Check out BTA alum and current Puny frontman Vincent Stall as he tells TDCH all about his favorite things. Stall (aka King Mini) shared a studio with Zander back in the day, and his work is currently gracing the walls of the Minnesota Museum of American Art.
Kevin and I joined Steve Stwalley (Soapy the Chicken, Stwallskull) and Danno Klonowski (Staplegenius!) to chat with Britt Aamodt on the Wave Project at KFAI 90.3 FM last night. The show was called "The Cartoonists", and covered what it's like to be a cartoonist, what is the nature of cartoons as opposed to illustration, and various other chit-chatty stuff. We had a great time, and it was pretty cool to be in a radio station, getting our hands slapped away whenever we tried to touch the fancy microphones.
You can listen to the broadcast on the KFAI website here until December 28, 2008: The Cartoonists
Hang in there-- the previous show (an Oromo music show called Voice Of Oromiyaa) ran a little late, so the show starts at 1:38.
Our new graphic novel, The Stuff of Life, will be in stores on December 23rd, just in time for Christmas, if you hurry. To whet your appetite until then, we have a cartoon to show you that will give you the gist of the book. Click the image to watch the video.
If your computer can handle it, click on "watch in higher quality".
For this animation, 1. Kevin wrote the story and storyboarded it, then 2. Kevin colored the characters from the book and digitally painted the background, then 3. PUNY started the process of preparing the characters for animation, then 4. I did the voices for Bloort and Floorsh (Kevin has a cameo role; see if you can find it), then 5. PUNY animated the characters to match my voice, then 6. PUNY added sound effects and music, then 7. I recorded my voice singing along to the music, then 8. PUNY put it all together (magically, as far as I could tell).
I expect that PUNY will put up a post about some of the animation techniques; I can only offer what it was like to do voices for a cartoon. First, I went down to record in PUNY's high-tech interim sound booth (a foam cartoon character costume about 2 1/2 feet in diameter hung from the ceiling with a fancy microphone electrical-taped to an incompatible mike stand all wired to a laptop three feet away), .
Will Shepard did the directing and sound editing (I actually spoke all of the lines several times before moving on to the next one, and I did the characters separately) and tweaked it all together to make it all sound funny and natural. All the little "ohh..."s and "A-ha"s were recorded completely out-of-context as a long stream of interjections, and he figured out where to put them in and make me sound like a pro. Nice work, Will!
Every time I went down to PUNY to do voices, I saw the incrementally-more-finished sound booth in which one day, ONE DAY, I will record some voices. Probably for some energetic, educational cartoon dog.
Finally, I offer my stunned amazement at how beautiful the animation was for this sequence. PUNY will have more detail on who did what, but all I can say is I think it looks fantastic.
Here's a drawing I did for the Grinnell College Debating Union. For each debate, the house takes a controversial stand on some timely topic, and then the Pros and Cons duke it out. This debate's topic is:
THIS HOUSE WOULD ABOLISH CHRISTMAS
I've had the pleasure of being the official Debating Union poster artist since I was a freshman on Langan 3rd back in 1998. Wow, that makes it ten years -- the longest job I've ever had!
Happy to say that Zander, Julie, and Jin have arrived safely back from Korea.
I hope he's rested, because he's returning to a BTA in the middle of a big deadline. And as the solo guy at the Attic the past week I have failed at my blogging duties. So here's a concise summary of things I should have blogged about recently but failed to:
If you can't get enough science-inspired comics by Jim, you're in luck. Jim and Sean Bieri are collaborting on a serial called "Better Zombies Through Physics."
HOT INK REVIEW
Britt Aamodt explains why all the kids are flocking to St. Paul to get their comics fix: Hot Ink.
Missed the opening party? The Minnesota Museum of American Art has a gallery of photos on their website.
STUFF OF LIFE NOMINATED FOR YALSA
This December 23 marks the release of Zander's and my second full-length graphic novel, The Stuff of Life. And even though the entire book is obsessed with sex*, Stuff has been nominated for a YALSA! You can read more here. Every year YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) compiles a list of the best graphic novels for teens. The final list will be announced this spring.
