Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Zombie Night

Suze and I just got back from vacation. I used to announce such things here until I realized it probably wasn't a good idea to announce on the internet that my house was going to be unoccupied for a week. We had a good time but got rained out the last few days. I took some drawing stuff with me along with some big plans for finishing the layouts for the PERHAPANAUTS story but no such look. I think I've mentioned that Harker's Island in summer is extremely humid and windy (as we leave the windows open for fresh air.) This makes drawing with pencil on paper like scratching with chalk on a wet towel. Pretty much useless.

A few days before we left, I invited some friends over (Christian and Don) for "Zombie Night." One of the local theaters, a historic landmark called The Byrd Theater, was going to be showing Lucio Fulci's pseudo-sequel to DAWN OF THE DEAD, ZOMBI. Don emailed me and asked if I'd like to go see it. I was astonished because I've been trying to get Don to watch zombie flicks with me for years. He's as obsessed with them as I am but he would never go. (I was under the impression that he didn't feel like he could sit through them because of the whole "family turning on you" angle. Boy was I wrong.) I got pretty excited but realized that I couldn't make it because we'd be out of town by then. Besides, as much as I love The Byrd in principle, I just can's sit in those tiny seats they've got in there. My knees end up under my chin and my ass is asleep in five minutes. So we agreed to have a viewing at my place with beer and popcorn supplied by the lovely Suzanne.

It was a hoot. And boy, was I mistaken about Don and zombie movies. Don was pointing out to Christian and me all the instances of foreshadowing and literary references and all that poof. Christian and I (having seen ZOMBI about a dozen times each) just made faces and hooted at the boob shots. After a few Legend beers, ZOMBI becomes a prime candidate for MST3K-style shenanigans.

Christian went home after the first movie was over and Don and I sat through one of my current horror faves, QUARANTINE (the remake of the Spanish film [•REC]. I thought this one would give Don some problems because I'd seen it several times and had jumped out of my seat at a particular spot each time. No worries. At the point that firemen start falling from the sky, Don burst out laughing, clapped his hands and shouted, "AWESOME!"

After the movie, we chatted about horror movies, comics and the frustrations of advertising until the far side of 1:00 a.m. (on a school night no less.) It wasn't until after he left and I was washing the dishes that I realized it had been almost 20 years since Don and I had sat on the couch watching movies together in college. Time certainly does fly. I'd had a rough few days and had been a little down. But hanging out with Don again after such a long time put me in a very cheerful, nostalgic state of mind for several days. So, thanks Don. That was, as you put it, "Awesome." We have got to do that again. Soon.


Adam Hutch asked me a question in the comments of my last post, specifically, if working on the Perhapanauts short story for Todd and Craig has inspired me to work on my own stuff. I wouldn't use the word "inspired" but I think it has given me the confidence to treat the story I'm working on as a piece I actually intend to publish. Until Todd and Craig gave me this chance, I'd never done more than two or three pages of finished samples at a time (excluding the TORG piece.) Once I gave up hope of breaking into comics as an artist and concentrated on writing, I completely lost any confidence I had in myself as an illustrator. The practice afforded me by this blog and the work I've done for Todd and Craig has given me some of that confidence back and has proved to me that I can tell a story clearly and with at least a little...pizzazz?

That's not to say I think I'm really any good. I just think I can produce something publishable and worth somebody's three bucks or so. And I feel like I'm improving and can actually feel myself digging up all those art school lessons in my head to use. I desperately wish I could go back and redo the first part of the story because I was so nervous that I over-did everything and kept forgetting things and would have to go back and shoehorn them in. Part 2 is turning out much more to my satisfaction.

So, no. I'm not feeling inspired by my Perhapanauts stuff. I've already been raring to work on this story for a couple of years. But now I think I can actually finish it, work permitting. And I want to finish it very badly. I think it's a cool story and I've seen too many of the stories I've come up with done first by better folk. If I don't want that to happen again, I have to get crackin'.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Dana Barnes

It's official. Suzanne and I are headed to the Baltimore Con again next month to represent the Mike Wieringo Scholarship Fund. We'll again be setting up a table and selling Mike's original art to raise money for the 'Ringo fund and we'll be sporting our spiffy new booth sign, donated by my employer, The Martin Agency. Thanks to Marc Nathan (and his wonderful crew, including Brad Tree) for including us and generously making it possible for us to be there. We hope to see you there.


