Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Comic Book Characters

Okay, so we know there are no super villains in real life (other than the corporate thugs that already rule the planet), and any individuals who have delusions that they can be super villain copycats are quickly put in their place by law enforcement.

But let's take a few minutes here to enter into the 'DC Universe' and take a look at some of the super villains that have been in residence there for a long time, even through all the reboots.

Neal Adams/Dick Giordano — DC's Super Villains — 1970s

I look at the depictions of super villains differently now that real life has been haunted by one of those copycat killers. It now doesn't seem as interesting or fun to see their stories unfold. In the world of comic book fantasy, they seem more evil and dangerous than ever before. I want comic book justice to deliver a final lockdown, so that these villains cannot keep escaping again and again.

Let's take a closer look at the DC criminals in the above rendering from the '70s, a high point for comic book storytelling. There are sixteen individuals shown, all classified as 'super' villains, yet not one really has a 'super' power, though one or two have magical powers. They are megalomaniacs who have adopted a persona to feed their egos as they satisfy their greed. Even though they're shown here in a group, they rarely work together to meet objectives. When they do, they are ready to abandon their cause at the earliest convenience, with probably a knife in somebody's back.

Out of the sixteen, eleven of them are smiling. But they're not happy smiles. They are grim and arrogant smiles, perhaps while thinking of their ill-gotten gains. At least two, maybe three are the leering smiles of the psychopathic insane. Many of this group laugh a lot, but only when gloating over people in pain and misery.

The floating fellow was once a likeable mischief maker who grew evil over the years, finally murdering most of the silver age Superman's loved ones in a rampage of horror.

One of those fellows is there with his daughter, having seduced her into his campaign to destroy most of humankind on earth so that he and she can save the earth from homicidal tendencies of humankind.

One is an arrogant simian who thinks that he's smarter than everyone else, so to hell with everyone else. Several of these miscreants are just plain thieving thugs, who have learned to control weather, and mirrors, and puzzles, and Frigidaires just to own the biggest diamond or the most bullion.

One of these guys has learned to master fear, to strike humankind at its mental roots, causing unimaginable fear to drive them insane. Basically, a terrorist.

A couple are mad scientists — one who is compensating for his ugliness and short stature, and the other who is capable of curing cancer and eradicating world hunger, but instead uses his scientific genius to cause pain and suffering. Both are the only bald ones in the bunch, hmmm.

That's a nice Tiffanyish lamp they have dangling there over their poker table. I can't imagine any of these people bought it, even though they have a gazantajillion stolen dollars. Why have all that money when they don't want to spend it on anything that they can steal. It's a mystery.

And then there's this one:

She is not evil or demented. She has a soft spot for the underdog and could almost work on the side of justice, but for her weakness and passion for shiny baubles that she can't afford. Still, a thug is a thug is a thug.

I could go on and on, but these are only characters in comic books. They demonstrate that crime doesn't pay, that there is not infamy for murderous megalomaniacs. They're not role models for society's dropouts and misfits.

They're just comic book characters.


Neal Adams/Dick Giordano — Batman & Robin — 1970s

This soapbox philosophy has been voiced a lot recently, but it bears repeating until we get beyond preaching to the choir:

In our real world, there is no Batman patrolling the rooftops of our chaotic life. There are no superheroes ever-vigilant for uprising evil. There are no supervillains creeping out from the sewers.

In our real world, of course there ARE heroes, ever-vigilant and there ARE creeping villains. But the heroes are US, the villains are US. WE must be ever-vigilant to protect the innocent. WE must make the choice to be anything but a villain.

We cannot stop bullets and violence with our Batarangs, our invulnerable skin, our Amazon bracelets, our magic conjuring. We CAN stop bullets & violence with legislation, education and wise foresight.

We must not be complacent and let mayhem occur again and again. We must buckle down and do the right thing, now and always:

Protect the innocent!

Extraordinary Vision

Cosmic photography soothes my savage soul in times of turmoil.

This is the Tulip Nebula located toward the constellation of Cygnus the Swan, which was loosely interpreted in the previous post's painting. Below is a composite image of interstellar gas and dust, mapping star powered emissions from ultraviolet radiation — ionizing sulfur, hydrogen and oxygen atoms into red, green and blue colors.

This is a beautiful universe, made even more beautiful with the extraordinary vision of humankind.

