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How I Became a Multi-Sport Blog Cartoonist

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SB Nation would be very proud of my United-ness!

Hey, everybody! I've had a busy start to the cartooning week, and for once it had nothing to do with hockey. And yeah, I probably shouldn't just be copying e-mails and such, but whatever -- I'm retiring soon, so proper blogger protocol doesn't matter very much any more. I don't mind pulling back the curtain a bit so you guys can see how blog magic happens.

In this case, it starts with an e-mail to the wrong blogger. :)

Hey Rudy,

My name's Abel Prado, fellow SBnation writer for (a Houston Rockets blog) and friend of James O Brien who advised me against making this request of your but I ignored him because he can be a bit of queef sniffer.

I'm a huge fan of your cartoon skills I remember this "There's Something about Gary" photoshop you did a few years back for BoC that had me rolling. I liked that Hockey Orphan cartoon you did for Cycle Like Sedins too. Bottom line is that I dig your style and I was wondering if you'd be open to drawing something silly for me.

We have this regular feature on the Dream Shake where we gather links from around the internet that relate to the Rockets or the NBA. Right now its called the Dream Links but I'd like to change it to The Dream Shake Links Dump.

I'd like a image that would be used everytime we run the feature so here goes.

Do you think you could draw a picture of Hakeem Olajuwon reading a newspaper whilst taking a shit?

I know this is a strange request to make of someone whose introducing himself, but I get the feeling that you're a cool enough dude to help me out.

I'm willing to compensate you for your time.

Thank you in advance,

An excellent slam on former BoCer James O'Brien, but Rudy quickly shirked and sent the project off to me...

Hi Abel,

I'm not the drawing guy. That's Earl Sleek. I went ahead and CC'd him on this reply so he'll see your request.

I can't even imagine the variety of moves Hakeem can use to wipe his ass.


...and I quickly put it on my project list.

Abel -- I'll sketch something out tonight, and see how it might look. I don't think I care enough for compensation, so don't sweat that.

Later that night, I submitted my first draft, along with a lot of explanatory text.

First draft!

A few things:

1. I've made this version (and will probably make future versions) too tall -- taller than I think you should crop it for the horizontal look. Since United has gone to this 3-crop approach (none of which seem to populate my mobile version... grrr), I've been making cartoons too tall and too wide -- makes cropping decisions easier later, I've found.

2. I should have warned you this much earlier today, but I know basically nothing about pro basketball -- I know enough to recognize the name Hakeem Olajuwon, but I've never really watched the guy play. I'm pretty much hockey-only with an odd dash of baseball. So feel free to tell me whatever you want about whether or not this looks enough like Hakeem, or if there's anything characteristic that I'm missing. It's totally possible that I just don't know something I probably should.

3. I don't know if you wanted to put in your title in the cartoon itself, but I just threw in a suggestion of where it might go if you wanted it in there -- there's totally room for improvement on font and stuff, but I didn't want to invest too much time unless it was really going to be a part of it. Also, I didn't really know what color to throw in the background -- red works if there is that text box; may have to pick another color or zoom in tighter otherwise.

4. But don't fret! If you do want part of this re-done, it may not be a huge deal. Color changes are easy enough since I use MS Paint like a moron, and this whole thing is drawn using layers -- the background is distinctly drawn from the body-and-toilet, which is also distinctly drawn from Hakeem's head. It's a little weird to think about, but if you decide Hakeem needs a new head or he shouldn't be whistling or something, for me it means I'd just draw a new head and insert it on the body which I drew separately -- it's not a complete redo.

Basic point here -- don't be scared to suggest changes. In some cases, they may be easier than you'd think to change.

5. Hope you like the blog logo I dropped in there.

Anyways -- I'm like the blog logo design guy, in that I allow for iterations in design. Take a look, tell me what you do or don't like, and I can modify stuff around. If you want to redo the text or change anything yourself, I can also give you the pieces assembled in Power Point. And if you decide to change stuff after the fact, I'll never care or sue. :)


Earl Sleek


I must say, I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, and at first, so was Abel...

This is fucking clutch. (pun intended) I dont think we have to change a thing on my end. That MS Paint cartoonish look is exactly the look I wanted and the singing bit adds a great touch. Gonna shoot this over to my editor and see if he wants to make any changes. You'll get the proper credit obviously.

So one day, and that day may never come, you'll can call on me and I will owe you a favor. #godfather.

Thanks a lot dude. I appreciate it.


...but then, editors got involved.

Hey Sleek,

Heard back from the editor and the guy shit all over the idea of having a regular feature that prominently displays an image of a guy on the commode.

They never let us have no fun.

I really liked the way it came out, everyone liked it in fact but the boss made a point about how it might affect our getting credentials in the future. Lame.Would it be too much to ask to do something with hakeem sitting on a recliner or something instead?

