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MAXIMUM MINIMUM WAGE BLOG LAUNCHED

To support and supplement the upcoming release of MAXIMUM MINIMUM WAGE (Image Comics, March 2013), I have launched a blog that will feature exclusive material, like sketches, photos, Minimum Wage-a-mabilia and more. Check it out!

MMW-COVER-orangey-purple-final-web

BIG NEWS ON THE COMICS FRONT

I am thrilled to announce the upcoming publication of Maximum Minimum Wage, a massive 9 X 12 hardcover incorporating Beg the Question, plus the original 72-page “pilot” graphic novel, Minimum Wage: Book One and the first chapter of its serial run (“Realty Gap”), which wasn’t included in BTQ (for stylistic reasons). All that, plus a color section featuring the cover art from the comic books, sketches and a gallery section of pinups, including all-new ones by Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez, Roger Langridge, Guy Davis, Dave Johnson, Peter Bagge, Peter Kuper, Hilary Barta, Hunt Emerson, Dean Haspiel and maybe more (including classic pinups by Mike Mignola, Kevin Nowlan, Dave Cooper, Jill Thompson and more). It will also include surprise bonus material (the “DVD extras,” if you will) to be announced later). This will be THE definitive edition, boasting many newly redrawn panels (and some whole pages), bringing the art up to my current standards. Some of the dialogue has been tweaked, too (as I think I have improved as a writer in the intervening years). It will be released early Spring 2013, from Image Comics, under the aegis of longtime MW fan, friend and comics bigwig, Robert (The Walking Dead) Kirkman. The whole package will weigh in at approximately 372 pages! I am currently working on designing the cover. Here’s a tease. Stay tuned!

SKINNY-MAN

Like many budding kid cartoonists of my generation I was enamored of “Mad‘s Maddest Artist,” Don Martin. I loved his work in the magazine, but what really set my mind ablaze were his paperback originals. These were maybe my first taste of graphic novels, and none so enthralled me as The MAD Adventures of Captain Klutz. Skinny-Man was my stab at “funny superhero” comics. The villains, “Super Cool Man” (who really looks more like Super Pimp) in particular, are pretty special. Same vintage as the others posted here (1975).

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Neurotic

This quasi-autobiographical strip is same vintage as Gerry’s Comix and Super-Cat. The “hang-up” (what a knowingly loaded double meaning for something done in the ’70s) in the back is oddly self-pitying. I think this one might predate the others. The art isn’t as good. It’s from ’75, again, though. The Jaws reference was very topical.

Super Cat, anyone?

Here’s another “classic” from my larval stage, same vintage as Gerry’s Comix.

Yes, Gerald Ford

While other budding comics artists were probably practicing their takes on Spidey and Doc Doom, here’s an early example of what I was doing. Presenting my 1975 (I’m guessing) Gerry’s Comix. I was ten. The Gerry caricature is blatantly stolen from Robert Grossman. I was enamored of his comic in New York Magazine. Maybe I’ll scan and post some more of my childhood comics.

And yes, that’s Nixon reading an issue of Playboy.

Frank Frazetta, RIP

Frazetta
My first summer job was working for a pet supply store called Ruffs Meow on Queens Boulevard. The owner was a guy named Dom who popped in from time to time to use the bathroom to smoke pot. He’d check on sales with the manager, a Jim Belushi-esque guy name Matthew, then disappear. I was fifteen and it was a good experience.

During my lunch breaks I’d usually go home for something to eat, but on payday I’d take the money and run nearly a mile from the store to Walden Books in Forest Hills and my first purchases with my hard-earned money were the Peacock Press/Bantam Books trades of The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta and its follow ups. I savored each page of his work. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have that much talent. His work had so much power and vitality. His women had big asses and hips and even dimples on their thighs. They were fleshy and hot as hell. I admired his composition and palette.

Many years later the Alexander Gallery on Madison Avenue had an exhibit of Frazetta’s work and seeing many of those canvases in person was mind blowing. As in the case of Norman Rockwell, seeing the originals blew any reproductions away. I was surprised at how small some of Frazetta’s paintings were, but though they were modest in size the art was barely contained in those frames. The colors and textures were unreal.

My own art never aspired to be like Frazetta’s. There was no way I’d ever come close and fantasy wasn’t really my bag, but he was, is and always will be an inspiration. I hope all the matters of his estate are resolved amicably and ethically. His legacy and work should be in museums to be enjoyed and admired for the ages.