Okay, as I've been putting the pedal to the metal on the 'Haps pages, I've been getting excited about the prospect of returning to my pet project horror story. The other day, I found myself with a few free minutes after work waiting for Suzanne and knocked out the above character sketch for Dana Barnes. (That name is tentative, btw.) Of all the characters in the story, Dana has given me the hardest time visually. I posted a drawing a while back that was basically a portrait of the actress Lacey Chabert. But it wasn't really the look I wanted. I couldn't put my finger on it but it was too...glamorous? Unlike the rest of the characters, I didn't really have a picture of her in my head. Which is weird because Dana's the only character based on a real person. Well, several, actually.

I hesitate to call Dana Johnny's "love interest" because I feel like that's a mischaracterization of her importance to the story, though she definitely holds Johnny's "interest". She's one of my favorite characters in the story because I think her history is so interesting and because her personality is so fully formed in my mind. She feels alive to me.

Dana's family moved away from Johnny's hometown a year ago and now, as the story begins, she's back under mysterious circumstances. Johnny had been infatuated by her and was brokenhearted when she left. As he's introverted and socially awkward, he had been spared the potential embarrassment of telling her how he felt. Now that she's returned, he's forced into a situation where he has to confront his feelings again. And she doesn't make it easy on him.

As I said, Dana is at least partially based on real people. One of those folks was a girl I knew in high school who was a year ahead of me. I was completely infatuated with her. She was my version of Charlie Brown's "Little Redheaded Girl." Except she was a brunette. She was kind of tomboyish in that she always wore plaid shirts, untucked, with jeans and just enough makeup to get by. She seemed to me to be completely self-possessed but not in any "I'll show you" way. Just calmly confident. And she could not be any less interested in the conventions of high school life if she tried. She wasn't a cheerleader, wasn't a member of any clique and was completely disinterested in whether or not you were wearing a football jersey. (I know 'cause I tried that one.) She was flirty but not so much that you thought she was coming on to you. All this and yet she exuded a profound femininity that I found intoxicating. I was afraid to tell my friends how much I was taken with her because that's just not something you do. I was sure they would relentlessly dog me and that word would get around. Eventually, though, I had to say something and they all just looked at me and went, "duh." They all felt the same way, you see. (Gordon, Brian, Mark and Rich, if you're reading this, pipe down! LOL.) I had to laugh. But, you know, make sure they knew that, um..."hands off." She graduated my Junior year and, like Dana, poof...she was gone. But, unlike Dana, she never came back.

My high school crush didn't have any "mysterious circumstances", though. That comes from another inspiration that I don't want to go into because it's a minor plot reveal and if I said anything, it wouldn't be, well...mysterious. (Oooooooooo—!)

Dana's fashion sense owes a lot to my long lost schoolboy crush but the rest of her is purely my imagination. After driving myself nearly mad trying to come up with a look for her, I just relaxed and started drawing. And the sketch above is what came out. And damn it if that ain't Dana. I think the head shot may be a little too femme fatale. But basically, that's Johnny's gal.

I absolutely can't wait to start working on this.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Man vs. Food

This summer, despite short-run shows like EUREKA and BURN NOTICE, was relatively TV-free for me and therefore extremely productive. I'm almost sorry to see my favorite shows (like FRINGE) starting back up again. I'm dreading another season of clogged DVRs and evenings spent staring at the tube instead of doing something more important. Like staring at my computer monitor. And don't get me started on my beloved football games.

It's why I've made a point of not getting into shows like TRUE BLOOD. I want to watch it but it's just one more hour out of my week. Besides, I'm old enough to remember Anna Paquin's "information superhighway" commercials when she was but a wee tot. I'm not terribly comfortable watching her get naked. (I remember the first time I noticed the centerfold in PLAYBOY was younger than I was. Downhill ever since.)

There was a time when I liked nothing more than vegging out in front of the box all night. Suzanne and I, back when we "only" had basic cable, would spend entire evenings mesmerized by the Food Network. Emeril, Alton and the gang were our buds. Friday nights were the best. Before they ran IRON CHEF into the ground, it was our biggest guilty pleasure. No matter how hard we tried to describe it to our friends who hadn't seen it, words just failed us. (That was the show that spawned Mike's nickname for Suzanne..."Squeeze-ONNNN!!!!") And speaking of running things into the ground, this was when I discovered a pre-ubiquitous Rachel Ray and fell madly in love with her. Nothing lasts forever, though, and now I can only watch her with the volume on "mute" lest her umpteenth utterance of "E.V.O.O." cause me to drop kick the TV into the fireplace.

The faces on Food Network changed over the years and we eventually got bored with it. Suzanne's a foodie so she still tunes in for background noise. But ACE OF CAKES and IRON CHEF AMERICA just don't do it for me. It looked like my love affair with food shows was over.

