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Things in Squares

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Things in Squares is a genius name for a comic. What could be more elegant, more elegantly true? For decades, the panel comic has used the things in squares format in the development of a common language widely understood by all of comic reading society.

But Things in Squares, by Cale, refuses to be limited by anything so mundane as reality or common language. In the very first comic the character, nameless faceless every guy, refuses to be constrained by his square and quite literally burns it to the ground. You know from the start you’re in for something very special, and the creator very modestly titles the post lame joke.

Over the course of the series, every man makes incredible journeys through time and space as the result of a a very singular creative mind. He also takes his dogs for walks and goes to the pharmacy and those strips are also the result of a singular creative mind. Everything Cale, the artist, does imbues his work with a soft, dreamy magical realist style that reminds me of Nemo in Slumberland conceptually if not stylistically. The style I find more reminiscent of some animated series. The line weight and colors seem Clerks the Animated Series. The soft, curvy shapes like the Powerpuff Girls.

Cale also in the Things in Squares site publishes the Once I Dreamed comics which are a great social collaboration. His readers share with him their literal sleepy time dreams and he illustrates them in his signature style. The more surreal the dream, the better it works, again just like Nemo in Slumberland.

Beyond the actual comic, the artist does some lovely things at his site. If you’re an aspiring web cartoonist (like, say, me), there are worse places online to make yourself at home. He has a blog where he clearly outlines the formulae that have lead to his online success and does his best to help you duplicate those steps. In the best tradition of artists, he is both constantly pushing forward and paying backward.

If you’re having one of those days and in need of a laugh, I recommend this as a place to go to get that microburst to get you through the next five minutes. Even the dark humor will make you feel ever so much lighter.

Not Inclusion

Brutha, Can You Spare a Home?

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So things have been a little quiet at Camp EaZee lately. I know you would probably think current events have me too down to speak up, but then you would have not met me. I may be down, but I plan to speak for at least three years after I’m dead (note: this is just a when it happens thing. I’m alive and well and writing from an undisclosed location that in no way resembles the island on Lost. Sadly).

No, what’s kept me quiet is my sacred trust of pet sitting for my BFF. I know that there’s this rumor that cats sleep sixteen hours a day , but god the damage they do in those last 8 hours is formidable. And it doesn’t even have to be damage of anything but the mental variety. Cats have their own way of gaslighting. They do things that make you doubt your own reality. Right now Marley, who is a colorful character, is sitting on the heating register and cleaning himself. Is this the kitty version of a hot shower or a bidet? Just what the heck is that about? The heater was already on, so there must be something about the feeling of hot air on one’s bum this little kitty finds appealing.

His mate (as in pal, not literal mate) Mithras does this thing where he goes down to the basement and he yowls. He does this long and he does this loud. Again, the Rorschach thing. I have no idea why he does this. I imagine he’s sad. He misses his owner and he needs a quiet corner to express his displeasure at the universe. I have no reason to believe this. On the contrary, he does it when he owner is here as well. But that’s what my mind imagines. His owner is a musician and he could be just as easily writing her a song. These cats are cryptic.

But creative. This took some skills.

Then there are the dogs. Like many dogs, these dogs are the opposite of cryptic. Their transparency would be laughable if it were in a movie instead of in the kitchen. Ranger looks at the cat dishes about once an hour to remind me that they’re empty. I can (and do) tell him that he’s not a cat. He shouldn’t eat cat food. But he’s a dog and doesn’t speak english. He does speak dog, and the language of dog is “I’ll eat anything that looks like some kind of food substance”. The cats must be practically hand fed because Ranger is a nervous eater.
Finally, there’s Stella. She’s the most loving creature you will ever want to meet. Like many love stories, she worries that she’s not loved so much as she loves. She has giant brown Disney doe eyes and she knows how to use them with military precision. She’s 45 pounds and has yet to be convinced she’s not a lap dog, because she’s a big furry walking hug. If you don’t mind having the world’s heaviest fur stole, I think it’s a role she would happily take on.

Taken all together, all four of these animals are a handful and a half. Because they outnumber you four to one. Imagine having two sets of twins, one pair two years old and the other pair one and it’s something like that. Easily managed if you live in an it takes a village house, more daunting if there are four of them and you have only the two hands.

Guess which one of these is my favorite right now.

