Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Enter the Freak Cave

It's official: the Freak Cave online comic strip is open for business. To start at the beginning, click here:
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Monday, December 29, 2008

A Fine New Essay

My comrade-in-arms A. M. Siriano has just written a fine essay on New Year resolutions which you would do well to avail yourself of here:
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

When Viewmaster Reels Were Cool

I love the hand-lettering on these old Viewmaster reels.

That's all.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Curious Case of Neno's Buttons

I still have button packs available, perfect for backpacks and jackets. This is a promo for my upcoming comic book series, The Signifiers, and includes Landlark the Heat-Seeking Dwarf and the notorious Feline Genetic Experiment #1.

$5.50 through Paypal, if you order here:
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

According to the Los Angeles Times, cable station AMC is remaking Patrick McGoohan's classic '60s sci-fi show, The Prisoner.

A spokesman for AMC has said the new version will be "reinterpreted" to reflect "21st century concerns and anxieties, such as liberty, security, and surveillance."

Uh, I hate to break it to AMC, but that's exactly what the original series was about. Have they seen it?
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Freak Cave

Drawn to amuse myself today.
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Monday, November 17, 2008

Ace in the Hole

One of the cool things about Ace in the Hole Music Exchange is that they still issue hand-written return receipts. This one's from two years ago, when I purchased a Lionel Hampton CD and two Crash Test Dummies CDs.

I can imagine those two getting together to play Kurt Weill tunes.

Ace in the Hole carries new and used vinyl and CDs, posters, DVDs, and more. Check out their website here:
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sarge Captures the Vulture

Check out Randy Sargent's atmospheric take on the Vulture drawing I posted awhile back. I'm impressed!

Sargent, aka Sarge, also recently colored the cover for The Jack Kirby Quarterly #15. Check out his several art galleries here for fun and skill envy:

Thanks, Sarge!
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Monday, November 10, 2008


I've been doing some studies from a 1950s yearbook.
Here's the latest.
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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

I saw Woody Allen's new film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, a few months back. I was the only person in the theatre except a young lady of approximately twenty who quickly entered the theatre shortly before the film began, and quickly exited as the credits began. That's par for the course for seeing Allen's films at movie theatres. The films are seen in the states, but just barely.

The movie ticket says: "The license granted is for a single viewing at the designated time only." That's something new. Perhaps some enterprising soul attempted to watch Vicky Cristina Barcelona a dozen times using the same ticket. Let 'em try that now!
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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Zelda Fitzgerald

A pencil sketch of Zelda, done in preparation for Michael Neno's Dream.
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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Jeff Mangum at the Wexner

A picture of Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel) and me, taken at the prompting of my good friend Jeff Cannell at the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise concert in Columbus. Jeff Mangum amazingly played the last encore song on guitar, amidst the crowd, with Julian Koster accompanying on saw.

My mind's still numb from the best $12.00 I've spent on a concert.

Thanks, Jeff and Jeff.

An entry on Neutral Milk Hotel's beautifully enigmatic In the Aeroplane Over the Sea:

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Monday, September 29, 2008

New Mesh Art for 2008

The Mesh has been updated with four more panels of ink-drenched drama. Check it out here:
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Thursday, September 11, 2008

A 21st Century Reaction to Tender Is the Night

(Note: the notes below are intended for those who've read Tender Is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you haven't read it, but plan to, you may want to move along)

I mentioned in an earlier posting that I'd heard Tender Is the Night was a dropping-off in quality from The Great Gatsby. It's truer to say that Tender is a return to the episodic, maddeningly variable quality of tone of This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned. Unless his posthumous (and incomplete) The Last Tycoon turns out to be a masterpiece (I'll be reading it next year), it seems to me The Great Gatsby was Fitzgerald's one undisputed great novel, his most serious attempt at not only literary achievement but also aesthetic self-discipline.

That's what it all comes down to: to create great art requires monumental, draining concentration and self-discipline of a sort most creators, both professional and amateur, aren't willing to commit to. It requires not only shutting off distractions, but searching inside for connecting, cohesive and harmonious symbols, actions and declarations, all reflecting each other, all insinuating some level of universal truth, all in service of a structure that, in the end, has to fulfill a plenitude of criteria, not the least of which is that it must surprise and satisfy both the creator and "everyone else".

