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!

She Kissed a Frog

Essile character sketches
Col-Erase pencil and ball point pen on paper
21.59 cm x 30.48 cm (8.50 in. x 12.0 in.)
October 2007

Essile (es-seal) is the princess who kissed (or in the case of "Royality" will kiss) a frog. The act will break the enchantment to return the frog to his rightful form of a young prince.

Older sister to four princely brothers, Essile's world is facts and known quantities with no room for fantasies and magic. In that way, she's grown to become quite judgmental. Her story arc then is to open her mind to new ideas and put herself in new experiences.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Off The Wall

"Trade Creative Services Running up Stairs, 2007-09"
Pencil and paint marker on latex wall paint
Big (about 356 cm x 229 cm (140 in. x 90 in.))
Panoramic photo-compostie, 2009

This is the companion piece to the caricature group of illustrators drawn earlier this year on the walls of one of the Cartoon Network offices' emergency stair cases. This one was drawn one flight down from the previous, featuring staffers comprising the design and writing branches of Cartoon Network's Trade Creative Service (TCS). It does differ from the illustrators with the absence of interns and most temps, but other wise it depicts people who have been part of the group since they had relocated to the new building in 2007.

As a note, the two caricature groups still don't encompass the whole of TCS. Absent is the smaller group of creatives who work exclusively on adult swim projects. They're located across the street (across the 75 highway actually) in the Williams Street Building, thus falling outside the parameters of the mural.

I spent approximately eight lunch-hours spread over three weeks to complete the 19 figure ascension line, pretty much adding to the piece by sub-groups clearly defined by gaps in the line. For that fact alone, it's less unified than the illustrators, but perhaps it needs the gaps to breathe.

The process involved first sketching indiviual and groups of caricatures on paper. On the wall, caricature figures were lossely drawn in pencil (2H or HB), some times greatly revised from the initial sketch exploration. Over the pencil, figures were drawn front to back with a black, thick chisel tip paint marker. Color was added later (again paint markers) allowing at least a day for the black paint to dry. The limited color palette is perhaps more evident on this group with its greater number of figures. Most notably, I had no brown markers. Instead, brunettes were given black hair with color accents, red, orange or blue.

(bottom-left to top-right: Clayton Preston, Elizabeth Beasley (writer), Brandon Barr (writer), Clint Carruth (writer), Shari Margolin (designer), Rob Zides (designer), Matthew Crouch (designer), Owen Eliasen (designer), Jessie Green (premiums), Jessica Silberstein (premiums), Stephanie Gray Martin (premiums), Paul Byk, Tom Shutt (designer), Petrika Jannsen (designer), Ty Wong (designer), Jay Rogers (designer), Lori Chiappe, Lauri Clay, Gary Albright (V.P.))

Clayton ****-, Elizabeth ***--, Brandon *----, Clint ****-, Shari ***--, Rob **---, Matthew **---, Owen *****, Jessie ***--, Jessica **---, Stephanie ***--, Paul **---, Tom **---, Petrika ***--, Ty ****-, Jay *---, Lori ****-, Lauri **---, Gary ***--

My apologies to Brandon, whom I had drawn from memory. Apparently I most remembered short messy hair. I describe him as looking like the cousin to Michael Madsen (Reservior Dogs, 1992)

My apologies to Jay, whom ended up looking like a little hobo-clown. The addition of facial hair which was intended to be more a shadow, but ran away to be a full, poorly manicured beard.


On the far left, not part of the caricatures, is a red devil character based upon a conscience character I drew in grade school.

The bowling ball (mostly cropped out at the top on the stair railing) and the accompanying pins were drawn by an anonymous artist, as was the trail of blue dashed lines which are part of a larger composition.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

That's Good Spam

"That's Good Spam, draft"
June 2009
Red pencil on copier paper
21.59 cm x 27.94 cm (8.50 in. x 11.00 in.)

"That's Good Spam"
July 2009
Vector illustration
20.32 cm x 25.40 cm (8.00 in. x 10.00 in.)

"That's Good Spam, header"
July 2009
612 x 180 pix.

There's something not right with me as evidenced by this "little" project.

Being dissatisfied with the appearance of "That's Good Spam," a recently begun web-log repository of jokes, links and minutia which have been passed to me, I set about to illustrate a more pleasing header.

"I draw a lot, this should be easy," I thought.

With my favorite red Col-Erase carmine red, the draft was completed in a half hour - tops.

Instead of cleaning up the line and blocking in digital color, I misguidedly decided to create the finished illustration with Adobe Illustrator, a program with deals with vector information to create imagery instead of the raster programs' approach with their grid of little color squares. At its most basic, you can created art which has the appearance of being comprised cut colored paper.

Of the little art I make in/ with Illustrator, most are with black lines and flat color fills. After 20+ man-hours of Illustrator version-10 fun (roughly estimated), I seriously think the reason that I do so little vector art is because I hate it. With it's necessary point-by-point drawing of each shape, spontaneity is all but completely excised from the creative process. And why not compound the torture? In addition to some simple gradients and transparencies, I thought I'd try my hand for the first time with two of the application's tools: 1) the "free transform" tool to create a perspective effect with the floor tiles; and 2) the "gradient mesh" tool to create soft blush and makeup effects on the face. 18 hours into the piece, I was still committed to the experiment.

The final piece barely shows 50% of the figure, and 0% of the tile floor.

I cry "woe."

Maybe I should have my internal "good enough" meter checked and tuned.

Please investigate and enjoy the blog at your liesure.