Monday, December 21, 2009

Number One

The past month has been spent drawing zombies (more on that later)... the other night I needed a break and doodled a Commander Riker for this Commander Riker blog. Now back to zombies.
Happy holidays to everyone in the meantime.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Harvey Heads

For Harvey Pekar's 70th birthday, Smith online magazine got a load of cartoonists (including myself) to draw Harvey's head. This week Graphic NYC has been hosting a Harvey Pekar Week. I did a short q & a along with some of the other artists, and there's lots of other cool stuff, like Dean Haspiel's process for designing an American Splendor cover and a how-to-draw Harvey tutorial by Rich Parker.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thaksgiving

I'm thankful for the X-Men, which I used to collect and for Secret Wars II, which I still have fond memories of. In fact, I think there's an Omnibus edition for that series coming out soon...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Haruki Murakami

I recently drew one of my favorite authors, Haruki Murakami, for the excellent website Hey Oscar Wilde! It's Clobberin' Time!!!.
The site is full of cartoonists and artists drawing favorite authors and literary characters, and well worth some browsing time. Being a fan of Haruki Murakami also got me a job when I first moved to Chicago, and I drew a little comic about that which you can read here.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Deep down inside I'm a big nerd, so it's fitting that I recently recorded an interview on Chicago's own Nerd City podcast.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

More Merry Marvel Madness

The first comic book I bought was issue 192 of The Uncanny X-Men. Here's a scan of a drawing I'm working on based on the cover. I also wrote a short piece about the impact this comic had on me, over at Fanboy Fables.

And if you're in Chicago, you can bring your copy of Strange Tales #3 to Third Coast Comics where I'll be signing this Saturday, from noon to 5PM.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Childhood Dream: Check.

My childhood dream was to draw for Marvel Comics. When Marvel announced their Strange Tales series, I thought I might finally achieve that dream. Thanks to some lucky breaks, it happened. You can pick up the issue in comic stores today. Above is the evolution of the story, from thumbnail to complete with colors.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ethan Frome, in stores now

The Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of Ethan Frome is out now, with my cover artwork. They did a really nice job with the finished look, adding a shiny red finish to the title and printing it on a super-nice uncoated coverstock that gives the colors a dull earthy tone. It's book covers like these Penguin editions that make me think that reading books online or in digital versions should never replace a well designed physical version.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rabbit Fever in San Francisco

A couple days ago, Rabbit Fever screened as a work in progress during the San Francisco Documentary Film Festival. Here's my poster art outside the Roxie Theater.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yo Gabba Gabba

Today the new Yo Gabba Gabba CD comes out - with way more songs than the first CD had. Plus, Yo Gabba Gabba is doing some live shows, including here in Chicago. Oscar is excited.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Change-Bots in Korea

Here's the Incredible Change-Bots, Korean edition. They came up with a pretty awesome cover design, I think.

Friday, October 9, 2009


I created a playlist as part of Inkstuds' Mixtape series... you can listen to the playlist and see the comic here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Completed Guitar

Here's a couple more pictures of the Change-Bots guitar, from Rob Budinsky at Action Music who put the guitar together.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Busy Times

From The Daily Crosshatch, here's a photo with the finished just in time Change-Bots guitar, auctioned off at SPX for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Also at SPX were copies of the newly printed Sulk 3 and advance copies of the documentaryDrawing Between The Lines. The show was a lot of fun and I came home with tons of great minicomics. Now it's back to working on Cat Walks. Also, this weeks episode of Heroes featured a cameo by Clumsy, somewhere around the 39:20 mark.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

In Stores Now

After agreeing to take on the Simpson's in a short story for this year's Treehouse of Horror issue, I started figuring out how I wanted to draw the characters. The big problem was having them be enough in my own style, but also staying true to the characters as most people know them. I had abandoned this story about the seeing the Red Wings play the Blackhawks in last season's NHL Winter Classic game, so I used the space to sketch out Milhouse and friends instead. Please note that all likenesses and images of the Simpsons and this story are copyright by 20th Century Fox Inc.

As I started to get a feel for the characters, I also needed to test out coloring. This was a piece of illustration board, with the line work drawn in my standard Uniball Deluxe Micro pen, and colored with Faber Castell brush pens.

Next up was laying out simple thumbnails for the story. I probably could've made this a 32 page story, but I had 8 pages to work with so I streamlined it as much as I could and planned it out on little pieces of Bristol.

After figuring out the basic story, I pencilled it out on illustration board, drawing at actual print size. Since they'd asked if we could do the lettering separate (for ease in printing translations) I practiced adding the lettering on sheets of tracing paper.

