The penultimate day of Drawlloween brings us a prompt of wizened old witches tending to their malevolent brew. Keeping with the contrary way I’ve been going with these prompts, I went for the opposite of crones, and found three comely cauldron keepers of animated fame. First, from Archie comics, Sabrina the Teenage Witch in her classic 60s look and hairstyle. She’s been reimagined plenty of times for modern audiences, including a more serious, ominous take in her recent graphic novel and in Afterlife with Archie in which she inadvertently causes a zombie holocaust in Riverdale by bringing Jughead’s beloved dog back to life, so making her a bit evil here is no longer that big a reach.
Next is the “sexy” version of Witch Hazel from the 1955 Looney Tunes animated short by Chuck Jones, “Broomstick Bunny” in which Bugs Bunny turns the tables on usually crone-like Witch Hazel by hitting her with the “pretty” formula she meant for him, or at least his disguised self as a young witch. She is then sexually harassed by the magic mirror genie and the short ends with him in pursuit. Hey, it was the 50s.
The last pretty witch is also animated, to keep with the theme, so no “only bad witches are ugly” Glinda the Good Witch here. It is, however, another live action witch, Samantha Stevens from the 60s-70s TV sitcom, “Bewitched.” Shown here in the animated version that opens and closes the show.
I tried to take the three different cartoon styles and make them appear similar enough to not seem to go together by giving them all the same dress, but letting them keep their individual style in other ways.
Going as literal as possible, once again, I immediately thought of DC Comics’ own weird western star, Jonah Hex. However, to keep the Halloween witchcraft theme that was surely intended, I added an appropriate DC occult character to be hexing him. In this case, Zatanna and her backwards speaking magic and also in one of her slightly less objectifying outfits in keeping with the seriousness of this event.
Having already come up with similar themes for “Return from the Dead” and “Tombsday” already this year, it was difficult to be too original with the crypt creeps prompt. I knew the obvious one would be the “Crypt-Keeper” but I tried to use the more well-known HBO puppet version of him to illustrate the original EC comic history behind the character, as host of their “Tales From The Crypt” comic, along with his fellow horror comics hosts: The Old Witch and The Vault-Keeper. The original Crypt-Keeper was pretty much just a creepy old dude with long, white hair and he seems a bit surprised to find his mummified TV incarnation pointing at him.
Since I don’t like to repeat either styles or characters too much in these challenges, I was hesitant to do another Berni Wrightson Swamp Thing homage, but since I only did his style on Day 1 this year, and I did Swamp Thing in only a Harvey Comics style for the “Slimy Swamps and Foggy Bogs” prompt last year, I felt it was okay to repeat both Swamp Thing and the Wrightson art for this. (Besides, I love Swamp Thing.)
Here is is with the other “swamp” citizens: Marvel’s Man-Thing, Walt Kelly’s Pogo and Star Wars’ Yoda. Upon reflection, I could have added more swamp people, like Kermit the Frog, Gollum and Shrek, but didn’t have room or time.
I liked the stark contrast of just the black and white inks, but then I had to add color to make all the characters stand out better.
Another year of DRAWLLOWEEN month is here! This time, I’m doing it all digital, instead of the inking in a sketchbook and scanning in to post method I did the previous two years. For that reason, I won’t be doubling this as also taking part in Inktober, but I won’t have to scan any more, or worry about ink from the previous day bleeding through the paper and having to work around it on the reverse page. Also, I now have an Apple Pencil and iPad Pro that makes sitting and drawing as easy and realistic as doing it on real paper with real tools. Another plus (or minus) is that I won’t be tempted to connect two days due to them being next to each other in a spread when the facing pages are open in the sketchbook. That was another challenge to deal with in an already challenging challenge, so now I can concentrate on other things.
So for day one’s “Return From the Dead” prompt last year, I honored two celebs who had sadly passed away during 2016 (David Bowie and Prince) and I wanted to do the same with this year’s same prompt. I decided on the two co-creators of my favorite macabre comic, “Swamp Thing”, writer Len Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson. For one thing, returning from the grave was a theme presented many times in their influential comic run in the 70s and seemed appropriate for this use. Secondly, Bernie’s masterful line work and moody inking is something that hit me right away when I saw it and I have loved it ever since, and this is a great reason to try to ape it in honor of both him and Len.
