February, 2012 Monthly archive


I don’t have much to say critically about this early [1988, in collaboration with writer Ricardo Barreiro] work from the Argentine great Enrique “Quique” Alcatena [b.1957]; it’s exactly the same young-protagonist-vows-revenge-for-his-family’s-slaughter-at-the-hands-of-a-powerful-antagonist “hero’s journey” epic junk we’ve all seen a few hundred times, so this trip is only worth taking again when the sights are really cool looking.

That’s right, a city-sized horse-headed demon gives you the devil horns on this story’s first splash page. Sit on it and spin, Eisner.

Your women-in-refrigerators scene of the week. You’re welcome. To be fair, Papá gets it too:

So, our young hero loses to the final boss incredibly easily, but survives and swears vengeance. End of chapter one.

Alcatena draws curiously striking opening splashes, like the above. Even at this point in his career, he knew how set the stage so efficiently that he could get away with throwing in crazy details that would collapse a less sturdy layout.

Lastly for today, I just like these two panels.


Ustedes, indeed. Anyone want to see more from this series?

Visit, and for more Quique art and news.

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I’ve been following Phil McAndrew’s career with interest for several years. I think he was still in art school in New York when I found his drawings on LiveJournal. His funny, comfortable illustrations were consistently one of the highlights of my LJ feed then. He’s only gotten better, adding a proficiency with watercolors to his artistic arsenal and refining his “voice.” I caught up with Phil to talk about drawing, pizza, the short story, Mad Magazine, the life of the freelance artist, and his upcoming comics collection.  -ZSSTUDY GROUP: Though it looks like you might have abandoned your Feral Pizza webcomic effort, you spent a good amount of time there making single image comics. Obviously, you are still making a lot of similar images. What separates the images you labeled as “Feral Pizza” from the things you’re currently working on, which often seem to share a certain sensibility even when they don’t incorporate words, as most of the FP work did?

PHIL MCANDREW: Yeah, I haven’t updated the Feral Pizza website in a while. But I definitely plan to come back to it eventually. I’d like to make a big book full of silly Feral Pizza type stuff. Feral Pizza has sort of just been an umbrella title for lots of little odds and ends. A few of the things I’ve put up on the Feral Pizza website were actually rejected MAD Magazine submissions, a lot of them were just silly things I scribbled into sketchbooks that I really liked. For some of them I definitely just sat down and was very deliberately like “time to draw a Feral Pizza cartoon.” I love single panel cartoons. The format just appeals to me a lot. My parents had a few collections of The Far Side laying around our house and those were some of the first comics I can remember reading as a kid. Now I’m obsessed with Kliban and a lot of the old New Yorker cartoonists.

STUDY GROUP: Your short stories, released as individual mini-comics like Pearly Whites, Book Comic, and Are You Man Enough?, are generally charming little riffs on one particular idea at a time. Can you tell me about your writing process? We haven’t seen any new comics from you in a while, but I see your upcoming book with Grimalkin Press has 100 pages of unseen material! Have you just been saving up all your comics for the book, or is the unseen material even comics? So, basically I’m asking: WHERE THE COMICS AT?

PHIL MCANDREW: Ha! Yeah, for the most part I’ve been saving up all my recent comics for the book. The new material is going to be more short stories. I have a lot of fun with shorter projects, maybe just because they’re not quite as daunting as the thought of working on something super long that will take years and years to complete. Many of my favorite non-comic books are actually just short story collections. 



STUDY GROUP: Do you think you might ever attempt a longer work, or are you most comfortable with the short story?

PHIL MCANDREW: When I was in college I had big dreams of being a graphic novelist and I do think I have a few graphic novel length stories in me, but right now I’m having fun writing shorter stuff. I’ve got a much longer story that I scripted out a few years ago but after a handful of false starts on the art I keep putting it aside to work on shorter things or projects that will actually pay the bills. I’m also working on scripting out a series of short children’s comics that, when completed, would ideally all go into one book together and sort of build on each other. Scripting stuff out before I draw anything is how I usually prefer to work. But I write slowly and I tend to agonize over every little sentence and I fill my scripts with detailed notes and things, which I guess is kind of opposite of how I draw.



STUDY GROUP: Your drawings almost always read “funny”. How important is humor and slapstick in your illustration?

PHIL MCANDREW: If I’m in total control of a project I do pretty much always try to make funny stuff. That’s just the sort of work I enjoy producing. I do take on illustration jobs that require me to dial the silly stuff back a bit, which I enjoy too. I like to think that I’m capable of tackling any sort of project, that I can bend myself in a variety of directions. But if a client comes to me looking for something funny I’m usually pretty thrilled.


STUDY GROUP: The warm, lived-in line you get is very reminiscent of Quentin Blake and Ronald Searle. Do you use a nib, or a brush? Do you ever go back and try to “dirty up” a drawing if you make it too slick?

PHIL MCANDREW: I almost always use a nib but I do go back and augment things with a brush from time to time. I usually don’t sit down and think “I’ve got to make this drawing really crazy and messy,” I just try not to be delicate with my lines. Sometimes with comics I’ll make rules to keep myself from being too precious with the art, like with Are You Man Enough? I drew the entire book standing up, which I do with most projects now, and I didn’t pencil anything out. It was all drawn directly in ink, which is how I’m also doing some of the new stuff that’s going into my book.



