Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy Holi-Delays!

I hope everyone had a great—and SAFE—Christmas this year. Mine was...interesting.

Living in the south usually has its benefits, particularly around the holiday season. While we have the occasional “White Christmas”, that usually just means a slight dusting of snow or maybe some dirty sludge left over from a very rare December snowfall. The worst I can remember was having to leave Mike’s house early on Christmas because of a treacherous ice storm. This year took the cake, though.

The last couple of years, Suzanne and I have been apart because we both want to spend Christmas with our own parents. We used to do Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with hers. But Mike’s passing changed things and I couldn’t bear the thought of my parents spending Christmas alone. This year, with Toonces needing daily medication, my parents decided to bring Christmas to my house and came up Friday morning. Mom brought all the fixin’s for a great Christmas dinner and we exchanged gifts next to our beautifully decorated tree. One problem. The storm hit bigger—and sooner—than predicted and Mom and Dad left after lunch on Christmas day to beat the snow home. So I ended up spending Christmas weekend snowed in, alone with the cats.

Granted, it was kind of neat at first. I spent Christmas evening doing things I would never get away with if Suze was home: watching a MOBSTERS marathon on the Biography channel, eating huge slabs of Mom’s chocolate cake for dinner, playing LEFT FOR DEAD 2 on the Xbox. But by Sunday morning, it had gotten old and even watching the Packers destroy the Giants while sitting in front of a roaring fireplace with a dinner of cake and eggnog left me feeling a little down. Suze had gotten stuck at the beach with her family and couldn’t come back until Monday. I was really missing her.

Suze got home about the same time I got off work yesterday and we hugged in the driveway for about 15 minutes. I was so glad to see her back home and safe. After three days apart, it really reinforced what’s important in life. PRESENTS!

After unloading her car, we finally exchanged gifts. Suzanne had read my mind (or, at least, my Amazon wish list) and had gotten me some truly wonderful gifts. Since, these days, it seems to be an online tradition to tell “what you got”, I guess it’s okay to post this:

A few months ago, Screen Archives released this re-recording of the CONAN THE BARBARIAN soundtrack. I usually don’t go for re-recordings but when I found out the story behind it, I had to have it. It turns out that composer Basil Poledouris was never happy with the recording used in the film because he had written the score with a much larger orchestra than the one that was hired. It had always been his dream to re-record the score with an appropriate orchestra. This was not to be as he passed away several years ago. (Remember the tribute drawing of Conan Mike posted on his blog?) His daughters Alexis and Zoe (A to Z...cute!) never forgot and Alexis engineered this new album to honor her father. It’s a terrific package and I’m sure I’m going to wear it out. Listening to it makes me feel like for the last twenty years or so I’ve been hearing his brilliant music through earmuffs. It’s a real revelation. I wish Poledouris was alive to experience it.

I’m a nut for Hammer Horror films. This book just came out this month and features hundreds of digitally cleaned-up posters from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. There’s some really great artwork in here and some brilliant designs. A must for any Hammer fan.

SLEEPING BEAUTY has always been my favorite Disney film (followed closely by THE LION KING.) It’s not held in very high regard by Disney buffs because the story is a little simple and Prince Charming is considered a bit of a cipher. But the character design on Maleficent and the art direction of the film in general is just mind-blowing. It’s a real feast for the eyes. Somehow, my niece and nephew found out I wanted it (Suze swears she didn’t tell them and I certainly didn’t) and it ended up under the tree last night. Thanks, guys!

Having recently devoured all six volumes of the SCOTT PILGRIM graphic novel series, I had high hopes for the film adaptation. I’d had it on rental from NetFlix for a month but hadn’t had time to watch it. That changed when the snow hit and I watched it Sunday morning in front of the fire. From the very first few seconds when the Universal Pictures tag came up tricked out to look (and sound!) like an ‘80s-era Atari video game, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. The casting is perfect all-around (I’m coming around on Michael Cera as Scott) including heart-breaker Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers. The problem with NetFlix (other than the annoying 28 day wait for new releases) is that now they’re sending out “rental copies” that don’t include any of the bonus features you get when you buy the films. WTF!!??? After that, they had the gall to raise their prices. But when I discovered the SCOTT PILGRIM blu-ray under the tree last night, all that flitted out of my head. Now I can watch the film in hi-def...and the bonus features too!

I’ve been concentrating on writing...and rewriting...my story and have let myself get rusty in the drawing department. So I’ve been trying to loosen up by working on model sheets of my characters. That led me to rediscovering a love of the old Disney animators and I remembered seeing these two books at SIGGRAPH last year. I put them on my wish list for later and Suze surprised me with them. They’re packed with the wisdom of a true master of gestural drawing, Walt Stanchfield. I can’t wait to dig into these.

Suzanne and I have had a decade-long tradition of buying each other calendars for Christmas but, for some reason, Suzanne forgot this year. Good thing Todd and Sharon stepped in and managed to get me exactly the calendar I’ve been hoping for. There are some great pieces in here and, best of all, the tops are perforated so you can take them out and frame them when the month is over! Thanks, Todd and Sharon!

Lots of other stuff from Suzanne, her family and mine including lots of warm shirts (thank you!) and gloves. Also some great DVDs (Foghorn Leghorn and Droopy Dog!) and books (BATMAN: STRANGE APPARITIONS from Todd, David Wellington’s werewolf sequel OVERWINTER and Michael Slade’s CRUCIFIED.)

Hopefully, you realize I'm joking about presents and that the best things I got this Christmas were time with my parents, however brief, and getting my wife back home safely. Other than that, everything else was just icing on the cake. (I hope you all got...and gave...some nice icing too.)


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Round II

I guess it goes without saying but I'll say it anyway. This has been the busiest month at my job in years. (I'm typing this at work at 11:00 at night.) I've done next to no Christmas shopping, there's a huge stack of unread books by my bed, I'm way behind on my email correspondence and haven't looked at my Facebook page in months. I had a setback on my weight loss thanks to the perfect storm of an all-nighter at work, a new Weight Watchers system to learn and not being able to get away from my desk for exercise. I gained 3 lbs last week. Fortunately, I've already shed most of it and have gotten back on track.

I don't really have anything to post but I'm afraid to get out of the habit. Especially now that the first draft of HAND ME DOWN HORROR is completed. Talking about it here keeps it "real" and I suppose guilts me into continuing.

I spent the weekend of the Virginia Comicon sitting at the Scholarship booth (thanks again, Brett!) making notes on a hard copy of my scripts. Seeing it all printed out like that gave me a little thrill. It's thicker than most screenplays, roughly about 200 pages. There were a few cringe-inducing parts but, for the most part, I was fairly satisfied with my story. I probably haven't been away from it long enough to be objective yet but I really need to get back to work on it.

Despite having next to no down time that isn't spent recuperating from all-nighters at work or just plain stress, I've managed to start the second draft. All I'm really doing is fixing some weak dialogue and correcting some contradictions that happened during the rush to get the story down. There are also some moments that feel forced and I want to go back and smooth that out. I have to confess to having lost some of the confidence I'd managed to built up. I punched up the action in the very first scene and was very happy with it. Then I hit a wall. I've rewritten one scene about four times now and it still doesn't feel right.

