All posts by chh01

I'm an electronics engineer and software programmer, currently living in Japan. This gives me access to the Gakken kits as soon as they hit the shelves. I'm not related to Gakken in any way (but if they gave me an offer, I'd be interested). I just like building things and then writing about what I've found.

The Norm Commission

The next commission I wanted was from Michael Jantze, with all of the Norms in a family portrait-style arrangement. In order to get this, I signed up as a patreon of The Norm at the $5 a month level. In return I got this sweet little marker colored 6″x6″ bristol board of my favorite Norm and his companions in grime. (Well, actually that happens later, in The Norm 4.0, when they have to engage in spring cleaning.)

Additionally, I received in the same package #8 of The Norm Magazine, which collects the original The Norm strips from Dec. 1998 to May 1999, and includes the introduction of Chris the Wookie as he and Norm camp out in front of the theater for 3 weeks to be the first ones in to watch the premiere of The Phantom Menace. Man, it feels just like yesterday that the latest SW film came out. How time flies. Also, within the magazine was a Norm greeting card, of which I now have to make friends with someone so I have someone to send the card to on Friends Day.

Highly recommended. Get your Norm on today.


Real Science Adventures

I was mucking about in the Atomic Robo Timeline page, and kind of by accident I located a couple side stories at the Real Science Adventures site. The main Robo staff came up with the story ideas and gave them to random print artists. The results “vary by mileage,” but they’re still worth reading if you want to learn a bit about the Robo universe. The first book has Houdini, Tesla, Westinghouse and Annie Oakley, among others, thwarting a plot to overthrow the budding U.S. government. The second book describes how the She-Devils acquired their flying fortress base. MPSD and PE are short 4-page one-offs that don’t contribute much. And last there’s the first 11 pages of Project Millipede, the Agent Sparrow spin-off story that’s fully hosted on Atomic Again, the artwork is all over the place, and the characters in RSA especially are almost unrecognizable from chapter to chapter. The dialog for the Raid pirates is hokey to the extreme but it’s still a fun adventure. Check it out.

Real Science Adventures, Vol. 1
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

The Flying She-Devils in Raid on Marauder Island
Issue 1
Issue 2
Issue 3
Issue 4
Issue 5
Issue 6

Miscellaneous Shorts
Most Perfect Science Division
Philadelphia Experiment
Project Millipede, first 11 pages

Atomic Robo

Oh man. I was reading Greg Craven’s Hubris webcomic when the banner ad came up for Atomic Robo. Three days later, I surfaced for air after having finished wading through the archives. The artwork on the first half of the series is killer. The writing all the way through is just down-right hilarious, and I love everything about Robo. The later artwork isn’t bad, either, it’s just in a very different style. So, for anyone unfamiliar with it, (I know, I am very late to the party) what is Atomic Robo? Think of Doc Savage meets Buckaroo Banzai, but with more science guns and no guitars. Very, very funny stuff in a pulpy way.

The website has links to the cover pages of the first 11 volumes, but not to volume 12, and not to the individual chapters, so I’m putting them here if you want them. Read this comic. Buy this comic. And Behold the superior dinosaur science of Lord Raptor!

Fightin’ Scientists of Tesladyne
Chapter 1: The Will to Power
Chapter 2: Pest Control
Chapter 3: Pyramid Scheme
Chapter 4: Atomic Robo of Mars
Chapter 5: Unearthed, Part 1
Chapter 6: Unearthed, Part 2
Free Comic Book Day

The Dogs of War
Chapter 1: Operation HUSKY
Chapter 2: And Then There’s The Robots
Chapter 3: Going Off Track
Chapter 4: Nemesis
Chapter 5: It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow
Why Atomic Robo Hates Dr. Dinosaur

The Shadow From Beyond Time
Chapter 1: Horror on Houston Street
Chapter 2: The Doom That Came to Robo
Chapter 3: At the Farm of Madness
Chapter 4: The Crawling Chaos
Chapter 5: From Beyond
Flight of the Terror Birds

Other Strangeness
Chapter 1: Revenge of the Vampire Dimension
Chapter 2: Atomic Robo Big in Japan
Chapter 3: Why Dr. Dinosaur Hates Atomic Robo
Chapter 4: Incandescent Soul
National Science Fair (?)

