Art Collection · Look Here

Look Here: Five tiny creatures by Aeron Alfrey

Back in 2006, I purchased five small creature sketches drawn in fine-line marker on card stock by digital artist, illustrator, comicker, and blogger Aeron Alfrey. As I recall, Alfrey’s goal at the time was to draw and sell a thousand sketches and to integrate the creatures in those sketches into his “Hob Bob” comics. Here are the creatures that I selected (numbers 207, 208, 210, 226, and 281, respectively):


Aeron Alfrey’s Web of Sights:

Art Collection · Heads Up!

Heads Up: Detrocboi is having an art sale

A young freelance illustrator from Italy who also draws comics, Stefano Rusca, a.k.a. Detrocboi, is having a sale of his full-colour drawings in order to raise money for future projects. Truth be told, I was not familiar with Stefano’s art until yesterday, but after doing a bit of digging through det.roc.boi’s impressive photostream, I decided to buy a drawing of a monster by the name of “Wrim Wram Wrom”:



Over on his blog, the artist notes that the monster’s name “comes from a Coil song,” but I daresay the phrase “Wrim Wram Wrom” is more likely to remind North American comics fans of early 1960s Marvel monsters like Fin Fang Foom and Tim Boo Ba, though the visual style here is less Kirby-and-Ayers and more Moebius-meets-Woodring. Which is to say: it’s cool.

Detrocboi’s current sales page is here. He also sells prints of his work through society6


Art Collection · Joseph Lambert · Look Here

Look Here: Four small drawings by Joseph Lambert

Every so often, cartoonist Joseph Lambert stocks his SubSubShop with a variety of small drawings, and with the recent success of his comics collection I Will Bite You! And Other Stories and his superb graphic novel Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller, the drawings now tend to sell out shortly after they’re posted, and the prices, which some people — Lambert’s cartoonist buddy, Dustin Harbin, for instance — thought were too low to begin with, have started to rise. To date, I’ve purchased four drawings from Lambert, and here they are:


The best way to secure a drawing for yourself, if you want one, is to follow Lambert’s “JoeSubmarine” twitter feed, which is where he usually gives advance notice that a new batch of drawings is about to be posted. Good luck!

Art Collection · Comics · Here, Read · Look Here

Look Here, Read: “Gruesome Charlie in ‘No Erect Penises'” by Jeff Johnson

At the end of January, I posted a “Heads Up” to alert collectors of comic art to the grand opening of the well-stocked Etsy shop of Atlanta-based artist Jess (née Jeff) Jonsin (née Johnson). At that time, I had already purchased page six of a story, “Gruesome Charlie in ‘No Erect Penises,'” that originally appeared in Zero Zero #4 (Fantagraphics, August 1995). In the days that followed, however, I found myself returning several times to Jess’s Etsy shop to examine the other five pages in the story. Each time, I half-expected that one or the other of the pages would be sold, but also sort of hoped they would all still be available for purchase, until finally I talked myself into making an offer on the lot of them. Jess graciously accepted my offer, so now I’m back to share, with Jess’s permission, the complete story scanned from the original art:


Regarding the title of the story, Jess volunteered the following explanation during a conversation we’ve been having on Etsy:

And I wanted to tell you some things: The story you’ve bought was originally conceived for Blab! Monte [Beauchamp] didn’t think it suited, and I’m sure he was right; I reconfigured it later for Zero Zero. Kim [Thompson] only stipulated that there be “No Erect Penises” which kept me from calling it something appropriate like “Dancing Frogs.” The “Gruesome Charlie” character, or at least the name, has a hypnagogic origin, as does “Voluptuous Dog.” That’s all that comes to mind about that story right now. I do think it’s one of my more relatable efforts, almost in a Peter Bagge storytelling vein.

