Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Auctions!!

I have just posted THREE new pen and ink illustrations just in time for Spring. Two of them in the case of the Dark Shadows and Beetlejuice are subjects I have not done before.

And I am surprised I haven't done them before.

Anyways, click on the images below to check out their respective auctions!! And happy bidding:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Next episode of Cracked: After Hours is on the way

I just finished artwork for the next installment of Cracked: After Hours. A web series I've been contributing animated segments representing the inner thoughts for Katie Willert's character since July of 2010.

The next episode is entitled Which Historical Figure Would You Take Out To Dinner. While I cannot dish too much about the episode itself, I do have to say I did enjoy doing the artwork in this one. My favorite episodes I've worked on is one about Cereal Mascots, a Star Wars episode and one with Harry Potter. That's my favorite because my image of Harry Potter riding a dinosaur.

For me I've had a great deal of fun contributing to After Hours for the past two or three years.

For those of you who remember the old days of Cracked Magazine being a transparent rip-off of MAD, expunge it from your minds. The videos and articles on Cracked.com are both funny and original. A far cry from the days Alfred E. Neuman doppelgänger Sylvester P. Smythe graced the cover.

The cast of After Hours alone are a talented group of actors/writers who also have other shows on Cracked.com!! So if you haven't checked out After Hours or Cracked.com just yet I highly recommend you do so.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Superman: True Brit

Take a book written by a Monty Python historian in the form of Kim "Howard" Johnson and co-written by former member of Monty Python's Flying Circus in the form of John Cleese and add artwork in the form of the legendary Johnny Byrne to the mix and you have probably one of the best Superman stories I have read in a very long time!!

Being a die hard and life long fan of Flying Circus, I haven't a clue why it has taken me so long to find and read this book. But I finally discovered it on a trip to my local library. So I decided to pick it up and give it a try. I'm very happy I did.

Set in DC Comics Elseworld Universe, we see young Kal-EL landing in Weston-super-Mare England instead of Smallville USA. He is found and raised as Colin Clark by a set of parents who look like they were based Ronnie Corbett as the father and Terry Jones as his mother. Unlike the Kents from Superman mythology the Clarks are not so happy to have a son that possesses powers far beyond that of mortal men.

After saving Ron Nasty and Dirk McQuickly of the famed Rutles (a creation of fellow former Monty Python alum Eric Idle) Colin adopts a secret identity and a garish costume to become Superman.

First and foremost for anyone reading this book: DO NOT TAKE IT SERIOUSLY. It's not intended to be serious in the sense of some other Elseworld titles such as Gotham by Gaslight or The Nail series. This is a satirical look a Superman who has a difficult time battling the forces of evil in the form of the tabloid press. Even near the end of the book, having worked for a particularly oily rag creating lies as Colin Clark, Superman tries to get people to denounce the tabloid press to no avail.

Nothing comes easy for either Superman or his alter ego Colin Clark. His job, his attempts to fit in, or trying to impress Lois Lane's British counterpart Louisa Layne-Ferret. Who is a million times meaner and shallow than Lois Lane ever was in the early Superman comics.

Colin also meets his arch-nemesis. A supervillian whom he accidentally impaled with a cricket bat during a school match who has taken the identity of...

...wait for it...

...The Bat-Man!

The other thing I like about this book is Johnny Byrne's artwork. Although his style is completely recognizable, he has a slightly Wally Wood approach to the way he interprets Superman and company in this book. Being a fan of Wood's MAD Magazine work, I like this approach.

I would give this book a try. Although, it may not be the best piece of satire ever written, it's a very enjoyable read if taken at face value and not taken seriously. I think the problem nowadays we take everything way too seriously and just cannot enjoy a good laugh.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Buster Keaton and Film Appreciation

I just started teaching a film class again for the Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter Public School this year. Last year I did the class to fill in for my pal Andy Fish. It should be said, Andy has terrific taste in film. Although, our tastes may differ (he likes the Universal Monster Movies while I prefer the Gothic Hammer Horror movies) we both have an appreciation for movies from the 1930's and 1940's. So it made filling in for him all the more comfortable knowing most of the movies he liked I would enjoy. And I was even able to slide in a couple of my own selection for the end of the year. Because of the snowstorm we had a few extra days left of class so Andy's list was a few classes short.

