Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Breaking the Rules

I haven't submitted to the Syndicates in some time, now, but Syndication is still my goal.  As such, I treat my Cartooning as if I were syndicated, and abide by the rules, and try to see things as not only my audience sees them, but as an Editor might. This means that I follow the conventions of a newspaper comic, and go by the inherent rules.

Now Cartoonists are a special breed, and we lke to play. One way I've seen Cartoonists play is with the 'sideways' strip... a daily comic strip (or even sunday) where you have to turn your head, or your newspaper, a complete 45 degrees to read the strip. See above.

Now, I've always hated these strips... often for the reason that the Cartoonist didn't always need to go sideways, but mostly just for the fact that we cater to the reader, and shouldn't make them turn their head just to read our comic strip.

Having said that, I was doodling in my sketchbook recently, and came up with an idea that needed some height to it.  I tossed the idea aside when I realised that I just couldn't do the strip following the basic conventions of a newspaper strip.  Unless... I went ::shudder::... sideways.

The idea stuck with me, until WOW! 

Cartoonists have complained for years about the shrinking of our little rectangle that we get to draw in, and rightly so.  I can't tell you how many times I've felt constrained by that rectangle.  Of course, there's been just as many times when I'm glad it's there, because knowing your limits can help you to quickly make decisions.

Well, let me tell you something... that little rectangle takes on a whole new dimension when turned sideways!  No wonder Cartoonists make their readers turn sideways!  I felt so.... liberated... when I saw all this space, and so excited.  Yes, excited!  After years of Cartooning, it is always fun to try new things, and go in different directions.  And this was fun!  Instead of laying out each panel, I found myself layering my layout as I 'scrolled' down, to keep the focus in the right places... yes, places, not place. Multiple focus points with the two sets of word balloons create a sense of time in one panel!  As you read downwards, time is actually moving, although the image is stationary!

I know... total geek moment, but hey... that's why I love Cartooning.  There is so much to discover when you go outside the box... or turn that box sideways. :0)

Your turn!    JOHN :0)

PS On my iPod today?  The Who, Quadrophenia

Monday, November 15, 2010

Behind the Mask: My Interview with a Costumed Comic Con Character

A Comic Con just would not be the same without those charismatic costumed characters that bravely parade through the shows, patiently posing for fan photos. As a creative type, I've often thought of making my own costume, and going out at Halloween or a comic con, and not let anyone see behind the mask. I think it takes a special kind of person to do so, though... someone brave, outgoing... perhaps an Actor or Actress? What motivates these people? Where do they find the courage?

So many questions piling up, that I just had to go out and ask somebody!

And that somebody was Jen Baker, the woman in my Mid Ohio Con post dressed as Felicia Hardy, The Black Cat.  When Jen posed for the above photo, I took a moment to talk with her, and found her to be pretty cool about everything.  I guess if you're the one in the costume, shyness is not an issue!

I'm honestly amazed at how patient most costumed folk can be at these shows, and how professional they are, and at how much fun they seem to be having!  So, curious as a Cat myself, I asked Jen if she was willing to answer a few questions.  And she did. :0)

John: "First off, Jen. Why do you do it? Why the costume?"

Jen:  "It's every comic book enthusiasts dream to be like the heroes (or villains) that you see on the pages. Dressing like them brings you a bit closer to living out that dream."

John:  "And what do you get out of this?"

Jen: "Dressing in costume really added to the comic convention experience! It's great when everyone recognizes you as one of your favorite characters. You almost feel like a movie star with so many people asking for pictures. It's also a great way to meet people because a costume is definitely a conversation starter."

John: "Do you make your own costumes?"

Jen: "This was actually my first attempt at making a costume. I bought the basic black bodysuit and just modified it with the white fur trim. The hardest part was the mask. I took about 3 or 4 days to make it, and it didn't turn out too shabby."

John: "Nice work... the mask is great!  So when was your first time appearing in public in costume?"

Jen: "I wore the costume for Halloween this year. A few people thought I was supposed to be Lady Gaga! But a surprisingly large amount of people actually identified me as the Black Cat or Felicia Hardy."

John: "How did that come about, and were you more nervous or excited?"

Jen: "I felt a bit nervous at first stepping out in a skin tight costume. The initial jitters quickly faded though, and then it was all fun and excitement!"

John: "Are you into comics yourself? If so, reading or making them, or both?"

Jen: "I've been a comic book collector since I was about ten years old. Comics are one of my great passions in life..they just make me happy! I always thought it would be cool to be a comic book artist, and maybe one day I'll pursue that.

John: "What kind of comics do you enjoy the most? Are you Marvel, DC, Manga... ?"

Jen: "Marvel comics were certainly my first true love, and I still collect quite a bit from Marvel to this day. As I matured my tastes became more diverse. Some of my favorite titles throughout the years include The Walking Dead, Dawn, League of Extraordinary Gentelmen, Watchmen, and 30 Days of Night. I could really go on and on. I tend to follow certain artists too, so whatever they're working on, I buy it. Joseph Michael Linsner, Frank Cho, and J.H. Williams III, just to name a few, will always grab my attention!"

John: "And how do you stand on the issue that some claim that comics are aimed at young males only, and don't address female readers?"

Jen: "That may have been true years ago when women in comic books were mainly used for the 'cheesecake' factor. Currently, however, there are many strong female characters that girls can easily relate to and admire. Sure, there might not be as many girls as there are boys that like to read about superheroes in spandex costumes, but you can honestly find something for everybody in comic books. Vampires, history, religion, aliens...whatever your interest may be, there is comic book that caters to that interest! "
John: "Where do you go from here? A new costume, a new show?  Anything else you'd like to add?"

