T-Minus Three…

October 31st, 2009

It’s Halloween and to celebrate we have another winner in the Great Cartoon Countdown! This time a signed copy of Inklings goes to Greg Wallace of Walnut, IL, for this drawing! Congratulations, Greg!

T-Minus Four Days and Counting…

October 30th, 2009

Today’s winner comes to us from Johnsonburg, PA! Congratulations to Tim Hoh!

For winning today’s contest, Tim will receive a signed copy of Inklings!

Haven’t entered yet? There’s still time! Scroll down for details…

And the Winner is…

October 29th, 2009

It’s T-minus Five days in the Great Cartoon Countdown and so far we’ve had tons of great entries. I know it hasn’t been easy on the judges. So thank to everyone who has entered so far. And remember, it’s not too late to submit (details below). Enter early and often!

And now, the first winner in the Great Cartoon Countdown is…drumroll, please…


Kurt Holdorf of Sioux Falls, SD!

For entering today’s winning entry, Kurt will receive a signed copy of my new memoir!

Congrats, Kurt!

Be sure to check back tomorrow for the next winner!

Announcing The Great Cartoon Countdown!

October 25th, 2009


It’s The Great Cartoon Countdown!

To help celebrate the release of Inklings on Tuesday, November 3rd, I’m going to be giving away five signed copies of my new book, plus a grand prize consisting of a signed book, all three of my band’s CDs, and an original cartoon! More on that later.

Creativity has always played a role in my life and, indeed, creativity is a major theme in my book. I believe that everyone is creative. Even if you’ve never drawn a cartoon, or made a painting, I have a feeling that within each and every one of us exists the potential to create art in some fashion.

That’s why I’m announcing The Great Cartoon Countdown, a special contest for anyone who has ever wanted the chance, or needed the deadline, to come up with a cartoon. Even if you’ve never put pen to paper in a funny way before, now’s your chance to give it a shot. The best part is, that you won’t be judged on skill, but rather your idea, your passion, your creative approach.

In addition to creativity, space travel, and music also play an important role in my book. Therefore, these are three themes from which you can choose to draw. Let your imagination run wild. Space travel, for example, could include anything from the moon landing to aliens. Entries can be editorial cartoons or gag cartoons. Or something else entirely. There are no limits. That’s the whole point of this contest, to stretch your thinking. Also, although not required, working in the title of my book certainly won’t hurt your chances one bit.

I’ve lined up a couple of great cartoonists to judge this contest, Glenn McCoy and Gary McCoy, two of the funniest people I know, who also happen to be brothers, not to mention, really nice guys. Both Glenn and Gary are editorial cartoonists. Their work has also appeared in the pages of Playboy and they are the brains and ink behind the syndicated comic panel, The Flying McCoys. You might also recognize Glenn’s name as creator of the popular syndicated comic strip, The Duplex.

Here are the rules:

1. We’ll be giving away one signed copy of my book each day, starting this Thursday, October 29. You can enter anytime, as soon as you like, and as often as you like. You could enter right now, for example (or at least, after you finish reading the rules). There are no limits. If your cartoon doesn’t pass muster the first day, you might still have a chance the second, third, fourth, or fifth day, depending on the competition. Furthermore, even if you don’t win during the five day run of the contest, your name will be entered into the grand prize drawing in which a winner will be chosen at random to receive not only a signed copy of my book, but also all three CDs produced by my band, Prairie Cats, as well as an original cartoon produced by yours truly. The more times you enter, the better your chances of winning. The winner will have the option of choosing from an editorial cartoon that has appeared in print (depending on availability) or I will be happy to draw a caricature of you, or someone you know (based on photos provided by you). I will work out all the details with the winner directly.

