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Call Me Cartoonist

Peter Murphy

by Lesley E. Sprague

Peter Murphy

Peter Murphy gets noticed. At well over six feet and 250 pounds it's not hard to make his presence known on Prince Edward Island but, it's not an easy task if you are a cartoonist who is trying to catch the eye of major publishers. He's here to say that it is possible to both live where you want to live and do what you want to do.

Murphy says, "I made a list of things that would make me happy." Number one was drawing and making a living at it. After that came living in P.E.I. and finding a good woman. Pete found that when he took care of number one everything else fell into place.

He is excited about his latest venture, his first full colour comic book "Xeno Force" which is being produced in conjunction with the release of a new role playing game from Dragon Games in the Annapolis Valley. Murph, as he is known around Charlottetown, was hired to design the space monsters, script the book, illustrate, ink (take a pencil sketch and turn it into finished art) and letter, as well as draw the wraparound cover. His work will then be scanned into a computer to be colourized.

He is also inking a book called Dragon Star working with another artist, Dave Cullen, and writer Dr. Maryann Bramstraup. This book is being done on spec and will be shopped around to publishers when completed. Therein lies the uncertainty of the comic book industry. But, not knowing the ending is what Murph thrives on. He sees comic books as a chain of events and a series of punch lines. When creating he sees the scene before he knows the story, frame by frame it unfolds before him becoming exactly what it is called in the industry, Sequential Art.

Murphy's comic chain of events began in 1988 when he started cartooning seriously. He kept at it until he was finally published in 1992 by Malibu Comics of California. He was contracted to do the last four issues of Planet of the Apes but, in keeping with the uncertainty of the industry, after three issues the series ended. Pete kept after Malibu for more work and was sent what he euphemistically calls a "jiggle book" to ink. He finished the first one but the next script he was sent to draw so disgusted him that he just packed it back up and returned it, turning down the money also. "I didn't get a lot of work from them after that." he says with a grin.

Murph's hard lessons continued. A series that he enjoyed drawing lost momentum due to poor writing and another simply didn't bother to pay. Along the way he got to ink the drawings of one of his favorite artists (oops, cartoonists) Lou Manna who has done work for DC Comics. His misadventure led him to believe that perhaps he should self-publish.

He got together with a group of friends and Subterranean By Design was born. "Might as well have shot myself in the foot and nailed my tongue to the ceiling. It takes a crazy person to draw comics but you have to be certifiable to self-publish." A few seconds later he adds sheepishly, "but every time I get a few bucks together, I self-publish."

He is very proud of the work he did with Subterranean especially his series, Subterranean Zero, featuring the "Clean-up Crew, the enigmatic Mr. Skull and the zombie detective K'dahver." One of the characters from this series has been optioned for a video game.

Still, it's tough to eke out a living cartooning while remaining on the Island but Murph is optimistic. Meanwhile, he enjoys doing Christmas windows around town, award winning parade floats and especially his work as a volunteer teacher at St. Jean's Elementary, where he'll be working with the kids to paint murals throughout the school. Just look around. He's the tall kid. You can't miss him.

I Just Wanna Bang on de Drum All Day

Profile: Chris Bertin

by Leslie E. Sprague

Chris Burtin

I think anybody can do it. You just have to have a drum that's your own and spend time with it, you form a relationship with the drum," says twenty-four year old Chris Bertin of Summerside of his passion for Hand Drums and drum-making. "It's kind of like it's a trinity. There's the wood and then there's the skin. So, it's the tree and then it's the animal and then it's you and it all comes together. It's like three aspects of nature. I find there's the voice of the animal in the skin. If you touch it certain ways you can hear it talk. It might sound kind of hokey but I think there's a lot to it."

Herein lies Bertins' conflict. He is vegetarian. "I've considered synthetic skins but it's not the same. They don't have the right sound." Most of his deer hide comers from natives who have hunted the animals for food. One of his favorite drums used the hide of a deer killed on the road. Reflectively he says, " I Could never part with that drum, it has a beautiful voice to it."

To get closer to his art Chris wants to learn how to process the skin right off the animal. "It will be a gruesome thing but, I want to go through this once so I can really understand what's involved. Mabe then I won't want to use deer hide anymore."

Bertin started making drums during a trip last year with his friend Megan Aho. They circled North America, spending two months backpacking from Prince Edward Island to Vancouver Island where they bought a $600 Chevy van and drove 20,000 km down the west coast through California and Mexico then back up the east coast to Prince Edward Island.

While helping to set up a drum-making program for street kids in Victoria, B.C., Bertin experimented with shapes and sizes until he found the best balance of sounds. "We figured out the math first, then went to a table saw and tried one and it worked so we kept making them that way." He makes it sound easy, but two years of engineering at Mount Allison probably helped him figure out the formulas for the width of each piece and the cutting angles.

"I taught myself. I've always been good with my hands so I decided to dive in and give it a try. I didn't have any books. I just start out with a pile of wood and some cord and a piece of skin. I bend the metal rings and do all the lacing and woodworking myself. I feel good about it, because I made that whole drum. It's a good feeling."

Bertin puts in a lot of extra time to make the finish as perfect as possible. "It's not so much a business for me. I like to make them and I like to provide music for people." He really enjoys it when people join in or ask questions while he is showing his wares. "I want to introduce [people] to how good they can feel just by playing a drum. Especially those who lead a hectic life. It helps you take control of your rhythm. I find I learn the most when I play for extended periods of time, I find I make huge steps forward in body and mind and it's nice."

"My goal is to learn as much as I can about playing drums and making them and then to some day have a huge garden of percussion instruments and be able to bring people together who might be interested in playing drums but don't have access to them and have huge drum circles to introduce as many people as possible to magic."

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