Comics For Hire #5: Canned Funnies


Next stop, the army.
Next stop, the army.

This topical piece from 2004 was my first job with The Portland Monthly– the trigger event being The Oregonian‘s controversial decision to drop Hi and Lois from its comics page after 50 years (it was displaced by Berkeley Breathed’s brief revival of Opus; Cathy was dropped at the same time). Think about this for a moment. Imagine that in 2004, Frank Sinatra’s Swing Easy (released in 1954) had just dropped off the charts, The Pajama Game was finishing a 50 year run on Broadway,and a local television affiliate was catching flack for dropping Father Knows Best, which first appeared the same month as Hi And Lois, from its lineup (Cathy, a relative stripling, made its debut in 1976, the same year as Frampton Comes Alive! the musical Annie and Charlie’s Angels.). On the other hand, The Tonight Show and Face The Nation started that same year and are still going strong, so network television is hardly a paragon of dynamic change.

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Comics For Hire #4: Rudy Giuliani, Future Ex-Mayor

The Ghost of Rudy's Future Past

The Ghost of Rudy’s Future Past

This comic page from early 1995 is not exactly for hire, since I was working from my own concept rather than a client’s, but I put it in that category anyway because I was paid money for it. I had been a regular illustrator for The New York Press for about a year when they started a feature called Comic Of The Week; this little piece of satiric fantasy (the kind of thing Steve Brodner does in his sleep) was the first and only concept I was able to sell them before I left New York, and the paper, later that year (I was told the editors only wanted to work with New York-based artists, but within a few years they dropped that policy and l was able to work for them again).
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Comics For Hire #3: In The Bag

This painfully hip piece goes so far back that l have forgotten who the client was- my assumption is some young adult magazine published by Scholastic or one of the other educational publishers. l can’t recall the year either, but internal evidence points to 1994 or 1995. The flannel shirt worn by one of the band members dates it to the era of grunge (which I had never heard of before Kurt Cobain’s suicide in 1994 made headlines), and I’m certain I did this job while I was still living in New York, so that had to have been before June 1995.

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Comics For Hire #2: The Perils Of Dr. Pauline

Dr. Pauline in peril
Julie Benz

In a follow-up to the Rasheed Wallace comic featured in a previous blog post, l have mounted all the episodes to date starting with this one, of an advertising series for SmartStart Practice, a service which provides veterinarians with the education and training to run their own businesses. The hapless heroine, Dr. Pauline, is an overworked vet perenially swamped by the details of maintaining her practice and in dire need of outside expertise.

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Comics For Hire #1: A Fresh Start.


Rasheed Wallace
Rasheed Wallace

Most of the work I do on commission is illustration, but occasionally a client who knows about my comics will hire me to draw a strip for publication. This strip for The Portland Monthly was the client’s concept all the way, and if the result looks unusually stiff, it’s because I was dealing with a sport I know nothing about- basketball- and an athlete I’d never heard of- Rasheed Wallace ( I believe he used to play for a team called the Trailblazers). With the thorny matter of race added to the mix, I wasn’t about to attempt anything too caricatural. Basically this piece is a straight photocollage with a light layer of drawing- using photographs I found of Wallace online, I put together a layout with added captions and balloons in Indesign, then used Photoshop to convert it to a dithered dot pattern which I printed onto coquille board and then pencilled over.
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Coming Soon To A Wall Near You

Irving Park Fountain in sinusoidal projection
Irving Park Fountain in sinusoidal projection

Stop the presses! I have actually sold a piece of original art! (Of course, I have been a working artist for over thirty years now, but as an illustrator and cartoonist I create art to be reproduced and no one much has been interested in owning the originals). A submission I made in January to The Visual Chronicle Of Portland, a city-owned collection of works on paper– prints, photographs, paintings and drawings– that focuses on artists’ views of the city’s social and urban landscapes- has been accepted, and at some point soon it will go on display. No black-tie gala planned for this year’s inductees, who also include Justine Avera, Kevin Farrell, Jason Greene, Bruce Hall, Alex Lilly, Francis Rosica and Jake Shivery, but there is a nice check and the satisfaction of seeing my work hanging somewhere besides on a telephone pole (the works are exhibited in publicly accessible areas throughout City and County offices).
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