Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It's A New Cartoon, Coming Right At You

Video representaions

So I have been enjoying doing a weekly karaoke session at a place in Long Branch on Tuesdays. It has an enjoyable activity that has been lacking since I moved back to Jersey. It has a young crowd that's not creepy. Probably because it's a college crowd. Anyway, last week I sang three songs. These three songs are represented by these three clips.

The first song I sang was "Heroes and Villains" A weird Beach Boys song represented by a Brina Wilson clip form 2005. Beach Boys songs are hard with Karaoke mainly because it's hard to figure out what part of the harmonies are going to be represented by the words on the screen. I had not done the song before, so it was a challenge, a challenge I couldn't achieve I'm afraid.

The second song was one I've done many times,"Black Coffee In Bed". It's a song I do if I flop on previous songs. A "safe" song. I love the video of the song, very 80's, in a good way, unpretentious.

The third song I did was one I've been wanting to sing for a long time, "Laugh Laugh". I did not know the host had it and was excited about singing it. It's a song from the 60's by the Beau Brummels or as I knew them as a child, the Beau Brumstones from the Flintstones. I was hoping to find the Flintstones clip, but this typical 60's clip will do.

Enjoy the clips. This will be a regular feature.

I bet you can't wait.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Reality Interferes

Pipe Dreams and All Artwork and Characters copyright 1992, 2007 Stephen T. Scanlon

The Artist At Work

1992 rolled along. It was a good year for the most part. I was in a city I loved. I was working on Pipe Dreams and making good progress. For most of the first half of the year I dated a woman named Donna. It was my longest relationship at that point of my life. I had a small group of friends

I hung out with at a bar called the Old Peculiar in the Ballard section of Seattle.

I had started my third set of Pipe Dreams strips when Donna and I broke up, she had started seeing my friend Jeff and I had a hard time dealing with it.

Jeff ultimately was better at consoling her after the motorcycle death of a friend of theirs. Since it affected both of my relationships, I had left everyone behind and became somewhat of a recluse in the following months. I worked on these strips and made a mistake in subject matter.

I introduced the character of Nick.

No big deal. I clearly based my other characters on specific friends in my life. I left my friend Inkboy out, so I created Nick. I had not gotten to the point of making effective composite characters, however Nick had represented a composite of Inkboy, Pro and Jeff. What do they have in common? Well, I felt they had "stolen" girlfriends (real and imagined) from me. I though it would be cathartic to write and draw about it.

I was wrong. I was a mental mess that late summer. I had slowed down a bit in my drawing Pipe Dreams. I was getting my second set of rejections around the same time. So I was starting to have doubts. I still was getting the generic rejection letters, some of which the only change was the date the letter was sent out.

So, I mixed in some silly gags I have saved up with a character driven storyline that really didn't work out. I had done about 40 strips in the first two collections of Pipe Dreams. This time I only did the minimum required 30.

Not only did I introduce Nick but I introduced Calvin, my "urban" character based on no one I knew in my real life at the time. I need someone outside the circle to represent the real world. Dirk being a bartender was a catalyst to meeting up with people of all kinds of stripes. I made him a veteran. He would appear a few times in future Pipe Dreams, but I have put him aside for the time I would be syndicated.

Still, my artwork was getting better. My characters were consistent looking at this point, and I was starting to get better at dialogue. I was at a loss at what I needed to do to curry favor with the syndicates. I thought that it should be in the newspapers. I thought it would be nice to get some editorial advice. I can't imagine that Pipe Dreams was so bad that any flaws couldn't be worked out. Especially when I see most of the newer comic strips that have been introduce the last 15 years.

There is anger in these strips, without constructive criticism I would continue this trend for a bit longer than I was smart to do. I had yet to be discouraged. I still had only a part time job that paid for my spartan lifestyle. I loved the freedom to continue to work on Pipe Dreams I felt I was getting close...

It's just a matter of time.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I'm On a Roll...

I had sent my first set of strips out to the syndicates early in 1992. I had been influenced by both Calvin and Hobbes and Doonesbury. I was dating a girl named Donna. I was on top of the world.

I had not waited for my first set of comic strips to come back from the syndicates to work on my next set. For one thing, I thought I had rushed the first set too much just to get them done.

Still, I thought it was important to get them out there. To get feedback, to understand what I need to do to improve Pipe Dreams. I had continued to refine the character's looks. I made dirk less boorish and more like a beefy lug. Gritko's hair had a graphic look to it, I thought it had the potential to be iconic. I had Skat's glasses take on an impressionistic look. My second set of strips introduced 6 new characters, and two characters in previous one shots had expanded into part time characters.

