Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Next year, put your money where you live

This was posted on Huff today. Though my pointy-headed liberal leanings are obvious to anyone who's talked to me for more than 5 minutes, I don't talk politics here on Trosper very often.
But this isn't politics as much as it is in common sense.
I'm a huge advocate of shopping locally, supporting American made goods and services, and giving back to one's own community whenever possible. This is just a practical extension of that idea. A smaller bank is more likely to understand its customers' needs, and to reinvest in the community rather than engaging in spurious speculations designed only to maximize short-term profit without regard for the safety of investors and depositors.
So as we close out the year, think on Janus, the two-faced god for whom January is named, simultaneously looking forwards and backwards. And consider this new, old idea.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Original Art Sundays, No. 22: Cold fires, ice burns

To close out the year in Original Art Sundays, some random digital photography and Photoshop playfulness from the last few days.
Burning some scrap in the fireplace, I saw some patterns that fascinated me and grabbed the camera.

The burning shape in the center is a heart cutout.
On the drive back from family Christmas up North, I was amazed by the power of the snow on the trees off Highway 65. I was struck by just how irrelevant we humans are to nature and how oblivious we can be to that fact.

As I drove on after taking this shot, I toyed with the idea of "freezer burn" and the idea of "cold fire". Using  the Match Color command in PS3, I came up with a frozen winter fire of sorts.

I also tried for a fire of burning ice.

I'm not completely satisified with either one, but I think the ice burn is a bit more successful than the frozen tree fire.
I find the idea intriguing and will keep toying with it as time and concentration allow.
Next week (or next month or next year or next decade): fresh comics!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Lest we forget...

Ah, the classics.

Warm holidays to all!

Here we are at Christmas again. Much snow here, very quiet out in the so-called real world. Looking forward to finishing a couple little last-minute things prior to a drive North tomorrow for a slightly belated family holiday. I also plan on spending at least part of the day quietly enjoying a comic book or three. Been re-reading Bone of late, and enjoying it immensely.
Thinking of families and comics brings this image to mind:

This is a lovely prelim sketch of the comic book family of 'Mazing Man, one of my favorite superheroes. Much like The Spirit, 'Maze, as he is affectionately known, is a powerless superhero whose adventures are largely concerned with more mundane, populist matters- helping people change flat tires, watching out for the neighbors, and so it goes.
Unlike the Spirit, 'Maze is sort of nuts. But in a harmless, helpful way, not like the mania of The Badger, a comic that has a more cynical edge.
Therein lies the difference. 'Mazing Man is about hope and joy.
What better metaphor for the best of Christmas?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Original Art Sundays, No. 21: The World in Love, last page!

And so it ends, and so it begins.

After I finished this, I showed it to some people. I had a sense of what I hoped would be the meaning conveyed, that we can change the world if we see our fears for what they are and open ourselves to new possibilities.  I also wanted to invoke what small knowledge I hold of Hindu teachings, by using the third eye as a symbol for awareness.
So I asked my friend and former student Sean Lynch what he thought it was about. He simply said, "love is stronger than fear."
Can't argue with that.
Next week's post might be a bit late due to the holiday.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Original Art Sundays, No. 21: The World in Love, pp. 22 and 23

So close to the end of the story.
The big problem with these pages is that the grays are so soft.

The third eye stuff is a bit of a giveaway as to where I'm coming from on this, but it's more of a loose metaphor for awareness of one's own power.

Also, I know that it's tactless to laugh at your own lines, but the line "Oh, go eat a bug" just cracks me up.
I was a bit embarrassed by the rendering of the Mother figure in last week's pages, but then I was researching something else and was reminded of this Jack Kirby page.

Much as I love The Prisoner and Jack Kirby, looks like the arms get away from him from time to time too!
next week: The end of the beginning.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Original Art Sundays, No. 20: The World in Love, pp. 20 and 21

The perspective and figure drawing skills went right down the tubes at about 3 AM. Still a fan of open panels, but Mom's arm seems to have gone flat on one side. And the shape of the head- yeesh!
Still, I promised no fixing of these. If I ever go to press with this book, I'll rework these pages sometime when I'm awake- not the state in which they were drawn, I assure you!
Even with that, I like the storytelling aspect here. It's a bit Deus Ex Machina that Mom just sort of casually explains the key point, albeit in a cryptic way. Still, it's consistent with the idea behind one of my favorite superheroes, Dr. Strange, that real power comes from wisdom and does not need to be expressed in a loud or gaudy fashion. I feel much the same way about John Wayne's character Tom Donovan in the classic film The Man who Shot Liberty Valance. The character echoes the idea that the most important thing is to see things for what they are, whether it's the way you would have them be or not. The power of true conviction in this character, especially during the direct confrontations with the title character, is unstoppable.
Now this week's pages.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Overture, curtain, lights!

