The Hunter-Gatherer Robot

This is the first comic where I’ve included shading. Makes the panels pop a bit more, right?

Whenever I spend extended periods of time in nature, I feel refreshed and renewed. A calm intuition opens up inside me, the concept of time dissolves, and I find joy in the sights, smells and sounds of the forest.

So why don’t I go outside more often?

Alas, too much time is spent each day behind a screen. Drawing, writing, posting, reading, watching. There’s so much to do on that 14″ window into the virtual world, that I often leave the real world on the back burner. Simply, in order to effectively make my living, I’ve got to do a great many tasks behind a screen. How does one build a fanbase or a brand nowadays without social media or SEO?

You can hardly go into the forest searching for new fans. Hi, Mr. Squirrel. Can I tell you about my comic strip, Ergo?

The Floppy

Ah, Monkey Island. If you’ve never played Monkey Island, you are missing out on a hilarious adventure. Not only in the Secret of Monkey Island a wonderfully immersive challenge for both kids and adults, it’s also one of the funniest games ever made. The humor of Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert (The geniuses behind Monkey Island One and Two) has certainly influenced my own writing style. Those quirky tidbits of detail, the slightly lateral perspective, that’s where you’ll find the heart of comedy.

There’s a few other nostalgic things hidden in these panels. Panel 1: In the cardboard box you’ll see two other brilliant adventure games: Myst, and Grim Fandango (Another LucasArts original). Panel 2: The cardboard box in the foreground has a the old Batman the Animated Series Batmobile, and the Batwing. Finally in the background, a statue of Scrooge McDuck from Ducktales.

Rick’s beard currently matches my own.

 

Audible While You Work, and Three Great Books

Audible while you work. That’s my new workflow adjustment, and it makes me feel extra productive. Now I can absorb books while I draw. So my ears are consuming hours of fascinating knowledge while my Wacom pen flashes across my screen, and so I remain immersed and wholly engaged for three to four hours. Input: Coffee, an Audible biography about Alexander Hamilton, and output: Ergo comics, educational worksheets for kids, and disoriented collection of random ideas and notes. 

It’s been a chaotic month. But lately, thanks largely to the book Messy by Tim Harford, I’m a bit less self-criticizing of my messiness. Granted, things are a bit messier than usual, because I rather impulsively decided that now was the time to renovate my kitchen. And if I’m going to renovate the kitchen, then, well, I might as well throw out the old laminate floor too, and rip out some walls to make the apartment seem a bit bigger. 

Amidst that serene background, I started a new Printables Magazine, wherein I’m combining my Ergo characters with entertaining printable activities: connect the dots, mazes, word searches, etc. All the pages are sketched but I still need to ink and color a bit. It’s being published piecemeal. I’m also working on some Halloween stuff, including the Halloween spot the difference I posted a few days ago. 

Try Audible 

Tim’s Book Recommendations

Messy by Tim Harford – A look into why creative people are messy and chaotic, and how great ideas and business strategies naturally emerge from this tumultuous environment. I thought the part about Jeff Bezos and the creation of Amazon was the best. Format: Paperback

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury – One of my all-time favorite books. A nostalgic look at childhood in the year 1928. Douglas Spalding, 12, experiences a Illinois summer filled with mysteries, imagination, and visceral memories. This is Ray Bradbury at his very best. 

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow – This guy was amazing, even as Founding Fathers go. His prolific writing, especially his work in the Federalist Papers, helped interpret the Constitution, define Executive power, and shape the American identity. As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton also established the American financial system, including the National Bank and the US Mint. While other Founding Fathers either ignored or actively participated in slavery, Hamilton bolding supported abolition. His life was fast-paced, epic, and tragically short. 

These are amazon affiliate links, which means I make a small percentage when you click on them and buy something on Amazon. I find it’s one of the best ways to monetize my work, since I’m only recommending things I’ve actually purchased myself.

A New Business

This is the first comic of Ergo, Season Two! Woo!