Two of them never appeared after this set of strips, two others only infrequently.

I introduced Gentianne,

a character based on a friend from SVA. I didn't know what to do beyond the set of strips in my second set. I realized after I sent these in that I need to slow down on introducing new characters. However, one I introduced was dear to my heart and that was Anais. I really didn't base her on anyone in particular. I had wanted to make a contrasting female character to Rachel. Rachel, being a brunette, tall and slim would need someone who was blondish, short, and curvy. I had not quite refined her yet, her nose was not quite right.

These set of strips were better drawn, more confident than the first. The story lines were a little better, though I had yet to get out of the habit of doing long winded dialouge. I liked the way the strip was looking. I love the energy and the experimentation. I had a few storylines worked out that would be expanded greatly when I get syndicated.

Still, I had the wacky storyline with Skat's aunt coming back to life. I had the iheritence money angle as an excuse for Skat not to work. The ultimate slacker, as what was the sign of the times. I worked with a woman named Sue, who was a typical stereotype of the crusty waitresses. Her look was iconic enough that I thought it would be a good character. Her personality is much like a composite of at least three of my aunts.

When I was near finishing these set of strips I had gotten my first set of rejections back from the major syndicates. Unfortunately, they were of generic nature giving no clue to what I need to do to improve.

No matter, I was on a roll. This would be the set of strips to get me syndicated, I know it. I just wish the first strip they would see wasn't this lame one...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Case of Pianist Envy

I had travelled up and down the west coast for a month and a half getting to know what life would be like in my future. I decided that Seattle made the most sense, it was big enough and yet small enough to be the ideal place for me to create my new strip, Pipe Dreams.

I came up with the title Pipe Dreams in the hopes that the title would be ironic. I was confident in my abilities to come up with strip gags, confident in my ability to come up with funny story lines and confident in that the characters I created that someday the characters would write themselves gags for me to use. I then had to put the ideas on paper.

I moved to Seattle with only the things I was able to carry with two backpacks. That meant I had to find an apartment with furniture. I did at 275 dollars a month. It was tiny, it was located in the U-District of Seattle. I had no tv, heck I had no CD player. I had only my alarm clock radio to keep me company. I had little distractions to keep me from working on Pipe Dreams.

I set up the scenario. Skat graduates art school and is now entering the real world, a world he was not ready to deal with. He hangs out with two friends who graduated the year before. Neither of them was working in the art field. Skat took that as a hint to pursue his muse. He had inherited money form his aunt and through his frugal (read that, cheap) nature he was able to live on the modest income while painting.

His two friends, Dirk and Gritzko live together in the city. Skat, being cheap lives outside of the city in a decrepit efficiency apartment. He spends much of his time at his friends place, because it's more exciting to live in the city.

Skat drinks too much and is very insecure, he has a crush on Rachel, a girl who only has googly eyes for Dirk. Dirk didn't notice at first until he attended a party wher he found her attractive in her party clothes. They soon would have an on again, off again relationship, much to the chagrin of Skat.

Dirk and Gritzko have a roommate. His name is Buck. He was still going to school and would spend so much time away from the apartment they would forget that he lived there. Skat would take advantage of that by sleeping over a lot.

I didn't want to introduce any more characters at the time. I had some on the horizon and had a one shot strip with Julian. I would introduce him later in force.

I wanted to establish the political and social conflict between confident, conservative, somewhat ignorant Dirk and smart, insecure, liberal Skat. Dirk likes to hunt, spend money and getting it on with the ladies. Skat likes to read, drink and pines for women he can't get and is too lazy to try.

I was pretty quick in putting together these strips. It was a bit wordy, at times incoherent, but had a germ of something good. I had gone to the library to find out the names and addresses of the syndicates. There were five, each stating that the odds of getting syndicated were 1000 to one. I felt with five syndicates, my odds would be lowered to 200 to one. I felt if I kept at it, I would be syndicated by 1993.

I felt that my first strips were crude, somewhat scattered brained, but with an energy and spirit that would make Pipe Dreams the comic strip of the 90's. I had put together the strips courtesy of my new friend Mike Payson and the good people at Kinko's (Back when Kinko's was less evil) The moment I sent it to the syndicates, I had worked on my second set of strips.

