Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Rex Day Two

My second installment of  Rex Morgan hits the newspapers today -- and is already up at the Comics Kingdom site (18 comments by half past Midnight -- most of them snarky and insulting -- what a surprise!) Anyhow -- since it's the first week, I figured I'd continue to share the comparison of the color and gray toned versions. Again, the color isn't my work -- but the tones are.  

As for the snarky comments -- I don't take them seriously -- no more so than I would a heckler at a comedy show. I just think it's sad that some folks clearly have nothing better to do than wait for new strips to be posted so they can see who can be the first to make the nastiest comment. I just think it'd be nice if people who actually liked the strips would post more....

And this isn't just about me being the new guy on the strip, so I don't take it personally. Comments have been nasty on this and most other strips for some time now. So ignore the rude comments from the Peanut Gallery and enjoy the huge archive of strips available at the site -- and please, check in and see what I'm doing on Rex and The Phantom once in a while. Okay? Thanks!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Rex Morgan M.D. -- First Day

Today is the first day of what I hope will be a long run of me drawing the REX MORGAN M.D. comic strip. Shown here are two versions of my first daily. The color version comes from the Comics Kingdom website, where you can read this (and many other strips) every day for free. The color is done by someone hired by King Features, and I have little to do with it, other than offering a note or two (as in "Night scene!") A good many papers run daily strips in color now, and this is the version they'll get.

But some papers still go the traditional black and white route, so there is an alternate version with gray tones added. Later in the week, I'll show a few more of these. The tones are done digitally in Manga Studio -- and as a guy who used to cut a lot of zip-a-tone, it's a treat to be able to just use the "magic marker," and draw those areas in with a few swipes of the stylus.
I'm coloring the Sunday page myself, as I do on The Phantom -- and will share the first Sunday here as well -- but that won't be this coming Sunday, as there is still one Graham Nolan-drawn Sunday page in the mix. Beyond that, I'll likely only share a few selected strips, as the Comics Kingdom site is now free and has strips archived going back a decade. If you wish to follow the strip, and it's not in your local paper, Comics Kingdom is the place to go. I most likely will drop my regular Phantom posts as well, again, since the site has easy access to the strips now. You can pay a small fee, if you'd like, to have your favorite strips emailed to you each morning -- a service I use and like. And it's not just current strips, but many vintage ones as well. I subscribe to DeBeck's Barney Google, Crane's Buz Sawyer, Drake's Juliet Jones, as well as vintage runs of Phantom, Mandrake and Flash Gordon.

It's unfortunate that so many hecklers/trolls have found their way to the site, and fill the comments with snarky rude remarks. I'd be thrilled if some of you reading this would go post something positive -- or at least civil, regarding the strip. And vote "down" on the rude comments.

As is, this is a very ephemeral thing -- two simple panels -- not much going on -- and just meant to get you to come back tomorrow. Likely to never be reprinted (there have only been a handful of Rex comic books -- and no book collections I'm aware of) -- you read it and move along....

Monday, December 23, 2013

See you in the funny pages!

King Features asked me to hold off on announcing this news until a week from the first strip appearing, but now that we're there, I can share what I've been hinting at on my Facebook page for over a month -- as of Dec. 30, I'll be taking over the art chores on the long-running continuity strip, Rex Morgan M.D. 

Graham Nolan, who began drawing the strip in 2000, has decided to move on, and King Features offered me the gig. I accepted, making me the second artist to concurrently draw The Phantom Sunday strip and the daily/Sunday Rex Morgan feature (Graham being the first, of course).

The strip began in 1948, written by Nick Dallis and drawn by the team of Marvin Bradley (figures) and Frank Edgington (backgrounds). When Dallis retired in 1990, Woody Wilson took over the writing and continues scripting the strip today. Other artists who have drawn Rex include Frank Springer, Fred DaSilva, Tony DiPreta and (uncredited) Fran Matera, Alex Kotzky and Andre Le Blanc.  That's quite a line-up, and I'm pleased to be included in such heady company.

This may come as a surprise to fans of my comic books, who'd expect me to be doing something more along the lines of previous work -- crime, detective, super-hero, horror, etc.  And while I certainly love working in those genres, I'm enjoying spending a good chunk of my work week drawing ordinary people in ordinary situations -- concentrating on the character "acting," and making the drawing seem realistic and natural. And of course, I'm continuing to draw the Sunday Phantom strips, so I get a good share of masked hero adventure, still. This now makes me a full-time newspaper strip cartoonist -- something I've wanted since I was a kid, reading the "funnies" every day -- one of those being Rex, which ran in my hometown paper.

I'm actually creating two versions of the daily strips. One strictly in line, for the web, and papers that print them in color (King is coloring the daily strips while I color the Sunday) -- but I'm also doing a gray toned version for papers that are sticking to the traditional black and white dailies. I'll share some of those toned strips here, once they run in the papers. Original art collectors will be sorry to hear I'm doing the strip entirely digitally (in Manga Studio) -- so there will be no physical originals for my Rex strips. It's the only way I can keep up with the schedule -- and I suspect there would not be as much of a market for Rex Morgan original art, as there is for my Phantom pages -- which I will continue to create with actual ink on actual paper! Manga Studio makes adding the gray tones incredibly easy -- no more cutting "Zip" -- a real pain to do by hand.

