Spider-Man Meets Frankenstein!

At the library I picked up a collection of old Frankenstein comic books from Marvel. In the back of the book is a two-part story teaming up Spider-Man and Frankenstein against the Wolf Man and a mad scientist. Yes, Marvel actually did that! And it was more fun to read than I expected.

My understanding is that although the Frankenstein character is in the public domain, the original novel is not too specific about what he looks like. Universal Studios has a trademark on the green skinned, flat headed, bolts-in-the-neck version the public normally thinks of when they picture the Frankenstein monster, even though that is not how he is described in the book. So when other companies use the Frankenstein character they have to create their own version of that is different enough from the Universal Studios monster to avoid copyright infringement, but similar enough that people still recognize it as Frankenstein. That’s why the Marvel version has long hair, gray skin, and no neck bolts.

Anyway, the art by Sal Buscema is so amazing I had to share a few samples. I especially love the poses when the Wolf Man fights a pack of real wolves. This was in the pre-internet era when finding photo reference of wolves being tossed in the air would have been difficult. Buscema was a strong enough draftsman that he probably just invented the poses based on his understanding of animal anatomy, and maybe with the help of a couple of wolf photos he might have had in his files. (Artists back then kept what they called a “morgue”, which was basically a filing cabinet or two full of photos of random stuff from magazines that they might be asked to draw someday. I started building a morgue for a few years when I was young until Google came along and made it obsolete.) In any case, wow do the action poses look great! Buscema was an incredible artist. Other than John Romita Sr., his version of Spider-Man is probably my favorite.

Here’s a slideshow of a few pics I snapped with my iPhone:


More sketchbook practice. I drew this last night while re-watching the John Wayne classic THE COWBOYS. (There are no snakes in the movie. It’s just a good flick to have on in the background while doodling buckaroos.)

Uncle Sam

I started drawing Uncle Sam in my digital sketchbook. I liked how it was turning out and decided he needed to be on the classic poster. But I couldn’t come up with a funny or clever caption. I googled and saw someone else made a version that said “I want you to pull my finger”. I was tempted to copy that but I didn’t want to steal someone else’s joke. So, I settled on this very mediocre line.

Probably the closest I will ever come to owning a Hollywood prop

I’m a huge fan of the TV show M*A*S*H. If you’ve never seen it, it’s about a medical unit during the Korean War (MASH stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). Doctors and nurses who are surrounded by blood and death cope with it all through comedy, creativity, and silly pranks. With a stellar cast, clever writing, and high production values, M*A*S*H was groundbreaking in several ways: It was the first show to blend comedy with drama. It was the first show to kill off a main character. It was the first mainstream show to experiment creatively with the TV format (there was an episode filmed as a black-and-white documentary, an episode played out in real time with a ticking clock in the corner of the screen, and an episode dramatizing the nightmares of the characters). M*A*S*H won multiple Emmy’s and gained an enormous following. When it finally went off the air in 1983 the season finale (a two-hour movie length episode) set a record as the most-watched television broadcast in American history.

On the show Colonel Potter (played by Harry Morgan) paints in his spare time. Back in 2018 someone paid $16,250 for an original prop painting that was created for the season 10 episode, “Picture This”. The plot revolves around Potter trying to make a warm, friendly painting of the rest of the gang who are in reality fighting and squabbling about practically everything. (As an illustrator who has worked with difficult clients I can relate.)

What got me excited is that the auction site has a link to a hi-res scan of the painting. In my art studio I have a wall covered with artwork by other artists. Some of it is original art and some are just prints but every piece either inspires me or has sentimental value. I’ve downloaded the hi-res M*A*S*H scan, printed it out (8×10 size), and it now hangs on my studio wall next to a M*A*S*H MAD Magazine cover by the legendary Mort Drucker.

(If you want to make your own print, you may have to create a free account on the auction site to view/download the hi-res version. The resolution of the scan makes me think that you could probably print it about 11×14 inches max. Any bigger and it will start to pixelate or get blurry. Also, good luck finding a professional printer or a Kinko’s to print it for you as most will not print artwork without a signed copyright release, even if it is just for your personal use—a policy I generally support. So you will likely have to settle for a small home-printed version, which is better than nothing.) 

I posted this on a M*A*S*H subreddit and someone over there asked if Harry Morgan did any of the paintings on the show? I replied that I’m positive he didn’t. For one thing he is not known to be an artist in real life. For another, the tight production schedule on a weekly TV show would not have allowed the extra hours/days it would have taken for the cast to just stand there posing while Morgan slowly painted them. 

Now that I’ve had the chance to study the painting in detail it looks to me like it was not sketched from life. Instead, the six actors probably posed for a quick photo which was then sent to the art department where it was projected onto a canvas and traced. The line work looks traced, not loose and freehand. This method would also have two advantages: It was faster, and it ensures the likenesses were as accurate as possible. A staff artist would have then spent maybe a day or two adding color before finally handing it off to the prop department for filming.

So who really made Potter’s paintings? This blog post on a M*A*S*H fan site includes screenshots of every painting from the show. It’s clear to me that they were not all done by the same artist, and that some were done freehand and others traced from photos. I went down an internet rabbit hole and unfortunately it seems no one knows the true identity of the artists or what became of most of the paintings. The only artist I could identify was New England painter Robert A. Woolfe, who did the painting of Potter’s thumb. Woolfe worked as a Hollywood studio artist for several years. He died in 2004 at the age of 84 but someone has put together a Facebook page for him. There’s no M*A*S*H art on the page but I messaged the moderator and they claim to have talked to Woolfe’s sister who confirmed that yes, Woolfe did the thumb painting.

(EDIT: Emmy-winning MASH writer Ken Levine says on his blog that the drawing of the horse seen in Potter’s office was painted by Harry Morgan’s grandson.)

I looked for a clip featuring Potter’s paintings but couldn’t find one. However, I did find this moving scene about the gift of art. In this episode Major Winchester operated on a patient with wounded legs and a wounded hand. Because so many other soldiers needed immediate surgery there was not time to do the delicate operation required to repair the hand. It turns out the patient was a concert pianist who has now lost use of his right fingers. Winchester, himself a lover of classical music, feels guilty and tries to find a way to make it right. This is one of my favorite moments from the series and it’s worth a watch:

Modern Political Discourse

I enjoy following the news and current events. I don’t enjoy reading the snark and vitriol about it on Twitter. Most of it is reactionary, thoughtless, and creates more heat than light. This is a photo illustration I made to comment on the state of our social media political conversations.

To license this image drop me a line to discuss options and cost.

This image is also available on shirts, mugs, stickers, etc. through the print on demand site Redbubble.

Rise and shine! New Breakfast Pattern

There’s a fun new bacon-and-eggs pattern available on my Redbubble store. Perfect for starting your day with some good morning vibes. Also works as fun restaurant decor or for masks for the wait staff. This pattern is available on dozens of items from mugs to stickers to clocks. Redbubble will print and ship directly to you, even if you order just one.