Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gone, gone the form of man...

I hope everybody had a good Christmas. I sure did. To be honest, the whole season leading up to it was exhausting and I felt the Scrooge in me bubbling back to the surface but hanging out with Suze, her awesome family and the cats brought me back around. I had a great time. But four days of overeating, overdrinking (eggnog!) and delivering presents has me ready to get back to my routine.

We got back to town late Saturday and had our own little Christmas, just two (four?) of us. Thanks to Suzanne spoiling me rotten, I got pretty much everything I was hoping for along with some really big surprises like the PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES DVD. (POTZ has a special place in my heart for reasons I’ll go into some other day.) My favorite gift, though, has to be the complete INCREDIBLE HULK TV Series on DVD. I’m really enjoying it and it’s so neat to finally see these episodes in color on our HDTV. When the show was on the air originally, I saw them on a tiny black and white TV set and I never noticed things like Lou’s makeup coming off on people’s clothes or his pink plumber’s crack peeking out when he’d squat down to pick something up. That just adds to the fun, though, and I’m really glad they didn’t go in and fix that stuff digitally. Thanks honey!

My sister-in-law and her husband got me an Amazon gift card which is really coming in handy. I’ve already ordered myself the JACK KIRBY’S DEMON OMNIBUS (along with a book about the SKYWALD HORROR-MOOD.) I was very glad to see DC putting out Kirby’s stuff in hardcover. (Unlike many, I LOVE the “cheap” paper because it makes the books lighter and easier to hold while I’m reading.) It’s been long overdue. I never got the chance to read the stuff when I was a kid because Dad had to pick up his books at the PX on his Army base and sometimes issues would come in and sometimes they wouldn’t. So there were huge gaps in his collection and I just couldn’t get into it. THE DEMON looked interesting but I would get frustrated reading non-consecutive issues and wondering if I’d missed something important and decided to pass. So, when DC announced the FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUS series, Mike and I both got really excited. Mike, because he was a bigger Kirby fan than even me and, me, because I could foresee the opportunity for many Christmas gifts for Mike to come. He was impossible to buy for because I just didn’t know what he had. Or liked. His tastes were more sophisticated than mine. But here was something I knew he wanted and I couldn’t wait to give them to him. Unfortunately, that was not to be.

This year, I would have given him the DEMON OMNIBUS. I don’t remember if he posted it on his blog or told me personally but I remember him being very excited about getting the entire set of THE DEMON’s original print run on eBay. Mike didn’t buy a lot of back issues at that point but this was something he really wanted. (I remember thinking he’d have been a great choice for drawing a Demon revival.) He would have been very happy to have the series in a nice hardcover collection. As will I. I just really wish it had come out sooner.

Anyway, that brings me to this post’s sketch. I didn’t have high hopes for it because I’d never so much as doodled the Demon before and don’t have a feel for him. But I wanted to play around with some dry brush technique using some old nearly empty pens and mess around a bit more with my whiteout pen. It was fun but I think it looks rushed. Because it was. I think Etrigan’s noggin is a little small. But I learned a lot by drawing it so I’m happy. I had fun coloring it and that was what I really wanted to concentrate on. I think I got a little over-ambitious though, with the multiple light sources and things might have gotten confusing. I usually can’t tell about these things until I’ve spent some time away from it. I hope you like it and have a great and happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Santa Claws

Though I’d had this new banner in mind for some time, I never seemed to have the chance to actually draw it. As it turns out, I had to slap it together really fast. I didn’t care much for the drawing (at first) because I barely penciled it before rushing the inks and I was using a brush pen that had seen much better days. It ran out of ink before I was done and I had to move on to another one. I tried to freehand the straight lines and ended up with some weird wobbly stuff. Let me tell you, it may LOOK like Darwyn Cooke just slings the ink and that it magically falls onto the paper in just the perfect spot but every line he puts down is deliberate. If I can master that, I will be a happy dood.

Strangely, though, once I finished the banner, I was really happy with how it came out. I think it has the exact mood I was going for and I love how the kid came out. I had to laugh though. When I was looking at it afterward, I noticed that, for you to be able to see the moon outside the window, the stairs would have to go into nothingness. Whoops. Oh well, maybe there’s a landing about five steps up and then the staircase turns right. Yeah, that’s it.

Have a great Christmas, or whatever you celebrate this time of year. I’m a non-denominational kind of guy so whatever the reason you spend tons of money on presents for other people is fine with me. I hope you all get lots and lots of goodies. Just make sure you put out plenty of dog biscuits for Santa...just in case!

Oh, and PJ, this banner was for you!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Oh, no you di'n't!!


Yeah, I did.

I got about halfway through this before I realized I'd have to have balls of steel to post a drawing of the Flash on my blog. I had so much fun with the Hulk drawing and post that I decided to do another post about a fondly-remembered TV superhero show. It didn't even occur to me until I was well into it that Mike was so closely associated with DC's FLASH comic that I was inviting a lot of comparisons I'd rather not face. I thought about it long and hard and two facts made my mind up for me. One, the Flash was my favorite DC character long before Mike got the assignment. (Imagine how excited I was when he did...then double it.) Two, this drawing is not of DC's version but of the character in the TV show.

The Flash TV adaptation was announced around the time I graduated from college. Mike was on the five-year plan so he was still in school. I was bunking with some college friends in the same apartment complex Mike was living in. Right across the parking lot, in fact. I'd gotten a terrible job working in the office of a catering company on the VCU campus and spent most nights over at Mike's and his roomie Ron's place. (They were using my TV so if I wanted to watch something I'd have to do it over there.)

It was a miserable time in my life. I'd just been unexpectedly and unceremoniously dumped by my longtime girlfriend who'd then moved into the same apartment complex (maybe to torture me?) I had a job I hated. And I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I'd studied film in college mostly as a way to create an identity separate from Mike (Iong story) and after graduation, I realized I had no talent for it and didn't like the lifestyle. Besides, I had no idea how to get started. So, having next to nothing going for me, having no self-esteem and spending my days dodging an office full of horny women hellbent on grabbing my ass at every opportunity*, THE FLASH came along at just the right time.

I was very excited and Mike and I both looked forward to it with great anticipation. It was hot on the heels of Tim Burton's BATMAN film, which I was obsessed with at the time. Judging by the character design, lighting and theme music (by Danny Elfman), the producers were trying to capitalize on BATMAN's success. CBS made the unwise decision to put the show on opposite FOX's SIMPSONS and NBC's THE COSBY SHOW. I guess they were hoping it would be their tentpole show. Unfortunately, those two ultra-popular shows pretty much crushed THE FLASH right out of the gate and, despite a promising two-hour pilot movie, the show ended up being preempted most of the time and finally cancelled.

I think part of the downfall of the show (besides lousy scheduling) was the fact that the producers decided to go at least partially campy with it. That's too bad because the show really had a lot going for it. John Wesley Shipp was excellent as Barry Allen/The Flash and really looked the part. The guy was built like a tank which makes the Flash costume design so baffling. They added all these weird padded muscles that were completely unnecessary considering Shipp's impressive physique. And it was made of an odd foamy-textured material that looked almost like red felt and had an inconsistent color to it. Still, most of the time Shipp looked pretty cool in the suit anyway. The supporting cast was also excellent. Amanda Pays as Tina McGee and the baby-faced Alex Desert as Barry's lab assistant Julio were a lot of fun. And Mark Hamill turned in a memorable if campy performance as the Trickster. Unfortunately, after a few episodes, it seemed the writers weren't quite sure what to do with the character and the expectations set by the pilot movie started to drop. The show was dropped by CBS with completed episodes still unaired. You can find the complete series on DVD. I got mine the minute it hit the shelves.

Around the time THE FLASH was heading toward cancellation, I quit my job at the catering office and got a job working for VCU and it was there that I met Suzanne. So all was not lost!

