Sketch of the 1950s Batwoman and Batgirl

On August 24, 2011 · Comments Off on Sketch of the 1950s Batwoman and Batgirl

Katherine (Kathy) Kane and her niece Betty Kane were the original Batwoman and Batgirl, in the 1950s.

This was kind of interesting to sketch. I had to draw things I virtually never draw, like — well — superheroes. And high heels.

Which cover design do you like best?

On July 7, 2011 · 36 Comments

These are possible covers for a short self-published comic I might have with me at Comic-Con. Please let me know which design you like best.


UPDATE: And a fifth option (variation on the first option):

UPDATE AGAIN: Option number six (variant on #4)

Read “Modest Medusa”

On January 30, 2011 · Comments Off on Read “Modest Medusa”

Jake Richmond, the cartoonist who (among a zillion other things) colors “Hereville,” has started a new webcomic, called “Modest Medusa,” which is genuinely funny, charming and nice to look at. The first strip is here, but I’ll post a sample:

Go check it out!

My favorite Cerebus covers (gallery)

On November 11, 2010 · 4 Comments

For my money, few comic books has been as thrilling and interesting as Dave Sim’s Cerebus — and no other comic has been as infuriating and disappointing in the end. Here are some of my favorite covers, drawn by Sim and Gerhard. (Sim does the figures and lettering, Gerhard does backgrounds, objects and colors).

Issue 87. The cover, depicting two characters falling off a cliff during a blizzard, is lovely in its own right. I liked it even better once I realized that it was a parody of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight cover — but Sim and Gerhard’s version looks better.

Issue 123. I love this cover portrait of a character who seemed simple, but turned out to have many sides, some of them quite ugly.

Issue 140, one of many nice Cerebus covers in this period featuring small figures in front of amazing Gerhard drawings of architecture. This cover stands out to me because of the subtle but perfect body language; Sebastian sick and exhausted and facing a long climb still to go, and Robbie so worried for his friend and eager to help.

Issue 206. I wanted to include a cover from “Guys,” because I really liked the way that the covers were just additional pages in the comic, and fit into the paperbook book collection seamlessly — but are still lovely cover designs in and of themselves. Also, these covers feature Sim drawing in his Drucker-influenced caricature style, my favorite of Sim’s drawing styles.

Issue 96, probably my favorite of any cover to an individual Cerebus issue. This was the second of a series of five covers featuring tight close-ups of Cerebus, all drawn in a rough cross-hatched style. It’s a powerful image, and a great use of cropping to create drama.

Then there are my two favorite phone book covers:

High Society. A stunning pen-and-ink drawing of a small Cerebus climbing the steps to an enormous hotel. Click on the image to see it larger, or see a huge, high-quality scan on Cerebusfangirl’s Flickr page.

Click on it to see it bigger! As I said, I love Dave Sim in his Mort Drucker influenced mode, and the huge crowd scene on this cover certainly gives me a lot of that. A zillion elements — the insane crowd, the overwhelming mountain and architecture, and the little tiny Cerebus making huge gestures on top of the building — are held together by Sim’s solid design sense, and form a perfect illustration for the story inside.

This is a wrap-around cover, by the way. I couldn’t find a really great scan of the whole wrap-around, but here’s the best I did find (click on it to see it larger).

I don’t think this is a cover, but while looking for Cerebus covers, I came across this impressive painting by Sim and Gerhard of Cerebus having a nightmare. And I have no idea where the painting came from! So if you know, please leave a comment.

It’s the season for Jewish graphic novels!

On November 9, 2010 · 6 Comments

Scott McCloud very nicely mentions Hereville on his blog. (I’d urge y’all to read Scott’s comics, but I assume you already have, right? Right?)

One reader emailed me from a Therapy Center simply because she’d heard there was a comic explaining Crohn’s Disease (there is; it was a 24-hour comic by Tom Humberstone who suffers from the condition). Crohn’s disease affects between 400,000 and 600,000 people in North America alone (thanks, Wikipedia). Why the Hell WASN’T there a comic about Crohn’s disease until now??

Whole markets can be created out of thin air when the right subject strikes. […] The beauty of this kind of outreach is that it only adds to the base of comics readers, and rarely do these efforts cannibalize each other. Barry Deutsch’s fantastic orthodox Jewish adventure Hereville isn’t competing for readers with the Bertrand Russell stories in Logicomix, or with XKCD, or with Persepolis. Each one is its own little community of readers, some of whom may have never read a comic before, but ALL of whom are now one comic deeper into this medium we’d all like to see grow.

Interestingly enough, it turns out there are at least two comics about Crohn’s disease, as someone immediately pointed out in Scott’s comments. As Scott and everyone else knows, there are a number of famous Jewish-themed graphic novels. But I was surprised to discover that there are four five new Jewish graphic novels just in Fall 2010!

A reporter from The Jewish Journal emailed me about my appearance at the Miami Book Fair later this month, and one of his questions was what makes Hereville distinct from the dozen or so other Jewish books also being presented at the Miami Book Fair this year.

I was all set to answer “well, as the only graphic novel blah blah blah,” but fortunately I checked what the other books were first. Turns out Hereville is just one of three Jewish-themed graphic novels at the Miami Book Fair! The other two are Vanessa Davis’ Make Me A Woman (haven’t read it yet, but the sample pages I’ve seen are beyond fabulous, and I can’t wait to read it) and Anne Frank: The Authorized Anne Frank House Graphic Biography (haven’t heard much about it yet).

In addition, there’s Sarah Glidden’s How To Understand Israel In Sixty Days Or Less, which is being released today. (I’ve read a chapter of this, and I’m looking forward to reading the whole book.)

