Wednesday, May 25, 2016


I've been sorting old papers and...Haw!...I discovered more John caricatures of me. Here they are, in all their glory!

Wow! This first one (above), the one where my hair is like a flaccid condom, is great! Let's see if John's trademark touches are there: shovel nose, giant wart, Ubangi earlobe, buck teeth, non-existent chin....check! They're all there!

Yep! That's me...drummer for a band called "The Handicapped!" I've got sagging pecs, a gut, and a crewcut.

Naturally my chest hairs grow straight up. Two of my fingers are growing out of the side of my hand.

Here's my kid when he was a toddler. John liked to draw his head elongated like the head of the creature in "Alien." On some drawings he would the have the head held up by Dali-type crutches.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Library books I've looked at recently have prompted me to have an opinion on a subject that most people don't give any thought to these days; namely, the treatment of primitive people.

Even today primitive tribes are occasionally discovered in some remote corner of the world and, prompted by the books, I'm in favor of leaving them completely alone. My reasons for believing that are mainly humane and scientific but also because they're almost as much of a threat to us as we are to them. I hate to say it, but...primitive people are often not nice guys.

Maybe that's because the idea of universal human rights is alien to so many of them. Their loyalty is to their family, clan or tribe. Outsiders may have no rights at all. Killing outsiders, even when a state of war doesn't exist, isn't even considered murder. Deceiving them and stealing from them is admired. Enslaving them is okay, so was cannibalism in some places.

Early accounts of encounters with primitives are downright scary. You could get along well with a primitive you're trying to trade with then in a flash he turns on you and tries to kill you. Why? Because you stepped on a jaguar footprint which is taboo. Yikes!

This idea of taboo is especially scary because a stranger can't possibly know what all the local taboos are. You could innocently ask someone their name and deeply offend them because knowing a name gives you magical power to do harm to them and earmarks you as an enemy.  And, for Pete's Sake, don't draw their image.

Primitives also have gods who are easily offended. Heaven forbid that you should escape from drowning because that cheats the Water Spirit of his prey. After you hobble on to land you'll find that locals won't talk to you or let you into their house. If the Koosa Kafirs see a person drowning,  they either run away or pelt the victim with stones as he dies.

One African tribe expels from their community anyone bitten by a zebra or an crocodile, or even splashed by the creature's tail.

In recent centuries Europeans brought a lot of this grief on themselves by wandering into primitive areas, sometimes with evil intent, but you have to wander, how many normal traders were caught up in all this weirdness? We'll never know.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


By far the most exciting front page newspaper format I know of was that of a weekly British tabloid: "The Illustrated Police News" which ran from the 1840s to 1938.  

The paper was lurid to be sure, but it was immensely popular and it spun off a host of imitators. Of course you could argue that the Police News itself was an imitator.

It was a much more exciting and densely illustrated version of The London Illustrated News (above). It also benefited from traditions laid down by the Penny Dreadfuls and the broadsheet tradition of The Newgate Calendar. Even so, the IPN had a flair that its rivals couldn't match. 

Illustrated news naturally favors the type of news that lends itself most readily to illustration, namely violent crime and sex.

Wow! Now THAT's (above) a front page!

The paper must have had a reputation for being low class. It also must have occurred to lots of people that a more upscale version, covering more traditional news, was needed. It occurred to the chief engraver for the IPN, who started his own illustrated paper called "The Graphic."

The Graphic sold well but it lacked the pizazz of the Police News. It relied on realistic etchings and on photography when that became available. In my opinion that was a fatal decision. 

Photography is too literal, too limited to what the camera can actually see. 

Not only that, but it doesn't reproduce on pulp paper very well. Photography is a fine supplement to illustration but it doesn't do much to help the newspaper that it dominates. In my opinion photography never worked in pulp newspapers and only came into its own in glossy-paper magazines like LIFE.

Friday, May 13, 2016


I hope you're looking at this on a desktop because these photos won't look right if they're reproduced small. Most are by Alex Prager, one of the best contemporary photographers. That's my opinion, anyway. See if you agree.

The beach picture at the very top used models and was taken on a soundstage. Prager spares no expense to get the photos she wants. I read that she used 150 models for one of her shoots. 

Maybe she can afford to do that because her pictures are reproduced large and are sold alongside paintings in fine art galleries. 

Lots of people regard these pictures as paintings.