My problem is that I feel like my theme is a little muddy. I know what I'm trying to say with the story, I just don't know if it's coming across. There are very few expository scenes that don't have to do with the plot. So sneaking in philosophical stuff here and there gets awkward and sometimes feels shoehorned. I skipped ahead to the next scene and, again, was very pleased with the results. But this one scene just has me by the cajones. Oh well. It's not like I'm on a deadline. Though I'd hoped to be drawing by January, I have several other obligations to fulfill first, so I may have to amend that.

I actually have started doing some preliminary sketches of my version of Dracula. Now that the story is written, I have a better grasp of what he should look like. I think the look is much more refined than what I've posted before and his personality is really coming through. Hopefully, I'll get to the point where I'm comfortable sharing. I'm also fairly satisfied with the shot of the kids I posted a while back but there's still some room for improvement there. And there are about a hundred or so other peripheral characters that need to be designed. I never realized how much work goes into creating a comic book before you even start drawing the first page. Yeesh.

For anyone wondering how my little buddy Toonces is doing, he's great. The hypertension medicine has done wonders. His vision seems to be fully restored and he's got more energy than before. I also don't want to jinx it but the last couple of days, he's let me sleep until 6:00 a.m. Since he's usually howling at me to get up at 4:30, this has been a real treat. His appetite is much-improved and Charlie seems to feel he's well enough to chase around the house again. He's almost 20 now and I know nothing lasts forever but the way things have been at work lately, I'm so very grateful for this reprieve. Tooncie hates his medicine but I have no regrets about forcing it on him if it gives us more quality time with him.

Okay, that's it. I think I can actually go home now. So if I don't post again between now and Christmas I hope everyone has a great and safe holiday.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Early Christmas

We had a great Thanksgiving. I admit I was a little down on the holidays this year and frankly couldn't wait for them to be over. With it looking like I'll be working every weekend between now and January and Toonces' condition, I'd had it. But then something terrific happened.

When Toonces' vet came over about ten days ago to examine him, she determined that he had detached retinas from his renal failure (a condition he's had for a couple of years) and that his blindness was permanent. But she also diagnosed him with one of the worst cases of high blood pressure she'd ever seen in a cat. She prescribed something for it and that was that. We watched him over the next week-and-a-half as he learned to deal with no vision and very little hearing. He bumped into things a lot, missed his litter box several times spent a lot of time sleeping in one spot, usually on the heating pad Suzanne set up for him. But he was getting around. We started him on his hypertension meds and the weird thing with his eyes being completely black stopped. The pupils contracted and we could see the amber-green color return around the edges.

Then, on Black Friday, I got the weird feeling that Toonces could see me. He was following me around the room with his eyes. We'd already determined he could tell when the lights were on or off and that the positions of various lights throughout the house were helping him navigate. We took to leaving them all on for him. (Not looking forward to the power bill this month.) But this was different. I walked up to him and waved my hand slowly in front of his face and he followed it. And suddenly we realized he wasn't bumping into things anymore. His vision had returned!

I don't think he can see as well as before but he can see enough to run up and down the stairs now and not bounce around like a billiard ball from wall to wall. It must have been the hypertension. Suze and I are so relieved we don't know what to do. He really is our little miracle cat. Every time we think the little guy is down and out, he rebounds. It's given me a new outlook on the holidays and I don't think I'll be such a grinch this year after all. And for that, I am truly thankful.

I hope your Thanksgiving was just as wonderful.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Brief Hiatus

I'll probably be away from the blog for a while. With Thanksgiving coming up, a crazy work schedule and the VA COMICON coming this weekend, my plate is pretty full.

And, unfortunately, we just discovered that our little buddy Toonces is not only stone deaf, he's now completely blind as well. It's breaking our hearts and we're still figuring out how to make life easier for a cat that's effectively cut off from the world. The little guy has gotten us through some of the toughest times we've had. He was living with me before Suzanne and I even got married. So this is hitting me a little hard.

Hopefully, I'll find time to post a con report after the VA COMICON. If not, have a great Thanksgiving and try not to get trampled on Black Friday. Me? I'm avoiding that this year.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Scott Pilgrim

So, instead of picking up this weeks new comics, I’m trapped here at work waiting on the proofing department (yawn) and I thought I’d knock out a quick post.

Just a quick heads up that we’ll be setting up for the ‘Ringo Scholarship at the VIRGINIA COMICON here in Richmond on November 20th and 21st. The show is really growing and has had to move to a larger venue up the street. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a great show and I’m very grateful to Brett for letting us set up. If you can make it, stop by and say “hi.”

Suze and I have reeeally been enjoying the new AMC show THE WALKING DEAD, based on Robert Kirkman’s comic book. It’s the kind of must-see TV we haven’t seen since LOST ended. I even skipped the second half of the Packers game last Sunday to catch it. Not that it was much of a game. I caught Suzanne watching part of the show last week with her hands over her eyes, peeking between the fingers. Awesome.

I’ve also blazed through the last 4 volumes of SCOTT PILGRIM, the inspiration for the above sketch. I’d told Christian that I didn’t want to borrow his because I already have a two-feet-tall stack of his stuff. Plus, I had the first two volumes and wanted to buy the whole run. But then my friend Don offered the same thing and I figured it would be the only way I could manage to read them all before the movie hit Blu-ray this week without dropping 40 or 50 bucks all at once. I couldn’t read them fast enough. I’m not much of an indie comics guy but this series really struck a chord with me. I’m not even sure why. Scott Pilgrim is the kind of guy I would want to choke the life out of if I actually knew him. But Bryan Lee O’Malley manages to make him an endearing character. And, not being much of a gamer or anime fan, I figured most of the jokes would fly over my head. Not so. I laughed out loud quite often. O’Malley’s artwork started off a little weak in the first volume but, by volume 2, he was already improving by leaps and bounds. By the final volume, the art was sublime. I love his clever storytelling tricks like showing Scott’s brain cracking in two and a baby chick emerging to illustrate that Scott has grasped a concept. I loved the scene in which Scott asks why Ramona corrects him with “Evil EXES” every time he refers to her “evil ex-boyfriends.” (“You had a sexy phase?”) My only complaints with the series were that it was difficult to tell some of the characters apart sometimes and the ending was a little hard to follow. But the series on the whole was a LOT of fun. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. (And, yes, I realize I’m REALLY late to this particular bandwagon but what can I say?) I can hardly wait to watch the movie.

I’m itching to start the second drafts of my HMDH scripts and do some real drawing for a change but I guess all that will have to wait until this crunch at work is over. I just hope it’s not TOO long. Jeez.



