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Archive for March 2009


Between a Tree and a Hard Place

Accident and Damage Three weeks ago, trying to have some fun in another Minnesota Winter, while snowmobiling I slid sideways into a tree. The machine emerged relatively unscathed. I wasn't so lucky, taking the brunt of the impact. Ouch! Since then, I've been through the emergency room, two three-day hospital stays, untold amounts of x-rays, CAT Scans, got to know well numerous nurses, doctors and radiological technicians, and have been kept on a steady diet of an assortment of drugs. I broke my clavicle, nine ribs and messed up my left lung, and had inserted in my side a chest tube to drain unwelcome fluids from around my lung so it could restore itself more fully to its previous puffy state. The only way to advance through something like this is to take it a moment at a time; deal with each new pain, every situation as it comes. My body has responded pretty well throughout to such a brutal onslaught, and emotionally I've been OK through most of it, but I've not held up well at times, feeling very anxious and even once having a full blown panic attack. My first, and not fun. Not recommended. Work and Recovery So, given my condition I've been forced to relax, reading stacks of books and watching shows and old movies I haven't seen in a while or have never seen. Despite having to take it easy and recuperate, I also felt it best to continue to work when and if I could, so Mary and I proceeded on a storyboard job, for which I drew both from home and at the hospital. Our long-time client in this case left it up to us whether we felt we could still take it on, and trusted us to finish it well and on time. Though there were days I could only muster drawing for only an hour or two, I've put in about a half day a few times. Next week I'll begin work on a larger comic book project for a prominent company, for which I think I'll be in better shape. Consequences and Aftermath Minutes after I hit the tree, a flurry of thoughts shot through my mind: plans for the night were ruined; guilt for putting out friends and family for the night and beyond; work schedules would be affected; visit and travel plans would have to be canceled; money strains and worries loomed large in an instant. Disability insurance for freelancers like us is very expensive, so we don't have that to lean on. But I count my blessings that: I didn't hurt myself even worse; was able to work a bit; I can tag team with my artist wife to share the workload in a pinch; we got through this without turning down work or letting down clients; and was able to secure further work during a chaotic time. What I regret most is making a bad choice and big mistake that has had such an impact on Mary and my daughters. All this has been hard on them, and a tremendous burden on Mary, who's been my rock and lifeline. Sorry, girls...and thanks. It's such a relief to me I'm feeling a bit better and we're getting back into the swing and something of a normal routine. I love you gals. And for the rest of you, let's be careful out there.


Watchmen Hitchcock Comic

What with the Watchmen movie opening this weekend, and as I've been reading up on Hitchcock again of late, it all brought to mind a comic book story I did years ago, just a couple years after the original Watchmen comic book run. The story is narrated and framed by a Hitchcock-style alien, just as Hitch had introduced his mystery and suspense TV show in the '50s & '60s. And I was obsessed with Watchmen then, so created a hybrid, giving him Dr, Manhattan's "costume," with and H instead of and M, of course.

A Wee Dram at Munden's Bar appeared as a back-up story in First Comics' Grimjack #57. Munden's Bar is a series created by John Ostrander, a bar based on a Chicago hangout, The Bucket O' Suds, which coincidentally was the first and only bar I frequented, just a mile or so from the house where I grew up. It was a great old place, owned and tended by good ol' Joe Danno, who had a shock of white hair and thick black coke-bottle glasses. He was kind of a Harry Carray type. He'd created tons of drinks, a checklist of which he'd had printed up as a business card. I had a bunch of them checked off, but my favorites were the Elixir Lucifer (potent!) and the tasty Monkey Nut. Joe made me only a few Monkey Nuts, 'cause when I requested them after a while, he'd always say he was out: "No Monkey Nut. Try the Coco-Loco!" I did, and it was a good, but no Monkey Nut. For years, I longed for that Monkey Nut taste, until recently tried to recreate it with ice, Bailey's chocolate cream liquor and Captain Morgan's coconut rum.  It's pretty close!  Close enough to take me back to the Bucket, anyway. Read all of Wee Dram at my comics site, bluemoontoons, written by writer, professor, raconteur and fellow Bucket O' Suds patron, Len Strazewski, who introduced me to the Bucket the night we first met.


