Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Snow and fashion

Image © Michael Chevy Castranova 2015
I’ve never been to Finland, so I can’t explain, really, how these latest chapters of “Slipped” have come to be set there.
It’s an opportunity to introduce some new characters (such as Johan Aatu, above). Also, I did think it would be a nice change to have the Scarlet Sparrow wearing a bit more clothing than she has of late. The frumpy sweater she has on now, I imagine, won’t last as it’s not very, well, adventurous. But she probably won’t be as minimally dressed as today’s JessicaJones — it’s the 1920s, after all.
And I’ve lived in snow belts most of my life, so I understand snow as a significant factor in a community’s life.
But it just seems to be where we are — somewhere different.
That’s one of things I wanted in this strip — that sense that it goes all over, geographically, but still is one continuous story. As it was with “Terry andthe Pirates” and “Little Orphan Annie,” two of the best newspaper adventure strips. Like most of the run of “Doctor Who,” from the beginning.
Terry gets on a boat or in a plane, Annie gets kidnapped (again), the Doctor steps out of the TARDIS and next thing you know, bam, you’re somewhere new and who knows what comes next  ….

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tyler in Finland

Image and text © Michael Chevy Castranova 2015

I admit I’m still undecided about the Scarlet Sparrow’s hair style. I like the idea of it — the reference in this week’s chapter to Louise Brooks, star of “Pandora’s Box” and author of “Lulu in Hollywood.”
But it is tough to draw. It always, as first, looks as if Tyler is wearing some kind of helmet. So I add more. Then I erase and redraw. Then I erase some more.
But I think she likes it. Hard to tell.
In the early chapters of “Slipped” I integrated real people — Picasso was a love interest for Tyler during the 1910 Paris flood (a real event), for example. And I’d intended to incorporate Brooks going forward, but it turned out she wouldn’t have been in Paris in 1926. At least, I don’t think so.
Meanwhile, Tyler, Cartier Tour and Pip are about to meet a few new characters and make some frighteningly rapid progress on their mission in Finland.
Please keep reading.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Opening night jitters

Image © Michael Chevy Castranova 2015

I’ve tried to keep “Slipped” more or less accurate when dealing with real-life people or events. But in this week’s chapter — as well as in last week’s and next week’s — I got tangled up in a few historical timelines.
In chapter 354, for example, the sign outside the performance hall proclaims one of the dances that evening will be “Rites of Spring.” I’m OK in terms of when things happened — though actually it was called “The Rite of Spring,” singular, or “la Sacre du Printemps” — because that dance first was performed in 1913 in Paris. (You can see a recreation here on YouTube.) But as Nijinsky’s choreography — and the costumes and the music — caused such a scandal, it is unlikely it would have been staged again so soon after, and certainly not in as remote a locale as northern Finland. But I could be wrong about that.
And then there is the matter of Tyler’s new, risqué hairstyle. I’d initially intended to have some dialog in which our protagonist explains she wanted that cut after seeing Louise Brooks in “Pandora’s Box.”
But a quick check showed me my memory was off — that movie didn’t come out until 1929, three years after the events in chapter 355. So in next week’s installment you’ll see I’ve concocted a different explanation.
Either way, it is nice to see Tyler smile. It’s been a long time.
Oh, and balletomanes surely will have noted the headpiece Tyler is wearing would be for “Swan Lake” — which was not on the program.
What can I say? It’s a cartoon.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Melancholoy in the comics

© Michael Chevy Castranova 2015

I’ve always been struck by how sad — intentionally, I’ve assumed — the comics of Chris Ware, Bill Griffith and Art Spiegelman are. Or maybe it’s just me.
I remember not being able to finish Ware’s “Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth” because the main character was so grieved and depressed. There’s a segment in which Jimmy makes a model horse that the instructor praises but, later, the other boys mock for its true, crude appearance. Corrigan, angry and feeling betrayed, flings the horse away — into a pile snow, if I recall correctly.
But then, in anguished remorse, he jumps into the snow to retrieve the tiny model, crying, “I’m sorry.”
It’s just heart-breaking.
Griffith’s new memoir, “Invisible Ink,” about his parents, also has an underlying tone of melancholy. And Spiegelman’s masterpiece, “Maus,” isn’t exactly a barrel of monkeys, either.
And yet … and yet I’ve seen Spiegelman speak three or four times now, and on each occasion he has appeared chipper and, frankly, pretty darned happy. There’s probably some deep meaning here.
Meanwhile, speaking of snow, chapter 354 of “Slipped” finds some of our resourceful protagonists in the far north, deep into a new adventure. Their goal is to make contact with an as-yet-unidentified group that supposedly will aid them in defeating les Rongeur.
That’s assuming, of course, Delacroix told them the truth.
Take a look at this link.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Characters development

Cartier Tour, Mendacity Wilson, Tyler Wilson images and characters © Michael Chevy Castranova 2015
One of the cool things about Chris Schweizer’s very cool 2011 “Sketchbooks,” which I picked up at the Cartoons Columbus Crossroads earlier this month, is it’s a true sketchbook.
As he notes in the introduction, lots of so-called sketchbooks in fact show finished art. His book intentionally shows works in progress. You can see how he arrived at the ideas, the characters’ looks, that he ultimately used.
Very cool.
Meanwhile, in chapter 353 of “Slipped,” the wildebeest Delacroix somehow convinces Cartier Tour, the chrono-bounty hunter, to accompany Tyler Wilson and Pip on their part of the elaborate and, frankly, dangerous mission with which he’s tasked them.
Part Star Wars, part Seven Samurai.
Take a look, please. A new adventure is about to begin for the reluctant Scarlet Sparrow.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Inspiration and writer’s’s block

Slipped images and story © Michael Chevy Castranova 2015

Last weekend’s Cartoon Crossroads Columbus events were great fun. I bought lots of books, including Dylan Horrocks’s “Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen,” an entertaining graphic-novel adventure about writer’s block and creativity and originality, and had a good chat with Chris Schweizer while I picked up a couple of his excellent sketchbooks.
Also there was Bill Griffith, promoting “Invisible Ink,” his memoir about his mother and her affair with cartoonist Lawrence Lariar.
I didn’t think I’d ever heard of Lariar — until Griffith talked about Lariar’s mail-order cartooning lessons based on the notion that all characters should start in the shape of peanut. I recall even as a child thinking that was pretty ridiculous.
During his Friday afternoon presentation, Griffith talked about how he’s taken the advice of Ernie Bushmiller, of “Nancy” fame, when stuck for an idea: Griffith calls out all his characters, then asks, “OK, who has an idea today? And Mr. Toad raises his hand and says, ‘Me, I have an idea today.’”
Which reminded me of when I working through the two most-recent chapters of “Slipped,” 351 and 352. I couldn’t see a credible way to motivate Tyler and Mendacity to take up the adventure Delacroix had proposed. Then the characters just acted it out — the sisters would brave the wildebeest’s dubious plan, they said, to find their father.
And Cartier herself decided she should be part of Tyler’s quest.
Though, frankly, Tyler has never liked sharing, just as she makes it known if she thinks she hasn’t been the focus of a story for too long.
Whose comic strip is this, after all, she’s asked.

Monday, September 28, 2015

© Michael Chevy Castranova 2015 From Slipped chapter 351

Starting this Thursday in Columbus will the first (or the trial run, I’m no longer sure which) CXC Cartoons Crossroads Columbus (or maybe that’s Columbus Crossroads Cartoons) festival.
Among the speakers and panelists will be Art Spiegelman, Bill Griffith, Kate Beaton, Jaime Hernandez and Jeff Smith.
Events for the four-day festival will be held all over the city — a town I lived in longer than I have anywhere else — and much of it in or near the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum.
I wrote one of the first magazine stories about the the library when it was getting started, and attended the first-ever conference held there on  Ohio State University campus way back when the library still was a tiny, young thing. And I’ve gone to a number of the cartoon conferences sponsored there over the years.
I mention these things not to brag but to convince you when I say that for those events, more cartoonists than the scheduled folk tend to show up.
So come along. Schmooze, network, pick up tips of the trade.

Meanwhile, back at “Slipped” … Delacroix begins to explain to Tyler, Mendacity, Cartier and Pip what he expects them to do. It is a complex web the creature is weaving.
And why should they do what he asks, Tyler demands to know. His answer will surprise you.
Take a look: Slipped chapter 351, right here — the three beauties and the beast.