And I enjoyed the class so much last year that I decided to do it again.

I decided to start off with Buster Keaton's film Steamboat Bill Jr. this year. One of the reasons is I've found a great number of students in my class have never seen a silent movie. Or even heard of Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton.

Which I think is two-fold. Most of the movies I watched like Chaplin, Keaton and Laurel and Hardy as a kid were movies my parents watched because they were films their parents (my grandparents) watched. Most of the people who are Grandparents now are my parents age. As a matter of fact, my parents are grandparents. Many of those grandparents didn't necessarily grow up watching movies from the silent era.

Before I totally lose my train of thought, since they don't watch those films, their children didn't watch those films. So, although, many people still know who the Three Stooges are thanks in part to them still rerunning the shorts on television or the New Years Marathon. Quite a few of these their children have never seen a Marx Brothers film.

Simply because they did not grow up with it.

Another problem is a great number of films from the silent era are lost forever due to the fact that the nitrate the films were printed on are or have deteriorated over time. Film preservationists have tried desperately (and sometimes successfully) to save and restore films over the years. But there is only so much we can do against time.

Apparently, my train of thought just derailed...

...well, I never know if students really appreciate a film or not. With a silent film I can understand with students in the Jr. High School age group it might be a bit too slow and the lack of sound might be a bit hard to follow.

I just try to explain the technology just was not available at the time concerning sounds or special effects. So I have to explain to the class that movie makers had to be clever and inventive with the way they both had to make up with the limitations of both sound and the special effects, which were pretty much non-existent, at the time. Primarily I wanted to show them this film for this scene in particular:

Explaining since there was no CGI in 1928, this is what makes the scene above all the more amazing. How close to tragedy Buster Keaton came for the sake of achieving a really funny (and amazing) gag. I also explained how Buster Keaton influenced much of the physical comedy for years to come as well as actors like Jackie Chan who cite Keaton as an influence.

In Keaton's instance, he HAD TO BE physical to tell a story and a joke. Mainly because he didn't have a sound to work with. And you couldn't keep putting up Dialogue Cards throughout the entire film because it would break too much of the momentum of the storytelling.

But even as talking pictures came into being merely a year after this film was made, physical humor never went out of style. Something about a character getting hit with a pie in the face or an anvil in the head just resonates with an audience.

Even 84 years later after this film was made, my students were chucking at the more physical comedy.

Next week I'm going to be showing them the Charlie Chaplin film Limelight. This was one of Chaplin's later films because this is the only time Chaplin and Keaton appear in the same film. Although, it is only a small scene at the end, it's the most memorable scene of the film.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Season Two of Cracked: After Hours is underway!!

I'm very pleased to be supplying the inner thoughts for Katie Willert's character for the second season of the very funny web series Cracked: After Hours.

You can check out the first episode of the new series below:

Why Mario is Secretly a Douchebag -- powered by Cracked.com

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spring Thoughts...

Those who have known me a long time know every Spring I shave my beard off. It serves it's purpose during the dreary cold Winter months. But once the weather gets warmer it just starts to feel a bit uncomfortable.

Normally, I try and do it during the week break between Winter and Spring Classes at the Art Museum. With the younger kids, the drastic change is a bit too much. So the week break is the perfect time to make the transition.

I've been on the record as someone who likes beards. But having had a beard since late September, by the time Spring rolls around, it's nice to finally be able to shave it off till next Fall.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Dark Knight Strikes Again

The Dark Knight Returns is still one of my favorite graphic novels. It was also the first graphic novel I ever bought. After having read Dark Knight Returns recently, I thought I would try to give Frank Miller's long awaited follow up another read through...

...and I just couldn't get through it.

I just found both the story and the art very hard to follow. If you have to go on Wikipedia to be able to know what the plot of the book is, then there's something wrong.

But it was worse that that. Compared to his art in books like The Dark Knight Returns and his series Sin City, the artwork seemed lazy. The computer coloring and effects just look awful compared to the Lynn Varley's gorgeous painting job on books like Dark Knight Returns and 300.

