Batman Day

July 24th, 2014

According to every third post on Facebook this week, apparently we had a Batman Day. (The other two thirds of the posts were about Comic Con and cats.) I was not aware we had a holiday to celebrate Batman, so I seem to have missed it.

I like Batman, so I want in on the celebration. I took a little time to reimagine the Dark Knight as someone who enjoyed the luxuries of his fame a little too much. By the time Bruce Wayne reached middle age, he probably was a little soft around the middle, needed glasses, and got to the point where he just didn’t care about shaving. The fact that this version slightly resembles me is in no way my fantasy of hurling myself through the night to rescue citizens in distress with cool gadgets while wearing an unwieldy cape. If I were to do that, I would go without the cowl and take all the credit as Chadman.

 

Chadman

See, this is why I DO NOT cosplay. The costume wouldn't look right, and I'd probably be going around trying to save London instead of Gotham.

 

Well, enjoy (or enjoyed) Batman Day. I have to run. Some spotlight in the sky just got my attention…

The Sakai Project

July 23rd, 2014

Well, today is the BIG day! Dark Horse Comics, in collaboration with the Comic Art Professional Society (CAPS), has released The Sakai Project, a beautiful 9×12″, 160 page hardcover book of artists’ interpretations of Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo comic book character that he has been writing and drawing for the past thirty years. Its big splash debut is at the San Diego Comic Con where it is likely to be THE book to take around to artists to get autographed.

 

Stan Sakai

The front cover features an illustration by Stan Sakai, the only spot where Stan's actual artwork appears in the book.

 

The book came about because CAPS (of which I am a member) started a fundraiser auction to help Stan Sakai with bills that exceeded his health insurance coverage in the care of his wife, Sharon, who has brain cancer. So many artists started sending in original creations of Usagi Yojimbo, that auction organizer Tone Rodriguez thought there ought to be a book! Mike Richardson, head honcho of Dark Horse Comics, generously offered to pay for the publication of the book with all sales going directly to Stan & Sharon.

 

The Sakai Project

This is a photo from CAPS' Facebook page. Click on it to see their album of art, both Usagi and non-Usagi, that they sold in their fundraiser for the Sakais.

 

Back in April I shared with you my piece, but I’ll share it again here. It appears on page 30 in the book, right next to my friend Michael Jantze who draws The Norm comic strip. Page 30 in a 30th anniversary book is not too shabby. The painting has found a good home somewhere when it was sold on eBay back in May to help the Sakais.

 

Usagi Yojimbo

Here is the full watercolor and colored pencil piece that occupies a corner of page 30 in "The Sakai Project."

Usagi Yojimbo

…and since it was reproduced small in the book, here is a close-up so you can see some of the detail.

 

So, go to your local comic book shop today and pick up this GREAT tome. You will get to see some amazing art by folks like Mike Mignola, William Stout, Sergio Aragonès, J. Scott Campbell, Bill Sienkiewicz, Tone Rodriguez, Geof Darrow, Tim Sale, Kazu Kibuishi, Adam Hughes, Art Adams, Neal Adams, Frank Cho, Jack Davis, Matt Wagner, and the list goes on and on!

You will also be helping out one of the sweetest couples I know, Sharon & Stan Sakai.

Ken Thorne, Composer • 1924-2014

July 10th, 2014

Yesterday word started fluttering about Facebook amongst film music fans that Ken Thorne passed away. Ken’s name may not be well known outside of film score aficionados or die hard film buffs, but his contribution is no less important, and he couldn’t have been a nicer guy.

I only had the opportunity to meet Ken once. He attended the Fans of Film Music event back in 2011 where he sat on a panel of great composers such as Brad Fiedel, David Newman, Brian Tyler, Nicholas Pike, Christopher Young, and Lee Holdridge. At 87, the elder statesman of the group not only charmed the audience with his gentlemanly ways, but he also charmed his fellow panelists.

 

Ken Thorne

Ken Thorne, taken during the 2011 Fans of Film Music event at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, CA.

 

Since you were wondering, Ken’s contribution to film began in 1948 with British fare that later included Help! starring 4 lads from Liverpool which later led to his work on Head, a movie starring the Beatles influenced band The Monkees (a film co-written by Jack Nicholson no less). He could do comedy like Alan Arkin’s Inspector Clouseau, he was a master at adaptation taking John Williams’ themes to build new scores for Christopher Reeve’s Superman II and Superman III, and he could do action with Tom Selleck’s 1980s film Lassiter. Somewhere along the line (1967) he managed to win an Oscar for his work on A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

That day I met Ken, I sat in the audience caricaturing each of the panelists. This drawing of Ken was posted back then along with the other panelists (which you can revisit by clicking here), and I thought I’d share it once again here today.

