Monday, December 29, 2008

doodle diary

I filled a stack of cocktail napkins, and ended up with this one image that I kind of like.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More Tragic Strips

Here are a couple more strips from The Brooklyn Rail, united by the theme of women falling off of cliffs. The second is a constrained piece. It's made of the end rhymes from Browning's famous sonnet.

Merry Christmas, everybody.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Why I Keep At It

Trying to connect with publishers, reviewers, and the various other comics experts can be frustrating, to say the least. But the reception my work has gotten from actual people has been often positive and sometimes enthusiastic. The other day, I received this email from a stranger:

I just wanted to send you a quick note of thanks for this comic:

I have had a copy of it pinned up in my office for as many years as I can remember and it never fails to bring a smile to my face. It has been up there for so long that I don't even remember where I first ran across it.

I just wanted to let you know that the genius of that little strip is still out there and being appreciated now.

Thank you.

When I thanked him and asked permission to quote him here, he added that he'd posted the strip to his Twitter account and got this reaction from a friend:

"Wow - that comic strip was profound | deep | sad | moving | realistic - thanks for sharing."

So that felt good. That'll sustain me for awhile ( in lieu of food money). I confess I tend to think of that one as the best strip I've ever done.

Doodle Diary

A couple unsavory characters.

Comics and the Literary Establishment

Here's the last of the Post Bang sketches I made. This panel featured comics historians and critics. L to R we see moderator Kent Worcester, Jeet Heer, David Hadju, Hillary Chute, and Douglas Wolk.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Subway Sketch

I ended up giving this sketch to the mom. She just sent me this scan of it.
The subway makes my line bumpy. When the train stops, I have to stop drawing.

As of Yesterday...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Good People Who Make Good Comics for Kids

Here are a few convention sketches of artists and publishers who focus on young readers. The con program books aren't always thorough and I don't take the best notes. If anyone who sees this can help me get the attributions right, please respond.

This first sketch is from the Post Bang conference, June 2008. The panel was called "Comics and Kid's Lit." L to R are Raw Jr. publisher Francoise Mouly, historian Leonard Marcus, cartoonists Sara Varon and Mo Willems, and teacher/librarian Lisa von Drasek.

This second sketch is from a panel on Toon Books at the New York Comic Con. We see Francoise Mouly again, artist Frank Cammuso, Dean Haspiel (sitting in the audience), a librarian named Michelle (?), illustrator Geoffrey Hayes, and writer Jay Lynch.

Here's where I really need help. I arrived late to this panel and wasn't able to catch the names of the first three gentlemen in this picture. Assuming I achieved a likeness, does anyone recognize these fellows? The last two are David Saylor of Scholastic and Chris Staros of Top Shelf.

And here's a super quick impression of some creators from Nickelodeon Magazine: Dave Roman, R. Sikoryak, and Chris Duffy.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Comic Con Diary

This one was legible enough when it ran in The Brooklyn Rail, but I've since made some small corrections to it. That's my excuse for reposting it here.


I see that my new book, Rikki Ducornet's The One Marvelous Thing, is now available at Amazon.

I always wonder what people will make of my drawings. Are they "inky, scruffy" (Publisher's Weekly), "insidious, witty" (Harry Mathews), "gritty, fantastical" (Dalkey Archive) or what? You decide.

I should offer an incentive. If you order a copy, send your mailing address to and I'll send you an index card covered with original doodles. They make pretty good bookmarks.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Some Recent Strips

When my Tragic Strips appear in The Brooklyn Rail, they print them nice and big. But the versions on their web site are kind of too small to read. So I'll start reposting them here at a generous size. Click on these for a good look at the drawings.

These three are from an oubapo-esque series I'm developing called "Made Out of Mac."

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Word/Image Problem

Since moving to New York, one of my favorite cartooning related events was on a very rainy March 8th at Parsons School for Design, where Ben Katchor organized a symposium called "Rodolphe Topffer and theWord/Image Problem."

Katchor gathered a stellar group of artists and academics to present slides and discussions on visual narrative throughout history. The guest of honor was David Kunzle, biographer of Rodolphe Topffer, considered by many to be the inventor of the comic strip.
(I'm thinking of composing a post that addresses that question. Stay tuned).

For me, the highlight of the day was that I met my lifelong hero, Peter Blegvad. Years before he took up comic strips, Blegvad's songs and their accompanying notes and illustrations shaped my thinking about comics in crucial, fundamental ways. Please excuse my sloppy sketch of the man-- he performed songs accompanying slides of his artwork and I had to put down my pen to marvel at the effect.

Reading down the sketches, we find Steven Guarnaccia, Chair of Parsons' Illustration Department, giving the introduction; Victor Mair, Professor of Chinese Literature, speaking on Indo-Chinese picture recitations; biographer Aimee Brown Price on the unofficial cartoons of painter Pierre Puvis de Chavannes; Blegvad; Princeton University's Anne-Marie Bouche on Dialogues of Text andImage in Medieval Art; cartoonist Ben Katchor on Graven Images in the Yiddish Press; Francoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman in the audience; James Miller and Noah Isenberg of The New School for Social Research in conversation On the Perils of Academic Specialization; David Kunzle on Topffer as Professional Dilettante; and Patricia Mainardi, Professor of Art History at Brooklyn College, delivering a very inspiring presentation on forgotten proto-comic approaches in nineteenth-century book illustration.

Scoff if you wish, but this is my idea of a good time.
(You'll want to click on these three pages to really see them)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cartooning Today

"Cartooning Today" was, I'm pretty sure, the name of this outdoor panel last week at the Brooklyn Book Festival. From left to right we see Kyle Baker, Mo Willems, a statue of Henry Ward Beecher, and moderator Brian Heater. One could read the whole interview here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


My new book with Rikki Ducornet should be out soon from Dalkey Archive Press. Here are some of the preliminary, concept sketches for one of the comic stories at the back of the book. Click to enlarge, of course.

Ben Marcus and William Gass

Here are a couple of sketches from readings at the Brooklyn Public Library sponsored by The Brooklyn Rail.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Izzy Challenge #5

I contributed to a panel in J.B. Winter's newest Izzy Challenge. My MoCCA tablemate, Isaac
Cates and I were amused to see our contributions side by side, through an accident of alphabetization.

Read Isaac's post about it, then read Winter's.

Winter does cool jam comics. You should check this one out.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Power of the Individual Panel

Cubofuturist interpretation of Durer's "Ascent of Venus" from Damn Weird #23, 2006.
Border & lettering is by Maximum Traffic.

Before we had the terms "Sequential Art" and "Graphic Storytelling," the pretentious name for comics was the advertising term, "Continuity Illustration." It's a horrible phrase, really, because it completely ignores the role of writing in comics. It diminishes the drawing too, since illustration is always subordinate to whatever it's supposed to illustrate. That said, I think this term needs to be brought back to our attention. "Sequential Art" emphasizes the sequence of images and leads us to think about the cinematic quality of comics. "Graphic Storytelling" stresses the rhythm and timing involved in the successful telling of a story. "Continuity Illustration" reminds us that a comic is also a linked series of individual pictures.

A germ carnival from "God Bless You," 1995

Since the underground comics faded in the late 70s, there's been a trend in the comics intelligentsia, such as it is, to view comic panels as visual syntagms or ciphers. It doesn't matter how they look. It only matters how they function. This view is supported by the fact that the good drawing found in commercial comics too often serves hackneyed stories. And it 's considered good drawing mostly because it's correct, not because it's creative, much less visionary. Although brilliant visual art has always thrived among indie comics, I see it consistently marginalized in the critical conversation. Maybe that's because writers find it easier to write about writing.

Universal language wars from "Volapuk," 1990

Personally, I love it when a carefully crafted comic panel makes me want to stop and study its effects. As a seasoned comic reader, I can hold the pacing in my head and read at any tempo I please. In my own work, I've sometimes spent up to two weeks working on a single panel-- designing it, revising it, packing it with ideas. You may think I'm wasting time but I believe I'm saving paper.

Pro Wrestlers on a scaffold from "Steel Pulse" #4, 1989.

So I'm launching this here thread where I'll occasionally post comic panels I'm particularly proud of to see if they can stand alone.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Comics and the Internet

This sketch is from the Post Bang conference sponsored by NYU last June. The panel was on Comics and the Internet. Left to right are moderator Kent Worcester, comic artists Hope Larson and Shaenon Garrity, and critic Sarah Boxer.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Speaking Graphically

This is a sketch I made at a panel called "Speaking Graphically" at the Center for Independent Publishing last April, sponsored by the Women's National Book Association and the Friends of Lulu. Left to right are Lori O'Dea, moderator; Jessica Abel, graphic novelist; Judith Hanson, literary agent; Charles Kochman, senior editor, Harry N. Abrams Inc.; Dan Nadel, publisher, PictureBox; Christine Norrie, graphic novelist; Karen Karin Rosenberg, moderator; and David Vanderheyden, the sound guy.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Readings and Symposia

At comic book conventions they're called "panels," but I use that word to describe the frames within a comic. So although it sounds pompous, I'm pretty sure "symposia" is the word I need.
In any case, whenever possible, I attend these discussions and other literary readings, and when I do, I like to sketch the participants. It helps me listen.

So I'm starting this here thread, wherein I share my sketches with you. I don't always catch the names of all the people, so if you recognize someone whose name I missed or got wrong, please post a comment or send me an email at

I wasn't sure which of these drawings to post first, but then I was saddened to learn of the recent passing of Michael Silberkleit. Here's a sketch of Mr Silberkleit and his staff at the panel "Growing Up With Archie" at the New York Comic Con last April.

Left to right are Misako Rocks!, Michael Silberkleit, Fernando Ruiz, Dan Parent, Victor Gorelick, the moderator (does anyone know his name?), Veronica, Andrew Pepoy, Barbara Slate, and Mike Pellerito. Please excuse the misspellings within my notes.

Ummm, Welcome, I Guess

Following a couple of test posts, this is my official welcome message. At the urging and with the help of my wife, I'm undertaking a blog of my very own. I'll use it mostly to post recent sketches, doodles and illustrations, and to discuss some of my ideas about comics and cartooning. There may also be the odd announcement now and then.

I plan on posting a bunch of stuff soon, then tapering off as I burn out and become distracted with other activities. Sound likely? I sure think so. Here goes nothing (truly)...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Doodle Diary

These two have no idea where they're going.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Doodle Diary

Does this guy look like he needs to take a dump?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Doodle Diary

Many of my best comics began as doodles, and many of my doodles are some the best things I've ever drawn. Because doodling might be the lynchpin of my creative process, I'm launching this doodle diary.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Funny Ha Ha

To inaugurate the blog, one of Mrs. Motley's favorite comics.