Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cartooning 101: Storytelling

First off, if you haven't seen the previous post, go check it out and come right back. The image above is the final art that you should compare with the original art that I drew and displayed in the previous post. Got that? Excellent.

Now, this new strip from The Ghost Pirate Skeletons of Three Craters Lake was delayed a bit, and I apologize. The end of the year was full of all sorts of unhappy events, and then the Holidays hit, and well, it's been tough.

Also, I had a wee bit of a dilemma in the story department. I've mentioned this before, probably, but there are different WAYS of telling a story. One way is to plot it all out, and then write/illustrate it. The other, just as admirable, is to plot just a little bit, then write/illustrate, and then plot some more, then write... and so on.

If you are working for an Editor, or doing a monthly comic, then chances are that you are working in the first way. The advantage to this technique is that you know exactly what is going to happen and how everything is going to end, and you can use foreshadowing and other techniques of great literature to their best advantage. The other method, the one I am employing now, allows the story to develop, sometimes in surprising manners!

Bill Watterson of Calvin & Hobbes fame used this technique in some of his storylines, and like me, enjoyed the surprises that occured when his characters took the story and ran with it. Another advantage is that you, and the story, grow over time, and so you can easily add new developments that might not have occured to you earlier. I certainly didn't see the strip with Steven Knight playing with puppets when I first conceived this story, and yet it has led to not only a funny strip but to Steven becoming a part of the story in today's strip, and later, we'll see he is the narrator and author of the story!

A disadvantage is that sometimes the clock runs out and you panic because the story hasn't opened itself up to you! In this particular case, I wasn't sure if it should be Iris in the water, or her father Steven, or a brand new character we haven't met yet. In fact, we might not meet her at all.... I really haven't decided. Adding a new character can be exciting, or it could just complicate things, and make things crowded.

If I was doing this full time, instead of part time, I might have more time to plot, and the strips would be on time more often. :0)

Then again, I have three endings written so far for this story, and even I don't know which one will be THE ONE!

Exciting, isn't it? And that's just one example of how much fun this job could be.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cartooning 101: Techniques and Art

It's harder to find quality art supplies, as more and more people move to the computer for illustration. Many still use traditional illustration methods, such as pen and ink, and some use programs like Photoshop and Illustrator exclusively. Somewhere in the middle, though, is where I am, and where I suspect most cartoonists and illustrators are: using traditional drawing and scanning into the computer for finishing, cleaning, coloring, or all of the above. And why not? Coloring especially is much easier on a computer, as is finishing and cleaning. Cleaning on the computer leads to laziness at the drawing table, so that the days of razor blades and white paint are gone, and your original might be quite messy.

Where does this leave the world of original art? I'm not sure, but I don't see much art out there these days, except of course with fellow Cartoonists. There are a lot of prints, however, since big syndicates have deals with online sites so that you can 'buy a print of today's strip', and many of us have art we are proud enough of to share by providing them as prints.

In my case, I work as mentioned above, drawing with ink, then scanning, then cleaning and finishing and coloring on the computer. I am embarassed to admit that my originals are not always complete, and sometimes I draw all of the panels separately, so that one cartoon may not have a piece of art worth displaying.

The upside of this is that sometimes I can concentrate on one panel and do it up nice, showing the whole scene where maybe the words might once have hid much of it. My strips are often verbose, so I struggle with the challenge, sometimes, of showing enough background to be recognizable behind the word balloons. This can be bad in black and white art, where the background may be nothing but a bunch of unrecognizable lines, unless there is a strong establishing panel for the scene. Sure, I know that this line is the top of a fence, and that squiggle is a tree, and that line over there is the side of a house, but how about the reader? Without room for an establishing shot, the background loses meaning.

With The Ghost Pirate Skeletons of Three Craters Lake, the scene is crucial to the story... at least the Pirate Ride is. To me, the idea of a Pirate Ride is cool, and I want the audience to feel like they can see it clearly. Also, by creating a good panel or two, I can visualize the ride better, and have some nice original art in the bargain. The illustration here is drawn much larger than a normal panel, and without word balloons, you can see the entire scene. Look at the finished product, and you can see how much background disappeared, and how much is covered, and maybe you can imagine how it would have been to draw this around the word balloons.

Extra work, surely, but worth it. I have a nice piece of art to sell or display, a scene I can use later perhaps, as extra art for a book, and a good establishing shot of the first part of the pirate ride.

Speaking of prints, I am making a large map of The Ghost Pirate Skeletons of Three Craters Lake ride, with much of the artwork from the story and website, and it will be available as a print when complete. It's a lot of work, but I think it will make a fine companion to the story.

And so, Happy Holidays to you, and Merry Christmas to those to whom that applies, and yes, I have finally finished illustrating the HappyGlyphs Holiday Card for 2008!

Better late than never, eh?

Have a Happy! JOHN :0)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Another Free Download!

HappyGlyphs Comics is happy to announce a FREE sneak preview of our current The Inquiring Minds storyline, The Ghost Pirate Skeletons of Three Craters Lake!

Sure, you can see the strips for free online right now, but due to the fact that my website is almost full, I may have to delete some strips soon. Also, the Free Download has better quality artwork, some of it remastered, and a new, really snazzy full color cover, as seen above.

The cover is also available as a high quality art print as well, which you can hang on your wall to show the world that you've got a little pirate in you. :0)

Meanwhile, the adventure continues at , where we're rapidly approaching the dramatic climax to this exciting summer adventure!

Free Download available at this link here.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fun With Crayons

Choosing a career that you love is great. Choosing a career like Cartooning can be as much fun as a barrel of monkeys!

As an artist, it's important to keep learning and growing. Developing your own style is vital, but doing so requires a lot of play... er, um, work. Seriously, it's important, and a lot of work and time, but there's no reason you shouldn't enjoy it. For The Ghost Pirate Skeletons of Three Craters Lake, featuring The Inquiring Minds, I wanted to have my character Bobby develop their Pirate Ride with Crayon sketches. That meant that I had to break out my crayons and learn how to put them to good use.

As an artist I've studied and trained with a variety of media, but it's been a while since I've done a pure crayon illustration, and I've wanted to since visiting the Crayola Factory in Pennsylvania. While there I noticed they had some crayon art hanging on the wall, so of course I wanted to create my own.

So, this was my chance. While at the Crayola Factory, I had bought a tin full of crayons that came in some snazzy colors like Wild Strawberry, Hot Magenta, and Laser Lemon. ( I know, they sound like some girls you might meet in New York City) For some reason, those colors didn't work well for Pirates, but luckily I had also picked up some Gold, Antique Brass, and Wild Blue Yonder, which all worked perfectly.

So here are the results, as featured on the next two cartoons for The Ghost Pirate Skeletons of Three Craters Lake. (These two work best as a two page spread, but you can still get the gist of things.) Please let me know how I did, and if anyone knows anybody at Crayola, please find out if they need any cool illustrations for their gallery!

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Truths Revealed and Surprising Insights!

First off, the not so big surprise is that The Inquiring Minds' Big Summer Adventure... which seems to be running through this Fall and Winter as well... was secretly in actuality The Ghost Pirate Skeletons of Three Craters Lake!

Also, not so big a secret... the entire story was inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean! No, not the movies, but the ride, and the pioneering spirit of Walt and his amazing Imagineers that created a truly virtual experience. And what better way to pay tribute than having my characters go through the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of creating their own pirate ride, from scratch?

Those of you who have studied the history of the ride will see quite a few parallels to the creation of Disney's ride, as well as some hopefuly new innovations that I've lovingly brought to the concept.

And now for the surprising insight that has revealed some hidden truths, and some help to those of you Cartoonists who want to create new comic strips. The above strip was a bugger! For some reason, beyond some personal issues I've been dealing with, I just couldn't get this strip together! I rewrote it several times, and redrew it several times, and kept second guessing myself, wondering why I was having such a hard time with what should be a fairly straight-forward cartoon. Okay, sure, the punchline had to be just right... you had to see that Albert's suffering a blow to the ego here, or it just doesn't work. Also, I had Iris origonally drawing with Bobby, and her drawing being equally as good as Bobby's.