Seek out Ken’s work. You’ll find a treat waiting for you!

 

Ken Thorne

At 87, Ken Thorne was the eldest of the composers on the panel, and also was the only one with an Oscar which he won in 1967 for his work on the movie "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum."

 

Dog Days of Summer

July 8th, 2014

…well, dog, cat and mouse days of summer actually. It has been pretty hot here over the past few days – routinely in the 90s, but the other day I looked outside and saw 102 on my thermometer. Made me VERY glad to be inside!

Despite having the cool comfort of air conditioning at my beck and call, the outside heat still makes one feel sluggish which was translated vicariously through my arm to paper with these critters. They can do all my slugging for me.

 

Hot Pets

Before any of you e-mail me to tell me cats and dogs don't get sweaty brows, just remember this is a drawing. It isn't real life. Mice, however, always fan themselves in real life.

 

 

This drawing is for sale! 14×11″ colored pencil on Canson paper. $200 + $10 shipping in the U.S. (Despite them looking thirsty, do not pour water on this paper.)

IMF Birds

July 2nd, 2014

Last night I was watching the classic Mission: Impossible television show when I reached over for my sketchbook and started doodling…..birds. Yeah, I don’t know why either. Cold War dramas don’t usually bring birds out of me, even though the Impossible Mission Force does seem to keep the pecking order in check. Although, now that I look at the sketches the next day, that strong eagle on the right does bear a slight unconscious resemblance to Peter Graves. Hmmm.

 

Mission: Impossible

Birds of the Cold War. The biggest impossible mission is keeping them from soiling my car.

Violet Monkeys

June 23rd, 2014

Here in Los Angeles, it has become a thing for small art galleries to host group shows of art created to a common theme. Local artists have created art for displays themed to the work of Tim Burton, Hanna Barbera, The Wizard of Oz, How To Train Your Dragon, and even the collected works of J.J. Abrams’ films and television shows. This past Saturday I contributed a piece to the Planet of the Apes themed show hosted by the Creature Features gallery in Burbank, California.

 

Charlton Heston

Based on the original Charlton Heston movie from 1968, the 16x20" "Violet Monkeys" was created with watercolor and colored pencil.

 

Perhaps you would like to hear a little behind-the-scenes story about this particular piece? It wasn’t that I just decided to one day create a painting from a forty-six year old movie. There is a little more than that to tell…

When I first moved to California to work for Disney Feature Animation in 1997, it was right as Hercules was being released. Charlton Heston was the opening narrator for that film, and being a fan of his work, I struck up a correspondence friendship with him. I always loved that first Planet of the Apes film, so after a few years of writing back and forth with George Taylor (Heston’s character’s name), I created my first Planet of the Apes painting in his honor for a solo art show to be held at the studio. Mr. Heston was going to attend, but unfortunately didn’t make it.

This past February I was going through some boxes and found a letter from Mr. Heston he had sent after seeing a print of that original painting (which is currently on my website). He wrote such a complimentary letter that all these years later it touched me again. Almost immediately after finding that note, I was invited to participate in Creature Features’ Planet of the Apes themed art show. With the renewed encouragement from that old letter, it was time to reinvent that piece created eleven years ago that, quite frankly, could stand to have a make-over.

As the deadline for the show loomed, the realization set in that time was running out to create the new piece. I was about to take off on a lengthy river boat trip through Russia, and suddenly got the idea that a painting could be created during sailing days between ports. The initial drawing was created while at home in the States, then it was packed along with some watercolor paper, paints, brushes and colored pencils for travel to Russia.

 

 

Riverboat Stateroom

While it wasn't the best studio in which to work, it was the most adventurous. This was the set-up in my room on board the riverboat that took me across Russia

 

Setting up a make-shift studio in my riverboat stateroom proved challenging due to the small, tight quarters. It became an adventure. I would open up my curtains, and watch the Russian countryside float by while sitting there working on purple gorillas and an orange Charlton Heston.

