Thursday, February 28, 2013


Oh, Man! Wouldn't you kill to have a figure drawing class that included real-life models that look like this (above)? I lined up a couple of draped models like this one the last time I taught a cartooning class, but they weren't very well received. 

Students who were good at drawing traditional models seemed to have had the hardest time adapting to this type. I think they were frustrated because they couldn't figure out how to apply what they'd learned in other classes to comedy. 


Me, I believe in the value of both kinds of figure drawing. I love short, drastic poses like the one above, and I also like slower, analytic posing of the classical kind. 

John K has an interesting take on figure drawing sessions. He believes in long, long poses that give a student plenty of time to analyze what they're seeing and figure out an approach.

Lately I've been drawing poses off the net. Pictures can't substitute for live models, but I always get a good seat this way and I don't bother anybody when I get up to get a cheese sandwich.

I love dead leg poses like the one above. They're funny and they give the illusion that one leg is longer than the other.

Wow! A rare Double Dead Leg Pose!!!!! How often do you see that!?

I never thought about it before, but there's such a thing as abdominal dresses (above). What a gift to cartoonists!

They're sexy, but they're the kind of thing you want somebody else's girlfriends to wear, not your own.

One last word about dead legs: they appear in walks too. Not in Preston Blair's classic walk, but in walks you see on the street. After pushing forward with the rear leg some people don't lift it to the front, they just slide it forward with the toe dragging (or almost dragging) along the ground.

I like the idea of someone having an an assertive, power stance when they're standing still, then a languid dead leg walk when they're in motion. That seems like a contradiction but in real life people often have contradictory behaviors.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


The answer is, no!  A thousand times, "No!" At least not the in the close way those kind of shots are served up in current films. Close like that, the actors are made to seem so sappy, so devoid of context, so self-indulgent. They kill the suspense in a scene because we know the actors aren't going anywhere. The format nails them to the floor so they can carry the scene with face acting alone.

I prefer wider over the shoulder shots like the one above. Made wide like that, there's more suspense. You never know if the actors are going to fight or not, or if one of them is going to bolt and run. The body poses are more nuanced, and the visible background lends a context to the conversation.

Live action films seem to require a variety of shots, including medium shots and close-ups. Even so, if I were a live action director I'd always be looking for opportunities to use full shots like the one above. I love whole-body acting.

Funny comics (above) were the perfect medium for that style.

I don't know why anybody would want an over the shoulder shot in a comedy. The reaction to a gag is often just as funny as the gag. You want to see both at the same time.

If you must use an over the shoulder shot, at least have the decency to dress the foreground figure in wool, as Auralynn is here.

Come to think of it, maybe there is room for an occasional OTS. Here's a video I did which contains nothing but over the shoulder. If the video has annoying stops try clicking on the hidden YouTube icon on the bottom right.


Modern Africa is a continent of contrasts. You have to wonder if these are genuine primitive tribesmen living in the outback, or if they're sophisticated city dwellers who are wearing the old-time clothes for some cultural event. 

My admiration for African art knows no bounds, partly because they realize the value of cartooning. Look at the cartoony furniture; look at the cartoony mask behind the king.

All tribes are not equally gifted in their ability to create great clothes for their king. These threads (above) just don't fit right.

The costumes here (above) look Hindu rather than African but the carvings on the throne look African. I include it because it's a reminder that one function of a king is to administer justice. In some cultures only royalty are fit to preside over courts because only they are presumed to have no personal stake in the disputes they judge.

Framed pictures like this one would be a great gift to give to a lawyer. The engine of impartial justice takes many forms. All over the world people crave it, and will make great sacrifices for it.

Probably the king doesn't live in this (above) room. I imagine it's a sacred space where the tribe's totem images are kept. On the other hand, maybe he does live here. I'll assume that this isn't what you'd call a wealthy tribe.

Some tribes are luckier. They're rolling in dough. They can afford to put up their monarch in a sumptuous modern palace like this one (above).

That's all I have to say about kings, but maybe there's space enough to describe a village in Mali (above) that I just discovered. It appears that the village is overpopulated and the people have to live shoulder to shoulder in the confines of a small space.

Talk about crowding...if you sneeze, the next man's toupee falls off. 

The odd thing is that there appears to be plenty of space (above) just outside the perimeter. There must be a reason for the crowding but I can't imagine what it is.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Here's a novelty that I didn't know existed before: a "Christmas Carol" parody written by Harvey Kurtzman and drawn by caricaturist David Levine. It appeared in Esquire sometime in the early sixties.