First, this didn't work because it removed emphasis from Bobby's drawing, and second, it created a bigger wedge between Bobby and Albert than I wanted to create. Sure, this sense of isolation is what kept Albert from admitting Iris to The Inquiring Minds all along, right? This strip would just enforce that issue, but also pull the story in a different direction than I wanted to go. The kids are facing the Eleventh Hour, and teamwork is needed right now.

Then it occurred to me: Maybe it wasn't Albert's fault entirely that Iris wasn't in The Inquiring Minds, and maybe the answer lie in my difficulties creating this week's overdue cartoon?

Thnk about it. Calvin and Hobbes, Charlie Brown and Linus, Charlie Brown and Lucy, Pogo and Albert, Bobby and Albert.... Hold on. The best comic strips come from great dialogue and character interaction, which usually occurs between two characters. Given the space limitations in a comic strip, that is'nt so surprising.
Picture the famous Lucy pulls the football away from Charie Brown moments... would that work as well if other people were involved? First off, it would be a crowded scene, and second, emphasis would be taken away from the main event. Think of any great conversation between Calvin & Hobbes. Would that scene work as well with a third person adding their insight? Probably not.

And so, the real reason Iris hasn't been a full fledged member of The Inquiring Minds is all my fault. Subconciously I knew it would make better comedy to write for two characters... two different yet compatible characters who could bounce ideas and ideologies off of each other.

Of course, there are times when a third character works, but in many cases it is one character too many. The Ghost Skeleton Pirates of Three Craters Lake has turned into a comic book adventure, much as my Three Knights in India did, so Iris is welcome to stick around. The strip is changing, but there will be times when it will just have to be Bobby abd Albert. In this particular strip, I needed to bring Iris in, so I had a lot of trouble creating a scene which in my head should have only involved two people.

Which brings us full circle... The Pirates of the Caribbean ride had a terrific woman named Alice Davis creating the memorable costumes for the characters. In her spirit, I wanted Iris to be the one creating costumes for The Ghost Pirates. Alice Davis was the wife of Marc Davis, a Cartoonist and Imagineer who brought us much of the visual humour of the ride. Bobby's vivid illustrations are a tribute to the work of Marc Davis and the other artists and Imagineers responsible for the ride.

Hopefully my passion for the creativity of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride comes through in my own story, unique and challenging, and hopefully an engaging tribute to the Imagineers who have given me so much joy and inspiration.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I had a great new The Inquiring Minds cartoon for today, but I'm suffering through a few personal crises, so it is not finished on time. Not to let the spooky Holiday go by without tribute, though, so here are two haunting toons from days gone past!


PS Okay, to avoid being called lazy, I will share with you the pumpkin I carved today. As an added bonus, I will show you a Halloween horror!! It's scary what those darned evil squirrels have done to my other pumpkins, as seen in the photo below! Darn them!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Krazy & Ignatz: He Nods in Quiescent Siesta. A Review

Image from the Fantagraphics website. See more at their site.

Krazy & Ignatz, 1943 to 1944: He Nods in Quiescent Siesta, is the final book in the complete Krazy Kat reprint series from Fantagraphics. From the image above, you can get a hint at the beauty to be found in George Herriman's masterpiece, the eclecticly delightful Krazy Kat. If you are a fan, then this book is a must have, being the last book, and collecting the final two years of the strip.
Along with the strips is what makes each of these books special... extra biographical information about Herriman's life, personal photos, and a reference page explaining some of the words, phrases, and objects that made sense in the early 1900's, but are now forgotten by us here in the future. These historical references are not only useful in explaining the strips, but are pure candy to a history buff like myself. This book contains some fascinating biographical information that explains further some of the strips within.

These strips are all mostly in Herriman's bold colors. His work really speaks to me, and I can get lost staring into his drawings, especially the huge landscapes he created to sit under dark night skies. True beauty that I cannot explain... his pen marks, random squiggles that are actually Native American designs, pure colors in perfect balance, the living landscape itself... I can go on, but you have to see it for yourself. Any student of art is going to learn something from studying Herriman's Krazy Kat.

The only fault I have is in the introduction by Bill Blackbeard. he's a scholar, and we should give him much thanks in his work preserving these strips, but the introduction is really a bit much. Herriman suffered in his personal life, and supposedly had crippling headaches. His work was everything to him, and he continued to work until the end, and his final strips seem very prophetic. I've seen the final strips before, and the last Sunday does show what appears to be Krazy Kat drowning, and Offisa Pup carrying her body away from the water. It's not hard to read into that, and Mr. Blackbeard does just that, going a little overboard in interpreting these final strips. Sure, it makes a dramatic intro, but as a scholar, I believe he loses some objectivity here, and he actually bends the interpretation a bit in his analysis of the strips.

Still, that's my only fault with the book... two little paragraphs that you can easily skip over. The rest of the book is a grand finale to a terrific series. I own most, if not all, of the Krazy Kat books, and this is one of the best on many levels. Many of the final strips I have not seen before, and as Mr.Blackbeard points out in his intro, you can see Herriman's art being to degenerate. The characters become simpler in design, and even their words become simpler. Herriman, the master draftsman with a pen line to kill for, was beginning to lose his art. A tragic ending to a brilliant, and at times controversial, career.

Don't know about that career? Well, I recommend Krazy Kat: the Comic Art of George Herriman. It's my favorite biography ever, full of wonderful art, a look at the early 20th century, and the life of my favorite Cartoonist. The Fantagraphic books then add to this book with the complete strips, and extra biographical notes, and photos and so much more.

I became a Cartoonist because of one image I saw by George Herriman. I learned by studying the rest of them. Any art student can do well by studying this Master. Krazy & Ignatz, 1943 to 1944: He Nods in Quiescent Siesta, is a must have in this regard.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

You can see a very Herrimanesque landscape in this Knight and Day strip of mine... one of many tributes of mine to his art.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Ghost Pirate Skeletons of Three Craters Lake!

Okay, so that's a long title, but The Inquiring Minds are known for their enthusiasm, not their talent for selecting titles. Besides, the title sounds really cool, so I can understand the kid's choice. As Bobby says, though, that's a lot of words for one t-shirt!

So we finally get to the heart of the story: The Ghost Pirate Skeletons of Three Craters Lake is really what the entire Big Summer Adventure is all about. When I was a kid, I was totally absorbed in building the zap-action Pirates of the Caribbean model kit that Disney put out... there just was nothing cooler than pirate skeletons with hooks for hands and clothing tattered with time to reveal the bones beneath... and when done right, the models actually moved! Whack! Down comes the sword! Why they didn't remake those models when the movies came out is beyond me... these days Disney pumps out tons of merchandise that ends up in the bargain bin for $1.99 a few months later, when they really should be concentrating on producing really cool quality items that people would treasure.

Anyways, first there were the models, and then my first trip to Disney World. I honestly don't remember my first time on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.. I was about Bobby and Albert's age, and I'm sure I must have loved it because I love it today. The ride is a truly virtual experience, and it's such a joy to be totally immersed in such an awesome environment that not only tells a story, but gives you something new to discover in every time through.

So, even though Iris is now an official member of The Inquiring Minds (see the recent strips) the idea of The Ghost Pirate Skeletons of Three Craters Lake comes from my love of Disney's Pirates, that I share with my creations Bobby and Albert. The Inquiring Minds has always been about the imagination and fun of discovery of these two guys, so it was only natural that this storyline came about.

Unconfirmed sighting of a Ghost Skeleton Pirate in Three Craters Lake!

I'm having a blast creating this, and hope that you are enjoying it as well. And there's lots more to come, including more terrific landscaping by Bobby as well as his crayon sketches and Albert's never-give-up enthusiasm and Iris' cool head keeping it all together.