One day Julia, one of the ladies who worked the front desk, said to me out of the blue, “I like your violet monkeys.” I scratched my head trying to figure out what she was talking about at first. It turned out that she had come around the day before to deliver magazines about St. Petersburg to all our rooms and had seen the work-in-progress sitting there. She didn’t know what Planet of the Apes was, so she referred to the painting as “violet monkeys”. I liked the reference so much that the painting is now officially named Violet Monkeys.

 

Violet Monkeys

Meet Julia, the Russian front desk worker who unknowingly named my "Violet Monkeys" painting.

 

So, there you have it. This is my first major piece to have been created abroad (while aboard no less), and it was done while traveling over 1000 miles across Russia’s rivers, lakes, and canals between Moscow and St. Petersburg! It had to get done, because the art show opening was the day after I returned to the United States!

 

Grand Circle

This is me in front of the Tikhi Don ship (part of Grand Circle Travel's fleet) docked in St. Petersburg, Russia. This was my home and studio for the past two weeks.

 

While fighting with jet lag back in beautiful downtown Burbank, CA, I managed to get the framed art to the Creature Features gallery in just enough time for them to hang it for the evening’s opening. And boy, what an opening! Several hundred people were in attendance including fellow contributors Shag, Patrick Owsley, Ben Von Strawn, William Stout, and many others! A few enthusiastic fans even came dressed as characters from the movie. Taylor White and his Creature Features team put on a good show of fantastic art, and even costumes and props used in the classic productions!

 

Creature Features

One of two gallery rooms at Creature Features in Burbank, CA during the opening of the "Art of the Apes" group show.

Planet of the Apes art

You can see that "Violet Monkeys" is right at home amongst some other spiffy art.

Planet of the Apes fans

Interspecie attendance to the show was welcomed.

 

If you would like to see all of the art, it will be on display through the month of July. All the art is for sale, and some are even available as prints. Visit Creature Features website for more info!

 

 

 

68th Annual Reuben Awards – Part 5

June 3rd, 2014

Even though the Reuben Awards convention was only three days long, the cartoonists did so much stuff that the photos needed to be spread over five days! This last post for the 2014 gathering is of our farewell gala held on the evening of May 25th on the top deck of the USS Midway aircraft carrier/museum! What a great venue for a party! You have the harbor on one side with the setting sun, and you have the city of San Diego basking in the glow of that sunset on the other side all while surrounded by fighter jets, imposing helicopters, and cartoonists!

Unique to this event was that many injured servicemen and women were invited to attend with their families. The National Cartoonists Society members were able to mingle and draw for these brave folks throughout the evening.

Once again, the photos can tell the story…

 

Top Gun

Bill "Maverick" Morrison with Greg "Goose" Walker.

B.C. comic strip

Patti Hart (of the "B.C." comic strip legacy) on deck.

Onion & Pea

Former head of King Features Syndicate Joe D'Angelo chatting with "Onion & Pea's" David Tomaselli and Josè Villena from Spain.

Jeff Keane

Cartoonists (and my dad) enjoying a buffet dinner with a San Diego skyline backdrop.

Tom Heintjes

Tom Heintjes ("Hogan's Alley" magazine) chatting with Ohio State University's Jenny Robb.

military aircraft insignia

Wayno (contributor to "Bizarro") taking a photo of a helicopter's cartoony insignia.

USS Midway deck

My pop with a USS Midway docent who is showing Dad that the planes would go thataway.

Keelan Parham

Keelan Parham doing his best "blue steel" pose and Kenny Durkin ("Duck Dynasty" merchandising artist) modeling coffee.

Marmaduke

Editorial cartoonist Tom Stiglich (in the middle) and Brad Anderson ("Marmaduke") spending some time with the soldier in red on the left who revealed to them that he has cancer that will likely take him within six months. Some of the stories of the servicemen in attendance were sobering to those of us who are used to making people laugh.

Bruce Higdon

Bruce Higdon continuing to make little kids smile with his drawings.

cartoonists drinking coffee

Greg Evans ("Luann"), military cartoonist Jeff Bacon, and editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez ("Investor's Business Daily").

cartoonists chatting

My blurry mother Barbara, John Reiner ("The Lockhorns") and Marcia & Joe D'Angelo (King Features).

John Hambrock

John Hambrock ("The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee") in his best GQ moment.

Murray Olderman

Sports cartoonist Murray Olderman having a relaxing interlude with Tom Heintjes.