I just get the general feeling Miller didn't really feel like doing this book in the first place. But to be honest, I don't feel like the first Dark Knight really needed a sequel. Maybe years ago I might have loved to see how the story would continue. But years later I just don't think a sequel was necessary.

It's a shame to see the result of a sequel since the first one was such a great book.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Cartooning, Chris Hart Books and some of the other books I have used in the classroom...

In a former life I was a cartoonist. In particular I loved the artwork of Walt Kelly, Bill Watterson, Chuck Jones and Robert McKimson in particular. I think the first noticable piece of artwork I ever did was Fred Flinstone when I was either three or four. And my parents KNEW it was Fred Flinstone on first glance and not just me handing them a picture of something that looks like a potato and me saying "It's Fred Flinstone!" to their befuddled looks.

I can still channel my cartoonist past when needed. It's kind of like riding a bike where you really don't forget it. This style always comes in handy when I am teaching any of my 10 and under classes for the Worcester Art Musuem. It's easier to show students with cartoons how to create a character rather than with my normal style.

I'm always looking for new ways to show the students how to create characters. It's been a work in progress for me over the past eight or nine years. And I'm always looking for new techniques to make it easy for them to follow and easy for me to show them.

Sometimes it's difficult to relay on the board how to do what's in my head.

Recently I've been picking up a couple of the Chris Hart cartooning books. To be honest I'm not really sure what Chris Hart is famous for other than a series of cartooning books. However, I've been finding some of his techniques helpful in some of my classes so far.

Funny story. I was in Michaels recently. My wife Syd has been picking up supplies for her record bowls as well as other projects she is working on and I will pick up a few odds and ends myself. I had picked up one of the Chris Hart Books on Superhero and Adventure Cartoons and I was checking it out at the register.

The young woman behind the counter very cheerfully says to me "We offer cartooning classes here for children and adults", which I sheepishly reply "Actually, I teach cartooning classes" which she does a bit of a double take and then replies "Oh... then a guess you don't need them".

Which isn't entirely true. I know many art instructors that continue to take art classes. My pal Andy Fish teaches quite a few adult art classes at the Worcester Art Museum. And many of the students there are my WAM colleagues.

But the young woman was very nice and trying to be helpful. And I didn't want to humilate her by saying all that.

Actually, over the past eight or nine years, I've built up quite a library of books I have used in my classes. Most of them I encourage my students to check out on their own. Here's the short list:

HOW TO DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL WAY: Although some of the styles are a bit out-of-date, it's probably still one of the best books to learn the fundimentals of drawing comic books. I use it in many of my comic art and graphic novel classes. Besides! There are quite a few artists out there that still employ a retro style to their work.

ANIMATION 1 BY PRESTON BLAIR: One of my life long addictions has been animation. I could go on about it for hours at a time. I've even taught a few animation classes for both WAM and the Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter Public School. And this is the book I first cut my teeth on when I took animation classes with Mark Lynch at WAM. And I still use it in my classes. Preston Blair worked with Tex Avery on many of his cartoons for MGM and this book is clear and concise on the steps it takes to create tradiational drawn animation.

CEREBUS'S GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING BY DAVE SIM: You love him or hate him. But he's made a living in the world of self-publishing. And has been fairly successful at it. I really need to get his updated version. The one I have is still his comic book style print.

The next four books I have on my shelf. They're actually books I've had since college. I don't always have the opportunity to use them but they're great to have on the shelf:


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Phonographic Memory by Syd

My wife Syd just started up an Etsy shop called Phonographic Memory.

What she sells is fun and funky household items such as bowls, file holder and wine holders as well as jewelry made from vinyl LP's. She debuted her work last night at Beatnik's Indie Art Market and everybody loved what they saw.

So, click on the link below to check out what she has for sale on Etsy:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dick Tracy (1967)

I actually never knew about this. I found out yesterday doing a random Wikipedia search on Dick Tracy. In 1967 William Dozier, the man who brought both Batman and the Green Hornet to the small screen also did a pilot for a television show based on Chester Gould's Dick Tracy.

Even though I was only really able to find the opening and closing theme on Youtube, already I like this treatment better than what we saw with Warren Beattey and Madonna back in 1990. I mean honestly!! They brought in every single Dick Tracy villain into one scene and killed them all off... IN THE FIRST FIVE SECONDS OF THE FILM!!