Stay 'tooned, and please let me know what you think, eh?

Cheers, JOHN :0)

PS See the whole story HERE at

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ahoy, Matey's!

So there be a slight delay in The Inquiring Minds Big Summer Adventure, but we're back, and hopefully it were worth the wait! I'm on a wicked deadline creating the artwork and cover for a magazine right now, but the comic strip is never far from my mind.

I'm also having thoughts and second thoughts about how to present this storyline, and whether I should post it all online, or finish it and offer it as a print only title, or what to do. The complete storyline with extra art will definitely appear in the upcoming Complete Inquiring Minds comic strip collection, but I'm thinking of putting this together as a special edition comic book as well. After all, the book won't be ready for a while yet.

What are YOUR thoughts? How do you like the story so far? I know some of you are following along, and hope you're still here after the delay, and I'd love some feedback, eh.

Anyway, we're finally getting to the true heart of the story! AS you may have guessed, this storyline has been inspired by Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean... the ride, not the movies. Don't get me wrong, I did like the movies, but the ride is an incredible truly virtual experience, and this story has been inspired by, and will be a tribute to, the spirit of those great Imagineers who created this one in a billion experience.

Much more about that coming soon, and more of the story, of course.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Saga Continues...

Fall is here, but it's still summer in Three Craters Lake, and The Inquiring Minds Big Summer Adventure is in full swing with big changes and big events happening right now!

After all these years, will Iris finally become a full fledged member of The Inquiring Minds, changing the balance of power forever? Will Bobby and Albert ever get this theme park finished and running, especially now that a looming deadline has been imposed?

Don't know what I'm talking about? Read the strips below, and some of your questions will be answered. :0) And if you have no clue whatsoever, then please visit the official home page for The Inquiring Minds Big Summer Adventure for the whole story. :0)

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Learning Curve

It's my busiest time of year, and there are dozens of projects on the board. However, Fall has always been a good time to reflect, reinvent, and start something new. In that light, I've finally begun my new comic strip.

I know, I'm also in the middle of The Inquiring Minds Big Summer adventure, which has a long ways to go yet (although summer's almost over!). However, as much as I love this storyline, the audience hasn't been growing fast enough. I know, school has started, and everyone is busy, but a strip needs an audience, and I need feedback. Also, I'm so confident in this new strip that I need to get it started.

Twice now I've come close to syndication. With this new strip, I am 99.9% sure of it's syndicatibility. I would say 100%, but there's no such thing. Knight and Day might have been syndicated if not for a rival Syndicate offering a strip about newlyweds, and beating us to the punch by a few months. That strip is long gone, while I am sure Knight and Day would have thrived, but it wasn't my decision. The Syndicate made a judgement call, and my life changed... or didn't change.... depending on how you look at it.

Years later, I know what I need to do. I need to write and draw and develop every day until I have an irresistable package to present. I will continue to work on The Inquiring Minds, but at a slower pace. I also have a bunch of Freelance work to do, so I will have to budget my time accordingly. The problem with the new strip, though, is that I am starting from scratch.

Starting a new comic strip is exciting with potential, and frustrating with execution. I've got 2 notebooks full of notes on the new strip, but now that I have started drawing, it all takes on a sense of permanance. Once the characters are in ink, it will take a lot of work to change their look. Every word I put down becomes a part of the story, and the continuity. Exciting, yes, but one must learn not to sweat it. I'm not in the newspapers yet, so if I make a mistake now, I can always go back and rewrite, and redraw. Sure, this is frustrating when you look at the clock and see how much time is wasted. However, a Cartoonist has to look at the Learning Curve. Whether a beginner or a pro, you must see mistakes as the learning experience that they are. Make sure that you learn from them, or they will be a waste of time!

I began this new strip with a Sunday strip. I know... that sounds crazy, and a lot of work, but I wanted to start this right. I wanted this new beginning to be monumental! So of course I am already needing to redraw the whole darn thing, and not because of the characters, or the words, but because this is something new, and I'm learning what size to draw, what size text works best, etc.

I've drawn close to 500 comic strips in the last few years, and yet this is something new. New characters, new situations, and for the first time in years I am drawing with Syndication as the only goal. I need to follow newspaper formats, and it is hard to do, especially with the Sunday strips. Believe it or not, but I think I only drew 2 or 3 Sunday strips for Knight and Day. Back then I had problems, and I guess I avoided those issues at the time, so have to face them now. The Inquiring Minds have a different format, and I'm used to drawing them larger Suddenly, the new Sunday format doesn't seem to fit my paper! I have to draw smaller, and it is not working... yet.

Details. I've mentioned before that creating a comic strip right is not as easy as it seems. And if you want to go somewhere with it, you have to do it right.

I've got to get back to work, so please wish me luck. :0)

See you in the Funny Papers! JOHN :0)

PS Since I like to add art to these posts, I'll share with you the above. I love restaurants that give you crayons and paper tablecloths to draw on (you know, the really classy places). Depending on how slow the service is, you can get a lot of drawing practice in, and lately I've done some work that I'm quite happy with. Unfortunately, I don't always have a camera with me, but I finally got smart and just ripped this on off the table before leaving. Working in crayon is not easy, but I love monochromal sketches like these. Using more than one color just doesn't work for me for some reason, but I like stuff like this. That's Bobby and Albert, by the way, camping.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Public Service Announcement

Two morning's ago, I awoke, rather suddenly, to an explosion. There was a loud noise, followed by a whoosh, a thump, and lots of glass shattering. The sound came from the bathroom, and for a second there I assumed a shelf must have fallen. Why would a shelf fall suddenly? No reason, but that made a lot more sense than my shower door exploding spontaneously!

Or did it?

Research on the web quickly showed that shower doors are made of tempered glass... safety glass to you and me, and the proccess that creates tempered glass can occasionally create flaws that lead your shower door, or the door on your entertainment center, or your living room table, patio table... you name it, to explode. No kidding.

Thankfully noone was hurt, but the internet is full of stories of lacerations and stitches and companies saying "its not our fault... stuff happens".

Now, I don't want to attack anybody, but here's a thought. Car windshields apparently are tempered glass, but have a safety film applied so that the millions of tiny shards of glass do not coat your body in case of a problem.

My shower? Millions of tiny cubes of sharp shards all over the place, which continued to pop into smaller pieces, like popcorn in reverse, for hours.

The question? Why does a shower door not have a safety film? If someone was in there when this happened, there would gave definitely been injuries.

Perhaps safer doors aren't as pretty? Still, where is the responsibility? I'm sure each company has a little sign somewhere on the box that the contractor threw away that says "we are not responsible", which helps them avoid lawsuits, but how about their responsibility to the consumer? Each time a child is injured by an exploding shower door, does anyone wonder how this could be prevented? A car windshield doesn't do this, so why a shower door? Where are the lawmakers?

Who protects us, and where were they when my shower door was shipped to Home Depot?

Ain't life grand? JOHN :0/

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Shaking Things Up!

In today's strip, I vicariously ask the reader's indulgence in fast forwarding the plot a bit, since summer is fading fast, and we have a lot of story to go yet. The idea would have been a great one, except for the fact that we aren't really fast forwarding! This strip was actually a lot more work than if I just told the story in a more straight forward way.

There's another big summer story going on right now, over at For Better or For Worse. Lynn Johnston has been running that strip daily for what? Over 25 years now? I've followed it from the beginning, and in a way will be sorry to see it end. My point is, though, that after that much time, there are occasionally a few not as exciting dailies. She has no choice in the matter, since she runs in your favorite newspaper every day, and I'm sure it is not always easy to plan a long story in a set format. She also has the bonus that she will be back again the next day, and the reader will forgive the occasional dull strip. Overall, it's the story that counts, and overall she does a great job.

Me? I've got to get your attention when I have it, and I was afraid that a few more straight forward strips to get through the next part of the story would not have been exciting enough. Especially when this strip is a week late, and I cannot promise another strip tomorrow!

