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RESEARCH ELEMENTS: WLA LIBERATOR SCHEMA

 

Below are a few things that proved instrumental in engineering WLA Liberator piece. Firstly, blue prints of the Harley-Davidson flathead and knucklehead engines, circa 1942

Some of the books:

...and models...

 

BELIEVER MAGAZINE SCHEMA: PROGRESS

 

Here is the completed comic episode for the Believer schema depicting the discovery of the Stroker engine as experienced by C.B.Clausen and Gil Armas, circa late 1940's. This comprises approximately one-third of the entire Believer piece, but took an incredible amount of research to make accurate. Special thanks to Bill Rodencal, conservator at the Harley-Davidson Museum, and especially Jim Wagner at Doc's Harley-Davidson in St Louis for helping me understand a passage from Bill Hayes' "The Original Wild Ones: Tales of The Boozefighters Motorcycle Club", in which an interview will Gil Armas describes the process of "inventing" the Stroker engine.

 

BELIEVER MAGAZINE: A ROUGH HISTORY OF HOW THE HARLEY-DAVIDSON MILITARY-ISSUED WLA "LIBERATOR" CHANGED AMERICAN CULTURE

 

Below are a few of the rough sketches I've recently completed regarding the "invention" of the stroker engine, as discovered by Gil Armas and C.B. Clausen, both members of the BOOZEFIGHTERS MOTORCYCLE CLUB. This comic depiction of the story is taken from Gil's own account, as transcribed by Bill Hayes and Jim Quattlebaum in their book, "The Original Wild Ones: Tales of the Boozefighters Motorcycle Club". I've been in touch with Mr. Quattlebaum, who is the official historian for the Boozefighters; Jim Fricke, curator at the Harley-Davidson museum; and Bill Rodencal, mechanic extrordinaire at the Harley-Davidson museum. All of them have been extremely helpful in my pursuit of both historical and mechanical accuracy. But it was probably Jim Wagner at Doc's Harley-Davidson in St. Louis who has been the most helpful in terms of translating Gil's text into a visual mechanical breakdown of how the stroker engine was "invented". I keep using quotation marks around "invent" because it is disputed that Gil and C.B. actually discovered the first strokerengine. Their are stories of others who developed it similarly, either simultaneously, or even (as one account suggests) as early as the late 1930's. There is no question, however, that Gil and C.B. developed their engine without any prior knowledge of prototypes. Nevertheless, it's been quite an adventure tracking this material down, has brought me into contact with several interesting people, and has ultimately led me to the purchase of my first Harley-Davidson: A 2005 Sportster 883.

Don't be fooled: These "refined" preliminary concept sketches for the stroker engine portion of the overall schema took a hell of a lot of work to get accurate.

Ultimately, the entire schema will be included in FOLKTALES.

 

RFT COVER FOR NEXT WEEK'S GRAPHIC FEATURE STORY: "NOTES OF A SECOND CLASS CITIZEN"

 

The Second Class Citizen originated in ABANDONED CARS, and will continue into FOLKTALES. Next week's RFT will feature a graphic feature story, "NOTES OF A SECOND CLASS CITIZEN", kicking off the beginning of a regular online continuity following the travails of my modern-day tip-of-the-hat to Dostoevsky's timeless and nameless anti-hero from NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND. Below is the cover that will run next week. I did my best to create a sense of a cold rain.

The online continuity will run on the RFT website, on this site, and finally be in print in FOLKTALES. Below are a couple of reference photos I used for the cover, using myself as the model. That's my wife in the window reflection, taking the picture, wearing her circus-gypsy pants.

 

BELIEVER MAGAZINE: CONCEPT SKETCH FOR AN HISTORICAL PIECE ON THE MILITARY-ISSUED HARLEY-DAVIDSON WLA "LIBERATOR"

 

I'm currently working on a schematic piece for The Believer magazine that traces the influence of the Harley-Davidson WLA "Liberator", supplied to the Armed Forces during World War II, on American culture just after the end of the war and into the 1950's. I had already planned to do a strip for FOLKTALES that dealt with the subject matter - particularly the development of the "stroker engine", and how it was developed in the garage of a couple of Boozefighters (a southern California motorcycle gang), Gil Armas and CB Clausen. I pitched the idea to the art director at The Believer, who suggested we try it as a schematic, which I thought was a clever idea. I also thought it would be an interesting exercise to trace the project from it's conceptual origins to its fruition. Last summer, I was asked by the Harley-Davidson Museum to contribute some of the original drawings from the BELLIGERENT PIANO weekly strip that dealt with Harley-Davidson (see episodes 41 through 48) for their "COLLECTION X" exhibit. Through the experience, I made friends at the museum who are willing to help me fact-check some of my history and mechanical accuracy. Below is the first concept sketch I sent to The Believer. Although it hasn't been officially approved, the concept was met with enthusiasm. Let's hope it moves to the next level.

 

"HOPEVILLE" STORY COVER

 

Below is the cover for the HOPEVILLE story as it ran in the RFT this week.Tom Carlson, the art director at the RFT, scanned one of the original sketches I made of "MOE" in my HOPEVILLE sketchbook, and that's the image that ran. It received "cover of the day" for Sept 23rd on spd.org

Here's the link for spd.org:http://www.spd.org/ http://www.spd.org/2011/09/cover-of-the-day-september-5-2.php

 

"MEAT", SPLASH PAGE

Below is the splash page to a new story for my upcoming book, FOLKTALES. It will also run in the Europe-based anthology STRAPAZIN.

"NOTES OF A SECOND CLASS CITIZEN (INTO THE BASEMENT)" cont.

 

Here are two new pages for the continuing story of the Second Class Citizen, who not only inhabited the pages of ABANDONED CARS, but will continue to do so in FOLKTALES. The Second Class Citizen stems from, and is inspired by, Dostoevsky's NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND, a book that I first read in high school and has captivated me ever since. In a sense, my second class citizen is my response to Dostoevsky's underground man, as I believe whole-heartedly that a Dostoevsky's 19th Century underground man could easily find his counterpart in the 21st Century. Graphically, I'm shooting for a kind of CABINET OF DOCTOR CALIGARI eeriness and architectural distortion, coupled by a F.W.Murnau kind of expressionism. Also very influential to the look and pacing of Second Class Citizen is Henning Carlsen's film adaptation of Knut Hamsun's HUNGER.

 

BELLY GUNNER, continued

Below are a couple of the pages I recently finished for BELLY GUNNER - finally completed - a story that will be in the next issue of MOME, as well as in my next book of graphic short stories, FOLKTALES. This is my first attempt at writing and illustrating a war story - a genre I've wanted to tackle for a long time, but couldn't quite figure out the best way to handle it. Because I'm deeply interested in the contrasts and similarities of generations of Americans, and because war has played such an intensive role in American culture - particularly in 20th/21st century American culture - I've wanted to capture some of that as an overarching theme throughout the collections of graphic short stories. Because of the glut of war stories out there, I felt hesitant to approach a war story until I watched Ken Burns's "The War", in which the story of Earl Burke, belly gunner on a B-17 during WW II captured my attention. I was so moved by his experience, I decided to recreate it as a graphic short story as exactly as I could. This also ties into my growing interest in the reinterpretation of stories - through folk and blues songs originating from newspaper articles, magazines, books, etc - that happened in "real-life"; how the topical or biographical fits into the greater American Mythological Drama. The trouble with war stories is that I think we've become desensitized to their impact as a result of their proliferation and the sensationalizing of them. What I'm specifically interested in is the human side of these stories: In the case of BELLY GUNNER, how it must have felt to be stuffed into the claustrophobically cramped quarters of a ball-turret at the age of nineteen with all hell breaking loose around you. At nineteen, I was in college. Death wasn't real. I try to imagine how I would've handled the rigors of Earl Burke's experience, and it leaves me awestruck and fascinated. Beyond that, and perhaps very much apart of it, is the generational differences - the general attitude of the WW II generation about "their" war, as opposed to the Vietnam generation's attitude toward theirs. And in more practical terms, even the fact that Boeing designed and constructed a bomber that could withstand the abuses that the B-17 could: When you see the condition some of those planes were in when the returned to England, it's amazing they stayed in the air.

"NOTES OF A SECOND CLASS CITIZEN, PART ONE (INTO THE BASEMENT)" SPLASH PAGE

Above is the splash page for a new section I'm working on for FOLKTALES, and will run, in part, as a feature story in the River front Times. The character from these "notes" is the same character whose ruminations were placed as vignettes in between the stories in ABANDONED CARS. I always planned to continue the character's narrative in that same fashion into FOLKTALES and THE BELIEVERS (the 2nd and 3rd books in the trilogy of graphic short stories kicked off with ABANDONED CARS). The character has developed considerably, though: So much so that I'm considering taking his story and making it into a graphic novel in it's own right. We'll see where things go from here.

