1975: Dinner at The Miller’s

One of the first lessons I learned in life is that nothing’s as bad or good as anticipated, that in life there can be quite a gap between the ideal and reality. Nowhere was that deduction more valid that it was in missionary service. As I started my two-year bicycle penance I imagined that my service would include:

  • Working in tandem with equally motivated companions
  • Spending the bulk of my time teaching truly inquisitive individuals
  • Fitting into each community as a recognized and accepted member of the clergy

Reality was somewhat different as the work routinely involved:

  • Struggling to motivate culturally backward companions on their first experience away from the Intermountain West.
  • Spending many, many more hours knocking on doors than teaching people
  • Surviving the social food chain, spending an inordinate time avoiding dogs while knocking on the aforementioned doors.

It was one-third of the way through my mission that I learned another great life lesson:  Any form of illness seems infinitely more serious when you’re three thousand miles away from the family doctor. Such was the case when I contracted the Port Chalmers strain of the flu shortly after I transferred to Skowhegan, Maine early in the winter of 1975. Getting sick right after the transfer was very disorienting as the move to Maine had been most welcome – after eight months in Lynn, Massachusetts life in an urban area had worn thin and I was eagerly anticipating both a change of scenery and an opportunity to recharge my spiritual batteries while turning a new leaf in my service.

I had actually anticipated this new area as I already knew a little bit about Skowhegan after dating a young lady from the area while I was enrolled at Ricks College six months before starting my mission. I was also delighted with Skowhegan’s more northerly location and abundance of trees and snow which made the area feel like my home in Alaska, a similarity that extended even to the floorplan of the local meetinghouse (identical to the one back home) and the rustic nature of the service projects the congregation engaged in. For example each Saturday morning we would cut and haul firewood for less fortunate members and it was during one of those charitable expeditions that I became aware of the family doctor life lesson referenced above.

The day had started nicely enough as we chopped and hauled away, but when I developed a queasy stomach and slight temperature my companion and I headed for home long before our normal 12:00 noon quitting time. By evening my temperature had soared to 102° and I was making regular trips to our bathroom to engage in what is alternately referred to as

  • Barfing
  • Doing the Technicolor yawn
  • Worshiping at the porcelain altar.

I threw up so many times that at one point I began wondering if I needed to check for a lung or some other organ coming up with everything else. Unfortunately, the projectiles kept projecting until early Monday morning when my misery eased for approximately thirty minutes as my body changed gears (and orifice) and I began to deal with:

  • Montezuma’s revenge
  • Rocky Mountain quickstep
  • Trouser chili

The misery went on for another four days, my only respite coming about early Wednesday evening when I collapsed on the hallway floor, dehydrated from the non-stop hurling. Fortunately as the week progressed the intensity of my visits to the bathroom began to ease off and by the following Saturday it looked as though we’d be able to honor a dinner invitation extended to us by the Miller family, stalwart members of the local congregation and parents of the aforementioned young lady I had known at college the year before. Ever the trencherman, my companion was relentless in his insistence to make it to that dinner appointment no matter my condition, but even before the illness I had been hesitant as their daughter had expected more out of the relationship than I, and ended up with bruised feelings…so I wasn’t sure what kind of reception I’d get in their house.

(The fact that their other child would be at dinner and happened be one of the toughest highway patrolmen the state of Maine had on its roster may have been a factor in that reluctance as well.)

As the day progressed the tummy rumbles lessened but did not cease, so ever the erstwhile ROTC cadet I carefully planned the quickest route through town on our area street map. Skowhegan straddles the Kennebec River at a point where several highways merge to cross the waterway by way of a set of bridges connecting mid-stream Skowhegan Island to each river bank. In addition to those road bridges there are two foot bridges, one a former railroad bridge in the center of town and another connecting the Island with the southern bank at a location some distance to the west of the automotive bridge. To reach the Miller’s home we would be walking from our apartment on the northern side of town to the first island bridge, then after crossing we’d veer to the right to the footbridge which conveniently connected to the southern shore not more than 100 yards from the Miller’s home.

I figured it would take us no more than a half hour (45 minutes at the most) but as we started walking a sobering thought came to mind, no doubt jostled loose from my memory by the military aspect of my pre-walk map reconnaissance. It was a quote from the 19th century Prussian strategist Moltke who opined that “No plan of battle ever survived contact with the enemy”. Having been holed up in our apartment for the week neither one of us had a sense for what the weather had been like so we were both surprised when instead of negotiating either freshly plowed or snow-free we would be trudging through sloppy slush that could easily double our walking time.