Jen: "I'm already brewing up ideas for a costume or two for next year. I think I may have found a new hobby in costume making."

John: "Excellent!  Another reason to look forward to next year's Mid Ohio Con.  Thank you so much, Jen. It's been a real pleasure!"

Jen: "Sure thing!"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mid Ohio Con 2010

The Mid Ohio Con simply wasn't my show.

I'm not saying that I didn't have a nice time, but... well, let me explain.  I've been to the San Diego comic con, and well, that's a show on it's own.  I've been to other shows over the years, from small comic book shows to full blown comic conventions, and as an Artist/Creator/Publisher/Exhibitor I probably wouldn't go back to a comic book show because I mainly do comic strips, and material based on comic strips.  I do not normally do superhero stuff, as much as I do like that kind of thing, and my artwork is not in that genre.

Call me a geek, but having Lord Vader and entourage march

past my booth was a totally cool moment!

Now, having said all that, the Mid Ohio Comic Con was more comic book show than convention. There was an awesome Costume Contest, to judge by the terrific costumed characters that paraded past my booth, and there was a tremendous amount of Star Wars material, but the rest was mainstream comic books, and tons of it. So much so that I was bored walking the floor after my first round through.

You may know from previous blogs that I've been to the Baltimore Comic Con the last two years, and I loved the energy of the Artist's alley, and the variety of stuff to see. I wasn't neccesarily 'in' to all that I saw, but the variety was wonderful. Here at Mid Ohio I didn't even see that much Manga! Two booths had some manga, and each had under a dozen books.... more like extras they had lying around. I also looked for graphic novels outside the superhero genre, and saw nothing by Chris Ware or any other big name I would have liked to pick up. I did see one copy of American Born Chinese, but nothing else by Gene Yang, or any other favorite Creator. So... the Mid Ohio Con was not my show... as an Exhibitor or as a Spectator.

Of course, there were a LOT of people having fun at the show, so remember, you're just reading one man's opinion.  I was warned by other Cartoonists that Mid Ohio Con was very small, and not worth going to.  Well, it was not small by any means.  There were a lot of booths, and a lot of people walking around.  There was a totally different crowd on Sunday than on Saturday, which I thought was unusual... apparently people chose to come for one day, instead of getting the weekend pass.  Which may indicate that the show was smaller in the past.

I've seen a lot of Ghostbusters in my day, but this guy really stood out. :0)

Now, if you're local to Columbus, and love comic books, then this is definitely a fun event to attend.  And there were a few celebrities from TV and movies, so there is a little more pop culture than I let on earlier.  If you're an independent Creator, then it may be worth a shot, especially if you do superhero stuff.  And of course there's always a fun time at shows like this... like a rock concert, there is an excitement that comes from a lot of people sharing a common interest and gathering together in one spot.  I enjoyed myself, and met some great people, but I have to admit to disappointment at how many people walked by our booth without even looking to see what we had to offer.

I'll freely admit that a lot of women like my work, and so have been fortunate enough to be spotted by women who have been dragged to comic shows by their boyfriends.  Some have even thanked me for offering something that 'they' can enjoy, which is an awesome feeling.  At this show, though, the women who had been dragged to the show either talked on their cell phones the whole time, or ran by... possibly assuming that each booth was the same, which at this show is easy to understand.

I was very surprised at the lack of browsers!  I mean, you're paying to be at an event, so why not look around?  Baltimore Comic Con is a 'browsing' show, and that's why I enjoyed it both personally and as a businessman.  Here, I was frustrated to watch folk run by without the slightest glance.  Still, I don't believe in a hard sell, so what can you do?

I'll wait and see to determine if I'll go back next year.  After the two Baltimore cons, my internet sales went up drastically.  If sales go up in the next few weeks, then Mid Ohio Con just may see me back again.

Cheers,    JOHN :0)

PS I've added a HappyGlyphs Flickr account!  Check out the link at right for lots of pics, from my Studio to Events to Artwork.  Lots of fun stuff to come. :0)

UPDATE:  Looking through the program, I see there were some panels and other events that I did not know about over the weekend.  Manning a booth means that you don't see everything, although at this show I thought I did.  There were announcements of a sort, but no one could understand a word of any of them.  There were also big names from the comic book industry, including Matt Wagner, who I would have liked to have chatted with professionally, and others that are quite popular.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Cartooning 101: The Process

I do mostly Illustration work for a Client of mine, but I had started out doing cartoons for them, namely Safety Manuals in comic book form.  Now, I am an Artist, so love creating in different media, and really enjoy the fact that I get paid to do so.  However, as you may well know, I have a definite soft spot for cartooning.

Recently, in finishing the art for our bi-annual magazine, I was asked by the designers to come up with an illustration for dunnage.  Dunnage is basically packing material used for large scale shipping... as in cargo ships.  Technically, to those in the shipping business, dunnage may be interesting.  Realistically, it is not.  No one, as far as I know, has created fine art where the subject is dunnage. 

Now, Artists need to eat, and buy art supplies, so most of us do not turn down any opportunity.  However, on the subject of illustrating packing material, I told my Client honestly, that I saw no way to create art about dunnage, and make it interesting. I mean, the object of magazine art is to grab the Reader's attention as they're flipping through the pages, and make them stop long enough to appreciate the art and be inspired to read the article.  I did not see that happening in this case.

So, from the figures accompanying this post, you are guessing that I came up with the brilliant idea of using a cartoon for this subject?  Well, not right away.  I actually did a bad thing, and changed the subject, ignored the request, and knowing that the deadline was passing quickly, figured the idea would be dropped, or forgotten. I do not recommend this technique to you!  In my defense, we were past the deadline, and there were several other pieces to create.  I was up every night from 1 to 4 in the morning for a week past the initial deadline, trying to finish enough art for the magazine to be it's best.

