Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Team Cul de Sac Shoots, Scores!

Team Cul de Sac, a collection of comic art by more than 100 cartoonists (including me) to help fund research on Parkinson's disease, arrived in my mailbox yesterday. The assignment was to offer your interpretation of the characters from the comic strip Cul de Sac by Richard Thompson, who has Parkinson's disease. Proceeds benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

WOW, what a beautiful book! I had no idea.

Editor/cartoonist wrangler Chris Sparks and publisher Andrews McMeel went all out: sturdy hardcover, glossly dust jacket, skillfully designed and printed in full color throughout (which I didn't know when I drew my b&w comic, or I'd have used some). Just as a physical printed object, it's a classy piece of work. Add to that the introductory profile taken from this feature by Michael Cavna in The Washington Post Magazine (if you don't know of Thompson or Cul de Sac, that's the piece to read), and it's a heck of a thing.

The roster of contributors says something about the esteem with which Richard and his strip are held. Big cartooning names: Sergio Aragones, Jim Borgman, Jim Davis, Cathy Guisewite, Lynn Johnston, Mell Lazarus, Patrick McDonnell, Pat Oliphant, Stephan Pastis, Tom Richmond, Garry Trudeau, Mo Willems, and the undisputed main attraction, "Calvin & Hobbes" creator Bill Watterson. Some, including me, think Cul de Sac is the best comic strip in newspapers right now, and by all accounts Richard is one of the kindest, gentlest souls on Earth (I've never met him but we've had a couple of online interactions and he types kindly and gently).

Petey by Watterson

Although the book stands on its own, it's also essentially a catlog of artwork that is being auctioned online through Sunday, June 10 at Heritage Auctions (which may also list some pieces that weren't included in the book, I'm not sure). HERE'S the link to all the lots up for bid and HERE'S a link to mine.

"Jungle Gym" by me, page 36. Hard to make heads or tails of it if you don't know the strip, but take my word that it reflects some of Richard's recurring motifs. Pangolins (the scaly critters at bottom left) are fun to draw.

At this writing, the current bid on Watterson's oil painting of the Cul de Sac character Petey is $5500. The current bid on mine is $42 (not placed by me!). That proportion is about right but both numbers are too low. Bid 'em up!

The way online bidding works, neither number likely represents what someone is actually willing to pay. Rather, you're asked to bid the maximum amount you're willing to pay, then the computer automatically raises your bid to top other bids until your secret maximum is surpassed. So say you're willing to pay $100 and enter that amount. If no one else bids, the "current bid" reads $1 and you could conceivably win it for that. If someone else bids $25, the "current bid" increases to $26 and you're still the high bidder. If someone else bids $200, the "current bid" increases to $101 and they're the new high bidder. Like that. Fair warning: I'm completely willing to bid on my own piece if necessary to save face. I'm nearly shameless.

The image of my page above is a cleaned-up scan of the original, and is pretty much how it looks in the book. The scan at the Heritage Auctions site is how it looks "in real life": blue-pencil under-drawing, brush marks, white-out corrections, etc. I like seeing the craft in original comic art and think others do, too, so I deliberately declined to pretty it up any more than if it were something I was doing for a book of my own.

I am irked to see some white blobs in the Heritage scan that I didn't put there. They look like this:

I don't know what those are. Thankfully, they're not in the book because the production people used a high-res scan I provided. My only guess is that the vellum paper I laid over the artwork to protect it during shipment may have stuck to some not-quite-dry ink underneath, although a couple of days passed between drawing and mailing. In any event, they're not part of the "artist's intent" and I'd encourage the winner to scrape them off if they're stuck pieces of paper, or blot them out if they're not. Or send it to me and I'll do it. Seriously.

I was already proud to be a tiny part of Team Cul de Sac, but seeing the quality of the resulting book has puffed me up considerably. It's a great book for a great cause and you should buy it. Furthermore, as Friend Of The Blog Mike Peterson has pointed out, it'll make a terrific autograph album as you hunt down the contributors and ask them to sign their pages. I may actually do that.

Thanks and compliments to Chris Sparks for his good work and for including me, and to Richard for being prodigiously talented in the first place.

Here's the book's Amazon listing. Currently #4783 (that's pretty good), the #3 bestseller among exhibition catalogs and the #9 bestseller among books about comic strips. Or you can buy it directly from Chris.

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