Thanks to my friend, the video and film director Bill Rude for pointing this out.
Seems the Vibro Champs video shot during SES  a couple years ago, pulled from YouTube a few months later, is going to be on their new CD as bonus material. It's now available through Bill's site once again. As this was one of the best shoots I've ever been on and I have a brief cameo in it, I grabbed it for reposting while it was available!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Original Art Sundays, No. 19: The World in Love, pp. 18 and 19

Our heroine is coming into her own, though she doesn't know it yet.


The lizard is, of course, an homage to my man Vaughn Bode', referenced here several times in the past.
In yesterday's post I mentioned my Mother's paintings. One of those, done the day before my 13th birthday, featured the Northern Lights and was an unconscious influence on this story. I was reminded of it during yesterday's shoot.
This painting, along with 29 others, will appear in this year's book of Mother's art.

Friday, November 27, 2009

One for Mother

Today is my late Mother's birthday.
It's also Jimi Hendrix's birthday.
As such, I'd like to offer a sentimental Hendrix number, accompanied by photography. Mother loved nature photographs, and took some good ones, though these are not hers.

She also loved a good laugh. She weaned us on Burns and Allen records.

Every year, I put together a book of her paintings for my brothers and sisters. The shoot is tomorrow. Between that and her birthday, she is very much in my thoughts and heart today.
Without her influence, I might never have become an artist. Like many of us, I owe my Mother more than I can express. I try to give it back by reflecting the best of her in my words and deeds.
Lighter post again on Sunday!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bless the Day!

Just a quick note to wish all the best at the beginning of the holiday season. It's been arough year for a great many of us, and beyond gratitude that we survived it, we can be grateful for the promise of better days ahead, and for those who comfort and support us when the going gets tough.
Here's one of my favorite prayer type songs. Sadly, it's not a live version, but the song remains as potent!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Original Art Sundays, No. 19: The World in Love, p. 17

The aftermath of a big moment. Sort of a reveal but not really. I had a devil of a time explaining the panel layout to Diana Nock, seated across from me, as I was roughing the pencils. "No, the figure will not be broken by the panels. It's just- you'll see."
I really like this. It's a much older device, I'm sure, but I first became overtly aware of using the empty panel as a pacing device through Terry Moore's work on Strangers in Paradise, linked to in earlier posts.

Again, sparse backgrounds, which can be forgiven if the blacks give enough weight and color to  hold the page. In fairness, this page could use more weight, visually. Resisting the temptation to tweak the work! Did a crop and ran levels in Photoshop. That's it.
Next week: two or three pages, including an homage of the most fun order.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Singing for our lives

Last night, the choir I belong to, Trans Voices, sang as part of the Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony at Spirit of the Lakes Church in Minneapolis. Though this event has occurred annually for a decade and takes place in major cities around the world, this was my first time attending, due to prior work conflicts.
The point of the event is to remember the trans folk who have been murdered in the previous year.
The 2008 ceremony celebrated approxiamtely 36 lives.
This year's ceremony, with a couple last minute additions offered by people in attendance, commemorated 170.
One hundred and seventy.
The way the ceremony worked: our moderator, Barbara Satin, made opening remarks. A poem was read. The Chorus sang two songs, and did quite well, I thought, much more confident than we were in rehearsal. The songs were This Is Me and Here's Where I Stand.
Then we took turns reading the names and ages of the victims, if known (many were not), date and method of death. After we read our names, we lit a candle for each of them, as the next person read the names.
Due to a momentary dearth of people to step forward for reading (out of a crowd of well over 100), I read twice. I was stopped cold when I got to the this poor girl:
Carol de Souza
Died Sept, 13, 2009
location of death: Caratinga, Brazil (by a brook)
Cause of death: stabbed
Seventeen. She was only seventeen. Barely knowing life, yet already knowing who she is, and dying for it.
But what choice is there?
During the open mic portion of the program that followed, I said that we must have great power, we must really scare them, if they're willing to do all this (shootings, stabbings, beatings, mutilations, dismemberment, decapitations and more atrocities) to us.
I am reminded of this scene from V for Vendetta. The comic is better than the film, but the film is still worthwhile.