The subject of dunnage, however, returned.  And returned.  I couldn't blow it off forever, so it haunted me until it hit me one night, tossing an turning, the above idea for a cartoon.  Many a creative person will tell you that a little alcohol and some tossing and turning in bed, mixed with the desperation of a deadline, can be inspiring.

Right.  Another Yes-it-can-work-but-there-are-no-guarantees idea.  Actually, a good night's sleep and a sober head should be great for ideas, but when the first deadline passes, and the second deadline passes, and you haven't slept for a week and you need a fine beer to relax, well.. sometimes you get lucky.  You also get ideas like The Statue of David, A Blowup Doll, and a Traffic Cone, which can make you shudder in horror in the golden light of daytime.

Then again... I would never have come up with the Statue of David being packaged for shipping over a cup of coffee.  And honestly, I like it.  David is recognizable to most people, not because of the fine workmanship, but for his nudity, unfortunately, but still, recognizable is good.  The blowup doll, and traffic cone are just funny, especially when mixed with a beach ball, a bucket, and some bags of garbage!

So, the process.  Normally I would come up with a few ideas, but the great fear that my Client was going to make me illustrate dunnage made me crank this out on paper (figure 1) in 5 seconds flat, scan it, and email it within 45 seconds of completion.  Lucky for me the Client liked it.

I then made a more detailed sketch (figure 2) which I then emailed to the Client.  He had already given the go ahead, but trust me.... Clients are busy people, and you want to make sure that they know there is a blow up doll in your cartoon BEFORE the issue goes to print.  Once you have the go ahead, you're safe.  If the subject comes up later, you can pray that the words "But you said it was okay!" will save your job.

Finally, I ink the piece, adding a few extras like the rat, and scan it in.  Color and cleanup on the computer, in Adobe Photoshop, and et voila!  A creative solution to illustrating dunnage.

Now, I consider myself blessed and fortunate that I was able to create a cartoon for a serious magazine. Honestly, I wasn't sure my Client would allow such a thing, but here is a very important lesson!

It doesn't hurt to ask.

Half of my Career has come about from me making suggestions or offering alternatives to the status quo.  And in this case I was able to come full circle, and revisit some beloved characters, by drawing a cartoon.

For me that was a thrill that you just can't pay for.

Thanks for reading,    JOHN :0)

PS on my iPod, The Who, Who's Next.  Why did it take me 29 years to buy this album?

Monday, October 18, 2010

2010 Festival of Cartoon Art, Part One

Three years ago I was living in New Joisey, and heard about the Festival of Cartoon Art that was going to occur in Columbus, Ohio at the Cartoon Research Library.  That's all I knew, except for the fact that as a Cartoonist I really wanted to be there.  At the time I knew little about Ohio except that it was much farther along Rt. 80 than I had ever driven, and that I didn't want to drive 11 hours on my own!  Boring!

Of course, I couldn't find anyone at such late notice who could, or would, go all the way to the mystical (or mythical) land of Ohio. And so... I sent my regrets, and missed out on what I can only guess was a wonderful time.  It's an educated guess, though, because at the moment I am recovering from this year's Festival of Cartoon Art, and it was an amazing time!  The festival was pretty much tailored to my tastes, needs, and wants, so of course it was great. :0)

Lunch with old friends and new!

Let me start out by saying that the festival seems tailored to the a select group of Cartoonists.... until you think about it.  I'd say Syndicated Comic Strippers, but there were also Editorial Cartoonists, and some Underground types, and some comic book folk, and others such as Academics, fans, and people just thinking about cartoons and Cartoonists.  If I had to find a denominator, though, I'd have to say that MOST of us appreciate and even love the origins of the American Comic Strip, and it's Heroes through the ages from George Herriman to Charles Schulz to Bill Watterson, and all folk in between.  It IS a Festival of Cartoon Art, so Cartoon Art is what it's about.

So what better way to start the Festival than with a small gallery of original art from George Herriman's Krazy Kat, and his peers?  The show proved to me two things that I already knew: that George Herriman was a wonderful Cartoonist, and that all original Krazy Kat art is owned by Patrick McDonnel and Bill Watterson!  Well... I do have a Herriman original, but it's not a Krazy Kat. And I do suppose that if anyone was going to buy them up, those two I am sure will take care of them.  And thankfully they do loan them out to museums and such for the rest of us to see. :0)

And see them you should!  If you care anything at all about comic art, you need to study original art, and must see Herriman's art up close and personal like.

But back to the Festival!  Day 1 consisted of three sessions of Academic presentations.  Yes... I said Academic, and meant it.  Comic Art is an American institution, and has been around over a hundred years now, and yes, some of us study it.  Not as much as some of the speakers I observed, but study we do.  Admittedly, some of the talks were a bit dry, and others?  Well, let's just say they really should talk to some Cartoonists before publishing their papers.  Until you've spent some time with a pen in one hand staring at a piece of paper and trying to work out the nuances of telling a story with words and pictures, you simply are not going to have the insight you need to understand the Creative Process of Comic Art.  Honestly, we hone instincts, develop talents, and create our own unique processes that only another Cartoonist can understand.

This is not to say that the presentations were not enjoyable, and some of them did indeed teach me new things about my art.  The third sessions were all about Krazy Kat, and led up to featured Speaker Michael Tisserand, and his talk Searching for George Herriman.  Michael is writing a definitive biography on Herriman that I am really looking forward to reading, which is funny because one of my very favorite books is Krazy Kat: the Comic Art of George Herriman.