In addition to his new Etsy shop, Jess also has put together a new 198-page collection of comics that he originally published under the name Jeff Johnson. Here’s Jess’s description of the collection, which bears the anagrammatic title, Sad Brat, Bad Star:

This is a collection of comics originally printed as zines in 1990-91: Filth, Symbiosis, Reality, Communion and The Moon in the Man. Two unfinished works are included; Felicity part one, written by the author’s deceased ex, and seventeen pages of the titular 1995 graphic novel that, had it not been abandoned, intended to deal with the germinal time and place from which the rest of these 200 pages originated. An idiosyncratic design sense stitches the lot together with a loosely cohesive hand, and a smattering of brief notes and introductory essays wander moodily along like an emotionally-unstable tour guide, offering an oddly endearing blend of impertinent trivia, crankish pettifoggery and raw catharsis wrapped in convoluted verbiage. This intensity is what keeps this shattered planet of uncouth continents spinning. You should visit this planet before it dies.


Sad Brat, Bad Star: Comics 1988-1992 by Jeff Johnson is available via (and is eligible for free shipping if you live in the good ol’ U.S. of A.) as well as via the Amazon service site for self-publishers, CreateSpace.

Although I don’t own a copy of the collection just yet, I do intend to place an order soon… on March 10th, to be exact.


Apeiron — an illuminated zine, a video channel, and a library of booklets
The Door — Etsy shop
Jess Jonsin — website
jess jonsin (glutenmob) on Twitter
jessjonsin’s photostream
Sad Brat, Bad Star by Jeff Johnson at & CreateSpace
spambots + ziggurats – blog

Art Collection · Heads Up! · Look Here

Heads Up: Original art for sale by Jess/Jeff Johnson

“[S]kewered on a spit of material need just like everyone else,” artist Jess Johnson is having a sale of art that she produced in the mid-1990s under the name Jeff Johnson. Earlier this morning, I purchased page six of the story, “Gruesome Charlie in ‘No Erect Penises,'” which was published in 1995 in issue #4 of the Fantagraphics anthology series, Zero Zero, and is #23 on The Comics Reporter’s list of “1000 Things to Like about Comics” (posted 23 March 2005). Although I don’t have the page in hand yet, I do have the images from the sale page:

If you think you might like to add a page by “Jeff Johnson” to your own collection of original comic art — at a very reasonable price, I might add — check out Jess’s Etsy shop, “The Door.”

Art Collection · Collage Art · Look Here · Matt Kish

Heads Up: Matt Kish is having an art sale, and then a bonfire!

After having cleared his etsy shop of old, unsold work a while ago, Matt Kish, author of Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page (Tin House Books, 2011) and a forthcoming illustrated edition of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (also with one drawing for every page), I say, Matt Kish has come to a decision:

I’ve been feeling really bogged down. It’s time, actually far past time, to move forward. So I’ve added all remaining art — Moby-Dick illustrations, first series of Heart of Darkness illustrations, miscellaneous monsters and other stuff — back to my Etsy shop one last time.

The art will remain available and for sale until the end of Sunday November 11, this year. After that, I will take what is left, give a few pieces to close personal friends and destroy the rest. I’ve done that in the past and that kind of creative destruction has always fuelled new avenues of creativity for me.

So that’s it. About two more weeks to get whatever pieces you may have had your eye on. Email me if you have any questions.

While I actually think Kish would be foolish to destroy his published artwork, especially if he intends to stick with illustration for the long haul, I have a feeling that, one way or the other, most of the unsold work will eventually find a home.

At the very least, I know I’ve been doing my part to save Kish’s originals from the fire. Let me explain…

As regular readers of RCN might remember, I bought a Moby-Dick collage from Matt Kish back in June of this year. At the time, because I admire Moby-Dick in Pictures as a whole, and the prices of the individual works of art were very reasonable, I considered buying more. Considered. But didn’t. For various reasons. And promptly moved on to other concerns. Until, that is, I read about Kish’s decision on his blog, at which point I scrambled back to the artist’s etsy shop and browsed through the remaining pieces, hoping that at least one or two of the originals that I had considered buying the first time around would still be available for purchase. Two were. So I bought them both.

And now I’m here for show and tell.

