The Best of the Blog 2010

Christmas is upon us very soon.  And I have a present for all of you.  But first, if you haven’t, you can still buy a copy of Sunnyville Stories #2 from Indy Planet.  So now, onto the present – based on my Google Analytics stats, I’m putting up five of the most popular blog posts I’ve done for 2010 into this one post.  Ready?  Let’s begin.

The Loutron Family

It’s time to meet yet another family living in Sunnyville.  As you might have seen in the past entries with the Talbots and the Von Straussens, visitors from other countries often will travel to Sunnvyille and end up living in the town.  For some strange reason, this town is a nexus point for distant visitors, especially from foreign nations.  This week’s family is yet another group of foreigners – it’s the Loutrons.  The Loutron family runs the town’s local laundromat.  If your clothing is dirty, they’ll wash it clean!  They also dry clean and get rid of those hard-to-remove stains.  The family running the laundromat are Greek.  So come with me, loyal readers.  I’ll introduce you.

Euripides Loutron

Euripides Loutron is the patriarch of the Loutron family.  He is from the city of Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete.  After marrying his wife, the two came all the way to Sunnyville.  When he’s not working in the laundry, he can be found fishing or playing with his energetic sons (we’ll meet them in a minute).

Sophia Loutron

Sophia is the wife of Euripides and the mother of the triplets.  She is originally from the poorer sections of the Greek city of Corinth.  She can be found often working in the laundry, washing loads of clothes that the townspeople bring in.  She’ll also chat with the town’s women as they’ll usually be the ones who come into the laundry.  Whatever you can’t find out locally at the general store, you’ll find out at the laundry through Sophia.

I should add that Sophia and Euripides met in a rather interesting way.  Euripides took advantage of living by the seashore and spied on the women that went swimming and sunbathing.  He’d frequently spy on them with a telescope or even snap photos and video!  Fate had other ideas in store one day when Sophia came to Heraklion with friends.  When she decided to go topless (!), she spotted the glint of something metallic.  That glint was the camera of Euripides, snapping photos of her topless torso.  And that’s how the two met.

I should also add that Sophia’s character was inspired by the Russian sable named Tatiana Tushenko from the 1979 animated movie Animalympics.  In fact, in an earlier version of my notes (when I was putting together the world of Sunnyville), Sophia and her husband were going to be Russian!  Oh, and their last name is a pun too.  The word “Loutron” is Greek for “to wash” or “to bathe”.

Petros, Plato, and Anders Loutron

The laundry is usually a quiet place…that is, until the triplets wake up.  These three energetic little ferrets caused quite a stir when they were born.  Triplets had not been born in the whole history of Sunnyville.  They continue to cause a stir today.  When they are not keeping their parents busy at home, they can be found wandering around town, looking to play with others.  Petros is the oldest of the three (being the first one born) and acts as the leader.  Plato likes learning new words and loves to read anything he can get his hands on.  As for Anders, he’s unlike his brothers in that he’s okay with playing with girls.  He’s okay playing House or having tea parties with girls.  When it comes to older girls though, he’s kind of a pervert.  Anders will try to cop a feel with girls like Sam, Margaret, Magnolia, etc.

These three boys were based on Bobby Bear’s three younger brothers from the anime, Maple Town, which was a big influence on my work.

The Eftirmaturs

This week, let’s swing by the local bakery of Sunnyville for a visit with yet another family.  When you’re in Sunnyville, the best place (in fact, the only place) to go is to the Asgard Bake Shop.  You can get fresh bread, cakes, pastries, and cookies.  They also carry ice cream, a fine selection of imported coffees, and some finely baked Scandinavian treats you can’t get anywhere else.  Yes, I said “Scandinavian” because that’s where the local bakers come from.  The family running the bakery are mice known as the Eftirmaturs.  Gather round and I’ll introduce you to them.

Lars Eftirmatur

This is Lars Eftirmatur, patriarch of the family.  This tall, lanky mouse is from Iceland.  Originally apprenticed by his cousins in the art of baking, he left his native Iceland for Denmark as a journeyman baker.  It was there that he met his future wife, Helga – the two met at a Punch and Judy show.  This tall mouse is quite friendly and is happy to chat with anyone who stops by his bakery.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to understand him at times since he still retains a thick Icelandic accent.

Helga EfitermaturHelga Eftirmatur is the wife of Lars.  Hailing from the Nordic country of Denmark, she too came from a family of bakers.  Helga is just as sociable as her husband and you’ll find her chatting with the town’s women as they stop in to buy bread and cakes.

