Friday, April 30, 2010

I Rest My Case

Pure Inspiration

There is nothing more visually beautiful in this world than a beautiful woman. Images like this accumulate in my clipping morgue as pure inspiration.

Singing Telegram

I made it a point to come in contact with cartoonists whenever I had the opportunity. In 1972 I wrote to Johnny Hart and told him how much I enjoyed his B.C. strip, in particular the lunatic one that ran the previous week about the glass rooster. A short time later a very large envelope arrived in the mail with this original:

The original is 250% of printed size, with no white-out.

Anyone not around in the era of '72 may not realize that the recording of MacArthur Park was playing all over the radio incessantly, and was a huge hit for Richard Harris (Dumbledore for some of you, King Arthur for others). Harris had parleyed his success from the Camelot musical film into a mildly successful fame as a tough yet sensitive singer.

The joke punchline in the BC strip was funny at the time because "MacArthur Park is an unusually complex song for pop music. The song was first recorded by Harris on his album A Tramp Shining, in 1968 and was released as a single. It was an unusual single, running for more than seven minutes, with a long, climactic orchestral break."

So anyway, that's the basis of the joke. Well . . . you kinda had to be there.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cartoonists' Tradition

Milton Caniff was a legendary cartoonist, influencing generations of cartoonists. So, it seemed only natural to my teenage mind that I write to him for advice on cartooning. Who knew that he would write back? And actually fulfill the request of an original. This particular piece of art was the first cartoonist's original art that I'd ever seen:

It was full of visual advice—to see the line work, the brush work, the ben day pattern shading (where you see the yellow-brown splotches is the remaining adhesive from where the ben-day dots once were, but over the years have fallen off).

The white-out! What a lesson. Lots of white-out! Not every line has to be perfect the first time around!

And the size. I knew already that cartoonists worked larger than print size, but 300%? This art was 3 times the size of what we saw in the paper! It's amazing how the detail holds up in reproduction. Below you will see the comparative sizes.

And his letter was warm and encouraging.

I see by the date on the letter that I was only 15, but yes, I had submitted a comic strip feature idea to a syndicate. It was to be stories about science—not fiction, but fascinating portrayals of true stories of science. I sent a synopsis and some samples of the first intended story, that of Percival Lowell and his amazing perceptions of the canals of Mars.

I really think I did a decent story line and my art samples don't even embarrass me now. Yet all I got from the syndicate was a form rejection, supplying no encouragement whatsoever.

Hearing from Milton Caniff, though, was hugely encouraging—not knowing that I was fulfilling a cartoonists' tradition, as experienced and portrayed here by Caniff, himself:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

So You Want to be a Cartoonist

In my early years after high school I wanted very much to be a cartoonist. But I couldn't focus. I was infatuated with the notion of being a comic strip artist or a gag cartoonist or a comic book artist. Ya just can't be all three, or at least not all at once. But I sent cartoons out to the New Yorker and SatEvePost, a strip concept to a couple of syndicates, and some sample pages to DC comics.

Well, I got a pile of rejection slips (geez, I was only 19), but the nicest rejection I got was from Julius Schwartz, top editor for DC comics, for my Superman story. I had sent a properly typed story, with panel breakdowns and a couple of inked pages. I received a really encouraging letter from Schwartz along with a photostat (anybody remember those?) of cartooning tips by Joe Kubert, which was also showing up in print in comics at that time.

Cartooning is a very difficult sport, but if I'd stuck with it I may have made a name for myself, somewhere, somehow. As it was, my number (50) came up for the draft, wherein I joined the army. I was placed as an illustrator (Military Occupational Specialty: 81 Echo), where I learned the trade on a fast track, starting as a combat artist and graphic journalist.

Subsequently, as an illustrator for 40 years, I got to draw a few cartoons along the way, but nothing like I once dreamed of.

I admire all of you professional cartoonists and all the work (and focus) that it took to get where you are.

Above is the page that saw a lot of print, but was also sent out, from DC, to aspiring cartoonists. I think this was just prior to the founding of Kubert's school of cartooning.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Curse of the Winged Monkeys

Alright, that does it. I've been cursed twice now in relation to Oz's Winged Monkeys. Consulting the Royal Library of Magic in the heart of the Emerald City, I see that the only way to remove those curses is to set the record straight about the Winged Monkeys of Oz.

They are under a spell, a charm, you see . . . but I get ahead of myself.

There is but one wicked entity in the tale of The Wizard of Oz, and that is the Wicked Witch. Any other wickedness that we may perceive in others is but an extension of the Wicked Witch. She is in control of those Winged Monkeys, as we see here:

In our previous 'blog post,we have already witnessed the wicked attack upon Dorothy's friends, and here we continue the telling of that despicable act:

But our friends survived and the tables were turned. The Wicked Witch was overthrown and Dorothy brought away with her the wonderful Golden Cap encircled with rubies and diamonds that allowed her to control the Winged Monkeys. With these next pages, we learn of the history of the Winged Monkeys and why they must obey the charm of the Golden Cap.

With the recounting of the Winged Monkeys' tale of how they came to be in the wicked service of the Wicked Witch, I now renounce the curses put upon me, and call upon all within sight of this 'blog to, from this day forth, think kindly upon the maligned tribe of the Winged Monkeys. So be it.

Facing Our Fears

The best way to fight a fear is to face it. So let's take a closer look at the flying monkeys of Oz.

The original Wizard of Oz book by L. Frank Baum was illustrated by WW Denslow and it was his drawings that first delineated this icon of fear.

But it was Baum who creeped us out with a vision of a sky darkened with a rumbling and rushing of wings, a great chattering and laughing of monkeys with immense and powerful wings:

And just what these creatures were capable of:

BUT, it was the MGM production of the movie in 1939 that brought the nightmare to life:

Hrrmmm. Bat wings. But see the power cord down there? These wings were mechanisms, the final ones powered by battery packs. It was just movie making. They weren't real!

See? See? We've faced our fears and seen the 'man behind the curtain', so to speak.

There, now don't you feel better having faced your fears?

Hrrmm. Neither do I.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Last post, comment came up 'bout scary stuff from the Wizard of Oz movie. Got to thinkin' 'bout Margaret Hamilton, and marveling at how perfecto her witchery was. I nominate her as THE bestest wicked witch of all time. What a delicious movie.

Look out below, there's one of them dreaded flying monkeys! Even if this one doesn't have his wings on, it's nightmares tonight!

Original Scarecrow

Fred Stone was the original Scarecrow on Broadway in 1902, helping set the standard for Ray Bolger, 37 years later.


A poster by one of the great illustrators of the 70s and 80s and beyond—Doug Johnson.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Jungle Love—for Adults Only

Were you one of the one thousand folks to pick up this Roy Krenkel portfolio for a mere 3 bucks back in 1974? I scored mine while on leave from the army in beautiful Monterey, California. I was staying in a wonderfully ancient downtown hotel for the weekend and as I wandered the streets, I came across a hole-in-the-wall comic shop where I bought a big handful of silver age war comics and this envelope.

I squirreled away this portfolio so perfectly that I only just recently came across it again, delighted to look through it as much as I was the first time. I'll post the Tarzan pix sometime too.

The envelope

Girls of the Stone Age

Cave Girl

The Land that Time Forgot

Sketch for a Minoan Lady

A Minoan Lady


Primitive Dawn

A Princess of Rome

Reclining Nude

Stern Mistress

Wild One

The Treasure

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Nostradamus Predicts

Simon & Kirby. Boy Commandos. July 1942. 'Nuff said.

Detective Comics #65—cover by Simon & Kirby and Jerry Robinson