Saturday, February 26, 2011

Somewhere in Jersey

Years later I see the problem of doing a black and white character in a world of color, too many of these posts are black and white or gray.

This drawing is from the back of sketchbook number eight.

marker and pastel - 1989

And now, a short rant...

If you are making art, DO NOT USE SHARPIE® MARKERS!

Sharpie® markers are wonderful black markers that will write on just about any surface and they are great for labeling all sorts of things that would be normally hard to write on but they are not conducive to keeping art in archival quality. There is some chemical property that will leach into adjacent paper and leave a ghost impression. Sure, the black is nice and dark and the fat tip of the marker will allow you to cover large areas quickly but be warned, after a few years you will see the leaching occur.

Never ever
use them in a sketchbook that contains drawings that you treasure. I used a Sharpie® on the above drawing and the ghostly chemical leaching corrupted five adjacent sketchbook pages in both directions.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


The value of a the black bound sketchbook to me as an artist is immeasurable. The sketchbooks collect my thoughts, ideas and dreams, they allow me to capture moments in time with just a pencil. I've kept one since I was a senior in high school and made a special trip to downtown Cleveland to buy one.

The bound volume of blank pages gave the drawings within a certain validity, a sense of permanence that no spiral-bound sketchbook ever could. I've got 15 or more sitting on my shelf, and the current one usually resides within reach on the coffee table.

Along with collecting your drawings in one neatly bound package, it's also good for passing around to your artist friends and collecting drawings from them.

From sketchbook five 1984 - 1985

ZONE-O by Darren Auck

THE TWILIGHT ZONE, I believe this is by Jay Geldhof

ZIPAZONE and LIL' JIZONE are by Jay Geldhof, the latter being a self portrait as ZONE.
THE EMPEROR ZONIUS is by the wonderful Anna-Maria B. Cool

Monday, February 21, 2011

28th Anniversary

I just spent a couple of hours searching through art files and sketchbooks looking for what might be the first drawing of ZONE. I remember it looked nothing like the ZONE of today, or even the ZONE of 28 years ago. I couldn't find it but a few interesting items turned up, I'll share them all in due time.

The sketch below is dated 2•21•22•84 and was drawn one year after I had created the first ZONE strip (see the first entry of this blog).

From sketchbook four, 1983 - 1984

I had to mess with the levels in Photoshop to get my pencil sketch dark enough for you to see. Not ideal, but that's my curse for working with 2H pencils.

Yeah, that's what I looked like in 1984, I used a straight-backed wooden chair at my drawing table, I wore slightly tinted lenses in my glasses and used to wear a bandanna around my neck all the time. I was working part-time as a security guard for Wells Fargo and wore my hair as long as I could get away with.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Send me a buck - get a ZONE mini comic in the mail!

Cover to 2011 mini-comic

He's back! ZONE, that delirious denizen of New Jersey's murky Meadowlands, returns in an all new six-page story. Fresh off the copy machine, this is a traditional 4 1/4" x 5 1/2" folded and stapled mini-comic ready for your enjoyment.

Doing this the old-fashioned way, send me a dollar, include your name and address and I'll mail one right off to you.

Mail your buck to:

Michael Kraiger
358 Webster Avenue
Jersey City, NJ 07307

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Going digital

Circa early nineties

This is an early experiment with either Quark or Photoshop. I'm leaning towards Quark and its line and box tools. A friend sat me down in front of a Mac and told me to play around with it.

Draw what you know.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Back in the day

I'm guessing this is from around 1984-85 B.C. (before contacts)

Back in the mid-eighties my brother Scott and his wife Maryann, would drive from Cleveland to visit me in New Jersey. We would always spend a day just bumming around Manhattan taking in the sights. Now, back in the eighties, New York City's subways were a moving canvas of graffiti tags and explosions of color. Some of it was a wonder to behold.

Inspired by the graffiti he saw in New York, my brother decided to give over one wall in his basement to a graffiti mural and he wanted ZONE to be a part of it.

On my next trip home we spent a couple of hours creating the masterpiece you see here. I didn't think the mural should just be about ZONE so we incorporated the names of everybody in his family along with hearts, an eight-ball and other iconic imagery.

A couple of times we had to leave the basement for fresh air because the mixture of spray-paint and an enclosed space will mess you up.

This mural remained on the wall for a number of years until finally, the basement walls needed to be waterproofed.

I loved that shirt.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

To The Stars

circa 1984

For some reason this is one of my least favorite ZONE pages. I think maybe the idea took ZONE out his swamp, and even though I like to be poetic and abstract, playing with the concept of a comic page this took him too far. I also think the drawing on this page is far more formal than I intended it to be.

