Monday, December 28, 2015

The thinking behind “Slipped”

© Michael Chevy Castranova 2015
 In my comic strip, “Slipped,” I have tried to tell and depict the kind of adventure stories I would like to read. So while not PG, certainly within an R rating.
The tales aim to be exciting, the violence thrilling but not gruesome. Tyler is a cat burglar, but hardly anyone ever dies — or is seen to die. This isn’t “Terry and the Pirates,” as much as I admired that fantastic strip.
The art in “Slipped” itself remains cartoon-y, even as I want the protagonists to be cartoon-world attractive — Tyler is cute and pretty, Pip the dog is endearing, etc. At the same time, Tyler has matured over the course of the strip, since March 2008, from a plucky youngster to a young woman. So, yes, sometimes she dresses as an adult woman — keeping in mind the styles of the mid-1920s.
(More important, she tends to make it known if she doesn’t like the attire I’ve selected for her. She reminds me that she’s the star of “Slipped,” after all.)
And most of the time the stories themselves are within the bounds of reason — well, if you accept that time travel, singing dogs and giant, intelligent rats are credible, right?
The tone changes, though, as the adventures evolve. Sometimes our heroes are caught up in a basic chase story or maybe a fight scene, espionage or science fiction — remember, Tyler met Pip on the moon.
But underneath all of it is Tyler’s search for what became of her father, Arkady Wilson — the first Scarlet Sparrow. That is what convinced her, and her sister, Mendacity, to agree to their latest adventure.
Which brings us to chapter 361, where things are about to go wildly astray from how Tyler planned. Of course.
Take a look.
And thanks for reading …
© Michael Chevy Castranova 2015

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

PIp makes a comeback

Image © Michael Chevy Castranova
With chapter 360 of “Slipped” I intend to bring Pip back into the main story. He’s been somewhat sidelined as new characters have been introduced.
And maybe, too, we can resolve whether he really can talk or if only Tyler imagines he talks. Of course, as he’s the one narrating the story from the future — or maybe the past, I’d have to look that up in earlier chapters — and comes to be known as a semi-famous singer of the American Songbook, I guess he does. Or maybe that comes later. We’ll just have to see.
The notion of dogs as companions in adventure fiction is not new. With little effort, we can name RinTin Tin, Lassie, Sandy in “Little Orphan Annie,” Toto in “The Wizard of Oz,” Asta in “The Thin Man” series, Snowy in all the Tintin stories, Bear in “Person of Interest” and Gromit in “Wallace and Gromit.” Each one helped instigate action — Sandy often saved the day as did Gromit, Toto is the reason Dorothy ran away from home and Asta actually found the missing Thin Man in the first movie, not Nick Charles.
I don’t think we should count Snoopy, though. Not much of an adventurer and, frankly, pretty off in his own head.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Safe territory in “Slipped”?

Image © Michael Chevy Castranova 2015

I don’t like guns. I don’t like drawing guns in cartoons. But sometimes in an adventure comic strip set in the 1920s, between two significant wars, people have guns.
But you’ll notice, no one has died in “Slipped” from being shot by a gun. In fact, not one character seems actually to have died at all.
The guy in the first chapters — unnamed in the strip but I think he went by Etienne — was killed, but then when the Scarlet Sparrow retraced her timeline, she and her sister, Mendacity, saved him.
And while Dickie Talbot was left to be buried alive, along with the Golem, it’s in the cards for the Scarlet Sparrow to get back to them, too.
Oh, wait, I just recalled those two “Vampires” who accidentally died while attempting to do damage to part of le Metro to stop les Rongeur. Hmmm ….
It’s hard to keep track of almost eight years of continuous weekly comic strips.
In any case, next week sees the Scarlet Sparrow, Cartier Tour and Pip catapulted into their new adventure. Please stand by.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Image © Michael Chevy Castranova 2015

Tyler Wilson and friends thought they were out for a good meal with admirers. But, of course, things never work out as expected in the life of the Scarlet Sparrow.
Take a look at the latest chapter of “Slipped.”
Reishi, by the way, is a mushroom possessing supposedly amazing health benefits. It is not native to Finland. But more about that later in our story ….

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.

Monday, September 21, 2015

What next?

© Michael Chevy Castranova 2015

I admit to being a little amazed myself that this comic strip of mine has been running for seven and a half years, week after week just about, and this chapter is up to number 350 — and all online.
Slipped” started out as an homage of sorts to those 1930s and ’40s era newspaper comic strips of continuing adventure, with its sinister villains and wild action. And while it pays to have read every single chapter of “Slipped” since the beginning in March 2008 in terms of understanding what’s going on, I admit not everything has been explained — or at least not fully.
I like to keep a little mystery. But, yes, in my own head it all makes sense. (Any questions?Ask me.)
Now Tyler Wilson — the true heiress to the title of the Scarlet Sparrow — and her sister, Mendacity — who lately has been impersonating the Scarlet Sparrow — and Tyler’s companion, Pip, face a new challenge. A mysterious character who calls himself Delacroix is about to give them two enormous, separate and very dangerous missions — and without any clear way to fulfill those tasks.
What I’ve not decided is if, going forward, if this should turn into a superhero tale — remember, while Tyler may be the hero of this story, she has no special “powers.” She can’t even control her time travel.
But I think maybe not. I’ve always liked spy stories. Not the high-tech, blow things sky high James Bond movies. More like the low-tech, well-thought-out novels of John Le Carré such as “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and the brilliant movie “The Third Man.”
Though what is likely to happen is that the characters themselves will decide what’s next. The Scarlet Sparrow always has voiced pretty strong views on her appearance and her actions.
So we’ll see … .
A suivre.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A new monster in ”Slipped”

© Michael Chevy Castranova 2015

One of the great things about those 1930s and 1940s comic strips was you often didn’t know at first if new characters were friends or foes. Think of “Terry and the Pirates.”
You see a lot of that in Doctor Who, too — at least, back before it lost its way over the last season.
So in chapter 349 of “Slipped,”  the Scarlet Sparrow and her sister, Mendacity, are brought against their will by chrono-bounty hunter Cartier Tour to a creature who calls himself/itself Delacroix.
Tyler somehow identifies him as looking like her old nemesis Dargelos, whom she defeated a few years ago. Maybe during their last battle she got a look at how Dargelos really is — rather than how he usually appeared, as a handsome man similar in appearance to Marcello Mastroianni.
So take a gander at “Slipped.” Let me know what you think.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Labor Day special

© Michael Chevy Castranova 2015

The limits of the scanner I use retrains how big the paper I draw on can be and therefore how detailed my drawings can be. But for the holiday, here’s one good image of new character — villain or hero still to be determined — Cartier Tour, on those Paris rooftops in chapter 348 of “Slipped.”
I think I like her. How long she sticks around depends on how gets along with the Scarlet Sparrow. See what you think with this link to “Slipped.”
Last post I mentioned the “Phantom Lady” collection of comic books from the 1940s. The stories are wacky — often all the other characters recognize her on sight, but some have no idea who she is. She wears no mask, but no one, not even her dopey boyfriend, ever realizes she is Sandra Knight, daughter of a famous senator — who is rendered very differently in each story in which he appears.
And the stories make absolutely no sense.
But it doesn’t matter, as the drawings and poses of the characters — mostly by Matt Baker and especially in volume two — are everything in this series.
I’m also enamored these days with Michael Avon Oeming’s “Powers” art. Cartoon-y people doing very serious things. It reminds me a little of the later Corto Maltese stories.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Now they’re in trouble!

© Michael Chevy Castranova 2015

In the latest chapter of “Slipped,” Tyler (left) and Mendacity Wilson are at the mercy of the mysterious Cartier Tour (right), who claims to be a chrono bounty hunter — someone who hunts down those who’ve violated history. Which Tyler — aka the Scarlet Sparrow — has done repeatedly.

The notion of “Slipped” is to pick up on the adventure and naive charm of the newspaper comic strips of the 1930s and ’40s, when the heroes saved the day — but not always — and their adventures ran almost forever. Think of “Little Orphan Annie,” possibly the best comic strip of all time, or “Dick Tracy” or even “The Gumps” or “The Bungle Family.”

You never knew what was going to happen next.

The difference is our Scarlet Sparrow is far more reckless and has a lot more enemies. Take a look by starting at this link.

It’s an adventure.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A New Adventure

Have you ever taken a look at the new Phantom Lady collections, from the mid-1940s and drawn by the excellent Matt Baker? There’s a little of that influence in “Slipped,” my own comic strip that’s been running online since early 2008.
“Slipped” is an adventure strip modeled on those fun 1930s and 1940s adventure newspaper comic strip. Which means I certainly looked to “Terry and the Pirates” — by Milton Caniff — and “Buzz Sawyer” and even a little “Little Orphan Annie.”
In this week’s chapter, Tyler Wilson — aka the Scarlet Sparrow — and her sister, Mendacity — who’s been masquerading as the Scarlet Sparrow — have trapped on a Paris rooftop, where it’s revealed that … well, take a look for yourself.
It’s a new enemy, in the person of Cartier Tour, and a whole new adventure.
Here’s a link —
And here is some sample art, to tempt you to try “Slipped.” Take a look!

Slipped @ Michael Chevy Castranova, 2015

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A new ally? Or a future foe?

In chapter 345, the Scarlet Sparrow, aka Tyler Wilson, and her sister Mendacity meet up with a stranger on the rooftops of Paris, in 1926. What does she want? Nothing helpful, it seems, as she’s pointing some kind of futuristic weapon at the pair.
But in “Slipped,” you never know.
Please follow along for the thrilling adventures of the Scarlet Sparrow and her pals.
Based on the newspaper adventure comic strips of the 1930s and ’40s, “Slipped” is modeling after “Terry and the Pirates,” “Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy” and so many other strips of that turbulent era — but a 21st century twist.
Take a look —

Slipped and related images © Michael Chevy Castranova, 2015

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Catch up with Slipped: The adventure comic strip

Take a look at the latest chapter in Slipped, my online-only 1930s-style adventure comic strip, by following the link below.
The comic strip/graphic novel — part Terry and the Pirates, part Corto Maltese and a little bit Star Crash — has been running for more than seven years, and if you’re just tuning in, here’s what’s happening:
After many daring adventures in time and even to the moon, Tyler Wilson, aka the Scarlet Sparrow, has returned to Paris in 1926 to confront her younger sister, Mendacity, who has assumed the Scarlet Sparrow guise as a cat burglar. After a brief rooftop struggle, which Tyler wins, Mendacity says she’s up to something far more complex than simple thefts.
So here is your chance to catch up with their battles with each other, the forces of fascism and even the devil himself ….

And if you want a recap of all seven-plus years, start here.

From chapter 344 of Slipped. Slipped is © Michael Chevy Castranova, 2015