Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Accidental Cartoonist - Welcome to the New Brain Teaser Comics

In November I suffered a hard drive loss that made a bunch of finished strips inaccessible for posting and I decided to put Brain Teaser on a brief hiatus through the holidays and New Year. Thanks to an awesome coworker at my Real World Job with mad skills I was able to get those strips (and all my other data) back. Thanks Jim!

 Since I didn't end up having to re-do all those comics, I had some time to think about brainteasercomics.com and what I want to do with it in the near future. I'd been frustrated with how the site looked and worked, and made the decision to do a complete overhaul on it and build it with some additional goals in mind.

 I considered several solutions, but ultimately settled on a Blogger powered site because of my long term familiarity with the available tools, the knowledge that it is highly customizeable, and that customization is easy even for those not experts at HTML, CSS and Java Scripting. Plus there is TONS of support and user knowledge out there.

First and Foremost I wanted the site to LOOK better, and I think that is mission accomplished. The overall look is much more modern. I've added tags to every single strip, categorizing them into some of the themes I revisit over and over again. For blog posts I've added a tag called 'Accidental Cartoonist'. I'm hoping to do more blog posts about what I'm up to this year and I want to hear from YOU! Blogger has a much better commenting system than my old host, and I'm hoping to build community, and have dialog with you readers about my work as well as what you are up to.

In 2015 I'm also hoping to launch a Patreon campaign, try to pull in some advertising dollars and hopefully get Brain Teaser to pay for itself in terms of time, materials, and other associated costs. I've added links to my Cafe Press Shop, and that page is next on the list for a makeover with some new designs in line with what Brain Teaser, Media Montage and Blank Tape Comics are all about. Blank Tape Comics will also get a makeover when time permits as I'm doing more non-Brain Teaser stuff that will go up on that site including mini-comics and side projects. In fact some of the older Brain Teaser Comics that don't really fit the current mold will be moved to that site.

I've added my Twitter Feed, link to my Facebook Fan Page, and embedded the Media Montage Podcast player, to integrate all my creative projects into (hopefully) a greater whole, make myself more reachable and do a better job of reaching you.

Take a look around and let me know what you think in the comments.  Look for new strips on Mondays and Wednesdays starting on January 5th with 'Mixed Message'.

See you then!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sixth Sense

What superpowers would be fun, but otherwise useless?

The Accidental Cartoonist: Brain Teaser is Going on Hiatus

Today's strip 'Sixth Sense' is the last Brain Teaser of the year.  Sometimes we agonize over decisions we need to make, looking at pros and cons, and analyzing all the factors. Sometimes decisions are made for us. Brain Teaser Comics going on hiatus was a decision that was made for me. The main drive on my workstation where I color, caption and store all my finished strips became unbootable and inaccessible. Foolishly I had not backed up my work in about 8 weeks.  ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR DATA!

I usually maintain a buffer of at least two weeks, and had a handful of finished strips that were not yet uploaded when this catastrophe struck. This means today's comic was the last finished strip that was also uploaded to the site.  I will have to redo the strips I had previously finished as well as redoing about 20 published strips if I want to have them in high resolution. That is a fair amount of work, and I'm still in the process of moving and adapting my workflow to my laptop, installing software, etc. The one upside to my process is that all of my line art is done in traditional pen and ink and can easily be rescanned.

There is still some hope that I can recover the data from the drive, I should find that out by the end of this week, and hope that is the case.  All of this happening with the holidays looming led me to the decision to put the strip on hold until I know whether my data can be recovered, give me enough time to rebuild my buffer and start fresh after the New Year.

Thanks for reading Brain Teaser, enjoy a safe and fun holiday season, and see you in January!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Wiped Out

Are you a civilized person or do you hang your paper from the back side of the roll?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Rose to the Occasion

Some people are well equipped to face the world, but end up missing the point anyway.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Nest of the Best

I used to rescue injured critters all the time. Did you ever hear the 'mother will reject it' argument?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Energy Think

Do you like energy drinks? I'm not a fan, but I swill coffee like there's no tomorrow.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Leg Oh!