STUDY GROUP: You recently crossed the country to move to San Diego. What brought that on, and how are you finding it?

PHIL MCANDREW: At then end of 2010 my scientist girlfriend was offered a cool science job in San Diego. I figured I can draw pictures anywhere, so we began 2011 by cramming as much stuff as we could into the car and driving across the country from Syracuse, NY to San Diego, a place I’d never been before where I literally knew no one. But it’s been pretty cool! I still kind of feel like I’m just on vacation or something. Dr. Seuss lived in the San Diego area and now I can’t help but see the crazy hills and plants of the area in his drawings. Not long before we moved I was contacted by a particular television network and invited to pitch some ideas for a cartoon show, so being close to Los Angeles has made that process a heck of a lot easier.


STUDY GROUP: There’s not a huge comics scene there, from what I understand. Do you mainly just hang out with David King and eat pizza?

PHIL MCANDREW: The pizza situation in San Diego is not great compared to back in New York, but yeah, I get to hang out with David King all the time, which is nice. I didn’t really have any cartoonist pals to hang out with back in Syracuse so having another cartoonist nearby, even just one, is awesome. And I’m lucky that the one other cartoonist in town is a really, really great cartoonist. David and I actually just got the ball rolling with organizing some live comics reading events down here so maybe a tiny little comics scene will start sprout. We’re going to do one towards the end of April and then another in July during the insanity of San Diego Comic-Con.

STUDY GROUP: This year has seen you getting more and more exposure in the illustration world, and you even got published in Mad Magazine, which is a pretty huge goal for many cartoonists I know. At the same time, you’ve been very vocal about being super broke a lot and the difference between people’s perception of your success vs the reality of your day to day life.  I know I’m constantly struggling to make ends meet, so I always sympathize with your posts on the subject. What’s more frustrating: eating ramen all the time or people assuming you’re a big shot just because you scored a couple high profile gigs?

PHIL MCANDREW: I don’t really care if people think I’m some kind of cartooning big shot, I guess. But it is a little frustrating and terrifying knowing that a lot of “big shot” cartoonists live their entire lives in poverty, which is something that I don’t think most people realize. I often think about the part in Craig Thompson’s Carnet de Voyage where he visits Lewis Trondheim in France and describes his house as a palace and then wonders why it’s not like that for successful cartoonists in North America. Not that I think I should be living in a palace right now or anything, but it would be nice to not have a panic attack every time I look at my checking account balance. I love what I’m doing and that’s something that not a lot of people can truthfully say. I’m extremely thankful that I’ve been able to scrape by for a year now drawing pictures for a living. I just keep telling myself that things will continue to get better and the high profile jobs will become a little more regular if I stick with it and try to be as awesome as possible. I feel like a lot of doors opened for me in 2011 and I have high hopes that I’ll be able to actually enter some of those doors in 2012. But yeah, the reality is that I’m definitely still struggling. I typically only have four or five bucks to my name after paying rent and student loan bills every month. I basically have to start at zero at the beginning of each month and just hope that I can earn enough to continue living in an apartment and eating food. I simply try not to think about the fact that I have a bunch of cavities in my teeth that I can’t afford to have taken care of and that if I were to have some kind of unexpected injury or illness that needed medical attention I’d be 100% totally screwed. I realized the other day that our dog gets better medical care than I do. At least once a month I’ll spend a day on craigslist just staring at job listings and wondering if I should get a crappy job and give up freelancing. But I love making up stories and drawing too much. I’ve got too many things I want to draw and too many projects on my plate already. I don’t really have time for a day job.

STUDY GROUP: I enjoy your “how to” posts quite a bit. What motivates you to share your process? Do you think it’s important for professionals to share their tips?

PHIL MCANDREW: I don’t think artists should ever feel obligated to share their process with people. Some artists like to keep their methods shrouded in mystery, and that’s cool. But I love it when people do share their secrets. I’ve learned a lot by reading process posts from other people, on a previous computer I had a whole bookmark folder full of that stuff. And I find great joy in helping others by sharing what I’ve learned. I like spreading knowledge around. I see a lot of cartoonists and illustrators complaining on twitter about getting emails from kids in art school asking for advice or if they can do an interview for a class project. I get a lot of those emails too and I love them, I answer every single one. I’m working on a proposal right now for a book that would basically expand on some of the things I’ve written on my blog, particularly my Super Obvious Secrets That I Wish They’d Teach In Art School post. I’ve been thinking a lot about maybe trying to give talks to art students lately too, doing little presentations on my experiences, both good and bad, as a person who draws pictures for a living. I’m just not quite sure how to get into doing that sort of stuff. Maybe someone will read this and simply invite me to do something like that somewhere.




