Friday, February 26, 2010

Artist Interview

An interview I did for the Davis Gallery the night of the show...

221B Baker Street page

A scene based on a script written by Bert Coules who has scribed several Sherlock Holmes radio drama's starring Clive Merrison and Andrew Sachs as Holmes and Watson.

Pencils, inks and lettering by me with colors lovingly by Rori Shapiro.

Thought's on last night's show MEANWHILE...

I probably told Evan three or four times last night what a great job he and the people involved did putting this show together.

I would love to see something like this become a yearly event. It was just so much fun to be a part of such a really great and diverse group of comic book artists from the Worcester area with such a wide variety of styles. And probably some of the nicest artists you'll ever meet to boot!!

I liked how the set up was so loose and easy feeling. And I also loved the fact that they had the old Max Fleischer Superman cartoons playing on a television as you entered. I still think those were some of the best superhero cartoons ever produced at least from an animation standpoint.

If you missed out on the opening, I believe the show will be running for a month at the Davis Art Gallery located in the Old Printers Building on Portland Street in Worcester. It's right down the road from the Worcester Public Library.

So, check it out!!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Photo's from Meanwhile...

Two great article on MEANWHILE...

Both the Worcester Telegram and Gazette and Worcester Magazine have written really great articles on tonight's show MEANWHILE... featuring interviews with myself and the other comic artists involved in the show. Click on the links below to read the articles online:

MEANWHILE . . . A Group Show of Worcester Comic Creators

Featuring the work of:
Evan Scola, Karl Cole, Robb Sandagata, Doug Chapel, Pete Beaudoin, Jamie Buckmaster, Andy Fish, Veronica Hebard, Alison Cowell, Derek Ring, Bret Herholz, Brian Nelson & Mike McMenemy

Wine & Hors d'oeuvres will be served. Street parking or public library lot is available.

For more information, contact, or call 800.533.2847.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Charles Spencer Chaplin

Continuing with a theme that I hadn't done with my E-Bay art till recently.

Illustrated with Deleter #4 Black Drawing Ink with Crow Quill Pen on Canson Smooth 9x12 Bristol Board.

Some of the faces created by Charles Spencer Chaplin including The Little Tramp which he is best known for, Adenoid Hynkel from The Great Dictator, Henri Verdoux from Monsieur Verdoux and Calvero from Limelight.

I had the Tramp and Hynkel giving each other a dirty look. This was inspired by a line from the biop Chaplin in which Douglas Fairbanks (played by Kevin Kline) tells Chaplin (played by Robert Downey Jr.) that Hitler stole his look from the Tramp. I thought it was a great idea and I wanted to visualize the Tramps disapproval of this defamation of character ;-)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Popeye: A character I both love and hate...

Popeye was a character I loved as a child. It was also one of the first characters I learned to draw. I also loved the Robert Altman movie starring Robing Williams and Shelley Duvall. Yes, you read that right. I thought it was a great movie and stayed true to the original E.C. Seegar comic strips with both the look,the story, the supporting cast and the way Popeye muttered quips under his breath very much like both the comic strips and the Fleischer Studios shorts.

My love for the character kind of came back to me when I was filling in for a fellow cartooning instructor's class at the Worcester Art Museum over the past week or so. She had a stack of old Whitman Comics. One of which I owned as a child which had Popeye on the cover trying to keep his ship from falling apart. The artwork was pretty awful until the very last story which was taken from an original comic strip from the early 1950's which Popeye confronts a rather nasty little hermit who doesn't like him digging a tunnel in the middle of his mountain for the railroad.

The version of Popeye I enjoy the most are the cartoons created for Fleischer Studios between 1933 and 1942. At this time, talking pictures were still only four or five years old and still an imperfect art-form as far as audio techniques are concerned. And even some of the animation is a bit jerky. But for me, that just adds to why I like the cartoon.

You'll notice if you watch a few of the scenes Popeye will say something but you won't see his mouth moving. I believe a lot of that was due to ad-libbing from both original Popeye actor William "Billy" Costello and later Jack Mercer who became the primary voice actor for the character all the way up to his death in 1984.

It's those little quips they slip in when Popeye's mouth is closed are some of the funniest.

While the characters were a bit more polished looking than their Thimble Theatre counterparts, they retained the character designs of the comic strip.