What is your favorite feature on your significant others? I like a nice smile, myself.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Donut Forget

I swear, cuss and use vulgarities with far too much ease... What is your favorite vice, deadly sin, or anti-social behavior?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Change for the Butter

Pretty on the Outside, ugly on the inside. Such a shame when we meet people like that, don't you think?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Squee T

Alien visitors aren't always what they seem. What's your favorite invasion movie or TV show? I'm very fond of the original 'V' miniseries. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Uncanny Slacks Men

If you were blessed with superpowers, which one would you choose? I've always like super-speed, personally. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Accidental Cartoonist: Comica Discordia

Discordianism is the worship of Eris, the Greek Goddess of Discord. It suggests order and disorder are illusions of human perception. That the escalation of one results in an escalation of the other. It has been called ‘zen for roundeyes’ and I don’t profess to fully understand it, but it fascinates me. Its founding document is the Principia Discordia, and I came to know it through my favorite novel, the sci-fi-conspiracy classic Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. It is a copyleft document, in the public domain and freely available online.

It has inspired all kinds of strange people to do strange, creative things and it is at the root of one of my favorite websites, discordianquotes.com That site serves up random quotes, often out of context of their original sources with hilarious results.  I like to read it when I need some silly inspiration or a non-sequitur jolt to the noggin for whatever reason.

What does this have to do with my comics? Quite a bit actually.

While working on Major Spoilers Adventures, I’d begun drawing again, exploring comics art with my own hand.  I began to dream of someday doing a hand drawn web comic using my own art, and not the computer generated Bitstrips figures and tools.  I felt I needed regular exercise to build up those drawing muscles, and so I set a goal. I would do one gag panel, released every Wednesday, for a year. This would force me to draw. I wanted to focus on the art, and didn’t necessarily want to worry a whole lot about writing gags. I was doing that on Major Spoilers Adventures already.

I decided I would simply find quotes on discordianquotes.com that planted an image in my mind, and draw to that.  It was a nice solution, giving a framework and theme for my exercise. Sometimes the art would ‘fit’ the quote too well, so on occasion, I would go back after the art was complete, and use a different, funnier quote that still worked with the art.

I started drawing and ended up doing 51 black and white installments and a final, 52nd full color installment, to celebrate the project’s successful conclusion. I never missed a release day, and sometimes even maintained a buffer.  In honor of the source quotes, I called the project Discordian Quote Comix.

One thing about the comic I wanted to mention is that I released it with a Copyleft notice on each strip. The notice reads: by Otter Disaster (K) All Rites Reversed - Reprint What You Like. The Principia Discordia and many Discordian writings are released this way, including discordianquotes.com. I figured it was right and in keeping with all things Discordian. You are still welcome to copy, print, distribute or modify those particular comics in any way you want to.
Looking at them now, much of the art is crude and cringeworthy, but I was proud of the achievement and what I learned over that year. I went from using simple fine point markers and ball point pens to experimenting with brush markers, halftone patterns in Photoshop, and more complex and interesting layouts. I improved my figures and perspective. I developed and refined a certain cartooning style that is still core to a lot of my work, and I laid the foundations for what Brain Teaser Comics became.  
The self imposed release schedule and deadline was important in that it forced me to produce. Was I always happy with the results? No, but that was a good thing. I learned that sometimes it is better to finish a piece and move on to the next one, take what dissatisfied me and improve on it for the next week. Those lines are too stiff? Hold your pen differently this time. Too much cleanup needed in Photoshop? Pencil your work more lightly so it can be erased without leaving artifacts behind. 
Discordian Quote Comix was extremely important in how my work developed. I thought it was inconsequential at the time I was making it.  It was a project that developed my comics ‘voice’ even though I didn't realize it. It built the not-quite-right world of Brain Teaser Comics of weird creatures, weirder people, a universe gone wrong.  It allowed me to experiment without fear because nobody was reading it. Without fear, I did what I wanted, and what I NEEDED, never worrying about what anyone would think of any of it. I did it to amuse myself. I did it to learn.

When I created my Doomed Strip it was with other people in mind. I constantly worried about what ‘the audience’ would think was funny. I worried if it was ‘accessible’. I tried to make it universally appealing, whatever that means. And I ended up hating it. Reading them now, they aren’t that bad, and I think some of them are pretty funny but at the time I grew to despise the whole thing.
When I started doing Brain Teaser Comics on the side, what I was really doing, (and without realizing it) was carrying on Discordian Quote Comix. The single panel approach, the weird humor, the oddball characters, and the skewed worldview carried straight through. There are even a few characters that made the leap between projects, namely the pair of nameless alien greys. Every Brain Teaser Comic I do amuses me first and foremost. I make sure I have fun doing it, I hope that carries through, and when you like it too, that’s a huge bonus!

