Sunday, December 30, 2012

Original Art Sundays No. 146: TNT news

Back after a week off for no reason other than the holidays!
Here are some older editorial pieces.
But first, a brief explanation.
In the early 1990s, there were two magazines on transgender politics that took a slightly more "street level" approach than the academic journal Chrysalis.
One was Davina Anne Gabriel's TransSisters, which we've discussed briefly in the past. Ran ten issues from September 1993 to Summer 1995.
The other was Gail Sondegaard's TNT NEWS. This ran from 1994 to 1997, running eight issues.
If memory serves, that is. I don't have all my files copies of the latter at hand.
At any rate, I did editorial cartoons for both.
One of the TNT cartoons, Pinkette and LaBrainne, has been published here before. I'd like to offer a couple others this week. These are two of my favorites. The art is serviceable, the writing is sharp and on point, if a bit dated for at least one of them, and they come together fairly well.
These will be included in The Complete Tranny Towers, if and when it's done. The first one uses a Tranny Towers character!
Actually these stand up better than I thought they would.
I do have to note that there are a couple others with alarmingly bad art. I will not post those, but will include them in the aforementioned book, with a healthy dash of mea culpa.
The "change for a dollar" gag is adapted/stolen from a Bernie Wrightson poster. See the end of this post.
And the Mr. Haney vibrator line is a classic among us devotees of Green Acres!
The issue of stealth remains significant, but has lost some of its explosively divisive properties over the years.
Still.... a story comes to mind.
My last girlfriend suddenly moved to Texas to care for her mom about a month after her final surgery.
A little odd, but then we all have choices to make and I respected her for caring for her mother, even though we were getting rather close and her handling of the matter hurt me a great deal.
We talked a year or so later, and she was dating a guy. She was quite happy.
Well, good. We all get to be happy.
But he didn't know about her past, and she wasn't going to tell him, and isn't that wonderful?
Well.... no, it's not.
I mean, yeah, it's wonderful that you succeed in the world so well that you have that option. But there's more to it than that.
Deciding when and where you're out about your gender history is a complex issue. It touches on matters of integrity, mental health and physical safety, not to mention just plain wanting to be accepted on your own terms. And every decision around it has to be weighed VERY carefully.
This stuff can drive you up a tree. I used to worry obsessively about who knew, who could tell by looking, who was and wasn't laughing, on and on and on.
That will put a real crimp in your day.
Then after the end of my abusive relationship, about which I've kvetched in the past, I started assuming everyone knew and stopped worrying about it.
The paradox was that many less people knew after I took that tack!
However, in the midst of all that, it must be said that there are some people who have a right to know if you respect them. Close friends, family and partners/lovers/spouses fall into this category. It's their business if you value them in your life. If they can't handle it, that's on them, but those are the people you should trust.
Tuesday is January 1, 2013. and I'll begin my Best Comics of 2012 countdown then.
New art resumes January 6.
Now, here's that Wrightson piece!

See you all next year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Original Art Sundays (Tuesday) no: 145: Surrealist Cowgirls, p. 14

Posting a couple days late, just due to being too busy again. The scan was just sitting there waiting for me.
Now the page.
As you recall, our heroines were standing atop the onyx pyramid looking down into a miles-deep core of solid crystal.
Their plan was to jump in.
And here they go.
I got the idea of falling through solid crystal from Steve Englehart's Silver Dagger storyline in Dr. Strange.
The other inspiration was one of the covers of the Waid-Ross masterpiece Kingdom Come. I don't much care for some of Ross's work- too stiff- but Kingdom Come worked very well, especially in the larger Absolute format that doesn't overcrowd the claustrophobic art.

This is the image I had in mind when I plotted this page:
The notion of someone floating, cascading down through solid glass appeals to me on a very profound level.
No scanner access after Wednesday, but I do have a few images backlogged and I hope to scan an extra one when I'm at the Service Bureau tomorrow putting the finishing touches on some Christmas presents!
Things are building in our current story, and I hope to offer the next page first thing in the New Year!
I'm also building for my Best of 2012 list!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Original Art Sundays no. 144: Surrealist Cowgirls, p. 13

Finally took time to make minor corrections and post this page. I love teaching and writing, but they play hob with my art schedule.
Oh, for balance.
Ahem. The final page.
 I went nuts trying to sort out the layout for this one.
An overhead shot of the top of a ziggurat...
it works fairly well, especially the part with Whalliam and Louise's mule. I cobbled the perspective on the figures from a couple panels in Watchmen, but it might need to be pushed further.
The other frustration I had on this page was that my ink was old and gummy and faded. After the page was done, I tossed it and am switching to ProArt Deep Opaque starting with the next page.
My original layout for this page, seen below and on the back of the final art, involved a less dynamic opening angle and a much larger final panel. The facial expressions were more involving, but it didn't really communicate a proper sense of place.
I'm really eager for the next page!
Next week... ideally the next page. We're coming up on a couple weeks of down time between semesters at MCAD, so I need to complete my scanning ahead if I want to continue to post.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Original Art Sundays No. 143: Surrealist Cowgirls poster

Back in the saddle yet again.
The next page is done, the following page is on the board and laid out, but I will not be able to scan until tomorrow or Tuesday.
Meanwhile, here's the poster I created for the MCAD faculty show this fall. Nice to see the work so big on the wall! Will amend this post with exhibit photos after the upload.

