Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Suzanne and I have some fun plans for New Years Eve, so I'm going to keep this short and take a quick nap.

Rather than risk the ribbing I got last year when I left up my Christmas banner until — what, February? — I thought I'd knock this one out quickly. I was at work late last night waiting on some approvals and did this to pass the time. Took me a while to come up with an idea until it occurred to me that my favorite character has gotten short shrift on the blog, considering my affection for him. Some silly, chrome-plated interloper keeps getting in the way. So I decided to give ol' bullet head a shot at the center seat for a while. And wouldn't ya know it...

Happy New Year, everybody. Let's make it a great one.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hulk Smash...Your Presents!


I hope everyone had a great holiday. I certainly did. At the last minute (and due to the possibility that I may get called in to work through the weekend) Suzanne and I decided to go in different directions for Christmas and visit our respective families solo. It's the first time we've been apart at Christmas since we've been married and I won't pretend it wasn't difficult. But it felt right that I should see my parents this year. Mike always came up to their house for Christmas each year while I was in North Carolina with Suzanne's family as the Wieringos always got together for Thanksgiving. It was a great arrangement while it lasted but...

My folks have spent the last two Christmases alone and, while they tried to behave as if it wasn't hard on them, Suzanne and I thought they might just be putting on a brave face. So since my job was throwing a monkey wrench into our usual plans anyway, it worked out that I got to hang out at the original 'Ringo Ranch this year. The surprise snowstorm threatened to derail my trip (They live in the un-plowed wilderness of rural Virginia.) but I made it in alright. And it was great. Mom tried to kill me with food and so my vow to make it out of the holidays weighing less than I did going in didn't quite hold up. If I see another slice of chocolate pecan pie before June, I'm going to throw up. Dad and I played two marathon sessions of Cribbage (a tradition) and I finally got the better of him, "skunking" him twice.

For me, this is what Christmas is all about. Not the shopping or the wrapping or the decorating. In retrospect, those things are never as bad as I fear they will be and I won't lie and say I don't like getting presents because who doesn't? But for me, it's all about getting to hang out with my family without pressure or worrying about rushing out the door to work the next day. And having snow on the ground for once was a real pleasure. We had such a great time.

I just wish Mike could have been there with us, obviously. We really missed him a lot this year. We're at the point where the surreal aspect of him being gone has faded and the naked fact of his absence is sinking in. I think this was the first year where I didn't see something and think, "Oh! I should get that for Mike!" More like, "Damn. Mike would have liked that."

Suzanne and I got to have "our" Christmas when we got back (within an hour of each other.) Suzanne was overly generous, as always. I hope I did right by her. She's been extremely busy this year and circumstances were constantly conspiring to keep her from shopping or decorating. She loves Christmas like nobody I've ever met and the fact that she wasn't able to enjoy it as much this year was frustrating for both of us. Each year, I hope next year will be better. I guess we'll see. Crossing fingers now.

I started this drawing before the holiday but could never spend more than two minutes at a time on it and never got around to finishing it. The holidays are usually fairly busy where I work but this year felt especially brutal, particularly in my department. The entire agency had cleared out Wednesday but those of us still at work were going full steam ahead until well into the evening. When I came back to work yesterday, I saw it on my desk and thought, "Well, that was a waste of time. It's after Christmas." But I liked where it was going and I had some quiet time around lunch and went ahead and inked it. So I hope you like it and Merry (belated) Christmas.

See you next year!

P.S. (Oh, and I won't go into it for fear of embarrassing him, but I owe Brian Mulcahy a GREAT BIG PUBLIC THANK YOU this Christmas. Thank you Brian! That was surprising and completely unexpected. And very much appreciated. )

Friday, December 18, 2009

No More Grinch

I won’t bore you with the usual “Wah, I’m so busy” crap this time. I’ll just say that I’ve had a rockin’ new issue of RUE MORGUE sitting on my bedside table for three whole days and have yet to read so much as a paragraph. Draw your own conclusions.

And since I have been so (you-know-what) I haven’t been doing much drawing. I did recently finish the ‘HAPS page I was working on but not much else. But I haven’t posted in a while and since I’m a little saddened at the news of our local grocery chain (the over-priced but oh-so-worth-the-money Ukrops), I thought I’d post a quick and happy story.

Though I’m a bitter, Scroogie old man, one of the things that helps me get in the holiday spirit is our yearly tradition of picking out an “angel” from the Salvation Army Angel Tree they put up at the agency. Suzanne and I tend to go overboard but we can’t help it when we get an angel that’s a “good fit” for us. That was the case this year. My friend and studio-mate Patrick is one of those guys who’ll give you the shirt off his back if you need it and he’s the guy that organizes the tree every year. He’d just come in with the yearly allotment of “angels” a few weeks ago and I was watching him sort through them at his desk.

He laughed, “Wow. This one was made for you.”

I looked at it and it was for a young boy. Often, there are very specific (and sometimes, um, optimistic) gift suggestions. But in this case, all that was entered was “Anything with Spider-Man on it.”

“Gimme!” I shouted. Off to the races.

Suzanne got him several outfits with some really cool Spidey designs on them and some adorable Spider-Man shoes in his size. I hit the toy section and got him a couple of action figures including Spidey and the Tarantula villain (one of my favorites growing up) and a Spidey-on-a-bike thingie. We got him some other age-appropriate stuff and my Dad even got involved when he found out what we were doing, buying some puzzles and coloring books. But something was missing and I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was driving me crazy. I wanted to get him a dvd with some cartoons but couldn’t be sure his family had a player.

Finally, Suzanne and I had one of those lightbulb moments at the same time. We ran to Nostalgia Plus and bought this:



It was the weirdest thing. It felt so right to be giving one of Mike’s books (not to mention the last work he completed) to a little boy that loves Spider-Man. Mike’s been with us in a big way this holiday season and I feel like, wherever he is, he’ll be watching that little boy on Christmas day, hoping he likes the book he drew for him.

So, Happy Holidays, folks. I can say it and actually mean it this time!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bah, Humbug!

It's that time of year again and I've decided to put up a new, not-so-festive holiday banner. As I was drawing it, I was patting myself on the back for how clever the idea was. It was so clever, in fact, that someone beat me to it. I was looking for Ghostbuster reference when I stumbled across a description of an episode of THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS in which the gang goes back in time and unwittingly "bust" the ghosts visiting Scrooge on Christmas Eve. I was having so much fun with it that I said, "screw it" and finished it anyway. I hope you like it.

Oh, and happy *@#%ing holidays.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Virginia Comicon!

After a hugely frustrating week at work that threatened to keep me from appearing at our first Virginia Comicon, it was a real pleasure to be able to actually set up. We got off to a slow start but, thanks to the generous contribution by Brett Carreras from the art auction Saturday night, we ended up having a very successful weekend for the Scholarship Fund.

I dearly love going to Heroes and Baltimore but it was nice to be able to attend a show in our hometown and not have to deal with hotel reservations and parking. Very stress-free. It was also a little surreal. Shelton from Heroes and Marc and Shelley from Baltimore were there. But I was sleeping in my own bed at night. Really strange, like I was having a dream where people and places that have nothing to do with each other were coming together. Also, this was my first comic convention as an exhibitor that I didn't have Todd and Craig to sit beside. I missed them a lot. I did get to hang out with my friend Ken Marcus, though, since by a strange coincidence, we ended up sharing table space on Sunday. Of course, we ended up talking about work all day. Which was. Not. Cool. Bad Ken! Bad!


I got to meet some nice new folks too. Two seats down was the ultra-talented Kevin Sharpe. Through another strange bit of serendipity, Kevin has done a few fill-in issues of NOVA which makes him my new best friend. Though I'd promised myself I wouldn't spend any real money this close to Christmas, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to buy one of his pages. He was practically giving them away and, in fact, is such a nice person that he actually did try to give it to me. He was there to make money, though, so I twisted his arm and he agreed to charge for it. Then he turned around and bought one of Mike's pages. He very kindly told me that Mike was a huge inspiration to him in his quest to become a comic book penciller. Mike would have been honored, I'm certain.



I also got to meet fellow Virginian Adam Lucas who had Ken's table on Saturday. Adam is the newest winner of the Zuda contest for his GOLDILOCK saga. Adam's really young but you wouldn't know it to look at his work. It's really beautiful stuff. And he's incredibly well-read, funny and intelligent guy. He showed me a portfolio of stuff he's been working on (that I'm not sure whether or not I can mention so I'll err on the side of caution) and I think he's right on the edge of becoming a huge name. So keep your eyes peeled. And read GOLDILOCK!

