Monday, July 26, 2021

Drawing for Dollars: Supporting the Cartoon Art Museum

In a parallel universe, I'm at San Diego Comic-Con right now drawing sketches to raise money for the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. Since I'm in the plague universe, I and many other cartoonists are doing the same thing at home (as we did last year). Here's how it works: you pay CAM $10 or $20 for a drawing by your favorite artist, and we'll do it and mail it to you.

My dance card filled up surprisingly quickly, so I'm sold out. The nice thing about doing these at home is that I can take my time and find proper references, unlike at the San Diego Convention Center where people are standing there waiting, the wifi is lousy, and I'm desperately trying to recall what Chewbacca's face really looks like (a dog/gorilla?). Got some strange requests this time but enjoyed them all! Four of the five paid a bit more for color, but since I had the watercolors out I just tarted up all of them. I will inscribe them as requested before mailing.

Thanks to everybody who commissioned a piece from me to support a good cause!

Request: "Tom Strong--battle worn, flying his jetpack please." The Tom Strong character is cool, kind of an old-school throwback "science hero" type, in the mold of my own Cap Crater. I couldn't find any reference of him flying a jetpack, but he often scoots around in a backpack-helicopter thing, so I went with that.

Request: "The Atom Indigo Lantern (DC Comics character)." My knowledge of The Atom begins and ends with the SuperFriends era of TV cartoons, but apparently Ray Palmer's been through some stuff since then, including a whole "microscopic barbarian king" and "sort of like a Green Lantern except purple" phase. Interesting career choices. I like drawing the fiddly bits.

Request: "Marvel Superhero." I emailed the customer to ask if he had a particular favorite, and he replied that he liked Hawkeye. Gather around, kids, while I show you what Hawkeye looked like in the comics before Jeremy Renner played him in the movies. I've always loved the character myself and have doodled him for decades. I was pretty proud that I thought of him shooting a bullseye through the "O" in "Cartoon."

Request: "John Carter, Warlord of Mars please, with alien dino ride." The challenge here is that John Carter is a pulp hero who's had a lot of different interpretations over the years. Specifying "Warlord of Mars" led me to the comic book with that subtitle, so I modeled mine after that version. Gave a lot of thought to what a Martian dinosaur might look like: red skin for camouflage, wide webbed feet for running over fine sand. The orange peak in the background is pure fancy--Mars has none of those--but it reads as "alien planet" so works for me.

Request: "The two garbagemen (Dick Miller and Robert Picardo) from 'The Burbs,'" which is a 1989 Tom Hanks movie. My first thought: what a weird request. Then I found a couple of clips of these guys online and saw the appeal. They're only on screen for a minute or two, but were a very funny comic duo, kind of a Laurel and Hardy. I think it's my favorite.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Fire Story Interview: Counterpunch

Here's a new Fire Story interview with John Hawkins for, conducted by e-mail a few days ago. He asked some questions no one has asked me before, and the conversation expanded a bit beyond the book. I think it's a good one!

An excerpt:

Q: A Fire Story does an excellent job of describing what people lose in the fire — material and systems and relationships. Can you elaborate on this? And how has the fire altered your understanding of life? The bigger picture…

Fies: Well-meaning people say, “You and your family survived, everything you lost was just stuff.” People who mean less well sometimes say, “I wish I’d have a fire to clean out all my stuff!” I want to punch them all in the nose. I write about this in the book: “stuff” isn’t just material possessions, it’s memories and history and roots.

The fact is, I don’t miss 95 percent of the stuff I lost. The catch is that the other 5 percent breaks my heart. We left a car in the garage that melted into a puddle that I haven’t spent even a minute thinking about, but I will always miss the first sonogram showing that my wife was going to have twins.