This was an object lesson in the old saw about screen color vs. print color. There were numerous glitches that didn't appear on screen but were glaring in the printout.
I went through four prints before I got one that met my standards.
A quick job, but I like the dappled look of Whalliam. Unless he's in a fire and completely dried out, he will look this way in all environments.
The story is taking an interesting turn, as you'll all see next week.
Until then- Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Original Art Sundays No. 142: oddments: bison and pirates

Still writing like a fiend and a mile behind on grading. I have a total of 26 entries left to complete for the long-overdue Comics Through Time project, and am trying to give it priority without harming my teaching career in the process.
Always a juggling act, this academia.
Also inching along on the next page. One of these days I'll get frustrated enough to take a couple hours and put the finishing touches on it.
Meanwhile, here are a few older pieces for your enjoyment.
First up, a traditional airbrush piece from 1991. I always liked this one, but most folks who have seen it are lukewarm to it, for unspecified reasons.
I like the fact that it's hand work! I really miss my old Badger airbrush- no idea what happened to it. I suspect I lost it in the Great Relationship Disaster of '93.
So it goes.
The grasses could be a little subtler, and the fade to the sunset a bit more gradual, but otherwise this piece really grabs me.
I always thought this would be a nice T-shirt. Please don't steal it!
A few years later, circa 1997, I completed a handful of illustrations for a proposed children's book. I had written it as well. Sadly, most of the text is gone now (though I could rewrite it fairly easily, I suppose) and these illustrations are pretty much all that's left.
The book was an alphabet book on pirates.
There were a couple other pages that I liked, but they were too derivative of other works- in one case, Charles Vess' work on the Marvel graphic novel The Raven Banner, in another, Joe Orlando's pirate pages in Watchmen- so if I ever move farther on this project (big if!), I'll rework those.
Here are the pages and their alphabetical topics:

Women Were Pirates too!


Hispaniola, the Pirate Haven

Mostly painted with colored inks on heavy watercolor paper.
Again, there are things that work here and things that don't. I'm most pleased with the image of women pirates, because my research was so spot-on, and because I like the mood of it.
The girls looking on in the bottom corner are the ostensible stars of the book. The blond is exploring the world of pirates and immersing herself in it. She shows up on scattered pages. I thought every page would be a bit much.
Next week- more something. I hope for a new page, but- more something!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Original Art Sundays no. 141: Surrealist Cowgirls cover!

Back after three weeks away.
Oh my Lord!
This Encyclopedia project is killing me, but I'm almost done. Only 28 entries to go.
I've been poking at this whenever I had a couple minutes. You may recall that I posted the black & white art a while back.
I'm not sure if I consider this final- too tired to render a verdict at the moment- but for now, I'm happy with it.
Got WAY hung up on the details, but I think it came out OK. My other big idea was to do a pastiche of the cover for Superman Annual No. 7, with Whalliam sitting in for the Superman statue.
But it struck me as a bit overdone.
Not that this idea is all that fresh, being derivative of Laugh Kills Lonesome by Charlie Russell.
next week: either an oddment or the overdue new page!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Original Art Sundays No. 140: oddment: Broturra!

Haven't posted for a few weeks, after an extended run of meeting my self-imposed deadline.
Now that I'm almost over a nasty bout of shingles and a couple other deadlines have passed, I'm happy to get back to it.
Today's offering is inspired by a bit from the original Beverly Hillbillies series. Jethro, Ellie Mae and their dates were at the drive-in watching Broturra, The Swamp Monster, which was really some clips from the Danish monster movie Repticilicus!

I remember Ellie Mae shouting "yonder comes the swamp monster!" I thought it was a great line, absurd as all get out, and I coupled it with my love of Leave It To Beaver to create this odd little page.

Another little story I never finished, but it was more an exercise in silliness than anything else. Funny thing: I didn't know Reptilicus was Danish when I gave the father figure that name!
I still haven't posted the few images I took at the closing reception for the MCAD Faculty Show, or the new piece done for that show.
The next Cowgirls page is not yet done but is closer.
More art soon!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Original Art Sundays No. 139: oddments: surfer and Whoopi

Bit behind on the next page, but fear not.
Haven't posted oddments for a while, so here are a couple older pieces.
First up, a piece intended for an article on surfing.
The central image was back painted like an animation cel, and the background was a Photoshop manipulation of a scan of a Hawaiian shirt.
I was drawing on obvious Kirby influences, and though I was fairly happy with it, the editor didn't care for it.
The decision to violate the image border for dramatic effect worked against me in this case.
Object lesson: what works in comics doesn't necessarily work in editorial art.