Oh, and I don't do this often but please click on this link to Jackson (VENTURE BROS.) Publick's blog. He has a link to a bunch of eBay auctions. The proceeds go to help pay for some much-needed medical attention for a really cute kitty named Lola. Lola lives with two artists that work on the show and she has pancreatic cancer. I love the show and I love kitties so I thought I'd do my tiny little part and help steer any interested parties their way.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Done and Done

Before I bore my three readers with my progress on HAND ME DOWN HORROR, I thought I'd post some cool sketches Mike did for one of his fans. I'm not sure when they were done but I was glad to see them. When I was in Baltimore this past August, I was given copies of the above sketches by that fan. (Thanks again, John!) Mike did tons of headshots for folks (just check out eBay if you don't believe me) and the Thor/Orion sketch seemed like something you could easily see someone asking for. The son of Darkseid and the son of Odin. Cool but standard. Then I saw the second sketch and laughed out loud. What an awesome request. You really don't see that every day. Space Ghost and A.L.F.

A couple of weeks ago, a high school buddy of mine told me about his love for the' 80s sitcom A.L.F. That reminded me of these sketches and I brought them into work to scan them. Mike really nailed both characters, don't you think? (Though I'm surprised he agreed to draw A.L.F., considering Mike's love of cats. A.L.F. had a taste for them, you see.)


Okay, here it is. I've actually finished the first draft of all 8 scripts for HAND ME DOWN HORROR. With my work schedule ballooning out of control (I'm typing this at work on a Sunday, actually) I'm frankly shocked I managed it. It has a lot to do with Jason Aaron's dialogue-first approach. But mostly it was panic. I saw my free time dwindling to nothing and figured it was now or never. Issue 8 is with Todd, Christian and Suzanne and I'll take their comments into the rewriting stage. Again, I hope to be done with that part by the end of the year and start page layouts in January. We'll see.

This morning, I decided to read issue three of COMPANY OF MONSTERS, Kurt Busiek's Dracula comic. I'd been putting it off for "plausible deniability" but now that I'm finished with HMDH, I took a chance. Sorry I did. There were so many similarities (right down to lines of dialogue) that I almost threw the book across the room. But I'm not changing anything. I'll risk the cries of plagiarism. I know better as do my three "editors". I think what it boils down to is that Busiek and I read all the same history books. At the same time. And he's a faster (and published) writer. So, eff it. I'll worry about that shit when it hits the fan...assuming I manage to get my book published at all. In the meantime, I'm done reading that book. With my workload, I don't need the added stress.

My story is more or less finished and that feels pretty good. For now, I'm going to enjoy it. Until I have to start drawing it...


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Seeing Red

I actually talked my way out of working on my absolute FAVORITE day of the year. To celebrate, I suggested Suzanne come with me to see PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2.

So, we're at the theater watching RED...

And we LOVED it! We only wanted to see it so badly because of the comic book series created by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner (one of the nicest people in the world). But when the reviews started coming in and once I'd read the book and realized Hollywood changed virtually EVERYTHING, I was a little worried. But, let me tell you, we had a GREAT time.

If you've read the book, you realize it's a quick character study of an ex-C.I.A. operative who gets betrayed by his former employers. It's a great story, beautifully drawn by Cully but there's not a movie's-worth of material there. So I can see where all the fleshing-out was necessary. Somebody read the book, was inspired by it and bought the rights. The important thing is that it got Cully a lot of well-deserved attention and, damn it, the movie was FUN.

The cast is phenomenal, the action sequences are exciting and the relationships are engaging. Yes, the plot was a little convoluted but not hard to follow if you're paying attention. I honestly don't know what critics want from an action movie anymore. Suze and I had a great time and laughed out loud several times.

Oh, and Helen Mirren on the .50 cal. was freakin' HAWT!

Go see this movie, damn it. And happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thing vs. Hulk

With things (heh) heating up at work, I've not had much time to write. I'm working later and now on weekends again. (I'm trying desperately to NOT be at work on Halloween but...) I finished the script to issue 7 of THE HAND ME DOWN HORROR just before the big crush hit but, with one issue to go, it's a little frustrating to not have the chance to wrap it up.

The dialogue-first approach really came in handy (thank you, Jason Aaron) in writing up some tough scenes. Issue 3 and issue 7 contained a lot of historical references and were both research-heavy chapters. I HATE research. I'm not much of a note-taker so I usually end up devising my plot, then reading up on my subject and then, finally, adjusting my story to match the research if I've done something that doesn't jibe. It means, as I write, I constantly have to refer back to my research material. On issue 3, I had a mild panic attack when I couldn't find the item I needed. I wasted an entire evening re-scanning a single book.

That's all over now and it's just wrapping up the story. And I'm itching to get to it. Hopefully, next week. We'll see.

During occasional moments of downtime at work, I had the chance to knock out the above sketch. I've never drawn the Thing before and I was a little nervous about it because Mike's so associated with the character. It's why I never draw Spider-Man, though I love the costume. But a thread on the John Byrne Forum got me all worked up about those classic fights between Ben Grimm and The Hulk so I thought I'd give it a shot. I'm pretty disappointed in the way the Thing came out but I'm very happy with the Hulk, so I guess it averaged out to solid "meh." It sure was fun, though. I think I'll give the Thing another shot sometime soon.

Before I sign off, I thought I'd post the jack-o-lanterns Suzanne and I carved. It's getting to be tradition for us to carve pumpkins with our neice and nephew who come up for a visit around this time of year. I have to admit that I'm a little out of the mood this year because of the crazy summer-like weather (our yard was destroyed last night by a freak storm) and our suddenly busy work schedules. I haven't had much time at all for horror movies. And our diets preclude Halloween candy. But it's really nice to come home to these babies each night, even if they are decomposing faster because of the heat and rain. And there are fruit flies buzzing around them. WTF!??

Here's mine:

And here's Suze's:

Have a great Halloween weekend, folks, and don't forget to tune into AMC Sunday night for the premiere of Robert Kirkman's WALKING DEAD TV show! I can't wait!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Brett Who?

The Packers beat the Vikings at home 28-24. All hail the Aaron Rogers.

Welcome home, Brett. Now get out.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Invisible in San Diego

The script for HMDH #6 is with my "editors" (Todd, Suzanne and Christian) so I'm going to take some time this week to regroup and work on the Scholarship Fund brochure and some other much-neglected projects, if possible, before jumping right into issue 7.

This last script was tough because there was a lot of..."emotional content", I guess you'd call it. I'm a very non-confrontational kind of guy so that was difficult to write. I'm hoping my editors come back with mostly thumbs up. As I've often pointed out, I've rarely progressed in any of my attempts at writing beyond the first issue and those are always the easiest. Lots of set-up and character intros. Being this far into the story is new ground for me and it's exhilarating, exciting and not a little bit scary. With everything I've written leading up to what happens in the next two chapters, I find myself wondering if I've telegraphed things too much or, worse, left gaping plot holes that will leave readers disappointed. But it's fascinating for me to see the story develop. A lot changed from the time when I was just figuring out the story to where I am now. Characters have taken on a life of their own and developed away from my original intent. One character in particular, who I hadn't given much thought to, has been a lot of fun to write, just seeing where he was going, and even spawned a couple of ancillary characters that I've grown to love.

