Friday, October 29, 2010

Z is for Zany (Day 26)

This guy is zany.

I bet that's not what you thought Z was going to stand for. By the end of this book, I was really getting creative with the adjectives -- first "wacky," then "yucky," and now "zany." But hold on a second! What is this creature, this "guy" if you will, supposed to be? It looks like he started out as Frankenstein's Monster, but then somehow mutated into something else midway through. I only drew one neck bolt before deciding, "Screw it! Frankie's already been on the cover and two other pages of this book! Time to try something else!" So I colored his skin gray instead of green, mussed up his hair, and added some bloodstains to his outfit. You know what? I'm gonna call this guy a Living Impaired individual. With a single neck bolt.

And that, dearest readers, takes us to the merciful conclusion of My Halloween Dictionary. I will leave you with the book's back cover -- another charming flourish by the young author, who could've just as easily left it blank. I like how the smudged ink accidentally suggests the motion of the broom-riding witch across the night sky.

The back cover

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Y is for Yucky (Day 24)

Monsters are yucky.

Okay, okay... so I misspelled "are." I was obviously in a state of artistic frenzy, judging by the bravura depiction of the horror world's own Rat Pack here. We have Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Mummy, and... uh, The Ghost. Notice the bulbous nose and simpleton expression I've given to both Drac and his ghostly comrade. Frankie appears pretty blissed-out as well. Only the Mummy remains enigmatic, a mystery behind his shapeless blob of bandages. Keep in mind, this was all before The Monster Squad. For all I know, they ripped me off. It can happen! Did you see Big Fat Liar with Frankie Muniz and Paul Giamatti? No? Well, you should. It's actually kind of funny. Better than you'd think.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

X is for X-ray (Day 24)

Look at the monster's x-ray.

The letter X affords one very few choices in a project like this. I suppose "x-ray" was about all I could come up with. What else was there? Perhaps "The xylophone is memorably used to evoke the sound of rattling bones in Camille Saint-Saƫns' eerie Danse Macabre." But that would have been a little beyond me at that age, so I went with the tried-and-true "x-ray." As this drawing shows, my knowledge of x-ray technology derives almost entirely from cartoons.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

W is for Witch (Day 23)

See the wacky witch

An end is in sight, kiddies. And glory of glories, I start this one with "See" instead of "Look at." The witch design here does not seem terribly menacing. I must have been influenced by Broom Hilda or Witch Hazel from the old Warner Brothers cartoons. Serious students of the Halloween Dictionary will note that this depiction of a witch does not match the ones we've seen previously in this project like here or here. Before I leave, I must complement the younger version of myself on having great taste in adjectives.

Monday, October 25, 2010

V is for Vampires (Day 22)

I hate vampires.

Twenty years before Twilight, folks. I was ridiculously ahead of the Twilight backlash. Backlashes, of course, are the lifeblood of the Internet. We're all player haters at heart. I think a lot of the anti-Twilight sentiment is directly attributable to the fact that Stephanie Meyer is pulling in mad cash for her little vampire stories, and we all wish we'd thought of it instead of her. I've never read any of the books or seen any of the movies, so my familiarity with the franchise extends only to the way it has been discussed online. (Well, a little on TV.) I don't really even know if Kristen Stewart really is as hopeless an actress as everyone says. I do know I've seen many publicity photos of her looking hilariously blank -- conveying "nothingness" so perfectly that it almost seems intentional. Who knows? Maybe Kristen Stewart is actually a brilliant con artist having a good laugh at our expense.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

U is for Ugly (Day 21)

He is very ugly.

And you are very judgmental and shallow, sir. Aren't we being a bit prejudiced here? Well, he has dental problems clearly. And male-pattern baldness (the Daddy Warbucks/Kojak pattern, that is). Some surgical scars still clearly visible. And only three fingers per hand... with the nails on the wrong side... and in the wrong place. No neck. Little puppet arms. Flourescent skin. Prominent warts. Animal-like ears that stick out too far... and don't line up with each other. But do all these details really add up to ugly? Have you gotten to know this indvidual as a person? Did that even occur to you? Sometimes, the people who are "ugly" on the outside are beautiful on the inside and vice versa. I learned that from a little movie called Shallow Hal. Thank you, Gwyneth Paltrow in a fatsuit, for showing us the way. Again.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

T is for Troll (Day 20)

Look at the ugly troll.