2. Cartoons can come in any medium. They can be produced in the more traditional fashion—pen or pencil on paper, etc. However, any approach is welcome. In fact, the more creative and unusual, the better. For this reason, altered photographs, collages, finger paintings, even drawings on frosty windows, are all acceptable forms of what I’ll consider a “cartoon.” All submissions must be emailed as an attachment to: GreatCartoonCountdown@gmail.com. Additionally, by submitting your cartoons to this little contest, I’m going to assume that it’s OK with you for me to use your work on my website. If not, then maybe you should find another cartoon contest with prizes that aren’t quite as cool and fun. J

3. Again, three themes: Creativity, space travel, or music.

4. Oh, and nothing over-the-top filthy. I don’t mind a little bit of adult humor, but nothing that’s going to make someone’s grandmother cringe. In fact, if you are a grandmother, I especially hope you enter. Grandmothers are wonderful and beautiful people.

5. Anyone is eligible to enter, amateurs to professionals, regardless of age or ability.* Remember, you’re going to be judged on your creative spirit, and your passion, not necessarily your technique. If you are a professional, perhaps this would be a good time to try drawing with your non-dominate hand. Or with your toes. In fact, a toe painting might be just the thing this contest needs. On second thought, I’ve hung out with cartoonists. I’ve even seen some of their toes (don’t ask why or how). Let’s skip the toe paintings. Can we at least agree on that?

6. Again, the Great Cartoon Countdown starts Thursday, October 29th. You can begin submitting immediately. The first deadline is Tuesday, October 27th at midnight. Or wait, is that actually Wednesday morning at midnight? “Midnight” always confused me. Either way, if it’s Wednesday at 12:01 a.m. you missed the first deadline by one minute. However, not to worry, as you’ll have four more chances to enter, that is the following four midnights. If this is all confusing, just remember that the very last deadline is Sunday night at one minute past 11:59 p.m.

7. Did I mention to include your full name, mailing address, and phone number in your email? That would be helpful. Oh, and also please keep the file size to something manageable—nothing more than two megabytes in a jpeg or tiff format.

8. Remember, the sooner you enter, and the more pieces you enter, the more chances you have to win. If you have already scored an early-released copy of my book, there’s no reason not to try and win another. My book makes an excellent gift. And the holidays are just around the corner.

9. I think that’s it. Now, get busy! I can’t wait to see what you come up with. All winners will be notified by email, by phone, or by telepathy. Most likely, by email. I’ll be posting the winners on my Koterblog—and maybe even some of the runners-up, so check back early and often.

10. Now, get to work and best of luck!


*I am not eligible to enter.

Chris the Gentle Viking

October 15th, 2009

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, may not seem like a logical place to find a gentle Viking, or any Viking, for that matter; yet that’s where you’ll find Chris Browne, the inkslinger behind the popular comic strip, Hagar the Horrible. I recently had the chance to hang out with Chris and several other Midwestern cartoonists in Sioux Falls, during our annual North Central Chapter gathering of the National Cartoonists Society.

As a cartoonist, I’m often asked if I know other cartoonists. I’m not sure why people want to know this, and what it is they imagine we must do when we’re together (some of what they imagine is probably true, and if not, go ahead and imagine away), but if ever there were the ideal cartoonist to hang out with, it would, indeed, be Chris Browne. It’s not just because he’s nice, and is a brilliant artist, and isn’t afraid to express his childlike wonder for the world around him. It’s because he tells some of the funniest stories you’ll ever hear.

Chrisbrowne A

Chris at his drawing table

Granted, when cartoonists gather, even when alcohol isn’t involved, every cartoonist is hilarious. There’s something infectious about being around all those cartoonists. To name a few from our chapter, in no particular order: Tom Richmond, Paul Fell, Dave Edholm, Dave Phipps, Bucky Jones, Scott Holmes, Ted Goff, Ken Alvine, Bill Whitehead, John Hambrock, Dave Carpenter, Bob Hall, and Dave Mowder (why there are few female cartoonists in the industry is an oddity no one can quite figure out. I’ll try to tackle that topic another time. I swear, it’s not that girls aren’t allowed. Please, if you’re of the fairer sex and can draw, look us up!)

