Saturday, June 30, 2007

Playboy Jitters

It must be nerves. I have now inked 8 versions of a rough for Playboy. The Playboy Cartoon Department wants a minor change, but for some reason I'm as nervous as a kitten inking the drawing (What? You thought the nerves went away after drawing for a few years? Nooo). Fortunately I'm using a lightbox so I am placing a new sheet of paper (Bristol Board) over the drawing and inking that. So far I have made copies using a Koh-I-Noor pen, a Rotring Isograph, a Pental brush pen, a Micron, and one of my Manga nibs. I even inked one copy using a Micron, the Koh-I-Noor and the Pental brush pen. I put this attack of nerves down to the iconic status of both Mister Hefner, and Playboy Magazine.

It could be worse, in the old days my pencil drawing would have bitten the dust with the first stroke of the pen. Anyway, I've settled down a little now. I put the job to bed until Sunday when I hope to have fully chilled out.

I can't show you the drawing now that Playboy wants it, but I'll let you know when it's in the great publication so you can buy a copy.

Woody Guthrie Cartoon Tribute

Isn't this just a marvelous idea? The book, This Toon is Your Toon, is the brainchild of Stephanie Piro and John Nolan, and it really is a little gem. It's a worthy cause too, because all the proceeds from the sale of the book go to the Oklahoma Chapter of the Huntington's Disease Society of America.

I am partial, of course, but I genuinely laughed out loud at some of the cartoons and I can, with a clear conscience, highly recommend this publication. The authors' have done a great job rounding up a range of diverse talents from all across the cartooning spectrum, with cartoons from New Yorker cartoonists, editorial cartoonists, syndicated strip cartoonists, illustrators, greetings card artists, et al. The front cover, which is excellent, is by Tom Stiglich and the back by Malcolm (I don' need no steenkin' Bristol Board) McGookin. The collection features cartoons by some of our favourite cartoonists: Mike (Cornered) Baldwin, Isabel (Six Chix) Bannerman, Marek Bennet, Pat (What Would Satan Do - Despairadise - the musical) Byrnes, John Chase, Oliver (Hallmark's Revilo) Christianson, Dan (Hustler) Collins, Benita Epstein, Ann Farrell, Brian Fray, Paul Giambarba, Anne (Six Chix) Gibbons, Steve Greenberg, John Klossner, Kathryn (Six Chix) LeMieux, Mike Lynch, McGookin, Rod McKie (hey, that's me), Ron Morgan, Mark (Off the Mark) Parisi, Stephanie (Six Chix) Piro, Steamy Raimon, Roy (The Humble Stumble) Schneider, Nik Scott, Margaret (Six Chix) Schulock, Barbara Smaller, Tom Stiglich, Patricia Storms, Rick (Soup To Nutz) Stromoski, Peaco Todd, and Greg (Beetle Bailey) Walker.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Email Problems

Just a quick note prior to the weekend's post. My fellow cartoonist Nik Scott tells me there is something amiss with my email so an alternative addy for me is r_mckie(at) As usual replace the (at) with a @.

A special hi to my cousin, Father Andrew Crosbie, who emailed me earlier - although I wish we were talking under more pleasant circumstances. Andrew, in case it is down, try the alternative address. I'll find out what I can and phone you at the weekend.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The late, great, Bud Handelsman, and his excellent family

Bud Handlesman's family dropped me an email, despite the fact that they were, and are, still grieving, to say thanks for mentioning Bud on this blog - is that Classy or what? I was knocked out, I have to say, and for once in a long career of being a noted blabbermouth I was lost for words and felt very humble.

As I said in the earlier post, a lot of we UK cartoonists, particularly those who drew for Punch or aspired to draw for Punch (remember this was the magazine on which The New Yorker was based), were somewhat in awe of Bud Handeslman. It's not difficult to see why, and when I was scanning these Freaky Fables to post them here my wife and my eldest daughter were giggling over them. Back in those days Handelsman had a full page, at least, you see, and not to do a bunch of gag cartoons on a given subject, it was a full page of what we would likely call 'sequential humour' today. This was the sort of sophisticated drawing-style and wit that was only associated with a small, select group of cartoonists that included Britain's Posey Simmonds and France's Claire Bret├ęcher (I gave my wife Claire's cartoons on pregnancy when we were pregnant and she almost laughed herself into an early delivery - you've been warned). It's a sobering thought that both Posey Simmonds and Claire Bret├ęcher have since been honoured by their respective countries.

I'm putting these Freaky Fables, by Bud Handelsman, here so that people who haven't experienced them can see just how good they are. These are from Punch in the 1980s, when Alan Coren was Editor and the magazine was still great (as usual, click the drawing to see a larger image):

Thursday, June 21, 2007

RIPs All Round - Bud Handelsman and David Myers.