Next up, a piece I thought I had previously posted but cannot locate in a quick search: a coquille board of Whoopi Goldberg, something done just to do a portrait.
I've always really liked this piece. There are only a few of my own works that I'd consider framing and living with them, and this is one.
The textures, the facial features, the pose: it all works. There's a strength and a vulnerability to this piece. Coquille board is such a great medium. It all comes together.
Well, except the smoke.
I could not get the smoke to behave the way I wanted it to.
I tried white colored pencil, but couldn't get it to overlay the ink. I considered scratching it out, but I was leery of ruining the work.
I finally decided on white ink, applied alternately with a small brush and a crowquill pen.
Like my Billie Holiday scratchboard portrait, one of the first pieces I posted here, the emotional resonance of the subject matter comes through.
Next week: the Cowgirls ride back.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Original Art Sundays No. 138: Surrealist Cowgirls, the Lunch Box

A day late for no apparent reason.
New page proceeds apace, but is not there yet.
Something I've been meaning to do for a while.
I've had a fascination with lunchboxes for some time. I still have my Pigs in Space lunchbox from the late 70s.
Not my own, but a reasonable facsimile!
I'm usually opposed to the gimmicky stuff, but I'd like to see Surrealist Cowgirls lunchboxes, posters, PJs and beach towels. All done, not necessarily with taste, but with a combination of reverence for the source material and silliness. 
After all, I did make a Surrealist Cowgirls cartoon as part of my undergrad work. If I can get it uploaded from VHS to DVD to digital, I'll post it sometime.
Don't expect miracles. It's an odd under-explained gag, and aside from seeing the characters moving, it's only OK.
Ahem. That said.
As part of the MCAD 2012 Faculty Show (now up but scheduled for Opening Reception this coming Friday, September 14), I prepared a lunchbox.
Not so easy as it sounds.
With my burning desire to do business locally, I wasted five weeks trying to hunt down a blank lunchbox in the Twin Cities. Aside from some half size cheesy yellow plastic ones at the usually reliable wholesaler Axman- nothing.
I found a website, I tried to commission them to do a custom job, which is part of their stock in trade. However, by that point it was early August, which is, of course, their busiest season, what with school starting and all.
So I ordered a blank and set to work on the art.
The Gang!
I still have to name the shapeshifting mule, represented here as a huge puppy.
The piece was done in colored pencil and ink, that the colors were pushed and border added in Photoshop CS6 (the new version, which I'm slowly learning/ relearning).
Design note: in retrospect, the floating Aztec winged light-bulb spire (well, what would you call it?) is a tad too close to the mountain- creates a bit of a merger.
I took the two printouts and did a simple pasteup.
The end result.

 Despite its crudity, I'm fairly happy with the end result.
Please join me in seeing this work, and the rest of the Surrealist Cowgirls exhibit, at the Faculty Art Show this coming Friday!
Next week: either more story or a field report on the opening.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Original Art Sundays no. 137: Surrealist Cowgirls, It Does This, p. 10

This is a very screwy series of events leading up to this page. Owing to the hour, I will simply post the page now and amend with the details tomorrow.  Details below the page.
I began this page in July, while working summer teaching sessions. It's been done for a while now, and now it's time to post it.
The layout of the top tier was based on discussions with my former student and summer co-worker Jack Kotz. Originally I had envisioned it as an overhead high shot in 3 point perspective, but it just wasn't working.
The second tier was easy. I love the tender silliness of the bunny hand holding in the first panel of that tier. It's also telling that Louise is the one who's afflicted and she's helping Maggie.
The last tier wasn't working at all. I pictured a triumph panel.
It was working, but I wasn't completely happy with it. I couldn't get a combination of scale and emotional response that I liked.
While I really like the drawing of Louise's mule (who has yet to be named, probably apropos for a shape-shifter) , it takes up too much real estate. No room for the rest of the case, and with two more girls and the whale-mule Whalliam still left to include, I decided it just wasn't working.
So I stopped in mid-panel.
But I was only blocked for a day.
Near the end of the session, I was talking the problem over with co-worker and longtime friend Rana Raeuchle,  who suggested the long shot with scenic in the foreground.
She also showed me a doodling app for my iPhone, which I've found immensely useful in plotting layouts. I do need to get some form of stylus to use with it for detail work- not that I'll be doing anything that detailed with it, but control is our friend.
I had the brainstorm of adding the boot of our mystery man, who's been following the group clandestinely, and his familiar, the giant snail. Some nice foreshadowing there. It should be noted that this last panel was done in ink, a welcome departure. I've fallen into the habit of working with markers, and I found getting back to inks quite fulfilling, and yielding a better result than I anticipated.
the inked replacement panel!

The original Chiss
It was time to name the snail. I puttered in my bookshelf for a bit, and found Chiss in The Patchwork Girl of Oz, one of my favorite Baum volumes. Chiss is a giant porcupine who can throw quills in multiple directions. I liked the way it sounded, and the implied speed in the name worked well with preconceptions of a snail's slowness.
Even though I've been working with the Surrealist Cowgirls since 1994, I'm still learning who they are. I suppose that's what people mean when they say characters become real, but I'm reminded of the words of Jane Yolen: if you think your characters are real, try borrowing ten dollars from one of them.
The following page is now on the board. Now that the Cowgirls are on top of the ziggurat, the story takes an intriguing turn, as the quest to cure Kay Seurat-Seurat continues.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Original Art Sundays no. 136: Surrealist Cowgirls, p.9