To create flawed works of art is work enough; to create flawless, or nearly flawless works takes an enormous struggle which a mind slackened by alcohol and indiscipline is ill-equipped for. Fitzgerald shook himself out of the alcoholic and partying haze long enough to bear down and create one short (but eternal) masterpiece. I believe he did it only once.

Tender Is the Night, like his first two novels, is a maddening book. It is filled with sharp observation, prose with the grace of poetry, a keen sense of place in those episodes clearly autobiographical. It is also frequently boring and restless, with episodes having little or nothing to do with its plot. Like his first two novels, it feels patched together,and it was; a seam-filled mish-mash of scenes from a novel he had started earlier (rewritten with a different gender for its protagonist), scenes from short stories he had earlier written, autobiographical scenes which stick out in vivid relief (his affair with actress Lois Moran changed to Rosemary Hoyt, Zelda's mental illness becoming Nichol's, etc).

The causes Fitzgerald provides for the emotional and professional downfall of the protagonist, Dick Diver, are not entirely convincing (the reliance on Nichol's money, Nichol's illness, etc). Dick instead seems just another casualty of the bored, doomed rich ex-patriate crowd he's the ring-leader of, and his sad and obscure end just another example of wasted talent and lack of will. In many ways, Dick Diver is merely an older and eventually more weary version of Anthony Patch from The Beautiful and Damned; that is to say, just another version of the worst tendencies of Fitzgerald himself.

And yet, Fitzgerald's romanticism shines through, making the work difficult to ignore even when maddening. The opening chapters, wherein Rosemary Hoyt is gradually enveloped into the odd but seductive world of Diver's ex-patriots, seems golden-hued and perfect in and of itself. It reminds me of those sparkling scenes in Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett's 1939 film Midnight, in which Claudette Colbert is unexpectedly initiated into a fairy-tale world of the rich pregnant with possibilities both dangerous and romantic.

Fitzgerald, with an insider's view, had intimate knowledge of the power of the glitter that covered that sort of world, but also was unyielding in acknowledging and condemning the waste of lives, time, and talent inhabiting it. That's the dichotomy of his work, and one of its strengths.

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bird Alert

A drawing I drawed this evening for Ian Cannell, young Ditko and Spider-Man fan extraordinaire.

Not a great drawing, but you try drawing The Vulture.
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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sir Richard Francis Burton

A drawing I did this evening of Sir Richard Francis Burton, for Mark Clegg's Richard Burton art gallery:

He (Burton) reminds of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood.
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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Josef Suk

Ever heard of Josef Suk? I hadn't. What a sap I was, because this turn-of-the-last-century Czeck composer now seems to me on the same level as other late-Romantic luminaries such as Sibelius, Janacek and Smetana.

A pupil of Dvorak, Suk's work has been described as a mid-way point between Suk's teacher and Mahler, and that seems about right; it recalls the slightly conservative (though quite beautiful) melodies of Dvorak mixed with progressive instrumentation and unpredictable twists and sonic colorings which recall or look forward to Mahler.

The disc I purchased (actually a two-disc set) contains three orchestral works: the Asrael Symphony, Podhadka, and the Serenade for Strings. The writing is highly emotional work; the Symphony is informed by both the death of Dvorak and Suk's wife, Otilka (at the age of twenty-seven), and the Serenade contains exquisite passages weighed down by melancholy.

Anyway, I've listened to the CD at least ten times over the past several months. The recordings are given what are probably definitive interpretations by Jiri Belohlavek conducting the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and the production is top-notch.

Originally a Chandos recording from 1992, I purchased a copy of the CD licensed, in 1998, to the Musical Heritage Society. MHS no longer offers it, but you can order the Chandos recording (with more beautiful cover art) on Amazon here:

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Thursday, August 28, 2008


A very cool EC reprint page artist Al Feldstein signed for me. His comics were some of the first I remember reading (in the Ballentine EC reprint paperbacks of the '60s).
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fitzgerald Agenda

I'm currently enjoying Tender is the Night as part of my quest to read the complete F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I had heard vague rumblings that this novel represented a substantial drop in quality in a short collection of novels which was of varying quality or tone to begin with (that latter part is true). The theme, characters, and structure of the novel are just revealing themselves twenty pages in, but some of the writing is the best Fitzgerald I've taken in, casting off 19th century characteristics that clung sporadically and tenaciously to his second novel The Beautiful and Damned. Try these paragraphs on for size. They take place on a lazy beach:

Noon dominated sea and sky - even the white line of Cannes, five miles off, had faded to a mirage of what was fresh and cool; a robin-breasted sailing boat pulled in behind it a strand from the outer, darker sea. It seemed that there was no life anywhere in all this expanse of coast except under the filtered sunlight of those umbrellas, where something went on amid the color and the murmur.