Following the reading of the names and the open mic forum, our choir closed the event with a rendition of the full version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Everyone in attendance joined in for the final verse.
I am hardly an American Idol fan, but this is the only version of the song I could find that includes the intro we performed.

There was a photographer from Lavender magazine in attendance. I will post photos when they become available.
All in all, a powerful, empowering, rage-inducing night that somehow reinforced my belief in our own strength.
This image from one of last year's events says it all.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Great Lost Gentle Giant Instrumental?

Well, not really. But a fun and very imaginative piece of music, and a prototype video from the 1950s.

While the musical structures presage Zappa more than GG, the variety of instrumentation brings Gentle Giant to mind.
The actual source is, of course, the Dr. Seuss musical The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T!
I am reposting this for the benefit of my GG friends in other nations who cannot access the clip on YouTube.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Who gets to call it Art?

Freely stolen from the Sleeveface blog!

Original Art Sundays, No. 18: The World in Love, p. 16

Just posting one page this week. Narrative flow and all that.

This is the climactic moment in the confrontation with the predator.
When I show people this page in person, I get one of two reactions.
Reaction one: OOOOOOOOOO-kay then......... ( as they slowly move away....)
Reaction two: That's pretty cool.
Which pretty much sums up my response to the story at this point. I'm not sure what it's about, but I know where it's going. Much like the Nesmith line, "though my path is planned, it's not rehearsed."
Tech specs: original done on semi-gloss backing board, coated 3-ply Bristol cut to the size of a modern comic page, in grayscale brush tip marker, using an ink rather than the icky stinky stuff that markers are often loaded with.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Let's Eat!

Oh my Deity.
This is the image many people have of comic book fans. In fairness, some of us live up (or down) to it.
As such, food is a big deal to us.
Given that comics serve quite well as an instructional medium, despite many of their advocates' preferences for narrative, it seems only reasonable that comics should delve into the realm of cookbooks.
The first recipe I was aware of in a comic was in an underground, Hungry Chuck Biscuits #1.
This contained a recipe for a hamburger weighing close to a pound. It says something about how much things have changed in the last 40 years that we no longer see such a burger as unusual or excessive!
The next comic book recipe that jumped to my attention was on the letters/editorial page of American Flagg! #1.

I still have this book, but don't read it often, as my perspective on its cynicism and misogyny, too seldom redeemed by its Martian porn-star "hero", has changed. But I did like its Greek muse, the genetically altered talking cat, its energy, the elements of Alfred Bester's writing that it evoked, and the aforementioned recipe for Spaghetti Alpha Carbonara!
Shortly threafter, haunting Paul's Books in Madison, WI, I ran into a cookbook by Dana Crumb, illustrated by her then-husband, Robert.

A sample recipe and illustration:

It turns out that there have been cookbooks featuring comic book and comic strip characters for decades. A Peanuts cookbook or a Blondie cookbook is a viable marketing tool, a way to reinforce the status quo (a former party girl like Blondie is content to stay home and cook), and a way to get kids into cooking, if you buy into the then-prevalent notion that only kids care about or even read comics.
It's also fun.
Even DC and Marvel got into the act.

There's a recently released Manga cookbook, that supposedly shows kids Japanese cooking techniques.


This begins to address what I see as the problem with cookbooks, instructional manuals and technical journals in comic form. They're too didactic. Despite reading being a solitary activity, comics lend themselves to an intimacy, a familiarity with the reader. This last entry incorporates elements of that, at least in my perspective.
Comics should not talk to their readers, they should talk with us.
That's why this is the single best comic book cookbook I've ever seen.

Sorry I don't have a better cover image. I'll update when I dig out my copy. It's with my cookbooks, not my comics!
Northwest Cartoon Cookery was published in the mid-90s by Starhead Comics, a fascinating company that also did a comic book version of WWII promotional film by the US Army, Hemp For Victory. Starhead jumped head first into the 90s fray of zine publishing, and offered some wildly adventurous books along the way, many of them more enduring than much of the zine fare.
This specific book used the old saw of having cartoonists illustrate their favorite recipes. However, on the page facing each recipe, the cartoonist who contributed the recipe offered a one-page meditation on the recipe or its place in their life, or some related matter.
I made Roberta Gregory's Albondigas Soup many times. I loved that she used ground turkey instead of hamburger to avoid the layer of orange grease that so often shows up on this soup in restaurants!
And Joe Matt's recipe for Hot Dog Soup was accompanied by a hilariously depressing treatise on how he couldn't afford insurance on a cartoonist's pay, and so would probably die of gangrene, but anyway, enjoy the soup.
Comics are best when read in solitude, but at their best they give a sense of immersion in a story or a life other than the reader's. Cooking is the most fun in a busy home kitchen full of people, so long as everybody has the sense to stay out of the chef's way.
Solitude and community meet in the comic book cookbook?
Nothing so grandiose, but I can't help wondering why, when I go to my drawing board to work on a comic, I say to myself, "Okay, let's cook."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Diana joins Trosper and Ignatz

