Friday, December 18, 2009

TAGS January 06 & 07, 1994

01/06: Easy as one, two, tree.

01/07: That's my queue to leaf.

January 06: Monster reels in Connie (cardinal) for some holiday tree decorating fun in her first appearance. The mark of greatness some times isn't in the inspiration but the perseverance to complete the task.

The "Toy Soldier" movie in TAGS is the beloved animated feature based on Hans Christian Andersen's story, "The Steadfast Tin Soldier." It was, at the time, one of the few remaining classic fairy tales yet to be translated into a blown-out, musical, animated feature. In real life, the Disney company had approached the story several times in its history, but it wouldn't have their version make it to the silver screen until its inclusion as a segment in "Fantasia 2000" (1999). "Toy Soldier's" equivalent is "Beauty and the Beast."

January 07: The decorating team shown here in full force, not quite a defined assembly line, but every one has their part. Monster designs. Edie (squirrel, her 5th strip appearance) colors, "squee, squee." Polly (penguin, 16) colors some more, "squee." Checkov (dragon, 4) facilitates, "sniff, riiip." Murray (cheetah, 5) pastes, "spirth, spirth." Connie cuts, "clip". Nick (skunk, 8) has the very important job of untangling the strings of lights and popped corn. I don't know who's doing all that banging.

Monday, December 7, 2009

How Logo Can You Go-go

concept sketches
red pencil and black ball point pen ink on paper
21.59 cm x 27.94 cm (8.50 inch x 11.00 inch)

I got involved in a number of distractions this weekend: 1) putting up Christmas lights; 2) preparing for the up coming general Home Owners' Association meeting; 3) Christmas card-ing; and 4) this - logo design explorations for the Disneyana Fan Club.

In October of this year, the National Fantasy Fan Club (NFFC) announced that it was in the last stages of changing it's identity to officially become the Disneyana Fan Club. Along with that, of course, they need a logo. And naturally, the non profit organization is conducting a logo design contest open to its members.

When the dust has settled, I might post my final submissions - which, other than for color, are pretty well represented here amongst these concept sketches.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Spins a Web, Any Size

Multi-color ball point pen on paper.
22.86 cm x 30.48 cm (9.00 in. x 12.00 in.)

Super hero stuff from one of my sketchbooks.

I've never been good about keeping a sketchbook, but I try. I must average filling a 150 page book every couple of years.

The book structure, I suppose, is intended to make space for jotting down doodles and ideas within easy reach. The formality of of an object that I can identify as "this is my sketchbook" makes me want to edit my ideas to the ones I might want to keep for posterity. I usually feel more comfortable just drawing on what ever loose sheet that are handy at the time. I also prefer to draw of letter-size sheets of typing paper that I file away neatly.

"Spider-Woman" TM Marvel comics.

Monday, November 23, 2009

TAGS January 03 & 04, 1994

01/03: Deco. the halls.

01/04: All it needs is a little love.

January 03: The rough publishing schedule of the newsletter "monotony" didn't make it necessary that the dates on the TAGS comics be timely, so I could happily extend Christmas themed story lines well into the new year. Here, Jeannie (swan) makes her first, yet unidentified, appearance to kick off a four-strip Christmas tree decorating contest line. As a warning, it abruptly ends unresolved.

The Christmas tree decorating contest storyline is based on a similar such contest held for the cast-members at Disneyland, with the exception of it being decorating doors. In 1991, the year that Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" premiered, I design an elaborate multi-paneled B&B stained-glass "window" made of paper and cardboard to be hung on the door to the department's scheduling office. It was back lit with a string of Christmas lights. The panels were designed to be removable to make replacing burnt out lights viable. In January, I had planned to change out the image with a new one, but that didn't end up working.

January 04: The first thing you need for a tree decorating contest is a tree, and Murray (cheetah) and Monster eagerly embark on the search. The general locale of TAGS is southern California whose winter doesn't require a full gear of parkas and mitts, but the props helps sell the idea of the season with traditional American iconography. True, So. Cal. does get seasonal snowfall in the mountains, but all the strip needs to communicate is "winter."

Panel 1 should be an obvious homage to the classic television special "A Charlie Brown Christmas." The panel 3 joke may have been funnier with a talking tree, instead of a guy in a cardboard tree costume.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

With Little Tin Horns and Little Toy Drums

Here are some detail shots from "Christmas Gifts" or "Rip Wrapped."

6.78 cm x 10.16 cm (2.67 in. x 4.00 in.)

6.78 cm x 10.16 cm (2.67 in. x 4.00 in.)

Bag of gifts
10.16 cm x 6.78 cm (4.00 in. x 2.67 in.)

10.16 cm x 6.78 cm (4.00 in. x 2.67 in.)

Rip Tyler
6.78 cm x 10.16 cm (2.67 in. x 4.00 in.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Christmas Is Coming

"Christmas Gift"
Acrylic on illustration board
32.38 cm x 22.86 cm (12.75 in. x 9.00 in.)

I don't paint very much, not outside of little water color sketches done in life drawing workshops. This is probably only the second painting I've done in eight years.

In all my student and professional life as an artist, I've fought the whole painting process for not being more like drawing. The big issue is one of time. Wet media dries, so on the canvas I rush to push and drag it around before it sets. On the palette, I have to tend to pots of color so they keep flowing and mixable.

