My latest cartoon QSL commission is very Australian — and an homage to an Aussie cartoonist I’d never heard of before.
Bob, VK2ADF, recently retired as a military police officer wanted an “outback” theme “like the Ettamogah Pub.” Sounds fun, right? But being an American, I had absolutely no idea what the Ettamogah Pub was, so I had to look it up. That led me to Google, Wikipedia and ultimately to the work of the late Australian cartoonist Ken Maynard.
Maynard, I learned, was also an ex-cop — just like VK2ADF — who made his reputation drawing for The Australasian Post. Maynard’s style could best be described as a cross between Don Martin and Jack Davis; think Mad Magazine with an Aussie bent, and you’ll have the general idea.
The original Ettamogah Pub near Albury, New South Wales. Used under Wikipedia Creative Commons.
The nexus of Maynard’s cartoon universe was the Ettamogah Pub, apparently the place to be if you lived in the outback. Several real Ettamogah Pubs exist today in Australia, Maynard’s work was so popular.
The Maynard connection led to the QSL design: VK2ADF in a military-police car, accompanied by a dog (Maynard loved to draw dogs) with the pub on a hill in the background, repurposed as a shack. Aping Maynard’s style was a challenge but well worth the effort.
Jim, KN4FIS, sports a mountain-man beard and goes by the nickname El Chivo, or “the goat.” He also works digital modes. Can I put that all together in a single QSL card? Of course.
To represent digital modes, at first I considered overlaying a screen shot of actual software. Problem was, it looked out of place next to the cartoony style of the rest of the card. That’s why I decided to go loose and cartoony on the monitor as well. It doesn’t have all the details, but it looks unmistakably like ham digital software if you’re in the know.
Final touch: a Special Forces badge on Jim’s baseball cap. Jim is vice president of the P7X Amateur Radio Society at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. For your service — and the service of all hams associated with our military — we salute you.
Yes, his name really is Bond. James Bond.
Some QSLs just design themselves, and this was one of them. When James, K6SPY (yes, that really is his call sign, too) commissioned me to create a cartoon QSL for him, I knew exactly what I needed to do: Go full-on James Bond, shaken and stirred.
I started with the call sign, eventually finding a font I could modify to mimic the 007 logo. The name and QTH are set in a font called 007 GoldenEye. And the background is a stock image of the iconic “gun barrel sequence” at the beginning of every Bond movie.
Drawing James himself was easy: I simply copied the classic Sean Connery pose, arms folded, gun over the shoulder — except this gun is a soldering gun.
Did I mention that designing this was a lot of fun?
Ryan, K4BFH, loves his Ford Mustang. His XYL loves training horses. Could I combine the two on a QSL?
I enjoy drawing cars, so I got to work creating a simplified version of his Mustang. This particular car, though, presented a special challenge: How do you illustrate a black car using black outlines? My solution was to lighten up the black slightly and then define the edges of the car with shine and shadow. It works well enough, in a cartoon sort of way. That’s Ryan at the wheel.
Ryan’s wife appears in the background. If the horse’s pose looks familiar, there’s a reason — it’s the same pose used by Ford for its classic Mustang badge. The font used for Ryan’s callsign also comes from that logo and badge. This QSL is all Mustang, all the way.
Yi Zhang, K8QR, wanted to combine his love of ham radio with his interest in hot-air balloons. What better way to connect them than the world’s longest wire antenna? As an added touch, to acknowledge his Columbus QTH, I added a banner for THE Ohio Station University. He does much of his operating from the school’s club station, W8LT.
In addition to being a good ham, K8QR has the patience of a saint; we’d been talking about this commission since last spring. I hope the finished QSL was worth the wait.
This QSL was a challenge. Jason, KB8SDF, is a professional machinist; his shack is in a much larger shop that would be the envy of an hobbyist. The challenge was making all of those tools fit together on a small postcard (along with a picture of Jason himself).
I finally was able to tie it together with a font that itself looked as if it had been built in Jason’s shop. The font, Iron Man of War, looks familiar for a reason — it’s similar to a font used for the classic logo of Iron Man. Jason fell in love with the font when he saw it, I added a few details from his shack and a caricature of Jason … and there you have it.
Bill, KL7TC, wanted a QSL that said something about Alaska, where he lives. Snow? Check. Mountains? Check. How about a club logo and an ARRL diamond? Easy peasy. And a husky with a headset? Why not?
The northern lights that appear were a little more challenging. Because it’s tough to illustrates with line art, I instead dropped in a free stock photo of the real thing. It works.
After a few tweaks — mainly toning down the typography from bright yellow to subtle blue — the QSL was good to go.
KL7TC’s QSL has one other unique feature: On the back of the card, instead of a dot indicating Fairbanks’ location on the map, I placed a heart, acknowledging the city’s slogan as “The Golden Heart of Alaska.”
You’re probably wondering why the girl in my latest custom QSL looks like she belongs in an Archie comic — right?
There’s a story behind that.
A few months back, Vartan, N2ZEB, asked me to draw a QSL for him with a pin-up girl in it, Vartan’s other hobby being pin-up photography. For inspiration, I went back to one of my artistic heroes, long-time Archie Comics artist Dan DeCarlo. He drew Archie and the gang for more than 40 years and very much defined their look. If you’ve read an Archie comic any time from the 1950s to the 1990s, you’ve almost certainly seen DeCarlo’s work — or, at least, work by other artists trying to imitate him. The illustration of The Archies singing group that graced their first album is classic Dan DeCarlo.
What most people don’t know about DeCarlo, though, is that before Archie, he earned a living drawing girly cartoons like the one below for “gentlemen’s magazines.” Yes, really.
DeCarlo’s pre-Archie cartoons are fairly tame by 21st-century standards, but the girls he drew were undeniably sexy. Ever wonder why Betty and Veronica were so stacked? It’s because DeCarlo had a lot of practice drawing girls that way. For Archie, he actually (and appropriately) reined it in a little bit.
And that’s where I was challenged — I’m so accustomed to drawing “cute” that “sexy” isn’t quite in my artistic arsenal. I’m happy with N2ZEB’s QSL as far as I could take it, but, honestly, it ended up looking more like Betty all dolled up than the kind of girl that would provoke wolf whistles in one of DeCarlo’s classic pin-up cartoons. At least you can take her home to meet mom. You might even be able to talk her into getting a Tech license!
Here’s one from the archives, the first QSL I created seven years ago after hanging my Hamtoons shingle.
The connection between the call sign and the cartoon is pretty obvious. Anybody else here have an underground shack? Anybody else here wish they had an underground shack?
Chris, VO1IDX, wanted to squeeze a lot onto his custom QSL card: his farm, his chicken coop, his children, his antenna, and, of course, himself. Since simple is better at postcard size, I pared it down to Chris and his antenna, with the chickens surrounding his call sign. Chris then asked that a ham radio — a ham that’s literally a radio — be added. I did, and, voila, there you have it. (The chicken atop the “O” egg is wearing headphones and a boom mic, because what would a Hamtoons QSL be without a cute animal on it wearing headphones?)