First up is Midnite Matinee Comics #1. I've been working on this project off and on for the last couple of years and it's finally finished. The idea was to recreate the Saturday afternoon movie experience of yesterday. The book takes films from the public domain and rewrites them for satire in a photo funnies style. It begins with a super violent Rickey Rodent cartoon, a government propaganda film, "Hemp For Victory," and a chapter of a movie serial, "Bolt Uprite & The Crossdressers from Space." The feature presentation is "Island of Lost Gorillas," a bromantic comedy/action/horror/ musical adventure starring the comedy duo Wanker & Goombah as a pair of familiar looking lounge singers stranded on a mysterious LOST island with danger at every turn. I will be posting links for ordering and preview pages soon.
SHAM Comics #3 is nearing final edits and should go to press within a couple of weeks. This time out, it's an anthology issue featuring "Skunky McGee" the smelliest private eye ever. Several short horror and sci-fi tales are included, such as "The Girl of my Screams," "Hilda Hogthrottle's Haunted Honeymoon," and "The Planet of the Pooches." The issue also features the epic story of "Conad the Aryan Barbarian" as he goosesteps across the ancient world. Rounding out the issue are some new ads for old products, like the Gahoon, government surplus Body Bags, the Buck Wilde Bully-in-a-Minute Method and live animals through the mail. Watch the blog for more news on this one.
Finally, production is nearly complete on "Zombie Marge Comix & Stories." All the strips from the past year have been reformatted into a comic book with other new features like zombie-related ads, pin-ups, interviews and behind-the -scenes stuff. I will be posting more on this comic as it nears publication.
This looks like a pretty good year!
It’s been over a month since the last Zombie Marge comic went up, so I guess I owe her loyal readers an explanation. I’ve tried to stick to a bi-weekly schedule for the strip, and for the most part have managed that. But a month or so ago the arthritis in my shoulders, that I had learned to tolerate, moved suddenly and dramatically down into my right arm. This made drawing painful, if not impossible. But I worked on this episode in little bits and pieces when I could, while I sought some help. I’m on the mend, not quite back to normal, but having longer and longer periods of drawing time each day. I'm nearly back up to speed and should have the next one up within two weeks. I've missed posting. It's good to have this one finished at last.
I'm completely fascinated by these bland filler stories they used to run in the backs of old comics. My take on this story is not too far off from the original; "Between You & Your Doctor" that appeared in Young Doctors #5, September 1963. Tune in again tomorrow for more words of wisdom from Mary and Dr. Futternutz.
This was supposed to be a Zombie Marge weekend. I was all prepared to go full steam into the next episode. But, when the inspiration to write hits, I’ve learned to just get out of the way and go with it. So instead of Marge, my time has been spent on my side project, SHAM Comics. I’ve posted some here before. In a nutshell, I take old comics and rewrite them as cynical, satirical, post-modern tales of angst and heartbreak. The fun never stops.
While I was researching pre-code romance comics for SHAM #2, I came across an interesting sub-genre of medical comics. For a couple of years in the early 60s, medical drama was all the rage. Ben Casey and Dr. Killdare were on TV and General Hospital was a daytime hit. Charlton was one of the few comic companies to capitalize on this trend. They published a series of titles depicting the lives of young doctors and nurses (all white) in the exciting world of modern medicine. However, as this was an outgrowth of their romance comics, the books focused on the love lives of the main characters. The results are highly entertaining. When the doctors are not busy giving cigarettes to their patients, they are in some broom closet making out with the nurses. The nurses are strong, independent types, except when they are mooning over the doctors. There is also had a very high percentage of people bringing guns into the hospital and patients trying to jump out high windows. As I said, they are highly entertaining.
A bit more research revealed that these comics are in public domain and therefore a prime target for the SHAM treatment. For the past few months, I’ve been collecting these comics wherever I could find them. I’ve amassed a nice little pile of them. That’s a few of them above. The Young Doctors cover on the far right was the one that convinced me this was comic gold. So SHAM Comics #4 will be the all-medical issue, titled “Calling DR. SHAM.” In addition to Dr. Studley Sham, it will feature “Niki Nookie, Night Nurse,” “Dr. Fingerman-Two-Fisted Proctologist” and “Dr. Lance Girth-Hardboiled Plastic Surgeon.”
We're back, safe & sound, inside the zombie-proof bunker, after a weekend at the Third Annual Cincinnati Comics Expo. And what a show it was! Andrew Satterfield, Matt Bredestege and their crack staff put together a great convention every year, while raising the bar each time. This year was no exception, with great events spread out over two days, plus Friday night's VIP events, if you want to get technical. The attendance was very good and our sales were strong. There's Daryll and myself, above, in the new booth, pushing Zombie Marge on an unsuspecting public. And, what do you know? She was a hit! That's Proofreadin' Dale Trush, below, making an impassioned sales pitch to a pink haired girl.
And I spotted some great t-shirts and some interesting costumes. "Hey, Mr. Scarecrow! That comic is upside down!"
Now, indulge me while I name drop for a minute. We got to see some of our comic pals, Craig Boldman and Dustin Carson of No Gods. We made some new friends, like Rodney Fyke of Peanut, Puddin' & Jelly, Todd Goodman and Danial Frazier, and Mike Norton of Battlepug. And we had a blast hanging with Jon Lennon and Leo Perez of Cheese Lord Comics from Chicago. Great creators, one and all!
And a big "Thank you!" to David Leighton, the official Zombie Marge photographer, for some inspired photo journalism.
This was a fun installment to work on, both the writing and the art. The location offered so many funny tangents. I like to start the first panel with a large establishing shot. In this case, the color rendering looked so good, I erased all my line work. This current series of strips begins to open up Marge’s back-story a bit and explain why she doesn’t quite act like your typical mindless, shambling, inarticulate zombie. We will even touch on her “mission” coming back to the land of the living.
And who’s this smart-mouth kid with the zombie fixation? It’s none other than Skip Wingus! That’s cute little Skip peddling his papers on the cover of Twelve-Way with Cheese at the left of this column. He’s grown into a pasty, sullen, emo tween who listens to The Cure and reads too much of The Walking Dead. And is he ever happy to make the acquaintance of a real zombie! But how will Marge take to having an actual fan? Stop by in two weeks to see. As usual, to read all the strips, go to the archive in the right column.
We are just one short week away for the Cincinnati Comic Expo and expectations are running high here in the bunker. Zombie Marge will be well represented at the show. Table assignments just came out and we are very prominently positioned in the first row, center to greet the fans as they come through the door. Our new booth graphics will mirror the look of this blog with Marge’s lovely rotting face. I will be in attendance from the Friday night VIP reception, until closing time on Sunday. Joining me at various times during the weekend will be cartoonist extraordinaire Daryll Collins and our own Proofreadin’ Dale Trush, selling our usual array of goodies, Twelve-Way, Little Olden Books and SHAM Comics.
We will also be premiering several brand, spankin’ new Zombie Marge items this time. To tie into the blog, we have a mini-comic that collects the first batch of strips in a great little package. Signed art prints have been popular in the past and this time out we have a new Zombie Marge poster, suitable for framing. Just by stopping by the booth and saying hello, you can walk away with a cool little Zombie Marge pinback button for your lapel. And pick up a trading card while you’re there, both are free.
See you at the show!
What's that you say? "Where's that new story you promised?" Well, here it is! It features surprise guest genius, Stephen Hawking, and tells of his historic meeting with Zombie Marge. It's set to run for the rest of the year, unless the world comes to an end as predicted by somebody, somewhere! Enjoy!
The idea behind this series of strips was to run a tribute to the TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000. That’s the last crew of the Satellite of Love, Mike Nelson and his robot pals, in panel 2. Check out their current movie riffing venture at Rifftrax.com.
Since these strips require so much less drawing than usual, I will be posting them once a week through the month of August. A new story line will start in September. Enjoy!
Well, lookie here! It’s Marge’s old pal, Charlie Hustle, and he’s selling something. What a surprise!
When I’m not slaving away over a hot drawing board working on the Zombie Marge strip, you will find me tinkering with my other favorite project, SHAM Comics. I’ve posted some here before. Briefly, I take public domain Golden Age stories and advertising, scanned from old comic books, erase the original text and rewrite them in ridiculous new ways. Because the original printing was often so bad, they are pretty easy to touch up without making them look worse. The trick is to write a story that fits the original illustrations and tell a story that is both funny and coherent. Often I like to add a bit of social commentary as well.
Dale Trush, who serves as the official proofreader for all things Zombie Marge, brought this ad to me. He’s a fan of 70s comics and pointed out several potentially hilarious ads, like OJ selling running shoes. Thanks, Dale.
It's been an interesting week charting the progress of the strip. Hope you've had fun. And here is the final version with all the little details added. Marge puts Father Nozebest in his place (for now) and goes out for some entertainment. But her choices are rather limited. If I had to pick from those films, I'd choose the same one she did. Join us in two weeks for "Zombie Marge Goes To the Movies." Let's see if she can riff her way through Night of the Living Dead like a pro.
The last step is equally the most fun and the most work. What time I save with the simple backgrounds, is spent rendering all the figures. Above, I’ve applied flat colors to the characters. As I’m still working in Adobe Illustrator, that means getting the pen tool and creating paths around the areas, then choosing the color fill for that path. For smaller areas, I use the blob brush to outline the areas, which are then filled in.
Remember, the artwork is on a transparent layer on the top, so I can see the color shapes underneath as I draw the path. With a complicated drawing, it can be very time consuming and tedious, but the results are very satisfying. The colors are sharp and vivid. The file is easily editable and smaller in size than the same page rendered in Photoshop.
Most comic how-to books treat Photoshop as the only program for coloring comics. As an experiment I colored an older story using Photoshop. It looked good, though a bit airbrushed. But the process took more than twice the time to complete it and the files are huge.
Now there are only a few details left to finish this strip. I will add some light and shadow to make the figures look rounded. I'll finish the brick wall in Photoshop and add it to the last panel and make room for the title logo. That first panel is on a separate layer that can be turned off. It will only be used in a later version when I rearrange the page to fit a comic book format.
Tomorrow the finished strip will go up. If you’ve stuck with me through all this, I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts. It has been fun writing about my working method.
When coloring the strip, I work from background to foreground, each one getting a separate layer. By starting with the background, I can set the color mood. Since Marge is hanging out in the basement of the old church, I’ve been working in lots of blues and grays. The last panel of the strip changes the location, so I move to warmer colors, with a little hint of the same blue to tie it together. For now the orange-brown will hold the place for a brick wall to be rendered later in Photoshop.
The flat gradient backgrounds are too clean for this strip, so I add textures from an Illustrator library of spatters I’ve built. It adds visual interest, but saves me the task of rendering complex background detail in every frame. The grungy look suits the locals of the story and doesn’t detract for the figures.
Tomorrow I will begin to color the figures.
I break up the text into small groups and fit them around the pictures. Many times that means rewriting bits of copy to make it fit better. Space is always limited. No one gives long speeches here. I try to strike a balance between the words and pictures, keeping in mind that this is a visual medium. With the words, less is always better. Sometimes a bit of dialogue has to go in and disrupt the art. In this case, I had to remove the severed head in panel 3 for Father Nozebest’s impassioned plea for Marge to put on some clothes.
Here’s some background on the type. Nate Piekos of Blambot.com designed most of the fonts in the strip. He offers a wide range of comic related fonts, including sound effects and titles. Many are free while others are very reasonably priced. Check him out. And while you’re there, take a look at Nate’s excellent webcomic, “Atland.” He been doing it for the last several years and has over 300 pages available to read. It’s one of my favorites.
Since both Marge and Grubworth always talk within the same panel, to avoid confusion as to who is speaking, I chose to give them distinctly different lettering. The spooky font looks like Marge’s raspy voice might sound. I render their word balloons differently too, so when two are pointing at her head, the reader can tell who says what.
With the lettering all in place, tomorrow I can start coloring the strip.
It’s time to ink the drawings. I tape the blue pencil page to the back of a 12 x18” sheet of Finch Fine 80 lb. cover and put it on the light box. For speed, I ink the Marge strips with a series of Micron archival pens and fill in the solid blacks with a Pentel brush pen.
This is the easiest part of the job. Inking only takes about an hour to complete. Now, it’s on to the computer. I scan the page as line art on a large format scanner, open it in Photoshop and do any clean up to the lines. The Photoshop file is next placed in an Illustrator format for layout, and work back and forth from Illustrator to Photoshop tinkering with the art until I’m satisfied with the fit and all the elements are in the proper place. I can change the size of individual panels if needed, move elements around or eliminate details altogether. In this case, I may delete the cat in the last panel. He can always come back in a later strip.
Tomorrow, it’s time to work on the lettering.
With yesterday’s rough sketches and various notes in hand, today’s job is to organize them into a coherent narrative. While working with the drawings, I’m also writing more dialogue to make sense of the pictures. Now it’s time to pencil the page.
Why blue pencil, you ask? It’s an old trick from way back in the day when I would shoot my inked drawings on a stat camera that would make the non-photographic blue-green lines disappear. Now that’s not necessary, but old habits are hard to break.
I traced the roughs onto a pre-printed grid set-up just for this strip. The panels are sized so that they can be cut apart later and restacked into three rows for a standard comic book page. I’m thinking ahead here to the Zombie Marge comic I plan to put out at the end of the year. But for the blog, I like the two rows of panels that resemble Sunday comic strips.
I may pencil the page a couple of times to refine the placement of elements, or I may just make notes to move things when I ink the strip. The above version is the one I’m happy with, so now it’s time to get out the pens.
Will I mess it all up tomorrow? Come back and see.
Let’s do something different this time out, shall we? The next episode of Marge’s adventure is scheduled to post a week from today. And I’m drawing it as fast as I can. As I work this week, I’m going to do like my friend Jerry Dowling does on his blog and post my progress daily. I’ll show the development of the next strip step by step and write about my method of creating it.
To those who will find this boring and self indulgent, read another blog this week and check back in next Sunday for the completed episode. To everyone else, here we go!
Episode 11 is to be the wrap-up for the exterminator story and a transition to the next series of strips, called “Zombie Marge Goes to the Movies.” The first thing I do in developing a gag is to go to the official Zombie Marge notebook that I carry with me at all times. Here, I jot down ideas, sketches and bits of dialogue that come to me as I do my button-down day job. In this case the germ of an idea was the sketch of Marge looking at the Night of the Living Dead movie poster. That will be the last panel punch line to the episode. From there I start sketching other scenes. I have to tie up loose ends from the hot tub sequence and bridge to Marge’s night out. For me, the story is not over until Father Nozebest gets his comeuppance for calling in the exterminators. So in the first few panels, Marge gets to unload on him. She may be a zombie, but it’s very hard to get the jump on her. Father Nozebest finds he is hopelessly out matched and in for a tongue lashing.
Above are some of the quick sketches for this episode. Next, I will get them organized and start writing the dialogue. Tune in tomorrow.
I hear you. You say you’d like to own all those great comics listed along the left side of this page, but you just don’t want to send your hard-earned money out into the cold nothingness of cyberspace. Well, if you find yourself in the Newport, Kentucky area, you are in luck.
Arcadian Comics is the latest brick and mortar store to stock up on the fine line of Zombie Marge publications. March right up to the counter and proudly ask for them by name. Then hand your cold hard cash to a real, flesh and blood human. It’s a great, friendly little store with a huge selection of current comics, independents, graphic novels and a large selection of kid’s comics.
Arcadian Comics is located on historic Monmouth Street, right down the block for the infamous Brass Ass. Before you stop off for a cold one with some of their fine exxxotic dancers, go buy some comics. Tell ‘em Zombie Marge sent ya, honey!
Now that Zombie Marge has gotten that editorial off her chest, maybe we can get back to the story. If you remember, the ghostly Father Nozebest had looked in the yellow pages under "Z" and called in some professionals to handle his zombie infestation.
Maybe he can get his money back.
Had she given it a bit more thought, I’m sure she would have mentioned that here at the blog, our thoughts go out to the unfortunate man who was savagely attacked without provocation. We wish him a complete and speedy recovery. Thank you for your time.
Okay, I admit it! Marge’s new spectral antagonists are influenced by my fondness for “The Ghostly Trio” from Casper The Friendly Ghost. Remember them? I always found those troublesome spirits so much more interesting than that goodie-goodie Casper. The edgy characters are always more fun. That’s why here at this blog, there are plenty of edges.
At long last, Marge has found a suitable home, even if she has to share it with three "holy ghosts."
Since I don’t celebrate those phony manufactured Hallmark holidays, I have to pick and choose from what’s left. I’ll hug a tree on Arbor Day. Groundhog Day is always a good time to reflect on the relationship of the weather to seeing one’s shadow. And April Fools Day was made for me.
By far, the best non-holiday is Free Comic Book Day! As I’m not a consumer of mainstream comics, I don’t darken the doorway of my local shops all that often. Only enough throughout the year that they know my name and push the stuff no one else will buy when I come in. Don’t get me wrong; we have many fine comic establishments here in the Cincinnati area. I’m just not there week after week on new comic day to see what DC and Marvel are warming over and foisting on the public. For me, the glory days of superheroes ended decades ago. I’m no longer the target audience. I accept that.
But Free Comic Book Day is different. I love seeing adult fans introducing their children to comics for the first time. It took a few years for the publishers to realize the potential, but they seem to produce more kid-friendly books this time of year. In the sixties there were plenty of comics aimed at younger readers. You could start with a few funny animal books; enjoy them for a few years, then “graduate” to the superhero titles. At least that’s the way I did it. There are far fewer comics aimed at the younger reader these days, but many of them are worth seeking out. I’ve been impressed with The Muppets, SpongeBob Squarepants and the new Popeye.
So, in honor of Free Comic Book Day, have a free comic from your pals at Zombie Marge Comix. This is a story from the Twelve-Way with Cheese anthology. As this is Zombie Marge’s favorite comic character, you may see some more of Little Voodoo in the near future. Enjoy your day!
In an unusual bit of synchronicity, the morning I started writing this episode, Nathan Bachrach came on Channel 19 with a story about zombie mortgages. Well, I can tell you, that went right into the strip!
By the end of the episode, it looks as if Marge may have stumbled upon the perfect home. Or is it? Next time out, she comes face to face with the holy ghosts. See you in two weeks.