Friday, February 22, 2008


This marks my 100th post on this blog. When I first started it last May, it was supposed to be a creative outlet for me. An excuse to draw. I have a good job but the hours are horrible and whatever creativity goes into our product is somebody else’s, not mine. Also, working in advertising doesn’t allow much time for any serious outside pursuits so I’ve never been able to spend much time working on the comic book stuff I’ve always wanted to do. But I’m a compulsive doodler and this was going to be my incentive to do more than draw Tippy the turtle on the corner of an envelope. It was working great. I actually felt like I was improving for the first time since high school. I even got into a little posting competition with my buddy Leaf, trying to outdo him by posting more than him. It was a lot of fun, even though few people but me, Leaf and Mike ever commented.

Sadly, I could never have predicted how soon it would become an emotional outlet and a way to stay connected with Mike’s friends and the folks who posted on his site after his passing. Though it isn’t what I planned, I’m very grateful to be able to have such an outlet and I’m grateful for the support of all the folks who’ve commented and given me their shoulder to cry on. Now that I’ve reached this milestone, I’m going to try to be a bit more chipper. I can’t promise to post drawings more frequently. In fact, I suspect my output may dwindle. My free time seems to become less and less and my work on the children’s horror story I was writing has suffered badly. I really want to put the entire thing down on paper. I read a great quote today and it feels especially relevant to me. “Work at your passions as if your days are numbered. Because they are.”

I still have the Perhapanauts pinup to finish (almost there) and I promised Todd I’d work on the Tomorrow Kids project with him for fun. Maybe if he’s willing, I can post some of that here as I finish it. So I have a lot to fill my evenings. (When I’m not stuck here at work as I am this lonely Friday night.)

I thought I’d celebrate my 100th post with my old buddies Heat-Ray, Domolisher and Skull. They even had Suzanne bake me a cake, which it appears Tombstone has already helped himself to. I was planning on doing it up proper, inking and coloring it. (What you see above was just the underdrawing.) But work has been brutal and I was afraid it would be weeks before I finished it and I wouldn’t be able to post until it was done. So I bit the bullet and posted this. Unfortunately, this wasn’t meant to be seen in this state and, for the underdrawing, I used the paper in a crappy sketchbook they give us at the agency to draw in. It’s the worst, grainiest paper I’ve ever used. I guess they don’t want us using the expensive copier paper that I usually help myself to. I also used a number 2 pencil on it and it smudged badly. The scanner really didn’t like what I was giving it and I had to work some Photoshop magic just to be able to use the scan. I also didn’t get a chance to fix the crappy anatomy on Big D’s arms. But I still got a chuckle out of this drawing, despite the flaws and was anxious to post it before I have to get back to work. So, here it is, warts and all. I hope you enjoy it. I had fun drawing it and just wish I’d had time to give it some real love.

Oh, and thanks for sticking with me this far.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Who Are We Forgetting?

Just a quickie today as I'm busy trying to squeeze three days worth of...stuff...into one afternoon. Suze and I have been training for the 10K race coming up and that always wipes out Saturday. The training only actually takes about 90 minutes or so but we're completely wasted afterwards. Yesterday was spent trying to clean up my yard (Don't get me started on neighbors who won't pick up their leaves in a timely fashion, instead allowing them to blow all over, say, my yard...) before it rained. I didn't quite make it and got drenched in the process. Today, we were off for President's Day and I've been racing to do all the things I meant to do this weekend. I started the day getting a temporary crown on a back molar that broke in two last week. I'm only 39 but I've got Dad's brittle teeth and I suppose it's only a matter of time before I need dentures. Jesus wept.

