Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Comic Strip Superstar Semi-Finalist

And then there were 50 …

Comic Strip Superstar CompetitionOn Monday afternoon, I received an email message notifying me that my comic strip, Above the Fold, has been selected as a semi-finalist for Comic Strip Superstar, an international search for the next popular comic strip artist, sponsored by Andrews McMeel Publishing and hosted by!

Monday just happened to be Thanksgiving here in Canada, and so I’m very thankful to seasoned Universal Press Syndicate editors, John Glynn and Lee Salem, who narrowed the pool of 250 quarterfinalists down to 50 semi-finalists.

I’m also very honoured (humbled, nervous, and proud) knowing that my submission will now be judged by popular comic strip creators Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury), Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse), Scott Hilburn (The Argyle Sweater), and Mark Tatulli (LiĆ³ and Heart of the City). Together, they will choose 10 finalists and post feedback for each on where customers will then have the opportunity to view the finalists and vote for their favorite.

Due to contest rules, I cannot post any of my Above the Fold comic strips that I submitted; however, here’s a sneak peak of the strip’s title design and synopsis for you and my other loyal reader to enjoy … (Hi, Mom!) ...

Above the Fold is a wise and witty comic strip that editorializes our world through the socially networked minds of media-savvy middle-schoolers. Equipped with cell phones, digital cameras, text and other devices, these young leaders of tomorrow don’t just passively observe what’s happening around them; they create, interact with, and report on it. They are the news! And they’re determined to rise Above the Fold!


In the spirit of the month, I’ll be sharing some sweeter goodies with you VERY soon, so please be sure to check back around next Monday.

In the meantime, you can click the following links to find a rough pencil sketch of “Ace” (one of the strip’s main characters), and a coloured graphic of “Ace” standing beside his best friend, Giles F-o-s-t-e-r ... Oh bother, I'll let "Ace" have the honors ...

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

2D Character Animation Skills Challenge - District School Board of Niagara (DSBN)

I've graciously accepted an invitation from the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) to return as the judge for this year's 2D Character Animation Skills Challenge. This competition is part of the Board's annual technological skills events throughout the Niagara region, in which gold medalists advance to the Ontario Technological Skills Competition (OTSC), and potentially the Canada Skills Competition (CSC) and WorldSkills Competition.

This will be my fifth consecutive year volunteering as a judge for the animation challenges, and so I'm grateful to the Board for their continued confidence in my judiciary skills. You can download a copy of the 2009 Challenge Scope from DSBN's website to see what the 2D Character Animation competition is all about.

In addition to judging, I will also be the 2D Character Animation Tech Tuesday presenter in about two weeks. During this session, I'll be providing students with mentorship in Flash Animation, as well as general animation tips and advice.

Here are the details from DSBN's Tech Tuesdays Calendar...

2D Character Animation
Date: October 27
Time: 3:30pm
Location: Grimsby Secondary School
Host Teacher: Scott Miller
Presenter: Mike Cope

From the Board's website ...


DSBN Tech Tuesdays provide students with opportunities to participate in after-school enhanced skills training sessions in the various Technology sectors. Sessions will provide students with opportunities for hands-on experiential learning and mentorship from people working in related industry careers.

Students will also benefit from extra training to develop and hone their skills in anticipation for this year's Skills Challenges.

To Register for a Tech Tuesday session, please see your Technology Teacher!

Some suggested sites of interest for students, parents, and teachers ...

DSBN Technology
Skills Canada
World Skills International

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Comic Strip Superstar Quarterfinalist

Comic Strip Superstar CompetitionI'm happy to announce that my comic strip, Above the Fold, has been selected as a quarterfinalist for Comic Strip Superstar, an international competition being hosted by and Andrews McMeel Universal in search of the next popular comic strip artist!

I received an email message on Monday morning, notifying me of the good news. By Tuesday, Amazon had posted a PDF list of the 250 quarterfinalists on the contest's website. Unfortunately, only the comic strip titles are identified (and not the names of the cartoonists); however, Alan Gardner of the cartoon industry news website,The Daily Cartoonist, is compiling a more comprehensive list as cartoonists are identified.