Discordian Quote Comix was almost the comic I wanted to do, I just didn't know it. I had to remake it with a different name and a new coat of paint. Even then, I only figured it out after a time consuming detour in the wrong direction.

Sometimes we have something figured out, but can’t see the forest for the trees. We have to pause, look back and see we were on a path the whole time. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Reality Chex

Do like meta fiction, when a work of fiction acknowledges itself as such?  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Meet Heads

Missing the point, ignoring the reality of the situation, or just being a jerk can take a bad situation and make it that much worse...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Accidental Cartoonist: The Bitstrips Factor

In my last post I talked about how I became, at least in my own mind, a ‘real’ cartoonist. 
I even mentioned some comic projects I’d done that led up to those moments of discovery and self identification. One of those projects was Major Spoilers Adventures.

In March 2008, I was reading wired.com and stumbled across an article detailing an odd little Web 2.0 startup called Bitstrips. It was a set of simple tools that allowed you to design characters and easily plug them into comic strips.  As someone who’d always liked comics I thought this might be a fun little distraction, and maybe a way to add content to my recently launched Otter Disaster Blog where I commented on comics, pop culture and politics. I was a fairly early adopter of Bitstrips, and enjoyed being a part of the early wave of users, innovating, giving feedback to the developers, and generally having fun making comics. I designed characters based on friends and started doing strips about my misspent youth, and being a husband and father.  I also used Bitstrips to do 24 Hour Comics in 2008, 2009 and 2010 that were immensely satisfying from a creative standpoint. I believe I still stand as the only Bitstripper to ever use it for the 24 Hour Comics Challenge.

I eventually did a strip based on an episode of the Major Spoilers Podcast, hosted by a couple of friends from my college years and posted it in the forums on their site.  It got a really great response, and so I posted a couple more, and the next thing I knew Stephen Schleicher, the owner of Major Spoilers, asked me if I wanted to make it a regular feature, appearing on the main site.  I thought this was a pretty cool opportunity, so almost by accident I was doing a weekly comic strip for a fairly high profile web site.

Bitstrips feature set continued to grow allowing me to do more and more, and I ended up doing 120 episodes of Major Spoilers Adventures for the site for over two years. Major Spoilers Adventures ran from May, 2009 to November 2011. I did a lot of pop culture related gags, inside jokes from the site and its podcasts as well as a few long form continuity stories.

It was a lot of fun for a long time, but Bitstrips began to frustrate me.  New features aside, I grew annoyed with the limitations of the site tools, the homogeneous art and the site’s intermittent bugginess. In June of 2011 I started a more personal side project as a secondary creative outlet, drawn by hand without the aid of Bitstrips. I took a lot of joy out of that project, Discordian Quote Comix, designed as an education in doing my own art with self imposed deadlines and release schedule.  That project helped me decide to end Major Spoilers Adventures in November of 2011 and Stephen was kind enough to allow me to spin a hand drawn gag panel strip out of the end of the weekly comic strip. That strip was called ‘SPOILED!’ and ran for another 33 weeks. It didn't feature any of the main characters (most based on actual people) from Major Spoilers Adventures but it did have similar pop-culture themed gags. It did have a few new recurring characters designed for jabs at superhero and comic book tropes, and pop culture fandom.  SPOILED! did not get as much positive response as Major Spoilers Adventures (and a fair amount of vocal, negative response). Half a year into SPOILED! my work schedule changed, I went back to working swing shifts, and the desire to develop my (doomed) continuity strip converged into a decision to end SPOILED! as well. Stephen was very understanding, and said I was welcome to contribute to the site in any wanted I wanted at any time in the future.