It's not Levine's best work, and Kurtzman's seen better days but, c'mon, any collaboration by talents like these demands a viewing. BTW, click to enlarge.

It's eerie to see Levine doing comics. Lots of famous illustrators came to grief in the comics medium. Evidently sequential storytelling requires a knack that's rarer than commonly supposed.

Then again, you could argue that this is a parody of comics in general as well as of the Christmas Carol in particular. It probably looked a lot better on slick magazine paper than on the net, and it probably made a nice visual counterpoint to the photography in the rest of the magazine.

I'm amazed at how well the formal, standard-font lettering works in the word balloons, and how the borderless panels fit Levine's style so well. Elder did borderless panels for Humbug and the same technique didn't work for him.

Friday, February 22, 2013


Yikes! I thought I'd Photoshop myself into some Wally Wood artwork, but the result was so unfunny that I think I'll end this experiment here, after doing only one panel. Stupid me for thinking I could compete with Wood. I'll put up the rest of this in a few days.

BTW....Don't you hate trying to draw with a mouse!???

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Every generation needs a new story, a new narrative, a new sense of history. That's what  gives the new guys the confidence to go out into the world and challenge the old bulls. I've witnessed several new stories in my lifetime and all of them are nothing less than fascinating. I thought it might be fun to tell some of them here. I'll start with the story my Dad's generation, i.e. the 40s - 50s generation, made for themselves.

My Dad's generation developed the story that my Granddad's generation were nice people but they were also stupid and uneducated farmers who were intellectually unfit for the modern world. If you saw the movie "The Caine Mutiny" you got a taste of that. 50s man believed he was suave and sophisticated and adaptable in a way that no previous generation was.

My generation, I'm embarrassed to say, was the Hippie Generation. For them the previous lot was racist, sexist, jingoistic, constipated, and emotionally disturbed. We, on the other hand, We perceived ourselves as....Ahem!....svelte, gentle, artistic, intuitive, idealistic, and (unfortunately) too hip for manual labor.

My generation was replaced by the Punks who thought that we hippies lacked manliness and were pampered and worthless. Their story cast them as refreshingly authentic and righteously angry that they were stuck in lower class Hell. A typical Punk dinner might be hot dogs with a side order of Cheese Puffs washed down with diet soda or bourbon.

Coinciding with the punks were the Yuppies who re-invented the mainstream. They had disdain for the excesses of the Hippies and Punks though they secretly envied their purity. Yuppies had a story that cast them as futuristic warriors like Luke Skywalker. They would end poverty and bring about universal peace by being Fabian Socialists working within the system and yes, making a buck or two.

The Punks and Yuppies were replaced with a grunge movement that tried to unite the two warring camps but failed. They morphed into the Emos and Hipsters, which is sort of what's around now, but is slowly winding down. Emos combine Anime, Punk, and gay culture influences. Their story is that they're the most aesthetic generation ever, and the most imaginative. I doubt that, but who am I to question?

Last but not least, comes the very latest wave...the Computer Geeks. They might look like Grungers or Hipsters or Yuppies but what they have in common is their total dedication to the computer. They have disdain for Gen X'ers who were merely part-time computer users who got side-tracked into diversions like video games.

Geeks believe that Gen X'ers never understood the mystery, the power, the cult of the computer. The Geeks story is that they are first true human beings. They are the old- world destroying infant that appears at the end of the movie, "2001." They're mad because the rest of us are still are still drawing breath. They believe that new computer programs should be as hard to use as possible because that will cull out the inferiors from the true humans.

Me, I'm a product of most of the movements that occurred in my lifetime. Maybe most people are. I'm both an anti-communist Cold Warrior, and a mellow hippie. I have a taste for the Punk, in-your-face shock ethos, and I like a good suit and a fresh salad just like the Yuppies. I like my video games and I like my computer. I'm not aware that I have any Emo influences, so maybe that's the exception. I have additional bookish influences too, but that's a subject for another blog.

Fascinating, huh?

Sunday, February 17, 2013


If this were an Amazon review I have no idea how I'd rate this book. On the positive side it reads well, and it's nice to be get an overview of the events. On the negative side the book gives far, far, far too much weight to John K's detractors and doesn't answer the question, what were the innovations that Spumco was famous for, and how did they come about? It's hard to resist the conclusion that these were inadequately covered because an honest assessment would have made John look good, something the book is determined not to do.

