Cody, Olivia & Jesse, Founders of BRAINBUG

Cody, Olivia & Jesse, Founders of BRAIN BUG magazine

BRAIN BUG is a new kid’s magazine by three enterprising Kutztown University students. “It’s called Brain Bug because we wanted to incorporate something to do with the brain (to emphasize knowledge, understanding and giving kids REAL information) but we also want to be about things that are gross-out fun, and science related, like bugs.”

Centipedes among the bugs in Brain Bug. issue 1.

Centipedes among the bugs in Brain Bug. issue 1.

Editor-in-chief Olivia Knowles is a Fine Arts /Painting major. Brain Bug is inspired by her fond memories of the wacky energy of Nickelodeon magazine. “I’m also inspired by the attitude of my kids at the daycare I work at, -how much they love stickers, books, coloring pages, physical activity, and how curious they are about the “grown up” lives of all the staff members.”

panel from the story Culture Vultures by Cody Myers, Brainbug issue !.

panel from the story Culture Vultures by Cody Myers, Brainbug issue 1.

Cody Myers is a Business major, but he can draw comics like a pro, as can be seen in the Culture Vultures panel above. Jesse Warner is a Communication Studies major. Jesse says issue one took 4 months, but it is a bimonthy magazine, so they are going to speed up production. “Brain Bug to me is more than just writing about topics, it’s a little piece of things that I liked when I was a kid and still do.”

Cover of BRAINBUG, issue 1.

Cover of BRAIN BUG, issue 1.

Want to start a your own magazine? Here is a tip from Brain Bug: “Tell everyone. By telling literally everyone we’ve ever met about this project, we’ve received SO much support. It can’t hurt!”  The 30-page full-color magazine looks sharp. They used a digital printing service called MagCloud, recommended by KU Fine Arts Prof Dan Talley.

Kutztown, PA is on the map in BRAINBUG>

WOW! Kutztown, PA is on the map in BRAIN BUG

Olivia has high hopes for Brain Bug. “My hope for Brain Bug is that it gets big enough that we have a fairly substantial group of readers that are excited to get a copy every month and know exactly the feeling they’ll get when they open it. A lot of adult friends have bought copies, but my hope is that with the next several issues we can reach out to more kids and parents that don’t know us directly. I hope that our issues will continue to be thicker, have longer more juicy articles, and more comic contributors. I hope we can unify our aesthetic and establish a concrete style and expectation while still keeping the grab bag feel as much as we can!”

detail from "Our Gross Best Friends" in Brain Bug.

detail from “Our Gross Best Friends” in Brain Bug.

Brain Bug is looking for art, story and comic submissions! Guidelines: Non-violent, non-political, not an advertisement! A reading level that fits about a ten-year old, non-gender biased, has to fit the informative and fun the theme of our magazine. Issue 1 is nearly sold out. “We still have about 20 copies for sale, but there may be a repress! If anybody would like a copy, check out our online store! “ Get in touch with the team via Brain Bug’s Facebook page.

 

Peonies, all images in post © Danny Gregory, from his Flicker page.

Peonies, all images in this post © Danny Gregory, from his Flicker page.

“Danny Gregory and his wife, Patti, hadn’t been married long. Their baby, Jack, was ten months old; life was pretty swell. And then Patti fell under a subway train and was paralyzed from the waist down.

In a world where nothing seemed to have much meaning, Danny decided to teach himself to draw, and what he learned stunned him. Suddenly things had color again, and value. The result is Everyday Matters, his journal of discovery, recovery, and daily life in New York City. It is as funny, insightful, and surprising as life itself.”  – note from Hyperion, the publisher of Everyday Matters.

Hounds © Danny Gregory.

Hounds © Danny Gregory.

Danny Gregory is coming to Kutztown University on Thurs, Dec. 4, thanks to Prof. Ann Lemon. Danny is an artist, illustrator, teacher, filmmaker and writer. I see from my Amazon history that I first bought his Everyday Matters when it came out in 2007. Like so many others, I was touched by the story of how he sat at his wife’s side during her hospital stay, and how the act of drawing saved his life. We use two of his books, The Creative License and The Illustrated Life as texts in classes at Kutztown.

