ALL OF MY UNFINISHED ARTWORK IN ONE PLACE
I was looking through some of my old half-finished drawings and realized that if I looked at them all alongside each other, they seem somewhat worthwhile as a whole, or at least as a pile of wasted potential. I thought it might be fun to collect all of these scraps in one place and talk a little bit about what I had planned for each one.
AN UNFINISHED “FATHER-SON SEA STORY”
This was meant to be concept art for a screenplay I was writing (and still very much want to finish one day!) It’s the story of a divorced father who is forced to reunite with his abandoned child. The mother passed away, you see. On top of that, he’s a crab fisherman about to set out on a long journey, and he can’t simply sit it out — this is how he makes his living. So he would take his estranged 7-year-old son with him and it was going to be this great little father-son bonding story. Really fun, heartwarming stuff.
Anyway, this was supposed to be a sketch of what the father might look like. I think he turned out way too young, and I had planned for him to be more of a “ruggedly handsome” figure than this schlubby mess, but I really like the rough product here. Looks a bit like my friend Jason, actually. (Sorry for indirectly calling you a “schlubby mess,” Jason.)
And here — in a wildly different art style for some reason — is some concept art for what his son might have looked like. He was going to be a very imaginative kid with a penchant for film noir fantasies (an idea lifted from Calvin & Hobbes.) I thought giving him a poncho would be a neat way to lend him the same dramatic flair of a 50's-style trench coat during his fantasy sequences. Again, this was going to be a live-action film as I conceived it in my head, but since most of it took place at sea on a fishing boat, I was never going to have the budget for it anyway. I was just writing it just to write it, and so I think that’s why I was drawing a lot of these characters at the time… I was experimenting with other mediums, testing the waters (so to speak) to see if it might work as a graphic novel.
THE COMIC STRIP THAT BECAME “COOL NERDS”
This is just a fun little strip I drew very quickly and posted to Twitter. The joke of nerds bullying a jock stuck with me, and eventually it blossomed into my short film, “COOL NERDS.” (See below.)
CONCEPT ART FOR AN OLD SHORT STORY
This is a character from an old short story I wrote back in college called “HOW CASE WEMBLEY ASCENDED TO GODHOOD.” I went back and re-read it recently and was impressed with how much of it I still thought was funny, but the rest of it was pretty embarrassing. Case was based on a couple of friends, but she didn’t really accurately represent a real human being at all and comes off mostly like one of those Manic Pixie Dream Girl companions to the protagonist’s cynical author-stand-in.
I always liked the way this drawing turned out, though!
(The short story is locked away on my hard drive now.)
A SINGLE PAGE FROM AN IMMEDIATELY-ABANDONED AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL COMIC
This was the first page of what was planned to be a series of small moments in my life that I remembered very vividly for whatever odd reason. This one in particular was from when my good friend and fellow comedian/filmmaker Ron Lechler was in town from Texas, visiting me in Kalamazoo, MI (where we both went to college.) He was telling me about an episode of the new Scooby Doo cartoon, and for some reason it really stuck with me as a pleasant exchange. I’ve still never watched that Scooby Doo show. I ended up relaying the story of this episode (which I thought was funny!) second-hand to a girl I went on one date with. I remember her saying “I don’t really like Scooby Doo,” to which I responded “Neither do I. I’ve actually never even seen the show I’m talking about.”
AN ACTUALLY-FINISHED SHORT AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL COMIC ABOUT MY PARENTS
This one is actually available for you to check out! One of my rare finished comic projects, “CONDITION” was a quick glimpse into the strained relationship I have with my parents, and how you can never really escape the shadow of your family.
Here are some pages:
I actually ended up getting a chance to show this to acclaimed cartoonist David Small, author of “STITCHES,” which is an absolutely fantastic graphic novel that tells — you guessed it — the autobiographical story of Small’s relationship with his parents. His story is much, much better than mine. In fact, mine doesn’t even deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as his. He actually sent me a long e-mail response critiquing my work (after I’d tactlessly asked him to.) He was brutally harsh but admirably honest, and I still appreciate the fact that he went above and beyond by doing that for me when he had absolutely no need to.
