Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Music Self Played… Is Happiness Self Made!

Here is a nice old ukulele, decorated and designed by Carl Ed for the Harmony instrument company. There are some great big photos of the uke online showing off the neat cartoon decals and candy colored paintjob. Pretty neat little toy.

As a side note, Google has gone and scanned the entire run of LIFE magazine! A wealth of great photography (including many by my favorite, Margaret Bourke White), and journalism, unearthing small gems of knowledge like the fact that Fort Knox looks like a Banjo Ukulele from above.

Banjo Uke photo linked from the great Antebellum Instruments blog. here to read the rest of this post...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Samm Schwartz, Fashionista

Samm Schwartz is primarily known for his tenure on Jughead, but he also drew stories for Tippy Teen. Part of his work reminds me of The Swami Brahmin in the film The Loved One, who the character Aimee Thanatogenous writes for lovelorn advice. The Swami turns out to be a swarthy cigar chomping worker bee.

Readers would mail letters to comics like Tippy Teen and Millie the Model with their own clothing designs, a sort of inverted precursor to Cosplay, and the artists would incorporate them. Unfortunately, none of the correspondents' drawings have ever appeared; I'm sure they would give the interpretations a run for their money. What I find interesting is how the poses reoccur whether it is Dance Time or Prom Time.

Tippy Teen folded and was later repackaged by Atlas Comics as Vicki in the seventies. To make the stories less dated, sideburns (pictured) and flared pants were added to the artwork, here by Schwartz's cohorts. There was no reader participation.

Below are scans of a quilt made by my wife from fabric scraps found in a drawer in my mom's sewing room. Note the "Samm" signature in the "Candy" swatch. To a bolt found in a fabric shop, Schwartz had nearly broken the fourth wall, but when and why I do not know. here to read the rest of this post...

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Thank you to Ken Parille and Dash Shaw for their flattering blog posts about Wally Gropius. Not to appear ungrateful, but imagine my dismay, however, when both failed to mention the following source material:

This book, easily found on the shelf of every neighborhood thrift store, is much less expensive than commercially available books of poses and hands, though no less ineffective. here to read the rest of this post...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Jerry Moriarty

Please check out the two-part interview with Jerry Moriarty at Inkstuds: part one, part two. here to read the rest of this post...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Family Guy

"Yeah, on Tuesday, September 22nd at 7:00 p.m. at Family Books in Los Angeles, there's going to be a Simpsons Treehouse of Horror #15 launch and art shew. Sammy Harkham, Jeffrey Brown, Jordan Crane, Tim Hensley, and Matt Groening will be signing books 15 hours before they hit the shops." here to read the rest of this post...

Monday, September 14, 2009

On the Genre of Autobiography

I learned how to draw comics from library books. Old tomes like Jack Markow's Cartoonist's and Gag Writer's Handbook might explain to render art twice up and use a number 2 brush and ink so the photostat camera could recognize it. By the time I finally assimilated this knowledge picked up piecemeal over the course of many years, photostats were replaced by TIFs from scanners and everyone began drawing same size using colored pencils. In an attempt to avoid being a casualty of mere history, alongside my published work I inadvertently created this four panel strip:

In a sense, this was my true unmediated expression--pure, deeply personal. There was no attempt at composition, containment lines, language... If it resembled stabs in the dark or the frustration with the humidity of the day, it did not trouble me or cause me to reflect on its implications. Perhaps it was an attempt to chase my own ambulance--in recognition of the unplanned obsolescence on both sides of my drawing table. here to read the rest of this post...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Gropius in Space

NOTE: For a recent post by me on the book version of Wally Gropius, please see here.

Around a month ago, cartoonist Dash Shaw put up a nice post at Comics Comics about cartoonist and Blog-Flumer Tim Hensley. Dash notes that “It’s like what [Tim] chooses to draw in the environment (and what he chooses not to draw) is determined by some graphic Feng Shui.” This is an astute observation, and I think there might be something going on in addition to Feng Shui.

