Putting up Carlos’ Mike Grell sketch in this space the other day reminded me of a project I keep meaning to get to.
For years, I’ve kept a scrapbook of comics professionals’ helpful hints and tips for my cartooning students. I started this ten years ago at the San Diego Comic-Con… my original idea had been just to bring something fun home for the class from the show.
In the beginning I would just scoop up junk from the freebie tables, but I couldn’t very well scoop up thirty of every freebie offered. So I’d get a little here and a little there, but then when I returned home and brought the stuff to class, fights would break out over who got the Buffy bookmarks or the Batman buttons, or whatever. It never worked out well. So I decided a scrapbook would be something everyone could enjoy, and it’s become something of a fixture. I keep it on the front desk with me, and generally at the end of our school day one or two kids will come and page through it.
I’ve been meaning to post these helpful-hints pages for a while, but the book’s gotten so big that all I can give you is a sampling. I’ll probably come back to this again though; consider today’s installment the first in a series.
Just as an aside, someone always says we should publish these. Mike Grell opined that we should find a way to do it as a book and use the proceeds to fund the program. I agreed that was a great idea but I thought the permissions would be a nightmare. Mike scoffed and said the artists would all instantly be on board, adding that it would be the publishers who owned the trademarked characters in it that would screw it up. (He then told a story I can’t repeat here, but it was darkly funny and Grell’s indignation over a certain publisher’s stupidity on that occasion was palpable.) Maybe someday.
Anyway, in the meantime, this will have to do.
The first drawing in the book is by the late Dan DeCarlo.
This wasn’t actually done for the scrapbook. Dan did this as a full-scale drawing, about ten-by-fifteen, and the story behind it is too long to get into here. I’ll write it up one of these days, I promise. But my students all loved Dan and his wife Josie, and when he passed away the kids took it pretty hard. Brianna did a lovely memorial drawing that Josie treasured, and Josie stayed on our mailing list for years. (She’d still be on it if your humble columnist hadn’t idiotically lost her address in a move.) Anyway, I thought Dan’s drawing should be in the book so I shot a reduction of it on a piece of card and now that’s page one. On the back of that page, Josie later wrote, “I enjoy the books you send me, keep up with the good work! Best always, Josie DeCarlo.”
The first actual drawing in the book is by Bat-artist Roger Robinson. He did this for us at the San Diego con, 2001.
I asked him because I knew he was a nice fellow and also because he’d done a how-to article for Wizard that I was using in class at the time. About this, he laughed and said, “That advice is really all you need to know.”
They’re actually years apart. Kerry Gammill’s is the fifth or sixth one I got, same afternoon as Roger Robinson. Karl Kesel kindly did the Ben Grimm for us at a Seattle show two years ago.
Karl’s affiliated with Periscope (formerly Mercury) Studios, which is just down the road in Portland, Oregon. So we see the Periscope gang at a lot of local things, and the whole lot of them have been tremendously supportive of the kids over the years. Here’s Pete Woods.
Pete’s wife Rebecca was actually our biggest cheerleader; she loved the idea of the scrapbook so much she had everyone in her row at Artist’s Alley contribute something at San Diego that year. And she did a wonderful entry of her own.
Brianna, especially, looked up to Rebecca as an artist and a role model; every time she came to Seattle for a show Bri practically camped at her table. I hope Rebecca knows what an impact she had on that kid.
Bri herself did this for us a couple of years later. I insisted, when she got her first professional job; a promotional comic for the Seattle All-City Marching Band.
This was done a couple of years back at Emerald City. She’s in her sophomore year of college now, in Bellingham. Last I heard she’d gotten engaged. Damn, I’m getting old.
Since I have so many girls in my classes, I always try to get female artists to contribute something when I see them. Here’s a delightful entry from Jane Irwin.
Her book Vogelein is a perennial favorite in my classes when I bring it in. Jane also wrote the students a long and wonderful e-mail full of encouragement that I used as a handout for a couple of years.
Another favorite in class is Go Girl! so naturally, I had to get Anne Timmons to do something when I saw her.
