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.


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 “” 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 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.


(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.


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.