I don't know if it was the significance of the character dawning on me or all the memories of what was going on in my life around the time the show was airing or if it was just because I was busy and didn't have a lot of time to focus on the drawing. But I'm really disappointed in how it came out. I liked the Hulk drawing so much, I was hoping I was on a roll but I ended up rushing the inks. I tried to cover up the bad quality by coloring it but that didn't work so I've posted both versions in the interest of full disclosure. I think this drawing also showcases my lack of anatomical knowledge. VCU used to have a weekly life-model drawing session for anyone who was interested, but I've lost my contact there and haven't been in years. I desperately need it. Anyway, that's all for now.



* I'm not kidding or exaggerating. I've never exactly been what you'd call a chick magnet and I was very young at the time so I'll admit the first few days it was very flattering. But after a few weeks, it got downright annoying. I don't believe sexual harassment is the quite the same thing when it's reversed as it was in my case but it's still a problem and I probably should have done something about it. But, as I say, I was young, naive, missing my girlfriend and so, unfortunately, I guess I was grateful for the attention.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Incredible Hulk!

Are there any shows on for kids anymore? I don’t watch as much TV as I used to but it seems to me that most, if not all, of primetime television shows are geared toward older teens and adults. I certainly wouldn’t want my kids (if I had any) watching my favorite shows like LOST, PRISON BREAK, HOUSE or THE SARAH CONNER CHRONICLES until they were in, say, high school. Even Saturday morning cartoons are going the way of the VCR and dial telephone. The FOX network has plans to do away with their kids programming block in favor of paid programming (infomercials.)

What the hell happened?

When I was a kid, there was a wealth of programming suitable for my age group that also played well with adults. THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN was probably my favorite. (I remember “running” around the yard in slo-mo, picking up empty cardboard boxes and throwing them, making the obligatory “nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh” sound.) But there was also PLANET OF THE APES, STAR TREK, DUKES OF HAZZARD...and THE INCREDIBLE HULK.

I remember how excited I was when I saw the first promo for the pilot movie. Even then, I knew how difficult it could be for Hollywood to adapt a character like the Hulk as a live-action show. But, judging by the previews, they’d pulled it off. And once I saw the movie (Mom let me stay up late, as she often did when something “special” was on.) I wasn’t disappointed. Obviously, they’d made some changes. I was baffled as to why he didn’t talk and why bullets actually hurt him. But I was mesmerized by the huge green guy with the white irises. Lou Ferrigno instantly became my idol. I wasn’t stupid. I knew there was Hollywood trickery afoot but for that one hour each Friday night (once the series was picked up) I completely bought into the idea that he and Bill Bixby were the same guy and that Ferrigno was actually seven feet tall and green. Ferrigno is about 6’ 5” tall so, with some creative camera work, this wasn’t hard to pull off. And, at the time, we didn’t have a color tv (just a 13” black and white) so I couldn’t really see the seams in the makeup. Or the spots where it would come off on whatever he picked up. Usually, a damsel in distress.

Mike’s friend Carlton wasn’t as appreciative of the character design as I was. He hated the eyes, the large nose they gave him (as did Ferrigno, I’ve heard) and described the wig as looking like something they found dead on the side of the road, dyed green and perched on his head. Looking back, he was right. Over the five seasons the show was airing, the makeup was slowly refined and improved but they never quite got the wig right.

But the show was really very good. The writing was good for it’s time and Bixby took the show seriously, grounding the show with his heartfelt, earnest performance. Obviously, it’s a little dated now. For budgetary reasons, the writers had to follow a strict formula of two “hulk-outs” per episode (at :25-after and :10-till) that never lasted more than a few minutes. The one time I can remember them breaking this formula was in one of the best episodes produced: “Married.” (SPOILERS!!) This featured one of the most heart-breaking scenes in the series in which Banner has to chase his new (and terminally ill) bride through a hurricane and becomes the Hulk from the stress. The creature finally tracks her down and she dies in his arms. When he changes back, she’s gone and he never got to say good bye. It was an incredible (n.p.i.) moment and, if I’m not mistaken, that episode won an emmy.

When I was a kid, I waited impatiently for each hulk-out to see Lou in all his glory, smashing walls and bending pipes. But I’ve been watching a few of the episodes on Hulu.com and now I can see that Bixby really was the star of the show.

Also slightly dated but really, surprisingly good is the music by the late Joe Harnell. Everybody knows the music played over the end credits called “The Lonely Man Theme” (referred to by Stewie Griffin as “the sad, walking away music from THE INCREDIBLE HULK...” but Harnell provided quite a few wonderful cues for the series. Each character, even the annoying but noble reporter Jack McGee had one. Harnell really doesn’t get enough credit for the work he did on the series. Since most of the Hulk’s scenes were shot in slow motion, really slowing the pacing, he used his music to add an element of excitement to the proceedings. I loved how, as Lou would emerge from wherever he’d just “changed”, Harnell’s familiar Hulk theme (bum...bum...BUMMMM...bummmm) announced the creature’s arrival. And, as he was chasing down frightened bad guys and pitching them into stacks of empty cardboard boxes or gingerly picking up Papier-mâché rocks with his fingertips (so as not to smear his makeup), this would be playing.

I could go on and on about how much I loved that show as a kid and how Lou Ferrigno (as the Hulk) inspired me in part to drop all the extra pounds in high school so I could play football and blah blah blah. But this post is getting long and I haven’t even mentioned my sketch at the top. I kind of like how it turned out, though I screwed up on part of the torso. That’s what I get for trying to ink in the dark. (Damn, the sun is going down early, isn’t it?) It reminds me of something but I can’t put my finger on it.

Anyway, if you haven’t checked out HULK show lately, do yourself a favor and head on over to the awesome Hulu site and watch an episode. Try to watch it with the era it was made in mind. Obviously, Lou Ferrigno in makeup can’t compete with a 12-foot tall CG creature but he sure did his best. And it was a heck of a lot of fun watching him do it.

If you’re interested in picking up some of Joe Harnell’s music, check out his memorial website and buy one of his CD’s. This site, incidentally, is where I got the music clips.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Super Human Resources in Color

Proving, once again, that Dave Stewart is safe, here is the color version of my SUPER HUMAN RESOURCES pinup. I haven't gotten permission from Ken Marcus to post it but I don't think he'll mind. Still, I'm posting it in lo-res, just in case. I tried to stick to the books palette of bright but not overly saturated colors. The crazy thing is it took me quite a bit longer to color this than it did to draw it. I have a real respect for guys like Stewart and Paul Mounts. Coloring is effing hard, man! My light source ended up all over the place.

When I drew this, I only had fuzzy black and white lasers handy so I made some errors in the costumes of the heroes Stalwart and Ironclad. I was able to correct a couple in Photoshop so it wouldn't be too obvious. Also, I had some trouble interpreting some of the designs because Justin Bleep has a really cool, unique style. I couldn't tell if the shape of Ironclad's head was supposed to be angular or if that was just a stylistic interpretation on Justin's part. I took the chance that his helmet was round and went for it. Ken seems to like the pinup so I guess I'm okay.

I was surprised at how fast I drew this. I penciled and inked it in one day, starting at noon and finishing around 11:30 p.m. And that was with frequent stops for meals and hanging out with Suzanne. It doesn't quite have the polish I was hoping for but I think that's because I was under the gun and didn't take the time to thumbnail it. When I'm at ease drawing something, as I was with this for some reason, I can see Mike's influence peeking out. This is particularly evident, to me anyway, in the Stalwart character. I often try very hard not to draw like Mike to avoid comparisons that would frankly hurt my feelings. But after spending years as a kid doing the exact opposite, I can be forgiven. Sometimes I just let go and have fun with it. And it wouldn't be the first time someone told me I'm no 'Ringo.

Again, SUPER HUMAN RESOURCES is in this month's Previews, so be sure to tell your retailer to order you a copy. This pinup appears in the fourth issue so hang in there!


If you haven't already, check out Christian's blog for his mash-up of Man-Thing and The Thing he drew for the art contest at the comic shop where he gets his books. For some reason, this one really makes me smile. Obviously, I'm a fan of Christian's anyway, but I love this pic. C-biscuit's sense of humor is really evident here. Check out the blue peepers.

