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Wayne Vansant at NYCC: We Had No Time To Weep

You can meet Wayne Vansant and chat about each one of his graphic histories at New York Comic Con! He’ll be signing with us at booth 2006!



In Gettysburg, Wayne Vansant doesn’t forget the sacrifices the Civil War required. General Winfield Scott Hancock ordered 262 men of the 1st Minnesota Regiment on what was, basically, a suicide mission to hold the Union line during the second day of fighting (which focused primarily on a wheat field and peach orchard). Fewer than 20% of the men would survive the day.

Alice in Wonderland Dream Team: Carroll and Tenniel

We’ve all seen the many renditions of the classic tale of Alice in Wonderland. Though each has a zanier take than the last, each and every one is wonderful, witty, whimsical and full of the magic of Lewis Carroll’s story. None more-so than the original illustrator, John Tenniel.

Catherine Nichols, author of Alice’s Wonderland, explains how these iconic engravings came to be.

(You can meet Catherine Nichols and chat about Alice and her Wonderland at New York Comic Con! She’ll be signing with us at booth 2006!)

John Tenniel (1820–1914)

Every artist who has illustrated Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking-Glass owes an immense debt to John Tenniel.


An 1878 caricature of Tenniel by Vanity Fair portrait artist Leslie Ward.

 Born in London in 1820, Tenniel was a skilled artist from an early age (although his “youthful aspiration” was to be a clown in a circus). He studied at the Royal Academy Schools before dropping out to follow his own independent study of art. In 1848, his black-and-white illustrations for an edition of Aesop’s Fables intrigued the editor of Punch, a popular weekly satirical magazine. Before long, Tenniel was working for the magazine, an association that would last for nearly half a century. Throughout his long career he produced more than two thousand political cartoons for Punch. In 1893, Queen Victoria knighted Tenniel in recognition of his work at Punch; he was the first illustrator to be so honored.

Carroll, an enthusiastic reader of Punch, admired Tenniel’s political cartoons, and even kept a collection of ones he had especially enjoyed and had clipped from the magazine’s pages. So when Carroll was looking for an artist to illustrate Alice in Wonderland, it was natural that he should think of him.

Once Tenniel received the manuscript for Alice in Wonderland, he had quite a task in front of him. Carroll often was vague when it came to how a certain character looked. Even Alice, the story’s protagonist, isn’t described at length. In Chapter II, Alice says she’s sure she’s not Ada “for her hair goes in such long ringlets, and mine doesn’t go in ringlets at all.” And except for a reference from the Hatter that “her hair wants cutting”— from which can be inferred that her hair is long—there is nothing more in terms of a visual description.

Of course, Tenniel did have Carroll’s original illustrations of Alice, and it’s true that there is a certain resemblance between the two. An early version of Tenniel’s Alice can be glimpsed in the pages of Punch in 1846—an illustration of a young, middle-class girl wearing a waisted dress and pinafore and placing a garland around the neck of a lion.


Tenniel is thought to have modeled the Duchess on Quentin Matsys’ unflattering portrait. Titled The Ugly Duchess, it was painted around 1513.

In other instances, Tenniel ignores Carroll’s text and puts his own spin on a character. The Duchess that Alice meets in Chapter VI of Alice in Wonderland is described as having a chin that is “uncomfortably sharp,” and when they walk together on the croquet grounds, the Duchess repeatedly digs her pointy chin into Alice’s shoulder. Yet Tenniel’s Duchess has a chin that is anything but sharp. But when Carroll also describes the Duchess as ugly, Tenniel doesn’t fail the author.


Tenniel’s drawing of Alice with the Duchess.

The Duchess is most definitely unattractive. Critics posit that Tenniel based the Duchess on the Duchess Margaret of Carinthia and Tyrol, who lived in the fourteenth century and was reputed to be the ugliest woman in history. Quentin Matsys, a sixteenth-century Flemish painter, did a portrait of her that Tenniel very likely used as his inspiration.

Although Carroll almost certainly modeled the White Knight on himself, Tenniel also laid claim to the errant knight, making the character—in a way—a metaphor for the collaboration between these two great artists. Tenniel’s knight has the illustrator’s trailing mustache, and the resemblance between the two is striking. Tenniel might also have been influenced by the German artist Albrecht Dürer’s engraving Knight, Death, and the Devil (1513–14).


As expertly as Tenniel prepared the illustrations for both Alice books, he did make mistakes. In Alice in Wonderland, for instance, the illustration that opens Chapter I shows the White Rabbit in a checkered jacket over a plain vest. Yet later, when giant Alice is stuck inside the rabbit’s house and reaches out through a window to grab hold of him, he is wearing a checkered vest to match his jacket. And in Through the Looking-Glass Tenniel mistakenly gives Tweedledee, not Tweedledum, the wooden sword.

After completing Through the Looking-Glass, Tenniel all but retired from illustrating books, concentrating instead on his political cartoons for Punch. He illustrated a handful of books for other authors, and in 1881, agreed to one last project from Carroll—the colorized edition for The Nursery Alice. Tenniel made some substantial changes to some of the twenty illustrations that appear in the book. He updated Alice’s costume, pleating her dress and adding a bow to the apron, and he placed another bow in her hair. He redid the frontispiece and redrew the illustration of Alice holding the “Drink Me” bottle as well as the one of her with a stretched-out neck.

Since the later book was intended for young children, the black-and-white illustrations were colorized. Alice was given a yellow dress, and blue bows and stockings. The Knave of Hearts had his nose painted red, a suggestion perhaps that he was a lush and under the influence of alcohol when he stole the King’s tarts.

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Win Extreme Hollywood Makeup at New York Comic Con

Do you dream of thick hair sprouting off your face and knuckles? Maybe you wish your flesh would start rotting off your bones? How about some pointy ears to go with your glittery eyebrows? Well, now your fantasy could become a cosplay reality! 
Bruna Nogueira, cinematic makeup artist for Teen Wolf, Catching Fire, and CSI:NY, and co-author of the new book, Hollywood Makeup Lab (racepointpublishing) and co author Diane Namm, are offering a chance for one lucky winner to receive a full extreme makeup at New York Comic Con on October 11! QGeekBooks will be hanging out with the team at booth #2006. Swing by and hang out with us!
Contestants can enter here:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Rules: Must enter by 7:00 pm on Friday, October 10th. 1st place winner must attend New York Comic Con 2014 on Saturday, October 11, 2014 to claim prizes. Entrance not included. Please bring proof of identification.
For a peek inside this inspiring and easy-to-use book, check out our concept art from Rayce Bird, contestant on syfysfaceoff!

Frozen Nail Art


If you’re anything like me you’re not only excited about the impending return of Once Upon a Time this Sunday, but also the fact that our favorite Frozen characters are going to be making appearances this season. I mean, come on, you can’t even see her face and Elsa looks ah-mazing! It’s not winter yet, but to celebrate here are some awesome Elsa-esque nail designs from 500 Nail Art Designs! (They would be great for Halloween too!)

















The Six Coen Motifs

Have you ever noticed that filmmakers tend to do similar things in their movies, almost as if to leave their mark? Look for these six signature Coen brother motifs from The Big Lebowski throughout their films!

“Most of the characters in our movies are pretty unpleasant—losers or lunkheads, or both. But we’re also very fond of those characters, because you don’t usually see movies based around those kinds of people. We’re not interested in burly superhero types.”—Joel Coen, in Total Film

While the Coens’ body of work is extremely diverse—Westerns, thrillers, comedies, period pieces from all different times and locales, farces, black-and white noirs, saturated color odysseys—there are common threads running throughout. William Preston Robertson, who has done voice work in their films and wrote the book The Big Lebowski: The Making of a Coen Brothers Film, listed these “recurring motifs” as: “1. howling fat men; 2. blustery titans; 3. vomiting; 4. violence; 5. dreams; and 6. peculiar haircuts.” Of these, only vomiting (at least, on screen) and peculiar haircuts (unless the Jesus’ hairnet counts) do not fit The Big Lebowski.

John Goodman is certainly their favored “howling fat man.” As Walter Sobchak, he howls about rules and Shabbos and at Donny. Goodman began as a howling escaped convict in Raising Arizona (rising up from the mud in a rainstorm), then howled as Madman Mundt in Barton Fink and portrayed a howling Cyclops in O Brother, Where Art Thou? As The New York Times described, “In all the Coen brothers’ movies, [Goodman] plays someone who is either menacing or about to erupt. He’s like a tank of volatile, pressurized hydrogen.” Goodman has said, “Let me do a Coen brothers film every other year, and I’ll be happy.”

Said blustery titans (some of whom howl and some of whom are fat) are mostly rich, white men in positions of power, often issuing commands from behind a desk; this all fits the Big Lebowski. (However, the Coens also employ small, elderly men of power behind outsized wooden desks; see Intolerable Cruelty and A Serious Man.)

