Before I get to the goods about our trip to Baltimore, I should mention that I'm a little embarrassed about my reaction to BOOM!'s new Dracula book. (Which was a decent read, once I got past the similarities that had me so worked up.) I came across a bit whiney, I'm afraid. I'm still a little distressed about how closely some of the details mirror each other but after talking to Todd, I feel a lot better. Good thing we all talked him into coming. He made me feel so ridiculous about the whole thing. And it didn't hurt that, as I was walking around the convention hall, I saw at least three booths pimping new books that were alarmingly similar to THE PERHAPANAUTS. (Just not as cool.) It put everything into perspective and illustrated Todd's point. By Sunday morning, I was already itching to start writing Chapter Five.
But enough of that.
Looks like I could stick Todd's whole head in my mouth, doesn't it? Either I've gained more weight than I thought or Todd's been in the dryer.
Baltimore Comicon 2010 was a hell of a lot of fun. Probably the largest crowd I've seen since I went to San Diego Comicon back in the late '90s. I'm exhausted and Suzanne and I were tired, it seemed, all the time but the weekend went by way too fast and we were a little sad to have to go back to the "real" world. Seeing everyone was a real blast and it was nice to have Todd by our side again. I think the convention-goers agreed because every time he got up to go look around or take care of something, we'd have to tell five people he'd be back "in a minute." Craig Rousseau had us in stitches the entire time and the days just flew by.
We did get off to a rocky start, though. We checked in at about 9:30 Friday night only to find out the Hyatt had overbooked and they asked us if we'd be willing to spend the night across the street at the Sheraton. We didn't like the idea but the Hyatt agreed to pick up the tab for the room so we figured that was a pretty good trade off. When we got to the room, though, it was less a room and more a broom closet with a window. The room was barely large enough for us to turn around in and the bed was more or less a futon. The top of the bed was about a foot from the floor. It was free, though, and we were pretty tired. We were literally across the street from the Hyatt (a ten-second walk) and hit the bar to say, "hi" to everyone. The first person we saw was Jamal Igle who greeted us with a big smile a hug. People always describe Mike as the "nicest man in comics." Well, I think Jamal is keeping that tradition alive now because he really is a sweetheart.
After hanging out with Todd, Craig, Rich Woodall and Shelton Drum, (and unexpectedly getting to meet Marc and Shelly Nathan's new baby Reese!) we went back to the room and discovered, to our surprise, that the futon slept great. Best night's sleep I've had in quite a while. And the bathroom was pretty nice. It really did turn out well. Our only complaint is that it was a bit of a hassle to have to check out of the Sheraton and drop our luggage off across the street before heading to the convention. Overall, a small price to pay for a free hotel room.
The days were a bit of a blur. I had forgotten the donation jar so Suze went out to a nearby CVS and bought a huge jug of pretzels and dumped them into a bag (They made a nice snack for everyone.) and we taped one of the Tellos prints to the front. Suzanne really saved the day on that one.
We saw a few regulars that we see at all the conventions. That's always somehow comforting. I finally got to meet the very nice Adam Hutchinson who flattered me by asking for a Question sketch. (I've done three of four sketches for folks and two of them have been the Question. Go figure.) He handed me a sketchbook in which to do it and I asked him if anyone important had drawn in it because I was nervous about messing up a page in something so precious. He shrugged and said, "Enh. Not really." Later, I was flipping through the book and saw, among others, a Walt Simonson, a Tim Sale and—GOOD LORD!—a Darwyn Cooke! I'm not exaggerating when I say I got faint when I saw that. Anyway, I drew him holding Yorick's skull and saying, "To be or not to be..." I thought I was being clever but nobody got it so... (Adam, I've started your friend's Nova sketch. E-mail me his address and I'll send it on when I'm done. Please apologize to him for me. I didn't want to rush it and I didn't dare take the sketchbook with me.)
I finally got to have an extended conversation with Dean Trippe whose drawing style I find very appealing. Somewhere between Brian Lee O'Malley and Darwyn Cooke. (Or, all Dean Trippe, if you prefer.) He gave me a print of a wonderful Superman drawing he did which I'm going to hang up at work while I still have a wall on which to do so. (Don't ask.) Dean was nice enough to buy an F.F. page and contribute to the fund. Thanks, Dean. It was great hanging out.