Red and Rover

"No really, I have a metal falcon from Malta." - Brian Basset ("Red & Rover") on the right with R.C. Harvey

Beetle Bailey

Greg Walker ("Beetle Bailey") on the right chatting with his sister Margi Hauer and her friend Trey Reynolds in the shadow of helicopters.

When the sun drops down, the ship lights up!

Michael Ramirez

Two time Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Ramirez led his band in entertaining the crowd during the evening.

Tom Richmond MAD

Tom & Anna Richmond giving away five IDW Best of MAD oversized books as door prizes, though technically there were no doors there.

 

Despite the shindig on the USS Midway being a rousing success, cartoonists just can’t call it a night quite yet. Many went back to the hotel where an after party was underway! Here are a few parting party pics…

 

Bizarro writer

Dan McConnell (contributor to "Bizarro") who signed over an oversized MAD book he won on board the Midway to illustrator Rich Powell.

Charles Kochman

Book editor Charlie Kochman with his wife Rachel.

Stephanie Gladden

I was able to introduce Kassandra Heller and Stephanie Gladden who both work on the same Cartoon Network property but on different coasts!

Nick Meglin

Holding court at the after party was Linda Maloof and Nick Meglin ("MAD").

Sinatra look-alike

Editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich channeling ol' Blue Eyes.

Ray Alma & Chad Frye

Ray Alma being very impolite by pointing at me. Some people. Sheesh.

And with that, we conclude this 2014 Reuben Awards report! Thanks for having a look at what we do when we get together! To learn more about the National Cartoonists Society, visit www.Reuben.org!

68th Annual Reuben Awards – Part 4

June 2nd, 2014

Well, now comes the time for you to see cartoonists actually cartooning. On Sunday, May 25th, a good number of NCS members travelled to a military hospital to draw for injured soldiers. Then coming in waves of two shifts, the cartoonists descended upon San Diego’s Navy museum, the USS Midway aircraft carrier. My folks and I walked down to the ship to tour it and to see what my colleagues were doing…

 

USS Midway

My parents Barbara and David (a former Merchant Marine) just before boarding the USS Midway aircraft carrier.

the kiss

Now that is one giant kiss! (seen next to the USS Midway in San Diego)

comic strip artists

Bill Morrison ("The Simpsons" comics), comic book artist Stephanie Gladden, someone I can't identify, Brian Basset ("Red & Rover"), Greg Evans ("Luann") and Jerry Van Amerongen ("Ballard Street") all pretending to be busy.

Bruce Higdon

Bruce Higdon, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, drew incessantly for the kids all afternoon and again in the evening at the farewell party.

Family Circus artist

Jeff Keane ("The Family Circus") showing some kids how to draw and lick the tip of their noses at the same time.

Tank McNamara

Bill Hinds ("Tank McNamara") drawing for a very tall kid with wrinkly elbows.

Silver Drawing Academy

Stephen Silver ("Kim Possible" character designer) working with a model.

Sam Viviano

"MAD's" Sam Viviano drawing caricatures of the kids whether they wanted one or not.

cartoonists cartooning

"Adventure Time" comic cover artist Chris Houghton, Hilary Price ("Rhymes With Orange"), Jerry Scott & Rick Kirkman ("Baby Blues") drawing on the aircraft carrier.

Rick Kirkman

Rick Kirkman ("Baby Blues") laughing at something funny that we can't see. How rude.

Jeff Parker

Jeff Parker ("Dustin" comic strip) really trying to sell his services. Several overweight plumbers took him up on the deal much to his chagrin.

two cartoonists

Keith Robinson ("Making It") and Jim Horwitz ("Watson") scribbling for the kiddies.

Matt Diffee

Matt Diffee ("The New Yorker") drawing pictures of kids' grandparents.

Gag cartoonist Don Orehek handing a drawing to a delighted child as Don's wife, Suzy, looks on. Don might actually be more delighted than the kid!

Lynn Johnston

Lynn Johnston ("For Better Or For Worse") passionately explaining the benefits of bottled water.

Ray Alma

Ray Alma cheated by wearing camouflage with his name stitched onto it. (We all could still see him by the way.)

Brian Crane

Brian Crane ("Pickles") and Greg Walker ("Beetle Bailey").

Jeff Bacon

Jeff Bacon who put this whole drawing event together, and does so regularly for the USO.

 

One more day of photos from the 68th annual Reuben Awards are yet to come – pictures from the farewell gala on deck of the USS Midway!!