So, I decided to have a lot of fun with the story, in the hopes that if I'm having fun, you will as well. :0)

Admittedly, it's a bit odd for me, so at the risk of seeming off my rocker, I present to you today's comic strip, puppets and all. :0)

Cheers, JOHN :0)

PS What's on my iPod today, tomorrow, all week? Fish, 13th Star. Fantastic album!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: A Review

I got a gift card recently, and of all the things I could have done with that 25 bucks, I went and bought Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Season 1 dvd, the moment it came out. I don't buy every dvd that comes out, whether movie or tv, but I really love this show. I love this show so much that I wonder if there are subliminal messages within it, to make me love the show? I mean, can the acting and writing and sfx and producing and directing and photography... every bit of a television show, really be this good?

First off, I enjoy Sci-Fi, and always have. Once upon a time there just didn't seem to be enough of it, but it didn't take me long for me to realise that a lot of the blowing up robots stuff was junk, and put there to capitalise off of me and every other little kid who grew up with Star Wars. Even today there is a lot of Sci-Fi that I don't touch, and I would like to think that my tastes now cater to great Sci-Fi... stuff that rises above blowing up stuff, and actually tells stories based on characterization.

So here I am watching a show about blowing up robots, and it is so compelling that I've actually watched the same episodes several times last week, just because they came on and I couldn't turn them off! Sure sounds like subliminal messages, but I'm not susceptible to hypnosis, so maybe there's more to this show?

There is a lot more depth than you might think, and if you can, watch it from the beginning. There really is a whole lot happening, and from the start you can see the sacrifices the characters are forced into making.

You also see the love the mother and son have for each other, despite the difficulties they face. The family dynamic becomes much more interesting over time as Summer’s character (a troubled teenage terminator!)becomes, essentially, another member of the family.

The characters are in a seemingly impossible situation, being hunted down by time travelling cybernetic beings who can disguise themselves as humans, and have the knowledge of an ever changing future. Also in this series, the Terminators are branching out, and actually using strategy. The future is inevitable, but our heroes keep fighting it anyway.

Sarah just wants her son to be safe, John just wants to be a normal teenager, and Cameron just wants a heart. (Yes, Tin Man reference.) The true beauty of the show is in the characterisation, and the actors do it right. How many of us would continue a fight that doesn’t seem to end, that comes back just when you thought it was over, and sometimes comes back stronger than ever?

Imagine trying to be a mom or a teenager or just a normal human being when any minute of the day you can find yourself under attack, and you know that unless you do everything in your power, the world as you know it will disappear in a flash?

And yet the show gives us one thing... hope. As the inevitable future keeps coming, John Connor is learning, getting smarter and stronger, and gathering allies for the fight to come. The future keeps changing, and when it does, the good guys still have a chance of winning. Maybe. :0)

I cannot recommend this highly enough.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Friday, August 15, 2008

100 Comic Strips

Today I am proud to announce my 100th comic strip of The Inquiring Minds! This is a big deal to me.

Okay, so some of you are saying, "but doesn't Take Me Away From All This!! have 226 Knight and Day comic strips?" Well, yes, but almost all of those are black and white dailies. "How about 3 Knights in India then?", the most observant of you ask. "Weren't there 101 comic strips there?"

The answer is yes, so this is the third time a comic strip of mine has reached such a milestone. The Inquiring Minds have been around a long time now, so it's actually hard to believe that there are ONLY 100 comic strips so far. However, right now they are all in color, and over a third of them are full sized color Sunday strips. Also, this 100 strips does not count illustrations, or strips drawn by Brian Hughes, or the dozens of strips drawn of the original Inquiring Minds.

I'm also doubly pleased that this 100th strip falls smack dab in the middle of the 2008 Big Summer Adventure currently going on. I honestly believe that when this is over, the Big Summer event will be my best work to date. I'm very pleased with the art and the writing both, and for me, this is something that's been a long time coming.

The original Inquiring Minds were the first to catch the interest of a Syndicate. If I had been more prepared for that then than I was, maybe the strip could have been syndicated! What it came down too, though, was that the Syndicate did not want a strip that told stories... they wanted gag a day humour. For me, The Inquiring Minds were made for stories, and now, finally, The Inquiring Minds as they are today are getting their chance to tell one heck of a story.

It's fun, and getting funner, and big things are yet to come!

If you aren't up to date with the story, please read through it before reading the new 100th strip below, as it is a culmination of what's been going on so far this summer. But this is by no means the end! Plot twists are a coming! :0)

See the whole story at

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Math: The Necessary Evil

All right, I actually like math, but sometimes the details can bog you down when you'd rather be drawing or something else a bit more fun than calculations. However, as we've all been told, math really is a big part of life. Can you live without it? Maybe. You'll have a lot of problems, though. :0)

Now, I've gone on and on about the importance of learning to do things right, or do things the 'old fashioned way', or by hand. The reason is this: you learn why you are doing things, and in so doing, understand better how to do them. Okay, I'll admit that Paste Up and Mechanicals are a heck of a lot easier to do on the computer than by hand. Any of you taking Graphic Design can attest to that. All of that drawing fine lines in exacting places, and pasting your little registration marks, and all that stuff can be a real headache. In Pagemaker, Quark, or InDesign, you just type in a bunch of numbers, and voila... right?

Wrong. These programs are easy to use, but not totally intuitive. I've laid out several books by now, and of course each of them have to be different... different sizes, different margins, this one bleeds, that one doesn't. My problem is, at least with the current InDesign, I don't seem to have all the options I would like. The printer's specs have changed, and now I'm finding myself trying to change a full sized document midstream! Retroactively, it doesn't seem to be working. The program handles bleeds differently than the printer asks, so I'm finding myself working out the numbers myself, carefully checking that math, and now basically laying out the book on paper, the old fashioned way, and saying bugger all to the program.

So where are you when all you know is the computer and the program? Up a certain creek without a paddle, especialy if you have a deadline, and do not work well under pressure! :0) (I work well under pressure, but my math skills jump ship)

So here I am with my little calculator, my ruler and pencils, and heck, I may as well go get some graph paper, if they even make that anymore. Yep, the same tools that Cartoonists and Designers have used for the last century still do the job just right.

And best of all, these tools work when the power is out. :0)

Beat that, Bill Gates, Adobe, and the lot!

Cheers, JOHN :0)

PS I love my Adobe programs... mostly. I do.

What's on my iPod today? Crash Test Dummies, A Worm's Life and Genesis, Abacab

Monday, August 11, 2008

HELP!! DSL connection not working!!


If you're reading this, and have an opinion to share, then please do. I need some help with my current DSL connection, or help getting a new one. The problem is this:

My Verizon DSL does not work consistently. The biggest problem is one I have not heard mentioned anywhere, although now a few people have concurred: Verizon DSL does NOT work when it rains! What's worse, is that my DSL does not work before it rains, after it rains, or if it is the slightest bit humid out.

I am NOT kidding. I have a college degree, understand quite a bit about computers and engineering, and yet cannot understand why humidity affects a DSL connection. Thunderstorms I can almost understand, but humidity?

At first I thought it was a fluke, but now there is no question, and since this has been a summer of thunder showers, I have been sorely limited in how much work I can do over the internet... it's been so bad that I've even considered suing over lost revenue, but who has time for that?

And NO, I am not bashing Verizon here, and have no wish to. I haven't had any other DSl or broadband or high speed internet service beside this one, so I have nothing to compare with. However, my frustration level is such that if Verizon were to call today, I am sure they would hang up in a second when they sensed how angry I was.

It is now 12:27 PM as I write this in Notepad. I have been trying to get internet access since 7:30 AM. I have gotten access, but it doesn't last long enough to log in and type a password.

Does anyone have any information for me? One, I am curious as to why humidity and rain can cause my DSl to not work. Second, I have a job to do... is there a fix for this problem, or can anyone recommend an alternative? Third, does anyone else have this problem? I'd love to see how widespread this is, and to also know that I'm not nuts. :0)

And please, no company bashing... just the facts, please.

