Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Stan Drake's The Heart of Juliet Jones Vol. 4 -- The Sundays

The older I get the more clear it is to me that while I love all comics formats, I truly love the comic strip format best; and my darling hubby, Chris, indulges me with gifts of reprinted comics. When he got me the latest Mary Perkins On Stage, he also got me Volume 4 of The Heart of Juliet Jones by Stan Drake.

There are no soap opera comics anymore in the papers I read. Gee, there haven't been since, what, maybe the '90s that I can recall ...? Our local paper, The Tennessean, carries only humor strips from front to back page. Humor comics are completely cool, and I enjoy them, but when that's all there is to read, then really, there's just a certain lack of inspiration after a while.

In school I'm going over comics and their different formats with my 5th graders, and I've shown them just how much the Sunday newspaper comics page has shrunk since the 1920s. Chris and I own a gorgeous hardcover reprint of Sunday strips of Gasoline Alley from 1926, which the Publishers had amazingly printed to size!! The book is just gigantic. When I hold that huge book next to one of our current Sunday papers the kid gasp! (I can't blame them!) Even so, these Juliet Sundays from '54 to '58 are still a nice & cushy large half page size.

So Stan Drake had stand-alone Sunday story arcs from 1954 until October of 1965. They were completely separate from the dailies -- and I was curious as to how that worked. Interestingly, these Sundays read almost like a Golden Age comic book does, in the sense that Golden Age comics didn't waste a lot of time meandering around with teeny details or dramatic minutiae. Nope in those it was wham, you had a story, in 8 pages or less. So here in Juliet Jones you really get what seems like the highlights of a story. But you know, that's okay. I found I really enjoyed them once I understood how the rhythm of the pieces had to work to fit the format. And of course Stan Drake's artwork is just so much gorgeousness on a page ...
One of Stan Drake's more sketchy-style panels.

I also enjoyed reading the intro by Roy Richardson and the interview with Stan Drake by Charles Pelto that were included in the front of this volume.  It's easy sometimes (especially when you're on a time crunch) to blow off front matter when it's not directly what you want to read. I want to read comics, not more text!! But a good intro adds so much to the value of the book, because there's a personal connection in it either in how that creator had influenced/inspired/or perhaps even knew the intro writer. Roy Richardson titled his intro "Some Meandering Personal Anecdotes in Praise of Stan Drake" and the brief piece sharing how he got to know Stan was just really cool -- because aside from the interview and the lovely comics that follow, Richardson really helps bring Stan to life to us, cigarette scent and all.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Inspiration From Milestone Comics Goes On ... So What Will You Do?

It's the craziest thing. Over the past year I've stumbled into these weird pockets of mournful funk, and some of it specifically involves comics and my place in them and what I have made (or more like, what I have not made.) And it gets very emotional and weird and mid-life crisis-like.

I try not to tie in this period of mournfulness back into the coincidentally-it-was-also-the-20th-Anniversary-of-the-debut-of-Milestone Comics. 'Cause I have to look at that simply. And while I was there on opening day,  I still have to put the experience into perspective. I only worked there a shade over 2 1/2 years, close to 3 -- and that was split up over 4 years. I was still young enough (and ignorant enough) then to not have the scope of understanding that I actually had an excellent and unusually good working situation even if the pay was not glamorous. That buzz was not just comics publishing. That buzz was Milestone Comics specific and had very much to do with the people I worked with and the gentlemen I worked for.

The craziest thing is, each time I get into these super-duper painful spots, Joe Illidge has written a fantastic article about Milestone Comics, and about diversity in comics, and about inspiration, and how it just needs to happen. Like a well-timed preacher on Sunday morning who speaks a word you really need to hear, he says stuff I need to hear (or rather, in this case, read!)

For as long as it's up, here's the latest article he's written for his column on Comic Book Resources: The Mission: The Next Milestone. I would love for you to read it.

The whole article is great -- but I've pasted a chunk below for better keeping, because when that article eventually comes down off CBR to make room for new stuff, maybe a part of it will still at least still be here on this blog.

So (with apologies to Joe!) I've bolded the font on my absolutely most favorite part.

Joe Illidge wrote:

"But that's not what I consider the best answer to the question "When is Milestone coming back?",

if the question is asked of me ever again, and mind you, I'm not qualified to answer that question definitively.

But as a man who lost his father in his pre-teens, and lost one of his mentors in his forties, I know the answer to looking for leadership, for a way to the answer you want to hear so badly, is not the return of what you cannot manifest or wield or control.