For all that, I’m enjoying myself immensely. Not only because these are incredibly quirky, cute, adorable animals and my landlord says “No pets! Grrr!”, but because this will probably be the last time I get to pet sit them. Their owner has had a lot of life changes over the past few years and no longer really has the capacity to care for the twins and the twins. If you are in the area of Utah (ok, so my location isn’t totally undisclosed) and your household (or a friend’s household) would like a super awesome animal that needs some one on one TLC, drop me a line. The more free time you have, the better it will work. Stella, in particular, is about the best emotional support animal you would ever want to meet. I guarantee these animals will love you more than you love them, however much that is.

The Antiquated Art of Satire

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When I was a kid I was addicted to Mad magazine. Which tells you something about my age. We used to have to get our satire at the newsstand before getting that paper copy of the Onion at the student center. I loved everything about Mad. I loved the writing, the irreverence, the detail- but what I loved most of all was the art. I was especially enamored of Mort Drucker, whose insanely intricate cross hatched masterpieces were right up there with anything John Tenniel ever did for Lewis Carrol’s books and it was every bit as iconographic.

Mad doesn’t hold the same audience it used to anymore. I think it’s at about a tenth of the size it was at the height of its circulation. The Onion is more known as a website than a newspaper, the same way Cracked is known for its online presence instead of the Mad magazine knockoff I grew up with back in the day. Bill Watterson took Calvin and Hobbes out at the height of their dominance at least in part due to the declining influence of the funny pages. Aaron McGruder left the Boondocks after a few years for television pastures on animation late night.

But there is one place where I think the best of cartoonists are still practicing their art at the height of their game. No, I’m not talking about the Family Circus, though I will admit that circular frame is pretty groundbreaking for a feature so square. I’m talking about the political cartoonists. These are the guys you see on the editorial page that aren’t Doonesbury and don’t have names even though they have recurring characters. There it is just smack dab on the page, that’s ART.

These troops in the trenches come in at varying skill levels just like any other genre of cartooning out there (and if you have thoughts to share on my level- be kind. I’m new) and the one I’ve been most entranced by is David Horsey. He has been cartooning longer than I’ve been alive- and it shows. His art is every bit as detailed and exaggerated as Mort Drucker’s work and the nuance and insight with which he illustrates make for immediate poignancy. He’s a columnist too (and a darned good one), but the words are almost unnecessary as his pictures are worth about 3156 words.

In the works of Horsey I see the best of both worlds. He is an obvious master with a pen and his lines are confident, flowing and varied. I don’t know his method for color, but it’s obviously done digitally and right skillfully as well. It’s easy in these rapidly changing times to try to cling to rules that no longer make sense, but I admire artists like Horsey who see the evolution of art and hang ten on that wave, holding for dear life. That’s inspirational.

I look forward to David Horsey and other eagle eyed Americans looking out for our interests for the next four years (more or less). I hope someday to be within telescope distance of these great satirists someday. In the meantime, I leave you with this cartoon which I swear is political. Think about it.

Mission Statements

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It’s my intention that I use this forum to write about some of the great comics that artists out there are doing, and I totally intend to do that. Today, however, I want to talk a bit more abstractly about comic art and humor as a tradition and where I hope to fit in that narrative.

What brings this introspection on? Is it the fact that my yearly life crisis approaches in the form of my birthday and I start freaking out about my legacy? Maybe. But it’s pretty impertinent of you to ask, and I’m instead going to focus on the news. Most specifically, Charlie Hebdo. Earlier this week the artist El Rhazoui stated she would be leaving the French satire magazine as she feels the weekly has gone soft on Islamist extremism. If this is the case, I for one cannot blame them as it has now been two years since Hebdo’s offices were stormed by two Algerian brothers who killed twelve in response to inflammatory cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad.

I’m not a faithful follower of Charlie Hebdo and my near complete lack of fluency in French means any subtleties are lost in the translation, yet I don’t know that I could see myself becoming a fan. What I have looked at doesn’t seem to contain any subtleties. Over the top colors, hectic art and what seems to me to be a healthy dose of self righteousness gives me a distaste for what little work I’ve seen. Satire, like so many other arts, is a deadly serious business to the French. Contrast this to the torch bearer of American satire, which is known for taking nothing seriously, least of all Mad itself.