I have issues with color mixing, because the color on the palette looks different than the same on the canvas next to other colors. I have issues with acrylic waste, because invariably the amount of color mixed exceeds the amount applied to the canvas. Although the unused portions may be fractions of teaspoons at a time, if you add it up, it's purchased mud going into the trash.

By contrast, on a technical/ process level, I like how it covers a lot of area quickly. Of course, ultimately, I like the way a painted illustration can look; an affinity gained with the Golden story books read in my youth, and as I began to seek art to emulate, '40s and '50s era cartoon characters on cereal boxes, backgrounds from classic animated features, and soda pop advertising.

Lastly, to head off the well intentioned why-don't-you's, there has to be, I think, some struggle, effort, or plain dogged work put into a thing for any good to result. The artistic product is the culmination of choices and decisions and actions; it is a record of those things. Maybe I complain too much about my spars with paint, but maybe that's the way I like it.

The illustration is the third Christmas greeting I've design to feature Tuff-Girl. On the front of the folded card is Tuff-Girl in a winter outfit passing out gifts to a group of kids. She holds high a Wichita plush.

In the planning, the kids were orphans and there was to be forty or so of them. The remaining five kids are a multi-ethnic bunch, as if randomly pulled from the "it's a small world" attraction. The African-American boy started out to be a red-haired, freckle-face kid. The Asian kid in front is based on a design used in my autobiographical comic, "Drawing Conclusions."

On the card's reverse, extends the second half featuring sweater-wearing Wichita looking for a holiday treat out of Tuff-Girl's bag, and a dispatched Rip Tyler temporarily stowed behind the Christmas tree.

The angels circling Rip's head are based on a design doodled on grade school notepaper. Each hold a different instrument: lyre, banjo, saxophone, harp and horn. I imagine a sixth angle has timpani drums.

Hanging out of the sack is a holiday link of sausage, requisite for Wichita's mischief. Although a chronological anomaly for the late '60s based Tuff-Girl stories, the space shuttle toy is there because it's cool. I mean ASTRONAUTS! The orange raccoon plush is a poor stand-in for Benjamin Raccoon from TAGS, the genius behind Happiland.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Mighty Meet

"Supergirl Meets Wonder Woman"
Red and blue Col-Erase pencil and black roller-ball ink on paper.
13.97 cm x 21.59 cm (5.50 in. x 8.50 in.)

In this sketch, there shows a bit of how it is important to me that Wonder Woman and Supergirl have different body types, and not merely overlay different hair and clothes on the same girl. Also Wonder Woman's posture is suppose to convey a maturity of her mentor status, contrasting Supergirl, the learned apprentice.

Plus, having fun with costume design.

characters TM and © DC comics.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rip Wrapped

"Tuff-Girl, Christmas Gifts" or "Rip Wrapped"
Graphite pencil on illustration board.
33.66 cm x 24.13 cm (13.25 in x 9.50 in.)

Something I started.

I think I'll try acrylic paints to finish.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

TAGS December 26, 1993

12/26: Secret Santa strategies.

FP#01 - This is the first full page, Sunday strip format of TAGS. The date in 1993 falls on a Sunday. It's "holiday-time" at the little restaurant in Happiland Park, and the hosts and hostesses (workers) are having a secret Santa gift exchange.

Bingo the snake (first appearance) as a visually interesting character owes everything to the Disney predecessors, Kaa from "The Jungle Book" and Sir Hiss from "Robin Hood." He's easy-going and should have been more of a prankster than he would be later depicted.

Evan, a Welsh Corgi dog, makes his fourth appearance at the end. Monster obviously sees Evan as a rival, yet Evan certainly hasn't had enough strip appearances to support that conclusion.

Tanya (otter) is mentioned here, but has yet to make an appearance. The hostess in silhouette speaking with Bingo in panel 6, is probably Wensdae (weasel), and if so, then this marks her fifth appearance.

As I had all the daily editions, this was originally printed in my self-published newsletter, "monotony." Because "monotony" was photocopied in black and white (because B&W copies are cheaper than color ones), I did not color the FP's. Well, originally I didn't color them. When I did, I would use watercolor paints over photocopies of the finished inked art. The process still seems/feels like a more authentic comic-making experience than digital colors, but it sure does wrinkle the pages.

Even without color, the FP's would offer many advantages over writing and drawing the four panel dailies: 1) flexibility in the size, shape and number of panels; 2) more storytelling and acting; 3) bigger characters. One of the most common comments I have received (or elicited) from people I've ask read my collection of TAGS, is that the FP's are better than the dailies. As I see them as a whole, I can't readily offer an opinion on the matter.

I often feel as Monster does in panel 10.

Lastly, if I had not previously made note of it, "Gats" is the "Good Grief" of TAGS. It is plainly an anagram, a jumbling of the letters of the comic strip's name, but it is also a sound-alike cousin of the exclamatory, "gadzooks." "Fieb" on the other hand, didn't catch on.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Drawing Time

Graphite pencil and marker on card stock.
13.97 cm x 21.59 cm (5.50 in. x 8.50 in.)

"Sea-Bolt and Tuff-Girl"
Red pencil and marker on card stock.
13.97 cm x 21.59 cm (5.50 in. x 8.50 in.)