The first day concluded with a reception in the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, which consisted of the above mentioned gallery of Herriman art, a cake for Krazy Kat's 100th birthday, and a really crowded room full of Cartoonists, food, and a Garfield statue sitting on a bench.  There was also a board for Cartoonists to draw on, which was pretty much full by noon the next day.

Lynn Johnston sketching on one of the last empty spots on the Cartoonist Board.
Mine is the HappyGlyphs Sheep at the top right. :0)

More to come!  I have a deadline to meet, so come back in a few days for more.

Meanwhile, for a full set of my fun fotos from the event, please see the HappyGlyphs Comics facebook page link below.  There are 23 photos and counting, so far, with additional commentary.

JOHN :0)

Friday, October 08, 2010

Finding Inspiration in the Magical Kingdom

I recently returned from another trip to Walt Disney World, and say what you will, but Disney still puts on a great show.  A visit to the Disney parks can be very inspiring to any Artist, where Art of all kinds surrounds you.  Of course, there are cartoons everywhere, but there's also the decorations, the color schemes, landscape, and their approach to problems.  One such problem would be standing in line for your favorite rides, of course, and so each ride line has unique characteristics that fit the ride, and create an atmosphere of anticipation for that ride.  There are signs, statues, artwork... anything to create that atmosphere, and keep you entertained while standing in the Florida heat.

The ceiling above the Tusker House buffet.
A fine example of Disney's attention to detail.

Of course, one thing an Artist needs to be is a business person.  Even if you are fortunate enough to not have to do your own taxes or marketing, or any of the other endless tasks of running a business, you still need to understand your business, and how to make it better.  Make no mistakes, being an Artist or Writer of any kind is a business if you want to keep doing what you are doing, and continue to grow an audience.

I bring this up because of one important business lesson; know your competition and learn from them.  And yes, Disney is the competition of any Artist, Writer, TV Producer.... just about anything creative. And you can, and should, learn from them. 

Disney is most known for it's customer service, which is very important to retaining business, and getting customers to come back.  Now, unfortunately, I did not experience that Disney magic throughout my entire stay, as some Cast Members were actually quite rude or bothersome in some way.  Normally I would focus on a bad experience like this, and honestly, there were several, which was quite surprising, as I've only had one previous 'bad encounter' in several previous visits.  However, there are so many Cast Member encounters in a single day at the park or lodge, and so many of them were quite up to standard, and several were the above and beyond experience I hope for when I visit Disney. 

My backyard at Animal Kingdom Lodge!
Yes, that's a giraffe, spotted while I drank my
morning coffee on the balcony.
Nice way to spend a birthday. :0)

I stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge this time, which was a beautiful place, and quite awesome to behold.  Vaulted Ceilings crafted to look like wood and rope, and vast windows overlooking a mini savannah where real zebras and once a giraffe wandered around.  The pool as well was amazing, and the gift shop was massive.  Customer Serevice here was very good, and I tested them quite thoroughly as my trip progressed, and unique problems surfaced.  The people at Concierge, and behind the desk, were always very polite, very helpful, and up to solving those unique problems I had, which turned the trip from disaster to good time.

One problem I did have though was contacting the lodge by phone.  For some reason, we couldn't call the restaurants to make reservations, which was very frustrating, and when we called the hotel, we were often passed from place to place until the connection was lost. 

Which goes to show that even Disney makes mistakes.  The lesson here, though, is that they have always strived to address problems, and solve them, and hopefully will continue to do so.  I spent my Birthday in the park, and trust me, that could have gone either way.  The experience was not always pleasant, due to the few rude Cast Members, but by the end of the day the balance was still in favor of 'good time', and so a good time was had.  Especially for me, since I got to ride Pirates and Haunted Mansion several times each. :0)

My Waitress at Chefs Du France, in Epcot, surprised me
with this Birthday treat, and sang Happy Birthday in French.  Tres bien!

One thing I do look for in the parks is books... on Art, Design, Imagineering... and this trip I was disappointed.  In California Adventure there is an Animation Studio store that is loaded with books, and I looked for it's equivalent here in Florida.  What I found was a store full of art and statues, and a handful of books.  I mean, you can have a thousand books on your shelf, but how many statues can one have, or want?

I did find a nice looking book about the Art of the movie UP.  It's beautiful, but surprisingly mostly pictures.  i wanted to learn more about process... storyboards, character design, etc.  Instead, I got a lot of people patting themselves on the back and talking about their awesome trip to South America.  And for a very high price!  However, let's be fair and say Art books are meant for coffee tables and casual browsing, and as an Art book it succeeds wildly.  UP was a beautiful movie, and the book captures that beauty.

So?  Today's lesson applies to each of you.  Treat your customers as you would like to be treated, and then do more.  Address any issues that may come up, whether it be product quality or shipping costs or whatever.  And give the customer what they want, if you can.  Listen to all criticism and work from there to solve any problems that may come up. 

And most importantly, try to anticipate problems, and prevent them from happening.  Being courteous, and listening to your customers costs you nothing, and yet can help you in ways that are hard to define.  The rest of it is hard work, but that's business.  My advice to anyone is make yourself big enough to afford good help!

Of course, that takes time.  Meanwhile, always do your best, and put your best foot forward!

A recent Knight and Day.
A man can dream, can't he? :0)

More Knight and Day coming soon, including some more color Sunday strips! I've already added several new strips, and if you haven't seen them, please visit  I'm trying to improve the website again, so please let me know if you see anything I can do to make things better.