Due to contest rules, I cannot post any samples of my Above the Fold comic strips that I submitted, but here's a rough pencil sketch of one of the strip's main characters, who aptly goes by the nickname "Ace" ...

Rough Pencil Sketch of 'Ace' from Above the Fold by Mike Cope
Rough Pencil Sketch of "Ace" from Above the Fold by Mike Cope

... That's an extremely poor caricature of President Obama that he's talking to on his iPod Touch :)

If you browse through my previous blog posts, you'll find a full-colour sample of "Ace" standing beside another yet-to-be-named character.

According the the competition's Key Dates, the Second Round Review Period has officially started. Universal Press Syndicate and UCLICK editors are now reviewing and judging each of the First Round Finalists. The top 50 Entries that will advance to the Third Round Semi Finals will be selected by October 11th...

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

NetTrekkers - Comic Panel Evolution

The following image is an example of how I take a NetTrekkers comic from the rough pencil sketch stage, to inked, to final full-colour version with text.

This panel is from Page 3 of NetTrekkers in Swimming Upstream, which will be published by LesPlan Educational Services Ltd. in the October 2009 issue of The Canadian Reader. In this episode, students will learn about the life cycle of salmon, including some amazing facts about what happens when they spawn.

Click to enlarge ...

Click to enlarge: NetTrekkers Comic Panel Evolution

A few notes of interest ... I've adjusted the brightness/contrast levels of the rough pencil sketch stage so that you can see the lines more clearly. The pencil marks are actually much lighter -- they're barely visible ink the inked stage, so don't strain your eyes too much!

Most of the inking was done with a dip pen, but I tried using a brush for some of the bear. I was trying to get a furry effect around the top of the bear's back and side of its face, so I kept my brush a little dry. I don't normally draw bears, so I credit any of the successful parts to beginner's luck!

Since the work is currently unpublished and done for a client, I can only show you a small sneak peak of the final comic pages ...

And finally ...

For any Canadian elementary school teachers who may stumble across this blog, copies of NetTrekkers Comic Yearbook #1 are being printed! Be sure to check LesPlan's website for ordering details.

I'll post some photos and more details about the books when they arrive. For now, you can click the cover to enlarge.

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Friday, September 18, 2009

Comic Strip Superstar Competition

Comic Strip Superstar CompetitionExactly one month ago, and Andrews McMeel Universal announced the launch of the first Comic Strip Superstar, an international competition in search of the next popular comic strip artist.

The deadline for submissions was last Saturday night at 11:59PM, and I'm happy to say that I got mine in just before the clock struck midnight (and my Apple turned into a pumpkin!).

Due to contest rules, I cannot display any samples of my completed cartoons, but since I have about a month to wait before I learn the fate of my submission, I may post a few rough sketches or other goodies along the way.

Aw heck, here's one now ...

Sneak Peak of Characters from Mike Cope's Comic Strip Superstar Submission

For now, I'm back at the drawing board working on other projects and "patiently" waiting ... :)

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Monday, August 24, 2009

COMING SOON! NetTrekkers Comic Yearbook #1

Click to enlarge: NetTrekkers Comic Yearbook #1 - Cover Art

Available soon to elementary schools across Canada!

Stay TOONed for more details :)

- Mike Cope

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Inking a Comic with Mike Cope's Hand - YouTube Video

In my previous entry, I gave a sneak peak of the rough pencil sketch and page layout for September's NetTrekkers comic. I thought it might be fun to capture and share some of the inking process. I hope you enjoy the results ...

YouTube: Inking a Comic with Mike Cope's Hand!

Here are the video's release notes ...

Watch the hand of Canadian cartoonist Mike Cope magically turn a pencil sketch into an inked cartoon character -- right before your very eyes!

Featured in this video is Page 1 from the September 2009 episode of the comic "NetTrekkers," in which Patrick travels to the Canadian prairies during the annual wheat harvest. The original comic art is drawn on an 11"x14" sheet of Strathmore Bristol board (smooth finish).

Prior to shooting this video, Mike Cope planned the text and page layout in Adobe Photoshop, and then rough sketched the panel illustrations using a regular 2H pencil. The inking process (seen here) is done using a combination of dip pens equipped with Hunt 102 and Speedball 513EF nibs, and Winsor & Newton's Black Indian Ink.