Trosper and Ignatz have met Gentle Giant. So have I.
I was in New York and CT last weekend for the annual GORGG- the Global On-Reflection Giant Gathering.
This was the 11th one. I've been to 8, I attended the events in New York; Toronto, CA; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Portland, Oregon; Evora, Portugal; Qeubec City, Quebec, Canada; and Denver, CO. I missed the ones in Wales, London and Germany for financial reasons.
I almost missed this one for the same reason. I've had fiscal difficulties of late, and have been getting some financial help from a family member. Although I bought my plane ticket months before these problems happened, I wrestled with the ethics of going at all under those conditions. do I spend money under these conditions or waste the non-refundable plane ticket?
I had a room share, which cut my hotel bill in half, and they gave us a great group rate to begin with. and I know how to eat on the cheap, even in New York.
I decided it was more wasteful to not go than to go, so I set about finding the funds I needed.
So I got busy and sold a bunch of stuff. I figured that if I raised the money for the trip by selling my belongings, especially ones I should let go of anyway, it served multiple purposes. I freed myself of stuff I no longer needed, I was able to take the trip with a clear conscience and not waste the paid-for-ages-ago plane ticket, and I rejuvenated my spirit by spending time with people who hold a special bond with me.
The music of Gentle Giant speaks to us all, almost three decades after the band ceased to exist.
This year, in addition to the special guests we've come to prize so- GG guitarist Gary Green, keyboard player and composer Kerry Minnear, and drummer Malcolm Mortimore- we got an unexpected treat. Frontman, lead singer and band founder Derek Shulman stopped by for a couple hours.
Here I am with Derek.

The camera was uncharacteristically kind to me, and Derek was quite gracious. We managed to avoid mobbing him TOO badly!
Later that night, there was a jam session with all the great players jumping in (Derek had departed by that point).
Here's some stunning footage from that night: Jamie Krutz on violin and my dear friend Paul van de Hart on guitar, playing the GG barnstormer Mobile from the classic album Free Hand!

But the shining moment was earlier in the day, as Wendy Boulding (thanks to our hardworking host Jon Roberts for helping me with Wendy's last name!) rehearsed Memories of Old Days with my roommate Glen Bourgeois sitting in on bass, and Gary Green and Alan Benjamin on guitars! My only contribution is at the end where I tell Wendy, "Nice pipes!"

Although I did go on stage with the boys in Denver two years ago, I didn't even try this year, much as I always want to. Too many really talented players. I decided to enjoy it for what it was.
Apres' jam, I joined in a very loose guitar bash that ran till almost 5 AM.
I kept coming back to the same thought I have when I talk with comics folk or when I'm with family. These are my people.
So many things come to mind when I think about this experience. Do I really have to travel halfway across the country to share this music? To share it with these people, yes.
As Leonard Cohen says,
"I came so far for beauty,
left so much behind"
Except that what I left behind here was a sense of being beat down by life. To say things have been tough this year is like calling the Chicago fire a weenie roast. I needed this.
This renews me in a way nothing else does.
I am going to do everything in my power to improve my fiscal lot so I can attend next year's gathering in Scotland with the ribald (in every sense) John Burns and his lovely wife as hosts. It's possible that John Weathers, a dear kind man and the drummer for most of GG's work, will be able to join us again. His health is poor, but Wales is not so far as all that from Scotland.
Here I am with my partner in punning crime, John Burns:

There's an old saying that you can't have too many friends. For me that's becoming "you can't have too many families". This is one that's rare and valued.
Its great to have a family of over 100 people who all know the words to the songs!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Original Art Sundays, No. 17: The World in Love, pp. 10-15

Posting a bigger chunk again this week. Next week will be a single page.
The posting of different amounts weekly is fascinating to me. It reinforces Scott McCloud's argument in Reinventing Comics that creators using the Net have more control over pacing the narrative. Even in the context of daily or weekly strips, the pacing of the individual strip is set by the creator(s), but the frequency is set by the publisher. And if you're presenting a completed work, once it leaves your hands all you can do is hope the reader paces the work as intended. This gives a different measure of control.
The work at hand.




