Posts Tagged ‘oberlin’


hall of fame

For the thousands of you who thought I’d never make the Hall of Fame in anything, be prepared to think again. I made the Art Library Hall of Fame, along with my fellow ’02ers. That’s me in the middle, carrying the mantle of ART.

I kind of miss that shirt.

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College Cartoonist: A Retrospective

atticus+danceMy deepest and most rewarding college discovery was the life and times of squirrels. They inhabited the same space as us college kids, but unlike us transients they lived their whole lives in the quiet town. Their leader, the albino squirrel and his family, led them to become better, more productive, and more compassionate squirrels. Yes, they spent their days hiding nuts, but it was with a thoughtfulness never witnessed in squirrels before.

The squirrels made a deep impression and marked a turning point in my artistic life.atticus-and-glen-04-13-01My freshman year I was a cartoonist without a comic strip. My high school comic strip, with its undertones of Catch-22 and 1984, just would not do in this idyllic, intellectual setting. I also wanted to write characters, instead of the always-changing high schoolers I had used previously. But creating memorable characters is not like walking down the street. No, it’s more like asking everyone you know and finally getting the answer you knew all along. First, I had to get the feel for the place. I couldn’t write about the college until I knew what it was like, and my first semester was all about figuring that out. Only when I went home for fall break did I have the first inkling of what the strip was to be.

A high school friend basically handed the idea to me. We both stood next to his car in the warm Tucson winter night. I was talking about not knowing what to write. I was also talking about the squirrels. My friend, always a smart fellow, said, “Why not write about squirrels?” It was as if he reached into my soul and roped the idea with a golden lasso. Once the squirrel was in place, everything else seemed to click right in.

Instead of making a strip solely about squirrels, I decided to make it about the college in total. Therefore there was only one squirrel, Atticus. Atticus was a wise old squirrel who had lived on campus for many years. He was like the 5th year student who knew all the shortcuts, or maybe the townie, too smart to live anywhere but a small college town or a big city.atticus-and-glen-09-07-01In the beginning, Atticus befriends Glen, a college freshman. I never asked myself why Atticus chose Glen, of all the freshmen, but I think it was because Glen’s dorm window looked out on Atticus’ tree. It was the path of least resistance for the squirrel. Glen became less naive over time, but he never lost his basic sense of wonder. He never quite attained all of Atticus’ wisdom, which is probably for the best. I wouldn’t ever want to meet a cynical Glen. As for clothes, he always wore a little cap and a shirt with a dot on it.atticus-and-glen-09-10-99 atticus-and-glen-unpublished-1999Another character was Dee, who you will recognize both in my last strip, The Family Monster, and my current one. Dee came on the scene as a love interest of Glen’s. Glen was always on the verge of asking Dee out, but he was shy. Either that or he got distracted. In any event, Dee and Glen were never to be together. It was a shame, really, because Dee wore a triangle on her shirt. It seems like she and Glen had so much in common, at least fashion-wise.

I never really dealt with Dee much as a character until The Inevitable Atticus and Glen, the comic book I wrote my senior year as kind of a send-off for my characters. By then I liked her so much I had to find out more about her. That’s why she has been in all of my comics since Atticus and Glen. In terms of continuity, The Family Monster deals with Dee as a child, Atticus and Glen shows her in college, and Welcome to Falling Rock National Park shows her first job out of college. I’m still learning about her. I never lose interest.    atticus-and-glen-10-05-01 atticus-and-glen-11-09-01atticus-and-glen-02-22-02atticus-and-glen-03-01-02Possibly my most popular character from Atticus and Glen was Professor Globulus. He looked kind of like Jabba the Hut, but it was ultimately his personality that set him apart. He was more elitist and better read than the Hutt. He could be quite a windbag, using English criticism jargon until his whole class was put to sleep. He could also be fantastically cruel.

