Inktober 2017

I just found out about Inktober, and I think it’s cool. I’m excited to participate for the first time. I get the feeling Inktober was created more for comic artists instead of cartoonists, but what the hell. 31 days of drawing is 31 days of drawing, regardless.

I’m gonna stick with what I know. So my challenge (to myself) is to recreate #DeadChuck in the style of other cartoonists. The Inktober people provide the keywords; I have my list of artists… all that’s left is to write the gag and draw it.

Let’s see what happens.

Day 1: Keyword = “Swift”

I picked an easy one for day 1 — Peanuts by Charles Schultz. Or so I thought it would be easy. There’s been a lot written about Charlie Brown and his vulnerability. I remember reading Peanuts books at my Grandmother’s house. The simplicity and poignancy of the characters is also reflected in the artwork: simple lines and shapes with character. Nothing too overdrawn or detailed that would detract from the interactions. Great strip!

After drawing this in black and white, I really wanted to see it in color… so here are both versions. On to day 2!

Day 2: Keyword = “Divided”

I’ve tried to avoid political cartooning because there’s too much of it on social media already. It was tempting, given the overall political climate, to key off the word “divided” and have some fun. I chose a different path.

Instead, ”divided” instantly reminded me of a cartoon who epitomizes “a house divided” between dog, cat and owner. No, it’s not Garfield… but he may show up later this month!

For me, it’s Darby Conley’s Get Fuzzy. I’ve been a fan since I first discovered this strip many years ago.

Here’s a few things I learned from trying to recreate Conley’s style:

  • From the first time I laid eyes on this strip, I was impressed with the detail. But it was a unique kind of detail. Conley goes through (what I imagine to be) great pains to draw the tags on shirts, the stitching of clothes, etc. Where most of us would, say, ignore drawing buttons and just assume that the reader would infer the existence of buttons, Conley would draw them, often in great detail. I’m not sure I did him justice here, in that regard…
  • I also noticed that Conley seems to draw what I call “both sides of the line.” Some artists, including me, welcome the unique character of a line. It doesn’t have to be perfect. But where it’s imperfect, it’s basically imperfect on both sides. But look at the body outline of Bucky the Katt, for example. The line, on the “inside” has one shape, and the line on the “outside” has another. Hairs jet in and out, based on need. I think it contributes to Conley’s unique style, and I was surprised at how long it took me to roughly approximate it.
  • Lastly, Bucky: if there’s ever a character whose art style matches this erratic, illogical and cynical personality, I’m not sure if I know who it is. He reads so well in both black and white, as well as full color. Some of my favorite laughs come from a combination of Bucky’s body posture and the brilliant writing. Well done.

Lest it go unsaid, my efforts here to recreate my character in the style of famous cartoonists is grossly imperfect. That said, I am excited about Day 3’s keyword — “poison” — and the artist I will explore here.

Day 3: Keyword = “Poison”

After yesterday’s events in Las Vegas, it was tempting to go in a different direction with this prompt. But I already had in my mind the only cartoon where “poison” would be a natural fit, and I was anxious to explore it.

Today we go back in time to the work of Charles Addams, who created characters who would ultimately become The Addams Family. Many of us know The Addams Family from the TV show or movies that were made, but the original comics have a look and feel all their own.

This was harder than I thought it would be. Addams’ use of gray tones — appropriate for the nature of his cartoons — is very distinctive, and I don’t think I did him justice here. Not sure if he was using charcoal or some very soft pencils, but I had to do my shading work in Photoshop… a violation of Inktober rules I am sure, but fun nonetheless.

The obvious character for #DeadChuck to be is Lurch, the silent butler who just moans at everything. Feels appropriate!

The text below reads, “Cara Mia… what’s your poison? Cyanide or Hemlock?”

Day 4: Keyword = “Underwater”

Day 3’s exploration of Charles Addams took me quite a bit of time, so today I chose something a little more straightforward: Stephen Hillenburg’s Spongebob Squarepants. The black and white version isn’t really all that involved, but the color version is fun. I noticed in many cases, characters in this show are not outlined in black ink. Notice the board on Patrick’s head: it’s outline is brown. Patrick himself is normally outlined in a darker pink version of his skin tone, but I let that go.

Day 5: Keyword = “Long”

Ever since I started doing this little “fake guest artist” thing, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the chance to pretend to be Stephan Pastis. His Pearls Before Swine strip is one of my favorites. The artwork is fairly straightforward, but his use of the deadpan stare and some brilliantly (IMO) sarcastic writing makes this strip a treat for me.

And of course, there are the pun strips, which is what I wanted to play off of. The keyword was “long,” so I looked for every rhyming word I could think of. Mr. Wong, who sings a song, got wrongly gonged for taking to long singing his song about people who use bongs in thongs.

