Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Resurrection, of Mister Squeaky.

Of course when I grew up I knew that the Blue Peter dogs were dying and being replaced by dopplegangers. I also knew the same was true of Lassie. When I was young though, that would not have been a thought that would even have crossed my mind. What also didn't cross my mind then, but has plagued me ever since, is the thought that all my friends then, and later, mainly because they all lived next door to one another and I stayed a little way away, shared secrets that I wasn't allowed to know. It's like that feeling that there's a party going on somewhere and everyone you know is invited, but nobody told you a thing about it.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Okay, now I'm starting to get worried.

You may not know this, but I was in a comic once. That is to say, I was still the real me, but there was also a comic book me. The comic book is called Albion, published by DC/Wildstorm, and I was in episode 3, of a series of 6:

Moore and Reppion

Anyway, it's a great series, featuring Robot Archie, Janus Stark, The Spider (I thought he was brilliant) and a host of old British comic book characters and, well, I think they're putting a book of the series together so if you missed it the first time round, and even if you didn't, here's a chance to get the entire thing in one gorgeous, eyegasmic, read.

So, here's the thing, I signed a standard 'image release' form for DC in relation to the comic, which made the whole thing seem even wierder because, well, it's not really me. It's a great drawing, don't get me wrong, but I'm a lot prettier than that (that's me, him, er, me, at the top, click it for a better view).

Or so I thought, until I started working on my latest project 'Johnny *******' (sorry it's a little hush, hush). I was sitting at my desk with Johnny's head (see below) in front of me and my daughter exclaimed 'My God, that same evil stare, it's like twins'. So this (see below) is apparently the dead spitting image of me. I have to tell you, I must be suffering from some kind of facial dismorphia because I just don't see the likeness; well, maybe apart from the 'evil stare'.

Happy Halloween

It's a little early, I know, but I had to do it, so there you go.

Halloween is slowly catching on over here. My kids have celebrated the thing with costumes and parties for years, sending me on annual trips to the bowels of Jenners of Princes Street to pick up skeletons and goblets and cat-shaped candles and other assorted goodies - my favourite was a tiny ghost that vibrated and played b-horror movie music. They've kind of grown out of it now, but still insist on Halloween cakes.

The Indy replies.

"Thanks Rod, I'll pass on your best wishes..."

Well, the Independent didn't take me at all seriously. That was a big mistake, there are one or two things, like the Orphan Act going on at the moment that are making me quite polarised about copyright matters. To say nothing of publications 'buying' my cartoons, giving me tight deadlines and follow ups to make sure the work is supplied on time and pefectly proportioned, and then using them and not seemingly making any effort to pay. I think the Indy is banking on the fact that they are a big fish in a small pond and that nobody from any other country will see the paper anyway. They seem to think that any art is public domain and up for grabs, provided someone slaps on a word balloon and signs the work. I'm sorry, I just don't buy it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Is This Blatent Copyright Infringement?

I read the Independent every day now. I find it more informative and entertaining than the Guardian. The artwork in the paper is shite, but the Gruniad is the same. What especially annoyed me about the Guardian was its habit of publishing no new comic strips or cartoon work, unless it was wrapped around a fawning 4-page review, or a 'scholarly' article about how comic books are now also for grown-ups - but not the grown-ups who read the Guardian, unless they are safely embedded in an article on comic books. How post modern. 'Sigh'. Well, the Independent now has one strike against it for its beautifully illustrated article on the work of Sempe. The Sempe drawings were like a little oasis in the graphic desert of the awful comic strip, the ill-thought out illustrations, and the obvious editorial cartoon in the Indy itself.

It was however, The Independent's weekly Media Section from Monday, October 23rd 2006 that really got my blood boiling. Guy Adams's (proper) Media Diary is the usual irrelevent waffle about the self-absorbed, but it led this time with a little puff piece about poofs, clevery using the word 'gay' in a number of ways (yuh huh). The theme was carried over to the illustration that accompanied the article which was by clearly one of Tom of Finland's iconic gay men drawings. Double Take: It's signed 'Castro'...Oh, word balloons...An Homage..?No, there's the signature 'Tom'. What the blazes is going on?

