Worth Mentioning – Gunnerkrigg Court

Still no new interviews, but I have been reading a few new webcomics that I really like.

These illustrations are from Gunnerkrigg Court, an SF/fantasy series featuring a young girl that goes to a special school and makes some … unusual friends. The character designs tend to be a bit erratic, but the story is fun, and the special splash pages are great.

You can even do your own coloring with sticks with color on them!

Highly recommended.


Tim Rickard interview

An interview years in the making! You’re seeing the future right in front of your very own eyes! Today, I’m overwhelmed to present… … …

BC: Who are you?
TR: Tim Rickard, cartoonist, creator of the syndicated comic strip “Brewster Rockit: Space Guy!” Also I’m the newsroom artist for the News & Record newspaper in Greensboro, NC.

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
TR: I’m from Kentucky originally, I have a short attention span and I … Oh! Shiny object! 

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
TR: I consider myself a cartoonist first. I am, by profession, a cartoonist, illustrator, graphic artist, designer and writer. 

BC: How did you get your start as that thing you just said?
TR: Drawing in school when I should’ve been listening. Started working professionally as a newspaper artist out of college.

BC: How long have you been at that, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
TR: Too long. My biggest break came when Tribune Media became interested in syndicating “Brewster Rockit” in 2004.

BC: What led up to your starting Brewster Rockit, and do you have any other pokers in the fire right now?
TR: I always wanted to do a comic strip and I tried almost every kind of strip – unsuccessfully. I tried doing strips that I thought would sell. But I decided if I was going to do a strip every day, I’d better do one that I’d enjoy doing, so I developed a sci-fi strip – which are a very hard sell. And whatta-ya-know? That’s the one that got picked up.
I’m working on developing other ideas, but nothing to show yet.

BC: Do you have a favorite Brewster strip character, and why?
TR: Probably Dr. Mel. I just like the fact that – because of his mad scientist status – he can do about anything: Time travel, teleport, build robots. I also like to have fun with Brewster’s stupidity. 

BC: Which of your works are you most happy with, or proud of?
TR: Brewster – of course. I like how it’s been embraced by the actual space community. I’ve had requests for strips by people who have headed major space missions and had my strips included in books about science.

BC: How did your relationship with NASA get started with the Sunday Rockit Science strips? Do any of the NASA guys have Brewster or Pam artwork taped to their monitors? Have any of your strips made it to the ISS?
TR: I started getting some fan mail from NASA-types, some asking for reprints of certain strips. One of those correspondences was from Dr. Marc Rayman, mission leader of the Dawn Spacecraft. I had the audacity to ask him to help me with my science strips. He agreed, and that was several years ago, and he has been helping me ever since. The beauty of Dr. Marc – as I call him – is that he has a wonderful sense of humor also. Which isn’t fair, if you think about it – a rockit Scientist AND a keen sense of humor. “Hey, Dr. Marc – don’t be greedy – pick one or the other!” Don’t know if any of my strips made it to the space station, but a Brewster strip was one of many messages beamed to Mars a few years back in a publicity stunt.

BC: How do you decide which science topics to run with for the Sunday Rockit Science strips, and how much help do you need in getting the details right?
TR: Mostly my topics are whatever I find interesting myself. I surprisingly need only mostly minor adjustments and tweaks to my research from Dr. Marc to nudge it to accuracy. Sometimes he provides the research for me.

BC: Do you have any paper or e-book collections on the market yet? Where can readers find them?
TR: Paperback: Close Encounters of the Worst Kind on Amazon.com
ebooks: Dork Side of the Moon, Rockit Like It’s Hot!, both available on iTunes.

BC: Does Dr. Mel really come closest to who you are in real life, and if so, which of you has the most killbots?
TR: I wish. Unfortunately, I’m most like Brewster (with Cliff a close second) A lot of my strip ideas simply come from – “What would I do in this situation?”
BC: So… Dr. Mel wins.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of white paper when you decide to start your next strip or panel?
TR: In a state of sheer panic. Sometimes I’m lucky and an idea comes easily. But that almost never happens. Usually, it’s off to the internet and news sites and sometimes TV until I find a subject matter that interests me. Then I start brainstorming ideas on that subject.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be?
TR: Yakety Sax.

BC: Do you have any idea as to which of the characters in the strip are the most popular with your readers? Any guesses as to why?
TR: Probably Winky. For some reason, people love it when he loses his spleen. “AAHHH! MY spleen” has become my strip’s best-known catch-phrase.

