digest comic.
  • Magnet Man Minicomics #40 (Published by Ed4Time Press, 12/04) The Human Spring made guest-starring appearance in this issue of Brien Wayne Powell’s hilarously-written minicomic series. And I even pulled a “special guest artist” credit for the issue (I did draw it, after all)! 16 page minicomic.
  • “Bad Hair Day” (3/05-3/06) Serialized in the pages of Tim Corrigan’s All-Comics APA, this 12-page story featured more character scenes with Steve and longer, more involved fight scene choreography! It was the model of stories to come … and still will be, once my Human Spring webcomic gets off the ground! All-Comics APA was a full-size bimonthly publication (14 issues, 3/05-5/07) which featured fine comics by Dan Lauer, Tim Corrigan, Michael Neno, Larned Justin, Brian Kirk and others. The Human Spring’s cover appearance in issue #3 is the spotlight illustration for this entry.
  • Smeary Soapbox Press-ents #8 (9/05) “Melee in Melvinville!” featured the Human Spring’s reaction to his first meeting with Brien Wayne Powell’s Magnet Man! 8 page minicomic.

And that’s all of the Human Spring’s story I’ve been able to tell…so far. When that changes I’ll be sure to share the news in this version of Smeary Soapbox Press-ents!