I had a ton of fun during this past Summer's convention cycle. We got to see old friends, make some new ones and raise a lot of money for the scholarship. (Thanks to the folks in Boston, Baltimore and Charlotte. You're the BEST!) In case you're still read this much-dormant blog and don't yet follow me on Twitter (@mattwieringo), we're (unofficially for now) up to $3,000 annually. That may not sound like much but during a 3-year school career, it adds up. And it will only grow.
Anyway, one of the folks we caught up with was Chris Kemple. I had been promising him a pin-up of his awesome Red Vengeance character for some time and just hadn't followed through. It wasn't from lack of interest. I love retro characters like The Spirit and Rocketeer and drawing Red Vengeance would really scratch that itch. I just didn't feel like I was up to the challenge. I started the thing about 20 times and was always disappointed with what I drew. I don't work well under pressure, even the self-inflicted variety.
Then, one night, I was riding home from work after spending a little downtime admiring some Art Adams drawings online and I thought, "What would Art Adams do with this?" The answer was obvious. An ape in a tuxedo! Seemed perfect for the era in which Red Vengeance lives and, besides, sometimes you just gotta draw a gorilla in a monkey suit. I went home and had my underdrawing done that night. I thought it would be funny for my buddy and (briefly) Perhapanauts inker Christian Leaf if I threw in a metric ton of bricks and straight lines to ink as payback for what I put him through during our two-part 'Haps western. After spending six hours of three nights inking in those bricks, I feel your pain, buddy! Karma's a bitch. Forgive me?
So, here it is. I hope you like it. I had a blast drawing it. Shipping it off to Chris next week.
It's been a loooong time between posts. I've been extremely busy at work and otherwise and any drawings I've done have either been for projects I can't discuss or just weren't worth posting. I've had a lot of drawing obligations that have waited while I put in some long hours at work (including my first-ever 100 hour week) and I felt that if people saw me posting blog sketches instead of the drawings I was supposed to be producing, I'd have some 'splainin' to do.
That changed with the upcoming Boston Comicon. Suze and I are setting up at next weekend's convention (April 20th-21st if you're reading this some time down the road.) to raise money for the Mike Wieringo Scholarship Fund and so I figured it was time I stopped making excuses and drew the illustration I'd promised Bob Shaw at last year's show. I was excited because meeting my obligation would also give me a reason to post here again. Twitter has been a great place to get out random thoughts but it's not so great for posting artwork.
Then today happened.
The bombings at the Boston Marathon. I'll refrain from spewing vitriol at the monster(s) responsible because, like a lot of you, I imagine, I'm just too stunned and horrified to do anything but send good thoughts to our friends, brothers and sisters in Beantown.
The subject of the drawing made me think twice about posting it. I've not read the SANDMAN books but it's my understanding that the character in my drawing (I had to look her up online to see what she looked like) is an actual physical personification of Death.
Given today's events, you can see why I thought posting this might be in poor taste. Please know it wasn't intentional and that Bob requested the drawing a year ago, the last time I saw him. I hope you like it. I do. And that's sort of new for me. I had a real blast drawing it.
(An interesting aside. I had drawn a completely different first pass underdrawing for this piece at work and brought it home to trace up. Something came up and I set the drawing aside for a day or so. Then, one night, I came home from work to find that our scrappy little kitten Danger had, well...eaten it. Before he came to live with us, Danger was a street kitty and I guess he made himself a few paper nests. Turns out he did me a favor. I like this version much better and I even skipped the underdrawing and drew right on the board.)
Last year on this date, I think I mentioned that I really didn't want to keep marking the occasion of Mike's passing here. But I've realized that to not make note of it would be wrong. Suzanne and I get a little morose this time of year and posting here helps me "get the poison out" a little. I'm going to mark the date a little differently this time.
By now, everyone knows how much Mike loved animals, particularly cats. That wasn't exclusive to him. The Wieringos, at least our immediate family, are all cat lovers. So, I think it's appropriate that, this week, Suzanne and I adopted a sweet little kitty that Suzanne has named Danger. Danger has had the most rough beginning to his life that anyone could imagine.
I'll start at the beginning.