Okay, that's all I got. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I can't believe it's been two weeks since my last post. Thanksgiving kind of dominated my time since the last one. We took a week off from work and did some work around the house...cleaning, fixing things, and doing yardwork in anticipation of my parents staying with us. Suzanne performed her usual wizardry in the kitchen and whipped up a great meal. Obviously, Mike was on our minds quite a bit. But I thought I'd get into the spirit of the holiday and focus on something we were thankful for rather than just sit around being depressed.

And this is it:

After Mike died, we had so much to deal with, we were making very emotional decisions without the time to really think about them. One of those decisions had to do with Charlie. Mike loved Charlie so much we couldn't bear the thought of him going to live with anyone but us. Unfortunately, we already had Toonces, a 16-year-old cat who'd never spent more than a day or two around another cat in his entire life. We had no idea how he'd react to another kitty coming to live with us. But Charlie was family and we had to try. So we took him home with us and hoped for the best. We got sooooo lucky. We followed Mark Waid's advice of having Christian bring Charlie into the house so he'd "take the blame". Then the two kind of circled each other for a few days and then worried us when they seemed to be chasing each other around the house and jumping on each other. We thought they were fighting. After a month or two, we realized they were playing. It wasn't long before we were greeted at the door each night with this sight:

Though I don't think they'll ever be BFFs (Charlie's taken too many of Tooncie's favorite perches for that), they certainly do hang around each other a lot and I think they enjoy keeping each other company while we're at work. This pairing could have been a disaster (they're feline versions of Oscar Madison and Felix Unger) but I am soooo thankful it worked out. Here are some more shots of the boyz as we all hung out in the den after gorging ourselves on Suze's cuisine and Mom's scrumptious desserts.

Here's Suzanne checking out the sales papers in preparation for shopping with mom on Friday. Unfortunately, Mom caught a nasty bug at some point and got really sick. She spent Friday in bed and so there was no shopping. Suze was sweet enough to stay at the house with her while Dad and I went to his favorite used bookstore across town. Did I ever mention she's the best wife ever?

And, hopefully my friend Ken Marcus won't mind me posting this. I spent the last day of my time off drawing the pinup I've been promising him for months. It's supposed to appear in issue four of SUPER HUMAN RESOURCES. I'm almost done coloring it but it's not quite ready to post. So here's the uncolored version.

The first issue of the book should be on the stands soon and Ken's been pumping the book all over the place. You can find interviews with him on Comic Book Resources, The Pulse, Newsarama and Ain't It Cool News. It's a fun book so if you've got room for another book on your pull list, I highly recommend it.

Okay, that's it for now. I hope you all had a great holiday.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

David Wellington

David Wellington is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. Wellington hit the scene big with his novel MONSTER ISLAND during the height of the zombie fiction craze a few years ago. There have certainly been better zombie novels (WORLD WAR Z being my favorite) but Wellington hit at just the right time with a surprisingly well-written, well designed book that made it a must-read for zombie fans. Wellington's different take on zombies (He plays with the tropes a little.) brought freshness (heh) to a genre that was burning out fast. But that's not what makes Wellington stand out. The cool thing about him is that he writes his novels in chapters and posts them on the internet before they ever see print. Then, once he's done, he collects the chapters and tweaks them to read better in novel form and releases them.

Wellington followed up MONSTER ISLAND with a sequel and a prequel (MONSTER WORLD AND MONSTER NATION) and has since moved on to a new subject...vampires. I'm currently reading the third of his vampire novels, VAMPIRE ZERO. In the first of his vampire novels, 13 BULLETS and it's first sequel 99 COFFINS, he introduced us to a completely different kind of vampire. No romantic Europeans in dinner jackets and cloaks here. Wellington's vampires are savage, animalistic and incredibly powerful. And completely obsessed with blood. They're hairless, colorless and all teeth and claws. They're scary.

What impresses me most about Wellington is that never takes the easy way out. He throws his characters into crazy, impossible situations and then finds a logical way out. And in the vampire novels, his central protagonist is a lesbian but this fact is never presented in an exploitive way or used to titillate. It's merely a part of her character. And only occasionally is her orientation reacted to by other characters.

Very rarely, Wellington's prose doesn't ring quite true and sometimes the books feel like the serialized chapters they started out as but he is improving with each and every novel and his books are all compulsive page-turners. I'm really looking forward to what he does next. May I suggest werewolves?

With this drawing, I wanted to see what would happen if I just roughed it in in blue and then attacked it with the brush pen. I also wanted to try out my new whiteout pen. Things got a little sloppy around the legs since that's what I was going for, I guess that's okay.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Peter Cushing

For my movie-viewing pleasure this Halloween, I mostly restricted myself to Hammer Films. (With the exception of the infamous CALIGULA of which the less said, the better.*) As much as I’ve loved their films since childhood, I’d really only seen the “big” ones like DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS or CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN because they were the ones that were shown on TV. As a result, I hadn’t yet been exposed to some really good stuff like BRIDES OF DRACULA or PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES. (Yes, Christian, it was good. I was just sleepy.) So, by adulthood, my exposure to Peter Cushing was somewhat limited and I mostly knew him as the evil Grand Moff Tarkin in STAR WARS. Tarkin was a really bad guy and, according to Princess Leia, had a “foul stench.” This really didn’t endear Cushing to my nine-year-old self at all. Which is too bad because Peter Cushing was the tits.

This year, working through as many of Hammer’s horror films as I can get my hands on, I’ve grown to realize just how incredibly awesome Peter Cushing was. Whether he was playing the noble Van Helsing in the Dracula films or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, the slimy Victor Frankenstein in a multitude of films, he made even the worst of them entertaining. Cushing started with Hammer at a relatively advanced age (in his forties) and so I’m amazed, as I discover my own new aches, pains and twinges each day, that Cushing was able to perform most of his own stunts, even into his sixties! In BRIDES OF DRACULA, he bounds around the set, jumping from ladders to hay bales to staircases with agility and grace. And his performances were never less than top-notch. He obviously took his craft very seriously and brought dignity and class to a genre that sorely needed it. By all accounts, Mr. Cushing was also a true gentleman in every sense of the word, famously apologizing to his female co-star when the studio insisted (despite Cushing’s protests) that a rape scene was necessary in one of the Frankenstein movies.

I’ve been watching a lot of interviews with Cushing on YouTube and he was gentle, humorous and charming to the end. Tragically, he lost his beloved wife Helen sometime in the 1970’s (right before filming TWINS OF EVIL) and was quoted as considering the rest of his life after that point merely “marking time” until he could be with her again. That’s so sad, it breaks my heart. I hope they’re together now, somewhere, and he’s happy again. He certainly deserved it.

Likenesses are not my strong suit but fortunately Cushing had very distinctive features that must have been a Director of Photography’s dream. Every once in a while I see someone and that urge to draw them kicks in. Usually it’s a pretty woman but lately, I’ve been absolutely needing to draw Cushing. I think it came out pretty good and I’m surprised at how quickly it happened. I did this drawing in less than an hour which is fast for me. I think it’s a fairly accurate likeness (I drew from a photograph.) but I think I somehow missed that little twinkle in his eye that you can see in a lot of his films.


* I don’t really like porn. In all honesty, I find it repetitive, frustrating and eventually downright boring. Unlike pro football, sex is something that’s more fun doing than watching. I’d rather be teased, which is why I enjoy the Hammer films so much. But I’d always wanted to see CALIGULA because the idea of a big-budget, all-star historical epic crossed with a triple-X-rated porn movie was too much to pass up. But it was a huge disappointment because it felt like they shot a genuine Hollywood movie and then, without telling the stars, cut in some barely-relevant boom-boom. Problem is, the Hollywood part was very brutal and gory and, in my opinion, gore and sex are two great tastes that do not taste great together. It was very disturbing and a huge turn-off. (With the exception of Helen (THE QUEEN) Mirren who was absolutely stunning back then.) Funny story, though. The morning after I watched this atrocity, I was flipping channels on the HDTV Suzanne got me for my birthday and when it got to some local religious programming, it froze. The remote wouldn’t work and the controls on the TV didn’t respond. I couldn’t even turn it off. It was as if the TV, feeling I needed redemption, was going to force some proper viewing on me. I was alarmed about the problem but couldn’t stop laughing. I guess the TV felt like it had cleansed itself because it’s working fine now. Hilarious.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Marvel Horror

I've been working my way through the second volume of ESSENTIAL MARVEL HORROR and I have to say it's a great improvement on the first. While I love all things horror, Satanism and witchcraft occupy the basement of the genre as far as my personal interest is concerned. With the exception of THE EXORCIST films, THE NORLISS TAPES and that one episode of STARSKY AND HUTCH, I just don't find satanic rituals all that scary. So the SON OF SATAN-heavy first volume was a disappointment.