Ah, poor bloggers who work for credentials. Honestly, I wasn't pissed -- I felt kind of bad for a blogger with ideas that he couldn't utilize. My response:

Haha, what's a credential? :)

No worries -- if you ever need to write a post that's nothing but shit jokes, you can guest post on our blog. We're so lawless that we don't even make United's NHL dropdown menu. :)

Yeah, I can do a pants-on recliner shot, but it may not be until tomorrow night. Only you and I will know that Hakeem is secretly shitting his pants.

And if you ever find occasion that you do want to use the old design, feel free.

But before I could even get to it, Abel introduced a new design element in his response:

I'm gonna find some way to use that image somehow. It's too good and way too funny to keep it buried on the hard drive.

Some modest requests for the next draft. Can we keep in the singing bit? That was gold. it'd also be nice if you could find a way to work in a photo of jordan with one of those "prohibited" circle slash things over his face. like the no smoking signs. We rockets fans are sensitive about winning two titles when jordan was out of the league.

Look forward to see what you can come up with.


So, later that night, I sent him the second draft...

Alright, Draft 2, one night earlier than promised! (I reused what I could).

I've got two attachments -- one with just Hakeem if that's explanatory enough, then one where I threw in the Jordan pic plus the post title -- it might be a bit crowded, but you can be the judge of that.

Again, too tall and too long, but it's built for cropping.

Same drill as before -- see anything you want changed, let me know and I'll see what I can do.



Not really an improvement over the old design, but thanks to an unwillingness to start from scratch, I was sort of bound by what I had drawn before. Abel quickly threw some new wrinkles in the request to combat my somewhat lazy approach to draft two...

still looks awesome. A few things:
Could you lower the angle of his arms a little? not that we're going for staunch realism, but who reads a paper with arms stretched out like that? it looks exhausting.

I dont think we need the big yellow block with the name of the feature inside. the only reason I wanted to call it the Links Dump was because i thought it'd be funny if it were of someone taking taking a shit so the visual pun doesnt work as good. So instead can you have it say THE DREAM LINKS across the bottom? The same font and color will do.

There might be rights issues with that photo of jordan. Fucking lawyers. What if instead you use the air jordan logo?

.Lastly Can you add a bookshelf in the back to fill in some of that empty space? Hakeem is a learned fella

BTW, cant thank you enough for being so timely with this.

So I took his list, implemented the changes (the bookshelf was a pain in the ass, but I perservered), and submitted draft number three later last night...

Draft 3. The Air Jordan looks way better now, I think -- good call on the logo.


Abel once again seemed pleased -- his next set of tinkering was way more minor and easier to execute than the previous list...

Last go around. You nailed it.

Two very small things now:
We can afford to move THE DREAM LINKS to the very bottom of the image so it doesnt cover the cool ottoman that you drew. I uploaded it to the editorial dash and it crops just fine.

Love the bookshelf but it sort of obscures the musical notes that you drew. I think a white, semi-thickish outline around the notes would really make it pop.

You've been really fucking awesome about all this.

Lastly, could you send me that first draft of this but without the links dump yellow block thing? I'm gonna try and make a small poster out of that motherfucker.

Like I said. I owe you a favor, keep that in mind for whenever.

So really late last night, I send in my draft four -- two versions, even.

Two choices on musical notes -- some white outline around it in one, or the ol' cartoon bubble in the other.

And I got your poster shot, too.

BTW, I will be writing a BoC post on this toon project and its iterations (already drafted some of it!), but I can certainly hold off on publishing that until you unveil the design. Just let me know whenever that's cool to go.



Cut to today -- Abel once again delivered some bad news...

goddam i REALLY hate lawyers.

I posted the image and got this text from the boss

"We cant use that afterall, uses hakeem's likeness. gonna run it by the mothership. but we'll hold off on doing it today. maybe friday"

We might have to just obscure the number on his chest. but I can do that on my end. Sorry if it feels like i've wasted your time with this

But just when I was ready to give up and submit a stick-figure version, another Abel update!

Determined we got cleared to use it for now. Should be up. Send u link soon.

And what do you know? Against all odds, published!

* * *

So that's the story of how that happened. Apologies to Abel for over-quoting his e-mails, but it does offer a quick lesson in how different blogs operate on this network -- a lot of this exercise had me pretty grateful that our site doesn't have credentials or editors or rules. While there's definitely perks associated with those things, it appears there's definitely some drawbacks as well.

But in the end, things worked out well enough -- probably my first Hakeem design was the best one, but the version that's currently running on Dream Shakes isn't too far off that. And hooray! After a few nights of design and alteration, I'm finally a multi-sport blog cartoonist! Heck -- I can even spell "Olajuwon" now without looking it up! :)

Go United.