Beanworld Reviews: Let's Get Metaphysical

After a lengthy layoff, two Beanworld books have been released recently by Dark Horse, quenching the thirst of long-time fans, and smartly packaged for a new generation of readers. In both, readers will encounter all those who populate the Beanworld: Beanish, Professor Garbanzo, Mr. Spook, the Boom'r Band, the Hoi-Polloi, Dreamishness and the Pod'L'Pool Cuties; as well as Beanworld basics such as Gran'Ma'Pa, Gunk'l'Dunk, the Chowdown Pool, the Bone Zone, Mystery Pods and the Four Realities. And once you're hooked, you'll never want to leave.

Bridging the gap of that long hiatus between the original Beanworld comic book run (last seen in 1993) and the forthcoming new Beanworld volume is a Holiday Special story called Every Cutie Deserves a Toy!

Serving as a teaser, this full-color comic whets the appetite for what's to come, and is informed by Larry Marder's fifteen years as CEO of McFarlane Toys. For the young beans, toys or "action effigies" serve as important tools of education and communication when nothing else seems to work. But beyond intros, teasers and toys, it's also a primer for a way to think about Beanworld, paving the way for the themes that Marder's most interested in, and which will be explored in the new major volume to be released Fall 2009, Remember Here When You Are There.

In Beanworld, simple comparative words, terms and concepts like here and there, up and down, look and see and then and now become downright metaphysical. According to Wikipedia, metaphysics " concerned with explaining the ultimate nature of being and the world." And with Beanworld Marder isn't just concerned with the nature of Beans in their World.

The brilliance of Beanworld is that the basic nature of the art and language at once belie and work in tandem with the deep philosophical concepts explored in its pages, and more importantly, in the minds of readers. Beanworld's surface appearance draws in a reader with its fun and charm and simplicity, and before one knows it, they're contemplating the nature of being human, finding their place and coexisting with others in the world, and then beyond to the larger universe.

Collecting the original first nine issues, Beanworld Book 1: Wahoolazuma! contains the origins of many main concepts, characters and pieces of the World. But we're always reminded by Marder," It's not just a place, it's a process." And indeed, process is very important in Beanworld, from how they come to be, "breakout", hunt and gather and prepare their "chow," and discover their world and how it works. If some bean doesn't do their part, or someone comes along to put a kink in the process, things get out of whack quickly, which happens in the very first story.

When I first read the first couple stories twenty-five years ago, I found the artwork crude and too simple. And a couple of the creepy corn characters in The Legend of Pop! Pop! Pop! are my least favorite in entire Beanworld saga. So it wasn't love at first sight for me. But the story is integral to the mythos, and by the second story, I began to be hooked. And by the fourth, Beanish Breaks Out, it clicked in my head, got under my skin, and I was seriously addicted, a Beanworld Fan For Life.

But what it means to each reader depends on them. To paraphrase Marcel DuChamp, a prime influence for Marder, "the viewer makes the painting." Beanworld can be read as myth, metaphor, an ecological fantasy, a superhero adventure, or just a plain good story. What you take from it is up to you. For me, it's about metaphysics, art and the relationship between artist and audience, parenting, love, community and finding your personal niche. You may see yourself in one or many of the characters, be it hero, artist, soldier, teacher, musician, spiritual leader, scientist, parent or inventor. It's also just good fun.

Order Wahoolazuma through our Blue Moon store to support this blog. I've written of Beanworld before here. And for more on what's up with Beanworld, visit Marder's blog.  There are many resources there at the top left to introduce and explain Beanworld. Volume 2 is due in July, 2009.


Famous Dave's Christmas

From a few years ago, here's a Christmas card I did for Famous Dave's Bar-B-Que restaurants.

I pulled this out of the archives since I've drawing more of Wilbur the Pig again lately, though he doesn't usually have wings.