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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

Chris Gavaler Explores the Multiverse of Comics, Pop Culture, and Politics

Students in my spring term class “doodled” characters and then redrew them a few dozen times in different positions and actions untill their lines came almost effortlessly. I decided to follow my own lesson plan and created two characters while on vacation last week:

Our family vacation included Prague, Bratislava, and Vienna, so I Word-Paint doodled while in trains, airports, and early mornings in rental apartments.  Central European art museums are crammed with Klimt and Schiele, and I think their distortions were a happy influence. I named the skeleton “Wally,” after Klimt and Schiele’s favorite model and Schiele’s lover, and the demonish character “Egon,” Schiele’s first name.

I’ve also been toying with the idea of placing cartoons inside photographed environments. Our last breakfast was in Vienna’s Korb Cafe, which had the most amazing basement:

The room was closed for breakfast, so I was able to snap a dozen unpeopled pictures on my phone–more than enough for Wally and Egon. I didn’t have a story, so I just started drawing, seeing what gestures and positions emerged. I didn’t have any dialogue in mind either, but I like talk bubbles as a graphic element, so I matched styles to each character. Wally’s body and bubbles are made of squiggly lines, Egon’s are straight-edged.

If you applied for a writing job at Marvel in the 1960s, you were handed four pages of a Fantastic Four issue with all the words removed and told to fill in the captions and bubbles. Feel free to do the same with these:

Personally, I’m not sure words are needed. David Byrne says, “Singing is a trick to get people to listen to music for longer than they would ordinarily.” Maybe words can be a way to get readers to look at pictures too, but I think in comics they can distract from the images. I may experiment with words later, but first here’s the one-page version:


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