Enter MAN VS. FOOD on the Travel Channel. This show is like nasty fetish porn for food addicts. Each episode, the host (Adam Richman) visits some hole in the wall joint that has a food challenge and puts his tummy to the test. I'll be honest, I've always fantasized about doing one of these (especially THIS ONE) but, despite my size, I'm just not that big an eater. I've won two pancake contests with my coworkers but, let's face it, they're skinny little woosies.

I discovered the show flipping channels one night as I was winding down for bed. The switch to digital has eliminated the Cartoon Network from our extra TVs (we'd need another digital box for the bedroom) and so I tend to just surf until I conk out. BOING! As soon as I saw Richman working his way through 5 pounds of pancakes, I was hooked. Whenever I happen to catch the show, I'm in for the long haul. I wasted nearly an entire afternoon not long ago when TC was running a marathon.

Richman is amazing. He's a little bit heavy but you'd think he'd be 400 lbs. at this rate. I've seen him eat some incredible amounts of shit and come up asking for more. He wins more often than not and, despite some close calls and glassy eyes, he doesn't appear much the worse for wear.

Like JAWS or GOODFELLAS, if this show is on, I'm watchin' it. The show is inspired (though I wonder how it's viewed by people from countries where a bowl of fly-blown rice is considered overindulgent) and if you haven't seen it, treat yourself. I wish I had the guts--heh--to try one of these challenges. But at least I can watch this guy. He is livin' the dream and livin' it large.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My time of year.

As Todd Dezago pointed out, Halloween is fast approaching and I'm already in that frame of mind. I started feeling the first ticklings back in August because of an unexpected but pleasant cold snap that ended the month but now that it's September, I'm in full horror movie mode. (I just finished watching AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and can't believe how incredibly hot Jenny Agutter was in that.) I absolutely love this time of year. Despite the exasperation I usually feel at having to get up the endless mounds of leaves our trees produce, there's not much that can sour my mood right now. Well, I guess I really shouldn't tempt fate. So, let me just say that, recent events notwithstanding, life feels pretty good right now.

Though I haven't had much to show lately, I have, in fact, been drawing quite a bit. After a couple of months of being on the road for one reason or another or working a crushing amount of hours, it suddenly dawned on me how close I am to missing my deadline on part two of the Perhapanauts story Todd, Christian and I are doing. So I've been trying to focus on that for a while and have made some decent progress. (Expect a page in your email tomorrow, Todd and Craig.) It hasn't hurt that Christian emails me every day asking for the next page to ink. Since part one hasn't come out yet, I really can't share any of the pages. Which is too bad because I'm not stressing over it so much anymore and, now that I'm starting to get a feel for how to draw these characters, I'm actually having fun. My versions don't really look much like Craig's but at least they're starting to look consistent. Craig makes it look so effortless and simple but Choopie's goggles will drive a dude crazy, man.

I've also spent some time working with Rod Hannah on a project he's been developing. (Though Rod would probably debate the word "work" at this point. :) ) It's pretty much amounted to the three sketches seen up above. I've been trying to design a character for his story and, while it was fun, I haven't been able to give it the time Rod deserves. But he has graciously given me the okay to post these. I can't give you any story details, as he's not ready to announce anything yet, but it's a really cool story idea and I wish I could contribute more. These sketches represent some back and forth we had as Rod refined what he wanted the character to look like. To be honest, I've never spent much time drawing women so this was a new frontier for me and I really enjoyed it. I loosened up a lot to try and get a more gestural quality. I'm doing such rigid pencilling on the Perhapanauts story that this was a nice break. I hope you like them.

I'm also hoping to post more character designs for my horror comic that I've mentioned from time to time. The plot is done and I'm currently writing the first draft of the script and I'm very excited about it. As I've mentioned to a few folks, I plotted out a scene during one of my daily walks that even scared the hell out of me and I can't wait to script it out. As much as I love horror movies, I've never been able to invent the kind of stuff that would freak people out. I'm a pretty non-violent, non-confrontational guy so this kind of stuff never occurs to me unprompted. So I tasked myself with coming up with something that would creep readers out within the context of the story and, by the time my walk was over, my skin was crawling.

Anyway, that's all I've got for now. Later.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Traci Wagner

Those of you who know Traci Wagner and her husband Rich Faber are probably already aware of this but, as Rich has announced here, Traci passed away yesterday after an all-too short but valiant battle with cancer.

Suzanne and I only knew Traci a short time having met her and Rich at, of all places, Mike's funeral. We instantly hit it off and Traci and Rich selflessly checked in on us from time to time to make sure we were okay and before long we were all friends. We even visited them up North earlier this year and got to hang out with them in their home with their beautiful son Jason.

Please keep Rich and Jason in your thoughts today. This is yet another reminder that we aren't guaranteed anything in this life and we should make the best of what little time we may have. Hug someone you love today.