Cheers,    JOHN :0)

PS And even though the savannah wasn't real, I have to admit it was pretty darn cool to sit on my balcony at night and see the hint of zebras walking through the trees!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Baltimore Comic Con 2010

We had two tables at this year's Baltimore Comic Con, as you can see in the photo above, where we're all set up and ready to go.  And things got really busy, really fast!

First off came Poison Ivy and her friend in the Slimer shirt.  Nice folk, and a great start to the show.  Let me say right now that I'm amazed with the people in costumes at this show.  Many are quite creative, all seem very friendly and fun, and patient!  I seriously doubt that I could be that patient with so many people stopping you every few seconds to ask you to pose for a photo.  Yet pose they do, and with a smile. :0)

It is hard to say if this year's show was larger than last year's.  The layout was a little different, and unfortunately I did not get to spend too much time away from my tables.  The crowd seemed pretty big at first, but come lunchtime it all but disappeared, only to pick up again.  There was a big autograph session, though, that pulled quite a lot of people of the floor, but other than that the day was pretty busy.  I met some great creators, awesome fans, and generally nice folk, and sales were better than last year.  By the end of the day I was quite happy.

A close-up of some of our merchandise.

Day 2, however, was another story.  The morning had a different crowd, although I did have some great moments.  One girl asked me to draw on a shoe, and another kid was so enthusiastic about my new comic book that I gave him a free sketch.  A LOT of people seemed to enjoy the artwork this year, especially since I had the second table to display it.  It was nice to see so many people stop for a laugh, and flattering, of course, when they bought a print.

The second table was very helpful in many ways, but expensive, especially when half of Sunday was full of dead time, where there were no people on the floor but us Creators.  Now, I love the Baltimore Comic Con, and hope to go again, but the famous Costume contest, and the Art Auction, and several very interesting panels all took place upstairs, and required pre-registration.  That means there were very few people walking the floor between 12 and 3:30.  Honestly, that was painful.  I did get to talk to some Creative people, and my friend Matt who came to help out, and things did pick up for an hour at the end, but hey... business is business.  A few more sales would have made the trip more worthwhile.  I almost wish the panels were evening events, or at least held at the end of the day.

The fine folk across the way!  By the way, I bought the painting on the floor at right...
looks like Big Ben meets Harry Potter.  :0)

Baltimore is the only show I've done so far, but from what I hear, it is a very friendly and accessible show.  Personally I enjoy being able to talk to so many people, and frankly, every show should have an Artist's Alley like this one.  It's almost like Diagon Ally, or some alien bazaar... with people selling everything from paintings and posters to T-shirts and skateboard decks, and everything in between.  I hear some Artist Alleys only allow you to sell artwork, and not books or anything else.  Here, though, it's very colorful and dynamic, and I'm glad to be a part of it.

Highlights of the show, for me, were seeing old friends again, and making new friends.  Seeing a Ghost Buster carrying a HappyGlyphs bright yellow bag was very cool, as was finally meeting Johanna Draper Carlson of ComicsWorthReading.  And seeing people of all ages laugh or smile at my work is always very rewarding.

I'm still absorbing everything that happened, and trying to figure it all out.  I have to see how things go before deciding what to do next year.  First, though, I am going to attend a few other events and conventions, which I will tell you all about later.  Looking over the photos from this show, though, it looks like we all had a great time!  I know I did. :0)

All the best,    JOHN :0)

What I am listening to?  A Fine Frenzy!

PS Ghost Buster photo by Matt Bucher.  Thanks Matt!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

New stuffs!

I haven't posted in a while because I have been extremely busy creating a lot of new material, preparing for the convention season, and arranging for tons of new merchandise and art for all of us HappyGlyphs Comics fans! In this blog post, we'll try to catch up on these things.

First off, for upcoming conventions I have a new comic book, and some awesome collectible pins!

The Inquiring Minds "Funny Pages" is a full color comic strip collection in standard comic book format. Like The Inquiring Minds #1, this book collects some of the best of The Inquiring Minds Sunday and daily strips, all in full color. The new book has a lot of the same material as the first book (which is being phased out... no new copies will be printed). The standard comic book format allows for a lot more comics in fewer pages, and also some taller strips and artwork.

The collectible pins speak for themselves! If you collect pins at Disney parks, then you'll know exactly what you're getting here; cool pins you can stick to your hat, your jacket, or even a comic con lanyard. And best of all, they're pretty cheap. :0)

I am also expanding to a new range of artwork that is more affordable, but just as nice. The new art prints are decent quality, but cheaper than our Fine Art prints. Sales will determine which direction we will pursue in the future, or perhaps we'll continue to offer both options as well as original art.

So a new book, new art, and new collectible pins! A nice start, eh?

All of these will be available at the Baltimore Comic Con, the Columbus Comic Con, and hopefully others soon. We will also offer these at the HappyGlyphs Comics Shop at after the next site upgrade.

Now, I'm off to put all these new items into inventory! Paperwork never ends, does it? :0)

All the best, JOHN :0)

PS And don't think I'm riding high on past laurels!  Check out for lots of new Knight and Day strips, including color Sunday strips. :0)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cartooning 101: Sunday Funnies

This is for all you Cartoonists who have moments where they feel all thumbs.  A bit of honesty, from someone who should know better by now. :0)

I haven't done all that many Knight and Day Sunday Strips, even though Knight and Day has been around a long time now, and has had several moments of success.  The one thing I don't hear other Cartoonists mention is just how much more work a Sunday comic can be, and how much more difficult... especially when you draw dailies all the time.  Sure, someone like Bill Watterson has mentioned that it took him the same amount of time to create a Sunday strip as it did to create 6 dailies, but I do not think he ever mentioned the reasons!

Yes, it's the same characters and sometimes similar situations, but a Sunday strip is larger, has more panels, is colored, and-  at least in my case... the proportions are different!  Yes, I draw at a different size, which means a new paradigm... squashing your instincts from drawing daily after daily, and getting yourself to fit different sized panels.

So?  What to do?

When faced with a problem, the first thing you should do is... Face the Problem!  Avoiding it doesn't make it go away, so when I returned to Knight and Day recently I decided to tackle not one, but two Sunday Strips in a row.  This way the struggles with the first weren't wasted, and the paradigm shift was extended to the second strip making it that much easier... and blessedly faster!

So short post from me (bonus for you) and TWO, count them, two Sunday Strips from Knight and Day for you to enjoy.

Both show the reason for the title Knight and Day... the differences between the two main characters and how they see the world.  And the nice thing about a Sunday Strip is there is more room for dialog, and hence more room for me to demonstrate their different views.

And even though I have a mess of dailies to draw, I just came out with another great Sunday idea, this time featuring their daughter Iris, of The Inquiring Minds fame.

Stay tooned for that, and as always, please let me know what you think!  Your feedback means the world to me.    JOHN :0)

On my iPod?  "Uncorked", the new Live album from Al Stewart.  Fantastic!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

10 Years and Going Strong

Today is Free Comic Book Day!  It would also probably have been National Cartoonist's Day if Cinco de Mayo hadn't come along at the same time with its offers of drunken revelery, which someone held more appeal than offering best wishes to the Cartoonists who bring smiles to your faces.  Today, though, is even more special to me... it marks the 10th Anniversary of my comic strip Knight and Day, and my first website.

So, basically, today is the 10th Anniversary of HappyGlyphs Comics.  No, I didn't call it that back then, but that is when it all began.  The HappyGlyphs Sheep was there, and Knight and Day debuted, so it works for me.

That's funny, I just posted my very first strip from back then, and sure enough it has the date on it.  Proof positive. :0)

So, yes, it all began with that strip.  Not the very first strip I drew of Knight and Day, but the one I thought would start the strip best in the public eye.

I think it is extremely appropriate that my latest book "Once Upon A Times..." debuted this year.  That book, which is now available at the usual places, marks the 10 years I spent developing my skills as a Cartoonist, and shows all of the comic strips and Syndicate submissions that led up to Knight and Day.  Knight and Day is such a great strip because of all that great stuff that came before, including precursors to Knight and Day and The Inquiring Minds.

Yesterday's all new Knight and Day.

Very few people ever saw the strips in Once Upon A Times..., except for the people at the Syndicate offices, and a few friends.  At the time, I hadn't known a lot about the web, or making a website, and so even though I experimented, it wasn't until Knight and Day was debuted that I became what would later be called a WebCartoonist.

Now it's ten years later, and a lot has happened in that time.  Knight and Day and The Inquiring Minds have both earned accolades, such as last year's Comic Strip Superstar contest and the much earlier Comic Strip Cutting Edge program.  Both strips are still going strong, although my freelance career has had to come first.  You'll be seeing a lot more of both strips this year, as I attempt to grow HappyGlyphs Comics to the next step.  And hopefully we'll be wishing Steve and Amy a happy 10th Anniversary as well! The story is being written... :0)

Wish me luck, and please stay 'tooned!

JOHN :0)

On my iPod.... Defying Gravity... Possibly one of the greatest Sci Fi shows of all time.  Not kidding.  Check it out!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dissecting Avatar

Okay, chances are you've seen the movie Avatar by now. If you haven't, chances are you will if yo like Sci Fi movies, or just see all the summer blockbusters.  There's a lot going on here, including some awesome special affects, so the movie is worth seeing.  My question is: could it have been better?

First off there are a lot of premises we must dismiss, if you , like me, like to analyze things too much.  As a writer and creator, I haven't had the opportunity to work on anything this large, with so many people involved.  We all know that when Studio heads and money people get involved, they all like to give their opinions on how 'their' movies should be made.  Having no creative or artistic sense does not stop them from calling the shots.  With that in mind, I will not blame James Cameron for any of the movies shortcomings.

Any SciFi Geek is going to have similar initial concerns with this film.  First off, we travel a few solar systems away (not too many because the journey only takes 6 years!) and what do we find? Humanoids that are next generation aliens from the original Star Trek series!  Yes, 2 eyes, a nose, the whole bilateral symmetry thing.  Just blue skin and a tail.... so Star Trek, huh?  Now here is where a problem comes in.  I only saw the film once, but it sure looked like every other creature on Pandora has 4 arms, two legs, and 4 eyes!!  Why are the Pandorans so different, and so much like us?  Well, Jean Luc Picard may suggest that once upon a time an alien race spread genetic seeds across the galaxy, or maybe some other outside force stepped in to change the evolution of the Pandorans.

Fine.  You don't need to worry about genetics and evolution to enjoy this film, but these things give me pause.  Next!  On this planet we find an impossible element that we absolutely must have because it is very expensive!  Okay, that's baby talk for what they should have pointed out instead, which is that this is a rock that obviously defies gravity!  Now, it probably can never exist, but lets move beyond that as well.  A rock like that would revolutionize the entire transport industry, including space travel.  So yeah, it's special. Unfortunately, the largest deposit of it just happens to be beneath the home of our friendly indiginous species.

Okay, so if you've watched a handful of movies in the last 50 years, you've already seen this plot half a dozen times.   Nice Aliens live on land rich in resources, so bad military types come and push them off said land using excessive force.  Now, the first 50 times we saw this plot we cheered the Writers for being so brave to show parallels with the conquest of the United States, and how, even after we pushed the natives onto reservations, we pushed them again when those reservations were found to have oil or anything else we wanted.  As important as it is to remember History to avoid repeating it, well.... we've seen it before.  And how do military types feel being portrayed as the bad guys in a film like this?