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So far in our weekly interview series, we’ve talked to several talented creators outside of the immediate sphere of the Study Group Comics world. I thought that it was about time that I start to shine a little spotlight on our SGCB site webcomics creators, mixed in with our usual interviews with the our favorite cartoonists and illustrators. To start, I talked with LONE WOLF creator Jennifer Parks.  I’ve known Jennifer for about 5 years now.  We were both in the first wave of people invited to be a part of the Pony Club Gallery art collective by gallery founders Theo Ellsworth and David Youngblood, along with Dylan Williams and Chris Cilla. The Pony Club keeps morphing over the years as the membership ebbs and flows (I myself left about 2 years ago), but Jennifer has stayed on as a guiding force and chief administrative member. Her rigorous artistic schedule with the Pony Club keeps her creating and in touch with the Portland gallery scene. You’d think that would be enough, but she recently stepped in as Creative Director of the Crow Arts Manor, and is constantly exhibiting in shows all over the place.  She graciously took some time out from her busy schedule to answer some questions.        - ZS

STUDY GROUP: In your illustration work, you seem to favor portraits as a go-to subject. What is it about the portrait that you enjoy?

JENNIFER PARKS: I think of the portrait as a sort of confrontation between characters. A way of saying hello to someone in my world (or maybe even myself) that is as intimate as it is uncomfortable. I am a very uncomfortable and shy person and making eye contact, especially with strangers can sometimes feel invasive. So I think making portraits is a way of me putting myself out there and dealing with those issues. 

STUDY GROUP: Are these arguably mostly self-portraits, since many of them resemble you, or do you think of them as separate characters? Or are they all variations of The Lone Wolf? By that same token, I know you’ve described The Lone Wolf as a sort of “Alter-Ego” of yours, do you still think of her in that way?

JENNIFER PARKS:  I do still think of Lone Wolf as an alter-ego. She represents the innocence of my childhood. And yes, I guess all of these portraits are variations of myself. I don’t really think of them in that way when I am creating them. Its more of a sub-concious tendency. Other people notice it more than I do. It seems to be the case with a lot of artists I know. We create these worlds, so it makes sense that the characters are a part of us. 

STUDY GROUP: Can you talk about your approach to character design? Your playful character & costume design is a highlight of your illustration work.

JENNIFER PARKS: Thank you. I enjoy creating characters that look like they are not only from a different time, but also from a different world. I’m heavily influenced by science fiction as well as old Victorian style dress. To me the clothing is almost the most important part of my characters. I tend to have a lot of blank eyes and expressionless faces. Which I hope still allow the viewer feel something. But if not, the clothing has to tell you something about the character and at the same time just be really nice to look at. I appreciate art on both levels. The kind that makes you think and feel, and the kind that is just very pleasing to the eye. Also, I tend to love really detailed ornamental work. This is where the clothing is just a lot of fun to work with. 


STUDY GROUP: You mentioned that many of your characters have “blank” eyes, whether or not they are wearing masks. Why is that?

JENNIFER PARKS:  I get this question a lot, and really only started thinking deeply about in the last year or two. It all started with the creation of Lone Wolf  (also known as Annabelle),  who I started drawing about 7 years ago. It was a subconscious decision to not put pupils in her eyes, but it made perfect sense to me. She was living in a dream world where things are dark and hazy and maybe a bit scary. Her blank eyes show her naivete in this world as well as her desire to keep hidden inside it. It became a comfortable habit for me to keep drawing my characters like this. Lately, when I think about this question a little bit more I realize that keeping them pupil-less is a way of making this confrontation (especially in the portraits) just a bit more closed off to you, as the viewer. I’m letting you look at me and my characters, I’m letting you judge us and I’m letting you be a part of my world. But I’m still keeping some walls up. Whenever I have to put pupils in the eyes for an illustration job or something, it feels very uncomfortable for me.  

STUDY GROUP: While many of your figures are defined by simple contour lines, you drape these characters in detailed pattern, flora and fauna alike. Can you talk about your addiction to patterns and filling space?

JENNIFER PARKS: Yes. Its definitely an addiction. I call it My OCD. Or maybe a kind of doodling. I have a vague idea that certain parts of the page need to have a lot of texture and pattern to balance out the white. Sometimes its very controlled. Other times I sort of get lost in the pattern on the page, and don’t stop until its kind of insane and maybe a bit too much. This satisfies My OCD and works as a kind of therapy for me as well. Its relaxing to just let your mind go and your hand create mindless shapes and patterns. When I’m tired or burnt out, I can always create this kind of art because there is not much thinking involved. 

STUDY GROUP: ”Backyard Ghost” from Studygroup12 #4 is based on a dream, and your serialized Lone Wolf webcomic has a very “dream logic” vibe to it. How much does the role of the subconscious and/or instinct actually play into your work, and why is/isn’t that important to you?

JENNIFER PARKS: All my work is highly instinctual and very much based on the things that linger in my subconscious. These dreams and memories of my childhood have had such a huge impact on my adult life. I didn’t start realizing the affect that It had on my art until a few years back when I did Lone Wolf #1 for my thesis at PNCA. I’m reliving these experiences, trying to dissect them and understand them. At the same time I’m accepting that I will never fully understand them. There is still a lot of haziness and darkness. I think this is why my work is so strange and dream-like. The recurring dreams of my childhood are a lot clearer then the memories of my actual childhood. So I tend to let my subconscious drag me along when It comes to creating.

