Archive for the 'Retrospecticus' Category



This past Thursday–Nov 17th, 2011–the MINNEAPOLIS INSTITUTE OF ARTS asked the CARTOONIST CONSPIRACY to take part in their monthly “Third Thursday” series.  We led an open to the public comic jam as all sorts of other events were going on (including drinking and thumping music. RYAN DOW thought it sounded like a prom was happening, and he was pretty spot-on with that assessment).

The jam was a total success.  In addition to a high number of Conspiracy regulars showing up to draw, several cartoonists who rarely make it to jams and events showed, and (best of all) CIVILIANS showed up to do jam drawing too!  Here’s a jam I did with a lil’ kid:

In addition to the drawing area, the MIA also set up a couple “Reading Lounges”:

How classy looking is that?!  Also, the sign by this lounge area made myself and Altered Esthetics’ founder JAMIE SCHUMACHER silly with giddiness:

Speaking of silly with giddiness, there was an official MIA photographer documenting the evening.  I just checked their FLICKR account and this the album cover for the evening:

Ok, so that looks staged as hell.  But this one doesn’t:

I dunno. I just think that’s cool.  I’ve never seen someone reading one of my comics in the wild before. (FYI: If you want to read it you can buy it online here.) Anyway…  The night was super fun all around, so lets end this with some of the actual drawing I took part in.  The first thing I drew was this:

Which eventually evolved into this:

One guy was just penciling panels and asking others to ink them, so here’s one I did:

MIKE TOFT started this jam that (following what I did) became a pretty fun daisy chain of violence:

Take it from someone who has done more jam comics than I can count, if you have a chance to work William S Burroughs in, DO IT!

I did several more drawings, but the following is maybe my favorite sequence I took part in.  It all started when my friend and longest-time collaborator DAN MURPHY worked one Mr George Lucas into a strip:

So I couldn’t help myself but to follow it up with:

Confession Time: The Conspiracy is about to celebrate its 9th birthday.  There have been something like 150+ jams done in that time (between the Minneapolis and St Paul meetings and other various events in-between), and frankly I’ve felt quite burnt-out on them the last year (going so far as to not even really participant in them for the last 6 months).  The MIA event totally resparked my interest though!  I don’t know.  Maybe it was the fact I haven’t done jams in a while.  Maybe it was the surroundings.  Maybe it was the hushed, actually conspiratorial talk I was having with some people about…something.  Maybe all that art concentrated in one area physically affects a person. Who knows?!  All I know is I had a great time, and I thank the MIA for the opportunity and hope they ask us back some day.

Ok…one more photo before I go.  The official MIA photographer was going around and noticed I’m a drunk…errr…that I had a beer.  The beer was from one of the big sponsors of these Thursday events, so she REEEEEEALLY wanted to get a shot of me drawing with the beer in a prominent position in the photo so as to appease the sponsor.  She took like 3 or 4 photos, moving the beer each time to different sides of me so it was in the best place possible.  I was all good with this cause secretly I hoped it would result in a life-time supply of free hooch.  So…imagine my surprise to see the following is the only published picture of this massive photographic undertaking:



MANLY TALES OF COWARDICE #5–pgs 8 & 9, also: retrospecticus–“Iron and Candy” Cankeratures

     My favorite part of doing this bit was grabbing arm-loads of my favorite DVDs and drawing them.  This will also be remembered as the point at which I gave up and just decided to coast on Joss Whedon’s coat-tails.

    ALSO:  Last Friday (April 30th, 2010) several of my CARTOONIST CONSPIRACY Conspirators and I drew “Bad Caricatures” (or “Cankeratures“) to help raise money for our good friends at the ALTERED ESTHETICS GALLERY.  Things went very well!  The Cankeratures alone raised $200!!!  All drawings were done purely by donation, with many people only throwing in a buck or two.  Needless to say, we did LOTS and LOTS of drawing that night.  And it was pure fun.  So here’s a Retrospecticus of the evening done in photos, words, and doodles…

   The fundraiser more or less started at 7pm.  Things were slow for about 15 minutes or so until people caught on to what we were up to.  We warmed up by drawing each other (“We” being L to R: KEVIN CANNON, LANCE WARD, STEVEN STWALLEY, DAN MURPHY, and CARLOS MERINO).

