Archive for the ‘Cartooning’ Category

Life in the Fat Lane: Everything, all the time. With fries.

March 10, 2019

If you’re seeing a little more sun all of a sudden, it’s not just because it’s Daylight Saving Time. It’s because the Fat Guy is throwing a little less shade.

The Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter turned 30 today, and he’s been on one of those weight-loss programs for celebrity has-beens, the kind where you don’t look quite so porky because hardly anyone ever sees you anymore.

When I turned 30, back in 1984, I was on a weight-loss program of my own. It had occurred to me that I had problems, which included but were not limited to drugs, booze, food, voices in my head, and newspapers, and I found that vigorous bicycling helped me sweat out the cocaine, alcohol and gravy.

Didn’t do shit for the voices in my head, or the newspapers. But what the hell, a guy needs friends. And a job’s nice, too.

Five years later I finally put those friends in my head to work, when I signed on to draw cartoons for VeloNews, which was just settling into its new digs in the People’s Republic of Boulder. I was two more newspapers further on down the road, in Santa Fe, and the voices were telling me that once again my days were numbered, probably because the publisher kept saying things like “Are you still here?”

I’d been racing for a couple of years, and out of an abundance of caution and a desire for some sort of change that involved more than my ZIP code I applied for the managing editor’s job at VeloNews. Didn’t get it. But the honchos liked the cartoons, and the first one they published featured the Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter, who debuted in Volume 18, No. 3, cover date March 10, 1989.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Back then the Fat Guy didn’t look at all like he does today. In fact, he looked a lot like me. Long hair and a full beard, both of which gradually went away, and a variety of undistinguished and too-tight jerseys that by the mid-Nineties had stabilized into the familiar yellow-and-red kit with the “Spare Tire Ale” logo on both sleeves, the one we still sell today over at Voler.

The shorts sponsors tended to change whenever I had a notion. Lardasche Jeans. Juan Ton’s Asian Tacos. That sort of thing.

And the dude just kept getting larger.

At one point Fais Dodo couldn’t find his bike (turns out he was sitting on it). At another he had sucked a few smaller riders into orbit around him. Almost everybody was smaller. Entire teams were.

He even tried to sue the bicycle industry for making him a great fat bastard, when it had done the exact opposite for me.

“Yep, cycling did this to me,” he tells the lawyer, hot dog in one hand, sack of pork rinds in the other. “Couple hours in the ol’ saddle and I gotta eat a 7-Eleven.”

“You don’t say,” replies the lawyer. “Sounds like a no-class-action lawsuit to me!”

Every time I revisit that particular cartoon I see and hear John Goodman, playing Walter Sobchak from “The Big Lebowski,” and not just because Goodman’s first TV appearance was in a Burger King commercial. I just like John Goodman.

I like the Fat Guy, too, and he went with me when I left VeloNews in 2012, not long after the original honchos sold it to the publishing equivalent of a chop shop run by meth-heads. We didn’t go bowling, though. We teamed up with Charles Pelkey at Live Update Guy, where Il Fattini was cast as a gender-bending Fat Lady Singing.

“It’s over!” he’d croon whenever a break got caught.

And El Grande started appearing more regularly in the “Shop Talk” strip I still draw for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, though he’s basically down to walk-ons and cameos behind that strip’s stars, the Mud Stud and Dude. He’s the kind of customer who dollars up on the wrong side of the ledger, drinking all the beer in the shop fridge and grazing the energy-bar display right down to the bedrock.

A customer once asked the Mud Stud if he had any fat bikes.

“Nah,” said the Stud. “We got a Fat Guy, though. Sell ‘im to you cheap.”

Behind him The Large One is mumbling through a cloud of hoagie crumbs. “This shop needs a deli. Maybe a brewpub. A bakery? Funny, I don’t climb so good lately. Bro’-deal me on a lighter bike?”

We’ve all ridden a few kilometers in those Sidis, eh? Any cyclist worth his kit knows that to find the shortest distance between two points you have to cut a few corners, or at least round them off a little.

And lighter is always better, amirite? Fatso is not the Road Runner, so bloody fast that his sheer velocity straightens out the curves and flattens all the hills. He’s Wile E. Coyote with an eating disorder, shopping for solutions at Acme. Or Walgreens. At least he’s out there, putting in the kilometers.

He was the guy the legendary Dong Ngo had in mind when we were discussing the 1987 Trek 2500 on display at the Denver Spoke.