"Cloudbuster and Tuff-Girl"
Red pencil and marker on card stock.
13.97 cm x 21.59 cm (5.50 in. x 8.50 in.)

"Rip Tyler"
Graphite pencil and marker on card stock.
13.97 cm x 21.59 cm (5.50 in. x 8.50 in.)

Graphite pencil and marker on card stock.
13.97 cm x 21.59 cm (5.50 in. x 8.50 in.)

"Harley Quinn"
Graphite pencil and marker on card stock.
13.97 cm x 21.59 cm (5.50 in. x 8.50 in.)

"Supernatural High"
Graphite pencil and marker on card stock.
13.97 cm x 21.59 cm (5.50 in. x 8.50 in.)

With the intent of sketching something with every paid order, I brought a small stack of half-letter cards to the Long Beach Comic Con. Although I can draw a recognizable character in under a minute, the result may not necessarily be of the highest quality rating, but it's a neat trick at parties. With more time, I can do better, plus I can add shading and color as limited to what I had on hand. So at slower points during the con., I drew these to build up a stack of give-aways, as an alternative to forcing the patron to wait for a custom drawing, especially since the sketchbooks weren't designed for more than an autograph. The samples above are what were left over at the end of the con.

Sharing space at the Silver Comics booth, it was natural to match up it's heroes, Sea-Bolt and Cloudbuster, with Tuff-Girl.

Rip Tyler is the Las Vegas lizard-man who's extortion business frequently encounters a hiccough named Tuff-Girl.

Supergirl (© DC Comics) - another drawing of Superman's cousin.

From the Barnes & Noble booth across the aisle from Silver, one of girls was dressed as Harley Quinn (© DC Comics). I didn't require more inspiration than that. Another girl was dressed as Harley's compatriot Poison Ivy, that sketch was snatched up.

The Silver Comics' booth neighbor was "Supernatural High," (© Supernatural High) a comic that's about, as far as I could tell, a private high school for kids with supernatural abilities.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tee Is for Tuff-Girl

Front tee-shirt design on fuchsia.
17.78 cm x 10.16 cm (7.00 in x 4.00 in.)

Back tee-shirt design in fuchsia.
21.59 cm x 10.16 cm (8.50 in. x 4.00 in.)

Mock-up of design placement on tee-shirt.

Debby, Mannequin head art.
Digital color over scan of cleaned India Ink.
3000 x 2400 pix

One of the most compelling things about using "Tuff-Girl" as the character's name, is it's potential to be adopted by patrons who don't even have a clue about the comic book character. Just as it is with "Wonder Woman," wearing the name on your shirt is a declaration. Not so much the declaration, or a least good ones, are names like "Spider-Man" and "Matter-Eater Lad."

So printed promotional tee-shirts are a natural complement to the books I hope to eventually print and sell. I'll probably branch out to promotional accessories.

If you search the internet for "Tuff-Girl," you will probably come across several apparel companies by a similar name. Some body has the trademark for the apparel category, but I can't tell from the search results which if any. I have the TM for print publishing, but for promotional purposes, I can churn out the tee-shirts.

As a further matter of branding and distinction, I pair the word "unstoppable" with the name. The eventual book and web-site will both bear the name "Unstoppable Tuff-Girl." It's funny how, since a year ago when I made that decision, the word "unstoppable" now pops out to me in advertising I see and hear.

The last, bottom image was made to top a headless body form on which one of the tee-shirt was displayed at the Long Beach Comic Con. Although I printed it at near 16" tall and glued it to a butterflied file folder, it still was a wee bit small for the form. The drawn image had the head about 9 cm (3.5 in.) tall, the largest I've yet done of a finished image of Tuff-Girl or her civilian identity, Debby. This is remarkable to me, I mean, shouldn't I be drawing these characters all of the time? The red gem on the necklace here, is also the most detailed and finalized I've yet depicted it. Largely, there hasn't been a need to finalize the setting design, which again for branding purposes should be distinct. This one is close, but needs a little more refinement.

Silver Comics at Long Beach Comic Con, 2009

Johnny (center) and Vince are here to help you with all your "Silver Comics" needs.

Convention attendee eagerly browses through all the Silver Coimics mechandise, while a stoic The End on the far end looks on.

That's me, Bryan, with a fresh selection of sketchbooks and women's tee-shirts on the side of Silver's space.

The inaugural Long Beach Comic Convention (LBCC), Oct. 2 - 4, was quite an enjoyable little convening of comic book enthusiasts. Now, San Diego's Comic Con International (SDCC) has long become it's own incomparable mass media event, so SDCC aside, Long Beach made an respectable first effort compared to other such cons I've attended.

The space was maybe six-times the area of a basketball auditorium, nearly evenly divided into four major areas: exhibitors (mostly publishers), dealers (mostly folk selling or trading things not as creators or publishers), autographs and artist alley. Comparable in my memory to the space of first New York Comic Con of threes ago, about half that of Wonder Con in San Francisco two year's ago, or about equal the two dealers' rooms at Atlanta's Dragon*Con. You could easily see everything in one afternoon if you didn't stand in line for an autograph or to meet one of the many guest artist.