The answer is to either become what you've lost, or create something new.

Or both.

To create something just as good, and potent, and creative, and imaginative.

To want to be as giving of yourself, as others were to you.

To learn from the sacrifices of those whom you admire, to emulate or improve upon the best of their actions, while hopefully avoiding the minefields, pits and bear traps they encountered.

So, honestly, I love Milestone Media, Inc., what it was for me as a younger man and extending into the present. Their heroes are my heroes. The founders are my mentors, friends, and allies.

But instead of someone asking me "When is Milestone coming back?", I'd prefer they know the answer.

I'd prefer the answer be "I am the next Milestone."

"This is who I am. This is what I can do well." And maybe even "This is when I'm going to do it."

To that, I would say...

"I can't wait to see it.""

"... (B)ecome what you've lost or create something new." I just love that!

Are you inspired yet? 

What will you do?

How will you tell your story?

What will your comic be about?

How will you share it -- online? In print? On a website? On a blog? In a mini comic? At conventions? Will you tell us on Google+ the latest page is up?

Does it have to be an epic saga right off the bat ... or can it be a slow trickle that carves out a mountainside  ...?

I echo Joe -- I can't wait to see it!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How To Use Photo Reference in Making Artwork So It's Not Copyright Infringement (ie., Really General Rules of Thumb)

Every artist learns how to draw by copying photographs, other people's drawings and by drawing from real life. So at what point is it no longer learning from and when is it flat out copyright infringement? The simplest and most obvious difference lies once an artist starts selling their work.

Say you want to draw or paint a piece you want to sell at a show, or in a store, at a gallery, or even privately to another person. What's a good guideline?

Super Basic Rules of Thumb on How to Use Photo Reference For Art:

• When you take the photograph yourself to draw the picture yourself, you can copy your own photo exactly.

• It's "Reference" when you hire a model to pose for you, they sign a consent form and they allow you take photographs of them to use in your work.
• It's "Reference" when you use someone else's photograph in order to get the details of a type of object or person correct (like the folds of a garment, the finish on a cabinet, the slope of a car roof, etc.,) but you must change actual final pose/final image of the object or figure itself in your own piece. Copying the overall image exactly is not allowed.

• It's copyright infringement when you use someone else's photograph and copy it exactly in your own drawing and sell it as your own work. The image in the photo is actually the photographer's, not your own, even if and when you draw a new and separate picture from it yourself. (Dunno how Lichtenstein got away with it pretending his comics panels swipes were "fine art" since his painted "ink lines" missed the point of the beauty of inking ... but I digress!)

• It's copyright infringement when you take someone else's trademarked character(s) or celebrity likeness, draw it and sell it as your own work. Here's where it gets hairy ... because you'd think nobody would care if you painted favorite characters in some little kid's bedroom, but some companies are really picky.

The weird and extremely rare exception for this I've noticed, falls within the comic book industry, where comic book artists at comic book conventions sell drawings of major comic book characters and they don't pay the companies a cut for the privilege. This is probably because the presumption is that the love of the fan, love of the artists and the resulting artwork all inspires and reinforces support of the comic book industry itself, which is super-cool and seems to have worked for decades.

A more technical description of avoiding copyright infringement is available at the very fine Graphic Artist Guild website, and there you can even get a free PDF booklet on the subject.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mike Madrid's Vixens, Vamps & Vipers: The Lost Villainesses of Golden Age Comics

I received an advanced review copy of Mike Madrid's Vixens. Vamps & Vipers at the end of August. I was so excited I literally jumped up and down inside the post office lobby ... silly of me, I know, but I was really delighted! Especially because it showed up out of the blue on the heels of a terrible, terrible work week where I was dealing with rain-and-mold destroyed art supplies and delayed curriculum, which was just depressing. (Yeah, I get it. I'm emotional. Okay.) This ARC cheered me up a huge amount!

I did wait to post my review of it until the book was actually out, since I personally find it frustrating to see a great trailer only to find out at the end that the movie's out in like a year, or to read a great book review and not be able to buy it right away if I so chose... This book released on October 7th, and now I can blog about it!

Madrid's Vixens, Vamps & Vipers is a fascinating counterpoint to his previous Divas, Dames & Daredevils, which I also thoroughly enjoyed. What makes this new book so interesting is not only his choice of villainesses to feature in the stories he picked (Some of them are shocking! Fantastic film-noir influences!) but also his observations about their character, and their resultant behaviors. For example, I loved this quote of his: "Crimefighting females lived secret lives, while villainnesses were able to do and say what they pleased." Because it made me think -- Yeah!  But then that's also basically true of male heroes, perhaps, too (Batman, Spiderman, right?) But why is it that villains/villainesses don't have secret identities? In his wrap up Madrid writes how true villany is a sign of free will  ... and it is ... But I also did notice that villainesses -- when they stay bad -- tend to die! While villains tend to live to exert evil another day ... (and why is that ...?)

