down on the farm

(This blog post was developed by a National Worm Expert.)

Oh, those worms, those magical, magical worms: eating their magic worm food then falling asleep in their magic worm bedding, safe down on the Magic Worm Farm.  Keeps (magical) worms happy!

Then, I suppose, the magical worms are fated to be eaten by a (presumably non-magical?) large mouthed bass, but that is the nature of farming.  All these magical wormy products, in their distinctive yellow with red, black,  and “worm brown” trade dress, are produced in the magical (and fishing intensive) land of Wisconsin.

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“happy buddha bud”, the new cover

The new cover for Happy Buddha Bud is finished, and the reprints are printed and even partway folded.  This is one of the most important stories in the Kekionga canon*, and one of my all time favorites.  I’m very excited to have it available again soon.  (In May I will be giving the blog a huge overhaul, including, finally, the long promised revised price list.)

See the pencils for all these drawings in an earlier post here.

The “Chinese restaurant good luck placemat bat” image above is the endpaper on the inside of the front and back covers.

This is the front cover/ Special thanks to everyone here and on my Facebook page who helped me decide on how to apply the toning, especially for everyone who reassured me that simpler is better.

And of course, the back cover features Josef in a Chinese food carton.  Josef is the main character in any comic (or blog post) in which he appears.  One of my favorite things about the entire cover is the upside down lettering on the flap. If you look at the pencil version (see link above), you will note that I managed to straighten the final in PaintShop Pro.  Using the selection tool.  Upside down.  (I know any fourth grader can do this today but I feel like a digital genius.)

*Because Happy Buddha Bud is the only story where I am going to tackle the Big Question about Bud directly.  I have promised myself that.

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i have not been mentioning the weather (until now)

So far this spring, I have been pretty much alone in the circle of North American internet media producers in not mentioning the weather even once that I remember.   But we have been having some weather here– not as much weather or as bad weather as has been happening to the south and east of us, but some weather all the same.  And this morning I fell into the trap of not just photographing it, but writing about it as well.

Snow, in Indiana, early in the morning on the ninth of April.  With pensive dog.

  • April snow falls on
  • the lavender wrapper of the neighbor’s Easter candy.
  • The dog is pensive.
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best of the drawing of the day: black winter coat

Ah, the hideous persistence of the Winter Coat.  When I made this drawing more than a month ago, I was pretty sure I was looking at the last weeks, maybe even the last days, of my own Winter Coat for this season.  I was, as always, vaguely pleased to see it again in late November, but by the first of March I was, also as always, heartily sick of it and ready to shove it to the back of the coat rack once again.

But here it is, the second week of April, and I know that if I drag myself and the Dire Corgi out for a very much needed walk this afternoon I will have to approach the cold grey world from within the Winter Coat.

The person in this drawing looks like they are sick of their Winter Coat already, and my guess that it is much earlier in the season wherever they are than it was for me when I drew it.  Even having two cool shoulder dragons with knobbly horns isn’t enough to cheer them up.   (Or is it one cool shoulder dragon with two heads with knobbly horns? The drawing is, like so many of these drawings, ambiguous.)

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japanese maple: early spring

To the Japanese maple in the backyard, whose leaves are among my favorite symbols for various concepts:


  • Japanese maple, waiting time of year
  • when last year’s leaves are almost finished
  • and this year’s leaves haven’t happened.

(*I have a complicated relationship with haiku.  I like it (a lot)  but feel its syllable structure is pretty closely tied to the patterns of the Japanese language, so sometimes interpreting it strictly in English makes for some pretty stilted results. 

So I meander around the issue with pointed aimlessness, veering between attempts at “real haiku”, the Hulk-ku, where you write haiku with proper syllable counts in the voice of Tarzan or the Incredible Hulk, which oddly enough works really well, and something I call “not a haiku” which is a three line poem that captures something of the haiku flavor, but uses American English structure rather than pushes against it.)

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on naming owls

Edison, Kekionga’s Radio Inventor, has been lurking around the edges of the cast for a while, taking part in stories yet to be drawn and making one cameo appearance a year or two ago.  He is finally appearing in continuity in my new story “Bottlecaps”– here are the pencils for his first panel.  Part of the reason for his delayed debut is that I’ve been on the fence about his owl pal.  Is an engineer (or wizard) character having an owl for a pet/familiar just too cliched for words?  I knew once I drew him in the lab in a canon story Edison would either have an owl or not have an owl.  Because the one thing that’s even worse than having a slightly twee pet owl would be designing a cool (but slightly twee) pet owl and then having him disappear suddenly without explanation.

Of course, I decided to go with the owl. I have a corny side and maybe I should just accept it.  And Kekionga is built on cultural archetypes. Making him a tiny screech owl with a bad attitude will keep him from being too cutesy, I hope.  But then I realized I had given myself a second problem.  Now I had to name the owl.

I did what any sensible cartoonist would do– I turned the job over to an expert.  I asked regular reader Wolfie who is the Old Radio Guy on Shakespeare Street*, to come up with some radio-related names for the Radio Inventor’s Radio Owl.  He offered a list, and we had the same favorite immediately.