Things I particularly like on these pages: the open framing of p. 10 and the wolf defined by shadow, which reminds me of Argent in Matt Wagner's Grendel.  I flatter myself in this respect, as Wagner's design sense has been a standard to which I aspire since I first encountered it.
The knife scene on p. 13 brings to mind a scene from near the end of the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple. This is one of may favorite films, but I was not consciously aware of the influence during the execution of the page. I wanted a quick action depicted in large rapid fire panels, going for a low-motion or freeze frame effect. I may have also had the shot of the Cornithian stabbing Morpheus in the hand, from the Gaiman Sandman story A Doll's House, tickling the back of my mind, but again, not a conscious influence.
The radar silhouette effect on panel 2 of p. 15- I love this. It says so much about this character, whoever he is (did anyone notice that not one character in this story has a name? Now THAT was deliberate!) that he doesn't see who the girls are, only seeing them as things in his way. That, and there's a serene, contemplative quality to the act of hand redering repeated patterns with slight variations.
Next week: page 16.

Monday, October 26, 2009

In a bind with the Aztec

I've been exploring the possibility of having some of my comics hardbound as a step towards honing my collection.
One of the titles I've been looking at is the 1980s Eclipse book Aztec Ace. Good writing, precise and ornate art, and just a smart, fun read.
Here's the Table of Contents I've worked up for the book.

Basically happy with the work. I think the text crowds the logo just a tad, and the logo masking is iffy in a couple places. But as long as it prints clean, we're golden.
And so is Ace!
One of the comic covers is damaged and needs replacing. It will only cost a dollar or so, but I don't have time to run around for it today, so the bind is postponed yet again. Insert growling noise of frustration here!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Original Art Sundays, No. 17: The World in Love, pp. 2-5

More pages from the 24 hour challenge!
It seems to me that the pace of the story would be hurt by slower posting, so I will be be posting multiple pages for the next several weeks. This will also give me incentive to do more work!


Again, no image editing, just the raw files from the scans.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

It's a Ms. Tree to me....

Spent part of the afternoon with my casual buddy Terry Beatty and his son Kirby. I mean really, what else would a comic artist and comic hound name his son but Kirby?
The purose of the visit, aside from interrupting Terry's work drawing the next book in The Road to Perdition series, was to get him to sign my friend James' four (!) bound volumes of The Complete Ms. Tree in four hardbound volumes.
A quick word about binding. people are starting to get into it as a way of archiving collections, and organizing the content to your liking.  You assemble the material in the order you want it bound, send it to a book bindery that specializes in such things (and there are a few), and for a reasonable fee, you get back a book made of your comics. Some just send them in. Others remove ads, reorder stories, take books apart, order custom die stamps for the books' covers, and make dustjackets for them. It's about having books you want to read instead of comics shoved in a box because there's no other practical way to store them.
Well, Terry thought I was just bringing over some old TPBs, and he was blown away.

He was so delighted that he said James almost didn't get them back! As a fellow collector, James would appreciate the sentiment.
I hope.
But that's the thing about Terry. He's one of us.
He invited me to take a quick look at his studio, replete with 50s mini-bar holding his computer, all the cool Harryhausen statues and Big Little Books, all the comics we both love. It's rare these days that I have this kind of in-person time with someone else who really gets comics, especially someone around the same age, so it was too much fun.
And Kirby is a trip! Great little dude!

So much has happened in the past year. I've wondered a bit if my rekindled interest in my comic archive/library/collection/mausoleum was a way to avoid facing some of it. Lord knows this binding thing has eaten some time of late.
Maybe, but I doubt it.
My rekindled passion for comics is awakening other dormant passions and disciplines. I think it's there for me, and not me for it. To me and those like me, comics are akin to Jim Morrison's description of making music, a pure expression of joy.
It's hard for some people to understand how anyone can get that excited about a stack of comic books. I get that.
They're just not one of us.
Party on, Terry and Kirby!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Happy dog time! Picture, picture! Good boy.

Time to shake off the grief of last week's events.
Here's a double header designed to make me smile: (1)the official photos of the First Family have been done (2) by Annie Leibovitz.
This is good for three reasons.
1. It keeps a human face on an administration some are inclined to demonize.
2. It gives the nation a photo of the First Pooch! I'm a cat lover, but, come on, how adorable is this guy?

3. It gives work to Annie Leibovitz. In light of her recent troubles, she could use a break.