DANIEL J OLSON soon showed up to join in the fun.

As did RYAN DOW.

And MIKE TOFT!  But sadly…

…Altered Esthetics Exhibitions Director KRISTIN THOMPSON devoured Mike’s head as a part of the annual human sacrifice AE performs in order to assure a successful fundraiser.

AE’s Head Priestess JAMIE SCHUMACHER blessed the sacrifice, and then the cash started rolling in!!!

LUPI dips her brush-pen in the inkwell that is Mike’s skull and then joins in the drawing fun.  And now…some satisfied patrons of the arts:

The Cankeratures were scheduled to end at 10pm.  When I had to leave at 10:30 the scene looked like this:

So yeah…a pretty huge success!  I’m pretty sure we’ll be doing things like this again soon.  Oh…and in case you noticed the wall of Cankeratures we did of each other behind us, here’s some closer looks:

What?  Those aren’t close-up enough for you?  Well, here’s some awesome Cankeratures of myself, wife, and kid to wind this up:


Me by DAN MURPHY.  That’s right, kids.  The trademarked/living joke facial hair is gone…for now. 


Me by STEVE STWALLEY.  This might be my favorite one, and only because Steve complimented my ever-greying hair.  Flattery will get you everywhere.  But enough about me.  My wife is convinced that NO ONE can draw her, so she threw down the gauntlet (and a few bucks):



The LOS.

And KEVIN CANNON bats clean-up!   Finally, my step-daughter was actually able to sit still for over 30 seconds, and here are the awesome results:

There’s the LOS again.  And last but certainly not least (since it’s one of my favorite drawings of the night):


An amazing LUPI Cankerature that was all a part of an amazing night, and I can’t wait to do it again soon!

COMING UP ON WEDNESDAY:  95% less content.


retrospecticus: “CONTINUITY GUY” release at AE

   On Friday, April 2nd, 2010 the “CONTINUITY GUY” graphic novella zapped its way into our world, being released at the ALTERED ESTHETICS show “Resident Artists 4: Collaborations”.   To commemorate this event, here are some photos of the night presented in the way only a CONTINUITY GUY release could be–completely out of sequential order and making little sense.  Enjoy!

    CONTINUITY GUY artist BUD BURGY points out to RYAN DOW who the ass is who wrote such a perplexing and commercial-unfriendly story.

   CONTINUITY GUY creator CASEY ‘NELS’ NELSON enjoys what Bud and I have done with his stolen property while Bud explains where nipples are and what they do.

    JESSE GILLESPIE makes a rare sojourn from his Northwoods bunker to see art and stock up on canned goods.  He also gave me the coolest gift imaginable.

   Moments earlier WILL DINSKI and SARAH MOREAN drank from a bottle clearly marked “DO NOT DRINK”.  Almost immediately the walls seemed to get taller and taller to them.  Before you knew it they were nearly invisible to the naked eye.  Later, they were eaten by a spider.  They shall be dearly missed.

    Not to be outdone, VAS LITTLECROW actually travels thru time before our very eyes.

   Those professional models we hired finally show up. 

    The AE crew knew we were coming and so they quite literally baked a cake.

   SEAN TENHOFF and his lady friend make plans for what the AE bathroom will look like at LUTEFISK SUSHI ‘D’.

   DAN “The Frame-Filler” MURPHY shows how he earned his nickname.

    MIKE TOFT then challenges Dan to a ‘Frame Fill-Off’.  Murphy retains his title.

   JAMES POWELL takes a brief moment to do some cleansing, personal introspection.  He then leaves insisting he has to find a nun to punch or the hyenas won’t let him sleep.

   TED ANDERSON also tries for Murphy’s title, but is disqualified when the lab results come back and he had tested positive for juicing.

   LEELOO takes a moment out of her busy day to look adorable.  Awwwww….

   BRITT AAMODT (author of the upcoming essay collection about MN cartoonists ‘OFF COLOR’) takes Bud’s challenge to find all the continuity errors in the CONTINUITY GUY script.  She gives up after 300.