I started drawing cartoons for Punch Magazine in the 1980s when I was about 20 years old. In that respect I am still moderately young, but old enough to have been around when my cartooning heroes were being published. Sadly, within the last 7 days, two of my favourite fellow Punch Old Boys, cartoonists with whom I would imagine, in those fledgling days, talking endlessly about cartooning, have passed away; British cartoonist, David Myers, and, American cartoonist, Bud Handelsman .

Handelsman was the sort of cartoonist I aspired (and still aspire) to be, he was sharp, witty, sophisticated, political, socially observant, and laugh out loud funny. I wouldn't just read Handelsman's Freaky Fables, I would actually copy it, from the magazine, onto a page of blank paper. I also copied his gag cartoons and tried (unsuccessfully) to catch his use of tone. He was to me, the perfect cartoonist. I spent hours and hours trying to draw as well as, and to be as effortlessly funny as Bud Handelsman. I didn't succeed, but I learned a lot just trying to be like him.

David Myers on the other hand, inspired me in an entirely different way. His drawings were awful, but they were so funny that I had to flick through the magazine to see if he had any cartoons in it, and if he did I wouldn't eat or drink while I was reading the thing. I kid you not, I have jettisoned food and liquid through my nose at the same time,from looking at a Myers cartoon; especially if it contained a dog, because they are just so funny. His humour not only carried the drawing, but caused you to realise that the drawings were in fact perfect and shouldn't be any other way. From studying David's cartoons I realised that as long as I was daring enough to try, I might just get by as a cartoonist by being myself.
I'll try to find my favourite David Myers cartoon and post it. I'll also look out some full page Freaky Fables so we can enjoy some authentic Bud.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Working With Templates

I've shelved some things to finish my weekly quota of cartoons (as I said, I'm drawing for only a few publications now), so I can now concentrate on rattling off some pages of work.

Personally, I find making a template helps, as does drawing close to same-size; which also makes scanning the drawing into Photoshop on a conventional scanner much easier.

So here's my template, it's on an A4 size (about 11"x8") page, it's 6-panels, and after drawing it with a black pen I scanned it into the computer and changed the line colour to non-photo blue.
Once the template is printed onto the sheets of paper I'm using (high cotton-rag, linen, paper), I can draw on it in a range of formats that fit within the overall rectangle. Because the drawings are quite small I'm using a Koh-I-Noor (Rotring) pen and a Pental brush pen, for the larger panels. After the drawing is on the computer, I fix the 'levels' (the brightness and contrast) which darkens my lines to a solid black, brightens the background to bright white, and makes the blue lines disappear.

Having a planned overall structure such as the maximum 6-panel page helps me plan further ahead, and working to around 9"x 7" allows me to work much more quickly.
Another time saving area for me, in particular, is the text. I'm perfectly happy to use a font and I have no time for any crap about the aesthetics behind it. I've dealt with indy publishers who would rather publish mediocre work that doesn't sell because it has hand-written text, than the most wonderfully written work that couldn't fail to sell, because it uses a font. I'm pleased to say that in at least one case the company went bust, because it was one of the most idiotic business ideas I have ever heard.

Monday, June 11, 2007

London 2012 and the Waffen SS logo

What an absolute disgrace that piece of shit, clunky, SS-like, logo for London 2012 is. I mean, it fails on so many levels it is difficult to know where to begin. Some people have commented on the logo's likeness to some bad 1980s fonts and even it's similarity to some MySpace site designs, but I think it bears startling similarities to a much older design:

Okay, I don't know about you but connotations of the Waffen SS in any signs and symbols makes me distinctly uneasy. You would think, wouldn't you, that the London Mayor, Ken Livingston,given his history, would certainly want to steer clear of that sort of thing.

On the other hand, I hear you say, things are looking up if one can pick up £400,000 - that's right, about $800,000 - for designing a clunky font. Don't know about you, but I'm off to brush up on my Fontographer skills right now.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Can't Draw, Won't Draw

I haven't exactly given up drawing gag cartoons, but I've phased it out for all but a very few markets, about 6 worldwide (I feel I should add here that they are the most prestigious publications in the world, and that I feel they are the only publications left that care about cartoon art and treat cartoonists well).

I'm not finishing the cartoons I draw either, unless specifically asked to do so; I'm submitting pencils only, which they can work with (this is probably why these are prestigious markets, they still care enough about the cartoons they publish to ask for redraws and tweaks and they still use the original art - it may sound old fashioned, but I like working that way).