Study Group: While you tend to use pen or charcoal, I notice you’ve been trying multiple mediums lately. What’s your favorite way to make an image right now?  

JENNIFER PARKS: Right now, I get a little confused when it comes to deciding which medium to create an image in. Certain ideas obviously cater to certain mediums, like portraits will always be in charcoal and crazy detailed images always in pen. But lately I feel like I have split personality disorder and I can see any particular idea working in both mediums. I spend a lot of time just arguing with myself about which medium would be best. It doesn’t help that I have recently re-discovered my love for graphite and have also been romancing the idea of working in color again. I’m thinking charcoal with some light washes, or pen with some gouache. If only there were four or five of me and we could all work in our own mediums. It becomes stressful sometimes. But my favorite way to create is still and might always be charcoal. 


STUDY GROUP: What’s a typical day like for you? You’ve got a busy life, with a full time job, kid, and running a gallery! How do you find time to make art? Maybe talk about the gallery here, if you want.

JENNIFER PARKS: Well right now I am only working part time, which is nice. And my son is very self-sufficient, being a relatively well behaved teenager and all. So Im able to focus most of my time on creating. A typical day usually starts around noon for me and involves a lot of coffee. The first thing I do in the morning is sit down at my desk, put on a movie or some music and start drawing. I always have at least one thing to work on, be it a piece (or pieces) for an art show, a freelance gig, Lone Wolf, or gallery involved work. Usually its all of the above. Then I work until its time to go to my night job. On my days off, I work until its time to make dinner or clean, then immediately resume drawing once I’m done. These are my favorite days. Since I joined the Pony Club Gallery about 5 years ago Ive become wrapped up in creating pieces for art shows. We have a lot of group shows and I tend to want to be involved in all of them. I also spend a lot of time writing emails for show invites, taking care of gallery finances, thinking of show ideas, and ways to make the gallery more successful. Its a lot of work, and I don’t get paid, but so far its been worth it. I really love it and feel lucky that I got the chance to be a part of such an amazing collective. In a lot of ways I have it to thank for my (partial) success and the great network of artists/illustrators I have become a part of. Unfortunately I just cant put as much time into it as I’d like. There just isn’t enough time in a day to get all the things done that I’d like to. I guess it doesn’t help that I love sleeping. 



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One of the more overlooked aspects of Fantagraphics’ history was its ’90s flirtation with publishing original graphic novels by young cartoonists who didn’t posses the serialization and audience-building advantages of their own ongoing comic-book series; this initiative produced work like Dave Cooper’s Suckle, Walt Holcombe’s The King Of Persia, Ho Che Anderson’s King, R. Sikoryak’s The Seduction of Mike, Rich Tommaso’s Clover Honey, Ariel Bordeaux’s No Love Lost and Max Andersson’s Pixy, but only a few have had the stealth impact on later generations of cartoonists that Graham Chaffee’s The Big Wheels has enjoyed.

But Chaffee was something of a mystery – even Fanta staffers who were around when the company published Wheels and its short-story followup The Most Important Thing and Other Stories didn’t have much sense of who the hell this guy was and why/how he seemed to disappear as completely and suddenly as he first appeared. I’ve always been interested in artists of merit who seem to have walked away from their highest-profile medium, and Chaffee has resided near the top of my list of cartoonists I’ve wanted to track down for years.

Graham and I traded email in March, during which he generously provided us with most of the illustrations below. [Click for larger sizes and alt-text captions.] – MG

A page from Chaffee's forthcoming book, GOOD DOG.


MILO GEORGE: Most of the biographical information available about you starts with you graduating from Pasadena Art Center College of Design in 1988 – where and when were you born?

GRAHAM CHAFFEE: I was born August 17, 1964, in Pasadena, CA. but largely raised in Austin, TX – moving back to California in 1980 or so. Been here since then, sometimes in Northern Cal, sometimes in Southern. Last migration was late ’94, when I started tattooing and moved to Los Angeles.

An early Chaffee commercial illustration


GEORGE: What was your major at the Art Center? What field did you hope to enter once you graduated?

CHAFFEE: I graduated from Art Center in ’88. I went in all about comics and came out all about painting. I was an illustration major and wanted to do book and magazine work.

Another early Chaffee commercial illustration


When I got out, I moved to San Francisco and started hustling my portfolio around to all the magazines I could find in the area – mostly trade publications with the occasional Sunday magazine or theater program.

Another early Chaffee commercial illustration

I was usually able to pay my bills, though it was a pretty hand-to-mouth existence. It was during this time, ’90 or ’91, that I started work on The Big Wheels, though I didn’t finish it until around ’93.

Big Wheels cover

GEORGE: It seems like you came out of nowhere, more or less fully formed as a cartoonist with Wheels. Is it true that you mailed a package containing the whole book to Fantagraphics’ submissions slush pile?

CHAFFEE: I don’t remember if I sent all of it or just some of it. I did send a few short pieces as well, but they were not really worth anything and I sent them more to show my drawing and writing style than with any hope of seeing them in print.

One of the sample pages, written by a friend.

GEORGE: Between graduation and the start of Wheels, were you drawing comics, but not publishing them as minis or submitting them to anthologies?

