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January 28, 2011

Nickelodeon Gag #4

This semester at the Center for Cartoon Studies, I am co-teaching Thesis Seminar II with the amazing Steve Bissette.  Each week, Steve brings in some sort of contract or legal paperwork from his long and distinguished freelance career, for the students to look over and learn from.  Last week we were talking about Submission Agreements.  Steve's advice was to never sign one of these documents, because it basically states that none of your ideas are original, and gives the publisher the ability to steal your ideas without compensating you (and he had some stories where just such a horrible thing had happened to friends of his).

Now, Nickelodeon Magazine was owned by Viacom, one of the largest TV corporations in the world.  And so, before anyone at the magazine could even LOOK at any of my gag ideas, I HAD to sign a submission agreement.  I knew however, that my editors Chris and Dave were good guys and that a TON of other cartoonists I respected and admired had worked for Nick Mag, so I wasn't worried about them stealing my ideas.  The way I interpreted the wording of the submission agreement, was that they have so many people submitting ideas, they might receive the same idea from multiple people, so you can't sue them if your idea appears from another person.  And that very thing happened to me more than once when I was drawing gags for Nickelodeon.  I'm sure it happened all the time, because gag ideas are often so simple.

As an example, here is a gag that I submitted to Nickelodeon on July 5th, 2006:

Then, on January 24th, 2007 Graham Annable posted this hilarious video on YouTube, which uses the exact same gag concept:

MY werewolf astronaut gag was "banked" (turned in to Nickelodeon, but saved for a later issue) so it did not see print until AFTER Graham's video hit the internet.  At first, I was very self-conscious, that people would think I stole his idea, but eventually I realized that this kind of thing happens a lot.

As another example, here was a gag idea that I submitted to Nickelodeon a few months before the werewolf gag, in 2006:

I was pretty surprised when this gag was not approved, because it seemed like a surefire winner.  It had a solid DOUBLE pun and a reference to Harry Potter which was at its all time highest popularity.  But a month after I submitted this idea, there was a two page spread in an issue of Nick Mag where there were all kinds of characters doing strange things, and the reader was supposed to figure out which movies they were referencing.  And there, in the corner, was a Hairy Potter!  

Each issue of Nick Mag was prepared many months in advance, so there's no way they could have taken my idea, it's just that someone else thought of the same joke!

January 23, 2011

Guide Magazine and Gag #3

Last summer at the Heroes Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina I met an incredibly talented illustrator named Brandon Reese.  A few weeks after the show, he dropped me a line to see if I'd like to do some illustration work for Guide Magazine, where he works as an art director.  I said "Yes!" and we got to work.  It was a real pleasure working with an art director who was also a working illustrator.  He made my job easy and didn't noodle with things or ask for a ton of changes.

Anyway, when I came home from Florida the other week, there were two copies of the magazine in my mail with my illustration on page one!  I drew this wintery image during the summer, when it was hot, so it seems VERY appropriate that it arrived in January (the low in Vermont today was 19 below zero!).  Below you can see the finished illustration and a small scan of the magazine spread, so you can see how it was used.

I really enjoyed working on this drawing.  It's not often that I get to just read a story and come up with an illustration to enhance it.  I would love to do more of this kind of work in the future.  Also, since I knew it would be printed in full color, it gave me a chance to try a new rendering method for snow, which was to overlay a sheet of dots (drawn with a sharpie and a lightbox) and just color them white with Photoshop.    It was MUCH faster than The Basewood Method, but I still think I probably spent about an hour moving around individual snowflakes, to avoid weird tangents.  That stuff is important!

Lastly, here is another gag that was originally published in Nickelodeon Magazine way back in 2006.  This was my third one, and as you can see here, it shows how much I love a good pun!

January 15, 2011

A Florida-themed post

Claire and I just got back from a trip to Florida, where we went to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which was totally awesome.  This morning it was -8 degrees in Vermont, so I thought I'd post a few Florida-esque illustrations so I could reminisce about our last few days spent in that warmer locale!

First up is a T-Shirt that I designed for a trip my cousin's swim team took to Florida!

If this looks somewhat familiar, it's because I designed a T-shirt last year for the same group!  Click here to check the design from 2009.

Secondly, I wanted to post another gag that originally appeared in Nickelodeon Magazine (RIP).  This one is about a roller coaster, of which there were many in Universal Studios...

To this day, I still think this is probably the funniest gag I ever came up with.  And let me tell you, after riding a few roller coasters in Harry Potter land, I felt just like that poor bottle of soda!

Okay, I've got a bunch of other cool stuff lined up, so I'll try to keep posting every week.  I hope those of you who AREN'T in Florida are staying warm!

January 9, 2011

Organizational Overhaul!

PLEASE NOTE: I no longer use Flickr to display my illustrations.  Please disregard the outdated information in the post below.

Oh man, I just spent the last two days going through this ENTIRE BLOG and the illustration section of my Flickr account, to get the two to sync up!  Before when you clicked on an image in this blog, it would take you to an empty page with just the image, sometimes blown up, sometimes at the same size.  NOW when you click on (almost) any image in the blog, it will take you to the corresponding page for that image in my Flickr account, so you can view it larger, favorite it, share it, etc. etc. etc.  The only images that WON'T do this are process drawings, or sketchbook things or little images that I use for news posts.  Basically there is now a Flickr set for each label on this blog.

Here, I'll show you how it works!  While I was going through my Flickr account, I realized that I never posted these album covers that I drew for the Harry Potter Alliance.  (You can still download this compilation for FREE at )

The other nice thing about this set-up is that it allows me to post the images a little bit bigger than I was before.  I also changed the design of the actual blog, to accommodate the width (though I know most of you are probably reading this via RSS).

Anyway, I found a few other things in my Flickr that I never posted in here, so I will be posting those soon, along with more gags and some other recent illustration stuff I have been doing.  There's a lot more on the way, so keep checking back!

January 4, 2011

Nickelodeon Magazine Gags!

The last issue of Nickelodeon Magazine was released in December 2009.  I frequently contributed gags to Nickelodeon Magazine from 2006 to 2009.  I even had one in the very last issue!  The amazingly fair contract that Chris Duffy and Dave Roman always had me sign, stipulated that Nickelodeon had the publishing rights for these gags for a period of one year, at which point all rights reverted back to me.

Well, it's been more than a year since the last issue, which means that ALL of my gags are now mine again, to do with as I see fit!  So I thought I would post them in here, one a week, since I suspect MOST of you never got to see these in print.  And so, here was my first ever gag for Nickelodeon:

I landed my first gag assignment through my friend Karen Sneider, who is easily my favorite living gag cartoonist.  She did so many great gags for Nickelodeon and now she's doing gags for The New Yorker (!?!)  She told me that Nickelodeon always needed Desert Island Gags, so I always tried to throw in a few of those with my submissions.  On this one I guess I was channeling that old Bugs Bunny joke about digging tunnels to get somewhere, and then ending up in the weirdest places.

The coloring and layout of this gag are both pretty crude, but you'll see as I post more, I got better and better at it, thanks to some expert advice from Chris and Dave, the two best editors I ever worked with.  Well, there's more on the way!  I'll keep posting gags one a week until I run out.