Tag Archives: cartoons

Fairy Tales and Dragons (with pointillism)

Going through my old drawing portfolio, I found my children’s book project from my undergrad college years.  I have no idea now looking at the illustrations what the story was even about.  I lost the actual story, and I never made a cover for it.  But here is a look at old hopes and dreams and a way of seeing the world that begins; Once Upon a Time…

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I have no earthly idea what the heck this story is even about, but I do like the pen and ink work, and probably couldn’t repeat it if I had to.

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Transportation by Imagination

How does one use the mind to move from one place to another?  Is teleportation by mental ability possible?  Can we find new ways to travel using only the mind?  New worlds to travel to?  Of course!  Anything is possible once you realize there are no barriers to human imagination.  It is possible to traverse even the beginning and the end of the universe itself.

My Art 2 of Davalon

Case in point, I have as a cartoonist tried to come up with novel ways to travel.  In Catch a Falling Star I imagined that an engineering prodigy and a scientific genius used recovered alien technology to turn an 1889 steam locomotive with a pair of Pullman passenger cars into a space vehicle using an old hot air balloon and Yankee ingenuity.  They used it to fly to Mars.

flying goldfish

A friend who read that book, Stuart R. West, who writes teenage horror story mysteries  (Here’s a link to Stuart’s stuff!) suggested an idea for an illustrated children’s book about three kids that feed bubble gum to a goldfish.  The goldfish urps up a bubble that ends up carrying them off on an adventure through the sky.  I drew a possible illustration for that book and killed the idea completely dead.  I have a secret super power for taking cute and funny ideas and turning them into things that are totally unmarketable.  I wonder if that makes me a super villain instead of a hero.  So, the cartoonist in me had to develop other ways to travel that are even more ridiculous.

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In Clowntown, a part of my Atlas of Fantastica cartoon, you travel the downtown Clowntown skyway by being flipped and flung along the Clowntown Trapeze-way.  It makes for a harrowing ride and it’s really heck to use for trips to the grocery store or coming home again with packages to carry.

Travelling in the part of Fantastica dominated by pirates is even worse.  Traveling by the science of Boomology means getting shot out of a cannon naked to get wherever you need to go.  It is not something I would want to try in real life, but the cartoon me seems to not enjoy it with only minor bumps and bruises.

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So, travelling by means of the mind alone, through imagination, is quite possible… and probably infinitely unwise.

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I Go Pogo!

I gave you fair warning.  Pogo has been coming to Mickey’s Catch a Falling Star Blog for a while now.  So, if you intended to avoid it, TOO BAD!  You are here now in Okefenokee Swamp with Pogo and the gang, and subject to Mickey’s blog post about Walt Kelly and his creations.

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Walt Kelly began his cartoon hall-of-fame career in 1936 at Walt Disney Studios.  If you watch the credits in Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Dumbo, you will see Walt listed as an animator and Disney artist.  In fact, he had almost as much influence on the Disney graphic style as Disney had on him.  He resigned in 1941 to work at Dell Comics where he did projects like the Our Gang comics that you see Mickey smirking at here, the Uncle Wiggly comics, Raggedy Ann and Andy comics, and his very own creations like Pogo, which would go on to a life of its own in syndicated comics.  He did not return to work at Disney, but always credited Disney with giving him the cartoon education he would need to reach the stratosphere.

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Walt Kelly's Earth Day comic

Walt Kelly’s Earth Day comic

Pogo is an alternate universe that is uniquely Walt Kelly’s own.  It expresses a wry philosophy and satirical overview of our society that is desperately needed in this time of destructive conservative politics and deniers of science and good sense.

maxriffner.com

maxriffner.com

Pogo himself is an every-man character that we are supposed to identify with the most.  He is not the driver of plots and doings in the swamp, rather the victim and unfortunate experiencer of those unexpectable things. Life in Okefenokee is a long series of random events to make life mostly miserable but always interesting if approached with the right amount of Pogo-ism.

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And Pogo was always filled with cute and cuddly as well as ridiculous.

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As a boy, I depended on the comic section of the Sunday paper to make sense of the world for me.  If I turned out slightly skewed and warped in certain ways, it is owing to the education I myself was given by Pogo, Lil Abner, Dagwood Bumstead, and all the other wizards from the Sunday funnies.  There was, of course, probably no bigger influence on my art than the influence of Walt Kelly.

