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Death
One of the characters I came up with for my graphic novel has been on my mind a lot since the book came out. He’s not a new character in fiction. Lots of creators have come up with personas for him, even though he is not a “person” per se. Death, one way or the other, finds his way into a lot of narratives. That said, I like to think of my version of him as unique.

Other interpretations of Death tend to portray him as some sort of bloodthirsty goblin who is plotting against us. I suppose that is because we fear death and the suffering connected with that event. But to me that is a misreading of this (admittedly imaginary) character.

If there really were an entity whose job is to oversee the end of life, it seems to me that he would be pretty businesslike about the work. He certainly wouldn’t be the menacing figure we so often see, slavering over our early and unpleasant demise. He’d be too busy for that kind of emotional involvement. Death, moreover, would not have any particular axe to grind. His axe, you’d think, would be razor sharp all the time. And he wouldn’t be in a hurry. He’ll get to do his job eventually. So what’s the rush?

Now that I’ve been writing about Death, drawing him, and putting words in his mouth. I think it’s taught me a little bit about the character — and my own attitude toward him. He wouldn’t be cruel. He wouldn’t take pleasure in ending lives (unless it was satisfaction in a job well done). And there is nothing about that job that would necessarily keep him from taking an interest in his prey.

Come to think of it, “prey” is not he right word. “Clients,” perhaps, or “customers.” It’s not really an adversarial relationship, in any case. Indeed, Death provides a service that we will all need at some point.

At the same time, he’s not exactly a friend, either. He wouldn’t step in to save our life, for instance. We can count on his respect, though, because that’s what we’d expect from a thorough professional. So, even though friendship is out of the question, there is no reason we shouldn’t feel friendly toward Death. Just so long as we remember that, for him, the job comes first.

And so, I found myself actually liking my Death character. Others who have read the book told me the same thing. Perhaps that’s because I made him so non-threatening. That was a bit ironic of me, I know, but Death himself is a bit ironic, isn’t he? The whole idea that life has non-life built into it is the ultimate Catch-22. It’s a beautiful gift that we know will be taken back from us at the end.

That dark irony at the heart of Death gives him an open field to be funny or serious or just plain silly. Whatever the situation permits. So he can be quite likable. Up to a point. He may be detached, but there’s no reason why he couldn’t enjoy himself — or be at least be academically interested in us. That’s why I decided to draw him without that off-putting hood. A frank and fully visible skull seemed much more appropriate.

There is no character named Death in real life, of course. No Grim Reaper with a scythe and an agenda. Death is simply the end of life. Whatever identity he has is strictly a projection of our own feelings about our approaching demise. During the writing and drawing of Head First I found it comforting to think of him as friendly, even trustworthy.

If it’s our time to go, what’s the point in making it more of a bummer than it already is?
The Book! (Epilogue)
In case you missed it, my graphic novel, Head First, is finally here. It...is...gorgeous. My chosen printers in the United Kingdom did a great job. The richness of the color, the spot varnish on the cover, and the tricky binding were all perfectly executed, and the effect on hand and eye exceeds my hopes.

For one thing, the credibility of a printed book is such an upgrade from the digital version of the same content. I colored the book on my computer, so all I had seen of my “book” was a bunch of images on a screen. The colors were right, but there is nothing like having the actual book in your hands. The weight of it, with real paper, real ink, along with the added drama of a story unfolding right under your fingertips — all make for a unique and very personal experience.

I am utterly gassed over it. The book arrived several weeks ago, and I have been busy getting copies out to the fine people who backed my Kickstarter campaign. All those copies are now in my backers’ hands, and I have been fielding their kind reviews with pleasure and gratitude. It’s been a great ride. Demanding, challenging, fulfilling.

I never really cared whether the book made money. The effort on Kickstarter more than covered my costs, and that is all I wanted it to do. At some point during the creation of this project, I had decided that it was not so much a publishing enterprise as the crafting of a work of art. I just wanted to imagine a book and have it turn out as close to that vision as possible. I am happy to say that that has happened with Head First.

The vision, however, is not quite complete. I still have 150 or so copies left. In keeping with my notion of the book as a work of art, I saw the 300-plus copies I had printed as individual elements of the creation. There will be no more copies of Head First. Not like this edition, anyway. The hard cover, the extra-heavy paper, the “MindThing Museum” in the back, the large format, that spot varnish detail on the cover (so cool!) — if there is a second edition, it will not be published by me, and none of those features are likely to be part of it.

I do, however, want the remaining copies to end up in somebody’s hands. Somebody who will turn the pages and experience the book in its fullness. That experience — like everything connected to this project — is a part of the artwork itself.

Too ostentatious? Maybe, but it feels right to me. So…I will sell those few remaining copies in local bookstores, and privately to anyone who wants one. And when they are gone, they are gone.