MORE HELL

The character Dot works as a registrar in Hell. Impatient demons tap their hooves and expect miracles from her.

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DEMON SKETCHES FOR THE HELL OF IT

Still working up some sketches to help sell my Hell GN. Going to work on some more, but thought I’d share these of some demon types.

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MORE THE HELL OF IT

First sketches of 2010, Joe the Half-dog.

joe-sketches

THE HELL OF IT

These might be the final sketches of 2009. Maybe not, but they’re probably the final ones I’ll post this year. These are character design sketches for the book I want to do set in Hell. I am hoping to finally find a home for this baby in 2010. I’ve wanted to do this story for many years, though its earlier outlines were quite different. The plot has finally gelled, so let’s hope that I finally set it to paper soon.

merv-sketches

Dot-sketches

Irwin Greenberg, Albert Weatherly, R.I.P.

“Do rather than don’t.” — Irwin Greenberg

I really don’t want to start a trend here—especially not this kind of trend—but again I find myself adding another pair of obituaries. My most beloved art teacher, Irwin “Greenie” Greenberg, died yesterday, at the age of 87. He profoundly touched the lives of everyone who knew him.

I was fortunate enough to have had him as a teacher at the High School of Art & Design. Greenie—as his students and colleagues knew him—was a true inspiration. The adage “those who can’t do, teach” might have suited others, but not Greenie, whose work was, is and ever will be breathtakingly assured, graceful and lovely to behold. He was a master watercolorist and his teaching was commensurate with his talent.

Greenie lost an eye in WWII, but you’d never know it to look at his work. Though he often employed a small spyglass to see the models in better detail, his lack of depth perception never showed in his work, as you can see in the examples here.

Greenie was a beautiful person who shared his gift and his life, through stories told in class, with everyone lucky enough to have known him. I always regretted not staying in touch after I graduated. In a way, since I chose the path of cartooning, I always felt I’d somehow let him down. But that was on me. I’m sure he wouldn’t have felt that way. Greenie didn’t judge.

My uncle, Albert Weatherly, Jr., also died, today. He was 85. He was much more of an enigma to me. He was a concert flutist who left the orchestra to pursue fixing and selling flutes. He ran his own business, Albert Weatherly Flutes, in midtown. He brought an unsurpassed level of craft to servicing flutes that garnered him a clientele of all the biggest names in the field. Jean-Pierre Rampal, James Galway and James Moody were among his patrons, and all held him in the highest regard.

I did my first “professional” (ha!) assignments for him, doing art for t-shirts and tote bags for his business. Another late hero of mine, the cartoonist B. Kliban, had a cartoon called “Nephew Art”, which depicted bad art done by nephews. But it, like some of Kliban’s best work, was a metaphor for bigger, deeper things. That said, it might be my favorite Kliban cartoon, and that I am guilty of having created some “Nephew Art” of my own makes me both proud and humbled.

At thirteen I did a bag that boasted an anthropomorphized flute strutting along, à la Crumb’s “Keep on Truckin’”, only in this case it was “Keep on Flutin’”. Yeah, I know. I did many bags and tees for Uncle Al, and he actually paid me money. That meant a lot to me. It made me feel a bit more legit at an early age.

Al was very hard to know. He was quiet and, as I say, a bit of an enigma. But when he did share I always appreciated it. I never really knew him well, but I’ll miss him. I’ll miss them both.

Oldie But Rushdie

Usually when I look at my old art I don’t like it (kid stuff not included; that, I love). But I was just going through my flat file, purging some stuff, and came across this cover I did for the Village Voice Literary Supplement. It had to do with the Salman Rushdie fracas (it’s from 1989). Anyway, maybe because I did it in a different style it’s like the work of someone else and I can be a little more objective. I think it’s pretty good.

vls-rushdie

Rejected Zombies

Some of the warm-ups I did that didn’t cut the mustard and make it into Pariah.

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Bookshelf

Quick sketch from a while back of some of my bookcase.

bookshelf

WOTTA CRYBABY

I did this drawing to redress my huge oversight in not including this fucking whining crybaby dipshit in From the Ashes. This drawing wraps up the bonus section to sort of ameliorate my fuck up.

crybaby-beck

JAZZ AND CT REJECT

I did this drawing for Connective Tissue (which is still highly discounted on Amazon yet nonetheless is languishing, so BUY IT!), but it didn’t fit my narrative. I like it, though.