Though I've seen Michael Golden at several shows the last couple of years, this was the first time I got the nerve up to say "hello." Mr. Golden gave me my first portfolio review about 12 or 13 years ago at Heroes and was very complimentary. As I told him today, he was my first and last favorable reviewer. I don't think he knew how to take that. But he was very friendly and had nice things to say about Mike. I bought one of his books and he was nice enough to personalize an autograph for me.

All in all, one great way to spend the weekend. And I'm already home! But before I sign off, what would a convention wrap-up be without some cosplay pics?

There were a lot of folks dressed up in costume but I think this guy was my favorite:


And this lady was rocking an awesome Xena, Warrior Princess costume. The photo doesn't really do her justice. Playing Xena is all about the attitude and this gal was playing it to the hilt. (A little sword humor there.) She very kindly pretended to believe me when I told her I was taking this picture "for my wife."



I hope you all had a great weekend as well. Later!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

mikewieringo.com

Thanks to some behind-the-scenes hustling by the always-wonderful Jeff Parker, Mike's webmaster (who prefers to remain anonymous) and Mike's friend Scott Cates of MothComix, Mike's website is back up and running. So please feel free to go check it out. I apologize for any inconvenience. It has always been my intention to keep Mike's site up the way it was when he last posted and I'm afraid I let the ball drop. But just a little.

Color me extremely relieved.

Thanks to all involved.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

200



I was going to do a special sketch for my 200th post (Yay, me!) but figured I'd save my energies for working on my 'Haps commitment. (Three more pages, baby.) Still, I needed to post this so post number 200 will have to go uncelebrated.

I'm most likely going to be representing the Mike Wieringo Scholarship Fund at the Central Virginia Comicon this coming weekend. I say "most likely" because I've kind of dropped the ball with everything that's been going on and didn't get back to the organizer. We're listed on the official site so, hopefully, it's still a go. Just waiting to hear back.

The convention is a regular quarterly event in Richmond but this is the first time I can remember it being a two-day affair. And though they usually have one or two name guests in attendance, this year they've got quite a line-up, including Chuck Dixon and Chris Claremont. Pretty cool. Also appearing (Sunday only) will be my buddy and co-worker, Ken Marcus of SUPERHUMAN RESOURCES. Also of note, Mike's old friend Paul Rogers will be setting up a retail booth as will the great and powerful Shelton Drum of Heroes Aren't Hard To Find. If you happen to be in the area, swing on by.

————————————————————————————————



This is completely apropos of nothing, but I want to nominate a guy named Adam Hutchinson as an honorary "Wieringo". He's a regular poster on the John Byrne Forum. Not only has he chosen as his avatar the iconic Flyboy drawing of Mikes... and not only does he regularly profess his love for Mike's work... but he just gave a shout out to THE PERHAPANAUTS in a thread called "Cool Comics Nobody Knows About." And before we get too upset about the "nobody knows about" part, other books listed were COURTNEY CRUMRIN and THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY. So Todd and Craig are in pretty good company there. The word is spreading, guys!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Back in Action...And a Title!



I am officially healed following the surgery on my back. I'm hesitant to call it "back surgery" because that implies some sort of spinal procedure which this was not. But I must say it's nice to have the stitches out and the bandages thrown away. I'm a fairly squeamish dood and the idea of having bleeding openings in my skin that I could neither reach nor see was very unsettling. I can't imagine what it's like to go through surgery that's actually for something serious. Ich.

Anyway, since the weather is not cooperating with my plans to use the leaf blower (Shut up, Christian!) and this will probably be my last free weekend until after the holidays (Crom bless new business!) I'm jumping full steam ahead back into the 'Haps pages. My output has been shameful of late and not even my usual whining about having a demanding day job can excuse it. So I'll keep this brief and be getting right to work.

—————————————————————————————————————————————

Every time they do a comedy bit about Brian working on his "novel" on FAMILY GUY, I cringe a little. It's a hilarious running gag but it hits a little close to home. I've never entertained the idea of writing a novel (too much work) but I have written several unpublishable short stories and one self-indulgent novella (for a writing class in college) and I've written an untold number of scripts for never-produced comics. So you can see why I'm only laughing out of one side of my mouth at the FAMILY GUY bits.

All this makes me a little leery of posting anything about "my story" that I've been discussing for a while. It's setting me up for epic ridicule if nothing comes of it. But that's partially why I'm doing it. It's forcing me to keep going. My convalescence has allowed me some time to work on my script during my lunch breaks which are usually spent at the gym and I'm having a blast seeing this thing that's been in my head coming to life.

One side effect, though, is to see how things that make perfect since in your imagination fail all tests of logic when you start setting them in stone. My stories usually come to me in a series of set pieces. I come up with the premise (I guess what they call "high concept" in Hollywood) and then figure out the ending because that's usually the toughest part. Then it's just a matter of linking and filling in the gaps between the "moments" and working out the beats that comprise each issue. (I have no idea if this is how the pros do it. But it works for me.) This time around, though, I'm finding that one of the earliest "moments" that the entire story hinges on sort of destroys the need for one of my favorite scenes later in the story. I guess this is why Stephen King says you have to be willing to "kill your babies" if it serves the needs of your story. I spent some time trying to reconcile the two scenes but I think I'm just going to have to let it go and move on.

Another thing I'm finding out is just how hard it is to fit everything you want into 22 pages and still have an issue that isn't all talking heads. I'm really struggling with trying to convey the necessary information while, at the same time, keeping the story moving along quickly and leaving time for characterization. First issues are the toughest. You've got to set your story up but you also have to hold reader interest and create a situation they'll come back for in issue two. I think writers have not been given enough credit in comics. Yes, it's a visual medium but if your writer doesn't know what he's doing, nobody's coming back to look at those pretty pictures. I have an all-new admiration for those who can do this job and do it well.

I've also finally settled on a title for the series with the help of my good buddy Christian who helped me choose from a list of about ten possibles. I love getting advice from Christian because he never pulls punches. I sent him my first choice for a title, one that I was fairly excited about and said everything I wanted to about the story. It was going to be called OBEY. Christian sent me back this:



AAAAARGH!

So, after a couple weeks of soul-searching and a couple more stingers from Christian, I've settled on (drumroll, please) THE HAND-ME-DOWN HORROR. Maybe not as serious-sounding (or, to be honest, pretentious) as OBEY, but I like it. It feels a little more like the kind of coming-of-age tale I'm hoping this will be. I hope yo like it.

And I hope you like the sketches at the top of this post. I'm jokingly calling this batch "Battle-Damaged Vampire" after all those ridiculous action figures they come out with these days. I had a lot of fun with these. I've been doing a lot of 3D rendering at work lately and, in between renderings, I've been grabbing up the pencil more and more frequently. Seems my urge to doodle has been returning as the healing itch on my back started subsiding. I cranked these out almost without thinking about them as this guy's big debut has been approaching in my script.

Okay, chums! To the drawing board! Have a great weekend.

Later.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

In the meantime...

Mike's webmaster and I (with some help from one of Mike's friends; thanks buddy) are still trying to resolve the issue of Mike's domain name. In the meantime, if you'd like to view Mike's site (which is still up, despite the problem with the domain), click on the link here:

MIKE'S SITE

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In Praise of Scott

One of the strange side effects of being Mike’s brother, both now and (especially) before he died was that I always had to watch what I said online or around his colleagues at conventions for fear of having an adverse effect on his career. Or, now, on his memory. I don’t mean not blabbing about whatever top-secret project he was working on. That was the easy part.

Occasionally, someone would post something online badmouthing Mike’s work and the urge to flame the guy was nearly overwhelming. But I would always sit on my hands because I didn’t want someone thinking I was speaking for Mike. Even now, I’m very careful not to put words in Mike’s mouth now that he’s not around to say, “Hey, I never said that, dummy!” Worse was when Marvel or DC would do something that drove me crazy as a fan and I’d want to get online with everyone else and scream, “These idiots are ruining comics!” But, since Mike was working for them at the time, I kept my mouth (keyboard?) shut.