The Deadly Art of Science
Chapter 1: The Man With Two Skulls
Chapter 2: The Robot Who Wouldn’t Go Away
Chapter 3: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
Chapter 4: The Wizard of Menlo Park
Chapter 5: War of the Currents
Free Comic Book Day

The Ghost of Station X
Chapter 1: Acceleration
Chapter 2: Explosion
Chapter 3: Propagation
Chapter 4: Transformation
Chapter 5: Two Faces of Tomorrow
Project Saint

The Flying She-Devils of the Pacific
Chapter 1: Women in War
Chapter 2: Pacific Rendezvous
Chapter 3: Out of the Depths
Chapter 4: Behind the Rising Sun
Chapter 5: The Blazing Heavens
Free Comic Book Day

The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur
Chapter 1: A Voyage of Discovery
Chapter 2: The Cave of the Ancients
Chapter 3: Lands Beyond
Chapter 4: The Fall of Tesladyne
Chapter 5: Crystals are Integral
The Trial of Atomic Robo

Knights of the Golden Circle
Chapter 1: The Butcher Boys
Chapter 2: The Alamosa Massacre
Chapter 3: The Vendetta Ride
Chapter 4: The Empire of Iron
Chapter 5: The Long Way Home
Epilogue: The Night of the Inferno

Action Science Vol. 10 Ch. 0
Chapter 1: Bernard
Chapter 2: The Intern
Chapter 3: Vik
Chapter 4: Lang

Ring of Fire
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
City of Skulls
The Revenge of Dr. Dinosaur
Bug Hunt

Atomic Robo
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Once Upon a Time in China
Free Comic Book Day 2016
The Dark Age
A Sparrow Appears – Project Millipede

The Fungus Among us.
Chapter 0
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

Non Sequitur Coloring Bears

Hi. Yes, I’m still here. Just wanted to post this.

(All copyrights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

About a year ago, Wiley Miller, of Non Sequitur fame, started treating his Sunday strip as a (roughly) once-a-month coloring page. He’s gotten some push-back on this from some of his more hostile readers (who apparently don’t like his political views), but on the whole the reception for these strips has been overwhelmingly positive. The artwork is great, the scenes are imaginative, and even in black and white they’re fun to look at.

Unfortunately, while the Japan Times does run Non Sequitur occasionally, they don’t have the Sunday strips. On the other hand, I do get the Sunday comics pages from two different papers from family in the U.S. twice a year. And in the latest batch, I received these two strips. I also have a small collection of 10 colored pencils – not enough to get a lot of nuanced shades of any given color, but adequate for this job. Note that the camera washed-out a lot of the color and the uniformity of the pencil work. The photos are close enough to give a pretty good idea of what the finished coloring work looks like. (Using a scanner would have been worse.)

It’s oddly satisfying coloring in the panels, but a little stressful having to sit still and shade in everything like this. I am amazed at myself, when I look at the finished strips – I think they look pretty good. There’s no particular reason to keep them, though. It might be different if Wiley had a full coloring book for sale, I’d be tempted to keep that after I was through, but he says that he’s got no plans for collecting the Sunday B&W strips into a book because there’s no money in it.

Might be justification for putting together a kickstarter…

The Joys of Microsoft – And a New Hiatus

Ok, so I have this little laptop PC that I bought as a discontinued product a little less than 6 years ago. The fan has always been a bit noisy, and for months the system status has said that I should buy a replacement battery. But it’s been a real soldier, acting as both my work machine, my photo touch-up system, and my video editor. So, a few days ago I had to prep the laptop for use on Google Hangouts for a Japanese translation course I’m taking. As I’m going through the Hangouts setup, I notice that the internal microphone on the laptop is permanently on. This is not ideal, because an outsider could hijack it and use it as a listening device. So I go through all the Windows menus for changing the microphone settings, and none of them actually disable the internal mike. By “accident” I click on “advanced settings” on one of the screens and the next thing I know, I’m in the activation screen for Microsoft Voice Recognition.

I don’t want this so I exit out. Unfortunately, Microsoft has other plans. Over the next couple hours, I’m getting random characters showing up in the documents I edit, and corrupting filenames as I try to type them in. I try deactivating the internal mike again, and to find some way to turn off voice recognition. Every time something appears to be working, the noise comes back. I try cutting up a new headset microphone jack and soldering the wires together to ground the input lines to make a dummy jack, and that only works for a short while. The noise comes and goes, with no real pattern. Sometimes it looks like it might be the keyboard burning out, other times an oversensitivity of the touch pad mouse. I don’t use the keyboard, I deactivate the touch pad, and even if the noise subsides for a bit, it still eventually comes back worse than before.

I went online to see if anyone else had the same problem and if there’s a fix for it. I found a few people pleading for help in deactivating Microsoft voice recognition as far back as 2010, and no one had ever gotten a solution that worked for them (a few people turned off their speakers to prevent feedback whistles, and had tried taping over their microphone slots, but Microsoft apparently just voted to ignore the issue).