Fleischer Studios also did three two-reelers of Popeye in technicolor that were really well done which include Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor (1936), Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves (1937), and Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp (1939).

What made the Fleischer cartoons so interesting for me is they experimented in a technique called rotoscope in which you would either film the actors first and then draw the cels over the still photo's of the actors actions as seen in their Superman shorts. Or you would film an animated character over a live scene.

Some people argue that this technique is cheating. In some case it just doesn't work. But I felt the Fleischer's did it in a way that enhanced the animations.

It's because of Fleischer Studios that Popeye is one of my favorite cartoon characters. It was when Famous Studios took over the Popeye shorts that I hate the character.

Honestly, I think the only thing they're actually FAMOUS for is making some of the most obnoxious and forgettable cartoon characters of all times. You can thank them for such characters as Casper the Friendly Ghost, Herman and Katnip, Baby Huey and Little Audrey.

You've probably seen many of these characters on the covers of DVD's located in the $1 rack at Wal-Mart and despite the price being so low you'd still like you just got ripped off even if they were giving the DVD away for free.

Characters that were just so sugary and overly cute you would feel like you'd have to go visit your dentist and have a tooth yanked right after you watched one. Even as a young kid I knew these cartoons were bad.

And sadly, Popeye was not immune to the soft and cuddly character designs of Famous Studios.

And one of the things that would annoy the heck out of me is the fact they would have scenes where both of Popeye's eyes would open. I guess it's too horrific as a child to think that Popeye only has one eye.

Another change was the fact that Popeye was changed from the red and black sailor's suit to the one worn by the US Navy. Some of that mindset I can kind of understand since it was the height of WWII and films were trying to boost the morals back home.

Which is why you have Popeye enlisted in the navy or Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson fighting Nazi spies in modern 1942 rather than solving mysteries in 1892.

I suppose in my mind having Popeye in the two different sailor suits helped me to treat them as two different Popeyes. The Fleischer Studios with the original character design is the REAL Popeye and the ones with him in the white sailor suit is the FAKE Popeye.

But even after Famous Studios thankfully stopped making Popeye cartoons, the world of animation has not been kind of our favorite squeeny-eyed sailor. The ones made by Kings Feature by Al Brodax were simply awful.

Although, they brought in many of the characters that appeared in the Thimble Theatre comic strip that had never been used in either the Fleischer or Famous shorts like the Sea Hag and King Blozo, they still stuck with that lousy character design for Popeye created by Famous. And the animation and the writing in the stories is just awful and obnoxious.

Ironically, Al Brodax went on to create one of my favorite movies Yellow Submarine which is a really well animated and delightful piece of cinematic Pop Art. With some really great animation and use of rotoscope.

Equally as ironic, Al Brodax created a Beatles Saturday Morning cartoon not long before that movie that was more along the terrible standards of his Popeye cartoons. Now talk about a paradox!!

And it just gets worse for Popeye when Hanna-Barbera entered the fray in 1978 with their hour-long Popeye and Friends Cartoon and later the much worse Popeye and Son. YES!! You read that right!! Popeye and Son!!

Although, going back to the original character design of Popeye and his friends and having Jack Mercer as the voice of Popeye, these cartoons are just bad. I'm not sure if they're actually worse than the ones produced by Al Brodax as far as animation and story are concerned. They might be tied.

What I was very surprised to read on Wikipedia when I was gathering information for this blog was that the original 1932 agreement with the syndicate called for any films made within ten years and any elements of them, to be destroyed in 1942. This would have erased all Fleisher films, which are considered the best of the series. King was not sure what effect the cartoons would have on the strip; if the effect was very negative, King was very eager to erase any memory of the cartoons by destroying them. However, the films were not destroyed, either through oversight or because of their success.

I am very grateful for that oversight because it would have robbed the world of what I feel is the REAL Popeye.

Like many of my previous blogs, if you like the Famous Studio, Al Brodax or Hanna-Barbera Popeye's, please continue to love and enjoy them. I don't and nothing you say will convince me otherwise. Just like nothing I say should convince you otherwise.

But for me, I'll keep enjoying both Fleischer Studios and Robert Altman's movie continue to be my favorite big screen versions of Popeye. And hopefully one of these days someone will create a version of the cartoons for the small screen that I can enjoy.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Charlie, Mabel and Buster

Illustrated with Deleter #4 Black Drawing Ink with Crow Quill Pen on 9x12 Smooth Bristol Board.

