I’m gonna be dead in eight hours…

General / 11 August 2020



“Gem from the Books of Dusk” will be an illustrated novel to be released in December of 2020.

A  pulp-fueled mashup of a modern noir western and urban fantasy set in the Mojave Desert during the 1980s.

From the corrupt streets of Palm City to the desolate wilderness of the Mojave Desert, a drifter and a refugee from the future fight for their lives.

Chapter One

Mojave Desert
In another America
1984 AD

I’m gonna be dead in eight hours…

It’s 98 degrees and midnight in Palm City. You could say the good times left Palm City a long time ago, but I don’t know if it ever had a good time—maybe its always been a sea of mean asphalt in the middle of the desert.

It’s all down-and-out except for the jail. Incarceration is a growth industry, and the Palm City Jail is a first-class rat trap, all shiny and new. It’s downtown at 7th and Main, next to the dowdy old courthouse, in a sort of a weird pride-of-place location. I mean, what does it say if your finest public building is a jail?

You can see the community pride in the jail by its landscaping, grass out front, and tall palm trees at each corner of the building. The foliage might be half-dead due to the drought and water restrictions but, still, it shows the commitment to law and order.

City jails, especially in the sticks, are usually Cracker Jack boxes. Here in Palm City, it’s one of those rare hi-tech lockups, six-stories tall, no windows, cameras, security checkpoints, no-way-in-or-out except through the electronically locked steel doors at ground level. It’s as close to a super-max as any jail can get. It broods over this town, a faceless monolith, a message to the transient population, the poor, the migrants, the drifters: stay in line.

This jail, the fortress-like Main Sheriff’s Station out along the highway, the substations scattered throughout the county are all part of Sheriff Don Carstairs’  personal fiefdom.

On the top floor of the Palm City Jail is the AD-SEG Unit, where the county houses its most violent offenders.

I’m one of them.

I know a lot about this jail, I’ve been studying it for the last six months—not much else to do sitting in this cell.

This is my story, and I’ll tell it like it happened. This isn’t the beginning, but it’s a good enough place to start.

My name is John Starrett.

I’m gonna be dead in eight hours…

Sitting beneath the concrete dinosaur, I watched my car burn…

General / 14 July 2020

The artist circa 2000 with his horse, Chris.

Why talk about any of this now?
I was recently in a video conference with some other Cauldron creators from around the world when the suggestion came up that everyone should share more personal background with readers of our works. I never talk about anything even slightly personal online, it’s just the way I am. I mean, why should anybody be interested?  After some thought, I felt I could distill the past 50 or so years of my life into some brief bullet-pointed copy that might be slightly amusing.

Here it is:

My life as an artist

Sitting beneath the concrete dinosaur, I watched my car burn…

My name is Jon Gerung.
I’m 65, a retired multimedia designer.

Never dropout
I went to Arizona State University for a couple of years or so.
Dropped out in 1980, headed West to California to look for work–needed money. 

Disaster in the desert
In the middle of the night, crossing the Sonoran Desert, my junker of a car started to overheat. I got off at the next exit at Cabazon, and the engine is already smoking. A Gas Station attendant threw me a fire extinguisher (he didn’t want to get near it and who could blame him) to put out the burgeoning flames.

The dinosaur
Cabazon is part of that unique and inexplicable American tradition of Roadside Attractions. It has a concrete menagerie of giant dinosaurs to lure travelers into stopping at the gas station and “restaurant.” 

It’s 90 degrees and midnight. I’m sitting on the foot of the Brontosaurus with a vast “EAT” sign hypnotically pulsating over my shoulder, watching my smoldering wreck of a car. After a long while, I pulled my portfolio out of the car, put what clothing and paperback books that would fit into a backpack and started the long hitch (a hundred miles or so) into Civilization.