Damn near killed myself getting the work together for the MCAD Faculty Art Show, but I made the deadline!
I had just finished working on the last piece when I stood up and stumbled on the leg of my drawing table chair, taking a nasty tumble, scraping and twisting my left leg in the process. That was at 5:30 Friday morning and I'm still a bit sore.
What we endure for Art, eh?
Well, here's the next Cowgirls page. It's been done for more than a month, but I wanted to post the rest of the other story first. I have one more page already completed after this one, plus another almost done and three bonus pieces prepared for the show, so we're good to go for a while.
When we left out intrepid party, Maggie and Louise (who was "bunny-fied" by accident) were escorting Kay Seurat-Seurat to a mysterious black structure, on their journey to try to cure her devastating case of rheumatism of the spirit.
The journey continues...
I need to find a fresh visual pun for landscapes. This is the third time I've used "foothills". I like it, but variety is our friend too.
The spring-fed pool gag would work better if the pockets on the pool table were better defined.
Overall, I think this is a durable, fun page that advances the story.
Next week: the next page! Wow! If I can stay organized during teaching fall semester, I should be able to maintain the pace for quite a while.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Joe Kubert (1926 - 2012):remembering the art

Joe Kubert's career in comics began in 1938.
It ended two days ago.
I always like his Hawkman work, but didn't really appreciate the scope of the man's achievements until I began writing about his life and art.
Nothing I could write would do the man's work justice, so I've prepared a small tribute using some swiped Kubert art.
For those who don't know, Yossel is the title character of a graphic novel by Kubert, detailing the way his life might have gone if his parents hadn't emigrated to America.
Goodbye to a man whose line was simultaneously graceful and nearly savage in its energy.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Original Art Sundays no. 135: Tranny Towers, Final Chapter

When my editor told me the strip had been cancelled (on the deadline, when I came in to submit the next strip), I informed him that I was unsure of the paper's intent and had prepared one more just in case.
They agreed to run it, which was actually rather gracious.
I'm glad. I think it's one of the better strips of the run.

The banner is made from scratch, no overt swipes (at least none I can remember). I took my enthusiasm for pinup art, especially the work of Gil Elvgren, and did some work I think was rather inspired.
The title is an obvious Streisand reference.
Simple layout, a bit more background than in some of the past strips, and a closing "in-joke."
For the last few months of the strip's run, Lavender decided to also run a new strip called "Fabulous Fabio". It was the worst of gay comic strips- bad art, cliches, sloppy lettering and lazy writing. Though it died shortly after this strip, I was quite annoyed at its presence, and wanted to take a little shot at its creator's seeming lack of training and effort. I mean really, not so much that this was running next to my work, but running such a mediocrity near Dykes to Watch Out For or Jennifer Camper's Sub Grrlz? Sad. I was relieved when "Fabulous Fabio" faded into oblivion a few strips later.
I had set this up for one of the next storylines, involving Dan coming to terms with just how deep his drag persona did or didn't go. Trying to leave the door open and all that.
The Dolly Parton reference brings the strip full circle to the original Tranny Towers, a Section 8 building where 6 of the 14 units were occupied by MtF transfolk. Several of my neighbors were huge country fans, and I'd hear drunken singalongs of this song well into the wee hours. Once in a while I joined in. Ah, memories.
I still have a bunch of strips I did as editorial cartoons for TransSisters and TNT News Magazines. I'll run those as a unit after taking a break from this work to get back to the Surrealist Cowgirls. MY work on that for the faculty art show is due on or by Friday, and is about 2/3 done.
For right now, I'm going to do as the song says, and try to look better than a body has a right to.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Original Art Sundays No. 134: Tranny Towers, Ch. 36

The end of the storyline, but one chapter to follow. I"ll explain that next week.

1. The name issue from the previous chapter clearly needs resolution. Before going to Kickstarter (and failing that, self-publishing through Kablam or some other vendor), I'm planning on spending several days cleaning up all these annoying errors and relettering.
2. The Transsexual Menace T-Shirt refers to a group very active in the 90s. The group is extant today, but less active (the last news item on their site is over a year old).
3. The Mary Tyler Moore reference should be obvious, but in case any younger readers have not seen the original, here's the scene from the final episode. Go to 9:03 in for the key scene.

4. I couldn't resist the "bunny ears" in the last panel. It's one of my favorite bratty things to do, and it's a staple in my family!
5. I left the  door open for several new story lines: Sonia's stay at Hazelden, Trina's developing relationship with Leiko, Athena and Dena's California trip, and one involving Dan that I hint at in the one remaining strip- but it was not to be.
Not yet, anyway.
I will do an "aftermath" story to be included in the inevitable collection.
Quite honestly, I'm not sure how much of a market there is for this work. It's very dated, but I think it's still important. And although it's got its share of flaws, there's plenty of worthwhile material in this 74 week run.
More about the demise of the strip next week. I have a couple Surrealist Cowgirls pages, and one SC surprise in the wings, as well as news of the MCAD Faculty Show, which will include the aforementioned SC material.
For right now, posting this has me feeling more than a bit sentimental (me? really?), so I'm going to take a walk on this bright calm August day.
Next: the postscript.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Original Art Sundays no. 133: Tranny Towers, ch. 35

Two more after this one.