I'm pretty sure I got the reference for the space shuttle from my roommate Jim Rohn's vast and impressive reference files. Remember, this is before the internet made photo reference just a few clicks away.

And, maybe it's just not as funny as I originally thought it was.

This type of page was definitely influenced by Krazy Kat artist George Herriman and underground cartoonist Dan O'Neill.

Original sketchbook layout.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Pitch

This artwork was created for the pitch package four of my friends and I sent off to different publishers in our effort to find a publisher for our anthology THREAT!

This was all B.C. (before computers) so we typed up letters, copied them and sent them off with samples of our art and the ideas for our individual stories.

As a group we had looked around at what various independent publishers were producing and sent our packages off to the publishers who were putting out comics that impressed us. I don't remember all of the publishers we sent proposals to but I do remember that we got a positive response from two publishers who were interested. Our first letter of interest came from Vortex Comics located in Toronto, Canada, they were publishing the anthology VORTEX, and would become the publishers of Chester Brown's excellent YUMMY FUR. The other publisher to express interest in our project was Fantagraphics Books, who became our eventual publisher.

Now, this was back at the beginning of what would become the explosion of black and white comics that were starting to appear from smaller independent publishers. The direct market of comics shops and cheaper printing allowed smaller publishers to produce black and white alternatives to the four color offerings from the big two, Marvel and DC.

Examining the output from both Vortex and Fantagraphics Books, we chose to go with the latter, Fantagraphics was publishing THE COMICS JOURNAL, AMAZING HEROES and the Hernadez brother's LOVE AND ROCKETS, they also had a stronger position in the comics market and had the built in promotional tools of THE COMICS JOURNAL and AMAZING HEROES.

As a group we were also impressed by the white paper and magazine size of LOVE AND ROCKETS. This is something we later learned was a detriment to sales as the magazine size didn't fit into the standard comic books size racks of most comic shops.

Once we decided to go with Fantagraphics Books, we realized that we now had to write stories for our characters and that was a whole new ballgame.

THREAT! was a comic book anthology created by Jim Rohn, Gary Fields, Jay Geldhof, Dave Harrison and myself. There were ten issues published by Fantagraphics Books in 1986 - 1987.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cover story

Circa 1984 - cover to self-published zine

In the winter of 1984 I stapled together copies of all the ZONE work I had done and trudged into Manhattan to see if any of the stores that carried comics would be interested in selling copies on consignment. I was able to place them in a store on West Broadway, that carried paraphernalia, comics and clothing but was turned down by Forbidden Planet. After leaving the store I was approached on the street by a guy who had heard me in the store and he suggested I try St. Marks Comics. Mitch, the owner of St. Marks bought several copies off me right then and there.

After that I started to patronize Mitch's store and went there for years. Every once and a while I'd notice that there were still a few copies on the bottom shelf in the back.

I once saw a copy for sale at a convention with a price tag of $25.00

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

ZONE – The history and the mystery

Self-published postcard - circa 1990

ZONE – The history and mystery

28 years ago an idea that had been simmering on the ol’ backburner came to fruition in one of my sketchbooks.

ZONE, which was first developed as samples for HEAVY METAL magazine, turned into a strip that was self-published as a photocopied zine in 1984.

ZONE next appeared in THREAT! a comic book anthology created by Jim Rohn, Gary Fields, Jay Geldhof, Dave Harrison and myself. There were ten issues published by Fantagraphics Books in 1986 - 1987.

In 1989, ZONE went on to be published by Dark Horse Comics, in five issues of DARK HORSE PRESENTS and as a self-titled one-shot in 1990.

In 1990 there was also another self-published mini-comic, TOXIC THREAT! It featured a six-page ZONE story.

There were ZONE postcards, and hand-made ZONE pins with a googly eye.

And then, ZONE went into hibernation for years. I still drew him in sketchbooks and created new pieces of art but he was absent from public view.

In 1997 I pitched ZONE as an animated series to MTV who were hot to develop animated programming aimed at adults. I got a rejection letter where they mentioned a similarity to another, more famous toxic character (I’ll publish more about this in the future).

More recently, ZONE has been published by Evil Robo Productions in short sequences appearing in ASH-TRAY COMICS issues #1 and #7.

I’ve lived with this character for over 28 years and have a large amount of ZONE material that has never been seen by the general public. What spurred this site was coloring a piece of art and seeing ZONE on the glowing computer screen, it made me think, hmm, that looks pretty cool, maybe I should do some more stuff and publish it myself on line.

We’ll see, but in the mean time there’s this, the history and the mystery.