Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Since we'll be in Charlotte on the 24th, I thought I should go ahead and post this while I have the chance. This Sunday would have been Mike's 49th birthday. I know Mike would have been freaking out because next year would have been the dreaded five-oh.  But you remember the old joke about getting old, right? It beats the alternative.

Usually on this day, I tell a funny story about Mike rather than bring everybody down. But this year I got nuthin'. It's been a rough half-year or so since we lost Suzanne's dad and it's really made me miss Mike even more. I tell people that we "miss Mike more and more every day" and it's become an automatic response that sounds like it. It seems trite. But, good god, it's the truth. There are days that I need to speak to him so much that it hurts.

Mike was my cheerleader. On days when I was feeling frustrated or worthless or felt like a failure, he would always point out the good things and remind me of my successes and  what a great wife I have in Suze. Whenever I started going on and on about my "crappy job" he would set me straight, reminding me that I have a steady paycheck, health insurance and a 401K, all things he went without. No matter how lousy I was feeling, Mike would always manage to call at just the right time and by the time we were finished talking, I felt like a million bucks.

I used to love getting calls from Mike. Busy as he was, he would always find a reason to call me up and see how things were going. I would be downstairs in the den and hear the phone ring. Suze would pick it up and within seconds I'd know it was Mike on the other end because she'd start giggling and laughing and by the time she brought the phone down to me, her face would be almost purple. He had making my wife laugh down to an art form.

Our phone conversations weren't always about cheering me up. We talked about everything. Football, politics, comics, TV shows, movies, novels, family gossip, my job, his job. Same as everybody else. But Mike and I had more interests in common than I will ever have with anyone else as long as I live. That's why I feel a little twinge every time I see a movie like THE AVENGERS or read a new Stephen King novel or some new bit of technology comes out like the iPad. As much as I enjoy all these things, and I do, there's always that nagging voice in my head saying, "Mike never got to see this." I keep hoping it will stop because eventually, we're all gonna go and unless it's because of an asteroid smacking into the planet, there will be things that come along after we're gone that we all would have like to have seen. But I can't help it. I remember Mike's astonished reaction to SUPERMAN RETURNS and wonder what his face would have looked like after IRON MAN and all the subsequent films.

Obviously, Thanksgivings just aren't the same. My mother has eye doctor appointments frequently and that brings my parents to Richmond. I get to see them, while not as often as I'd like, pretty darned often considering how far apart we live. But I only got to see Mike in person two or three times a year. One of them was Thanksgiving. Now that he's gone, Thanksgiving has lost a lot of that excitement that it held for me. The anticipation of getting to hang out with Mike for three or four days without interruption was sublime. I really miss that.

It's no secret that I was taken with the fact that Mike had become a successful comic book artist. It was like my big brother grew up to be Elvis. Getting those emails from him containing pencil scans from whatever book he was working on made my week. He'd always admonish me to not share them with anyone and then two minutes later I'd get another email saying I could show Christian if I wanted to as if a lightbulb had gone off over his head. The biggest "secrets" he ever shared with me were (1) the time he told me about turning down a Harry Potter comic that he'd done some concept sketches for and (2) when he turned down the latest Nova series and sent me the outline for Marvel's plans for the character. Both those revelations broke my heart and I tried over and over to get him to reconsider but he'd made up his mind on both. Now, five years later, I'm finally breaking his confidence and telling the secrets. Sometimes, I'd turn the tables and send him some artwork I'd done for some advertising client. A photo comp I was particularly proud of. Or some storyboard drawings. Always with the admonition "Don't share!" and then I'd laugh. Because nobody would care. Except Mike. He was always overflowing with praise. I imagined him printing them out and putting them on the refrigerator door.

He was so cool about his career too. While I was jumping out of my skin about it, he would just shrug. We'd talk about some of the egos that some of the bigger names would get (Which is true in any industry. I'm not throwing stones. Advertising, anyone?) and he would shake his head and say, "I draw comic books for a living. Who could get an ego about that?" He would introduce me to people I idolized like Alex Ross or Nick Cardy like he was inviting me to meet his mailman. He was friendly with some of the biggest names in the industry but, to him, it was no different than me hanging out with the guy that sits three desks down from me at the agency. 

Don't get me wrong. He was just as impressed with the talent these folks have as I was. I remember how giddy he was when he showed me a page of artwork he got from Mike Mignola. He'd introduced himself as a fan and Mignola had not only known who he was but told him he was a fan of Mike's himself. He asked if they could trade pages. Mike was beside himself. It was the same with guys like George Perez, Stuart Immonen, Walt Simonson. He was in awe of them. But the fact that he knew them and could hang out with them without feeling like a shmuck...Enh. In Mike's view, we're all just people. 