Took the black and white motif of the chapter title and played with a typeface I liked to create the logo for this chapter.
It felt good to draw the building exterior again, not seen on-panel since the first strip. I went back to that strip, and to the Little Nemo page I took the basic design from, to be sure I got it right.
It looks a bit like Ricky standing frame right in Panel 3, but it's not intended to be him. Also, note Concrete being shoved aside by Sonia. He shows up again in the last panel.
Yeah, I screwed up and had Sonia shouting her own name instead of her ex-partner Trina's. I can either rationalize it by saying she was distraught (chalk it up to trauma), or I can fix it later, before going to press with the collection. I might just let it be as it is.
The "heat lines" in panel one frustrated me. I put them in, I took them out. It was printed without them, but I put them back for this presentation. I think I'll leave them in.
I'm quite fond of the broken border in Panel 2.
This whole page is about your life being torn apart by something so large it seems elemental (fire, water, earth, air). And she's been one of the two more together ones of our little funny animal trans cadre, so having it happen to her is much more dramatic/turbulent.
Ironically, as I was driving in to work yesterday, there was an SUV in flames at the intersection of Hennepin & Lake in Uptown Minneapolis. Smoke filled the cab, flames licked at the undercarriage of the once- white body. I was thinking about posting this strip right before I saw it.
Next week: after the fire...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Original Art Sundays No. 132: Tranny Towers, Ch. 34

And to the wire...
three left after this one.

Pretty simple this time around.
Editorial had told me the strip was probably going to be cancelled, and I was looking at wrapping up the storyline. I was also very careful to match the strip layout to the new horizontal layout they had changed the strip to (without bothering to tell me in advance), and included a semi-bitchy note to the art director asking if they would please inform me in advance of necessary changes and give me a chance to make them myself, thank you very much.
Very simple strip this time out, emphasis on the action. Leiko's bedroom is consistent with the previous strip- since I had so much fun planning the layout of the bedroom, it seemed wrong to use it only the one time!
The revelation that Sonia owns the building was a plot device originally intended for a future story line.
Needless to say, I took the cancellation hard. Still, I felt a bit childish going with this "scorched Earth" plot, and it's a bit of a deus ex Machina, but it's fast and irrevocable. Fire's like that.
I don't remember where I got the visual device of the panels actually burning, but I do know it's not original to this strip. I had big fun lighting small scraps of paper and trying to photograph them for reference before the hot ashes floated away.
The title comes from the Blue Oyster Cult song, which I actually prefer to their big hit Don't Fear the Reaper.
Next: the blacks get heavier as we go to the burning building.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Original Art Sundays No. 131: Tranny Towers, Ch. 33

Only four left after this one! Another page I rather like.

Could have pushed the darks farther in the "open background" panels, 4 5 and 6.
I had more plans for Leiko's sister that were never realized. Think about it. She came out before she was 9, in the late 1960s- gutsy kid! She's been through a thing or two. That doesn't excuse her tactlessness, but it does explain it to some extent.
The chapter title comes from a Peter Gabriel song on the "melt" album.
The cafe' where they're eating, Ruby's, was a fixture for me and Jenny. At Pride this year, I glanced across Loring Park and had a pleasant/sad moment looking at the space, occupied by a totally different business now. Amazon Bookstore, which was next door, has since moved a couple times and finally closed for good earlier this year.
This is another page which was chopped up and printed in irregular tiers without my knowledge.
Prior to doing the following episode, I was informed that the strip would most likely be cancelled. I altered the plot lines of the remaining strips accordingly.
Next: it burns....

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund: MN Field Report on Free Speech

The spiffy "new: CBLDF logo, a couple years old now!
I've been procrastinating this post for a while, but with San Diego ComicCon right around the corner and the 4th of July fading into the past as I prepare for the second wave of summer classes, I don't want it to be too long overdue. And in light of the CBLDF auction scheduled for that huge event, this seems the ideal time to correct the oversight.
Back in May, I volunteered to run the booth so the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, of which I've been a supporting member for the past decade plus (skipping one year when I was too broke), would have a presence at the MN Comic Book Party, AKA SpringCon.
I'd like to offer a summary of the event.
The first day I was aided by longtime friend and fellow comic book geek Jesse Haller.  Jesse and I have countless discussions on the nature of comics, and endless fun dishing comic book gossip. Jesse was great about creating an effective setup, putting his retail and merchandising experience to work to make the booth shine. He also covered the booth for a couple hours while I had lunch with our mutual friend Frenchy Lunning!
As to the booth itself, it took a while for some of the patrons to figure out what the deal was. But very soon, after the initial burst of people mad to get to the comics (our booth was right by the door!), things settled down and people stopped to talk about the work of CBLDF, and to contribute to the cause.
The degree to which some patrons didn't get it at first was made clear by some folks asking for deals on our books!
Since I wasn't sure of the demographic, I just told the CBLDF people to send stuff they thought apropos. I quickly saw my mistakes. Here's how the event went down:
  • This is a family-friendly Con. The items for kids and the small ticket items sold out. 
  • Lots of folks buy art at this Con! Some of the limited edition prints would have gone over well.
  • Neil Gaiman remains very popular here. The signed 1st printings of The Graveyard Book sold out. IN light of that, if we run the table again, including some of the limited edition prints might be a good idea.
  • While we had ample stories of the big cases that CBLDF has helped with, there are many smaller instances that get overlooked. The owner of B & B Comics in Bemidji told us of the organization's help in quieting a "concerned parent" irate over a Frank Miller poster. I also knew from past conversations that Tyler Page, whose strip Nothing Better is linked to screen left, had assistance from them with a rather odd legal threat he received over the content of his strip.
Camille, Lady Liberty and Diana!
Day Two saw me aided by Manga fan and aspiring veterinarian Camille McAloney. Her enthusiasm and ability to engage people really helped our sales and communication efforts!
Both days were made for me on a personal level by encountering so many old friends, quite unexpectedly, including one of my favorite former students and the gent who first hired me to teach! Seemed like every time I looked up, there was someone else I knew! That was so positive, just what I needed coming off a rough year.
But it wasn't about me, it was about the cause.
We raised right around $600, give or take, at the table. And SpringCon gives a significant portion of its art auction proceeds to CBDLF as well, so the organization made a decent piece of change for The Cause.
CBLDF has been in existence since the Friendly Frank's bust in the early 1980s led to Greg Ketter and Dreamhaven throwing The Irish Wake for the First Amendment, an event which I was privileged to attend. This was a direct precursor to the CBLDF. Among hundreds of subsequent cases, they defended a comic book store owner who was arrested for selling  an adults only comic book to an adult.
The mind boggles.
While the problem has diminished a bit, there remains a huge need to protect the rights of comic book creators, publishers and retailers from people who engage in censorship, which is, in the words of Mark Twain, "telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it."
And just for fun, here's a SpringCon attendee in the role of a Wally Wood EC Comics spaceman!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Original Art Sundays No. 130: Tranny Towers, Ch. 32