CHAFFEE: I did not draw any minis or any serious comics work before The Big Wheels; that was my first story. I did a page or two of superhero-type stuff – just fooling around – but Wheels was my first real effort.

I conceived it when I was still in school and drew up part of a draft. It was structurally different from the final incarnation – had four main characters: the cop, the child-killer, the businessman and the painter – and the story bounced around amongst them all. They are all still there, but in very, very abbreviated appearances – the girl painter, originally central to my story, wound up in one li’l inset panel on the last page.

GEORGE: How much of the plot/narrative did you have worked out before you started drawing it? Were you rewriting it on the fly, as you were drawing the pages?

CHAFFEE: The original, four-character version of Wheels I had pretty well plotted – this was the version that was ultimately scrapped. The one that eventually saw print was more haphazard as I recall. I think I had a basic timeline worked out, but the pacing, dialogue, etc. was done on a practically page-by-page basis – virtually no layouts, I think.

I did have some ground-rules, which I still follow, mostly: Every page has to subdivide into a 3×3 grid, the only exception being the occasional circular inset. No half-tones or crosshatching allowed; just black and white. Everything is inked with a brush, and no rulers allowed – although I use one to pencil the panel borders. Lettering was done with a crow quill, though now I use a li’l Sharpie. No narration boxes if I can help it and few, if any, thought balloons.

That’s about it. I feel these restrictions, this limited palette, help me maintain a consistent look and feel through a story – especially when I am taking a zillion years to finish one and worry that my drawing style will change from chapter to chapter.

A page from Chaffee's forthcoming book, GOOD DOG.

GEORGE: So what inspired you to change gears from Wheels to the fable-like short stories in The Most Important Thing as your follow-up book?

CHAFFEE: I am not sure why The Most Important Thing is short stories – probably because I didn’t have anything solid enough to go 60 pages on its own. I had an idea or two, and wrote them out into little tales, but I didn’t have anything really solid. I think, the title story, about the animal messengers, was the first one I had in mind and the other stories came bit-by-bit over a period of weeks or months.

I had all these little stories and no real way to tie them together until I hit on the idea of using narrative structure to illustrate the different ways people connect with each other. So each story had a different structure: one story was about a random connection between two different women – the sort of connection we all make every time we get on a bus or whatever – the two story-lines run in separate columns until the connection is made at the end. Another story was about the connectedness of three generations of war vets and their shared memories of various wars get blended into one big old collage.

All the stories were about people connecting with each other in various ways, and I tried to make the physical structure of the stories reflect that. It was all very high concept: I had these little graphics of circles and things at the beginning of each story, and a weird li’l poem deal that a friend of mine wrote, to run between chapters – a lot of ridiculous artiness to try and justify what were, in fact, just some little stories. I’d certainly do it differently now.

GEORGE: You said that your schooling revolved around comics, illustration and painting – when did tattooing enter your life?

CHAFFEE: I became interested in learning to tattoo in ’92 or ’93. I had been getting tattooed since ’89 or so, and had met a couple of artists and read a little about the traditions and icons of the craft. A couple of art-school buddies, Rob and Chris Clayton, really encouraged me to get into it as an artist, and things just seemed to roll downhill from there. I talked to a few other people who knew some stuff and I experimented with hand-poke work on myself and a couple of other folks. Eventually, in the summer of ’94, I ordered a tattoo kit through the mail and really got into it; did a bunch of things on various friends.

I moved to Los Angeles in late ’94 and started looking for work – found a newish shop in Pasadena [Purple Panther Tattoos], and worked there for a year or so, and then moved to the shop in Hollywood where I still work – in fact I now own the shop, the original owner having retired.

GEORGE: What attracted you to tattooing, as an art and later as a living?

CHAFFEE: American tattooing has its roots in this awesome folk-art subculture – very little of that survives today, but the crudely drawn, mysterious, carnival-soaked imagery of the early 20th century is a big part of what I love about it. As for why I make a living at it: I dunno, it seemed like a good idea at the time and I can’t say I regret the decision. I own a mom & pop business that provides real, hand-made goods to regular people – it’s a direct transaction and very satisfying on that level.

A more recent painting.

GEORGE: How has being a professional tattoo artist changed your painting and cartooning?

CHAFFEE: Mainly by limiting how much of it I am able/willing to do! Tattooing takes a big bite out of my creative energy every week and I’m left with very little to spare for other activities. I have done a few paintings in the last couple years, and I am working on this talking-animal book – but it’s slow-going, with a lot of hiatuses.

I was afraid that my tattoo work would influence my cartooning or painting style, but it hasn’t done so, I find. My main worry was that the hyper-edited, painfully crafted work I do for tattooing would cramp the gestural flow of my comics work and/or the loose realism of my painting, but I’ve discovered that each discipline has its own rules and conditions and they don’t seem to overlap.

I cannot, for the life of me, draw an easy, loose, cartoony tattoo design; they are all very rigidly crafted and formal. With comics, it’s the opposite; I try to make it more structured and formal, but it keeps getting away from me and the loose, lazy style forces its way in! “Loose and lazy” is a relative term, of course; my stuff is way looser and less structured than, say, Charles Burns, but compared to Julie Doucet, I am a model of anal-retentive formality.

