Tuesday, September 27, 2011

AnimalAlphabetPostcards Preview Set

Here you go. Click an image to look at them all in a slideshow. Let me know if there are any problems.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Animal Alphabet: Z is for Zebra Swallowtail

Last week I promised a terrifying chimera for the final week of the Animal Alphabet.

Here it is!

Yes, Z is for the zebra swallowtail butterfly, as the title of this post indicates.

Maybe you don't think it is terrifying (or chimerical). Clearly, if you think that way, you don't know how these things are made. Here is a glimpse of that unholy alchemy. Click to see it more clearly.

Rumor has it that another alphabet is about to begin, full of imaginary (rather than authentic) creatures. I am consulting my sources and limbering my digits.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Animal Alphabet: Y is for Yapok

I'm posting this late enough on Monday that I know at least my pal Ben Towle, at the very least, has already scooped my entry for this week in the Animal Alphabet.

Well, be that as it may, I say Y is for yapok.

A yapok is a South American marsupial (a sort of possum, like most if not all New World marsupials) with cool webbed feet. And its feet and hands are webbed because it does its hunting by swimming around in a river and noodling.

Aw, that's nothing, you say. Otters do it. Sure, the yapok has a cool name, but what's so special about it?

Well, think for a second: we know it's a marsupial, which means Mama Yapok carries her babies in a pouch. But she also spends a lot of time submerged. A yapok's pouch has a strong sphincter that closes it up watertight while Mama is swimming.

That's why I have drawn a yapok with a Ziploc.

Next week: a terrifying chimera.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Animal Alphabet: X is for Xenopsylla cheopis

I'm posting this Animal Alphabet entry a day early because I am going to be in the classroom almost all day tomorrow.

Often you have to cheat a little when you get to X. One very popular ABC in our house spells fox backwards to get its X animal. Dr. Seuss just lists a few words you can use x in. Another of our favorite abecedaries basically coins a word from the Greek. And quite a few just resort to words that start with an "x" sound, like "expotition."

My cheat this time is to turn to scientific binomial nomenclature, which is full of Hellenic formulations. There's a horrid species of flower bug, for example, named Xylocoris maculipennis; it's notorious for practicing not merely traumatic insemination but male-to-male traumatic insemination, in which the aggressor's sperm migrate to the testes of the victim. There's also the death-watch beetle, Xestobium rufovillosum, the common name of which refers to the ticking sound it makes by banging its head on old furniture and old timbers.

But if you're going to do up a bug, why not go right to the top of the ladder of nastiness?

It may not be the most lethal animal on earth any more, but this week X is for Xenopsylla cheopis, the oriental rat flea, a.k.a. the plague flea.

(Clicky, enlargey.)

John Donne had no way to know what terrors a flea could really be guilty of. This nasty little guy is a disease vector both for the bubonic plague and for a strain of typhus, and when it carried the Black Death through Europe nearly half of the population died in a four-year period.

I tweaked the anatomy a bit to get the cartoon going, since I didn't just want to reproduce the standard on-its-side-on-a-microscope-slide image that other people have done better than I can. Any overly picky entomologists can have a full refund.

This is hardly the first flea to appear on the Satisfactory Comics blog. We've been "asked," in the past, to draw manga fleas. And Satisfactory Comics #5, of course, featured as its main villain the world-dominator manqué The King of Fleas.

(Maybe one of these days I'll finally post the Kang of Fleas.)

Next week: you wouldn't think you could carry a pouch there...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Animal Alphabet: W is for Weedy Sea Dragon

I think most of the end of the alphabet is going to be tough for me, not because I don't have cool animals in mind, but because the semester has started and I have so damn little time now. (Maybe this week I should have just doodled up a woodchuck. I mean, I know I have reference images...)

Why, today, I didn't even have time to color a proper background, and just stole one from the middle of somebody's photo.

Anyway, here in nearly the eleventh hour, W is for Weedy Sea Dragon.

I append a version of the drawing without the background, so you can see the critter in question just a little better. Doesn't it look implausible?

If you think that's weird, you should see its cousin, the leafy sea dragon. (Why did I choose the lungfish that week? Well, who'd have time to draw that thing?)

They're both kin to the seahorse, and they conduct some rather sweet romantic dancing when time comes for them to attract a mate.

I first learned of these oddities from a book I'd recommend to any of you Animal Alphabet fans out there: Flannery & Schouten's Astonishing Animals.

Next week: it'll give you Xs in your eyes!