Cheers, and thanks in advance for any help, JOHN :0)

Update: Please read through the comments for loads of information on this subject. Basically, after my land line went down, it was repaired, and my DSL seemed to be working better, and not crashing. That assessment was premature, however, as my DSL still goes down on occasion, but for not as long as previously.

Update: June 2009

I have switched to Optimum Online, and have not had the same problem as before. It is pouring down rain now, and connection is fine. I'm sure the outside lines did have an affect on things, but it is still up in the air if DSL has any inherent problems. In all fairness, Optimum isn't perfect either, but at least it doesn't seem to rfeak when it's humid out. :0)

Monday, August 04, 2008

How to be a Cartoonist

Since I'm already in a mood, I'm going to say something that I've been holding back on. Every once in a while, I get emails from people which basically say, "I've got a great idea for a comic strip. How do I go about creating it so I can be rich and famous?". I honestly don't think I've even replied to one of those emails because a) the person writing wants free advice without a "how do you do?", usually thinks the answer can be summed up in an email, and c) has done absolutely no homework whatsoever.

Now, if you have a specific question, I'm usually happy to answer it. However, I've been burned a few times by people who have 'befriended' me, and then disappeared after I divulged hard earned secrets, so I can still be shy.

What really bothers me is this... today's generation horrifies me in it's lack of ability. When I wanted to be a Cartoonist, I didn't write a Cartoonist, I... sit down for this... went to the library!! Yes, believe it or not, but libraries are not a place to dump your latchkey kids after school, are not places to 'hook up', and certainly not places to sit and chat on your cell phone. They are places, like schools, where you can actually learn things.

When I knew that what I wanted to be was a Cartoonist, I spent about a month in the library, photocopying great comic strips, reading about Cartoonists in their biographies, memorizing books like the Artist's & Graphic Designers Market, and basically learning all that I could... before even sitting down with a pencil and paper to draw! I also cut comic strips out of the newspaper, measured them, and tried to figure out the original drawing size that my favorite artist's drew at. i also started buying comic strip collections of my favorite comic strips.

In short, I wanted it so bad that I invested a lot of time in learning the craft, before even starting. On top of this, I had already taken drafting classes, which I recommend highly, and some art classes. As I became a Cartoonist, I realised just how much I had to learn, like Life Drawing, writing, anatomy, biology, painting, 2-d design, typography... the list goes on. I went to art museums, took classes at the local college, and was lucky enough to be close enough to the Joe Kubert School of Cartooning to be able to take night classes there.

In short, I learned Cartooning the classic, traditional way, and again, I recommend this highly. There are some tht do everything on the computer these days, but I'm willing to bet that most of them learned the old fashioned way.

This consists of thumbnail sketches, rough sketches, tighter pencils, inking on paper with a pen or brush or both, then correcting with whiteout or a razor blade, a neat trick I learned in reading George Herriman's biography. If you draw on two ply Bristol or art board, you can actually cut mistakes off of the paper with a sharp razor and steady hand, which copies better than whiteout or erasing.

Knowing what you are doing by hand helps to do things on the computer better. Computers are a great tool for a cartoonist who knows what he or she is doing. On a computer, you can lay out your panels, do the lettering, make the word balloons, and even draw easier, neater, and often faster. This seems real neato, but look at the result: dullsville. Not always, but there's something about the slight flaws you find in hand drawn art that appeals to the eye. Some Cartoonist's say you're not a real Cartoonist unless you draw with a sable brush, because pen lines don't have the variety of line that makes a good cartoon look so nice.

I'm also a firm believer in doing your own lettering. Your lettering is like your art... very personal, and your lettering looks best next to your art. Other lettering, and computer lettering, again could look wrong, or dull.

Now,do I follow my own advice? No, of course not. :0)

Actually, I try to. I got really out of practice for a while, and my lettering was getting atrocious, and worse, illegible, so sometimes I use Comic Sans, which closely resembles how I learned to letter, so it doesn't look too bad.

I am attaching a Sunday cartoon autopsy, to give you who are really interested an idea of how I work. You can see hand lettering and computer lettering, a thumbnail sketch, and a tight pencil sketch, and the inked art before and after coloring.

By all means, write if you want to learn more. I won't bite, but I also won't answer unless I think you are serious. Do some homwework first, huh? Show some commitment, will ya? And buy original art, whether from me or someone else, because you can learn alot from studying the original drawings and comparing them with the final print versions.

All of this is only scratching the surface of course. Writing a strip, as I've mentioned in other blogs, is a whole other boatload of fish to fry.

Whew. I'm exhausted. Hope you learned something. JOHN :0)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Review: Stargate: Continuum

Since I reviewed Stargate: Ark of Truth here, I thought I would take the time to highly recommend Stargate: Continuum. Of course, if you're already a Stargate fan, and have seen how good Ark of Truth was, then you probably have already picked up a copy of Continuum. Still, here goes.

Stargate: Continuum rocks. The movie brings back the excitement of the early days of Stargate SG-1, when earth faced a big bad dangerous galaxy, and were unprepared. The Goa'auld (bad guys) are scary again, and powerful, and the odds are against us.

Now, I do not wish to reveal any spoilers, so this is awkward. Also, I do not wish to imply that the later seasons did not 'rock', but let's be honest... there came a time when SG-1 had virtually eliminated a galaxy full of superior beings... seemingly quite easily. All that has changed for this movie, and that uncertainty and vulnerability is back.

I knew this movie was going to be great just from reading the back of the box, but do yourself a favor and don't... don't read the box if you haven't, don't read anything about it if you haven't, and get the movie now. There are quite a few surprises here, and they were done very well. The creative team cut no corners, and nothing is as simple as it could have been. The drama is very real, although I wished they had given the movie a few more minutes from what I saw in the 'Making of' featurette.

Again, without spoilers, the movie is exciting... the premise is fun, the action is great, and the big screen budget makes it all so real for the viewer. After Continuum is over, you realise just how close eveything came, and for some reason the drama is much more exciting than in a weekly television series where things 'suddenly' get wrapped up in an episode or two. Here, you have your doubts as to the outcome of the movie, which is a good thing. It's all very 'real', and very exciting.

I cannot honestly say which of the two Stargate SG-1 movies I liked better! They are both enjoyable in their own way, and I hope there will be many more of this caliber. Richard Dean Anderson fans will welcome his 'guest' appearance in Continuum, although I would have liked to have seen him more in the action, and would have thought he'd be part of the excitement of the later half of the movie.

One sad note is that I just learned that Don S. Davis has passed away recently, so Continuum marks his last appearance as General Hammond. At least we get to see him one more time, although briefly, as a character who is as much of SG-1 as anybody else.

Stargate: Continuum is highly recommended for you Stargate fans. Non fans may want to pick it up as well, if you enjoy great Science Fiction. Trust me, you'll be wanting more SG-1 after seeing this one.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Forgive the Delay, Part II, How To Cartoon

Cartooning often goes far beyond simply (ha!) writing and drawing a strip. The time involved in 'busy work' can be quite substantial, especially if you are drawing everyday. This does take away from your creative time, but like the paperwork of bills and taxes and other stuff, it's a necessary part of being a Cartoonist.

How I work right now:
When a new comic strip comes off of the drawing board, it is immediately scanned into Photoshop at high res, where I clean it up and make the image a true bitmap so that the blacks are black and the whites are white. I save the black and white bitmap in case I need a black and white comic strip for some project. I then color the strip in Photoshop, and save the color strip as a large high-res file, again, in case I need it for something. Once an image is finished, you are basically stuck at the current size and resolution. I've made that mistake in the past of creating images for the web only, and then finding myself redoing them from scratch when I needed them for print.

Cartoonist Tip#1: Do NOT try to make a book or other print project with low res images! This is not professional, and the end result will not look nice.