* Okay, by "sex" we mean "genetics and DNA" ... but it's still hot.
SCIENCE IDOL CALENDAR HAS ARRIVED
Fellow Grinnellian Eli Zigas and I recently won a spot in the Union of Concerned Scientists annual calendar -- we're April 2009! You can get your own copy here.
THURSDAY Bring your comics to Diamond's Coffee Shoppe at 6:30 and help collate. We'll need help folding the boxes (thanks for buying the boxes, Steve!), and putting stickers on the boxes' face and spine. Once that's done we'll take everyone's comics and collate 'em.
This is not cartooning-related, but we just got the call this morning. We're headed to Korea on Wednesday to pick up our little boy, Jin-Seo Park. Thanks so much to everyone for their well-wishes over the last many, many months of waiting. We're so thrilled, and we can't wait to finally be a family.
When speaking with young cartoonists, at some point the question inevitably comes up, "How do you get work?" Usually, by the time I draw breath and start talking, they follow up with a sigh and a resigned "...or is it just who you know?" Well, let me make two things clear.
One, yes, it is who you know.
Nearly all of the work that I've gotten and that we at Big Time Attic have gotten together has been through someone one of us knew, worked with previously, met at a convention, was related to, lived or worked close to, or who somehow recommended us out of all of the millions of cartoonists out there.
Two, that's not exactly that strange.
People who need work done can't be expected to have an encyclopedic knowledge of every cartoonist out there; they only typically remember at most a dozen off the top of their heads. If you know them, you instantly jump into that dozen. But you need a couple things if you want to actually do the work.
Being thought of is not the same as getting the job. Everybody gets considered for jobs all the time, but the question is, are you ready for it? And almost as importantly, do other people KNOW you're ready for it? When they come to you and say, "Can you draw this many drawings in this style by this deadline?" you have to be able to honestly, and credibly, answer yes.
Deliver the Goods.
And then you have to make good on your promises. This is an important point: most of the people we work with we work with several times. So that means you have to turn in work that is good and on time, and you need to be easy to deal with. Doing this means you stay in people's heads as the right person for the job. A lot of clients out there will go with someone whose style is ALMOST right over someone whose style is JUST right if they know that person is fast, good, and easy to work with. This frequently makes the difference between working constantly and bitterly grumbling about how no one appreciates you.
Be a Known Quantity.
I always tell people that when it comes to drawing style, focus on depth rather than breadth. That is to say, rather than be able to pencil a comic in every style from scary vampires to fluffy ponies, it's better to work in a relatively narrow range (say, just humorous illustration) but be able to pencil, ink, letter, color, and, if necessary, do design and prepress work in that style. That 1) makes you jump to the top of people's minds when they think, "Who could draw this funny comic?" and 2) makes you an easy choice, since you can take care of everything from the word go.
When you can draw pretty well in every style, you have the problem of never being the best at anything (and, of course, never being KNOWN to be the best at anything). There will always be a better vampire guy or pony guy than you because that's all they do.
There's no question that literally only having one style would limit you in what jobs you can take, and so it's important to be able to have a certain range. If you do humorous stuff, you need to make sure you could do a funny superhero story or a funny vampire story or a funny fluffy pony story, all within what people recognize as your style. The main thing is that people, when they think of you, can imagine how you would draw the book. That's how you get the job.
So yes, it is who you know. But it's not some kind of old boys' network that just gives jobs to people's sons. It's about preparing your skills so that they are top notch, and then getting out there, whether it's on the internet, at comic conventions, or even at the comics store and showing people your work, so that the next time they need someone to draw something, they call you.
Here we are again. I'm already forgetting how emphatically I swore I'd never do this again, sometime around 2 in the morning this past Sunday.
This year, I was forced to abandon my beloved Pentel Pocket Brush Pen by an errant air conditioning duct that somehow made the pen ooze ink out of the side of the bristles. Sorcery! So I had to scramble and quickly switch to Micron pens, and it actually made for a cleaner and sharper looking comic.