"NetTrekkers" is published in The Canadian Reader by LesPlan Educational Services Ltd. and is distributed to elementary schools across the country to help promote children's literacy. Each month's story is written by Canadian children's author, Vivien Bowers, and illustrated by Mike Cope.

This video may be freely shared and distributed in its entirety for educational and/or entertainment purposes only. For commercial and/or broadcast use, please contact mikecope [at] copetoons [dot] com.

© Copyright 2009 by Mike Cope - COPETOONS.COM

BTW ... You can click on the [HD] button to watch my tensed hairy knuckles in high definition -- if your computer (and stomach) can handle it!

You can also view finished samples from last year's NetTrekkers episodes by visiting my portfolio section.

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Friday, August 14, 2009

NetTrekkers Comic - Rough Page Layout & Pencil Sketch

Here's a sneak peak of page one from September's upcoming NetTrekkers comic. In this episode, Patrick (who is now sporting stylish glasses!) travels to the Canadian prairies during the annual wheat harvest.

After receiving the comic's script (written by Canadian author, Vivien Bowers), I create a rough layout of each page using Adobe Photoshop. This includes dividing up the pages into panels, deciding their sizes, as well as transferring all of the captions and dialogue text. I also draw some very quick thumbnail sketches to plan where and how the characters will be posed ...

I print a copy of the rough layout and transfer the panels onto my drawing board using a light table. Actual size of the original comic art is just under 11" x 14" and drawn on a sheet of Strathmore Bristol board (smooth finish) with a 2H pencil.

Click to enlarge ...

Next comes the inking and colouring stages, but I'm saving those for a future post :)

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Saturday, August 08, 2009

NetTrekkers - Comic Art Samples

I've added some page samples from NetTrekkers to my portfolio section. The comic appears in 'The Canadian Reader,' which is published by LesPlan Educational Services Ltd. Each month's story is written by the talented Canadian author, Vivien Bowers.

I'm currently in the process of creating a mini comics treasury (what we're calling "NetTrekkers Yearbook: 2008-09"), and so, I'm finding it interesting to see how I experimented with different aspects of the illustrations over this first year.

Click the following graphic to view the samples ...

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Monday, July 20, 2009

Today I did the unthinkable ...

I grew up as a kid in the 1980s.

I was a shy nerd, but proud computer geek.

I was in my last year of high school when the original Dot-Com Boom started in 1995.

Since moving away from home, I've always answered those pesky phone calls with, "No thank you ... Because I get all of my news for free on the Internet."

I realize that, as a cartoonist, I should probably be ashamed of myself. While I was still in college, it was honestly the financial reasons for not subscribing to a newspaper -- I simply wouldn't be getting my money's worth, and I needed all the spare change I could scrounge. Unfortunately, old habits can quickly adapt, and you soon forget what you're missing ... Especially when your local paper has a free digital edition!

But late this afternoon, I did the unthinkable ...

I picked up my phone, called the local newspaper, and subscribe to their daily print edition. I even qualified for their "new subscriber" rate of only $9.80 per month (compared to their regular $17.30).

The deciding factor came this morning when my wife and I took our 15-month-old daughter to her doctor's appointment and she discovered a piece of newsprint sitting on the waiting room's coffee table. The page had lots of text, but also lots of funny pictures -- yes, it was the Comics page.

In that moment, I realized that although I may enjoy reading the funnies while sitting on the toilet with my iPod in hand, my daughter is possibly missing out on a great opportunity.

You see, she loves books. Her vocabulary is borderlining on scary. Unfortunately, whenever she sees my iPod, she immediately shouts, "Elmo! Elmo!" (thinking that I'm watching Sesame Street on YouTube as we sometimes do). If that's not bad enough, she shouts "Annie! Annie!" whenever she wants to watch her most favourite movie in the entire world ... After multiple views a day, it certainly is a hard-knock life!