Unfortunately, dwindling finances required a trip to the post office in the hope that a check from my dad had arrived, a detour to the east that added a further fifteen minutes to our journey, however true anxiety didn’t set in until we slushed off from the post office and  I felt the dreaded URK! in my lower tract that I had hoped to avoid, so we picked up the pace only to be stopped by our district leader just as we reached the first bridge. He and his companion were on their way home after spending the day at a leadership meeting in Augusta and in his zeal to avoid spending seventy-five cents on a toll-call later that evening he took the opportunity to briefly pass on an important change in our weekly reports (something about ink color), “brief” being defined as “forty-five minutes.” When they finally drove off to the east it was colder, darker and I’d already been through three butt-clenching URKs! while we’d been standing shivering in the snow, and as we stepped out smartly across the first bridge the rumbles continued.

Midspan I knew I wasn’t going to make it as the URKs increased in both intensity and frequency. For an instant I thought about turning around but I didn’t know of any bathrooms available before we got home.  Prospects for immediate relief were bleak at best as the few structures on the island consisted of a volunteer fire station, a small park, and church with an attached residence, all of which were closed and dark save for a single light burning above the fire station’s front door. With no other comfort in sight I veered toward the station but as I turned toward it there came an ominous double URK! from my midsection that my companion could hear ten feet away.

I knew I was doomed.

In a panic I turned towards the clergy house set to the side of the church and tried to trot as quickly as I could with my fourth-point-of-contact tightly clenched. Not a light was burning in the place but as I slowly bounced closer I could see that the basement garage door was ajar so I adjusted my trajectory accordingly.

 What followed as I reached the garage door happened in split-second increments:

  • I stepped through the door into the dark basement
  • Located a stack of firewood against the wall
  • Concluded that stack of wood was a reasonable substitute for an outhouse seat
  • Launched myself towards the nearest stack
  • Reached for my belt buckle

….at which point my luck (and sphincter control) ran out.

For the next week arguments ensued in town: Had there been a sonic boom from a low-flying jet or had there been an explosion in one of the mills?  I was just very thankful that no one had been home in the house above my improvised rest stop and that it was both cold and dark as we walked back to our apartment. During the entire trip my companion never ventured closer than ten yards to me and when we did get home I went straight to the bathroom, stopping only to ditch my wallet and shoes before stepping straight into the shower fully-clothed.

The aftermath

Since the seventies, polyester (“double knit”) clothing has endured no small amount of criticism for the use of colors not found in nature and for having all the breathability of Saran Wrap. People forget the fabric’s ability to hold a crease forever, to resist wrinkles and (in this case) repel stains while cleaning up with soap and water. As nasty as I looked (and smelled) that night I was able to wear that same suit the following week with no ill effects…or odor.

Never long on empathy my companion grumbled about the meal we’d missed during the long walk home and continued to snivel until the Millers appeared at our doorstep with covered dishes holding our dinner. When I called later to thank Sister Miller we had a pleasant conversation that put to rest the worries I’d had about the abortive romance with her daughter the year before. I also learned from an article in the newspaper she’d used to cover our dinner that my case of the flu had probably run its course and I needn’t worry about a recurrence of symptoms.

Nevertheless at my first opportunity I sat down again with a street map and marked the location of every public restroom within city limits

,

Fireball Junior Re-work

2020-05-01 Fireball Junior Rework

While wading my way though my XL5 reboot it has come to me that with all the attention Fireball Junior gets during the series would need it a separate drawing, especially when the nose area in the main ship rendering didn’t work out as well as wanted. If you’ll check the drawing on my XL5 reboot page you’ll see that I went for NASA-style inset windows much like those on the Space:1999 Eagles but at length I’ve concluded that they would give a claustrophobic feel to  the control cabin,

…so I compromised between the old and the new, using a bug-like look similar to that on the Navy’s A-6 Intruder

Batgirl…finally

2019-12-00 Batgirl Prelim

SHE’S DONE!

…well, mostly done. There’s a needed touch-up here and there and the photography leaves a  bit to be desired in terms of cropping and focus, but the main goal has been achieved before 2019 ran out.

I finished “Forlorn Hope” 2.0

Close to a decade ago I put together a cut-paper sculpt very similar to this one in terms of subject matter, but that earliet work  was always lacking somehow. That aesthetic shortfall  was grist for more than one blog post so about a year ago I decided to do some editing…which turned into close to a complete rework – the project that wouldn’t die – and when I took my tumble down the stairs which in turn led to me flat on my back with serious knee problems I thought I’d never, ever get done.

But somehow I did, and getting it done has given me confidence – and hope that I’m not quite ready for life in a rocking chair yet.

