Archive for Alphabet Book

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!


(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.

F is for Fairy

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2011 by Paul Swartz

I’m getting down to the cryptozoological dregs here — all the monsters that I’m not that into or don’t have a good concept for. Still, I think I managed to come up with a pretty decent conceit here. Hopefully the whole butterflies-in-a-specimen-box thing is reading clearly. I also hope the fake Latin is clear (or so impenetrable that no one can even tell what I sought and failed to do with it). I wanted the name plates to basically say “Tooth Fairy” and “Barrie’s Fairy” (Barrie’s the author of Peter Pan). I don’t really know anything about Latin or binomial nomenclature, though, and it was really hard to learn about either thing at 4 am, on the internet, while listening to Marc Maron.  If there are any Classics majors out there willing to help a fellow unemployable out, I’d love to know how those plates should read.

So anyway, I’m decently pleased with the concept for this picture, but the composition is a little boring. Also, the values seem kind of homogeneous. A lot of the elements seem pale and liable to melt into each other. This may be the first time that my new no-outlines style may have actually ended up seeming less appropriate to me than a more conventional one.

With this drawing, I have officially entered the final four! Only B, E, N, and Z remain to be drawn. Also, time permitting, I’m going to redesign “A is for Alien” and “C is for Chupacabras” (I’ve already made smaller-scale corrections to most of the other pages). Then it’s onto a flurry of writing and production. Hopefully I’ll have these books available for sale in April!

Y is for Yeti

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2011 by Paul Swartz

This page might be my favorite so far. I like the color scheme and think that it, taken with the mountain scenery, suggest an old Art Deco travel poster. I’ve always loved those.

I’m also pretty proud of my mountaineer. If you scrutinize the climber, though, you’ll see that his pose is a little weird. To dress him, I looked at photos of Sir Edmund Hillary and tried to copy his clothes and gear. Surprisingly, he wasn’t wearing a hat. That seems pretty crazy to me, but it was easier to not draw a hat than draw one, so he stays bareheaded. The wind-blown hair is more dramatic anyway.