Well, look at this. This is probably the most rambling thing I've ever posted. Sorry about that. I guess what all this boils down to is that I miss my brother. Still. As much as I enjoy going to all these conventions and meeting Mike's fans and hearing stories about how much they love his artwork and wish they could have met him. As much as I enjoy hanging out with Mike's friends in the industry who have been so gracious to to us and the scholarship. And as much as I love the new family I have in Todd and Craig and the Brotherhood of Mike...I'd give it all up in a second to go back to being the guy who had to wait in line to get a hug from his brother. To have Mike sitting there at that table greeting his fans (and his fans really are the best) with a smile and a sketch. To have Mike going on and on about how cute Charlie was being that day. To have Mike being the guy that could reduce my wife to a giggling, crying puddle in seconds.

Happy Birthday, Mike. You deserved to be 49. And much more beyond that. And we really do miss you more and more each day.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Back Again. (Back...get it?)

It's been a crazy couple of months. I won't go in to the usual boring work stuff but…dayum. I think you know what I mean. Suffice it to say that the two days I took off from work to have surgery last week were the high point of my month. Surgery, you ask? Nothing serious. I've just had a few holes sliced in me over the last couple of weeks. The first was just to have a mole on my chest checked out. Suze had been worrying about it for years and when my doctor looked at it during a routine check-up, he said I should have it biopsied. So I did, not realizing that meant they were going to cut out a nickle-sized chunk of Mafus flesh. That turned out okay (I think there are no finer words in the English language than "your test results came back negative.") and it's almost all healed up. But the kicker was the whole point for the check-up in the first place, which was having a couple of cysts on my back looked at. I tend to get them a lot (starting in college) and every few years, when I've got 2 or 3 saved up, I arrange to have them removed all at once. I know a guy who has cysts that float around under the skin and when he gets a collection, they cut a hole and push them all out through it like a Pez dispenser. That ain't the kind I got. Mine are big, insidious suckers about the size of a fat quarter that latch onto the meat and they have to knock me out and dig them out before they turn into something worse. Usually, they leave a slight dent in the flesh with a scar about an inch or so long. But there's this one… The very first one I got was over my left shoulder blade and this is the fourth time I've tried to have it dealt with. This time, I guess the surgeon took it personal and went at it like it had insulted his mother. He cut a six-inches or so long incision into my back, across the middle and yanked out scar tissue like he was pulling up wire grass. I had no indication this was going to be the case and if I had, I never would have done it when I did because next weekend is… HEROES CON! Yep. Day after tomorrow, we're heading down to Charlotte to attend the 30th Anniversary of the Heroes Convention with tracer extraordinaire, Christian Leaf in tow. I'll be doing it with stitches in my back so, if you see me and you're happy about that fact, please don't clap me on the back. My Percocet supply is dwindling and I might holler. Hopefully, we'll be representing the Mike Wieringo Scholarship Fund again. I say "hopefully" because, though I spoke with Shelton a few months back at the VA COMICON to confirm our appearance, I haven't spoken to him since and I don't see us listed on the website. That doesn't mean anything though, because that's been the case before. But I try not to ever take anything for granted. If we do get to set up, I'm going to assume we'll be next to the Perhapanauts folk in Artists Alley around table 401 or so. So look for us there if you're interested. If we're not there, it probably means I'll be enjoying my first convention in 5 years as a spectator. Not a tragedy, obviously, but it would not be so good for the scholarship. But like I said, Shelton's never let us down before so... _____________________________ Believe it or not, between the time I started this post and my typing this part, I've broken a tooth. Gotta squeeze in a dental visit between now and Thursday. Somehow. Jeez. And I thought getting a haircut was going to be problematic. ______________________________ For those of you who are curious, I've written 75 page of the HMDH novel (about 16,000 words). That may sound like a lot but I started this thing a couple months ago and I'm only to the part where the first issue of the comic version ended. That sucks. Stephen King says a writer (in his estimation) should put out 10 pages of fresh copy daily. So I'm a few hundred pages behind. To his mind, I should have my first draft done some time next month. Ain't happening. But I'm plugging along. Of course, I experience doubts on a daily basis. That was driving me crazy until I read a great quote somewhere. I've forgotten who said it. It was on a writing site online. The quote read, "Allow yourself to write a horrible first draft." So that's what I'm doing. I was handicapping myself by "crafting" every single line. And it was killing my momentum. So I'll craft later. And write now. It's still fun. I'm having to give personalities and backstories to characters who were just passing through in the comic scripts. I can't rely on visuals to get across something that needs to be written out, hopefully with some finesse. But, fortunately, it turns out that's the best part. I'm still having a blast with it. I just hope that doesn't diminish as my job becomes more and more demanding every day. Someday that will reach critical mass and my head will explode. Until then, I'll just keep struggling to eek out a half-page to a page a day until this thing is done. So that's about it for now. I have a ton of stuff to do to get ready for the convention. And I have to figure out how to eat dinner without breaking the rest of this tooth off. And I need to write a special post that I need to put up before we leave for Charlotte. You'll see why soon. So adios. Hope to see you in Charlotte!