Globulus also made an appearance in The Family Monster, as a government bureaucrat investigating the three monsters. Since Glen and Dee graduated college, his whereabouts are unknown.  atticus-and-glen-10-08-99 atticus-and-glen-09-21-01 atticus-and-glen-unpublished-2002Another character I had to include was Glen’s roommate, Dylan. Dylan was an Artist. His hair looked a bit like Bob Dylan’s in the ’60’s. As far as art, Dylan knew how to play the game. His explanations for projects were always more involved and better thought-out than the projects themselves. When he graduated, he moved to New York City, drank a lot, went bald, and basically lived the life he wanted.  atticus-and-glen-09-17-01 atticus-and-glen-03-08-02 atticus-and-glen-02-25-00I remember sitting down one morning to write that first strip. Feeling faintly guilty I was not doing classwork (a feeling I also had when playing video games with my roommate for hours on end), I sat down to write ideas. I sketched out an idea and drew the finished strip all in one sitting. It was not perfect, but it was a good beginning. I needed to set up the premise and the main characters and hopefully be funny. My thought was, this would be the first of many strips, so once this ran I could write pretty much whatever I wanted.

It was rejected every week for the rest of the year.

Maybe the editors of the school newspaper thought I was one of the many cartoonists who would introduce characters and a Byzantine mythology, then quit a few weeks later. That was an annoyance to me as a reader and I knew Atticus and Glen would do neither of those things. I just had to be persistent.

Atticus and Glen ran in the newspaper beginning my sophomore year and finished when I graduated. Of the complaints I heard, a Byzantine mythology and a propensity to leave unresolved stories hanging were not among them.
atticus-and-glen-09-28-01 atticus-and-glen-04-05-02 atticus-and-glen-11-02-01The structure of Atticus and Glen was different from all my other comic strips. It consisted of two rows of panels, kind of like one strips stacked on top of another. I can’t remember why I came up with this format. I think I checked the comic that was already running regularly and used that as a template. The newspaper only came out once a week, so drawing a longer comic felt necessary if I was only getting one shot a week. I doubt I could’ve conveyed much with only four panels per week. As it was, I got to do a Sunday-length strip. I could change the number of panels as long as the overall shape remained the same.atticus-and-glen-11-16-01My biggest breakthrough, silly as it sounds, was in drawing size. It took me years to figure out what size to draw my comics. I’m still tweaking it, but at least I know better how things reduce and how to fit in dialog and pictures without cramping either. Back then, I was drawing my comics on 8 1/2″ by 11″ plain white copy paper. The writing was cramped, the ink sometimes bled. It was hard to fit in detail and hard to read afterward. Sophomore year I finally got it. I bought a big pad of Bristol board paper and suddenly everything fit.atticus-and-glen-11-30-01 atticus-and-glen-02-8-02Looking back it’s so simple, but back then I was scared to buy “real” art supplies. Fear of messing up the decidedly more expensive Bristol board paper outweighed my desire to make comics that looked good. When I finally took that plunge, and realized a piece of Bristol board could be tossed away just as easily as a piece of copy paper, it was one of the biggest leaps in my finished product I’ve ever had. I’m kind of ashamed it took me so long to get around to it.
atticus-and-glen-04-06-01atticus-and-glen-unpublished-2-1999 atticus-and-glen-02-15-02The best copier on campus was in the science library. I don’t know why. Copying comics was the only reason I went into that library. Once I made my copy, I took it to the newspaper office, which was located in a dorm’s basement. I always felt like I was going into a janitor’s closet or a boiler room. Many times I never even saw the newspaper staff, I just dropped my comic in the box and saw it printed a few days later. It was weird to think that, while my comic was a regular part of the paper for three years, I rarely saw the people who worked on the paper. The few people I did know were fantastic. I enjoyed feeling like I was a part of something, that I contributed to a periodical that most of the student population read. The biggest thrill of drawing a comic is when you see it printed somewhere. Print is validation. Even if you’re self-publishing, the fact that anyone can now pick up a paper and read what you’ve drawn…it’s the best.
atticus-and-glen-04-26-02atticus-and-glen-04-12-02atticus-and-glen-11-12-99By senior year I realized I had a lot more to say and only a finite number of strips left to say it. I used our short winter term to draw an Atticus and Glen comic book. As an homage to the Calvin and Hobbes treasuries, I called it The Inevitable Atticus and Glen because it was anything but inevitable. The longer story allowed me to show how both Atticus and Glen lived, day by day. I also got to write more for Dee, Dylan, and especially Prof. Globulus. Once I finished drawing it, I was stuck. I’d drawn comics for most of my life, but I’d never tried to distribute them before. The most logical way, in my mind, was not to try and sell it but give it away to as many people as possible. After all, the whole reason I wrote it was so people could read it. I used the campus printer to copy it into booklets, and with a little help from my friends I distributed it around campus. There were only a hundred copies made, so I wrote a preface asking people to share their copies so more people could read it. To my great delight, it did seem to get around.atticus-and-glen-02-23-01