With that hurrah out of the way, my thoughts on the context of this comic strip:

I’m a strong believer in life-long learning, but I’m ambivalent on grades. With all our modern understanding of human psychology, is this stress-inducing system really the best thing we can come up with for our kids? Not only do grades lead to chronic pressure, they present a thoroughly flawed perspective of life. When’s the last time you were graded at work, other than your yearly performance review? When you succeed at work, you don’t get an arbitrary number or letter telling you how you’ve done. Most likely, you receive no feedback at all, and if you do, it’s hopefully in the financial terms of a commission or bonus.

I’m increasingly interested in the concept of gamification. What makes video games addictive and fun, and how can this be applied to education in a genuine way that isn’t forced or cheesy?

 

The Wolf

I like the absentminded look on McFluff’s face in the first panel.

McFluff is based on my own dog, Van. I got him at the Atlanta Humane Society in 2011. They told me he was a Labrador Beagle puppy and that he would grow. He didn’t. He remained 22 pounds. My best guess is that’s he’s a Labardor-Whippet mix. Today, he’s probably about 8 years old. He’s a got a bit of a old-age white on his chin nowadays, but he’s still as fast as greased lightning, and has retained all the playful energy of a pup.

He’s also thoroughly domesticated. He tucks tail and runs whenever he hears a loud noise outside. The only thing he’s ever successfully hunted in his life is literally a housefly. But it’s not a judgement. I imagine that we humans, too, are being continuously domesticated. If my understanding is correct, domestication succeeds by keeping an animal in a more or less juvenile state throughout its entire life. This certainly appears to be the case with my own generation, the Millennials.

Tim’s TED.com Recommendations: Comics, Gene Editing, and Space Architecture.

Want to get inspired with new ideas? Listen to TED while you work. This morning, while drawing a duck, yes a duck, I listened to three TED talks. TED is one of my goto sources for inspiration when writing Ergo. Chock full of cutting edge enlightening info about the universe and human ingenuity. What greater creative fuel could there possibly be?

Anyway, I thought they were awesome. Maybe you’ll like em too. Here they are:

1. Comics Belong in the Classroom by Gene Luen Yang. 

I’d never heard of Gene until I saw his talk. The guy’s really impressive. In this TED talk Gene talks about how comics came into, left, and came back into the classroom. An informative talk for people interested in comics, education, illustration, and writing.

2. Adventures of an Interdisciplinary Architect by Xavier De Kestelier 

I’m fascinated by how life on Mars or the Moon would work. In this video, De Kestelier describes the practical real-life innovations that are taking place. How scientists are going to use moon dust, officially known as regolith, to 3D print a moon base. How cool is that? And of course, a perfect bit of info to include in later Ergo comic strips.

3. How Humans Could Evolve to Survive in Space by Lisa Nip 

I really appreciate Lisa’s passion whenever she describes her research. In this talk she talks about the potential to use GMOs to alter human genetics in order to better survive in space. Sounds incredible, exciting, and a bit spooky.

Watch those videos. Learn, feel enlightened, and stay happy!

And if you’re curious about my duck, you can see him here.

Ergo: A New Online Comic Strip. Welcome to the Future.

The future is now. You’re in it. You see it every time you look on your iPhone. You witnessed it when Falcon Heavy’s twin boosters landed simultaneously in early February. And you’ll experience it again when driverless cars become mainstream. It’s happening fast, and it’s only getting faster. Most of the time it’s fascinating, sometimes it all feels overwhelming.

The near-future is the source material for my new online comic strip, Ergo. If you love reading about space exploration, technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation, this is the comic strip for you. With a bit of humor and a dash of exaggeration, let’s take a look at where things are going. Let’s ask whether the road we’re headed is the road we really want to take, and how it’s going to affect us all in the end.

Ergo is going to be the vehicle for addressing these issues. Not an autonomous self-driving vehicle, but a human reflection on this rapidly modern world. What will happen when artificial intelligence stops being artificial and becomes sentient? How will the world change when the only thing preventing humans from dramatically altering genetics is the gray water of morality? Can we become biologically immortal, and if so, do we want to?

And of course, when all the robots take our jobs, what the heck are we humans going to do with our time?

Hopefully, you’ll all be reading Ergo. I imagine that cartooning will be among the last jobs to go extinct.

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