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.

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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.

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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.