Not so, Volume Two. I skipped around a bit because I wanted to read the GABRIEL: DEVIL HUNTER stories. I know that goes against what I just wrote but I remember reading these stories from MONSTERS UNLEASHED when I was a kid. The stories are kind of boring and repetitive and terribly derivative of THE EXORCIST. They consist mostly of Gabriel being summoned to banish a demon possessing someone (usually linked to Gabriel's past somehow) and then several pages of Gabriel and the demon of the month hurling insults at each other, usually accusing each other of needing deodorant. Gabriel always comes out on top, often chasing off the demon by a shameless display of affection with his lovely assistant. Typical '70s melodrama. But the art on the majority of the stories was done by the great Sonny Trinidad and that was worth the price of the volume alone. Damn, that guy could draw, just like most of the Filipinos Marvel used in the Seventies.

Also in the volume is the complete run of THE LIVING MUMMY from MARVEL SUPERNATURAL THRILLERS. The art is pretty good, starting off with Rich Buckler drawing the Mummy to look like Lou Ferrigno in bandages then moving on to a long run by Val Mayerik. Mayerik's stuff is kind of wonky but in a good way, perfectly suited for this monster-as-superhero thing Marvel was doing then. Kind of a cross between Neal Adams and Berni Wrightson. The story started off promising, recounting the tale of N'Kantu, an African king leading a revolt against the Egyptian pharaoh who has enslaved his people. He is captured and, as punishment, mummified while still living only to be revived in modern times after spending 3000 years in a waking hell. The time he spent buried and fully aware has driven him insane and he spends the first issue on a rampage, looking for revenge against the descendent of the man who mummified him. By the second issue, the writers had already apparently tired of the insanity angle an decided the electrocution he received at the end of the first issue must have "cured" him. It's mentioned almost as an afterthought. Still, it had the makings of an innteresting story until the third issue in which it takes a weird left turn into Alan Moore territory and the Mummy is recruited by extra-dimensional elementals who what to take over the Earth. Did all Marvel's writers in the Seventies drop acid? Still the art is interesting and I'm looking forward to the BROTHER VOODOO stories. I'm sure the stories will be trippy but Gene Colan's artwork is top-notch.

With two volumes of fairly obscure stuff behind them, I'm hoping Marvel will focus next year's volume on MORBIUS: THE LIVING VAMPIRE. Starting off as an off-beat villain for Spider-Man, he proved popular enough to soon get his own stories in, I believe, ADVENTURES INTO FEAR and benefited from some great artwork by the underrated Frank Robbins. Robbins drew great vampires and though, I believe, he was unfortunately inked in several stories by Vince ("I inked every comic you've ever read") Colletta, Robbins' greatness shines through. The stories suffered from the same new-age hippy-trip stuff that was in all of Marvel's horror books back then but the artwork really brings the books up several notches. Later, Morbius starred in a series of stories in Marvel's black and white magazine VAMPIRE TALES, including one of the most poignant, memorable stories I've ever read in a comic. I won't go into plot details (my fingers are cramping) but the series was drawn, again, by the great Sonny Trinidad, turning in some of the most amazing, horrific visuals I remember from my childhood comic reading.

WIth these stories in mind, I headed off to Legend this weekend with Christian to do one of our infrequent sketching bees. Last time we did this, the waitress sold us out to our models at the bar and they got up and left. So this time, we just drew from our heads and I suggested Morbius. Without reference, I got the collar a little wrong but I think he turned out okay. I drew this in the same sketchbook as the "Old Man Isis" sketch and the paper hasn't grown on me any. It's still like trying to draw on wet sandpaper. I'm considering having some sketchbooks made up of laser printer paper, which is my favorite paper to draw on. Anyway, I hope you like the sketch.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008


This one's for you, Jamar: ooooohhhh—BAMA!!!

I usually try to keep my political opinions to myself, at least publicly. But I'm pretty damned excited this morning so forgive me if I let it all hang out.

I'll probably go into more detail later but I couldn't stop thinking about Mike the last 24 hours. I really wish he was here to see this for so many reasons. It was no secret that the current administration frustrated him terribly and he would be so happy right now. I'm sure he would have called me by now to celebrate. If not, I certainly would have called him. I hope Mike is seeing this.

While I don't think we can ignore how important this election was to African-Americans and what this means to them (Lots of people brought their kids with them to vote!) it's important to remember that Obama represents hope for the future of ALL of us. Race played absolutely no factor in why I voted for him. I voted for him because I wanted a smart person in the White House again and because whenever I heard him speak, I felt hope again. President Obama has a big mess to clean up but I think he's up to the job. Maybe the political parties will finally stop sharpening their claws on each other's backs and get to work for us for a change. Here's hoping.

Hey, there's that word again.


Monday, November 3, 2008

No Costumes...No Candy!

This is the sketch I'd intended for my last post but a visit from the In-laws and quite a bit of yard work took up most of my time last week. So here it is, a few days late. There isn't any one incident that prompted me to draw it, just a general frustration with folks who want free candy without actually getting in the spirit of Halloween. In our last house, we always saw one or two kids who would just show up with a little greasepaint smeared on their faces expecting a handful of candy. I'd suppress the urge to kick them off my porch ("Git off my lawn!") and would grudgingly give them a snickers bar or two. (Fun-size of course. What's "fun" about smaller candy, anyway? I've always wondered.) Anyway, Halloween was great this year. I had a blast and don't expect me to stop watching horror movies or drawing spooky things just because it's November and "Jingle Bells" is playing over the Walmart speakers.

Tomorrow is Election Day, I'm getting up at 5:00 a.m. and heading for the polls. I expect the lines to be massive. We usually have pretty brisk turnout in our neighborhood so I think this year will be huge. Suzanne's already voted since she's headed to New York on business tomorrow but I'm looking forward to going to the polls. I love the experience of voting. It's and event, like a nationwide party. Especially this year. Most elections I feel like I'm spitting into the wind. Virginia votes Republican in every Presidential election so it's never felt like I needed to vote one way or the other. But I've never missed an election and I never will if I can help it. And this year, Virginia is a battleground state so it feels like my vote really counts. I'm so excited.

I just don't get folks who don't vote. Regardless of who they would vote for. Too many people have bled and died for our right to vote, especially in the cases of women and African-Americans. I simply can't understand why someone would take that right for granted or, worse, willingly give it up. It is not just our right as American citizens to vote but also our duty. I didn't support the Iraq war but I keep thinking about the Iraqis who, despite being threatened with their own deaths and the deaths of their families, voted in their first free elections, proudly holding up their ink-stained fingers, knowing full well it could cost them their lives. That was a very gratifying scene. But then I think about folks over here who skip voting because they want to sleep late or because they hate waiting in lines or, unforgivably, they don't know who the candidates are. And that makes me angry. I would walk ten miles through snow and sleet to get to the polls if I had to.

So, please, tomorrow, no matter how busy you are, set aside a few minutes (or hours as the case may be) and honor the people who have given their lives so that we can have a say in who runs our government and go cast your vote.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween...For Realz!

My favorite holiday is finally upon us! Happy Halloween, folks. I've had a lot going on this week so I didn't finish the sketch I had planned for today. So I thought I'd post the Jack o' Lanterns Suzanne and I did. We haven't done this in about fifteen years but I was really in the mood this year.

