Tricks of the Treat
My misspent youth buried alive in horror mags like Creepy and Eerie and Hammer Films like Vampire Lovers and Twins of Evil has me yearning at this time of year for that remembered taste of dark and forbidden thrills. But it's much harder to conjure those innocent shudders in these far more graphic times, where the 24-hour news cycle offers up on any given day more acts of mayhem then can be found in the entire Roger Corman corpus.
And, sadly, some of those shockers of one's youth now deliver more smirks than jerks. For a review of many of the Golden Age's greatest Creature Features by the fiendish curmudgeon E. Basil St. Blaise, please read Screamed Corn.
Yet the odious influences linger on, especially in my work. Here are a couple of drawings and a comic strip with a monstrous bent for Halloween 2014. And links to two political animations that were timed to coincide with that other yearly nightmare, Election Season: White House of Horrors and White House of Horrors II.
I'd also like to announce that Now What Books has just published PK in the Terrarium: A Life in Books. It's a collection of my brother Paul Kozlowski's writings culled from the last five years of his blog of the same name. It's a deeply felt and witty set of essays by an engaged reader, collector, champion and all-around lover of the written word set down in print. Paul was a proud bookseller for over 30 years and this book outlines his efforts to share his passion with a distracted public, as he navigated a trade in the throes of upheaval and unpredictable change. Objectivity be damned, I highly recommend it.
The recent revival of the 24 brand on Fox called to mind this illustration I did for the Hartford Courant in 2007. I never saw either iteration of the series, but it was fun to send up Jack Bauer.
Living three blocks from the Hudson River, I had a water-logged front row seat for Superstorm Sandy in 2012 –– a front row seat with the houselights turned off. Months after the storm, I was aware that many people were still struggling to rebuild their homes and lives. I also knew several artists who had been on the front lines of the calamity. With those factors in mind, along with my own desire to try to put into words and pictures the experience that I had come through, I thought it might be a good idea to pull together a book on the disaster.
Downtown Drowned is a collection of comic strips recounting the events surrounding the catastrophe, told from a first-person perspective, along with other drawings and cartoons related to the Storm of the Century phenomenon. The profits from the sale of the book will be donated to charities involved with providing aid to those still in need.
I'm grateful to the artists who contributed to this effort. Peter Kuper (who did the cover art pictured above), Robert Grossman, Felipe Galindo and Randy Jones cover the waterfront in Manhattan. Their work stretches from the swamped East Village to Tribeca to Liberty Island in the Hudson to mid-Manhattan.
Rupert Howard offers a harrowing view of battered Long Beach, LI. From the Garden State, I'm in the dark in Jersey City while Tom Hachtman is inundated down the shore in Pt. Pleasant Beach. And inxart.com artists hone in on politics and the big picture.
The book is available from amazon.com –– use the widget to the right at the top of this page to order–– and at barnesandnoble.com. Click on image to the right for the splash page from my strip.
Giving Business the Business
For proof that the Affordable Care Act really works, witness how the Obama administration has provided life-saving treatment to a Republican Party near death due to self-inflicted head wounds. The balm of the bomb which is the HealthCare.gov website isn't exactly free, but the GOP shouldn't complain –– the White House is absorbing all the costs. But they will bitch and moan endlessly, and no insurance plan on earth would cover the expense of all the antihypertensives, ibuprofen and medical marijuana that we'll need to survive their bellyaching. And speaking of economics that are sick, here's a portfolio of some of my recent business illustrations –– please take in B2B.
In the afterglow of the Fourth of July, with the smell of soggy gunpowder still stinging my nostrils and the tinnitus-inducing din of Grucci fireworks ringing in my ears, I felt inspired to trot out some patriotic images from the archives. Among icons of Americana, Uncle Sam is probably my favorite –– he's a shameless crutch for the political cartoonist, but he's our shameless crutch. Ever since Thomas Nast first codified the goateed version of the old reprobate that we've come to loath and love, he's been an avatar of all that is mockable in our public life. Far be it from me to resist his clichéd charms –– please enjoy Cry Uncle.