In the same vein of Batman, we have a semi-animated opening credit with some swinging music played by the Ventures... and apparently sung by both the bulldog from the Tom and Jerry cartoon and Harley Quinn.

Some of you may notice a young Eve "Jan Brady" Plumb in the opening credits as Bonnie Braids. Which, according to IMDB.com, was to be her very first television role.

...and apparently he's a good cop.

It's a shame they didn't do more with this series since apart from the movie serials in the 1940's the only two treatments we have of the character is said awful film from 1990 and a truly terrible cartoon from 1961 which Dick Tracy barely appears in and is replaced by this horribly racist stereotypes characters that Dick calls in to help on the case.

And sadly, given Hollywoods treatment of the Green Hornet in recent years, I have a feeling the same fate would fall upon Dick Tracy as well if any attempts were made to bring the character back to the big or small screen.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Books and Comics Yet To Be Adapted Into Movies: Beetle Bailey

Seeing that Little Orphan Annie, Popeye, Garfield, Dennis the Menace and even Marmaduke have been made into movies I suppose it's only a matter of time before Beetle Bailey gets a big screen treatment.

I suppose we'll end up with some brilliant casting of Ashton Kutcher in the title role of Beetle Bailey and master thespian and character actor himself Jack Black as Sgt. Snorkle.

I would imagine the movie would begin with Beetle Bailey graduating college and going on a drunken all night bender with his frat as "one last hurrah". The next morning he would awaken completely hung over and unaware of what has taken place the night before.

Suddenly an bugle playing revelry would go off making him snap awake and Sgt. Snorkle would be in his face yelling at him to get out of bed.

That's when he discovers in his drunken stupor he accidentally joined the army and hilarity soon ensues.
Nothing is listed on IMDB.com as far as I know as of yet. But I imagine it's only a matter of time before it will be coming to a theatre or $1.99 DVD discount rack at Price Chopper near you.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Movies That Have Yet to be Remade: Mitchell (1975)

Seeing that they've remade both Shaft and Kojak why not Mitchell? I mean, who wouldn't want to watch an action film starring the slovenly, beer-swilling, obnoxious, lazy and completely unlikable cop who had a thing for prostitutes immortalized by Joe Don Baker?

Who could resist a fast-paced rollercoaster ride of a film with hot merging action and hot dune buggy action as seen below:

Cast Jack Black into the title role of "The Chubby Blue Line" himself and we have a remake!!

Adam West

About a couple years back I was doing a book signing. It might have been Free Comic Book Day but I can't remember. But I happened to overhear one overzealous fan going on a tirade about Adam West's Batman being an abomination and a disgrace to Batman.

Personally I thought the statement was a bit over-the-top. I can understand if you prefer the Darknight Detective over the Caped Crusader. But to call Adam West's take on Batman a "disgrace" is a bit much. And completely untrue.

I enjoy Dark Knight style Batman. I like the grittier Batman of the books like Dark Knight Returns and Killing Joke. However, I will go on the record and say I like the Adam West Batman. It reflected the comic books at the time as well as the swinging sixties and the Andy Warhol Pop Art culture at that time.

The show is probably the most brilliant piece of Pop Art ever filmed. The producers went out of their way to make Batman's mask look like the comic book:

In the comic books, what you see below is supposed to represent a shadow on Batman's mask. I think just for the mere fact that they went out of their way to actually sew the look of the shadows and the eyebrows and nose onto the mask is brilliant.

The idea was to make a comic book come to life with every BIFF and POW included. If you remember what was going on at the time, people wanted to escape from how dreadful the world was. This was the ideal Batman for that time. But like everything, we can only take so much of one thing. And when the television series had run it's course fans wanted a darker and more serious Batman.

Which I think fans are starting to go through now. We've had our fill of the grittier realistic look at Batman. Not that we should completely revert to the campy Batman.

But maybe something right down the middle.

The Batman of the Adam West series represented the time it was released. Much like the Batman envisioned in Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns represented the time it was published.

And for those who wish to argue everything about the current movies are better than the television series. I must respectfully disagree with two words: Julie Newmar.