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Detail from Amsterdam Sketchbook ©Danny Gregory

Detail from Amsterdam Sketchbook ©Danny Gregory

I asked Ann Lemon three questions about Danny Gregory. I asked when she first met him and what was her favorite drawing? and what’s Danny really like? Below are her answers:

Ann Lemon:  “So, I honestly can’t remember how long ago I met Danny. I think it was back in the 90s through his art director partner, who went to school with me. But I got to know him when we both worked at mcgarrybowen. I maybe even was more friends with his wife Patti – but then everybody always was.

Sketchbook © Danny Gregory

Sketchbook © Danny Gregory

Then, kind of a weird surprise, after Patti died (major tragic accident) he began dating my good friend, J.J. Wilmoth, who had also worked at mcgarry. They moved out to L.A. together for a while when she took a job out there last year, but they both missed New York too much and returned a few months ago.”

Bad to the Bone by Danny Gregory

Bad to the Bone by Danny Gregory

“Not sure what drawing would be my favorite. Maybe the cover of Bad to the Bone cause I have a major crush on his dog, Tim. I hope Tim comes to the talk. Actually, as long as Tim comes, I don’t even care if Danny comes.

Self-portrait © Danny Gregory.

Self-portrait © Danny Gregory.

His work personality is absolutely the opposite of his book personality – at work he comes across as kind of tough, silent. Also, he is a writer by trade, not an art director, so a lot of people at work had no idea he had this other life as an artist. He’s really funny, but always serious, too. You’ll see.”

O.K. You’ll see, too. Come see Danny Gregory at Kutztown University, Thurs. Dec. 4 at 6pm, Academic Forum 101. Free and Open to the Public. Bring your sketchbook, Danny will not mind if you draw while he talks. Sponsored by The Communication Design Dept., KUSSI, and KU’s AIGA student group.

Frank of Mars, A.K.A Frank Marsters, a self-portrait.

Paeregrine, A.K.A. Frank of Mars, A.K.A Frank Marsters,  self-portrait.

UPDATE: FUNDED at $1800, 3 times original goal! Frank Marsters is also known as “Paeregrine” and “Frank of Mars.” A Kutztown Communication Design grad, he is creating a full-color comic book based on his popular web comic Paeregrine.Cast. The comic book project is already funded via Kickstarter and heading toward new goals. I’m a backer. I love it when a former illustration student takes the initiative to make a dream come true. You have until November 13 to share the dream, which Frank explains earnestly in his basement.

FacebookCover_Kickstarter1bQ. Frank, What year did you graduate from Kutztown University?
December, 2012, my entire KU experience took 5.5 years to complete.

detail from a recent strip © Frank Marsters.

detail from a recent strip © Frank Marsters.

Q. What were your concentrations?
I graduated with both Illustration and Interactive. I had enough classes to graduate with Graphics as well, but ended up dropping my last requisite class in my final semester to help save my sanity.

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BeardRex by Frank Marsters

Q.What is your day job?
I am currently working a few days a week as an in-house freelancer at Neo-Pangea,  where I did my Internship and where I was a part of the Intern Abuser project. In the evenings I am doing freelance illustration to help make ends meet. Ideally, I would like to make my comic my full-time job, but, alas, I’m not there yet.

Q. Can you tell us about the inspiration for the cast ?
The cast of characters are all people I interact with on a mostly daily basis. I originally started out looking at each character as a 1:1 representation of the person behind it, but it quickly became more about caricatures and exaggerated versions of these people. Paeregrine, BeardRex, Ondine, etc. have become characters of their own, loosely based on the people they represented.

Troy Gearthe, inspiration for cast member BeardRex.

Troy Gaerthe, inspiration for cast member BeardRex.

Troy Gaerthe is the inspiration behind the BeardRex character, he helped me out a good deal with some site issues early on and still is a big help/support to the comic.

Q. Technical Question: Where will you get the comics printed?
It is currently my plan to use a web-based service called “KA-BLAM”. I can print short runs based on how many of each cover are selected on Kickstarter. KA-BLAM will print “Sketch Covers” on good drawing paper making my hand-drawn cover reward a lot easier to complete.

Alternate covers by KU grads Nathan Hurst and Griffin McCauley.

Alternate covers by KU grads Nathan Hurst and Griffin Macaulay.

Q. What are the figures for web hits? What was your biggest day?
The comic’s website has undergone a few face-lifts, – since moving to the current incarnation it has over 100,661 page views.

The comic that got of 17 hits on day one!

The web comic that got 17,350 hits on day one.

The comic (above) about the sale of Mojang / Minecraft to Microsoft got the highest number of views I’ve had in a single day: 17,530. But that is way higher than my daily average.