2019: Creative Volleyball

While all three of my children have a good measure of creative talent none of them chose to enter a creative field, a decision brought about by a lifetime of watching the hoops I had to continually jump through to collect on invoices. I can’t blame them as I’ve had similar sentiments, often wishing I’d stayed in the army for thirty or even stayed on a roustabout at Swanson River.

However, there are times when I’d liked to have seen one of my kids carry on the tradition.…which it makes me all that happier when I see one of my grandchildren pick up a pencil or start smashing clay around. All seven of them “make stuff” to some extent but Conrad’s middle son Henry shows the strongest creative inclination, and while I’ve sent drawings via post cards to all the kids Henry gets special treatment.

Henry's Lord of The Moon

Most recently he sent us a drawing of “The Lord of the Moon” and I felt compelled to respond in kind. I don’t know much about “The King of the Moon” but I have read couple of graphic novels about Marvel’s Batman-clone Moon Knight, so I came with a MK drawing to match Henry’s “Moon Lord”. I will be sending a couple copies to him this coming week to include a finished version colored with Prismacolor designers’ markers as well as a couple of plain B&W copies that Henry can color himself.

2019-11-01 Henry's Moon Knight

I may be a day’s drive away from most of my grandkids but I still try to be part of their lives.

Kickstarter Update 7: Superhero Support!

It looks like pledges have leveled off a bit but that’s to be expected at this point in time. We’re not quite halfway through the campaign and I know several people (most of them family members!) that still intend on making pledges so there are still good things to come.

You may have noticed that whenever the dollar amount reaches an odd number it will shortly round up to the next five-increment (as in 122 mysteriously becoming 125). Well, I’m here to tell you that we have a superhero in our midst, a would-be X-man named 5ive whose mutant power it to transform numerical totals to the afore-mentioned five-increment. He’s registered under his secret identity’s name but out of respect for his privacy I’m using his code-name.

…and I’m also sharing an image of him out of my sketch-book.

Thanks again for your support. If you haven’t done so already please share the Midnight Son link with your friends and family.

Best wishes,

d –

5ive

An Indirect Route to Cartoons-ville

Conventions were never a big money-maker for us. When we’d go to cons as a family ini the 1990s we’d run a table in the dealers room in addition to hanging work in the art show – and between the two we would normally cover at least our expenses – and sometimes more. One notable exception was DRAGONCON 1993 when we went $500 in the hole even though I swept the art show in three-dimensional work.  However in spite that loss I was glad we went to the con because it was there I got to meet Duck Edwing.

Edwing worked for MAD magazine for 49 years, contributing his own cartoons as well as writing for Don Martin and Paul J. Coker. I loved his work and was fortunate enough to spend thirty minutes talking to him in the dealer’s room, but when we traded portfolios he got a little edgy when I started gushing over his work – I suspect that after seeing my polished cover illustrations Duck may have thought I was being condescending and it took most of that half-hour to convince him that I was sincere – I loved his cartoons because it was something I could not do.

Yes, you read correctly – I am not very good at cartoons. While it is true that the graphic nature of my work can often resemble a cartoonists’ style there is something about the economy of line and conceptual precision that I’ve never been able to master and I usually end up overworking any such attempt, but last week I decided to try again – not with cartoons per se, but with a cartoon style I’ve found in a line of toys.

In the mid 00’s superhero merchandizing was overcome with an epidemic of cuteness. Marvel came out with a line of whimsical versions of their heroes called Superhero Squad while DC came out with a similar line of figures in a tie-in with the animated series Batman: The Brave and The Bold. That connection along with a more stylized look had me favoring the DC figures over Marvel line and I was quite pleased when Mattel continued the line under the Action League banner.

A non-functioning knee has in effect exiled from my second-story studio for almost a month now so my creative work has been limited to drawing tools and designer’s markers. I was putting the finishing touches on a postcard for my granddaughter Heron when I happened to glance at one of the aforementioned DC figures sitting on a shelf next to my Big Papa Chair.

BINGO!

I ended up drawing three figures – and while I used existing figures for reference I drew characters that have NOT been manufactured as part of the toy line:

  • Adam Strange
  • Blackhawk
  • Blue Beetle

In each case I went “retro”: Adam Strange is wearing his original Murphy Anderson designed rocket suit, Blackhawk is wear the short-lived mid-60s red-jacketed uniform and Blue Beetle is my favorite Ted Kord incarnation…which I’ve subsequently discovered had actually been created but never actually released as a part of the Action League series. I don’t know if anything will ever come of these drawings, but it was a good exercise in developing a more stylized “cartoony” look without getting too cutesy.