But the WORST was when Wizard started shunning Mike and Todd when they started doing TELLOS. Mike had always been very generous to the, um, magazine, drawing covers, giving them artwork for their contests and consenting to interviews and doing How-To articles. So when Mike needed a little quid pro quo, he was understandably surprised when he got nothing. I mean, who knows? A little love in the pages of WIZARD could have made all the difference in sales and kept the book going. Mike explained all of this to me very calmly, without anger. I, on the other had, was seething. I immediately stopped buying the magazine and threw out all my back issues. Even the ones with Mike in them. I’ve never bought another issue. And I’ve kept it all to myself to this day, not wanting to stick my nose into something that had nothing to do with me.

Which is why I love Scott Kurtz ten times more than I did yesterday. Which was already a lot. Scott was (and continues to be) one of Mike’s best, most devoted friends and he’s got the stones to post online everything I’ve ever wanted to say about WIZARD but was too chicken to. Check out his incredibly awesome letter to WIZARD here.

Scott, you are a prince among men. May Crom smile on your house and may all your ventures be fruitful, you glorious, loyal, talented, ballsy sonofabitch. I love you, man.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Thus Endeth the Horror Movie Binge of '09



I hope everyone had a great Halloween weekend. I did. Up until Minnesota started embarrassing the Packers again (this time in their own house) and I decided I'd rather do a post than watch this debacle. I'm still convalescing so I haven't drawn squat. I'm frankly surprised at how long my incisions are taking to heal compared to when I had my gall bladder out five or six years ago. Back then, I was practically running laps again in two weeks. Now, not to be too gross, I'm still spotting my bandages. And the itching is driving me insane. But my surgeon assures me all is well so I'll stick it out. I just really miss my lunchtime workouts. It was all that was keeping my weight in check. Now that Halloween (and the ubiquitous candy) is over, I'm going on a hard-core diet, starting tomorrow morning. I know there are people who hate the whole skinny-is-better attitude but, in my case, it's true. Whenever I get heavy, I just feel miserable. So better to nip it in the bud, as Barney Fife liked to say.

I really overdid the horror-movie thing this Halloween, if that's possible. Thanks to NetFlix, Walmart's $5 bin and Best Buy's Halloween sales, I rediscovered some old favorites (FRIGHT NIGHT, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH), found some new ones (the surprisingly underrated DEAD SILENCE, TRICK 'R TREAT) and satisfied my curiosity on some utter crap (the original PROM NIGHT and the remake of BLACK CHRISTMAS.)

Inspired by my friend Don (who called me at exactly the wrong moment during DEAD SILENCE and almost made me poo in my pants), I've started the yearly tradition of buying myself a classic horror movie. Last year it was Universal's WOLFMAN Legacy Collection and this year I followed it up with the FRANKENSTEIN set. I'm embarrassed to admit that, up until now, I'd not seen any of these classics. I always wanted to but they were never shown on TV when I was a kid and by the time I was old enough to track them down, I was more of a modern horror guy. Now that I'm older, I'm better able to appreciate how truly awesome these movies are and I'm really grateful to Universal for putting out these sets. Highly recommended.

I've also rediscovered a love of all those 80's slasher series like HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Sparked by the recent (inferior) FRIDAY remake and subsequent high-quality DVD rereleases, I started picking up all the FRIDAYs. Though the series is a textbook case of the law of diminishing returns, I have to admit a strange affection for these things. They're all basically the same (dumb) movie but it's fun watching the fashions and hairstyles change with each entry. (And Manfredini's nutty techno theme over the end credits of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3D is NOT to be missed.) And, with FRIDAY and ELM STREET, at least, there's a cartoony charm to the characters that keeps the movies from becoming the gross, grimy torture-porn that so many of the remakes have become.

In the case of HALLOWEEN, I was never that big a fan beyond the first three films (including SEASON OF THE WITCH, a true guilty pleasure that I love) but BEST BUY put a bunch of the series on sale for $4.99 and I couldn't resist picking up a couple, specifically 4 and 5. I remember back in 2007, I was spending Halloween week down in Durham, working on Mike's house to get it ready for sale, and was fairly miserable. Halloween night, AMC was running a marathon of horror flicks, including HALLOWEEN 4 and 5. Though I have a huge horror movie library, I love watching them on TV, commercials, editing, dubbing and all. Watching them as they're broadcast makes it feel more like I'm taking part in an event. So, there I sat, munching on the candy that no kids showed up for and watching these flicks only to fall asleep before the end of 5. So I just had to have these so I could find out what happened. Part 4 was actually pretty entertaining with solid performances all around, particularly the ultra-precocious Danielle Harris (who was, I think, 10 at the time.) Part 5, on the other hand, despite the continued involvement of Harris and the always-dependable Donald Pleasance, was just horrible. Resorting to the old series-in-decline standby of "the psychic girl", the movie ends with the most head-scratching climax of all time. Probably the biggest WTF? moment of all the slasher series.

Only my steadfast refusal to pay full price for anything has kept me from buying TRICK 'R TREAT (not groundbreaking but a helluva lot of fun) and the newly released NIGHT OF THE CREEPS. Experience has shown these will be in the discount bins before next Halloween and I can wait.

Don brought me the Midnight Movies double feature DVD set of TALES FROM THE CRYPT and HAUNT OF HORROR when we met up at the Carpenter Center in Richmond last week to see R. Crumb speaking with Fran├žoise Mouly (which was interesting but not worth a post.) That one was a lot of fun. Sadly, I'd hoped to have a movie night with Don and Christian to watch the BLACULA set I picked up. I've been dying to watch it but so are they and I don't want to spoil the anticipation. We just haven't been able to coordinate our schedules.

And that's about it except for the jack-o-lanterns Suze and I carved. She was more ambitious than I and went for the witch-face. I'm a traditionalist and did a more simple design. Now we're officially into the holiday season.

Yay.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Character Sketches



Heeeeere's Johnny.

Though I posted an earlier sketch for my lead character (for my still-untitled story) I thought I'd refine him a little. I've started doing these sheets for all the characters and I'm having a lot of fun. I've done another one for "Dana" but had some minor surgery on my back (so minor they had me dressed and wheeled out the door before I was fully awake) and though I'm recovering nicely, the fifteen stitches and soreness make it difficult to sit at my desk at work, much less bend over a drawing table. So I wasn't able to finish it in time to post both of them together. I've been doing these at my desk during lunch or at night when I'm there late. It's keeping my drawing hand limber so I can hopefully get back to the 'Haps pages and hit the ground running. Between our vacation, the Baltimore con, work and now this, I hit a snag with three pages to go. With the deadline fast approaching (or past?) I'm a little nervous. So wish me luck. I remember it was always impossible to pull Mike away from his drawing table for anything fun because he was always terrified at how long it would take him to get back "into his groove". I didn't understand that then but I'm getting an idea of how difficult it was for him.

I showed this drawing to Suzanne and she said, "Cute. It looks like you." I don't see it. I'm usually drawn much older. :) Must be because I use the old animators' trick of looking in the mirror for facial expressions. I gave him the Richie Rich curlie bangs because I've always liked drawing them though, if my hair did that, I'd probably scream. Anyway, I hope you like it. It's nice having a definite look for a character. It helps when writing dialogue. For me, anyway.

Gotta run. I want to take advantage of having the day off and stay out of this chair as much as possible. I've been using my back as an excuse to lay around the house all weekend watching horror movies. Think I'd better get back to that. Have a great weekend.

Later.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mike's Blog

I was hoping to have this resolved before anyone noticed but since Warren Newsome has sent me a concerned email about this, I guess I should address it. Mike’s website is temporarily down. Way back, years ago, when Mike put up his first website, he wasn’t all that Internet-savvy and he got help from a friend who registered the domain name “mikewieringo.com” for him. Later, Mike got another friend to create a new site for him, referencing that same domain name. Unfortunately, the domain registration has lapsed and I guess the original friend doesn’t have any interest in paying to have it renewed. Unfortunately, though I am interested, I can’t do it without his permission until the grace period is over. I’ve been unable to contact this person and, if I can’t get permission, I face the possibility that some unscrupulous person will snap up the domain when it becomes available before I can and try to sell it to me for an outrageous amount.

Anyway, that’s the situation right now. If I can’t manage to get hold of Mike’s friend, I’ll probably be forced to register a different domain name. That would really suck. But it’s better than not having the site up at all, which is very important to me. One way or another, the site will be back up. I’ll make an announcement when I know more.

My apologies for any inconvenience.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"The ice...is gonna break!"


I can't believe it's taken me this long to post about this movie. And, by the way, SPOILERS AHEAD. This is fairly long and self-indulgent so feel free to skip it.