Okay, so let's move beyond the premise, plot, and background and go to the love story.  Again, I honestly think they babied things too much, or left to much for us to assume.  Like the floating rock, I think there should have been more emphasis on the fact that Jake has been in a wheel chair for a long time, and now, in his Avatar, can run, skip, and jump again. Yes, we do see this for 2 minutes in the film, but here we go again... young man meets young alien girl and falls in love.... not just with her but with her culture, people, and planet.  These things happen, but would he really give up cheeseburgers and video games to live in the woods and talk to trees?  Honestly?  I think there should have been more emphasis on the time he spent with the tribe, getting to know them.  There is a hint that he's met several other girls in the village, and it is said that he spent several months with these people, but we don't see this, and therefor don't understand just how much he's seen and heard and experienced.  Sure, it must be cool as heck to ride flying reptiles and stuff, but there has to be more to it than that.

At the end, we get the hint that some humans will remain on Pandora, and so maybe Jake will still have a place to go when culture shock sets in and he really needs some earthing up, which will happen eventually.  Heck, my third trip to India gave me moments of basket casing, where I needed 'normal' settings to just sit in and catch my breath... and I love India.  Culture shock happens.

All right, so let's cut this short.  As a Fairy Tale this works pretty well....a morality play thinly disguised as an alien world.  There's enough familiar here that the audience gets what's going on without being overwhelmed by the alienness of it all.  The special affects are incredibly awesome, and the night scenes of the forest alone are worth the price of admission.  Truly this is state of the art, and I wish I had seen it on the big screen, instead of dvd.  The dvd, by the way, has no extras.  Long story...

This is a movie worth seeing just for the fun of a blockbuster film.   As a writer, yes, I would have done things differently.  I would have aimed for a smarter film, but that's just me.  Overall it was well acted, and beautifully done.  Except for the bad guy.  Couldn't we have had some back story, so we could understand why he's such a jackass?  I mean, c'mon.  Really?  Why can't bad guys have more depth?

Cheers,    JOHN :0)

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Press Release: Once Upon A Times... the Early Comic Strips of John Steventon

Press Release: Once Upon A Times... the Early Comic Strips of John Steventon
For Immediate Release: April 10, 2010

John Steventon and HappyGlyphs Comics are very proud to announce a brand new comic strip collection, Once Upon A Times... the Early Comic Strips of John Steventon.  As the title implies, this is a collection of John Steventon's early work.  John is best known for his two comic strips Knight and Day and The Inquiring Minds, and this book explores the origins and evolution of these two comic strips and the characters that reside within.  "This book explores my growth as a Cartoonist," John says, "and follows my various attempts at newspaper Syndication.  There is a lot of fun stuff for the casual reader, and a good deal of valuable information for anyone wanting to learn about the craft of Cartooning."

Basically, the book is made up of chapters defined by John's various attempts at newspaper syndication.  Each chapter contains a new comic strip, and starts out with material submitted to Syndicate Editors.  This includes plot synopsis, character sketches, and cover letters, as well as the strips themselves.  Also included is John's thoughts on the strips, comments received from Editors, and other hard earned information as to why a strip wasn't picked up, and what could have been done better.

The strips are not the stinkers you may expect from a Cartoonist just starting out. "Actually," John says, "I left out my really early stuff, and my attempts at magazine cartooning.  What is here, though, are the origins of my more popular characters, and their evolution through various looks and even name changes.  Some of the early chapters may be a little rough, but I think the humour is very good, and surprisingly there's some nice art here."  By rough, the Cartoonist explained that his early material doesn't follow the standards of the newspaper comics page. "I didn't use the character's names in every strip, and my first strip was an adventure that needed a bigger platform to tell its story than a comic strip.  The reader may wonder what the heck is going on at times, but I do give a synopsis to get things started, and hopefully I can be forgiven for stumbling through my first attempts at Cartooning".

Over all, there is a nice progression to the book.  As the Cartoonist learns from his mistakes, the strips get better and easier to follow, and will hopefully leave the reader wanting more.  For that, the reader can turn to John's first book, Take Me Away From All This!!, a Knight and Day comic strip collection.  Knight and Day was created immediately after the completion of the strips in Once Upon A Times..., and this new book serves as a delightful prequel to Knight and Day as well as The (new and improved) Inquiring Minds that soon followed.

Once Upon A Times... is a must for any fan of HappyGlyphs Comics, and anyone interested in developing a comic strip of their own.  Once Upon A Times... will be available through HappyGlyphs Comics, and Click the store name to visit that site.

Iris Knight, April 10, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fund Raising Update: incentives.

Whether you know it or not, we are at war... war with a disease that is affecting more and more people every day.  We lost Kage Baker last week, one of my favorite Authors, to cancer.  I can list easily a dozen more people I know personally that have this horrible disease, or know someone who has lost someone to cancer, or are taking care of someone with a form of cancer.  In fact, if you do not know someone with cancer, then you are a minority... one of the lucky few.

I hate this disease for what it does to people, and to our society.  It takes from us the people we love, it robs us of great minds that could have done wonders if given more time, and it drains us... mentally, physically... I hate it.  I'm not a Scientist or a Researcher or Doctor, so what can an Illustrator and Cartoonist do, who is tired of sitting by dong nothing?  My answer is this fund raiser.  I am hoping to raise money for the American Cancer Society, and I pray that they are going to take this money and do some good.

