The new season of Welcome to Falling Rock National Park will begin August 13, 2007.
In newspapers, distributed by MCT Campus. Online, via www.joshshalek.com.
Write your local newspaper editor if you’d like to see Falling Rock in your paper!
I hope you’ve been enjoying my little blog this summer. I hope to continue posting, but I might open up the scope a little, just to spice things up. Hooray for spice.
Ah, the three-quarters view. How I sing it’s praises. How good it looks to draw characters in that way. Perfect for showing a full range of character expression – you can see the full face, but the character isn’t looking directly at the reader. You’ll know it immediately if you see it: one arm obscured by the body, face fully showing but one ear missing, both legs showing with one foot placed slightly higher (further away) than the other. It may look a bit awkward if you think about it too much (and there’s a little cheating going on in order to draw a character that way, in terms of realism), but it’s much better, in my opinion, than when a character looks directly at the reader. Honestly, I think it’s creepy when a character turns to the reader, either as an acknowledgement of the absurdity of the situation the character is in, or with pleading raised eyebrows as if asking, “is this normal where you’re from?” My comics are not documentaries; the characters are not being filmed by a crew, they don’t take coffee breaks and complain about their contracts. Well, maybe the owl. He’d probably like to get paid, he just has to figure out how to do it.
The three-quarters view reminds me of theater staging. Very rarely do you see an actor directly from the side or a direct front view. So, while it may seem a bit strange that all the characters are ideally posed in every panel, it has precedent.
I’ve long been working on ways to draw my characters from the back. If they’re talking facing each other, or running away, it helps to show the back of the head every once in a while. Besides, it gets boring drawing the exact same pose over and over. I found that Carl Barks’ Donald Duck comics were really good at drawing characters’ backs. Donald’s back looks as interesting as his front, which is pretty cool considering there’s much less expression you can see on the back of one’s head. Another challenge (for me) is feet when they’re facing away. You don’t want to make them look like their feet are flipping into the air when they’re just standing there. But that’s all a matter of perspective.
Even when drawing characters’ backs, I still use the three-quarters view.
One notable exception to this is Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy. You see him from the side or (rarely) straight-on. It’s a very interesting style, but one that is so unique that it defies imitation. In my opinion.
I’d like to begin rating my jokes in the same manner as maple syrup. You know, kind of like my own private Ebert & Roeper, except without the thumbs. Does anyone know the standards of maple syrup ratings? Dark, Amber, Light…A, B…I’ve seen them on labels, but have no clue as to what they mean. Plus, I’ve found that almost all real maple syrup tastes pretty darn good, regardless of rating. I won’t get all depressed if I run a weeklong series of Amber jokes.
When I got to thinking about the different type of jokes I tell, I wondered about the ones that are quick to come up with and require little dialogue. They don’t happen often, and they often seem so “light” that I wonder if it’s even worth the time to draw them. Not that they aren’t any good – I personally like comics that are witty but don’t employ endless dialogue (think Mutts). It’s just one of those things I think about, as I sit at my drawing table. “This comic takes a while to draw. The person reading it will likely stare for less than 20 seconds, grunt, and move on.”
Should I really make that person sit another 5 seconds? Should I be making “heavier” jokes if I’m going to invest my time into drawing them up real purty-like? I think, no: comics are funny because they are light. If I wanted to write dialogue-heavy, meticulously reworked jokes, I’d write a 500-page novel and be done with it.
It sounds absurd, but this is the kind of debate I have in my head as I draw comics. “Should I even be doing this? What’s the point?” Then I have to prove to myself why I’m doing comics and not anything else. Fortunately, I manage to persuade myself.
It’s about building up just enough self-esteem to continue on. I love seeing the finished product, printed on newsprint. When I get to that point, I’m always happy.
This post started on one topic but ended on an entirely different one.
There are many topics I’ve never written about, mainly because I know nothing about them. I know, lack of knowledge shouldn’t really stop me. Sometimes it does, though. Here’s a list of some things I’ve never written about:
The state of Oklahoma
Certain concepts of Chemistry
Richard F. and Ann Neal Cleveland, parents of President Grover Cleveland
The endangered Snow Leopard
Jim Rice (player for the Boston Red Sox)
It isn’t a very long list, I realize, because it’s hard to think of things that I normally don’t think about. Scouring the internet helps. Maybe I’ll add more later.
Welcome to Falling Rock National Park: Season 2 has begun! Check my website for new comics. If your paper doesn’t carry Falling Rock, write the editor! They listen to the people who pay for the paper a lot more than some cartoonist who just takes up space with his silly picture-stories.
In other news, I attended the annual Portland Zine Symposium over the weekend. For those of you not in Portland, the Zine Symposium is for those who have published their own zines to sell or trade with like-minded folks. There were six or so rows of tables in a large but still very crowded room. I brought copies of my comic book, Dancing with Jack Ketch, to trade. Most everyone was happy to trade with me, so now I have a stack of new comics to read.
It’s very exciting to talk with people who are making comics as well as publishing on their own. I know for me making comics will always be a part of my life, but getting others to read them takes a different part of your brain. For Falling Rock I rely on MCT Campus to distribute my comics, but if I have an idea for a comic book, then it’s up to me to get it out there. Self-publishing is a quick and satisfying way to do this – quicker, I should say, than sending it around to various publishers and waiting for the inevitable rejection. The difficult part is, I’m no salesman, so I’m glad there are events like the Zine Symposium so I can get my comic out to other people without feeling like I’m selling anything.
I’m sure most of you artiste-types can relate. You do what you love, but when it comes to making a living, it’s most baffling. Publishers exist for that reason, but when publishers want nothing to do with you, you have to take the proverbial duck by the horns and self-promote. It’s something I’m still working on.
I’ve been using my PITT brush pen for a few years now, and for the most part it makes me very happy. I like the variations in line width it gives me, and I don’t have to keep dipping it and cleaning it. I just get a new one when the brush nib wears out. Which brings me to my quandry. Lately, I’ve been running through these brush pens very quickly – I’ll wear one down drawing maybe two weeks’ worth of comics. That’s just too fast; they used to last me at least a month.
At the same time, I’ve been considering going back to a regular pen, like a Micron (or the PITT equivalent). They don’t give me the brush-like line quality, but I do like the way it looks. Less chunky lines would help my drawing style, is what someone suggested to me.
So should I switch to a regular old pen? Or stick with my brush pen? I wonder if other cartoonists change the types of pens they use as often as I do. Comic strips are well known for their consistency; I imagine a cartoonist could get letters of complaint if readers spotted a marked difference in the drawings from one day to the next. On the other hand, I think I’m in a good place to make changes. Falling Rock is, at two years, still a relatively young strip.