August 26th, 2010

Preview of page 190

Page 190 now online!

This week will be Lucien’s last appearance for a long while. Alas! And just when we all thought we’d get to see him with his shirt off. I’ll miss drawing him and his calm, well-meaning face. Good travels, sir. You’ve been a fine Virgil.

In real life departures: as we knew to expect, my grandfather died early this week. It was peaceful and merciful. Most of our last conversations together were about the comics business – he was an amateur cartoonist during his PR-man years. He said he wanted to pitch me for a “double-decker strip” for the Chicago Tribune. I told him I didn’t work on spec. He got a kick out of that.

Goodbye, old bomber pilot.

Monday Morning Poem: High Flight

August 23rd, 2010

B-24 Liberator Pilot Bill Whetsell, Crew 108

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941

Photo from David C. Foster

Family Man update!

August 19th, 2010

Preview of Family Man page 189

Page 189 now online!

This week’s page is moderately Not Safe For Work; there are no Frontal Personal Bits but there is a fair amount of everything else.  HaHA, thought you could make it through a comic set in an all-male 18th century institution without a little homoeroticism?  YOU THOUGHT WRONG, READERS.

Moving on!

Not much news this week beyond the ongoing march of pre-orders. The $40 packages are within sight of being finished; watercolor packages are going at about three a week; and book-only packages are going just as fast as I can draw inside the covers. You guys! You ordered a lot of books! It’s fantastic. I wish I had five of me so I could send them to you INSTANTLY.

Meanwhile, I’m mulling over notions of fun exclusives to bring to SPX, this September 11th and 12th in Bethesda; if you have any requests or neat ideas for things you might like to purchase from me, chime in and I’ll add it to the basket of possibilities!

Tricorner Hack.

August 18th, 2010

Those of you familiar with my graphic novel Family Man will know that I have spent many, many hours drawing  people wearing tricorn hats.  It was a style of headgear that stuck around for quite some time, and it seems to be the first shaped hat designed expressly for the purpose of driving artists crazy.  (Later fashion provided us with the fedora and the cowboy hat, in which crucibles many a cartoonist has died screaming.)




I know that you don’t want to be that person who gives up and just draws a vague lump on your character’s head.  I can’t help you with the fedora or cowboy hat – but I’m here to lend you a hand with our friend the Tricorn.

There’s one very obvious solution for how to go about properly drawing a tricorn at any angle: buy an expensive reproduction hat online and pose or photograph it as necessary.  However, that will net you many hours of digging through endless Halloween store shopping results for shapeless faux-leather “Jack Sparrow” pirate hats and weird little woolen cereal bowls with a weak brim claiming to be “Colonial hats”. When finally you get to plonk down $400 on an accurate drawing prop, you’ll probably want to do violence to your fellow human beings.


The next most obvious solution, if you’re broke or slightly insane, is to hunt down vast numbers of screen captures from appropriate period films.  I will cop to having, on hand, roughly a gigabyte of stills from 1776: The Musical: The Movie.  I will not claim that these have been unhelpful, but perhaps you aren’t interested in paging through 53 blurry images of Blythe Danner in a corset in hopes of locating that one angle of a guy in a hat.


It’s also wise to keep in mind that any period film is ALSO filtered through the period when it was filmed – hence, in 1776 we learn that Thomas Jefferson really liked 70’s style brushed-up temples.

So if you are looking for the simplest, cheapest, most rudimentary tricorner hat hack: get ready.  This will provide you with the basic folded planes of the tricorn hat so that you can sketch out the essential shape; you’re on your own for deciding the style of the crown and providing the subtler details of material and curved blocking.

Those of you who have celebrated Purim by eating hamantaschen cookies will recognize this procedure.

YOU WILL NEED: a piece of foldable paper, a pair of scissors, a pencil.



Cut out a circle of paper.  Cut it to whatever size you like; don’t worry about the shape being perfect.  (a slightly oblong shape might actually get you more accurate results later on.)



Draw an equilateral (equal-sided) triangle inside the circle so that each point touches the edge.  Again, don’t worry too much about deadly accuracy; these are just folding guidelines.



Pinch in the paper at each point.  I find it’s easiest to first pinch up two points, then move on to the third.



Now that the points are pinched up, it should be easy for you to fold the paper along the pencil lines.  The triangle is still flat, but the extra half-circles of paper stick up.



Behold! Whichever corner sticks forward the most is now the front brim of the hat; the other two form the back.  The triangle is the underside of the hat, where your person would normally stick their head in.  You can arrange this little paper thingie at many common angles and immediately figure out the basic arrangement of the hat’s trickiest parts. You can see that the angle I held the model at roughly replicates Luther’s hat down in the inset image.

If you want to replicate the crown of the hat, make this model big enough to accommodate half of a ping-pong ball (for a round crown) or a bottle cap (flat crown), and glue or tape it on.