I’ve always been a crappy letterer, and I don’t think I paid enough attention to his word bubble styles. If you’ve followed Pearls over the years, you might have noticed subtle refinements in the characters over time. My version looks more like old Pearls than new, but it was still fun to draw.

Day 6: Keyword = “Sword”

There’s only one “sword” that matters to me in the galaxy, assuming I can swap “sword” for “saber!” I am sure there are many artists at the House of Mouse who work on Star Wars Clone Wars, so I don’t know who to cite as the creator.

In art school, they teach you to start your drawings with basic shapes — circles, squares and triangles. In subsequent iterations, you often refine the shapes with pencil and pen so that the original geometry gets diffused. Clone Wars doesn’t hide the angularity of its artwork. Simple, efficient lines go from point A to point B with very little variation in stroke width and clean, crisp intersections.

The characters also have dynamic posture — exaggerations in their body shape that underscores the story line. It’s a very “Johnny Bravo” look that was fun to draw.

Day 7: Keyword = “Shy”

Actually posting this a few hours early, ’cause I’m really excited about it. Also it’s Friday night and I am home.

Gary Larson got me into cartooning. I say that, knowing that in terms of “making money as a cartoonist,” I have never been “into” cartooning. But as far as loving the art, yeah, this guy kind of opened up that wormhole. I remember my Mom introducing me to him back in the 80’s. I don’t think I knew it at the time, but in hindsight, he paved the way for artists with off-beat humor. Dozens, if not hundreds, have followed his lead (including me). But he was the trailblazer.

Artistically, I felt like I could have easily switched from drawing Gary Larson to drawing the creature from Alien. A lot of oblong heads. No necks. More cross-hatching than I care for. But it’s the writing that makes this. #DeadChuck isn’t really a zombie in the classic sense, but there have been too many Far Side cartoons about Frankenstein for me to overlook this opportunity. Wedging in the word “shy” was just a little wordplay.

Day 8: Keyword = “Crooked”

Another early post, but WTH…

You can’t have a comics retrospective with fake guest cartoonists and not include Berkley Breathed, the genius behind Bloom County, Outland, and more reincarnations of Bloom County.

I had to break out a brush in order to replicate his style, and I’d forgotten how difficult it can be to control the finer points of brushwork. But like others in his time, the brush is essential. I thought about making #DeadChuck into Bill the Cat, but I wanted to play with Binkley’s hair instead.

The strip I emulated was based on a 1980s strip in which the words were different. Lebanon. El Salvador. Falklands. Ireland. Sad that only a few word changes makes the strip relevant today.

Bloom County is one of my favorite strips. The ensemble cast is crazy: a penguin, a reporter, a lawyer, a deranged cat, a basset hound, a genius… it goes on. It’s like Breathed was able to conjure up whatever he needed to make his political point, and it somehow worked. In my one brush with potential fame, the call I had with King Features, this is what they wanted me to do. I have always held his work in high regard, not just for the art, but for the ability to bring random characters into a cohesive whole.

Artistically, I love his brush style. It’s casual without being sloppy. These characters have become more stylized over the years; my emulation is from a mid-80s strip (aside from maybe over-doing Binkley’s hair). But the fundamentals remain. Breathed draws every frame, as opposed to digitally copying and pasting similar compositions from frame to frame. I tried to be true to that.

More importantly, and sadly still, the need for a dandelion break persists.

Day 9: Keyword = “Screech”

This made me think of those Sneetches on beaches, some with stars upon thars. Theodor Seuss Geisel’s art was very organic… rarely a straight line or right angle, even when he was making machinery like that of Sylvester McMonkey McBean. Another fun art style to explore!

Day 10: Keyword = “Gigantic”

Sticking to these keywords is getting tough. I thought maybe I’d tackle Jim Davis’ Garfield, and draw a gigantic Jon… like maybe Garfield had a really bad lasagna dream. I don’t think I drew him big enough.

Anyway, I have memories as a kid drawing Garfield — used to be a favorite of mine. A lot of strips have become more stylized over the years, and this one is no different. Somehow it’s lost a bit of its artistic charm to me. The eyes are near perfect circles, which tells me it hasn’t been hand-drawn in a long time. It screams “I’m a vector art file.” Still funny on a good day, but I prefer a little more character in the lines.

Day 11: Keyword = “Run”

As a kid, Saturday morning meant cartoons of all kinds. One of my favorites was good ol’ Scooby Doo. That and a bowl of Cap’n Crunch, which we only had when Dad went to the grocery. Mmmm…

According to this article, a Japanese-American artist named Iwao Takamoto drew the first designs of Scoobert (his real name). I didn’t find the art too complicated to mimic — very simple, clean lines. Animating this would be interesting though, as I don’t quite understand how Shaggy runs all bent over like that. I like the way the hands are treated with slight exaggerations at the joints, especially in the zombie character.