It makes sense that Tim’s Wally Gropius (which recently concluded its serialization in Mome) should take such an interest in interior and exterior spaces, given that the comic’s title references Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius. But rather than look primarily to architectural history, Tim’s sense of space seems to reference (and he can certainly correct me on this) a fundamental conceit of children’s humor comics of the mid-to-late 20th century.

This Little Lulu cover represents this minimalist conceit:

It features only the characters and objects necessary for the gag –- and they appear almost to be suspended in space. Like these covers, Hensley's approach in Gropius is to redefine and often erase the boundaries that separates interior and exterior -- and distinct dimensions in reality are replaced by a continuous field of color in his comic.

Tim’s cover for the latest issue of Comic Art (#9) follows in this tradition (especially prevalent on Dell and Harvey covers), with its off-kilter take on funny animal gags:

In this panel from “The Dropouts in 'Virgin Vinyl'” (Mome Winter 2007), a section of Wally Gropius, Tim includes only the scene's characters and objects related to the story’s running gags, echoing the above covers' minimalist take on space and humor:

Here the teen romance/sexual frustration theme is visible in Wally’s romantic excitement and lack of focus: he plugs his guitar into the Ficus instead of the amp. Perhaps this gag also suggests sexual frustration in a coded way –- the position of the guitar and the fact that the cord is plugged into the plant (fertility?) as a kind of sexually suggestive act. The other objects that appear in the panel -- the hammer and the piggy bank (‘breaking the bank’) clearly relate to the Richie Rich-esque money puns that run throughout the story –- and the future aggression implied in the pairing of these objects next to each other (eventually the bank [as in Jillian Banks, Wally's love interest?] will be 'broken') might relate to things yet to happen in the story, and one extremely chilling scene in particular.

Almost every panel on this page is set up in a way similar to the children's comics' covers:

Note the surreal shadows in the last panel . . . And in the whiteness of this panel we see a potential blurring of inside and outside. Are they inside a garage -- The Dropouts as a literal "garage band" -- yet an armored car appears in the far distance . . . If this an interior space, it's vast . . . Also note the way that blocks of color organize the page's design (as do, in a different sense, the money-related objects that appear in each panel). Tim's approach to space allows his coloring ability to occupy center stage and to emphasize the panel in a new way.

[What's the pun on Greenspan and the saw in the first panel? "Saw + bucks" -- sawbucks as slang for a $10 bill?]

Exteriors often use the same approach, as in these panels from “Gropius Besieged” (Mome Summer 2009). Just as there is no distinction in many of the ‘interiors’ between floors, walls, and ceiling, the field of color redefines exterior space by eliminating any clear distinction between ground and atmosphere:

Given the strangeness of the environment, the shadows (here and in the above panels) appear to be an odd relic imported from 'reality,' reflecting a more conventional approach to delineating space. . . . And even the different kinds of shadows in the two panels suggest Tim's original approach to environments.

This panel -- a scene in Jillian's bedroom where closets and the door 'f'loat' in space yet are realistically positioned -- puns on the fact that cartoon characters in these kinds of comics always wear the same outfit, day after day:

Gropius is dense with such puns, and Tim’s approach to space is like one ever-present -- albeit abstract -- beautiful pun. I can’t think of another cartoonist who approaches space -- and what we might call 'spatial color' -- in such a rigorously strange way. As Dash observes, there's a real logic to Tim's work.

Wally Gropius and Walter Gropius --
Fagus Works (1911-13):

Monument to the March Dead (1921):

For some of Tim's Gropius related posts on Blog Flume, see the following: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. here to read the rest of this post...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Covers: Brunetti and Sorensen

Ivan Brunetti on the curent New Yorker:

Jen Sorensen, a pal and fellow UVa alum, on The University of Virginia Magazine, which also has a feature on Jen and her cartoon Slowpoke. There's a video, too. here to read the rest of this post...

Friday, September 4, 2009 here to read the rest of this post...