Archive for November, 2010

K is for Kraken

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , on November 19, 2010 by Paul Swartz

According to the old Norse legends, the Kraken was really a collateral damage kind of monster. Sure, the giant cephalopod would spitefully strike at ships, but he was likeliest to drown you after he had given up on the idea and decided to go home. Apparently, when the Kraken dove beneath the waves, he caused a whirlpool that sunk ships and sucked sailors to the seafloor. That whirlpool is what I have tried to capture here.

In this drawing, the Kraken sinks back into the deep, dragging with him debris and the corpses of drowned sailors. To portray this moment, I had to “zoom out,” so to speak. Usually, my drawings are fairly “zoomed in,” with their subjects (usually single figures or small groups), taking up lots of space, mostly around the center of the page. In this piece, I used lots of smaller figures to show movement, environment, and scale. This necessitated a more distant vantage than I usually employ.

This drawing is also unique in my monster series in that it obscures its star. So far, the Kraken is the only creature I’ve drawn who is largely absent from his portrait. I like that about him. It adds to his mystery and menace. All we see of him are trailing tentacles and the considerable devastation bobbing in their wake. This somehow  makes him seem both stealthy (we never got a good look at him!) and incomprehensibly huge.

At first, I was not very happy with this page and was afraid I was phoning it in. The simplicity of the drawing, and all the blank space in the picture, seemed like signs of laziness to me. Now that it’s done, though, I’ve really come around. I like this one a lot and I hope that it signals a growing willingness/ability to shake this series up a little bit.


P is for Poltergeist

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , on November 12, 2010 by Paul Swartz

Man, I have even less to say about Poltergeists than I do about Mermaids. I chose the poltergeist, mostly, because of the great design possibilities it offered, not because I am particularly interested in it as a monster/phenomenon. I’m pretty proud of this piece, though. I really like the selective use of color and the whole CMYK thing, even though it makes no sense. CMYK is really just a print thing, I think. TVs use something else. So, in reality, the TV test pattern wouldn’t look like this, but it also wouldn’t have ghosts coming out of it, so who cares.

S is for Siren

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , on November 10, 2010 by Paul Swartz

There’s got to be something to say about Mermaids, but I’m neither as passionate nor as expert about sirens as I am about thunderbirds or plesiosaurs. If I think of an anecdote, I’ll come back and post it. For now, though, I just want to get this drawing up.

My First Review!

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Reviews, The Mockingbird with tags , , , , , , , on November 6, 2010 by Paul Swartz

A few weeks ago, while in Pittsburgh for a convention, I was thrilled to get an e-mail from a friend telling me that I’d been reviewed by The Comics Journal’s Rob Clough. I was doubly thrilled to discover that it was a very positive review!

Clough has lately been reviewing all the CCS mini-comics that we gave him at MOCCA in April (what a backlog he must have!) and it’s been so much fun for us to see. Unfortunately, this delay means that the review didn’t link here (as the People’s Republic was then only a gleam in its founder’s eye), but to my old Flickr page. Also, the Mockingbird art pulled from there was not from the final book, but from a version of it I had been working on before I came to CCS. I cringe a little bit every time I see it, but still, no press is bad press!

I’m planning on sending Clough a completed “Mockingbird,” as I only gave him a preview book at MOCCA. Also, for anyone who was wondering, there is a second issue on the way. I’m not sure when it will be done, but I’m about five pages in right now.

T is for Thunderbird

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2010 by Paul Swartz

This illustration is actually based on a famous photograph…Sort of

As a kid, did you ever read books about mythical beasts, freaks of nature, and “the unexplained?” If you did, then you probably remember the “Thunderbird Photograph.” It was an old, sepia-toned thing, taken somewhere in the Southwest, sometime in the late 19th century. In the picture, several cowboy-types pose with a curious kill — a huge, pterosaur-looking bird, the body of which they’ve  nailed up to a barn wall. Lots of people remember seeing this photo, usually during childhood. I know I do. Here’s the thing; we didn’t.

The “Thunderbird Photograph” is, quite possibly, the most famous picture never taken. Go ahead. Try to find it. There are some fakes out there, but they’ve all been debunked. Besides, none of them will ring a bell anyway. People have been looking for years with no results. Even when someone remembers the name of a book he saw the photo in and tracks a copy down, he ends up disappointed. The picture is never there. A lot of times, though, a description of it is. It’s these descriptions, probably, that inspired our mass misremembering.

Some people have speculated, and this sounds right to me, that this description — some men, a bird, a barn — is evocative enough, but simple enough, for us to make a credible, personal memory out of. We read about the photo, we imagine the photo, and eventually we “remember” the photo.*

Pretty weird, huh? You never saw the photo. If you’re anything like me, though, you’ll want to Google around a little bit, just to be sure. Here are a few good links just to start you out:

, Forgetomori, and good old Wikipedia.

On these pages you can find “Fool’s Thunderbird Photos,” stories about other false memories, and a lot of testimonials.

The Thunderbird, by the way, is a creature of Native American Myth. Groups from the Great Plains, the Southwest, and the Pacific Northwest all had legends about Thunderbirds. For some groups, there was only one Thunderbird. For others, it was a species. For almost everybody, the creatures were large, vicious, and associated with (or responsible for) thunder and lightning. Specifically, the name derives from the idea that thunder, or a noise like thunder, was made when these massive  birds flapped their mighty wings. For the last two hundred years “Thunderbird” has been a catchall term for giant birds sighted in the Western United States.

As far as this drawing goes, I’m pretty proud of it. I like the color scheme, the character design, and the narrative possibilities (Did the kid with the slingshot bring the bird down? Is that why the other guys seem so stone-faced? Do they resent him? Feel emasculated? Or is stoicism just a part of 19th century photo-portrait etiquette?) I also really enjoyed doing the patterns on these guys clothing (as always) and I think the hay has a fun texture to it. Still, there are parts of this picture that annoy me.

The guy on the left has crazy proportions, even for my taste. I’d like to scale up his nose, scale down his head, and generally rework him a little bit. Also, I’m not that into my pterosaur’s wings. I didn’t really know what to do with them and they could be a lot simpler/slicker. Also, I had to leave out a great dog I drew for lack of space, but I’ll find a good home for him somewhere. Speaking of space, wish I had left more for the text. That really, really kills me. The stopgap thing I did with the support beams works OK, but I really should have planned ahead better.

Finally, this is not the Thunderbird photograph as I remember it. Lots of artistic license has been taken.

*Not convinced? One commenter on Cryptomundo proposes that a time traveler, with God only knows what motivation, went back in time to prevent the photo from being taken, therefore erasing it from all our books. So there are at least two schools of thought.

A is for Alien

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , on November 2, 2010 by Paul Swartz