Q. How many subscribers?
As of the moment there is no way to subscribe to the site itself. (Working on that. Fan/followers on social media, hovering around 300.)

Paeregrine.cast, detail, all art in this post © 2014 Frank Marsters

Paeregrine.cast, detail, all art in this post © 2014 Frank Marsters

Q. Are you getting hits internationally?
From a lot of different countries. My top 7 nations (all in the thousands of hits) are the USA, Canada, UK, Australia, Germany, Sweden, France, and the Netherlands.  The international attention astounds me and makes me really happy. The French branch of the major games company Bethesda shared one of my comics. That was a really big deal to me, they translated the message along with it and everything.

So, if you like, support the Paeregrine Kickstarter here and get the comic book for a pledge of only $8. Or, you can always read the Paeregrine.Cast free online, updated 3 times a week! ‘Nuff said.

Lorenzo Mattotti with his original art for Hansel and Gretel

Lorenzo Mattotti with his original art for Hansel and Gretel.

Once upon a time, in 2007, The Metropolitan Opera staged Humperdink’s Hansel and Gretel.  Françoise Mouly, art editor for The New Yorker, helped organize an exhibition at the opera house based on the fairy tale. Contributors included stellar New Yorker cover artists including Roz Chast, Jules Feiffer,  Anita Kunz, Christoph Niemann, Gahan Wilson, and Lorenzo Mattotti.  Mattotti, one of Italy’s most important contemporary graphic artists, contributed a series of large-scale india ink drawings.

All images from toonbooks.com

All images from toonbooks.com

Pictures Came First: Françoise Mouly is also publisher and art director of the influential line of children’s books, Toon Books. She shared Mattotti’s moody artwork with her friend, writer Neil Gaiman. She asked him to retell the tale first written down by the Brothers Grimm in 1812.

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Neil Gaiman, from Toon Book’s Facebook page.

Gaiman, best known for Coraline and The Sandman, took up the task. Gaiman told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour this tale of Hansel and Gretel, of lost children and starvation, resonates in 2014. He spoke of his recent tour of Syrian refugee camps, “talking to Syrian refugees who ran out of food, – telling me of getting permission from their imams to eat cats and dogs, – eating grass, – drinking swamp water. -This is Hansel and Gretel!” Full interview is here.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

“…shadows crept out from beneath each tree and puddled and pooled until the world was one huge shadow.” There is a wonderful visual verbal synergy here. The cadence of Gaiman’s prose flows as swiftly and smoothly as Mattotti’s brushwork.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

In April at MOCCAfest, the comics convention in NYC, I met with Françoise Mouly about a book I’m working on with her. (More on that another day.) She shared with me the proof of Hansel and Gretel. The black and white printouts were neatly folded, fastened together with scotch tape. I held it in my hands and looked at Mottotti’s art for the first time. I found the images remarkably powerful, but not what I expected of a Toon Book. Toon Books are all different, but generally made in a colorful comic book style, with panels and word balloons. Mouly explained Toon Books was branching out with a new line, Toon Graphics.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

She asked me what I thought of the book. I told her it was quite beautiful and I expected it would be a great success. That was an understatement. Gaiman recently read Hansel and Gretel to a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall. The book hasn’t even been released yet and it is already in its third printing. Variety reports Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Juliet Blake bought the movie rights to the book.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

The NY Times gave Hansel and Gretel a glowing review. Gaiman said it was the best review of his career. Mouly said it took her breath away: Written with a devastating spareness by Neil Gaiman and fearsomely illustrated in shades of black by Lorenzo Mattotti, the newest version of “Hansel and Gretel” astonishes from start to finish. It doesn’t hurt that the book itself is a gorgeous and carefully made object, with a black floral motif on its pages’ decorated borders, along with red drop caps and tall, round gray page numbers. (Published by Toon Books, the New Yorker art director Françoise Mouly’s venture into richly illustrated books for children, it comes in two formats, with an oversize one that includes an afterword about the evolution of the tale.) Their rendition brings a freshness and even a feeling of majesty to the little tale.” -NY Times. The full review can be seen here.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

Hansel & Gretel is being released Oct.28. For more info, including video interviews with Gaiman and lesson plans based on the book visit Toon Books here. Near NYC? Lorenzo Mattotti is flying from Europe to visit McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince St, NYC on Sat, Nov.1. He’ll read from the book and share how he makes his pictures. Details here.

Illustration © by Jeremy Gilberto to raise awareness of testicular cancer.