© Michael Joner-David Laney-Robert Gendler — Tulip Nebula

Currents of Time

Nearly every image has some inherent symbolism in it, intentional or not. Some have more than others, usually intentionally, such as this portrait that I was commissioned to paint many long years ago.

The young woman had a thousand ideas of symbology that were special to her life, but we settled on some 20 or so, some very subtle, but more than obvious to her at the time. I wonder, 25 years later, if the meanings are still clear to her, or lost to the currents of time.

©1987 Haller-Buchanan — Cosmic Stream

25 years later, I'm 25 years better. If anyone is interested, I still take on portrait commissions of this sort — personal and peculiar. But be aware that the cost is fairly high, both in fee and self-understanding.

Monday, July 30, 2012


I'm not one to believe in fate or fortune being able to be read, guided, or foretold by the stars, the casting of bones, the arrangement of entrails, the lines of a palm or how cards are dealt.

We make our own fate and fortune, individually and collectively, and to give it any other source is to live by superstition—one of the factors in holding back the maturity of our species.

Having said that, I fully embrace symbology—the making of signs, symbols, pictograms and other pictorial elements as a means of communicating on a deeper level than words alone. Sometimes words just get in the way of intuitive understanding. When I think in images I am more effective in the thought process than if I think in words.

Whereas I don't believe in Tarot as a link to external powers, I can see that its imagery can help one to internally work out problems and obstacles of life.

Below is a beautiful design and illustration by Frank Brunner, portraying the Queen of Swords, the sword of which can be interpreted any number of ways with symbology. But one traditional interpretation of the butterflies is that it shows her freedom of thought and active intellect. I like that symbol and I like this image.

Frank Brunner — Queen of Swords — 1980

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sainthood is Reserved for the Deceased

I knew I'd seen that winged bicyclist shtick somewhere before the Olympic opening ceremony.

Illustrator: Travis Coburn — race 2 replace — ca 2007

Our Opinion

Speaking of the Summer Olympics opening ceremony, it's time to do a little Monday morning quarterbacking on Sunday afternoon. How in the world did Danny Boyle think it was a great idea to celebrate belching smokestacks as part of the greatness of Britain?

Heinrich Kley — Devilish Stench — ca 1900

I would have thought that Kenneth Branagh would have leaped at the chance to portray Shakespeare himself, come forward to celebrate modern Britannia and quote pithy utterances on our modern world, as it leaped and cavorted around him.

Two more critiques (though I could offer so many) and then I'll shut up. Both of these come from my wife:

Wouldn't it have been so much more effective to have the whole string of bicyclists with wings take flight in a spiral and form a circle of light high in the air?

And second, since the Beatles can never come together again, wouldn't it have been great to have the Rolling Stones performing Jumping Jack Flash, with lighted bungee dancers leaping and sparking all around? Bless Paul's heart, but hey, Jude?

I wish Danny had called us in for our opinion. I know Russia won't.

The Goddess on Whom These Airs Attend

If the Summer Olympics can quote The Tempest in their mish-mash of an opening ceremony, then by golly so can I, in the mish-mash of my pictorial arts blog. Hey Jude!

Walter Crane — The Tempest — Act I Scene II — ca 1900

Mirror Alphabet

This post is dedicated to Nikita, whose email has inspired an interest in ambigrams. This is a mirror sort of ambigram of a decorative alphabet. I can't credit its clever creator as it's been floating around my image morgue for years and years, before I ever thought to mark sources. It has an Art Nouveau flavor.

UPDATE: This lovely ambigram was created by Scott Kim, PuzzleMaster, and his website can be accessed by clicking here.

Thanks nagfa!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fabric of Our Destiny

Sometimes it seems that the fabric of our destiny is woven by the gods, with all the complex arrangements of the fibers of our existence lifted, adjusted, shuttled, threaded and bundled by the beams, heddles and harnesses of the loom of life.

Bertha Lum — Weaving Goddess — 1930

Bertha Lum — Fortune — July 1933

Nineteenth century print of Japanese loom

Ready to Serve

Is this a blatant phallic double entendre, or am I just seeing things?

Zoe Mozert — Ready to Serve — 1950

Friday, July 27, 2012

Mermaid Encounter

Hannes Bok's stylism was unique and enchanting.

