Saturday, February 27, 2010

Doodle Penance: "detached mustache"

This week's "Doodle Penance" comes from some anonymous web-creeper who came by the site looking for "detached mustache," just as the title above implies.

Mike finished his doodle before I got mine done, so I'll let him explain his results:

In a way, this doodle would serve just as well as my inaugural contribution to WHWBR?, since it is based on images from one of the few comics I've had any time for lately. In my typical fashion for reading webcomics, though, I tend to forget to read this one for weeks on end, then binge on a couple of months' worth of archived strips. So far I'm up to January 2005, which means I am well acquainted by now with the usually mustachioed figures of Nice Pete and Lyle from the famous Achewood:

It should be clear from the typography (as it were) how my thought process worked on this one. Surprisingly, the Achewood-specific element came really late in the day: I had notions of just drawing guys screaming in agony as mustaches were torn from their faces, thereby conveying the sense of an "ache"; but this version seems less horrendous, as if the 'staches really did just detach, slipping down from 'neath the noses of Nice Pete and Lyle, and thereby, Samson-like, depriving two of the hardest characters in Achewood with the main source of their strength and danger. At least, they don't look so tough to me now that they are clean-shaven.

So that's Mike for this week. And, perhaps predictably, my own analysis of the search term proceeded along a similar path. Noticing, as Mike did, that both words contained the same string of letters, in the spirit of Lewis Carroll's "Mischmasch" word game, I started searching for the other magpies that contained T-A-C-H-E.

I hadn't known that tache itself, in English, means a buckle or a clasp; nor had I known that in French tache means a blot or a stain. Equipped with those obscurities and one cheat I allowed myself to invent, I cooked up this story in seven silent panels:

It was nice to draw an actual comic for a change. Not that I had time to do it, really. But sometimes you have to make time for fine art.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Doodle Penance: "compound words classroom display"

Okay, this is actually last week's "Doodle Penance." I got behind during my recuperation,and I'm in a hurry now, so I am sort of dashing off the doodles. Still, I feel penitential.

So: someone was directed to the site during a search for "compound words classroom display." I've designed a three-part display to demonstrate the properties of compound words: how they are made, and how their meaning works.







Mike's take on this is a little different. He says,

Taking "classroom" and "display" as a PAIR of compound words, where "display" should be analyzed as "Dis play," I realized that the likeliest choice of a schoolroom production of a "Dis play," or drama set in Hades, would be Jean-Paul Sartre's Huis Clos (No Exit). So here's my image of an awkward in-class performance of said play in a high-school philosophy classroom, featuring a somewhat unlikely troupe of actors.

Click to enlarge it, folks. Them's the doodles.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What Have We Been Reading? #2

Here's a swiped panel from one of the things that helped me pass the time this week while I was recovering from the extraction of my wisdom teeth.

So, what do you think, fair blog-readers? Can you identify the text I'm quoting?

(If not, don't fret: I'll have a longer review and consideration up on the blog in a few days eventually.)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What We Have Been Reading #1: Kirby's Eternals

A few days ago, I posted an odd mostly-magenta panel that Mike quickly pegged as a Kirby swipe. Now it's time to tip my hand and reveal what I have been reading this week.

I'm actually still making my way slowly through this, but it's a collection of the first eleven issues of Kirby's mid-'70s von-Däniken-influenced post-Fourth-World return-to-Marvel Eternals.

Who are the Eternals? Well, you see, in the time before human history, a cadre of titanic aliens (the Celestials) visited Earth and, from a single common ancestor, derived three races. The humans, you're already familiar with. The Deviants, whose genes are so unstable that every one of them is grotesquely different, have lived on the bottom of the ocean for centuries, since the destruction of Lemuria. And the Eternals are a bunch of undying and beautiful humanoids who meditate on the top of mountains, perfecting their superhuman mental gifts.

It's kind of high-concept.

When the series begins, the only human record of the Eternals, the Deviants, or the Celestials is in our ancient mythology. And then, just as a human archaeologist discovers an Inca ruin that depicts their presence, the Celestials return. The archaeologist's guide and assistant, Ike Harris, reveals himself to be in fact the Eternal master of flight, Ikaris, and suddenly massive wheels are in motion. The Celestials will observe the planet for fifty years, then judge it.

To Kirby's credit, the Eternals that we meet really do have the personalities of immortal semi-gods. They're either prone to pranks and hijinks, bored with their interminable lives, or pompous and portentous in their over-seriousness. (Ikaris tends toward the latter disposition, but Sersi, Makkari, and Sprite are all rascals.) And not even the most sober of them is incapable of irony.

Please click to enlarge and read that dialogue. The "raiment" that Ikaris has assumed is really anything but simple: it's a phantasmagoria of Kirbyesque design, and it's hard to imagine drawing this a hundred times...

Ikaris isn't the only sartorially complex Eternal. Consider the haberdasher who cooked this up:

Once the Deviants find out that the Celestials have arrived, they decide they need to provoke humanity to attack the space gods. (The Deviants fought the Celestials before, and that's why they live under the ocean now.)

So a bunch of Deviants dress up like "Space Devils"—I told you this was high-concept—and attack Manhattan.

There's Kro, the Deviants' general, dressed up as Space Satan. He's the guy I was drawing in my teaser panel.

It turns out that humanity is pretty easy to convince, on this score...

...and this is something I'd like to return to in a moment.

Eternals is fun because it gives Kirby room to imagine a new mythology, and because it gives him a chance to draw some incredibly crazy things. The Celestials are mountainous in size, and one of them (Arishem) carries the formula for world decimation on his brobdignagian thumb:

Yes, click to enlarge there. Arishem wouldn't fit on my scanner.