As a seven days a week feature, I won't be showing them all here -- but you can follow the Rex Morgan strip at the new Comics Kingdom website -- which is now ad supported and free for readers to browse. You can read The Phantom there as well, and it's possible I may stop showing all those strips here as well, since they will be regularly available at Comics Kingdom -- and you can even search back through strips as far as a decade ago. My first Rex daily will appear Dec. 30 (my wife's birthday) -- with my first Sunday on Jan. 12 (the day after my birthday!).

I'l have more to say about Rex Morgan later -- but for now, I need to get to work drawing the strip! See you in the funny pages!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A fond farewell....

The Phantom/Mandrake crossover comes to a conclusion. Next week -- a new adventure!

When I requested that we team up these two classic Lee Falk King Features heroes -- who'd never had an extended adventure together in the Phantom strip (they had done so in the final Mandrake Sunday continuity some years back) -- I had no idea the daily Mandrake strip would cease new production as our tale was seeing print. Fred Fredericks, who had drawn the Mandrake feature for 46 years(!) decided it was time to step down -- leaving the Phantom team to produce what may be the magician's swan song in the Sunday comic section.

I know King has plans for Mandrake -- but at the moment they don't seem to involve new strips for print -- so this is a farewell of sorts to Falk's Mandrake and Narda -- gesturing hypnotically on the comics page since 1934. Well, at least they're on vacation....

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

More Mandrake/Phantom

The Mandrake/Phantom adventure winds down. One more week to go!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cognitive Dissonance and the Turtlekid -- the shocking truth!

I've long been interested in hoaxes, scams, cons, etc.  I find them fascinating, and am always surprised at how many people are willing to fall for them, even when warned by those in the know. Some people want to believe what they believe, even when hard evidence to the contrary is right under their noses.

Recently, a friend sent me a link to this video -- go have a look at it if you'd like. It features a charming young fellow named Zach, age 3, finger painting a surprisingly good picture of one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (we'll refer to that franchise as TMNT from now on to save wear and tear on my fingers and my keyboard). Up front, we're shown a few other adult-quality finger paintings as well, all credited to cute little Zach.

Did you go watch?  Did you buy it? If you did, you shouldn't have -- and I'll walk you through why.

Zach starts finger painting here -- dipping his fingers in the paint, and making a few marks.

He continues. Note the position of his hand -- forefinger extended, middle fingers curled, but knuckles up.

A few dots of paint.

A few more. Again, note the position of the hand - thumb extended, hand bent at wrist, knuckles up. No real sense of a picture yet -- just a few dots on the paper.
(Oops -- sorry about that facebook friend/message alert in the corner!)

And now the fakery begins. In a series of sped up extreme close-ups, a prop (rubber? silicone?) hand on a stick is used by an off-screen adult as a paintbrush to create all the significant elements of the painting.

Note the position of the fingers -- not at all similar to what we see in the actual shots of "Zach" (in quotes, since it's probably not even his name -- he likely being a child actor hired for the day).
No extended thumb, all fingers curled under, hand not bent at the wrist, knuckles not up -- and it NEVER changes in ANY of these extreme close up shots.

Cut to the cute kid. We can see him moving his arms -- but we don't see the paper or what's on it.

More of the same.

Hand on a stick!

More hand on a stick -- note the unchanging finger positions.

Back to the kid -- but again, we see no painting here -- just moving his arms.

The hand on a stick continues to paint. There is a website that has a still frame that claims to show the bottom of the prop hand, and a portion of the stick -- but I've been unable to freeze the specific frame. I'm not convinced it's a legit pic -- even though I am 100% convinced this is indeed a hand on a stick.

Back to Zach's pudgy little real hand dipping into the paint. He's adorable!

And more hand on a  stick!

EXTREME close up! Looking especially fake here. 

It's still going! And still never changing position.

Cut to the cute kid!

Real hand, getting more paint.

Real again -- note the angle of the hand, the position of the fingers. All fingers dipped into the paint.

And the hand on the stick is back -- still in the very same position as always! And only the forefinger seems to be applying paint.

Go hand on a stick, go!

A different angle! Still the same rigid position.

More of the same.

Almost done!

Again with the cute kid -- but we can't see the paper, can we?

Hmm... where's the picture? We see the kid -- but not the painting.

Real hand loading up on paint. The camera moves over, and...


The return of hand on a stick!  It's also the farewell shot for the phony hand. Wave goodbye, as hand on a stick has now left the building.

The cute kid!

What's this? His real hand? Yes! But look how different  the position of his fingers is from that of the hand on a stick...

And note, too, that the painting is now basically done...

And he's now just dabbling paint on a finished picture.

Can't see much here. Head's in the way.

Dabbing more paint on an already (essentially) finished image.