After Toonces died a year ago, Suze and I knew we would eventually get another cat. There could be no replacing him but Charlie had never spent much time alone. Mike worked at home and when we brought him in to live with us, he had Toonces to hang out with. So the last year has been a little lonely for him. Suze and I joked that we needed to get him a "snack", meaning a little kitten to play with. We kept putting it off because we didn't know how he would react to a new cat in the house and it was still too soon after Toonces. We weren't ready.
Then the sister of one of my co-workers was coming back from a road trip and stopped at a diner in Charles City. She and her traveling companion noticed a cat in the parking lot, a cute little gray tabby, not much more than a kitten. Where his tail used to be was a raw, bloody stump. Something had torn his tail off. The people in the diner said the kitten had been hanging around the diner and they'd been feeding it. The two ladies left but couldn't get the kitten out of their heads. They realized they couldn't leave him there like that and went back and retrieved him.
Back in Richmond, they took the cat to their vet and, after several visits, lots of antibiotics, and a surgery to amputate the rest of his tail, he seemed to be on the mend. He also had ear mites, worms and back pain. But he never lost his playful good cheer.
My co-worker had heard me mention that we were thinking about getting a friend for Charlie and asked if we wanted to adopt the little guy. We went to meet him and Suze fell in love instantly. I wasn't so sure. He had so many health problems, I didn't know if we could give him the attention he needed with our work schedule. But my co-worker's sister said she'd keep him until his tail was healed up and he was so adorable. So we agreed to adopt him.
Last week, we brought him home. We continued with his antibiotic regimen and kept him in a large cage in the basement, away from Charlie. He must have been lonely down there but would perk right up when we would go down to spend time with him. And he was a little chow hound. His butt wasn't pretty but seemed to be healing.
Then, last Wednesday night, I came home late and Suze told me that Danger was acting like his wound was hurting him. I went down to look and he had blood running down his hind legs. I panicked and immediately ran him to the emergency vet in Carytown. They kept him for two days and nights and discovered that his infection had gotten much worse. He had an abscess near his tail. The doctor said it looked like whatever had taken his tail had bitten his hind quarters and that had started the infection. It was pretty bad.
They cleaned up his abscess and hit him with some heavy antibiotics. They said we needed to keep a close eye on him because his skin was really thin at this point and may tear. When we came to pick him up, he looked so pitiful with his arm bandaged where the I.V. was and the little blue E cone he's had on since the first day we met him. We took him home.
We cleared all the furniture out of one of our guest rooms and set up the cage in there where we would have quicker access to him and he'd have a nicer area to play in when we let him out for exercise. We started him on the antibiotics cycle we were given. It's pretty powerful and they warned us not to let it sit in his mouth or throat. Fortunately, the little guy eats like a garbage disposal and we just tuck the pill in his food and it's gone in seconds.
Yesterday morning, I went in to check on him and it seemed like the skin on his entire right buttock had sloughed off. There was nothing but raw meat. Again, we bundled him up and ran him to the vet. The same doctor was there and her face fell when she saw him. Our hearts sank. She took him back and about fifteen minutes later came back to tell us that this was a good thing. Yes, he had an open wound but, with proper care, it should heal nicely.
For the last 24 hours, he's been running around the guest room as if he was perfectly healthy. Suze and I are relieved beyond words. The emotional rollercoaster we've been on since bringing him home has left us drained. Little Danger still isn't in the clear but his outlook is much better than it was when my co-worker's sister found him in that parking lot. Suze and I have laughed and cried more in the last week than we have in some time. Charlie has parked himself outside the guest room and knows something is up. We're not going to introduce them until Danger is fully healed up and given a clean bill of health. We're crossing our fingers.
What's all this got to do with Mike? A couple of things.
This is the fifth anniversary of Mike's death and it's almost like the universe knew we needed something to take our minds off that fact and sent us little Danger. Danger's story is so similar to Charlie's and their personalities are so much alike. I know Mike would have instantly fallen in love with his new "nephew."