We also got to see Rod and Leanne Hannah who we missed at Heroes this year. Rod absolutely cracked me up when he had the balls to do something we all wanted to do at dinner Saturday night but didn't. I won't go into detail because it was a little embarrassing but it was necessary and I thank Rod. I think asking the waitress for a recommendation may have been pushing your luck, but #$%*ing hysterical, nonetheless. Just to piss him off, here's a picture of him guarding his ice cream from the rest of us barbarians.
Dinner was a blast, though I was sorry that we had to split the group into two tables and Todd wasn't sitting with us. We made up for it the next day, though, as we had the traditional BOMB. (Brotherhood of Mike Breakfast.) Suze and I have been fortunate to be included in a lot of these and this time we went about 15 minutes from the hotel to a place called the Broadway Diner which I believe Jamar Nicholas (or DJ Squatty Large as he wants to be called now) had seen on the Food Network.
The food was good but the service was spectacular. Jamar talked Todd and Craig into trying the dreaded "scrapple" against our adamant protests. It's a cross between potted meat and gristle. Being from rural Virginia, I've seen a lot of people eat it but I never could bring myself to.There were no casualties, fortunately. Jamar, Todd and Craig had us laughing to the point of crying the whole time and I could almost hear Mike's famous laugh a few times as well. We toasted the big lug before digging in. FOR MIKE!
The new buttons seemed to be a hit. Sales were slow but thanks to some generous donations from some very nice folks, we did just fine. So the award will go up a little more. (We're at $1,600 per year now. That's $350 more than when we started it!) Thanks to everyone who bought something or dropped money into the pretzel jug. Or just stopped by to offer encouragement. It means a lot.
There were a ton of retailers there with a lot of stuff but I didn't find much. I picked up several Ed Brubaker CAPTAIN AMERICA trades so I can start catching up on that. A CHAMPIONS Vol. 2 trade. And some DC collected miniseries like ECLIPSO. Not really enough to do my "loot" collage. Probably a good thing. I spent a lot less and I really am running out of places to put all these books.
The con was over before we knew it and it was time to say goodbye. We had a lot of laughs, increased the fund and got to see our friends. We couldn't ask for more. Another day would have been nice, though. :) To top it off, I even managed to lose a tiny bit of weight, despite all the beer and restaurant hopping.
Next up, the Salem Comic Convention in October. See you there.
Okay, I'm reeeally busy getting ready for Baltimore but I wanted to leave the blog on a cheery note. The other day, when I was at my LCS, my friend Marsha showed me this video of her and Marvin's cat Huey, named after the cartoon character Baby Huey. (He's a big kitty.) She kept referring to his "suck 'n' purr." I was afraid to ask but curiosity got the best of me. Marsha pulled this up on YouTube and I laughed my ass off. I thought it had to be a rare phenomenon but judging by the amount of similar videos, I guess not.
I've been sort of dreading today for a while. Wednesday is usually my favorite day of the week because it's when the new comics come out. I never really realized what a big part of my life it had become until recently. Suze and I would go to Nostalgia Plus to pick up the books and hang out with our friends Marvin and Marsha. Sometimes if we timed it right, we would go out to dinner with them afterward. Since our diet started, though, the dinner part has gotten cut out and it's made us realize how much we loved the whole experience.
This week was different, though. Because it marked the release of DRACULA: COMPANY OF MONSTERS, the new series from BOOM! Studios. When the series was first announced, I felt that sinking feeling I've felt nearly every time I thought I had a good idea and someone else beats me to it. It was similar to what I expect Todd felt when he saw the write-ups on PROOF. Except Todd and Craig got there first. The report I read on D:COM sounded so "in the neighborhood" of THE HAND ME DOWN HORROR that I literally couldn't sleep that night. This story, whether it gets published or not, has a deep personal significance to me. I'm very close to finishing the writing and this is certainly the farthest along I've ever gotten in any of my writing endeavors. I've cast aside so many of my potential stories because others had beaten me to it. I couldn't believe it was happening again.