So far we have raised $260!  Yay, us!  That's not enough, of course, but it's a start.  I have set a modest goal of $1000, with the hope of collecting more, and the fear of collecting less.  Let me state right away that this fundraiser is not putting anything in my pocket. This is why I chose to go through and to donate through them to the American Cancer Society.  It's all legit, and in the open.  You can see how much is collected, and you can read how much goes to the American Cancer Society, and at their website you can see what they do with their money.  Everything seems to be above board, as they say. :0)

Because I feel so strongly about this, and because of who I am, I have chosen to create special incentives for those of you who do donate through my site.  HappyGlyphs Comics and I have created special artwork that you can see above for a Thank You card, and a very nice collectible pin featuring our mascot, the HappyGlyphs Sheep.  The pin is exaclty like the pins you can get at Disney, except it features my sheep, instead of Goofy or Pluto.  The same quality and collectibility, but different.

Hopefully these gifts will be enough to encourage you to donate to a worthy cause. No, you shouldn't be donating just to get gifts, but it is a great cause, and there are so many places you can donate, sowhy not here?  And why shouldn't you be rewarded for taking your time and your money, and for helping those families who are ravaged by this disease.  Yes, ravaged. If you haven't experienced cancer, you have no idea how bad it can be for the person suffering, and for their loved ones.

Please donate, if you can.  Thanks,    JOHN :0)

PS How can I forget? When we reach $1000 in donations, I will put your names in my hat, and choose one lucky winner to win the original art for the Knight Family in Disneyland illustration you see above.  Heck, here's a scan of the original art here. Ain't it pretty?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Kage Baker, Rest in Peace

I have just learned that Kage Baker has passed away... from cancer, no less.

Kage will forever be one of my favorite Authors, and I wished I had taken the time to tell her how much her work has meant to me. We had corresponded a few times, and each time was wonderful... intelligent and funny, like her. Her being famous, though, I felt like I shouldn't 'bother' her, and so kept correspondence to a minimum. I wish now I hadn't, and in fact I was planning on writing to her soon. Damn my procrastination, and damn cancer.

If you are unfamiliar with her works, I highly recommend the Company series, in which a company discovers both time travel and immortality... but both have a catch. To make a long story short, they create immortal agents throughout time to save and preserve mankind's treasures, such as rescuing scrolls from Alexandria moments before the big fire. Heck, I can't tell you how wonderful these stories are, so don't listen to me... go check them out at your favorite bookstore or library, and pick one up if it gets your attention.

I would say start at the beginning, but In The Garden of Iden, her first of the stories, reviews have been mixed. It's a great story, and sets off a huge story arc with as many plot twists as real history. However, 'some' people say it reads like a harlequin romance. I didn't have that problem at all, and treasure that book as much as any other. My favorite immortals are Joseph and Lewis, so books featuring them are top of my list. Kage does have some short story collections bases on the series, so you may want to start there?

What can I say? I will miss her works, and regret not being able to correspond with her further. I'm sorry that I never met her, and will not have the chance now.

I hate cancer. Kage Baker is yet another reason to fight this horrid disease, and I will be pushing my fund raising for the American Cancer Society even harder now.

More on my fundraiser in a future post. I now am offering incentives, and a contest, for those who do donate. This disease affects so many, and now we are deprived of another great soul. The world is a much worse place without Kage Baker here.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Cartooning 101: Props and Models

I remember as a kid getting a new plastic model kit like the Aurora Prehistoric Scenes or MPC Pirates of the Caribbean model kit with Snap Action! I'd tear open the box, twist pieces from the sprues, start gluing the pieces together, and then read the instructions that say "never twist pieces off the sprue" and "don't glue piece a to piece b or your model will not work" and "paint these pieces before gluing". Well, fortunately I sometimes find a bit more patience now than I had in those days. :0)

No matter what kind of Cartooning or Art that you do, chances are there will come a time when you'll need a model or prop to help you draw or paint something. In the old days we kept a photo morgue of all kinds of people and objects in various poses and situations, and now of course we have the internet where gazillions of photos can be brought up at the touch of a key. Still, photos don't always do it for me. Sometimes you just can't find a certain angle, or a high enough resolution to work out a detail. A solid understanding of how an object is made is usually necessary to draw that object correctly, or having that object readily available for study.
{Update: I've added the above cartoon which I did a long time ago, just to illustrate what happens when you can't find good reference! I had to keep the boat way up front to hide details off screen, and ended up using an unatractive aluminum skiff. The boys definitely deserve better. :0) ]

Well, with The Inquiring Minds especially, I find myself needing to draw boats, and boats are tricky! All those curves and such... and yes, there are plenty of photos of boats online, but I've never been satisfied with any of them. You can buy toys, of course, cheaply, but sometimes toys take shortcuts, are not realistic, or just don't have the details you're looking for. So... I found a wooden model kit...a Do-it-yourself from bottom up model of a skiff, which honestly left me feeling like a dinghy at times. :0)

Midwest Products Co, Inc has a line of beautiful looking boats of all sorts. Now I have a lot of projects going on, but I just couldn't resist "The Skiff" all wood display model, with a skill level of 1. HA! Okay, it wasn't that bad, but there were times I thought I was crazy for attempting this. The instructions are actually very detailed, and mostly straightforward. There are a few places I took notes where they needed to be clearer, but overall the boat came together with a lot of patience, a little cursing, and a lot of gluing my fingers together.

No, it wasn't easy, but it was rewarding. Even though the wood split at one point, and wouldn't bend at another, I had the smarts to work things out... and hope that paint would cover anything else up. :0)

And since my boat is being used by The Inquiring Minds, a few scrapes and scuffs make it all the more realistic looking. Now.... if I could only think of a name? What would two young boys interested in adventure name their boat?

Cheers, JOHN :0)