BC: Do you have one (or two) strips that you think represent the “best of class”? What makes them stand out?
TR: I liked the one where Brewster got his tongue stuck on an At-At Walker. Also one where Pam sends Brewster out to battle a space squid with a few simple instructions: “Rescue Winky, defeat the monster, and come back alive.” And like me when I go to the grocery store for just a few items – Brewster has to write them down. These two strips – I think – capture both Brewster’s cluelessness and the strip’s goofiness in general.

BC: What’s the dumbest, or most ingenious way Ensign Kenny has been offed?
TR: My favorite way is always the one that I did last. For example, I just finished a strip where ensign Kenny gets offed again, but it won’t run until sometime in February. Hint: it has to do with Kenny being a “red shirt.”
BC: It’s always with the red shirts with you guys, isn’t it…

BC: How many papers is Brewster running in now?
TR: I have no idea. I do not keep up with that – honestly. I don’t want those type of details to start to influence how I create my strips.

BC: Do you get much reader mail, and is it mostly positive, negative or neutral? How do you (or your killbots) respond to the negative mail?
TR: Not a lot of email now, but when I do get one, it’s almost always positive. So I haven’t had to deploy my killbots to any critics (lately.)

BC: Have you gotten any reactions from George Lucas, Disney, or any other copyright holders over your use of their characters in the strip?
TR: Not from them, but I did have to change the appearance of Oldbot, my elderly robot character. I designed him after retro robot designs from “The Forbidden Planet” and “Lost in Space.” Apparently, he was a little too close to the robot from “Lost in Space” because I heard from their lawyers telling me to change him. Hmmm … me versus a large corporation? I changed Oldbot’s looks.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers? Have you met any of them? Got any dirt on them?
TR: I’ve met – by phone and e-mail – Stephan Pastis of “Pearls Before Swine”. He likes my strip (he has good taste). He was gracious enough to write the forward for my book “Close Encounters of the Worst Kind.” Also a fan – then friend of – Scott Meyer of “Basic Instructions” before he quit doing the strip to pursue writing novels. I met another one of my big influences, Richard Thompson, at a comic con. I’ve heard he’s a polarizing figure, but for my money, he’s a cartoon genius. I especially love his “Richard’s Poor Almanac” feature. Other influences include Gary Larson, Bill Watterson, Scott Adams and Mad Magazine. I have contacted other cartoonists whose strips I like to tell them I’m a fan. Surprisingly, most of them claim to also like “Brewster Rockit.” Maybe they’re just humoring me, thinking I might be a stalker.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
TR: Pearls Before Swine, Speed Bump, Basic Instructions, Dilbert and many others …

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
TR: Ideas I can steal. Nah, seriously, if it’s a strip I really like, I analyze it – try to see why it works. I also look at the subject matter they write about and think about how I’d translate that into my strip.

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
TR: For me, it’s originality and something a bit off-beat. I’m bored by traditional comic strips.

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter? Do you want to plug your site?
TR: I don’t use Patreon or Kickstarter. Maybe I should look into those. I did do an arc on a Kickstarter for mad scientists that my character Dr. Mel was using to try and get funding for his latest world-conquering project.
To read Brewster, go to GoComics.com/brewsterrockit.

BC: In a battle between Dr. Mel and Prof. Farnsworth, who would win with the most number of doomsday devices, and how many spleens would be lost during the counting?
TR: Professional courtesy would prevent Dr. Mel from battling Prof. Farnsworth. That and a 1000-year time gap. There’d be more doomsday devices than you could shake a disintegration ray at, though. And oh, but the spleens that would be destroyed in that conflict – all of them Winky’s.

BC: How would you describe Brewster Rockit: Spaceguy to new readers to get them to start reading the strip?
TR: I like to describe it as “Flash Gordon” written by someone with brain damage.

BC: Do you have any projects coming up? Appearances scheduled for conventions?
TR: Nope. I do HeroesCon in Charlotte in June about every year.

(“All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright (c)2018 Tim Rickard, Tribune Content Agency, LLC, All rights reserved.)

TR: How’s that? Where do we go from here?
BC:  Infinity. And/or Bed, Bath and beyond.

TR: Rockit-On!

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 Robo.com. 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.

In search of good webcomics.