From Headrack to Clawboy

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Since he founded the blog in March of this year, Larry has been busily keeping us LGBT residents of the Bay State’s non-Boston end apprised of everything a culturally aware gay person in our area needs to know, reminding us along the way that, despite the lesser population density here in the Massachusetts mountains, our segment of the human community is holding its own as a vital part of the local mix.

Larry also writes regularly about the regional art scene for the Berkshire Fine Arts web site, by the way. Many thanks for spotlighting From Headrack to Claude, Larry.

Adapting Wendel For Slideshows

Way back in 1983 I began presenting slideshows featuring my comics and career history before interested audiences in various cities. This was way before advancing technology allowed me to transition from presentations using Kodak’s clunky old carousel slide projectors to the more versatile, digitally empowered Powerpoint software I use today. (I wrote at some length three years ago about my felicitous switch from Kodak to Powerpoint in a 4-part series of blog entries called "Moving On From Ker-Chunk".)

Things are different in the digital era. Transitions between images can be seamlessly fluid and it costs nothing to prepare almost-but-not-quite-identical images using Adobe Photoshop. The practical effect of this is that balloons only appear when I’m damned well ready for them to appear, as simulated in the Flash animation below. (If you can’t view the image below, by the way, it means you need to download the newest version of Flash Player from Don’t worry; it’s a free download.)

Above: Presenting my slideshow for a London audience in 1990.

I’m mentioning my slideshow sideline here in an effort to tell you a little bit about what’s occupying my time these days. Other, perhaps more interesting projects are also afoot, it’s true; but these are too unformed and tentative to talk about, yet my need for blog fodder is unending. Fortunately, my preparation of new slideshow images requires no veil of secrecy.

Invitations to present my slideshows have tended to be extended of late by educational institutions (Southern Connecticut State University and Ocean County College hosted me most recently, you may recall), so my slideshows have taken the form of illustrated lectures, usually featuring background info about Stuck Rubber Baby‘s creation. But in earlier times my shows were created primarily to entertain (and, of course, to hawk my books), and to that end they featured adaptations of my existing comic book stories, with me reading aloud the contents of balloons contained in a succession of individual panels.

A down side of the old Kodak mode was that (a) each image I created cost money to photograph, which ruled out the willy-nilly use of subtle variations; and (b) an obtrusive moment of blankness accompanied each change of images as the slide projector plucked one physical slide from its position in front of the lens and deposited a new one into that slot; which made any kind of smooth transition impossible.

Among the practical effects of these limitations was that, when a comic strip panel projected on the screen contained several word balloons (as in the one shown below), I had no way of preventing my audience from jumping ahead of me while I was reading. This offended my need for dramatic control.

Back in 1986, as I prepared to give my slideshow at A Different Light bookstore in Los Angeles (which was shuttered, sad to say, earlier this year), a Wendel enthusiast in the front row held aloft an adorable kitten dressed in a superhero cape. She and her partner had named the kitten "Clawboy," she told me, in honor of the feline sidekick of "Branman," who was little Farley Chalmers’ superhero alter-ego in my Wendel series. (Click here to read Clawboy’s 1983 debut episode.)

The women gave me Clawboy’s cape to take home with me. (Understandably, I suppose, they did not give me the kitten as well.) That cape remains a valued memento that I continue to keep near at hand in my workspace.

Below: Clawboy’s cape. All it needs is a kitten.

It may look simple, but no small amount of work is required to adapt comic strip panels in this way. So if you want to visualize what I’m doing in odd moments when I’m not working on new projects or partying at one of North Adams’s glittery discos (yuk yuk!), imagine me hunkered down in front of my iMac adapting a sequence of ten pages from Wendel All Together for Powerpoint, panel by panel.

Sidebar: A Favorite Slideshow Incident

My new book was honored with a generous write-up in the December 10 installment of Larry Murray‘s Gay in the Berkshires blog.

About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
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3 Responses to From Headrack to Clawboy

  1. arlen says:

    hey howard–
    thanx for friending me! “Going strong”? Hmmm; doing my best, still trying to do more books and more illustration/design/lecturing, but not getting much of anything these days (sigh!) Oh well–using the time to finally get my site up with all my pop culture crap, Facebooking, etc. and re: lecturing, made the change to Apple’s Keynote program instead of powerpoint, as ppt stopped including the fade transition that it originally had; keynote has the classic fade, so i’d recommend that now. E-mail me personally so we can stay in direct touch, OK?
    Still your biggest fan (got your collected Gay comix book recently, reading it now)–

  2. Howard says:

    Believe it or not, Martha, HBO’s program development folks toyed with the notion of presenting a Wendel series a decade ago. But Six Feet Under was going strong back then and they decided that they had enough gay programming at the time, according to my TV scriptwriter friend in L.A. who pitched it.

  3. Wendel may be wonderful as a slideshow/PowerPoint presentation, but I still think it should be a continuing series on HBO or Showtime.