I inked the story's line art with my Uniballs, and then started coloring. Despite testing previously, I screwed something up, or I guess didn't do enough testing, so page one became another test page and had to be redrawn.

I got a handle on the coloring and completely colored four pages before giving into the feeling that the look and the feel wasn't just right for the story. Not claustrophobic enough, not dark enough, and looking a bit to polished or something. I decided I was probably drawing the story too big, since I usually draw smaller, so I resized things to something like 70% of print size, and re-drew the whole story at the new size, with much more satisfying results.

I still needed to figure out the lettering, and this is one of about four versions. As I re-did the lettering each time, though, I also adjusted some of the text slightly. Sammy also talked to me about changing the ending slightly, which made sense and after some thinking I figured out a better ending that fit the story well.

The final artwork had a tighter, more packed feel, to feed into the story's plot about Milhouse living in the walls of the Simpsons house.

Finally I had to fit the finished text in with the artwork, which required some adjusting, since I drew everything separate without using the computer, which would've no doubt made the whole process simpler. All in all, I'm pretty happy with how the story turned out, although it was also a good learning experience and I'd probably have a better method for doing something like this next time around.
Head out to your local comic shop, book store, or other Bongo Comics outlet to pick up your copy today. I haven't had a chance to sit down and read it yet, as I'm getting ready for SPX this weekend, but seeing the artwork from Sammy Harkham, Jordan Crane, Tim Hensley, Kevin Huizenga (not to mention Dan Zettwoch's awesome cover) should make this one of the best Treehouse of Horror issues yet.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Simpson's Treehouse of Horror Tonight!

Tomorrow, The Simpson's Treehouse of Horror Issue #15 hits stores, with my 'Bad Milhouse' story in it. But if you're in Los Angeles, you don't have to wait until tomorrow, come to Family on Fairfax, tonight at 7PM. Jordan Crane, Tim Hensley, Sammy Harkham and Matt Groening will also be in attendance. You'll also be able to see the original art from the issue on display.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Incredible Change-Bots Guitar

After a late night working on the guitar, I woke up this morning to finish the last bits, so I could send it off to the guitar shop, who will have just a few days to finish and assemble it into a fully functional guitar. Hopefully it'll be ready for SPX this Saturday...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

So far with the guitar

Didn't get as far along yesterday as I hoped, so tonight I'll finish the smaller of the two sections that are left, leaving Sunday to finish the large section so I can ship the guitar off for assembly for SPX. Now I'm off to Windy City Comicon, so if you're in Chicago, stop by...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I incredible-changed my mind

After a lot of thinking and not being able to work on it at all, I've changed my mind about decorating this guitar with an autobiographical/music loves theme and gone back to my initial thought of having the Change-Bots on it. The design is inspired by Han Solo and Chewbacca working on the Millennium Falcon, so the guitar is like a secret vehicle or base for the Change-Bots, and you can see them inside it. After pencilling out the design with an HB pencil, I marked the straight lines with blue tape, then applied a really thin coat of white gesso (watered down so the pencils would still show through). Last night I painted the line work black, and today I'll be starting the final painting, using Liquitex acrylics, and should be finished in order to get it to the guitar tech for assembly Monday or Tuesday, which means working all weekend, except for taking a break to sit at my table for Saturday's Windy CIty Comicon. The guitar will be auctioned off by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund at the Small Press Expoin Bethesda, Maryland.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Last Match

I recently contributed a drawing to The Last Match, an exhibition of tiny matchbox size drawings. It's a pretty amazing collection of artists from all over the world, and you can see the works here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cat Process

Just in stores now are the Cat Companion Journal, a blank journal illustrated with some of my cta drawings, and The Cutest Sneeze In The World, a box of 30 postcards mostly taken from Cat Getting out Of The Bag along with 8 all new color postcards. Recently, I've begun work on the sequel to the cat book, currently titled 'Cat Walks,' so I figured I should post on my process for the cat comics. I start out by pencilling the panels, then pencil the insides of the panels. Then using the lightest gray Faber Castell brush pen, I ink the lines, then erase the pencils. The new book is half black and white and half in color, but the next steps are pretty much the same for both. I either add the colors, or whatever gray shading I need, again using the Faber Castell brush pens. Finally, to finish it off I add the final black lines.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

46 Million


WHAT: An online art auction and fundraiser to promote universal health care, specifically a public option to compete with the insurance industry and keep them honest. Money raised will be donated to Democracy for America Now, a national advocacy group that is running television ads to push the Public Option in democratic swing districts and offering support to congress members who take a stand for the policy.