The first piece that I decided, this time around, to add to my wife’s and my collection of original art is Kish’s illustration in collage and ink, five inches wide by eight inches tall, for page 301 of the Signet Classic edition of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. Specifically, Kish’s image was inspired by the following passage: “…there, that blood-dripping head hung to the Pequod’s waist like the giant Holofernes’s from the girdle of Judith.” Melville’s description is obviously a play on the traditional metaphor of the ship as woman, so it’s no surprise that a woman — a curvaceous temptress clipped from a reproduction of Ingres’ The Turkish Bath (1862) — makes an appearance in Kish’s illustration, hovering at the top of the page like the Pequod bobbing on the ocean. Through the spatters of red and blue paint — blood and water — that connect the Pequod/Judith with the flabby, lifeless head of the whale/Holofernes, one notices the noun phrase “BURNING DAYLIGHT” imprinted on the “found paper” substrate. The phrase is there because the paper is the half title page — another (metaphorical) severed head — from an early edition of Jack London’s novel of the Yukon gold rush, Burning Daylight, but the words themselves also have symbolic significance (though I’m not going to work it out for you). Across the form of the head, the artist has scrawled in an elaborate script the letters “sphy,” followed by a period, which seems enigmatic until you realize that it is simply an abbreviation of the title of the chapter — “The Sphynx” (notice that the “nx” is stacked vertically after the period: cheeky!) — which, in turn, is a reference to how Captain Ahab views the whale’s severed head. In fact, on the very next page, Ahab himself gives us his thoughts on the matter in an amazing soliloquy:

It was a black and hooded head; and hanging there in the midst of so intense a calm, it seemed the Sphynx’s in the desert. “Speak, thou vast and venerable head,” muttered Ahab, “which, though ungarnished with a beard, yet here and there lookest hoary with mosses; speak, mighty head, and tell us the secret thing that is in thee. Of all divers, thou hast dived the deepest. That head upon which the upper sun now gleams, has moved amid this world’s foundations. Where unrecorded names and navies rust, and untold hopes and anchors rot; where in her murderous hold this frigate earth is ballasted with bones of millions of the drowned; there, in that awful water-land, there was thy most familiar home. Thou hast been where bell or diver never went; hast slept by many a sailor’s side, where sleepless mothers would give their lives to lay them down. Thou saw’st the locked lovers when leaping from their flaming ship; heart to heart they sank beneath the exulting wave; true to each other, when heaven seemed false to them. Thou saw’st the murdered mate when tossed by pirates from the midnight deck; for hours he fell into the deeper midnight of the insatiate maw; and his murderers still sailed on unharmed – while swift lightnings shivered the neighboring ship that would have borne a righteous husband to outstretched, longing arms. O head! thou hast seen enough to split the planets and make an infidel of Abraham, and not one syllable is thine!” [p. 302]

Anyway, I think that’s enough from me about the image. Take a look for yourself and see what you think:

The second piece that I selected is Kish’s illustration, eight inches wide by eleven inches high, for page 384 of Melville’s famous novel. As with the first piece, Kish was inspired by a specific passage — in this case, part of a speech delivered in a court of law by a famous defence counsellor, “the witty Erskine,” who attempts to use a dispute between a husband and the wife that he abandoned and later attempted, unsuccessfully, to reclaim (even though she had by then remarried), as precedent in support of his (Mr. Erskine’s) contention that property that was lost at sea in unusual circumstances by one whaling ship and then claimed as salvage by another ought not to be returned to the original owners but instead ought to be recognized as the legal property of the salvagers. The passage, which Melville clearly wrote with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, reads as follows: “…though the gentleman had originally harpooned the lady, and had once had her fast, and only by reason of the great stress of her plunging viciousness, had at last abandoned her; yet abandon her he did, so that she became a loose-fish….” In Kish’s visual interpretation of the lawyer’s colourful analogy, the lady takes on a form that is part human being and part one-eyed, one-winged mythological beast, part woman and part white whale, part flame-haired seductress and part one-breasted Amazonian warrior:

In the uterus of the woman/whale/warrior — or is she a (fallen) angel? — visible right through the surface of her white dress/skin/armour, an ovum awaits the arrival of the several sperm that, presumably, will compete to fertilize it. What is the meaning of this? I could hazard a guess… but instead, I think I’ll just let you puzzle it out for yourself…

BONUS IMAGES (added 11 April 2013):

Just realized that I forgot to add two other Moby-Dick pictures by Matt Kish that my wife and I have in our art collection:


See also here and here on Matt’s blog.