   CASSANDRA MONSON and birthday boy ERIK NELSON (who are to be wed next weekend!) pick the absolute worst time possible to review the MN tax laws for married couples.

    DANIEL J OLSON and AJ NEIHAUS had just picked the spot on the map where they are going to leave me for dead on route to C2E2 and now could barely contain themselves.

   Co-worker CHRIS OESTREICHER makes his patented camera mug.  You’re 9,323 for 9,323, buddy!  Great job!

   Hearing of the challenge to de-throne Dan Murphy, co-worker KATRINA GLAIM makes a valiant (but ultimately losing) effort.

    STEVE STWALLEY finally found that bonfire kindling he was looking for.

   CONTINUITY GUY cover artist KEVIN CANNON insists on being just another face in the crowd…so much so that he causes a scene and becomes the center of attention.  It was very awkward.

  BUD finds his ‘last call’ date for the evening.

   Thinking I had left, everyone had a really good laugh at my expense.  And then the cameras flash went off, and things became uncomfortably quiet.  The night was officially over.

   Many, many thanks to everyone who stopped by whether they were there for us or any of the ‘resident artists’.  Many thanks to everyone who picked up a copy of the book, and many thanks to everyone I didn’t get a (good) picture of.   It was a really fun time!


Retrospecticus: STAPLEGENIUS #6 (June 2001)

Staplegenius #6--cover by myself, Nels, and Mike Toft. And yes, copies of STAPLEGENIUS did actually manage to make their way into an actual work-house, and were extremely popular among the cons

    Like I said in the Retrospecticus for issue #5, two big but despairing events were occurring at the time of creation and publication: 1) Nels, the last hold-out STAPLEGENIUS collaborator, was focusing on his band END TRANSMISSION and effectively leaving STAPLEGENIUS as Pat and Matt had before him, and 2) I was creating a universe in which to play and tell longer, connected stories of a regular cast of characters.  With the exception of STAPLEGENIUS #9 and #11 (which still seem more like flukes than anything), issue #6 would mark the last ‘old school’ style STAPLEGENIUS–meaning lots of gags with a couple shorter stories made by multiple creators. 


   MIKE TOFT was a godsend.  Just as the STAPLEGENIUS team was breaking apart, Mike contacted me out of the blue (via actual Snail Mail) by sending me copies of his mini-comic BRAIN FOOD and a nice letter about how much he like STAPLEGENIUS.  He asked if I’d like to meet and discuss making mini-comics.  He, like I, knew there were other creators in town, he just didn’t know how to contact any of them.  I agreed, and shortly after we met at SPYHOUSE coffee shop.  Both meeting Mike and this specific location would become very significant to me (and the Minneapolis/St Paul cartooning scene in general) about a year, but that was still off in the future.  In the present of early summer 2001 what this meant was that Mike contributed to STAPLEGENIUS #6 a few shorts that were to be a part of his upcoming BRAIN FOOD #7.  I have to give Mike a lot of credit in helping keep the STAPLEGENIUS dream alive.  I was pretty bummed about the STAPLEGENIUS family falling apart, so it was wonderful having someone new in my corner cheering me on to keep doing more.


    Even though NELS was busy with his band and touring and all that, he still did find some time to do some doodlin’:

 Oh Nels and those damn cats….Then, like now, I really wished Nels would do a page-a-day calendar of this stuff:

   And while Nels may have never delivered on the continued “ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF MONSTER PIG-FACE BOY”, he did make this gem:

   As for myself, I was still on the Mullet Clown and company jag.  What started as a one panel gag months earlier now transformed into the longest comic I’d made in about 10 years at that point (I was 25), and it clocks in at only a whopping eight pages:

   As you can see by how that ended, what started off being a lame excuse for an auto-bio comic was quickly becoming something weirder with storyline larger in scope than “Why don’t girl like me”.  I had lots if ideas I wanted to get out there.  My only problem as I see it (and as you can probably see by the above tale), is that I had no sense of “pacing” or “storytelling”.  I wasn’t scripting then drawing.  I was just doing–making scripts with pictures.  In my mind I was consciously choosing “telling” over “showing” (kind of the opposite of what comics are supposed to be doing…right?), but looking back it was laziness.  For example:

  So yeah…I’m not the proudest poppa in the world when it comes to this issues content, but I see now how it was all a learning process, and this issue was just another step in my still-evolving and highly questionable talents. 