Illustration © by Jeremy Gilberto to raise awareness of testicular cancer.

C.D. stands for Communication Design. I say C.D. so often I forget it is jargon used at Kutztown U, not everywhere. One of our annual events is the David Bullock Return of the CD Grads. This year we have two Renaissance men coming to campus to share their art and design. If you are in Kutztown come see them, if not, well, click the links below.  Jeremy is an Art Director at Red Tettemer. Greg is currently an Associate Creative Director at 160over90, both uber hip Philadelphia-based design firms.

White Rabbit design © Jeremy Gilbert

White Rabbit design © Jeremy Gilbert

JEREMY GILBERTO

Jeremy Gilberto writes: “I’ve given a good part of myself to advertising (not just time -it takes its toll). I graduated in 2010 and have since lived in two cities, been employed by two agencies and have had two very different experiences. In the past four years I’ve worked on about every type of client you can imagine, from those that will probably kill you, to ones that are used to clean you.

From Dean Ballas's blog on Jeremy Gilberto.

From Dean Ballas’s blog on Jeremy Gilberto.

When I’m not busy pushing pixels and making ads I’m busy pushing a stroller and being a dad. Occasionally, I’ll take a break from advertising and use my creative eye to take the cutest darn baby pictures I can. When I grow up I’d like to be an astronaut, but I probably should have made that decision earlier on in my life. Check me out here.

For an in-depth interview with Jeremy visit the dezignrogue.blogspot. This always interesting site is by former KU Prof. Dean Ballas.

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Hairy Potter © Greg Christman

GREG CHRISTMAN

I wrote a post about Greg Christman when he came to visit in 2012.

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‘Sailor Jerry’ press kit design by Greg Christman

Greg Christman is a designer, illustrator, typographer, husband, dad and cat blogger. He is currently writing this bio in the third person. Since 2007, he’s worked on Ferrari, Sailor Jerry Rum, Prince Tennis, Versus TV, ECCO Shoes, Tullamore Dew Whiskey, Hendricks Gin, The Philadelphia Eagles, countless bands, AAA, Mars Drinks, New Balance, Spike TV, US Open, and a ton more that he can’t remember because his wife isn’t here to remind him.

PA Hardcore Gig Poster ©  Greg Christman

PA Hardcore Gig Poster © Greg Christman

His cat blog has been featured on Comedy Central’s Adult Swim, BBC Comedy, and tweeted by countless celebrities. His design career is jealous of his cat blog.

Jeremy and Greg are both remarkable talents. I grabbed some of their illustrative work from their web sites, but they are great designers, too. The RETURN of the CD Grads is Thursday, October 16  4:30 p.m – 6:00 p.m. in KU’s SUB Alumni Auditorium. Shout Out to Prof. Elaine Cunfer who does the nearly thankless job (THANKS!) of creating the Return of the CD Grads every year.

Robert Ripley at his drawing board from www.nealthompson.com

Robert Ripley at his drawing board, from http://www.nealthompson.com

In 1930, in the depths of the Great Depression, the highest paid artist in America was a cartoonist. Robert Ripley earned $350,000 in 1931. Presidents of railroads earned less. Babe Ruth earned $80,000. The average American earned $1,850. King Features syndicated his Believe it Not cartoons to hundreds of newspapers. That contract alone was worth $100,000 annually. Ripley leveraged his drawing ability and celebrity to earn his fortune via lectures, newsreels, and a radio show.

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A Curious Man, The Strange and Brilliant life of Robert ‘Believe It or Not!’ Ripley by Neal Thompson is now out in paperback, published by Three Rivers Press.

A classic Ripley cartoon, drawn charcoal, 1932.

A classic Ripley cartoon, drawn charcoal, 1932.

I enjoyed the biography. I like Ripley’s charcoal drawing style. Even when he had photo reference his line quality suggests direct observation. I wanted to like Robert Ripley, the man, but found him terribly creepy. He was a world traveler, but like many Americans declined to learn other languages. He’d just speak English louder expecting to be understood.

classicripley

Ripley did have an urbane assistant, a Polish emigre named Norbert Pearlroth. Pearlroth had a photographic memory and spoke eleven languages. It was Pearlroth who spent long days in The NY Public Library mining the stacks for bizarre factoids to fill the columns. Ripley did the drawings. Ripley paid Pearlroth $75 a week and never publicly acknowledged Pearlroth’s contribution. He never invited Pearlroth to the endless parties at his posh Manhattan digs or to his private island.

