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Portraits of Mandela from COSAT students

December 16, 2013

As too few people have had to hear me talk about, I got to work with a bunch of wonderful kids in South Africa last summer. One of the sites where we did comics journalism workshops was the Center (whoops, I meant Centre) Of Sciences And Technology (COSAT), a pretty stunning magnet school started and run more-or-less single handedly by one awesome woman.

To get the youths exposed to digital illustration software and tablet usage (they were really pumped about learning how to do digital graphics, I blame Pixar) I asked them to draw me a picture of Nelson/Madiba/Tata Mandela. It was less an effort to have them embrace portraiture and explore national identity, and more a reflection of the fact that there’s lots and lots of Mandela stuff around schools in South Africa.

Here are two drawings from my students, Nolebulele and Yonela.

Their signatures are the best part.

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She was a little embarrassed hers came out looking so much like Obama.

Here’s a photo of the two artists holding some of my dumb art.

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Here’s mine. Obv. sucks big time in comparison.

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Reporting Is Hunting In The Dark

October 21, 2013

This instructional comic is the result of a semester I spent as an adjuct instructor at New College of Florida in 2011. Students’ needs and questions shaped the nature of this piece, which was printed and distributed at the L.A. Comics and Zine Festival and the Eagle Rock Mini Comics Festival in 2012.

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A NewsToon NewsToon

June 15, 2012

My mom ripped out a chunk of the Pioneer Press a few weeks ago and gave it to me — it said their new NewsToon program (“think animated editorial cartoons,” they said) was open to submissions, and they’d be posting a pick come June 15.

Animated cartoons aren’t necessarily my bag, baby. My hesitation to dive into this artform probably stems from the fact that my first and greatest work, a stop-motion piece depicting Bill Clinton wiping out on rollerblades, was lost forever due to a flaw in the camera’s alignment. I was in a summer school program after 5th grade when that happened, and I believe I cried.

But that’s all water under the bridge now. I whipped up a toon in Flash, and wouldn’t you know it they picked it for the site! Here it is:

It’s about Derek Boogaard, an MN NHL player who died in 2011. Thanks to recently released info, it has come to light that his expiration was result of extensive prescription drug abuse. That’s why I drew him getting smushed by a gigantic pill, because I’m clever, tactful, and decent with regards to sensitive political and personal issues.

I mentioned to Richard Chin, spear-header of the NewsToon program, that I heard a lot of talk about news groups using ‘new’-media graphics like cartoons and animations, but have been yet to see much action. In that regard, I was psyched to see his project.

He said that if the NewsToons initiative is going to take off, they were going to need more submissions. I’ll have keep an eye on how this idea evolves… what will be will be. And what doesn’t make money will probably get deleted off the newspaper’s site.

¡Dos medias por el red!

June 10, 2012

I wonder how many blog updates start with the words “big news’? I bet it’s a lot. But nevertheless…

Big news.

Two cool things I get to be associated with dropped on the internet recently. First, the new digital issue of the Oyster Kiln has been released. A selection from my co-produced comic “This Bytes” made the cut. I like the folks who made it so much I even drew an image for them to use as the cover, which they didn’t use, for reasons that are obvious if you look at Natalie Catasus’ facsimile is saying. Here it is:

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I’m really proud of it, regardless. But what I’m even more proud of is my friend Peter’s contribution, “Awake.” I think it’s at least one of the best short stories ever written, and the inspiration for the drawing above. You can read the whole thing here, but here’s the selection that floors me:

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been overstimulated and underwhelmed. But in these moments I feel balance.”

There’s really funny parts too, though, like this:

“I lean in closer to the microphone. I like salmon sashimi, I said.”

In other news, I’m officially feeling a lot more like a real journalist since my first piece got published by Neon Tommy, a review of a Stone’s Throw DJ set. Since I’m a staff writer for the USC Digital News parlour, it follows that some more stuff by myself should appear on the site in the near future.

That about all the big news I can handle for now. See ya later, friends, loved ones, and occasional web-surfers in Singapore and Italy that somehow trickle their way onto my blog.

Melon Mel — Origin Story

May 17, 2012

One of the ideas I’ve been most excited about in the last few months is making a comic series entitled “Melon Mel.” The premise isn’t too locked down at the moment, only that it features one of the best friends I’ve ever had, named Mel, who takes the form of a sentient and verbally communicative canary melon. I want to illustrate some of the conversations Mel ‘n I have had as taking place between this melon and Breadhead, a fairly representative facsimile of myself.

GPlay’s wonderful stuff

May 8, 2012

My friend Alex Gomez and I have been relatively hard at work on our new project/group GPlay these last few weeks. In addition to all sorts of digital stuff, we made some hard copies of our comic “This Bytes” and trading/battle cards for our next big thing, a comic book series/imaginationscapeworld called Flow State. If anyone’s in the mood for a copy of this stuff toss me an email @ grahamclarkstecklein @ gmail . com and I’ll be more than happy to provide. The comic covers and the cards are on high-quality cardstock because our publisher (a.k.a. Carlos at CopyCat) is kind to a fault.

I’m really excited about Flow State — it’s a scifi hip-hop deal, where rap battles take place in digital settings and characters break through to Super-Sayian-like levels of power and proficiency when shit gets real. We made this series of trading cards to help us develop our characters and other elements of the Flow State world. We’re still working on a script at the moment; once this baby’s ready to go I’ll make sure everyone on earth has a copy in their hands.

We handed out copies of all this shtuff at the Eagle Rock Mini Comic-Con last Cinco De Mayo, an event that was a real blast. I go way way way in depth about how that was on the GPlay Tumblr, and the cool kind of merch I picked up there. I’m trying to keep a mindful distinction between this personal blog and the team effort of GPlay, so I left commentary on the local artists I met over there. But I had some thoughts I thought would be best suited for this platform.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I like people who make comics, by and large. I concluded that making something by hand, especially carrying it from conception to completion by yourself or with the help of a few friends, might help people stay relatively grounded and approachable.

Obviously I’m speaking in generalizations. But I venture to guess that without an oversized de-humanizing system (I’m thinking of the mainstream comics machine in, say, the 1990s) mixing things up, the people making this stuff maintain an unavoidably direct relationship with their work.

That is to say, I noticed that if you make a comic that sucks, you get stuck carrying around copies of a sucky comic for quite some time. I think that’s part of why the stuff I saw on Saturday, pretty much across the board, did not suck. Even the free stickers and business cards. Having footed 50% of the bill to print our comics and cards myself, I can vouch for the following: if you cover all the costs of making something yourself, and it just plain blows, then that whole gnarly investment just sits there uglying up the place. So I guess that’s one upshot of the DIY nature of contemporary comics. Whether it’s digital or in print, there’s very little to distract you from the quality of your work when you’re a one-man-band.

TTFN. See you all in the Flow State.

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