As with every year, I decided on a genre (this year, a superhero thriller), and then drew a Pictionary card to determine the plot points. This year, the card had the following words to be made into a plot:
Also, this is the first year that I have not actually accomplished the 24 hour goal. I regret to say I had to turn in a Noble Failure: Eastman Variation. I was not finished at hour 24, so I stuck it out and finished by hour 25. This is not fun, when everyone else is done and leaving. And sitting next to you saying nice, helpful, supportive things. And your brain has almost shut down with fatigue and frustration.
The reasons for this failure are several:
1. I drew too many panels (167; the accepted number for a qualifying online comic is 100)
2. I ignored my own advice and pencilled the second half of the comic before inking or lettering it. I was behind and I thought this would help. Foolish.
3. Working with a pen forced me to be a bit more precise than I would be with a PPBP, and so I had to think about the details of each panel a bit more so it wouldn't look bad.
4. There were some very chatty people at this year's event, one of whom, whose name I will not mention, was not working on a 24 hour comic and so had just a bit too much time on his hands.
5. I've been working on a similarly-formatted comic without such strict time constraints and got a little soft.
Anyway, the comic is called Golden Wing versus The Freezer, and it's not all that bad. You know, all things considered.
Click on the following image to read this year's attempt:
If you don't have a Flash player on your computer, here is the comic in one long scroll:
Man, what a great weekend! This was my fifth 24 hour comic day event, and it definitely went the smoothest. Most of that was due to working smaller and having more time each hour to walk around, eat food, and sprint around the building.
Anyway, here's my comic for this year. For reasons that will become clear when you read it, it was important to colorize this one.
The original intent of the story was to be a Watchmen parody, but it ended up being more of a parody of a few of my favorite children's books. Although, while not intentional, you could make a case for Harold = Dr. Manhattan, and Max = Veidt.
Hey, I'm going to make a 24 Hr Comic Day t-shirt for myself (the iron-on kind), and I thought I'd see if anyone else wanted one, too.
The art will be a panel from the 24HCD poster, blown up to maybe 3" x 3". I haven't picked mine yet. Maybe the "Robot Walk Away" panel.
Basically, if you bring a t-shirt to 24 Hr Comic Day this Saturday, I'll bring the artwork and an iron. If you're interested, let me know in the comments section which panel you want. Let me know by 5pm Friday, and then bring your shirt (washed and wrinkle-free!) to the event at MCBA this weekend.
Here's a link for the poster to help you pick out your panel.
This week's VITA.MN features a great review of the comics show that Zander and I are in. St. Paul's Minnesota Museum of American Art is showing "Hot Ink: Comic Art in Minnesota," a collection of original art, sketchbooks, and process materials from local cartoonists.
The opening reception party was a few weeks ago and we had a blast -- Reynold Kissling has posted a few photos from the event, and there's a gallery on the MMAA's website, but if you've got any more, please send us a link!
You can pick up a copy of Vita.MN on freebie newstands through next Tuesday.
When Kriske told me he was working on an online comic, I thought, okay, this'll be fun, a little manga Kriske walking around in a cartoon version of his religious high school. Well, "Magic Carp" has officially debuted, and it's not what I was expecting -- in a good way!
Magic Carp is more art than cartoon, and in that vein, episode #1 is more like a sketchbook page than anything else. I look forward to seeing where this goes, and whether Kriske will succumb to having such ordinary things as characters or a narrative.
So good luck, Magic Carp! The champagne bottle is broken in your honor.
Zak Sally will be interviewing cartoonist Jaime Hernandez at the Twin Cities Book Festival this weekend. Plus, Zander and I will have a table set up in the convention area. So why not swing by, see what Zak and Jaime are chatting about, and then throw some dollar bills at us?
Swing by the Big Time Attic booth at FallCon tomorrow to see the latest and greatest Sloth Force Seven mini-comic, "Time Travel." It's 48 pages of danger and intrigue, and some GI jokes to lighten the mood.
The book has a two-color woodblock print cover (actually lino, but who's keeping track), which looks good in that "I took printmaking in college but you'd never know it" sort of way.
Here are the first seven pages to whet your appetite:
Sloth Force Seven was created for last year's 24 Hour Comic Day, and you can read that effort here.