Hannes Bok

Chosen Exile or Not

It's fun to see Charles Schulz delineate grown-ups and cars and such. It shows that the simplicity in Peanuts was a chosen exile.

Update: Jim Sasseville drew these panels. Did not know that. Maybe it was not a chosen exile of simplicity for Schulz. Thank you commenters.

Charles Schulz — It's Only a Game — 1958

Terrific Comic Book Collection

Peanuts was a beloved strip throughout its run, but the early years had the most charm, in my opinion. From the time of the Korean conflict:

Charles Schulz — Peanuts — May 3, 1954

Thursday, July 26, 2012


I adore the portrait graphics of Chen Shu-Fen—sweet without being saccharine, light yet with substance—and her subjects are adorable.

©Chen Shu-Fen

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Grand Graphic Wizard

I've been told that Mr. Frank Thorne, grand wizard of ink conjuring, perhaps looks in on this humble pictorial blog thingy.

If that is so, and Mr. Thorne if you are looking in now, I would like for you to know how much I've been entertained by your graphic wizardry over the years. Special greetings to you sir!

Frank Thorne — Conan, Sonja, Bêlit

Basic Issue

Before getting involved in the Chick-fil-A controversy, one should consider the pros and cons of the basic issue:

©1983 Matt Groening

What was so good about the 1980s? Matt Groening!!!


Matt Groening's very existence cheers me up!

© 1988 Matt Groening

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Check Out What You've Been Missing

Remember when Superman was a fairly light-hearted guy? I haven't seen the reboot, maybe he's a jolly old soul these days? I miss the late silver, early bronze Man of Steel.

Gil Kane — DC house ad

Difficult and Dangerous Times

Also in days gone by, Clark Kent, bless his heart, wasn't too concerned in his editorial about separation of church and state and comic books.


Days Gone By

In days gone by, Batman (without the 'the') would go out in the daylight and even breakfast with the President.

This drawing was part of a book that published a lot of cartoonists' thank yous to the President after a special outing where they all had orange juice with him. I can believe that maybe Bob Kane drew this Batman and Robin, but I'd bet a stack of pancakes that Dick Sprang ghosted the drawing of Ike.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fantasy Bookplate

Yes, in times of trouble, fantasy is ideal to escape into, provided that you can come back to reality when the time comes. I treasure my fantasy collection and I have a special bookplate just for that genre.

Years ago, I met and talked with Roy Krenkel for just a short time. We made some book transactions, he signed a book for me, and then I asked if I could use one of his drawings as a personal bookplate. I offered to pay him for the use, but he declined the offer, consenting to my use of the art, "providing," he said, "that you don't try to make money from it." I haven't, I won't, and neither should you.

© Roy Krenkel


I love weather in all its drama. This unaltered shot was taken recently during an early evening tornado warning.

©2012 Haller-Buchanan — Evening of a Tornado Warning

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Christmas in July

When I'm feeling low, as I have been for a while now, I try like hell to escape to one of my happy places. First, that's my wife and daughter. But to make sure I don't bring them down, I move on to one of several places: nature (I just took a long walk and the clouds were picture perfect); viewing the cosmos (relying heavily on Hubble-sourced images); fantasy literature (including old comics); and images that are cheery and wonderful (case in point, below, a completely out-of-season image by Carl Larsson):

Carl Larsson — the artist's daughter as Idun — Christmas 1901
I love this image so much.

Deep Thoughts

The copyright notice in the book this strip is from indicates that I can't reproduce it in any manner whatsoever except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

I think Matt Groening is a certified cartoon "genius", his cartoons both wise and witty. The only problem with him is that he never invites my family over to dinner.

There, I reviewed his work briefly, in quotations, and was critical.

©1991 Matt Groening — Life in Hell

The Road

©1969 Dave Sheridan

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What to Expect

This collage was part of a contribution to a book about the future that was published in a previous century. Its message was meant to be optimistic about things to come, but in hindsight could be interpreted as a state of paranoia, preparing ourselves for the worst.

Even now though, I still sign up on the side of optimism.

Haller-Buchanan — Expect the Unexpected — 1999


The victims of the movie shooting are in my deepest thoughts and concerns. I hesitate to blog any more about the tragedy for fear of exploiting it. Yet, if I ignore it and move on with meaningless trivialities, I fear that I'm shrugging my shoulders and saying tsk tsk, life goes on. Yet of course, the latter is what we all must do at some point, because, well, life DOES go on. But not yet.