Posting a bit after midnight CST, so technically not Sunday any more, if you're counting.
But here we go anyway!
Only five more chapters to go of this run, then it's back to the Surrealist Cowgirls for a bit till that narrative finishes up. I've got  couple pages ahead on that already, and am eager to put that story to bed.
I'm rather pleased with this chapter and hope you are too.

I like the Japonisme elements at play here. I was trying for a sense of being an Asian girl raised in America, conveying aspects of how the cultures integrate.
In the last panel, the word balloons were originally in the opposite order, which killed the joke. I switched the content in Photoshop, but I'm not 100% convinced it's working yet. There's a similar problem in the preceding panel.
I'm both fascinated and repelled by the Japanese internment camps. I thought having a descendant of such racist tragedy be both gay and self-accepting made for a very interesting character. Looking back at the strip, I wish I had done more with her, though she does show up in most of the remaining strips.
When Lavender originally printed this, they butchered it. They changed the orientation from portrait to landscape, chopped the last two tiers apart and staggered them in a really odd way, all without so much as a by-your-leave. I was less than happy and let them know it. Maybe it's just as well I don't have  tearsheet for that mess any more.
Working from a variety of references here. Not sure where I cobbled the masthead from, but that faux Japanese text is fairly common. Running the text both horizontal and vertical also reinforces the cross-cultural aspect of the character. The framing comes from a tiny bamboo picture stand that's currently supporting a photo of my maternal grandparents.
Next week: we meet Leiko's family, sort of.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Original Art No. 129: Tranny Towers, Ch. 31

The penultimate storyline begins.
I like the lighter attitude of this, and Sonia's receptiveness to the new, a trait I sometimes find lacking in myself.

Only minor corrections this time. Reinforced some of the borders and switched the positioning of the word balloons on the second tier for reading clarity. It originally looked like Sonia was answering Leiko before she asked the question.
The environment is a tad shaky but it serves. The vertical masthead is inspired by my fascination with 1940s - 1950s diners and greasy spoons.
A tad more work to do on this one before going to press, but it's pretty much there.
The song used in this chapter doesn't seem to be on YouTube. Another thing to remedy if/when there's time.
I'm catching up on back posts and reviews as I'm on break (but still have my usual massive deadlines- no rest for the wicked, I guess), so there may be a post prior to next week's art. But at the very minimum, Chapter 32 will post next week!

GLBT Pride 2012: Thoughts and a superhero wedding!

So, after several years of missing it, I finally got to PRIDE this year.
It was much more fun than I had last time.
This was a surprise, since many of the people I hoped to run into were nowhere to be found. CLCC (City of Lakes Crossgender Community) didn't appear to even have a booth, much to my dismay.
But I did run into my old friend Debbie Davis, and we had a brief but lovely chat. Pleased to see her doing so well.
As always happens, there was a spate of upcoming events that sounded intriguing. Listened to some truly fun music, but I neglected to get the name of the band, or the stage they were on!
I was surprised at how much the atmosphere had changed. When I first came out, I found the queer communities very divided and almost hostile to one another. Then as I got more involved, that attitude appeared to dissipate.
It came and went in waves. Last time I was at PRIDE, there was so much of it, coupled with rampant corporatism, that I was put off going back for some time.
This year I had the opposite experience.
I don't know if it was the day and time I went, the mood I was in, the people I happened to run into, but this year I experienced none of that. Nothing but universal acceptance and everyone in a good mood!
 I heard some really good music, but I neglected to get the band's name or even the name of the stage so I could look it up later. Ah well, so be it.
I had only planned to stay till about 2 and then meet my summer students for a possible film outing. But then I stopped by the Gaylaxicon booth, and had a number of really pleasant chats. A very pleasant bear asked me if I was interested in stopping back around 3 PM.
"What's happening at 3?"
"We're re-enacting the X-Men gay wedding!"
So what the hey, I thought I'd hang out for it.
Making my way back around to the booth, I discovered that they were handing out copies of the comic to be used as scripts, courtesy of our friends at The Source Comics & Games in St. Paul (thanks, Nick!). These are the fine folks who are so helpful and work so hard on Spring Con and the one day Fall Comic Book Party, and who were so instrumental in the success of the CBLDF booth (more on that later this week).
Anyway, I went to the wedding!
Here's what it looked like in the comics:

And here's what it looked like live.
Some great folks having a great time.
All celebrating three things that mean so much to me: superheroes, comics and love.
The other person shooting video said he'd e-mail me the group photo I was in, and that he'd post it with the video soon, but I've seen none of either.
If I have the money, and am caught up on my personal obligations, I think I'll try to take in Gaylaxicon. It sounds like fun.
The news at the booth was that Guest of Honor Wendy Pini had bowed out for health reasons. However, they were trying to get P. Craig Russell!
Wow. If they get him, I'm definitely finding a way to go.
However belated it may be, I hope you all had a Happy Pride!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Origina; Art Sundays No. 128: Tranny Towers, Ch. 30

Finally found and scanned all those originals! Huzzah!
I will post corrected scans later this week. It was good reading the story as one unit, and I think my regular readers, if such there be, deserve that opportunity as well.
Right now, let's get to the next chapter.
I really like this one. The backgrounds could use more detail (or some), but the emotional content is there, and I think it's carried by the illustrative choices.
The Shot-Reverse Shot in Tier 2, tight on the eyes, is intended to serve as an anchor to the character's emotions- eyes as windows to the soul and all that. They're seeing the best in each other as they say goodbye.
I don't think I swiped the street sign motif from anyone in particular(possibly some Eisner reference in the back of my head? Not sure), but it's hardly a new concept, and the idea of of the street sign melding with the borders references both Vaughn Bode's use of panel content as border element and Paul Chadwick's more subtle use of the same technique in the Concrete storyline Fragile Creature.
This page serves to resolve a storyline, and as often happens, the resolution implies the dawning of a new day for Dena's character. Originally the flighty pre-op obsessed with looks, clothes, makeup, estrogen and men, she's now had a taste of the - well, not exactly DOWN, but more real, side of the life sh'es accepted as her own.
Simply put, she got hurt a lot and grew up a little. Well, maybe more than a little.
Nobody behaved nobly in this scenario. Both the principals were at fault in different ways. But this gave them both the chance to see each other, and themselves, for who they really were, both good and bad.
In other terms, this is what screenwriter Robert McGee talks of in his lectures on developing character. Both principals have undergone an absolute and irrevocable value shift. They can no longer be who they were before.
Like most such stories, this one is based on a personal experience that I took very badly at the time, but have come to see with a bit more kindness, for myself and for the man involved. It's not our story note for note, but there's enough of our (to torture the metaphor) personal symphony in the storyline that the themes have similar cadences.
And let's face trans and queer folk hardly have a monopoly on lost love, betrayal and their aftermath. It is a fairly universal theme.
Reading over these has made me eager to see the work in a collected volume. I'm developing some old material that was never complete for inclusion to round out the book, and I'm tossing around either doing it as POD or as a Kickstarter.
Tough call, though. I've not forgotten about my two other works in progress, one of which will have some work included in the Fall 2012 MCAD Faculty Art Show.
The work takes the time it takes. It's just a question of doing it.
Next: the final Tranny Towers storyline begins.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Original Art Sundays no. 127: Tranny Towers, Ch. 29

Making it on time for the fifth week in a row, and one new page already done. It promises to be a good run for my readers this summer!
Before I break my arm patting myself on the back, here's the next chapter of Tranny Towers.
Okay, I really like this one. The layout works, the background is less sparse, and the action is pretty well handled.
And it was really fun to draw!
Again, this page is from a tearsheet, and will be rescanned from the original art after I dig all those pages up this week!
Swipe file notes: aside from the obvious Joan Crawford line, the biggest swipe/homage here is in the masthead. The hand lettering of the title is inspired by the cover for Arlo Guthrie's album of classic country songs, Son of the Wind.
This chapter struck me as very macho, something I'm not usually fond of. There are two kinds of machismo that I find really interesting: cowboy stuff (though I do like cowgirl stuff better) and boxing films.
I was listening to this album as I worked up my final layout for this page, and a glance at the cover made this a no-brainer.
I've seen Arlo perform twice, and join in with many other music fans in gratitude that he was spared inheriting the Huntington's Chorea that killed his father, the late great Woody Guthrie.
Next week: the conclusion of this storyline, and a hint at the followup.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Comic Book Comics Reviewed