I've mentioned that Johnny Smith, the hero of Stephen King's excellent novel THE DEAD ZONE, is my favorite literary character. Back in 1983, I was well into my burgeoning love affair with ol' Uncle Stevie's novels. It started with CUJO (which featured a strange reference to a "monster" named Dodd), moved on to SALEM'S LOT and then THE STAND. I didn't think it could get any better. Then, one day during a visit to the flea market at the Fort Twin Drive-in, I stumbled across a dog-eared copy of THE DEAD ZONE and my fate was sealed.

It was summer and I blazed through the book in a couple of days. It was, and still is, the only novel to ever make me cry. (I'm such a big softie.) I've always loved tragic love stories. (Except maybe the ultimate one: ROMEO & JULIET. The lovers behave so stupidly I find that one too frustrating.) And THE DEAD ZONE is perhaps King's most tragic story. He's almost sadistic in how he sets up Johnny's perfect young life and creates a character so likable you'd have to be a total prick to not root for him. (It's not an accident that our everyman protagonist is named John Smith.) And then he pulls out the rug, sending Johnny into a 4-and-a-half year coma. While he's out, his gal marries someone else and his world turns to shit. Worst of all, when he wakes up, he's been "gifted" with the ability to see the future, which ends up costing him everything he had left. The climactic scene in the novel features Johnny pointing a hunting rifle at the future POTUS in an attempt to head off nuclear armageddon.

I was heading into my sophomore year of high school and we lived out in the boonies. With no friends living nearby, I was a fairly lonely, introverted kid. Besides, I think most kids that age tend to feel a little misunderstood. So I really identified with Johnny, outcast that he was by the end. The last scene in the novel, with Sarah visiting Johnny's gravesite, just set me off. I finished the novel right around dinner time and, as I was headed to the dining room, hoping Dad wouldn't notice I'd been crying like a big sissy, I noticed an on-the-set report on ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT. Some strange-looking dude I'd never seen before was up on a balcony, pointing a hunting rifle at a politician behind a podium...waitaminnit...!

Turns out they'd made a movie of THE DEAD ZONE, starring some guy I'd never heard of named Christopher Walken. Mike knew who he was, apparently, and though he hadn't read the novel, he thought I'd be happy with him. I didn't think so. I immediately went out and scrounged for any info I could find on the movie and its goonie-looking star. This was in the days before the Internet, obviously, so I really had to dig. I found an article in FANGORIA (I think) or maybe CINEFANTASTIQUE. There was an interview with Stephen King and he apparently shared my doubts.

When the movie came out in October, I asked Dad to drop me off at the theater while he was in town running errands. By then, he was aware of my love for the book and my apprehension at the thought of Walken as Smith. "Good luck", he chuckled before driving off. I went in and watched the film. And absolutely hated it.

I thought Walken and Brooke Adams were horribly miscast as Johnny and Sarah. I hated that they'd completely cut out the time Johnny was in the coma. I was infuriated that they'd changed the fire at the school party into a hockey accident on a pond. And don't get me started on the bizarre scissors-to-the-epiglottis suicide of the Castle Rock Killer. But the icing on the cake was when Sarah, Walt and Denny show up at the rally in the end with Denny filling in for the anonymous little kid in the book. All the symbolism (like the Wheel of Fortune and the yellow piping on the kid's coat — tiger stripes) found in the book was eliminated. This was my first real exposure to the shortcomings of Hollywood in adapting novels to movie form. I was completely disappointed.

Boy did that ever change.

As much as I thought Walken was miscast, I had to admit, there was something about him. I started renting movies (remember VHS!?) like THE MIND SNATCHERS, DOGS OF WAR and, finally, THE DEER HUNTER. I had to admit there was more to this guy than I was giving him credit for. So, when a friend loaned me a recording of THE DEAD ZONE he'd made off of a cable broadcast, I jumped at the chance to give the movie another shot. And did a complete about-face.

For some reason, this time around, I was able to better appreciate Walken's haunting performance as Smith. I even fell in love (literally) with Adams as Sarah Bracknell, especially when she sports that cute shorter hair cut during her first visit when Johnny wakes up. I remember thinking how incredibly romantic (points off the guy card!) it was when Sarah showed up at Johnny's house and they wound up in bed together while Denny slept in the next room. Later, they all have dinner with Johnny's widower father and it's like he's spending the evening with the family that should have been his and my heart just broke. (Later, I started thinking it was actually kind of sadistic of her. "Here's summa what you coulda had, sucka!") Something about the film really clicked with me this time. I was hooked. I got in the habit of watching it every day when I got home from school. Later, doing the math, I was shocked to realize that I'd probably watched the thing some sixty times. My friend was not very happy with me when he got his tape back, I'll tell you.

Not only had the film won me over but it really became a part of my self image. Walken looked so iconic in that pea coat that I spent years trying to find one that fit. (I finally found one but the damn collar won't stay up! I can't say I exactly saw myself as a tragic figure but identifying with Walken's Smith gave me something to cling to when trying to form my sense of self worth. I know that sounds strange but it's no different that what my classmates were doing with Arthur Fonzarelli or Ken Hutchinson. (Google it.) Kind of like "What Would Johnny Do?", if you will.

It's been years since I watched the film. It wasn't until a conversation with Todd about the movie in Baltimore and subsequently finding the Special Edition DVD in the delete bin at Best Buy that I really thought about all this again, prompting the sketch above and this post. I scratched it out pretty quickly today while I was trapped at work (On a Sunday! What would Johnny have done!??) so the likeness is a little wonky. But I enjoyed it. I hope you do too.

Later.

(P.S. Oh, imagine how shocking it was for me to find out this morning that I'm currently one year older than Walken was when he made this film. That smarts...!)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Fund


I forgot to mention in my Baltimore recap that I had the pleasure of meeting a very nice lady named Emily who is a friend of inker extraordinaire, Nathan Massengill. Nathan introduced us in the lobby of the hotel and she asked if she could stop by the booth the next day and have me do a sketch card for her.

I’m usually uncomfortable doing that sort of thing because I feel like it’s a bit of a bait and switch. As I mentioned, I was at least twice mistaken for Mike this time around and I don’t want people thinking they’re ordering Classic Coke and getting Big K Cola instead. I’m not yet over feeling like an imposter sitting in Mike’s spot. It still feels like I’m keeping his seat warm for him until he gets back. It’s not a pleasant feeling and I’d give anything for him to be sitting there.

Still, I’m pretty sure Emily knew what she was getting and it was free so I agreed. This morning, I was pleasantly surprised to find that she’d sent me a scan of the card through my Facebook account. I think she wanted a Deadpool (She’s apparently as enamoured with Deadpool as I am of Nova or Rom.) but I didn’t have any reference and the Choopie I started wasn’t working out. I realized I felt like drawing the Hulk and just did that. She seemed happy with it so there you are.


Not to be a big downer today but there was one more thing that happened in Baltimore that’s been gnawing at me for a few days. A lady was walking by with her fella and he’d noticed our scholarship banner. As he made to move over, she put out a hand and stopped him. She said something and all I caught was “...and it’s not even the school he went to.” He said, “Oh!” and they walked off.

That really took the wind out of my sails.

I’ve covered this before but it bears repeating. A lot of people have asked me why we chose to start the scholarship fund at S.C.A.D and not have it at VCU or at the Kubert school. Or even a free-floating award. Those are valid questions and Suzanne and I discussed them at length and sought advice from many of Mike’s best friends before we settled on S.C.A.D. Here’s why.

S.C.A.D. has a sequential art curriculum with actual comics pros teaching and speaking there. Mike had connections with the school in that the chairman of the Sequential Art Department was a member of Artamus Studios for a while and they’d discussed Mike becoming an instructor. And they had the machinery in place to handle the legal and financial gobbledigook Suzanne and I didn’t want to have to deal with. By making S.C.A.D the fund’s “home”, we avoided having to hire lawyers and accountants that would leave the fund completely broke and, thus, pointless.

Why not VCU or Kubert? VCU is a great school and a huge presence in Richmond where I live. It’s growing by leaps and bounds and is a much different place than when Mike and I attended. But it still doesn’t have a sequential art curriculum and, in fact, Mike was actively discouraged from working in comics when he was there. I’m not holding a grudge. It’s just a fact. They have a great art program (which I attended) and I highly recommend them. Just not for comics. As for the Kubert School, I guess I thought they had enough going for them having a living legend at the top. I wish them nothing but good things and wish I could afford to attend classes there. (Well, maybe fifteen years ago.) I just felt S.C.A.D. was a better “fit.”