It was here the Silver Comics made it's first convention showing since it's first about three years back at SDCC. This time, they had an impressive, much coveted back wall of promotional posters or cover art, nine action-packed issues including an "annual" and lots of tantalizing branded promotional items; the wooden yo-yo's and pin-back buttons dispensed from a 25-cent gumball machine were popular.

Even with out the big two super-hero publishers, Marvel and DC, occupying floor space, they still loomed over the crowd by way of their affinities - the things they spent time exploring. To be sure, the toughest thing about being a small, unheard-of publisher is getting folks to stop and look at your stuff. With a terrific looking booth, branded bags and free-for-kids coloring packs, Silver Comics probably was the discovery of the con.

And I sold a couple of sketchbooks.

I am grateful to Johnny Ortiz for sharing his booth space. He provided a nice spinning rack for the books and body form to display a tee-shirt sample. But he's also provided good examples brand building and overall stick-to-it-iveness.

Long Beach or Bust

"Bustin' Free"
Digital composite of black India ink on Bristol board and color marker.
20.32 cm x 25.40 cm (8.00 in. x 10.00 in)

From the galley of thumbnail images in the previous entry, you can spot the inclusion of a single full color page, or pages in this case because it exists as a triple page gate-fold pin up.

Above is the piece cropped to 8 x 10 in. pretty much the scale it was drawn. As is my now standard practice, the final black inking was done right over the rough construction drawing in carmine red pencil. The red lines were subsequently digitally erased.

After marker proved it was going to be temperamental by smearing the ink, the color marker comp. was instead done on 20lb copier paper over the ink on a light table. Some color did bleed through to the inked board, so now that board is just a spotted step in the process, another artifact destined to be lost in my piles and files.

Admittedly, the background isn't very accomplished. The color and tone selections are reactionary for the figure to stand out well and the hatching just fills in negative space.

At the Long Beach Comic Con, I sold about half a dozen copies of sketchbook No. 2, and I don't think anyone unfolded the gate-fold. Probably, because it's tucked in so tightly. Hopefully, it's a nice surprise for my patrons.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tuff the Presses

"Unstoppable Tuff-Girl Sketchbook No. 2, Galley"

Around 10 p.m. EDT Sunday evening, I finished numbering the last of 100 - 8.50 in. x 11.00 in, 48 page sketchbooks.


At least seven days behind schedule, but still, "Yea!"

Printing run, books: 125 (25 artist proofs, 100 regular run)
Sheets: 1,625 (125 for covers, 125 gate folds, 125 activities, 1,250 interiors)
Folds: 1,875
Cuts: 500
Staples: 625
Printing time, estimated: 47 hr, 30 min
Book design time, estimated: 30 hr.
Production time, esitmated for trimming & binding: 25 hr
Waste, estimated: 180 sheets, 300 staples
Dummies (prototypes for binding and layout planning): 3
Activity page prototypes constructed: 2
Int jet cartridges, estimated: 10

Oh, yeah. It sure felt like more - across the board.

You can catch me at the up-coming Long Beach Comic Con (Oct 2 -4, 2009) at the Silver Comics booth (booth #252) with my stacks of sketchbooks, No. 1 SRP only $5 and No. 2 $10, but I'm willing to deal and trade.

I've got 8 artist proofs remaining; of the 25, I've sent 12 to Merrill Hagan who scripted the 12-page adventure in the beginning of the book, 1 I've archived, and 4 I've already handed out. Maybe I'll see which of my Facebook friends wants one.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

TAGS December 16 & 17, 1993

12/16: Shoppertunities.

12/17: Happi-ness is...

December 16, 1993: In my failings as a writer on TAGS, it seems that up until now (and not until about the 90th strip in the series, these two being #59 & 60) I had never explicitly said what these characters do. In the beginning, it's obvious that work involves some sort of restaurant. The heretofore unmentioned set-up is this: the restaurant is located in a Disneyland-type theme park for the logical reason that I used to work in a few restaurants in Disneyland (1987-95). The name of the park is Happiland, and it is "The Dizziest Spot on Earth."

In keeping with that real-life model, there of course is a Happi World, a Yokahama Happiland, Happiland Europe and a retail store, Happi Shoppe. Now, having never mentioned Happiland in the strip, there could not and can not now be any significance to the TAGS reader of what the Happi Shoppe is. But it IS Christmas, and every one is excited, so I ask you to go with it.

(L-R: Monster, Evan (Corgi), Barron (Teddy bear), Wensdae (weasel), Polly (penguin), Nick (skunk), Rudy (pig), Heidi (gopher))

December 17, 1993: Now, if "Happi" is a stand in for "Disney," then what is the stand-in for Mickey Mouse? The answer: Benjamin Raccoon. Yeah, I figured that would fall flat on the ground. There's not even alliteration like "Rascal Raccoon."

Oh well, that actually plays no importance to this strip, because that's not a Benjy plush that Heidi is holding. That's a fox who's name I can't even remember right now. And to further compound the trivia, the greeter is an un-named lizard; and while I like her design, you will never, ever see her again.

- - - - - - - - - -
I'd like to keep track of how many appearances these character have made. I think this is Evan's first. However, the "Search Blog" function dosen't seem to be working to-night, which had been a big help in the past. If it starts working again or I can set aside the time to actually review the actual drawings, then maybe in the future I'll have some numbers for you.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Buckle Up, Buttercup

"Tuff-Girl Buckle Replica, activity sheet"
Digital art.
20.32 x 25.40 cm (8.00 in. x 10.00 in.)