Ripley’s island, called BION Island (Believe It Or Not) was on the Long Island Sound. He hired a string of beautiful 18-year-old female assistants and made them sign a waiver stating that they came voluntarily to his island. He was a heavy drinker and by the end of the night could forget his date’s name. His 28-room mansion on BION Island had a basement full of erotic curiosities and medieval torture devices. We learn “girlfriend-secretary-housekeepers overlapped and two or three would be living on BION Island at once.” And “those who stayed found… easy living, easy money, not too much work and plenty of liquor.”

Ripley published Charles Schulz's first dog cartoon in 1937.

Ripley published Charles Schulz’s first dog cartoon in 1937.

Long before Snoopy appeared in Peanuts, Charles Schulz drew his iconic beagle and mailed it to Robert Ripley. Ripley included the teenager’s drawing in the 1937 cartoon above.

Thompson writes that Ripley, who had buck teeth and a speech impediment felt empathy for the strange people he wrote about. Ripley never liked the term “freaks” He preferred his own word “queeriosities.”

Ripley measuring a moustache.

Ripley measuring Arjan Desur Dangar’s mustache aboard a ship from India.

Mister Arjan Desur Dangar was scheduled to appear at Ripley’s Odditorium at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. That did not work as planned. “Dangar fought with his manager, who ripped off half of his mustache. Ripley sent them back to India.”

The syndicated Ripley cartoons continue to this day. Perhaps they have lost some impact. Today everybody is a Ripley documenting the freaks on their block, or you-tubing their own Jackass antics.

Ripley might be pleased that this book has a gimmick: the downloadable “Oddscan” phone app. When the reader finds the Oddscan mark on a page they can scan the page with their cell phone to view exclusive hidden content. “Dear Reader: Want to see a man stick a spoke through his tongue, or get shot in the gut with a cannonball and survive?” Alas, I can’t vouch for this feature. I don’t have a cell phone, Believe it or Not!

Amazing Facts and Beyond © Kevin Huizenga and Dan Zettwoch

Amazing Facts and Beyond © Kevin Huizenga and Dan Zettwoch

I will leave you with one final irony, above. Ripley became a millionaire with his Believe it or Not cartoons. Today Dan Zettwoch and Kevin Huizenga are creating Amazing Facts and Beyond, a satire on Believe it or Not. Zettwoch and Huizenga are two amazing cartoonists, but are making hardly any money at all! -Believe it or Not!

Detail© K. Huizinga& D. Zettwoch for more info: leonbeyondfacts.blogspot.com/

Detail © K. Huizenga & D. Zettwoch- More info: leonbeyondfacts.blogspot.com

Disclosure: I got this Ripley biography, A Curious Man, free from bloggingforbooks.org. If you blog, check it out.

 

America, mural detail, Chapel Atotonilco, Mex.

America, mural detail, Chapel Atotonilco, Mex.

In a few days I find out if I have enough students to run a sketchbook class in Oaxaca, Mexico. Info on the class can be found here. I’ve been looking through my Mexico sketchbooks. These pages remind me of the wonderful days I have spent in Mexico over the years.

Flower vendor, Guanajuato.

Flower vendor, Guanajuato.

Sometimes my drawings are quick pen sketches. Sometimes I take time to add watercolor washes. Often they are drawn to remind myself about a particular place, like the restaurant Itanoni in Oaxaca. My notes remind me of Itanoni’s fresh organic corn tortillas. Itanoni also serves a wonderful hot chocolate drink, called champurrado, a type of atole made of maize flavored with cane sugar and cinnamon.

itanoni

tule copySometimes I draw tourist attractions, like the giant Tule tree outside of central Oaxaca. I’ve seen people jump out of a taxi, snap a photo of the Tule tree and be gone in 60 seconds. Sketching forces me to catch my breath, to savor those few minutes I spent under the shadow of this ancient life form. Some call it the world’s largest tree. The Zapotecs believe it was planted by Ehecatl, the wind god,1400 years ago. With a circumference of 137 feet, it is wider than the giant sequoia of California.

The Weaving Teacher, Oaxaca.