Please let me know if you want in. The cost is $40, which includes tax and postage. Drop me a line at this mailto link, and we’ll make arrangements. Thanks for being part of this!
For Art's Sake
I have come to think that everyone is an artist. Each of us, all of us, every last one. It’s part of our genetic makes-up, like the capacity for speech or our near-hairlessness.

Or, I suppose I could say there is an artist in all of us. But that sounds as if he or she is some kind of captive. Anyway, there’s an artist in there, and it has a hand in almost everything we do. Making your bed? Doing the dishes? Straightening a picture on the wall? Exchanging pleasantries with your neighbor? It’s there, guiding our efforts.

Also, I see life imitating art all the time. And back again, art imitating life, in an endless loop. One famous example is particularly striking. Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, brought his character’s powers of observation and deduction into two real-life crime stories. Doyle, by applying the skills he had originally imagined for his peerless detective, proved the innocence of two men, actually saving one of them from the gallows. Doyle had no history as a detective until he created the greatest one of all time.

That is more than just life imitating art. It’s an example of the creation affecting and even altering the creator. I am willing to suggest that such an effect is not unusual when it comes to artists (like us) and their works.

In fact, I believe it happens every time we employ our inner artist — no matter what the task. Whether the result is a masterpiece for the whole world to behold or a rack of freshly washed dishes, that creative work is reflected back into us. We made it, but it has the power to change us, too. For good or ill. Every time.

Am I making a point here? I’m not sure. What does it mean that our own creations can turn the tables on us? We might have to dip into quantum physics to find that answer. But it is worth pondering that whatever creative juice we put out into the world, no matter how insignificant, becomes an independent agent of change — including within our own nature.

It might be a thing of beauty — or it might be Frankenstein’s monster. The essence of our artist’s creative process will determine the outcome, for the world and for us. That might be worth remembering the next time we make the bed.
Drugs of Choice
Humans have a long history of taking drugs. Alcohol in all its forms has been particularly popular, along with psychoactive plants like mushrooms and marijuana. People just like to get high and have a few laughs. Is there really anything wrong with that? Of course not. That’s why it’s so good to see that drugs are now widely accepted as a good thing. They have come out of the shadows and truly flourished everywhere.

Especially on TV. Not weed and ‘shrooms (not yet, anyway), but you can’t miss all the ads for perfectly legal, doctor-recommended compounds straight from Big Pharma. In the interests of science, I have made a study of those ads and have compiled a list of the medicines that seem to have the most desirable effects (aside from helping people with their medical problems).

Number one has got to be Skyrizi. The people who take these drugs in ads seem to live the most fulfilled, wholesome, and deliriously happy lives. Whatever affliction they may be suffering from is either in remission or completely cured. I’d be gulping down Skyrizi by the handful if I could get my doctor to prescribe it, but he claims I don’t “need” it.

A close second on the high-on-life scale is Ozempic. Again, I’m not sure what malady this drug is meant to address, but it is definitely doing something right. Those ingesting it are active, fun to be with, and beloved by anyone whose lives they touch. Moreover, they don’t seem to be suffering in any way from whatever they’re suffering from.

The same goes for those on a program of Rybelsus (which, coincidentally, professes to be a remedy for the same condition that Ozempic treats). These folks seem happy as well, but I detect a touch of melancholy to the bright-and-shiny yard sales they like to attend. Rybelsus is not so much a downer as a lower upper than Ozempic.

Rounding out the top five stonerific prescription drugs are Leqvio and Rinvoq. They both feature the letter Q in their names (which is qool), but are prescribed, it seems, for different disorders. I rate their “highs” as roughly the same: like some “light mind, light body” sativa that has been forgotten in the back of your sock drawer for a couple of years. Still gets you buzzed, though.

This is all surmisal, of course. I’ve never taken any of these drugs because my physician is such an ethical stickler. All I’ve got to go on is those TV ads, but that evidence is overwhelming: this is some high quality shit.

Fortunately, I do have access to one (and widely advertised) prescription drug: Eliquis. I won’t bore you with the medical condition it’s prescribed for. The main thing — as I have been trying to convey here — is how a drug makes you feel. And what is that feeling with Eliquis, you ask? Well, just take a looks at the ads. Old people smiling! Taking part in fun outdoor activities. It’s like a fountain of youth, they seem to be saying.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not exactly playing out that way (in spite of the usually reliable Q in the name). My happiness level hasn’t gone up appreciably, and you could say that having to take a pill twice a day has actually made me grumpier. Furthermore, I haven’t gotten any friendlier — not like those people in the ads, anyway. They seem to get along famously with just about everybody. Whew!

Come to think of it, they don’t act like sick people at all. And yes, I know they’re actors. I’m not a fool, you know. Anyway, I’m going to keep taking it just in case. It may be a delayed reaction rush.
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Yes, voting matters. Polls do not.
~ H, Santa Cruz