I also get the sense that some people think Suze and I are in this for the money. Yikes. I can’t stress enough that every single penny that we bring in through donations and the sale of Mike’s original artwork goes directly to S.C.A.D. Suzanne and I spend quite a bit of our own money in travel expenses to go to these shows. Marc and Shelton have been incredibly generous to us but we do incur costs that come out of our pockets. Sometimes it costs us almost as much to go to a convention as we take in. Then, why do it?

Because it gets the word out about the fund, it gives us a conduit through which to distribute Mike’s artwork (which, as much as I’d like to keep it all, I cannot) and it keeps us connected to Mike’s world a little. I miss my brother very much and getting to see his/our friends and talk to Mike’s fans makes him seem a little less...gone. If that makes sense.

But, most importantly, we do it to honor Mike. This fund was born during a tear-filled conversation between Suzanne and me in Mike’s driveway back in August of 2007. We wanted to do something to express how much we love him and miss him. Mike often expressed a desire to teach, to share what he’d learned with others. Unfortunately, he can’t do that now. So, hopefully, in some small way, we’re helping him achieve that goal. If there are folks out there that disagree with that but still would like to do something to express their appreciation of Mike and his work, then I wholeheartedly suggest giving to the ASPCA or the HERO Initiative.

Okay, next time, not so glum.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Back from Baltimore

Well, we're back. I just finished unloading the car and putting everything away. (Whew. The foyer was starting to look like a rummage sale.) We had a great weekend in Baltimore, seeing the usual folks (except, unfortnately, Nick Cardy, who is perfectly healthy but couldn't make it this year). As usual, Marc, Shelly and Brad put on a spectacular show and everyone seemed to be having a great time. Even a certain birthday boy who didn't want us blabbing the fact all over the show. Craig Rousseau did a thorough job of just that.

Sales were a bit down this time but we fully expected that. However, donations seemed to be up and that surprised us. Quite a few folks stopped by just to put money in the jar and wanted nothing back in return. In fact, we were already packed up at the end of the show when one gentleman came running over to make a generous donation on his way out. So, thank you to everyone who donated money, bought something or just stopped by the table to shake our hands and wish us well. Quite a few of Mike's fans came by just to tell us how much they miss him.

Something new this year, though. We had several people come by who were unaware of Mike's passing and mistook me for him. Having to explain the situation after two years was really strange. There was one young lady in particular who loved Mike's work but didn't speak English very well. I'm afraid that, by trying to explain things tactfully, I wasn't making much sense to her and she thought "Mike" was just telling her I didn't want to sign her comics. Eventually, we all got on the same page, though. Still, I guess that's something I need to be prepared for in the future.

A special thanks to our friend Brian Mulcahy, who spelled us at the table a couple of times and ended up bringing in more money in an hour or two than Suzanne and I did combined all weekend. It's amazing what a pretty face will do.

These shows are a big blur for us so I'll only touch on a few things that stood out. It was great seeing Rod and Leanne Hannah of Blue Milk Special among many other things. They're the only folks that don't look at me sideways when I bring up Hammer Horror films. We got to see Rich Faber again. It was terrific seeing him. He was up for a Harvey Award for Best Inker this year. He didn't win, unfortunately, but as they say in Hollywood, it really is an honor to be nominated. Rich's wife Traci, of course, was on all our minds this year. We got to see Norman Lee again who is just a wonderful, generous guy and he introduced me to his stunning new wife whose name escapes me. (I'm horrible with names and faces and I'm fortunate that people seem to be fairly forgiving of me for this.) Rico Renzi brought over his adorable daughter who had Craig draw in her sketchbook. I finally got to see the plaque that the Baltimore ASPCA put up in Mike's honor. It really is impressive and I know Mike would be incredibly honored and proud of it. We got to see fellow VCU alum and one of Mike's best friends, Mark Waid, who has been very supportive of the fund and always stops by to see how we're doing. I have to admit to getting a bit of a geeky thrill talking to him because I'm such a fan of his and was before Mike even started working on THE FLASH with him.

This was a convention and I am a fan so I did take the opportunity to geek out a little. I didn't buy a lot this year because Christmas is fast approaching and I probably shouldn't be throwing money around. But I did pick up a couple of cool Toon Tumblers. They're very reminiscent of those old 7-11 Slurpee cups from the '70s that I loved so much and so I can't resist. (It seems we spend the first third of our lives running from childhood and the rest of it trying to run back.) I also snagged a nice biography of John Romita cheap along with maybe two or three trades I'd been looking for. I tried a couple of times to get Eric Canete to sign the Iron Man book he drew but he was so intent on his drawing (incredible stuff!) I didn't want to disturb him. Suzanne rolled her eyes and took the book over. She very sweetly asked him to sign it and said he smiled and said, "Sure!" She said he was very polite and super-nice. Thanks, Eric! Lastly, I had the pleasure of meeting Berni Wrightson, a lifelong idol of mine. I only realized at the last minute that he and Len Wein would be at the show and (when we stopped by the house on the way out of town to feed the cats) I ran upstairs to snag my SWAMP THING hardcover to get them both to sign it. I even got to buy a signed print of my favorite illustration from Wrightson's FRANKENSTEIN edition. (Below.)



Here are some pictures from the show:


Robert Kirkman showing everyone he has great taste in artwork.


Here's Craig working on a Phoenix sketch for a fan. Someone famous once said sculpting was just chipping away all the parts that weren't the statue. Watching Craig draw is a lot like that. He makes it look so easy. Jerk.


This unabashed young lady was causing whiplash all over the convention hall. Males everywhere were staring at her over long boxes (heh) but trying to look like they weren't (well, maybe not the guy in the background). Probably had something to do with her boyfriend who was following her around with a pained expression on his face. As I was scraping my jaw off the floor, Suzanne leaned over and said, "Don't worry, you dirty old man, I got a picture for you." Did I mention, best wife ever? I did, right?



And, finally, this little guy is obviously challenging Kid Nova for the title of "Ad Nauseam's Coolest Kid Ever." Check it out. He's even got 'Ringo feet! I mean, if this isn't blatant pandering, I don't know what is.

Thanks again, Baltimore.

Later

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Baltimore Ravin'


It's that time of year again and (thanks to the generosity of Marc Nathan and his fine folks) Suzanne and I will be representing The Mike Wieringo Scholarship Fund at the Baltimore Comicon this weekend. We're looking forward to catching up with Mike's (and now our) friends and seeing what everyone's up to. But, more importantly, we're hoping to have our biggest fund raising weekend yet. I hope, if you're in the area, you'll stop by and see us. Look for our snazzy new banner (above.)

Oh, and I forgot to mention that, if you can't make it to the show but you want to contribute to the fund, just send a check to the following address:

Savannah College of Art and Design
Attn: Office of Institutional Advancement
Mike Weiringo Memorial Scholarship Fund
P.O. Box 3146
Savannah, GA 31402

Be sure to make your check out to "The Savannah College of Art and Design" and put "The Mike Wieringo Scholarship Fund" in the memo field. If you include your address in the letter, they'll send you a nice thank you note.


____________

You know, I'm not the most observant guy in the world but I used to think I was at least a little bright. Still, I only just this morning made the connection between Edgar Allen Poe and the Baltimore Ravens. Derrrrrr...

Monday, October 5, 2009

I Can't Watch


This game is killing me. Of all the teams he could go to, Favre had to go play for the Vikings. That traitorous S.O.B. And worst of all, he's picking my beloved Packers apart. I thought I was losing interest in football the last couple of years but this game has my stomach in knots. It's like going to a party and seeing your ex-girlfriend making out with the guy who got your promotion.

I feel queasy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Zombie Night


Suze and I just got back from vacation. I used to announce such things here until I realized it probably wasn't a good idea to announce on the internet that my house was going to be unoccupied for a week. We had a good time but got rained out the last few days. I took some drawing stuff with me along with some big plans for finishing the layouts for the PERHAPANAUTS story but no such look. I think I've mentioned that Harker's Island in summer is extremely humid and windy (as we leave the windows open for fresh air.) This makes drawing with pencil on paper like scratching with chalk on a wet towel. Pretty much useless.