Trina Robbins wrote us a great note on the next page as well: Draw all the time, unless you’re a writer, in which case, write all the time! Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t– that girls can’t read/draw/write comics, or that you can’t earn a living creating comics. In the end, you gotta follow your bliss, and if comics is your bliss, you gotta go for it! As for me, I’m never happier than when I’m sitting at that computer, pressing those keys, and I’m grateful every day that I can support myself doing what I love. –Trina Robbins.
After a couple of years, the thing took on a life of its own, really. Pros would flip through it, do a double-take at Dan’s entry or one of the others, and then give us something extraordinary in an effort to keep up.
Here’s Tom Beland:
And at Tom’s suggestion, Keith Knight:
I wish Keith’s books were kid-friendly enough that I could bring them to class. But they love this picture, and it means something to my Aki kids to have a black cartoon character in the book.
Paul is the only guy I’ve ever seen sketch with ink on a brush, freehand. It’s really an amazing thing to see.
They happened to be seated next to each other so Leonard just riffed on Aaron’s.
I can always tell who the future comics geeks are in my classes by noting the ones that respond to Astro City. Most of my kids are into manga and hardly give it a look, but the ones that do pick it up can’t put it down. Brent also kindly gave us a little mini-comic he did, “The Raft.”
You may remember me writing about Trevor’s book Mine Tonight a couple of years ago. And Jason is amazing– seriously, I don’t know why he’s not working for one of the majors. He’s really great at ornate, Frazetta-esque barbarian warrior kinds of things. If I were reviving Kull or John Carter of Mars or something it would be Jason I’d be trying to get on the phone.
The much-missed Marshall Rogers:
This is from a Seattle show, not too long before he passed away. I had him sign a pinup he’d done for an old issue of Marvel’s Doc Savage, as well, and he seemed really pleased at how Julie told him she liked his version of Doc better than the one in the story itself.
This was when he was the artist on Spider-Girl, a very popular title with my students when the first Spider-Man movie came out: it was how I answered their constant queries of “what happened next, Mr. Hatcher?”
I knew Pat from way back when he was living in Spokane and we were just a couple of the geeks hanging around the CBR forums. He always took an interest in my classes, and he really slaved over this. It always stops the kids dead with awe when they get to that page.
Scott Shaw! did this one, another showstopper for my students.
Scott will always be one of Julie’s and my favorite cartoonists just because of how wonderful he and his wife Judy were to our nephew Aerin in San Diego the year we took him along with us. But he draws nice too.
Oddly, the thing my kids usually recognize his work from are the animated bumpers he did for TV’S Bloopers and Practical Jokes. But they love the MAD and Groo books I bring in.
Sometimes I nerd out a little. Upon meeting Walt Simonson I gushed that I always told my students when they asked that my personal favorite comic strip of all time is Manhunter, which is true, by the way. So he did this.
The kids like it okay, but really that one was more for me.
Stan’s daughter Hannah was actually my student for a brief time– she always came to the Kid’s Day workshops I taught at the San Diego con. As I recall she had a nice manga thing going on, though I have no idea if she kept it up.
The clear favorite in the book for years, though, was done by a friend of mine who’s not at all famous. But he is brilliant.
Stephen Wilson lives in Glasgow and was one of the CBR gang that used to convene in San Diego every year and camp at a local campground to save paying for a hotel. Stephen would fly out from Scotland a few days before and crash with me in Seattle, at least partially to browse the library I have here (this was a source of great amusement to Julie.) He stood up with us at our wedding.
Stephen did this drawing with a ball-point pen on a Sunday morning in 2003, as we were packing up to leave our campground in San Diego. I kept saying, “Stephen, it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece,” and he would reply that he was almost done, just a bit more here… and it was, indeed, a masterpiece. Of all the drawings in the book, this is the one my kids like the best, year after year.
I guess that’s enough for now. I have lots more, but this has already taken way longer than I should have spent. I gotta save something for the next one.
But I do want to say thank you, again, to all the artists and writers who have contributed to this project. I want to assure them it gets used and looked at every day in my classroom and several generations of 6th and 7th grade kids have been inspired by some entry in it. Blessings upon you all.
And for the rest of you reading this, I hope you enjoyed this little excerpt. I’ll put up some more of the pages some time… we’ve barely gotten through a quarter of the book, if that. Really.
See you next week.
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