Sketchbook pages from Graham's Tumblr.

GEORGE: We haven’t touched on influences and peers. When you started art school and was focused on becoming a cartoonist, who and/or what were you looking at as inspiration? How have your influences changed over the years?

CHAFFEE: That’s a tough one; I can give a partial list, but my work is influenced by so many different people’s stuff. I think the Hernandez Bros. were a big deal for me in the early ’80s, and Will Eisner. Then I went through art school and acquired a ton of non-comics-related folks – insert the entire contents of Janson’s History of Art here – and then back to comics with Alex Toth and David Mazzucchelli, Jim Woodring and Art Spiegelman and, more than anyone else, Robert Crumb. So much has been written about Crumb already, let’s not annoy him with further praise – he moved to France to get away from guys like me!

Right now, I’m really big on Harold Gray. I also like Paul Pope’s stuff and James Sturm and that Norwegian fella, Jason.

GEORGE: I imagine that being a graphic novelist in the early ’90s – a largely pre-Internet time when the quarterly comic book/zine was still the main vehicle for publishing – would be pretty isolating. You mentioned Charles Burns and Julie Doucet – how connected were you to the ’90s alternative-comics scene? The cartoonist enclaves in L.A.?

CHAFFEE: I am nearly completely isolated from any comics scene, whatsoever – I might as well live in the woods! I have some artist friends, but they aren’t comics people.

GEORGE: A couple of Fanta staffers once told me that the last time they saw you was at San Diego in 1996 or 1997, and you had a detective short story that you were shopping around to the publishers/anthology editors in attendance. Is that accurate?

CHAFFEE: I have, somewhere, the first chapter of a stalled-out crime story called “Robin Ross” that Gary Groth had seen and expressed interest in seeing more of, but it died on the vine. It was massively derivative stuff anyhow – Hammett meets William Kennedy, that sort of thing – and not worth resurrecting. I may well have had it on me at the con, I don’t recall.

A page from the discarded "Robin Ross" project.


GEORGE: It’s thrilling to hear that you have a new book in the works. How’s it coming along?

CHAFFEE: Good Dog is plodding along – limping at times, since I often stop and forget to start again – and may possibly be finished this year. I’ve got around 30 pages done at this point; about half of the book. I should probably re-name it Good Sloth.

A page from Chaffee's forthcoming book, GOOD DOG.

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This week on Old Comics Weds, we’ve got Milo on Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Zack on Richard Corben’s ”DOOMSCULT” and Michael Deforge on R. Heru Ayani’s ”Traders in the Lost Art.”



Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #7
December 1968, $0.12
by Archie Goodwin & Frank Springer

I don’t have much to say about this comic, except that Frank Springer drew better than Jim Steranko, even on Steranko’s signature character. End of Line.

OK, I got more: This is Springer’s first issue of S.H.I.E.L.D. and, while he was never a pop-art magpie like Steranko was — behind every widely praised comic-book trailblazer is usually an artist who comics’ fanbase has never heard of — Springer was always rock-solid and as imaginative an artist as his circumstances typically allowed.

This is not a candidate for Goodwin’s Greatest Hits; Fury is injected with a hallucinogenic drug that renders him virtually incoherent with paranoia and will kill him in six hours, tickticktickticktickticktick, but his iron will and moxie is so strong he survives and unwittingly kills the traitorous doctor who doped him in the first place. By thine own poison-loaded hypodermic betrayed, turncoat! The End. Oh, SPOILER ALERT.

Like Steranko’s Fury stories, the story often has to be folded in half [it's certainly thin enough] to be slid between full pages of bravura “special effects” to keep things moving along, but Springer gives the pages a lived-in, rumpled life that makes it all worth the sometimes bumpy narrative flow  and the occasional patch of dialogue-balloon Bondo to seal the plot holes — even at near end, when Fury and “Sister Angela of the All-Faith Mission” [and the pink mini-dress; really, 1968? Nuns in miniskirts?] are nearly killed by a bit that’s older than the totally sweet vintage roadster the Sister drives.

– milo



“Traders in the Lost Art” by R. Heru Ayani.

Anti Gravity and the World Grid
Adventures Unlimited Press

I don’t know much about this comic or its author. Episodes 3, 4 and 5 of the strip (one page each) were reprinted in the “Anti Gravity Comix” section of Anti-Gravity and The World Grid (a collection of essays regarding an electromagnetic grid that provides the planet with free energy,) edited by David Hatcher Childress (Adventures Unlimited Press, 1987). I haven’t read any of the essays in the book yet – I bought it for all the diagrams of UFOs, pyramids and the “world grid” itself, which the layouts of these comics mirror. I don’t know much about this comic or its author, but I really like these pages.

Also included in the Comix section is a xerox of a Max Brand book cover and this Far Side cartoon.