I would promise you that we're past the "Look at" sentences, but there's at least one more to go. And we're back to having one small character drawn in the middle of the page with the rest left blank. What can I say? To this day, I am not good at drawing backgrounds or props. But what of our troll friend here? This was before the Troll movies by a couple of years and well before the rise of the Internet troll, so the trolls I was referencing were the ones from fairy tales, specifically that Norwegian golden-oldie, "Three Billy Goats Gruff." Note that the troll here has terrible posture and must scuttle around like a crab. That's because he has to live under a fairly low bridge. Note, too, the troll's homeless-guy beard and tattered one-piece outfit. The latter might well be described as a gunny sack onesie.

Friday, October 22, 2010

S is for Spider (Day 19)

Look at the huge spider!

My teacher might have been impressed with the sentences the Halloween Dictionary, but I have some reservations. Nine of them -- about a third of the entries -- start with the words "Look at..." The legend at the bottom of this page is supposed to be "Look at the huge spider." But I think this is one of the better pictures in the book, if only because I decided to compose for the entire frame this time rather than making the rather over-generous use of negative space we've seen in previous entries. To this day, I still draw cartoony pictures on just about every piece of scrap paper that comes into my possession, and my drawing style is still astonishingly like what you see above. Those big googly eyes? Still a personal trademark.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

R is for Rabbit (Day 18)

Look at the magic rabbit.

One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small. And the pill that Mother gives you makes you hallucinate a glowing, Harvey-esque "magic ra[b]bit" who can conjure stars, planets, and comets with a mere wave of his forepaws. Misspelling aside, this is one of my favorite pages of My Halloween Dictionary. I'm not of a temperament to get a tattoo, but if I were... well, this is what I'd have permanently inked on some out-of-the-way, not-visible-during-a-job-interview section of my anatomy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Q is for Queer (Day 17)

Look at the queer monster.

Who knows what goes through kids' minds? I sure as hell don't. If I did, I'd write a book on the subject, promote it on the daytime talk shows, and make a fortune from frustrated mothers across the country. I can tell you, though, that the word "queer" merely meant "unusual" to me as a kid, so no subtext can or should be implied. As for this creature's passing resemblance to Lord Vishnu, I can tell you with some surety that Hinduism was well beyond my ken at that age. Perhaps I'd seen a picture of the deity, and it had made an impression upon me. Draw your own conclusions. And your own pictures for that matter.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

P is for Pumpkin (Day 16)

I like to carve a pumpkin.

And just like that, we're on the back half of the countdown. Ain't that something? Truth be told, I was not all that into pumpkin carving as a kid. When you're that age, you can't really do the cutting by yourself, so your "job" mostly consists of scraping pumpkin guts out of your would-be jack-o-lantern. I've had better times than that. But, still, this is a nicely creepy, sorta John Carpenter-ish image, isn't it? Aw, what the heck do you know?

Monday, October 18, 2010

O is for Ogre (Day 15)

Look at the ogre

Or "ogar." Whatever. Keep in mind, this was about 7 years before William Steig's book Shrek! came out and a good 18 years before the Shrek movie came out. Put simply, ogres were not at the forefront of popular culture yet. You can see that by the basically humanoid character design here. If anything, this guy looks like the giant from "Jack and the Beanstalk," what with the green Robin Hood-esque outfit. Dig the pointed cap with the feather! I know I've already started a lot of sentences with "Look at..." But here it's good advice. Look at that ogre.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

N is for Night (Day 14)

Halloween is at night.

Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night.