2019-09-02 DC Action League 1

1972:Vintage Bat-Vehicles

1970sBatStuff0003

I read once that time is something God created to keep everything from happening at once but right now that invention doesn’t seem to be working. Everything IS happening at once, at least several items of great impact on my life. Right as we’re trying to get the Midnight Son Kickstarter campaign set up my knee has gone out – and not in a minor manner. Lori thinks I have a torn meniscus but all I know is that even the most minor movement to my knee brings on excruciating pain.

…which means I haven’t been able to finish the tongue-in-cheek write-up meant to accompany this “vintage” drawing that  incidentally documents two important discoveries/purchases  I made in 1972:

  1. A hard-bound reprint collection of Batman stories from debut in 1939 to 1971
  2. A set of Higgins ink comprised of ten colors and opaque white

I’d just finished my first year of college and while I was intent on changing my major to art I had yet to take a college art class – or any other kind of art class for that matter. I was just having the time of my life drawing  my favorite images, which in this case included 1940’s era Bat Vehicles

Nova Corps Uniforms

2019-07-01 Nova Corp Taylor

I first met Lance Nelson – albeit in passing  – at an LDS youth conference held in 1968 in Anchorage Alaska. Three years later we were classmates at the University of Alaska (Fairbanks);  six years  after that we were classmates at BYU with wives bearing similar names (Laura/Lori) and soon after children of very similar ages. Lance is one of the few people that can call me Dave with any authority and has proven to be a solid friend in every way.

…which means his kids are like niece/nephew to me.  Recently his son Taylor found a wife of his own and I drew this picture of the Marvel hero NOVA for them as a wedding present. I’m not completely up to speed on either current Marvel comics or the Marvel Cinematic Universe so I worked up a version of the Nova Corps uniform from a dozen years ago.

Technical notes: Designer’s markers, colored pencils and gouache on paper mounted on presentation board. The inset graphic design motif was cut from a piece of marbleized paper I made and attached with Series 77 spray adhesive.

Let’s Hear it For Dick Sprang!

(…not exactly a Re-Run Saturday, but definitely an older creation.)

I was quite surprised the first time I encountered the melodramatic Boy Scout version Batman from the 1950’s. The creative collision came about late in 1964 in an 88 page Giant full of older stories that were quite a bit different from the tightly written, masterfully penciled New Age Batman and Curt Swan World’s Finest stories that had first drawn my attention. I didn’t quite know how to deal with story elements such as:

  • Bat-Mite
  • Ace the Bat-Hound
  • A Batwoman and Batgirl with clutch purses and masks resembling our school librarian’s glasses
  • Whirly-Bats
  • A Batmobile resembling an inverted goldfish bowl on wheels.

Camp elements just got “campier” with the 1966 Batman TV series and I found myself slowly easing over into the Marvel and Charlton circles until some of the Dark Avenger flavor started to return with superstar penciller Neal Adams.

Years later I find myself not quite so critical – as I get older and the world gets more and more chaotic I find myself more accepting of the pure escapism found in those Bat-titles from fifty or sixty years ago. I like the idea of a world where an middle-aged of debatable athletic ability can don a set of mauve leotards and instantly become a vigilante hero. As my protesting knees and back plot to  confine me to a sitting position I become more and more accepting of a world where no one ever gets hurt very badly during fights and the good guys always win.

I also look back at the creators with more respect. Contractually the name of series creator Bob Kane figured prominently on all the covers, but I soon figured out that the best work came from associate Dick Sprang. Sprang’s “perfect storm’ of creativity combined strong design skills, wicked caricature and a compelling sense of narrative that put him head and shoulders about all the other members of Kane’s artistic stable. I particularly enjoyed the facial expressions he drew and literally triggered a “charley horse” in my cheek when trying to match the gloat of one of his penciled villains.

Below are two figures taken from my 2012 sketchbook, figures drawn after the manner of Dick Sprang a gesture of creative respect. I came up with the basic concept while getting stuck at a red-light (my best ideas seem to always happen at traffic lights or bathtubs) and somehow came up with a plot thread about time-travel back to the Napoleonic era.

SprangBatSoldiers

… one step further along

As I wrote last winter I’ve never been happy with the Batgirl cut-paper sculpt that I put together five or six years ago so it should be no surprise that I am up to my elbows making a new version, based on the original sketch. As I was taking pictures my Beautiful Saxon Princess suggested that I make a video presentation about my technique…and I think it’s a good idea. I’m in the “baby-steps” stage of planning right now,  still researching video production and funding options like Patreon but it may be that this is the direction my teaching career will take now that I am no longer in the classroom.

…but for now I will share a snap of the work in progress, which starts with a drawing that I cut up to use for templates when making the individual parts.
CPSProcess1