Although I had emailed Matt near the end of his art sale to inquire about the two paintings displayed above — they are paintings that I definitely thought should be preserved for posterity — I want to emphasize, without revealing too much, that the way that the artwork eventually ended up in our collection was totally unexpected and really rather heartwarming…

Have I mentioned that Matt Kish is a mensch? In another online context, I know I have, but it definitely bears repeating: Matt Kish is a mensch!

AND ANOTHER (added a bit later):

Art Collection · Collage Art · Fine Art · Look There · Rene Magritte

Look There, Read: An interview with Graham Moore, collage artist

Earlier today, Michael Dooley of Print Magazine’s Imprint blog posted his interview with artist and designer Graham Moore, entitled A Designer’s Midcentury-Mod Music-Graphics Mashups. It is Moore’s collage art that is the focus of the piece. If I could own one of the collages displayed along with the interview or on Moore’s website, it would be GrahamMoore_04.jpg/mo-dernes.jpg (see below), which I imagine to be an enigmatic glimpse of the 1960s through the lens of a parched but ultra-stylish future:

I would love to see more collages by Moore along the same lines, but, alas, “Mo Dernes” seems to be a one-off… although here’s a piece from Moore’s sketchbook that explains the silhouettes of the women:

See also here and here on Moore’s site for more sketchbook variations on the silhouette theme.

Magritte did a lot with silhouettes. I’ll post some examples when I have a moment…



Update (10 October 2012):

Just thought I would mention here that I contacted Graham Moore after I posted the above images and information and asked him if the mo-dernes collage was for sale — it was! — and even though his asking price was a little beyond what my meagre acquisitions budget can ordinarily sustain for a single work of art, Graham kindly made it possible for me to own the piece by allowing me to pay for it in affordable instalments spread out over about three months.

And as I told Graham by email when I finally had the artwork in hand, I’m very pleased with my purchase. Mo-dernes is a page cut from Graham’s sketchbook, and as such, I expected it to be smaller than it is. In fact, the piece is fairly large for an old-fashioned, hand-cut, magazine-image collage. And needless to say, aesthetically speaking, it really hits a sweet spot for me in terms of composition, colour, and content. I won’t torture you with a formal analysis of what you can see for yourself; however, I must say, this time around, with the actual artwork in front of me, I’m especially taken with the way that the physical texture of the orange paint that Graham has mopped and dragged across the grain of the paper echoes the virtual black-and-white texture visible most clearly in the skin of the models inside the silhouettes. Lovely!

Art Collection · Comics · Ebay Win · Here, Read · Illustration Art · Look Here · Mell Lazarus

Look Here, Read: An original MISS PEACH Sunday strip by Mell

In our collection of original comic-strip art, my wife and I already have several Miss Peach dailies by Mell Lazarus (see here, here, and here), but my personal grail has long been a Sunday strip from the 1960s, when Mell’s drawings of his cartoon kids were at their most expressive and his wit was always razor sharp. Well, my quest is finally complete! Because yesterday I won an ebay auction for a big, beautiful original Miss Peach Sunday strip dated 12-2-1962 with a great gag featuring Francine and Arthur. (And at a good price, which is important, because our budget for original art is currently stretched to the max!) I don’t have the artwork in hand yet, but here’s the image from the ebay auction, and though it looks pieced together from smaller scans, it is probably as good as or better than anything I could possibly produce with our little scanner/printer:


The strip is a whopping 24 inches wide by 18 1/2 inches high, and it comes with a tissue paper overlay roughly festooned with Mell’s crayon colour notes, intended as a guide for the printer:

And you know what? At this moment I feel like I never need to buy another Miss Peach original. I have what I wanted. I’m happy. And I’m done.