“Who buys this bike?” I asked, stunned by the price.

“You wouldn’t believe who buys this bike,” he replied.

The Fat Guy, that’s who. The last guy who needs one. His eyes were never bigger than his stomach. Nothing was. Or is.

Maybe that’s why the Fat Guy struck such a chord. He wants what we want, which at rock bottom, basically, is more. Or maybe it’s because he seems so obliviously comfortable in his oversized skin.

Oddly, the jersey he covers it with seems especially popular with little skinny climber dudes, probably because people go “Oh, yeah, right,” when they see them wearing it.

But you know what’s really odd? Nearly 30 years to the day after Fatso and I pranced onto the VeloNews stage together, we’re both working for Felix Magowan again. A full circle, that is.

Yep. Felix was one of the honchos back then, and he’s one of the honchos now, ever since Pocket Outdoor Media bought Bicycle Retailer in January. I got my first check from the new owners in March. It didn’t smell like meth, and it didn’t bounce, so I guess we’re all one big happy family again.

We’ve been downsized, of course. Before this latest acquisition BRAIN published 18 issues per year, and now we’re down to 12, which accounts for Fatso’s sleeker shadow, and my slimmer paycheck.

Still, 30 years is a nice long first lap. We may be off the back, but we haven’t been pulled yet. Good thing the Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter has been taking his turns on the front. It’s been like drafting the Budweiser beer wagon with a full hitch of Clydesdales.

The wrong Bozos keep getting kicked off the bus

January 26, 2019

Here’s a golden oldie, from my short stint at The Arizona Daily Star. I didn’t stick around to get the sack; I shot out of that place like a rat out of an aqueduct.

As long as we have a cartoon president, how ’bout drawing him up a cartoon Wall®?

We have the technology. Also, the manpower. Newspapers are shitcanning Pulitzer-winners right, left, and center, among them Steve Benson, who was the editorial cartoonist at the Arizona Republic back in 1980, when I scribbled the occasional ’toon for The Arizona Daily Star.

This is nothing new, of course. A J-school prof warned me in the Seventies that there were maybe a thousand editorial cartoonists, tops, and that I might consider expanding my portfolio a tad. This was excellent advice. Because their numbers kept shrinking like a spider on a hotplate, to hundreds and finally dozens.

It was nearly impossible to even make a start Back in the Day® because what few cartoonists there were could be had for chump change via syndication. So the editor of the Frog Dick (S.C.) Daily Lily Pad & Croaker could have Pat Oliphant every day for the price of a tepid cup of Maxwell House at Lulu’s Lunch Bucket.

I still got to draw cartoons, as you know. But I did it as a reporter, as a copy editor, as an assistant feature editor, and like that there. On the side. Onliest time I ever got hired as an honest-to-God cartoonist was when that Boulder-based journal of competitive cycling decided I was too dim to be their managing editor but funny enough to scribble gags about fat masters, dope fiends, and Suits.

In a few short years there won’t be any of us. Robots will be drawing all the cartoons. And you won’t get any of the jokes, because they will be by robots, for robots.

“Ha ha,” they will say. “That’s very logical.”

Catbed scanner

December 13, 2018

“Yo, scan this.”

Miss Mia Sopaipilla proves something of an impediment to the rumormongery from time to time.

R.I.P., Stan Lee

November 12, 2018

A small sampler of the voluminous output of Marvel impresario Stan Lee.

Zzzaaack! KRAAAAK! FOOM!

Stan Lee, true believers, is no more.

The former Stanley Martin Lieber joined what then was called Timely Comics at age 17 and finally left the Mighty Marvel Bullpen for good at 95.

I was more of a DC kind of guy — Superman, Batman, The Flash, The Atom, and Green Lantern and Green Arrow (as envisioned by Denny O’Neill and Neal Adams — but you gotta give Marvel and Lee their props. In 2018 you can’t swing a dead Catwoman without hitting some Marvelista in the unitard, and DC can’t get out of its own way.

“Batman v. Superman?” “Justice League?”

Gaaaaaaaaaaack! PTUI! BARF!

• Late addendum: I should also note the passing of the HAL 9000. Dave Bowman unplugged the Discovery’s homicidal computer in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but the actor who voiced HAL, Douglas Rain, soldiered on until the ripe old age of 90. He had the greatest enthusiasm for his mission, which was acting.