Anyway, in the current case of The Inquiring Minds, I then reduce the size of the color strip to the dimensions of the book I am working on, and save the strip a third time. THEN I reduce the strip to 72dpi (low res), increase the size slightly, add my byline and copyrite, and save it a fourth time for use on the web.

All of this takes a lot of time, but in the long run can save your butt. You never know when you may need a certain strip at a certain size, so plan ahead. Planning ahead is a smart way to run your business, and Cartooning is a business.

It may seem like a lot of work right now, but later on you'll be glad you have options. Reprint rights are a big part of a cartoonist's income, whether you sell the rights to someone else, or make a book of your collected works.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Forgive the delay...

The Inquiring Minds' Summer Adventure continues... although at a slightly slower pace than originally schedules. Have no fear, and a lot of patience, please, as I move into one of my busiest months. However, the recent delay had nothing to do with time, believe it or not.

The latest cartoon in The Inquiring Minds' Big Summer Adventure

When I first thought of this Big Summer Adventure, it was going to be a large Sunday cartoon. Only when I started thinking about Imagineering, and the Disney theme parks, did it occur to me to make this a long adventure. Once the idea struck, though, it poured forth like water from a spigot, and I wrote out about 20 comic strips, to tell the rough story. I say rough because part of the fun of Cartooning, and especially story telling, is letting your characters chip in, and take the story where THEY want it to!

One advantage to storytelling in a comic strip is you may find time to make changes, corrections, or additions as the story goes on. If you've been following along with The Inquiring Minds, you've already met the gang. Iris was supposed to come in later, but I later decided that I wanted to introduce her earlier in the story. That change suddenly upset some of the dynamics of the storyline as written, and suddenly some of the strips appeared weaker. What to do?

I could have drawn the 3 strips and posted them as is, keeping up with my self imposed deadlines, but I didn't think that would be right. I risk losing you, the audience, by not posting frequently, but at the same time, are you going to stick around if the strips are just 'okay'? I don't think so.

So it took me two days to rearrange strips, and rewrite strips, and I'm still not back on track yet! Yes, Cartooning is harder than it looks, folks, and believe it or not, but the writing is just as much work as the art. That's why Artist/Writer partners usually get a 50/50 cut of comic strip profits, unless one is lucky enough to be 'hot' at the moment.

So when you toon in for our latest toon, and it ain't there, please don't fret... just come back again later, or the next day. I promise that even though my schedule is getting heavy, I have a commitment to finishing up The Inquiring Minds' Big Summer Adventure THIS summer. :0)

And it's gonna be good!

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Will Somebody Please Read My @#$%! Webcomic?

Of course, the title could also read, Will Somebody Read My @#%$%! Blog, but that's another story.. or is it?

The World Wide Web of Wonder has so many pages to offer, and so many visitors to offer them to, but like the world's wealth, the distribution of visitors to websites is highly off balance. The philosophy of "If you build it, they will come" applied for about 12 seconds before the big boys shuffled in, and using their wealth and power in the real world, soon began sucking in visitors of the virtual realm.

Oh sure, there are many who have profited from the web, and others who reach many readers without profit, but how they do that remains a mystery to me, and, I suspect, many others. I've been skimming through other comic sites, and I see the question of reaching people being brought up quite often. Today there are more options than before, but the struggle continues. It's funny, but the biggest way people see to advertise themselves is to not just blog, but to get their names on other people's blogs, chat groups, forums, etc. in the hopes that people will like what they say there, and click on the links to their blog.

What this results in, of course, is a slew of people chatting across the web for the sole purpose of advertising themselves, which is frankly dishonest, and annoying. The better of these do so by honestly getting involved in discussions that interest them, and in doing so, present themselves to others with similar interests. The worst of these just show up, say 'read my blog', and annoyingly don't get involved in the conversation. In other words, they're using you, but don't feel the need to hide that!

So, this technique may work, but at what cost? It takes a lot of time to surf around for sites that are interesting enough, and longer still to get involved. I don't have that kind of time! That time could be better spent working, to provide original content for viewers to explore... IF they ever find me.

So what's my point? Read my @#$%#! webcomic, please. Currently, The Inquiring Minds are in the midst of their biggest adventure ever! So far, 8 strips have been produced in living color, and the story is rapidly unfolding. Here's the latest two...

See, you don't know what's going on, but your interested, right? So click this sentence to go to the main page, or click that pretty little ad on the sidebar... yeah, the one with the sheep and the stars... what, you didn't notice the sheep?

Click the ad, please. Read the comics, please. And then come back and tell me what you thought, please.

Thanks for visiting, JOHN :0)

And thanks to you who do visit this site, and take the time to comment. I really appreciate that! Many come, but if they don't comment, I don't know if they bothered reading the stuff that I take the time to write. By commenting, I know what interests you, and can accomodate the discussions more to your liking. Everyone wins! :0)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Schulz and Peanuts: A Review

I just finished reading Schulz and Peanuts, and have to put it right up there with Moby Dick... as one of the most unnecessarily longest and most drawn out books I've ever read. I read every word of it, but finishing it felt like an act of mercy, and I'm glad I borrowed it from the library instead of paying for it. The book basically tells us every word that Schulz had ever had with every person he ever met, and does so in such a way that makes Charles Schulz and anyone who ever met him look like a jackass. I'm not sure if this is what the Author intended, but it comes across that way, and since this is an unauthorized biography, it makes the Author look bad in comparison.

I've been a fan of Peanuts since I was a kid, and have paid tribute to Charles Schulz on several occassions in my work. (two of those toons are included here.) I honestly have not followed his personal life all these years, and have only read the occasional article. His passing saddened me, and in a way I'm sorry I read this book. Biographies suffer from the fact that they rely on testimonials, and testimonials must be, by definitiion, questioned for their accuracy. Some people may say harsh things out of jealousy, others may have faulty memories, and still others may just want to say something memorable to make sure their names get in the book. I love to read biographies, but they do suffer when you realise that very little of what you are reading can be backed up with fact. Saying that "somebody" said "something" clears you legally, but are you really portraying people faithfully? Can you?

Now I never met Charles Schulz, but interviews with Lynn Johnston and other Cartoonists seem to contradict this book. They make him out to be a thoughtful caring guy, where this book forgets to mention that. All of it may be true, of course, but it really makes an uncomfortable read.

Cartoonists looking for advice or information about the business can just forget it. All of this happened so long ago that it does not apply today. Charles Schulz was extremely talented, but also extremely lucky to be syndicated at a time when newspapers ruled supreme, and television was in its infancy. He was also lucky to get involved in television early, and Peanuts have made Billions over the years.

One good thing about the book, is the look back in history. I found it interesting to read about life in the midwest in the early 1900's, and also found it interesting to see what it's like to live life without any money problems. Very unique in that aspect.

The book definitely had some moments, and, unlike Moby Dick, I actually read it all the way through. I did enjoy some of it, but in a smutty way... kind of like reading the tabloids and enjoying the soap opera that famous people make of their lives. In fact, some of it could have been made into a soap opera!

Overall, though, I came away feeling dirty. When people say "let my work speak for me", they are speaking words of wisdom. Learning THIS much detail from anyone's life can be uncomfortable, and not knowing how much is true just muddies the waters further. Do yourself a favor and go buy one of the Peanuts retrospective hardcover collections, instead. You'll truly enjoy that, and be able to reread it again and again. And you'll be able to admire Schulz for his work, like it should be.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Imagine(er) that!

If I weren't a Cartoonist, I'd be an Imagineer... no doubt about it. I should qualify that with 'a Cartoonist running two companies of his own', and explain that part of the job entails the dream of having a syndicated comic strip some day (soon).

Imagineering is probably the path that I should have taken, considering the headaches that come from running my little companies without a large fanbase or marketing team. I spend more time trying to get people to look at what I've done, instead of actually doing, some days! Unlike baseball parks in cornfields, webcomics do NOT operate on the principle of "If you build it, they will come", an require a lot of what inevitably appears to be begging people to come take a look. Much more painful than it sounds... trust me.