Last year I did a Halloween/Election cover (and inside Halloween art) for the local alt-weekly paper in Asheville: The Mountain Xpress. This year, they wanted another one, so I had to come up with a new idea and it was a little harder to try to combine the two. Here are some of the things I doodled and brainstormed on before coming up with the one we used.
The final cover ended up looking like this once the heads and subheads were added:
2013 Mountain Xpress Halloween Cover by Brent Brown
I thought it was funny using the names of actual candies like Mr. Goodbar and Milk Duds to represent candidates that may be good or duds and having the costumed children/voters have to just pick one and hope for the best.
Some people didn’t think it was an original idea, but I promise if it was not, it was unintentional, as I can’t claim to have read every single other publication in every little or big market in the previous decades to make sure we were using something no one had ever thought of before regarding the common occurrence of these two events being so close together!
Anyway, I also drew some inside illustrations, the paper said they wanted. They just meant some bats or cobwebs or something, but I thought they wanted more and spent too much time drawing these classic monsters with appropriate Halloween candy to go inside:
Some of them actually got used!
And finally, my weekly cartoon in that issue needed to be Halloween-related as well (I thought, anyway) and so it turned out like so:
I’m interrupting my current spate of blog posts responding to fits of pique, to announce an upcoming fit of geek. Namely the second annual incarnation of our local geek (comics, sci-fi, gaming, general pop culture) festival and/or “con” called, Geek Out!
I missed last year’s inaugural GeekOut, due to commitments to offspring matriculation in other parts of the state occurring simultaneously, but I’m glad to announce that I will be included in the Artist Alley section of the con this year.
Along with offering to draw caricatures in exchange for only some devalued US currency, I will also be selling copies of my new 62-page full-color paperback book. It is a compilation of selected comic strips from the last 5 or so years of my “Land of This Guy” cartoon that has appeared on a mostly weekly basis in the local alt-weekly, The Mountain Xpress. Sure, you probably saw most of them already for free, but here they are printed on good paper instead of awful newsprint and additionally, I supply a director’s commentary on each one as an added bonus feature and page-filler!
I only have 50 copies, so be sure to stop by to get one either signed or not signed, depending on whether you like your reading material defaced with other people’s scribbling inside or not.
Any copies left over will be available for sale here or on any of my other sites and any left over from that will be stuffed into a pillowcase and buried with me when I die, so that I can take the shame of my failure to get even 50 people interested in purchasing a small segment of my life’s work for less than $10 with me to the grave.
So, while I’m still here, come out to Geek Out this Saturday, May 4, 2013 at the Sherrill center at UNC-A from 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and in addition to seeing cool guests and cosplay and a plethora of geeky goodness all in one place, also try to make my life have meant something!
In my experience, most complaints about cartoons seem to be due to a misunderstanding of the premise or punchline of the joke. Or sometimes an understanding of, but objection to the joke, its intent or execution (or even subject) or, in the event of political or social commentary, just a disagreement of opposing ideology.
However, the “outraged” party du jour of this particular comic from 2011 had a complaint that was a new one on me altogether! The cartoon in question was a series of jokes featuring a recurring character, “Ironey The Iron” who was a de facto narrator for Asheville happenings, as he was an anthropomorphic version of the well-known urban art piece (sculpture) on Wall St. and Battery Park Ave. appropriately facing the Flat Iron Building outside the Mountain Xpress offices.
As I had done in previous incarnations of the Ironey strips (here and here), I addressed a number of recent local issues that seemed ironic in some way. One of them, was that a local photographer, though coming off a recent win as Best Local Photographer in the paper, had nevertheless made public his concern about being able to make a living here, or indeed, to even continue to pay to live anywhere. This was stated on his Facebook page and repeated on an Ashvegas blog post about the photog in question, Micah MacKenzie. I thought it nicely pointed out the irony of being “successful” in the arts here and still not actually making enough money to even pay your (inflated) local rent. The cartoon ran as follows:
The next week, I hear from an editor that they had received this letter to the Editor by a Patty Cooper which, bizarrely recounted how “offended” she was about the cartoon because… well, just read it yourself:
“I am highly offended by your cartoon that shows someone in a green hat, and brown pants, and who is a photographer [“Brent Brown: Ironey the Iron,” Nov. 16 Xpress]. I walk these streets all day wearing about the same outfit, taking pictures. I would hate to assume that this is supposed to be a caricature of me.
