Review: Brunhilda’s Backwards Day

brunhildaJim Rohn said “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” While an hour or so a month is by no means most of anything, I am privileged to spend a sliver of time every so often with a great group of Utah Illustrators who are leagues ahead of me in terms of skill and professionalism. I try to get as much of their wisdom to rub off on me as I can.

Among these talented individuals is someone I am pleased to be acquainted with: Shawna J.C. Tenney. So while this post is technically a review, full disclosure; I know her! And she’s pretty awesome.

Her new children’s picture book Brunhilda’s Backwards Day was released last month, and it is great! Brunhilda is a witch who delights in causing misery to others, but her mischeivous cat has other ideas, causing her spells to backfire. The story is fun and teaches kids that being a good person isn’t always a bad thing.🙂

What really impresses me is the quality of Shawna’s illustrations. Whether depicting a beautiful fall day or a dark cauldron in a dungeon, the characters, colors, and compositions just pop and are a joy to look at. I highly recommend it for your little ones!

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These are keepers


I had the opportunity to donate some Cooties comics and some pop culture artwork to a fifth grade class at West Elementary in Toole, UT. Their teacher, Mr. Kelly, let the kids earn them as prizes for good grades and behavior (wish I’d had as cool a teacher as that). Can I just say, getting letters and fan art from kids is just the best thing ever?

If you’re a teacher who would like donations for your own class, hit me up at Because kids are awesome!

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Salt Lake Comic Con 2016


September 1-3 I got the chance to table again at Salt Lake Comic Con. As introverted as I am, being behind the table makes interacting with people somewhat easier, especially when we get to nerd out together about someone’s awesome costume or talk about art.

For this convention I debuted the first four in a print series that I hope to continue: that is, taking classic children’s book covers and nerding them up a bit. I don’t like the idea of selling prints of straight-up fan art of characters I don’t own (especially since some cons are starting to crack down on copyright infringement); I try to keep my fanart prints in the realm of legality through Fair Use / parody. They got a good response, and this was the first year I actually made a profit instead of pretty much breaking even. I thought they turned out pretty okay!





Also, in one of the cooler things that’s happened to me lately, local news outlet KSL featured Cooties in their article “4 local comic books you should check out.” It was so great to get a shout-out from them; I found out about 2 hours before comic con ended, though, so my hasty marketing for some last-minute sales didn’t quite work out:


Still, I’m thinking it might be worth a shot to shop the book around to some of the local comic shops. While at this point it’s not necessarily my best work, I think I made something pretty special with it.

Anyway, it’s already time to think about how I want to make the next con even better! It’s always a terrific experience.

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In the grip of Nostalgia


For my birthday last month, my oldest son got me a set of Super Mario notebooks from Thinkgeek. It’s got a lined notebook, a pocket graph book, and an unlined one, which I promptly drew a pic of Mario in. I decided I wanted to go Full Nostalgia Nerd and fill it up with drawings of my favorite NES games and characters. I also will be taking this as an opportunity to work on properly scanning colored drawings. These aren’t quite right, so I need to work on that a bit:


It’s-a me! Mario!


Kid Icarus with an Eggplant Wizard


Dragon Warrior. An insolent slime appears…

Wow, what would it be like to have time for video games? I can’t even remember.

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Captain America: Civil War review


Wow. I feel like this movie was sprayed into my brain with a fire hose. Every part of this movie is put together extremely well, but it all comes very hard and very fast. So many characters, as well as the introductions of Spider-Man and Black Panther in the MCU, add so much that they kind of take away from the main conflict between Cap & Iron Man. And Cap & Zemo. And Black Panther & Bucky. Everyone’s got well-written motivations, but I think I wish that Civil War was a 13 episode Netflix series that let us stop and enjoy the moments and let it build more slowly.

Captain America still gets a good completion to the arc that began in First Avenger (Steve as a naive kid from Brooklyn who gets super soldier powers), and was strengthened in Winter Soldier (Cap is less naive and more competent). In this movie, we see him become fully confident in who he is and stand strong in the path he has chosen. In the comics, he is the consummate leader, the legend, the rock of the Avengers. In Civil War, we see him finally earn his status, and the completion of this process.