All Coen movies have their own element of violence, like the nihilist losing his ear to Walter’s teeth in the parking lot scene in Lebowski. The Big Lebowski and The Hudsucker Proxy are the only Coen brothers fi lms in which nobody is shot. (The Dude’s poor car, however, is less fortunate.) Kidnappings appear in most, one at the hands of a siren (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), one by alien (The Man Who Wasn’t There), one by crooks lacking in competence (Fargo), and one a faux kidnapping (The Big Lebowski). Many, many Coen characters get punched in the face. In fact, the Dude not only gets face-punched but smacked in the forehead with a coffee mug.

Dreams—in the Dude’s case drug- and punch-induced fantasies—are indeed a common theme in most Coen works, too. H.I.’s dream in Raising Arizona conjures up the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse, and the fi lm ends on a dream of the future. The Coens also use dreams in confounding and disturbing ways. The bait-and-switch dream in Blood Simple provokes audible audience screams. In Barton Fink, the murder that stuns the main character could be either dream or reality.


Jumbo the Gentle Giant

Elephant Appreciation Day is September 22nd and there’s no better way to celebrate or appreciate this fine species than learning more about the history of one of the most famous ones.  Jumbo tells the story of how this elephant became the original gentle giant.

Zoos cost money. Importing animals was expensive, keeping them in good condition was even more expensive. Jumbo coincided with the flowering of the ZSL into what would be the greatest ‘show of London’ – and that too cost money. Founded in 1828 as a centre of research for ‘fellows’, its grounds were  opened twenty years later to the public as a centre of entertainment (and instruction). An influx of women and children could now wander free in the fellows’ former preserve.

The aim of admitting the public into the park – with all the disturbance of the animal residents it involved – was, primarily, to raise funds for the science wing, which it did, magnificently. It also soothed any anxiety on ‘selling out’ and ‘circusing’ that the zoo could legitimately be presented to the world as a worthy educational institution. To this day a similar ‘soothing’ is supplied by the signposting, all over the place, that the zoo is in the business less of ‘exhibiting’ than ‘conserving’ – a biological Noah’s Ark, not a Roman Colosseum de nos jours. It’s doubtful whether many customers, then or now, handed over their money in the good causes of self-education or the preservation of the world’s endangered species in a zoo ark close to Camden Town tube station. For most it’s a day out, pure and simple, and most of all for the children. When I walk alongside the perimeter fence on a warm weekend afternoon, the yells of the hyenas and the squawks of the birds are often drowned out by a cacophony of children’s shrieks.

Any visit to a modern theme park confirms the centrality of the ‘rides’. It’s why people go there. The London Zoo was also quick to see their appeal. Camel rides were one favourite – and safe, as they say, as houses. Jumbo was soon strong enough to carry children on his back and a saddle was ordered for little passengers, ascended to by a step ladder. Scott would assist the ascent, pocketing the pennies as he did so. More pennies would be passed over for the ritual ‘buns’; the transfer from Scott to purchaser, and purchaser to trunk, was carefully moni- tored, lest any nails, razor blades or other malicious objects were inserted. For some reason it was common. Most of the ride and bun revenue stayed in Scott’s pocket – to Bartlett’s  impotent fury. Scott, it was estimated, took in not far short of £500-worth of copper in a year, rendering him better paid than his superintendent. But it was a small fraction of what Jumbo brought to the zoo.

As Jumbo grew in size a larger ‘howdah’, or platform (sometimes called a ‘tower’), was constructed. Wild reports claimed it could carry sixty passengers – as many as the top deck of a London omnibus. About eight, plus driver, was the usual maximum load.

Under Scott’s care, Jumbo gained health, bulk and main- tained a placid good temper – at least by day. Strategic news leaks sugar-coated the image of the children’s giant pet. Jumbo was a little bit of funfair in the Zoo, the elephantine version of the fairground roundabout or swing boat.

The managers of the ZSL had noted the Jardin des Plantes success with the ill-fated twins. Jumbo was installed as the zoo’s magnet attraction – as had been Castor and Pollux. No one who visited the Regent’s Park grounds would want to leave having not seen two things: the ‘snake house’ (a house of horror and fascination to Charles Dickens – especially at feeding time, when live mice were thrown into the herpetarium) and Jumbo. Children, as it happened, might well be shielded from the horrors of the snakes tearing live squeaking rodents apart and the simians masturbating in the monkey house, but Jumbo was a ‘must’ for the juvenile visitor – and totally ‘safe’. A wild animal that was in no sense wild. He was the ‘children’s pet’, in ways that the rhino, gorilla or hippo never could be. Children were kept a safe, barred and barriered distance from those monsters.