When I started working out the story, vampires (especially Dracula) were passé. Nobody would be caught dead doing a vampire story. I got really excited. Then TWILIGHT happened and the shit hit the fan. Vampires were everywhere. People were looking for any excuse to put a vampire in their story. And Dracula comics started coming out of the woodwork. But I still didn't get too worried because I had two "hooks" in my story that were different. I won't go into one because I'm still hoping I'm in the clear on that one. But the other, the direct linking of the historical Vlad Tepes with Stoker's fictional character, had only been touched upon with any real detail in the Coppola film of the '90s.
COMPANY OF MONSTERS not only does this but it focuses on a couple of historical details that are central to my story. It's close enough to be nerve-wracking. I fear that if my story ever sees print, it will all be old-hat.
As for the other "hook", everything I've read about Busiek's story to this point and what I saw in the first issue leads me to believe that his story will be close enough to mine as to be a deal breaker. I sure hope not. Because I really love THE HAND ME DOWN HORROR. I sure would like to finish it.
The only comfort I have at this point is that Todd, Suzanne and Christian have been reading each chapter as I've finished it. It's only an audience of three but at least that's three people will know I wasn't cribbing from Busiek. Sigh.
Okay, on to cheerier stuff. In case I'm too busy at work between now and Friday to post again, we'll be at the Baltimore Comicon this coming weekend. It's only a quick drive up the road from Richmond and we're really looking forward to it. Marc, Shelly and Brad have kindly set us up at a table with Todd and Craig. (We'll try not to crowd you, guys.) And we'll be directly across the aisle from BLUE MILK SPECIAL writer/artist/spousal team Rod and Leeane Hannah, which has me excited because nobody else will talk about the incredible awesomeness of Hammer Films with me. (And with Halloween approaching, I'm eager to do just that!)
We've got some new buttons to debut. We ran out of the white "'Ringo" signature buttons Suzanne had made as a tribute to Mike at our first convention so we decided to take the opportunity to redesign them. These will be slightly bigger and feature the scholarship fund logo designed by my friend Matt Wojtysiak in white reversed out of black. If you're there, make sure you come by and get one to help spread the word. We plan on getting some more of the white tribute buttons by next Heroes and maybe, if we can afford it, some full-color Flyboy buttons. We pay for these out of our own pocket (again, every dime we take in goes to the fund and not for any sort of overhead) so we'll have to see how things go.
We're looking forward to seeing everybody again, especially Todd, since he wasn't at Heroes. But I'm also sad because apparently Brian Mulchahy, Warren Newsome and our buddy Heywood won't be there this year. We'll miss you guys. Maybe next time.
I've been kind of out of it the last week or so. Right around the time of my last post, I started feeling the beginnings of a cold that ended up really knocking me off my feet for a few days. I've been pretty susceptible to them the last few years for some reason, after years of virtual immunity. Not sure what happened but this one was a real doozy. Fortunately, the worst of it was over the weekend so I didn't miss any work. And speaking of work, this past week they moved my entire department downstairs to an area Suze calls "witness protection." It's pretty secluded. The good news is I have a window seat again. The bad news is it's only temporary. In a few months, they're moving us back up to our new permanent space that I have to say I'm not too thrilled (or optimistic) about. But whatever. It's just a job. As long as the paycheck finds me, I don't care where they put me.
As a result of this, I haven't been online much. I've been pretty wasted when I get home at night, usually falling asleep in front of the T.V. I've rented a few of the recent Roger Corman re-issues including GALAXY OF TERROR and FORBIDDEN WORLD. My god, what crap. I was scratching my head wondering why these movies have such devoted followings. Then, in the special features, one of the directors hit it on the head. It was a combination of the brilliantly lurid publicity art and the basic unavailability of the films. I admit, based on the movie posters, I'd worked myself into a near-frenzy of wanting to see them. And boy, did they suck. The best of the lot (and the one I purchased on Blu-ray because NetFlix didn't carry it) was HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP. And by "best of the lot", I don't mean that it's any good. But there are some nice special features and a decent James Horner score to keep it from being a total waste of money.
All this brings me to PIRANHA 3D, Alexandre Aja's remake of the Joe Dante original made for Roger Corman's New World Pictures. I have vaguely pleasant memories of the original so I was looking forward to the remake, now in theaters. I absolutely love any movie about creatures in the water. If you want to plant my butt in the seat, call your movie DEEP BLUE SEA, FROM THE DEPTHS or, hell, even SHARKTOPUS. I don't care what it's about. If there's even a hint of sea creatures, I'm down.