Art Collection · Collage Art · Connections · Fine Art · Illustration Art · Matt Kish

“…the sight of many unclad, lovely island creatures, round the Horn…”

Always on the online lookout for interesting but reasonably priced original art to add to our art collection and contemplate on our walls, I recently stumbled upon the etsy shop of self-taught artist Matt Kish, and noticed a handmade collage that seemed to be calling my name:


The collage is one of a series of works inspired by Herman Melville’s Moby Dick that Kish produced from August 2009 to January 2011. The task Kish set for himself in the summer of 2009 was to produce one illustration for every page of the Signet Classic edition of Melville’s novel — 552 pages, 552 illustrations — and to share each one online as it was completed. Kish worked at the punishing rate of one illustration per day, and when he was done, all of the pages were assembled into a lavish slip-cased hardcover book, Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page, published by Tin House Books in late 2011.

“The artist has to be something like a whale swimming with his mouth wide open, absorbing everything until he has what he really needs.”
Romare Bearden

A seminal inspiration for Moby-Dick in Pictures was “Zak Smith’s Illustrations for Each Page of Gravity’s Rainbow” (2006). Casting around in the summer of 2009 for a project to focus his creative energies, Kish was greatly inspired by the fact that Smith began illustrating Thomas Pynchon’s acclaimed novel as a personal project, without any plans for publication or much else beyond a quixotic desire to test his limits by challenging himself to run a crazy creative marathon from start to finish. It took Smith nine months of obsessive work — he produced at least three pictures a day, most days, and oftentimes more — but when he was done, he had about 760 images in hand, and online, and was ready to make the most of the public attention his visual aubade to Pynchon’s masterpiece had begun to attract. And lo, less than a year later, it came to pass that all of the artwork Smith had produced was exhibited, as a group, at the Whitney Museum’s 2004 Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary Art and about a year and a half after that, the images were assembled into a fat art book entitled Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbow. And what’s more, the entire series was purchased by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and currently resides in the Center’s permanent collection. But whereas Smith had attended art school and was already a working artist before he began his series, Kish was actually a librarian by vocation and an artist only by avocation — which is to say, he had a day job! So naturally, when he began his project to illustrate each page of Moby Dick, working at odd hours in the cramped confines of his closet studio, Kish hardly even dared to dream that eventually he and Smith would share the same publisher!

“I have never considered myself an artist. My undergraduate degree is in secondary education with a focus on English, and my master’s degree, earned over a decade later, is in library and information science. I have no MFA, or even a BFA, to bolster my credibility or lend authenticity to any ‘artist’s statements’ I might hope to one day display on a placard pasted to a wall next to where one of my illustrations hangs. And yet, in spite of this, I have been making pictures for my entire life.”
Matt Kish, “About this project, #1”

Completed on 13 November 2009, the collage from Moby-Dick in Pictures that my wife and I now own is the illustration for page 72 of the novel and is entitled “… the sight of many unclad, lovely island creatures, round the Horn….” The full paragraph of which the title is an excerpt reads as follows:

Like Captain Peleg, Captain Bildad was a well-to-do, retired whaleman. But unlike Captain Peleg — who cared not a rush for what are called serious things, and indeed deemed those selfsame serious things the veriest of all trifles — Captain Bildad had not only been originally educated according to the strictest sect of Nantucket Quakerism, but all his subsequent ocean life, and the sight of many unclad, lovely island creatures, round the Horn [emphasis added] — all that had not moved this native born Quaker one single jot, had not so much as altered one angle of his vest. Still, for all this immutableness, was there some lack of common consistency about worthy Captain Bildad. Though refusing, from conscientious scruples, to bear arms against land invaders, yet himself had illimitably invaded the Atlantic and Pacific; and though a sworn foe to human bloodshed, yet had he in his straight-bodied coat, spilled tuns upon tuns of leviathan gore. How now in the contemplative evening of his days, the pious Bildad reconciled these things in the reminiscence, I do not know; but it did not seem to concern him much, and very probably he had long since come to the sage and sensible conclusion that a man’s religion is one thing, and this practical world quite another. This world pays dividends. Rising from a little cabin-boy in short clothes of the drabbest drab, to a harpooneer in a broad shad-bellied waistcoat; from that becoming boat-header, chief-mate, and captain, and finally a ship owner; Bildad, as I hinted before, had concluded his adventurous career by wholly retiring from active life at the goodly age of sixty, and dedicating his remaining days to the quiet receiving of his well-earned income. [Herman Melville, Moby Dick (Signet Classics, 1998), p. 72.]

