Archive for March, 2011

N is for Ningen

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2011 by Paul Swartz

My apologies to Nisse, Nisses, and their fans. From the beginning I’d been intending to do “N is for Nisse,” but it just didn’t work out. The overlap with Elf was considerable, and there really wasn’t much else I could have done with E. Also, I discovered the Ningen.

The Ningen is a badass monster. Sort of. It’s awesome in that it’s a mysterious mishmash of whale and man, sighted breaching in ice-choked Antarctic waters by Japanese whalers. It’s less awesome in that it’s pretty much just an internet legend. The disappointing thing about this beast is that there aren’t so much reports of it as there are reports of reports. This is the cryptid that all other cryptids must resent, as he’s generated a lot of buzz without doing any real work. There’s no Surgeon’s photo or Patterson-Gimlin film of this guy, just a bunch of artists’ renderings. And none of those are more than a few years old. It seems like this Ningen thing is strictly a 21st century phenomenon. Not that it really matters. Monsters, of whatever vintage, are pretty much all made up. But with monsters, as with religions, the older ones just seem to have more credibility, more cachet. There’s a momentum and a cultural significance that accrues to a legend as it ages. The Ningen doesn’t have that yet.

So, why did I add my artist’s rendering to the growing Ningen pile? Because this is such a cool monster conceptually. How could you not draw a whale man? also, the myth is so psychologically compelling. I want there to be something to this thing, even if I have to make it up.  Whale man is a great foil for regular man. In some ways whales are so like us (they have names…maybe), but, cosmetically, they’re about as different as you get without having to deal with bugs. Whale man is relatable, but remote. Also, man and whale man could have any number of interesting dynamics between them. The Ningen could so easily be our victim, a symbol of, and a silent witness to, our wanton cruelty to the natural world. On the other hand, he could be our monstrous tormentor, a “White Whale” of gargantuan size and strength, punishing man for his sins against the sea. Also, the myth is impossible to disprove. For all we know, there could be giant whale people in Antarctica, if only in the way that there could be a million dollars under your floorboards. Anyway, this Ningen’s got everything a good beast needs to succeed: A cool look, an ability to generate pathos and fear, and a giant, unexplored territory in which to purportedly hang its hat. This myth’s gonna be big, and I’m excited to get in on the ground floor.

In other news, I’m inching ever closer to the completion of my monster book. All the art is now done (minus a few revisions) and so is about half the writing. Here’s hoping I can get through the rest in a week!

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New World Nude Revue!

Posted in Conventions, Illustration with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 25, 2011 by Paul Swartz

The above is a drawing I did for Vintage Sleaze, a blog dedicated to showcasing the work of “forgotten, anonymous, and neglected sexy artists of the 1950s.” The site is an exhaustive, authoritative, and lovingly-compiled catalogue of risque art. It’s also a lot of fun to read. If you’re looking for someplace to start, my piece is here.

How I came to contribute to Vintage Sleaze is actually kind of an interesting story. A month or so ago, I was contacted by the site’s author, Jim Linderman. He had found my blog during a search for an (even more) obscure cartoonist by the name of Paul Swartz*. Lucky for me, Paul Swartz the Elder did his cartooning in the 1920s and 30s (when he was a lot less obscure), so I don’t have to worry about picking up a pen name…or driving him to do the same! Anyway, Jim liked my work enough to ask me to contribute to his new series “Contemporary Vintage Sleaze,” in which cartoonists of today channel early and mid-twentieth century smut, producing risque works that are retro in style, substance, or both. It’s an honor to be numbered among accomplished contributors like Vanessa Davis, Gary Panter, and Antonio Lapone (who I’ve only just discovered through this series). When you’re reading back through the archives, be sure not to miss the debut entry by the lovely Lena Chandhok!

I’m not exactly sure what my illustration is supposed to be. It’s got a Deco sensibility, with a heavy infusion of Swartz, and is meant as an homage to 1920s poster work. I’m undecided, though, on whether it’s supposed to be a poster for a patriotic burlesque that might have been, or an allegorical cartoon about the ravenous lust/blinding love that the men of the world felt for America (personified here by Lady Liberty). Also, is the cartoon Nativist (cruelly caricaturing the immigrants as ravening wolves, set to defile the New World), or does it sympathize with them; Lady Liberty’s sly smirk portending trouble for her suitors? Maybe it’s just a goofy drawing that reminds us that the fantasies, promises, conquests, and betrayals by which we build nations are the same tools we use in the pursuit of romance.

One weird thing I did learn while working on this drawing is that I have a preoccupation, apparently, with the Statue of Liberty. This is not the first sexy Statue of Liberty I’ve drawn. She also appears in “Jaws of Defeat,**” stonewalling a giant JFK on the prowl. I also have a “Mockingbird” chapter cover that features Irving’s face on the famous statue. So that’s weird. When he spoke at our school last year, Vermont’s first Cartoonist Laureate, James Kochalka talked about the self-knowledge you gain by, in his case, drawing daily diary comics for a decade. One of the weirdest discoveries he made was that, over the years, he had drawn two unrelated strips in which he mused (not eagerly, I should be clear) about having sex with trees. That talk stuck with me and it was fun to suddenly have a quirky discovery like he did. Still, I’m glad that mine was mine and his was his.

Finally, on another note, if you live anywhere near Northampton, Mass., or anywhere in the Upper Valley, really, you should come see Lena and me at the Paint and Pixel Festival on April 16th. It’s only $4 for adults and $2 or free for kids (depending on their age). We’ll be there with our own table, but a slew of other CCSers will be there too, manning a school booth and leading workshops. Even if you’re not in the area, check out our slick profiles on the site’s main page! Just click on the image displayed to see more pics and a bio.

* Jim was kind enough to send me five original pages by the original Paul Swartz, which are a lot of fun and surprisingly relevant to my interests. They tend to portray forgotten Vaudevillians of the 1930s, which is what my “Mockingbird” comic is all about. I’ll be sure to scan them and post them sometime.

** I’ve really got to post the rest of this.

(It’s Almost Time to) Meet the Monsters!

Posted in Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2011 by Paul Swartz

So I’ve still got one letter left to illustrate, but I thought I’d go ahead and unveil the cover for “Meet the Monsters.” This design came together pretty quickly and, by and large, I’m pretty pleased with it. the only thing I’m not sold on are the errant hairs on the explorer’s cheeks, chin, and neck. I’m not sure they read clearly. They might just as easily come across as weird burs or darts he got stuck with in the jungle.

Anyway, I’m almost finished with this book and can’t wait to get it out there (and up here) for people to read and buy! For better or worse, it has to be done in two weeks, so you’ll all be seeing it soon!

B is for Bigfoot

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2011 by Paul Swartz

This is not my best Theodore Roosevelt. The colors on the face should contrast a little more and he’s probably a bit too thin. I’ve always loved the presidents and have been doodling the iconic ones — Washington, Lincoln, TR, and Nixon   — since I was a kid. I also do a decent W. Drawing Teddy here really makes me want to rework my old comic “The Jaws of Defeat,” which was all about giant, reanimated presidents wreaking havoc on a fractured future USA. Also, the presidents are naked. It was a story I did for an anthology last year and started posting here but never finished. It’s tiny, black and white, and poorly lettered, though, so I’d rather redo it than just put it up as is. Maybe this summer I’ll get around to it.

As far as this picture goes, I think it came out OK. I’d been putting it off because Bigfoot kind of bores me. There’s such a consensus on what he looks like that I just didn’t feel free to take too many liberties in designing him. Copying other peoples’ designs is boring. Also, to me at least, drawing apes/ape-like creatures is kind of boring. I don’t know how to vary them. Having already drawn the Humanzee and the Yeti, I felt like I was pretty much out of ape ideas. It wasn’t until I thought of the TR concept that the piece got interesting. Once it did, it came together in a night. Teddy’s definitely the most interesting simian in the picture.

Z is for Zombie

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2011 by Paul Swartz

Oh, man, y’all. I am so close to being finished with these drawings. Just two to do and, if time permits, two to redo. It seems like they’re taking longer and longer, though. This one took forever, I can tell you that. Also, I messed up big time and had to start this one over last night after having colored half of the picture with anti-aliasing on.

I think this page was worth the time, though. It captures a moment in time pretty well. I’m also proud of my little zombie kids. I especially like the little boy’s giraffe spoon.

I don’t know why the main course at Zombie Thanksgiving looks so much like John Krasinski, but I like that he does. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I feel like there’s definitely a Jim Halpert thing going on there.

The only thing I’m not thrilled with is how the zombies on the left side of the page disappear below their chests. It just got too crowded when I tried to flesh out their torsos, but they look weird without them too (especially the old jawless guy brandishing the ladle).

I keep breaking the rules I set for myself with this book, so I think I’m finishing up right as I’m getting ready to go on to bigger, better things. The Elf drawing was my first one-color picture and this one is essentially my first three-color piece (the Vampire and the Thunderbird used three colors too, but more subtly and sparingly). All the other drawings are two-color. Also, I came as close as I ever do to using perspective here, as I’m kind of running out of flat compositions.

Anyway, stay tuned, y’all. We’re almost home.

E is for Elf

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2011 by Paul Swartz

This is the most monochromatic of all my monster drawings so far, but  I like the effect. I knew from the beginning that I wanted the Northern Lights to play a part in this drawing, given its North Pole setting. The specific color scheme and lighting dynamics, though, I stole from a great sequence in Christophe Blain’s “Isaac the Pirate.”* In that book, the Aurora Borealis casts everything it illuminates in a pervasive green glow. That stuck with me and I thought of  it when coloring this piece.

I’m really happy with the way I captured the ice here. Its color and texture are surprisingly easy to reproduce with flat digital color. The same holds for submarines, which I’m excited to draw more of. It’d be fun to do a submarine comic where I’m always jumping back and forth between all-green exterior views and red-lit interiors. That would be some really fun lighting to work out.

The only things I’d like to change about this picture are the sky and the elves. The former could be a bit more exciting and the latter could bear a little less resemblance to those Grateful Dead bears. I think it’s just the short, pudgy bodies and the Kermit collars (is there a name for those?), but those things go a long way.

*Although the drawings were done by Blain, the fantastic coloring job is the work, I think, of the mononymous colorist Walter.

Rachel and the Elf

Posted in Illustration, Other Events with tags , , , , on March 10, 2011 by Paul Swartz

Here’s a poster that I designed for New York City comedy duo Rachel and the Elf.  If you’re in the NYC area, you should definitely catch the show (or any of their other ones). Rachel and the Elf is Nisse Greenberg and Rachel Garber Cole. Rachel and the Elf is also very funny, as I hope you’ll find out.