Which prompts the question (boy there are a lot of those today): Is satire what I aim for as an artist? Maybe. A little. I aim to share with you, my dozens of loyal readers, those things that strike me funny. Sure there is some rooting in the real world, but my head has never spent a whole lot of time there. I hope to be more Charles Addams or Gary Larson than El Rhazoui or Mort Drucker. Of course, anyone who tries to make a joke can always draw the ire of someone somewhere. Gary Larson once drew a cartoon about Jane Goodall that was hated by all her fans and ironically loved by Jane Goodall. I see this as the opposite of the situation where Mr. Sulu was made a gay character in the new Star Trek universe to “honor” George Takei against his wishes.

If I have any end goal in my mind of my artistic hopes and dreams, it would be to do at least one comic that equals Garry Trudeau at his prime. During the Vietnam War, Doonesbury approached the most serious subjects known to man with such a gentle good humor that the strip never actually achieved having a villain. How could you not have a soft spot in your heart for Phred the Terrorist? The same essential harmlessness was embodied in Bloom County, though the emotions, in comparison to Doonesbury, went up to 11.

What do I want to do as a cartoonist? I want to be able to talk about things I think are weird or funny or stupid or interesting and, regardless of your feelings on the joke, I want you to think Martin is a nice guy. I might have a few issues to work out, but as far as I can see, I’m in the best place to do it.

What do some of you look for in a comic strip? Drop in and I’ll give you a figurative penny for your thoughts.

Garfield Plus Martin

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I don’t know what the weather has been like in your neck of the woods, but here in Utah we have snow and cold and more snow and cold. It’s been a good week to crawl in bed and stay there. So I did. It made me think of the snow days of yore. The days where just looking out the window made me go ick and I would curl up with a pile of comics. The start of my love affair, if you will.

I was addicted in those heady days, to Garfield. Maybe because as a housebound minor those books were the easiest to get my hands on. I had a huge stack of them you would always get from Scholastic book fairs. It was from Garfield that I learned the art of a snappy retort, along with the efforts of one Mr. Al Jaffee. It was from my parents that I (reeeeally) eventually learned to put a sock in it.

For my whole childhood, I thought I was Garfield. The no nonsense Monday hating cat who was continually bested by life but too jaded and lazy to really care. It wasn’t until I saw the work of Dan Walsh that I realized that I had never known how much Jon Arbuckle lived in my head. That was the magic of the world of Garfield Minus Garfield, a comic strip starring Jon Arbuckle and only Jon Arbuckle.

It would be easy to dismiss Walsh’s efforts as not art as the legwork is initially produced by Garfield author Jim Davis, but that overlooks the genius of Walsh’s brilliant theme as well as his attention to detail in the seamless removal of all traces of the feisty feline. By removing the titular character from such a succinct medium, he produces a surreal and existential view of life you might expect from a Tom Stoppard or Samuel Beckett.

In this digital age, it’s hard to draw the line between what is art and what is appropriation. For every Walsh with a supportive backing of a muse like Davis, there’s a Bill Watterson that has to look at a bootleg Calvin peeing on a pickup every time he leaves the house. For every thousand boring memes there’s a James Fridman who surprises us all with a view on a world where symbolism and literalism collide with hilarious results. For a while I toyed with the idea of a Garfield Plus Garfield where I replaced the main characters in strips like the Boondocks, Bloom County etc. with Garfield so there was something of a post modern ratiocination going on, but I decided that sounded like an awful lot of work. Maybe someday in the future when I’m spread less thin.

In the meantime, if you have a snow day in your future and you’re looking for something good to read, you could do worse than to curl up on the couch with Garfield Minus Garfield.


Resolved published on No Comments on Resolved

Since having these seems to be all the latest rage, I thought I better throw my New Year’s resolutions out there. Never let it be said that I won’t grow. So without further ado, I give to you 2017.

1: Allocate time better in 2017 so I have one of these ready to go on the first of January 2018.

2: Have an income of some sort. By the way have you seen my Patreon account?

3: Clean my apartment. This shouldn’t be a year long resolution but.. it is.

4: Eat a vegetable.

5: Make some art money. By the way did you know I have a Threadless store?

6: Have at least one guest author on the site that I don’t already personally know.

7: Live through the entire year.

8: End racism forever. Politely decline the statue. I roll modest.

9: Pet any cat I see.