It seems pretty clear from the first five issues that Eternals doesn't happen in the regular Marvel universe. The story wouldn't make any sense there. Humanity is totally unaware of beings with superhuman powers living among them. The Eternals, not the various pantheons of gods, are the source of mankind's myths. Margo Damian panics when Ikaris, dressed in his bold-colored togs, jumps out of her plane and flies. When weird-looking guys in spacesuits start burning up New York, everyone assumes that it's the Devil, not the Skrulls. This can't be the world where The Fantastic Four fended off Galactus.

And yet, in the sixth issue, a skeptic named Arnold Radisch becomes the victim of an odd prank...

... and on the very next page, three well-equipped field agents are identified as "Nick Fury's men." From this point forward, the Eternals are in the same continuity as the Inhumans, Starfox can join the Avengers, Kro's kids can hobnob with Iron Fist, and Ajak can shoot pool with Beta Ray Bill or something.

I'd like to know what brought the Eternals into the Marvel universe. I wonder whether this was Kirby's decision, or something that came from Archie Goodwin, the book's editor. Anyone out there know more about this?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Doodle Penance: "zakuzaharra"

This week's "Doodle Penance" starts with a single word: "Zakuzaharra."

I was surprised when I saw it, because I hadn't remembered the brief conversation we'd had in the comments section about the names of the characters in that cool postcard of figures from Basque folklore. Turns out my former student John had inadvertently made us a target for anyone searching for Zakuzaharra information.

Well, here he is, to remind you: Zakuzaharra.

I'm not expert on Basque folklore, so before I started my doodle, I did a little digging. As near as I can tell from this page, Zakuzaharra is a festival figure from Lesaka, a little village in Navarre. He seems to be performed by multiple people at once—on this page you can see a few people dressed as Zakuzaharra—and he seems somehow to embody the bad vibes and problems of the people in the town. He carries a balloon or bladder on a string, with which (I think) he hits people.

That's about as far as my knowledge of Zakuzaharra extends. But I figured from that much research, I could do a doodle:

One of the things that I found visually interesting about the costume is that the stuffed burlap bag that makes up Zakuzaharra's legs and torso doesn't cover his arms, so you can wind up with this shambling fat hulk with skinny human arms. I tried to play that up in my drawing.

As for the balloon or bladder, I'd like to know more:

Why does he hit people with it?

How does he choose his victims?

What does it feel like to get hit with it?

Hey, quit it!

Mike sends the following report:

Once again I was moved not to create a doodle per se (by making marks on a surface) but to build up a cartoony image in another medium. This time I have used the most plentiful medium available in Washington, DC, these days: snow.

It may be a bit hard to make out the outlines of this figure—mostly because, well, it doesn't really have "lines" as such—but it's a fairly close rendering, in snow, of the cartoon image from that awesome Basque folklore postcard. At least, it's as close as I could manage. Here's a close-up of his
sheyn ponem (or should that be shney ponem?):

And thus our blog becomes the primary English-language internet resource for information about a festival figure from a little village in the Pyrenees. Please, if you read this entry and know more about Zakuzaharra than we do, fill us in!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What Have We Been Reading? #1

I have an idea for a new feature for the blog here. I haven't even discussed this with Mike.

I thought it would be fun to post, occasionally (maybe weekly), sketchy or doodly "covers" of just a panel or two from something one of us has been reading (in the rare, precious moments of leisure between work and sleep).

(Oh, please click to enlarge.)

And what is that, that I've been reading? That's for you, Dear Reader, to guess in the comments section. As I'm imagining this feature, that's part of the fun! (Get it right, and maybe we'll figure out a prize of some sort.)

I'll come back in a few days to give an answer and a little capsule review.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Doodle Penance: "karton zorro"

This week's "Doodle Penance" is a simple two-word search term that for some reason we haven't addressed on the site. As usual, the search request yielded zero seconds of reading time from our searcher. Let's see if we can remedy that and provide some more helpful information for the next person who searches for "karton zorro."

Right away, I had a hunch what the Googler was looking for: you see, one of my colleagues who lives out in the countryside (a couple of towns away) was telling me recently that she and her neighbors regularly stage mock fox hunts. They rent a pack of foxhounds and ride after them on horses in pursuit of a mock fox. This mock fox, sometimes played by my colleague's husband if I'm getting the story right, carries something that's been soaked in fox pheromones or fox urine, to attract the dogged pursuit.

I figured that this colleague and her compeers, or some similar association, might have been looking on Google for some cut-rate South-of-the-Border fox pheromones. (Zorro, you see, is Spanish for "fox.") Getting a half-gallon of the stuff seems excessive, but if that's what our search term log wants...

Mike explains his own "doodle" thus this week:

—Since "karton" is Yiddish for "cardboard" and "zorro" is Spanish for fox, I have naturally cut an adorable cartoon fox out of a piece of cardboard. Herewith is a silhouette image of Fenwick Fuchs, the fennec fox.

... and adorable it is. (If that's not enough fox-cute for you, try scrolling down this page a little bit until you get to the fennecs.)

As long as we're on the subject of foxen, let me show you a couple of photos I took from the kitchen window this past October. This fellow (or perhaps she's a vixen?) made his way across our back yard just slowly enough for me to paparazzi him (her?) twice.

Yes, even in the city, here in Vermont, there's wildlife once in a while. Let's hope my colleague and her neighbors don't get wind of this.