You hear writers sometimes say "the story wrote itself." Stephen King claims to rarely use an outline (THE DEAD ZONE, one of my favorites, being an exception) or even know how his story will end until he gets there. I can't really say that because my story is a little plot-heavy. Character development had to take a back-seat (Eamon, Oscar and Chris, for instance, had some scenes cut or severely shortened) to make room for stuff that had to happen. But often, I would get to scenes where I knew what I had to accomplish and roughly how many pages I had in which to do it and I just ran with it, letting the characters do their thing. It has been a real hoot.

Recently, Christian turned me onto Jason Aaron's column at ComicBookResources.com in which he details his experiences and techniques in writing. While it's all very interesting, one thing in particular stood out. He said that, when he's writing a script, he starts out by just writing out the dialogue with no description or notes for the artist. I assume that was to maintain an organic flow to the dialogue. I was finding that I was doing a lot of rewriting of dialogue because, as I was writing, I'd have to pause between "lines" to write "Panel 2: Johnny picks his nose" or some such. It would break my concentration. With this last script, one heavy in emotional scenes, I wanted to keep the dialogue flowing and as in-character as possible. So I tried Aaron's technique, knocking out each scene's dialogue first, then going back and breaking it into panels and pages. It really worked well! I reduced my rewriting to a minimum (we'll see if that's a good thing or not) and it helped me keep my page count in line. If you're writing something for fun out there, like me, I highly recommend you give that a try.


Waaaay back at the end of the 20th century (okay, about 13 years ago) I made my one and only trek out to attend the San Diego Comicon. I had just left my job of six years as Production Manager at a presentation graphics house for a horrible corporate job doing Powerpoint presentations at G.E. and felt my future was a little uncertain. Before I took the plunge and settled on a real career path, I thought I should take one last stab at becoming a comic book artist.

Suzanne was supposed to go with me but we decided it was too much of an expense as we were dirt-poor at the time. Despite the higher pay at my new job, twice nothing is still nothing. So she stayed behind. I packed a lot of snacks in my suitcase (buying meals only once per day), loaded up a ton of sample pages and caught a flight. I missed Suzanne immediately. I'm not as adventurous as she is. I would have had a much better time with her there.

The entire trip was rather uneventful. I remember some of the highlights included a panel featuring John Carpenter promoting his new film VAMPIRES (based on one of my at-the-time favorite books, VAMPIRE$). This was roughly the beginning of San Diego turning from a comic convention to a multi-media madhouse. This was also where I got my brief portfolio review from a jet-lagged and irritable Tom Breevort. He basically raked me over the coals for wasting his time. While his heart wasn't exactly in the right place, everything he pointed out, in retrospect, was true. And the truth, as they say, hurts. I guess it was the manner in which that truth was presented that ruffled my feathers. But Mike liked him a lot so I figured it was the fatigue talking. I also got to hang out briefly with a small group of really nice ILM CG artists who were playing hookie to attend the show. They ooo-ed and aah-ed over my portfolio and told me I should come visit them at ILM which made me feel like James Cameron at the Oscars. But I never saw them again.

The one ray of hope at that show was a Vertigo editor (whose name escapes me) that reviewed my portfolio. I knew, even then, that I didn't draw the "Vertigo way" but I thought a little more abuse couldn't hurt. Imagine my shock when she absolutely raved about my work. She didn't tell me, like Breevort did, that my faces were mushy (they were) or that I seemed to be having trouble settling on a realistic style versus a cartoony one (I was) or that my characters weren't on-model (they weren't.) She absolutely loved my stuff. Her only complaint was that she couldn't tell if I could draw everyday items like cars, backgrounds and so-forth. She told me I would be great for a book...had I heard of it?...called THE INVISIBLES. I had not (I wasn't buying much of anything at that point) but I assured her it was one of my favorite books. She told me to work up some sketches so she could see how I handled the characters and she'd be in touch. I don't know if there was going to be a change in artists on THE INVISIBLES or if the regular artist just needed a break. I didn't care. I just knew this was my chance.

When I got home, I was in a frenzy. I spent the next few days doing the drawings you see above, along with a page of backgrounds, buildings, cars and (inexplicably) the Statue of Liberty. I sent off copies of the work with my contact info. And waited. And I've been waiting for 13 years. Never heard back, despite several follow-up letters. Looking at them now, I don't blame her. I wouldn't have called me back either. Look at the right eye on that lady in the S&M gear. Anyway, soon after, I got my job at the ad agency where I'm working now and quickly forgot about the editor. And forgot about trying to get work in comics.

While San Diego ended up being a colossal waste of time and effort, I did get something to post on my blog today, and that's the important thing.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Todd and Sharon's Southern Tour

Meet the gang.

I had so much fun drawing Sam for the Halloween banner that I didn't want to go so long without drawing again. But since I'm on a real roll with the scripts for HAND ME DOWN HORROR (just about 75% done now) I thought it would be prudent to do some character drawings. I started out planning to do another model sheet for Johnny Dyer (our hero!) but got sidetracked. I just felt like drawing Dana suddenly. Before I knew it, I'd drawn the whole gang. So, in order, from left to right, meet Johnny, Dana, Chris, Oscar and Eamon. I was afraid to take it too far because I hadn't really thought much about Chris or Oscar but once I'd pencilled it, I realized these were the folks I see in my head while I'm writing.

I recently had an email discussion with one of Mike's fans about drawing and the question of style came up. I realized that I'd wasted a lot of time trying to force myself to draw like Darwyn Cooke or Javier Pulido. I love the guys who draw with bold strokes. Looking at their work really inspires me and gets me excited about drawing. But, alas, I just don't draw like them at all. So with this one, I tried to keep my style consistent and just draw like me. I've mentioned that I usually fall back on the Darwyn crutch when drawing females because I love how he draws women with those round, open faces. But not this time. I just relaxed and tried to be me. I really like the result. I really feel like I've found my Dana.

Anyway, I hope you like the sketch. I'm actually looking forward to drawing this thing!


Last year, Suzanne and I travelled up to New York to visit Todd and Sharon for a few days and they were very hospitable and showed us around their stomping grounds. We fell in love with their home and wished we could stay longer. Happily, Todd and Sharon turned the tables on us this year and came down to Richmond and stayed at the Ranch with us for a long weekend. Richmond doesn't have a lot to offer that you can't find just about anywhere else but we did our best to show them a good time.

My parents came down on Thursday to spend a day with the whole gang but they had to leave on Friday. That left us plenty of time to show Todd and Sharon around. The Folk Festival was this weekend and we took them to that and walked our rear ends off. (I thought we would gain weight during their visit but we actually ended up losing!) We took them to the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, shopped in Carytown, gave them a tour of VCU (especially the areas where Mike and I spent most of our time in college) and showed them some historic buildings. We took them to several of our favorite restaurants and, on Sunday, Christian, Angie and my Crom-daughter Lilah met us at our favorite watering-hole, Legend Brewery. We even got to have the movie night that Todd, Christian and I had been wishing for. We sat in my den and watched horror flicks until we dropped. Fortunately, the weather while they were down was absolutely fantastic, though the 90-degree temperatures put a real damper on my Halloween groove. I'm actually glad to see it turning cold and wet this week.

