Lions, Lambs, and Mammoths

"In Like a Lion; Out Like a Lamb!"

That’s the way the month of March is supposed to behave, weather-wise, according to tradition.

So in honor of this aphorism I decided to rummage through my files to see if I could come up with a lion drawing and a lamb drawing for your edification.

Above: A portion of my illustration for "The Pray’s The Thing," a humorous essay by Seth Brown that ran in the first issue of the now-defunct North County Perp.

At right: A drawing of Shearwell the Sheep excerpted from the May 7 installment of the Squirly and Earl series that graced this blog for a while in 2006.

Old drawings aside, March did indeed arrive with a lion-like snarl in the form of yet another snowstorm just as I was preparing for my drive to New Jersey (see below). Fortunately, digging both of Eddie’s and my vehicles out of their respective snow banks this time around was, if not pleasant, at least doable. This was in contrast to the back-breaking and often futile labors occasioned by the serial blizzards nature dumped on us during January and February — months that seemingly took their inspirations more from wooly mammoths than from any member of the cat family.

As for the prospects of lamb-like behavior during the remaining days of this month, I can only take hope from the fact that the grass on our front and back yards became visible again after more than two solid months of being totally entombed by snow, and by the fact that Eddie spotted his first bluejay of the spring two days ago. This has made our spirits rise.

The old lion isn’t giving up without a fight, though. Snow is back today, albeit by a mere four inches instead of double digits.

Quantification issues aside, this is clear defiance of Spring’s arrival yesterday. Surely there must be some court in The Hague to which this kind of meteorological abuse can be reported.

Oh, To Be a Flier on the Wall!

That’s what I got to be during my four-day visit to Fairleigh Dickenson University a couple of weeks ago, where I was smothered in hospitality by students, faculty, and administrators alike during my slideshow presentation about Stuck Rubber Baby and my visits to four classes — two of which were about art creation and two of which drew on my experiences growing up in the segregated South and watching the struggle for Civil Rights take shape.

Above: Things got going with my presentation called "Emotions and India Ink," which concerned the creative strategies I adopted in creating my graphic novel and which was attended by, among others, students whose classes I would be addressing later in the week.

Above: Here I’m exchanging thoughts with students in a history class taught by Asst. Prof. Gary Darden (standing alongside me in this photo) that looks at a range of discrimination issues that were addressed by grassroots activists in the Sixties and thereafter.( I also had a rewarding time with Katie Singer‘s African-American Literature students; unfortunately my camera never made it out of my backpack for that.)

Above: George Cochrane, shown introducing my slideshow. Inset is the cover of Long Time Gone‘s third issue.

The instigator of my stay as a Visiting Artist at FDU was George Cochrane, an artist and professor in FDU’s Visual and Performing Arts Department, with whom I bonded three years ago when pages from Long Time Gone, his own graphic novel-in-progress that he is creating in collaboration with his daughter Fiamma, were exhibited at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) here in North Adams. George and Fiamma had the forethought to launch their marathon collaborative effort when Fiamma was five-and-a-half, thus enhancing their chances of completing it before Fiamma is required to re-direct her energies either to her college studies (in the most creatively speedy scenario) or to caring for her parents in their dotage (in case the novel’s progress advances at a slower pace).

Below: Fiamma Cochrane getting lost in Eddie’s collection of stereopticon slides in our living room with the assistance of her dad. Fiamma’s artwork is inset on the left; George’s is on the right.

Realistically speaking, the time needed to complete this breathtakingly ambitious project will probably fall between those two extremes. In the meantime, the pair of creators will be feeding the world successive installments from time to time as well as gracing a succession of gallery walls with the original artwork for their fascinating and visually dazzling endeavor.

But to get back to my Fairleigh Dickinson excursion: I can’t leave Madison behind without thanking Dan Veltre, proprietor of that city’s super comics shop Dewey’s Comic City, for luring me off-campus for an evening of flattering requests for my signature, stimulating conversation about the comics scene, and good vibes in general.

Below: A snapshot of me with Dan (left) and his assistant John Bush (right), taken during the Dewey’s event.

Bechdel at Williams

March 8 was the day Alison Bechdel visited Williams College, the prestigious institution of higher learning located several hops, skips, and jumps west of North Adams in nearby Williamstown. That’s where the author of the acclaimed graphic memoir Fun Home, (called the "best book of 2006" by Time.com) entertained a rapt audience in Brooks Rogers Auditorium with an engrossing slideshow about her history, her approach to cartooning, and her family — which in light of Fun Home have become inextricably intertwined in knowledgeable readers’ minds.

Besides enjoying Alison’s evening presentation, my husband Eddie and I got to spend afternoon time with our friend thanks to an invitation extended by Kathryn Kent, a Williams English professor and chair of the college’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program, for me to join Alison for a Q&A where we fielded questions from students about our parallel careers as openly gay comics creators during the 1980s and thereafter.

Ever the helpful spouse, Eddie sat in the back of the room while Alison and I held forth and shot the photos you see below. Afterwards we joined Alison, her significant other Holly Rae Taylor, and assorted Williams folks for dinner and conversation at the nearby Sushi Thai Garden restaurant.

I ordered Pad Thai, as I always do. Love that Pad Thai!

Above: Alison and me sharing an afternoon Roundtable Discussion with Williams students. On the right is our host Kathryn Kent, who served as moderator for the Q&A.

Martha Thomases on Wendel

Now that The Complete Wendel is on the verge of reaching bookstores, review copies are now being sent out by its publisher, Universe Books (an imprint of Rizzoli New York).

Ever quick on the trigger, my friend Martha Thomases has lost no time in heralding the book’s arrival via her column "Brilliant Disguise," which is featured once a week at the Michael Davis World web site. Many thanks for your supportive words, Martha.

April in Massachusetts

I’m also currently scheduled to materialize in the flesh in two different Bay State venues next month.

First comes the all-day Paint & Pixel Festival in Northampton, an all-day celebration of both print and web art being held from 10 AM until 5 PM on Saturday, April 16, at the Northampton Center for the Arts (17 New South Street). Come and chat if you’re in the area. I’ll be on a panel at some point, I’m told, and will otherwise be hanging out at my assigned table where I will welcome all comers.

Then a couple of weekends later I’ll be reading from The Complete Wendel and signing copies at the Calamus Bookstore ( 92B South Street in Boston). The fun begins at 7 PM on Friday, April 29.

Those Kinky Chicks From The ’70s!

Above: Surfacing uninvited in my files this week was a never-published "girly" comic strip drawn 32 years ago, when I was still a contributor to "Playboy Funnies."
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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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