So please meet Filament, Kekionga’s Radio Owl!  Or Fil for short.  If you dare.


“Naming Owls” (or “Naming All the Owls”)  would be a good name for a band.  Or a Kekionga book collection.


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the ghost catfish of kekionga : a twenty minute fiction

Ghost animals.  Spirit animals.  The People Who Lived Here before us called them that, the all white animals you see down in the Woods sometimes.  Grandpa Berry tells stories his grandma told him, and she said she heard them from “Injuns”, as they said in those days.  (And Gale’s stories are even older, if you believe Gale, which we do.)  The science teachers say they are just albinos, animals born without color, and more common in Kekionga than elsewhere because of local populations and not a lot of hunting.

But if you go out in the Woods on a moonlit night, it’s definitely more like ghosts or spirits than it is like science and diverse pigmentation.  And there are lots more kinds of animals than there are during the daytime.  We’ve seen aurochs and bison, saigas and mastodons (as well as the usual mammoths), and Murphy swears he saw a sabertooth once.  And he should be glad that one wasn’t exactly real.

And in Moose Creek, the giant Ghost Catfish slides through the Woods in the dark water, looking wise (he has blue eyes) and coming up to the bank sometimes to eat any snacks you might want to give him.  He’s real-er than some of the Spirit Animals– nothing that isn’t almost real can eat a Cheezybug or the tail end of a Beefy Bar.

It was kind of a surprise to all of us to see a very small Ghost Catfish in a tank in the Aquarium.  Mr. Spit wanted to rescue him, but he looks happy enough swimming around with the sturgeons and the regular catfish.  He’s probably where he is supposed to be  You have to trust your Spirit Animals.  We check on him whenever we visit, and every time he gets a little bit bigger.  He must be getting plenty of snacks.

(minifiction written just now, in twenty minutes. inspirational photograph/digital art taken last week on a visit to the big box outdoor store.  Fuji X-M1/ Fujinon 27mm f/2.8, 1/60 at f/2.8, ISO 1600, heavily processed in FastStone and Pixlr for that ghostly effect.)

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best of the drawing of the day: the moon with the sun and the stars

If the Man in the Moon was a dapper dad in a black suit, and the Sun and the Stars were his kids and the dog …

I guess it would look something like this.  I know that drawing is a total failure from a cosmological perspective. And folklore can tell you the Sun is almost always a grownup– if anyone is a child in this setup, it would be the Moon.  But if the Sun can also be a ball of dung being pushed by a celestial scarab, and the stars can be a herd of cows, then we know that symbols can be pushed into the personal if we feel like pushing them.  And you know how much I like drawing the Man in the Moon.  Why shouldn’t he have his own crazy suburban sketchbook family?

(Drawn with the scritchy scratchy pen, of course, complete with hand-built black.)


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the return of the ’70s

If you, like me, actually lived through the 1970s, or if you have an interest in (fascination with?) the culture of that decade, you certainly remember Telly Savalas.  If you don’t, he was a bald actor of Greek extraction who played cops and tough guys in movies and TV shows.  He is most famous for his performance as the title detective in the very popular gritty police procedural Kojak.  Kojak was plenty tough, but he had a sweet side, symbolized by his fondness for lollipops.  The ladies loved him– both Kojak and Savalas himself.  He was an unexpected pop culture hearthrob of the day.

Since the 70’s, Americans who travel in Asia have been mentioning statues of the Buddha (and other religious and folkloric personages with bald heads) who “look like Telly Savalas”.  I had never personally seen the famous “Buddha who looks like Telly Savalas” in many years of idly looking for him.  That is, until yesterday, when I found him in the Chinese buffet, on the shelf over the sushi case.  Technically, I believe this is a statue of Ho Tei, sometimes called the Happy Buddha, who looks like Telly Savalas.  He really, really does.

You can almost hear him asking “who loves ya, baby?” in Kojak’s voice.



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work in progress -should the grass be green?

Appropriately for March, I have gotten a wild March hare of an idea to make one of those convention banners that roll up into a handy little case that doubles as its own stand.  Everybody else has one, right?  So here are a few glimpses at the only design that I decided didn’t look too stupid.  It’s based, very roughly, on the old Bremen Town Musicians design where the characters are stacked up vertically, combined with the Iowa Sitting in a Big Red Chair with a Coelacanth drawing idea that has been hanging around for years.

From the top, Bud (as the Man in the Moon), Josef, Iowa, the Professor in his Moondog form, the Small Feather Bat, and some Kekionga Spirit Rocks.  The color scheme is planned to accompany and eventual second banner with the Kekionga title and featuring Jack/Foursquare, a mammoth and a selection of the other characters.  But I’m already second guessing it– should the grass be green?  Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Special thanks to JKC who pointed out that of course the little dog chop should be on the left so the dog is looking into the drawing and not on the right so he is looking at whoever is sitting at the next table.

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