• And speaking of American mythology, it amazes me how the dime-store comics of my youth (I think those early issues of Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four actually set me back 12¢ in allowance money) have become billion-dollar movie franchises. I understand the primal appeal of comics –– the artwork of Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby spurred me along my eventual career path, and very little in later life could provide the excitement I felt riding my bike to the candy store in time to see freshly-delivered new issues of my favorite titles unwrapped. But the emergence of Stan Lee as the Homer of our age still floors me. Now What's arch-critic E. Basil St. Blaise has a go at the precursors of the current superheroic tentpoles in Meh and Superman.
At nowwhatmedia.com, the irrepresible E. Basil St. Blaise has slammed the book on a recent selection of celebrity bios. Please check out his nasty notices entitled Vanity Press Releases. Meanwhile, those reviews have inspired me to dig into the archives for a smattering of my bookish caricatures.
• Click on Author, Author for images of an endangered species. Since Philip Roth has hung up his pen, try and name a serious American novelist of note (one whose work has not inspired a line of toys.) So Phil's here, along with Baldwin, Mailer, Welty, Updike, Hawthorne, James, Melville, and other literary relics.
Now What Media at MoCCA Fest 2013
Once again, I'll be at the Now What Media table A16 at MoCCA Fest at the Lexington Avenue Armory in NYC. It's early this year, on Saturday and Sunday, April 6th and 7th from 11am until 6pm. I'm going to be promoting and selling several books including Love the Sinner, Hate the Cinema, INX Battle Lines: Three Decades of Political Art, Gertrude's Follies, and the newly-published Go the F**k Back to Work!
Author L.K. Peterson will be there to sign copies of GTFBTW, which is filled with rancorous rhymes aimed at motivationg our contemptible Congress, and his very funny spin on Aesopian classics, Fairly Grim Tales. Brilliant illustrators Randy Jones, Tom Hachtman, Felipe Galindo, and David G Klein will be squeezing in behind our table to greet fans and sign books.
We'll also be previewing two books we're all very excited about, the retelling of a classic creature's tale, The Golems' Voice which David Klein is readying for a Fall debut, and a collection of comic strips on Superstorm Sandy entitled Downtown Drowned which is scheduled for publication later this Spring. Hope to see you there.
And please like the new Now What Media Facebook page.
• Check out the Oscars 2013 lineup along with E. Basil St. Blaise's poison capsule reviews in Now What's Critic's Corner.
• The World Economic Forum, a star-studded global development confab in Davos, Switzerland, has just concluded. I did a series of comic strips for the Earth Times a decade or more ago on the movers and shakers that attend this schmooze-a-thon and imagine that they set the economic agenda for the world's haves and have-nots. I particularly liked this two-page spoof entitled The Wizard of Davos.
• Every Wednesday I art direct and contribute to a new page of Op-ed illustration on inxart.com. Please visit when you can.
Hello, We Must Be Going
• Just posted a review of 2012 Christmas Albums by E. Basil St. Blaise on the Now What site.
• Use the Amazon widget at the top of the right sidebar to order St. Blaise's very funny Love the Sinner, Hate the Cinema (and other humor books.)
• Only 2 days till Doomsday! We're counting down with the 12 Days of Apocalysmas® on the 2012 Doomsday Planner site.
• Happy Holidays and a Merry Apocalypse.
Friday, Black Friday
Check out the James Bond 50th Anniversary Roundup by the agent provacateur of film criticism, E. Basil St. Blaise, new on Now What. Here's a preview of the artwork depicting George Lazenby, the briefest-tenured of the half-dozen actors that have portrayed 007.
Of course, this is merely a cover so that I can cleverly suggest that the new book of Poison Capsule Reviews by Saint Blaise and illustrated by Randy Jones and myself would make a great, inexpensive holiday gift. Use the Amazon widget at the top of the right sidebar to order Love the Sinner, Hate the Cinema and other fine Now What Books.