The final Atticus and Glen was not bittersweet: it was flat-out sad to draw. I wrote an ending which is also not an ending. Nobody dies, nobody gets married. But I did give a hypothesis of what would happen to some of the characters. It’s not necessarily what will happen, but I have a feeling it’s close.finale

I knew I’d leave those characters in that place. The setting is too integral; change that and it’s a whole different comic. Plus I don’t know how many people would get the references I made. Still, it was hard to leave them behind.

Atticus and Glen taught me how to write for the same characters over a number of years. It was also the last comic I drew as a student. From there on out, I would be working to be a professional cartoonist.


this is water

My dear friend and fellow Obie Ian Wilson is releasing his first full-length CD, titled This is Water.  Readers of this blog may remember Ian’s EP, The Crater, a five song appetizer for this album.  Ian apparently liked my cover design for The Crater enough to invite me back for This is Water.

Ian took his title from a commencement speech David Foster Wallace gave at Bill Watterson and Paul Newman’s alma mater, Kenyon College.  (Kenyon, like Oberlin, is located in the great state of Ohio.)  I find Ian’s album title to be apt.  Not only are there mentions of water in most of the songs, but like DFW’s speech the songs illuminate without explaining, leaving the listener much to ponder long after the running time has elapsed.

Of course listening to This is Water is much better than reading my words about it, but words are all I’ve got.  Oh yeah!  And pictures.  This is the sketch that became the cover image.
Ian liked the idea of a windblown tree on the (possibly Oregon) coast.  Following his approval, I drew up a few more polished ideas.
Ian hated all of these.  Just kidding.  He liked them.  We both knew the final was going to be in color, so I drew up my final image with that in mind.
This was inked with my tool of choice lately, a Raphael sable hair brush.  After scanning it, all that remained was to choose a color scheme.  We decided a monochromatic scheme would look good both on the printed package and on a tiny thumbnail that people will see on the internet.  After a few variations of blue, we agreed on the final design:
You’ll notice I removed my hand-drawn lettering to make way for a much clearer typeface.

This is the cover, but you’ll have to wait to see the other five panels I drew for the package.  Soon!  Check back here and at Ian’s blog for information regarding the release.


the inevitable atticus & glen

When I went to college, I knew I wanted to draw a comic strip for the school paper. My sophmore year, I figured out what that strip would be: Atticus and Glen, the story of a tentative freshman (Glen) and the wise old squirrel who lived on campus his whole life (Atticus).

Although the set-up owed a lot to Calvin and Hobbes, the topics I covered were very much Oberlin. Co-ops, bicycles, vegetarianism, the ubiquitous English major, and of course race, gender, and class politics. My senior year, knowing I would leave Atticus and Glen in Oberlin, I wanted to make one big story before I ended the strip. The result was a seventeen page comic book I wrote and drew during winter term called The Inevitable Atticus & Glen. In another nod to Calvin and Hobbes, I gave the title a totally misleading prefix. There was nothing inevitable about the book; I willed this into exitance just like the rest of the strip.

The Inevitable Atticus & Glen was my first foray into self-publishing. The other cartoonist on campus, Alec Longstreth, was a huge self-publishing fan and would go on to make the long-running Phase 7 comic series. I was a bit more reluctant. I would be more than happy to do all the creative work and let some big publisher take on the unenviable task of producing, marketing, and selling. In the small world of Oberlin, and in the slightly bigger but still small world of non-superhero comics, there aren’t many publishers willing to do this. Self-publishing for me, then, was inevitable.