Days decrease, and autumn grows

October 10, 2018

Yesterday’s clouds were a harbinger of mildly unpleasant weather,
the sort one expects in October.

It’s that time of year again.

This morning, instead of going straight to The New York Times to see what deviltry Cheeto Benito has been up to while we slept, I cued up Weather Underground to find out what Thor has in store for us here in our little corner of the Duke City.

Also, I was wearing socks. And pants. O, the humanity.

I already miss my summer routine. Reveille at oh-dark-thirty as Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein (commander, 1st Feline Home Defense Regiment) leaps into my rack. After a brief exchange of the usual courtesies it’s up and into the Columbia shorts, guinea tee and Tevas for the trip to the kitchen, where I burn an English muffin for Herself, pour a cup of joe for myself, and top off Miss Mia Sopaipilla’s kibble.

Next, open the sliding glass doors and a kitchen window. Fresh air reminds me we have two cats who haven’t mastered the flush toilet. But the litter box will have to wait. First, the news. One foul chore at a time, please.

With the international, national, regional and local butt-nuggets exhumed, examined and expunged, and a second cup of coffee to wash down a snack of some sort, it’s time to generate a bit of bloggery and/or paying copy before embarking upon some healthy outdoor activity.

Here we have another indicator of the relentless passage of time, as reliable as falling leaves. Come autumn, Bicycle Retailer and Industry News and Adventure Cyclist reduce their frequency of publication, and my income stream — hardly a raging torrent, even in the heart of the cycling season — becomes more of a dribble, the last warm sip from summer’s water bottle.

I delivered the video teaser of my Jones Plus SWB review to Adventure Cyclist on Sunday, and yesterday the November “Shop Talk” cartoon went off to BRAIN. Now I’m fresh out of other people’s bikes to ponder, and there’s just one more ’toon to draw for 2018.

And that healthy outdoor activity? Come autumn, it’s as likely to be a run as a ride. This year I started jogging again in July; this lets me sort of sneak up on my knees, give them time to grow accustomed to the idea that we enjoy this sort of thing, before winter winnows our options.

It’s a useful fiction, one that keeps me in shorts a while longer.

Interbike 2018: The dream is gone

September 20, 2018

El Grande, being (ahem) gravitationally challenged, rarely participates in the Sport of Kings. Organizers grew tired of the frantic phone calls from the National Earthquake Information Center in Colorado.

The inaugural RenoCross took place last night. Alas, neither I, the Mud Stud nor the Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter was in attendance.

Yes, it’s that time of year again.

There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of coverage out there at 8 a.m. New Mexico time, though cxmagazine.com has a brief report, results and pix.

My colleague Steve Frothingham had contemplated doing the Wheelers & Dealers race, but his new duties may have kept him in the Show Daily office. The Fake News never sleeps, and it rarely pins on a number.

El Grande did, from time to time. But it usually got swallowed by a roll, crease or fold, and even if he finished none of the judges could see it and thus he never got his just deserts.

Sometimes he didn’t even get beered.

• Next: Relax.

Interbike 2018: There is no pain, you are receding

September 18, 2018

OutDoor Demo at the Northstar California resort wrapped yesterday — to rave reviews, if you believe the Fake News — and Interbike Marketweek proper opened today. There’s a Show Daily and everything.

Not everybody makes it from Demo to the show floor, though. This year, as always, a few exhibitors did the Demo and then hit the door running.

Yes, it’s that time of year again.

The Mud Stud usually strives for the doubleheader, if he makes it to the Gathering of the Tribes at all. A guy who lives on SpaghettiOs and PBR is not likely to own a GPS, even at bro-deal pricing.

He has been known to confuse Las Vegas, New Mexico, for Las Vegas, Nevada. The one time he tried to fly, Homeland Security wanted to add him to its museum of curiosities, but the EPA said ixnay.

Another time the Stud found himself in Myanmar in search of Mandalay Bay. Alas, the city of Mandalay is 500km from the nearest bay, and further still from the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Sin City, Interbike’s final flop in that neon whorehouse.

You’d think the extended water crossing might have tipped our boy off, since hitchhiking and/or cycling across the Pacific can be damply sketchy. But the Stud spends a lot of time wandering around in his own head and is not always paying close attention to what transpires outside that cavernous, empty, Mohawked space.

In 2003 the Stud made both Demo and Interbike. But it wasn’t pretty. The bike didn’t let him down, but the bottle did.

• Next: Can you show me where it hurts?