Bottom line is that I’ve had to wrestle my way through the mess in copying my files off the old laptop and on to a new machine. I don’t know if there’s a point to sending the old laptop to a repair center to have it cleaned up and a fresh copy of Win 7 reinstalled on it. But, I may be willing to pay for that, because I prefer using a smaller keyboard than what I have on the new machine. Thanks a lot, Microsoft!

Anyway, it’s taking time to set up the new machine with all the applications I need, and things have been really slowing down on Basket Case the last couple of months. It’s been getting increasingly harder to get cartoonists to respond back to my requests for interviews, or to give me their answers after I send them the questions. I think I may have to take a hiatus and rethink my approach to how I run Basket Case. In the meantime, thank you, everyone, for your support of the blog so far, and I apologize for wimping out like this. I don’t know about you, but *I* enjoy reading these interviews, at least.

Bill Holbrook interview

I wrote about my interest in Bill Holbrook’s works in March, and I’m happy to say that Basket Case is proud to be a patron of Kevin and Kell. [Edit: Added the strip I appear in.]

(Me, in the KnK universe.)

BC: What personal information do you think is important for readers to know about you?
BH: I grew up in the Space Age atmosphere of Huntsville, Ala. in the 1960s. On graduating from Auburn University I was hired by The Atlanta Constitution as an editorial staff artist. After several attempts at syndication, my office strip On the Fastrack was picked up by King Features and debuted in 150 papers on March 19, 1984. Eleven days before that I’d met Teri Peitso on a blind date. We were married on Pearl Harbor Day, 1985, and now have two daughters. That also gave birth to a second strip about kids called Safe Havens.

(from Safe Havens)

BH: In September 1995 I began a new strip called Kevin & Kell which is now the internet’s longest running daily webcomic. I was named Cartoonist of the Year at the 1998 Pogofest, an annual gathering in Waycross honoring the great Walt Kelly and Pogo. Kevin & Kell was given the Ursa Major Award in 2003 for Best Anthropomorphic Comic Strip, and in 2016 it was one of three nominees for the National Cartoonists Society’s Silver Reuben award for Best Online Comic (Short Form).

BH: I also collaborated on the comic book A Duel in the Somme, written by Ben Bova and Rob Balder.

BC: Do you consider yourself an artist, cartoonist, or something else? How did you get started as that?
BH: The term cartoonist best sums up my skill set, so it’s what I’ve always called myself.

BH: As for getting my start, there were a number of crucial moments. In one sense you might say my start was drawing constantly as a two-year-old, but the biggest leap was in July 1983 when King Features responded positively to my submission of On the Fastrack. They flew me to New York to meet the staff, and I signed the contract in December of that year. Fastrack debuted in papers on March 19, 1984.

BC: Which of your works are you happiest with or most proud of?
BH: I’m proud of all of my works, but I’m always trying to improve them. I keep introducing new elements so they stay fresh.

BC: Where can we find your collections?
BH: Readers can find all of my books at the Bill Holbrook Store.

BC: How do you get started when you sit down in front of that blank sheet of paper?
BH: I write every weekday, and the process begins by focusing on the characters of which strip I’m writing for that week. From that point I let my mind wander, imagining scenarios that force the characters to respond. Usually they surprise me.

BC: Your strips have been running on “cartoon” time, so one year strip time isn’t one year of real time. Yet, your characters age and go through various life changes. How do you decide to have a strip leap forward a few years to get to the next stage (Rudy graduating high school, Coney exiting diapers and entering school, the Safe Havens kids growing up, etc.)?
BH: The strips all take place on different time lines. Safe Havens is completely chronological, currently depicting life in April 2017, and the characters age accordingly. In Kevin & Kell the characters age, but slowly; since the strip’s debut in 1995, five years have elapsed. Fastrack takes place in “comic strip time” in which the characters are frozen at specific ages, yet always interacting with current events. This leads to some anomalies, like that in Fastrack Dethany will always be a lowly personal assistant, but in Safe Havens we’ve seen that she has risen to become the project manager for humanity’s first mission to Mars.

(from On the Fastrack)

BC: What was the inspiration for Dethany, and why move the focus of On the Fastrack from a group of functional computer geeks to a death-obsessed goth? Has her reader popularity changed over time? Has she generated any reader push-back? Has anything about her surprised you within, or outside the strip? [Followed by: How popular have the strip-related twitter accounts been? What was the rationale behind setting them up? Have there been any advantages or drawbacks to having the accounts, or having the presence of the strips in so many web outlets?]
BH: Dethany’s arrival in Fastrack was entirely by accident. When I created her I figured I’d get a few gags out of her unusual nature before she moved on, but I was astounded at how easily the material flowed when she interacted with the other characters. That was confirmed when the strips featuring her began appearing, and readers would send me messages simply saying how much they loved her. None of this was part of a master plan, but I went with it.