The similarities are staggering, right? Anyway, Halloween was indeed "at night" when I was a little kid. I can certainly remember being out past dark. But now it seems like the kids go trick or treating at dusk or even earlier, and the whole thing is basically over by sundown. Damn you, slow decline of civilized society!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

M is for Monster (Day 13)

Look at the ugly monster.

This page reminds me of an old Basil Wolverton cartoon of a creature with incredibly stumpy legs and just as incredibly long arms. I don't know if I'd seen that cartoon by this point in my life, because it was in an issue of the comic book Plop! I don't think if I'd gotten into vintage comics yet at that point in my life. More precognition? Anyway, I'm not sure why I made this monster blind or why there is a stick of dynamite on his head or what those things are coming out of his ears. That's all lost to history.

P.S. And, hey, whaddya know? If you do an image search for "Basil Wolverton Plop," that cartoon I mentioned is the very first thing to come up. In fact, it's used to illustrate the Wikipedia entry for Plop! Enjoy...

Basil Wolverton's cover for Plop.

Friday, October 15, 2010

L is for Look (Day 12)

Look at the monster roar and rage!

Examine the work of any artist or author, and you are bound to see patterns. I was no exception. The picture for this entry shows the young man's continuing obsession with bear-like "monsters", and the text is yet more elementary Dick & Jane-ery. But I still like this page quite a bit, not least for its use of the word "rage" and the feral quality of the illustration. Yep, I was one disturbed kid.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

K is for Kettle (Day 11)

Look at the witch's kettle.

The print is a little smudgy here, so I'll transcribe. Look at the witches kettle. Again, it should be "witch's." Again, I was eight. My prose here is not too terribly impressive. I was overly influenced by Dick & Jane at this point in my career. But the facial expression on the witch is, if I must say so myself, pretty damned amusing. "Me? A witch? Don't be silly!"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

J is for Jack-O-Lantern (Day 10)

The jack-o-lantern was very big.

If you're wondering why I would spend the month of October meticulously scanning and then commenting upon a school project I did as a small child, well, this is it. I did it for pages like this one, in which a giant jack-o-lantern terrorizes a group of trick-or-treaters, including a witch, a ghost, and (my favorite) a pitchfork-wielding devil. It's such a "kid" idea, the kind I'd never come up with now that I'm grown. Incidentally, Austin, TX comic book artist Brad Neely has a good slang term for carved pumpkins. He calls them "Jackie-O's." Wish I'd thought of that.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I is for Incredible (Day 9)

The witch's power was incredible.

Yes, it should be "The witch's power was incredible." What can I say? The very same "witch's"/"witches" spelling mistake also appears The Wizard of Oz (1939). I don't know what their excuse is, but mine is that I was EIGHT FRICKIN' YEARS OLD at the time! I don't think kids that age are well versed in the difference between plurals and possessives. That'll hold up in court, right? As for the content of this particular page, all I can say is: blah, blah, blah, obligatory Christine O'Donnell joke, blah, blah, blah.

Monday, October 11, 2010

H is for Halloween (Day 8)

Halloween is a scary time.

Rather a predictable choice for the letter H, I realize, but there is much to discuss even here. Note that even after 7 previous entries, I still had not learned to allow myself sufficient space to write each dictionary entry in the upper right hand corner. Also, for most kids, Halloween is a time of eating candy and having fun. But not for young Joe. No sirree. Even then, I knew Halloween was all about unrelenting terror. On October 31st, the ghosts of those who once lived are going to hunt you down and possibly kill or eat you. Be prepared!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Obey, mortals! Obey!

If you want to, that is. Don't let me talk you into anything.

G is for Ghost (Day 7)

I saw a scary ghost.

"Phoning it in" is such an integral part of the creative process that not even children are immune. Witness this page of My Halloween Dictionary. I vaguely remember that this booklet was created over a period of several school days, and we had an hour per day to work on it. After comparatively elaborate pages for E and F, I must have felt I was behind schedule when I got to G -- hence a nondescript white character against a blank white background. Voila! Another page completed! I do like that Mr. Ghost feels compelled to say "boo" (after all, that's what ghosts say, right?) even when no one else is around.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

F is for Frankenstein (Day 6)

Frankenstein is very scary.