I'm cutting down on the work because I believe gag cartooning is a trade/craft that is all but dead, here in Britain at any rate. The British market for gag cartoons once included Punch, Private Eye, The Spectator, The New Statesman, almost all the broadsheets, all the tabloids, and almost all the regional press, along with Weekend, Reveille, Titbits, Chat, Woman's World, a range of Trade Journals and special publications like The Weekend Book of Jokes and The Daily Mail Motorshow Review. These days only one tabloid, The Sun, publishes gag cartoons, and Private Eye, The Oldie and The Specatotor are like an old-boys club whose cartoon content would surely come under scrutiny for its nepotistic links by Private Eye, if it wasn't part of that group. The Weekly News pays very, very, weakly, so much so that to sell to that Thomson-owned rag is almost an admission of defeat and they invariably attract only the cartoons that have been refused by every other publication on a cartoonist's list of targets. The new boy, Prospect, bravely tries to fly the flag on behalf of freelance cartoonists everywhere, it simply doesn't pay well enough for the 'New Yorker style gags' it wants (an increased payment of about 700% is needed).

Single panel cartoons by many of Private Eye's piss-poor cartoonists appear in publications like The Telegraph and The Times and The Independent, one presumes because they think, wrongly as it happens, that these cartoonists are the best around (or because maybe the hirers and firers partake of the odd Eye-Lunch), for whatever reason, we are left with newspapers that run graphic panels that are sort of faux-editorial cartoons that are neither funny nor clever, and have probably aided the demise of the craft of cartooning in the UK.

As you all know, comic strips have never been a big deal in the UK, and our home-grown strips are really very amateurish, none more so than the appalling comic strip in The Independent that is drawn by the Editor's wife (wives, friends, Prep-school chums, TV producers, et al, have all done quite well over the years, from some publications, as a result of their cartooning sideline) or The Guardian's Claire in the Community, a comic strip that is now performed on radio - where one at least doesn't have to look at the artless drawings.

I don't know about you, but I have even noticed a reduction in the number of cartoons published by some of my favoured publications. One of the high-paying publications published only 3 cartoons in a recent issue, and there is an equally small amount in this month's issue of another, usual, gag cartoon championing publication. Adding this possible decline to the shrinking space afforded to comic strips in the home of that art, the US, and the rapid loss of Editorial cartoonists in that country, I think the demise of the 3 or 4 panel daily strip cannot be too far away, and that shortly, comic strips will follow gag cartoons into history.

This has been the fag-end of a golden age for cartoonists that started one hundred years ago, and has been a steady down-hill decline, by degree, since the 1980s. Those days were reasonably good even in Britain, where those with talent have often been overshadowed by those with contacts - but that is the same here in any field, and has always been the case.

I look forward to the Manga revolution, and the rise of the graphic novel because having a trust-fund and being able to afford the time to write (it has always been the chosen profession of the well-to-do), or simply having been to Oxbridge or East Anglia will not enable those people to produce this new, popular, literature. This one, I'm afraid, involves a modicum of real talent. The Jaspers and Tristans cannot draw, and no amount of circle-jerk reviews by their old class-mates who have become critics will make their graphic-less attempts popular.

Vive La Revolution.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Trondtastic, Trondgasmic, Trondalicious...

Oh come on, I was a DJ for years, we murdered words all the time to appear cool. Anyway, those portmanteaux monstrosities simply illustrate the fact that I am lost for words. I mean, just look at the drawing above, that provides a gateway to Trondheim's world for Gawd's Sake. Anyway, I was just over at Dirk Deppey's place and he has a link to The Comic Journal's excerpt from this issue's interview with Lewis Trondheim and it is superb (see, what does superb tell you?). I urge you to get the issue for the cover alone never mind the interview, but don't take my word for it, go read it and then to visit his site. I mean now!


Again, from my visit to DD'S Journalista blog, I read that Kevin Melrose has posted the Harvey nominations on Newsarama. I have to say it has me in a complete tizzy. I won't spoil it for you by listing the nominees here, but, the Best Artist and Best Cartoonist categories are too tough for me to even guess at the possible winners. I mean, in the Best Artist category, I really like both Renee French and Brian Fies as cartoonists and as human beings, and I wouldn't want to have to judge, and then just to make it even more appallingly difficult for me, they have my countryman Frank Quitely to compete against. Oh woe. However, with that competition, whoever wins it will know for sure that they are a real artist, and just to be named in that line-up is enough - don't you think?

Best Cartoonist is equally insanely tough, and I must confess to being a huge fan of Jaime Hernandez, Kevin Huizenga and Dan Piraro, who are amongst the nominees. Again, I wouldn't like to say whom I like most, and I'd be happy if any one of these three wins, but I would maybe give it to...nah, that's entirely subjective, let's just wait and see what develops.

By the way, Blogger's spell check doesn't know what portmaneux is, so I outsmarted it, haw!