WHO: The fundraiser is being organized by Anders Nilsen, a Chicago based artist and graphic novelist featuring nationally and internationally recognized cartoonists and artists around the country. Participating artists include: John Porcellino, Genevieve Elverum, Chris Ware, Ivan Brunetti, Dan Clowes, Phil Elverum (Mount Eerie), Jeffrey Brown, Paul Hornschemeier, Todd Baxter, Sonnenzimmer Print Studio, Adam Henry, Kevin Huizenga, Jay Ryan (The Bird Machine Print Studio), Lynda Barry, Lilli Carre, David Heatley, Kyle Obriot, Stephen Eichhorn, Buenaventura Press, Sammy Harkham and the organizer, Anders Nilsen.

WHY: In light of recent events, this is a desperate attempt to do something rather than just sit idly by while a few giant corporations with something to lose goad a gullible few into scaring their elected representatives away from real change. We’re doing this because the richest country the planet has ever known has no excuse to not take care of its citizens. We rank 37th in the world in overall health care performance, according to the World Health Organization. Right now a million Americans declare bankruptcy every year because of lack of adequate insurance. Hundreds of billions of dollars are wasted on redundant and impenetrable insurance company bureaucracies. We spend vastly more money on health care and wind up with far worse outcomes than other comparable countries. For many of the artists involved in this auction, a real health care bill is exactly the kind of reason we voted for Obama and Congressional Democratic majorities last Fall. To sit by and do nothing while Obama’s first significant initiative twists in the wind is simply not an option.
WHY #2: Like millions of other working Americans, a lot of artists and freelancers in this country are denied affordable health insurance simply because they are self employed. Making access to health care dependant on a person’s employment status is arbitrary and unsustainable.

WHERE: The auction of the artists’ works will be held on Ebay. To find them and to bid go to and search for 46 Million.

WHEN: The auction will start Thursday August 27th and end Sunday September 6th, in 10-minute increments starting at 2pm CST.

Jeffrey Brown: I'm not sure why I have health insurance now. Because I'm self employed with a pre-existing condition (even though that condition was diagnosed fifteen years ago and has been in remission since), the only health insurance I can get is the Illinois Comprehensive Health Insurance plan with a $5,200 deductible. Basically, I have it in case I'm in some horrific accident or something. I'm guessing there's some fine print buried in my documentation that would release them from reliability to pay out on anything anyway. I've been burned before by that - finding out that vaccines are not considered 'essential care' and being told that using a midwife for birth was covered, only to be denied because there wasn't a doctor in the room at the time of birth. Anyway, the past couple years I've spent something like $8,000 in health insurance, and in return, the health insurance companies have paid for me... um... nothing.

Ivan Brunetti: As someone with a lot of pre-existing conditions, I wouldn't be able to purchase my own insurance plan, at least nothing of decent quality or anywhere close to affordable. I rely, necessarily, on my employer for my health insurance. I have a lot of preexisting conditions and have been rejected when I tried to purchase my own insurance plan in the past.
Lynda Barry: The motivation behind the health care hoo-ha is difficult to understand. I can’t get my mind around it at all, can’t understand what’s driving it. I’ve spent the last six years living in a very conservative area, and many of my good friends are hard core Republicans, but not a single one of them is having the reaction I’ve seen in the press. That screaming shouting hatred. Maybe they hide it from me because I’m such a lefty liberal, but we’ve always been able to speak frankly about everything else. So I don’t get it. I don’t know who the furious and screaming people are at all.

Anders Nilsen: My girlfriend in March of 2005 was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and died that November. She had endured symptoms for several months before it became too much to bear and we went to the county hospital. Had she had insurance I have no doubt that her condition would have been caught earlier. That was several years ago and I have moved on and am now very happily married. My wife has insurance, supposedly very good insurance, through her present job, but the bureaucratic nonsense the insurance company puts her through every time she sees a doctor, and the amount of stuff that should be covered but isn’t, is astounding.

Genevieve Elverum: I know too many people who went through the warp of needing serious medical attention and dangerously delayed it or got themselves in deep financial turmoil because they couldn't afford insurance. I myself gave up my right to receive free healthcare when I moved across the border from Canada. It's kind of terrifying sometimes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Here's some of my paintings from art school, along with how I drew them in Funny Misshapen Body. I was drawing from memory, so they're varying degrees of accurate.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Robert Venditti

My friend Rob Venditti has toiled in the Top Shelf trenches for years, and this September his scifi detective parable The Surrogates will come out as a film starring Bruce Willis. I contributed a comic to start off Rob's convention sketchbook, which you can see over at Rob's blog .

