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Archive for October 2010

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Bedbugs Sketch: Nonsense Poem

This sketch done for a fan who won a prize package for "liking" the Bedbugs Facebook page, less a sketch and more a performance, a recitation of something like a nonsense poem taught to me by my grammar school pal, Rick Berning (who remains a friend to this day, and lives about five minutes away here in MN, though we grew up in Chicago). I've been reciting this poem to friends and kids ever since, as best I could remember it. After a small bit of research online, I was able to fill in gaps, and made a couple changes of my own for fun.

During research, I came across several versions, varying slightly or wildly, like so:

'Ladies and Gentlemen, Hobos and Tramps, Cross-eyed mosquitoes and bowlegged ants. I come before you, to stand before you, to tell you a story I know nothing about. One bright morning in the middle of the night two dead fellows stood up to fight. They stood back to back, facing each other, drew their swords and shot each other. If you don't believe my lie, it's true, ask the blind lady on the corner, she saw it too.'

There are many variants, which include references to a dummy referee, a paralyzed donkey, a mute psychotic, ladies and jellyspoons (or jellybeans), bald-headed babies and a guy with a pancake stuck to his bum - LOL! All these I found at the best and comprehensive collection at this folklore site. Check 'em out! Have you ever heard the version close to the one I recall, or any of the others?

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TothPix: Grave Undertaking

Continuing Halloween Month on Toth Tuesdays, here's a scary short story Toth drew for Warren, written by Archie Goodwin, Grave Undertaking. As most Warren magazines were in black and white, Toth often used duo-shade or grey tone washes and other media to take advantage and experiment. Given that these stories originally appeared magazine size, even larger than the typical comic book, it's a shame to present these in a smaller format, but at least the story is here in its entirety, all cleaned up and de-yellowed. I'll post about favorite panels from this story on Thursday or next week. Til then, enjoy...!

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Bedbugs Sketches/Prize Packages

The more people who LIKE the Bedbugs Facebook page, the more prize packages I send out. The prize now includes a 7" x 7" color Bedbugs sketch and a Bedbugs button of your choice. Two prizes are awarded every 50 new people, the first to one from the latest 50, the other to another lucky winner who's been aboard from the beginning. Below are a few of the latest sketches sent to winners...

So go sign up if you haven't already, and/or spread the word! More cool Bedbugs stuff is in the works, so the packages will be changing soon, to include some nifty things. And don't forget to visit the Bedbugs web site for free games, music videos, desktop wallpaper, and more!

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Mamet: The Artist and Mass Media

This passage from David Mamet's Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama got into my skin and stuck in my noggin:
Mass media...are created (by what force we cannot say); they spring into existence, if you will, and offer the promise, in many cases the reality, of great wealth to entice talented people who would otherwise be uninterested. They offer, like any other dictator, the promise of freedom if applicants consign themselves to slavery. The writer, the actor, the director, no less than the viewer, are thus wooed to spend their lives doing nothing. They are paid handsomely (or merely promised handsome payment, the lure of wealth being so potent that a promise if often sufficient - like the gold rush or the lottery - to hold the multitude). They are paid to remove themselves from the ranks of potential artists, to give up the desire to express, confront, connect, mourn, question, decry, unite; they are paid to serve the cause of censorship.



In my teens, when my buddy, Scott and I were collaborating on short comics stories, and in my early twenties then creating and publishing our own comic, Trollords, we took comics and our art very seriously. We were pleased that the book did so well we could make a living at it, but eschewed that as our primary goal: we were artists! Our pal, Len bought for me a used book he stumbled across, How to Be a Money Writer! Gosh, we had a good laugh at that. Written in the '50s or '60s in dated prose, it captured everything we weren't about. But after a few years, the market changed, we and most others weren't selling nearly as many copies, we both got married, and although I still stressed following my bliss and creativity, it became clear I needed to make more money doing art if I was going to continue.

And through the years for my wife and me, buying a house, having and raising kids, building another house, growing a business, it's been the main struggle to be "money artists" while not selling out entirely, and setting aside as much time as possible for personal creative projects. All too often, the trade-off leans one way, to providing and caring for the family. For me and many, that in and of itself is a noble goal, and perhaps more noble than living just for one's art, which in some respects is a selfish pursuit. Achieving a balance between the two remains largely elusive. So while I find truth in Mamet's assertion above, it also seems too black and white, too rigid and judgmental. The book was released in 1998, so perhaps his opinion has changed since. Certainly, he was engaged in writing for and directing movies for quite some time before this was written. And he's made more movies, created and produced a TV series (The Unit) since. I liked or loved most of his output, including his plays which have been adapted to screen, and though I'm a big fan, I've never seen one of his plays performed live. So, would Mamet (or should any creator) consider any work done that has any commercial influence less legitimate or worthy as art? Michelangelo's Sistine chapel ceiling is considered a masterpiece, a great work of art, yet it was a commissioned piece. I've been touched emotionally and inspired and challenged intellectually by music, art, movies, TV shows and poetry that gained the creators payment, sometimes handsome reward. And I've been left cold and unmoved by work done by artists with pure intention and motivation, unsullied and not corrupted by greed or monetary gain.

So as I make my way now through this process, answering these questions, it still remains a challenge to achieve a balance. Our lives are easier, less stressful when we take on commercial projects, when the money is flowing in more than not. But when we're busy with that, personal creativity often takes a back seat. And even if some of that personal work finds its way out into the world, as has occurred for me with my Night of the Bedbugs childrens book, while my main purpose is to reach and affect kids and families, I'd also love nothing more than to make part or more of my living from it or such work. And what's wrong with that?

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Sketchbook: On the Fringe - Broyles

Another great Fringe character, Agent Broyles, played intensely by Lance Reddick is the featured sketch today. This guy is a superb actor, also having done a great turn on five seasons of the HBO show, The Wire. On Fringe, he's Olivia's boss, and head the FBI Fringe Unit. He's a sharp character, with a commanding presence, but certain scenes where we get a small glimpse into his backstory, he's collected, vulnerable and subtle. I did a color version, for grins.

And here's the black & white version.

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TothPix: Bubble, Bubble...

Kicking off Toth Halloween month are a couple unrelated pages featuring the Three Witches from DC's The Witching Hour. Rather than drawing a full story some issues, Toth did the intros and framing pages between stories, the three witches functioning as hosts and setting the tone for the tales to come...

I'm not sure who designed these three, but Toth's take on them is my favorite - big surprise! The colors above are fun and comic-booky, especially effective with the last panel all black and orange. The writing and Toth's art engage and draw in the reader - it's almost interactive!

From another issue, the page above again sets the tone, with coloring mostly more subdued, the witches' faces and clothing draped in shadow. The composition of this page flows very smoothly, Toth creating interesting black/negative shapes throughout. And it's immediately apparent how distinct the three are from each other, with varied face and body shapes and features. Fun stuff!

More Halloween Toth next week...!

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Sketchbook: More On the Fringe

Still making our way thru season 2 of Fringe. Disc 3 was good and moved the Big Picture story along well, with some major events and revelations, but one episode that was kind of a dud, like a mediocre Twilight Zone or X-Files. But thankfully, those episodes are few and far between, and there's a portentous sense something big is right around the corner. Though the show is peopled with edgy, quirky and compelling characters, but I'm most fascinated by the main character, Olivia Dunham (played by Aussie Anna Torv), and of course, the Mad Professor, Walter Bishop (played by John Noble, another Aussie).

Toth tomorrow. More Fringe Wednesday.

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