Toonces was a good host but Charlie was especially glad to see his Uncle Todd and was really sad to see him and Sharon go home on Monday. And so were we. Thanks for a great weekend, guys! Here's some photos of the visit:

Okay, that's all for now. Later!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Trick 'R Treat!

It's no secret that Halloween is my favorite time of year. Being a horror movie nut all year long, I really go crazy in October. Poor Suzanne. She can't stand horror movies so I'm always running up to my office with a handful of DVDs and it's hard for her to not take it personally. But I can't help myself. I think Halloween should be a national holiday but I guess that would be asking a bit much.

One of the best horror movies to come out in the last decade has got to be TRICK 'R TREAT, Director Michael Dougherty's love letter to the season of ghosts and goblins. I'd been holding off on buying it because the price just wouldn't come down. It was stuck at 14 bucks and I just couldn't do it. It's not that I can't afford it, it's just that after years of buying movies the day they came out, I knew the minute I took the plunge, they'd throw it in the delete bin for 9 dollars. But last week, Best Buy put, of all things, the Blu-ray version on sale for SEVEN DOLLARS (!) and I jumped. Boy, am I glad I did. As much as I enjoyed it the first time I saw it, I downright fell in love with it on Blu-ray. It's got everything. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, gorgeous damsels in distress (sort of), serial killers, kids in peril and, best of all, a brand new horror "mascot." Sam (short, I imagine, for "Samhain") is the commond thread running through four interwoven tales of terror featuring Dylan Baker, Tahmoh Penikett (the dude from DOLLHOUSE), Brian Cox and Anna Paquin, looking surprisingly scrumptious as...well, I don't want to ruin it.

Check out the trailer here:

Sam is such a delightfully designed character that perfectly embodies the spirit of Halloween in a way that Michael Myers could never hope to. He's mischievous, deadly and, well, kind of cute. I just fell in love with the little guy and that's why he's the star of my Halloween banner this year. I hope you like it.

TRICK 'R TREAT is such a fun, wonderful surprise. I didn't think they made these kinds of horror movies anymore. If I'm ever lucky enough to meet Michael Dougherty in person, I'm going to shake his hand and buy him a drink. He made my Halloween. If you haven't seen this terrific little film, do so with haste.


Todd and Sharon are coming down to Richmond to visit the Ringo Ranch (not to be confused with the 'Ringo! Ranch) for a few days. We're planning on running them ragged. If I don't post for a while, that's what I'm doing.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Good Captain

I was talking to Todd the other day (well, emailing him) and somehow the subject of Mike's comic book collection came up. I was complaining about all the boxes of comics in my office and how they're taking over like kudzu and I mentioned how that was the reason I didn't keep Mike's 30-plus-box collection. There were certainly some good books in there and a lot that I didn't have. But I just wasn't prepared, at the time, to deal with sorting through them. And I definitely didn't have anywhere to put them. We ended up giving them to a dealer friend of Mike's (You can probably guess who.) who, instead of just taking advantage, has been selling them and keeping track of the money, which he donates to the scholarship fund. (Have I told you how much we love Mike's friends?)

Anyway, I did flip through them looking for the Kirby DEMON issues because Mike had recently sent me an excited email detailing how he'd won an eBay auction of a complete set. This was before the awesome DC reprint hardcover edition came out. Dad had had a few issues when we were kids that looked interesting but since there were so many issues missing, I never read them. I wanted to see what had Mike so excited. I never found them, though. I did find something else, though. Mike's Jim Starlin CAPTAIN MARVELs.

When Mike and I were kids, Mike was absolutely nuts for Jim Starlin. He would sit on the floor and practically trace the panels from those issues of CAPTAIN MARVEL and the issues of WARLOCK that Starlin drew. Mike and his friend Carlton created their own versions of the characters and Mike drew them in his Starlin-knock-off style. You'd never know it to look at his style later on but Mike spent much of his formative years imitating Starlin, John Byrne and Gil Kane.

Starlin's stuff was so off the wall. My young palette was more suited to the accessible style of guys like Sal Buscema and Jack Kirby. (I also had a love-hate relationship with Frank Robbins. That's nuthin' but love these days.) But Mike was attracted to Starlin's crazy musculature and hyper-dramatic poses. The crazy wind-blown hair and LSD-trippy writing. I have very vivid memories of a 12-year-old Mike drawing his Starlin-lite illustrations.

And that's why, of all those comics (other than anything Mike did himself) I only kept those Jim Starlin CAPTAIN MARVELs. I already had my own copies but these were the ones that helped set Mike on the road to being a pro. I had to have 'em.

That email conversation with Todd inspired this drawing. I knocked it out in an hour on my lunch break the other day. It started off promising but I think I blew it by the end. I was going for a loose look. But loose ended up being sloppy with this. The brush pen I was using had lost it's point and I wasn't skilled enough to work it to my advantage. But I've got nothing else to show (mostly because I couldnt' resist starting to write HMDH issue #6) and also because this drawing cracks me up. Does the face remind anyone else of actor Doug McClure?

Monday, September 27, 2010


It’s been a while since I’ve posted but you haven’t missed anything. I really haven’t had much time to draw at all. Work has been what I always hope for: busy during the day and no late nights. Since that’s usually when I get my drawing done...

Suze and I went on vacation a week ago, back down to Harker’s Island, and had a great time (as did Toonces and Charlie) with her parents. I’d written out an entire post about it but deleted it after realizing it would be a boring read to anyone but us and we were there so we didn’t need to read it.

However, during vacation, I did a lot of walking and, during those walks, I worked the kinks out of the fifth chapter of HAND ME DOWN HORROR. When we got back, I wrote the script out in five days. That’s the quickest one yet. It’s got a few wrinkles that need smoothing but it’s the most action-packed chapter yet and I’m really looking forward to starting chapter six. I’ve got two more chapters, I think, before I’m done. Then I’ll do a quick rewrite to fix some trouble spots. Christian and Todd have been making some nice suggestions—thanks, guys!—and I’m going to be incorporating those. I really hope to be drawing by January.

Speaking of Todd...Todd and Sharon are coming down for a visit next month and Suze and I are really excited about it. Not only are we looking forward to seeing them outside a convention setting (fun but draining), it’s given me an excuse to do some much-needed work around the house. I got the back yard straight (much to my neighbors’ relief) a few weeks ago. This past week, I turned my attention to the inside and I got the second guest room in order. It had become a storage room in the last few years, sort of a catch-all for anything we didn’t know what to do with. Thankfully, it’s now a guest room again and I couldn’t be happier.