New York Comic Con 2012
I'll be plugging the brand new book Love the Sinner, Hate the Cinema at the Now What Media Booth # 2449 at this year's New York Comic Con. The volume collects five-year's worth of exceedingly short, but sour film reviews by arch-curmudgeon E. Basil St. Blaise, and Randy Jones and I have contributed dozens of cartoon send-ups of the worst of recent cinema. It's the perfect gift for the ultimate film-lover by the supreme movie-hater.
The Comic Con is at the Javits Center in NYC from October 12 – 14. I'll be there along with Mr. Jones, L.K. Peterson, Tom Hachtman, Felipe Galindo, and David G Klein. We'll be selling and signing other Now What Books including the new Fairly Grim Tales, Gertrude's Follies, INX Battle Lines and the 2012 Doomsday Planner. Here's more on our Booth 2449.
It's my first stint at one of these mega-cons, and I'm looking forward to it with equal measures of excitement and mild dread. Excitement about visiting the home planet of so many a fanboy (and occasional fangirl), dread at not knowing what manga character I'm going to dress up as. If you've got a ticket –– by now they're rarer than Howard the Duck's teeth –– please come by and visit.
INX at MICA, UMass Dartmouth & Frostburg State University
In the last month I've been lucky enough to visit the opening of two INX exhibitions at top-notch schools. On September 5th I visited the Maryland Institute College of Art to see a selection of 80 color prints from the larger show INX Battle Lines hanging in the Julian Allen Illustration Gallery. Organized by INX contributor and MICA professor, Warren Linn, the show looked great, and the faculty and students welcomed me warmly as I sat in on a class and gave a lecture on the history of Op-ed illustration and the story of INX. For a preview of the artwork click here.
On September 25th, INXters Randy Jones, Susann Ferris-Jones, and I traveled to University of Massachusetts Dartmouth to join INX founding member and UMass professor Jean-François Allaux for a comprehensive exhibiton of 320+ pieces spanning the full 32-year history of the syndicated illustration service. We all participated in a chat with the receptive crowd, which included local resident and very fine editorial artist Anthony Russo. The work was handsomely mounted and Jean-François was an excellent host. It made me proud of my long involvement with INX, and it made me want to see the work continue its travels. For more on the UMass show, click here. The show is up until October 18 –– check it out if you can.
Up next is Part II of INX Battle Lines at Frostburg State University in Maryland which covers the years 1998 through 2012. I expect to trek down there along with INX webmaster Thomas Kerr on October 5 for the opening and a talk to the students. Thanks to Jamison Odone for setting this one up –– it will run through November 11, 2012.
With the anticipation for the 2012 London Olympics reaching a fever pitch –– I mean, don't you just wish you had a DVR that could record all 292.5 hours that NBC is promising to broadcast (especially the Modern Pentathlon trials?) –– it seemed like a good time to put some of my sports illos through their paces.
INX Earth Alert Exhibition
Please check out the current exhibition Earth Alert - INX Artists and the Environment at the Grady Alexis Gallery, El Taller Latino Americano, 2710 Broadway, 3rd fl., New York, NY 10025. Gallery Hrs: Mon-Thurs 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-1pm. Free and open to the public. It's on now through August 31.
The show features the work of twenty-one artists from INX, the artist-run syndicate for political illustration founded in 1980 by award-winning editorial artists from the U.S. and abroad. The group has produced a weekly package of powerful images in print and online that has been distributed to hundreds of news sources over the past thirty-two years (The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, Newsday and The Washington Post among others.)
Participating artists: Michelle Barnes, David Chelsea, Paul Corio, Susann Ferris-Jones, Vivienne Flesher, Felipe Galindo, David Gothard, Ryan Inzana, Randy Jones, Janusz Kapusta, Thomas Kerr, David Klein, Igor Kopelnitsky, Martin Kozlowski, Peter Kuper, Laird Ogden, Sara Schwartz, Jill Karla Schwarz, Rob Shepperson, Brad Teare and Robert Zimmerman.
