Thursday, February 9, 2017

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! 53 years ago this week

A personal memoir: yeah--it's a cliche, but for me,there's never been a more true one; The Beatles changed my life. I was a toddler and too young to remember the first show, but I remember the excitement surrounding them, and-some of my earliest memories are of them-a glimpse on a b & w TV; the first time I heard them on the radio( in the car w/my Mom and sister, Cathy). In those early days--for me, and millions others, they embodied happiness-their sound and their attitude--was so much joy. They were surprise! And their life force was infectious. They made a popular music that was their own ingenious, creative and personal art--and by doing so they "fulfilled my most far-flung dreams of the power of pop music"--and by some miracle of osmosis they sent a vibe through the culture that suggested all of us were creative, all of us had this power within us and if we were lucky, we could each find a way to be who we wanted to be-even if so many of us just wished we could be a Beatle too. Though I might've been left-handed, and for a brief stint, played bass in the school band( two months, tops!)-I wasn't ever gonna be Paul McCartney--but I could find a way to be Geoff Grogan-and he could be his own artist, find his own way, through The Beatles,( and through Charles Schulz and Jack Kirby, and...and...). The Beatles (and later Dylan and Schulz and Kirby)-showed me that pop culture could be as great a platform for art as any other. The Beatles became very important to me very early on, and while they opened me up to lots of different musicians and types of music(ours was a musical household-thanks to my musician/artist Mom), they would-and will always be- my first love. Despite all the times I've heard their music and all the over-exposure,nothing compares to that sound for me. From the first time I heard them-it was like hearing a sound that had always been there somehow--yet lurking just behind the veil. After the music, in those painful first years after they had broken up, Paul and John showed me what it meant to be a loving husband. Later on, after John had gone, my wife and I bonded via The Beatles (and Dylan, and Star Trek). Deb and I were very fortunate to have the opportunity once to meet Paul( we can all cal him Paul, right?) -and when I shook his hand, the first stupid thing out of my mouth was "your music has meant so much to me"...duh. His eyes showed that he'd heard it a billion zillion times-something so easy to say, he probably doesn't believe it anymore. But if I never had a chance to say another word to him, I had to say that-because it is the truth. My life would have been very,very different if I hadn't heard The Beatles. I would rather not imagine a world without them--it's like thinking of the the sky without blue.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A matter of conscience, a matter of comedy

Hi Readers!
Beginning Monday, the story-line I've been hinting at in recent JJ strips begins to take shape, and I fully expect that in the next week or so I may lose half of the small readership I have. I don't have a big Social Media Imprint, so I don't expect that I'll be picking up new readers in large enough numbers to compensate, but then--I don't have all that much to lose, right?  In this case, my conscience overruled my better judgement and sense of self-preservation. I'm moving Jetpack in this direction at this time at the behest of some internal moral compass; I really don't have a choice. These are the thoughts, the ideas, the issues that are presenting themselves to me now-at this time, at this place. And Jetpack is my outlet, and so here they must go.
I can't begin to convey the depth of sorrow, futility, despair and disgust I've felt in the wake of our recent election. I know I'm not alone in this, but that knowledge doesn't seem to ease the stress level--and I find I'm having difficulty sleeping nights; my anger and fear are so great.  Make no mistake--I believe our recent election is an aberration; our President-elect a poseur and a con-man who ran a campaign based on intolerance and hatred; who preyed on weakness, fear, sexism and racism in the interests of lining his pockets and those of his his billionaire cronies, who together will gladly send our nation and world over the cliff as long as they can insulate themselves from the carnage. I needn't go into the details, the details are self-evident, and I'm not a political analyst or watchdog; I'm a cartoonist. And if my little comic strip is about anything, its about difference; its about an individual who does not conform to institutionalized concepts of "normality", and the various ways in which the people around him respond to those differences. At a moment in which we've elevated a bigot and a bully to the highest office in the land, and given license to an ever-growing number of expressions of hatred and intolerance in his name, we each have to do what we can to fight back in the name of justice, equality and diversity. I'm a cartoonist. and this is what we do.
We also do what we can to make it funny. That's our job too, maybe the bigger, tougher part of it.  It's easy just to rant--it's easy writing this. It's hard work to make something worthwhile, funny, and entertaining of one's little opinion or observation about something so disagreeable--but that's the task at hand. Because humor reaches people in a way very few Op Ed pieces can. And let's face it, demagogues are a rich comedic resource from which cartoonists have been drawing inspiration for as long as there has been pen and ink. To waste such an opportunity now would amount to a crime against my forebears.
I don't have any illusions about the power of comedy to change things.( Nor illusions about how many readers I reach.) Neither "Duck Soup" nor "The Great Dictator" could turn the tide against the rise of fascism, nor stop the war from coming. But they did contribute to the culture of resistance, and in doing so were among the things that gave life to the hope that all was not lost. Everyday now, the actions of the incoming administration give cause for the gravest of fears; it is not to make light of the seriousness of our predicament that we take pen to paper, but to give some sustenance to the flames of resistance, the light of hope.
All this high falutin' morality aside, I swore to myself that when I returned to JJ, I was doing it for the fun of it--and damn, if this isn't fun.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Dick Van Dyke meets Plastic Babyheads from Outer Space

