The Cover of Love

At the moment I’m working on my fifth book in the ‘Discovery in Comics’-series: about Love.

The Dutch version will come out in February, and this is the time to frantically work on the last pages, promotional blurbs for the publisher and the finalisation of the cover design.

It all started months ago, when I thought I had a great idea that would convey both the loveliness of love as well as its darker connotations: a heart-shaped hole in the ground, with different fumes coming out… Here’s the sketch version:

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My colorist/husband Yiri and I then came up with three different color versions, which we presented to my helpful Facebook-friends:

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This was the winning design we settled on:

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As the months passed, this cover increasingly irked me, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. Then someone commented that they did not really see the heart as a heart-shaped hole, and that did it. Time for a complete revision.

I decided I wanted to incorporate some traditional “lovey” symbols – like hearts and roses. Roses with thorns, of course:

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And then I’d have the Loving Couple (me and Yiri) swing precariously over them-

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add a heart and some color, and this was the result:

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I felt good about this one for a few days, then I started to get annoyed by the anxious looks on our faces. Love is fun! At least, mostly. So the precarious swing went out of the window, and I drew us cozily snuggled together in a rose…

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Now ain’t that sweet? I added some bees and a ladybug, and the final result is this:

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There. This one’s probably going to be it – although you never know. At least it has that sweet & fun love vibe I was going for.

Whoever said that Love is a lot of work, was definitely not kidding! And that’s just the cover!

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Group Behavior

What’s wrong with the world today? Hmm, unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, not much more than what was wrong yesterday or a decade ago… One of the problems is this deep-seated psychological phenomenon of group behavior.

This comic is from my graphic novel World Domination: a Discovery in Comics – only out in Dutch yet, but here’s a little preview in English.

Global Power and the Game of Monopoly

Yiri and I are working hard on our next book and have just decided to call it Global Power: a Discovery in Comics, rather than World Domination: a Discovery in Comics. There’s a subtle difference there.

I’m so excited about it and really in a nice work flow right now. But the thing is, it won’t be out for at least a year – it’s scheduled for Fall 2015 in The Netherlands, and Who Knows When, if at all, in the States. So marketing-wise there’s no point in talking about it yet.

But I’m so excited about it!

Last week, I had the idea of putting in a scene between Yiri and me playing a game of Monopoly – but I wasn’t at all sure how well known the game really is. So I posted the question on my Facebook page and was swamped with reactions like “Really?! You don’t know how popular Monopoly is???”.

So no trouble there.

Here are two pages of the end result. There is a third page as well, but I’ll leave that for later. Ha, how’s that for a cliffhanger, marketing-wise…?

Death of a Spaceman

Last week, Dutch astronaut and innovator Wubbo Ockels died at the age of 68. This came as a shock to everyone of my generation who sat glued to the TV screen as a child in 1985, when he went into space. The day after I heard the news, I made this comic:

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These pages will be part of the new book I’m working on, World Domination: a Discovery in Comics.

Pictures in the Sand

Last week I visited the island of Terschelling, where the annual Oerol festival took place, full of art, theater and music. The festival turns the whole island into a stage, or canvas – and it invited me to draw these pictures on the beach:

Then I was joined by a couple of kids, who made these amazing creatures:

Our gracious host Mathilde de Graaff photographs a Yiri of sand:

I Have the Persia Blues – my Husband is a Brigand!

Last week the digital debut of the graphic novel ‘Persia Blues’ happened, one of the newest releases of my American publisher NBM. I had the pleasure of backing creators Dara Naraghi and Brent Bowman through Kickstarter, which bought me the thrilling perk of being depicted as a character in the story! To surprise my husband, I asked him to be drawn in, and last week we saw the result – Yiri’s wonderfully pencilled incarnation as Brigand #1!

Yiri takes the stage for three action-packed pages, after which he is unceremoniously uhm, well, annihilated basically.