A few days before we left, I invited some friends over (Christian and Don) for "Zombie Night." One of the local theaters, a historic landmark called The Byrd Theater, was going to be showing Lucio Fulci's pseudo-sequel to DAWN OF THE DEAD, ZOMBI. Don emailed me and asked if I'd like to go see it. I was astonished because I've been trying to get Don to watch zombie flicks with me for years. He's as obsessed with them as I am but he would never go. (I was under the impression that he didn't feel like he could sit through them because of the whole "family turning on you" angle. Boy was I wrong.) I got pretty excited but realized that I couldn't make it because we'd be out of town by then. Besides, as much as I love The Byrd in principle, I just can's sit in those tiny seats they've got in there. My knees end up under my chin and my ass is asleep in five minutes. So we agreed to have a viewing at my place with beer and popcorn supplied by the lovely Suzanne.

It was a hoot. And boy, was I mistaken about Don and zombie movies. Don was pointing out to Christian and me all the instances of foreshadowing and literary references and all that poof. Christian and I (having seen ZOMBI about a dozen times each) just made faces and hooted at the boob shots. After a few Legend beers, ZOMBI becomes a prime candidate for MST3K-style shenanigans.

Christian went home after the first movie was over and Don and I sat through one of my current horror faves, QUARANTINE (the remake of the Spanish film [•REC]. I thought this one would give Don some problems because I'd seen it several times and had jumped out of my seat at a particular spot each time. No worries. At the point that firemen start falling from the sky, Don burst out laughing, clapped his hands and shouted, "AWESOME!"

After the movie, we chatted about horror movies, comics and the frustrations of advertising until the far side of 1:00 a.m. (on a school night no less.) It wasn't until after he left and I was washing the dishes that I realized it had been almost 20 years since Don and I had sat on the couch watching movies together in college. Time certainly does fly. I'd had a rough few days and had been a little down. But hanging out with Don again after such a long time put me in a very cheerful, nostalgic state of mind for several days. So, thanks Don. That was, as you put it, "Awesome." We have got to do that again. Soon.

________________________________________

Adam Hutch asked me a question in the comments of my last post, specifically, if working on the Perhapanauts short story for Todd and Craig has inspired me to work on my own stuff. I wouldn't use the word "inspired" but I think it has given me the confidence to treat the story I'm working on as a piece I actually intend to publish. Until Todd and Craig gave me this chance, I'd never done more than two or three pages of finished samples at a time (excluding the TORG piece.) Once I gave up hope of breaking into comics as an artist and concentrated on writing, I completely lost any confidence I had in myself as an illustrator. The practice afforded me by this blog and the work I've done for Todd and Craig has given me some of that confidence back and has proved to me that I can tell a story clearly and with at least a little...pizzazz?

That's not to say I think I'm really any good. I just think I can produce something publishable and worth somebody's three bucks or so. And I feel like I'm improving and can actually feel myself digging up all those art school lessons in my head to use. I desperately wish I could go back and redo the first part of the story because I was so nervous that I over-did everything and kept forgetting things and would have to go back and shoehorn them in. Part 2 is turning out much more to my satisfaction.

So, no. I'm not feeling inspired by my Perhapanauts stuff. I've already been raring to work on this story for a couple of years. But now I think I can actually finish it, work permitting. And I want to finish it very badly. I think it's a cool story and I've seen too many of the stories I've come up with done first by better folk. If I don't want that to happen again, I have to get crackin'.

Later.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dana Barnes



It's official. Suzanne and I are headed to the Baltimore Con again next month to represent the Mike Wieringo Scholarship Fund. We'll again be setting up a table and selling Mike's original art to raise money for the 'Ringo fund and we'll be sporting our spiffy new booth sign, donated by my employer, The Martin Agency. Thanks to Marc Nathan (and his wonderful crew, including Brad Tree) for including us and generously making it possible for us to be there. We hope to see you there.

________________

Okay, as I've been putting the pedal to the metal on the 'Haps pages, I've been getting excited about the prospect of returning to my pet project horror story. The other day, I found myself with a few free minutes after work waiting for Suzanne and knocked out the above character sketch for Dana Barnes. (That name is tentative, btw.) Of all the characters in the story, Dana has given me the hardest time visually. I posted a drawing a while back that was basically a portrait of the actress Lacey Chabert. But it wasn't really the look I wanted. I couldn't put my finger on it but it was too...glamorous? Unlike the rest of the characters, I didn't really have a picture of her in my head. Which is weird because Dana's the only character based on a real person. Well, several, actually.

I hesitate to call Dana Johnny's "love interest" because I feel like that's a mischaracterization of her importance to the story, though she definitely holds Johnny's "interest". She's one of my favorite characters in the story because I think her history is so interesting and because her personality is so fully formed in my mind. She feels alive to me.

Dana's family moved away from Johnny's hometown a year ago and now, as the story begins, she's back under mysterious circumstances. Johnny had been infatuated by her and was brokenhearted when she left. As he's introverted and socially awkward, he had been spared the potential embarrassment of telling her how he felt. Now that she's returned, he's forced into a situation where he has to confront his feelings again. And she doesn't make it easy on him.

As I said, Dana is at least partially based on real people. One of those folks was a girl I knew in high school who was a year ahead of me. I was completely infatuated with her. She was my version of Charlie Brown's "Little Redheaded Girl." Except she was a brunette. She was kind of tomboyish in that she always wore plaid shirts, untucked, with jeans and just enough makeup to get by. She seemed to me to be completely self-possessed but not in any "I'll show you" way. Just calmly confident. And she could not be any less interested in the conventions of high school life if she tried. She wasn't a cheerleader, wasn't a member of any clique and was completely disinterested in whether or not you were wearing a football jersey. (I know 'cause I tried that one.) She was flirty but not so much that you thought she was coming on to you. All this and yet she exuded a profound femininity that I found intoxicating. I was afraid to tell my friends how much I was taken with her because that's just not something you do. I was sure they would relentlessly dog me and that word would get around. Eventually, though, I had to say something and they all just looked at me and went, "duh." They all felt the same way, you see. (Gordon, Brian, Mark and Rich, if you're reading this, pipe down! LOL.) I had to laugh. But, you know, make sure they knew that, um..."hands off." She graduated my Junior year and, like Dana, poof...she was gone. But, unlike Dana, she never came back.

My high school crush didn't have any "mysterious circumstances", though. That comes from another inspiration that I don't want to go into because it's a minor plot reveal and if I said anything, it wouldn't be, well...mysterious. (Oooooooooo—!)

Dana's fashion sense owes a lot to my long lost schoolboy crush but the rest of her is purely my imagination. After driving myself nearly mad trying to come up with a look for her, I just relaxed and started drawing. And the sketch above is what came out. And damn it if that ain't Dana. I think the head shot may be a little too femme fatale. But basically, that's Johnny's gal.

I absolutely can't wait to start working on this.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Man vs. Food



This summer, despite short-run shows like EUREKA and BURN NOTICE, was relatively TV-free for me and therefore extremely productive. I'm almost sorry to see my favorite shows (like FRINGE) starting back up again. I'm dreading another season of clogged DVRs and evenings spent staring at the tube instead of doing something more important. Like staring at my computer monitor. And don't get me started on my beloved football games.

It's why I've made a point of not getting into shows like TRUE BLOOD. I want to watch it but it's just one more hour out of my week. Besides, I'm old enough to remember Anna Paquin's "information superhighway" commercials when she was but a wee tot. I'm not terribly comfortable watching her get naked. (I remember the first time I noticed the centerfold in PLAYBOY was younger than I was. Downhill ever since.)

There was a time when I liked nothing more than vegging out in front of the box all night. Suzanne and I, back when we "only" had basic cable, would spend entire evenings mesmerized by the Food Network. Emeril, Alton and the gang were our buds. Friday nights were the best. Before they ran IRON CHEF into the ground, it was our biggest guilty pleasure. No matter how hard we tried to describe it to our friends who hadn't seen it, words just failed us. (That was the show that spawned Mike's nickname for Suzanne..."Squeeze-ONNNN!!!!") And speaking of running things into the ground, this was when I discovered a pre-ubiquitous Rachel Ray and fell madly in love with her. Nothing lasts forever, though, and now I can only watch her with the volume on "mute" lest her umpteenth utterance of "E.V.O.O." cause me to drop kick the TV into the fireplace.

The faces on Food Network changed over the years and we eventually got bored with it. Suzanne's a foodie so she still tunes in for background noise. But ACE OF CAKES and IRON CHEF AMERICA just don't do it for me. It looked like my love affair with food shows was over.