It was Dick Van Dyke's 91st birthday on Dec. 13th( also my wonderful nephew Will's birthday too--so it must be a special day!) In honor of his 91st birthday, I present my little tribute to Mr. Van Dyke, aka Rob Petrie; Dick Van Dyke meets Plastic Babyheads from Outer Space; outtakes from my comic strip, Plastic Babyheads from Outer Space ( now Jetpack Jr., of course) at gocomics.
My wife and I have watched "The Dick Van Dyke Show" many times over on Netflix, and thousands of times in the 60's and 70's. No matter how many times I've seen it, it never grows old. There's something timeless in the story of Rob & Laura, Sally and Buddy. Growing up, I saw something of my parents in Rob & Laura. In truth, my folks were nothing like them-- except in that Dick & Mary were so natural together, their arguments so real and so revealing of their love for one another. Rob & Laura were a dream couple; it was natural to want to see my parents in the young, attractive, upwardly mobile suburban couple. Rob & Laura Petrie set an impossible standard, and my parents were never a song-and-dance team. I loved them anyway.
Yet still, Rob and Laura touch a chord in me; their loves and losses and little misunderstandings; lost innocence-theirs and ours. 
A variety of elements came together to make "The Dick Van Dyke Show" a classic of the first generation of television comedies; the writing, the direction, Carl Reiner--but most importantly; the cast--and the show's effervescent leads. Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore were perfectly cast, and among the greatest comic actors of their time(only Lucille Ball compares). Watching them at work in TDVDS is to see two stellar comics at the peak of their game, performing great comic writing brilliantly. As the lead of the show, the weight rests on Dick, and episode after episode, he comes through with a dancer's grace in slapstick routines, and a clown's command of pantomime and facial expression. He's truly a wonder of great comic acting.  
So I'm a big fan; even at his hokiest; performing some barbershop quartet routine from long, long ago;  he is one of those entertainers who has that rare gift of making you glad to be alive.  Once years ago, my mother and I walked behind him in a department store in Manhattan. We were so surprised to see him that day. Giving the lie to that cliche of TV stars who are smaller than they appear on television, Dick Van Dyke was so much bigger than I imagined he'd be. We wanted to say "hi"  and thank him for all the laughs he'd given us over the years. But we were too shy. And then he was gone. 
So here's my tribute to you, Mr. Van Dyke. Thank you for all of the joy you've brought to us these many, many years. Happy Birthday! 



























Monday, December 5, 2016

A Brief Introduction



Along with several others of my colleagues at Adelphi University, I've been asked by my Dean to do a little presentation of my work--I guess because I'm a bit "under the radar".  Rather than do a Powerpoint with questionable links to my websites,etc., I thought I'd gather together some things here at home for convenience.