As the presidential marathon of 2012 stretches out before us, I'd like to reflect on this and the last couple of election cycles with a selection of campaign images. Why the race lasts as long as it does –– it never really ends –– and why it costs more than ten times the federal budget for the National Endowment for the Arts ($142 mil this year ) are imponderable questions, but it does provide plenty of grist for the satirical mill.
This contest between the scintillating Mitt Rimney and the inscrutable Barack Obama promises to provide decidedly low-voltage drama. Comic relief will have to be provided by the second bananas –– Joe Biden should hold up his chucklesome end, now Mitt needs to team up with a rib-tickling running mate. Newt? The Donald? The Hermanator? Almost makes you miss the primaries. Please endure a case of the Presidential Runs.
MoCCA Fest 2012: April 28th & 29th
I'll be at the Now What Media table at MoCCA Fest on Saturday and Sunday, April 28th and 29th from 11am til 6pm at the Lexington Avenue Armory in NYC. I'm going to be promoting and selling three books: 2012 Doomsday Planner, INX Battle Lines: Three Decades of Political Art, and the newly-published Gertrude's Follies. My co-author L.K. Peterson will be there to sign copies of 2012 Doomsday Planner, as will good friend and master illustrator Randy Jones who will sign INX Battle Lines and some of his own prints.
I'm very excited about the new Gertrude's Follies which chronicles the madcap adventures of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas as told by the inimitable Tom Hachtman. These strips, originally published in the Soho Weekly News, are absolutely one-of-a-kind and wonderfully bent. I colorized the originals for this volume which collects the best from 1979 til 1981. Tom will also be on hand at our table with an ever-ready pen.
I've never done one of these Comic-Cons before –– I gather they require good arch support and mucho caffeine. If you're in the neighborhood, please drop by and say hello.
INX Battle Lines
I'm very pleased to announce the publication of INX Battle Lines: Three Decades of Political Art. I've been involved with the syndicated editorial art service INX for many years, art directing it, both solely and jointly, for two decades. The group has long wanted to publish a collection like this, and the current exhibition of 30 years of INX work at Frostburg State University finally provided the impetus to get it done.
The work in this volume is close to my heart –– I admire all the artists, and I'm pleased to count many of them as my friends. They are my peers, and this Op-ed style of political illustration is exactly the kind of work I like most and have always aspired to produce. This is a terrific sampler of more than 275 examples of the kind of smart, gutsy artwork that seems to be in such short supply in today's market.
Please visit inxart.com for lots more on INX, and visit Now What Books to read more about this volume. You can order it with the Amazon.com widget in the right sidebar or you can order from barnesandnoble.com.
And this seems like a good excuse to share some of my own favorite INX images culled from that same period, several of which are included in the show. Please check out INX: Battle Lines.
Oscar, the Grouch
As we lurch towards the culmination of the movie awards season, which feels like it has as many televised ceremonies as the Republicans have debates, I wanted to bring to your attention the cinema reviews of the irascible E. Basil St. Blaise. Since 2005, the minimalist critic has been lambasting Hollywood's best efforts in a series of short, but sour notices in the right sidebar of the home page of Now What Media.
Since 2008, the brilliant Randy Jones and I have been providing illustrations for his weekly excoriations on an alternating basis. For me, it's been a pleasant diversion to be caricaturing non-politicians (unless they're humping their latest Oscar bait) who are generally easier on the eyes than our elected officials. I usually do these in pencil, which makes for a looser and warmer feel, I think, and then colorize them in Photoshop using the indispensible Multiply layer.
Forgive me for using the season of peace, joy and discounts as a pretext for snarky satire, but that is, after all, my job. Holiday time iconography is irresistable for spoofing because it's so widely recognized and engenders such deep emotions. That so many of the emotions are warm and cuddly makes the subversion of these symbols that much more fun.
