Brutal Reality Strikes Back

IMG_E1407This is what I was really thinking after I delievered my English Capstone presentation on Ray Bradbury. Brutal Reality: 1 Ellen: 0

Bonus Picture: Ray Bradbury!! (Ingore the writing- this is from one of my notebooks)IMG_E1416.JPG

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Thank You, Mr. Watterson

Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I absolutely love Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. I was raised on the comics, learned how to read with them, gained a broader imagination through them, and I still read them to this day. I want to use this post to explain just how much I love this strip and how it has impacted my life. However, I don’t know if the words I have are adequate or even enough to really show my apprieciation for Mr. Watterson. 

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All strips featured in this post are from The Indispensible Calvin and Hobbes (1992). [View Larger]

For quick reference, Calvin and Hobbes is a comic strip about a mischevious, intelligent 6 year old boy and his stuffed tiger. Written by Bill Watterson, the strip ran from 1985-1995 and ran in 2,400 newspapers worldwide.

When I was little (probably about 5-7 years old), my dad would pull out a book of Calvin and Hobbes and read me to sleep. Dad’s only mistake was thinking that it would put me to sleep. Calvin’s adventures and vast imagination filled my head with stories and my own possible adventures that kept me awake. Now, about 17 years later, I’ve begun making my own comic strips and incorporating many things I’ve learned from Mr. Watterson and Calvin.

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Spaceman Spiff is one of Calvins’s many alteregos. Thanks to Spaceman Spiff, I wanted to grow up to be an Astronaut-Princess who piloted her own spaceship and faught menacing aliens. [View Larger]

From his comics, I’m learning how to organize my comics in an asthetically pleasing, yet readable way, how to write the dialogue of comics, and how to turn everyday experiences into fantastical adventures.

I could say here how clever, creative, enduring, intelligent, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and hilarious Calvin and Hobbes is, but anyone who’s read the comics already understands. And if you haven’t read them, stop what you are doing and go read them. I suppose I don’t have much more to say, other than Thank You, Mr. Watterson.

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My take on Bill Watterson’s style. I created this comic in response to hearing a lot of Christmas talk before Thanksgiving. (It’s actually one of my biggest pet peeves.)

The Politics of Cartoons

Note: with cartoons, political = editorial (for the most part) 

In America’s current political climate, many artists have published cartoons that criticize the (political, societal, etc) system. This is not a new phenomenon. The idea of “political” or “editorial” cartoons has been around since Leonardo da Vinci. da Vinci did a series of caricatures

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Five Caricature Heads by Leonardo da Vinci.  https://www.wikiart.org/en/leonardo-da-vinci/five-caricature-heads

focusing on deformities and the grotesque, in which he would dramatize and parody a person or person’s features. Much later, caricatures would become the basis for political cartoons, using allusions (creating context) to satirize and critique the establishment in a single panel.

Many art historians cite William Hogarth and James Gillroy (both living in the 18th century) as the fathers of the political cartoon. While there were many other influenctial artists along the way, Ben Franklin‘s “Join or Die” cartoon is one of the most important (and popular) American political cartoons as it was the first printed in the United States. Franklin’s cartoon symbolized colonial unity during the French and Indian War and was used again during the Revolutionary War to rally the colonies against Britain. This cartoon is of particular interest because it didn’t critique the enemy but turned the finger towards the self as if to say “Why aren’t we standing together and fighting back?” benjamin-franklin

When the 20th century came around, editorial cartoons grew in popularity thanks to the industrial revolution, expansion of newspaper printing, and World War I. With world wide turmoil, there was much to critique including the League of Nations which many people thought was useless.

FUN FACT: Dr. Seuss made several cartoons speaking out about issues such as “America First”, racism and political corruption. lead_960

Today, political cartoons remain popular due to the current American government and the way social media allows artists to share their work with the world. Magazines like The New Yorker and many newspapers still publish editorial cartoons everyday

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Drew Sheneman  Copyright 2017 Tribune Content Agency

which have made waves on social media as well. The artistic style of political cartoons have changed a lot throughout the past few centuries, but satire and change has always been at the center of the art.