But back to Chris.

There’s a universal quality in all he says and draws, the perfect one-two punch of pathos and humor, always an underlying humanity and warmth—even in the midst of pain and suffering.

Consider the circumstances in which he moved to Sioux Falls. Three autumns ago, he traveled from his home in Florida to Sioux Falls to give a talk at that year’s NCS chapter meeting. He and his wife, Carroll, had already been thinking about moving someplace “colder,” as Carroll put it. Not “coldest,” as Chris would later describe South Dakota. The local university was celebrating its homecoming that weekend, and by coincidence, the school’s nickname? The Vikings. They asked Chris and Carroll if they would be willing to dress up as Hagar and Helga from the comic strip and ride in a Viking ship parade float. Good sports that they are, the Brownes agreed.

Except that there was no actual Viking ship. Unless you count the tricked-out El Camino with a “mast and sail,” in the vehicle’s bed. Chris recalls that the mast was nothing more than a “toothpick” that Chris and Carroll grasped on to during the parade, ropes whipping them in the face. This is an important detail because the only thing separating Chris and Carroll from “certain death” as the El Camino unexpectedly sped up over a hill was that little piece of wood.

The wood snapped, of course, and Chris and Carroll’s dream of one day moving to Sioux Falls nearly ended in tragedy. Later, Chris would say that he was probably the only “Viking” to ever come close to death from a sailing accident in South Dakota.

When the Brownes returned to their home in humid Florida, Chris went out into the backyard and in true Viking fashion, burned their costumes. Apparently, the synthetic material of the costumes had been driving them both nuts for years, and for whatever reason, the time had finally come to put to rest the Viking outfits. Maybe it’s because Chris’ El Camino experience put things into perspective, I don’t know; life is short, after all, too short to ever again have to squeeze into a suffocating Viking costume. Or maybe the burning of those fake outfits in Florida was somehow symbolic to Chris, signaling that his time in the Florida heat had come to an end. Whatever the case, Chris and Carroll eagerly moved to Sioux Falls, their load a little lighter, the air around them, a little cooler.

Arnold Roth’s Cartoon Blurb (Carb?)

October 15th, 2009

It’s not every day you get blurbed by a cartoonist/illustrator for The New Yorker. Better still–a blurb PLUS a cartoon! Here’s the drawing Roth included with his blurb. The lightning references a scene from Inklings.

Inklings Book Trailer

October 13th, 2009

Hey, everyone, here’s the new trailer for “Inklings”! We shot it a few Saturdays ago at the Omaha World-Herald. We picked a Saturday because I have sort of a loudish voice and figured I wouldn’t bother as many co-workers on a weekend.

I was really stressed out in the days before shooting–after all, I’m a cartoonist and my workspace tends to be, well, a mess. So I spent a couple of evenings cleaning and organizing. I unearthed some great stuff–my original copy of Rollo May’s “The Courage to Create,” for example.

Did I mention that we were shooting on one of the upper floors of my building and the exterior of the hermetically-sealed windows were filthy? I’m not kidding when I say that in the briefest of moments, the thought actually crossed my mind that maybe I could open them somehow! When I reminded myself that this was an impossible task, not to mention that I’m afraid of heights, I moved on to visualizing a giant rainstorm that would magically wash all the dirt away.

Realizing that there was nothing that could be done with the windows, I focused on sweeping away eraser dust, tossing dried-up pens, scrubbing counter tops, and recycling scraps of paper and old newspapers. My wife even came by to help polish the bookcases. I did leave all the ink blots on my drawing table–some things ARE sacred, after all.

Anyway, I soon realized that everything looked too clean and no longer looked like a cartoonists’ workspace anymore. Even I didn’t feel comfortable there.

Fortunately, I’m capable of making a mess pretty quickly, so by the time videographer, Scott Caplin, made his way to Omaha from Kansas City a few days later, the place was again starting to feel like home. Still, I was worried about the windows.

