So, there you have the weekly update of work on this graphic novel. I intend to extend it further next week as I work on the scanning and the putting pieces together to get a clear and well-reproduced comic product. I will re-post these pages and the added pages each Saturday as I work towards completing this unfinished work.
I have finally found a way to create clean, bright copies of my pages of the graphic novel Hidden Kingdom. I managed to scan it in portions and then piece it together with a photoshopping program.
Now I will post my re-scanned and puzzled-together masterwork. It will become my regular Saturday feature.
Here now is my first installment;
And so I will continue to work on and add pages of artwork each week.
Before now I have never talked about my childhood friend Jimmy Crafton. It took a long long time to build up enough courage. Writing this on Christmas Eve makes it easier.
It is not a terrible story. I can’t think of anybody that fits the idea of a “hero” any more than Jim. I remember him as a pale-faced little boy with a thousand Watt smile full of tiny white teeth. He was two years younger than me. He was in my sister’s class at Rowan Elementary. He was outgoing and funny. And he was a hemophiliac. He had the rare condition of having too little of the essential blood-clotting proteins in the blood that the vast majority of us get to take for granted. Every day for him was a risk of having an ordinary injury like a bruise or scrape cause him to bleed to death. He missed great gobs of school days with injuries and crippling pain and the need to go to the emergency room in Mason City for life-saving blood transfusions. We were told when I was eight that he probably wouldn’t last past his tenth birthday. The teachers all gave us strict rules for playing with him on the playground… what not to do, what to immediately report, and what not to allow him to do. I remember one time he decided to wrestle both Bobby and me at the same time. He had a deep and passionate love for the sport of wrestling, big in the high schools of Iowa. He aggressively took us both down and pinned us both with minimum effort. And you should stop laughing at how wimpy that makes me sound. Remember, I had to play the game by different rules than he did. Bob and I both had to live with the consequences if bad things were to happen.
The miracle of Jim Crafton was that he did not die in childhood due to his genetic medical difficulty. In fact, he grew up, went to college, and became a doctor all because of the gratitude he had towards the doctors and medical professionals who helped him conquer hemophilia in childhood. He got married. And he even had a son. Those were things he accomplished in life that no one believed were possible back in the 1960’s.
But now we get to the part that I can’t write without typing through tears. A hemophiliac relies on regular transfusions of blood to supply the clotting factors that he cannot live without. And there was no effective screening technique for HIV in blood supplies before 1992. Further problems arose from the blood bank practice of mixing blood donations together by blood type. That meant that even clean blood donations were likely to become tainted through mixing. Far too many of the hemophiliacs in America were given infected blood and became AIDS sufferers at a time when a diagnosis of HIV was basically a death sentence. And worse, AIDS sufferers were often isolated and treated like lepers for fear of contracting the disease from ordinary contact with them. You might remember the sad case of Ricky Ray in Florida. He and his two brothers were all hemophiliacs. They all were infected. They were expelled from school. They even had to live in hiding after loving members of their community burned their house down. We were horrible to people who were dying of AIDS.
But I can’t leave this essay on such a sad note. My friend Jimmy was a hero, a doctor, and a dad. He lived a life worth living and worth knowing about. His life was a gift to all of us lesser beings. And this is the time of year for remembering those we have loved and lost. Jim died of AIDS decades ago. But he still lives in my heart and my memory. And if you have read this little story, he lives in you now too. That is a sort of magic, isn’t it? I only wish I had more powerful magic to give.
Today I made an attempt to photograph some of my pen and ink stuff in ways that are less gray and gloomy.
This pen and ink scene is entirely from my imagination. Both the gnarled tree and the castle were taken from doodles on throw-away newsprint. The Buffalo was an exercise in capturing an animal from a photo in pen and ink. The whole thing is much too big to fit on my little scanner. Last time I photogged it, it came out as mostly a pool of murky gray with black tattoos all over it. This time I used my 300 Watt light and bounced it at an angle to get this less murky pastel gray photo of the scene.
I am definitely not the world’s greatest photographer. I am ranked somewhere in the top 3 billions, maybe, on a good day. This blasphemy in pen and ink is Animal Town with its jarring forced perspectives and two-dimensional silliness. Last time I photogged it, it came out looking pretty much the same as it did here. Even photogging in natural Texas sunlight tends to make this composition into flat gray wallpaper.
Here is an even worse experiment. This one is an unfinished drawing of a nudist beauty pageant being hosted in Toon Town. Besides being stupid and in poor taste, the pencil lines tend to totally disappear in the gray fog. But, truthfully, I probably should have thrown this thing away long ago rather than trying to photograph it.
This pen and ink is enhanced with colored pencil. It looks better in many ways even though I didn’t change the light source, the filters, or the camera. Color, I guess is the answer for me and my inadequate photography skills. We shall see what we shall see as I continue to experiment and learn. Maybe I can rise up to number 2,999,999,999… with about a million years of practice.
My neighbor, Wendy Wackyname, is the owner of a really big dog. I asked her how she managed a dog that was bigger than a moose and weighed more than an elephant.
“You have to be able to solve problems you never thought you could have,” she said.
“Problems like what?” I stupidly asked.
“Well, a dog that big not only chases cars, he often catches the littler ones like yours. It became a real problem when he finished chewing on them and wanted to bury them in the back yard. When we lived in Oklahoma, our back yard just wasn’t big enough, and the local police kept wondering about what might be buried there. I guess they had a lot of missing persons cases.”
“Oh, that does sound bad.”
“Yeah, but moving here solved that problem. We now live next to this nice big park with lots of room for a dog to bury stuff.”
“So he isn’t cured of chasing cars?” I asked nervously.
“No. But that isn’t the worst problem. Feeding him is really expensive. We have to buy a truckload of dog food every week. That problem has gotten worse since we left Oklahoma. There used to be a cattle ranch nearby. At least until the last of their stock mysteriously disappeared.”
I decided I should probably change the subject a bit.
“How do you walk a dog that big?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t. I climb up on his neck and hang on to the collar as hard as I can, and we go for a run. We ended up in Waxahachie, Texas last week.”
“Does your mother ever let the dog in the house?”
“Oh, no. Foozy is an outside dog. If he wags his tail indoors, he breaks all the furniture in the room. Besides, the doors in this new house aren’t big enough for him to fit through.”
“Wendy, did you ever read those kids’ books about Clifford the Big Red Dog?”
“Oh, sure. But life with Foozy is nothing like that. Giant dogs are a much harder pet to take care of than people think.”
I remembered then how my little dog somehow managed to make five poops a day. Did Foozy do that too? And how did poor little Wendy go about bagging it and depositing it in the trash? I finally decided I didn’t want to know.
This drawing is not done. I have plans. But this pen and ink Paffooney is a good example of a doodle-point I probably need to make. The plan does not occur before the ink hits the drawing pad. No, this one started with a circle. And for no good reason, I had to draw the girl’s face in the circle. But what was the face doing inside a circle like that? I next drew the bird. But if she’s so surprised to see a bird inside a birdhouse… Well, you get the idea. The story comes after the scribbling.
And here comes the controversial conclusion. This is exactly how life happens. Stuff becomes… and the reason why only becomes clear later. Curse me for a doodling philosopher!