Suze is more adventurous than I am and really went for the gusto with her Jolly Roger:

I'm more of a traditionalist and stuck with the old school triangle face. This sucker was huge. Suzanne picked me up a pumpkin that's at least a foot-and-a-half tall. Now I ask you, would you dare approach this guy? Even for candy?

Last year was the most miserable Halloween I've ever experienced so, this year, I wanted to go all-out. Suzanne's entire family is up for a visit and we've got a big day planned tomorrow. We got our nephew a Clone Trooper costume to wear, complete with blaster and we've been duking it out all night. I've been chasing him around the house with the phaser my friend Paul got me for my birthday. It's the really good one that makes the sounds, lights up and separates the Phaser 1 from Phaser 2. We're taking him and my niece over to Paul's house tomorrow night because we get absolutely zero kids in our neighborhood while Paul's neighborhood is overrun each year with trick-or-treaters. So we're going to go hang out and hand out candy while our niece and nephew go beg for goodies with the rest of the costumed kiddies. I'm really looking forward to it. Besides, Ricky is HUGE into Star Wars right now and Paul is the biggest Star Wars fan in the world. (Sorry Christian.) And Ricky has really taken to him. It doesn't hurt that he has a home theater with a a screen the size of Nebraska and puts on ATTACK OF THE CLONES whenever we bring over the kids.

I hope everybody has a great Halloween. I know I will. For the next four months, at least.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Norliss Tapes

I’ve gotten a lot of good horror movie recommendations from folks based on my Hammer and Robot Monster posts. Paul Rogers’ recommendations can be seen in the comments for the Robot Monster post (though I’ll be steering clear of Weasels Rip My Flesh, thank you Paul.) I’ve seen all but Weasel multiple times. The one recommendation I haven’t seen before was from Leanne Hannah. She told me about a British made-for-TV movie called The Woman In Black that I absolutely can’t wait to check out. I watched a clip on YouTube and it really creeped me out. So I’ll definitely be watching that. Thanks, Leanne.

I thought I’d return the favor and recommend a good Halloween movie I remember from my childhood. Often, when I revisit films I really liked as a kid, I’m sorely disappointed. For instance, I remember being terrified by a low-budget flick called Let’s Scare Jessica To Death. I saw it on my grandmother’s tiny black and white TV sitting in her kitchen late at night. Her house was very old and there were often spiders crawling in the most inconvenient places. She was always finding ways to save money so, when we stayed with her, she would turn out all the lights when she went to bed and you’d have to blindly navigate the claustrophobia-inducing hallways to the back bedroom and I would always swear I could hear the spiders skittering after me in the dark. So it was with that journey ahead of me that my seven-year-old self watched Jessica and it was no wonder I suffered from nightmares for weeks afterward. Flash forward 30 years and I’m renting the just-released video on NetFlix. I practically jumped up and down in anticipation as I put the disc in the player. Suze was out of town for the weekend and I had the house to myself. I turned out all the lights in the house and curled up on the couch with a bag of popcorn, looking forward to ninety minutes of spine-tingling delights. Not to be. The movie turned out to be an acid-trippy, hippy-infested borefest. There's even a musical number. Granted, there were a few chilling moments (including a show-stopper at the lake) that made it worth checking out but it was nowhere near the thriller I remembered. I was sorely disappointed.

Fortunately, that is not the case with The Norliss Tapes.

This Dan Curtis-produced TV movie featuring Roy Thinnes and Angie Dickenson was made by the same team that brought us the original The Night Stalker movie starring Darren McGavin. And you can tell. All the elements are there: the writer protagonist, the story revealed by the playing of audio tapes, the mute, snarling creature in a suit and tie nobody believes exists. Heck, Claude Akins even shows up as the doubting sheriff. While certainly dated (an aspect not helped by the funky 70's soundtrack) the film holds up well has some genuinely creepy moments, not the least of which is the scene depicted in my sketch above. That's the shot that stuck with me all these years. A young woman staying in a motel room can't shake the feeling she's being watched. As a storm rages outside, she slowly, reluctantly forces herself over to the window and, with one quick jerk, yanks open the curtain to reveal that blue, blank-eyed face.

This movie was another film that plagued me for years (along with Gargoyles, Agent from H.A.R.M. and the aforementioned Giant Claw and The Creeping Terror)and I was so relieved when some deft Googling finally revealed not only the title but the fact that it was available on DVD. Netflix to the rescue. It does suffer from a hokey ending but it has some really good performances (especially Thinnes and also Nick Dimitri who wasn't given much to do but seemed to have a great time doing it) and quite a few chills. If you can get past the pasty blue makeup, I think you'll really enjoy this one.

Now, if I can only figure out what that movie was with the headless female ghost haunting the old Victorian mansion...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Robot Monster

Ro-man. Just because.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Why I love the Internet

One of the most persistent, gnawing mysteries of my life has been the title of a movie I saw when I was a kid on the 6:30 MOVIE in Lynchburg. I've mentioned it before. The local ABC affiliate (Channel 13) would show movies after the evening news but before primetime. Back then, the news came on a half-hour earlier, leaving a 90 minute block of airtime for local programming. For an all-too brief time, Channel 13 filled this block with week-long themes like GODZILLA WEEK! or PLANET OF THE APES WEEK!. One week it was INVADERS FROM SPACE WEEK! and they showed this movie that absolutely terrified me. In fact, it very nearly scarred me for life. There was one scene in which a damsel in distress is devoured by what can only be described as a mobile carpet with a sunflower for a head. In fact, that's what I just typed into Google in the hopes of finally figuring out just what the hell that movie was called. Well, mystery solved.

After some 30 years of wondering, I present to you...The Creeping Terror.


Oh, wow! This is fun. Here's two more I remember. Sam Katzman was the man!

The Giant Claw!

And The Werewolf!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Don't Hurt 'Em, Hammer!

This month, Amazon.com (God bless 'em) is having a sale on horror movies. Obviously, the economy is a little unpredictable right now and nobody really knows what the future holds but it's hard to be especially frugal when my favorite web site is dangling such tasty tidbits in front of my face. 

I'm finding it hard to resist, in particular, their selection of Hammer Films. As we enter the era of Blu-ray, a lot of Hammer films are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain on DVD. Many were never released to begin with and a lot that were are out of print. To get them, you have to be willing to part with some cash. For now, I'm going to pass on such high-dollar gems as The Abominable Snowman (the inspiration for this post's rather disappointing sketch) and The Reptile and head straight for quantity over quality.

This set is one I passed on a few years back when money was tight (we'd just bought a house) and I've regretted it ever since. Costco had it for around $50 or $60. Now Amazon has it for $16. That's too good to beat. It has two films I'm especially interested in. Curse of the Werewolf and Brides of Dracula. Curse was a film I never saw as a child but I had seen numerous stills in the backs of Marvel's horror magazines and a wonderful Skywald comic adaptation. I was always intrigued by the creature design. I ended up picking up a VHS copy of the movie as an adult and remember being disappointed by it. For one thing, the werewolf was barely in it and for another, when it was, it sounded more like a horny cat than a wolf. I ended up giving the movie away. (I KNOW!) But my tastes have matured a little and I can't wait to give it another go. Brides is another film I didn't see until adulthood and also remember seeing stills of in the backs of Marvel's mags. It was the direct sequel to Horror of Dracula, Hammer's adaptation of Stoker's novel but strangely did not feature Lee as Dracula. 

Hammer films hold a special place in my heart. I may be committing heresy, but I've always preferred them over the Universal versions. They were more more lurid, less sophisticated and certainly more overtly sexual. There was something grimy about the sets that really grabbed me as a kid. And as an adult I can really appreciate the Hammer trademark...the heaving bosoms of the damsels in distress. One actress in particular seems to epitomize the Hammer feminine ideal...Valerie Gaunt. Her only two Hammer films were Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula. I remember liking her very much when I was a kid. She had many attributes of which I came to consider "my type" if there is such a thing. Dark, lustrous hair. Arched eyebrows. Lots of curves. Sadly, she appears to have given up acting after Horror of Dracula as there are no further listings on her IMDB page.