The book does do a good job at describing TV animation before John. The industry was so corrupt, so lacking in even the attempt at any real artistic expression, that it was teetering on the edge of collapse. People tried to change it, but the obstacles were daunting. The industry had an enormous financial stake in staying exactly how backward it was, and a lot of animation artists had been so corrupted that they couldn't even conceive of anything better. I would add that only someone as combative, as driven and as stubbornly idealistic as John could have broken through the barriers and made the changes that we all benefit from today.

It's easy for the author sitting in his living room in suburbia, with a well-stocked refrigerator and a nice DVD collection to criticize John, who was fighting for his life in an unprecedented environment and had to improvise every detail of what he did during the day. John had to run an unconventional studio full of rebellious artists and simultaneously be a world-changing wunderkind. How many people could have done that? Not me. I'd have had a nervous breakdown. Did John insult people unfairly? Did he contradict himself? Did he sometimes do things that were in bad taste? Probably. Does it matter?

But ingratitude is the modern disease, isn't it? Moderns are skeptical, always looking for the tabloid dark side. If Louis Pasteur made his discoveries today we'd be regaled with stories about how the bum treated his lab assistants. Look at the way Thomas Jefferson is treated in books now. Geez, moderns are so self-righteous, so easily offended, so quick to condemn.

I'm not finished the book yet but I peeked ahead to the end which, if I'm not mistaken,  seems to say John created only one good cartoon in the post Nickelodeon years, "Ren Seeks Help." Maybe I didn't read it right, but if I did then that's ridiculous. Examples to the contrary are abundant. The cartoon that preceded it, "Naked Beach Frenzy," was hilarious. Watch it from end to end and see if you agree. I think the last 2/3 of that cartoon was the funniest short any animation studio turned out in 40 years. John is still wildly creative. Talk to him for just an hour and you'll walk away with your head in the clouds, full of thoughts of new possibilities and new directions.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


I can't believe it! I got a relapse of my flu, and I'm flat on my back in bed again! Sorry about that. I'll be back tomorrow or the next day!

Thursday, February 14, 2013


"It was a cheap frowzy cage in a cheap, frowzy living room in Cincinnati. Empty husks of birdseed lay in a pile on the floor under the cage, awaiting a clean-up that would never come. The room didn't seem to care. It was that kind of room. The killer was that kind of bird.

"Phillip Parakeet's the name. I'm a private detective. Decent birds scrub floors to hire me to find out why their hoodlum sons get murdered. That's what happened in this case."

"There's the kid, dead as a door nail, killed for a few seeds just like all the others. Of course he was no altar boy. He was a heavy-set, swarthy bird with a hunger to be a "big shot." As everyone knew, the most important part of his dress lay snugly under his feathers, a sharpened cuttle bone seldom seen, but when it was, sure to be felt by somebody. It's still on him.

Whoever did this was somebody he let close to him, somebody he knew, somebody he trusted. The last thing he saw was betrayal. He was a cheap seed hustler, but he deserved better than that."

"At first I thought a human did it. They're always playing tricks on their pets. They think it's funny. But...naaaaah...murder requires brains, and humans just aren't smart enough."

"I should know. I'm always looking into their eyes to see if somebody's home, but there never is."

"Then there's the dopey hamster that lives on the other side of the room. We can eliminate him as a suspect."

"His cage door's been left open for two weeks now and he still hasn't found his way out. He's lost in the tunnels of his own stupid house."

"The fish isn't very bright either."

"But who can blame him? He's been swimming in the humans' beer for months. No, he didn't do it."

"That leaves only one viable suspect, and (Sniff! Sniff!) if I'm not mistaken she's just landed on the bar behind me! Nobody but Vivian Parakeet uses that kind of heavy, sensuous perfume.

Don't get fooled by the lovely face. Her complexion is as false as her jewelry. Maybe you can't see the ravages of dissipation that lay beneath the paint and powder, the hard, cruel lines about the worldly eyes, the ruthless greed in the painted, obscenely small beak. Even so, you can't help wondering what's under those feathers."

"As you can see, the poor victim didn't stand a chance. All Vivian had to do was stand there with her lithe, slender figure, overdressed in vivid blue feathers, that were both too short and too tight. Birds with more experience would have recognized her for the false and dangerous beacon of allure that she was, but to the kid she was marvelous, something to worship and possess. It's an old story that too often ends in...

But I have more investigating to do, and I'll need privacy to do it. Er...put that cover over the cage, will you? I'll see you tomorrow!"