Review in Optical Sloth

I missed an incredibly generous review of "Old Man Winter & Other Sordid Tales" by Kevin Bramer on the Optical Sloth blog (click here to read it) posted back in June. Another comparison to Joe Sacco, which is beyond flattering. I don't think I could pull off the detail in his panoramic scenes, but I do try to put lots of background details into my own work.

I haven't been posting much lately because I'm hard at work on a new comic, which I've probably mentioned. I've moved on from the thumnail sketches to more fully realized whole-page sketches. I've got about seven or so pages done. I would put some up on this here blog, but I don't want to give away anything about the plot. Well, I can tell you that it involves a bunch of letters, notes and journals I've found over the years. There, happy?


Animal abuse in the news

Most of the animal abuse that occurs on a daily basis goes largely unnoticed. As much as I disagree with most of PETA's tactics for raising awareness of these abuses, I have to admit that they are able to at least get the media's attention briefly from time to time.

This morning there was a segment on the local news about Ringling Bros. circus' abuse of their elephants and big cats (click here to watch the video). This comes as no surprise, as they've been doing it (and denying it) for years. I've seen undercover footage of the trainers whipping and striking their animals many times over the years, and it appalls me that they haven't been shut down or at least had their animals confiscated.

Ringling Bros. is well aware of the controversy, as they've even been sued by their own workers. They continue to paint concerned citizens as "extremists". It's a common tactic used to defend animal abuse, whether it's unnecessary vivisection, livestock in factory farms or animals used for entertainment. It is not "extreme" to want Ringling Bros. to quit beating their animals.

When I used to regularly attend protests, they would keep close watch on us. One night we put up hundreds of posters inviting others to join the protest only to have them all taken down before dawn (this was at 4 am, so they were obviously following us). We were almost arrested several times during the peaceful protest (had to physically outrun the cops).

I know that Ringling Bros. will continue to dodge the bullet and weasel out of any responsibility for their abuses, so I beg you to not attend their circuses. There are plenty of great circuses that do not use animals for entertainment, and they should be supported.

Here's another video of the head trainer instructing fellow trainers on the finer points of how to abuse elephants. He warns not to do it in the ring, only where people aren't watching.


Silverfish, disgusting silverfish

This guy, John Q. Adams, asked me to draw something for his collection of silverfish drawings a while ago. I finally got around to doing it, but not without a lesson in American paranoia. I got kicked out of THREE (3) grocery stores within seconds of snapping a photo to use as reference.

The first one took me by surprise. I explained what I was doing and offered to show my "credentials" as an illustrator. They weren't having it. Apparently they thought I was a terrorist or an undercover investigator. I asked permission at the second place, but was denied. There they thought I wanted to steal their food label designs (which I could've easily done by purchasing them if I'd been so inclined). Even a call to their PR representative didn't work. Then, out of desperation I asked a guy on the street unloading his groceries if I could snap a quick photo of him pushing his grocery cart to use as reference. He quickly refused, saying that he'd been "on the wrong end of identity abuse" (I didn't ask for his social security number, for chrissakes!). After unloading his groceries he offered to take a photo of me pushing his empty cart. I didn't end up needing any reference, but it sure was a wake up as to how paranoid we've all become. I find it interesting that grocery stores are allowed to film us with countless security cameras, but we aren't allowed to take a photo of an empty aisle of groceries.

Anyhow, you can see how hundreds of other artists interpreted this vile creature at John's on-line gallery by clicking here.

The silverfish, for those of you not in the know, are nasty little bugs that delight in ruining books, among other things. They enjoy polysaccharides such as Dextrin found in adhesives, paper, photos, sugar, hair, dandruff, cellulose, dead insects, leatherware and even exuvia (their own moulted exoskeleton).