Well, here's the thing. This 'illustration' is by Michael Heath, the cartoonist and Cartoon Editor of the Spectator, or at least the 'funny' word balloons are. The drawing is actually by the word famous illustrator Touko Laaksonnen, who used the psuedonym, 'Tom of Finland' (May 8, 1920 – November 7, 1991) .

Now, I suppose I am as guilty as the next cartoonist of 'adapting' the work of others, whether consciously or unconsiously. But the 'cartoons' of 'Castro' have galled me for some time. Not just because 'Castro' must surely be the Cartoon Editor of the Spectator's favourite cartoonist (I counted 10 in one issue), but because I think Castro's method is at the very least an unfair use of other people's work.

As you would expect, I take the copyright of artwork very seriously, heck, I survive because of it. For that reason let me do something that the Independent couldn't do because the drawing it produced must have been a high-resolution (300d pi plus, in order to fit on its page):

My own use of this piece of artwork comes under the term 'fair use' in order to show an example of the work of this artist in this article. It is believed that the use of low-resolution images of works of art for critical commentary on the work in question, the artistic genre or technique of the work of art, or the school to which the artist belongs, qualifies as fair use under copyright law.

Of course I may be wrong. Despite there being no copyright information beside the drawing or the article, all the copyright observations may have been made, and 'Castro' may well have donated his fee to the Tom of Finland Corporation, for the preservation of Gay Erotic Art (sort of brings an ironic twist to an otherwise uninspired column, eh?).

Monday, October 23, 2006

Oh God, wait, something else...

I purloined this from Patricia Storm's site, Book Lust (must stop calling her Book Slut). It's the amended cover of the National Lampoon book (master cartoonist Sam Gross was the original editor, but Jay Naughton took over). Patricia's cartoons are, in my opinion, among the funniest ones in the collection:

Kissing Violet Marlowe

This is a true story. I'm pretty sure I was younger, but I may have been as old as 8 or 9. I seem to have been interested in girls from a very early age. Years later, I met the gypsy girl from my past again. We fought all the time.

Burn Out

Hi Tim Harries. I can't understand why there's no link to you here. I was likely waiting to put it on the Cartoonfeind site and of course I haven't put the newer stuff up on that yet. This is a quick note about why that is:

I think I burned out this year. We had a bit of a medical broo-haha which was a great strain, and then my wife, who is a teacher, was on her Summer break, and well, I kind of joined in. Honestly, I was off for so long I was beginning to feel like a politician - except that they get paid for doing bugger all.

I've only really started work again this month, October. But to be honest I think I needed the rest. As a result I am healthier, I think, but as fat as a horse and as poor as a church mouse. I won't be taking that sort of extended break again unless it is forced on me (or unless I become a politician). Circumstances! They do say 'if you want to make God laugh, make a plan'.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Creating History

You know, I've been working on a semi-autobiographical story for a while now, years actually, and it isn't really autobiographical - it just has bits of my experience creeping into it, which is inevitable. It's quite a large work and it features a lot of local history about Leith and Gilmerton, but I'm hoping it'll appeal to a broad readership. It has been through a number of incarnations, but it's finally starting to take shape.

Anyway, I noticed while I was working on it that I am not too happy about engaging with the period I spent my formative years growing up in, the era when I hit puberty, the 1970s. It's odd, the 50s are nicely retro, the 60s are always cool (bit selective memory there), the 70s though, the 70s were, I think, generally naff. Nobody appears to have existed in them, outside the Top of the Pops studio, or that appalling talking Tank-top show featuring Demi Moore's newest husband.

It certainly seems to be an era that most cartoonists want to forget, possibly because all the really cool cartoonists either swaned around Haight-Ashbury in the 60s, or got born in the 80s. I mean, I know nobody wants to admit voting for Thatcher in 1979, but before she came along the 70s were, well, interesting.