Besides running the bakery, Lars and Helga have their hands full taking care of their three children.  Yes, like other adults in Sunnyville, they are parents too.  Lemme see if I can get the kids in here…ah, there we go.  Introductions are in order now.

Ragnar and Olaf Eftirmatur

These two teens are Ragnar (left), aged 14, and Olaf (right), aged 13.  These two brothers are inseparable and can be found hamming it up with jokes.  Both brothers are big fans of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and have a number of the routines and lines memorized.  Ragnar is more slender, much like his father, while Olaf is thicker, due to his sampling of his parents’ baked goods.  At times, it can be hard to comprehend Olaf’s penchant for sweets – I saw him wolf down a whole tray of cheese danishes!

Christina EftirmaturChristina Eftirmatur is five years old and the baby of the family.  She’s best friends with Bethany Talbot and the two can be found playing together frequently.  Whereas Bethany is more precocious, Christina is more prone to being scared or crying.  It’s not unusual for this little girl to run to her parents or her older brothers for reassurance.

Early notes for this family had a fourth child, a daughter aged 12, but I phased her out since there wasn’t much I could do with her in my scripts.  I should also add that a pun is at work here too like with the Tanuki and Loutron family.  The family surname, Eftirmatur, is the Icelandic word for “dessert”!

The Von Straussens

This week, we take a look at yet another family here in Sunnyville.  Today we are going to meet the most prestigious family in all of Sunnyville.  I’m talking about the Von Straussen family.  These upstanding canines originally come from Germany and are the richest family in town.

Frederick and Greta Von Straussen

Frederick Von Straussen is one of the most well known figures in town.  Born in Sunnyville and raised in Munich, he is the owner of the Terrific Furniture Company, a family-owned factory outside of Sunnyville that makes furniture shipped all over.  Frederick’s ancestors started the factory as a small operation that made furniture by hand and today, the factory employs a number of people within the towns of Sunnyville and Solton.  In fact, Rusty’s father and Sam’s father both work for Frederick!

On the right there is Greta Von Straussen, Frederick’s wife and actually his cousin too.  Born and raised in Dusseldorf, Germany, she is the lady of the manor.  While her husband is out at the factory, she is responsible for running the family’s luxurious household.  She tends to view herself very highly and it’s not hard to see why her daughter behaves the way she does.  Speaking of her daughter, let’s meet the Von Straussen children.

Rose Von Straussen

Rose Von Straussen is the older of the two children.  The Von Straussens are the richest family in town and the local shopkeepers adore the family for all their business.  In fact, because their parents have so much money, Rose and her brother (who we’ll meet in a minute) can have anything they want.  Rose is quite spoiled.  Because she can have the latest gadgets and gizmos, the best clothing, etc., she thinks this makes her better than everyone else.  Because Rose is also used to getting her way, she’s quite bossy and will bully others, especially anyone smaller than herself.  In fact, I’ll open up a page from my sketchbook to show you something.  Normally, I don’t like anyone learning my trade secrets, but…

Rose and Rusty sketch

This is an actual page from one of my sketchbooks.  I pretty much had Rose’s character defined from the start.  As for Rose’s younger brother, let’s meet him now.

Konrad Von Straussen

Konrad is Rose’s younger brother.  Like his sister, his parents will buy him anything he wants.  He likes having all those nice things…but he’s different from his sister.  Konrad tends to be more friendly because he learned from a young age that money can’t buy happiness.  Konrad wants to be happy and wants others to be happy as well.  He’ll be more open and friendlier than his sister when interacting with others in town, especially Sam and Rusty.

As the chief inspiration for Sunnyville was the anime series Maple Town, I based the Von Straussens on the Fox family.  Rose and Konrad were strongly influenced by Fanny and Freddy Fox.

Sunnyville Stories Episode 1, pages 9-10

Hello, everyone!  It’s Max West here.  I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving.  I certainly enjoyed mine.  And now here’s some more material to help aid in your digestion.  I have two more pages of the first episode of Sunnyville Stories.  But first, I’d like to pitch another indie comics series that I think is worthy of attention.  It’s put out by this group called Seven Sins Press and it’s called Vindicator.  It involves a costumed character…yet it’s not really your typical superhero tale.  It’s a very intriguing action thriller.  So check out the page – it’s a really cool comic.  In fact, it was this publication that convinced me to use the comics service, Ka-Blam!