The Weaving Teacher, Oaxaca.

zocaloOnce when I was drawing in the zocalo, Oaxaca’s central square, an old campesino asked me if I could draw his picture. I told him I would be glad to do so. He folded his arms across his chest and stared hard at me.

campesinoA crowd gathered. Some thought I was drawing him all wrong, some thought I was doing it right. In the end, I showed it to the man and he just laughed and walked away happy. The crowd turned their attention to the marimba players and the balloon vendors. I kept drawing and I felt connected to the throng, like I was a part of the wonderful human opera of Oaxaca. I have a new sketchbook and I look forward to visiting Mexico again.

 

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I picked up a sad old book for 50¢ at the Kutztown Library sale. The cover reminded me of Jean Charlot’s art. The pages were yellowed, torn in places, many illustrations were defaced with crude blue pencil marks. Even in this sorry state I found the book quite moving. Citizen 13660 is a graphic documentary by an American woman put in a concentration camp near San Francisco. Citizen 13660 was first published in 1946, before the terms graphic novel or graphic memoir existed.

minoinBerne

Miné Okubo was born in Riverside, CA to Japanese parents. A top art student at U.C. Berkeley, she won a prestigious fellowship to study in Europe.  She studied with Leger in Paris, but 1939 was not a good time to live in Europe. When the Nazis took Paris she managed to get home to Berkeley, California with only the clothes on her back.

Berkeley

Okubo got some interesting art jobs for the Roosevelt’s WPA.  She worked with Diego Rivera for a time when he was doing his San Francisco murals. She got her own commission create a mural for a Soldier and Sailor’s Hall in Oakland. Then the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. She had to carry special authorization papers to allow her to travel more than 5 miles from her home in Berkeley to Oakland.

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Things quickly got worse for the Japanese-Americans. They were rounded up and put in internment camps. Miné and her family and 8,000 others were taken to Tanforan, a camp made from a run-down horse track in San Bruno, just south of San Francisco.

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Her text is remarkable for its simplicity. She notes gambling was forbidden, yet they were living in stalls at a race track. She avoids pointing out the irony, letting the reader connect the dots.

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The “Japanese American Segregation Centers” were the result of racism. Over 100,000 Japanese-Americans were imprisoned, the majority were U.S citizens. The U.S. was waging war with Germany and Italy, too. German-Americans and Italian-Americans may have suffered wartime discrimination, but they were white Europeans, and so never herded into interment camps like the Japanese.

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Her sketches document the daily indignities of six months at Tanforan. Then she and her brother were relocated inland to Topaz, a Japanese Relocation Center in Utah. Topaz was even less pleasant than Tanforan. After two years of confinement she was eventually released. She remained an artist until her death in 2001 in Greenwich Village, NYC.

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Miné Okubo wrote  I am often asked, why am I not bitter and could this happen again? I am a realist with a creative mind, interested in people, so my thoughts are constructive. I am not bitter. I hope that things can be learned from this tragic episode, for I believe it could happen again.‎”

The pages of my first edition of Citizen 13660, (Columbia University Press, 1946) are falling apart as I turn them. I may be the last person to read this particular volume. Fortunately, the book has been reissued in paperback by the University of Washington Press. And nearly 200 of Okubo’s internment camp sketches can be found here on the web site of the Japanese American National Museum. Miné Okubo illustrated a life worth remembering.

 

Groot and Rocket, out of the box.

Groot and Rocket, out of the box.

Invest now in Guardians of the Galaxy collectible toys! O.K, I was wrong about Beanie Babies & Longaberger baskets. But I should have trusted my gut and bought a second Pee-Wee Herman Doll in 1985.

10525946_807600575950868_4731335839473129566_nKelly Weihs is a 2010 grad from Kutztown University’s Communication Design major with a dual concentrations: graphic design and illustration. She designs the packaging for Diamond Select Toys, including the new Guardian of the Galaxy figures.

Grax, Rocket Racoon and Groot from Diamond Select Toys.

Grax, Rocket Racoon and Groot from Diamond Select Toys. Whole cast above.

Keely gets paid to play with this stuff.

Kelly Weihs gets paid to play with this stuff.

She and one other graphic designer do all the packaging there. I asked her how she came to have such a cool job….

Kelly: “My internship at Crayola is probably what made me seem appealing to my current employer. I have learned a great deal about packaging since my internship! I didn’t expect to end up at a job doing package design. Diamond is a small toy company in Maryland, part of a larger comic book distributing empire. 80% of the time I make packages for collectibles and toys. Since I’ve been here, the licenses have changed some and we’ve gotten some more popular things within the last year. Lately, I have gotten to make Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and My Little Pony packages and related things – and those are quite popular.”

