Archive for December, 2010

J is for Jersey Devil

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , on December 26, 2010 by Paul Swartz

Lucky number 13!

This is the halfway point, people. “Meet the Monsters: The Quirks of Creatures A-Z” is 50% finished. My other books are a little behind schedule, but I’m so glad to have one that’s moving along briskly.

Once these monster drawings are all done, I’ll have to re-post them along with their corresponding text. In the final version of the book, each monster will come with a little, all-too-human biography that explores their neuroses, obsessions, fears, etc. It’s funny stuff, if I do say so myself, so stand by for that.

Over all, I really like this page. There are some things about it that bother me — the angle of the falling hat, the asymmetry of the text, my inability to get a couple more trees in there along the horizon — but mostly, I think it’s pretty sharp. It’s a good piece on which to end the first half of the book — a high note! It’s left me feeling rejuvenated, excited to get on with the other half!

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C is for Chupacabras

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2010 by Paul Swartz

In the same way that it’s hard to believe in a religion founded last week, it’s tough to put a lot of stock in a “mythical beast” that’s ten years younger than you are. For some reason, credibility clings to old stories. As successive layers of myth accumulate, legends get bigger, tougher, and more powerful, just like rubber band balls.

Legends from our own time seem flimsy, though. I’m glad we’re still making them, but it’s kind of embarrassing to watch us do it. You don’t want to be in that kitchen, watching people stir together half remembered “X-Files” episodes and copycat sightings, cooking up their 15 minutes of fame. You’ll really lose your appetite.

That’s kind of how I feel about the Chupacabras.* It just sounds kind of crazy. The name Chupacabras means “goat sucker,” and it’s a pretty fitting moniker. According to legend, the monster kills goats and other livestock by draining their blood through tiny puncture wounds. It’s supposed to be reptilian, or, at least look like a reptile with thick leathery skin. It hops like a kangaroo, has spines down it’s back, and glowing red eyes (which are often described as the eyes of “gray” aliens, totally dating this creature, I think**). It smells nauseatingly bad, is three or four feet tall, and lives all over the world, but no one ever saw one until 1995? It just doesn’t make sense.

The first sighting was reported in Puerto Rico, in 1995, but soon, sightings (and bloodless goat bodies) started appearing across the Spanish-speaking world, especially Texas, which has kind of become the Chupacabras capital of the world. Eventually, reports started surfacing in places as far-flung (not that Texas and Puerto Rico present too compact of a region to begin with) as Maine and Russia. It just seems like hysteria to me, especially since the woman who first described the creature based her description on an alien from the movie Species.

Still, the hard thing to overlook is that someone is sucking goats. Could humans have been poking tiny holes in livestock and sucking out all the animals’ blood (and sometimes organs!) as a means of, I don’t know, securing places in top-tier cults and fraternities? Maybe, but that can’t have happened too often. And the argument doesn’t end there. Surprisingly, there’s actually a lot of hard Chupacabras evidence floating around. There are photos, videos, even specimens — google it sometime for a gross afternoon.

None of the dead Chupacabras people turn up have spikes or glowing red eyes, but they are pretty weird. They all look like dogs, but hairless, with thick, blue-gray skin. They have long snouts, big, vampire-looking fangs, and mismatched legs (the front ones are considerably shorter than the back ones). They pretty much always turn out to be deformed coyotes, suffering additionally from mange and parasites (which cause things like baldness, discoloration, and stench).

Anyway, the reigning theory is that these guys are two weak to hunt, so they attack livestock instead of running stuff down. Maybe the blood-drinking thing is a convenience too, maybe it’s easier than eating an animal the conventional way. Maybe it’s symptomatic of one of the diseases these coyotes have. I don’t know. Surprisingly, I didn’t read anything about it either way. It’s also a little weird that this didn’t become a phenomenon until the 1990s. Were there never sick/mutated coyotes before? Still, the weirdest thing of all is that there may have been a lot of truth to this legend. Sucking out organs, pretty crazy.

I guess all this amounts to the fact that I could have/should have drawn a mangy dog for this one, but the little gremlin was a lot more fun. The goats were great too.

Still, I’m not so into this drawing. The monster design is pretty boring, the words in the sun might be too much (in fact, the sun itself might be unnecessary), and some of the logistics don’t make sense. Why is the Chupacabras outside the fence if he’s just been draining goats? Has he been coming and going, maybe? Drinking one goat a day? The drawing might have been more ominous if he were looming in the foreground, maybe just a head and hands in silhouette. In the middleground could be the one scared goat, surrounded by his dead flock. That would require me to hide the monster, though, but, given his so-so design, that might not be so bad. If I have time to redo this one later, I probably will.

I’m still proud of some digital reworking I did on this one, though. Initially, the Chupacabras was draining the last living goat with the aid of a Crazy Straw. It didn’t really read. Using the track pad, I erased it and added the little bendy straw in his hand, which I hope is at all clear (in what it is and what it means).