The portfolio 
About the portfolio, this is pre-digital, those things were massive. It’s like carrying a billboard sign in a leather case. Trying to hitch with that was almost impossible. I had to hide it behind the bushes just to get somebody to stop and then grab it quickly; jump in before they could speed away. 

Maybe they thought it was a very flat chainsaw case. It was the ’80s–so who knows?

The Fairlane
I roomed with my brother for a while in  Riverside, east of LA. I was car-less in California, which is it’s own particular kind of Hell until I could put together $500 to buy a ‘64 Ford Fairlane. The color was maybe brown or maybe grey, but for sure it was a tank, more steel in it than any ten modern cars. I wish I still had the Fairlane it‘d be the perfect vehicle to sit out the Apocalypse in,  I mean, why dig a bomb shelter when you can drive one.

Ten years chained to the oar 
Soon, I was off on my own again in the Fairlane and spent the next ten years in every bad art job you could get. Remember, it’s pre-digital, everything you do with a mouse click now has to be done by hand and re-done by hand and re-done by hand. You get the idea. 

It was like Sisyphus was the Patron Saint to all of us, low-end graphic artists. 

There were a lot of really god-awful art gigs back then, and as I said, I had them all, totally non-creative, galley slave type of work (paste-up that ad/ pull that oar).

The loser gets lucky
A bright spot, though, I met my future wife, the gorgeous Barbara, AKA, Suggy. Which I take as proof that we don’t live in an entirely insouciant universe or put more viscerally, God isn’t always pissing down your back.

Adios advertising 
In 1990, I finally got out of Advertising and into Editorial work at a Newspaper which I’m sure sounds terrible to you young designers, but it was a very cool job. 

I did something different every day: illustrations, infographics, page designs, daily projects, long-term projects, and towards the end of the ’90s, multimedia. Digital is in full swing. We were doing some cutting-edge work.  I worked with a lot of great folks at the DN, even if the overall company was grossly mismanaged (something that would cause me trouble down the line).

My wife and I had moved up to a little ranchette (3 acres) in the High Desert where we could have horses. It was a long commute to my job. In California, gridlock is your destiny.

The Great Recession
Then (play some ominous music here), the Great Recession of 2008. I lasted another year or so and then was out of work. I had a great Flash portfolio site, literally thousands of screens of interactive design, infographics, animated illustrations. 

It was maybe a little too good, and I was definitely too old. 

Interviews from Hell
One hilarious interview at Comcast, I was running through my site with the Art Director (and I can tell she’s  getting really and I mean really upset with me but I don’t know why), when she stops me cold and asks, “Why do you want to work here?” I didn’t say anything, ’cause, I’m talking to someone whose sliding down a Greased Karmic Career Chute who has never had and never will have to pay any dues and, you know,  I need some work. I didn’t get that job.

I did get some onsite gigs but switched to offsite freelance, age not a factor there. I worked with some good people for the next eight years or so but also a lot of pinheads. 

I managed to get to retirement.

So long, guys
Seriously, a lot of people didn’t, including my two best friends.

Rusty Pony
My first motion comic was in 1997 using animated gifs, about a time-traveling cowgirl, Rusty Pony. I modeled the character on my wife, but working and commuting full-time didn’t leave much time for personal work.

In more recent years, I have had a chance to get back to comics, static and motion managing to finish a graphic novel, “Mercy is Just My Name.” It was tough going, I knew how I wanted it to look, but I don’t have that kind of natural drawing ability. Loads of work redrawing and redrawing to get it where I wanted it.

The Great American Novel (are you kidding me?)
Right now, I’m working on a prose novel, which is a mashup of Modern Noir Western and a Dying Earth story. I’ll let you guys know how it goes…

Riding off into the sunset

General / 27 April 2020

“Mercy is Just My Name” has finished its run on artstation. If you missed it, you can check it out here.

“Mercy” is a mammoth, 223-page alternative history – a wild mashup of supernatural, steampunk and western.