Wanting to include some sort of bonus activity sheet as part of the 48 pages of the sketchbook, I decided upon this paper replica of Tuff-Girl's belt buckle, which you may download here (hopefully) after clicking the image to view the full 2400 x 3000 pixel image. 110 lbs card stock should work nicely. Photo stock probably not so much with the gluing involved.

As my years of a mechanical engineering student stirred from dormancy, the whole design project from cut-out to page was quite its own beyond the sketchbook.

First, as I've said previously, the creation of vector art is in plain words, "a pain."

Second, I elected to refine the design of the buckle face for a third time.

The orthographic (blueprint) plans were completed rather quickly, the top, bottom and side views being simple trapezoids all with the sides angled the same.

However, the paper plans had the added work of calculating and designing the partial cone shapes at the corners.

After successfully assembling a prototype (all this with only a galley of preliminary layouts for the book), I thought to take it a step further by incorporating flaps on the back creating a cover you could wear to cover your belt buckle.

No, I couldn't let it be.

All the pieces including an interior stiffening brace laid out with directions on a 8.50 in. x 11.00 in. letter sheet meant the completed buckle had to be about 20% smaller than the one above. Of course, you can print it out at whatever scale that pleases you, like say 4-ft tall with head, arm and leg holes.

It did probably require 40-plus additional man-hours on top of, I guess, the 40-plus I had spent to get to the prototype stage, and to all the uncounted hours working (and still am working) on the sketchbook.

I like to complain.

It will be worth it, though.

... until I decide to design a "deluxe version!"

If you need to know, the buckle is supposed to be red and black, but I opted for a dark gray because the ink-jet sheets were coming out a bit damp with full, mixed black. As it is, the print out should appear to have the blackness of newspapers or construction paper.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Book a Trip to Las Vegas

"Unstoppable Tuff-Girl, Sketchbook No. 2, Cover"
illustration: Carmine red Col-Erase pencil and black India ink on Bristol board.
13.97 x 21.59 cm (5.50 x 8.50 in.)

Closer than I was before, yet much more to go. This bound collection covers about three and a half years of Tuff-Girl related sketches, rough drawings and doodles. If all goes as planned, it will be 48 pages including 36 black and white pages, a gate-fold poster, a single fold activity page, and the four pages of the cover.

The technical aspects have the pages printed in signature of four consecutive pages each on once-folded letter-size (8.50 x 11.00 in.) sheets. Rather than being saddle stapled like the average comic book magazine, the interior pages are stacked together and stapled front to back near the spine. Then the cover is glued at the spine around the pages in square-bound fashion.

The revised goal is to print and bind 125 copies by September 14. Entirely a hand-made undertaking, I think 125 is quite sufficient. At least the labor is free.

Cover price: a competitive $10.

I can offer no more commentary about the process of book design and binding.

About the actual artwork contained, with most of it I'm at peace, which is to say I don't have that itch to re-draw them. They are what they are. The cover and the gate-fold, however, both gave me the darnedest trouble, because, I suppose, they're the main selling features.

Check here again in 13 days. We'll see how it goes, won't we?

Oh, and if you like the Las Vegas sign logo, this is how I did that:
I used the power of computer image manipulation. First the sign was roughly incorporated in the layout in light pencil. From photo reference of the actual "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign, the "Tuff-Girl" version was designed flat, front on. Over a low-resolution scan of the rough pencil art, the logo was manipulated to achieve the desired perspective effect. With that printed out, it was transferred in pencil into the tight pencil drawing, and the whole finished with black India ink. -- Easy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuff-Girl Roulette

Tuff-Girl, Las Vegas (cover to sketchbook No. 2)
carmine red Col-Erase pencil on Bristol board
43.18 cm x 27.94 cm (17.00 in. x 11. 00 in.)
Sept. 2009

Last year, I drew, re-drew, and inked an image to be the cover of my second booklet of Tuff-Girl sketches (monotonae entry Apr. 21, 2008). I had the idea that I wanted to have the option of it being a wrap-around cover illustration, but also to at least have it be something in a horizontal landscape format where most of the illustrations I already had were in a portrait layout. I even brought it to full completion with digital color.

With the twelve pages drawn of the most recent "Tuff-Girl" story (the one I've been working on on and off for two years) completed in roungh pencil form, I thought I could finish the sketchbook.

I a way that many artists regard their own works, I decided I wasn't happy with the year old illustration, and so re-drew it once again. The compostion is improved on a number of accounts: the left and right wings are better filled out respectively with a Vegas styled chapel and limo turned on its side; man-lizard baddie, Rip Tyler is introduced to the scene better relating to the twelve page story; and the famous, albeit modified, "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign is at a more pleasing angle in the layout. Tuff-Girl is smaller as a sacrifice to make the roulette wheel's perspective more believable.

The central, foreground thug (Doug) comes in to the cover from the left, rather than moving away and out of the older cover. In this way, I used his body to cover a lot more dead space.

Despite her smaller size, I think the drawing of Tuff-Girl is better this time around, with a bit more arc and off-vertical angle to the pose, and more twist to to her body. Even having her left arm angled forward looks more natural than back as in the older version.