This was done as part of a panel in an American Splendor thing I illustrated. I think it might make a nice print.

Zombie

It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with my work that I am a longtime, died-in-the-wool zombie fanatic.

Recently, I sold my second novel, Pariah, to Tor. I am thrilled (and relieved) beyond belief. It’s a story that I’ve yearned to get out there for many, many years. I first conceived of it as a graphic novel (before my ambitions led me to write the regular kind), back in the mid-’90s. Fortunately (though I didn’t feel that way at the time), it didn’t come to pass in that format. I finally wrote it as a novel and the end result is much better.

The interesting thing is that part of my deal with Tor is to provide the book with some original interior art (I might do the cover, too, but that is pending). My approach is not to do illustrations of any scenes or characters in the book. I prefer to let the readers picture that for themselves. Instead, one of the characters is an artist and he does studies of the undead to pass the time (no more TV or Internet, so one must pass the time doing something). The conceit of the accompanying art will be that these are his drawings. I don’t want any of the art to be typical EC-tinged stuff. The approach is to do sensitive, objective drawings. The zombies didn’t ask to be this way. They’re not evil.

To whet your appetites, here is one of the drawings. I might post some of the rejects here as the months go on, but here’s a sample:

Pariah is due out July 2010.

Darla

Another unused Darla drawing from when I was working on Connective Tissue (which you really need to go buy, now).

Mysterioso

Color for a page of a project I just wrapped up. I think I’ll leave it at that.

Not Everything Makes the Cut…

Self-rejected drawing of Byron (from From the Ashes).

BOOKPLATE FEVER

Yes, folks, there’s not one, but two exclusive signed bookplates I’ve done for the upcoming (it’s at the printer!) Connective Tissue. One is for the publisher, Fantagraphics Books, the other for retailer Panel To Panel. If you want one of these bookplates to come with the book, order the one you prefer from Fantagraphics or Panel To Panel directly.

Bugs & Daffy à la Bergman

A while back I did a two-page segment for the Looney Tunes comic that my friend Joey Cavalieri scripted. The sequence was a parody of Ingmar “Chuckles” Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, starring Bugs as Death and Daffy as Antonius Block (AKA Max Von Whythelongface). I went to town and with filters made it look like aged film. It was fun. Here are a couple of panels which (as they all were) ran cropped and covered with dialogue balloons.

Culled…

This week I’ve been going over the final guts of Connective Tissue with the designer (Jacob Covey) at Fantagraphics. He’s doing a great job and the book’s going to look terrific. Seeing all the art put into a layout with the text highlighted that a couple of the drawings were superfluous, so I cut them and did new ones for the book. I liked the drawings I cut, but they didn’t make the grade. Anyway, waste not want not, here they are.


Cerberus

Not much to say. Three-headed dog. Angry. ‘Nuff said.

My Goon Pages…

For those of you who didn’t want to click over to Dark Horse’s DHP MySpace to see my take on Eric Powell’s The Goon, here are my two concluding pages of the serial that ran there. They make no sense without the preceding pages, so don’t feel bad if you read them and go WTF? They wanted a riff on The Maltese Falcon for the punchline. This thing was done “Exquisite Corpse” style, so I was brought in to deliver the punch line. Several lines of dialogue are directly from The Maltese Falcon. Whee.


Dog

I’m in the final stages of completing Connective Tissue. I don’t want to ruin any of the story, so I won’t explain what the dog is eating here, but I wanted this cartoon pooch to be grotesque and somewhat monstrous (yet still somewhat “cute”). I started off drawing a more realistic dog to work out the anatomy, and then moved on to deforming him.

Normal pooch.

Monster pooch (version in book).

Rejected version. I like the face, but the body is bad, especially the forepaws. It looks like Clifford the Big Red Dog after huffing a snootful of speed.

Final version. (Thanks to my friend Mikey P. for sending me pix of his pit bull, Hiro.)

Tush

Spot illo for Connective Tissue. What can I say? I like tush. Nuff said.