Subscribing to a daily newspaper will be a little bit of an experiment. Although I'll be able to enjoy reading the Sunday funnies again on Saturday mornings, I'm very curious to see if my daughter will eventually anticipate going to the mailbox every morning for the newspaper -- as much as she anticipates Annie or Elmo :)

Tomorrow morning, our mailbox will be my family's early Christmas tree.

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Monday, June 29, 2009

Press Release - Canadian Cartoonist Pledges "Peanuts" to Schulz Challenge

YouTube: Canadian Cartoonist Pledges "Peanuts" to Schulz Challenge at Ohio State's Cartoon Library & Museum


Mike Cope to Donate Book's Proceeds to Future Home of Newspaper Funnies History

STONEY CREEK, Ontario – June 28, 2009 – Two dollars, even in today's economy, sounds like peanuts.

Mike Cope is hoping those peanuts will add up because that's how much the Canadian cartoonist and author of the self-published book, The Last of the Funnies, is pledging to Ohio State's Cartoon Library & Museum in response to a fundraising challenge issued by Jean Schulz, widow of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz.

A $2 donation, that is, for every copy Cope's timely science fiction, which explores the future of the funnies in a virtually paperless world after a worldwide energy and economic crisis, sells until the Schulz Challenge concludes in March 2014.

That's 85 percent of his creator royalties.

It's a "Peanuts Pledge" that Jenny Robb, Assistant Professor and Associate Curator at the Cartoon Library & Museum, welcomed on behalf of challenge organizers as "a very generous and creative offer."

For Cope, age 32, it's a chance to not only help support the preservation of his humorous profession's history, but also honor the memory of his childhood hero, Charles M. Schulz, whose world-famous cartoons inspired him to dip pens into his own imagination's inkwell.  "I like a good challenge," says the work-from-home dad.  "I just hope I don't disappoint Mrs. Schulz or the school."

Last March, when Schulz's widow gave The Ohio State University $1 million towards the renovation and move of the Cartoon Library & Museum, she also issued a challenge to cartoon art lovers everywhere: she will match every dollar donated through March 9, 2014, up to $2.5 million.  When the estimated $20.6 million project is completed, Ohio State's Sullivant Hall will become home to the world's most comprehensive academic research facility dedicated to documenting printed cartoon art.

"I suppose it's the academic side in me that understands what libraries and museums can offer to future generations," says Cope, who is professionally trained as a high school communications technology teacher.

"Although I've yet to visit OSU in person," he stresses, "I truly appreciate the work they do."

While researching for his book, Cope enlisted the help of Professor and Curator, Lucy Shelton Caswell, and her staff at the formerly known Cartoon Research Library.  From his home in Canada, he was able to browse their digital collections, select cartoons, and obtain reprint permissions—all via the Internet.

"Digital reproductions on the web are wonderful," says Professor Caswell on the library's YouTube video, "but seeing the real thing is really fun."

YouTube: Cartoon Library & Museum

But in a world of declining newspaper revenues and shrinking comic pages, libraries and museums may eventually become the only place for cartoon fans to enjoy the "real" thing.  In fact, there may be more facts than fiction in The Last of the Funnies ...

Set in the year 2076, printed newspapers have ceased production and nearly every form of art and entertainment is a digital simulation.  However, the spirit of the funnies lives on through Frost, a crusty old New Yorker who cartoons "the old fashioned way" (i.e., by hand).  What his millions of fans worldwide don't know is that the cartoon wizard uses a special ink that draws whatever he imagines.

"I readily enjoyed it," writes Alan Gardner, editor of The Daily Cartoonist, an industry news website.  "It justly emphasizes the magic of cartooning and delves into important topics such as comics after newspapers and digital copyrights."

At the heart of the story is a father-son struggle, as Frost seeks to make amends before it's too late.

Cartoonist Justin Thompson, who works for Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates in Santa Rosa, CA, and co-hosts the online podcast Comics Coast to Coast, says The Last of the Funnies is, "a great love letter to the art of cartooning and all that it is."

The book pays homage to characters, people, and organizations from comic strip history, including: The Yellow Kid, Rube Goldberg, Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst, and the National Cartoonists Society.  Ohio State is also mentioned as housing the world's largest collection of original cartoon art.