Enter MAN VS. FOOD on the Travel Channel. This show is like nasty fetish porn for food addicts. Each episode, the host (Adam Richman) visits some hole in the wall joint that has a food challenge and puts his tummy to the test. I'll be honest, I've always fantasized about doing one of these (especially THIS ONE) but, despite my size, I'm just not that big an eater. I've won two pancake contests with my coworkers but, let's face it, they're skinny little woosies.

I discovered the show flipping channels one night as I was winding down for bed. The switch to digital has eliminated the Cartoon Network from our extra TVs (we'd need another digital box for the bedroom) and so I tend to just surf until I conk out. BOING! As soon as I saw Richman working his way through 5 pounds of pancakes, I was hooked. Whenever I happen to catch the show, I'm in for the long haul. I wasted nearly an entire afternoon not long ago when TC was running a marathon.

Richman is amazing. He's a little bit heavy but you'd think he'd be 400 lbs. at this rate. I've seen him eat some incredible amounts of shit and come up asking for more. He wins more often than not and, despite some close calls and glassy eyes, he doesn't appear much the worse for wear.

Like JAWS or GOODFELLAS, if this show is on, I'm watchin' it. The show is inspired (though I wonder how it's viewed by people from countries where a bowl of fly-blown rice is considered overindulgent) and if you haven't seen it, treat yourself. I wish I had the guts--heh--to try one of these challenges. But at least I can watch this guy. He is livin' the dream and livin' it large.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My time of year.


As Todd Dezago pointed out, Halloween is fast approaching and I'm already in that frame of mind. I started feeling the first ticklings back in August because of an unexpected but pleasant cold snap that ended the month but now that it's September, I'm in full horror movie mode. (I just finished watching AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and can't believe how incredibly hot Jenny Agutter was in that.) I absolutely love this time of year. Despite the exasperation I usually feel at having to get up the endless mounds of leaves our trees produce, there's not much that can sour my mood right now. Well, I guess I really shouldn't tempt fate. So, let me just say that, recent events notwithstanding, life feels pretty good right now.

Though I haven't had much to show lately, I have, in fact, been drawing quite a bit. After a couple of months of being on the road for one reason or another or working a crushing amount of hours, it suddenly dawned on me how close I am to missing my deadline on part two of the Perhapanauts story Todd, Christian and I are doing. So I've been trying to focus on that for a while and have made some decent progress. (Expect a page in your email tomorrow, Todd and Craig.) It hasn't hurt that Christian emails me every day asking for the next page to ink. Since part one hasn't come out yet, I really can't share any of the pages. Which is too bad because I'm not stressing over it so much anymore and, now that I'm starting to get a feel for how to draw these characters, I'm actually having fun. My versions don't really look much like Craig's but at least they're starting to look consistent. Craig makes it look so effortless and simple but Choopie's goggles will drive a dude crazy, man.

I've also spent some time working with Rod Hannah on a project he's been developing. (Though Rod would probably debate the word "work" at this point. :) ) It's pretty much amounted to the three sketches seen up above. I've been trying to design a character for his story and, while it was fun, I haven't been able to give it the time Rod deserves. But he has graciously given me the okay to post these. I can't give you any story details, as he's not ready to announce anything yet, but it's a really cool story idea and I wish I could contribute more. These sketches represent some back and forth we had as Rod refined what he wanted the character to look like. To be honest, I've never spent much time drawing women so this was a new frontier for me and I really enjoyed it. I loosened up a lot to try and get a more gestural quality. I'm doing such rigid pencilling on the Perhapanauts story that this was a nice break. I hope you like them.

I'm also hoping to post more character designs for my horror comic that I've mentioned from time to time. The plot is done and I'm currently writing the first draft of the script and I'm very excited about it. As I've mentioned to a few folks, I plotted out a scene during one of my daily walks that even scared the hell out of me and I can't wait to script it out. As much as I love horror movies, I've never been able to invent the kind of stuff that would freak people out. I'm a pretty non-violent, non-confrontational guy so this kind of stuff never occurs to me unprompted. So I tasked myself with coming up with something that would creep readers out within the context of the story and, by the time my walk was over, my skin was crawling.

Anyway, that's all I've got for now. Later.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Traci Wagner

Those of you who know Traci Wagner and her husband Rich Faber are probably already aware of this but, as Rich has announced here, Traci passed away yesterday after an all-too short but valiant battle with cancer.

Suzanne and I only knew Traci a short time having met her and Rich at, of all places, Mike's funeral. We instantly hit it off and Traci and Rich selflessly checked in on us from time to time to make sure we were okay and before long we were all friends. We even visited them up North earlier this year and got to hang out with them in their home with their beautiful son Jason.

Please keep Rich and Jason in your thoughts today. This is yet another reminder that we aren't guaranteed anything in this life and we should make the best of what little time we may have. Hug someone you love today.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What's Cookein'


That's what I think Darwyn Cooke should call his blog. If he had one. Which he doesn't. But there is the next best thing. Apparently his friend, a fellow named Calum Johnston, has a blog up called "Almost Darwyn Cooke's Blog" where he puts out official Cooke news tidbits approved by the peerless one himself.

Mr. Cooke even posts there occasionally. The last time was to hand down some great critiques of the submissions to his "Draw Parker" contest. Can you imagine getting complimented on your artwork by that guy? I'd poo my pants.

Anyhoo, there's some pretty cool stuff there so check it out HERE.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gruesome Discovery




With all the traveling and other obligations I've had lately, I've been bummed that I haven't had time to draw, much less post any sketches. I've about exhausted all my old stuff too. But then I remembered some of the items I found when I was moving out of my sweet old window seat at at work. This stuff really brings back memories.

Back in 1988 (twenty-one years ago!) I was a junior at VCU, studying filmmaking. Mike, though five years older, was attending college at the same time. We had different majors (Through a strange stroke of luck, I'd gotten into the Communication Arts school while Mike somehow ended up in Fashion Illustration.) so we rarely had classes together unless we agreed on an elective that interested us both. History of Animation, a night class, was such an elective.

At the time, we were living in a crappy little university-subsidized apartment off-campus (waaaaay off-campus) with a couple of nice, friendly guys who'd gone to high school together. While we all went to the occasional party, our isolation (and my standoffishness) kept us at home most weekend nights. Lucky for me. Because that's how I discovered Dr. Gruesome.

Dr. Gruesome's Movie Morgue was a late-night show on Saturdays on the Richmond FOX affiliate (brand new at the time) in the vein of Elvira and Hilarious House of Frightenstein. The good doctor wore fake glasses and moustache, a mop for a wig and a lab coat. He and his "assistant", the tutti-fruity-wig-wearing Skeeter, hosted old horror movies, doing skits before and after commercial breaks from their cardboard and plywood "laboratory" set. The show was produced on less than a shoestring budget, the jokes were horrible and there were no production values to be found. (Though, somehow, Gruesome pulled off a live, on-camera effect of Skeeter's head exploding into a cloud of confetti.) And I was mesmerized.

Being a fan of all things horror-related (I was a subscriber to FANGORIA for years) I ate the show up. Mike and I tried to never miss a show. So, imagine our elation when we discovered that the instructor of our History of Animation class, Mark Bartholomew, was Dr. Gruesome. Mike and I almost went through the ceiling. I don't remember how it came out in class but the reactions of the students ranged from "meh" (most of the ladies) to "well, that's kind of interesting" (the majority) to "HOLY #$%*ing SHIT!!!" (Mike and me.)

I tried to keep the fanboy hero-worship to a minimum but I think Mark got a kick out of having some fans in his class. I brought in the Commonwealth Times (VCU's rag) article about him for him to autograph. (I've attached it below.) One night, when he couldn't make it to class, he even had Matt "Skeeter" Pak fill in for him. It was a blast. And the class was very cool too. Mark knew his stuff and was a great teacher. Mike and I were exposed to amazing animation we didn't even know existed. And Mark covered all the bases from Gertie the Dinosaur to Snow White to Bugs Bunny to Star Blazers. I got to write a paper on Ray Harryhausen and an essay on Bugs Bunny's cross-dressing proclivities.

But the highlight was definitely meeting Dr. Gruesome and Skeeter. I was so taken with them that I decided to draw a comic book story about them. I've since lost the first page (which is about how far I got) but I did find the cover which I've posted above. I think I was going for a John Totleben inking style which was appropriate for the material, I guess. I hope you like it.

