Thursday, October 15, 2009

Romancing the Television: My Thirteen-Year Affair with The Hump

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The following expansive archival gallery consists of images and artifacts taken from my thirteen-year (and counting) run on William Steven Humphrey’s weekly column, I Love Television, starting with a crop of recent favorites, then dipping back into history to reveal the circumventive path it took to reach its current form. This tenure has seen me create almost 700 illustrations, drawing my red-haired, freckled TV-shirted caricature of Mr. Humphrey (generally known as The Hump, or simply “Hump”) in a wide and bizarre array of situations – picturing him waterskiing with Jesus and Mr. Rogers, courting Miss Piggy as a Nazi, to rapping as Shakespeare – with a hundred images of his infamous “honey-baked ham” sandwiched in between – not to mention all of the images featuring monkeys (one of Humphrey’s more keen fixations) – which could easily fill a gallery of their own.
This massive armory of images on a theme surpasses the output of any other regular feature in either of the papers originally associated with the absurd and hilarious column – Seattle’s The Stranger and The Portland Mercury.
However, my illustrations currently only run in Portland, The Stranger having dropped them with the Christmas 2008 issue. If you miss it in the print edition of that paper, or on their website, please contact the editor here and let them know you’d like it to return.
Also, if you’d like to peruse a more expansive selection of TV art, simply click here for a handy slideshow presentation.
And please note that many of these illustrations (in the original black line art) are available for purchase. Just ask! You can reach me at
Meanwhile, I hope you might enjoy this unearthing of TV-themed curios – many not seen in well over a decade!

The latest TV illustration, The Hump as Jughead, appearing this week, Oct. 15, in The Portland Mercury.

The following eleven illustrations are some recent favorites, all from 2008 and 2009.

And here's how it all began:

In early September, 1996, I was asked by William Steven Humphrey and Stranger art director Dale Yarger, to come up with a character to embody the wacky humor of Humphrey’s column, I Love Television, which had been utilizing drawings by cartoonist Tom Hart. These were my first quick sketch ideas.

The next stage of sketches – with a more refined character coming into focus.

From Sept. 26, inked versions of the character, as faxed to Humphrey.

From the 27th, Humphrey and Yarger’s comments in reply to the initial designs.

My revised character, based on the editorial feedback. I still had yet to illustrate my first column. That would come the following week, after it was decided not to go with the TV character I’d created. I’ve never quite been sure what happened, but I imagine there was a lack of editorial agreement on the whole approach and the idea was simply shelved. I was told to proceed by illustrating elements specific to each column.

Alan Alda, star of the very first I Love Television illustration, from Oct. 5, 1996 – drawn on hotel stationary, while I was traveling on the East Coast. Note the absence of The Hump. The trademark character didn’t appear until late the following spring.

Bob Dole gets all G.I. Joe on Bill Clinton – from early 1997.

From Feb. 1997 – the beginning of the unexpected birth of a character.

March 27, 1997 – a response to some suggested tonal changes by Humphrey. Again, a character is being slowly refined before unsuspecting eyes.

The next week saw this – the third appearance of what was now clearly becoming the regular character the meeting back in September had failed to produce. Note the TV logo now appearing in an emblematic fashion.

The following installment saw the first usage of the TV logo T-shirt, which was soon to become a constant staple of the column. Yes, that’s Jerry Seinfeld wearing the halo of whiteout.

During his first year of existence, The Hump was still struggling to find his proportional dimensions (unlike Tommy Lee).

Here, Hump is proportioned like a child from an old Maurice Sendak book. The red is a tissue overlay, indicating color for the art department, as I was still two years away from owning a computer and sent all of my line art via fax, along with color guides. I’m sure that sounds somewhat hard to believe for some of you, but that was the process just a few short years ago.

From June 1997 – a drawing that was used as a sticker to promote the column at a newspaper industry convention.

Look familiar? This was a two-dimensional wooden recreation based on the sticker drawing, created by an artist for use in the window of a pop culture emporium located in Seattle’s Pioneer Square district. Interestingly, I knew nothing about this until walking by one day and seeing it – a long and nasty legal battle ensued. OK, I’m lying. I actually was put in contact with the artist and we had a cup of coffee.

From Nov. of 97 – an illustration meant to look like an old Scholastic Book cover, featuring a familiar super heroic statue in the background. Note: this is merely the black line art to what was a colored drawing, as is the case with many of the older pieces presented in this gallery.