DOOMSCULT, from Heavy Metal Magazine

June 1983, $2.25

by Richard Corben


This issue of Heavy Metal is still obviously in what most consider to be the “Classic” era of HM. That doesn’t mean it’s a particularly good example of the magazine, but it does have a bunch of big names: Jeff Jones, Steve Bissette, George Pratt, Enki Bilal, Rick Veitch, Crepax, etc etc. Still, this issue feels rather uneven (which – if we’re being honest, as much as I love this series, most issues are pretty up-and-down) maybe even a little schizophrenic. Putting the oddly static and heavy-handed social satire of “Rock Opera” next to the swirling, impressionistic layouts of “The Man From Harlem” is jarring, to say the least. HOWEVER- I think we can all agree that this is the best ad ever:

And also that among the many things I would use a time machine to do, one is definitely traveling back in time to get one of these “satin-like” HM jackets w/matching belt buckle:

In any case, this issue also finds Study Group staff favorite Richard Corben going full hog into the dodgy world of fumetti – I fucking hate fumetti, but it’s still kind of a neat little piece, if only for those insane colors.

Look at that title page! Corben is basically just fucking around here and focusing on the “special effects” for the whole of Doomscult, and that’s ok, really. It’s beautiful and strange. That said, the story is even more perfunctory than usual: The lone rider Lithon, played by a surprisingly buff Bruce Jones, finds the beautiful Vesira (Karen Feeley) washed up on the beach and before he can even get her home, a bunch of random undead cultists show up, led by a masked female straight from Corben Central Casting.

There’s a pretty goofy fight scene that doesn’t translate that well. Some bad staging and choreography combined with kind of cool collage effects to mimic body parts getting chopped up, as well as Jackson Pollock style blood splashes everywhere (even if they really look like explosive diarrhea due to being rust brown) for good measure, and then there’s this little bit of dada:


The Mystery Tits have absconded with Vesira into an oddly phallic Op-Art sandcastle, to do the same nefarious shit evil cultists always want to do: shove your face into a vaginal face-hugger thing!

That center panel is fantastic. Needless to say, Lithon shows up and stabs the hell out of everything in a hazy mass of psychedelic cloudscapes, saves the girl and they ride off into the sunset to do huge rails of cocaine.

- ZS




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Every weekend, I hope to present new short interviews with talented cartoonists and illustrators. Last time I talked to Maré Odomo. This time I traded emails with Andrew Schick, who I know mainly from Tumblr and twitter streams. I found his answers generous and illuminating, and I hope you will too.

 - ZS

Study Group: So all I can find out about you from the magical internet is that you live in Vancouver, BC and you’re a designer as well as an illustrator. Did you go to school for one over the other?  Is design how you pay the bills, mostly, or do you have a different day job?

Andrew Schick: I am somewhat elusive! I went to school for painting as well as graphic design and illustration. After high school I attended the University of Victoria on Vancouver Island where I received a degree in Visual Arts (and learned to surf!). I kind of freaked out about paying bills after I graduated, so I attended a three year design and illustration program at Capilano University. The program had career illustrators and designers as teachers, which was super helpful.

I was lucky enough to be offered a design position with St.Bernadine Mission Communications (a Vancouver design and advertising agency) after grad. I work with a really talented group of designers committed to making really amazing work, so it keeps me challenged and dedicated.

I work on illustration projects during evenings and weekends. It makes for long days, but it means I get to be creative for a living. It’s become automatic to just sit down and start drawing right after work, you get into a nice little rhythm. There are also a bunch of local illustrators that keep me excited about drawing.

Study Group: The design work on your website is super clean, precise & classy, but your drawings are beautiful, wobbly-warm and filled with life. How do you separate these sides of your artistic impulse?

Andrew Schick: Aw man thanks for noticing! I think my brain just automatically separates illustration from design. They just seem so different somehow. Design feels more like a puzzle: you’re given pre designed parts (typefaces, rules, borders) and you have to click them together until they make a whole. For some reason I just really enjoy assembling information into compelling, simple patterns. Most of my approach to design comes from reading The Principles of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst. He teaches that following typographic rules carefully, actually gives the designer complete control over a layout. It is meticulous work.

Illustration is a different world to me. I think drawing is a form of catharsis. The pen and paintbrush have become familiar tools, so it’s really easy to sit down and start drawing now. I just find that I can explore personal style, which is something I can’t really do with design. I also have to be less careful with my drawings, or they just don’t work. They just seem stiff unless I’m really expressive and loose with the paint or ink. It would be nice to have one master-approach for both disciplines! Oh well.

Study Group: You draw a lot of monsters and fantasy creatures, is Fantasy as a genre important to you? What are your favorite works in the genre, if so (any medium)?

Andrew Schick: Yes I’ve always been a fan of the fairies, witches, and wizards fantasy genre. When I was younger I was really influenced by Brian Froud (Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book) and Rien Poortvliet (Gnomes),  as well as Mike Mignola, Winsor McCay and Arthur Rakham of course. As a kid I drew armor, swords and arrows and constantly imagined being a knight. Movies like The Labrynth, Dark Crystal, Willow, and Princess Mononoke are kind of pitch perfect fantasy for me, and huge influences on my work. Fantasy illustrators really have to consider the characters they are drawing: clothes, personality, physical appearance. I love seeing illustrators and cartoonists create vibrant, feasible characters, so impressive.  Two of my favorite illustrations in the genre are Rien Poortvliet’s illustrations for the book Gnomes and Jillian Tamaki’s illustration Tree Frogs.