  Next time:  I try a full-length story, and drag Nels kicking and screaming along with to do so.


Retrospecticus: Staplegenius 5.5–The ‘Rites of Spring’ Special Edition (May 2001)

While only two months would pass between STAPLEGENIUS #5 and 6, I squeezed out following “BEST OF” issue in-between there as well:

  This special issue came to be made because NELS and his band END TRANSMISSION were about to embark on another tour.  Nels and I agreed it would be a good idea to distribute some STAPLEGENIUS’ as he travelled cross-country (remember: At this time easily uploaded and maintained web comics were still a McCloudian wet dream), and that the best way to get out as much as we could in as small a package possible was to produce this ‘BEST OF’ issue. 

The ‘RITES OF SPRING” special included most of the MONSTER PIG-FACE BOY material Nels had made at that point, as well as the MULLET CLOWN comics from issue #5, as well as some of the better one panel gags.  And as I said at the top, I was halfway to having STAPLEGENIUS #6 made when we did this, so I was even able to include a story that had never been printed before–one about Mullet Clown being in a band and playing a rock show no less (which we’ll see in the ‘Retrospecticus’ for STAPLEGENIUS #6).

    All in all the 25-40 issues (or whatever it was) Nels brought he distributed with success.  He met lots of nice people who gladly welcomed a mini-comic from a far-off land, and I seem to recall we even got some ‘fan mail’ out the deal. 

    So…I don’t really have anything else image-wise to post other than the back cover.  Sorry this was such a short and unfulfilling ‘Retrospect’.  Next weeks for #6 will make up for it.


Retrospecticus: Staplegenius #5 (April 2001)

Staplegenius #5: front cover by me, back cover by Nels

    Somehow, even though Nels and I lived together, something like 5 months went by between Staplegenius #4 and 5.  I’d like to think it’s cause we were working at the top of our game and needed time to create the perfect art, but really we were probably just being lazy–and sometimes the winter here in Minnesota kills all ambition.  Either way, #5 came out a month later than it should have, but I think it was worth the wait. 



  Nels and I eventually got back into creating, and we really hammered out some wonderfully goofy shit. 




I think those last two strips really show you where we were at in our emotional maturity when we made these comics.  This sort of mindset would play heavily into the comics I was now going to be creating–longer-form tales featuring a cast of characters.   My favorite comics coming out at the time–stuff like BOX OFFICE POISON and HEY, MISTER–operated under these rules, and I think I kind of hoped all along that STAPLEGENIUS would evolve into this kind of book.  After creating the Mullet Clown months earlier (see issue 4), I finally decided he would be a good character to focus on and start with.  So one day at the old home shopping network jobby-job, while I was doing in-studio duty for 3 hours straight during a Pam and Wes McCoy show, I cranked out the following: 



   Ha-ha!  Funny stuff, huhn?!  …no….kinda sad and desperate, you say?…that sounds about right for where I was at that time in my life.  But I felt like I had really struck a chord in myself with the Mullet Clown and Bitterness and other characters I was creating at the time.  They were the thin veils of my friends and myself that I felt I needed to tell the kind of stories I thought I wanted to tell.  My first step after doing the above strip was so do a more “professional” version of a Mullet Clown story.  So instead of drawing a comic beginning to end during a live TV broadcast on 8.5″x5.5″ scraps, I drew it over the course of a couple days while watching TV at home on 8.5″x14″ peices of copier paper. 



   And the cries for help didn’t stop there! 