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So what more can I say about Walt Kelly?  I haven’t yet reached the daily goal of 500 words.  And yet, the best way to conclude is to let Walt speak for himself through the beautiful art of Pogo.

Pogo and Mamzelle

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Things You Probably Ought to Know about Mickey

As Mickey’s go, the one who is writing this is a moderately interesting example of the breed.  Still, there are things you probably ought to be made aware of.  A sort of precautionary thing…

First of all, this particular Mickey is an Iowegian.  That means he comes from Iowa, the State where the tall corn grows.  It is a prime reason why his jokes are corny and his ears have been popped (oh, and he does actually have two, unlike the picture Paffooney where only one is showing).  His fur is not actually purple.  If anything now, it is mostly silver-gray.  But the Paffooney is a magical portrait, and purple is the color of magic.  He has a goofy, and sometimes fatal grin.  You may not be able to prove that he has ever actually grinned someone to death, but it is likely he could always dig somebody up.

Another irrefutable fact about this Mickey, unlike many many Mickeys, is that he used to actually be a public school teacher.  He taught the little buggers for thirty-one years, plus two years as a substitute teacher.  He did twenty-four of those years in middle school… twenty-three of those in one school in South Texas.  His mostly Hispanic students managed to teach him every bad word in Spanglish… err, Texican… err, Tex-Mex… or is it Taco Bell?  Anyway, they taught him every bad word except for the word for cooties… you know, piojos.  He learned that word from an old girl friend.

A despicable thing about him… (you know despicable, right?  It’s that word that Sylvester the cat always uses) is that he actually likes kids.  That’s just not normal for someone who teaches them.  Teachers are supposed to hate kids, aren’t they?  But he never did.  It is true that he yelled at them sometimes, but he never did that because he hated them.  He did that only for fun.  And he actually apologized to kids sometimes when they got into behavioral trouble, because he said it was the teacher’s fault if kids are bad, and, besides, the kids are so surprised by that, that they forget all about the behavior and can be flammoozled into acting good.

The last and most wicked thing you need to know about Mickey is that he cartoons up a storm sometimes.  He loves to draw everything that is wacky and weird.  He has more goofball colored pencil tricks than a Charles Shultz and a Dr. Seuss rolled together in a sticky lump with a George Herriman stuck on top in place of a cherry.  He steals ideas and techniques from other artists and steals jokes from comedians, undertakers, and random juvenile delinquents.  He also puts together lists of wacky oddball details that don’t quite fit together and weaves it into purple paisley prose (somewhere in this whole messy blog thing he has also defined purple paisley prose and how to make it… in case you were curious.)

So there you have it.  The Truth about Mickey.  The sordid, simpering, solitary facts about Mickey.  The straight poop.  (wait a minnit!  How did poop get there?  Not again!  I thought I had cured that!)

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Lazy Sunday Silliness

mr8kecd

Imagination is always the place I go in times of trouble.  I have a part of my silly old brain devoted to dancing the cartoon dance of the dundering doofus.  It has to be there that I flee to and hide because problems and mistakes and guilt and pessimism are constantly building un-funny tiger-traps of gloom for me to rot at the bottom of.  You combat the darkness with bright light.  You combat hatred with love.  You combat unhappiness with silly cartoonish imaginings.  Well… maybe you don’t.  But I do.

calvin-and-hobbes

When reading the Sunday funnies in the newspaper on lazy Sunday afternoons, I spent years admiring Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes for its artistry and imaginative humor, believing it was about a kid who actually had a pet talking tiger.  I didn’t get the notion that Hobbes was actually a toy tiger for the longest time.  That’s because it was basically the story of my own boyhood.  I had a stuffed tiger when I was small. He talked.  He went on adventures with me.  And he talked me into breaking stuff and getting into trouble with Mom and Dad. It was absolutely realistic to me.

Dinosaurs

I have always lived in my imagination.  Few people see the world the way I view it.  I have at least four imaginary children to go along with the three that everybody insists are real.  There’s Radasha, the boy faun, my novel characters Tim Kellogg and Valerie Clarke, and the ghost dog that lurks around the house, especially at night.  That plus Dorin, Henry, and the Princess (the three fake names that I use in this blog for my three real children).