I didn’t have time to draw a detailed spooky background, so I cheated with a little Photoshop work. Oh well…

Tomorrow’s keyword is “shattered,” and I am a little stumped on what to do.

Day 12: Keyword = “Shattered”

Shattered made me think of mirror, mirrors on the wall… so there’s only one option here! I know I already did a Disney drawing with Clone Wars below, but that wasn’t classic Disney. Truth be told, I’m not sure mine is classic Disney either. I kinda rushed this. But still…

Day 13: Keyword = “Teeming”

I didn’t post this on social media today because I chose to participate in the #WomenBoycottTwitter event. Yes, I understand the irony of using silence as a form of protest when silence is the problem. Irony can be a powerful tool. I chose to participate because living one’s dream and expressing one’s talents shouldn’t be contingent upon satisfying the perverse pleasures of sick people. Abusive and predatory behavior is inexcusable in any context, not just the movie industry. But it resonated with me because there was a time in my life when all I wanted was to draw cartoons for a living and make people laugh. I still do, actually. But breaking into that industry is tough. Aspiration and creativity is a wonderful, dreamy mix. But it’s also very fragile. The idea that artists with their own dreams are preyed on by people who are drawn to that vulnerability like a moth to a candle makes me sick. So I opted in.

#EndSoapBox. Thank you for following my work, and on to funnier things.

Today’s fake guest artist is Mike Peters from Mother Goose and Grimm. Mike is also a very successful political cartoonist, something I’ve purposefully not explored. Above-reference rant notwithstanding, I want to focus on making people laugh, not pissing them off. I’ve followed Mike’s work for years. His style is wonderfully casual without being sloppy. His characters have an elasticity to them — like Grimm’s exaggerated smile — that is a lot of fun. Drawing these, I felt a hint of Gary Larson (The Far Side) and a pinch of Nick Park (Wallace and Grommit). And of course it would not be unlike Grimm to be teeming with fleas.

Mike has drawn zombie characters before, so it wasn’t too hard to envision how he might treat #DeadChuck. But I couldn’t resist the zombie dog either.

Day 14: Keyword = “Fierce”

No explanation needed? Maurice Sendak’s The Wild Things seemed like a good match for this keyword

Day 15: Keyword = “Mysterious”

I’ve never been a huge fan of The Family Circus, but adding zombie humor helps.

Day 16: Keyword = “Fat”

Today’s fake inktober guest artist is Chic Young. Or it would have been were he still living. He drew Blondie until he passed in 1973, and the strip is now written by his son, and artwork is handled by several artists.

This is another one that really isn’t on my favorites list, but its such a cultural icon. I have mixed feelings about my treatment of these two. This is the open mouth pose Dagwood uses when he’s eating a massive sandwich. But between that and the half-closed eyes, he looks like he’s just green and yawning.

I’ve never been good at drawing the female form, but it came out ok I guess. She’s always got her middle and ring finger fused like some sort of freak. Turning her into a zombie-like character was a nod to some of the early #DeadChuck videos where there was a Mrs. DeadChuck.

The dog just looks (dog) tired.

So I won’t count this as one of my favorites, but tomorrow’s fake guest artist is one of my all-time cartoon heros.

BTW the prompt word today is “fat,” which is what I am becoming sitting here drawing cartoons all month. Time to exercise!

Day 17: Keyword = “Graceful”

Another day where I completely ignored the keyword prompt.

Fact: If you don’t like Herman, we can’t be friends.

Herman, to me, is like what would happen if the movie “Grumpy Old Men” became a comic panel. There are only a handle of cartoonists whose books I’ve collected over the years, and Unger’s work is definitely one of them.

In fact, I credit Herman for showing me how to loosen up my drawing. In a style similar to Bloom County, the lines have wonderful character and go only as far as they need to. I remember being a very “stiff” artist, with a clenched drawing hand, until I started imagining Unger just having fun drawing his lines. A lot of the variable widths you see in my cartoons comes directly from this observation.

The line I put under the art is exactly the kind of thing a Herman strip would say.

Unger passed away in 2012, but his work remains in syndication. Good thing, too.

Day 18: Keyword = “Filthy”

I did this one for a couple friends who insisted that the boys from South Park be included. I imagine Cartman saying “You killed Kenny, you filthy bastards! But he came back to life!”

Didn’t look good in black and white because there isn’t much stroke variance. So just showing the color.

