Friday, December 31, 2010


Well, I sure am looking older lately!

I was shocked the other day when I saw how ancient I looked in the steak post. In particular, I was amazed to see that I had dead eyes in a couple of pictures (above). You know what dead eyes are...they're blank, lifeless eyes that indicate the person behind them has no significant mental life at all. You see them on older people. Geez!

Actually it's not the age indication that has me worrying. I'm paniced because the the dead eyes make me look stupid and half asleep! Is that what lies ahead for me?

Even Rembrandt (above) developed dead eyes. The gods can be cruel.

What's the difference between young, vibrant eyes (above), and the dead eyes that older people get? Well. young people have smooth, colorful skin, and less pronounced brows. They have wide-open eyes, and brighter pigment in the corneas and irises.

They also have more highlights. I guess that means their eyes are more moist.

Add highlights to Rembrandt's eyes (above) and they come alive. They look kind of evil here, but we'll overlook that. Hmmmm. Now this is interesting!

If highlights are all it takes to get more youthful eyes then we can all rejoice, because those are easy to acquire. All you need is untreated contact lenses. Maybe even ordinary glasses will do the trick.

I'm not worried about bags under the eyes or wrinkles. John Huston had plenty of both and still succeeded in looking good. What matters is vibrancy. It's all about your eyes hinting that you have some kind of mental life.

Hmmmmm. I see that Huston had squinty eyes. That seems to work as well as highlights. Alright, that gives me my agenda! Expect to see me squinting and wearing glasses more often!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


What do you think of Picasso? A lot of animation cartoonists don't like him because he was the inspiration for U.P.A., which indirectly wrecked traditional full animation.  He certainly planted the idea in the public's mind that anything representational, even cartooning, was obsolete and old-fashioned.

I like him because he was a cartoonist at heart, even though he tried to refashion cartooning into a purely graphic art.
He colored his pictures (above) the way newspaper comic artists colored theirs.....well, somewhat. It was more of a caricature of the way newspaper cartoons were colored.

I wonder if the picture above influenced the way Dedini used color?

Without Picasso we wouldn't have had Virgil Parch, Cliff Sterrett, and Steinberg. We wouldn't even have had Searle.

Thanks to Amid Amidi and The Modesto Kid for the Steinberg-type picture above.

This (above) is a better example of what I meant when I said Picasso was influenced by newspaper comic color. He even added the dot pattern that newspapers used.

Picasso had a great sense of humor.  The figure above is magnificently ignorant (I mean that as a compliment).  It's really goofy and funny.

Sometimes I can't believe that he managed to get critics to accept stuff as overtly cartoony as this (above).

Really, is it so hard to see the influence of cartooning on his work (above)?  The man was a cartoonist. He was one of us, though you could argue that he undermined cartoon art by abstracting it and removing it from acting and storytelling.

Picasso's mission seemed to be to liberate cartoon technique from cartoons. He seemed to think we cartoonists had a bag of tricks that was too valuable to be entrusted to us only. 

The man obviously read newspaper comics. It could be that he was influenced by Herriman and Sterrett, Opper and Fenninger, maybe even funny animal comics, and simply didn't admit it.  He may have had closets full of comic pages that were thrown out after his death by custodians who didn't think they were important. 

BTW, I'm aware that some readers are saying, "Wait a minute! Herriman was influenced by Picasso, not the other way around!" To that I say don't be so hasty.  My guess is that Herriman and Picasso influenced each other. 

So what do ya think?

Sunday, December 26, 2010


I'm having difficulty using the computer because it's in my kid's old room and my kid is staying with us for the holiday.  He's pacing up and down in the living room right now, waiting for me to finish typing.  Aaaargh! I can't think when I have to write this fast!

Anyway, here's some vintage comic strip Christmas pages from a hundred years ago. Many thanks to Allan Holtz of Stripper's Guide (link in the sidebar) for the swipes. Click to enlarge.

About the strip above, I like the way this artist lays out the page. It's an ignorant style but there's something funny about it.  Sort of Hugh Lofting (Dr. Dolittle) meets Opper.

Above, The Katzenjammer Kids. I didn't used to like this strip but it's growing on me.

I like the simple, linear layout showing stupid characters sitting at a dinner table (detail above).