At the risk of offending Bill O'Reilly, I'm not invoking the C word to describe this portfolio, but I am aware that it is a little shy on Hannukah or Kwanzaa imagery. Oh well, you can't displease everybody. Whatever solstice-tide rituals you might embrace, I wish you all the best. And please enjoy a little sampler of Holiday Jeer.
End of the World, Ma!
L.K. Peterson and I were looking for an apt topic for a humor book that we could collaborate on, and the notion of sending up the end-of-the-world predictions associated with the running out of the Mayan Calendar in 2012 somehow struck us as very funny. So we "reinterpreted" the long count calendar itself, stuffing it with the glyphs and totems of dubious gods and spirits meant to reflect satirically on our own times. And then we added tons of doomsday gags.
The result is a 96-page lavishly-illustrated datebook entitled 2012 Doomsday Planner. It's currently on sale at Amazon.com –– click on the links in the sidebar to the right –– or at Barnes & Noble.com ––in a Standard Edition or a Deluxe Full-Color Edition.
Please visit 2012doomsdayplanner.com for more on the book and further end times' yuks.
I recently finished a stint of three and a half months on a strip entitled Simply Bazaar that was created for Al Arabiya's English-language website. It was part of a major revamp of the site engineered by Pranay Gupte, a longtime champion of my work. I had happily toiled ten years for him on Kozmology, a strip on international affairs for The Earth Times.
Churning out 80-odd strips at a clip of 6-a-week over a few months renewed my appreciation for the monomaniacs who produce daily strips. The work is nearly all-consuming, but there are definite satisfactions which are unique and deep. I suspected this particular experiment would not last forever, but I would have liked to have had more time to work out the increasingly complex storyline that was emerging as I went along.
I'm also sorry that my accidental hero, who found himself thrust into the hot spots of the Arab Spring (after the Libyan adventure excerpted here, he headed to Damascus to counsel Assad), is not around for the tragi-comic hunt for Qaddafi. Perhaps I can find another venue for his further adventures. Please enjoy this sampler of Simply Bazaar.
One Wedding and a Funeral
The epochal news cycle last weekend that spanned the Royal Wedding and the bin Laden Rub-out had tout le monde pondering Love and Death (and journalistic hyperbole). These two images from the vault came to mind as I tried to ignore the former event, and sat transfixed by the latter. Diana beset by the rapacious news hound was done a few years before her unfortunate demise — one can only wish her offspring a kinder fate.
The Osama drawing was done a few weeks after 9/11, and expressed my conviction that Saudi oil wealth underlaid the bin Laden fortune which bankrolled international terror. By extension, our dependence on foreign oil has kept the U.S. embroiled in that part of the world, supporting thuggish regimes that supply our habit, and inspiring fundamentalist lunatics to strike at us because they resent our treading on their soil and mucking about in their internal affairs.
Speaking of thuggish regimes, I've been working on a new comic strip for the English-language website of al Arabiya TV over the past month, and the initial storyline revolves around the public relations woes of mad Muammar Qaddafi. Please take a look at Simply Bazaar.
Number 2 with a Ballot
The noise surrounding the possible candidacy of Donald J. Trump for President reminded me of this Monopoly-themed illustration I did in 2000, the last time the media blew hard for this blowhard. Though he never formally announced then, he might feel emboldened to do so in this election cycle as his hairline and his browline finally agree to unification.
He's just the void filling a void before the campaign proper gets underway. He does, however, offer the requisite punchlines that would make the cartoonist's job a breeze — check out Tom Hachtman's take on a potential Trump Cabinet on inxart.com.
The reluctance of prospective Republicans to toss their hats and $100M markers in the ring reminded me of the many recent runner-ups who have or will soon fade into the recesses of presidential history. Nice guys might finish last, but they're not even in the running with this delusional slew of #2's. Here's to our future Alf Landons and Adlai Stevensons in a gallery of Also-rans.
The upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa have provided glimmers of hope for more democratic societies in that part of the world, along with the opportunity for political cartoonists to whale on some of the looniest and most despicable despots to still prowl our planet.
Despite the misery these swine spread, they are a devilsend to artists like myself who can tear into them without offending the tender sensibilities of the editor or the reader (unless you're working for the Tehran Times or the Pyongyang Post or The Weekly Standard.) So here's an excess of evil in a selection of drawings from inxart.com , a sampling of international tyrants and tinhorns from the last 25 years or so in a Rogues Gallery.
Art of the Times by J.C. Suares, a collection of the best of the early years of The New York Times' Op-Ed page, had a profound influence on me. It showcased a sophisticated brand of visual journalism by the likes of Brad Holland, Roland Topor, Tomi Ungerer, Michael-Mathias Precht, etc. that was new to an American audience used to the captioned, labeled and a bit homogenous editorial page cartoon. It inspired me and a generation of political illustrators to pursue a more personal brand of work. That my first professional jobs were for the Times' Letters and Op-Ed pages was a real thrill, though the experience perhaps made me underestimate the rigors of maintaining a free-lance career in less rareified air.
The art director who initially hired me, and later invited me to actually pinch-art direct the page, was the redoubtable Jerelle Kraus. Her many strengths as an AD included a fierce loyalty to her artists, a healthy suspicion of authority (i.e. editors), and a total commitment to the quality of the page. When Jerelle finally published her long-gestating book on the history and misadventures of the Op-Ed page —— she was kind enough to include a couple of my pieces, as well as several of my quotes.
Much of the book concerns editorial timidity in the face of the intrinsically controversial nature of this sort of art. My drawing of Winnie Mandela, seen here with her headdress of intertwined serpents, was published, but drew the ire of a prominent African-American pastor who felt the drawing defamed Nelson Mandela's wife — I felt I was merely illustrating an editorial piece that held her accountable for the violent and deadly activities of her circle of bodyguards.
I'd like to say that I hope this excellent book has a similar effect on a new generation of illustrators as Art of the Times had on mine, but part of me is afraid that it might serve instead as a stirring epitaph for a silver age of newspaper art. And I hope I'm wrong about that. Here's more of my.
Adulatory notices marking the centennial of Ronald Reagan's birth on February 6 triggered in me some of the same acid reflux-like release of bile that inspired these caricatures of the Gipper back in the day. You need to tap a genuine animus to produce passionately nasty drawings. Many great cartoonists like David Levine, Pat Oliphant and Edward Sorel were moved to produce their finest work in the five-o'clock shadow of Richard M. Nixon's infamy. I saw doddering yet destructive Dutch Reagan as that sort of monstrous muse.
Reaganism was and is less a political philosophy than a brand name for greed, with Reagan its advertising mascot. Virtually all the disasters of Bush the Junior's reign, including the Great Recession, are a direct consequence and unforseen side effect of that brand's full application. Click here to see my nostalgic.
The Museum of Martin's Art
In the process of moving my studio from Ridgefield, CT to Jersey City, NJ recently, I had to sort through lots of my older work. Mercifully, much of it was not too painful to revisit, and, in fact, there was some real pleasure in rediscovering a number of semiprecious gems. Beginning with this post, I'll expose some of them again to the light of day (or the artificial glow of your monitor.)
In conjunction with the recent exhibition at Exit Art Gallery, I dug up the original pages that I contributed to the magazine in 1987. Congratulations to Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman for keeping the magazine vital for 30 years and for the inspired show that ran through February 5th.
I think my drawings show a bit of the influence of Ralph Steadman, an early fave, and his influences, the German Expressionists of the 20s and 30s like George Grosz and Otto Dix. I was enraged by the press coverage of the Reagan Administration which seemed to get a relatively free pass, while the journos doggedly pursued and peddled the myth of "morning in America." This was the idiot infancy of happy news and the celebcentric news mongering that later came to consume mainstream journalism. Click here to see.
All contents © 2015 Martin Kozlowski