Here are the first two pages from chapter four of the Fabulous Flocks. I hope to have its own site up soon, but I am not quite sure what I am going with it. The novel is very much in the beginning stages, but the story is quickly coming together: three chapters are now complete, and the story arc is getting some traction. As with any long term project, pacing is very important. I am also wanting very much to get this out to a wider audience than I have reached before, and ideally I would like to be paid for it. Every graphic novelist of note has established themselves with a signature work, and it is my hope that this is mine. We’ll see… I have never worked so hard or so consistently on anything before, and I remain very excited about it!
From Cartoon Brew.
If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
Walt Kelly had had a regrettable experience making The Pogo Special Birthday Special (1969) with Chuck Jones.
“How did you ever okay Chuck’s Pogo story?,” Ward Kimball asked Walt Kelly shortly after the special aired on TV. “I didn’t, for Godsake!,” Kelly cried out. “The son of a bitch changed it after our last meeting. That’s not the way I wrote it. He took all the sharpness out of it and put in that sweet, saccharine stuff that Chuck Jones always thinks is Disney, but isn’t.” Kimball, who was dining with Kelly at the Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood, pressed further. “Who okayed giving the little skunk girl a humanized face?” he asked. Kelly was so angry he couldn’t answer. His face turned red, and he bellowed to the waiter, “Bring me another bourbon!” In Kimball’s words, Kelly wanted “to kill—if not sue—Chuck.”
Shortly after that debacle, Walt Kelly took matters into his own hands and decided to personally animate his popular Pogo characters. With the help of his wife Selby Daley, he planned on creating a fully-animated half-hour special for television, with the characters expressing a strong stance on taking care of the environment. But due to his ill-health, he was able to complete only thirteen minutes of We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us, which you see below.
The finished portions are absolutely charming and beautifully crafted. Much like his character P.T. Bridgeport, Kelly is a real showman here. Although he hadn’t animated since Dumbo thirty years prior, his animation skills are still top-notch. While the animation can be a bit choppy at times (mostly keys and some breakdowns with no in-betweens), his drawings are solid and appealing with some real flourishes of fluid animation throughout.
The color, though muddy in the existing prints, also appears to be as vibrant as his Sunday pages, and the backgrounds are as intricately detailed as his splash panels, if not more so. And the voices, humorously performed by Kelly himself, fit the tone and mood of his characters.
Besides Winsor McCay, I can’t think of any other mainstream comic artist who animated their comics to such a painstaking degree. While many comic strips have been adapted for film and television before and since, none of them have met or surpassed the charm and quality of the original artist’s work. Here, the animator and the creator is one and the same, and the drawings are pure, unfiltered and straight from the artist’s hand.
About twenty years ago I was set on being the next Bill Watterson. I know, I know… but one must aim high, right? I worked for a solid year developing Raf, a semi-autobiographical strip about a teenager and his sadistic brother living with their divorced mom. Even though it was the 1990s, the idea of a divorced character was almost unknown in the conservative world of syndicated cartoon strips. I drew up thirty days’ worth of cartoons (including four laboriously hand-colored Sunday strips that had the breakaway disposable top row) and sent them in. I was rejected. I did some more and sent them in. I was rejected again, but this time by an actual editor. I did not know that this was considered encouraging… these guys got hundreds of submissions a week, and to even be read by one of the top guys was a rarity.
I figured the best thing was to try again with different characters. I has an idea of a crusty old guy, Floyd Barnes, who inherits a hotel from his hated brother. The letter reads “Dear Floyd. This place has been the death of me. Hope it does the same for you. Love, Errol.” I introduced a cast of characters including an incompetent handyman, a black character and several kooky old tenants. I had discovered my need to create complex stories. I did two months of strips and was really getting into the groove, but after my grandmother died I had many other things to do and my comics art was somewhat sidetracked for a year or so.
And then I moved to Portland. At the time, Portland had a huge amount of alternative papers, and I thought I’d like to do a Sunday-style weekly strip about a house full of twenty-somethings living in a house together. I know, I know… it sounds a lot like Friends, and it was right around that time (though slightly before it). The strip was pretty successful, but the newspapers kept folding before the strip could become established.
Unlike friends, these guys actually worked crappy jobs and made open fun of people. It was fun and set the stage for what came next.
Talking WIth Yale Cohn is a show I taped the other day with my good friend Yale. He’s done a local show for years, and I welcome any time I get a chance to talk about comics. For some reason I forget how old I am until I see myself on camera. Maybe Grecian Formula is in my future…
These past few months I have been working on a very ambitious project, a long graphic novel called The Fabulous Flocks. It’s based on the true story of three Georgia brothers who get their start as moonshiners, risking their lives driving loads of illegal homemade whiskey between rural stills and Atlanta in souped-up Fords. Their passion for cars and love of speed naturally evolves into auto racing, and it’s on the red mud tracks of Georgia and the packed sand of Daytona that the racing becomes serious. Soon, these three brothers are embroiled in intense rivalry with each other and the world at large as they strive to be the best in the world. The story is fraught with tragedy, excitement and romance as the brothers grow older and wiser in the dangerous new sport that takes America by storm.
I am loving drawing and writing this novel and am pouring my entire heart into it. I have always loved drawing the 1930s and 40s, especially the cars of that era. The novel is full color and is drawn principally in digital format, although I have done some pen and ink for it as well. The first chapter will be available for free download on its own site soon. I am averaging about a chapter a month, so I hope to be finished by the end of this year.