It's also fascinating to note his observation of how villainesses could fall for the male hero and try to seduce them -- but male villains didn't usually fall for the female heroine. "This romantic double standard suggested that love, and a women's emotions, could prevent her from being a successful villainess." Amazing how flashy sexuality and the power in villainy go hand-in-hand for the female ... while the dorky heroine tones hers down in her secret identity so she doesn't get hassled. Good girls don't seduce men -- not even for the greater good. LOL

I enjoyed Madrid's wrap up, too, where he observes how today's comic book "An antiheroine... [or] A villainess ... don't fully commit to either virtue nor vice." and thus become "less powerful". I agree they pay the price for their inability to commit because they become a character you can't really trust. They don't know where they stand, so we as readers don't know where they stand. While in real life you give grace to friends when they do something stupid, after a person changes behavior on you enough times you then learn to not trust them. It's safer to drop them for your own peace of mind so you don't have to keep watching your own back around them! So I wonder if loss of overall comics sales could be primarily from the huge spread of titles featuring the same character and secondarily from characters' lack of commitment to be truly good or evil. Both factors just make it easier for readers to drop the book(s) out of frustration. Real life is gray enough!

Madrid has grouped the stories into types -- those that feature power-hungry wartime women in tales of political intrigue and film-noir endings. Women whose beauty (or lack thereof) motivated their evil machinations; villainesses of color (because apparently back in the Golden Age it was easier to accept anthropomorphic heroines rather than actual heroic women from minority groups!) and "Crime Queens". It's a great and fun sampling.

The two books compliment each other -- and if you're going to get one, you really ought to  get both -- because together they present such a fuller picture of what very interesting female characters there were during comics' Golden Age. It's sad how nowadays what we're offered in (especially mainstream) comics is often so lackluster.

Enjoy these spectacular and crazy comics from a bygone and bolder age! And thank you, Mr. Madrid, for caring so much and finding these treasures to share!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

West End Farmer's Market: Blue Vine Woodworks -- their Gorgeous Handcrafted Kitchenware

One of Tyler's Seriously Gorgeous Cutting Boards

I get into spaces where as much as I want to be more supportive locally I don't have the time to get to the places I want to visit. Then I feel terrible because we all should be more supportive of each other locally with stuff we create and grow, and taking the time to share (like the free days at the Frist or the Schermerhorn!!) So, sometimes you need to shove things aside and Just Make The Time.

We have several easy-to-get-to Farmers' Markets on the West Side and I finally started to stop by to visit some again because the produce, the foods and the people are just amazing.

I thought I would start to highlight some of the delicious foods and useful items and wonderful people you can go visit at the West End Farmers' Market, too, because they need to be discovered by an even wider audience.

One of the tables at the West End Farmers' Market is for Blue Vine Woodworks. A sweet young man by the name of Tyler creates useful kitchen items -- cutting boards, bottle openers, test tube spice racks --  in wood. It seems to be his passion, (and I say that even before I read the FAQ page I just linked to there) primarily because the wood items he fashions are just so intensely beautiful. You can totally see it in the work. His patterns and finishes in the worked wood are -- to put it simply -- works of art.

The Blue Vine Woodworks website and the Blue Vine Woodworks Etsy shop are pretty good indicaters of how terrific his pieces are. But I highly recommend you go see him in person at the Bellevue or West End Farmers' Markets, because you'll totally see in person and for yourself how it would be worth saving up for a useful kitchen treat like one of Tyler's wares.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Leonard Starr's Mary Perkins On Stage Vol 13 -- Exceptional!

I devoured this volume in about 3 days. I started on the first storyline Thursday night, the 11th.

This is the 13th of 15 volumes in the set. Usually I read Mary Perkins On Stage a little bit at a time. Evenings after dinner. Sometimes in the morning as I drink my coffee. Lotsa times I'll read a nice chunk on Sundays. I love Leonard Starr's artwork, and while some volumes have been more interesting than others, the comic strip has overall been a really terrific read. It's very much a soap opera, centered on Mary being an actress, so she gets to meet all kinds of people -- from drama queens to mobsters. Sometimes the changeover from storyline to storyline is so seamless that I continue just to savor the smoothness of the transition!