10313481_772474246130168_5039475249172596406_nWhat are you working on?

Kelly: “We have a line of small 2-inch toys called Minimates – characters from films, comic books and even our in-house characters. Last year was their 10 year anniversary. We did Guardians of the Galaxy as Minimates. Since we make products so far in advance sometimes I lose track of time and think the movie has already been released.

What are your favorite projects?

Kelly: “My favorites are probably the ones that are Marvel-film related. Iron Man, Thor and Avengers characters have been fun because I enjoy the movies and they’re neat to see in action figure form.”

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How much time do you get to work on a project?

“The time I have to work on projects varies. We have factory deadlines to keep up with and licensor approvals so things must get done in a timely fashion.”

Pulp Fiction is not for Children under 3, -Choking Hazard.

Note re: Pulp Fiction – Not for Children under 3 – Choking Hazard.

“Besides Marvel, I design packages for Disney, Star Trek, Star Wars, Universal Monsters, The Walking Dead comics, Batman, Kevin Smith properties, Mass Effect games, Miramax films like Pulp Fiction and other things I am probably forgetting.”

Sin City packaging by Kelly Weihs.

Sin City packaging by Kelly Weihs.

“We’ve been branching out at work into new products besides action figures and toys – we even make silicone ice cube trays and bottle openers featuring your favorite characters.”

When Kelly is not sitting at a computer she likes to time travel by reenacting history at the actual historic sites. This summer she was at Monocacy Battlefield, Maryland, on the side of the Union Army.

Kelly and her beau Kyle are civil war reenactors, here at the 150th anniversary of Monocacy. Photo my Mel Sessa.

Kelly & her beau Kyle at 150th anniversary of Battle of Monocacy. Photo by Mel Sessa.

More of Kelly’s design and illustration work can be seen on her Behance site here. Diamond Toys has a blog worth visiting if you are a collector.

I went to NYC for the 92nd meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium. I’ve missed 90 meetings, but they are a welcoming bunch. The Symposium pops up someplace different each meeting, so you need to find it. The Symposium is free, info here.  This is not Comi-Con. The emphasis is on D.I.Y., independent and innovative comics.

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Tom Hart and Leela Corman, husband and wife artists and educators presented. There was a crowd of about 40. Tom and Leela arrived a bit late navigating their way into the SVA conference room with their baby Molly in a stroller. Tom shared a Powerpoint about the Sequential Artists Workshop, SAW, the one-room schoolhouse for comics they founded in Florida in 2011. As Tom’s eyes darted across the audience he gave shout-outs to old NYC friends. He taught cartooning for 10 years at SVA.

Leela Corman teaching Life Drawing at SAW, Gainesville.

Leela Corman teaching Life Drawing at SAW, Gainesville.

VISIT GAINESVILLE: More Lizards than Criminals! Tom spoke of their move to Florida. A New Yorker in the audience must have flinched. “It’s Gainesville!” said Tom. “It’s not what you think of when you think ‘Florida.’ We have WAY more lizards than criminals.” He’s working on a graphic memoir dealing, in part, with their exodus from New York. I read somewhere Tom just got tired of being a starving artist in New York. I recall one telling detail. He wore his useless wristwatch for months because he couldn’t afford a new battery.

First floor at SAW, Gainesville, from SAW's blog.

First floor at SAW, Gainesville, from SAW’s blog.

SAW’s one room schoolhouse is in what looks like a mini-mall. Tom touted his Gainesville neighborhood, pointing out SAW’s proximity to the South’s oldest feminist/LGBTQ bookstore and the South’s oldest Infoshop. He explained the impetus for creating SAW, an affordable stand-alone academy for comics. “I had this vision of an intense, serious place, – The Paper Chase for cartooning.” (The Paper Chase was a ’70’s T.V. show about Harvard Law School with a hero named Hart, oddly enough.) Tom’s recollections of his time studying cartooning at SVA were not pretty. Nobody finished anything. -“It was terrible. They were all listening to The Cure and doing drugs,” he recalled. “and my mother had to take out a loan.”

Tom Hart's Hutch Owen comic strip is at www.hutchowen.com

Tom Hart’s Hutch Owen comic strip is at http://www.hutchowen.com

“It’s not right. There are art schools charging $35,000 a year, and there are schools charging less, like $12,000. Even that’s too much.” he said. “SAW’s flagship program, a 1-year full-time comics boot camp costs $3,500 for the year.” SAW’s program includes master classes in life drawing, comics/art history “that begins way before Hogarth” lo-fi technique classes, and, naturally, critiques. They don’t have a lot of computers or software, but they do have a risograph printer. SAW is not accredited, but teaches the same stuff as  accredited schools and the results are quite impressive. I wrote about SAW before and interviewed student Adrian Pijoan here.