Written by Zander Cannon; Art and Cover by Gene Ha
AMERICA'S BEST COMICS. A new season dawns in the science-city of Neopolis! A new commissioner, along with some new rules, comes to Precinct 10, as Slipstream Phoenix, a rookie cop with an ugly secret, fights for respect among his new peers. Meanwhile, Shock-Headed Peter and the Dust Devil investigate a mysterious, ancient drug dealer, and a very public multiple homicide sets Captain Jetman and Lieutenant Peregrine scrambling for answers.
The police procedural crime and intrigue continue in this new series based on concepts and characters created by legendary writer Alan Moore (WATCHMEN, V FOR VENDETTA).
This series picks up where the original 12 issue left off, with Smax and Toybox off on the adventure chronicled in Smax, and the rest of the precinct without an interim commissioner. Fans of the original Alan Moore-penned series will hopefully find this to be similar in tone, and reference-hunters will not be let down.
First off, I have to give monumental thanks to Kevin and Shad, who came up with a good portion of the plotlines and gags (due to a clerical error, Shad was not credited in this issue; I am told he will be in future issues), and were extremely helpful in getting this series going.
I probably needn't say how fantastic Gene Ha's art is on this series, but I will anyway-- he delivered pages that took my humdrum ol' layouts and turned them into the fantastic science-city of Neopolis-- again. Thanks, Gene. I've seen what he's done for the next couple issues, too, and it's amazing.
So go on down to the comic store (or, if you're in the Twin Cities, come to FallCon this weekend) and get yourself a copy. Gene will be in town for the show this weekend and we'll both sign it!
Some caveats-- I've finished 3 24-Hour Comics in the last 3 years, and every year I swore I'd never do it again. Twelve months has a tendency to make one forget one's swears. But the point is-- I have no secret to avoiding misery. So don't expect me to make it easy on you; it won't be. That's why you can be so proud afterwards.
1. WORK SMALL. Every year I see people bringing in great big sheets of bristol board to work on their 24-Hour comics, and every year I see some or all of them drop out. Why? It's not like they're putting in more detail, it's just the sheer amount of real estate they need to cover. God help them if they set something in space or at the bottom of a well-- that's a good 15 minutes per page of filling in black areas right there. I always work at 8 1/2 by 5 1/2-- half a letter-sized piece of paper, and then reproduce it at 100%. That's a good mini-comic size.
2. WORK CHEAP. Kevin and I have spoken before about the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. I use that and cheapo HP laser paper from Office Max. With the amount of half-assed drawing that gets done at these things, it would make me feel sick to be using up nice paper, and the cap-it-and-forget-it nature of the PPBP works really well for these extended sessions, much better than a Windsor & Newton brush would. Similarly, Kevin uses a flair pen for his 24-hour comics. That's probably an even better idea because you don't have to rotate the page around when you ink, like you have to with a brush.
3. WORK OUT A DRAWING STYLE. It'll happen anyway while you're working, but it's nice to go into the event with a sense for how to draw simply and effectively, while still being able to communicate things like depth and facial expressions. You'll find that your patience for cross-hatching details on faces will dwindle by about hour 10.
4. KEEP YOUR DESIGNS SIMPLE. No-nos for characters: stubble, Hawai'ian shirts, tentacles, the Jack of Hearts. No-nos for settings: outer space, the middle of a jungle, a junkyard, a balcony overlooking New York City. Don't think that these details will just give you mindless things to do. They will, but you'll hate yourself for it. Your hands are going to hurt by the end of this thing; you don't want to have to put in any detail you don't need to.
5. DECIDE THE GENRE BEFOREHAND. I think it's nice going into the event knowing basically what kind of story you're going to make. If you've decided on a Western, for example, it gives you a bit of time to think about the sorts of things you want to have in your story, the basic structure, and some thoughts on what kinds of characters will populate it. But you should ONLY decide the genre, and then when you start...