I'm currently reading "The Imagineering Way: Ideas to Ignite your Creativity", and I'm honestly getting very little from it. Everything they are telling me are things that I've either learned the hard way through experience, or already possess instinctively. I still pursue every butterfly in the garden, and look at all the seashells on the beach, the same as when I was 4 years old. I've never had writer's block... on the contrary, I don't have enough time to implement all the ideas that I do have! The book does provide fuel for thought, at least for me. I probably would thrive in an environment where others could help out with all of those ideas, and I am sure I would learn so much from being around other creative people.

I have indeed sent my resume to Disney, but it sits in a database somewhere unseen because I haven't openly applied for any specific job. I should probably find an address for Walt Disney Imagineering (anybody?) and send my resume there, and see what develops. To be honest, I'm not afraid of rejection, but the alternative! What if they accepted me? I'd love to go for an interview, and see what they had to offer, because I know I have so much to offer them. However, an acceptance would mean having to make a very difficult decision. Would I give up my personal successes (and failures) and dreams to become a part of a team? For the right job, probably. Maybe. I don't know.

I love what I do, I love my work, my characters, and enjoy working with my clients. I also have a terrific idea for a comic strip, which, when I'm ready, I am 99% sure will be considered by the Syndicates. Then again, Disney has all the things I'm lacking here... companionship of creative people, marketing people, a ready made audience, a budget, free passes to the parks (bonus!), cool jackets that say 'imagineer' on the back... ooh, that tempting list goes on, it does.

In all my boasting, though, I forgot to add my one big character flaw; my need for a challenge. I have mentioned elsewhere that I could have done anything with my life, and succeeded. I chose Cartooning because it seems that it is the one thing that requires the most blood, sweat, and tears from me. It is not easy, and requires so many disciplines and hats to wear, and endless challenges, and certainly does not come easy to me. I suppose being an Imagineer would offer much challenge, as well, but there I would have others to help, to rely on, to lean on.

There's also ego. My creations mean my success, and my failure. It's all mine, right now. I'd love to share that, of course, but right now at this stage, it's me. HappyGlyphs Comics is John Steventon. I've been lucky to work with such a creative person as Brian Hughes, and love the collaborations we have done, but mostly it's just me. When I get that Syndicated Comic, then 'just me' will stand on a mountain top and laugh maniacally, but until then, it's kind of lonely around here.

So, what do I do with that resume? Do I go looking for a new challenge, and wonder what I left behind, or do I keep chasing my dreams, and wonder what I'm missing elsewhere?

For now, I've got too much to do to worry about it. It's summertime, and The Inquiring Minds have some really big plans they need me to help them with. I'm sure that working on some great comic strips will keep my mind away from the temptations of Imagineering... right? :0)

Have fun, JOHN :0)

PS Click on this sentence to see all the summer fun with The Inquiring Minds, in their biggest adventure yet!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Press Release: Biggest Summer Adventure Ever!

For Immediate Release: July 10, 2008

Cartoonist John Steventon and HappyGlyphs comics are proud to announce The Inquiring Minds' Biggest Summer Adventure Ever!

It's summertime, and The Inquiring Minds are not about to rest! Quite the opposite in fact, as Bobby, Albert, and sometimes Iris embark on an adventure of the most grandest proportions, a project so big that it's crazy to assume that it will actually go anywhere. But this is a comic strip, so therefore anything can happen, including miracles. Stay tooned to for the whole story, beginning now.

"This is what The Inquiring Minds are all about", says Creator John Steventon. "I love this strip, but did not pursue Syndication because the syndicates were not looking for a strip that told stories, and I was not interested in a 'gag a day' daily strip with these characters. Finally, I'm taking them on a grand story on my terms, and it is going to be a lot of fun."

For the first time in a long time, The Inquiring Minds will be updated regularly throughout the summer of 2008. Visit often and get caught up in their biggest scheme ever to achieve fame, fortune, and fun.

Here is the first strip to get the adventure started. For reprint information, please contact John Steventon and HappyGlyphs Comics.

Click this sentence to see the rest of the strips as they develop.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Where do Ideas Come From?

So where exactly do ideas come from? The easy answer, of course, is everywhere. With a little imagination, and the drive to look for them, ideas can be found in everything we see and do. The hard part of the answer is that ideas need a venue to be actualised. For a Cartoonist with a comic strip, the characters of that strip reside within us, and when we find the germ of an idea, it is the characters who take that idea into their world, and do something special with it.

In the case of this strip about the annual Perseid meteor shower, we need to look first at The Inquiring Minds. The Inquiring Minds comes from my childhood, and my longing for something from that time... a feeling, a special feeling where everything is possible, and the world is a safe and happy place. I was fortunate enough to have an idyllic childhood (until my sisters learned to talk, that is). This was back when television stayed in the background, and video games were entertaining but not riveting, and telephones and music players and all other gadgets were left behind when one left the house.

As kids we gathered to play sports, or games, or just to get out and about exploring. Exploring was my favorite, and back then we had fields and woods and dusty paths leading to mysterious places. And as a kid there were no worries about Lymes disease, sun poisoning, poison ivy, or... any of the things we adults worry about today.

So, The Inquiring Minds are about my idea of what childhood should be. For this particular strip, I looked at that childhood through adult eyes. I always stayed out late every August to watch the Perseid meteor shower, and still do. As a kid we'd have sleepovers, and hang out all night talking about life, the universe, and.. everything! All while keeping our eyes on the stars for those elusive streaks of light that would suddenly appear above us.

Today? I had to do some menial task the other night, so thought, "hey, why not drag the work outside, and work in the fresh air, while watching as the lightning bugs do their thing?" Right. Within minutes I was covered with mosquitoes, and running for the door. It didn't take me long to mix my childhood camp-outs with my mosquito-bitten attempts to return to that idyll. Counting mosquito bites today was easy to compare with counting meteors back then.

So there you go. That's where the idea came from. Not so easy, in retrospect, but a wonder how the brain puts things together, and so quickly.

Ideas, and comic strips, are expanded by our influences. In this strip, the light sabers came from my buddy Mohan who is a huge Star Wars fan. I wanted Bobby and Albert to have some kind of light source so that the illustration wouldn't be all shadows. A lamp or flashlight would have been okay, but the idea of lightsabers makes it more special. The "Indeed" comes from T'ealc, and Stargate SG-1, and the rest comes from the above situation of trying to enjoy the fresh air of evening.

"Whew!" And that's just the concept! Then you have to draw the darn thing, which is another blog all together. Today's lesson? Cartooning sure looks easy, but it takes a lot of hard work, discipline, and a sharp mind. Maybe some of you will remember that the next time National Cartoonist's Day comes around. (A card would be nice, but an email will do) :0)

Cheers, JOHN :0)

PS If you like The Inquiring Minds, then please stay tooned! They are about to embarck on a very ambitious summer project, and you won't want to miss it. More about that later. :0)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Inquiring Minds Explained

Who are The Inquiring Minds? Well, they're two, sometimes three, kids who seek out all things strange and unusual in their hometown of Three Craters Lake. Actually, they seek fame and fortune through seeking out the strange and unusual, and they are one of my comic strips.

I'm not sure which came first, since both Knight and Day and The Inquiring Minds both evolved from my earliest attempts at cartooning, but they've been around for some time now. Both of these strips were considered for syndication, but fate, and bad timing, led me in other directions. Still, they're good stuff, and worth pursuing in my spare time.

I've talked briefly on Syndication before, and it is something that I will once again pursue, when ready. I'm actually working on another comic strip, but for now, I'm not finished with The Inquiring Minds. The nice thing about NOT being syndicated, is that i can follow my own rules, as I kind of explained in my last post. I am working on a definitive collection of The Inquiring Minds, and to be honest, I have to say that it's a beauty. I love this book, and it is my masterpiece, so far. Full color, and packed with years of material, including my older strips that later evolved into The Inquiring Minds.