Speaking of Ka-Blam, Sunnyville Stories episode 2 is being printed up through them and should be available soon via Indy Planet and Comics Monkey for sale.  I’ll post up more info when it becomes available.  So now, let’s get onto the pages of my comic.  When we last left Rusty and his family, they were exploring their new home…which wasn’t in good shape.  After an untimely fall through the shoddy floor, Rusty’s father Al continues examining the house.  Let’s join him in the kitchen, shall we?

Episode 1 page 9

I had fun designing this run-down house.  In fact, I had planned a scene where Rusty inspects what had been the bathroom – but finds an unpleasant surprise in there.  In the end, I didn’t want scatological humor in Sunnyville so that idea was jettisoned.

Episode 1 page 10Rusty continues to have qualms about moving to Sunnyville.  In spite of his mother’s reassurance…and his wit, as you see on this page, Rusty is still not convinced he’s going to like his new home.  I mean, his house is a wreck.  But maybe…just maybe…he might find something or someone he likes in this town.

The Influence of Richard Scarry

This week, rather than talk about my work, I’d like to talk to you about one of my artistic influences.  We have influences, both conscious and subconscious, that determine the kind of pictures we draw, the canvasses we paint, the music we compose, the films we produce, etc.  I have a number of them myself and today I want to talk to you about one of them.  This influence, in spite of being a well-established name in the field of literature and illustration, was only one I recently brought in to keep my work from getting stagnant.  That influence I’m  here to talk to you about is Richard Scarry.

Richard Scarry books

Richard Scarry (1917-1994) was a world famous children’s author and illustrator.  While he wrote a number of children’s books, including select titles for the famed Little Golden Books imprint, Scarry’s claim to fame would be the Busytown series.  The Busytown books contained several pages worth of illustration depicting the fictitious settlement of Busytown, inhabited by anthropomorphic animals.  Recurring characters include Huckle Cat (named after Scarry’s son, Richard “Huck” Scarry Jr.), Lowly Worm, Huckle’s family, Sergeant Murphy, Mr. Fixit and many others.  Each page of Scarry’s Busytown books are filled with a whole lot of stuff.  Scarry put in many images so that children (and even adults) would keep going back over the pictures as they would not find everything the first time.  From what Scarry said, he didn’t want kids to read his books just once and toss them aside.  He actually considered it an honor for kids to read his books until they wore out and/or they had to be patched up with tape.

Sometime in the late 1960s/early 1970s (my research shows conflicting dates), Richard Scarry and his family moved to Gstaad, Switzerland.  It would be here that Scarry continued to work on his books.  He adopted a policy where he worked in his studio all day on his books and had given his wife orders not to disturb him except for his lunch break (how industrious).  His working process involved putting down pencil sketches, coloring in his figures in gouache paint, and then redoing the line work with pen-and-ink.

Scarry put out many titles during his lifetime.  Eventually, by the 1980s and 1990s, a number of his books has to be revised because some of the material in them was considered outdated or even offensive!  For a comparison of the original version of Scarry’sBest Word Book Ever and its updated, revised edition, check out this neat blog post.  Richard Scarry suffered health problems later on in life, including failing eyesight, and passed away in 1994 of a heart attack.  Scarry may have died…but his work refuses to.  Even today, the Busytown books and his other titles continue to sell millions of copies all over the world and have been translated into many languages.  If you’re interested in learning more about Scarry, check out the Wikipedia entry linked at the start of this article or check out this informative blog post.

Richard Scarry has become an influence on my work.  How so?  I love his scratchy pen work.  It reminds me much of the vintage newspaper comics strips.  I also love his compositions.  He could fill up a page that would make a person look over it, yet not clutter it up.  I’m going to be incorporating some Scarry-style compositions in my own work.  Plus, anyone who’s read his books may have noticed that his characters dress in Swiss Alpine style clothing.  That actually led me to start making wardrobe changes in my characters.  In fact, I even gave Rusty an lalternate wardrobe influenced by Scarry and in a future story, I’ll reveal that Rusty’s ancestry is Swiss!

Rusty's Swiss Alpine wardrobe

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I hope you enjoyed the Best of the Blog 2010.  I hope to have even more stuff up next year.  So stay tuned, stop in the store to buy some goods, subscribe through email and RSS if you haven’t already, and please contact me with your feedback.  Until next time, friends.

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About Max West

I am a freelance artist and the creator of Sunnyville Stories, an independent slice-of-life comics series.

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