10: Lose some weight. I refuse to set a goal in this regard because if it’s a stone (in honor of our brave new post Brexit mates across the pond) or an ounce, I win.

I tried to cover the gamut here from modest to… let us say… unrealistic? (I’ll let you guess which is which) How are the rest of you on New Years Resolutions?

That Chick is Crazy

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Hey there and welcome to the community. I have a lot I want to say in the upcoming year about so many artists and there are so many that I want to hear from. There are a lot of things that happened in 2016 that made it feel like the end of an era. The very last VHS recorder was manufactured. The Cubs won the world series, which is earth shattering and I believe to be a sign of the apocalypse. Jack Chick died. This is probably less monumental to a lot of people who are too young to remember who he was or too old to have grown up with him.

Once upon a time, there was a thing called the Satanic Panic and Jack Chick was it’s daddy (sort of- he was at the very least a weird uncle). I was in high school, taking a class they called Freshman Orientation. We were informed about the PMRC who made sure our parents knew when we were listening to songs about naughty bits. We watched Mazes and Monsters, that lost Tom Hanks classic that was a true story but not really that told us all about how Dungeons and Dragons would make us kill ourselves for Satan (and led to my first game sessions of D&D because no one tells me I can’t kill myself for the devil) and how if we ever had sex we would get pregnant. AND get AIDS. AND die. AND have 8 more kids.

Back in those bad old days, pre-internet, you couldn’t post your opinions to random people on Facebook. You had to put some real legwork into letting people know you LOL or sadface, and that’s where Jack Chick came in. As a reclusive man born in the 40s, not a lot is known about him. Later life pictures don’t exist. Some people thought he was probably a pen name. But the Chick Tracts were all you needed to know about this man or the movement he represented.

But that is some exemplary line work.

Those of you of a certain age remember these, I’m sure. They’d be tucked under windshields of cars. Into mailboxes and phone booths (phone booths were once a thing where people could call other people when they were outside their homes or superheroes could undertake transformational necessities) or you’d get them shoved in your face if you went to That Kid’s house to play after school. The artwork wasn’t bad and since they were designed for hooking kids into Jesus young, they did their work decently enough. What kid doesn’t love a comic book?

I was fortunate enough to grow up with real comic books because I didn’t live with Ned Flanders. I had Jim Starlin and Stan Lee, so I didn’t need Jack Chick. Let’s leave the theological implications of Warlock and the Silver Surfer out of things and just say there was no religion in my comics, for ease of use m’kay? Having been raised by readers meant that in the third grade I knew a hustle when I saw one. But still… free pictures to look at.

This was from the most popular Chick Tract “This Was Your Life”, one of the many ways in which the theocratic establishment was trying to scare the hell out of us from birth onward. Don’t get me wrong. Jack Chick didn’t get a whole lot of love from mainstream religions. Or fringe religions. Or televised religions.

I can’t imagine why.

That’s some nice clean lines there. Solid inking. Strong composition. There have been about a half a billion of these in circulation since Chick started publishing. You can still buy Chick tracts to this day. I’m not sure where they are anymore. They’re certainly not as ubiquitous as they once were. I haven’t seen one in this century. I know in the smallish town where I grew up it was the only contemporary art some of the people I grew up with saw.

I just wanted to share a slice of life from when America was great with everyone. In my parents day they were taught to duck and cover. My generation was told not to bother because God was on our side anyways. Someone might tell you something awful about yourself in the upcoming year.

Yes, this kiddie comic wants the young’ns not to be whoremongers.

They might even say it with as much talent and/or insight as Jack Chick. But we can recognize the talent without embracing the message. Maybe incorporate those tactics for ourselves. In the meantime, good luck to all in the Satanic Panic Pt. 2.

P.S. Anyone else remember the Chick Tracts? Have a good story? Sound off and lay it on me. Testify!

Threat Levels

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It’s Christmas eve, so that’s as good a time as any to talk about stranger danger, right?

I’ve been thinking a lot about fear this week as a very uncertain year draws to a shaky close. Someone I know pointed out that we keep blaming the year like that baby who came in on January 1 was a real live being that was stalking us relentlessly from the shadows with a chainsaw out of resentment for our incipient replacement of him with a younger model (Ok, they didn’t use those exact words, but isn’t it colorful imagery?)