A year ago, I would have agreed with Scott that a Jewish-themed graphic novel would appeal to an under-served market. But four five Jewish-themed graphic novels, all coming out not just in the same year but in the same season of the same year — that seems like a lot, doesn’t it?

Or are there always this many coming out, and I’m only noticing it now because one of the books is my own?

In the end, Scott is right. All four five of these graphic novels are very different, and have the potential to bring new readers to the medium. Although I hope there’s some crossover (i.e., I’d love it if their readers would check Hereville out, and vice versa), I very much doubt we’re poaching each other’s readers.

Still, I’m kind of surprised that no one’s organized a panel at some con featuring all four books. Sarah, Vanessa, Ernie, Aaron, Sharon, are you folks coming to Stumptown in April? Let me know, I’ll see if I can organize a panel for us. 😛

UPDATE: When I first posted this, I forgot about The Comic Torah! Sorry about that, Aaron and Sharon. So there are five Jewish-themed graphic novels out this season, not “only” four as I had thought.

Colleen Coover Is The Only Essential Batman Artist

On October 21, 2010 · Comments Off on Colleen Coover Is The Only Essential Batman Artist

This two-page Batman story by Colleen Coover is one of the best things I’ve seen this month!

Al Jaffee, Jewish Kids Cartoonist

On October 6, 2010 · Comments Off on Al Jaffee, Jewish Kids Cartoonist

Who knew? The New York Times reports that Al Jaffee, one of the great Mad Magazine cartoonists, has been quietly providing illustrations (at a bargain rate, yet) to a Jewish kid’s magazine for decades.

For a quarter century, Jewish children have hungrily followed the kooky adventures of the Shpy, the adventurous hero of The Moshiach Times, a family-friendly magazine that is published six times a year in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. (Think Highlights, but Jewish.)

With a closet full of disguises and more gadgets than 007, the Shpy volunteers his services when innocent people or ancient traditions are imperiled. He escapes from a giant Mixmaster when investigating a case of stolen hamantaschen, and thwarts a mysterious bee infestation that nearly spoils the fall holiday of Sukkot. In one installment, he invents a repellent to keep the sinister Yetzer Hora at bay, complete with a catchy slogan: “Let us Shpray.” (The softening of the S, when the Shpy shpeaks, so to speak, is meant to evoke Humphrey Bogart.)

Young fans of the Shpy can be forgiven for skipping over the credits on Page 2 of the magazine. It is hard to fathom, though, how the rest of New York has barely noticed that the artist responsible for making the Shpy such a mensch is Al Jaffee. Yes, that Al Jaffee. The same 89-year-old bad boy whose work has been appearing for more than half a century in the occasionally rude, irreverent, and bawdy pages of Mad magazine.

Read the rest.


There’s a Shpy story, including several of Jaffee’s illustrations, here. I’m not sure how long that link will be good for, though.

Robin Drawing

On September 26, 2010 · 4 Comments

Here’s a drawing of Robin I did as a gift for my friend Becca. The Tim Drake version (Becca’s favorite). I really don’t draw superheroes often; I’m guessing that the last time I drew Robin, I was a teenager myself.

Robin was originally created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson. Tim Drake, a later version of Robin, was created by Marv Wolfman and Pat Broderick.

Repairing a Sexist Cartoon

On September 14, 2010 · 12 Comments

The webcomic “Least I Could Do” posted this amazingly sexist cartoon today:

(It was too wide to fit onto a regular blog, so I reformatted it a bit.)

Emmy Cicierega suggested that people try repairing the cartoon with some strategic relettering, and posted a version with oddly tweaked art and blank balloons.

Eat, Drink and Be Scary added words to Emmy’s version, which you can read here.

Maxwell Pacheco posted his own version, here.

And here’s my version (using the original art, not Emmy’s version, because the shrunken head in Emmy’s version freaked me out!)

And finally, in case any of y’all want to get in on the act, here’s a blank version, formatted so it’ll fit onto blogs.

Or just leave your ideas in the comments. 🙂

Edited to add: Check out this one, too.

Eisner and me

On August 18, 2010 · Comments Off on Eisner and me

In a sort of postscript to her School Library Journal review of Hereville, Elizabeth Bird mentioned Will Eisner’s landmark A Contract With God. That really, really pleased me.

I took a class from Eisner at School of Visual Arts, which is a privilege I wish I had appreciated more at the time. Eisner’s work — not so much his Spirit work, as the work he did in the last three decades of his life — is a frequent, conscious inspiration to me while I draw. Especially when it comes to drawing people, my never-met goal as a cartoonist is to make my figures as full of life as Eisner’s.

Eisner did have some weaknesses as a cartoonist, especially when it came to writing; his characterization could be thin, and his dialog was often clunky. At his worse, he used embarrassing stereotypes (don’t lend Life On Another Planet to any Italian friends you have). But his strengths — his page layouts, effortlessly leading the reader’s eye, and his astonishingly fluid, graceful drawing — put him in the top rank of all cartoonists who have ever set brush to paper.

In her review, discussing page layouts in Hereville, Elizabeth singles out a two-page sequence in which Mirka is visualizing a math problem. In that sequence, I was deliberately imitating Eisner’s 1990s work, in which he minimized the use of panel borders, instead letting elements of the panels provide the divisions between panels.

Here’s a page from Eisner’s Invisible People:

And here, for a perhaps unfortunate comparison, is one of the Hereville pages Elizabeth discussed in her review.

Related link: My 2005 obituary for Eisner.

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