BH: This naturally leads to the question about social media. It was online interaction with the readers that reinforced my initial feeling that I was on the right track with Dethany.

BC: Are there any real differences between doing a webcomic versus a syndicated newspaper strip? Which format do you prefer? Kevin and Kell seems to offer you the greatest leeway in terms of addressing social issues (trans-species/transgender, mixed marriage, non-traditional family structures, etc.) – Does political commentary belong in a family “comic”?
BH: Webcomics don’t have to follow the same format restrictions that newspaper comics do, but I still work within them for Kevin & Kell since I’m most comfortable inhabiting those structures.

(from Kevin & Kell)

BH: That said, I created Kevin & Kell expressly as an outlet for social commentary that newspaper editors might find uncomfortable. I knew that my stances would generate some hostility in certain quarters, but that was part of the terrain I chose to take. The good news is that the positive comments have outweighed the negative ones by 100 to 1.

BC: I know that this interview is going to be printed too late for this question to be relevant, but are there any plans for any of the characters in the strips to do something for Earth Day (Apr. 22)?
BH: I don’t have anything planned in the strips for Earth Day, but I do plan to personally take part in the March for Science in Atlanta that day.

BC: [Later] How did that go?
BH: The march went very well. I haven’t seen the official numbers, but the crowd was in the thousands. It took about an hour to cover the 2-mile route around Candler Park, which is in a residential neighborhood close to downtown Atlanta. Here’s a picture of me and my sign. 🙂

BC: With Samantha’s current involvement in preparing for the Mars mission in Safe Havens, have you gotten much in the way of a reaction from NASA or any other space program world-wide? Are there any Safe Havens strip clippings on the fridge on the ISS? What’s your reaction to the Trump administration’s plans to cut funding to NASA or any other program?
BH: I grew up in the space program, as my father worked for the company that tested the boosters of the Apollo and Space Shuttle rockets. Obviously I have a personal emotional investment in NASA’s funding. I haven’t gotten any feedback on the Mars mission in Safe Havens, though, but that may change when they launch in January.

BC: Are there any plans for future story lines for any of the strips you’d like to tell your readers about?
BH: I have plans for future stories in Kevin & Kell and Safe Havens, but they’re all surprises. (For the latter all I can say is, yes, they’ll be going to Mars.) For Fastrack, I let trends in technology and cyberspace determine the direction. (It was that intentional openness to improvisation that allowed Dethany to take center stage.)

BC: After going over your bio again, I went back and reread the Duel in the Somme. What was it like working on that? Any high points or challenges? I also follow Erfworld, so, how was it working with Rob Balder? Did you use any reference materials for the planes or battle fields?
BH: I drew Duel in the Somme during the first half of 2010, and I really enjoyed stretching my illustration muscles. The requirement was that the planes would be historically accurate down to every detail, which meant a *lot* of research on Google. I worked directly with Rob Balder, which was a fun collaboration. He’s a true Renaissance man.

BC: Kevin has been kind of a mirror for the progression of computer technology ever since KaK started. Are there any trends you predicted successfully? Any trends that you regret had died out? Any tech trends you’d like to predict now?
BH: I wish I had crystal ball to see tech developments ahead of time, but the industry continues to surprise me.

Exhume Yourself

BC: If your strips had soundtracks, what would they be?
BH: It’s hard to say what kind of soundtrack would accompany my strips, since they all involve a wide emotional range. It would depend on the situation, and be fairly eclectic. That said, there’ve been three songs for which I wrote the lyrics:
Dethany- Exhume Yourself
Bambi- Free Range Love
Kevin and Kell- Underneath the Fur
BH: The voice on the songs “Exhume Yourself” and “Free Range Love” is my sister, Susan Holbrook Ridarick. She’s a professional singer. “Underneath the Fur” was created by Tom Smith.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
BH: I’m a fan of any comic that’s created with personal honesty and possesses a unique perspective.

Underneath the Fur

BC: Any appearances scheduled for conventions?
BH: I have three appearances coming up this year:
June 30-July 2 Anthrocon, Pittsburgh PA
Aug. 10-12 Otakon, Washington DC
Sept 1-4 Dragoncon, Atlanta GA

BC: If Elon Musk, Richard Branson, or anyone similar ever succeeds in establishing a commercial tourist business for space travel, would you buy a ticket (for yourself or for someone else?)
BH: While I’d love to go, I’m afraid my skill set wouldn’t be much use on an interplanetary voyage, even as a tourist. 🙂 I’ll just leave that to the professionals who know what they’re doing. Like Samantha.

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Fastrack and Safe Havens (c) 2017, King Features Syndicate, World rights reserved. Kevin & Kell (c) 2017, Bill Holbrook, World rights reserved)
(This interview is the copyright (c) of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2017. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)