Thanking Your Influences, Revisited
May 2021 was a rough year for creators in the comics field. We lost three great talents in Jean Paul Leon, Patrick Dean, and Jesse Hamm. Nearly everyone in the comics community had some sort of connection to at least one of these men, all of whom left us too early. I was familiar with Patrick’s work, but only knew him through friends. I knew of Jean Paul’s work just from following various blogs and social media accounts and seeing his work grace the covers of many a DC and Marvel book. Jesse I knew through years of interaction via social media, and several times when he graciously spent time offering me advice and answering questions about art and technique. A born teacher, he touched many an artist with his humor and wisdom.
The prevailing sentiment after John Paul’s passing, and strengthened after Jesse and Patrick’s deaths was that we – as artists – need to remember to look up from our drawing table once in a while. We need to remember that while we can, we should – if not must – thank the creators that have helped us along the way in various ways. From direct help to simply providing work for us to admire, artists learn from fellow artists and creators but don’t always have the chance to say “thank you” to those who probably need to hear it most.
Comic artists, graphic artists, designers, whatever you want to call us, we are all cut from a similar cloth: essentially introverted loners who are somehow also desperate for the approval of someone, anyone, but also forced to perform for the masses (conventions, etc) to simply feed our families. It is a strange existence, and we don’t often get the returns we always need.
Those returns aren’t just the sale of a book or piece of art. Those returns are the smile on a fan’s face – especially a child’s face – when they clutch their new copy of your latest book or work. Those returns rarely come after the basic economic transactions that our work is boiled down to at conventions. Transactions that follow countless answering of the same questions, “you draw that?” or “wait, you just wrote that?” or the all-too-common reaction, “this looks great. I’ll come back later.”
These are the general interactions artists are used to, at least when we venture outside to peddle our wares. Unless, say, you’re a superstar who can afford to go by just your last name.
Most of us can’t. Most of us are stuck at our table to sell as much as we can to pay for the weekend. Just like we’re stuck at our drawing table.
May – at least for me and I think a few of my colleagues – changed that.
I’m starting this game at a disadvantage: I’m older than Kirby was when he started drawing Fantastic Four #1. I have a long way to go before I realistically get on the radar of “big” publishers. But I have been guided by folks in this hunt far longer than I have. Folks who were in the hunt before I became a retailer at the (oy) turn of the century.
With all of this in mind, I spent all of May drawing my QuickSketches as thank you cards to many of the people who have helped me along the way. I stuck with artists because they were easier to adapt for this particular format. Writers, the writers I want to thank I will have to think of another series.
But for 29 days in a row, I drew or painted postcards thanking creators from all around for their impact on my creative career. Below are carousel galleries from each week, and a few brief words about each. If you want to read the longer praises, or get links to each creators’ Instagram until I can add links to this post, please visit my Instagram page. (Were I to write what I posted there – or more – this post would be almost as long as Ulysses. But not as fun.)
Every person on this list means a great deal to me. They either have lent support (emotional or otherwise), guidance (business or personal), or advice (personal, technical, or emotional) or simply been a friend since I became a creator myself. It’s my own version of the Seven-Year Itch, I suppose.
I’m going to continue thanking people, however, every Thursday, with the hashtag “ThursdayThankYou” in which I will draw something for an artist (or writer) to thank them for their impact on my life and career. I will post these as I have been doing, on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and occasionally TikTok.
If you are an artist and have extra time on Thursdays, join along, and help me thank those people that made this be something I didn’t just want to do…but something I HAD to do.
I must admit, there is one not in this gallery that can’t be so easily thanked.
The fan. The reader. The person for whom we tell our stories. Without you, this would all be moot.
Gallery One, Artwork posted May 3-8, 2021
Francesco and his wife were the two people other than my wife to smack me upside the head and get me to start putting my work online. That led to the Crass Fed webcomic, which ultimately led to the Shakes the Cow book series. Jamie Cosley is one of the first creators I met on social media, who just happened to live in my hometown. We have become good friends and collaborators. John Gallagher has mentored me, hired me, and been a partner in crime, as well as a sounding board for many a goofy idea. I wouldn’t be this far without him. Tara O’Connor, who is an honorary Kidlet, helped me (an old fart) embrace digital art. Jamar Nicholas is an old friend whom I met thanks to Jamie, and he and I have developed a very good rapport that is so strong we consider him family. Drew Moss is another Virginia-based artist whom I met through social media, and he has helped me immensely with lots of advice from digital art to coloring.