Now comes the wait...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pipe Dreams History Continues...

The reason I wanted to create a comic strip in the first place was because of my friend Pro's friend, Cullem.

He was a Architecure student at Cooper Union. He is very smart and a hard worker. He did not go to SVA, didn't hang out with us cartoonists on a daily basis. Yet, the little sneak created a well done comic strip called Planet Buffalo. It was a comic strip of bugs and what not, that lived on top of the back of a buffalo. It was well designed and had the potential to be a successful comic strip. It hit me like a sledgehammer. When all my friends were oohing and ahhing how good it was, I plotted in my head the means to usurp him with a comic strip of my own.

So I had, after a few false starts, a foundation for a comic strip. I had three main characters, loosely based on my friends. I wanted it set in an urban environment. I decide to make a mini pamphlet of comic strips to show my friends. I struggled to get them done. I had some good jokes I couldn't execute well, some jokes that died on the way to the drawing board and some long winded screeds about the war. Eventually I had enough to satisfy my need to show my friends.

So, Here were the characters I created.

Dirk- He was my lunkhead character. Kind of a musclehead. He was a composite of three of my friends. Pro, Inkboy, and Korn. All had one thing in common. They all succeeded with women I had crushes on, so I decide he was going to be the ladies man of the group. He struggled a little with his weight and was a bit on the conservative side. I decided he was going to be the straw man in my political arguments. He was to be the bartender at the local watering hole which gave him opportunities to meet with many people of different stripes.

Paco (Gritzko)- Based very loosely on my friend Miggy. I made him skinny as a contrast to Dirk. I used the closed eyes look as a short cut for casualness. He's mellow, but clumsy. I originally had him named Paco, (My name in Spanish class) but I remembered a classmate of mine having the name Gritzko. I thought the name was less offensive and certainly less cliched. I had Gritzko being a smoker but later had to drop it due to syndicate restrictions.

Skat- Based on me. As a creator of any work of fiction, one must take a bit of himself into the characters he creates. Skat is the most represented of me. He is physically similar, lots of dark hair, a cleft chin, and glasses. He's cheap, and hops from job to job. Like me. The only trait I introduced originally that's not really me, is the fact he was an alcoholic. I have been known to drink too much on occasions, but it happened only once in a while.

After working, on a few strips I came up with some other characters.

Phil- A bartender

Buck- A soon to be regular I will get into later.

Rachel- a female character that was not well developed at all.

So, I showed them to my friends a month or so before I moved to Seattle.

My plan was to move to Seattle, get a job working either as a bartender or if I'm lucky, work at a publication. On my free time, work on my strip. That story will come up later.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Build-up to Pipe Dreams

It was early 1991, I was over a year and a half out of the School of Visual Arts. I had just quit an unsatisfying job at Pure Imagination and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my BFA degree. I wasn't sure what direction I would take my work. I was toying with doing caricatures. I was on a roll working with gray washes and thought this may be a way to go.

Still, I was into the idea of being an editorial cartoonist. I was totally against Gulf War 1, and tried to express my anger with cartoons against the war. The problem was, even though I was very angry, I was weak in conveying that anger.

See... America's addicted to oil...like a junkie...get it?

I was a fan of alternative comics like Love and Rockets and Hate. They were published in the city I had decided to move to, Seattle. I tried to create some comic stories but never was able to finish anything of worth.

Besides, the money was better in editorial comic strips and my gnat-like attention span was more suited to it than alternative comics. Still, my editorial comics lacked an edge. When the war was going on, I was trying to examine the absurdities of it through my work.

There was a huge lottery jackpot in New York at the time. At the same time, CNN was hyping up the "greatness" of the Patriot Missiles, and how much it costs and I put two and two together to come up with this lame cartoon.

Before the comic was finished I realized the gag was lame. However, I loved the way the character in the striped shirt turned out. It was different from any other character I created. The character on the left is a variation of the lunkhead character I do that represents the opposite of what I consider to be my thought process. I looked at it and decided to try out another strip with a third character that was physically based on me.

I didn't finish those ones either, I still was into doing editorial cartoons about the war.

I wasn't doing much better with that and was trying to mix the two together with a fourth character being in Iraq, dealing with the issues there. I realized that I was ripping off Doonesbury and I felt in order to get syndicated I needed to be more focused on a smaller cast of characters and who knew how long the war would last, so I went back stateside for inspiration and decided for once in my life to finish a project. I worked on some sample strips.

Next... The Preview