The book itself will be a 5.5" x 8.5", 48-page collection of Tuff-Girl related sketches from the last three years. I complicated the project with the inclusion of a gate-fold and cut-out activity and at least two new sketches intended for the book. Rather than saddle stapling twelve sheets together, I will be attempting a square spine "perfect bound" approach, requiring ten folded sheets, each making up four consecutive pages combined with the gate fold and activity sheet. The cover adds four more pages to the count.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hocus Pocus

Dazatta attitude explorations (Royality)
color pencil and color ball point-pen ink on paper
21.59 cm x 30.48 cm (8.50 in. x 12. 00 in.)
Sept. 2007

Dazatta is either a Gypsy princess or a princess of an Arabian desert kingdom. In that she's a made-up character from an as-of-yet uncomposed fable, her royal lineage, back story, motivations and even her name are all in flux.

In the mix of the seven regular princesses of Royality, she has the singular talent of controlling magics, often with two wands. She's more spoiled and elitist than the other princesses; a lot more than Snow White and Cinderella. Being so far from the comforts of her desert home, however, the medieval castle and temperate climate housing their highnesses, presents many challenges - wait until her first winter storm.

Friday, July 31, 2009

TAGS December 13 & 14, 1993

12/13: Mall I Want for Christmas...

12/14: 'Tis the season, ya'll.

December 13, 1993: Nearly four months since the last strip, Monster and friends are in the middle of the Christmas shopping season at the Westfield Mega-Plaza. If the Plaza had a real-life analog, it would have been Orange County's Main Place shopping center, Santa Ana, CA. The name "Westfield" was conjured subconsciously, because Main Place is actually a Westfield shopping mall, and all names in TAGS were been changed to avoid tradmark issues. I must have thought at the time that "Westcoast" sounded too much like an actual place.

Here Barron (Teddy bear) can't wait for the spending frenzy, and Nick (striped skunk) is on the hunt for a parking space. Monster plays the part of the questioning novice, the better for exposition. The first panel of three car lanes of night time traffic is a bit unclear, not the best establishing shot.

December 14, 1993: Santa Claus country-line dancing is better left to the imgination I think.

In the bottom left corner of panel one, is the head of an excited child pointing to the right - see it now? There's an eye, a gloved pointing hand, a... uh.. parasitic bubble on the side of her head? Never mind - Hey, look it's Saint Nick!

- - - - - - - - - -
That's appearances 5 & 6 for Barron. Barron's character is much the same as those of Shermy and Violet in the Peanuts Christmas specials, a kid there to offer a point of view different than the main player (say Monster), but otherwise has no distinguishing personality. Still, with the fluff in his noggin, he's pretty up beat most of the time.

For Nick that's appearance 4 & 5 not including off-stage mentions.

Friday, July 17, 2009

BackStage No. 014 - 1989

from black and white xerographic copy

"Slow down,
you're goin' too fast
You've got to make
the mornin'

"Like a bridge
over troubled waters..."

"Hmmn? Simon
and Garfunkel, I
Haven't heard
them in a
long time."

They put out
some pretty
good songs."

"Aaw, they aren't
that great. ..."

"... There are a lot
of better groups
than Simon and

"I don't know.
I think Paul
Simon might
agree to
cut a disc
with me."



Featuring Tom Almroth (pit bull terrier), Damon Johnson (greyhound), Paul Hogan (opossum)


Kitchen, The French Market Restaurant, N.O.S., Disneyland.

Ha, word play.

On his request, Tom's crittature was revised from a beagle to a pit bull. I would in later strips change him back.

A radio/ cassette tape player was permitted in the back kitchen. ... No, that's not very interesting is it.

The Disney company is pretty aggressive about protecting its rights over intellectual property. I don't know if Jim Davis or United Press Syndicate feels the same about "Garfield." The industry gets a bit more open about these things if it isn't re-occurring and/or it's editorial. At the time, I was concerned about it.

BackStage No. 013 - 1989

from black and white xerographic copy

It's more than a job!
And it's no adventure!
It's war!
War, man, war!
A dirty, gritty
battle against
filth, grunge and


"Paul, Gina, Todd, Chris, Tom"


"... to
a few."

"Peter Birdfeeder, Shirley-Seat Shifter, Teddy Tablepusher, Baby Throw-It-Any-and-Everywhere."

Featuring Lionel Rodriguez (lion), Paul Okamura (cheetah), Gina McWilliams (mink), Todd Virtue (horse), Chris Dennis (rabbit, cottontail), Tom Almroth (beagle).


Patio, The French Market Restaurant, N.O.S., Disneyland.

The allies depicted were all leads at the time, kind of equivalent to shift managers. Gina holds the tell-tale break sheet and pen.

The "enemy" consists of characteristic guest (visitors, customers) annoyances:

Peter Birdfeeder) People like to feed little things like birds and squirrels. Other times food on the ground is food on the ground that cast-members must sweep up.

Shirley - Seat Shifter and Teddy Table Pusher) Groups of people like to eat together, no matter the number. Tables get pushed together as a result. Do you know what you get with two round tables? You get a figure-8 accommodating 25% less diners than if you didn't push the table together. Often time extra seat are left along walk ways.

Baby Throw-It-Any-And-Every-Where) Babies are a handful and don't know table manners. They DO know when they don't want to eat any more, however.