Later.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Two Years

I really didn't want to post this and I have a lot going on but I also don't want people to think I'm not, well, thinking about it. Yes, tomorrow marks the second anniversary of Mike's death. The first year was such a blur dealing with the...stuff...you have to deal with when a loved one is gone that when I looked up, I was shocked to see that a year had passed. This year was a little different but no less painful. I don't go a day...an hour without thinking about him in some way. Of course, Charlie's presence is a constant reminder. I was attending a panel last week in New Orleans, listening to a lecture by Danny Bilson. I had just found out he'd worked on the TRANCERS movies (really bad movies that Mike and I loved) when I thought, just for a split second, about sending Mike an email about it. It brought tears to my eyes, as it always does but it passed quickly. I guess I'm getting used to it. Part of me is glad but mostly I feel guilty about it. I don't think I should ever stop crying about it.

But I don't want this to be a sad post so I'm going to tell a funny Mike (and Mom, Suzanne and me) story. It's definitely one of those "you had to be there" moments but it's something I remember so fondly I want to tell it.

About five or so years ago, my parents went to Italy for three weeks to visit some friends from Dad's Army days and they took Suzanne, Mike and me with them for one week to show everybody how big we'd gotten. (In my case, it was really big. I'd ballooned to 300 pounds and was several months from my much-needed weight loss.) Every time we were re-introduced to someone, they'd look at us and say, "Aaiiieee! Que grande!" (I realize that's probably written in Spanish but it was said in Italian. :) )

We visited two older people named Filicina and her husband, whose name escapes me. They were two of the sweetest, friendliest people I'd ever met and they didn't speak a word of English. Suzanne and I didn't speak any Italian but Mike had retained enough from his childhood to at least follow the rudiments of a conversation even if he couldn't really participate in it. We also kept joking about not knowing any Italian by quoting Steve Martin's routine about visiting countries that "don't have the courtesy to speak English." We mostly just smiled and listened to my parents talking to them. Italian really is a lovely language.

At some point, we'd ended up back in the home of Mom and Dad's good friend Bruno (where we were spending much of our time) and Dad was off somewhere with Bruno and his daughter Theresa. That left the rest of us in the living room speaking, thankfully, exclusively English and talking about our visits. Filicina's name was pronounced "Fill-a-chee-na" but we couldn't remember how to say it to save our lives. We kept calling her "Fettucini," which we thought was the height of comedy. We kept cracking up over it which I think annoyed Mom because she was so fond of her. Eventually, Mike realized none of us were mentioning her husband by name and said, "What is his name, anyway?"

Without missing a beat, I said, "Alfredo."

Mike instantly burst out laughing, followed by Suzanne. Most people don't think I'm very funny so I was taken aback at Mike's reaction at first but eventually, since the laughter went on for so long, I couldn't help it. I broke up. Mom was bewildered for a minute until she got it and then, despite herself, laughed out loud. We laughed so long and hard that our faces turned purple, we were crying and could hardly breathe. Mike did that thing he always did where he'd laugh a little, then repeat what made him laugh and break up again. Which would send the rest of us back into a hopeless fit of laughing again. I don't remember how long it went on but I'm surprised we all survived it.

From that day on, that nice, sweet couple was known as Fettucini and Alfredo. Bless their hearts.

Thanks for that day, Mike. I miss you, bro.

UPDATE: Newsarama has a wonderful retrospective of Mike's life and career here. Thanks to Scott Weinstein for the link.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Coming up for air!

Wow. That was a hell of a two weeks.

I just worked 101 hours in 8 days which has to be some kind of record for me. (I even slept under my desk one night.) And it feels weird that it’s over. I’ve been dreading this new business pitch for a couple of months now and it was as brutal as promised but, now that it’s over, I realize how much fun it was. New business pitches are always different than the day-to-day drudgery of working at an ad agency. Especially in my department. During these times, you aren’t as much of a grunt as usual. There’s so much to do in so short a time that Studio Artists like myself don many hats, becoming a mutant combination of artist, project manager, art director and sometimes even copywriter. The Creative Directors (maybe out of desperation) put much more trust in our abilities and really rely on us to step out of our comfort zone. As the Art Director on one of the campaigns was out of the office for the week and the agency was incredibly shorthanded, I was thrust into the additional position of having to carry on his work for him. It was terrifying and exhilarating and gratifying all at the same time. Alas, we did not win this particular account. If you know where I work and follow the trades, you can probably do the math. It was a huge disappointment. Not so much for the money, though I’m sure there are bean counters somewhere shedding a tear, but for the work. This would have been a fun account and I had a blast working on it. It allowed me to exercise muscles I haven’t had to use at work in a long time. Ah well. We’ll get the next one.

Now I’m heading off, with a coworker, to SIGGRAPH for a week. It’s sort of a Heroes Convention for people who do computer graphics for film and video games. This year it’s in New Orleans, a city I’ve never visited, and I’m very excited for the opportunity. I’ll be attending panels and papers and so forth practically from dawn to dusk. Folks from PIXAR and other computer effects houses will be there. (Like the guys that worked on STAR TREK!) And it will all be very fascinating, I’m sure. My work schedule has taken its toll on the 3D graphics stuff but I still enjoy it very much. It’s just that the timing is unfortunate. I have some personal stuff that needs to be done and this will put it off yet another week. Still, I’m going to try not to be too whiny about it. These opportunities don’t pop up too often for folks in my department and I want to take full advantage of it. Maybe it will spark something that will get people at the agency excited about our 3D capabilities.

Which brings me to my video project. I mentioned a while back that I was working on something fun that would help me learn how to integrate all the cool new software we’re learning at work. Cinema 4D, Final Cut Pro, After Effects. Maybe some Flame if I’m lucky. I was making some good time. I’d modeled my main character and rigged him. But I got stuck on the weight mapping and then time became a factor. Work has been a real bear lately and I’ve got some other commitments outside the office. Some personal, some professional. So I’ve had to make a tough decision and I’m going to put the video on hold for a while. I’ll try to work on it as time permits but time ain’t permitting much lately. Thing is, I’ve been dying to share. I’m usually pretty good at keeping secrets but I’m the kid who was always running to Mommy with my latest drawings so she could tell me how great I was. So this is my adult version of running to you guys and yelling “Oooh, oooh! Look what I did!”

The idea was to produce a fake movie trailer for a film adaptation of one of my all-time favorite comic book characters. These things are all the rage but usually involve a live person dressed up in tights. A lot of these are really good (GRAYSON stands out) but they often try to tell the entire story and run a little long. This was going to be no longer than two-minutes and take some of the iconic moments from the series and bring them to life in a coherent trailer. It seemed like things were coming together. I had been casting in my head, even had the lead actress (though she wasn’t aware of it…I’m pretty sure she could be convinced) had some locations figured out and had about half the scenes worked out. I even had people volunteering to help including a coworker who aspires to be a stuntman and is very good friends with a group of retired Hollywood stunt and effects guys. The problem, as it always has been, is time. Just not enough of it.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s what the project WOULD (and may still) have been:




Before I cut this off, I wanted to leave you with a few sketches since I haven’t done any in a while. I’ve been reading the SWAMP THING hardcover recently that reprints the early Wein/Wrightson/Redondo issues and have been just captivated. I have to say I prefer these to the Alan Moore issues. Yes, they were brilliant, but I’m and old-school guy at heart and the artwork in these books is just astonishing. I remember being hugely disappointed when reading Dad’s copies as a kid and suddenly Wrightson’s issues end and this guy with a weird name takes over. I’m so glad DC included Redondo’s first few issues in this collection because they’re stunning. It’s funny how your tastes morph as you age. Or maybe I just have always hated change. Because Redondo is actually a better draftsman than Wrightson. Wrightson’s work is beautiful and perfect and I love it but the Redondo stuff is just a joy to look at. If you haven’t picked up this collection yet, I highly recommend you do. I just hope they do the same with the rest of the series and include the Pasko/Yeates relaunch. Yeates, too, is an under-appreciated artist.




Anyway, I drew the two inked sketches around 4:00 a.m. and they leave much to be desired. It never pays to ink when you’re delirious from lack of sleep. I saw what I’d done the next morning(s) and decided they weren’t worth finishing. But I was still on the Swamp Thing kick and gave the old muck-encrusted mockery of a man another shot. I like the headshot better but didn’t have a chance to ink it. Hope you like these more than I do.

Okay, I’ve got a ton to do before I head to Nawlins so I’d better get to it. Have a great week and…

Later!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why are you here...?!!


...when you should be reading this book! The only reason I'm not reading it now is because I'm getting crushed at work. What's your excuse? Okay, I know some of you probably have a good reason. But, seriously. Turn off your computer and go read this book.