Saturday, January 22, 2011


Here's one more early strip -- from 1989. This was around the same time I was working on "Invisible Hands," so sharp-eyed readers may notice a certain hairy butler that ended up appearing in both places. He's called "Otto" in "Invisible Hands", and although that name is used in this strip, too, it's for a different character. I remember at the time I had some doubts about whether "Invisible Hands" would ever actually be aired. So I figured, since I liked the way the guy looked, I might as well use him in this strip, too. (It wasn't a matter of laziness, really - I could have easily drawn a different weird butler - I just really liked him!)

Another reason I'm posting the strip here is because it's one of the last (if not the very last) of my strips from this period I have left. It's a strip I've lent out to a few shows over the years. It was handy to have a complete short strip to lend if/when I got asked. But now I've decided to put it up for sale. I'm going to offer the pages for sale individually, but, since it would be nice to keep the all the pages together, I will be happy to offer a discount for purchase of the entire strip. Feel free to email me at the address at the top right of this page if you have any questions about that. Otherwise, I will be placing the pages for sale individually here:

(UPDATE: The strip has been sold)

Thanks again, everyone!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Time Bomb

I had created a number of short strips for Drawn & Quarterly back when they were only a single magazine anthology, before they grew to become one of the greatest publishers of comics ever. This was the last one I did. After this strip I was never invited to contribute to the anthology again. I guess I can't really blame them. I mean, the strip meant something to me, but I can see how it might not have meant anything to anyone else. It's a little too - I don't know - over-the-top or something.

I can't say exactly what I was going for with the strip. I do recall feeling rather bleak at the time and I am one of those artists who sometimes allows whatever their current mood may be dictate the direction of whatever they are working on at the time. I know that's not always very professional for a working artist who needs to develop relationships with editors & art directors based on trust. But it was something ingrained in me from my years in art school; I had grown accustomed to "exorcising demons" with art (I know that sounds glib, but it's kind of true).

Things have certainly changed (thankfully), but at that time, 1991, I probably should have been submitting some earnest auto-bio strips - or at least something with jokes - if I wanted to create a relationship with publishers. The sad fact, though, is that this was as close to auto-bio as my psyche would allow me to get... (Maybe as close as I got to making jokes, too).

Anyway, thank you to my loyal readers for tolerating all these recent trips down memory lane. I promise to post more current work again soon. (Yes - I've been hard at work on a couple of things, but I'm keeping the lid on for now. But watch for more previews of my upcoming book The Hidden very soon).

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Judy Drood, Girl Detective (1993)

This strip originally appeared in my 1993 book Black Cat Crossing. It was just kind of a lark, done (as pretty much all my work has been done) to amuse myself. I didn't really have any plans to use the character ever again.

Then in 1998 I began writing the graphic novel that would eventually be published as Mad Night. It was about a series of gruesome murders on a college campus and I wanted it to feature a fearless (i.e. somewhat crazy) female protagonist. I remembered Judy Drood and decided it might be fun to revive her. In Mad Night I wrote the character straight (well, as straight as I ever write anything) - that is, not jokey, not quite as broad. But I did use this original strip as her backstory and even alluded to elements of it in the book. (The backstory goes something like: As a teen she had been the stereotypical wholesome "girl detective." But finding out that her trusted father was actually a sort of deranged master criminal turned her angry & cynical & prone to see crime & corruption everywhere, even where it's not - which has led to occasional "problems" with the law. She cannot tolerate secrets or unsolved mysteries - it's pathological - she will solve them whatever it takes and has the absolute fearlessness of someone with nothing to lose). I know - it's nothing all that earth-shaking or original, maybe, but it's a lot of fun to write.

Also, I wanted to add: This strip was one of about thirty pieces I had hanging in a show back in 1997 at the (original, old) Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. At the reception my good friend Randall Ann Homan pointed to this strip hanging on the wall and said, "I want to read more stories about Judy Drood!". That definitely planted the idea in my brain -- so thanks, Randall!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

"Books" illustration...

... from 1990. Another early newspaper illustration for one of the several "Best Books Of..." or "New Fall Books" articles I was assigned over the years. This one, I think, was "Spring Books".

I always enjoyed getting those particular jobs, because you could be more creative than you could be with articles that were about a more specific subject. The problem was always how to depict the subject ("books") in any kind of fresh or unique way. You know - there has to be a book and maybe a reader and... you have to do something conceptual with only that to go on.

I've seen many other illustrators tackle this kind of assignment over the years, often coming up with terrific solutions that I envied and wished I'd thought of. I don't think I ever really succeeded in coming up with a truly great solution myself. Maybe this one came the closest, I don't know. It's a little too cute, maybe, and certainly more rushed than I would have liked -- (if I'd only had one more day...) but I was fond of it anyway, probably because of the memory of getting the job & doing it in one night. Back then, if you did an illustration for a local newspaper (which this was) it was always a rush. You got the phone call from the art director with the details, then either that afternoon or the next morning you had to fax them a sketch (or - if the deadline was really tight & they trusted you - you wouldn't have to do a sketch). Then you had one day (or two, if you were lucky) to do the finished art.

On the morning the work was due, I'd have to get in my car - my old beat-up dark blue Toyota wagon - and drive into San Francisco from Berkeley (during the morning commute!) and hand in the art to the art director in person. Then there was always that moment - I'd hold my breath as they took the art out of the envelope and looked at it. I was lucky enough that they always at least smiled and thanked me, but - argh - the rush of insecurity at that moment. For a split second I'd have a vision of them holding the art, grimacing -- "This is not what we had in mind AT ALL" and -- "Riiiip!" -- tearing the thing in half. I suppose I'd always imagine the absolute worst possible scenario so that I couldn't help but be relieved, even if they just responded with a curt "Okay - thanks." Luckily nowadays you can just scan the thing & send it to them with the click of a button. It's a lot less stressful that way!