When we were kids, Mike and I used to stay up late on Friday nights because that was when the local CBS affiliate would run horror or sci-fi movies on the late show. Sometimes it would be a couple episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker or the Planet of the Apes TV shows mashed into a single "movie." But sometimes we'd luck out and get another Hammer film.  If it was winter, we'd lay under a blanket on the living room floor, propping our faces up with cushions from the couch and try to stretch a corner of the blanket over the heat vent to trap the warmth. Usually, I'd make it almost to the end before falling asleep. Sometimes Mike would take pity on me and wake me up for the "good" parts. 

I've been buying up a lot of those old favorites over the last few years and I'm really gaining a true respect for the outstanding quality of them. Yes, some of them bordered on exploitation, but there was a certain charm to them and everyone involved seemed to be taking their work seriously. Peter Cushing in particular. To this day, seeing the word "Hammer" written out sends a little thrill through me that folks today, post-M.C. wouldn't understand. If you haven't tried any of these movies yourself, I highly recommend you head straight to NetFlix and do yourself a favor. The early Dracula's, Curse of Frankenstein, The Mummy and the Quartermass films should be at the top of the list.

Oh, and Christian recommends Plague of the Zombies. Right, Christian?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Back From Baltimore

That was fun.

Suzanne and I got a late start leaving Richmond Friday night and so we didn't get to the Marriott until almost 11:00 even though it was less than three hours on the road. We spent most of the drive trying to find the Presidential debate on the radio. About 45 minutes out, we succeeded. We stopped by the hotel bar to see if anyone we recognized was hanging out. No such luck so, after a quick drink, we headed to the room and some much-needed sleep.

Saturday was strange. We lugged all our Scholarship stuff over to the convention center, a bit of a longer haul than the one in Charlotte. Fortunately, we'd made the early decision to use the car to haul the heavier stuff over. When we got there, however, we discovered that because of a snafu with the convention center, we didn't have a table to set up on. Marc and Brad of the Baltimore Convention bent over backwards and really hustled and took care of the problem by Sunday so we only lost one day. They really came through for us because I know from experience that getting convention centers to do anything on short notice is like trying to tug a cruise ship with sailboat.

While I was a little disappointed that we couldn't set up right away, Todd was a sweetheart and put out the donation jar so we still pulled in a pretty nice sum on Saturday. Mike's fans in Baltimore were out in force and they were very friendly and very generous. I was also glad to have a day to wander around the convention floor and picked up some books I'd been looking for. There were a lot of great deals and I wish I could have kept looking longer. But I always feel that way.

Saturday night, Marc and Brad made sure we had tickets to the Harvey Awards. We were expecting a quick presentation with drinks and out. What we got was a terrific dinner, an entertaining show (Scott Kurtz, as usual, brought the house down.) and an all-around lovely evening with some great company. Brad and his wife were seated at the table with us along with Craig, Trish, Todd and Sharon. Brad disappeared before dessert to take care of something so he missed out on the amazing chocolate mousse-thingy. When we were seated, we were surprised with goodie bags in our seats with some nice books including the multi-nominated DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, which I can't wait to read. Darwyn Cooke won for Best Cartoonist which thrilled me no end but he was sick with some kind of bug and couldn't attend the award show. (He was feeling well enough on Sunday to put in an appearance at the convention, thankfully, though I didn't get to see him.) The highlight of the evening was Nick Cardy's Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to him by the always-entertaining Todd DeZago. Nick was obviously having a great time and it really was his night. In fact, he got a standing ovation. I wish Mike had been there to see it. He would have loved it.

Sunday was a bit of a blur. We had our table and were able to set up. We spent most of the day selling stuff and taking in donations for the Scholarship Fund. Despite only having one day, Baltimore made sure our trip wasn't wasted. We're very grateful for that. Marc and the gang made sure we were treated like kings and we are so grateful for everything they did for us. They really did go above and beyond for us. 

Mike's friends (including Cully Hamner, Scott Kurtz, Rich Faber, Jamar Nicholas, and many others) were so thoughtful and generous to us and I can't thank them all enough. To be honest, I sometimes feel a little guilty at all the kindness Suzanne and I have received. I feel a little unworthy. All these folks have allowed us into their world and we are always a little afraid we're overstaying our welcome. I hope that never becomes the case because we love them all.

As we were saying goodbye to our friend Rich Faber, we had one of the highlights of our weekend. Jamal Igle (one of my favorite artists) happened by with his new daughter. She is so adorable and he was obviously a proud papa. He was absolutely beaming. Suzanne fell in love instantly and I probably had a big stupid grin on my face. Jamal kindly allowed us chat him up while Suze played with her.

Anyway, the goodbyes were long and reluctant but we had to hit the road. By 6:30, we were on the way home, looking forward to a long night's sleep. We were exhausted.

All in all, we had a great time. Marc Nathan puts on one hell of a great convention. It's a lot like Heroes in that it's a comic convention first and foremost. Not a whole lot of that Hollywood nonsense.  It is one of my great regrets that I never went to Baltimore with Mike. 2007 was going to be the first year Suze and I planned to attend with him. But that was not to be. I'm glad he had so many great friends to share it with.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy Halloween

No, your calendar's not wrong. It's still September. 

But I looooooove Halloween. It's my absolute favorite time of year. And for me it runs from somewhere around my birthday to just about Spring time. I love the changing colors. The dreariness and the chill in the air. The ubiquitous candy at work. The jack o' lanterns on porches. Everything about it. 

But most of all, I love the horror movies. Not that torture-porn crap or PG-13 pap they call horror these days. But the good old fashioned horror of yesteryear. The spooky chillers like THE EXORCIST. The great old monster movies put out by Universal and Hammer Studios and the cool latex-heavy creature features of the Eighties like John Carpenter's THE THING. I love this stuff so much I even endure the commercial-infested excuse for a network called AMC's movie marathons every year. I simply can't get enough of it. Every week, I've been going to Best Buy and Circuit City, hoping they've stocked up on horror movies like they do every Halloween. Sadly, this is not yet the case. And, sadder still, I've already gotten just about every horror movie I'm interested in. Christian and I are both the horror movie equivalents of "the man who has everything." Christian is worse than I am in this regard. He buys everything. I just buy the stuff I love. 

That's not to say my collection is better. He definitely wins that distinction. As Mike once told me, my movie collection is "90% shit." But it's shit I love. And that includes MONSTER SQUAD which inspired my new (temporary) banner.

Obviously, there have been a couple slow days at work. I couldn't really risk working on the 'Haps in plain view but working on a little sketch like this in my down time doesn't really attract much attention. And, damn, it was fun. I threw in the antagonist from my as-yet unwritten story, just for practice. I really, really like how it turned out. Which is good, because it's going to be up there for a while.

Okay, we're off to Baltimore tomorrow. I'm looking forward to seeing some of you there.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Charlie's No Angel

I don't have any art to post. I just finished up page four and sent it off to C-bag for inks. I'm a little embarrassed at how ungodly slow I've been on this. I should have been done weeks ago. I tend to fidget too much with it, I guess. I drew one panel several times. (No, Todd. Not that one.) I have been doodling at work in my downtime but there's nothing worth showing. I'm toying with the idea of doing a Halloween-themed header for the blog. That has me kind of excited. But I've got a lot going on including a mountain of paperwork I thought I was done with but which has circled around and flanked me, soooo...

Anyway, for you animal lovers, I promised the oh-so-riveting story of Charlie's vicious-smelling poop. 

Last May, when we were taking Charlie down for his first trip to Harker's Island with his cousin Toonces, (who's been down about thirty times by now) he crapped in his cage before we'd gone five miles. It was absolutely horrible. We were laughing and gagging and almost wrecked. We pulled over and had to improvise to get it cleaned up without him running out into traffic. Toonces seemed mortified by the whole experience as if Charlie was an embarrassment to catdom. 