This week’s comic is my commentary on the net neutrality discussions. IMG_1393

A Reflection on Inktober

If my memory proves correct, I’ve attempted the month-long social media event, known as Inktober, only once before.

What is Inktober?
During the month of October, artists (of all skill levels) are challenged to create something new every day according to a theme. The rules aren’t very strict, allowing people to come up with their own themed lists or post as much or as little as they deem possible. Artists are not required to draw/post every day if they can’t find the time. The goal of Inktober is to give people a reason or the time to really work on their skills. A drawing a day for a month may not result in much visible progress, but it could help an artist to develop a habit.prompt

This year, I thought I’d join in so I could develop my skills for this comics blog. I didn’t have a lot of time, but I thought the attempt was worth it. I wasn’t able to complete the full 31-day challenge but I did as many as I could. I ended up with 20 drawings, some of which were comics while others were doodles. In the end, it was a fantastic challenge. It forced me to be creative every day instead of once a week. Knowing my comics and doodles would be going on social media, I put more effort into the ideas and the products. By attempting to stick with it and come up with decent drawings, I do think I improved. Plus, I gained some Instagram followers!

Comics Spotlight: Speed Bump and The Argyle Sweater

One panel comics are short and to the point often absurd and pun-derful. With one panel comics, there is no waiting for the punchline and it often lacks a drawn-out narrative. One way to think about one-panels and strips is comparing it to literature formats: Strips are like novels whereas one-panels operate like short stories. While there are several comics like these floating around in the papers and online, two that stand out to me are Speed Bump by Dave Coverly and The Argyle Sweater by Scott HilburnBoth of these comics have an absurd nature to them and take normal concepts and turn them upside down. IMG_E1379For example, Speed Bump might take two concepts, a work vacation, and a sheep herding dog, and mash them together. The Argyle Sweater typically takes concepts, like online dating, and uses characters that seem out of place to act them out. IMG_E1381I especially enjoy these two comics because they make you take a minute to figure it out. While they sometimes rely on dumb punchlines, they often make readers see the mundane in a slightly different light.

Other popular one-panels include The Family Circus, Bizarro, Rhymes with Orange, Cornered, and The Far Side.

With the internet and mobile phones gradually replacing newspapers, many comics have moved online. Some cartoonists have exclusively put their content online and have developed a large following. One of those artists is Doug Savage, creator of Savage Chickens. He uses chickenschickengps2 to talk about very human concepts and it certainly makes for an absurdly funny comic.

Not all one-panel comics need to be funny to be successful. Political/editorial cartoons are often limited to a single panel and use a splash of humor to comment on serious topics. Political cartoons are also usually a bit absurd.

From creating my own one-panel, I discovered that it’s not as simple as it looks. The concept needs to be simple and understandable to a large audience, and you need to deliver the punchline immediately. I first struggled to come up with a good subject, and then I struggled to find the right phrasing to fit it all in. I have a new found respect for all the one-panel artists out there. IMG_1321

Comics Spotlight: Blondie

On September 8, 1930, Chic Young’s now insanely popular comic strip, Blondie, appeared in newspapers across America. It began with a pretty flapper girl, Blondie Boopadoop, and a bumbling, awkward, billionaire’s son, Dagwood Bumstead. At the beginning, Dagwood was just one of Blondie’s many boyfriends, but eventually, the two fell in love. They tied the knot in 1933, in a highly anticipated and memorable comic strip. As a result of their marriage, Dagwood was almost immediately disinherited and written out of his father’s will and “Dagwood and Blondie had to go out into the world and hack it like the rest of us” (Dean Young).

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Before I drew a comic inspired by Blondie‘s style, I figured I’d practice by drawing the two main characters and the logo.

