Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Back from MOCCA

Woo! Well, I'm back from MOCCA! It was my first trip to New York City, and although I didn't get to do any touristy stuff I did have a really good time.

I flew into La Guardia on Friday morning via Chicago. The last time that I flew was right after the Louisville-to-Atlanta crash, and I was terrified, but this time I actually enjoyed it. Seriously, how amazing is it that we're actually flying?!!! Sailing through the clouds in a big flying machine - in strains credulity. So I spent the whole time being thunderstruck at how awesome it is that we were actually flying. I know that millions of people fly all the time, but that doesn't change how cool it is.

I got in around 1pm, and waited for an hour or so (drifting off regularly) for my friend Hunter, who was also up for the show. We went to Brooklyn where we spent the first night at his friend Danny's place (thanks, Danny!). Brooklyn was like a cartoon version of what I thought that New York would be like - people throwing baseballs against ten-story buildings and catching them in their gloves, old guys in wife beaters lined up in chairs outside a butcher shop, trampily-dressed ten-year-olds, people of varying ethnicities who were almost like caricatures of their respective backgrounds, couples yelling to/at each other through the windows, clothes hanging to dry between buildings, people hanging out on rooftops, etc. It was great. We had pizza that afternoon that really wasn't very good and later made me ill; we found out that evening that the pizza parlor we had chosen was voted "worst pizza in New York."

The festival was great. The only reason I was able to make it is because J.P. Coovert and Stephen Floyd, the founders of One Percent Press, graciously allowed me to set up on their table. Joe Lambert, another cartoonist publishing under the one-percent banner, was also at the table, as was Alexis Frederick-Frost, the Xeric-winning cartoonist behind Maria of Montmartre and La Primavera. Everybody had some new stuff, it seems - J.P. had a new issue of his autobiographical mini comic Simple Routines and a small and beautiful book called Adrift, which was easily the most popular item at the table, followed closely by one of Joe's books (I think I Will Bite You).

We were set up around a variety of fun people, most of whom I'd had the pleasure to meet before (excuse the crude drawings - my camera got turned on in the plane and its battery ran out, and I left the replacement disposable camera that I purchased in the hotel by accident, so this is the next best thing):

We were right next to one of my favorite comic creators, Alec Longstreth, whose last couple of issues of the Ignatz Award-winning Phase 7 are easily among my favorite minicomics ever. Alec is so nice and personable, and always had someone at his table buying something or another. He went through his entire run of Phase 7 #11. Sharing his table was indie comics mainstay Greg Means(Clutch), who traveled up from Portland for the show. Greg, in addition to being a cartoonist himself, publishes a small anthology series called Papercutter, which I'd not read before, but which I happily picked up. The newest issue features another story from the world of Kazimir Strzepek's Mourning Star, which did not disappoint. I also got one which has an Aaron Renier short story (Aaron made Spiral-Bound, my favorite comic of last year) and one by J.P. I hope that I can get a story in Papercutter one day - I dropped a few not-so-subtle hints to Greg that I felt that way.

Across from us was the AdHouse Books table. I had met Chris Pitzer and the Aviary cartoonist Jamie Tanner last weekend at Heroes Con (jeez, it seems like that was a month ago), and it was good to see them again. I got to meet Fred Chao, the cartoonist behind Johnny Hiro, and his girlfriend Dylan, both of whom are amazing dancers. Dylan is a big pirate buff, so we talked about Crogan's Vengeance a little bit. She also did the grays for Johnny Hiro!

Also at the AdHouse table was Joel Priddy. We talked about historical comics and research and whatnot and I got a copy of his book Pulpatoon:Pilgrimage, which I read on the ride home and really enjoyed.

I also met Kevin Burkhalter, who is friends with everyone that I know but who for some reason I'd never had the chance to chat with. His story is the first and best one in the new SCAD anthology, so I was glad to put a face to the work. Stephen calls him "the funniest man in comics," and he calls him that about every twenty minutes. See?

Turns out that Kevin is of Swiss descent, too, so I may try to get him to contribute to that Swiss Tales mini I've been kicking around.

I also got to see some folks that I always like to run into - Pat Lewis, who's got a book coming out from IDW, Charlito and Mr. Phil from the Indie Spinner Rack podcast, the Top Shelf crew, Alex Cahill, and lots of others, including Dean Trippe, who I got to hang out with last weekend at Heroes and will probably get to hang out with again in a couple of weeks when I'm teaching that workshop in his neck of the woods. Check his Butterfly page over the next few days to see if there's a picture of me with everybody's favorite sidekick, jr.

I also got to meet some folks for the first time - Aaron Renier, who did an amazing drawing in my sketchbook (as well as an equally amazing drawing in J.P.'s), Raina Telgemeir (whose comics I've always loved and now actually own), Monica Gallagher, Dave Roman, Hope Larson (who was my first sale of the day), Christine Norrie, Evan Dorkin, and tons of others.