The trailer makes it seem like a goofy, campy summer creature feature. (And it is.) But I'm familiar with Aja's work (He directed HAUTE TENSION, one of the most brutally stomach-turning movies I've ever seen.), so I was pretty sure I could expect some real nastiness. And he didn't disappoint. I saw the flick today and I'm frankly shocked that a lot of the stuff in this picture made it past the MPAA. One shot in particular was so disgustingly gratuitous and shocking I couldn't help but laugh. But at the same time, I really wish it wasn't in there. It's not that I'm for censorship. It just seemed pointless.
I really enjoyed the movie. It had all the fun, gratuitous booby shots (but oddly, no sex) of a Roger Corman film but with the budget, script, performances and special effects that were always missing from those cheap-o quickies. This film has pretty much everything you'd want from a guilty pleasure schlock film...in spades. I just wish it had been longer. There was a lot of set up at the beginning. And while it was fun set-up, I don't know that I'd want to sit through all that again. Boobies or no boobies. I can see me just skipping ahead to the big set-piece at the end of the film which is truly epic...just too short. Aja is at his stomach-turning best in this film but there's a real sense of 80's horror fun here that's lacking in the rest of his films that I've seen.
I also enjoyed seeing Christopher Lloyd and Elizabeth Shue again. But Shue is playing the mother of a 17-year-old boy. The math might be right but she looked really good in this movie and I had a hard time buying her as that age. (I still have trouble accepting that I'm old enough to have a kid in college.) I had the same problem with Kari Wuhrer in EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS.
Now for the griping. My problem isn't with the film. It's with the idiots cutting together trailers these days. It's bad enough that trailers lately are pretty much short-form versions of the films themselves. But now there seems to be a trend where they include the final shot of the film in the trailer. There is a huge spoiler in the trailer for PIRANHA 3D. I started to realize it about two-thirds of the way in. I won't mention it if you've avoided the trailer but still want to see the film. But it was pretty irritating. The same thing happened with one of my favorite horror movies of the last decade, QUARANTINE. The last shot wasn't just in the trailer, it was on the movie poster. Do producers have so little confidence in their films these days that they feel they have to reveal everything upfront to get people to watch them? Even more irritatingly, there were a couple of shots I remembered from the trailer that weren't even in the movie. Including one iconic shot shown in the photo up above.
And one last gripe. STOP WITH THE 3D ALREADY!!! I've almost reached the point where I don't care what the movie is, if it's in 3D, I'm not going. I don't care if it is the "future of film." I've seen three films this year that were in 3D and only AVATAR was even remotely improved by it. It's a gimmick. And not a gimmick worth an extra 4 dollars on the price of the ticket. That's right. I paid 14 dollars to see PIRANHA today. If I had waited 3 months, I could buy the DVD for the same price when it's released. And if I'd waited six months, I could get it in the bargain bin for even less. Without having to watch it wearing stupid glasses that kept making my actual glasses slide down my nose, forcing me to spend 90 minutes with my index finger pressed between my eyes. I'm done being robbed by movie studios.
Okay, that's about it. I'm all settled in to my new space at work so, hopefully, I can get some sketching done at some point. I've also finished the script for part four of HAND ME DOWN HORROR. I just need to work out a title. That seems to be the hardest part of this whole enterprise. The first three chapters just popped into my head but this issue didn't have a clear "hook" that suggested a title. I've been scratching my head on that for a week now and still nothing. Wish me luck.
Today is the third anniversary of Mike’s death and I still can hardly believe it. I remember getting the phone call that Sunday night with near perfect clarity. I never really went through the “anger” stage (I felt too beaten up for that) but now, if I think about that night too much I do feel the need to break something. It passes quickly, thankfully. What has also passed is that weird phenomenon where I would start an email to him only to remember that it was pointless and feel an overwhelming sense of loss every time. Now there’s just the occasional, unbearable need to ask his advice on something and knowing I can’t. Suzanne and I still miss him terribly and, every once in a while, we’ll just look at each other and realize we were both thinking about him at the same time and we’ll sigh. If we’re home, we usually snatch up Charlie and mercilessly subject him to that “Rockabye Baby on steroids” thing Mike would do to him while going, “EENH-EENH-EENH-EENH!” We had forgotten about that until Todd showed up in Durham the week Mike died and demonstrated it for us. We laughed our heads off and I think that was the point that we realized that, as bad as things were, we might be all right.