Well, if you’re still with me, congratulations. This has definitely been my longest entry. Why I felt compelled to write so much on this I have no idea.

*Yeah, I used to think it was Chupacabra too, but it’s apparently Chupacabras, singular or plural, el or los.

**Are those guys a big ’90s thing, or is it just that that’s when I was a kid and really into aliens?

Mock 3

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, The Mockingbird, Thesis with tags , , , , , on December 13, 2010 by Paul Swartz

Here’s another mostly-finished “Mockingbird” page, sans text. It’s my least favorite so far, but it’s come a long way since I first scanned it. Specifically, I’ve had to do a lot of painstaking redrawing with the track pad, reworking facial expressions and keeping Irving’s ‘fro in check.

I’m thinking about adding some sort of emanata or background motif to indicate Jerry’s mounting anger. Maybe some stylized flames, jagged lines, or little darts of rage that radiate from him as he fumes. They could slowly invade the middle tier, finally catching Irving’s attention in panel six, when Jerry interrupts his monologue. I’m not sold on the idea, but I’m considering it. What do you think?

More Mockingbird

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, The Mockingbird, Thesis with tags , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by Paul Swartz

Here’s the second page of my new “Mockingbird” book. These colors are a lot closer to what will be appearing in the print version. The page I posted last week looked a little garish, as the CMYK color read weirdly online. I’ve skirted that problem by creating RGB versions of my pages to post here. I’ve even gone back and replaced last week’s page with an RGB update.

The text in this page (and last week’s now) is crisper too, as I went ahead and laid that in with InDesign. I’m still not sure what font I’m going to use for this project, though. I like the one I’ve been using so far, but it has its drawbacks. for instance, it has no capitol “I.” If you look closely, the gangsters’ mark is actually Adam Wentworth 111, the cutting edge, perhaps, in Electro-heirs.

I’m pretty pleased with how these pages are looking so far. They’re a little spare, and heavy on the talking heads, but I’m mostly enjoying the simple style and the designs I’ve come up with. Someday, though, I’m going to have to learn to use Illustrator. This stuff just takes forever to do in Photoshop.

As much as I love putting these pages up,  I realize that if I want to serialize this story properly later, I’ll need to hold something back now. Maybe I should just start blacking out the words, a la redacted FBI memos. I’ll keep posting pages, but I might revoke you guys’ story clearance until I’m ready to release the full issue.

Big, Big Day at the J

Posted in Jewish, Other Events with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2010 by Paul Swartz

Not since Tobias Israel Swartz beat the Baltimore pavement peddling rags has a Swartz schlepped his pack of wares to a Jewish market. Well, tomorrow I will be selling my art (by proxy) at the Charlotte Jewish Community Center’s Levine JCC Marketplace. The event, I guess, is like a Hanukkah bazaar, with people selling arts, crafts, Judaica and so on.  It’s all part of a larger event called the Big, Big Day at the J.

Unfortunately, I won’t be there personally to man the table (I’ll still be up in Vermont), but my parents have kindly stepped in to do the selling. Still, you should come out and buy some prints/posters/stickers etc. And who doesn’t want to come say “Hello” to the Swartzes? I know they’d love to see you!

So, come out to the J on Sunday, December 5th, between 10 and 3 to buy some art and meet the folks!

The Bird is Back!

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, The Mockingbird, Thesis with tags , , , , , on December 3, 2010 by Paul Swartz

This page is not quite finished. You can expect the final to include some minimal backgrounds (maybe just some texture to situate the characters against walls or something) and make use of a different font. Still, I wanted put this page up to show that, in addition to the monster alphabet and the UFO story, I am hoping to finish the second “Mockingbird” book by the end of the school year. Collectively, these projects are going to comprise my Master’s thesis. …It’s a weird world we live in.

I hadn’t realize how much I’d missed working with Irving Fleischman and the whole “Mockingbird” universe until I had to draw him for this poster, advertising my thesis project(s) for the year:

Now, after months of warily circling the pool, I’m diving back into the “Mockingbird.” It feels great. To mix metaphors a little bit (but still stay in the water) it’s kind of the warm bath of my thesis books, the comfortable one, the relaxing one, the one to unwind with at the end of the day.

Still, as comfortable as the “Mockingbird is for me to work on, I’m shaking it up quite a bit. I’m using my new “no black lines” (I really need a name for that) style in all my thesis books, but, in “The Mockingbird” I’ve dispensed with lines (of any color) almost completely. The world of the Irving Fleischman is one of pure shape and color.

I like this new style, it gives the project the look of having been made with cut paper. On the downside though, it’s just one more thing slowing down my already glacial process. Also, it’s a pretty stark stylistic departure from book one. In any case, I’ll be sticking with it for now and will be posting more pages as I finish them.