Joe Alterio's blog on illustration, comix, design, animation, and other bouts of total awesomeness.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Great White APE -*UPDATED!*

or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying, and Love the Expo, as told in Three Parts.

My view for 2 days

APE was a blast, thanks to everyone who came out for it. I sold some shirts, made a lot of contacts, and bought some unbelievably weird/cool stuff. Some highlights:

I. 'Bot Building

I had decided about three weeks ago that I was going to build a robot to feature the new teeshirts I'd be selling, as well as show off some of the images from the comic. I'd made one right choice and one wrong choice in this endeavor: I was correct in enlisting Tim Lillis' help in engineering the structure. I was wrong in thinking that would take, like 2 hours, tops. D'oh.

Tim and the early structure.

Yes, that's a flowerpot for the head.

The only place I could actually paint the damn thing was in the bathroom, lest my cast chew the hell out of it. We still have red paint on the bathtub.

The final result. I like that in this picture, it looks like the robot is thoughtfully stroking his chin. I'll link to a Flickr set soon with more photos.

II. Dear Apple

In my hubris, I had assumed that the really tough part about this set was going to be the foamcore robot. How wrong I was.

Firstly, Mr. Senator, let me state I am, and have always have been, a member of the Apple Nerd set. Ever since Pop brought home the Apple IIC, I've been hooked. I admit that in the past few years, Apple's willingness to play ball with the copybarons by intergrating DRM into their iTunes files, as well as their Big Brother-like "ministore", has caused some the sheen to be lost off the Apple for me, so to speak. But it was this weekend that really made want to be more self-determinate than Apple would have me be.

I won't bore you with the technical details, but suffice to say, what would seem to be the relatively simple process of mirroring an external montior on an Apple laptop
was prohibitivly costly, aggravating, and unintuitive, mostly because Mac laptops of different models, and even different years, have different visual out-ports. Why? Because god forbid Apple uses the industry standard of a mini-VGA port. Because they're too busy Thinking Differently to actually be part of an industry standard. Heads up, Steve Jobs: if by next year I'm running Gimp on a Linux box built out of plywood, this will be a turning point. You have been warned.

III. Sketchblog - Special APE Edition

I'd love to tell you I was so busy all day long with people clamoring for my attention that I didn't have any time at all to draw, but I'd be lying.


- Wow, I got linked to by Bonnie Grrl , of the famed, who called the robot "super-rad". Color me flattered and totally star struck. And here, I thought she was just a charming chick who was *very* excited about the teeshirts.

-I also got some supremely awesome link love at Suicide Bots. Wow, what a bunch of nice kids. Notice, in that picture, as well, that I'm being elbowed in the throat by my DisplayBot9000. Send help quick!

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Art of Manufacturing Nightmares

I don't usually do this, and leave it to my good friends at Suicide Bots to cover the coming Robot Revolution in our world, but this is too freaky/cool to ignore.

Meet Ava. She can talk physics with you, direct you to where you need to go, and her neck in fused to a piece of wood. Ava is created by Dave Hanson, and will be haunting my dreams for weeks to come.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Episode 4 is up!

Episode 4 of The Basic Virus is finally up, just in time for my booth at the Alternative Press Expo that I'll be sharing with Kaiju Big Battel. Come on by, say 'hi', and pick up one of TBV's rad new teeshirts: American Apparel, in both black and chocolate brown, for the discerning hipster or robo-lover:


In other related news, Aida from Iceland has once again requested another look at the creation process for TBV, and I'm happy to oblige. I'll take the first three hand drawn panels of the most recent episode, and give a layer break down, because I think it will be more elucidating than any kind of long-winded explanation.

This is my first step, after typing out what I feel is a pretty close approximation of what the episode will look like in script form, though when I actually make it, it usually is altered slightly because of visual considerations. The red-boxed panels are the panels in question:

Then, I make a nice clean pencil drawings on Bristol board, and when I'm happy with the lines, I ink it with the unbeatable ...reliable, good response, and best of all, cheap as all hell:

I scan the lines as bitmap, and convert to Greyscale in Photoshop, using the Threshold tool to clean up the image. Then, on the layers below, I use the brush tools, as well as found posterized images, to create the BG and atmosphere:

And finally, the combined images with the speech bubbles as the last touch.

As you can imagine, this takes a really really long time, which I don't mind, because I think it ends up looking pretty good, but I really need to streamline my process. There's some webcomic creators that, because of their style, get to post everyday. Because of how I do things, I'll be thrilled if I can get my turnaround time to once every two weeks.

The Storyteller Speaks

I've described my artistic demeanor here in these pages (pages?) previously as a 'narrativist', by which I've mean someone who puts a premium on getting the point across that so troubles the mind those long late nights, whether it's the price of oil or your own personal heartbreak. Leaving the experiements in didactic theory to the art school kids, the term 'narrativist' was never meant to be strictly about telling a literal story or an anecdote: you can be a narrativist and not a storyteller, but maybe not vice versa, if you follow me, though some efforts to the contrary may end up making this little theory of mine look like so much bunk.