As August 12th has approached, I’ve found myself listening again to the Fanboy Radio interviews Mike participated in, sometimes by himself and sometimes with Robert Kirkman or Skottie Young. It’s just so nice to hear his voice and I’m really grateful that he did them. And I found a way to download the videos of him on YouTube, shot when he was on a convention Spider-Man panel with John Romita, Sr. He doesn’t talk much but he’s there. I don’t know if all this is healthy but it has helped, though I haven’t quite gotten up the nerve to re-read his MODERN MASTERS book.
But I don’t want this to be too sad so I’ve posted above a drawing Mike did for me after I graduated college and he still had a year to go. We started at the same time but, while all of my community college credits transferred, some of Mike’s didn’t. So his stay at VCU was extended. I don’t think he minded. Mike had to work to save up for college, which was why we were able to attend at the same time. (Like most things in life, I had college handed to me on a silver platter when my parents came into some money just when I was ready to go.) In his mid-to-late twenties and prematurely gray, he always felt like the “old man on campus” but it was a beneficial time for him. He was exposed to other art forms and other creative people. He was taught by Don Early, one of the best figure drawing teachers in the country. And working to pay his own way, I believe, taught him the work ethic that carried over into his comics career. Mike may have been slow but nobody could say he was lazy. He didn’t sit around playing video games or watching movies when he should have been working. He started early and finished late. He was just a perfectionist.
Mike was always working on his comics portfolio, even during school. He’d finish a set of pages and then start on the next, usually discarding the earliest set as unacceptable. If you’ve ever seen his pre-career sample pages, you’ll see a lot of the style evident in the New Warriors piece. Mike was in his Brian Stelfreeze phase and was trying to emulate him. And he was also trying to work in (against his own preference) some of that cross-hatchy, fussy stuff that was all the rage, hoping to appeal to editors. But (if I remember correctly) he had seen some people at conventions show portfolios with lots of panel-to-panel continuity but with the occasional pin-up or two to punch up their presentation. He decided to do that and started cranking out glorious pinups of Dr. Strange, She-Hulk and some others.
My senior year in college, my girlfriend at the time was digging on the drawings and, though he couldn’t quite bring himself to like her, he told her she could have one as sort of a peace offering. She picked an awesome color drawing of Starfire from the Teen Titans. Much to my eventual regret. We didn’t end well and I can only imagine what happened to that piece. I have a photograph in which you can see it hanging on the wall in her dorm room but you can only just make out what it is.
I really wish I had that drawing.
In 1991, I was working a horrible job at a catering company, really putting that filmmaking degree to good use, and had an apartment right across the street from Mike’s. I was over there all the time, as soon as I was off work. I’d pop in and play videogames with Mike’s roommate Ron and our friend Quentin and just hang out. I’d graduated college without a plan, without any real goals and still months away from meeting Suzanne. I was coasting through life. But not Mike. As always, he had a goal and a plan to achieve it. Whenever I dropped in, Mike would be diligently sitting at his table, working on his drawings. Either for class or for his portfolio. I wish I’d ever had one-tenth of his drive. At some point during this, and my memory fails me at this point, Mike did the above drawing for me. It was probably for my birthday because we were both pretty broke all the time and I would always pester him for drawings. And, of course, there’s the whole Nova thing. Although Mike had the audacity to put him in that damned brown costume they had him in.
The note at the bottom promises the second half of the piece. As far as I know, it never materialized. I say “as far as I know” because, for some reason, I never got this one. I found it in a portfolio of Mike’s college-era work in his house. You can imagine how it made me feel. As soon as I found it, I knew I had to share. So here it is, folks. I know you’ll love it as much as I do.
The drawing above is my entry into the Project Rooftop: Captain America costume redesign contest. I scoured the rules two or three times and there was no mention of not posting your entries elsewhere and, as I don't have any sketches to post (mostly because I was working on this) I'm hoping they won't mind. Other than Dean, I don't think any of the judges come here so it's not like I'm influencing anyone with it.