I've read more histories of comics than some folks have had hot breakfasts. The books all have their errors and omissions, some better than others. But there's been a gradual sophistication of the study, to the point we are now at, where a sufficient body of research has accumulated that it's beginning to take cohesive form. This results in a sort of canon of accepted notions, things taken as verbatim and rarely questioned outside academia.
Enter The Comic Book History of Comics
A history done in comic book format. Nice. This has been appearing sporadically in single issue format over the last few years. I used the first two issues, covering Bronze and early Golden Ages, as a text in my Comic Book History class shortly after they came out. I was frustrated by the books' arriving three months after they were ordered(!), making them fundamentally useless for aiding in that portion of the course.
Now, however, there's a spiffy, gosh-wow no-sarcasm-intended really cool collected edition of this, from our friends at IDW Publishing, who have been doing some wonderful work, both with new comics and with reprints - would that I had the funds for any of their Artist's Edition series - and publishing this as a collection continues that trend.
I will be using this for a textbook in Comic History class, now that it's available in a decent uniform edition, if I get the opportunity.
However, it's not without its flaws. I list these while recognizing that the creators of the book have requested notification of errors and omissions, for correction in future volumes. However, I wrote them about a couple of the things I'm discussing here prior to the work being collected, and the errors I wrote about are still there.
The first line of the first (disclaimer) text page reads, "this comic book is a work of historical scholarship."
Then where's the index?
Scholarship on history implies use as reference. You'd think an index would be a no-brainer. In fairness, the book does include a decent section of Notes on Sources, with more on the book's web page, which is always a useful tool in research and citation.
There are some other problems here. Right off the bat, Fred van Lente (writer) and Ryan Dunlavey (artist) jump in with the Yellow Kid's 1896 debut in Hogan's Alley, citing it as the first comic strip. This completely ignores Ally Sloper's Half Holiday, a British strip that began in 1874.
I'm not going to pick the book apart page by page. Most of it is quite good, if a little heavy on the sarcasm and snark for my taste.
But there are some omissions and factual errors that are too glaring to ignore.
The coup d'etat involving Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson being underhandedly bought out by Harry Dondenfeld and Jack Liebowicz, covered in depth in Geeks, Guns and Gangsters and in Larry Tye's recent volume Superman, is reduced to one line on page 32.  Since these events lead directly to the formation of DC Comics as we now know it (and are exacerbated by a Wheeler-Nicholson story appearing in Action Comics no.1, the book being discussed herein), it does deserve more than one line, especially a line that dismisses all the nuance of the facts.
Similarly, although The Shield is shown on page 58, there's no mention of his creation predating that of Captain America. Indeed, The Shield isn't even mentioned by name. This pattern recurs in other parts of the book. Cheech Wizard appears on page 206, inexplicably in a section on the early 1990s speculation market (which, given that Cheech is something of  huckster, is somewhat apropos), but neither Cheech nor his creator Vaughn Bode' are mentioned in the section on undergrounds.
In fact, the entire New York underground scene is only mentioned,and the Comix from Wisconsin's Kitchen Sink Press and the Chicago underground scene are ignored.
The discussion of Wertham and the Comics Code is accurate as far as it goes, but it leaves out the Code's two major precursors: The Association of Comic Magazine Publishers Code of 1948 (which also had a seal used on covers!), and the in-house editorial code of Fawcett Comics, shown in Chip Kidd's book SHAZAM! 
The  section on graphic novels  mentions the early work of Lynd Ward and Franz Maesreel  but neglects Milt Gross's 1930 classic He Done Her Wrong,  in print from Fantagraphics. But Sabre, a graphic novel from Eclipse, Sabre, whose publication predates that of A Contract With God (albeit only by a few months) is ignored.
They do manage to cite Gil Kane's Blackmark and His Name is Savage in this context, and rightly so, along with the 1950 It Rhymes With Lust. However, the followup paperback The Case of the Winking Buddha, is overlooked. In fairness, the latter work is of  lesser quality, but we're talking history here, not aesthetics.
Some of these things might seem a tad nit-picky. Maybe so. They're significant to me, but not necessarily to the average reader. Still if this is the average reader's first exposure to comics history, that reader might take these things as Gospel unquestioningly.
But the most glaring error is almost an insult.
There are no female creators mentioned in the entire book. Not one.
I usually don't do the big text thing, but it seems correct to do so here.
No mention of Lily Renee', Marie Severin, Ramona Fradon, Lee Mars, Colleen Doran, Jan Duuresema, Trina Robbins, Shelby Sampson, Alison Bechdel, Mary Wings, Roberta Gregory, Selby Kelly, or the great neglected Shary Fleniken, whose work was in at least one of the Air Pirates books, though she wasn't named in the suit.
And that list was just off the top of my head.  There are so many more that could be recognized, especially in the last 30 years. 
The only mention of women cartoonists in the entire book is in the section on romance comics, page 60: "Though through our allegedly more enlightened "modern" eyes, romance comics may be seen as simply re-inscribing the more patriarchal aspects of American society (as 99.99% of them were written and drawn by men)..."
That's it. A backhanded acknowledgment of the supposed .01% of comic artists and writers of the 1940s who were female. That's the whole of the discussion of female creators of comics in this history.
Again, that doesn't invalidate the book. Neither does it make the book inherently bad. It's mostly really good. What is here is reasonably well-researched and presented in an entertaining (if often drenched in fanboy attitude ) fashion.
I will use this as a text, but I will expect my students to pore over it with a microscope.
No history of anything can be perfect, but this one has a few really big holes.