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Guitar Part Two

So yesterday I started pencilling out and planning the design on the guitar - basically it'll be of me listening to music, and then wrapping around the guitar in the background will be references to albums and bands I like, or have liked at some point, or are significant for some reason. I've got a list of just over a hundred, so we'll see how many I can fit on there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Music Saves My Life Every Day

Last year at the Small Press Expo, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund auctioned off a custom guitar decorated by Andy Runton. This year, I've been invited to do the same. After some internal debating and asking around, I decided to try and do something autobiographical... I'd had the idea of writing a story called 'Music Saves My Life EVeryday' a while ago, and I think I'm going to adapt that for my design. So here's step one, pulling the guitar body out of the box and taking a look...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I didn't recognize John Hughes the first time he walked into the music department of the Barnes & Noble store I worked at, but a co-worker did. "That's John Hughes," he whispered. I wasn't so sure, but none of the three employees around that day had the nerve to say anything in any case. When he came up to pay, I figured there was nothing to lose.
"Are you John Hughes?"
"...the director?"
He just nodded his head in acknowledgment, and I may have said something about liking his movies. Then I had the thought of giving him my book Clumsy, which I had just self-published, and had some copies of behind the counter.
"Um, do you like comics?" I asked.
He was giving me a look of something between fear and curiosity. At least, the kind of curiosity you see in horror films where the character knows better than to check out the weird life form growing on the wall, but stands there a minute too long anyway. I think John Hughes actually started backing up a little, but I hadn't finished bagging his DVD's.
"Here, you can have this if you want, it's my book." I pulled out a copy and handed it to him.
He flipped through it and a look of relief seemed to come over him.
"I thought you were going to hand me, like Batman or something."
He ended up talking to me right there for almost an hour, about books and movies. He mentioned his son's self published art magazine project, and asked if I liked what Dave Eggers was doing with McSweeney's.
I think he tried to pay me for my book, but I don't remember if I took the money or not.

Even though I didn't know at first that this unassuming figure was John Hughes, I was very familiar with his films. When a friend of mine had hosted a 1980's themed party, I put on my Red Wings jersey, and everyone instantly recognized me as Cameron from Ferris Bueller's Day Off . I knew The Breakfast Club, and I knew Home Alone. I went home that night to look up what other films he had worked on, and was astounded at the number of them that had played such a large part in my pre-teen and teenage years. National Lampoon's Vacation (& Christmas Vacation), Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, Uncle Buck, The Great Outdoors. Looking at the list of his films all at once, it's a pretty staggering resume.

John turned out to be a regular in the store, buying stacks of DVD's, books and music. He would ask us for recommendations, and give some. He recommended the British TV show The Office, long before it was an American sitcom, saying he liked how it captured moments. The best times for me were when he would talk about his own work. He said "I like people who are ambitious..." and explained how at one point before becoming a full time director, he was working essentially three jobs. His day job was at the Leo Burnett ad agency in Chicago, but he would duck out to get on a plane for meetings as the editor of the National Lampoon. While he was gone he would have his secretary put hot coffee and half smoked cigarettes on his desk to make it look like he had just stepped out a moment ago. He had also started writing screenplays, which he would sometimes hide at the bottom of his garbage can underneath the rest of the trash, only to pull it out and brush it off at the end of the day to continue working on it. He also mentioned how he took over editing the National Lampoon letters page, and realizing that the magazine paid for letters it published, began writing the letters under pseudonyms for some extra money.

At one point someone approached me about adapting my book for film, and it went as far as a big official Hollywood type contract coming to me to sign. John talked to me about it and shared his own experiences. He talked about negotiating the money aspect, selling his first screenplay for something like $30,000 to get his foot in the door, and then later with Home Alone how he paid other producers on the film $50,000 for each of their "participation points" - the percentage of money they would get from what the film made - and each point ended up being worth millions.
The things he seemed to regret a little were some of the rights. He based the character of Clark Griswold in Vactation on his father, but because the film was written as work-for-hire, he essentially lost the rights to the character of his own father. He also talked about the movie studio wanting to make a sequel to The Breakfast Club, which he opposed. I think there were also negotiations for a stage adaptation of that film, the year long process falling apart when it became apparent that the producers intended to make it a musical. Those characters were ones John mentioned a few times, I think he felt protective of them. He said he wanted to write novels someday, maybe, about where they all were in life at age 40. He talked about being disenchanted with Hollywood in general, and wanting to move in other directions creatively. He also talked about being disappointed that Chicago wasn't as active a place for filmmaking as it once was.
Aside from the advice, John put me in touch with his lawyer. After sending the contract to the law firm, the package was returned unopened, and so John again contacted the lawyer and put me in touch with another person he worked with to make sure I heard back this time.
In the end nothing came of the film adaptation, although I learned a lot from the experience. The fact that John would do a favor like that for me was nonetheless astounding.