Day 19: Keyword = “Cloud”

Today’s fake guest artist is Scott Adams, creator of the wildly successful Dilbert. I imagine these engineers are working on a cloud-based project. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Day 20: Keyword = “Deep”

Today’s fake guest artist is Bill Amend of FoxTrot fame. And by now it’s clear I’m ignoring a lot of these keywords.

Day 21: Keyword = “Furious”

Today’s prompt word is “furious,” so I thought of ol’ Uncle Duke. Doonesbury was a little too deep for me growing up… I was more interested in Garfield’s next lasagna episode, or what Gary Larson could dream up. If you Google the first Doonesbury, it’s clearly come a long way since it’s first publication in 1975 by Yale student Gary Trudeau.

Day 22: Keyword = “Trail”

There’s only one Trail that belongs in the comics.

There was always a page in the Sunday comics that contained Mark Trail, Judge Parker, Mary Worth and Prince Valiant. I skipped that page. What kid was gonna read all those words on a Sunday? And the artwork… sort of a quasi-realistic soap opera style that just wasn’t funny enough for me.

I did some research on Mark Trail. It was introduced in 1946 by Boy Scout leader Ed Dodd. It was designed to focus on environmental issues and give readers an appreciation for nature.

I’m not sure why Mark’s hair highlights are blue. Cherry, apparently, is Mark’s girlfriend and eventual wife. My contribution was to draw the St. Bernard Andy relieving himself on the canoe. Nature calls.

Day 23: Keyword = “Juicy”

Mm heh heh heh m heh heh m m heh heh. I said “juicy.”

Throughout this little exercise, I’ve had to remind myself that it wasn’t supposed to be “turn someone else’s character into mine…” My goal was to think about how they might draw my character. Sometimes, the gap is very narrow, like in Garfield or Get Fuzzy. Just drop the jaw, lower the eyelids, and make the skin green.

In this case, either of the original two delinquents could have been made into #DeadChuck. But I really think Mike Judge would have approached him as a bit of a hybrid between the two.

I remember when I was dating my wife, a bunch of our friends got together and we watched Beavis and Butthead Do America. I don’t think I’ve laughed as hard since, and surprisingly, she still married me.

Day 24: Keyword = “Blind”

Keyword? What keyword? I don’t see a keyword…

I’m 48 and this show is still funny to me. Butch Hartman started The Fairly Odd Parents in 1998, and it was picked up by Nickelodeon three years later. Next to Spongebob, it’s the longest-running fantasy animated series in American history.

Day 25: Keyword = “Ship”

Yaba-daba-doo #Inktober is almost over. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were a Saturday morning animation powerhouse for most of my childhood.

Getting back to a few cartoonists tomorrow, and hope to close strong with some favorites.

Day 26: Keyword = “Squeak”

Today’s keyword-ignorant post is Zits, written by Jerry Scott and illustrated by Jim Borgman. Feel like these two are almost mirror images…

Day 27: Keyword = “Climb”

Before everyone gets lost in Stranger Things 2… here is inktober day 27, Tumbleweeds by Tom Ryan. I wonder how this strip would be taken today. Fun fact: Ryan’s assistant on the strip from 1969-78 was none other than Jim Davis, who would go on to develop Garfield. This was fun to draw, but Limpid Lizard (the character in the middle) pretty much already looks like #DeadChuck. I guess I violated my rule again.

Day 28: Keyword = “Fall”

Today’s fake guest artist is A. A. Milne. I’m not really sure who draws Pooh now… Milne’s version looked a little different. Couldn’t resist the urge to zombify the bear.

Day 29: Keyword = “United”

OK, lemme explain.

First off, I’m not feeling so hot this weekend. So the drawing isn’t up to snuff.

Secondly, the prompt word was “united,” and I thought it would be cool to do a superhero version. I have this book called “How to draw the Marvel way” that I’ve never really cracked, and I wondered if I could pull it off.

Since Hulk has similar colors, I thought I would draw a superhero DeadChuck and have Hulk in the background all mad. You can see the left leg of SuperDeadChuck in the first drawing. And that’s all I will show, because the rest of him looks like he got fired from Chippendale’s for hitting on all the dancers at the same time.

But Hulk came out ok I guess, and the colors match. So I give you… DeadHulk.

Got two more days to go… will try to make them count.

Day 30: Keyword = “Found”

Twenty-nine seasons strong, tonight’s fake #DeadChuck guest artist is Matt Groening. “We all get fat down here!”

Day 31: Keyword = “Mask”

And with this, #inktober comes to a close. Bill Watterson is simply untouchable to me. I almost didn’t want to attempt it. But I knew how I wanted to play it too, so I couldn’t resist.

Thank you all for following along! Back to some animated shorts soon…!

P.S. Here is the full calendar:

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