There are other annoyances. Hopefully, one of these BackStage's will give me the opportunity to reminisce about Sani-Sor-Bits®.

BackStage No. 012 - 1989

from black and white xerographic copy

"Kelly (Holmes): Why don't you draw
a BackStage of me?
You did one of
everyone else."

"Bryan: That's not so, but

">scribble< >scribble<"

"Kelly: A Parrot!?
You think I look
like a parrot!?"

"Bryan: Well...
O.K. I'll try again."


"Bryan: How's this?"

"Kelly: WHAT!? No. ... "... NO! "... NO!"

"Kelly: Geeze. If you're not
gonna be nice about it,


A Koala!
Now that's
more like
it. Thanks."

"I knew drawing
could be
hard, but
I didn't know
it could be
so painful."

Featuring Kelly Holmes (koala, finally) and Bryan (monster).


So, BackStage started to get noticed. Nice, that's what I had hoped would happen.

But then came the requests to include people in the strip. In my assumed role of documentarian (or the like), that was much better than an angry "is that what you think of me?" which as evidence by this strip, something I think had/has more comic value.

BackStage No. 011 - 1989

from black and white xerographic copy

"Boy! Am I tired.
My back hurts. My feet
ache. And on top of all
that, I've got homework
to do."

"That does it.
If I'm asked,
I'm not extending.

"Bryan! How would
you like to


"Yeah, i know i have
But academic
excellence is
far too

Featuring Gina McWilliams (mink) and Bryan Mon (monster)


Patio, The French Market Restaurant, N.O.S., Disneyland.

I'm pretty sure I lost some of the early strips, so I arbitrarily jumped the numbering to 11.

I was hired on as a busser (i.e. buss boy) and that was probably the extent of my Casual-Temporary ambitions.

The tub contents are fairly accurate: oval platters on the ends and two round plates on the sides extend the walls of the tub vertically, a single perforated canister holds flatware besides a few stacks of plastic tumblers reserving two-thirds of the tub for food and whatever else you clear off a table. Then you shoulder it. Some times the tubs got over 50 pounds - and the mechanical tub conveyor would break down.

Regarding my monster crittature: this is possibly a representation of my Id. My stomach didn't look like that back then. The initial design seemed to necessitate a cookie monster like appetite, although that too was not a defining part of my personality.

Mmmmm, cookies.

BackStage No. 006 - 1989

from black and white xerographic copy with re-traced lettering.

"Uh! uh! Chuck!
Look at the beach balls
on the babe!"

"Wha'!? Wha'?
Oh, no Way!"

"I'd drop fish
for her
any day!"

"Get out!
no way, Dude!"

"You need glasses
more 'n I do"

"Hey! Check her out!
The one in the pink!"


"The one in pink
gettin' spaghetti."

"That's not pink.
That's more of
a rose/lavender."

"Hey pink is pink."

"'Pink!?' They're
arguing about colors?
And isn't someone
supposed to
be working?"

Featuring Russel Wolfram and Chuck Martin, with Jillian.


Kitchen, The French Market Restuarant, N.O.S., Disneyland.

Oh, dear, what coarse language I chose to use.

Russel and Chuck were a team of cooks in the Market's kitchen working (at the time) the deep fryers. "Drop Fish" was one of the call outs when we were low on the main component of the "Fish and Chip" dish. The restaurant obviously also served spaghetti with marinara sauce.

Russel, as this strip now stirs the brain cells, was given by his co-worker impressionists the linguistic prefacing "Uh, uh," or probably more phonetically accurate "ahw, ahw" rhyming with "Saw, saw."

The door depicted is one of two double hinged doors separating the kitchen from the "line" where the food is set buffeteria style. The oval, if it isn't clear, is the window in the door.

Jillian is another origianl character in my stable, name after The Mint Julep Bar. Briefly, I had considered Julie, but went with the less common name.

BackStage No. 005 - 1989

from black and white xerographic copy

"Broken?! Whuduha
mean the coke machine's

"Fiddle fiddle"


"O.K. Now it's

Featuring Chuck Martin (wolf).


The French Market Restaurant, N.O.S., Disneyland.

Chuck is depicted as an animal caricature, what I call a crittature (some times "critterature" or "crittaricature") in the tradition of using animals as actors/players: Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, all of Walt Disney's Robin Hood, etc. The two advantages are these: 1) easier to draw, 2) it's more entertaining or at least visually interesting.

Prior to drawing this, an at-the-time anonymous note posted beside one of the BackStages requested to see a coyote. That was enough inspiration for me on a strip in it's infancy to give crittatures a go. I later learned the author of that note to be Jeb Stuart, at the time part of the night cleaning crew.

This is based on actual events.

BackStage No. 004 - 1989

from black and white xerographic copy

"You can call it a mint julep,
But we call it Medina"

Featuring Milton the bear.


The Mint Julep Bar, N.O.S., Disneyland.

Remember that Tone Loc song?

Just to be clear, NO ONE at work referred to the non-alcoholic mint julep (kind of like minty lemonade) as "Medina," but it would have been funny if they did. Actually it would have been sad it they actually did.