I have been asked and have considered bringing back Major Spoilers Adventures on a number of occasions and was actually poised to do so, when Bitstrips went viral. They released a mobile app, shifted to a social media strategy and they were everywhere for a while, becoming both extremely popular and equally reviled all at once. The explosion in mobile/social Bitstrips users also took down their servers, screwed up many features on the main site and made it harder to use for an extended period of time. To bring back the strip would also mean the homogeneous Bitstrips ‘look’ which was fine before everyone’s Facebook timeline was littered with that style of comic, but now seemed off putting and commonplace.  I've tinkered with a few potential solutions outside Bitstrips, but the one thing it offered that my current solutions don’t is time. When it worked, Bitstrips was a pretty fast solution. These days I’m producing two Brain Teaser Comics a week, doing the Media Montage Podcast, and I have returned to Major Spoilers every other week with a second podcast. I am producing, Top 5 Express, a short supplemental show to the longer Top Five Podcast that features the main Major Spoilers Crew.

What does all this have to do with anything? I guess it is an exploration of how I got deeply involved in making comics largely through a series of happy accidents.  Bitstrips, and similar sites like Pixton and Chogger get slammed as devaluing comic making by many artists, but without it, I might never have explored making comics with my own art.  Every artist has a journey and every journey begins with a single step. Bitstrips was mine. It led me to a regular gig with Major Spoilers which in turn inspired me to rediscover and better my own art, explore my own creations, and find a voice for the work I’m doing.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

You Foes

This particular comic was inspired in part by Dawn Griffin's Zorphbert and Fred. You can read her very funny alien themed comics here:

Monday, October 6, 2014

Breaking the Grade

I was always a wallflower, and a terrible dancer. What's your favorite slow dance song?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Confessions Of An Accidental Cartoonist

I don’t know what I’m doing.

I’m making it all up as I go along.

As a father, a husband and as a cartoonist. Luckily I have a wonderful wife who helps me figure out the father and husband stuff most of the time.

As a cartoonist?

I've basically stumbled my way up to this point.

Brain Teaser Comics is now in its third year.  Artistically I am still exploring styles, drifting from very cartoony to more illustrative/realistic renderings, depending on my mood and the nature of a gag. Brain Teaser’s one-off format is perfect for this.

Brain Teaser was itself an accident, born as a side project to another project that I incompetently murdered before it was ever released. Like I said, I don’t know what I’m doing.

I had a few comics projects under my belt (Major Spoilers Adventures, Spoiled!, and Discordian Quote Comix), all educational and formative experiments that didn’t really ‘count’ in my mind.

I decided I wanted to be a ‘real’ cartoonist so I conceived and started work on a newspaper style continuity strip, intended to come out three days a week. Think Archie meets Better Off Dead, the classic 80’s John Cusack teen film. I began writing strips and building my buffer, but my digital only, full color process was slow, unwieldy and grew into something more chore than fun. I was never going to be able to release three strips a week with this workflow, I’d be lucky to get one out.

While I was slowly strangling that project to death by over thinking it, I was also doing side sketches and drawings. I threw some captions on them and began posting those as Brain Teaser Comics, almost as a goof.  The longer I slogged away at my continuity strips, the more the very idea of that particular comic became suffocating.  I found myself stepping away and drawing the gag panels, because I was having a great deal more fun doing them, making it up as I went along.

I eventually noticed work on my ‘regular’ strip stopped completely while I worked more and more on my strange little panel comic.

I felt like I’d failed. I felt like I’d failed for several months, all while producing a comic I really enjoyed. Again, I don’t know what I’m doing.

Because I’d focused so much on the thing I thought I should be doing (and not even working on), I was ignoring the thing I was actually doing (and really enjoying).  I had developed tunnel vision. I thought I had to do my comics in a certain way. I thought I had to do them the way others were doing them if I was to be a cartoonist. I weirdly thought there was an expectation of what my comic would be, even when I had no comic and no audience to read it. I don’t know what I’m doing.

It took a while, but I figured out that I’d been doing what I wanted to be doing for quite a while. I was drawing silly stuff, and putting it out into the world for all to see.

I’d become a cartoonist.

I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m making it up as I go along.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Late Bloomer

Do you have any outdated technology that you really like? I draw Brain Teaser with pencils and inks, then color it in Photoshop, but I love that analog, old school approach to part of my process.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Debbie Downer

I named our poor victim Claude, because he reminded me of Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien. Any of you like hockey?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


What is your favorite sugary breakfast? I like Super Golden Crisp, and Lucky Charms.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Fun Guy

I like mushrooms on my pizza, but despise anchovies and black olives. What are your favorite and/or unacceptable pizza toppings?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fool in the Pain

Who is your favorite comedian that is no longer telling jokes here on earth? I really miss George Carlin and Mitch Hedberg.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Squirm and Drang

Sam and Diane, Dave and Lisa, Barney and Robin. Who is your favorite will-they-or-won't-they pop culture couple?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Right Tide of Life

Today begins the third year of Brain Teaser Comics, and I'm excited to announce that starting this week there will be two new comics every week! 