It was a great weekend - the first such place where I made enough and traded enough that I only spent about $10 that didn't come from selling comics, so that was very exciting! Oh, and I got a great Nick Bertozzi original. Here's a scan:

Although I'm inspired to get back to work (I've got the next five pages of Crogan's Vengeance tightly thumbnailed and ready to pencil), I'm probably going to have to forgo comics work this week and instead start getting the materials together for the workshop, which begins in less than two weeks! There still aren't a lot of people enrolled, so if you know a kid or teen who is on the fence about it, push 'em over!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Portraits and Music Recordings

I've been scrambling the last couple of days trying to get this:

ready for MOCCA this weekend. It clocks in around fifty pages, and will cost $5. But you know what? I woke up this morning and my voice felt so darn good that I just had to sit down and record a couple of songs. Both are covers of other people's songs, but I tried to put my own twist on them. The first, Devotion, is a B-side from Weezer's glory days, and the other is my favorite song on the Sixteen Candles soundtrack, Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want by the Smiths. Give 'em a listen!


Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want

I owe these recordings to Alec Longstreth, who recently posted some of his own and got me (and quite a few other people, I imagine) thinking about how much fun it is to make music.

Also, for you folks going to MOCCA this weekend, I've been making 4 x 6 ink portraits of various persons of interest... at least they're of interest to me. I've done a few: Rafael Sabatini, Robert Louis Stevenson, James Barrie, Jeffrey Farnol, Terry Gilliam, John Huston, J. K. Rowling, George MacDonald Fraser, C. S. Forrester, H. Rider Haggard, Arthur Conan Doyle, Stewart Granger, Rudyard Kipling, and Erich Wolfgang Korngold so far, as well as these three:

Alexandre Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers, and The Count of Monte Cristo:

P.C. Wren, author of a number of great Foreign Legion novels, the most famous of which being Beau Geste:

Akira Kurosawa, the director of such legendary films as The Seven Samurai, and Yojimbo:

As you can see, my choice in subject matter is relatively esoteric, but if anyone wants to commission a particular writer, director, actor, cartoonist, etc, and can ask me before Thursday night (I leave Friday morning) then I'll have it for you at MOCCA. I'm making them so that people who want my original art can afford it (they'll run $10 apiece, less for a good trade) and they're the perfect size for affordable framing. So let me know! I hope to eventually do a couple of hundred or so and amass them in a book. When I get back I'll start a portrait gallery on my web site.

Anyway, find me if you're going to Mocca! I'll be at the One Percent Press table.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Back from Heroes Con

This last week has been pretty busy, as will likely be this upcoming one. I had set a deadline for myself that I needed to finish the first sixth of Crogan's Vengeance before I went to Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC this weekend. I pulled a couple of almost-all-nighters, and did just that. I'm really pleased with how it came out, but it also made me realize that the book MAY be a few pages longer than I originally thought. This sequence, thumbnailed out at 24 pages, clocked in at 26, and that in itself was squeezing it.

On Thursday I rode up with Justin Wagner, Doug Dabbs, and Shawn Crystal. The trip is supposed to take four and a half hours, but it ended up taking closer to eight. A dumptruck turned over ahead of us and demolished the road, and we didn't move for a couple of hours. The heat in the back window melted all of my business cards together into a relatively useless cube.

Our hotel was great. Doug booked it a while back and we were right next door to the convention. I had the forsight this time to bring an air mattress, so each of us had a bed - quite a change from the usual revolving-shifts-on-the-floor system that we've utilized the last few trips.

I'd never been to Heroes before, and had I known what to expect I likely could have made a little bit of money selling prints or originals or the like, but as it was I didn't bring much with me. I did do a few sketches, mostly for kids, and mostly for free. Here I am doing one of the many Spider-Man 3-inspired pictures that these kids seem to eat up these days.

I had a good time wandering around the show, though; I picked up a few books which I'd been wanting: The Mourning Star, The Aviary, Journey Into Mohawk Country, The Black Ghost Apple Factory, Eats, and the Black Coat. I've since read Eats (which makes me want to get in one the doing some shorter stuff with Wide Awake Press) and Tinder's book, and I'm about halfway through Mourning Star. It's really, REALLY good so far. It's a post-apocalyptic action/adventure/science fiction/horror story, as best as I can tell, and it proves that you can tell any sort of story in a cartoony/indie style, provided that you're a good storyteller, which Kazimir obviously is. I can't wait to finish it.

Mostly this trip was a good chance to see some cartoonist friends. I spent a lot of time with fellow Atlanta cartoonists Brad McGinty and Josh Latta, who for some reason I never see in Atlanta, but have run into at the past three shows I've gone to. Brad did a great picture in my Pirate Sketchbook. I need to eventually start posting the drawings that I've collected somewhere.