I've got my own similar collection of drawings, but instead of focusing on putrid insects, mine are of the most adorable chihuahua currently living. Each year I commission an artist that Karen and I both like to do a drawing involving Pony (our chi). So far we've got drawings or paintings from Renee French, Jeffrey Brown, Graham Annable, Raina Telgemeier, Paul Hornschemeier, Burt Silverman (Karen's dad) and a few from yours truly. I don't have scans of them all, but here's a few for your enjoyment.


New paintings

Here's a dog portrait I just finished and a portrait of a little girl that is about half-way done.

I'm going upstate tonight to help my father-in-law with a painting workshop he's teaching. When I paint with him in his studio he'll check up on me every so often to give pointers but I've never actually seen him do a demo or teach a class. Should be enlightening. I haven't drawn a model from life in years, so I'm hoping to sit in on the workshop and see what horrors I can produce.


Casual Elvira / Sexless Baby

Here's a quick drawing I did for a friend's birthday. She often dresses up as "casual" versions of notoriously done-up celebrities for Halloween. Elvira & Jackie O. are two examples that come to mind.

I'm also including a photo of Elvira without make-up because it blew my mind.

Today's appointment with the baby doctor was a disappointment. We thought they were gonna tell us if our kid was a boy or a girl, but all they did was draw blood to check if my Jew blood is tainted (Karen and I are both Ashkenazi Jews, which can cause some problems genetically). Karen begged her to do a quick ultrasound (wasn't on the menu) and guess at its sex. Only after emphasizing repeatedly that she should not be held accountable should she be incorrect did she take a look. Her best guess is a girl (or a very sad little man). We'll find out for sure on August 3rd, though.


Review in File Under Other

Shannon Smith wrote a very flattering review in File Under Other (click to read it) in which he compared me to several of my favorite comic artists.

Oh, I got my first purchase order from Diamond Comic Distributors, which means that they didn't drop me! I sold 600, which is a far shot from their $2,500 minimum, but my contact there explained that there are other factors (such as my Xeric Award) that are taken into consideration. Anyway, that's a huge weight off of my shoulders.

Golden Girls in drag / Giant Scrotums n' such


Karen's birthday was on Monday, so the weekend was a jam-packed event extravaganza.

Her BFF Sara drove up from D.C. to surprise her. First we stopped by my old pals Marty & Nicole's house for a cook-out. Nicole is a wonderful cook, so it was incredibly difficult to not eat anything (had to save our appetite for dinner).

Then we met up with Thomas "T-Bag" Smiley & Denise for dinner and fireworks on July 4th. We were looking forward to an amazing view of the fireworks from the Promenade along the East River in our new Brooklyn neighborhood (we moved from Manhattan in April), but Henry Hudson screwed everything up. He discovered The Hudson 400 years ago, so they moved the fireworks show over to the west-side of Manhattan this year. Being the non-conforming anarchist ne'er-do-wells that we are, we decided to watch from the Brooklyn shore regardless. The most excitement occured when a spectator shot a single rogue firework of his own and was promptly arrested and carted off by the cops to a chorus of booing.

I managed to keep the all drag-queen musical interpretation of The Golden Girls a secret from Karen for the last few weeks. A bunch of her friends met up with us at one of her favorite restaurants, and then we headed over to the show. She didn't know what she was seeing up until we walked into the theater. If you know Karen at all, you understand how bittersweet this show was for her (she is obsessed with The Golden Girls as can be evidenced by her jewelry line and oil paintings, loves drag-queens, but HATES plays in general, musicals in particular). These photos don't really do it justice (I snapped them randomly from my seat).

We took advantage of Sara's car on Monday to drive down to Philadelphia to finally see The Mutter Museum. It is an amazing museum full of disgusting medical-related phenomena...every kind of ailment and anomaly is on display in ancient belljars and such. It's a goth's dream come true (there were a few in attendence). If you've ever wanted to see a collection of genital warts strung together like some sort of sick necklace, any number of deformed babies floating in formaldahyde or a gigantic scrotum, this is your museum.


Review in GutterGeek

A very kind review by Jared Gardner on GutterGeek (click to read it). Thanks, Jared!