For those who aren't familiar, my work over the last 15 years has been in collage, comics and-most recently--animation. For those who want to see a fuller accounting-please see my FB page: facebook.com/geoffgroganetal/ 
 This isn't everything I've done, but the things that stand out to me looking back.
So--without further ado, a career retrospective: 
Collage(2000-2005):







Comics:
Look Out! Monsters(2008)










More Comics:

 Fandancer(2010) 













 KORUMBU! pts.I & II (2011)
( Korumbu Confesses! & Korumbu Attacks!) 

Jetpack Jr. (2011-)
www.gocomics.com/jetpack-jr







and Jetpack this week:  http://www.gocomics.com/jetpack-jr/2016/12/05

 Animation(2016):

 
Bella Dilemma TV Show Trailer from Geoff Grogan on Vimeo.


 And-my current work-in-progress:  
Plastic Babyheads from Outer Space



PBHFOS8-1 from Geoff Grogan on Vimeo.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Jetpack's Back!




What was it Michael Corleone said?  "Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in."
Comics. They have this gravitational pull---and I'm a sucker for 'em. And specifically, the comic strip. There's something about the daily comic strip, as outdated as its format may be in the digital world--there's something about the structure, the one-two-three punch; the narrative limitations of working in short bursts-that I respond to. And, forgive my hubris, over the course of  five years, I think I've gotten good at it. Well--at least, pretty good.
And--freed from pressure, whether deadline pressure or the pressure of self-imposed aspirations, it can be fun--and it is fun. So this return to "Jetpack Jr." is for fun--fun for me, and I hope, fun for you, my reader. My goal is to provide a moment's entertainment, and maybe a little more than that. At the very least I hope to share my love of the comic strip--its form, its history, its tradition. I hope, when you read "Jetpack", some of that comes across. 
For whatever good intentions are worth, my plan is to continue to relay the stories of the Gladlee household as they come to me, but at my own pace, and with a somewhat irregular schedule, to allow for the work I'm doing on the other projects I've told you about in my last few posts.  It's likely the stories will come in bursts of a few weeks at a time--as far as I can tell, anyway. Then it may be a month again before you and I see them again.  I don't get to their neighborhood every day; it's clear on the other side of town-- and I do have a job, and a wife, and dogs and cats, and groceries to buy.  
But I can't stay away for too long, they are oddly compelling in their way, always good for a laugh, and I've grown fond of them.  Forgive me if I assume too much, but I think-- maybe you have too. Just a bit. 
With that in mind, The Gladlees and I will see you soon at GoComics.com!

P.S. Be sure to like the strip's FB page: www.facebook.com/BellaDilemma00 and for more on my work:www.facebook.com/geoffgroganetal
Thanks!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Never say Never Again

That's right. After everything I said in my last post, and all the other stuff I'm working on and want to work on, I've been drawing a new "Jetpack Jr." strip. And that means another will follow and maybe a few after that and...well, we'll see.
I am deep in the middle of  a "Plastic Babyheads" animated trailer at the moment, and who knows where that's going to go---so I can't promise anything. Certainly I can't go back to the schedule "Jetpack" had before. With everything I'm trying to do (as well as my "full-time +" day-job as Chair of a University Art Department)
that's just not possible.  But I'm thinking something more intermittent--a week here, a week there---is probably very do-able. And probably good for me too. In the time away, I've both had time to re-think those issues that were bothering me about the strip, and then-- time away enough to miss the work, the charge of producing something for an audience every other day, the thrill of seeing where the story goes. 
To be honest, the changeover from "Plastic Babyheads" seems like a mistake to me now; I robbed Jetpack of his character--as simplistic as he was--and replaced it with an ill-defined non-entity. His costume is nice, but that's about it. So--to satisfy that nagging desire to "GET IT RIGHT", I'm trying one last re-boot, changing the emphasis, and bringing back two of my favorite characters. Check out the re-tooled "Jetpack Jr." just after Thanksgiving.  And the next time I say "never" again...

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Meanwhile, I've been inking pages from my unfinished graphic novel, "Nice Work"-begun all the way back in 2006/7 and which ran on the lost and lamented ModernTales.com back in the day.




I was going to say it was interesting to go back to pages I penciled 8 years ago and am just getting around to inking now, but -at least at first--it was merely annoying. 