Gallery Two, Artwork posted May 9-14, 2021
Ramona Fradon is a legend. Full Stop. Metamorpho isn’t even the most amazing thing she has ever created. Just go look her up, and be thankful she stayed with comics as long as she did. Stan Sakai is a sweetheart of a man whose Usagi Yojimbo book has been a part of my life since it began. Sakai’s short story about how he creates each Usagi story, published in Amazing Heroes Magazine in the 80s, went a long way towards introducing me to how to create my own stories. Matt Weiringo, brother of the late Mike Weiringo, created Wolf when he and Mike were younger. I have had the great fortune to become friends with Matt over the years, and I dare say his friendship means more to me than all of the artistic influence I received from Mike’s work. The Marianos – who help John Gallagher run Kids Love Comics at shows around the East Coast, have been amazing cheerleaders for me and my family since we transitioned from fans to creators. Mike Maihack was already long in the game when I entered, and we became fast fans of his Cleopatra In Space series – as did the rest of the world with the recent TV series available on Peacock. Mike is a great storyteller and his work is always infused with wonder and humor. Evan “Doc” Shaner is the heir apparent to Mike Wieringo in my opinion. The energy, joy, life, and vibrancy Mike brought to his pages, Evan does just as well. There are so many books I just won’t bother with unless I find out Evan has drawn them. The image here is from his collaboration with Nate Cosby, Buddy Cops, which I highly recommend.
Gallery Three, Artwork posted May 15-21, 2021
Scott Christian Sava, whom I met in Baltimore a decade ago, is an amazing artist and storyteller, eclipsed only by his humanity. A wonderful fellow I am lucky to call friend, Scott has helped me immeasurably as I try to learn how to paint, a much different discipline from ink and graphite drawing. Jamal Igle has a long history with DC and Marvel to his credit, but recently he has shifted to creator owned work, none more important than Molly Danger, which he created for his own daughter. Jamal is one of the few artists I almost never talk art with, because we mostly talk about our families. Jon Bogdanove is responsible for many of my favorite stories, but the best run on Superman in the modern era is the one he did with Louise Simonson, Man of Steel, in which they created Steel (John Henry Irons), the only character of color to step up as a “replacement Superman” after Clark died fighting Doomsday. Colleen Coover, who created Bandette with her husband Paul Tobin, is one of my favorite people on the planet. She is a delightful, whimsical human, and those qualities just drip from her art as well. Craig Rousseau is a delightful, thoughtful curmudgeon, as is his collaborator Todd Dezago, with whom he created Choopie and the remaining Perhapanauts. Check both out if you like fun adventures with cryptids! Thom Zahler, in addition to giving me lots of advice when I was putting together my first book, was also my very first customer! I drew his long-running characters from Love & Capes as a thank you, but as he is always there when I have a question, I will always be in his debt.
Gallery Four, Artwork posted May 22-27, 2021
Dawn Griffin is a fellow member of Kids Love Comics, and her creations Zorphbert & Fred are two aliens trapped on earth disguised as dogs and they… Just go read it, but be warned, Dawn loves puns as much if not more than I do! Walter Simonson is another legend who should need no introduction or description, or anything, other than our complete reverence. Chris Giarrusso is well known for the Mini-Marvels shorts & G-Man strips/books, but I don’t think folks realize how skilled a storyteller he truly is. His humor & linework are stellar, & any book he’s on is worth your time. Chris Samnee created JONNA w/his wife Laura for their kids. If you know anything of his work, it only takes one look at his lines to see he’s an amazing talent, and this generation’s Alex Toth. He’s also a genuinely nice guy. Claire Connelly has a truly unique and identifiable style that pulls you into her amazing and often quietly charming stories. She frequently collaborates with my friend Erica Schultz on some WILD books. Get them. (Because I couldn’t choose which of Claire’s creations to draw – one of which is just a radish…but an *awesome* radish…I drew Claire’s favorite, MODOK in her style.) Joel Carroll is a regular at Heroes, and he definitely doesn’t get the credit or awareness he should because I don’t think the fandom understands how talented he is. His work seems simple, but that is a massive deception. His work and the talent it takes to make it vibrant and enjoyable, are far more than anyone truly understands. Doodlebear is a Patron exclusive, so join his Patreon to get great art – including Doodlebear – every week!
Gallery Five, Artwork posted May 28-31, 2021
John Patrick Green is a fantastic creator who hit a grand slam with INVESTIGATORS, a series of graphic novels featuring two alligator crime (& grime?) fighters! These books are so good they almost tick me off that I didn’t think of them myself. Moonshine, is the enby hero from the currently Patreon-exclusive series Hallows by Mayday Trippe. Mayday has opened themselves up on the comic page in such a way that I never could, & done so in a bright, talented way with a casual and playful art style that is bright and welcoming. Hysteria was a book created by Mike Hawthorne many years ago that Mike is revisiting as a Patreon exclusive. You can watch the entire rebuilding process for just $3 by joining his Patreon and also getting lots of exclusive content found nowhere else. Then Mike can help and influence your inner artist like he has me with his tutorials and Art “Cheat Codes.” Steve Conley’s Sir Quimp is the lead – well – lead human from his amazing webcomic THE MIDDLE AGE. Steve is an astounding artist & designer, and was the first person to help me make the Shakes series a reality. He’s also a wonderful human being. The final “Thank You” for May was Shing Yin Khor, AKA “SawdustBear” on social media. Shing is an amazing creator, able to shift from woodworking to watercolor at the drop of a hat and excel at all of it, all while making adorable creatures at the same time. Her new book, THE LEGEND OF AUNTIE PO, is out June 15th everywhere!