Energy Source from the Past Powering the Future

Last night I watched the last couple episodes of the first season of Lost in Space on Netflix. I won’t give away any spoilers or bore you with the details of the rather thin plot. However, I will say that like a lot of times when I sit down and watch a TV show or a movie, I see things that remind me of my Lost Cactus comic strip. One in particular that caught my eye from Lost in Space involves mining the droppings of nasty, prehistoric-looking bat-like creatures for use as rocket fuel to escape off the planet surface before it is uninhabitable. Oh, the drama that ensues. 

Enough about that binge-worthy show, let’s talk more about Lost Cactus—which would make a great show on Netflix—but I digress. Here is a portion of the strips that came to mind. They are part of a larger comic strip story involving Doc experimenting with using dinosaur droppings as an energy source and a well-known venture capitalist catches wind of what he’s up to, so to speak, and wants in on the action. Isn’t that what venture capitalists do? 

So the moral of this story is this: Don’t throw anything away, one day that sh*t might be valuable.

UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE: The seldom-seen Colonel T-Bone character is a mash-up of Colonel Sanders, T. Boone Pickens and a little of Thurston Howell III’s elan thrown in for good measure. 

LC-00100
®John Hopkins
LC-00102
®John Hopkins
LC-00103
®John Hopkins

Calvin & Hobbes Meets the X-Files

Creating a brand new comic strip is not too dissimilar to being the dictator of a tiny middle European nation that no one has ever heard of before.

Comic Strip Creator at Work
The Great Dictator at Work Conjuring His Comic Strip Universe.

Like a lot of those little countries, my comic strip didn’t exist a few years ago, and who knows what’s in store for its future? However, I cast aside such dark and foreboding thoughts and rule my imaginary Lost Cactus comic strip in an autocratic, albeit benevolent fashion. What’s disheartening is breaking through the clutter and demonstrating to folks young, old, and every age in between, that acquainting themselves with my Lost Cactus comic strip is worth a small percentage of their precious time.

And why is Lost Cactus worthy of a small notch in a prospective new fan’s daily timeline of important stuff? Well, for one thing, it’s funny. And who doesn’t like to laugh? I know I do. It’s why I became a comic strip fan at an early age. Humor has always been of paramount importance in my life and sometimes to my detriment, I discover it in the oddest of places. To abbreviate what would otherwise be a long story, through a creative process that involved mining for humor in uniquely different settings and situations—a process that I originally began in earnest in 2013—I now rule my small country, Lost Cactus. To my knowledge, this highly-classified quasi-government base hidden in the far reaches of Southwestern desert is about as far afield of where one would typically expect to find comic strip humor as one can get. Did I mention Lost Cactus has everything from aliens to dinosaurs to a genetically altered bee named Bentley? Well, I guess I just did.

Lost Cactus Table at DINK
Lost Cactus Table at DINK

Recently I had a table promoting Lost Cactus at a small press and comics show in the mile-high (in more ways than one) city of Denver, Colorado. I met some fantastic people, young and old, all there because they love comics and fan art in general. However, I believe I was the only artist exhibiting anything even remotely close to Lost Cactus. And not to brag, but if I don’t, then who will? Many who stopped by my table curiously, almost daintily, picked up the sample copies of my Lost Cactus Treasuries 1 & 2. After briefly flipping through the pages, they would have a hearty chuckle, and then inevitably turn to their partner to show them what they just read, spawning a quick smile, and more times than not, a reach for the wallet to quickly purchase one or both books. I sold a lot of books!

As the show progressed over the long weekend, I also received a lot of genuine compliments that money can’t buy. The one I heard a lot that I take to heart and cherish the most is when people made a comparison in style between Lost Cactus and my all-time favorite comic strip, Calvin & Hobbes. As show attendees and other exhibitors came up and inquired what Lost Cactus is all about I developed an elevator pitch that seemed to resonate: Lost Cactus is like Calvin & Hobbes in style and a humorous take on X-Files in substance. I winced at the name-dropping every time I said it, but it worked as people could quickly relate to what Lost Cactus is all about:

A classicly drawn 3-panel strip that spoofs paranormal, urban myths and under-the-radar government agencies to great comic effect, published in beautifully designed full-color anthologies featuring a shared universe of short stories and humorous essays that expand the Lost Cactus mythology beyond the finely inked comic strip panels.