Happily, in the business of my chosen poison, comics, I happen to be both. So it was with great joy that Molly directed me to this interview with Ira Glass about what he sees as the two main anchors of any good storytelling excercise, namely, The Anecdote and The Point. Considering the great success of This American Life as a now near-franchise, and it's consistent achievement in the face of increasing popularity (a tough hoop to jump through), he's prolly a good guy to listen to.

As a side note, notice he never mentions accuracy or "truth", two overrated concepts that any good storytelling effort should echew like a LA Times subscription. I sometimes get in trouble with Molly after a night of drinking, when she'll turn to me and say: "That story you told was way more interesting than what actually happened!" I think I'm missing the part of brain that sees anything wrong with that. I mean, sure, if I was a scientist or journalist, I could see the issue: but as it stands, I consider stretching the truth part of my research.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


...Mr. Vonnegut. So it goes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Kim Dietch Interview

One of my favorite artists from the 60's underground SF scene is Kim Deitch. I'm not sure whether it's that he's just as raunchy as Gilbert Shelton but his drawings recall old school design (echoed later in the subsequent Air Pirates flap), or just that I grew up watching his station IDs he did for Nickelodeon: either way, he is an enduring giant on the scene, and the AIGA site has a great interview with him. Check it out.

As a side note: I may be shooting myself in the foot here, considering that fact that it's my own guild, but has any noticed how crappy the AIGA site looks? I'm no web designer, per se, but...the big black box in the top left corner sticking out like a sore thumb,the strange pallete, even the leading of the menu text...what is up with that? And the parts that aren't ugly are just BORING. You know, there's some folks in the design industry that take their website site, and what it says about them, seriously.

Maybe someone's kid got the redesign job...?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau

The dudes over at The Daily Crosshatch tuned me in to this sketchbook making the rounds of comic-cons, between some of the more well known cartoonists: a kind of Exquisite Corpse for the funny papers set. I love it so much, and wish there was more of it. Besides getting to see the likes of Johnny Ryan and Bwana Spoons in a looser form, which informative, it's cool to see that the random neural firings of other artists involve as many tentacles as mine.

In a similar vein, (like the hey-look-we're-all-dorks vein) FIST-A-CUFFS has been doing something cool. This is an idea that the Fine Comix gang in Seattle did a few years ago, but it's still fun. It kinda reminds me of the little pink M.U.S.C.L.E. men, an exercise in childhood surrealism that I didn't really comprehend until later.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Traffic Magazine blurb on yours truly

This is an article about me written by my buddy Steve that I forgot about that, was publsihed last summer. Oh, well. Better later than never. In his inimitable style, the article is actually more well written than the dialogue in my comic. Damn.

Let My Robots Go!
Steve Lohse

Don’t call Joe Alterio a comic-book guy. He’s a storyteller. His medium of choice happens to be comics, or “sequential narrative” as the highbrow will have it, but in another life, he freely admits, he would be a shadow puppeteer. The point is getting the point across. Get it?

Sitting in a Capitol Hill coffeeshop, Joe looks perfectly comfortable behind his warmly glowing laptop, watching the neighborhood traffic- mostly stylishly disheveled twentysomethings- flow glamorously by. “Of course,” he says, correcting himself, “It’s no secret that comic books are the refugee of outcast young males.”

Hailing originally from Boston, MA and currently residing in Seattle, Joe spent eight years living in Los Angeles, earning a film degree from USC and afterwards doing animation for the likes of Nickelodeon and Adam Sandler. Joe turned his long last year in tinseltown in all its frustration and glory into 365, a graphic novella/comic journal wherein he rendered his daily struggles into three-panel diary entries, short, simple, and sweet. There’s a sense of immediacy to the way the story is told - written as it’s actually happening- not to mention a certain existential horror in the way that the writer has no better idea of how his story will end than we do. As 365’s tumultuous year progresses, Joe spends time both with the important, life-changing events and the tedium of daily existence. The simultaneously simple and complex moments build towards an intimate portrait of an artist suffering the post-college careerless/lovesick blues. 365 can be found at select bookstores as well as from Daily strips can be downloaded to your ipod freely from

Critical response to his work has been uniformly positive, though Joe is hardly one to rest on his laurels. Upon arriving in Seattle, he began his ‘Robot Revolution’ Poster Series- not-quite-ironic posters wherein sentient robot revolutionaries (the Robo-equality party) urge their fellow robot-laborers to rise up against the injustice of servitude. The posters, reminiscent of labor-movement era propaganda, are rendered in bold colors and confrontational imagery, and are both hilarious and strangely touching. The posters have been shown and sold in Seattle as well as other parts of the country, though Joe isn’t content to keep the robots stuck to the wall. “The printed page is a dinosaur waiting to die,” he says. “Everything lies in the internet.” Joe sees the internet as a way to completely flip the way information is presented to the reader, for instance allowing interactive comics where the reader is dropped in the center of everything and allowed to explore.

Perhaps taking his own advice, Joe has recently launched his most ambitious offering yet: a serial web-comic based around the sprawling, dystopian world of the robot revolution posters. The storyline imagines an alternate present wherein robot laborers have begun striking against the capitalist society that enslaves them. Call it socio-political commentary or just call it entertainment, Joe’s robot revolution begins in March and can be found for free at Viva la revolution!