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Have you noticed how Watterson’s water-color backgrounds fade into white nothingness the way daydreams do?  Calvin and Hobbes were always a cartoon about turning the unreal into the real, turning ideas upside down and looking at them through the filter-glasses of Spaceman Spiff.

Spaceman-Spiff

Unique and wonderful solutions to life’s problems can come about that way.  I mean, I can’t actually use a bloggular raygun to vaporize city pool inspectors, but I can put ideas together in unusual ways to overcome challenges.  I almost got the pool running again by problem-solving and repairing cracks myself.

 

So, I am now facing the tasks of working out a chapter 13 bankruptcy and having a swimming pool removed.  The Princess will need to be driven to and from school each day.  I will need to help Henry find another after-school job.  And the cool thing is, my imaginary friends will all be along for the ride.  Thank you, Calvin.  Thank you, Hobbes.  You made it all possible.  So, please, keep dancing the dance of the dundering doofus.

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Filed under artists I admire, autobiography, cartoons, feeling sorry for myself, humor, imagination, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Newspaper Comics in the1960’s; Lil’ Abner and Me

I was once an avid reader of the Sunday Funnies.  I loved the madcap world of Dogpatch, Lil’ Abner, Mammy Yokum, and all.  I also loved Pogo and his creator, Walt Kelly, but I’m sure you probably realized that already.  I believe I basically grew up in Dogpatch.  Rowan, Iowa is a small rural farm town.  Romance is basically a matter of running away from the girls and eventually tiring out enough to get caught and married.  I was a good athlete as a kid, probably why I didn’t get married until I was thirty-eight.  More than one of the old church ladies was a Mammy Yokum.  They fought the good fight for what is right by using a fast fist, a good dose of tonic, and an imperious, “I have spoken!”  I married a woman like that.  I had a Great Grandma that even looked like Mammy Yokum.  There was more than one Hairless Joe hanging around town with a mind fixed on Kickapoo Joy Juice.  There were even a few Shmoos.  I was basically Joe Btfsplk with the little stormcloud forever above my head.  I was in love with the only girl in town who looked like Daisy Mae, and I was chased by at least two different Sadie Hawkinses.

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http://www.deniskitchen.com

I used to read Al Capp’s strip on the front porch.  It was my personal get away.  We had an old student desk taken from the ancient Rowan School House.  It was placed on the porch, in a corner by Mother’s German pump-organ, the one willed to her by her Great Aunt.  There I would giggle about Abner’s spoonin’ and swoonin’ adventures.  I remember when Frank Frazetta would draw Daisy Mae and the beautiful but smelly Moonshine McSwine.  Man, I loved those curves!  I didn’t realize then that the strip was portraying my own love life so subliminally.  (I know there’s a better word than that, but can you say parallelly?)  I didn’t like to think about romance other than to comment in front of girls that I hated girls and would not ever be trapped by a girl.  That was all a lie, though, a big front.  I secretly adored Alicia Stewart and she was my perfect Daisy Mae.  So perfect, in fact, that I was embarrassed to even be in her presence for a moment.  She would always wonder why I blushed so much.  I never told her ( in an Abner-like way) how I felt about her.

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http://youhavetobethistalltogoonthisride.blogspot.com

My Great Grandma Hinckley was every bit as furiously upright and moral as Pansy Yokum.  She was the family matriarch, oldest living relative, and determiner of the family’s opinion on practically everything.   She even wore red and white striped stockings once in a while, a matter of shameless pride in the face of the pervasive Methodist Puritanism that surrounded rural people.  She had cures and remedies for everything that went in the face of my mother the registered nurse and all her book learnin’.  In fact, she was such a believer in Vick’s Vapo-Rub that she even ate the stuff.  She would come to our house to clean, purify, and straighten up not only the house and all its furniture, but our young and unruly souls as well.  She stood for no nonsense.  And, although no one ever tested her, she ruled with an iron fist.

Now, Hairless Joe was actually the opposite of hairless.  He didn’t have eyes behind that sheepdog haircut of his.  He goofed off up town, greeted everybody at the cafe, and, although most thought him worthless and foul, everyone greeted him in return.  There was a major difference, though, between him and the comic strip Joe.  No Lonesome Polecat, his little Indian friend.  There was no sidekick to throw horseshoes into the Kickapoo  Joy Juice to give it more kick.  He went through life alone.