But Spider-Man is still the best thing about this movie, so what does that say? I don’t know, but I am seeing this one again.

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“Where do you get your ideas?”


I haven’t been in the habit of creating a comic on an almost daily basis in, well, ever. I did Ag-gravation 3 times a week back in the day, but college life is always a well of inspiration for comics. For a freelance project on which I’m currently working, I have to write and draw 100 cartoons about fish, and though I worry a bit that I may run out of ideas, so far it hasn’t been a problem. I’ve done about 20 comics for the project so far, and getting stuck coming up with something funny or insightful doesn’t seem too far away. So how do we as artists keep this from happening and keep creating when it seems our brains have given their all?

This is a question artists and writers are asked all the time. One of my favorite solutions comes from an art hero of mine, Jake Parker:

His “Design 100 Somethings” concept seems super daunting, but it forces you to focus on the basic concept of what you are doing and to make connections that you would never make after giving it just 3 or 4 tries. This is especially helpful when your subject is very narrow, like, say, fish.

For this project, I have had to make a conscious mindset shift. Just sitting there staring at a blank page thinking about fish doesn’t yield great results, as you can imagine. Instead, I have to add another dimension to my daily grind:

Step 1- WWFD?
I find myself always asking “What or how would a fish be doing what I am doing in this situation?” If I’m listening to a podcast about schedule planning, I imagine a fish in his bowl looking at his empty wall calendar, resigning himself to another full day of swimming in circles. BAM – there’s a comic. If I’m watching The Godfather or any of the million parodies of it on every show ever, BAM – fish wakes up with a seahorse head in his bed. Another comic.

I don’t have to pretend I’m a fish in every given situation. It’s just like having an extra program running in the background of your brain’s hard drive for a little while. If I’m driving the kids around and they’re arguing in the backseat, I wonder what kind of comic I could come up with about that. If it comes to me, it’s going right in the sketchbook, though (unless I’m actually still driving, though; I can yell at one of the kiddos to shut up and write something for me. Two birds y’all).

Step 2 – Research
Google “Fish cartoon”; there are dozens of them already out there. Now, even though Picasso said “Great artists steal,” I’m not going to plagiarize any of these. However, are there any unfunny ones that challenge me to see how I could come up with better ideas? You betcha. This helps with both idea generation and character design, as well!

Step 3 – Write it down
I must always, always, always keep a sketchbook within arm’s reach. Ideas have to go in there immediately, whether they’re good or bad. Bad ones can turn into good ones with some thought and effort, but not if I’ve forgotten to scribble them out in the first place. This is the well I draw from when it’s time to put ink to paper (or Wacom tablet). Replenishing it often will make sure I don’t suffer a drought and miss a deadline.

Hmm, fish in a drought…there might be an idea there. Later, guys, I need to write this down!

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice review


Director Zack Snyder can always be counted on for great visuals and action sequences. He mostly delivers in this regard, especially in Batman scenes. Ben Affleck is terrific as the dark knight, and I am anxious to see him in future installments. Sadly, like in Man of Steel, I don’t think anyone working on these films has any idea what to do with Superman. While Batman’s motivations for going after Supes are well plotted and resonant, I had no idea why Superman had a beef with Batman. Because he goes after bad guys and brands them? It’s really nothing much different than he himself is doing.

The storytelling in this movie is extremely sub-par. The first hour and a half or so are a mishmash of scenes of Bruce, Clark, Lois, Lex, and wheelchair guy doing their own thing, without much story to it all. I am left with so many questions as to why certain characters do anything, other than that WB wanted to put together a Justice League movie as quickly as possible, to the detriment of this movie. Character motivations (with the exception of Batman) are an afterthought, the fight scenes are okay, and Doomsday the cave troll was spoiled by the trailer. I had very high hopes for this, and was really let down.

I gave this an extra half a grade for Wonder Woman’s scenes. I want to see her movie yesterday.

Grade: C+

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