Jumbo pioneered what remains now the zoo’s main attrac- tion – I see it over the fence every day walking my dog in Regent’s Park – the ‘petting’ zoo. One rather feels for the long-suffering animals; groped, pawed and child-handled as they are. Jumbo, too, suffered children and adults to touch him, caress him, stroke him, pet him. Cats may like it; wild animals in captivity don’t, one assumes.

Humans have an odd need to ‘touch’ the elephant. When the skeleton of Jumbo was taken out and put on display again, in 1993, in New York’s American Museum of Natural History, it was noted that the legs, up to as high as a tall man might reach, were varnished with all the ‘for luck’ touching it had received. It was a tactile ritual similar to that which came close to destroying the stuffed Jumbo at Tufts University. Jumbo, while alive, was touched and touching. No one, other than reckless little Albert Ramsbottom, in the Stanley Holloway monologue, would touch a lion. This is how it goes (it’s funnier when Holloway does it, but you’ll get the drift – noli me tangere, kid):

There were one great big Lion called Wallace; His nose were all covered with scars,

He lay in a somnolent posture, With the side of his face on the bars.

Now Albert had heard about Lions, How they was ferocious and wild,

To see Wallace lying so peaceful, Well, it didn’t seem right to the child.

So straightway the brave little feller, Not showing a morsel of fear,

Took his stick with its ’orses ’ead ’andle And pushed it in Wallace’s ear.

You could see that the Lion didn’t like it, For giving a kind of a roll,

He pulled Albert inside the cage with ‘im, And swal- lowed the little lad ’ole.

But with Jumbo, there was no infanticide; even if some little Albert dared poke him in the ear. It was penny buns and tuppenny rides all the way. He was the children’s ‘giant pet’. 


Drink like “The Dude”


There’s nothing Jeff Bridges’ character in The Big Lebowski enjoys more than a nice White Russian. If you’ve never tried the sweet cocktail, The Architecture of the Cocktail shows you how!

how to make a white russian cocktail like the dude in big lebowski

White Russian

With two heavy and one lighter ingredient in a White Russian, you can go a couple of ways creating it. One methodology is to treat each material like a layer to build upon - dark, rich coffee liqueur at the bottom; cool, chilly vodka in the middle and a float of cream on top. The second method is my preferred style of building this drink, though: shaken lightly so that the three combine and the cream becomes frothy. I believe that, together, the sum of their parts becomes a far more memorable textural and flavor experience.

The Notes

Place 6 or 7 square ice cubes into a cocktail shaker. Pour in 1 fluid ounce (30ml) of Kahlua coating the ice. Add in 1 fluid ounce (30ml) of vodka and 1 fluid ounce (30ml) of cream. Shake in a vertical motion for 30 seconds. Strain slowly into an ice-filled rocks glass.

Want to drink like Don Draper? Check that post here.



The First Giant Telescope

Telescopes can be pretty high-tech these days, but the basic way they are designed is not much different from Sir Isaac Newton’s designs 220 years ago! Our Sun shows us the history behind the first giant telescope.

In 1892, François Deloncle, a member of the French Chamber of Deputies, commissioned the construction of a giant telescope as the centerpiece of the Paris Universal Exposition in 1900. It was to be the largest refracting telescope yet constructed, with a lens 1.25 meters (over 4 feet) in diameter and a focal length of 57 meters (over 187 feet), all affixed within a cast-iron tube nearly 60 meters (197 feet) long. Due to its immense size, the telescope had to be mounted in a fixed horizontal position and light from the sky redirected using a movable plane, or siderostat, mirror nearly 2 meters (6.5 feet) in diameter, which would take nine months to grind.

Although the telescope was not intended for scientific use, it could produce images of 500x magnification and more. The French astronomer Charles Le Morvan used it to take several photographs of the surface of the Moon that astonished the readers of Strand Magazine, which published the photos in the November 1900 issue.

Unfortunately, its immense size and virtual immobility made the Great Paris Exposition Telescope a hard sell. After the Expo, the company that had built it declared bankruptcy and put the telescope up for auction in 1909. When they could find no buyer, it was broken up for scrap metal. However, the 2-meter (6-foot) siderostat mirror was salvaged and put on display at the Paris Observatory. And in 2007, two of the telescope’s lenses were discovered in packing crates in the observatory’s basement.



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