Campion walked near her, stood a few feet away and Rosemary closed her eyes, pretending to be asleep; then she half-opened them and watched two dim, blurred pillars that were legs. The man tried to edge his way into a sand-colored cloud, but the cloud floated off into the vast hot sky. Rosemary fell really asleep.

I have to say I had to hunt down a used paperback copy of the novel to read (shown above), due to the fact that the current cover is so blah, and thus vaguely inappropriate:

I hate to carry around and read books with lame covers. Scribners has been publishing Fitzgerald since his first novel, This Side of Paradise, in 1920. So, c'mon Scribners, do right by the man! (Since I'm in a complainin' mood, bring back Scribner's Magazine while you're at it.)

A full report when I'm done.
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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Paste Pot Pete

My take on ol' Pastey, drawn for Lyle Tucker.
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One of my favorite signs: Tootle's Pumpkin Inn, with Liquor, in downtown Circleville, Ohio.
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Thursday, August 21, 2008


Speaking of Silver Comics, here's a panel from my The End story, "The End Meets the Ricket-Meister", appearing in Silver Comics #8, now on sale.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Silver Comics 2008 Annual

Fans of fun, retro superhero comics will want to check out the Silver Comics 2008 Annual, a sampler of the Silver Comics series now in mind-blasting color.

Featuring Cloud Buster, Doctor Monster, and Tin-Toy-Boy, the Silver Comics 2008 Annual contains no ads - just wall-to-wall candy-colored action, headed by master of retro-ceremonies, Juan Ortiz!

Order it and all the entire Silver Comics line here:

And check out the Silver Comics blog here:

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Suit Up!

A spacesuit for criminals, designed for the story "Big Blue" (a tribute to Fletcher Hanks), published in All-Fist Comics #1.
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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Buckeye Hall of Fame

Sighted at the recent Jeff Harper comic show at the Buckeye Hall of Fame: cartoonists Molly Durst and J.D. "The Bee" Larabee.

Molly had copies on hand of her entire suspenseful Symphony of the Universe series. You can check out it out and a bunch of other cool stuff here:

Thanks for the three-eyed cat, Molly!

Larabee has a super-fun, cartoony style you can peruse here:

Rock on in a free world, gals and guys.
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Sunday, August 10, 2008

My First Comic Book

...or, at least, the earliest comic book still in existance that I worked on, this one co-written by my cousin, Little Timmy. We sold this to our grandmother for 26 cents.

Little Timmy records his own radical music nowadays, in a studio he built by hand, inch by inch.
You can check out Little Timmy's official Pig City Sound tour here:
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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Mailer and God

Interesting thoughts from Norman Mailer's last,
posthumous book:

"Reason, ultimately, looks to strip us of the notion that there is a Creator. The moment you have a society built on reason alone, then individual power begins to substitute for the concept of a Creator. What has characterised just about every social revolution is that sooner or later revolutionary leaders go to war with each other and turn cannibalistic. Only one leader is left, an absolute dictator. Once you accept the notion that there is no God, then the ultimate direction for the Left, the Right, or the corporate Centre is totalitarianism."

From: On God: An Uncommon Conversation by Norman Mailer with Michael Lennon.

Another thought (this one mine): doesn't individual power begin to substitute for the concept of a Creator in the minds of men regardless of the theocratic nature of a society?
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Saturday, August 2, 2008

New Mesh Panels

My online serialized graphic novel, The Mesh, has been updated with four new panels. Here's one of them.
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Hot Music for a Hot Day

Sweet Sixteen put some real jazz into the Columbus Jazz and Rib Fest last Sunday afternoon
(a common complaint of the Rib Fest is: where's the real jazz? Kenny G. wanna-bes and New Age tinklers don't count).