Yes, I sit with homeless, and many others as I spend my days here. I can assure you though, as a land and homeowner in Vermont, and having an apartment to stay in while here, that I am not homeless. I also have viewers of my work all over the world. I do not see any homeless persons walking these streets with photography equipment or handing out cards about the video and photo work I do. Yes, I was offended.
I could not figure out why persons were walking up to me today telling me all about services that the homeless have here. When I told them I do not need those services they seemed shocked. Now I know why. I am sure that you would not have posted a caricature of some better-known local artist like that. I consider this defamation of character.”
— Patty Cooper
So, I was tasked with penning a response to this person’s, shall we say, colorful view of the world, before I was told who even wrote the letter. I first wrote Micah to make sure he didn’t write it, as it was about him, but he had not even seen the cartoon, or got the connection that it was about him, until I pointed it out. Assured the letter writer was indeed not the subject of this comic, I replied:
“No, the cartoon was not about you, whoever you are, (the Xpress edited that part out) The cartoon of the photographer who’s forced into homelessness despite, ironically, being the best in his profession, was not based on you. Rather, the cartoon alludes to a Nov. 2 entry on the Ashvegas blog about local photographer Micah Mackenzie, who posted on Facebook of his struggle to survive in Asheville (ironically after just having won the title of Best Photographer in the annual Mountain Xpress Best of WNC issue). Even then, it was not a literal representation of him and other actual artists actually living in boxes on the street, but rather a premise taken to an extreme to achieve what people with senses of humor call a ‘joke.’
The clothes’ colors were chosen at random and not based on any person living or dead. To further set your mind at ease, the iron depicted in the cartoon, while based on an existing sculpture on Wall Street, does not in real life have human limbs or a face and does not narrate local events.”
— Brent Brown
That, hopefully satisfied the offended party, but probably not. Additionally, the woman who was pictured being led away by police for distributing fliers was not very happy with the way she was drawn, but in fairness, I never went out of my way to find a photo when I did it and I just drew a generic woman, so no offense was meant.
In it, I spoke about my late uncle’s produce business and how he would dress up as the stereotypical “hillbilly” that potential tourists/newcomer customers would expect to see. Here is a collage of some of the label/ad designs I tried to come up with for him, as well as a photo from a newspaper clipping of him and my late aunt:
Bob and Katherine McCombs at Mountain Man Produce stand in Hendersonville, NC
An interesting aside, is that I used him as the inspiration for a cartoon (featured in the same Carolina Public Press article) where I take up the issue of cultural stereotypes that was partially in response to another cartoon by fellow cartoonist, Randy Molton that was featured in the Asheville alt-weekly, Mountain Xpress. Randy’s “pigdemic” cartoon (suggesting certain bestiality inclinations inherent in certain people in certain geographical regions) caused not a small bit of controversy at the time (May 6, 2009 issue).
My cartoon was a little better-received, but still had its critics. As local writer and Appalachian historian, Betty Cloer Wallace remarked:
“Well, Brent Brown’s “Stereotypes” cartoon is quite humorous and a great improvement over Molton’s “Pigdemic,” even though Brown’s “hillbilly” character is the only person of the five types in his entire cartoon who is portrayed as being ignorant for real, ignorant beneath his stereotype. (It’s hard to get away from it, isn’t it?)
Even the double-negative frame, although borderline, is humorous.
I think the cartoon would have been even funnier, though, if Brown had left out the stereotypical language “whatchoo you in fer” and instead had the real person behind the ignorant stereotype saying something unexpectedly erudite.
It clearly is possible to poke fun at stereotypes in ways that are not insensitive or insulting toward a person, group, or culture, and except for “whatchoo you in fer,” this cartoon does that quite humorously.
By Betty Cloer Wallace 05/20/2009″
What she did not know, was that it was based on an actual person, my uncle, who—though he was playing the part of the cartoon hillbilly as a marketing gimmick—was nevertheless a rough-around-the-edges, rural, country type who was still prone to speaking in a NC mountain dialect with syntax and grammar not considered proper or correct and filled with regionalisms. To have him sound like Rex Harrison would, I agree, have been a funny idea, but in this case, I was being true to the comic strip avatar of my uncle Bobby. It was also a way to say that even though the people here may have an accent and non-standard way of speaking, that they are still nothing like the cartoon stereotype portrayals that may or may not even be based on reality, but became so prevalent that even the people they mock eventually used them for their own purposes.