"Being a self-published work," says Cope, "I feel a bit like Lucy shaking her little tin can in Charlie Brown's face, requesting five cents.  With this pledge, I hope that newspaper editors and comic strip fans alike will see my heart is in the right place.  It's not a story about the demise of newspapers and the funnies.  It's a message of hope ... Their fate is, literally, in all our hands."

For more information, contact Mike Cope at (905) 664-3692 or mikecope [at] copetoons [dot] com.

Visit the book’s official website:’s CreateSpace Publishing Edition: ISBN 1-438-26412-7 Edition: ISBN 978-1-4357-5270-2

# # #

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Dadda's Day!

Happy Dadda's Day! from Canadian Cartoonist Mike Cope and his li'l girl.
Happy Dadda's Day! from Canadian Cartoonist Mike Cope and his li'l girl.

It's kinda funny how compared to last year's photo, my li'l girl seems to be getting bigger, but my hair is going grayer!

What can I say ... One year and about three months into fatherhood, and enjoying every minute of every day!!

Happy Father's Day :)

- Mike Cope

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

GRRARRR! NetTrekkers meet Gorgosaurus in The Canadian Reader (June '09)

NetTrekkers Logo
NetTrekkers meet Gorgosaurus in The Canadian Reader (June '09).

Above is a sneak peak from the NetTrekkers comic that I recently illustrated for the June 2009 issue of The Canadian Reader (published by LesPlan Educational Services Ltd).

This month's story, written by Canadian author, Vivien Bowers, is entitled, "Digging Dinosaurs," and takes place in Alberta's Dinosaur Provincial Park ... a.k.a., The Badlands!

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A little Pooh history in The Canadian Reader (May '09)

History of Winnie-the-Pooh
A little Pooh history in The Canadian Reader (May '09).

Above is a sneak peak from a "Did You Know?" page that I recently illustrated for the May 2009 issue of The Canadian Reader (published by LesPlan Educational Services Ltd).

As the story goes ...
While on his way to England to serve in World War I, a Canadian soldier, Harry Colebourn, bought a black bear cub from a hunter in White River, Ontario. Colebourn named the bear 'Winnie,' after his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Winnie was eventually donated to the London Zoo, where he was regularly visited by a young Christopher Robin Milne and his father A.A. Milne -- the famous author who wrote about the many adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh.

Below is a thumbnail of the complete "Did You Know?" page which also features a flood of facts about the Red River in Winnipeg ...

Did You Know? The Red River, Winnipeg - The Canadian Reader (May '09)
Did You Know? The Red River, Winnipeg by Mike Cope. Published in The Canadian Reader (May '09).

Just in case you're wondering how the Red River and Winnie-the-Pooh are connected, in this month's NetTrekkers comic, the kids visit Winnipeg during the annual flooding of the Red River and Lily's Pooh Bear accidentally takes a trip downstream! Although I colour NetTrekkers digitally via Adobe Photoshop, I decided to colour this "Did You Know?" page by hand using watercolours as a subtle homage to Winnie-the-Pooh's late illustrator, Ernest H. Shepard. The page is presented here in black & white because it's currently unpublished.

When drawing something like this, part of my job as a cartoonist is to research the Internet so that the pictures are historically accurate. For example, here's a famous photo of Harry Colbourn and Winnie, courtesy of Wikipedia ...

Harry Colebourne and Winnie

Of course, this post wouldn't be complete without a link to the classic 'Part of our Heritage' short film on Winnie-the-Pooh that used to play on TV and in movie theatres ...

... I really miss watching those, and hope Historica produces more.

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Happy New Year ... and 5 days!!

Happy New Year - Gag Cartoon by Mike Cope

My last posting was back in ... SEPTEMBER???!!!

*SIGH* The last few months have been extremely fun, but extremely busy ... In addition to my regular cartooning work, I've been filling-in as a multimedia teacher at a local high school. Needless to say, between work and family, I haven't had an opportunity to maintain this blog.

I do intend to start posting again more regularly by the start of February. There have been some positive developments on the cartooning-front that I look forward to sharing.

Until then, thanks for your patience, and ...

Stay TOONed!

- Mike