In the course of moving the stuff in there to a more appropriate place, I came across some great items. This room was where we were storing Mike’s non-artwork belongings and since I haven’t really looked through much of it since we packed it up, I found some nice surprises.

One of them is this drawing of the Swordsman that was tucked away in a folder full of copies of other people’s drawings. (Mike got lots of stuff from aspiring artists and kept some of it.) Sadly, it was a little damaged (not by me!) but still beautiful. This looks like one of his later drawings and I could swear I’ve seen it somewhere but can’t say where. Still, in case somebody out there hasn’t seen it, I thought I’d post it. I really love this drawing. Not only did Mike nail the character, I love how everything in the drawing, even with a minimum of detail, has real weight to it. Just look at that sword. And I love the lines. He was really varying the line weights to great effect. Damn.

I also found some photos I’d never seen. Lots of them, actually. There were some great shots of Mike, including a bunch of them with the family. I grabbed a few shots off the top to post here but I’ll be posting more in the future. There’s some great shots of Mike with his friends in the biz that I’m sure will be of interest.

This one took me a while to place. As far as I knew, Mike had never met Kevin Smith. Then I realized...that’s not Kevin Smith...THAT’S ME! I’ve struggled with my weight all my life but I think this photo represents me at my heaviest. I was around 300 in this photo and for a minute I didn’t even recognize myself. Especially with the beard. Other than a failed attempt in college, I’ve only had a full beard once in my life. I tried again a few years ago but it came in gray and I shaved it with a quickness. Once I realized who the fatty was, I was able to place the locale. Other photos in the stack confirmed it. This was one of Mike’s signings at his friend Paul Rogers’ old shop in Lynchburg, DOMINION COMICS. I honestly don’t remember when this was but I’m sure I made the trip just to see Mike. I usually only got to see him in person two, maybe three times a year so this was probably an opportunity not to be missed.

I’ll end with this one. It made me laugh out loud. And not just because of my shirt (now long gone, fortunately) my ridiculous shorts or even my pudgy, bearded face. What made me laugh was seeing Mike hoisting our good friend Don into the air...and Don enjoying it. Back then, getting Don to smile at anything was no easy task. I’m having this one framed.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Him again?

I’m going to have to keep this one brief because I’m pretty busy. But I wanted to go into the weekend with another sketch. Adam’s friend Mike Gagnon was Baltimore with him and asked for a Nova sketch in his sketchbook. After Adam’s and Craig’s (still not done yet) sketchbooks, I didn’t think my heart could take it and there were only a few hours left in the convention at that point. I worried I might rush it and that wouldn’t be good. So Mike agreed to let me do a standalone sketch at home and mail it to him. It’s probably only half-way there as I type this but Mike was nice enough to allow me to post the scan early.

I enjoyed this one though the pose wasn't particularly original. As I told Adam, I like drawing Nova's leg stripes and when he flies all you see are speedlines. That left arm is a little horsey, too. (You can imagine the jokes Christian is making right now.) I chalk that up to the angle of my desk. And my laziness. Add proportions to the list of things I need to work on.

That said, doing this sketch gave me a reason to draw and with all the moving around I've been doing at work, it's difficult to get in the mood or even find the time. So I was grateful for the opportunity. It was a lot of fun playing with the grey-tone markers too.

I hope you like it and I hope you have a great weekend.

(Craig, don't worry. You’re not getting a Nova. :) )

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Adam's sketch

I hope everyone is having a great Labor Day Holiday. As frustrating as my job is these days, I'm still really glad to have it. As one of the talking heads on TV said this morning, this year, Labor Day is just another day without a job for thousands of Americans. Here's hoping that situation is resolved very soon.

I've been spending most of this weekend cleaning up our back yard in preparation for Todd and Sharon's upcoming visit as I've let it get a little messy over the last year with all the projects I've been doing. The patio is done now as is Suzanne's box garden. Unfortunately, the detritus of all that work made the back yard look like a construction site. Or worse, Robert Kirkman's trailer park. (Sorry. Couldn't resist since he just won a Harvey!) Our neighbors have been very understanding but I felt it was time to hitch up my pants and haul off the leftover sand, tarps, rotting lumber, etc. We also ripped out the rest of the fence that was destroyed by that awful storm back in 2007 while we were in Durham. I'm exhausted. But I'm looking forward to a relaxing Labor Day, grilling out, hanging out with Christian at Legend and doing some drawing. Speaking of which...

Adam Hutchinson was thoughtful enough to send me a scan of the Question sketch I did for him in that priceless sketchbook of his. I think you can tell I was nervous as hell because I didn't get too fancy with it. Thanks, Adam! I hope you like it.

Okay, have a great weekend folks. I hope to scan Adam's friend's Nova sketch before I send it off so that will probably be my next post.


Monday, August 30, 2010


Before I get to the goods about our trip to Baltimore, I should mention that I'm a little embarrassed about my reaction to BOOM!'s new Dracula book. (Which was a decent read, once I got past the similarities that had me so worked up.) I came across a bit whiney, I'm afraid. I'm still a little distressed about how closely some of the details mirror each other but after talking to Todd, I feel a lot better. Good thing we all talked him into coming. He made me feel so ridiculous about the whole thing. And it didn't hurt that, as I was walking around the convention hall, I saw at least three booths pimping new books that were alarmingly similar to THE PERHAPANAUTS. (Just not as cool.) It put everything into perspective and illustrated Todd's point. By Sunday morning, I was already itching to start writing Chapter Five.

But enough of that.

Looks like I could stick Todd's whole head in my mouth, doesn't it? Either I've gained more weight than I thought or Todd's been in the dryer.

Baltimore Comicon 2010 was a hell of a lot of fun. Probably the largest crowd I've seen since I went to San Diego Comicon back in the late '90s. I'm exhausted and Suzanne and I were tired, it seemed, all the time but the weekend went by way too fast and we were a little sad to have to go back to the "real" world. Seeing everyone was a real blast and it was nice to have Todd by our side again. I think the convention-goers agreed because every time he got up to go look around or take care of something, we'd have to tell five people he'd be back "in a minute." Craig Rousseau had us in stitches the entire time and the days just flew by.

We did get off to a rocky start, though. We checked in at about 9:30 Friday night only to find out the Hyatt had overbooked and they asked us if we'd be willing to spend the night across the street at the Sheraton. We didn't like the idea but the Hyatt agreed to pick up the tab for the room so we figured that was a pretty good trade off. When we got to the room, though, it was less a room and more a broom closet with a window. The room was barely large enough for us to turn around in and the bed was more or less a futon. The top of the bed was about a foot from the floor. It was free, though, and we were pretty tired. We were literally across the street from the Hyatt (a ten-second walk) and hit the bar to say, "hi" to everyone. The first person we saw was Jamal Igle who greeted us with a big smile a hug. People always describe Mike as the "nicest man in comics." Well, I think Jamal is keeping that tradition alive now because he really is a sweetheart.