Very nice (above)! If I were an editor I'd run a strip like this regardless of whether the character had appeal. Reading this makes me want to draw.

Here's (above) the final panels in a two week long series where Santa develops a military plan to bomb a town with toys. Oops...I have to surrender the room to my kid. 'Hope you guys had a good Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010


What with Christmas coming, things are really busy at my house and I don't have time to put up something elaborate. I just want to wish everybody here the best of Christmases. I hope you and yours prosper and prevail in the coming year!

Here's a few songs to get you in the mood, if you're not already:

How about "Ave Maria" by Pavarotti?  I couldn't embed the video, but here's the link:


Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Before we start, check out this unbelievably cool t-shirt that John K. gave me! Have you seen the store on his site lately? What a guy! He re-thought the whole way that internet stores are done, then he stacked the store with images that are so beautiful that you never want to leave it. Half the shirts are on sale, too!

John's site:

But enough about that...we have serious work to do.

This post is about this l'il baby...the magisterial emperor of steak...THE RIB-EYE! Those little white streaks are what makes the cut so famous. They're little veins of fat that melt into the steak while it's cooking and give it that over-the-top flavor.

Rib-eyes are kind of expensive, so when they're on sale I get three and put the other two in the freezer. Of course it takes a day for frozen steaks to thaw in the refrigerator, and they only taste good if they're  cooked when when they're at room temperature, inside and out.

Prepare everything you'll need before you start cooking. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and put your empty iron (not teflon) frying pan in so it gets nice and hot. Chop up the onions and mushrooms (don't cut the mushrooms too small), and make the dinner salad. Have the vinaigrette (1/2 balsamic vinegar and 1/2 extra virgin olive oil) handy for the salad, but don't put it on yet.

You won't need olive oil for cooking the steak. Peanut oil , saffron, or canola are better for that because they resist scorching. Prepare the raw steak by basting it with a little (not too much) bit of oil and "Bull's Eye Original Barbecue Sauce" on both sides.  These will seep into the cracks and aid the cooking. Put kosher salt and ground pepper all over it so that when you cook it a thin crust will form which will keep the juices in.

Now it's time to cook. When the oven's reached 500 degrees take the hot iron pan out and put it on top of the stove on medium heat. Put some heat resistant oil in the pan and drop in the precious steak. Let it  cook 30 seconds on each side. Turn it over with tongs. You don't want to pierce the meat with anything, not even a fork.

Now whisk the iron pan and steak into the hot oven. Let the steak cook 2 minutes on either side. Use tongs to turn it. Don't poke it. Trust that everything is okay.

Just trust.

Especially don't attempt to test it by cutting into it. Trust the wisdom of the thousands of cooks who  preceded you.

  Now you can remove the pan from the oven. Put it on top of the stove on medium heat,  remove the meat with tongs, and let it finish cooking on your dinner plate, maybe under a canopy of aluminum foil. Don't poke it or cut it!

Now's the time to cook the mushrooms and onions.  Put some olive oil and lots of butter into the empty steak pan. Mix them with the steak juice that's already there. Now pour in the mushrooms and onions (and green pepper, if you prefer). Add a little soy sauce and brown sugar. Be sure not to overcook the mushrooms. It should be done just about the time the steak finishes self-cooking on the dinner plate.

So that's it. Combine the steak and mushrooms on the plate and you're good to go. If you've followed directions, you should be facing an exquisitely juicy, medium-rare steak. And...Oh my Gosh, I forgot the dinner salad! Now's the time to vigorously shake or stir the pre-made vinaigrette, and pour it over the lettuce and tomato slices.

What to drink? A cabernet, definitely. Or how about that new Belgian beer that Trader Joe is selling? It's their own brand, and it's pretty good.

BTW: I watched several videos, read several articles, mooched steaks at John's house, and did a number of experiments on my own before settling on the advice in this video as the backbone of my steak regimen. Here's a link to what I consider the most helpful video. The guy who made it looks a lot like Bruce Timm. You don't suppose Bruce.....? Naaaaaaaw!

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Mike sent me these Wolvertons, which almost made me fall out of the chair.  According to Mike the artist's name is Colin Batty.  Man, Batty's done a service to the whole cartoon world here! Nice job, Colin!