Christian pointed out to me that there was a new contest in the works and suggested I enter. I was nervous because costume design is one of my many weak points and, besides, Captain America's uniform is one I've always considered to be "perfect". Really no room for improvement, much like Green Lantern, Spider-Man and (dare I say it), the original Nova suit. But I thought maybe Cap could use a formal military outfit for special occasions like funerals, award ceremonies, inaugurations, etc. But you never know when trouble will come calling so I made sure he had a helmet and a place to keep his keys and cell phone. I've already seen a few things I wish I'd done differently but the contest is closed now and I'm just waiting to see if I made the cut. I'm just hoping to make it as far as getting posted on the site. And I can't wait to see the other entries. Looking through the other contest results just make me feel like the amateur I am. Some great stuff there. Anyway, I hope you like it. Wish me luck.
Suzanne and I have noticed that whenever we're trying to lose weight, as we are now (I'm down 12 pounds and counting since Todd posted that picture of me from Heroes, thank you very much.) people hear the word "diet" and translate that as "please give me fattening food." It seems like everywhere we go there's someone wanting to give us free grub. Restaurants I can understand but with friends and family it's like they find our desire to drop some pounds personally offensive.
It's like that with distractions too. Now that I've made a concerted effort to work on HAND ME DOWN HORROR, my world is filled with people and things vying for my attention. Either it's a poker game with my co-workers, the release of STARCRAFT 2 (which, thankfully, doesn't work on my home computer) or the slew of cool horror movies coming to Blu-ray (GALAXY OF TERROR, HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP, PIRANHA and FORBIDDEN WORLD, baby!) and to theaters (PIRANHA 3D and LAST EXORCISM leading the charge.) I've still managed to avoid as much of this as possible and get some writing time in whenever possible but with football season starting soon, I'm a little concerned. Fortunately, the upcoming fall TV season doesn't appear to offer any new shows that interest me in the slightest. And with FLASH/FORWARD and LOST off the plate, I'm looking good in that department.
Speaking of distraction. Today, Suze and I finally made it to "Movies and Mimosas" at the Bowtie Cinema here in Richmond. (The mimosas are served outside in the lobby.) On weekend mornings, they show classic movies from yesteryear and this weekend it was DIAL "M" FOR MURDER, one of Hitchcock's films I had not yet seen. It was a blast. An entire film that takes place in one room. I have a great love for Hitchcock and Suze and I laughed at several shots that would be taken for granted now or considered cheesy but were quite innovative and clever in their time.
After that, we swung by the Virginia Comicon and spent most of our time there talking to Shelton Drum of Heroes Con who was set up there. It's really nice that he comes to these smaller cons because we don't really get much chance to thank him personally at Heroes as he's so busy. We also confirmed with Brett Carreras that we'll be setting up at the November Virginia Comicon which is a two-day affair. And we're tentatively scheduled to appear at Chris Garvey's convention at the Salem Civic Center in October. Whew. We were disappointed that Marc Nathan couldn't make it but, as he's expecting to become a first-time Dad any minute now, it was understandable. Good luck, Marc and Shelley!
The title of this post is a reference to my new favorite television commercial. I usually can't stand advertisements. That's a direct result of working in the business for so long. The sheer egotism and douchebaggery in the industry has turned me off to the stuff. Whenever I see a TV spot, even one I like, all I can think about is all the crap that most likely went on behind the scenes. (Do other professions have people that show up for work on a 105-degree day wearing a wool cap as a fashion statement?) But this one is so much damned fun I can't help myself. Every time I see it, I break up laughing. It really is brilliant. Check it out:
On a related note, Suze and I saw INCEPTION. While I enjoyed it very much and would see it again, it's not my favorite Nolan film. That's a jump ball between DARK KNIGHT and MEMENTO. And MEMENTO has longer fingers. Again, I loved the movie and it's an impressive feat in storytelling (Nolan loves a challenge!) but if you need the first hour of your movie to explain the rules of your story, maybe you need to simplify things just a tad.
By the way, as of today, it's official. We'll be representing the MIKE WIERINGO SCHOLARSHIP FUND at the Baltimore Con later this month. Just in case anyone was wondering. Hope to see you there.