My intent is not to exploit, but to find relevance to society's task, however trite and minor my points may be.

We know we must guide society's beliefs and attitudes, and we know that to do that we must begin with ourselves. The majority of the citizens of the world are decent, caring and altruistic, with various degrees of intelligence, and most are smart enough to know 'the right thing' from 'the wrong thing'. Acting on that knowing is not always easy, but most of us make the effort to 'do the right thing'.

How do we reach those that are making the wrong choice, doing the wrong things?

Many of us say 'love', and that's a great answer. Many of us love ourselves enough to have an abundance of love for our families, our friends and neighbors, and love enough to feel good will toward strangers and whole populations we will never meet.

But love isn't enough. Our love is concentrated on protecting those around us. And we can't love the people who won't be loved, those that roam the hidden cracks of our society alone and brooding with terrible plans.

How do we reach those lost souls intent on sharing their pain and misery with others?

We don't.

It's not our job, 99.9% of us. Those who deal with mental problems and people with ill intent are hard at work doing their job of reaching and helping those individuals before they explode in our midst. Sometimes people slip through the cracks, of which there are many, and can only then be stopped by those who have the immediate opportunity.

It is up to each of us to spread benevolence, kindness, compassion, understanding, and yes, love, wherever we can. But especially toward those young ones who are coming into this confusing world of ours. And we need to go further. We need to question ourselves, our values, to see what is important in this world.

Is it really important to shop as much as we do, to own as much as we do, to fritter away our energies in pointless pursuits? "Pointless" pursuits. That does NOT include things like fun or relaxation. "Play" is not pointless, playing with our young teaches them wonderful things.

Is it really important to always rush around as we do? To waste time on the rushing and not spend it on worthwhile pursuits—spreading understanding of the finer concepts of our lives?
Sharing the joys of art and science and philosophy and spirit?

Spirit. There is great spirit afoot. Legions of wonderful people with wonderful passions are spreading their spirit. Teachers and dancers and musicians and technical wizards and writers and mothers and fathers and so many caring dedicated old souls.

The spirit must spread further. It must dissipate ignorance and superstition (I include much of 'religion' in that category—but that's another whole sermon on my part). Spirit must include all, permeate all so that pointless pursuits become pursuits of meaning, of substance.

All this idealistic meandering on my part accomplishes little for any of you. But in meditating out loud, so to speak, it sharpens my focus on what is important in my life, and sets me on a path of discovery. If we all are on similar paths, and we collaborate, what might we accomplish together?

. . .

The item below is too cheerful in appearance for this time of mourning, but the message is relevant in its own way and is indicative of past efforts to raise awareness, what the self can be.

from Batman comics — 1940s

Wake Up, America!

A message from a different time for a different reason, but still a relevant call.

James Montgomery Flagg — Wake Up, America! — 1917

Friday, July 20, 2012

Society's Worst and Finest

As we all are, I am shocked and horrified at the taking of innocent lives at the Aurora movie theater, during the night. Beyond the carnage afflicted on our neighbors, this should be a turning point for people everywhere to draw a line in the blood and demand no more! In the long run, not with heightened security or to have other movie patrons 'shoot back' as some politicos have positioned.

Our society needs to address these problems at the very root of our collective psyche, the way each child is raised by the global village. Different attitudes and beliefs.

I'll stop there and express my deepest sympathy to those affected by this tragedy.

I'll also go on to show the images that I had planned for today, because they are expressions of humanity at its finest, the anniversary of the first manned lunar landing.

Robert McCall — First Manned Lunar Landing

Paul Calle — Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong, pre-astronaut as an X-15 test pilot

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Burne Hogarth seemed to be a show-off in the latter part of his career, applying an excess of detail in his art. But then, why not?

Burne Hogarth — Tarzan print — 1974

Full-of-Time Tales

H.J. Ford is one of my favorites for illustrating timeless tales, or maybe full-of-time tales, such as those of Troy and Greece. This is a book fairly available on-line and elsewhere, but these are my scans before I lovingly set this volume free into the world via trade credit.

H.J. Ford — Tales of Troy & Greece — 1910 edition