I was saddened to learn of the death of Jean Girard recently. Most of us comic fans knew him by his sometimes pen name Moebius. He was 73.
I’ve received a ton of fan mail recently, most revealing burning questions about the charming cast of Camden Bottoms. Many of you want to know where you can buy “Country Squire’s Golden Bay Rum for the Gentleman’s Briar” pipe tobacco ( I would imagine at any tobacconist’s), or what kind of gin Claude Antebellum Bonnebottom- of the Mississippi Bonnebottoms- prefers (“Gentleman’s Gin” from his own label).
For all the mail I’ve received regarding the lads, I’ve received an equal amount wondering about me, the mysterious creative force behind Camden Bottoms. Well, this Sunday March 4th, some of your questions will be answered when I’m interviewed by Jason Peverett on his blog, The Peverett Phile.
The Peverett Phile posts several times a week on a variety of topics: Current Events, Politics, Entertainment, etc., usually accompanying interviews with musicians, artists and persons of note, all spiced with Jason’s British wit and charm (I’m not being sarcastic). For whatever reason, Mr. Peverett has included me on his broadcast … who says Brits have good taste? Anyway, after you finish your latest installment of Camden Bottoms, re-light your pipe, relax, and click over to the Peverett Phile for more web-tastic fun!
It dawned on me recently, as I shuffled through You-Tube artist demos, what a difference they would’ve made if I’d had access to them in my early years. I could easily blow a week watching over-the-shoulder videos of well-known artists doing their thing, discussing technique, materials …. letting everyone “behind the curtain”. Frankly, it feels like cheating.
When I was young and obsessed with being a comic book artist, I couldn’t figure out how to get juicy, thick-to-thin black lines like Joe Sinnott could or how to get solid black areas without splochy brushstrokes. In my “DC Treasury Edition of Tarzan”, Joe Kubert had a drawing lesson in the back in which he showed artist materials such as a brush, dip-pen, etc. I thought he was being symbolic …. how could anyone use a big fat brush to make those delicate lines on the page?
I had access to my older brother’s rapidiograph pens …. I assumed that was the tool of choice in the late 20th century. You can imagine the varied line weights I was getting with those! I whined so much about getting solid blacks, that my parents bought me an airbrush for my birthday one year. Of course I had no idea how to mask off areas with frisket and I lacked the patience to learn how to control the flow with the little nozzle thingy. What a mess.
Sometime in the ’80′s, Ellis Library at the University of Missouri-Columbia, had an exhibition of orginal comic art, which included actual pages from Marvel, DC, even had an R. Crumb original if you can believe it. I was stunned at how filthy most of the pages were! A lot of the pages were inked directly on top of scribbled non-repro blue pencils, eraser smudges were everywhere and any areas of black looked like they were achieved with a cigar stub. That was my first introduction to “art for reproduction”.
So yeah, I’m a little bitter, a little dismissive of the new world information order and it’s not just because I’m a dinosaur, or that I spent a lot of time and tuition to learn these trade secrets. Pointless suffering is good for character build- no, on second thought it is because I’m old and spent a lot of time and tuition, etc.
I’m trying to be positive. Really. All the books I read about web comics stress the importance of being upbeat, clever and positive when posting blogs. This could prove problematic as I’m fairly well known for being cranky and not too bright (full disclosure here, I only skimmed about a third of one book about web comics). With approx. 32 billion separate web strips (as of this writing) on the internet, and with most of them striving to be positive, I worry that negativity or at least realism will suffer in the balance. No “yang” to positive’s “yin”, as it were, if you will (further disclosure here, I’ve never actually read any web strips). But who am I to buck convention and common wisdom? If at any time, my writing comes off as crass, obnoxious or well, negative, just imagine one of those smiley faces at the end of every sentence. Emoticons?
My wife pushed me into this. About 11 years ago she gave me a little boy who, as a toddler, looked so cartoony that I drew a caricature of him. Needless to say, my wife was thrilled by it and suggested I write a strip around it, him. I came up with a stuffed harlequin whose job it was to be a smart-ass/companion and there the project stalled.
A few years later, I doodled a cat in a cabana shirt. My wife broke into my study, saw the doodle, and without explaining herself, began badgering me about drawing a strip with the cat in cabana shirt and our son’s caricature. I eventually drew additional characters and began drawing sample strips to appease my wife. They were awkward and cumbersome and pretty much followed a gag formula. I let it drop.
But the little bastards wouldn’t leave me alone (the characters, not my family, heh-heh). I began imagining stories that seemed to write themselves. After amassing a stock pile of strips, I enlisted the aid of my brother-in-law, John, who took on the thankless job of setting up this web site (thank you!).
And so, I leave you the strips. Absurd characters in absurd situations, illustrating the idea that the world is indifferent as it hurtles through the vacuum of space. All that matters are the few sparks of joy we animals, with and without pants, share in this otherwise meaningless void.
I hope you enjoy them. SQ