Day 1: Big hair, bigger air

Day 2: What goes up, must come down.

Day 3: Speaking of coming down. …

 

Interbike 2018: This is not how I am

September 17, 2018

The Mud Stud is a top-notch wrench, but his periodic forays into entrepreneurship have rarely dollared up on the hoof.

Neither Interbike nor Bicycle Retailer and Industry News is limited to serving as a delivery system for my bullshit. There are various jobs of work being done, products being shifted, and money being made.

Or so it is to be hoped, anyway.

Yes, it’s that time of year again.

But the show is not a cheap date. And as a consequence some penny-pinchers have been known to try to cut a few corners — say, by setting up outside the show and hoping to lure a few rubes away from the big tent and into their little tipis.

The Mud Stud tried that in 1999, when the show was still at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, with predictable results. At top, you’ll find the setup, a “Shop Talk” strip that appeared in the pre-show edition of BRAIN. Below are the subsequent Show Daily strips. Click the images for bigger versions.

And where was I when The Stud and Bobbi were trying to move their respective products? I was on site like a good dog, hawking copies of my first and only book, a collection of VeloNews cartoons titled “The Season Starts When?”

• Next: There is no pain, you are receding.

 

Show Daily, Day 1

 

Show Daily, Day 2

 

Show Daily, Day 3: The finale.

Interbike 2018: Hello, is there anybody in there?

September 15, 2018

My lodging for Interbike 1999 was a tad spartan.

This morning, when I should have been risking life and limb motoring to Reno via U.S. 550 and U.S. 50, a.k.a. The Loneliest Road in America, I took a little spin down Memory Lane, which is much easier on the kidneys.

Yes, it’s that time of year again.

Back in 1997, the pre-Interbike issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News ran a whopping 150 pages, more than three times this year’s 46 (and the pages were bigger back then, too).

It was an embarrassment of riches, so much so that the editors awarded me some extra space to play with, probably because they had run out of actual news to plug the holes between the ads.

Thus, my “Shop Talk” cartoon, ordinarily a simple black-and-white strip at the bottom of the Editorial & Comment page at the back of the book, took over an entire page of the September 1997 issue, and in full color, too.

The resulting CMYK image file was so friggin’ huge that I had to break the sonofabitch into segments to squeeze it through our lo-fi Innertubes outside Weirdcliffe for deposit upon the BRAIN trust in Fanta Se (click the image to see the big picture).

Back then I was drawing cartoons for the Show Daily, too. But that’s another story.

• Next: Just nod if you can hear me.

R.I.P., Steve Ditko

July 7, 2018

Without Steve Ditko, this Marvel-origins collection would have been a good deal slimmer.

As a polyglot lot of colorfully clad heroes comes to blows in France, displaying superhuman powers acquired from Stan Lee only knows where, we bid farewell to the co-creator of many another costumed combatant, comic-book artist Steve Ditko.

With Lee and Jack Kirby Ditko had a hand in the debut of, among others, The Amazing Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. The young Ditko dug Will “The Spirit” Eisner, and you can see a bit of Eisner’s noirish style in his work; this admiration clearly filtered down to some of the undergrounds, like Rand “Harold Hedd” Holmes and Dave “Dealer McDope” Sheridan.

Doctor Strange as imagined by Steve Ditko.

Unlike Lee, who had (and maintains) a flair for showmanship, Ditko apparently was a recluse who declined interviews, snubbed comic-book conventions, and spurned invitations to movie premieres.

“We didn’t approach him,” said Scott Derrickson, director of the 2016 movie “Doctor Strange,” a yawner in which Benedict Cumberbatch played the title role. “He’s like J.D. Salinger. He is private and has intentionally stayed out of the spotlight.”

According to Lee, in “Origins of Marvel Comics,” Ditko got the job of drawing Spidey after Kirby’s take on the character proved “too good” to depict the tormented teenage geek Lee had in mind.

“All those years of drawing superheroes must have made it a little difficult to labor so mightily and come forth with a superloser, or if you will, a supershnook,” Lee wrote.

“Steve’s style … was almost diametrically different from Jack’s. Where Jack would exaggerate, Steve would strive zealously for total realism. Where Jack made his featured characters as heroically handsome as possible, Steve’s forte seemed to be depicting the average man in the street. I decided to play a hunch. I asked Steve to draw Spider-Man. And he did. And the rest is history.”

Ditko died alone in his Manhattan home, age 90.