As befit the sunny weather, Sweet Sixteen was blistering, and the crowd (one of the largest they've played for) was appreciative.

From left to right: Dave Rainey on bass, Helen Hagerty on flute, Wes Hart hidden behind the drums, and the amazing Rocco Siriano on guitar.

Check out Sweet Sixteen's MySpace page here:
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chaos in the Elevator

Quick pencils from the Mesh panels I'm coloring today.
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Monday, July 28, 2008

Quick: A Magazine!

I purchased this issue of Quick (November 6, 1950) at a flea market. About the size of a calorie booklet sold in a grocery store checkout line, it aimed to please every reader, featuring sections on animals, art, books, national and world news, sports, science, health, etc. - all for a dime.

This issue features news on China invading Tibet, a summary of MGM top-man Dore Schary's book, Case History of a Movie, an interview with Gloria Swanson (who had just finished shooting Sunset Boulevard), an article on the death of Al Jolson, news on Somerset Maugham's films and new TV show, and a dire headline which never became a permanence: "Football Attendance Down, TV Blamed."
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Solitary Confinement

One of perhaps hundreds of Pictures of Benevolence drawings I produced in the '80s.

You can order a selection of Pictures of Benevolence mini-comics here:
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Friday, July 25, 2008

Musing on Prokofiev

Chills ran down my spine when I put on the recent live disc by Muse, H.A.A.R.P.; it opens, amidst a sold-out screaming Wembley Stadium crowd, with a St. Petersburg Kirov Orchestra recording of Prokofiev's "Dance of the Knights", from his Romeo and Juliet ballet score.

And so Muse displays up front (literally) what I've long thought is one of their primary musical influences. Their performance in a different concert of Rachmaninoff's ominous Prelude in C-sharp minor, another piece written by a Russian composer from the same time period, seals the deal. To put the icing on the cake (and to use another metaphor), a photo of the concert in the accompanying booklet shows a band member dressed in the sort of sailor suit which might have been worn in Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potempkin, another analogous period piece.

I've been heartened to see the resurgance and the resurgance of influence of possibly-lost musical styles in recent times. For nearly twenty years the advances pioneered by Brian Wilson (to name one example) were, for the most part, ignored or disparaged by the cutting edge. Nothing is less fashionable in any given time period than the last revolution, and in the '70s and '80s only XTC were willing to risk ridicule by utilizing Wilson's way of writing melody and instrumentation. Then came The High Llamas (originating from the primal melodic punk of Microdisney), The Wondermints, Belle and Sebastian, The Thrills, Super Furry Animals... now, forty years after Pet Sounds, it's hard to find groups who don't tip their hat to Brian; Pitchfork Media's top album of the year 2007, Person Pitch by Panda Bear, practically sounds like a Brian Wilson demo album circa 1968.

And so it is with Prokofiev, whose minor key, ironic, and gorgeously beautiful melodies have been informing alternative music for nearly thirty years. I first noticed the trend in early Depeche Mode; not on their first album, the Vince Clarke-penned Speak & Spell, but the follow-up lps A Broken Frame and Construction Time Again, all culminating in their moody goth masterpiece, Black Celebration (1986). Radiohead has practically built a career on utilizing the sort of melodic structures pioneered by Prokofiev; it's not hard to speculate that OK Computer is what Prokofiev would have sounded like had he been born in 1975.

In short, it's heartening to hear that good music need not die, but can live on in the work of future generations, even if the thousands of screaming fans in Wembley Stadium are none the wiser.
The Muse concert, BTW, or what I've seen of it, looks amazing, a bombastic display of agit-prop and earth-shattering anthems.

The guitar-carrying robots are cool, too.

You can order it here:
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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Beetle Bailey T-Shirt

Here's a Beetle Bailey shirt drawn by Mort Walker, which I colored. The 11th Annual Collector T-shirt is a fund raiser for the Tulsa, Oklahoma Boy's Home - all profits benefit the Boy's Home.

Click here for the Tulsa Boy's Home website:

And thanks, Michael Lail, for the opportunity to contribute to this!
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Mesh Updated

The Mesh has been updated with four new panels. Check it out here:
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mighty Mort Meskin

Who knows what Mort Meskin's last comic book work was?

A story I ran across in a 1964 issue of DC's Strange Adventures #169 may have been his last - a year later Meskin became an advertising director and commercial

Meskin, who worked out of the Caniff/Kirby school, was
capable of some of the most delicate linework I've seen; some of his romance covers from the '50s are so beautifully drawn they'll make you weep. This mid-'60s story, however, has the (I hate to use the word) sloppiest work I've seen by Meskin. It's apparent he was ready to chuck comics soon.

Even this story has many glimpses of exceptional expressiveness which shine through, though, such as this background policeman's face. Notice it's nearly all drawn with a line the same width, maybe even a marker instead of a brush. Yet, it works.
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Monday, July 21, 2008

Another American Idiot

A preliminary pencil drawing of the renowned visionary on stage with Green Day, for the new book by Sirianus, The Lost Quatrains of Nostradamus.
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Two Against the World

In a world of sudden revenge, they've got each other's back!

Steve Topping and A.M.Siriano, aka Emperor of Earth, at a recent shindig.

Check out the Emperor's Nostradamus site at:
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Sunday, July 20, 2008


A sample from panel 22 of The Mesh. I'm coloring panels 21-24
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Eyes Wide Shut

I saw Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wides Shut several times at the theatre during its first run.

Note: the (soy-based?) ink used on these theatre tickets from the last ten years is fading fast. I had to brighten this ticket in Photoshop big time in order to render it legible. If you want to keep these, scan 'em soon!
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Saturday, July 19, 2008

One Bad Dude

One of ten unused bad dudes drawn for the cover of All-Fist Comics
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Mahler: Beyond the Infinite

Here's the cover of the first cassette I bought and listened to on my first Walkman, circa 1981. I bought (charged) the Walkman and the cassette (which had just been released) at the old, magnificent Lazarus in downtown Columbus.

When I was very young, music - especially certain pieces of classical music - had a scary and profoundly mysterious quality and effect on me which has mostly, though not completely, faded away through decades of nearly constant music listening (I think some groups, like Stereolab, attempt to recreate that feeling, with sporadic results). The music bespoke of the inchoateness of the universe, of dangers adult and unknowable, of inscrutable sonic and physical worlds. The low-treble rumbling undercurrent in Herbert Von Karajan's rendition of Also Sprach Zarathustra (used in the 2001: A Space Odyssey soundtrack) was like a premonition, a sonic background to the universe which we can sense, but not grasp.

Though musically "jaded" by the early '80s (as a decade of Steely Dan, Talking Heads, Sex Pistols,The Clash, Devo, Aerosmith, The Contortions and the B-52s will do to one - not to mention enough classical music to choke a horse), Bruno Walter's version of the Mahler 1st still had/has the power to represent. I remember also the first experience of hearing the music through the Walkman headphones, lost in my insulated world as I walked the city streets, Mahler providing the accompaniment everywhere I went for weeks - and this great, glorious stereo sound came from a little plastic box (these weren't your father's transistor radios)! Even the cassette hiss (it was an older recording) sounded great.

I still look to Walter for Mahler goodness. I'm playing this recording today. The Walkman is in the electronic scrap box, along with a couple others, all of which stopped working, each one manufactured successively cheaper.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Wild Goose Mini

A page from a mini-comic drawn for a presentation of my work at Wild Goose Creative's Third Thursdays, last February.
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Friday, July 11, 2008

Bruce - "Don't Make Me Angry"

Speaking of Bruce Chrislip, here he is at the 2006 Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo.
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Charlton Comics

I love this logo. It brings back a lot of memories from the early '70s, when the comics racks in drug stores and department stores were filled out with a seemingly limitless array of Charlton titles; poorly printed but enticing war comics, romance comics, horror comics with art by Steve Ditko and Tom Sutton, Popeye, Blondie, Beatle Bailey, etc.

The party eventually ended. The Charlton comics gradually disappeared, and then the comics racks disappeared.

My good friend and comics historian Bruce Chrislip has a fascinating story about the Charlton printing facilities, which I won't recount here.
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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Prince - Party Like It's 2036 A.D.

A drawing I did of Jack Kirby's Prince Tuftan (from Kamandi), for a friend of mine, Charlie Nicklaus.
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A recent pencil sketch from The Mesh.
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