Second, little Danger's veterinary care has been pretty expensive, I'm not gonna lie. Frankly, without the buffer of insurance, it's actually higher than my own recent medical bills. It's been worth every penny but, under normal circumstances, we'd be a little panicky about it. We are most definitely not rich. But Mike left behind some money. After Mike died, lots of well-meaning folks had suggestions for what we should do with it. Go on a trip. Buy a new car. We've done none of that. Each year, we've siphoned off what the law says we have to and donated that either to an animal shelter or to the scholarship fund. This year, it's going to Danger. We've adopted a "money is no object" attitude toward his care.
He's an incredibly sweet, loving cat and he deserves every chance at life we can give him. It's what Mike would do. We know this because he did it himself. With Charlie. Now he's helping us do the same for Danger.
I would be remiss if I didn't end this with a reminder that there's still one day left to donate to the M-Day benefit for the Hero Initiative in honor of Mike and the great writer/editor Mark Gruenwald. If you can, please contribute.
Anyone who comes here with any frequency knows how I felt, and feel, about my brother Mike Wieringo. But I can't remember whether or not I've mentioned how much affection I have for the late Mark Gruenwald.
Mr. Gruenwald was an editor and writer at Marvel Comics back when I was a little bitty fan avidly reading his CAPTAIN AMERICA, QUASAR and SQUADRON SUPREME books. He was one of my favorite writers and when I was old enough to start submitting plot samples to Marvel, he was the first editor I sent them to. Even for books he wasn't editing. I sent my writing samples to a lot of editors, in fact, and got a lot of form rejection letters. Mark Gruenwald was the only one to send me a personal reply. I almost jumped out of my skin. I didn't care that my plot was resoundingly rejected. Mark had taken the time to write a reply and compliment me on my grasp of the characters. Then he pointed out what I did wrong and I paid attention. He also suggested I stop sending editors (him specifically) submissions for books they didn't edit. That part I ignored. And you know what? He replied to the next one anyway. I still have those letters stored away somewhere and I treasure them. After I got enough rejections, I thought maybe writing comics wasn't for me and when summer was over, I went back to college and forgot about it.
In 1996, I was very saddened to hear (and I believe it was Mike that told me) that Mark Gruenwald had passed away unexpectedly at the age of 44. On August 12th. We tend to lose a lot of really talented people at a young age but little did I realize how that age and date would come back to haunt me...and Mike. As you know, Mike also died on August 12th at the age of 44. Every year, especially this fifth anniversary of Mike's passing, I get a little uptight as August 12th approaches. I remember that date in vivid detail and it's not a time I like to think about. But now Marvel editor Tom Breevort and Jim McLauchlin of The Hero Initiative have done something to shed a little sunshine on August 12th.
They've created something called M-DAY, a memorial to Mike and Mark as a way of raising money for The Hero Initiative. The goal is to raise $5,000 to go toward aiding comic industry professionals who are in need of a helping hand. As you probably know, most comic book pros are freelancers and a lot of them can't and couldn't afford health insurance and retirement plans. Especially the folks who are getting a little older that created a lot of the great characters and stories that you're seeing on the big screen these days but don't see any of the money being generated by the movies.
I don't generally like to get into Mike's personal business but one of the things that tears me up about his death was the fact that, as a freelancer, he could not afford health insurance. When Mike went to the doctor, it cost him a lot. And so he only went when he felt it was serious enough to warrant it. I'm convinced that Mike would likely still be with us if he'd had health insurance.
This is a great cause. They are there for the people who were there for me when I was younger, reading comics as an escape from being a poor, fat kid with glasses and braces. They created, and are creating, the worlds and characters that are making other people rich and some of them need a little help. I know times are rough and money is tight. But I'm hoping you can spare a little money for The Hero Initiative. If you can, please go to the link below and donate a little money, even if it's just a couple of bucks, and give me something to smile about when I think of August 12th.
Woo-hoo! As promised, The Mike Wieringo Scholarship's website is now live. It's a humble affair but it will be where Suzanne and I go to post our updates regarding the fund. I tend to get a little personal here (surgery...yuck!) and this way, I can keep the fund posts strictly business. I'm so excited and, apparently, not as dumb as I look. I figured out the technical stuff all on my little lonesome.
So go check out www.ringoscholarship.com and let me know what you think. It's a little threadbare right now but I'll be updating soon.