He's a sweet, affectionate cat and we love him dearly but Charlie is like Oscar Madison to Tooncie's Felix Unger. While Toonces is content wander quietly from room to room and occasionally sit in my lap or in the window, Charlie tears through the house like a Tasmanian Devil. He knocks breakable things off high perches, unplugs DVRs in mid-recording, tips drinks over onto important papers and howls at the moon at two in the morning when everyone else is trying to sleep. When Toonces jumps into my lap, it's like a leaf fluttering on a gentle breeze. Charlie, on the other hand, leaps onto my thighs and punches me in the nuts two or three times, screaming, "Haiiiii-yah!" And while Toonces holds his mookie stinks for the entire six-hour drive every time like a gentleman, Charlie likes to announce his presence to his fellow travelers. With his butt.

This trip, we were ready. We didn't really think he'd do it again but we wanted to be sure. We went armed with paper towels, plastic bags and sanitary wipes and had lined his carrier with newspaper. Sure enough, about twenty minutes into the trip, Suzanne was in mid-sentence: "I think maybe we should stop by and see—OH MY GOD! HE SHIT IN HIS CAGE AGAIN!!!" We lowered the windows and, hands over mouths, raced to the next exit and into a gas station parking lot. Screeching to a halt, we both rolled out the doors and onto the pavement laughing hysterically, gasping for breath. It was like a scene out of a Cheech and Chong movie. You have to understand. Charlie's poops are HUGE. He should charge by the pound. And the smell is like something out of a horror movie. I kept wishing for that stuff Jodie Foster rubbed under her nose when she examined the murder victim in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. You could almost hear the "FLASH!!! SQUEEEEEEEEEEE...!"

We unhooked the carrier and turned it around and Suze held Charlie to one side while I rolled the Herculean poop up in the newspaper and shoved the mess into a bag. I replaced it with a fresh towel. I dumped the bag in the trash and, as I was walking back to the Suburban, Suze and I noticed that the lady across the parking lot had been watching us and was laughing like she was watching a sitcom.

It was pretty funny (you had to be there) but the damn car smelled like cat shit for an hour or more. I remember hoping the smell wasn't getting into the clothes. I'm not looking forward to the next time.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lordy, Lordy!

Well, I'd intended to post this on my birthday (yesterday) but I was so dog-tired after only getting a few hours of sleep the night before and a crushing week at work I just came home and collapsed. I haven't been working late but eight hours per day have been somehow more demanding this week. The lady I share my account with is out on vacation and the account itself has really revved up lately. I'm not complaining though. Again, I wasn't working late, for which I'm extremely grateful. Plus...I have a job. That's a real plus these days.

Thanks to everybody who wished me a happy birthday. Chris, you made me laugh out loud. I am feeling rickety this week. My mother-in-law says you're only as old as you feel. Well, I feel fifty. Todd and Renee, thanks very much for the e-cards. They got to me just when I needed them and brightened my day.

Suzanne and my parents reeaally went overboard with the presents this year and made me feel like King-for-a-Day. Mom and Dad took us out for sushi and I really packed it in. I'd go into detail about the loot I got but that always feels like...I don't know...boasting. (Although I sent Christian an email doing just that.)

I have to tell you, though, that Suzanne got me the most amazing gift of all time. This past year at Heroes, when the HERO Initiative was auctioning off pages from the WHAT IF? tribute to Mike, I wanted to buy page eight. That was the last thing Mike ever drew. It never made it past the layout stage but Mike's layouts were extremely tight and Karl Kesel was able to ink from that. The layout was what was on Mike's drawing table when we all got down to Durham that night. Anyway, it seemed very important to me that I own that page. Unfortunately, the auction was a little awkward, with the police and all, and it was cut short. So I wasn't entirely clear what had happened to the page. We'd sort of overextended ourselves on the trip anyway and I felt like maybe it just wasn't meant to be. Well...it was. Somehow, Suzanne managed to get her hands on the page. More impressively, she kept it a secret for three months and was able to keep Christian from telling me. When I opened that box and found that page inside, it took my breath away. I was speechless. Mom and Dad were there when I opened it and it sort of made Mom go off on a crying jag. She knew what it was and why it was important to me and she couldn't help herself. Anyway, it wasn't as big a downer as you'd think. Mom cheered up eventually and we had a good morning.

I drew the sketch at the top of the post during a few minutes of downtime the other night in anticipation of my birthday. It doesn't really have much to do with anything but it seemed appropriate at the time. My hair looked like that when I was a toddler (so blonde it was almost white) and I'm sure my finger found its way up there from time to time. It felt good to sketch something spontaneous for a change after so long. I hope you like it.

Next time, I'll go into Charlie's Godzilla-poop on the way to the beach. Oh boy!

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Suze and I are headed down for our annual vacation at her parents' place on Harker's Island, NC to celebrate our anniversary. (September 11th. Yeah, I know.) I've mentioned the place before. Her parents live in a big house they built for themselves when they retired. Across the street is the smaller cottage that they literally built themselves and the entire family has used for decades. They've recently given the entire place a facelift so it's almost a new building. Both houses look out over the water and while it's not exactly ocean front, it might as well be. At high tide, you can't tell the difference.

We're not looking forward to the drive down (5-to-6 hours) because last time Charlie pooped in his cage after the first mile (HUGE poop!) We cleaned it up, hit the road again and he howled for the next hour before tiring himself out. So we know we have that to look forward to. But he and Toonces had such a great time last trip that we know it's worth it.

Usually, I take a bag full of books and finish 3 or 4 of them during the week. This week, because of Hurricane Hannah, we're getting a late start and I plan on spending my time finishing page four of our 'Haps story and starting on our flip cover. (Um, we're still doing that, right Todd?) I'm also taking down some comics that have been piling up including a HUMAN TARGET trade paperback by Peter Milligan and Javier Pulido. I read FINAL CUT on a lark and fell in love with the characterization by Milligan but Pulido's artwork especially. It reminds me of Darwyn Cooke's and that's all I needed to see. I'm hooked. Anyway, I doubt I'll be finishing many novels this week. I am taking the last two John Sanfords, though, just in case.

Since I'll be away from the computer for at least a week, I thought I should post page two before I left. I think I'm getting a better feel for the characters here and getting a little more comfortable with the idea of it actually being published so I'm loosening up a bit. Christian did point out a couple of things that he's going to have to fix in the inks (Big's shoulder is off a little in panel three.) and some continuity things that Craig pointed out that are also being fixed. Hopefully, you'll better see what I'm talking about when Christian posts his inked version later this week.

I hope everybody has a good week. I know I will. See you when we get back.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Todd Dezago: Mind Reader

Hopefully, you’re all having a great holiday weekend. I know I am, despite some moderate to severe back pain. My sister-in-law is up with her kids and we’ve been busy trying to keep everyone entertained and fed. I’ve also been ducking out now and then to check on a friend’s cats while she’s out of town. Like a lot of you are probably doing, I’m keeping my eye on hurricane Gustav, hoping he changes his mind and lets New Orleans off the hook. This one’s looking to be even worse than Katrina and that’s just not fair.

I’ve been lamenting lately the fact that I don’t have any artwork to post. That’s because any drawing time I have is reserved strictly for working on the PERHAPANAUTS story. But I don’t think I ever came right out and said that. Todd deduced it anyway. He emailed me this morning and told me I could post the first page or two of pencils if I wanted to and that Christian could do the same with his inks when he’s done. So here’s page one. I’ll share page two later. Any more than that may be showing too much. I started on page four this weekend and hope to have that done before I go on vacation next Saturday. However, I’ve got a portable light table and the awesome portable drawing table Craig Rousseau gave me at Heroes (Thanks again, Craig!) so I should have all I need to work with while I’m at the beach if I have to.

Looking at this page made me think about Mike. (Actually, what doesn’t?) I remember when he first started out and was doing the Doc Savage mini for Millennium. He was really enamored with Brian Stelfreeze’s artwork at the time (well, actually, that never stopped) and was sort of trying to emulate his style while he was doing it. I think it caused him some frustration because he didn’t really draw all that much like Brian. By the time he was doing the backup stories in JUSTICE LEAGUE QUARTERLY, some of the “Brian” was falling away and Mike was starting to loosen up. Then, he got the FLASH gig and I remember his five minutes of elation turning to panic because this was his first regular monthly gig. He did a few preliminary sketches of Flash but pretty much had to jump right in. (I remember him freaking out because the first page was a series of panels featuring, like, a Ferrari and a Ducati and something else fast. Here was his first issue and Mark wasn’t cutting him any slack!) When the Flash arrived on the scene, you could tell Mike was struggling to get a feel for him. Every panel looked like a different artist had drawn him. There were a couple of Kubert panels, some Infantinos. Maybe a Stelfreeze. It took a couple of pages before Mike’s Flash showed up. Eventually he got a a real grip on the character and really started to make him his Flash.