6. USE A RANDOMIZER TO GIVE YOU IDEAS. I use a Pictionary card, which has five words on it that are pretty random, but at the same time fairly ordinary words. This is nice because then you have a bunch of unrelated ideas that you have to put into a story, but aren't making a story about yellow-bellied snorklewackers, or something else completely loony, which is exactly what you'd get if you asked your friends. Randomization has several benefits. One is expectation management. Because you can't plan out your story, you don't build it up in your head to be the most interesting story of all time. Drawing a page an hour all night is going to make some pretty shoddy-looking stuff, so it's good if you're not butchering your all-time favorite tale that you've been waiting years to accomplish. Another benefit is that it gives you ideas. When you have a bunch of completely unrelated words, you are working full-time just to create a story that makes sense, which frees you from having to be terribly creative and/or hilarious. You're bound to make some funny jokes or clever plot twists just getting your characters from A to B, so it's nice to not worry about what ingenious idea you have to put in next.
7. PAGINATE YOUR PAGES BEFOREHAND. I like to use this template for paginating 24-page minicomics. It means that other people can't really read your book while you're doing it because when they've had no sleep, there's no way they're figuring out a pagination guide. But it saves you a lot of cutting, pasting, white-taping, and whatnot when you get the thing printed. I always make a mini-comic of my 24-Hour comics, and not having to worry about how to arrange the pages makes me much more relaxed.
8. DO NOT GIVE UP. C'mon, would you rather be exhausted and miserable and finish a 24-page comic or exhausted and miserable and not?
9. BRING A LUNCH. There's always a snack table at our event, but at about lunchtime, people are always having to go to the bar next door and burn valuable time ordering a Reuben sandwich. Just make a sandwich and put it in your fridge the night before. And for God's sake, don't just pig out on the chips. You've got to stay alert and smart for 24 straight hours; Pringles won't do.
10. GET SOME SUN. Just go outside and let the sun wake you up a bit. You won't be that tired when it's still daylight, but it still gives you a little boost to have some real, full-spectrum light getting into your eyes.
11. SHAKE OUT YOUR HANDS A LOT. Give those guys a break. They're working hard. A five-minute break will make them a lot happier than they were.
12. BALANCE FUN AND WORK. If you're too serious, 24-Hour Comic Day can be a real grind. Chat up your fellow cartoonists. Make fun of the panel you just drew. Discuss the music choices that were made at your location. But also remember this: if you're not working, stay out of the way of people who are. 24-Hour Comic Day is a pretty quiet affair, with a few people taking a valuable minute or two to say something to someone, but it's mostly nose-to-the-grindstone, drawing-as-hard-as-you-can work. If you gave up two hours ago and went to the bar to get loaded, don't come back and laugh it up with your buddies, dammit; people are trying to draw here.
Have a good time-- and put your comic online, would ya? They're fun to read.
UPDATE: Number 13. Rereading Kevin's post from last year, I wanted to second his point about not pencilling the whole book, then inking it. One, it sets you up to do a lot of hand-crampingly hard work right at the end of the night. Two, it's hard (especially when sleep-deprived) to truly determine how much pencilling you need to do in order to ink it well. Three, as Kevin mentioned, it makes it far more complicated to gauge your time-usage. It's far easier, and more useful, to finish a page an hour. Now, while I keep to this schedule for the most part (probably 75%), my work process is a slow movement from small increments to large. In the first hours, I do whole pages, written, pencilled, and inked, before I move on to the next page, even to write it. That break in time (to letter and ink) gives me some time to reflect on what I want to happen next, and it also keeps me from rewriting. When it's done, it's done. I have to move on. As I get more familiar with the story later on, and the plot points are rapidly converging on the end, I will frequently start pencilling three pages at a time before I go back to inking. Since the story is kind of writing itself at this point, it's good to get a lot of writing done at once, and from a practical standpoint, I have few enough pages left that this deviation from the schedule is not as terrifying.
I snuck a peek inside the Minnesota Museum of American Art this afternoon and witnessed the pre-show curatorial energy that precludes all good shows. MMAA didn't have a ton of time to put this show together, but you'd never know it -- Theresa Downing and her staff have put a detailed touch on everything inside the museum, from display cases showing artists' tools to a hand-painted mural as you walk in.
The big shindig is a week from today -- check out the flyer below for all the details. And as the MMAA is the only art museum in St. Paul, ergo cartoonists will rule the St. Paul art scene next Friday! See you there...