As time went on I began to transition to becoming a full time cartoonist, which meant cutting my hours at Barnes & Noble, which meant I saw John less and less. The last time I talked to him he was near the magazines. I remember talking about three things. First, he talked about film. How what he was interested in was low budget, documentary style film. Films that didn't use a lot of special effects, and asked me if I'd seen the film Open Water. He said he'd been working with a friend, taking a camera and just shooting on the spot, giving people fifty bucks to act in it. Second, he talked about a book project, and asked me if I knew anyone for illustration. I mentioned a few friends, and offered to help myself, but never heard any more about it. Finally, I had the thought of interviewing John, and although I knew he didn't really give interviews anymore, I thought I'd ask anyway. Knowing he liked a lot of what McSweeney's was doing, I asked him if he'd be interested in an interview for their sister magazine The Believer. He didn't seem to have heard about it, but he gave me a thoughtful look as if he would at least consider it. I never got to interview him, but his response was still polite. I feel like he was always very patient with me, always willing to give me some of his time, and I'm happy to have had those talks with him.

I saw John Hughes one more time after that. He was paying with a hundred dollar bill, and the cashier didn't have the change. Of course, he was buying eighty five dollars worth of books, so the cashier should've had changed, especially since it was a slow day. The cashier called the manager, who took a while to come down from the office, and rather than just switch out for change from another cash register, he slowly headed back upstairs to the office. All the while, John was becoming more impatient. I watched from where I was shelving some books as the manager finally returned with the change, but at this point - some fifteen minutes or more later - John no longer wanted change, he wanted his money back. The manager offered the money he brought, but John wanted the hundred dollar bill he had paid with. John took his discount card and attempted to tear it in half, but it was hard plastic, so he mostly just bent it up, and then tossed it over the counter, and stormed out without buying anything. It all seemed a little surreal. He never came in again.

The manager and cashier didn't really care. To them it was just another case of an unreasonably irate customer, and who he was seemed only to reinforce that - a kind of 'just because he's John Hughes he thinks he's so special' attitude. I guess my experiences with him over the past five years had been different. I thought he was special.

I don't know what John Hughes was up to the past eight years since I first met him. I know he had a wide range of interests in reading and film and music. I know he loved his grandchildren, who he was often buying DVD's for. I also know he was still really sharp, and still had a lot to offer, even though his incredible run of successful films seemed to have ended some fifteen years ago. Last Friday he passed away, and I think the world won't ever fully realize what it's missing.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Illuminated Manuscripts

The Newberry Library in Chicago has a great collection of old and rare books - such as The Apocalypsis Sancti Johannis, a 15th century illuminated manuscript retelling St. John's vision of the apocalypse from the book of Revelations. In exchange for getting to take a look at this amazing book, I gave my thoughts on seeing it in the context of being an early form of graphic novel. You can listen to those thoughts on The Newberry Library Podcast.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Comics Have Finally Made It

Since the whole Frederic Wertham/Comics Code debacle, it seems like comics have been struggling to make it big and be accepted as a legitimate and important part of popular culture. This morning I received a spam email with the subject line "graphic novels from the masters". I think it's a definite sign that comics have indeed made it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


A lot of the characters in Bighead are based on friends. Here's a short comic with Bigshot, based on my pen pal of sorts Kav. Bigshot's hands explode at criminals. The Grenade Jumper was something that came up at San Diego Comicon a few years ago - he's a hero based on the idea of going out with someone so your friend can go out with their friend, even though it's a bad idea. So his power is to just... jump on grenades.

Monday, July 27, 2009


If you missed Comicon, you may have missed Google's launch of Comics themes for the igoogle homepage. I was lucky enough to have the chance to design a theme, and created a series of drawings of my son Oscar and I.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Drawing Between The Lines

A few years ago, filmmaker Bruce Parsons shot a short documentary about me called 'Drawing Between The Lines'. Later this year Top Shelf will be putting out a limited release DVD of the film, along with some extras. If you're at San Diego Comicon though, you can see a screening of the film followed by a Q&A session with Bruce and myself. It's Saturday night at 5:45PM in Room 26AB.