We probably need to stop victim blaming and look at our own behavior and go what am I doing that makes the world a worse place? I offer up the following as an example of my point:

The trees KNOW that Lumber Jack is a threat. Maybe one or two of the more paranoid ones suspect that the rock is a threat, but what none of them know is that the real mastermind is the squirrel! The squirrel has been whipping up the antagonism between the rock and the trees and Lumber Jack and the trees, and in the meantime if the trees, Lumber Jack and the rock teamed up they could get rid of that damn squirrel once and for all! But they’re too busy hating each other from fear to compare notes.

I guess the lesson here is we need to manage our fear before we can overcome it. I will admit there is a (big) part of me that fears this in 2017:

But my fears are not only not helping, they’re counterproductive. I’ve adopted a new credo for 2017, coopted from Alcoholics Anonymous:

Lord, grant me the serenity to fear those things I can change, to ignore those things that I can’t and the wisdom to tell them apart.

Fear is a survival tool, that ironically is killing us. Let’s use next year to fear wisely, yeah?

Night Owl!

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I’m one of those people that has trouble with the whole being awake during the day thing. It’s never been easy for me. There’s a good chance I’m sleeping while you’re reading this. Just like there’s a good chance you’re sleeping while I’m writing it. I’m one of those people known as a night owl and that gives me plenty of time to think about things that probably don’t cross the minds of the Normals.

Thing 1:
Apologies to Dr. Seuss. It’s an homage. This is how Things look in my head when I think about Things.

Why do they call us night owls? Isn’t that redundant? I mean, if you take something that’s most well known for being that one thing, do you really need to add the thing it’s known for as a qualifier? Shouldn’t we just be owls? We don’t call that drinker with the hollow leg a water camel. Or a camel at all I guess. Yet. Try it and it might catch on. Anyways, I mean, what’s the danger of misunderstanding here? “Oh? You’re an owl too? I love eating mice?” Also, language evolves. Owls might be awake at night, but vampires burst into flames in the day. Their claim to being  synonymous with the night is way over that of owls. I know someone will come in and tell me that vampires (or night vampires as I now like to call them) have historically not until recently been inextricably tied to the night. But that’s my point.  Besides, mistaken ideas lead us neatly into

Thing 2:
It’s running because it’s a wave.

I’m sure you know this, but things are louder at night. They don’t seem louder and people don’t do things louder. Sound just likes to be louder at night and murder those things that bring sleep to the world. I call this the psychological Doppler effect. PDE will soon be playing at a rave near you. It’s what makes those upstairs neighbors sound like they’re wearing the kind of lead boots that leads to deepwater expeditions for giant squid. I’m sure there’s probably some big scientific explanation about how the air is thin and carries sound better or something. All I know is the volume at which I can barely hear my tv during the day is 3 times the volume at which I’m afraid it will wake the neighbors at night. There’s no ambient noise that makes a difference or anything. It’s just a case of PDE gone awry.

I have other things but the sun will be up soon so I should hit the sack. I’ll leave you with this old doodle. I drew it at night.



Lucky Happenstances

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Today a Facebook Friend (an FF not to be confused with the Fantastic Four- my fantastic friends far outnumber that) of mine shared an image from a remarkable cartoonist by the name of Sophie Labelle. Sophie writes Assigned Male Comics. I’m not trans, but many of my besties are and I’ll admit I worry about them. This world isn’t super kind to what it considers “normal” and for all our vulnerable populations who live on the fringes, life can be a constant aggressive, passive aggressive and microaggressive hell.

This is where Sophie comes in. She sets a bar as a comic artist I hope to reach myself someday. She’s a smart, funny, talented voice for a community that rarely gets to have that from the inside in a manner that’s accessible to the outside. She’s iconic without being an icon. A real flesh and blood human who shows vulnerability with a bravery I can’t help but love and admire.

This is where you come in, my friends. Although Sophie (rightfully) gets a lot of good and positive support for the work she does, she also (wrongfully) receives a lot of hate. If she can continue to be badass, then I think the least we can do is our part to make sure the love outweighs the hate. If you want to do your good deed for today, like Sophie’s page. Visit her Patreon. Share some kind words with her when something resonates with you. It’s not an act of charity. It’s win win because you’ll get to read and support some great art and I promise great art makes great life.

Artfully yours,


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