This particular strip (as well as a couple of other early ones) was drawn in green ink, making reproduction difficult, because green doesn't provide a lot of contrast for the color frequency in which the copier machine sees. As a result, the stains across the logo became much more pronounced. The actual strips were taped up on the kitchen walls for about a week, so stains were part of the life of the strip. These two facts plus the crudeness of a 15-minute drawing should be obvious indicators of the transient nature of these strips, not the stuff to be bound in a book.

Milton was named ofter "The Mile Long Bar" the original name of Critter Country's "Brer Bar." The location was closed and converted as an extension of the merchandise location "Pooh Corner," formerly "Crocodile Mercantile."

BackStage No. 003 - 1989

from black and white xerographic copy

"That Quebec looks
good. How does
it taste?"

"Great! And how's
the Trout?"


"It's a little

Featuring Diane Ferguson and Richard Brill.


The French Market Restaurant, N.O.S., Disneyland.

This is the first and ONLY attempt to feature caricatures of fellow cast-members as the strip's players.

As for the joke, two new dishes were added to the French Market menu. (Note: most of BackStage revolved around shenanigans at the French Market Restaurant, New Orleans square, where I worked (naturally)) Twenty years later, I now have no idea what kind of dish the Quebec was, but the trout was spicy.

BackStage No. 002 - 1989

from black and white xerographic copy

"They said it, and it's true.
'Someday that stupid paper hat may save your
Now, what in the world that vat of gravy was doing up there is another story."

Featuring Tommy the fox.


Kitchen, The French Market Restaurant, N.O.S., Disneyland.

All restaurant hosts must wear hats (usually paper ones) and hostesses must wear hair nets. Most cast-members quickly accept this as a part of the costume. Still, if you ever gave yourself a moment to consider it, it is a paper hat.

Tommy was named after Tom Sawyer Island on the other side of the Rivers of America in Fronteirland. At the time, Bear Country Restaurants encompassed six locations: The Hungry Bear Restaurants, Brer Bar (now closed), The Harbour Galley (new in 1989), Fort Wilderness Canteen (T.S.I.), The French Market Restaurant (New Orleans Square), and The Mint Julep Bar (N.O.S.)

BackStage No. 001 - 1989

from black and white xerographic copy

"The buss-room
"Come on you lousy, broken down piece of
man made, scrap-iron intestinal track! You
smelly old head of fungus caked bowel
movement! START!"

Featuring Herb the bear.


Bussers' room, The French Market Restaurant, N.O.S., Disneyland

I first was hired to work at Disneyland as a restaurant host/cast-member on a part-time seasonal basis (casual temporary, a.k.a. C.T. in Disney lingo) in the summer of 1987. Always with my four-color medium point Bic® pen, I would at times draw on napkins during breaks in my shift. At the time I still a mechanical engineering student in college, so it wasn't an act of vocation but one of fun.

In a secret-Santa gift exchange in December 1988, I received a 9.00 in. x 11.50 in. pad of paper. With these supplies, my scribbles were formalized in one of my longest running comic strip ventures: BackStage.

As is turns out, the strip is 10 years old this year. That's good enough reason to post these old things as any.

Herb is part of the stable of original characters I had developed of intentional Disney-esque design. Most of the characters I developed were bears as a carry over from the department name, Bear Country Restaurants. That same year, the associated land was re-named Critter Country with the opening of Splash Mountain.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ruff Stuff

"When the Tough Get Going" 12-pages of rough pencil layouts
grayscale images of blue pencil on Bristol board.

Here's an understatement, "Drawing 2-inch tall thumbnails in easier than drawing 15-inch tall pages."

I'm keeping the pencil layouts loose, trusting that the brush inking will retain a good amount of spontaneity.

Notable changes from the thumbnails start on page 5, compressing Tuff-Girl's (TG) exit from the dry-cleaners down to 2 panels, in order to insert a panel as a beat between Eagle One's (E1) action panles.

Next on page 7, the closeup of the extending baton is lost, to jump into two hits from TG, while inserting a panel of E1 pulling TG closer, drawing out the creepy moment.

Page 8: The third panel is slightly altered with E1 throwing a chair at TG's feet, and TG naturally jumping out of the way. It's a subtle action to make TG vulnerable for those two seconds. Because jumping in the air puts her in an arc - a predictable path, setting her up for the second blow (panel 4).

Page 10, panel 3: The camera angle was straightened out to contrast the "action" panels, and TG's pose more feminine to taunt E1, but now it's too airy and TG' silhouette too compact and uninteresting. Must fix before inking.

Page 11 has the late introduction of more security guards. Although I inserted some scattering people on page 6, the fight other wise happens in a fairly empty casino until the end. One of the "big" ideas for "Tuff-Girl" is not to show how tall/short TG is standing next to other people. Panel 5 seemed like a good time to break that rule. Here the security team is a wall is all but eveloping E1, with TG unable to retrive him (well, visually implying so, and being law abiding, legally so).

My character-centric tendencies have to give way to a few essential establishing shots: the first of TG riding towards the casino (page 5), and the second on page 12, panel 2 in the epilogue. Hemlocke's penthouse is an oversized version of Slue Foot Sue's Golden Horseshoe Saloon in Disneyland. The whole epilogue is comparatively heavy on dialogue. Panel 3 has only half a panel to introduce security monitors, Rip Tyler's return (with regenerating right arm), and the last chance to keep E1 involved in the conversation.

Next this summer: Inking!