You can see that Prager was influenced by mid-century Hollywood films. This looks like a scene from "Marnie."

Finding the right model can make a big difference.

A car sinks in Prager's water and the event seems to have great significance. Seeing this makes me aware that my own life will be snuffed out and forgotten just like the car. It's hard to reconcile how important my own life is to me and how little it seems to matter to a vast and indifferent universe.

Veeeeery nice!

You can see a Hopper inluence. Or maybe someone like George Tooker, the guy who paints bleak pictures of subway crowds.

I'm not normally a fan of Bleak Minimalism (my term for it) but I'll make an exception for Prager.

Prager is said to have been influenced by photographer William Eggleston. That's his "Red Ceiling" photo above. Eggleston achieved highly saturated color by printing with a die transfer process.

Above, another Eggleston. His Kodachrome pictures had a great look but the ones I've seen were all taken outdoors. He should have moved inside. You need to be able to control the light to do this kind of thing right.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Until I saw a documentary on the subject at Steve's, it never occurred to me to compare the National Lampoon to Mad Magazine. After all, the two magazines were aimed at different audiences: Mad to high school kids and the Lampoon to college students and twenty-somethings. I liked both for different reasons, though Mad had already slipped into a rut by the time the Lampoon came out.

Later on, the Lampoon got in a rut as well but that didn't stop them from declaring war on Mad. Yes, war! They said Mad wasn't funny!

Well, I guess it wasn't by the time the Lampoon skewered them.

Yikes! NL's parody of Mad (above) was scathing. It drew blood! The Mad people must have had a bad day when they read it.

Mad took the criticism (above) to heart, however and, though it took years, eventually Mad adopted the Lampoon's adult, drug culture, dead baby joke, Republicans-Are-Mentally-Defective stance.

The problem was, that approach was obsolete by the time Mad adapted it.  Generation Y and the Millennials weren't averse to radical politics but they preferred to wrap it in a different kind of comedy.  

Mad lost its way. 

Since I'm a fan of the old Harvey Kurtzman Mad, I thought I'd mention a couple of things that magazine did right.

For one thing, Kutrzman's Mad (above) aimed for kids and adults alike. I'm not against cartoons for adults but the fact remains that kids form the core audience for cartooning and probably always will.  Deal them out and you deal out the future of your medium. You create a generational divide.

Also, Kurtzman's Mad put an emphasis on the unique artwork. The Lampoon was a writers magazine that used artists; Mad was an artists magazine that used writers. Too much of the Lampoon art was generic. 

Mad also had some first-rate artists in their best years, artists like Don Martin (above), Wally Wood and the young Jack Davis. The Lampoon had artists too, but they were mostly there to illustrate writers ideas. The writer was the star.

At the risk of stating the obvious, writers and artists see the world differently. If writers had conceived the Mad "Beautiful Girl" cover (above) they would have picked a specific target to make fun of...some female in the news who they thought deserving of ridicule. Mad artists like Basil Wolverton (above), on the other hand, seemed to prefer to make fun of the very idea of beauty. That's what artists do best.

Why that is, why cartoon art works best when addressing the human condition in general, I can't explain. Haw! I can already think of exceptions to what I just said, but for the sake of brevity I'll stick with my point.

Saturday, May 07, 2016


I just unearthed some of my old doodles and photos from a box in the garage. Some of these pictures are admittedly terrible and were never meant to be seen by anyone, but...what the's OK to blog about trivial things sometimes, isn't it?

The cat here (above) is even bigger than the dog, which is a mistake, but then again...this isn't a's just a visual way of writing a script. Oops! I spotted a misspelling but hopefully you won't see it.

Here's a REALLY quick doodle from some other cartoon. The dog and the human walking him are going in different directions because I changed my idea in midstream and didn't bother to redraw.

I saved this because it made me realize that there's something surreal about walking in a world where everybody else is walking at the same time. Anyway,
nothing ever came of this because it would have required too much animation.

I don't know why this would interest anyone except my mother, but here's (above) a photo of me at work at Filmation way back in 1980.

Above, the same timid dog we saw in doodle form, a little later in the cartoon. Even squirrels push him around. Once again, this is a fragment of a visual script rather than a storyboard.

I love writing prose but scripts work best when they're drawn out rather than written. There is one drawback to that technique, though. You can unconsciously lose your feel for structure when the story's drawn. That's why it's useful for an artist to outline a story first with words, if only in bullet points.