Thursday, May 28, 2009
In my last post, I mentioned a comic book I created, "Kaptain Keen & Kompany". Since I can be sure that nobody reading this ever saw this comic book, I thought I'd tell you about it.
Kaptain Keen was a character I made up in art school. He was a pretty typically goofy superhero. Not very inspired (Hey! I was eighteen). For his teenage sidekick, I paired him up with Mooseboy. I got to like to drawing these characters, and my friends seemed to enjoy them, especially Mooseboy. After art school graduation, I sort of forgot about The Kaptain and Mooseboy, as I was busy starting out on my "career". As some of you may recall from my previous posts, my "career" at the time consisted of drawing caricatures of tourists in a retail setting.
Then, in the mid-eighties, 2 guys self published a black & white comic book called "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles". Maybe you've heard of it?
It was somewhat successful. Suddenly a whole bunch of small publishers became interested in publishing black & white comics, and the doors were flung wide open for a bunch of would-be cartoonists to get their work published. One day my good pal and fellow cartoonist Gary Fields called and asked if I wanted to collaborate on a comic book together and shop it around to publishers. He already had a superhero character, "Super Swine", so we thought that pairing him up with Kaptain Keen would be a good idea, with each of us drawing half the book with our own characters. (I don't recall who came up with the title, but I think it was Gary, so if he got tired of drawing the same character all the time he could create a new one and we wouldn't have to change the title. Of course, this meant I was stuck drawing KK forever.) We made up
a proposal and sent it out to a bunch of publishers. Actually, Gary did most of the leg work, but I supported him all the way!
We were thrilled some time later when we heard from a publisher who was interested in publishing our comic book! We went right to work and a few months later, "Kaptain Keen & Kompany" #1 appeared in comic shops! We were so delighted. I was convinced we had "made it" and that the sky was the limit for my characters. I could just see them on their own TV show or movie, and their likeness on everything from toys to Happy Meal boxes. I was even more excited when a TV production company optioned the characters. I excitedly waited for the money truck to start pulling up on a regular basis.
My hopes were dashed when, after 5 issues, our book was cancelled. It seems there were too many publishers putting out books, hoping to cash in on the TMNT craze. There was a glut in the market and our poor little comic got lost in the shuffle. Oh, yeah, the TV producers decided not to make a show out of the book either.
We were disappointed, to say the least. I do have to say, however, that doing the book was one of the best times in my life, and the whole experience was a blast. I still find myself doodling the Kaptain & Mooseboy, but their time is past, and I'm afraid we'll never see them in print again.
If this exciting tale makes you wish you hadn't missed out on the fun, never fear. Dozens of online sellers have issues available for purchase that, in a tribute to the book's popularity, are selling for a fraction of what they sold for twenty years ago!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Another Blast From the Past!
With nothing new on my mind to post about today, I thought we could take a trip down memory lane, and show you all an example of my "art" from the long-since past. I do this to offer inspiration to all you young and old wanna-be ink slingers out there, so that, no matter how good you think your drawing is, there is always room for improvement.
The illustration at left is a full page splash from issue #1 of "Kaptain Keen & Kompany", a comic book published by Vortex Comics in the mid-eighties, written and drawn by me and my bestest pal and uber-talent Gary Fields. (We each had our own characters by the way, Gary wasn't responsible for this piece.)
The book lasted 5 glorious issues, and by then the public had spoken, and it was cancelled.
At the time I did this drawing, I was pretty pleased with it, but when I look at it now, I cringe. The big dinosaur thingy looks good, but when you look at it now, you can see that that figure was pretty much all I was interested in drawing. Don't the other figures and backrounds look a but "rushed" to you? They do to me.
However, looking back at your old work with a critical eye isn't a bad thing. As an "artist" you should always be trying to do better and learn from your mistakes. If you're pleased with something you did twenty years ago (or even a week ago), maybe you haven't evolved too much. This is probably true of a lotta things in life.
So, little artist, while I am not pleased with this drawing now, the 25 year-old that did it in me is. I'm sure that in any of the work I do today that pleases me, I will be critical of in the future (maybe as soon as tomorrow). So take heart.
That's my chunk of wisdom for today. Next time, back to the usual nonsense.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Mickey is Silent
No laughs today.
We just found out that Wayne Allwine, the third person to provide the voice of Mickey Mouse (after Walt Disney and Jimmy MacDonald), died Monday at the age of 62.
We don't really know that much about Mr. Allwine, but anyone who gave voice to Mickey and made so many children (and adults!) so happy, must have been a pretty nice guy.
Rest in peace, Wayne. Say "hi" to Walt and Jimmy for us.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Caricature Capers Part 2: In the Trenches!
In our last thrilling installment, I detailed how a young, inexperienced cartoonist (me) had figured out a way to earn money "drawin' pitchures". I had hooked up with a local caricature firm, and was going to be doing cartoon portraits of tourists and the like at a popular tourist trap in downtown Boston, MA.
Now remember, I had precious little experience drawing caricatures at the time, but I figured, the owners of this firm must have had an "eye for talent", and wouldn't have hired me if they thought I couldn't do the job.
I was sorta right.
Before I began, the owner of the business gave me a brief "tutorial" on the methods and materials the caricaturists in his firm used. The tools of the day were a Sharpie Rub-a-Dub® marker for black line work, and Chartpack® markers for colors. The drawings were done on 8 1/2" x 11" index card stock, pre-printed with the name of the company. I was also given my very own lap board to lean on as I drew. After showing me a few tips of the trade my boss assigned me to my first day of drawing caricatures for the general public, or as I came to know them, The Great Unwashed.