Anyway, I read an interesting bit on Rich Johnston's LYING IN THE GUTTERS in which, inspired by the passing of Steve Gerber, he lists creators who are still with us that he views as being unduly marginalized. This is something that always worried Mike as his desire to go more "cartoony" with his work was at odds with the more photorealistic tastes of today's readership. Johnston listed Christopher Priest as on of those creators still able to create great work but seemingly unable to get hired. I would agree. I loved Priest's BLACK PANTHER series and was enjoying CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE FALCON despite Bart Sears' barely comprehensible artwork. I couldn't believe it when Marvel cancelled PANTHER only to relaunch the book with Reggie Hudlin months later. Priest's version was one of the best-written books on the stands.

There are a lot of guys out there that I really miss seeing on the racks. I have no idea if they just can't get work or if they've deliberately moved on or retired. Guys like Rudy Nebres, P. Craig Russell and Keith Pollard. A lot of the guys I'd put on that list were big back in the 70's so they very well may have retired or gone Hollywood. Hopefully they weren't forced out after years of service like Herb Trimpe. Whatever the case, it really got me thinking about all the greats that came before and what's happened to them. I'd like to think there were some happy endings in there somewhere.

Okay, back to work. This house ain't gonna paint itself. Nor will the laundry wash itself. Or paperwork fill itself out...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Six Months

I’m still feeling saddened by the passing of Steve Gerber, a writer whose talents I didn’t come to fully appreciate until recent years, though I’d been a fan since childhood. With all the bad news coming out of the comics industry the last couple of days, I was a little worried about posting this but today is an important day and I didn’t want it to slip by without comment. As of today, it’s been six months since Mike died. The last half year has gone by in such a blur that I was barely aware it’s been that long. People use the phrase “seems like only yesterday” a lot but, in this case, it’s nearly true.

Not a single day has gone by since August 12 that I haven’t thought about Mike a dozen times a day, but today has been particularly tough. With Suzanne out of town, I’ve been alone with my thoughts a lot and I’ve been feeling the loss keenly. But rather than posting some morose testament to that loss, I thought I’d try to cheer myself up and wax nostalgic. So, bear with me.

The sketch above, though it didn’t really take long to draw, is based on an image that’s been popping into my head for a few days now. It isn’t a specific moment in time but, rather, representative of many similar moments. I probably needn’t explain that the two kids in the sketch are Mike and me. (Mike’s the tall one; I’m the one with the wavy blonde hair. Still got the wave. The blonde...not so much.) Mike and I were roughly 13 and 8, respectively, around the time this picture represents. We were buying our comics at a bookstore called, I believe, Peter’s Newsstand. Despite the word “newsstand” in the name, it was more of a brick and mortar bookstore. The kind of Mom ‘n’ Pop place that dotted the landscape in the days before the big chain bookstores took over the world. The direct sales market was still a twinkle in the industry’s eye and, if you wanted to buy a comic book (which still cost just 30 said so, right on the cover: “Still Only 30¢!”) you merely had to walk into any supermarket, convenience store...or newsstand.

Each Tuesday, Mom and Dad would meet us at the bus stop after school. Dad would be driving his big Volare station wagon (which I would end up driving after I stupidly wrecked my ‘67 Mustang Fastback) and we’d pile into the back seat and off we’d go into Lynchburg so Mom could do her weekly grocery shopping. This operation was a bittersweet affair. On the plus side, we’d be getting our weekly fix of new comics. On the downside, Mom hated grocery shopping and didn’t want to have to cook dinner when we got back, usually around 7:00. So we’d always stop off at K-Mart on the way home and she’d pick up these godawful submarine sandwiches at the snackbar up front. She absolutely loved them. But, by the time we got home and put away the groceries, the meat would be kind of gray and the cheap bread would be all soggy and limp from the juice from the sliced tomatoes that had leeched into it. And I...absolutely...hate...tomatoes. But you couldn’t get the damned things without the vile red mucousy disks because they were prepackaged and wrapped in cellophane. But Mom loved them and she worked hard. So we made do. There was also the drawback that, by the time we finished eating dinner, we had to rush to finish our homework before our TV shows came on. I don’t remember what was on the tube on Tuesday nights back then but it really didn’t matter. We considered just about anything a must-see.

Mom did her grocery shopping at King’s on Timberlake road. (Years later, she would switch to Food Town on Ward’s Road, which became Harris Teeter, then went away altogether.) King’s was in a shopping center with Don’s Barber Shop, where we got our hair cut and...Peter’s newsstand. It just occurred to me that every place of business back then was named after a guy who worked there. Anyway, when Mom went into King’s, Dad would pull out his wallet and give us our allowance. Over the years, it had crept up from 50¢ to 75¢ to a dollar until, at this point, we’d reached a lucrative $2.00. Looking back, the $2.00 was pretty generous of Dad. That was a lot of scratch back then and neither Mike nor I did much to earn it. I had no chores at that age and Mike only had to clean off the table after dinner. I took over for him when he got a job. And that was it. With that much money, we were able to get a handful of comics each and still have money left over for a snack or, if we saved it, we could buy back issues at the flea market on the weekend.

We'd thank Dad and run down to the bookstore. Sometimes he'd join us but most of the time he'd stay in the car and read the newspaper. The comics were in the back of the store, at the end of an aisle of paperbacks on a couple of spinner racks. (Later, they were moved into the line-of-sight of the register, presumably due to shoplifters.) Being the oldest, Mike got to spin the racks. He had a strange rule that, even then, never made any sense to me. Though we kept separate collections and guarded them with our lives, he wouldn't allow me to buy the same books he did. He thought it was a waste of money to buy two copies of the same book. If I wanted to read one of his books, I had but to ask. I pointed out repeatedly that there would come a time when we didn't live under the same roof. Besides, he already had the collector mentality by then and didn't like me touching the books. He had much more sophisticated tastes than I did. He bought books like MASTER OF KUNG FU, Jim Starlin's CAPTAIN MARVEL, Claremont and Byrne's X-MEN and Kirby's ETERNALS. I was left with MARVEL FUN 'n' GAMES, SPIDEY SUPER STORIES, MARVEL TEAM-UP, CASPER and RICHIE RICH.

Mike was also starting to become the artist we all loved and was following particular artists from book to book. It drove him crazy when one of his favorite artists switched over to one of the books I was collecting. When John Byrne was drawing MARVEL TEAM-UP, Mike talked me into trading the series for one of his books. I don't remember which. Eventually, this sort of thing became a habit. We'd trade collections back and forth constantly. I usually came out on the short end of this, ending up with books like SPIDER-WOMAN, STEEL or FIRESTORM. Then again, I did wind up with hefty collections of THE INCREDIBLE HULK, CAPTAIN AMERICA and ROM that I never gave up. But the only time I ever regretted a trade was when I started buying FANTASTIC FOUR because Marv Wolfman was using the book to wrap up his NOVA series. Mike noticed it was being drawn by Byrne and initiated a lengthy negotiation to get his hands on it. I don't remember what I got out of it but I remember getting more than one series in the deal. Unfortunately, I never got to read the book before giving it up and still haven't to this day.

Eventually the direct market emerged and there were books we wanted that were not available on the newsstand like MICRONAUTS and DAZZLER. (Yes, I bought every issue.) I ended up subscribing to MICRONAUTS until Mike got his driver's license and started driving us to shops like Coin World, downtown which carried these direct-only books. We stopped going with Mom and Dad on the grocery runs, now on Saturdays, and Peter's Newsstand eventually closed up shop. The entire shopping center is gone now and I think there's a hardware store in it's place. Whenever I'm in Lynchburg and I drive down Timberlake, I give the old place a mental tip of the hat. Mike and I ended up buying our comics from many different places through the years but I think Peter's Newsstand is my favorite, if only because we did it together.

Monday, February 11, 2008

R.I.P. Steve Gerber and Roy Scheider

I've been away a while and this was just not the kind of post I wanted to return with. I just found out on the Byrne board and then on Newsarama that the great Steve Gerber has passed away after a long battle with pulmonary fibrosis.

I grew up reading a lot of Steve Gerber's books, particularly MAN-THING, HOWARD THE DUCK and, later, THE DEFENDERS. While a lot of the subtext in his stories flew waaay over my young head at the time, I could still tell that this guy was special. His stories were unlike anything being published at the time. I read and re-read, countless times, his story "Night of the Laughing Dead" in MAN-THING #5. Gerber and artist Mike Ploog created magic with that story. I've read on the Internet that Gerber was very fond of the character Omega the Unknown and it saddens me to think that a miniseries "reimagining" that character was being published at the time of his death, without his involvement. I'd been checking in on his blog in recent months after hearing of his illness and was not surprised to see him facing his own mortality with the same black humor you'd expect to find in one of his stories.

Damn it, sixty is just too young. Tonight, with Suzanne away in New York on business, I think I'll curl up in bed with the cats, open up ESSENTIAL MAN-THING Volume 1 and read "Night of the Laughing Dead" one more time in Mr. Gerber's honor.


Today we also got the news that Roy Scheider passed away on Sunday. While he had a fairly distinguished career, I knew him primarily from two movies: JAWS and BLUE THUNDER. I think we can all agree JAWS is an excellent film and Mr. Scheider was a big part of that excellence. But BLUE THUNDER was different. I loved it as a kid but, as an adult, watching it a few weeks ago on OnDemand, I had to admit it just didn't hold up. The story was dumb, the dialogue and characters kind of uninspired. But Roy Scheider made the film watchable. In just about everything I ever saw him in, he elevated the material, just by being in it. I was really, really sorry to hear he'd passed. So long, Chief Brody.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Superbowl XLII

I hope Craig Rousseau still likes me after this. Well, assuming he did anyway.

Suze and I just watch Superbowl XLII at our friend Paul's house. I think that was quite possibly the best Superbowl I've seen since the last time the Packers won. That year, my beloved Pack beat the Pats and we saw the game in an outdoor bar in the Bahamas. I was downing 2-dollar pina colodas and celebrated the win with a Cuban cigar in our hotel room.

I didn't tell Craig, but this year I was rooting for the Giants. I don't particularly care for the G-men (not since the awful treatment they gave Phil Simms years ago) but, as much as I love the Packers, I've been a fan of the Dolphins even longer. (Yes, I have two favorite teams. Sue me.) As you've probably heard more times than you cared to this year, the '72 Dolphins are the only team since the merger to have a completely undefeated season. I've watched that record stand since I was old enough to understand what it meant and I've panicked each time it was threatened. The last serious threat was back when the Chicago Bears made a run at it (was that 1986? Jeeeeez...) and the Dolphins dashed their hopes, defeating them in the best Monday Night Football game of all time.

Imagine how I felt going into tonight's game. This is the closest anyone's come to breaking the record. The Pats actually won more games this season than the Dolphins did in '72. But they didn't win the one that counted. Whew.

Forgive me, Craig.

I had mixed emotions tonight. There was the concern for the record. I didn't really like either team and thought it was going to be a blow-out in any event. And then there was the realization that this was the first Superbowl without Mike. As everyone who knew him was aware, he was as huge a football fan as I am. He didn't have a favorite team (though he liked the Chargers as a kid) and usually just rooted for the offense. But he loved the game and he would have thoroughly enjoyed this one. I felt a little guilty for having such a good time watching this game and thought of him often. Especially every time the announcers made such a big deal of Eli following in his big brother Peyton's (who won the big game last year) footsteps. I kept wishing he was here to see it. I don't think we saw a Superbowl together since maybe '91 and I can't for the life of me figure out why. It would have been a blast and I'd give anything to change that.

This post is kind of all over the place. It's late and I'm tired. I'm going to go get some sleep now, secure in the knowledge that the '72 Dolphins are still the greatest team of all time.