And now Zach holds up the painting to show it off.  Check out the reflective glossy and entirely even surface of what looks to be a laser print of the finished painting. An actual finger painting would not have that sheen -- and wouldn't reflect evenly as this does.

And here's more evidence for the "it's a fake" file.  The video originally led you to the turtlekid site -- now defunct -- which was full of home-made-looking TMNT-related videos, designed to promote and sell TMNT toys and movies and such. Note the 2006 copyright by Playmates. If this were a real video of Zach, made by his dad -- why would the TMNT toy company own it? And if 3 year old Zach was painting like this in 2006, why have we not heard anything of him since?  Where is 10 year old Zach, and why haven't we seen a whole slew of astounding paintings by this kid?

We haven't seen anything more of him, of course, because he's a fiction. The whole video is a fake -- a clever fake, but a fake, nonetheless. If you were fooled by it, that's nothing to be ashamed of -- it's fairly clever -- and film editing can make you believe you're seeing all sorts of things you're really not. Many people, for example, are convinced they see a knife slashing away at the body of Janet Leigh in the famous shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho," when there is not a single frame showing any such thing -- only one quick cut of the knife pressed against her skin.  It's all "movie magic," a combination of quick cuts, clever editing and Bernard Hermann's shrieking music adding up to making you think you're seeing something you're not.

The same effect is happening here. If you're not watching with a critical eye, and are unsophisticated regarding art and film editing techniques, well, you just saw a little kid paint a picture that should have been possible only for an adult! If you do know a little about art and film, however, you no doubt caught the many clues that should have led you to question the authenticity of the "3 year old genius." A little bit of investigation and a careful reviewing of the film ought to lead anyone to conclude that there is something fishy here.

And yet, if you read a selection of the more than 17 thousand (!) comments left on the facebook page for this video, you'll see that 90% or more of those posting are convinced they've seen something miraculous. He's gifted!  He's Picasso reincarnated! God has blessed him! Call Ellen!!! (Seriously -- there's always someone suggesting we call Ellen). And these comments are posted despite the fact that every ten or twelve posts there is someone suggesting it is fake -- or even posting a link to several places on the web where the video has been refuted.

Now this is where it gets interesting. Nearly every time someone suggests it is a fake (even with supporting proof) the response ranges from the laughable "don't be a hater" to "it's NOT fake -- I saw him do it!" to outright name calling! I was one of several people refuting this the other day and got called a bastard and a dick for my trouble! It was also suggested that I should trying painting a picture just to see how hard it is. No comment on that.

Now I'm not saying it's impossible for a child to have mysterious, unexplainable artistic talent. Let's consider the UK's Iris Grace Halmshaw -- an autistic 3 year old who paints lovely impressionistic images --  who has been filmed painting -- in an unedited standard speed long shot, showing both her and her canvas very clearly. Evidence seems to point to her being the real deal -- though her painting in the film doesn't quite have the abstract and etherial beauty of those that have been put on the market.  So some question may still exist as to whether she has any help with her work -- but at least the "proof" video plays fair, and isn't full of quick cuts, extreme close ups and sped up film.

I'm just saying that the Turtlekid video is a fake -- and the evidence is so heavily weighted in favor of that conclusion that once it's pointed out, it seems crazy to continue to insist it is real.  And yet that's what I'm seeing happen. Some people just do not want to let go of this, and admit they've been snookered. It has to be real -- it just has to be -- they saw it!

The upshot of this is that I worry about people. How gullible are most folks? This explains, I suppose why there are so many successful con men out there, and why all those emails keep coming from those deposed Nigerian princes who want to deposit a million dollars in my bank account, if only I'd send them five thousand first. 

Barnum said "there's one born every minute," and there's been a lot of money made by carnivals, mediums, psychics and salesmen due to that fact. A slick snake oil salesman can con just about anybody if his pitch and his personality are strong enough -- but why do some people want to believe in the snake oil once they've been shown, without question, that it's bogus?

Is critical thinking nearly dead? Are people just too stubborn and too embarrassed to admit they've been hoodwinked? Is cognitive dissonance such a shock to the system for some that they can't begin to consider that what they believed to be true was wrong? Does admitting you were wrong about one thing suddenly shake the foundation of all your beliefs?

Why, when being lied to, do some people want to defend the lie and attack those who are trying to show them the truth? When and why does telling the truth make you the bad guy in some people's eyes?  I suspect I'll have even more negative responses to this post from those who don't want to admit that Turtlekid is anything other than the miracle they "know" him to be. Copyright 2006 Playmates and all.

The whole thing makes me wonder about how people come to and cling to their beliefs. Makes me wonder about the veracity of eye witness accounts ("But officer, I SAW that kid paint a Ninja Turtle!") Makes me wonder if I couldn't make a whole lot more money selling swamp land and snake oil than I can as an artist. 

The whole thing makes me wonder.

UPDATE Oct 7, 2013:
Someone better at freeze framing video than I caught the frame that clearly shows the truth of the hand on a stick and posted it to the Facebook page today -- much clearer than any previous version I've seen. Thank you Alice Robins! Here's her pic. Proof!