(The irony has not escaped me that, while Captain Bildad could effortlessly resist “the sight of many unclad, lovely island creatures, round the Horn,” I could not resist the mere image of one unclad, lovely island creature, posted online — although I would argue that there’s much more to Matt’s collage than that! But to offer further justification for my purchase would be to protest too much, right? Just you wait and see!)

The collage is 8.5 inches wide by 10.75 inches high, and the materials are listed on Kish’s website as “acrylic paint and collage on chip board.” Truth be told, I was initially confused by the term “chip board,” which here in Canada is used to refer to a type of engineered wood product that was developed years ago as a relatively inexpensive alternative to plywood. Which is to say, when I bought the collage, I actually thought it would arrive glued down to a piece of wood, but no, it turns out that chip board is simply an American term for a type of paperboard generally made from reclaimed paper stock. I’m not sure what the Canadian term is for American “chip board,” but…

… be that as it may, the day after I purchased Kish’s collage, I happened to find myself at the local Value Village, thumbing through the old record albums, of which there were many on display that day, when I noticed the following album, which I purchased post-haste so that I could scan the cover and share it with you, right here, right now:


Of course, the similarity of the above album cover for Hawaii by “Johnny Pineapple and his Islanders” to Matt Kish’s collage is pure concidence, but the elements are all there — the intense blue background, the leaning/swaying palm trees, the naked woman, the strategically placed palm fronds — all, that is, except for the triangular symbolic mask (or surface pattern, if you prefer, or target… perhaps it’s an elaborate reticle in the eyepiece of a sighting device used by one of the sailors) that Kish has painted over the face and chest of the woman in his version of the scene (not to mention the angel/devil wing that juts from her back, somewhere behind her right shoulder). The album cover is mundane, an okay photograph of what is obviously a studio set-up of a subject intended to catch your eye in the record bin and let you know instantly that THIS is an LP of “Hawaiian” music, and nothing more. The collage, however, is something more, and it is the mask/pattern/target/reticle, combined with the collage technique itself, which possesses an intrinsic disruptive power, that makes it something more: something more provocative, something more mysterious, something more poetic.

And then — this post seems to be all about connections — a few weeks later, I happened to be browsing through an online gallery of collages by Jeffrey Meyer, when I noticed an image that I immediately thought would be the perfect companion for Matt Kish’s piece:


For obvious reasons — at least, I think they’re obvious… opposites attract… for every yin, a yang — I really wanted to see Jeffrey Meyer‘s Fly in the Primordial Soup hanging on the wall in our home alongside Matt Kish’s “…the sight of many unclad, lovely island creatures, round the Horn….” But alas and alack, ’twas not to be. The collage had been sold. I was out of luck.

Well, not quite out of luck, because I have since made arrangements to buy three other collages from Jeffrey, and I have to say, even though I don’t have them in hand yet, I’m already having a lot of fun imagining how they will look, properly framed and sensitively displayed, as an informal triptych, in various sequences, in various locations, in our house. And yet I also feel confident that their incandescent reality will, in the fullness of time, effortlessly outshine my foolish flickering daydreams.

But that’s a show-and-tell for another day.


Since damn near every collage artist owes a debt to Max Ernst, here are a couple of (non-randomly selected) collages by the great man himself:

You will find the above images and more if you click this link and this one.