It was a hard work week, my September 8 - 12 was. And a bit frustrating in spots. I was exhausted by Saturday. And Saturday, as much as I had wanted so much to finally put schoolwork aside and draw another page of my own new comic strip, I was just tooooooooo tired. I really could only just sit down and read my Mary Perkins. And boy, did I!

It was worth every lovely minute I spent curled up on the sofa. This particular volume had several story lines or a story ending I didn't quite expect, and that was that so much fun!

From a "did she or didn't she?" involving a now-grown-up starlet's reputation, to a "did he or didn't he?" involving Mary's husband, Pete;  to a Mom's sacrifice for her kid (and loads of other storylines in between) this truly was an exceptional volume for Mary Perkins On Stage!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Wizard World Comic Con hits Nashville in Late September

In 2013 Wizard World started a comics convention in Nashville. We've had smaller comic cons here, but they were definitely more comics/anime/and games centric. But nothing as consistently high profile/looks like big money gets spent/more general entertainment encompassing as what WW seems to present.

Tennessee's location in here in the mid-south makes it very easy for people from several surrounding states to get to us (OK, LA, AL, GA, SC, KY, IL for starters). We have loads of brand new hotels in the downtown area, and we have that new, beautiful, fancy-pants Music City Convention Center, to host it in, too!! So it seems a prime spot to start a major comics convention in. (Especially if you missed DragonCon over in GA!)

I'm super interested Wizard World showed up to start the big-name Convention hosting here. Never been to a Wizard World Con ... I do like what the New York Comic Con folks do -- been up for a couplea those. Can't go to this year's, but hope to again, 'cause they put in a good show.

Meanwhile, locally next week over the September 26-27-28 weekend, Wizard World will be in Nashville. Time to check them out.

Hope it's good!

Friday, September 05, 2014

Happy Birthday, Bob Newhart!

Happy Birthday, Bob Newhart, and many more!

We're so happy Seasons 5 and 6 of The Bob Newhart Show were finally released! (Big HUGE thank you to Shout! Factory for distributing!) We've been waiting a long time for this!

When we got earlier Seasons of The Bob Newhart Show, I'd mentioned how Chris and I were too young to appreciate his understated and dry sense of humor. We would watch the opening credits (we both liked the theme and the variations) but we didn't get the whole "being a grown up" thing so we didn't actually watch it back then. But of course, now we totally get it and love the show.

Season 6 is a little odd. I guess they hadn't expected to come back after Season 5. Bob is frequently out on a book tour (to explain his absences from the show, which apparently was a whole contract negotiation thing at the time) and Howard seems to be there for the amazing variety of zany jokey-misunderstandings that can he can come up with (which to be fair, are sometimes surprisingly silly and clever.) We also see how very, very dependent Howard is on Emily and how much time he spends keeping her company.

The weirdest episode has to be when Bob and Emily celebrate an anniversary and we see an "alternate reality" where what if they had not married each other. And while it's nice how they always end up together in the end -- because they were clearly made for each other -- it did get a little creepy for me. I don't know why they couldn't have cast a different person to have been Emily's alternate spouse in the what if sequence. It was a little stomach churning as the audience to see our stars in a "so completely with the wrong person!" scenario but also be expected to be okay with a "cuckolding the spouse" situation. That was not very cool to be put through.

But otherwise the seasons are a lot of fun: hijinks ensue with the group, Bob helps out some men getting out of prison and learns how to talk street, and Jerry, Carol and the in-laws all have fun bits. Thumbs up!

Monday, September 01, 2014

Comics and Celebrating Birthdays Hobbit-Style

We celebrated Chris' birthday recently and he bought ME presents.

We spread the celebration out over a weekend, which is always fun. We had two fun lunches, cake, I got him a card and we did go to a real bookstore and I bought him a copy of Gamify by Brian Burke,  a business book he'd been thinking about buying for a couplea weeks. (He really likes it.)

Gifts is SOOO not one of my Love Languages -- mine is Quality Time -- but it's one of Chris' primary ones! ACK! (Maybe I'll blog/rant about that someday.) So he kinda Hobbit-birthday-ed me and ordered me DVDs and COMICS!!! (Hobbits celebrate their birthdays by throwing big parties and giving others gifts.)

Darling knows what I like. The first comic he bought me is the terrific Showcase Presents: Super Friends!. I only recently discovered what an amazing artist Ramona Fradon is, and tangentally we'd also been talking about comics drawn for kids ... which got us on a whole nostalgic '70s Saturday Morning Cartoon train of thought which trailed to the '70s Super Friends cartoon and thus, this volume. So he got me Super Friends both to enjoy and as reference to strengthen and simplify my ink style for a new comic strip project I'm working on (and plan to upload to Comics Sherpa starting in September!!)