An illustration featuring three of my favorite silent movie actors Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, Mabel Ethelreid Normand and Joseph Francis "Buster" Keaton Jr. together.

I'm actually surprised I haven't done a illustration like this sooner seeing that I have such a love for the silent era.

Although, I do not believe Buster Keaton or Mabel Normand ever appeared in the same movie together, Charlie Chaplin actually shared the screen with both Mabel and Buster. He starred in many shorts and one film Tillie's Punctured Romance with Mabel for a number of Max Sennett's Keystone Studios and he only appeared once with Keaton who had a small part in Chaplin's later film Limelight in 1952 which the two played a pair of old vaudeville stars.

I wanted to give Chaplin and Keaton the impression that they are sizing one another up with Mabel standing impishly in the middle. Mostly due to the fact there was talk that both men were rivals back in the silent era. And although there seems to be a split between people who like Buster Keaton's films and the people who love Charlie Chaplin's films.

I am split right down the middle and I love both their films. And all three of the actors bought something unique to the work they did. Which, for me, makes them the three very important figures of that era in film-making.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Feb Fun Week is OVAH!!

Well, I've made it through my eighth year doing Feb Fun Week at the Worcester Art Museum. This year was probably the best year yet as far as my classes were concerned. There have been a lot of years in the past where I've just had classes that were off the wall and at least one kid bursting into tears because he doesn't know how to draw.

Nothing of the sort this year. It ran smoothly and I live to tell the tale.

Probably my most difficult class was my last one today. I had a few students who were a bit hard to control. Both with the way they acted and with their language. Odd thing was it was my 11 to 13 year olds who were acting like that in my afternoon class. You could hear a pin drop with my 8 to 10 year old class this morning.

But it was the ones who had already had a class prior that had started acting up. It was right after lunch, it was getting late in the day and they were ready to go home. And I don't blame them. 10 in the morning till 2:30 in the afternoon is a long time to be anywhere for a kid.

Nonetheless, I made it through the week completely unscathed and actually for the first time in eight years had a great time doing the Vacation Week Classes :-)

And I'm going to be out like a light the moment I hit the pillow tonight.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

ALICE FAULKNER'S 1st print run is coming to an end!!

Copies of Sherlock Holmes: The Painful Predicament of Alice Faulkner are nearly sold out and this is your last chance to order your copy of the book from it's very first print run!!

You can order your copy today either at The Alterna Store or on by clicking one of the links below:

Ms. Wildthyme & Friends Investigate

Iris Wildthyme is a favorite Doctor Who character of mine. She never appeared on the television show. She came from the series of books published by BBC Books between 1997 and 2005.

After the show was canceled in 1989, Doctor Who really took on a life of it's own through a series of original novels which were first published through Virgin Books in 1991 and then later through BBC Books. And through those books there were some really unique stories and characters created.

Iris Wildthyme was one of those great characters created by Paul Magrs who continues to create original Doctor Who fiction and audio plays as well as his own series featuring Brenda and Effie.

Paul is probably one of my favorite Doctor Who writers. I thoroughly enjoy his approach to Doctor Who.

Iris is a Timelady from the Doctor's home planet of Gallifrey who travels the universe in a TARDIS which is in the shape of a red doubledecker bus. Which, unlike the Doctor's own TARDIS is actually bigger on the outside than it is on the inside.

Recently I was given the opportunity to create a cover for the upcoming anthology of short stories featuring Iris Wildthyme and some of her closest friends.

The anthology will be available on Obverse Books website, so you can order your copy by clicking on the link below:

Friday, February 12, 2010

New work

The first is inspired by Sidney Paget's original illustration for The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist depicting Sherlock Holmes socking the odious Mr. Woodley right across his equally as odious red moustache.

I have been creating original Sherlock Holmes illustrations when I have sold copies of Alice Faulkner on E-Bay. Recently, I've decided to have that artwork be recreations of Sidney Paget's original Sherlock Holmes tales.

The second is another depiction of William Hartnell as the First Doctor and Peter Cushing as Dr. Who from the Dalek films of the 1960's. I thought it would be a fun idea to have the Hartnell Doctor side-step into an alternate reality and come face to face with his full color big screen doppelganger. Or visa versa ;-)