So if you’re looking for the humorous comic strip ramblings of a put-upon hipster and his precocious talking dog/cat, you’re in the wrong country. You are in Lost Cactus. There are no roads that lead to Lost Cactus. You will not find it on Google or any other map. Its inhabitants are all sworn to secrecy. And presidents, since its inception 1947, have all been kept out of the loop. You know the reason: plausible deniability.

Greetings from Lost Cactus Postcard
Purchase a vintage Lost Cactus postcard.

Alien Bug Spores

Since today is Alien Day I thought it appropriate to introduce this alien-themed strip featuring Bentley the Bee’s gut-bursting new alien offspring.

First some background for those unfamiliar with Lost Cactus. The Lost Cactus National Laboratory is tasked with studying all kinds of dangerous life forms delivered to the base from near and far. Among the contagions, viruses, microscopic blood suckers and deadly life forms delivered to Lost Cactus for study from our intergalactic partners are particularly contagious creatures called Alien Bug Spores. The inquisitive Bentley the Bee makes contact with these same bug spores and soon thereafter suffers the consequences in a scene reminiscent of the infamous gut-bursting scene featuring the late John Hurt.

LC-00287
©John Hopkins

Here’s the liner note from Lost Cactus – The Second Treasury that accompanies this strip kicking off a hilarious story arc featuring Bentley coping with parenting a fast-growing xenomorph character named Junior.

‘In the 1979 horror classic, Alien, none of the actors knew what was about to happen to John Hurt’s character in the famous chest bursting scene. The director, Ridley Scott, wanted the fear on their faces to be real. However, the fact that the set was sealed off in plastic and the crew all wore raincoats should have tipped them off.’

About the Lost Cactus Treasuries

The Lost Cactus comic strip treasuries deliver more than just the laugh-lines. The backstories, trivia, thought-processes and inside baseball comic strip sausage making are also set below each strip providing the reader with a wealth of uncommon knowledge. Lost Cactus is all about educating, enlightening and most of all entertaining its readers. 

Sketchbook Ramblings

The process of creating a comic strip universe involves a LOT of drawing and I have a stack of sketchbooks jam-packed with sketches bolstering that rather obvious statement.

These sketches range from barely legible scribbles of story ideas that breached my fervent imagination in the middle of the night and then sketched in a bleary-eyed early morning hurry before I forgot them, like a dream, to nicely rendered little works of Lost Cactus artwork. Most of the time you’ll find my latest sketchbook positioned beside my keyboard so I can draw in between time-consuming computer tasks or while taking breaks from the day job. These sketches are much more methodically rendered with my favorite Faber-Castell PITT artist waterproof ink pens in high-quality Moleskin-style sketchbooks. Sometimes my sketchbook ramblings morph into strange stream-of-conscious compositions like this recent example that I finished with some watercolors.

I have drawn this way for as long as I can remember and it is a great way to let the imagination fly. This one features a couple of new characters I am working on for my next Lost Cactus project. That is all I will say for now regarding that little tease other than can you find ‘The King’ in this picture?

Lab Notes

Hopefully not to sound too much like one of those Star Trek geeks, but the venerable Doctor McCoy would often spout off in a pique of fury when confronted with an unfamiliar task, saying something like:

“I’m a doctor, not an engineer, or bridge builder, or well, you get the idea.”

So in the words of the sadly deceased Doctor, I would like to say:

“I’m an artist, not a web developer!”

And it is in that spirit that I’m embarking on my new blog, The Lab, by jumping headfirst into the WordPress pool. It’s not exactly a sink or swim proposition. WordPress seems suspiciously friendly and easy to use. And yet as I come up for air after the initial plunge to the bottom and start floating around, bobbing up and down through an endless tide of windows, options, plug-ins and googles, inevitably things will float past that I don’t like and will want to fix or change. So my dear readers, that is my metaphorical attempt at telling all of you that The Lab is a work in progress.