“Mercy” has had a great response here on artstation and I want to thank all the good people on this platform that have followed the book.

 In particular, I would like to thank the following individuals:

My wife, Barbara, (A.K.A. the long-suffering “Suggy“) who has put up with me while I did all this nonsense.

Frank van Meer who supported this series since it started on Tapas, years ago. Although English is not Frank’s native language, he has found numerous spelling errors that my idiot proofreader missed. Okay, yes, alright! I am my own proofreader…

Sarah Ashley who did a short (actually long) season in Hell with me at the DN, a facebook warrior who has consistently supported the comic on that crazy platform.

The Cauldron Crew
My fellow  “Don Quixotes” who are all creating in the  new art form of motion books:
Damien Tomaselli

Bernd Höllen


Jonathan Baker

Li-Hua Liu (Rita)


The Madefire Crew 
For always promoting my books on their app.

The future
Hopefully, I will be able to publish all 7 issues of “Mercy”  as motion books in the HTML5 format.

Also, I intend to try to find a larger audience for “Mercy” and  will be porting static versions to different sites/platforms.

Your help
If you liked the series, please help spread the word. Click the share buttons at the bottom of the page.

Meanwhile (and again, what a great comic book word that is!), here are the other series I'm working on:


Jon Gerung

Bernd Höllen’s new graphic novel

General / 22 April 2020

The Cauldron’s Motion Book Artist Extraordinaire, Bernd Höllen, is launching a kickstarter to fund his most recent graphic novel project, “Color Blind.” Check it out– it looks amazing!

My God! It’s like I’m drawing a romance comic!

General / 10 April 2020

My God! It’s like I’m drawing a romance comic!

I’ve responded to some useful critiques here on artstation about my graphic novel, “Mercy is Just My Name.”

Some felt that I compressed some of the backstories to the point of not explaining the character’s motivations.

 Particularly that of Juliette Marsh. So I‘ve gone back and put in some of the originally-planned content and split issue 5 into two separate issues.

My God! The result is that the new issue 6 is almost ’60s Marvel romance comic! Don't get me wrong! There’s still zombies, killer 19th-century robots, steampunk submarines and human sacrifice but it’s also got teen girl BFFs and an even sappier love triangle. Perish Forbid!

So some new art here in this blog entry and for those of those of you so bored that you are watching paint dry, you can check out the new issue 5, here, (there is some creepy Innsmouth stuff in it).

Jon Gerung


A Horror from Beyond the Stars… the Size of Godzilla!

General / 17 March 2020

So far in “Mercy is Just My Name,”  we’ve had steampunk cyborgs, robots, airships, submarines, werewolves, ghosts, vampires, zombies, and now in this final issue… it's time for the…
 Lovecraftian Kaiju!

Lovecraftian:  a subgenre of horror fiction that emphasizes the cosmic horror of the unknown, named after author H. P. Lovecraft.

Kaiju:  Japanese for “strange beast.”  It comes from those Japanese films featuring giant monsters.

Lovecraftian Kaiju: we’re talking,  “A Horror from Beyond the Stars… the Size of Godzilla!” 


Never coming this way again
Mercy’s adventures are over with this issue and I won't be revisiting her world again, not for a lack of interest on my part but due to the series limited commercial success. 

I'm always very critical of my own work and certainly this graphic novel has its problems, but overall, I think it’s kind of cool.

If you agree, help me spread the word …

The final episode of “Mercy is Just My Name” starts today, here on artstation.

Jon Gerung

Take your mind off your troubles …

General / 16 March 2020

“Mercy is Just My Name 5” has just finished its run on artstation.

If you missed it, click here and scroll DOWN for more pages.

Amid these days of Covid-19 fear, take a break, stay home and enjoy this FREE graphic novel.

You can start with this last issue, or start at the beginning with issue 1.

Stay safe in the days ahead.