To counter his gruesome graphic demise, I drew up this alternative ending:

If you want to read the whole of his performance, you can download the first issue for just 99 cents on Comixology by clicking here.

Or you can wait until June, when the entire graphic novel will be on sale in comic stores and beyond!

How To Pick Those Pivotal Philosophers?

Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics

In May 2009 Kees Korenhof of Publishing House Meinema asked me to make a comic book about philosophy, and I had boldly agreed to have it finished in time for the Spring 2010, which meant a deadline in October. I had to sit down and produce.

I started out by drawing two introductory chapters to define the area. What Is Thinking? And what makes Thinking in humans so special, compared with the consciousness process in (other) animals? Along the way, I introduced myself, or rather my cartoon character, my husband Yiri and our two cats.

But then it was time to dive into solid philosophical history. Where to begin? Well, fortunately it was very obvious: Western philosophy starts with that illustrious trio Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

If you would offer me a chance to meet one of these three, I would definitely pick Socrates. He lived in very turbulent times, went to war on several occasions, and was not afraid to speak his mind, even against the leaders of his own city-state. They didn’t thank him for that: he was sentenced for spoiling the younger generation and disregarding the gods, and was offered a choice: banishment or death by poison. It certainly speaks for his character that he chose the latter: he was not a man to be dismissed.

That was all in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., in a land far away… which philosopher is next? The Roman Empire sure had some great thinkers, but not great enough to equal the influence of the Ancient Greek in the development of Western thought. Actually, we had to wait about 800 years before the next candidate emerged: Augustine.

By that time, Christianity was gaining power rapidly in Western Europe and Augustine was an enthusiastic convert – after he led a life of liberal licentiousness, which makes him one of the more interesting Christian philosophers, I think. He was smitten by the works of Plato.

After Augustine, Western philosophy had to wait another 800 years for an influential spokesman (Eastern philosophy, in the meantime, was benefitting big time from the young and fresh religion of Islam, which made the Arabic lands prosper and blossom in culture and science, compared to which the Westerners were mere boorish peasants). This spokesman was Thomas Aquinas, and he loved his Aristotle. Especially the idea of the Power of Human Reason, which elevated Man from a mere victim of Fate (and Faith) to a God-chosen Pinnacle of Creation.

And that’s how we emerged from the Dark Ages, philosophically: with the idea that Man surely had to be something special, being created with such awesome faculties of Understanding and Reasoning. What philosopher could top that?

I found it challenging to pinpoint the next pivotal philosophers and eventually stayed close to home, which in my case is The Netherlands, and the following three all had a strong connection with this country:

Desiderius Erasmus, René Descartes and Benedictus de Spinoza. Two of them born in the “low countries”, one of them lived here most of his adult life. They also had a strong connection with their Aristotelian heritage: all their philosophies were about Human Reason and what it can and cannot do.

Of these three I like Spinoza best. He was born in Amsterdam, the city where I live, and although history puts us 400 years apart, the times he lived in are not that radically different from now. In his day, Amsterdam was harboring, as it does now, many different nationalities and religions. It was a center of tolerance and culture. But with the country in a war and an economic recession, this tolerance eroded. Spinoza called for freedom of speech, a pamphlet he had to ironically publish anonymously.

Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics

It’s not all that different from current times. We’re in an economic recession again, minorities are being scape-goated and freedom of speech is being squelched by politicians who want it just for themselves. If Spinoza were alive today, his message would be the same. And he would probably be under fire for it, like Socrates was in his times.

Yes, the occupation of philosopher is not for the faint-hearted! You thought philosophers were dusty old men, smoking pipes and staring meaningfully out of the window of their aristocratic study-rooms, pondering ideas that have nothing to do with real life…? Think again!

You want some excitement in your life? Want to express your individuality and live life to the max? Forget bungee-jumping, become a philosopher!

There are more philosophers in the book, of course, we’ve just reached the somewhat modern age. But I’ll talk about them later, because I took a whole different turn there…

Stay tuned!