If you want to read it, too, you can download a digital copy for $2 here:
UNFINISHED AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL COMIC ABOUT MY EXPERIENCES WITH WOMEN
This was a pretty ambitious project that I still think has some merit, and I believe it’s probably a good thing I didn’t full-on tackle it back then. I think a few more years of life experience and maturity are necessary to complete a project like this.
The basic idea was that I would choose 10 or so important women in my life (ranging from middle school crushes to my own mother) and tell independent stories from their lives, from THEIR perspectives. I was going to try and make these stories honest and disconnected from me, and essentially tell the story of my Life Around Women through these short vignettes that didn’t necessarily involve me. I was going to relegate myself to nothing more than a background character in many of these, though for a small handful I would have to place myself front-and-center.
I think that’s the strongest part of this concept: you’d get a pretty good idea of who I am through all these stories of women who had entered and impacted my life in various ways. I think it would have been chronological, spanning my Bar Mitzvah, my time at military school, and all the way through college. This is something I’ll probably revisit at one point or another. I think it could also work as a film, or a series of short films.
I drew a few more pages than this, but these are the ones worth showing. This would have been a story from my middle school, probably around 7th grade. I had a merciless crush on one girl that I simply would not leave alone, and so when drawing this I wanted to examine how she may have felt. How do you put up with the weird kid who won’t stop professing his love to you? What was it like to be on the other end of a hormonal boy blasting headfirst into puberty? In terms of how this portrayed my own character, this story was going to explore what it was like growing up in a predominantly Jewish suburban neighborhood, and the extravagant Bar Mitzvah culture that came along with it.
Plus, it was going to establish that I had a lot of trouble connecting with others as a kid, and this manifested itself in me lashing out and alienating myself even further. I had planned to go for a more surreal approach in displaying this, hence why the character of 7th Grade Alec in these pages is floating in mid-air — it was a funny way of presenting the sort of loud scenes I would make in the cafeteria at school in front of all the other kids.
A SINGLE PAGE ONE-OFF
That’s all this comic ever was. One page. More than anything else, it was an experiment with half-tones. I loved the way it turned out, and I toyed with the idea of expanding on it, but in the end it was only ever meant to be this one page.
A WORK-IN-PROGRESS ROBOT GHOST STORY
I hesitated to include this one here since this is still a project I am very definitely going to finish — and if I don’t, I’ll be kicking myself for it. I have a lot of big plans for this story, but as of now I wrote a chunk of the script and drew about 10 pages before shoving it to the backburner. It was going to explore the human race’s purpose on Earth, and what sort of legacy humans might leave on their planet once they were gone. They built robots — intelligent robots! — and left them functioning after the entirety of the human race agreed to commit a mass species-wide suicide. The story would follow a cynical robot who discovers the impossibly fresh corpse of a human girl hundreds of years after humanity has been nothing but bones. He’s haunted by her ghost and together they attempt to solve the mystery of her murder, if there are actually any other humans left alive, and if the Earth would actually benefit from having humans around again.
I’m in love with this entire thing, and I haven’t really shown these pages to a lot of people. However, they seem wasted just collecting digital dust on my hard drive, so I wanted to show what little work I have done already.
Above is some concept art — I particularly love the design of the armless/faceless trench-coat robot. Also pictured are some ideas for how the two protagonists might look. I like some of the coloring there as well.
Below, I’ve included a handful of early pages. They get less and less polished as you go on, but even I’m impressed with how stylish some of these pages look. When I revisit this comic later, I’ll probably begin anew and re-draw everything from scratch, but I’d like to maintain this same aesthetic.
Other than that, enjoy what’s here and hope I get around to ever making more:
Pretty cool, right? I really hope I finish it one day.
“LOST LEVELS” COVER ART
COVER FOR MY POETRY BOOK
Last but not least, I’m very proud of the cover I drew for my own poetry book, “LOST LEVELS.” This one’s another piece that’s technically entirely finished, but it rounds out this collection nicely and it doubles as handy self-promotion.
I think maybe I over-did it with the video-game references, but gaming nostalgia makes up a good chunk of the book so maybe they’ve earned their place.
The book is available for purchase right now ($6) over at Cool Skull Press:
Lost Levels is the first chapbook published by COOL SKULL PRESS. Written and designed by Chicago-based writer/comedian…coolskullpress.com
And you can check out the trailer here: