Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Back From Baltimore

That was fun.

Suzanne and I got a late start leaving Richmond Friday night and so we didn't get to the Marriott until almost 11:00 even though it was less than three hours on the road. We spent most of the drive trying to find the Presidential debate on the radio. About 45 minutes out, we succeeded. We stopped by the hotel bar to see if anyone we recognized was hanging out. No such luck so, after a quick drink, we headed to the room and some much-needed sleep.

Saturday was strange. We lugged all our Scholarship stuff over to the convention center, a bit of a longer haul than the one in Charlotte. Fortunately, we'd made the early decision to use the car to haul the heavier stuff over. When we got there, however, we discovered that because of a snafu with the convention center, we didn't have a table to set up on. Marc and Brad of the Baltimore Convention bent over backwards and really hustled and took care of the problem by Sunday so we only lost one day. They really came through for us because I know from experience that getting convention centers to do anything on short notice is like trying to tug a cruise ship with sailboat.

While I was a little disappointed that we couldn't set up right away, Todd was a sweetheart and put out the donation jar so we still pulled in a pretty nice sum on Saturday. Mike's fans in Baltimore were out in force and they were very friendly and very generous. I was also glad to have a day to wander around the convention floor and picked up some books I'd been looking for. There were a lot of great deals and I wish I could have kept looking longer. But I always feel that way.

Saturday night, Marc and Brad made sure we had tickets to the Harvey Awards. We were expecting a quick presentation with drinks and out. What we got was a terrific dinner, an entertaining show (Scott Kurtz, as usual, brought the house down.) and an all-around lovely evening with some great company. Brad and his wife were seated at the table with us along with Craig, Trish, Todd and Sharon. Brad disappeared before dessert to take care of something so he missed out on the amazing chocolate mousse-thingy. When we were seated, we were surprised with goodie bags in our seats with some nice books including the multi-nominated DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, which I can't wait to read. Darwyn Cooke won for Best Cartoonist which thrilled me no end but he was sick with some kind of bug and couldn't attend the award show. (He was feeling well enough on Sunday to put in an appearance at the convention, thankfully, though I didn't get to see him.) The highlight of the evening was Nick Cardy's Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to him by the always-entertaining Todd DeZago. Nick was obviously having a great time and it really was his night. In fact, he got a standing ovation. I wish Mike had been there to see it. He would have loved it.

Sunday was a bit of a blur. We had our table and were able to set up. We spent most of the day selling stuff and taking in donations for the Scholarship Fund. Despite only having one day, Baltimore made sure our trip wasn't wasted. We're very grateful for that. Marc and the gang made sure we were treated like kings and we are so grateful for everything they did for us. They really did go above and beyond for us. 

Mike's friends (including Cully Hamner, Scott Kurtz, Rich Faber, Jamar Nicholas, and many others) were so thoughtful and generous to us and I can't thank them all enough. To be honest, I sometimes feel a little guilty at all the kindness Suzanne and I have received. I feel a little unworthy. All these folks have allowed us into their world and we are always a little afraid we're overstaying our welcome. I hope that never becomes the case because we love them all.

As we were saying goodbye to our friend Rich Faber, we had one of the highlights of our weekend. Jamal Igle (one of my favorite artists) happened by with his new daughter. She is so adorable and he was obviously a proud papa. He was absolutely beaming. Suzanne fell in love instantly and I probably had a big stupid grin on my face. Jamal kindly allowed us chat him up while Suze played with her.

Anyway, the goodbyes were long and reluctant but we had to hit the road. By 6:30, we were on the way home, looking forward to a long night's sleep. We were exhausted.

All in all, we had a great time. Marc Nathan puts on one hell of a great convention. It's a lot like Heroes in that it's a comic convention first and foremost. Not a whole lot of that Hollywood nonsense.  It is one of my great regrets that I never went to Baltimore with Mike. 2007 was going to be the first year Suze and I planned to attend with him. But that was not to be. I'm glad he had so many great friends to share it with.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy Halloween

No, your calendar's not wrong. It's still September. 

But I looooooove Halloween. It's my absolute favorite time of year. And for me it runs from somewhere around my birthday to just about Spring time. I love the changing colors. The dreariness and the chill in the air. The ubiquitous candy at work. The jack o' lanterns on porches. Everything about it. 

But most of all, I love the horror movies. Not that torture-porn crap or PG-13 pap they call horror these days. But the good old fashioned horror of yesteryear. The spooky chillers like THE EXORCIST. The great old monster movies put out by Universal and Hammer Studios and the cool latex-heavy creature features of the Eighties like John Carpenter's THE THING. I love this stuff so much I even endure the commercial-infested excuse for a network called AMC's movie marathons every year. I simply can't get enough of it. Every week, I've been going to Best Buy and Circuit City, hoping they've stocked up on horror movies like they do every Halloween. Sadly, this is not yet the case. And, sadder still, I've already gotten just about every horror movie I'm interested in. Christian and I are both the horror movie equivalents of "the man who has everything." Christian is worse than I am in this regard. He buys everything. I just buy the stuff I love. 

That's not to say my collection is better. He definitely wins that distinction. As Mike once told me, my movie collection is "90% shit." But it's shit I love. And that includes MONSTER SQUAD which inspired my new (temporary) banner.

Obviously, there have been a couple slow days at work. I couldn't really risk working on the 'Haps in plain view but working on a little sketch like this in my down time doesn't really attract much attention. And, damn, it was fun. I threw in the antagonist from my as-yet unwritten story, just for practice. I really, really like how it turned out. Which is good, because it's going to be up there for a while.

Okay, we're off to Baltimore tomorrow. I'm looking forward to seeing some of you there.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Charlie's No Angel

I don't have any art to post. I just finished up page four and sent it off to C-bag for inks. I'm a little embarrassed at how ungodly slow I've been on this. I should have been done weeks ago. I tend to fidget too much with it, I guess. I drew one panel several times. (No, Todd. Not that one.) I have been doodling at work in my downtime but there's nothing worth showing. I'm toying with the idea of doing a Halloween-themed header for the blog. That has me kind of excited. But I've got a lot going on including a mountain of paperwork I thought I was done with but which has circled around and flanked me, soooo...

Anyway, for you animal lovers, I promised the oh-so-riveting story of Charlie's vicious-smelling poop. 

Last May, when we were taking Charlie down for his first trip to Harker's Island with his cousin Toonces, (who's been down about thirty times by now) he crapped in his cage before we'd gone five miles. It was absolutely horrible. We were laughing and gagging and almost wrecked. We pulled over and had to improvise to get it cleaned up without him running out into traffic. Toonces seemed mortified by the whole experience as if Charlie was an embarrassment to catdom. 

He's a sweet, affectionate cat and we love him dearly but Charlie is like Oscar Madison to Tooncie's Felix Unger. While Toonces is content wander quietly from room to room and occasionally sit in my lap or in the window, Charlie tears through the house like a Tasmanian Devil. He knocks breakable things off high perches, unplugs DVRs in mid-recording, tips drinks over onto important papers and howls at the moon at two in the morning when everyone else is trying to sleep. When Toonces jumps into my lap, it's like a leaf fluttering on a gentle breeze. Charlie, on the other hand, leaps onto my thighs and punches me in the nuts two or three times, screaming, "Haiiiii-yah!" And while Toonces holds his mookie stinks for the entire six-hour drive every time like a gentleman, Charlie likes to announce his presence to his fellow travelers. With his butt.

This trip, we were ready. We didn't really think he'd do it again but we wanted to be sure. We went armed with paper towels, plastic bags and sanitary wipes and had lined his carrier with newspaper. Sure enough, about twenty minutes into the trip, Suzanne was in mid-sentence: "I think maybe we should stop by and see—OH MY GOD! HE SHIT IN HIS CAGE AGAIN!!!" We lowered the windows and, hands over mouths, raced to the next exit and into a gas station parking lot. Screeching to a halt, we both rolled out the doors and onto the pavement laughing hysterically, gasping for breath. It was like a scene out of a Cheech and Chong movie. You have to understand. Charlie's poops are HUGE. He should charge by the pound. And the smell is like something out of a horror movie. I kept wishing for that stuff Jodie Foster rubbed under her nose when she examined the murder victim in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. You could almost hear the "FLASH!!! SQUEEEEEEEEEEE...!"

We unhooked the carrier and turned it around and Suze held Charlie to one side while I rolled the Herculean poop up in the newspaper and shoved the mess into a bag. I replaced it with a fresh towel. I dumped the bag in the trash and, as I was walking back to the Suburban, Suze and I noticed that the lady across the parking lot had been watching us and was laughing like she was watching a sitcom.

It was pretty funny (you had to be there) but the damn car smelled like cat shit for an hour or more. I remember hoping the smell wasn't getting into the clothes. I'm not looking forward to the next time.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lordy, Lordy!

Well, I'd intended to post this on my birthday (yesterday) but I was so dog-tired after only getting a few hours of sleep the night before and a crushing week at work I just came home and collapsed. I haven't been working late but eight hours per day have been somehow more demanding this week. The lady I share my account with is out on vacation and the account itself has really revved up lately. I'm not complaining though. Again, I wasn't working late, for which I'm extremely grateful. Plus...I have a job. That's a real plus these days.

Thanks to everybody who wished me a happy birthday. Chris, you made me laugh out loud. I am feeling rickety this week. My mother-in-law says you're only as old as you feel. Well, I feel fifty. Todd and Renee, thanks very much for the e-cards. They got to me just when I needed them and brightened my day.

Suzanne and my parents reeaally went overboard with the presents this year and made me feel like King-for-a-Day. Mom and Dad took us out for sushi and I really packed it in. I'd go into detail about the loot I got but that always feels like...I don't know...boasting. (Although I sent Christian an email doing just that.)

I have to tell you, though, that Suzanne got me the most amazing gift of all time. This past year at Heroes, when the HERO Initiative was auctioning off pages from the WHAT IF? tribute to Mike, I wanted to buy page eight. That was the last thing Mike ever drew. It never made it past the layout stage but Mike's layouts were extremely tight and Karl Kesel was able to ink from that. The layout was what was on Mike's drawing table when we all got down to Durham that night. Anyway, it seemed very important to me that I own that page. Unfortunately, the auction was a little awkward, with the police and all, and it was cut short. So I wasn't entirely clear what had happened to the page. We'd sort of overextended ourselves on the trip anyway and I felt like maybe it just wasn't meant to be. Well...it was. Somehow, Suzanne managed to get her hands on the page. More impressively, she kept it a secret for three months and was able to keep Christian from telling me. When I opened that box and found that page inside, it took my breath away. I was speechless. Mom and Dad were there when I opened it and it sort of made Mom go off on a crying jag. She knew what it was and why it was important to me and she couldn't help herself. Anyway, it wasn't as big a downer as you'd think. Mom cheered up eventually and we had a good morning.

I drew the sketch at the top of the post during a few minutes of downtime the other night in anticipation of my birthday. It doesn't really have much to do with anything but it seemed appropriate at the time. My hair looked like that when I was a toddler (so blonde it was almost white) and I'm sure my finger found its way up there from time to time. It felt good to sketch something spontaneous for a change after so long. I hope you like it.

Next time, I'll go into Charlie's Godzilla-poop on the way to the beach. Oh boy!

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Suze and I are headed down for our annual vacation at her parents' place on Harker's Island, NC to celebrate our anniversary. (September 11th. Yeah, I know.) I've mentioned the place before. Her parents live in a big house they built for themselves when they retired. Across the street is the smaller cottage that they literally built themselves and the entire family has used for decades. They've recently given the entire place a facelift so it's almost a new building. Both houses look out over the water and while it's not exactly ocean front, it might as well be. At high tide, you can't tell the difference.

We're not looking forward to the drive down (5-to-6 hours) because last time Charlie pooped in his cage after the first mile (HUGE poop!) We cleaned it up, hit the road again and he howled for the next hour before tiring himself out. So we know we have that to look forward to. But he and Toonces had such a great time last trip that we know it's worth it.

Usually, I take a bag full of books and finish 3 or 4 of them during the week. This week, because of Hurricane Hannah, we're getting a late start and I plan on spending my time finishing page four of our 'Haps story and starting on our flip cover. (Um, we're still doing that, right Todd?) I'm also taking down some comics that have been piling up including a HUMAN TARGET trade paperback by Peter Milligan and Javier Pulido. I read FINAL CUT on a lark and fell in love with the characterization by Milligan but Pulido's artwork especially. It reminds me of Darwyn Cooke's and that's all I needed to see. I'm hooked. Anyway, I doubt I'll be finishing many novels this week. I am taking the last two John Sanfords, though, just in case.

Since I'll be away from the computer for at least a week, I thought I should post page two before I left. I think I'm getting a better feel for the characters here and getting a little more comfortable with the idea of it actually being published so I'm loosening up a bit. Christian did point out a couple of things that he's going to have to fix in the inks (Big's shoulder is off a little in panel three.) and some continuity things that Craig pointed out that are also being fixed. Hopefully, you'll better see what I'm talking about when Christian posts his inked version later this week.

I hope everybody has a good week. I know I will. See you when we get back.