Yahrzeit detail © Leela Corman 2013.

Yahrzeit detail © Leela Corman 2013.  Silver Medal winner, Society of Illustrators

Leela took to the podium. Besides teaching at SAW, she’s a zinester, illustrator, and belly dance instructor. A Powerpoint malfunction prevented her from showing much of her award-winning graphic novel Unterzakhn. Tom still asked her the question that irks her most, “Is Unterzakhn autobiographical?”  She answered with mock annoyance,”It’s about twins! It takes place in a brothel! in 1910! The answer is, No!”

leela-corman-unterzakhn-2012She shared work done for the Symbolia, the app ‘where comics meets journalism.’ I took some solace from her offhand remark, “I have to learn to draw again for every book.” The progressive Jewish mag Tablet published some of her most heartfelt work, – her graphic meditation on her Holocaust survivor grandfather and her own pain of losing a daughter. Their daughter Rosalie died near the age of two in 2011. “Since my first child died, I’ve tried to understand how my grandfather handled losing his entire family, and how he kept going.” As Leela noted, no one can understand this sort of grief, if they have not experienced it. Even then, it is beyond understanding. The full strip is here.

Odyssey, detail, © Justine Mara Anderson, SAW faculty.

Odyssey, detail, © Justine Mara Anderson, SAW faculty.

Secret Project GNAT

Tom returned to the podium to share a rather incredible comic he is editing for DARPA. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are the folks who invented the Internet and drones. Really! Everyone is getting into comics. The GNAT project (Graphic Novel Art Therapy) is meant to help vets deal with PTSD. A declassified explanation of the overall project can be found here.  Tom shared pages from a graphic retelling of the Odyssey for vets. He pointed out details including extraordinary inking by Justine Anderson, above. That final panel is drawn with a toothpick.

Gasoline Alley panels by Frank King, circa 1921.

Gasoline Alley panels by Frank King, circa 1921.

Tom looped back to his own memoir project. He posts his Rosalie Lightning work-in-progress online. He, too, spoke of his massive grief when baby Rosalie died. He recalled reading classic 1920’s Gasoline Alley strips by Frank King. When got to a panel where Walt panics about losing his baby Skeezix, he couldn’t bear to continue reading.

The Gasoline Alley panel Tom Hart showed, taken from his Tumbler.

The Gasoline Alley panel Tom Hart showed, taken from his Tumbler.

Maybe it was a catch in his voice, or a dip in Tom’s positive psychic energy, but as he talked about “losing our baby” something changed. It seemed even Molly, eleven months old, sensed it. She swung her wee body away from her mother’s breast toward her father. Leela held on as long as she could, but Molly went willfully horizontal, arms outstretched toward Tom.

A page from Hart's Rosalie from http://rosalielightning.tumblr.com/

A page from Hart’s Rosalie Lightning from http://rosalielightning.tumblr.com/

Leela carried Molly across the room carefully shielding the girl’s eyes from the glare of the projector. Tom cradled Molly in his left arm and, as best he could, used his right hand to advance the slides. At one point he tried to pass Molly back to Leela. Molly refused to go that go far.

Tom Hart and Molly at NY Comic Symposium. K.McCloskey

Tom Hart and Molly at NY Comic Symposium. K.McCloskey

Nick Bertozzi seated near the podium managed to bounce Molly on his knee as Tom wrapped up his commentary. Tom apologized if he’d gone on too long. The room filled with applause. Molly’s eyes lit up as if the clapping was for her. I suppose some of it was. Grateful applause for the whole family: Tom and Leela and Rosalie and Molly.

There was time for a few questions, and someone asked how to help SAW. Tom was clearly relieved by the softball question. He’d totally forgotten to mention that key point. SAW depends on donations to keep tuition low. SAW will announce a new Indi-GOGO fundraiser in December. To help out visit the SAW site and sign up for the newsletter. They also have low-residency weeks if you haven’t got a year off.

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Note: The 93rd NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium is Mon, Aug. 4, 2014, 7 pm, Dixon Place on Chrystie St. Free and open to the public. Presenters: Sophia Wiedeman & Anna Raff.  Details here.

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