Chauvet Cave: That’s not animation. It’s comics!

Classes are finished and the boys are still in school, so Lisa and I are home watching some documentaries on Netflix. The first on the bill was a National Geographic special on Manchu Picchu and we are just finishing up one on the prehistoric paintings in the Chauvet Cave. Although I don’t care much for the latter documentary as a production (so far), the paintings are amazing. My favorite images are to ones in which the artists are trying to depict movement. In particular, there was a bison with eight legs…


…and a rhino that seems to be  shaking its head.


The documentary and the sites where I got these photos likenthese attempts to show motion to moderns film or animation. But in reality, they are far more like comics and modern art (in large part because they don’t actually move). Using multiple images of a limb is a stylistic trick used by many cartoonists. The Flash always makes a for a great example of depicting motion. Here we see the Scarlet Speedster spinning his arm very quickly to blow the bad guys over.

flash106(via John Rozum for Kids, “Menace of the Super Gorilla” – John Broome story, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella art. The Flash #106. May 1959. DC Comics.)

Interstingly enough, 30,000 years after these paintings were made in The Cave of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc, another French artist employed a similar approach. Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912) shows a multi-limbed human reminiscent of bison in the cave.


I don’t think anyone would liken this to a movie or animation.

No great insights here, I suppose. I just wanted to see these all side-by-side. Looks like the ancients came up with very similar approaches to represent motion in a still image. We had very clever ancestors.

Book Update: Floppy evolution, green beards and Korean bees.

evolution_comic_cover_150Evolution is now available in paperback just in time for Christmas for a very affordable $9.95 on Amazon ($14.95 if you get it elsewhere – also very affordable!). I just stumbled across this discovery when I was surfing the web. I hope I get a copy from Hill&Wang in my stocking. If you are still on the fence about picking up a copy, perhaps you could be persuaded by the fact that Evolution is a nominee for the Young Adult Library Services Association’s  (YALSA) 2012 “Great Graphic Novels for Teens” as well as the Texas Library Associations 2011 “Maverick Graphic Novel Reading List.” Thanks to YALSA and TLA for the recognition. As my pals at Big Time Attic noted, we are honored.

Also in the news, Clan Apis and The Sandwalk Adventures have been translated into Korean. This was a very exciting deal brokered by the indefatigably international Daryn Guarino at Active Synapse (friend them on Facebook). On top of that they are going to be in color. Note the singular ‘color.” One color for each book. Nyuki is a bright yellow in Clan Apis and Darwin has a mysteriously green beard in The Sandwalk Adventures.


Nyuki I get. Sorta. Bees are brownish yellow, but the Darwin bit is a mystery. Perhaps his seasickness during his time on the HMS Beagle left him permanently “green?”


Tongue Tied

One of the perks of my job is being able to walk over to the middle school in the afternoon and walk with Max back to my office. Our walks can involve discussions of anything from four dimensional cubes to the nuances of evolutionary theory. Sometimes the ideas come a bit faster than Max’s mouth can keep-up (unlike his father, whose mouth often -unfortunately – out races is brain). This cartoon records a snippet of conversation from a few days ago.


Catching up with the beetles

The journey continues for The Age of Elytra. Our beetles are plugging away as best they can as I struggle to find time to draw their adventures. This story has been in the works since 2004 and is a labor of love that unfortunately gets shuttled to the back burner every time paying gigs rear their heads. Below is a cartoon featuring Jack’s advice on the my writing process. As I finish a page, I use the copier to make a reduction on printer paper and slide the page into a plastic sleeve in a three ring binder. This way I have the whole story for quick visual/story reference. The boys often look through it when we are hanging out in my office and offer their 2 cents.


And now, page 177 from Age of Elytra just because I need to show it to someone. Lucy is taking time to jot down her thoughts.


More evidence for the Power of Comics to Teach

Here is a link to post at Wylie’s Writing Tips called Now You See It that provides further evidence that comics are useful pedagogical tools. Several nice references (although mine – sniff – wasn’t there…). They mention a couple comics from Harcourt on the Wright Bros. and Amelia Earhart. Harcourt Achieve actually had a line of 16-page science and social studies comics that were paired with short texts readers. The line was called Lynx and I wrote and drew two of the comics for their science line; Zoo Break (a story about animal intelligence) and U.F.O. Unidentified Floating Objects. The books were full color but pretty pricey (prohibitively so for most teachers I’m guessing) since they have to be purchased in sets. For those interested, I found a page that has PDFs of a single unlettered, uncolored pages from all of the Lynx stories.

Saturday Morning Cartoons: Creature Cast!

Here are a few Creature Cast videos to get your Saturday morning started old-school. Make sure you are in your footie pajamas and have a big bowl of Froot Loops in your lap. The first video is by Natividad Chen and outlines the remarkable life cycle of Symbion pandora. I truly remarkable example of how evolutionary processes solve difficult problems.

Very cool. Next up is a video about strangler figs narrated by Matt Ogburn with artwork by Sophia Tintori. This video does a very nice job of capturing the same sense of “wow” I felt when I first learned about strangler figs from Sir David Attenborough’s Secret Life of Plants. That “wow” extends to Tintori’s artwork. This one is worth watching for the images alone!

CreatureCast – Hollow Trees from Casey Dunn on Vimeo.

Just in case you haven’t finished that bowl of Froot Loops (or you went back for another), you can find more videos on the Creature Cast web site.

Draw a bug. You know you wanna.

Sometimes you just need to stop in the middle of your daily craziness, take a deep breath…and draw a bug. Why not do that right now? Make it look as kooky or creepy as you want. Then share it with someone. Bug the person in the cubicle next to yours, email it to your parents (they always knew you had talent) or share it via your social media of choice. You’ll feel better. I know I did.