The caricature cart was located, as I mentioned, in a very popular tourist area filled with shops, restaurants, and street performers. As my first day approached, I felt extremely excited, and extremely nervous. I was excited to be getting paid for drawing cartoons, but nervous I wouldn't be good enough.
As it turned out, I needn't have felt either emotion. The "excitement" of being paid for drawing all day dissipated as soon as I realized how little me and my fellow artist were being paid compared to what the owners of the venue were raking in. True, we were making more than we would have been flipping burgers or cleaning toilets, but not much. I also realized that drawing cartoons for yourself was a lot more fun than drawing screaming kids and drunks all day and night. Having the above mentioned people arbitrarily judge your work based on how cranky/drunk they were was no fun either.
As for my fear of not being "good enough", I had nothing to worry about. While some of my co-workers were wonderful cartoonists and really enjoyed their jobs, the majority were hacks. Their drawings would have shamed a 7 year old, not that they cared. As long as the rubes paid for their crappy drawings they were content. In comparison to them, my stuff was ready for the cover of MAD magazine.
As the Summer of my first caricature tour of duty wore on, I settled in and realized that while there were some good aspects to the job, there were downsides as well. Such as:
• It was HOT! Given my pale, Irish ancestry, I ideally should be kept in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and humidity. No such luck. By day we were seated outside with no shade, while the Sun baked down on us. Nights were cooler, but then we became a biting insect all-you-can-eat buffet.
• The food was awful! Sure, I could have packed a lunch for myself, but that would have required some forethought, so I dined from the food court at the location we were at. After a Summer of greasy fast food fare, my stomach and I were no longer on speaking terms. My wallet was a lot lighter too.
• The clientele left something to be desired. The ideal subject for a caricature is a secure person with a good sense of humor. Why vain, insecure people with self-image issues want a caricature of themselves is beyond mortal understanding. Time and again someone would sit down with a HUGE honker and say, "Don't give me a big nose". People with glasses didn't want them in the pictures, and of course, tubs of lard all wanted to be skinny.
In all seriousness, it was truly heartbreaking when someone with a true birth defect or some other physical problem was coerced into having a drawing done. It was awkward for the subject and the cartoonist. You can't insult them by exaggerating their problem, but to leave it out of the drawing or idealize them would make it seem like you were passing judgement on their disability. The worst? People who talked their BLIND friends or family members into getting a caricature! Why would someone who can't see want a cartoon of themselves?!
• There were other negatives to the job: Parking, maneuvering through crowds, not to mention roaming clowns. The worst thing though, were the HECKLERS!
I suppose in any job where you are out there exposing your "talent" to the general public, you are opening yourself to the puckish wit of passerby. A day didn't go by where some yahoo would stumble up, look over my shoulder, and make a witty, derisive comment about my drawing. The problem wasn't with anyone making a witty comment (I've made one or two in my time), it was the complete lack of originality! Over and over again I heard, "Hey, SHE doesn't have a mustache!", and, "Wow, you're makin' them look ugly!" The subject of the drawing couldn't see their portrait till I was finished, so their heightened anxiety just added to the onlookers fun. Other winners included less pithy comments like, "She doesn't have 3 eyes!" Get the joke? Why would I draw someone with 3 eyes?! Jocularity at its finest! (I know I've forgotten some of the comments that retail caricaturists hear daily, so if any other caricaturists out there have any comments, please post 'em in the comments section.)
One of my favorite comments, that always left we scribblers scratching our head was, "It's not supposed to look like ya! It's a caricature!" That was always a puzzler to me.
A lot of you reading this will think I am a spoiled brat, whining about some petty annoyances on what appears to be a pretty easy job. You may be right. There are a lot worse gigs out there, and I've had a bunch of 'em (Gas station on a freezing Christmas Eve, anyone?). If you do think I am being a whiner, pick up a pen and start drawing funny pictures of your friends and loved ones.
Then get back to me.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Caricature Capers Part 1
When I graduated from "Cartooning School", I really didn't have a plan as to where I would find employment in my chosen field. I naively assumed there were a boat-load of opportunities out there for the extremely talented cartoonist I thought I was at the time. A few visits to various art directors disabused me of this idea. My work just wasn't "good enough", and I didn't have any "experience" or a "reputation". No one would hire me to ply my trade.
Most creative types would use this kind of situation to re-double their efforts to try to crack into the field. Not me. I curled up and began to envision a career in the fast food industry.
Then one day, I was strolling thru a local tourist trap. when I saw a caricature booth. Here was a group of "artists" doing humorous drawings of eager tourists for what appeared to be pretty good money. After watching the "caricaturists" for a few minutes, I thought, "hey, maybe I can do this, FOR MONEY!" The address for the owners of the booth was posted on the cart, so I contacted them and made an appointment to show off my "portfolio".
Not unsurprisingly, they wanted to see some examples of my caricatures. This threw me for a bit of a loop, as I had never really done any caricatures before, outside of offensive cartoons of my teachers in high school (Miss Chang, if you're reading this, I DO apologize for that drawing!).
To prepare for my interview, I looked at as many examples of excellent caricaturists as I could find in those pre-internet days. Mainly, I looked at MAD magazine's Mort Drucker and Al Hirschfeld. I quickly realized those guys were waaaaaay too good for me to try to emulate. I ended up just drawing a few caricatures of celebrities from a copy of PEOPLE magazine.
As it turned out, when I went for my interview, qualities such as "talent", "drawing ability", and, "getting a likeness", were not necessary. All they needed was a monkey who could hold a pen, and do somewhat acceptable drawings. After a quick "in house" test, that involved drawing the owner of the business (who had a big mustache and giant glasses, making him a no-brainer to draw), I was hired.
I was now a professional (meaning I got paid for drawing) CARTOONIST!
Next time: My First Day on the Job.