Because I am creating the book on my own, I am filling it with all sorts of material, and creating material with the book in mind. I have the freedom right now to draw each strip to a size that fits that strip the best. This explains why the last two strips are radically different in size. Since the new book will be 8.5 x 11 inches, I am using that full space when necessary, so I don't have to force the dialog.

Why should you care? Well, if you haven't read The Inquiring Minds before, consider their bragging rights. A strip has appeared in a PBS featured book about the Underground Railroad, and another strip appears in an 8th Grade literature textbook. Not bad for a part time strip, eh? (There are other accolades, but I have to save something for the book, eh?)

I'm still looking for other venues for the strip, and would love to have the strip appear in a monthly magazine. There's plenty of material, and I'd love to create more, for a magazine willing to showcase a great strip like this. Any offers? I'd love to hear from you Art Directors out there. :0) (Serious inquiries only, please. I've already dealt with one children's magazine whose Editor was VERY unprofessional.)

Meanwhile, stay tooned here and at for more of The Inquiring Minds. For a nice preview, we still have copies of our full color mini-comic for sale at the site, and a web preview at this page.

Cheers, JOHN ;0)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

New Toon

I've been so busy lately, that I haven't had the time to draw any cartoons, which is pretty sad considering that I'm a Cartoonist. My Freelance career has taken me towards finer illustration, and my basic tooning skills have been getting rusty, so... I pushed all else aside and drew up the following. It's important to keep all of your skills sharp and up to date, and that's the excuse I'm sticking with.

Of course, I jumped back into things with a full page Sunday toon, instead of a nice little daily, but that's the way it goes. :0) I drew this at an unusually larger size for me, since the new book I am working on gives me the extra room to play. Sometimes choosing the size of a toon can be the hardest decision when you're a web cartoonist. When you're in the newspapers, you go with the size they give you, but on the web you have freedom to roam. I love books, though, so I always plan everything for print and web.

The inspiration for this came from my Travel Blog. I spoke of a day at the beach, and found myself looking for a cartoon about fishing. Couldn't find one, so I sent the Inquiring Minds down to the lake, and of course, they couldn't just go fishing. No... they had to make a big deal of things, as usual. :0)

Hope you like it! Cheers, JOHN :0)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A HappyGlyphs Primer

New, HappyGlyphs Primer #1, your guide to all that is HappyGlyphs Comics!

This Primer is available to download free, or buy at cost, because we know that once you get to know us better, you'll want to buy our books. :0)

The Primer includes comic strips and panels from our first comic strip collection, "Take Me Away From All This!!", pages and art from our first Graphic Novel, 3 Knights in India, and samples from our new travel and photo book Two Henges, a Hill, and One Long Barrow. There's also some great comics from our full color comic The Inquiring Minds comic book, although in black and white only. You also get the complete The Wolfman of Beckenham, Kent, although with greyscale cover art, and a chapter of our forthcoming illustrated novel, The Inquiring Minds in The Adventure in Hangman's Swamp.

Wow, all that for less than 6 bucks in print, or FREE to download!

You can check out this new book, as well as our other FREE downloads, and great books here.

Thanks, JOHN :0)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

New Magazine Cover

I just received my comp copies of CURRENTS magazine, which not only includes a slew of new artwork of mine, but this is also my third magazine cover, and I'm very pleased with it.

The cover was created in Adobe Illustrator CS3, with some touch up in Adobe Photoshop CS3. I'm becoming much more familiar with Adobe Illustrator, and this new version has some nice features in it that make me rely less on Photoshop to complete a cover like this. Once upon a time I'd need to do a lot more finishing and color adjustment in Photoshop, but I've found transparency adjusting in Illustrator, and other helpful items which have enabled me to create much better work, in less time.

The Statue of Liberty was created first, and in much detail, so that the image could be taken apart and enlarged to create sub images for inside the magazine. This wasn't done, but I am planning on using Liberty herself to make a fine poster.

Something I shouldn't admit here, but since I try to use photo reference for those little details that create realism, I found myself having to pose for the guy on the right waving his cap. I just couldn't get my models to do it right (4 year olds are really hard to work with), so I did it myself, and so there, that's me on the cover of CURRENTS. :0)

After CURRENTS magazine, I created illustrations for my first Annual Report. Yes, the freelance career has really taken off, and I'm hoping to be able to do more high end work like this. For the Annual I created 10 fine art type pieces based on ports of the world, which was really fun considering my interest in travel. I'll definitely show off that artwork after the Annual has gone to print either here or at my travel blog, or both.

And speaking of blogs, I'm thinking of starting a third blog to feature The Inquiring Minds. I'm still looking for a big venue for the strip, so maybe a blog is in order to focus on the strips and build more of an audience.

Magazine Art Directors are welcome to contact me for copies of my work or hiring info. You may also check out my online portfolio , which is currently being updated. And please look at my previous post for a Vector Illustration comic book cover.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

UPDATE: Inspired by posting, I went and finally finished the Statue of Liberty print I mentioned in this post. I also used a 'stained glass' technique that I have been experimenting with, which gives it a unique and beautiful appearance. See the art below, or you can preview and buy the print at my shop.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Free Comic 2008!!

Traditionaly, once upon a time, to a small group of us, May 5 meant National Cartoonist's Day... a day on which folk heaped praise upon their favorite Cartoonists. and thanked them for the joy that they bring others.

For some reason, though, a day of praise for Cartoonist's just couldn't compete with another country's holiday that Americans celebrated with much drinking of beer, and the eating of many Mexican foodstuffs, including heaping plates of Nachos.

How to compete? Somebody, somewhere, had an idea. A great idea. Let's take National Cartoonist's Day away from May 5, and place it on the weekend closest.... and give away FREE COMIC BOOKS!!

Yes, a new Holiday was born, and you, the reader, get free stuff.

Not to be left behind, we here at HappyGlyphs Comics have once again decided to offer you FREE stuff: Our first true comic book story!

HappyGlyphs Comics is proud to announce the completion, and immediate availablility, of The WOlfman of Beckenham, Kent! Yes, it's been over a year in the making! Okay, it's been over a year of procrastination, but we've been busy. But here it is, in full black and white 7 page glory, the first in a collection of stories collectively known as "John's Shorts", The Wolfman of Beckenham, Kent takes you to a small town in the south of England where things are not quite what they seem. There's a mystery here, and it's up to you to gather the clues, and solve it. You'll have fun in the process, we'll promise you that.

So, here it is:

The Wolfman of Beckenham, Kent .

While you're there, you may want to check out our other fine offerings, including the very beautiful cover to our new story, which is available as a fine poster print. Here's a small preview of that cover.

For more of the back story, please check out our other blog, The Travelling 'Toonist.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened...

Somehow or another, I started calling myself an Illustrator, instead of Cartoonist. I've been a Cartoonist for a long time now, but suddenly, my Freelance work has pulled me into new directions, somewhere between illustration and fine art. As much as I hate to admit it, but Freelancing pays more than my cartoon and cartoon book publishing does, at the moment, so most of my time goes in that direction.

The funny thing is, though, that I saw Freelancing as a way to expand myself as an Artist, and especially as a Cartoonist. My cartooning actually improved, for awhile, but now it's so hard to tell because very little of what I am currently doing is cartooning.

Am I complaining? No... I like creating, and mentally, art is art. Creating something that is nice to look at, or has something to say, or both, is very rewarding. And trying someting new and actually succeeding at it? Good stuff. And getting respect for your work, which Cartoonists very rarely get? Nice.

Then again, creating an entire world where your own characters interact within their own continuity, and events that you initiated start running off on their own, well... that's great too. Really great.

And then there's the smell of ink, and the feeling you get when you ink in panel borders and realize that you've just opened a window into that other world, and any minute now your characters will be there to share a laugh.

Yeah, that's great, too. :0)

Cheers, JOHN :0)

On my iPod right now? Echobelly - People Are Expensive