  Yikes.  I was in a place then.  A dark, sad place.  But at least I kept up my spirits around all the major holidays: 


   Speaking of keeping up spirits…Man was that hard to do then.  Nels, Pat, the Don and myself were getting screwed over by the rental company which leased our duplex for an out-of-state owner, so we knew at the end of the summer the dream would be over as we all scattered looking for new places to live.  Also, just as the Staplegenius Four had become more or less the Staplegenius Two, I knew once this move hit it would probably become much more of a one-man operation as not living with Nels would make it harder to continue collaborating.  Also, Nels band END TRANSMISSION was picking up steam, and he wanted to focus more on that.   So having already said goodbye to Pat in issue #4, STAPLEGENIUS #5 marked the last time Matt Risnes would contribute to the book as well.  We would eventually work together on another short-lived project 3 or 4 years later, but the following was the last published Matt works under the Staplegenius banner: 


   Finally, the issue ended with what I knew was probably going to be a false promise given the pending circumstances, but I thought it was too great to NOT print–besides, maybe it would guilt Nels into staying on target: 



STAPLEGENIUS #4 cover by Nels and I. I remember I cut and paste this (and filled in blacks) while I was "working" in the TV studio during a live broadcast. Oh, what hard work that was...

   So here we are with STAPLEGENIUS #4.  It was released just shy of one year from the time I vowed to do (at least) four comics a year.  Hooray!  A New Years Resolution actually kept by a human being–a world record is set!  And while STAPLEGENIUS continued, the “STAPLEGENIUS 4” was now more or less the “STAPLEGENIUS 2”. 



     While both I (and Nels) still lived with PAT, this was the last drawing he did for the grand STAPLEGENIUS empire.  It fitted perfectly into our almost obsessive cat theme (while we did not live with Staplegenius the Cat at this time, we did live with some of his “cousins”–Jim “Bexley” Speed and Slim Pickens).  But Pat was busy with work and acting and teaching himself computer editing programs and his lady friend and so his time for doodling was almost non-existant.  While I missed his contributions (as well at MATT’s–but he’ll make at least one more appearance), this certainly helped give the book a focus it certainly didn’t have for the first couple issues.  



   Like I said, we were REALLY REALLY REALLY into cats back then (and I guess still are–I have three), so naming STAPLEGENIUS after a cat wasn’t so strange to us.  NELS’ continuous gag drawings about cats, however…pretty, pretty strange.  And I loved everyone of’em.  In addition to the cats, I continued pestering Nels that MONSTER PIG-FACE BOY was pure gold, and so he continued pumping out wonderful MPFB comics: 



    Hey!  Did you catch that?  That’s right, even though STAPLEGENIUS hadn’t been around for a even a year at that point, some characters who would live onto this day 10 years later were already popping up—including CONTINUITY GUY who made his first appearance in that MPFB strip.  In fact MPFB, his parents, his brother ROGER, and CONTINUITY GUY would all go on to be major players in the soon to be full-blown “STAPLEGENIUS-VERSE”.  But none of them would have taken root without the invention of my own character–THE MULLET CLOWN–who also made his first appearance in this issue: 


  Sure, he may have just been one random doodle one day at work back in 2000, but MULLET CLOWN (and BITTERNESS) would go on to occupy my thoughts and pencils and inks for the next few years to follow beginning with STAPLEGENIUS #5.  But before we get to that, I should also post this story which also has a few “first appearances” of it’s own–“POPE JOHNNY”! 





   So there we have it–the first appearance of BROTHER-2-THE-NITE, another key player in the still ongoing CONTINUITY GUY saga.  Also, POPE JOHNNY and LARS LIEDERHOSEN (and especially Lars’ son who will show up next issue) will show up again as these random panel gags and short stories build into longer-form stories over the year(s) that followed.  I find this remarkable since things like Nels throwing in a guy in a ‘Continuity U’ hoodie, me doodling a weird clown and wrestler, and this POPE JOHNNY story–which only existed cause one day I sat down to draw, and when I looked up I was halfway thru that tale (and finished the next day)–all stemmed from random chance and a simple love of drawing.  I had no particular hopes or expectations for STAPLEGENIUS as that first year came to a close (other than that it would still exist), so to see it evolving into something more than some random gags was a real pleasure for me.  It also made me very excited about what 2001 would bring… 

     Oh, and this gag by NELS was how STAPLEGENIUS #4 ended–literally the parting shot–and I can’t think of a better way to end this post either: 



%d bloggers like this: