stan lee (and a color special)

Stan Lee died a few days ago, and since then the internet has been full of tributes, critiques and well considered combinations of the two.  I can’t compete with the thoughtful essays of culture vultures and/or comic book mavens, all of whom have far more knowledge of both the comics and the context than I will ever have.

So I set out to write about the characters he created and co created, and ended up with a list so vast that it shocked me, and I have known and loved these four color people for years.  One site I found had them sorted by universe: the people of Asgard, the Inhumans, The Wakandans, the mutants of the X-Men’s circle. the casts that surround Spider-Man, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, Doctor Strange …, the outer space of the Watcher, Galactus, the Silver Surfer …  It goes on and on, a list of hundreds of people I know by name, powers (if any) and personality, people I could take a shot at drawing from memory, people whose voices I can hear in my head.   Whatever else you can say about Stan, he created a body of work.

So I decided just to shut up and make a little comic.  My personal Mighty Marvel Team-Up happens to consist of two of Stan Lee’s characters: The Incredible Hulk (of his own comic and the Avengers) and the Fenris Wolf (of the Asgardian mythos), also known as Hulk and Fenny.   If the Wolf seems too small to you, remember that my Hulk is a very big Hulk.


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mister spit on a paper towel/ all hail the doodle

Yesterday I drew Mr. Spit on a paper towel while I was refilling my fountain pen*.  It’s a tiny little drawing, about an inch and a half or so long (the round bits in the background are the absorbent nubs in the towel), and it took less than five seconds to make.  All hail the doodle, the fundamental unit of cartooning.

Back next week!

*TWSBI Eco with a  1.1 stub nib.

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once again, our classic halloween episode

(In celebration of the holiday, please enjoy a “rerun” of A Cartoonist in Kekionga’s classic Halloween Episode, “This Halloween in Kekionga” originally posted on this date in 2015 …)

You know that guy who lives in the double house down in the middle of the block on Shakespeare Street?  The really tall guy who fixes up antique radios?  He does programs at the library sometimes, where he brings in a radio and plays all kinds of crackly old shows; they’re like stories acted out with sound effects and music and they’re quite interesting.


His house is always a good one to visit on Halloween.  This year he had one of his radios playing on the porch with a purplish light on top of it, and a purple light in his street light.  It was a really simple style compared to the elaborate setups his neighbors had, with pull-apart giant spider webs and and fake tombstones and about a million plastic skeletons, but that made it even creepier.  And the darker it got, the creepier it was.


Instead of one of the horror story programs he’d played this week at the library, the radio was playing some really weird music, sort of spooky and delicate at the same time.  Nina said it sounded like old Victorian china dolls dancing in black lace dresses, and Mr. Spit made her shut up because the image in his head was creeping him out.

When we knocked on the door (that’s what the sign said to do), he did that thing with making a face in a weird colored light that some grownups do, and even though you are half expecting it, it always makes you jump.

Halloween2015-black and white-blog

But he gave out some awesome treats, peanut butter Snickers and Twixes and mini bags of Fritos and Doritos,  so we were OK with it.

Halloween2015-good night

So Happy Halloween from the Old Radio Guy’s front porch, right here in Kekionga.  It’s all the way dark now, and everything’s all purple and orange and amazing.  Nina and Murphy and Pounce are dancing on the sidewalk to the spooky doll music, and the rest of us are eating Doritos.

(Thanks to regular reader Wolfie, the real Old Radio Guy.  He just started texting me pictures earlier tonight and this sort of happened.  I edited the photographs and wrote the story, but it’s all his fault. He’s Kekionga canon now …)

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mint green kit!

Back after a few days of technical problems to talk about … the football.  Longtime readers of this blog know that my interest in Association (AKA ” proper” or “real”) football has been increasing for many years, to the point that I now follow a professional league and have a team and everything.  And where there is football, there is, apparently always going to be the Mint Green Kit.  We’ve previous discussed the issue of grown men playing football in Mint Green Outfits in international play here and here.

This year the long time Mint Green fashion trend has reached the English Premier League where it has infected not only my own team, the Tottenham Hotspur (come on you Spurs! maybe you will have your own stadium next year!), but also their North London neighbors and bitter rivals, Arsenal. (Boo.)  The currently fashionable accent color seems to be dark blue, with Tottenham (above) featuring blue shoulders (and an artistically counterprinted map of North London) and Arsenal (below), with blue lettering old school stripes on their socks.  A commentator described Tottenham’s  Mint Green Outfit as “a kit consisting primarily of a light green”.

These are “third kits”– the ones you wear when the sanctioning body rejects both your traditional first kit in your ancient traditional colors and pattern and your alternate second kit (often a solid dark color) as not enough of a contrast with what the home team is wearing.

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real sharks for shark cartooning

I haven’t drawn the Pajama Shark in the last few days*, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about him, and Friendly Shark characters in general.  And one of the basic approaches to doing animal characters in comics and cartoons is to study the real animal, either in person or in photographs.  Or if you enjoy photography, you can try to do both.

These images were taken at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago a week ago today in the Wild Reef exhibit.  They aren’t thresher sharks– they are sandbar sharks, described in the Aquarium’s blog as “the sharkiest sharks” in the exhibit.  I agree, they are pretty sharky looking, with the true shark expression which is so challenging and delightful to soften into friendliness. I think these photographs will be useful in future pajama sharking, and they were also tremendously challenging to make.

The light in the tank was extremely low and the sharks were swimming around, in the constant motion these guys require to keep water moving over their gills, so pretty fast shutter speeds were required to stop them.  That means super high ISOs– 6400 in this case- and a fair amount of digital noise.   These are not exactly prize winning wildlife photographs, but I am pleased with the shades of blue and the way the light falls through the water onto the sharks, and with their shapes. (The camera is Mischief, the Fuji X-T10, the lens the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4, and the shutter speed 1/320.)

*I have been doing the Inktober project, with Kekionga as my theme.  If you’re interested, I am posting my drawings every day over on the Official Pam Bliss Facebook page here.  This is a public page– you don’t have to be a member to read and enjoy.  If you happen to be on FB, you are invited to follow.

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bone joan and the black chicken in inktober

This is probably my favorite Inktober drawing so far.  Bone Joan is an important character in Kekionga’s history, and although she has been referred to any number of times, this is the first time I have actually drawn her.  Bone Joan was a wise woman and “yarbwife”, though there were those who said she was a witch.  Her familiar was an enormous jet black rooster, which probably didn’t do anything to discourage the idea.

The famous Black Chicken of Kekionga folklore is said to be based on folk memory of Bone Joan’s Chicken, but I prefer to thing that’s he’s the real thing.  He never really went away and he’s still leading children and other true believers to what they want to find.

(from the story “Monsters of Kekionga”)

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it’s inktober again!

Where have I been all week, you may ask.  Getting started on Inktober, among other things.  For those who might not be familiar, Inktober is a worldwide art project where artists take on the challenge of making a finished drawing in ink every day in October and posting it to the internet.  There’s an official prompt list too, if people want to use it.

I am doing the challenge for the third year.  As usual, I am using the prompt list, and adding a theme of my own.  This year, the theme is Kekionga itself- each drawing will feature at least one of the members of the cast, and as many as possible will be actual single panel comics, with things going on, character interactions, and sometimes even dialog.  I am posting them every day on the Official Pam Bliss Facebook Page, accompanied by comments and background information.  Please note that this is a public page– you do not have to be a member of Facebook or use that social media platform in any other way to read it and enjoy it.  If you do belong to Facebook, you are cordially invited to Like the Official Page; if you do so the updates will appear in your feed.  If you do not, just click this link and bookmark for further enjoyment.

Here is the drawing for October 3rd, just as a sample.  The prompt of the day was “Roasted” .

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the martian toy camera

Polaroid CUBE

Sometimes a lens can give you more than a field of view– it can give you a change in perspective.   So can a change in your work process– you could try automatic writing, or automatic drawing.  Or automatic photography?

One of my favorite toy cameras is my Polaroid Cube (mine is one of the old ones, without WiFi), which I carry in my pocket at all times.  It’s a 35mm cube with a super wide angle lens on one side and a pushbutton on the top– the simplest of all possible point and shoots.   It has no viewfinder of any kind and you have no idea what your images are going to look like until you open up the Cube’s sealed port and hook it up to your computer.

Polaroid CUBE

But once you do, that semi fisheye lens will offer you a whole new way of looking at the everyday world.  This week I turned it on my corgi pup, the Martian.

Polaroid CUBE

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(pajama) shark of the season

Happy Autumnal period!  It’s hard to define the beginning of fall in the Northern Hemisphere, at least until the first of October makes it “official”.  But there’s always a weekend in September when the days getting shorter, the crickets slowing down, and those first few red and yellow leaves making their appearance all add up to say that spider time is passing and autumn is on its way.  That is when it is OK to open up your commercial Pumpkin Patch.  That weekend, and not before.

I made this drawing of Thresher and his Friendly Shark jack o lantern a week or two early, but that’s just so we would be ready when it happened.  And yes, that’s an early Trick or Treat bag hanging off his tail and resting on his head.  He’s saving his candy for later because right now he is full of doughnuts and apple cider.  Here’s hoping you are the same.

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more spider time

It’s September, it’s glorious (when it’s not 90 degrees F with 90% humidity) and I’ve been spending a lot of time with my dogs– and my spiders.  It’s spider time, which is my favorite time of year.  This September I have been experimenting with using a misting bottle in my photography– not only does the mist make the webs more visible in less than perfect light, but sometimes it leaves these little water droplets that I hope are pretty without being twee. (I mist with plain water only, of course, and it does not seem to upset the spiders unduly.  At least once I was pretty sure that the spider was gathering up and and drinking the water drops.)


This huge web was stretched across a neighbor’s front walk– I had to go home quickly and get the camera before the mailman walked through it on the way to the front porch steps.  The plants in the background are papyrus, the artist is Webster, my collective name for our local orb weavers, who are large, brown, and have striped legs.

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