Thursday, March 19, 2020

MAD MUMMY 11: Rumsheyliesha's Paw PT 3

Here's part 3 of a gruesome little story for gamblers where Adam steps in for a high stakes game, with a lot more than money on the line. Maybe the most repulsive villainess I've ever drawn... Inspired, if you want to use that word- by early twenty first century politics.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

MAD MUMMY 11: Rumsheyliesha's Paw PT 2

Here's part 2 of a gruesome little story for gamblers where Adam steps in for a high stakes game, with a lot more than money on the line. Maybe the most repulsive villainess I've ever drawn... Inspired, if you want to use that word- by early twenty first century politics.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

MAD MUMMY 11: Rumsheyliesha's Paw PT 1

Here's a gruesome little story for gamblers where Adam steps in for a high stakes game, with a lot more than money on the line. Maybe the most repulsive villainess I've ever drawn... Inspired, if you want to use that word- by early twenty first century politics.

Friday, February 28, 2020


In an art form that has so much potential, I’m always annoyed that the field of comics has been dominated over the past fifty years with super heroes. That is why it was such a delightful surprise and welcome relief when “I Know What I Am, The Life and Times of Artemisia Gentileschi  arrived at my door. The book is a beautifully drawn and cinematically told biography of Italy’s greatest female painter by Gina Siciliano. It was originally done in three separate volumes and is now collected in hardback  edition from Fantagraphics Books at $29.99. 280 pages  7.75 x 11.25  (Don’t know if there is a softcover edition or not.)

The three volume book tells the story of Artemisia Gentileschi, who has learned to paint as an assistant to her father in 17th century Italy. In her life of isolation she flourishes as an artist, surpassing her father as a talent as she ages. She survives not only as a teenager being raped by her  teacher, but endures a long and humiliating trial to bring him to justice in the male dominated society. And if you survive the plague, life doesn’t get much easier in the volatile political/religious atmosphere of the era. The expression “watching a rose grow in concrete”, seems to be an apt description of her life. While Artemisia’s most famous work was “Judith Slaying Holofernes”, she was constantly working and left behind a large body of work. It has only been in the 20th century that her abilities as an artist have been truly appreciated and her place in history assured.

While the Italians have been producing historical biographies like this since the 1970’s, I’m not sure there has been an American artist who has invested this much time and energy into a graphic novel of this sort. In fact, to call it a “graphic novel” is limiting, because it is so much more than it. It is also a well researched and footnoted scholarly work, as much a history book as an engaging biography. 

Gina Siciliano is no slacker as an artist. Her pictures are done in a naturalistic style with a strong sense of value and dynamic compositions. While I haven’t seen her originals, she seems to work with pen and ink and a bit of pencil thrown in for shading at times. She definitely avoids the digital process. Her characters give dramatic performances in their posing throughout the story. The architecture and costumes are impeccably  done perfectly capturing the time period, very much as if Gentileschi’s own painting have come to life to tell their story. 

How to describe her approach to writing continuity is a bit difficult. At times she uses the traditional frame by frame method most cartoonists use. But often the story breaks down into the Big Little Book style, with a picture on one side and a page of words on the other. Consequently, there are sections where the words end up fighting with the pictures for which will one predominate. Perhaps because she has approached this a history, we are often given a lot of facts that are great background, but they tend to slow the story down as we ware through them. Since the book is heavily footnoted, I would have preferred to have seen a lot of this text in that section rather than in the body of the story itself. 

As the poet Andrew Marvel wrote, “were there but world’s enough and time”. This seems to be one of the creator’s dilemmas. Trying to tell the story in only three volumes with  all of it’s rich content proves to be a difficult task. As a visual guy, I would have liked to have seen more of Gina’s remarkable drawings to tell the story, and to do that this project might well have taken a half dozen volumes instead of just three. Hey, she’s young, what’s the problem with working for another decade on a book? Seriously, I sympathize with trying to work with a project of this scope. And there is so much of her own personality that she incorporated into her  work.  What she has accomplished is quite unique and extraordinary. I don’t think we’ll be seeing a Siciliano X-Men book anytime soon, but I do think this work will be one that will have a lasting impact. 

I met Gina when I think she was about five or six years old when my wife Annie and I were visiting Portland for a comics show and we got together with her parents, Sam and Mary. Her mom was a childhood sweetheart, the first girl I had a big crush on as a boy. One of my vivid memories as a teenager was listening to her playing the violin while her father accompanied her on the piano. I was mesmerized. We grew up in the small town of Auburn Heights, Michigan and our families were often socializing. While we went to the same school,  Mary got double promoted when we were in sixth or seventh grade and then switched schools so I didn’t see much of her after that. But we have still kept in touch. 

Mary is now a retired professor of Literature and Writing at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland. She has published short stories, prose poems and literary criticism in various journals. While she took a thirty year break from music, she is now back at it, but focusing on the piano. Her husband Sam is a retired database administrator for Portland General Electric, Portland's major utility.  He has published seven Sherlock Holmes' novels with Titan Press, one Sherlock Holmes novel with Otto Penzler Press and two horror novels with Kensington. I’ve read them all and loved them all.

So when I read Gina’s graphic novel, I know she had an excellent base to start with. 

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Beatles in India: Copter Flight

One of my favorite people to work with has been director Paul Saltzman. For two earlier documentaries that Paul produced, Prom Night in Mississippi and The Last White Knight, I supplied a series of graphic panels for whatever situations that he couldn't cover with film footage. His work was always thought provoking and infused with a feeling of warmth, like Paul himself.

His latest effort has been The Beatles in India, which tells the story of him finding himself at in India in 1968 with the Beatles at Rishikesh where he took any number of stunning photographs of all those present, which included not only the Beatles, but Donovan, Mike Love, Mia and Prudence Farrow and numberous others.  My drawings were there to fill in the missing photos. Unfortunately, legal and financial issues arose just before the film was to be released in November of 2018 and the project was in limbo for a while. However, I have seen a finished cut of the film which is quite amazing, and hopefully the generally public will have the opportunity to see it in the next year.

Below are a series of drawings that didn't make the final cut. The scene is the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi arriving at Rishikesh in his copter where he is greeted by the Beatles and a number of onlookers.

 John and Paul rush ahead. Both are interested in sitting with the Maharishi on the trip, but as the pilot explains there is only one seat available.

 Paul pleads his case, and John pleads his case.

 When Paul looks away to get backing from the group, John rushes ahead and hops into the copter.

 Paul watches dismayed as the copter lifts off and tracks over the Ganges.

 Inside the copter John desperately wants to have a private audience with the Maharishi, but discovers the noise of the rotor is so loud, that to his disappointment, absolutely no conversation can be heard.

Next week, Paul and Donovan jam together with their latest hits and the police drop by....