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VISITING DOUG TENNAPEL

Doug TenNapel’s storytelling and rendering is among the most wildly kenetic in comics, and when I saw him in Artists “Valley” at the Denver Comic-Con, I went over to his table to see what he was selling. I wound up buying three of his graphic novels — Gear, Ratfist, and Black Cherry, “a lurid tale of sex, violence and the supernatural” it sez on the cover (“I did this one especially for you,” TenNapel said; so how could I resist?)

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I bought Gear partly because of the stunning color inside and also because it is TenNapel’s first work: it collects the six issues of the comic book title he published in 1998.

“There are no people in this book,” I observed, displaying my uncanny observational skills.

“That’s because I didn’t know how to draw people then,” TenNapel explained, adding that after Gear was published, he submerged himself in months of self-instructional exercises to develop an ability to portray others of his own species.

Gear is dubbed a “surreal epic” for which TenNapel looked for inspiration to his pet cats, Simon, Waffle, Gordon and Mr. Black. The cats do battle with dogs and insects, using giant robots as weapons. The cats went on to star in the Nickelodeon series “Catscratch.”

TenNapel began as an animator and was soon working on video games, all of which led to producing graphic novels, which he’s done at the rate of about one a year until, now, there are 13. According to Wikipedia, “he is best known for creating [in 1994] Earthworm Jim, a character that spawned a video game series, cartoon show, and a toy line.”

TenNapel lives in Colorado Springs these days, so he’s close enough that he brought his entire family (wife and four kids) with him to Denver for the Con. While we were talking, his wife said she wanted a photograph of the two of us, and TenNapel readily agreed, standing up and coming out from behind his table.

What a shock. I’ve run into him several times at the San Diego Con, but he’s always been seated at a table. Suddenly, I was confronted by a six-foot eight-inch hulk, standing by my side.

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For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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