There were a lot of Shmoos in town.  They were dangerous.  They made you believe that you didn’t need jobs or money.  Of course, they didn’t make you believe it through magical Shmoo power.  They were more like my Dad, industrious to a fault.  They did everything for you, paid for everything, and never taught you how to do things for yourself.  My Dad, who had been a professional truck driver at one time, tried to teach me to drive, but after the third near-fatal wrong turn, he would end up leaving that hair-raising experience to high school driving instructors.  He figured he had enough hair already and didn’t want to look like Hairless Joe.

Certainly that finally brings me back to the topic of me, Joe Btfsplk.  I am the unluckiest man in the whole of Dogpatch, if not the world.  Every intersection I drive up to yields an instant red light.  The little storm cloud above my head is constantly raining on me.   I’m given to long streaks of bad luck.  My best efforts often come to naught.  Still, like Joe, I keep my chin up.  One good that comes from always expecting the worst is that I am never surprised unless it is a pleasant surprise.  The bad things I am prepared for, the good ones I welcome.

Anyway, I used to imagine myself a resident of Dogpatch, USA.  I was a good, wholesome youth with a world of promise before him, just like Lil’ Abner.  I think I am still a resident, only now, I’m not Abner any more.  My oldest son, Dorin, more of a naive fan of the Fearless Fosdicks of the world, and I am now more like Pappy Yokum, listening meekly to Mammy’s commands until the time comes when I am needed to step up and be the mouse that roared.

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http://deniskitchen.com

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Lazy Sunday Silliness

mr8kecd

Imagination is always the place I go in times of trouble.  I have a part of my silly old brain devoted to dancing the cartoon dance of the dundering doofus.  It has to be there that I flee to and hide because problems and mistakes and guilt and pessimism are constantly building un-funny tiger-traps of gloom for me to rot at the bottom of.  You combat the darkness with bright light.  You combat hatred with love.  You combat unhappiness with silly cartoonish imaginings.  Well… maybe you don’t.  But I do.

calvin-and-hobbes

When reading the Sunday funnies in the newspaper on lazy Sunday afternoons, I spent years admiring Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes for its artistry and imaginative humor, believing it was about a kid who actually had a pet talking tiger.  I didn’t get the notion that Hobbes was actually a toy tiger for the longest time.  That’s because it was basically the story of my own boyhood.  I had a stuffed tiger when I was small. He talked.  He went on adventures with me.  And he talked me into breaking stuff and getting into trouble with Mom and Dad. It was absolutely realistic to me.

Dinosaurs

I have always lived in my imagination.  Few people see the world the way I view it.  I have at least four imaginary children to go along with the three that everybody insists are real.  There’s Radasha, the boy faun, my novel characters Tim Kellogg and Valerie Clarke, and the ghost dog that lurks around the house, especially at night.  That plus Dorin, Henry, and the Princess (the three fake names that I use in this blog for my three real children).

calvin-hobbes-art-before-commerce-1050x500

Have you noticed how Watterson’s water-color backgrounds fade into white nothingness the way daydreams do?  Calvin and Hobbes were always a cartoon about turning the unreal into the real, turning ideas upside down and looking at them through the filter-glasses of Spaceman Spiff.

Spaceman-Spiff

Unique and wonderful solutions to life’s problems can come about that way.  I mean, I can’t actually use a bloggular raygun to vaporize city pool inspectors, but I can put ideas together in unusual ways to overcome challenges.  I almost got the pool running again by problem-solving and repairing cracks myself.

 

So, I am now facing the tasks of working out a chapter 13 bankruptcy and having a swimming pool removed.  The Princess will need to be driven to and from school each day.  I will need to help Henry find another after-school job.  And the cool thing is, my imaginary friends will all be along for the ride.  Thank you, Calvin.  Thank you, Hobbes.  You made it all possible.  So, please, keep dancing the dance of the dundering doofus.

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Filed under artists I admire, autobiography, cartoons, feeling sorry for myself, humor, imagination, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Happy Birthday, Carl Barks

Carl Barks was born on March 27th, 1901. So, today is his 121st birthday. If you have no idea who I’m even talking about, then you were never a kid and a comic book fan in the 1960s. Carl Barks is both Uncle Scrooge’s father and Donald Duck’s stepfather.