I also got to talk a bit with Francesco Francavilla and his wife. They're in Atlanta, too. They even passed on an extra copy of the Black Coat trade to share with my class this summer.

Thursday night we stayed in the hotel rooms, trading stories and thoughts on women and whiskey with a group of Shawn's friends - Andrew, Jason, Jeremy, Robbie, and a few others - last names, I'm afraid, aren't my specialty.

Saturday evening Justin, Doug, and I went to dinner with Dean Trippe, Jason Horn, and two guys who I hadn't met before, Vito Delsante and Chad Thomas. Chad's stuff is really, really great - cartoony but incredibly tight and controlled. I got his mini, the first story in which looked and read like it should be in the Flight books, and he gave me a print he did of the Harry Potter kids, which is really nice.
Here's a few of us outside the bar at which we ate:

left to right: Me, Doug, Jason behind a pole, and Justin

I also got to meet Chris Pitzer at AdHouse, and was amazed at how great their production values are - it looks like Top Shelf has some competition in the nicest-looking-books category.

In any case, the show was fun. Now, it's just putting together stuff for MOCCA - for sale copies of the Shoot the Moon book, binding up a couple of pass-around copies of Giovanni Potatoe, etc - the down side to working on primarily long projects is that I don't have any mini comics to trade for OTHER mini comics. Sigh.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A great present from my dad

My dad just got back from a week of singing in York, England, and he sent me a present which I got today - a pipe. He found it for five pounds in the basement of an antique store, and I have to say that it may be the coolest pipe ever. It's gargantuan. The bowl is like the size of my fist. It's got bark on it. The stem is made of water buffalo horn. It is beyond great. Ever since I saw the Davy Jones pipe in Pirates of the Caribbean, I've wanted a big bowled pipe, but I never imagined anything as cool as this one.

I can't overstate how huge this thing is. I could put one of my other pipes in the bowl and smoke IT. Man. It's the best. To give you an idea of scale, here's a pic of it next to my others. The one two over to the left from the big one was what I USED to consider my "big one." Not any more!

I've been busting myself to try and get the first chapter of Crogan's Vengeance done before we leave for North Carolina on Thursday to go to Heroes Con. I have no idea where I'll be sitting - maybe SCAD will have a table, I may be at Artist's Alley, I'm not really sure. But I've got a big mop of curly hair, and I'm reasonably tall, so chances are you'll find me if you're looking.

Anyway, I've finished 22 pages of the 26 that make up the first section, and I hope to have page 23 finished tonight. My goal is to have them all done by the end of Tuesday, so that I can scan them in Wednesday.

I've also started thumbnailing for Swiss Tales #1, but despite my hopes to have something new for MOCCA I don't think that I'll be able to make it in time. I'm going to be putting together some Shoot the Moon minis and making a couple more copies of Giovanni Potatoe to pass around (I gave my last to copies to James at Oni a couple of months ago, and haven't made replacements yet), and probably some more pirate sketchbooks. In any case, the assembly usually takes more time than I ever expect it to, so I'll probably spend most of next week putting those minis together.

I'll have Swiss Tales ready for SPX, though. Woo! Also, I made the brochure for the class I'm teaching this summer. If you know a kid in the Western Kentucky area, and want to find out more about the program, shoot me an e-mail or just register using the registration form inside.

Click on the pic below to see the interior of the brochure. You may have to click on it once it's up, to enlarge it.


Saturday, June 2, 2007

Some sketches for the next "Crogan" book

Well, I'm back into the swing of things!

I mailed off my Nickelodeon Magazine pitch, and was very pleased with how it turned out. Hopefully I'll hear something in the not-too-distant future.

I did the pencils for the next page and a half of Crogan's Vengeance, and man alive, have they been tricky. I've got a scene in which the main character, "Catfoot" Crogan, has to go from the foremast crow's nest to the poop deck at the back of the ship via some sort of swashbuckly acrobatic feat. This is easier envisioned than executed, especially when on takes into account the way the actual rigging works and how sails would get in the way. I think that I've got a better handle on it, but it's still tricky. On the other hand, I'm getting more and more familiar with the layout of the ship. I decided on its type because I wanted a variety of levels for staging purposes, but those same levels are making the logistics of various action scenes somewhat tricky. It's not a huge ship, and there isn't a ton of space for people to move around on.

While I was waiting for classes to end (I wasn't going to get started on Vengeance again until they finished) I did some preliminary character sketches for the NEXT Crogan book. Justin Wagner correctly pointed out that the Captain's shoulder poltroons look like pizzas.

I also did a sort of test sketch to see whether or not clarity would be an issue were I to depict the navy-blue legionnaire coats as being black. I think that it'll work. The chest straps help to define the difference between the arms and the chest, and that was my main concern.