"BELLY GUNNER" SPLASH PAGE

This is the splash page for a new story, "Belly Gunner" - a new graphic short story for FOLKTALES. It is a first for me on a couple of fronts: 1) It's my first war story, and 2) it's the first story that is entirely based on someone else's true story: Earl Burke, who was a ball turret gunner on a B-17 during World War II. I was so moved by his story, that I merely told it - except for a little editing for the sake of brevity - as he told it in Ken Burns' "The War". You might say I'm directing it. Like many people, I'm fascinated with World War II for a multitude of reasons. I'm particularly amazed by the kind of bravery it took to do things like climb into a sperry ball beneath a B-17 - and extremely claustrophobic space to inhabit - and blaze away at German Messerschmitts from 20,000 feet without the cover of Allied fighter plane support. I try to imagine myself having to do something like that at nineteen years old, and it seems like a nightmare. FOLKTALES will include a few war stories. I'm very interested in the impact World War II and Vietnam had on American culture, and how both wars played integral roles in shaping two successive generations. Of course, there is no shortage of World War II stories, both in comics and other mediums, but I feel compelled to take a shot at my own versions. The trouble with the glut of war stories out there is that it's easy to become desensitized to them. I'm most interested in the human side of war. What I liked so much about Burke's story is just that. I hope I'm able to make it resonate.

"THE PASSENGER" SHORT FILM

...Well, maybe not a film exactly: I think of it more as an audio-visual experiment based on one of the new short stories meant for FOLKTALES, called the PASSENGER. You can see the original comic version in the spring issue of MOME. You might notice that in earlier posts, The PASSENGER has been adapted to a spoken-word "radio drama". The below "film" is something of an adaptation of an adaptation - a collaborative piece put together by my partner-in-crime, Franklin Oros, and myself. All credits are indicated at the end of the short, so I won't state them here. But, again, the principal idea here is to expand on character and story, increasing the amount of nuance and subtlety allowed for the reader/viewer/story-recipient to collect in order to create their own unique vision of the story. Ultimately, the idea is to give you a bunch of puzzle pieces, from which you create an imagined version of the story. Or, as Joey would put it: "Blah, blah, blah, blah...." http://vimeo.com/13992153 Here's the leather coat illustration from the film. I drew it in my sketchbook and it made its way into the film: And speaking of sketchbook drawings - on a completely unrelated topic - here's a drawing of the 1963 Corvair that I almost bought this summer, if it hadn't been for the wisdom of my close friend and fellow artist, Ron Laboray, who pointed out with extraordinary detail just what a pile of lousy crap it was (exhaust pluming into the cabin: A death trap, sadly, in more ways than one). I owe Ron my life, literally. But I've always been a Corvair fan, and this one was difficult for me to pass up (note the various haiku I wrote in homage to the loss!). Why do I always fall in love with such cars? This is the second time I tried to buy a corvair. The first time was when I was in my mid twenties. The car was 1967 Corvair with the funkiest automatic transmission system I'd ever seen. Similar problem, though: Exhaust leak into the cabin. Apparently a common problem with air-cooled engines (the Corvair's engine was in the back, like a Volkswagon Bug; the Corvair had the distinction of being the first and last American car ever to try a rear-engine set-up.) PS: Thanks again, Ron, for saving my life.

"SPIKE" RADIO DRAMA

Spike_Bounce_July_10 Above is the radio drama adaptation of the graphic story "SPIKE" (see earlier posts in the FOLKTALES category for pages of the original story) - one of the new graphic stories meant for publication in my book, FOLKTALES. I intend FOLKTALES to be packaged with an accompanying CD, which will include audio elaborations on a selected group of  stories from that volume (see earlier audio post in the FOLKTALES category, under the title PASSENGER). All of these audio experiments were produced in collaboration with Frank Oros. Rare indeed it is to find a collaborator who is so like-minded; I was extremely fortunate the day I met Frank. Also a special thanks to Andrea ("gee, honey...you look all done in") Taylor, who supplied her wonderful voice and acting skills to both the 'wife' in the AMERICAN STANDARD AIR commercial, and the voice of the unnamed young hobo. Frank supplied the voice for the insane, older tramp, the announcer, and the AMERICAN STANDARD AIR jingle. I'm the NIGHTCRAWLER and the 'husband' in the commercial skit.

Be forewarned: There's graphic violence, racist language, and other disturbing content in this radio drama.