For an Atheist…

…I think about Hell a lot. Not as a reality. I just like the concept. What can I say? I liked the Inferno portion of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Lot of good art’s been inspired by Hell. I still hope that someday I’ll do my epic set there, be it a prose novel, or graphic one. Something. I’d really like to do it. Here’s a drawing I did a while ago, just playing with demons, etc.

Really, though, what kind of “artist” would I be if I didn’t think about demons?

Girls and Demons

Two great tastes that taste great together. Or something like that. I love drawing this stuff. Maybe I’m a bad person.

Connective Tissue: Coming (Relatively) Soon…

It’s been a while since I’ve had any publishing news to announce, but unless the contract stuff goes horribly awry (an unlikelihood), Fantagraphics Books will be publishing my oddball stream of consciousness (or in this case, unconsciousness) epic, Connective Tissue, sometime early spring 2009. What’s more, publisher Gary Groth became aware of and interested in the project because of the previous Connective Tissue drawings I’d posted here. So, this blog has already more than justified its existence (at least to me). Neat.

Connective Tissue is my reverse-engineering experiment in art and prose. Instead of a normal illustrated book, in which the pictures illustrate (duh) the text, this time around I’m doing the art first, then supplying the prose. To ensure it flows well, I’ll likely add some art at the end of the writing stage (the titular connective tissue). Here’s a recent drawing:

Papa Bear

Here’s a quick sketch (about five minutes) I did today of one of my personal Top Ten Most Loathesome People in America: Bill O’Reilly. He came out oddly sweet-faced, which is troubling, considering what a toxic personage he is. More on why I drew him when the opportune moment presents itself.

Michele, My Belle…

Sorry about the gap between posts. I’ve been bedeviled by my computers since early December. Here’s a drawing of my wife, Michele, when she was very sleepy.


¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

Happy New Year, all. Here’s the last piece of art I did in 2007: new cover for the Spanish edition of my graphic novel, Beg the Question. The title will be different, though. BTQ, already idiomatic, doesn’t translate well. It might revert to the original series title, Minimum Wage. We’ll see. At any rate, here’s the drawing and final color version.


MORE CONNECTIVE TISSUE

Here are a few more drawings from my mostly off-again project, Connective Tissue. This is one of those things that may or may not ever be finished, so in the meantime I’ll post selected images.



DUCKY

Drawing of my friend, Ducky.

MONKEYBICYCLE 5

Hey, all. Here’s the thumbnail sketch and final art for the cover of the upcoming “Dirty Humor Issue” of the literary magazine Monkeybicycle. I also have a story inside. Should be out in late December or early January.


LOVECRAFT LOVE

It was that or “Tentaclehead”. I don’t know what to call these entries sometimes and I haven’t really titled this drawing. I just hit the paper with the pencil and this emerged, no game plan, no forethought. It just happened. Go figure. But I like it.

QUICK CROWD SCENE

A quick sketch of city sidewalk traffic. Just for fun.

MICHELE

Here’s a more straightforward portrait of Michele.

NEW PEN

Just a quick sketch to try out a new pen.

CONNECTIVE TISSUE

A few years back (in 2003, to be specific), I started a project called Connective Tissue, which was to be a free form, stream of consciousness, picture novel. I abandoned it after about 15 or so drawings, but waste not want not. Here are a few. I almost resurrected it last year in a revamped style, but once again lost steam (the drawings in my first blog here). Maybe someday I’ll really get serious with it, but then what would the fun be in that?


THE HELL OF IT

These are some prep drawings I did for a graphic novel that I’d proposed, tentatively titled, The Hell of It. I’ve been nursing the idea for many years, and it keeps evolving. I might just write it as a prose novel, as has been my wont of late. Maybe I’ll do an illustrated novel, like Mignola’s latest effort, Baltimore. We’ll see.




INAUGURAL POST

Okay, so this is my inaugural post here.

So, art. Art’s a subjective term. You know, one man’s meat and so forth. I spend a lot of time in modern art museums frowning and being annoyed by what passes for art these days. Hence, letting my membership to MOMA expire. But I also am amazed at how much good stuff is being done currently. Lots of it displayed on this Blogger thing. People like Marlo Meekins, Kristen McCabe, Bill… uh, mean William Wray, and on and on. Superb and varied stuff. Enough to inspire me to join up.

So, enough words. Picture time. These couple are from an on-again/off-again project featuring the girl with the pigtails. I’ll post more later. Figuring out this interface is making my puzzler hurt.