Study Group: I love the way you seem to build your figures out of puffy basic shapes. Everyone seems like they’ve got a skeleton made out of spheres, cones and cubes. Where do you think that comes from?

Andrew Schick: I think I started making my figures more geometric after sitting down and really studying Peanuts and Gasoline Alley cartoons. By paying attention to proportion and shape, Charles Schultz and Frank King could create expressive, dynamic characters within a tiny space. Really inspiring. I’ve also been influenced by Richard Short’s comics (Klaus, Nobrow Press). He uses very basic shapes and interesting proportions to create characters that are both distinct and dynamic somehow. Big, clean shapes hardly need to be changed at all, they’re immediately characters.


Study Group: Do you just start out doing automatic drawing and turn the forms into little people, or do you usually have something more specific in mind?

Andrew Schick: I actually start out with a pretty clear picture of what I want to draw in my mind. I don’t make an extensive under drawing though. I usually sketch the picture four or five times in my sketchbook before inking or painting the final on a proper piece of paper. I can’t really ink like you’re suppose to (over a detailed sketch), because it feels like tracing. I need to draw and paint loosely, so my under drawings are made up of little notches and very faint lines (I heard Charles Schultz drew this way too, so there!).  I also really enjoy automatic drawing. It’s a good way to warm up and experiment without much pressure. I’ve accidentally made so many characters just by zoning out and doodling.

Study Group: Your use of color in general is really inspiring to me. Really great color choices and I love that you don’t use color in just one way- it can be line, tone, form, and often all of the above in any given drawing. Can you talk about your approach to color and painting?

Andrew Schick: I was taught to paint by the watercolorist Kiff Holland, while attending Capilano University. He showed us how to paint with bold colours and faded edges to create lighting effects. He would presoak the watercolor paper and  paint heavy dark lines and it would somehow turn into a portrait. He would also experiment with strange palettes, in order to prove that there was no wrong colour combination. As long as the tone and temperature of the paint is correct, you can choose some pretty crazy palettes. I am definitely attracted to warmer colours, with a preference for orangy red. I draw bold lines on top of lighter paint swatches to draw interest towards a focal point or to emphasize a gesture. I’m always trying make my characters appear as if they’re moving. I find that bold strokes and translucent shapes are the best way to achieve the effect. That and loud punk music.

Study Group: How much of your day-to-day routine is drawing?

Andrew Schick: I am at St Bernadine’s during the day, but I draw almost every evening and on the weekends. I think if you draw a bunch your whole life, it becomes a happy compulsion. So I would say 4 or 5 hours per day and a little more on the weekends. I just never get bored of it. There is always a new thing to try.


Study Group: What kind of tools do you favor?

Andrew Schick: For my line drawings I use a Pilot P700 because it is the greatest pen ever made and only about three dollars. For my paintings, I use a Round Acrylic brush (Size 550) and Windsor and Newton set of watercolour cakes (an amazing gift from a sculptor I worked with). I chose a cheap, frayed acrylic brush because it makes jagged, warbley paint lines.  Switching to a junky brush also forced me to make broad, confident strokes rather than spending too much time on tedious line work.

Study Group: Your character designs are lively and often suggest narrative, but I have only seen a couple little comics on your sketchblog. Do you think you might ever do comics (or have you and I just haven’t seen them)?

Andrew Schick: Thanks for asking! I have plans to write a few short comics this year, but it’s too early  to show or mention anything substantial. I have been asked and encouraged about this question by a few people and I agree that it’s the next logical step for my stuff. Stay tuned!

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Frank Robbins was always the man. Here are more panels I liked enough to clip while trying to read this comic book.

A very Johnny Hazard-looking panel. Of all the newspaper cartoonists to be retrofit as supercomics freelancers, Robbins was the least apologetic about enjoying drawing the characters in civilian clothing over masks, capes and union suits. The soldier standing between Toro and the Torch probably shouldn’t be there; the composition would be stronger and the isolation the Torch is feeling would be more sharply presented if there was a gap between him and his teammates.

It’s amazing how much spotted black is in this panel; I bet it looks even better in black and white.

At times, you would think that Roy Thomas got paid by the word to write these comics. I like that Robbins gave all his heroes high cheekbones in addition to the standard lantern jaw, but I wonder who decided whose hair parted on which side? Is that even a thing artists/writers/editors even think about, much less discuss, when presenting new characters?

I’m going to guess that Freedom’s Five has not been revived yet, and predict that it won’t be brought back until WWI video games/movies become popular. Again, it looks like Robbins relished drawing old Falsworth much more than the fairly pedestrian group action shot below him.

I would buy a “Ladies Love Smiling Captain America” comic in a heartbeat.

Supercomics don’t do the hey-look-it’s-this-story’s-obvious-antagonist-but-our-heroes-don’t-know-it-yet reveal anymore, do they? Even if we pretended that the 1940s were much more polite age, a modern version of Invaders #8 would open with the question “Hey, do you know you look like Baron Blood with obviously fake teeth?” followed by some face-punching. Oh, who am I kidding? This is a team book so the modern take on the team would totally sit down for a meal and banter about with each other for an issue or two before the fight scene.

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