I'll now give you an EXTRA dose of Brain Teaser every Wednesday to go with your regular Monday episode. And Fridays will continue to see the regular release of the Media Montage Podcast.

Thanks so much for reading and sharing over the last two years and I look forward to an exciting third year of of making you laugh!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Phared and Jin'Jair, Dancers Extraordinaire

This is the 100th Brain Teaser Comic, and this particular strip has a bit of an odd history.

It started with a completely different caption, but my wife reminded me of the popular saying about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers... Namely, that she did everything he did, but backwards and in high heels. That was much funnier than what I'd originally written, so I adapted it to our alien entertainers in the strip. Thanks dear!

I did some research on the saying and in a bit of synchronicity I found out it actually originated in a comic. The saying (usually attributed to Astaire) originally appeared in a Frank and Ernest comic by Bob Thaves from 1982. So, Thanks Bob!

I am very excited to announce that starting in September, I'll be releasing new strips twice a week, on Mondays like always, and Wednesdays too! Twice the Brains!

So that's new Brain Teasers on Monday and Wednesday, plus a new Media Montage Podcast every Friday. Its been a great 2 years, and I'm very excited to be starting the third year of Brain Teaser Comics, as well a the second year with Media Montage. These projects have been a ton of fun to work on and share, I hope I've made you laugh, or groan, or shudder once or twice.

Thanks you for joining me for the first 100 installments of Brain Teaser Comics, and I hope you'll be here for the next 100!


Monday, August 18, 2014

His Bark is Worse Than His Bite

Do any of you plant gardens? I like to grow tomatoes, potatoes and squash.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Brain Date

What is the dumbest thing you ever did on a date? My wife said, 'Saying yes to a second date...'

Monday, July 28, 2014

Cycle of the Werewolf

An American Werewolf in London is really great.What is your favorite werewolf movie? 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

Rainbow in the Park

I love Dio and all things 80s metal. Who is your favorite hard rockin' band of any era?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Spice Cadet

Do you like spicy food? Mexican, Thai, Indian? What's your hot-food fix? I like them all.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Mother of the Bride

Are you married? Sometimes dealing with your in-laws is the biggest challenge in a marriage.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Height of Romance

Love, in spite of flaws, is what we all seek. Have you ever performed a grand romantic gesture, like something out of a Rom-Com?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Hurt Locker

Have you ever attended a self help seminar? What about a mind-control cult? You're not in a cult are you?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sheet Storm

Johnny Five, Data, The T-800. Who is your favorite lovable robot?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Monday, May 5, 2014

Tree At Last

Poison Ivy, bee stings, killer rabbits...have you ever had a nasty run-in with nature?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

Eat it Raw

I grew up in a land locked state, so I'm not a fan, but how do YOU feel about sushi? What about the theory of Atlantis?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

Peanut Batter

It's another Comic That Never Existed! 

Emerald Peanut and Widget #1 from July 2008.

The Emerald Peanut gained superpowers from eating an entire jar of green radioactive peanut butter made from Martian peanuts. 

She teams up with Widget, a gadget wielding hero, to battle aliens, super villains, and extra-dimensional monsters. 

In their debut issue, we get a 2 page origin story followed by an invasion of the Fire Bats of Vulcan under the control of a mysterious Martian seeking the source of EP's new powers.

The comic lasted 4 issues, then spun off into a successful series of illustrated prose books including Emerald Peanut vs. the Ninjas of Neptune, Emerald Peanut vs. the Living Toolbox, Emerald Peanut and Widget go to Mars, and Emerald Peanut and Widget meet Frankenstein.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Essence of Comedy

Who are your favorite comedians or comedy films or shows? I love George Carlin, Eddie Izzard and Brian Regan. MASH is one of my favorite TV Comedy Shows, and Better Off Dead is one of my favorite Comedy Films.

Monday, March 3, 2014

War of Words

What is your favorite book? Let me know in the comments. Mine is Illuminatus! by Robert Shea, and Robert Anton Wilson.