Drawing "Jetpack/PBFOS" for 5 years really cleaned up my style, so that I don't waste so much graphite now--but these old pages-phew! so much eraser dust! Necessity is the mother-of-invention--and I went ahead and borrowed my "layer of vellum" approach on these old pages, and now it's working just fine.




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Finally, I am working on the "Plastic Babyheads from Outer Space" trailer---and here's the work in progress:
Plastic Babyheads from Outer Space_work in progress-1 from Geoff Grogan on Vimeo.

 I've gotten farther than this--but you get the idea. The kids at Farmingdale High School seemed to get a kick out of it when I visited them in Regina Nicholas' art classes yesterday. I keep plugging away at it--hope I finish it before the decade is over!

That's all for now! See ya on the new GoComics--or on Vimeo!

Cheers--

G

Monday, September 5, 2016

Tomorrow's a New Day



Dear Readers;
After almost 5 years working on "Plastic Babyheads" and its follow-up, "Jetpack Jr.", I've come to something of a cross-roads. If you read my last post, you probably know where this is going. 

via GIPHY
I've got lots of ideas for other projects. There are a lot of other things I'd like to do-and sad to say, I can't do them all. After a lot of deliberating, I've decided the time has come to put "Jetpack Jr." and my comic strip dreams aside- or at least on hold.
It hasn't been an easy decision to make. I've loved every minute of working on PBHFOS and JJ, and I put my heart & soul, as well as blood & sweat, into the strip. I've been proud to be a part of the GoComics line-up for the last three years.  But from day one the strip had problems at GoComics, and it never caught on with an audience. I've grown increasingly frustrated with its inability to attract subscribers( a subscriber base of just under 1800; for months it hovered near that mark,  and then once reached the 1799 mark  only to lose 5 or 6 the next day!)--and more than that, frustrated with the core of the strip itself, the character of "Jetpack".
While the surrounding characters became clear to me as I worked along, Hank and Marsha in particular, after "Babyheads" the character of "Jetpack" seemed to lose focus for me. Increasingly, he seemed to be an alien without motivation.  The concept of the alien in the home has become so well-known, from "My Favorite Martian" to "E.T." to "Home" and so well done--it seemed to leave "Jetpack" little room to move. Who needs another alien at home story?
Coupled with my growing interest in animation, as well as other projects I'd like to return to or begin--it began to feel as though continued devotion to working on "Jetpack" was akin to chaining myself to a hollow log. I'd come to realize my hopes for the strip  were clouded by denial;"Jetpack" wasn't going to develop a bigger audience, it hadn't really connected with the audience it had-- and more than that, I'd begun to doubt my premise and main character. Once you lose belief in the world you're creating, it's very hard to get it back.
And then "Bella Dilemma" came along. And other ideas. I don't know if any of those will have the public platform "Jetpack" has had( small as it has been), but my heart tells me this is the way to go. There comes a moment when remaining steadfast to one set of ideals poses a potential threat to the very spark of life at the center of one's creativity--and I think I'm at that point. My ideas are moving in a different direction now, and deferring them in favor of some misguided hope for the comic strip seems self-defeating, if not delusional. 
So it's time to call it a day. But just as this day ends, another begins. And I'm already at work on my next projects; "Bella Dilemma" being foremost among them. The work on the strip these last 5 years hasn't been in vain. Far from it! It's not only given me valuable experience but "Bella Dilemma", and a host of other great characters--all of whom play a part in my upcoming animation projects.  In fact, PBHFOS has found new life as one of those projects--and here's a clip from a pitch for an animated series  I'm working on!
Plastic Babyheads from Outer Space_test trailer from Geoff Grogan on Vimeo.

There's more to come here--and who knows where that might lead?

So--while it's always sad to come to the end of one phase of life and it's never easy to say "goodbye", it's exciting to come to a new fork in the road-and wonder what lies ahead. Like most of my projects, it may not attract the big audience I've always dreamed of--but it's sure to be interesting. And who knows? "Jetpack" may yet find his way into my animation. So, wish me well. Until we meet again....

Geoff