“Again, of all the things that come to us by nature we first acquire the potentiality and later exhibit the activity (this is plain in the case of the senses; for it was not by often seeing or often hearing that we got these senses, but on the contrary we had them before we used them, and did not come to have them by using them); but the virtues we get by first exercising them, as also happens in the case of the arts as well. For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them, e.g. men become builders by building and lyreplayers by playing the lyre; so too we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.”
Aristotle, Chapter I, Book II, The Nicomachean Ethics

And finally, here’s another collage by Jeffrey Meyer, whose work Kish has repeatedly praised on his blog, and whose advice was invaluable to Kish when he began to create his own collages; this one’s entitled Assassination (9 x 12 in.):

Art Collection · Comics · Ebay Win · Here, Read · Mell Lazarus

Look Here: More original art by Mell Lazarus

From our curious collection of comic art, old and new, here are a pair of scans of the original art for two comic strips by Mell Lazarus, “Miss Peach” and “Momma”; both strips are dated 8-24-2001, and both have been personalized by the artist with a greeting and signature in red marking pen:


If you are a fan of Mell Lazarus’s work, but have never seen his originals in person, you might be interested to know that the strips from 2001 are drawn on lightweight sheets of paper trimmed to a mere 11 inches wide by 4.25 inches high while the strips from 1958 and 1961 are on much heavier sheets that are a whopping 18.5 by 6.06 inches!

If you take a close look at the scans of original “Miss Peach” art from 1958 that I posted previously, you’ll see that Mell used pre-printed templates for his strips right from the beginning of his career as a syndicated cartoonist — and that he was frugal enough not to throw out old template sheets if they could be edited with a bit of tape and a few small paste-ups to reflect ongoing changes in the layout of the title, author credit, and so on.

Likewise, if you click to enlarge the scans posted above, you’ll find that both strips — which Mell drew some forty-four years after “Miss Peach” debuted in 1957 — are drawn on pre-printed templates that include the name of the strip and the author’s name, the syndicate name and Web address, the author’s copyright notice, an empty box in proportion to the size of the finished art, and underlined spaces — unused — for the specification of “% BLACK” and “LINES PER INCH.”

My guess is that Mell moved to the smaller size and lighter weight paper in part because he appreciated the convenience of being able to create custom templates for his strips that he could edit at any time and output on a standard home printer and in part because, at some point, as the Internet revolution took hold, he needed to be able to scan his artwork himself — “in house,” as it were — for electronic submission to his syndicate.

At some point, Mell also ditched his dip pen and bottles of ink and began drawing with a fine-point, fiber-tipped pen or “fineliner,” e.g., a Pilot, a Micron, or some such. The 2001 originals were drawn with a fiber-tipped pen, and though I like them well enough, I have to say, if you want to add a daily or two by Mell Lazarus to your comic-art collection, you definitely will want to get hold of one of the large “Miss Peach” originals from back in the day. The drawings are confident, amusing, and expressive — fiber-tipped “archival” fineliners may be convenient and easy to control, but paired with the right kind of paper, dip-pen nibs make beautiful lines — and the gags are often laugh-out-loud funny. And if by chance you find yourself the proud owner of a “Miss Peach” Sunday strip from the 1960s (see below), you definitely will be the envy of at least one other comic-art collector: me!

As you can see here and here, Mell initially drew his daily strips — “Miss Peach” started out this way — as wide single-panel cartoons, and he clearly understood how to parcel out the characters and the dialogue to make that format work. But he was not rigidly committed to the single-panel ideal. Rather, he never hesitated to make changes to his template to allow for more precise control of the timing of his gags. In the “Miss Peach” strip posted above, for instance, Mell has divided the large pre-printed panel in two with a single inked line, thereby establishing a strong pause between the wordy setup and the one-word punchline. And in the “Momma” strip, he has gone much farther, briskly brushing whiteout over sections of the pre-printed lines to open up the second panel right the way along the bottom and at the corners of the word balloon along the top and taking a moment to establish a gutter/pause between the third and fourth panels with two hand-drawn lines and a couple of touches of whiteout. Because even though his cartoon style is simple, and has been the subject of ridicule by some, Mell has always taken seriously the craft of writing dialogue and staging interactions that make people laugh.

Mell Lazarus retired his “Miss Peach” strip in 2002, but he has continued to draw “Momma” right up to the present day. He will celebrate his 85th birthday on 03 May 2012.


Just for fun, here are the first five pages of “Miss Peach” strips reprinted in the paperback collection, Miss Peach of the Kelly School (New York: Tempo Books, 1972):