Except that Scott went with a tight shot anyway. And then I reminded myself that we were there to talk about my memoir, not to shoot an episode for HGTV.

Ironically, the window washers showed up yesterday, on a frigid and windy day in Omaha. It sort of freaked me out to be at my drawing table as the guy on the other side of the window was cleaning it. I wasn’t sure what to do. Make eye contact? Wave? Hold up a sign that read, “Thank you, but why weren’t you here a few weeks ago when I was shooting a video?”

But I digress.

A big thanks to Charles Halpin and Scott Caplin of Bookwrap Central for that terrific work!

Hope you like the video!

Ann-Margrock and Roll

October 11th, 2009

When I was a kid growing up in the 1960s, I was, as many kids were, obsessed with TV cartoons. One of my favorites was the Flintstones. Not necessarily for the animation—the drawings didn’t come close to the beauty of Disney—or for the story lines, which were all too often predictable, even for a mush-brained six year-old such as myself. To make matters worse, every few months, the episodes would cycle through and they’d start over. Eventually, you’d think I would have gotten bored. What the Flintstones could offer, however, that Disney and even Warner Brothers could not (unless you count the cross-dressing Bugs Bunny), was sex.

For me, both Betty and Wilma exuded a certain untapped eroticism—indeed, were they not the original desperate housewives? And that theme song, swinging as it did, with its horn punches and thumping tom-toms, had a cool, big band vibe that suggested martini parties. But it wasn’t even for want of Betty and Wilma, or for the groovy music that I watched the show every afternoon after school, Hostess fruit pie dripping from my chin. Everything came down to one episode, the one for which I would wait weeks and often months: the episode in which the top sex kitten herself, Ann-Margret, played herself, in cartoon form, as Ann-Margrock.

Although it would take until years later to realize it, Ann-Margret was the gold standard for sex during those years in which I waited patiently for her to show up every weekday afternoon. As I got older, of course, my desire for Ann Margrock waned, as did my need for the Flintstones. Every so often I might catch an old movie starring Ann-Margret, but mostly, I moved on to other starlets of the day.

Then, in 2002, I heard her unmistakable voice singing a duet with Brian Setzer on “Baby, it’s Cold Outside.” I had started a swing band of my own and in the process, had rediscovered Brian Setzer. Not to mention Ann-Margret. As I listened to her breathy voice, I couldn’t help but to picture her in cartoon form—skimpy loincloth and all, at the microphone next to Setzer.

“Ann Margrock,” would again make an appearance in my head a few weeks ago, when we got the call from a local casting director for the film, “Lucky,” which was being shot in the Omaha area.Would the Prairie Cats be at all interested in being in a movie? With Colin Hanks, up-and-coming actress, Ari Graynor, and…bigband drumroll, please…Ann-Margret?

We had a 6am call at base camp and arrived on set a short time later, in the backyard of a home in one of Omaha’s ritzier neighborhoods, next to a shimmering, but icy swimming pool—it was 42 degrees and my guitar hands were frozen into claws. We were committed to a “ten to twelve hour” day, and just when I was questioning whether this endeavor was going to be worth it, from across the pool, Ann-Margret appeared. After a few minutes of taking stock of the set, she gave us—I like to imagine it was mostly me she was focusing on—a quick wave. In an instant, the getting up at 4:30 a.m., and the long day that surely awaited us, was worthwhile.

Finally, as the morning sun began to thaw my hands, and as my band mates and I were waiting to shoot a scene, Ann-Margret approached us. She was beautiful, of course. Often, when in the presence of famous people, I get nervous, but for whatever reason—it must have been her voice—I felt at ease. It wasn’t until now that I realized that not once did I think of her as a cartoon, but rather the stunning woman she still is.

Hi there

October 1st, 2009

Welcome to my new website and the Koterblog. Take a look around and have fun. And check back soon as I get my feet wet in the blogosphere.