And that’s why Mike’s run on FLASH has always been my favorite of his work. Because you could see his process at work on the page. You could see his struggles and the rawness of his art. It was very endearing. For me, anyway.

Now, I’m no Mike. And I have no intention of making drawing comics a fulltime career. But I feel like I’m experiencing a little of what Mike was going through with FLASH on this project. Though I did some character sketches, when I started on this, I didn’t really have a feel for the characters yet. If you look at that pin-up we did, Big and Choopie don’t look anything like they should. And here, on page one, I’m still feeling my way around them. Check out Choopie in the bottom right panel. He’s so off-model it makes my head hurt. I drew that head fifteen times and couldn’t get it right. If Christian wasn’t already inking it, I’d still be noodling with it. But, I promise, by page two, I’m pretty sure I’m getting a handle on him. And I think Big looks okay on this page and by page two I think I’ve got him down. There are some questions I probably should have asked the boys before I started out. These are hard characters to draw. Craig makes it look so easy and he has such a unique style that I’m finding it difficult to draw Big and Choopie and some of the others without flat out imitating Craig. But it’s do-able. I saw that clay sculpture of Choopie someone did and I have no idea how they pulled that off. But if someone can translate Craig’s Choopie into three dimentions, I can certainly translate these characters into my style and make them work.

I have to admit I was chuckling to myself a bit when I was drawing that first panel. It gave me fits when I was trying to figure out how to stage it. It seemed that I wasn’t going to be able to get in everything I needed to draw without cheating but I finally figured it out. Once I did I decided to have some fun with Christian and I spent a long afternoon drawing that monitor screen with all the grid lines and the vortex. I thought it would drive him nuts and so I ribbed him about it. He just shrugged and said, “Whatever. I have a ruler.” Blast! He did ask me to stop filling in the black areas though because it was making his ink slide off the page. So the next page (and the ones I won’t be posting) will be a little looser.

I hope you like the page and have a great holiday!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Creepy Obsession

I should be drawing.

I'm close to finishing my third page of the 'Haps story Christian and I are working on but I can't get this out of my head. Last week, I picked up Dark Horse's CREEPY ARCHIVES HARDCOVER VOLUME 1 which reprints CREEPY issues 1-5. I read the thing in less than three days. That's impressive for me. With comics, I tend to linger of the artwork, especially if it's drawn by someone I admire. Plus, I usually do my serious reading in bed before I turn in. That usually means I can only read two or three pages before Suzanne ends up putting my book somewhere safe because I've most likely fallen asleep with it on my face. It's why I have three years worth of comics to read and two sets of shelves full of unread novels. It's why, when Christian loans me a book, he doesn't get it back for six months or more.

But this book was different. I described it to Christian as "a tasty little treat" and I think that's true. The artwork is amazing. These pages were lovingly drawn by artists at the top of their game. Al Williamson has always been a favorite artist of mine and this book is a perfect example of why that's the case. There's also a nice Alex Toth story and other stories drawn by guys who looked to be having the time of their lives. Most of the stories are written by Archie Goodwin who was a huge fan of the old E.C. horror comics and it showed. The majority of the stories have twist endings and feature vengeful zombies crawling their way out of the grave to inflict supernatural justice on their killers. To be honest, the stories get a little repetitive when you read them all at once. But they're so much fun you won't care. I breezed through this volume. Suzanne warned me to slow down but I couldn't put it down. I read it in the car on the way to work, while I was eating dinner and while I was supposed to be watching the Olympics with Suzanne. She told me I'd finish it too quickly and be sad. And she was right. When I finished the last story I wanted more. But I'll have to wait until the end of the year for Volume 2.

What surprised me most about this book wasn't really how fast I read it but how utterly inoffensive it is. When I was a kid, Dad used to bring home all these great horror magazines. CREEPY, EERIE, VAMPIRELLA, MONSTERS UNLEASHED, DRACULA LIVES!, VAMPIRE TALES and a bunch of the Skywald books. There were even a whole slew of Warren knockoffs with horrible stories and art but with these terrifically lurid covers. Most of these books were not intended for kids but Dad didn't have any problem with Mike and me reading them. And I absolutely devoured them. I've always been a horror nut. I love that tingly feeling in my spine when I get scared. And the Warren books provided that feeling in spades. It started with the covers and went straight through to the ads in the back. Even the logos were scary. Whenever I wanted to be freaked out, I'd crack open a CREEPY or EERIE and I was never disappointed. That's why I was so surprised at how...sweet...the feeling was that I got while reading the Archive volume. The cumulative effect I got from the book was almost a sense of...cuteness. I know Goodwin would probably be disappointed but there it is. These books were done in the Sixties but they ran through until (I believe) the mid-Eighties. So I suspect as the Archives progress, the stories will get a little darker in tone. I know they eventually introduced harsher language and nudity. More mature themes. But, whatever. Dad didn't have a complete run of these magazines, having missed a few of the early issues. So it was nice to finally see how it all started. (Heck, there was even a story detailing the offbeat, funky origin of Uncle Creepy himself.)

This book was a lot of fun and I highly recommend it. I can't wait for the next volume and also for the upcoming EERIE Archives. I wish Marvel would start putting out nicer editions of some of their horror stuff. The TALES OF THE ZOMBIE Essentials was nice but these full-size hardcovers are the bee's knees.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


It's really late but I thought I'd try to get in a quick post tonight. I just finished a page of pencils for the PERHAPANAUTS backup Todd and Craig are allowing Christian and me to do. Before I start the next one, I thought it would be a good idea to catch up on my backlog of emails and put in an appearance here.

There have been a couple of times this past week when I wanted to post but it was usually to acknowledge the passing of someone I admired like Bernie Mac or Carlos Meglia. But I was tired of posting sad things and I was starting to feel like a press agent for the Grim Reaper. So I passed. Problem is, I don't have any new art to show. Well none I can show, anyway. The only thing I could dig up that I haven't posted before is this page from my aborted SINGULARITY project. I've mentioned it before. It's one of my multitude of projects that have fallen by the wayside for one reason or another. With this one, there were just too many aspects of it that kept popping up in other stories like SPIDER-MAN 2 and SUPERMAN RETURNS. As this would happen over and over, I'd change aspects of the story to be less similar. When I saw the last episode of Season One of HEROES I gave up. I knew if I changed one more thing, it wouldn't be the story I wanted to tell anymore and so I gave up.

I'll save the plot synopsis for another post but here's the first page of the first issue. Like a lot of my stories, this one started with a flashback. When I write something, I try not to worry too much about whether or not I can pull off the drawing. If I did that, my stories would be about two bodybuilders posing in a white room talking about cake recipes. I try to have fun with the writing and worry about the art later. That was the case here. I suck at drawing women and kids. And, hey! Look! A woman and a kid. Throw in some passersby in street clothes and some cobblestones and you've got the makings of a tedious first page to draw. Funny thing is, I enjoyed the hell out of it. I was really trying to channel Darwyn Cooke here. Unfortunately, I'm learning that only Darwyn Cooke is Darwyn Cooke and that I just need to draw like me if I want it to turn out right. Still, I think this came out okay. Especially after Mike gave me some pointers on how to draw kids that don't look like 30-year-old men. I had to do some digital corrections to the kid's face in panel four after talking to him but it was a definite improvement.

I really miss working on this story. It was one of the few stories I've worked on that had a beginning, middle and end already worked out when I started writing. And it was also my most personal story. But, like Mike told me, when you work on something for eighteen years, someone's bound to beat you to the punch.

I hope you like it. Most likely, this is all you'll ever see of it.