Jon Gerung

If it’s foaming at the mouth, you just have to put it down…

General / 21 February 2020

“If it’s foaming at the mouth, you just have to put it down,” Sister Mercy’s words of wisdom to her young ward, Pet, in episode 5 of “Mercy is Just My Name,“ starting here on artstation today.

“Mercy 5” kicks off the final big showdown of the series on the shores of the Seas of Cortez. Loads of action, plot twists as well as  a flashback to Mercy’s younger years where we find out why she’s wrapped so tight.

 I like this issue, it has some clever plot points, word play, decent art and a good pace. 

 It’s been fun designing the zombies, submarines, airships, Mercy‘s medicine wagon and all the steampunk paraphernalia. We finally get to see all the characters storylines intersect for these last too issues – it’s taken some work to get here…

Say it again: Creating is hard!
As I’ve said before, creating a graphic novel is a lot cheaper than making a movie, it just takes five-times as long…

This whole process has given me  vastly more respect for anybody that puts themselves out there to creative a visual narrative piece of fiction and actually manages to get it done.

Stay tuned
“Mercy is Just My Name 5 : The Crawling Chaos” starts it’s run today…
Two issues left. The End is neigh…

Jon Gerung

Another one bites the dust.

General / 15 February 2020

“Mercy is Just My Name 4: The Crawling Chaos 1” has finished its run here, on artstation.

If you missed it, click here and scroll DOWN for more pages.

This issue is packed with zombies, steampunk submarines, cyborgs, automatons, battles, mad experiments gone wrong, plots to destroy the world, sappy love triangles and human sacrifice!

The earlier issues are available as motion books (flash-required or download the Madefire app) and static comics, here.

I will be taking a little break before publishing the final two issues of “Mercy” here, on artstation. Yes, I know, a weary nation gives its thanks for that news…

Meanwhile,* here‘s a teaser image:

Isn‘t “meanwhile” one of those great comic book words?

So long Adobe!

General / 13 February 2020

So, I was watching the academy awards (always a slow-motion train wreck) when an ad for Adobe Systems came up.

Surprised! Never saw a TV ad by them before.

Always, a big fan of the company until the subscriptions and other debacles, I am now happily, an Adobe-free artist.

Alternative graphic lifestyles
I thought I would re-post my own alternatives to Adobe’s high-priced subscription plans.

Reality check
If you‘re looking to get  into the business, Adobe is unfortunately still top dog and you will have to know how to use their products extremely well. Or, if you’re working for a company that’s springing for a personal subscription, that’s great! – more power to you.  

For freelancers on a tight budget, check out some of these alternatives, especially the Affinity apps. They read and write Photoshop and illustrator files without any loss of data (in case you need to collaborate with Adobe users).

Not missing it …
This is my personal list (other artists will have different choices). Many of these apps are better than the Adobe versions and for those that are just adequate they have the advantage of being low cost or free.

The List

Illustrator alternatives:
1. Affinity Designer

Photoshop alternatives:
1. Affinity Photo

Painting software:
2. Clip Studio Paint (my favorite program!)
3. Autodesk Sketchbook (now free!)
4. Painter (expensive but deals are out there)

Indesign alternatives
1. Affinity Publisher
2. iBooks Author (free!)
3. Kindle Kids’ Book Creator (free!)
4. Kindle Comics Creator (free!)

Animate (Formerly Flash), XD, Edge alternatives:
1. Tumult Hype
2. Saola Animate

After Effects alternatives:
1. Moho Pro (expensive but deals are out there)
2. Open Toonz (free!)
3. Apple Motion

Dreamweaver alternatives:
1. Brackets (free app in case I have to edit some older HTML content).
2. Any CMS (content management system) like this one on artstation.

Audition alternatives:
1. Fission (not very feature-laden but it’s the sound editor I use the most)
2. Audacity (very ancient UI but full featured and free!)

 Almost all of the above have free tryouts.

Well, I hope this helps those of you trying to keep your costs down…