After hanging out with Todd, Craig, Rich Woodall and Shelton Drum, (and unexpectedly getting to meet Marc and Shelly Nathan's new baby Reese!) we went back to the room and discovered, to our surprise, that the futon slept great. Best night's sleep I've had in quite a while. And the bathroom was pretty nice. It really did turn out well. Our only complaint is that it was a bit of a hassle to have to check out of the Sheraton and drop our luggage off across the street before heading to the convention. Overall, a small price to pay for a free hotel room.

The days were a bit of a blur. I had forgotten the donation jar so Suze went out to a nearby CVS and bought a huge jug of pretzels and dumped them into a bag (They made a nice snack for everyone.) and we taped one of the Tellos prints to the front. Suzanne really saved the day on that one.

We saw a few regulars that we see at all the conventions. That's always somehow comforting. I finally got to meet the very nice Adam Hutchinson who flattered me by asking for a Question sketch. (I've done three of four sketches for folks and two of them have been the Question. Go figure.) He handed me a sketchbook in which to do it and I asked him if anyone important had drawn in it because I was nervous about messing up a page in something so precious. He shrugged and said, "Enh. Not really." Later, I was flipping through the book and saw, among others, a Walt Simonson, a Tim Sale and—GOOD LORD!—a Darwyn Cooke! I'm not exaggerating when I say I got faint when I saw that. Anyway, I drew him holding Yorick's skull and saying, "To be or not to be..." I thought I was being clever but nobody got it so... (Adam, I've started your friend's Nova sketch. E-mail me his address and I'll send it on when I'm done. Please apologize to him for me. I didn't want to rush it and I didn't dare take the sketchbook with me.)

I finally got to have an extended conversation with Dean Trippe whose drawing style I find very appealing. Somewhere between Brian Lee O'Malley and Darwyn Cooke. (Or, all Dean Trippe, if you prefer.) He gave me a print of a wonderful Superman drawing he did which I'm going to hang up at work while I still have a wall on which to do so. (Don't ask.) Dean was nice enough to buy an F.F. page and contribute to the fund. Thanks, Dean. It was great hanging out.

We also got to see Rod and Leanne Hannah who we missed at Heroes this year.

Rod absolutely cracked me up when he had the balls to do something we all wanted to do at dinner Saturday night but didn't. I won't go into detail because it was a little embarrassing but it was necessary and I thank Rod. I think asking the waitress for a recommendation may have been pushing your luck, but #$%*ing hysterical, nonetheless. Just to piss him off, here's a picture of him guarding his ice cream from the rest of us barbarians.

Dinner was a blast, though I was sorry that we had to split the group into two tables and Todd wasn't sitting with us. We made up for it the next day, though, as we had the traditional BOMB. (Brotherhood of Mike Breakfast.) Suze and I have been fortunate to be included in a lot of these and this time we went about 15 minutes from the hotel to a place called the Broadway Diner which I believe Jamar Nicholas (or DJ Squatty Large as he wants to be called now) had seen on the Food Network.

The food was good but the service was spectacular. Jamar talked Todd and Craig into trying the dreaded "scrapple" against our adamant protests. It's a cross between potted meat and gristle. Being from rural Virginia, I've seen a lot of people eat it but I never could bring myself to.There were no casualties, fortunately. Jamar, Todd and Craig had us laughing to the point of crying the whole time and I could almost hear Mike's famous laugh a few times as well. We toasted the big lug before digging in. FOR MIKE!

The new buttons seemed to be a hit. Sales were slow but thanks to some generous donations from some very nice folks, we did just fine. So the award will go up a little more. (We're at $1,600 per year now. That's $350 more than when we started it!) Thanks to everyone who bought something or dropped money into the pretzel jug. Or just stopped by to offer encouragement. It means a lot.

There were a ton of retailers there with a lot of stuff but I didn't find much. I picked up several Ed Brubaker CAPTAIN AMERICA trades so I can start catching up on that. A CHAMPIONS Vol. 2 trade. And some DC collected miniseries like ECLIPSO. Not really enough to do my "loot" collage. Probably a good thing. I spent a lot less and I really am running out of places to put all these books.

The con was over before we knew it and it was time to say goodbye. We had a lot of laughs, increased the fund and got to see our friends. We couldn't ask for more. Another day would have been nice, though. :) To top it off, I even managed to lose a tiny bit of weight, despite all the beer and restaurant hopping.

Next up, the Salem Comic Convention in October. See you there.

Stay thirsty, my friends.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Okay, I'm reeeally busy getting ready for Baltimore but I wanted to leave the blog on a cheery note. The other day, when I was at my LCS, my friend Marsha showed me this video of her and Marvin's cat Huey, named after the cartoon character Baby Huey. (He's a big kitty.) She kept referring to his "suck 'n' purr." I was afraid to ask but curiosity got the best of me. Marsha pulled this up on YouTube and I laughed my ass off. I thought it had to be a rare phenomenon but judging by the amount of similar videos, I guess not.

Okay, back to packing. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

And heeeeere we go.

I've been sort of dreading today for a while. Wednesday is usually my favorite day of the week because it's when the new comics come out. I never really realized what a big part of my life it had become until recently. Suze and I would go to Nostalgia Plus to pick up the books and hang out with our friends Marvin and Marsha. Sometimes if we timed it right, we would go out to dinner with them afterward. Since our diet started, though, the dinner part has gotten cut out and it's made us realize how much we loved the whole experience.

This week was different, though. Because it marked the release of DRACULA: COMPANY OF MONSTERS, the new series from BOOM! Studios. When the series was first announced, I felt that sinking feeling I've felt nearly every time I thought I had a good idea and someone else beats me to it. It was similar to what I expect Todd felt when he saw the write-ups on PROOF. Except Todd and Craig got there first. The report I read on D:COM sounded so "in the neighborhood" of THE HAND ME DOWN HORROR that I literally couldn't sleep that night. This story, whether it gets published or not, has a deep personal significance to me. I'm very close to finishing the writing and this is certainly the farthest along I've ever gotten in any of my writing endeavors. I've cast aside so many of my potential stories because others had beaten me to it. I couldn't believe it was happening again.

When I started working out the story, vampires (especially Dracula) were passé. Nobody would be caught dead doing a vampire story. I got really excited. Then TWILIGHT happened and the shit hit the fan. Vampires were everywhere. People were looking for any excuse to put a vampire in their story. And Dracula comics started coming out of the woodwork. But I still didn't get too worried because I had two "hooks" in my story that were different. I won't go into one because I'm still hoping I'm in the clear on that one. But the other, the direct linking of the historical Vlad Tepes with Stoker's fictional character, had only been touched upon with any real detail in the Coppola film of the '90s.

COMPANY OF MONSTERS not only does this but it focuses on a couple of historical details that are central to my story. It's close enough to be nerve-wracking. I fear that if my story ever sees print, it will all be old-hat.

As for the other "hook", everything I've read about Busiek's story to this point and what I saw in the first issue leads me to believe that his story will be close enough to mine as to be a deal breaker. I sure hope not. Because I really love THE HAND ME DOWN HORROR. I sure would like to finish it.