In actual hats, the “corners” were often not tightly pinched together, especially in the front, so if you want to replicate that look, let the tips of the triangle run off the paper, skip the pinching, and just fold up along the lines.

Now that you have this model, I recommend you go back and look at those screencaps, or at any trustworthy reference source, to fill yourself in on style and material details/divergences.  These hats were made of anything from light felt to heavy leather, decorated with ostrich feathers and gilt, tied down, worn askew, blocked so that they sat more on the back of the head than the front, etc, and came in every size from bitsy to engulfing.

Regardless, this little model will help you draw a tricky angle when your reference sources aren’t working out.

Enjoy the increased ease of drawing one of history’s most frustrating hats!


ADDENDUM:  lovely reader Jenn S. made up a nice little cheater template for those of you who don’t want to draw your own circles and triangles!  Click to view and download at full size, then print and use at will.  Thanks, Jenn!


Family Man update!

August 13th, 2010

Preview of Page 188

Page 188 now online!

It dawned on me as I pencilled this week’s page that it is essentially one of those Calvin & Hobbes strips where they go down the hill in the Radio Flyer.  I’d like to think that, at the end of this book, it is revealed that Lucien has been a stuffed tiger the whole time.

Anyway!  Onwards.  A couple more pages to this scene and then we’re through. Meanwhile I have still been sending out pre-orders (we’re down to under 200 left! ahahahahhhhh).  I’m beginning to develop hope that I’ll actually have them all out this month.  It’s fun to hear from people when their package arrives.

Usual disclaimers about having one extremely ill grandparent apply for next week’s update, but I remain ever optimistic.  See you then!

Monday Poem: Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

August 9th, 2010

My grandfather is in his final days. He’s 92. He has a frontal lobe brain tumor. He can do little more than lie in bed and drift in and out of consciousness, in and out of dementia.

In his most lucid moments, he still doesn’t want to believe he’s dying. Part of me has been deeply frustrated with him – how can he keep forcing my parents through the pain of telling him, again and again, that he won’t be leaving this place?  At his age and state of health, as a lifelong Catholic, can’t he make peace with the fact?

Then I remembered my namesake’s most famous poem, about his father’s decline (I’m certain I’ve posted it before), and my anger dropped away.

It’s his life. He’s right to want to keep it, as fiercely and for as long as possible. Nobody can tell him otherwise. Least of all those of us who care for him.  He flew alongside men who died in combat at 22.  Every moment he gets is earned.

do not go gentle

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

– Dylan Thomas

photo by John Locher

Game Delay

August 6th, 2010

Hi all, the combination of (a) having to restore all of my computer’s damaged data and more importantly (b) traveling for two days midweek to support my parents during my grandfather’s final weeks has resulted in (c) no update. I would apologize, but it seems silly to apologize for taking care of family.

My grandfather was a distinguished bomber pilot during the War, flying a complete tour over Germany. He went on to work in PR – have you seen Mad Men? Yes, it was a bit like that. He was also an aspiring cartoonist, in the magazine gag genre. I’ve always found it funny that I picked the one ridiculous bohemian career that he, in his squareness, could be excited about. Granted, he keeps asking me when I’m going to break into the syndicates with my “strip”. These days I just tell him “soon, Grandpa”.

Updates will resume next week. Thank you all for your patience and notes of sympathy.

Family Man update!

August 1st, 2010

Preview of Family Man page 187

Page 187 now online!

It’s been a lot of work catching up from Comic-Con (I missed at least one entire news cycle; only now do jokes on the Daily Show seem coherent to me).   But behold, here at long last is a new page.  Thank heavens for the occasional interlude taking place in a darkened wood; if it were architecture or bookspines I’d be in trouble.  Instead it’s owls and silhouetted pine boughs.  Huzzah!

I’m traveling once again this week to help out family, and my computer is exhibiting worrisome death throes.  Hopefully the both together won’t totally nix me for new comics productivity, but either way I’ll keep you posted.  At the least I’ll try to put up a new round of notes.

I’m working to send out a big pile of pre-orders every day as well!  A bunch of people have written in to change their mailing address at the last minute – if you’ve moved since you ordered, please send me a line and I’ll make sure your book doesn’t get bounced around before finding you.

I’m enjoying taking my time on the watercolor orders, making sure each of them looks pretty and has enough of my time invested to justify the generous donation.  I’ll post the two that I’ve finished so far as soon as they’ve been safely received by their new owners. (If you’re a watercolor-order person and you just CANNOT WAIT to get your book, please send me a poke and I’ll put together the whole rest of your order, ship it to you now, and send the painting when it’s ready.)

    {blog in Livejournal flavor}

    News Bulletins.
    Bite Me! will go out of print for a few months soon as I reprint the book. Order your copy before I run out!


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