Like a lot of the people I grew up with, I changed practically overnight from one of the herd who wore the bovver boy fashion of the day; inspired by the movie version of A clockwork Orange (not having actually seen the movie made no difference), into one of David Bowie's legion of peacock-coloured fans. I think the Bowie thing scared my parents a lot more than the 'yobbo' faze. At any rate, I thought I'd knock off one or two comic pages about that period, even if they are a little embarrassing.

PS: My other theory is that most cartoonists were what we called 'spares', 'nerds' in todays parliance, and they would rather forget that part of their past.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Michelle Urry, RIP.

You know, there aren't many Cartoon Editors left. They were always thin on the ground in the UK and the Features Editor, who was obviously above such lowly things, usually handled the cartoons over here. I remember there was a good man at The Daily Express/Star, called Gerald Lip, but he was one of the few. The Punch cartoon Editor was, if memory serves, Geoffrey Dickinson and then Ken Taylor, and then goodness knows who else - there was quite a few of them. You know, I suspect the job has never been taken seriously over here, but then neither have cartoons.

The US has always treated its cartoonists better, and has always taken the job of Cartoon Editor, and indeed its cartoonists, much more seriously. Even today, the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, The Saturday Evening Post, Readers Digest and other titles all have a dedicated Cartoon Editor. Playboy did too, and Michelle Urry was the Playboy Cartoon Editor, and boy was she good.

Michelle Urry liked cartoons and cartoonists. She seldom just stuffed a rejection slip into an envelope and seemed never too busy to write a quick personal note to cartoonists who took the trouble to submit cartoons to her. I have personal experience of her trying to talk 'Hef' into buying a cartoon she liked, but he wasn't keen on. She often went into bat for cartoonists and as a result she had a regular and loyal stable of contributors. And she was, in turn, loyal to them.

Michelle Urry acheived many things in her life, but she will be remembered by many of us a great Cartoon Editor, with a great eye for talent. She could speak with great authority on Jack (Plastic Man) Cole (a yardstick of cartooning knowledge if ever there was one) and helped launch Kliban's cats (still making millions every year in revenue). She launched and maintained many a cartoonists career in this every shrinking marketplace, pointing out that she bought $1,000,000 worth of cartoons every year for Playboy. Somehow I think she will be sadly missed, and she certainly won't be easily replaced.

The New York Times Obituary.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


I'm a big Manga and Anime fan. The genre has come a long way since my youth and Gigantor and Marine boy. My current favourite, as both Anime and Manga, is Urasawa's Monster. It's not that new, but the Anime is blowing me away at the moment. The animation is outstanding. It's a horror/suspense/medical drama, and it is superb. Here's a sample Scanlation:

I'm also looking forward to New Line's live action movie of the series.

There are Torrents out there with the complete series, all 18 Chapters, and even translated Anime. We could learn much from the Scanlators (translated, scanned, often reworked so that the pages read left to right) about promotion. The work is made available online for download unless or until one of the main US publishers, Tokyopop, Viz, or Darkhorse options the work to publish it here.

Another favourite of mine, Drifting Classroom is a good example of how this works. The work built up a tremendous following online and was then pulled from the sites because Dark Horse is publishing it in the West. It's not that the work is given away for free online, it's more that the scanlations serve to publicize the work to a broader audience. At any rate, it seems to work.

National Lampoon's Favourite Cartoons of the 21st Century (Plug)

Hi Ciarin, nice to hear from you.

This cartoon was one of my Zingers, you know, the ones I thought would surely sell. Well it didn't, until National Lampoon came along and stuck it in their Favourite Cartoons of the 21st Century - available at Amazon and Play and all good bookstores from the 19th of October 2006. This perfectly formed little gag is also on the back cover of the tome; which is amazingly good value and full of cartoons, including lots by me.

Friday, October 13, 2006

This weekend for sure.

Thank Goodness for Blogger. I'm going to update both this and the Cartoon Fiend blog this coming weekend. My Online Cartoonist site is down and may not go back up, I don't know, I'm in two minds. I may sort out my Blueyonder Broadband space and make that my home. I think it's pretty big.

Be sure to look back in this weekend.