Batty's site:

You have to wonder if characters like this could work in 3D animation.

The underlighting (above) makes this "Lena the Hyena" look menacing.

Aaaah...true art!

What program were these pictures done on? My first guess was ZBrush, but maybe they were done on "Sculptris," which is something I just found out about. It's a free program.

Here's some Wolverton-style stop motion animation courtesy of commenter Ben Leeser. It's a YouTube video called "Ugly Girl," posted by Necrofinger (!). This got over 11,000,000 hits! Thanks, Ben!

Friday, December 17, 2010


It's been 13 years since the first Harry Potter book came out in America, and ten years since the first Potter film debuted. Since Potter books and films were enormous money makers almost right from the start, you have to wonder why Warners was so slow to license toys from the stories.  Oh, there were notebooks and scarves and wands, but little else for years. What happened? Why did Warners drag its feet for so long when there were hundreds  of millions of dollars to be made?

The toy I wanted to buy was a tree...just a nicely designed evil tree with flexible arms. The one above is from an illustration in a Lord of the Rings calendar.

Potter toys were so slow coming out that fans took to making their own Potter the toy of this  triple-decker "Knight Bus" that Harry rode after the Muggles kicked him out.  Eventually Lego put out a bus toy, but it was a case of too little too late. Also, the Lego toys cost too much.

Set designs in the films (above) suggested lots of interesting toy possibilities, but Warners wasn't interested. You get the feeling that no one in the Warners hierarchy really liked toys.

Too bad Weasley used an ordinary car to rescue Harry from the Muggles. Using a neat old car (above) would have opened up a nice toy possibility. Come to think of it though, you could still sell toys like this in a Potter store.

I'd like to see what posters (above) are available in the Potter theme park...the park that opened up for the first time in the Summer of this year, 10 years after the first movie. By the time it opened the last book in the series had come out.

Talking about posters, I'd like to have seen posters which speculated on what other wizard schools around the world (above) might have looked like.

You used to be able to buy terrific maps (above) of the British Isles.  Potter fans would love to get hold of maps like that. Can you get those in the Park?

It would be nice to have a building block set (above) that you could actually make Hogwarts-type stuff with, and that wouldn't cost an arm and a leg.

Maybe the ghosts that roam through the school (above) need their own action figures.

I love steam punk watches. The Park could clean up by selling inexpensive ones with great design and with secret compartments.

You could sell plastic mad scientist equipment in a Potter store. Get somebody good to design them. The mad scientist gear you see in Halloween stores is terrible.

How about funny Muggle masks?

I like the idea of doing up a corner of a kids room like Voldemort's cave in the "Prince" story. Cardboard or painted styrofoam kits could do the trick.

Computer and keyboard skins?

It;s fun to imagine what Potter bookshelves (above)might look like.  

Toy Hogwarts Express trains will need trestle kits.

The right window shades could add moody, Potteresque color to a bedroom.

I have a ton more pictures which cover a lot more territory than I was able to touch on here. Maybe sometime in the future I'll do a follow up post.

One of the things I like about the Potter stories is that they attract bright and imaginative kids, and making toys and media for a quality audience like that is an interesting challenge. The Potter books touch on architecture, magic, English history and tradition, engineering, mythology and monsters. The toy possibilities are endless!

BTW, the Mayan wall above is there because it reminds me of the moving bricks in the first two Potter films. There must be some way to get a decent toy out of those bricks!

Also BTW, an anonymous commenter who seems to be in the know about selling toys had this to say about my criticism of Warners:

  • "It wasn't Warner Brothers---they wanted to license and tried like crazy. There were more toys licensed for the very first film than people might remember, but they didn't sell.

  • it was the distributors and stores. They were spooked by the new Star Wars films debacle. Although Lucas got paid up front, a majority of the toys were unsold, and the distributors had to eat the cost. Lots of cost.

  • The window for selling these toys/shelf space is also very, VERY short. 

  • I don't agree with all the short term thinking a company like WalMart (the largest distributor in the word) has, but it's their business.

  • Movie toys mostly just don't sell very well. The lead time is long, and films are no sure but. Remember The Simpsons? When it first came toys. Same with Toy Story. Few toys (until later)

  • While specialty toy makers make wonderful stuff, they're often expensive, and have a very limited market."