This is the first of a group of illustrations showcasing various attempts at breaking the ink and computer color look of the column’s visual appearance, this one utilizing cut paper, gouache, artificial fern fronds and part of an old sock, substituting for one of Humphrey’s favorite obsessions – Tom Selleck’s “booshy” moustache.
This is probably the strangest of the unorthodox representations of Hump – unless I count the evening at the Rendevouz Bar, at a roast celebrating Humphrey’s departure to Portland to begin The Mercury, where I was urged by the audience to draw the Hump character on Humphrey’s posterior. If that wasn’t funny enough, the next day I received a frantic call from Humphrey, asking what kind of marker I’d used, as the drawing had failed to come off in the shower! It was, of course, a Sharpie – indelible to the end! I meant to leave my mark in this world.

A gouache illustration, from some point in 1998, featuring one of Humphrey’s old irregular characters, a duck who went Quak!

From 1999 – Hump as Rodin’s The Thinker, envisioned in grey ink washes.

Here’s a weird one. The Olsen twins, portrayed with photos from an old toy catalog, of a roller-skating Troll doll (I kid you not). The resemblance was uncanny, don’t you agree?

From 2001 – one of a brief series of gouache paintings that emulated the look of the standard inked line art.

“The Incredible Hump”, from 2000, shown in his three stages of transformation – from pencil sketch to inked line art to grey tone wash.

Another grey tone variation, this one captured by printing out a computer-toned drawing, onto manila paper, then adding ink shadows.

From 2003 – Hump celebrates the almighty dollar. Graffiti on the bill portends the upcoming 2004 election. I actually drew on the dollar and may still have it somewhere – an odd little souvenir of an odd little career.

This one was accented on the computer with a bold showcase title, emulating picture postcards from classic vacation spots. It utilizes cut paper and magazine pages.

From 2002 – Hump pursues Ted Turner, created using charcoal pencil on watercolor paper.

From Dec. 15, 2005 – Hump plays God, with a pet pig. This was one of my earlier uses of a fully-realized background, utilizing color holds.

Quak! the duck appears again, this time in a Thanksgiving triptych.

Here’s the first appearance of Hump’s whitebread cousin, Chet, who tried to steal Hump’s thunder with his own lame column.

From Jan. 16, 2006 – White Jesus battles Black Jesus! I told you this column was wacky.

From 2002 – a little boy Hump in an alphabet of some of his favorite things.

Here Hump battles Bradley Steinbacher, a past editor at The Stranger. This one illustrates their long-running feud over Aquaman, a super hero Hump loves to loathe.

From Dec. 2, 2005 – a bizarre holiday illustration. This was about as busy as I ever made a TV spot. I was actually asked to restrain from using too much detail after this one.

Hump loves his TV Nazis! Especially those who date Muppets.

Pencil sketch art of Superboy and Robin, two teenage super heroes, sporting boners – a favorite image of the column (OK, I admit, of mine too).

Hump with a log up his ass – a favorite image from early in the century. And, yes, there are more than a few ass-themed columns in Humphrey’s repertoire.

Alan Alda, star of the very first column I illustrated, finally gets his – courtesy of The Hump!

Hump’s telly-lovin’ British cousin, from Aug. 10, 2006.

From 2003 – Hump showing off his much-beloved posterior, which Humphrey calls his “honey-baked ham”.

From 2000 – Hump as a hillbilly slot machine. And why not?

A pencil sketch of The Hump as everybody’s favorite cartoon warrior, He-Man.

Hump as Lex Luthor, from Oct. 26, 2006.

Hump shoots off his cannonballs! Pencil sketch and inked art.

Hump as Gene Simmons in a wedge of cheese. Pencil and ink versions for a Halloween column from 1998.

Another one from 1998, Hump as an evil magician.

The super hero theme is prevalent. Here’s Hump as the “shirtless wonder”, from Jan. 18, 2007.

Pencil and ink versions of an older favorite, showing just how wonderfully ridiculous the column can be. I wonder if even Humphrey can recall what this one was all about.

Hump, as Ricardo Monteban, welcomes the year 2000, along with his “mini-me” Herve Villechaize.

Another favorite from the end of the last century, a moonshine Hump wrecking the Teeveemobile for the umpteenth time – be it in pencil or ink, the man shows no mercy behind the wheel.

Hump’s afro-sportin’ cousin, taking it to the streets for the CW. From Feb. 2, 2006.

And, finally, from 2000, The Hump has had enough, letting it all go – in glorious Technicolor (well, you can imagine, anyway).