Or "Frankinstein." Whatever. And before you mention it, yes, I know that "Frankenstein" is the name of the doctor, not the monster. In fact, I wrote a song all about it, sung to the tune of "Frankenstein" by the Edgar Winter Group.

Frankenstein is the doctor's name, not the monster's name!
(The monster didn't have a name.)
Frankenstein is the doctor's name, not the monster's name!
I get annoyed when I hear people say
Boris Karloff played Frankenstein
When, in reality, that role was played by Colin Clive.
Don't people know that the name Frankenstein
Just refers to the doctor?
Why is it used indiscriminately to refer to the monster?
Why... can't... folks ever get the names straight?
Can... they... change or is it too late?
Frankenstein is the doctor's name, not the monster's name!
(It really isn't difficult!)
Frankenstein is the doctor's name, not the monster's name!

Friday, October 8, 2010

E is for Exciting (Day 5)

Halloween is exciting.

Now that's what I'd call truth in advertising! A child dressed as a witch being attacked by an actual bear as the stars themselves rain down from Heaven? I'd say that qualifies as "exciting." Perhaps, though, that creature is meant to be a werewolf. After all, the moon is full in this picture. I was a kid, so who knows what was going on in my mind? Under the circumstances, I'd say the child/witch is being fairly zen, opting merely to say the word "help" (to the monster, I guess?) rather than run away. And notice that she has the presence of mind to hold onto her candy. Werewolf or not, one has to keep one's priorities straight.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

D is for Dracula (Day 4)

Dracula is a vampire.

The problem with labels is that they're so reductive. I mean, sure, Dracula is a vampire. But does the word "vampire" contain the whole of his being? Can anyone be reduced to a single word? Perhaps Dracula is also a connoisseur of fine wines or an avid cribbage player as well. But you'd never know that from this entry. Oh, well. I'd like to point out the multi-media nature of this mid-1980s project: pencil, crayon, and marker are freely and daringly intermingled.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

C is for Costume (Day 3)

I have a scary costume.

To me, this costume says "baffling" more than "scary," but I suppose we are afraid of things we don't understand so I'll allow it. I'd characterize this being as a demonic donkey alien, complete with mismatched thigh-high boots. In retrospect, I'm amazed that I didn't go with the more obvious "candy." That's definitely the Family Feud "fast money" answer in this situation, right?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

B is for Bat (Day 2)

I saw a vampire bat.

See? Already things are getting better. If you examine this drawing carefully, you can see that my 7-year-old self already knew the meaning of "artistic compromise," as the word Bats has been altered to read simply Bat. I imagine I drew the first bat and thought, "To hell with this. I'm not drawing a second one." Also, please note the similarity between this monstrosity and DC's Man-Bat. Precognition?

And, yes, I'm aware that lego Man-Bat has a monster wang.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A is for Apple (Day 1)

I got an apple on Halloween.

Okay, so My Halloween Dictionary gets off to a rather dull, conventional start with this entry. Trust me, it gets better. This is a reminder that there was a time when you could think of "apples" and "Halloween" and not immediately think "razor blades." Full disclosure: I did not get an apple on this or any Halloween. Plenty of razor blades, though.

New October Project! My Halloween Dictionary

The cover of My Halloween Dictionary.

Hello, one and all!

While rummaging through my vast archives in a fit of Citizen Kane-esque nostalgia, I discovered a remarkable artifact: a project I did in elementary school, circa age 8! It's a little booklet entitled My Halloween Dictionary. As a way of gearing up for Halloween itself, I've decided to share this golden oldie with you a page at a time... along with some contemporary commentary from an older, wiser perspective. And feel free to add any comments of your own. Above is the front cover. Stay tuned for more! A new page will be posted each day for the rest of the month.

Below is the inside front cover with comments by my third grade teacher, Mrs. Maki. (Which is pronounced just like the last name of the guidance counselor on South Park.)

Comments by my third grade teacher.