The only comfort I have at this point is that Todd, Suzanne and Christian have been reading each chapter as I've finished it. It's only an audience of three but at least that's three people will know I wasn't cribbing from Busiek. Sigh.


Okay, on to cheerier stuff. In case I'm too busy at work between now and Friday to post again, we'll be at the Baltimore Comicon this coming weekend. It's only a quick drive up the road from Richmond and we're really looking forward to it. Marc, Shelly and Brad have kindly set us up at a table with Todd and Craig. (We'll try not to crowd you, guys.) And we'll be directly across the aisle from BLUE MILK SPECIAL writer/artist/spousal team Rod and Leeane Hannah, which has me excited because nobody else will talk about the incredible awesomeness of Hammer Films with me. (And with Halloween approaching, I'm eager to do just that!)

We've got some new buttons to debut. We ran out of the white "'Ringo" signature buttons Suzanne had made as a tribute to Mike at our first convention so we decided to take the opportunity to redesign them. These will be slightly bigger and feature the scholarship fund logo designed by my friend Matt Wojtysiak in white reversed out of black. If you're there, make sure you come by and get one to help spread the word. We plan on getting some more of the white tribute buttons by next Heroes and maybe, if we can afford it, some full-color Flyboy buttons. We pay for these out of our own pocket (again, every dime we take in goes to the fund and not for any sort of overhead) so we'll have to see how things go.

We're looking forward to seeing everybody again, especially Todd, since he wasn't at Heroes. But I'm also sad because apparently Brian Mulchahy, Warren Newsome and our buddy Heywood won't be there this year. We'll miss you guys. Maybe next time.

Okay, gotta get some sleep. Later.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Piranha 3D

I've been kind of out of it the last week or so. Right around the time of my last post, I started feeling the beginnings of a cold that ended up really knocking me off my feet for a few days. I've been pretty susceptible to them the last few years for some reason, after years of virtual immunity. Not sure what happened but this one was a real doozy. Fortunately, the worst of it was over the weekend so I didn't miss any work. And speaking of work, this past week they moved my entire department downstairs to an area Suze calls "witness protection." It's pretty secluded. The good news is I have a window seat again. The bad news is it's only temporary. In a few months, they're moving us back up to our new permanent space that I have to say I'm not too thrilled (or optimistic) about. But whatever. It's just a job. As long as the paycheck finds me, I don't care where they put me.

As a result of this, I haven't been online much. I've been pretty wasted when I get home at night, usually falling asleep in front of the T.V. I've rented a few of the recent Roger Corman re-issues including GALAXY OF TERROR and FORBIDDEN WORLD. My god, what crap. I was scratching my head wondering why these movies have such devoted followings. Then, in the special features, one of the directors hit it on the head. It was a combination of the brilliantly lurid publicity art and the basic unavailability of the films. I admit, based on the movie posters, I'd worked myself into a near-frenzy of wanting to see them. And boy, did they suck. The best of the lot (and the one I purchased on Blu-ray because NetFlix didn't carry it) was HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP. And by "best of the lot", I don't mean that it's any good. But there are some nice special features and a decent James Horner score to keep it from being a total waste of money.

All this brings me to PIRANHA 3D, Alexandre Aja's remake of the Joe Dante original made for Roger Corman's New World Pictures. I have vaguely pleasant memories of the original so I was looking forward to the remake, now in theaters. I absolutely love any movie about creatures in the water. If you want to plant my butt in the seat, call your movie DEEP BLUE SEA, FROM THE DEPTHS or, hell, even SHARKTOPUS. I don't care what it's about. If there's even a hint of sea creatures, I'm down.

The trailer makes it seem like a goofy, campy summer creature feature. (And it is.) But I'm familiar with Aja's work (He directed HAUTE TENSION, one of the most brutally stomach-turning movies I've ever seen.), so I was pretty sure I could expect some real nastiness. And he didn't disappoint. I saw the flick today and I'm frankly shocked that a lot of the stuff in this picture made it past the MPAA. One shot in particular was so disgustingly gratuitous and shocking I couldn't help but laugh. But at the same time, I really wish it wasn't in there. It's not that I'm for censorship. It just seemed pointless.

I really enjoyed the movie. It had all the fun, gratuitous booby shots (but oddly, no sex) of a Roger Corman film but with the budget, script, performances and special effects that were always missing from those cheap-o quickies. This film has pretty much everything you'd want from a guilty pleasure schlock film...in spades. I just wish it had been longer. There was a lot of set up at the beginning. And while it was fun set-up, I don't know that I'd want to sit through all that again. Boobies or no boobies. I can see me just skipping ahead to the big set-piece at the end of the film which is truly epic...just too short. Aja is at his stomach-turning best in this film but there's a real sense of 80's horror fun here that's lacking in the rest of his films that I've seen.

I also enjoyed seeing Christopher Lloyd and Elizabeth Shue again. But Shue is playing the mother of a 17-year-old boy. The math might be right but she looked really good in this movie and I had a hard time buying her as that age. (I still have trouble accepting that I'm old enough to have a kid in college.) I had the same problem with Kari Wuhrer in EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS.

Now for the griping. My problem isn't with the film. It's with the idiots cutting together trailers these days. It's bad enough that trailers lately are pretty much short-form versions of the films themselves. But now there seems to be a trend where they include the final shot of the film in the trailer. There is a huge spoiler in the trailer for PIRANHA 3D. I started to realize it about two-thirds of the way in. I won't mention it if you've avoided the trailer but still want to see the film. But it was pretty irritating. The same thing happened with one of my favorite horror movies of the last decade, QUARANTINE. The last shot wasn't just in the trailer, it was on the movie poster. Do producers have so little confidence in their films these days that they feel they have to reveal everything upfront to get people to watch them? Even more irritatingly, there were a couple of shots I remembered from the trailer that weren't even in the movie. Including one iconic shot shown in the photo up above.

And one last gripe. STOP WITH THE 3D ALREADY!!! I've almost reached the point where I don't care what the movie is, if it's in 3D, I'm not going. I don't care if it is the "future of film." I've seen three films this year that were in 3D and only AVATAR was even remotely improved by it. It's a gimmick. And not a gimmick worth an extra 4 dollars on the price of the ticket. That's right. I paid 14 dollars to see PIRANHA today. If I had waited 3 months, I could buy the DVD for the same price when it's released. And if I'd waited six months, I could get it in the bargain bin for even less. Without having to watch it wearing stupid glasses that kept making my actual glasses slide down my nose, forcing me to spend 90 minutes with my index finger pressed between my eyes. I'm done being robbed by movie studios.

Okay, that's about it. I'm all settled in to my new space at work so, hopefully, I can get some sketching done at some point. I've also finished the script for part four of HAND ME DOWN HORROR. I just need to work out a title. That seems to be the hardest part of this whole enterprise. The first three chapters just popped into my head but this issue didn't have a clear "hook" that suggested a title. I've been scratching my head on that for a week now and still nothing. Wish me luck.