Carl is a personal art hero of mine. I grew to adulthood on the adventures of his plucky ducks doing duck adventures in Duckburg. I have written about my devotion to Carl in this blog before. In fact, here is the link; https://catchafallingstarbook.net/2014/09/27/carl-barks-master-of-the-duck-comic/

That’s essentially true. A large part of my character as a junior high school English teacher was based on what I learned about mentoring from Scrooge McDuck and about teaching important facts from Gyro Gearloose.

Carl was not immune to criticism. Cartoonists get blow-back, a fact of life. But he overcame it with a wry sense of humor and interesting views of how you pursue goals in life. He had a firm sense of fair-play and justice. You could get actual morals to the stories in a Carl Barks’ duck cartoon.

The characters were not perfect. They all had glaring flaws, the heroes right along with the villains. Of course, the villains never learned to change their ways, while the heroes often learned to improve themselves by working on the weaknesses, and it wasn’t all about becoming a gazillionaire (a term I think Barks may have invented).

I even learned a good deal about adventure story-telling from Carl Barks’ comic books about Duck people doing ducky stuff that was really about people doing people-y stuff in the real world. Yes, people in the world around me are very Carl Barks’ ducky.

So, happy birthday, Carl. 121 years young. And he’s only been gone from our world since August of 2000. He still talks to me and teaches me through his Duck comics.

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The Ultra-Mad Madness of Don Martin

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Born in 1931 and lasting in this crazy, mixed-up world until the year 2000, Don Martin was a mixy, crazed-up cartoonist for Mad Magazine who would come to be billed as “Mad Magazine’s Maddest Artist.”    His greatest work was done during his Mad years, from 1956 (the year I was born… not a coincidence, I firmly believe) until his retirement in 1988.  (*** I was reminded by Martin’s wife that he did not retire then.  He just left Mad Magazine for places like Cracked where he was treated better.***)  And I learned a lot from him by reading his trippy toons in Mad from my childhood until my early teacher-hood.

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His style is uniquely recognizable and easily identifiable.  Nobody cartoons a Foon-man like Don Martin.

The googly eyes are always popped in surprise.  The tongue is often out and twirling.  Knees and elbows always have amazingly knobbly knobs.  Feet have an extra hinge in them that God never thought of when he had Adam on the drawing board.

And then there is the way that Martin uses sound effects.  Yes, cartoons in print don’t make literal sounds, but the incredible series of squeedonks and doinks that Martin uses create a cacophony of craziness in the mind’s ear.

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And there is a certain musicality in the rhyming of the character names he uses.  Fester Bestertester was a common foil for slapstick mayhem, and Fonebone would later stand revealed by his full name, Freenbeen I. Fonebone.

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And, of course, one of his most amazingly adventurous ne’er-do-well slapstick characters was the immeasurable Captain Klutz!

Here, there, and everywhere… on the outside he wears his underwear… it’s the incredible, insteadable, and completely not edible… Captain Klutz!

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If you cannot tell it from this tribute, I deeply love the comic genius who was Don Martin, Mad Magazine’s Maddest Artist.  Like me he was obsessed with nudists and drawing anatomy.  Like me he was not above making up words with ridiculous-sounding syllables.  And like me he was also a purple-furred gorilla in a human suit… wait!  No, he wasn’t, but he did invent Gorilla-Suit Day, where people in gorilla suits might randomly attack you as you go about your daily life, or gorillas in people suits, or… keep your eye on the banana in the following cartoon.

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So, even though I told you about Bruce Timm and Wally Wood and other toon artists long before I got around to telling you about Don Martin, that doesn’t mean I love them more.  Don Martin is wacky after my own heart, and the reason I spent so much time immersed in Mad Magazine back in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

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New Pirate Picture

Pirates nesaaat

I continue to believe bankers, health insurance companies, and corporate leaders are all pirates.  The gentleman of the sea dressed all in red in this picture is Black Timothy, bombastic and barely comprehensible leader of the pirates of Fantastica.

The truth is I am a bit of a cartoonist.  Don’t worry.  It is not a completely horrible and detestable thing to be.  Not like being a pirate… or a banker… or worse, a pirate banker.  It leads me to do cartoons like you will find in my vault, here…

The Atlas of Fantastica, Chapter 1

It is a basically incurable disease, and yet… I can live with it.  It will not kill me like some of my other incurable diseases eventually will.

So today’s post, keeping alive an unbroken string of daily posts that now goes back 16 months, is a picture post.  I hope you like it, but if you don’t, another one will come along soon enough.

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