Today the strip is written and illustrated by Chic’s son, Dean as well as head artist, John Marshall. Dagwood and Blondie’s day-to-day escapades revolve around their work and home lives. The Bumsteads have two teenage children, Alexander and Cookie, and a dog, Daisy, all of whom make frequent appearances in the strip. The strip also features the Bumstead’s neighbors and coworkers.

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A Blondie strip from Oct. 25, 2015, which includes characters from other newspaper strips such as Dustin, Zits, and Baby Blues. 

In its early years, the strip’s success led to the creation of several “Blondie” movies spanning from 1938-1950, and a 26-episode TV series in 1957. Blondie was portrayed by Penny Singleton in the movies and Pamela Britton on TV while Dagwood was played by Arthur Lake in both.

I think the strip’s enduring popularity comes from its ability to represent and show the absurd and hilarious in the mundane. While this is the aim of most comics, Blondie does it particularly well as it comes off extremely relatable and makes me laugh almost every time. Another reason I find Blondie so funny is that I see a bit of my dad’s personality (and maybe a bit of my own) in Dagwood. I think the most incredible thing is that the strip has been in print for almost 90 years. I can’t think of any other comic that has endured so long. The creators must be doing something right!

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My comic inspired by the Blondie comics. I wanted to find a way to include Dagwood’s famous sandwiches and it just so happens that I really DO get excited about sandwiches.

A Short History of Comics

 

Ancient Funnies

Ever wonder who created the first comic? Depending on your definition, most scholars agree that the modern idea of comics began to take form in the late 19th century. However, a loose interpretation of comics can be traced back to ancient times.

 

For modern audiences, comics are the combination of words and pictures that narrate a story.

That being said, there is no one definition that encompasses what a comic is. At their core, comics can also be described simply as “sequential art” with a story. Using this loose definition, some scholars, notably Scott McCloud, trace the origin further back citing Egyptian hieroglyphs, Mayan pottery, and even cave art. Having looked at these examples, I definitely think ancient sequential art, especially hieroglyphs act as precursors, but they don’t quite fit my definition of comics.

Simple cartoons have circulated in broadsheets, pamphlets, books, and newspapers since the birth of the printing press. As cartoons added text—often at the top or bottom of the cartoon— and became more satirical, the closer they resembled modern comics. Rodolphe Töpffer is often credited by both Americans and Europe

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One of Outcault’s Hogan’s Alley strips. Mickey Dugan, better known as the Yellow Kid, listens to his new phonograph.

 

as with creating the first comic strip, The Loves of Mr. Vieux Bois in 1837. American comics are believed to have originated with Richard Outcault’s Down in Hogan’s Alley featuring a mischievous child called “the Yellow Kid”. Outcault’s strip was first published in The New York World in 1895 and led to the creation of newspaper strips. Early Sunday comics were full pages, colored cartoons. Around this same time, Japanese artists were developing what would eventually be considered manga.

 

Yellow Ellen

This is how I imagine myself if I were the Yellow Kid.

Join me next week as I explore comics’ Golden Age, Superman, Batman, and many more fun characters!

 

The Love of Comics

From comic strips to comic apps and from comic books to webcomics, comics are everywhere and people LOVE them. But what is it about them that people love so much? Some people read comics for the stories, some for the art, and others for the humor or the characters. Readers may also find relatability is the best part of a comic.  And then there are people who read for the whole package. In short, each person picks up a newspaper, a comic book, or opens an app for a different reason. The beauty of it is the experience is totally unique and personal. Two people may read the same strip and both may find it funny, but they’ll have different reasons for finding it humorous.

Why do I love comics? Simply, I am one of those people who loves comics for the whole package. By combining art and humor, one can tell a story in a way books and TV shows cannot—they are visual and linguistic at the same time. Comics can be both simple and complex or stupid and smart. They have the ability to disguise intelligent themes as something simple and entertaining and can teach you more than you know. People can relate to comic characters when they see a piece of themselves in a certain character or situation. The possibilities are endless.

Why do you love comics?