Anatomy of a Pinup: Joust Edition

One of the things I’ve missed most with the lack of comic conventions in the wake of COVID-19 is the opportunity to visit the host cities. Return to a convention enough times, and some places become traditional haunts over the years. Sure, there are those locations tied directly to the con—the host hotel or convention center, the benefit drink-and-draw, the afterparty—but the real gems are the establishments you discover around town. Heroes Convention has become an annual event for me as a vendor or attendee, and some Charlotte, NC businesses have become regular go-tos. The crêperie for breakfast, the ramen joint for dinner, the local comic shop for good measure. One spot that’s become a regular attraction is the “barcade”—that’s bar/arcade—Abari Game Bar.


Of course, just as COVID has killed the 2020 comic convention circuit, it’s put a hurt on several food-and-beverage establishments struggling to survive in a world with social distancing and a general reticence to dine in. So it shouldn’t have been too big a surprise when I noticed some North Carolina-area comic creators I follow on Instagram share video game-oriented artwork as part of an art auction to benefit Abari. Having enjoyed the venue more than a few times, the auction seemed like a good way to give back. Of course, I was just finding out about the auction days before the start, so if I wanted to contribute, I had to do it quickly. Rather than turn the suddenly impending deadline into a stressor, I embraced it to make it a challenge—something that would make the experience both educational and enjoyable:


Given the tight timeline, I got to thinking about a pin-up—an engaging single image, rather than a sequential one-pager or comic strip. Keep it black-and-white (no time for color). I also had some new brush pens I’d been wanting to experiment with, so this was the perfect opportunity to try them out. A single-image, b&w, new brush—a perfect excuse to focus on my inking.


As for the subject matter, this direction helped guide my selection in subject matter. Several classic arcade characters came to mind—Dig-Dug, Pac-Man, Dragon’s Lair, Donkey Kong—but I felt their colorful stylings wouldn’t enable pushing the high-contrast embrace of black-and-white I was looking for. However, a random classic arcade game—one I never played much, but one that had a memorable visual—struck as inspiration. The game Joust had a sort of sci-fi backdrop, but the main characters were more medieval, with jousters donned like knights in shining armor. And their trusty steeds weren’t horses, but rather giant ostriches. Ostriches, often duotone in black-and-white feathers and pink flesh, set against a pitch-black night?  Just about perfect.

Steve Stegelin

Editor, Artist, Letterer, Colorist Steve is the long-running cartoonist at the Charleston, SC alt-weekly Charleston City Paper, where he skewers politicians and criminals (and criminal politicians) alike with editorial cartoons and police blotter illustrations every issue. Steve was best known his indie comic book (and subsequent webcomic)  BOONDOGGLE