I took my pages to the college print shop, knowing nothing about putting a book together. They took my original art, photocopied it, and produced 100 booklets. The cost was low enough that I didn’t bother charging for the books. With the help of my friend Charlotte, we distributed the books across campus. I included a note imploring people to share; I wanted everyone to at least have a chance to read my masterpiece.

Now, for the first time, I’m making The Inevitable Atticus & Glen available to the world. You can read it below, or for the price of one dollar, you can have a PDF. Purists take note: I cleaned up the art a bit to make it more legible and less embarrassing. I have not added Jar Jar Binks, nor have I made Han shoot second.


Atticus and Glen: Remastered Year One

Every Atticus & Glen comic strip, newly scanned, in order of publication.

September 10, 1999

September 10, 1999

September 24, 1999

September 24, 1999

October 8, 1999

October 8, 1999

November 12, 1999

November 12, 1999

November 19, 1999

November 19, 1999

Unknown (February 2000)

Unknown (February 2000)

February 18, 2000

February 18, 2000

February 25, 2000

February 25, 2000

March 3, 2000

March 3, 2000

March 10, 2000

March 10, 2000

March 3, 2000

March 27 2000

April 7, 2000

April 7, 2000

April 14, 2000

April 14, 2000

April 21, 2000

April 21, 2000

April 28, 2000

April 28, 2000

May 5, 2000

May 5, 2000

Previously unpublished
atticus-and-glen-unpublished-1999
atticus-and-glen-unpublished-4-1999


Atticus and Glen: Remastered Year Two

Every Atticus & Glen comic strip, newly scanned, in order of publication.

February 23, 2001

February 23, 2001

March 2, 2001

March 2, 2001

March 9, 2001

March 9, 2001

March 16, 2001

March 16, 2001

April 6, 2001

April 6, 2001

April 13, 2001

April 13, 2001

April 20, 2001

April 20, 2001

April 27, 2001

April 27, 2001

April 27, 2001

April 27, 2001

May 4, 2001

May 4, 2001

May 11, 2001

May 11, 2001

May 18, 2001

May 18, 2001

Previously unpublished

atticus-and-glen-unpublished-3-1999
atticus-and-glen-unpublished-2001

atticus-and-glen-unpublished-4

atticus-and-glen-unpublished-5


Atticus and Glen: Remastered Year Three

Every Atticus & Glen comic strip, newly scanned, in order of publication.

September 7, 2001

September 7, 2001

September 17, 2001

September 17, 2001

September 21, 2001

September 21, 2001

September 28, 2001

September 28, 2001

October 5, 2001

October 5, 2001

October 12, 2001

October 12, 2001

November 2, 2001

November 2, 2001

November 9, 2001

November 9, 2001

November 16, 2001

November 16, 2001

November 30, 2001

November 30, 2001

December 2, 2001

December 2, 2001

February 8, 2002

February 8, 2002

February 15, 2002

February 15, 2002

February 22, 2002

February 22, 2002

March 1, 2002

March 1, 2002

March 8, 2002

March 8, 2002

March 15, 2002

March 15, 2002

April 5, 2002

April 5, 2002

April 12, 2002

April 12, 2002

April 19, 2002

April 19, 2002

April 26, 2002

April 26, 2002

Sadly, I was unable to find the original for the final Atticus & Glen comic strip. This is my best recreation, using cutting-edge technology (my lightbox). I did my best to follow the original lines, resisting the mighty urge to “improve” it.

It is a double-size feature, and stands as one of my favorite strips I’ve ever done. It’s not easy finding an ending to a comic. I wonder how much Bill Watterson struggled with the final Calvin & Hobbes strip. In my case, I wanted to show a future for the characters, since they would never really graduate from college, as well as sum up the philosophy I’d been refining for the past three years. This strip was, more than walking in commencement, turning in my final paper, or sitting for my last exam, my real graduation.

May 2002, final strip

May 2002, final strip

Previously unpublished

atticus-and-glen-unpublished-1

atticus-and-glen-unpublished-2

atticus-and-glen-unpublished-2-2002

atticus-and-glen-unpublished-2002

atticus-and-glen-unpublished-2002-3

atticus-and-glen-unpublished-2002-4

atticus-and-glen-unpublished-2002-2