When we got Super Friends, I was thrilled to find out this first volume is chock-full of issues of Fradon's pencils with Bob Smith inks! He did a nice job inking her work (although I do prefer her pencils alone or when she inks them.) The artwork is luscious and solid for a clean cartoony style. I enjoy reading these huge reprint books without color because I get to savor the drawing itself even more thoroughly. It's educational to me to see the inks so clearly! I also love when I look at comics and I can "feel" the weight of the figures experiencing gravity on the page, actually standing and occupying the space they're drawn in ... I've skimmed the whole book a few times but have
only read through to issue #2 so far. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this volume.

The other two books Chris ordered for me were Leonard Starr's Mary Perkins On Stage Vol. 13, and Stan Drake's The Heart of Juliet Jones Vol 4: Sundays!!!!!  (Can I put more exclamation points on that sentence? Well, yes, but ...!) We've been collecting these two comic strips that have been reprinted in a terrific format by Classic Comics Press. (Thank you, thank you, so much Mr. Pelto!!)

It's in reading these two books that I feel a twinge of nostalgia for a time in which I wasn't even alive yet; where I feel maybe I was born 20 years later than would have been ideal (in my mind) because I would have LOVED to have created a comic strip and worked in a style much like these wonderful artists created in their comic strips ... Yeah, it would have been SO cool to have a comic strip in the newspapers back in the day, like these two, or like Brenda Starr, Reporter!!

But of course, I must remain peaceful that all works within God's timing. So I patiently "wait by the mailbox" -- these two new books haven't arrived yet -- and know I'll enjoy the loveliness of these two volumes when we receive them. And rave about them again, once I do.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

One Sunday-Sized Best Mann For The Job Comic Strip

One Best Mann For The Job Sunday strip. Sans color.

So several years ago, (oh my gosh! I just read our copyright date -- it's FIVE years ago!!) when Chris and I decided to do a comic strip adaptation of a novel we were co-writing called Best Mann For The Job (the comic strip taking place post the novel's events) we deliberately decided to make it a b&w daily, sans Sundays.

That decision was driven by several factors: First of all, I don't know how to computer color. Second, I don't love the way computer color looks on Sunday comics, and third, even if I'd been willing to give it a try to see what the outcome would look like, we couldn't afford to hire someone at the time to computer color them (that was before I started teaching part time. Which is why it's suddenly FIVE years later and I am terribly surprised.)

Chris and I had discussed and decided to make the Sundays stand alone, kinda like in a The Heart of Juliet Jones comic strip kinda way. Stan Drake had left his Sundays storyline separate from the daily storyline until 1965, according to Syracuse University, who keep his papers archived. (Bless you, Syracuse!!) Anyway, the idea was that whenever I got around to drawing them, we could just pop them into the Sunday slots, and/or we could opt to print them in their own book if we decided to pursue the BMFTJ comic strip further. Chris wrote about 20 or so Sundays that I promptly filed in a 3-ring binder and shelved in one bookcase or another for the past 5 years. Sigh.

Since I finished adapting the A Church Called Graffiti graphic novel, (and we're still figuring out what the next step is with that. Oy vey!) I decided I really needed to get back into some kind of regular drawing of comics. Although I do have a graphic novel I'm desperate to start on, it requires some preliminary visual research. Having just spent 7 years laying out, drawing, inking, lettering and scanning one giant-sized book all by myself (I had help in paste up, thank God. But Graffiti is 269 pages long!) you can probably guess I may not want to delve into such an arduous process of drawing a new graphic novel right away. (I'll get to it, but when I do, I think this time I will letter by hand and release the next graphic novel page by page as I draw it.)

Comic strips being my favorite format, I thought "lemme see what I have on hand I could work on" so I could get back to a Saturday-upload-comic-strip routine like I had when I was drawing my The Miller Sisters comic strip -- GASP -- back in 2009. (Dang. It's really been too long.)

So a month ago I dug up two ideas I had literally shelved -- these Sunday Best Manns and another story that's been noodling in my brain since High School, which is one that was all in scattery notes not yet written up sequentially. In fact I was hoping today would have been the debut day of the comic strip I chose to regularly post -- but it took me a while to decide which one of the two to choose. I had to actually start drawing them both to be able to pick one.

So above is the one Best Mann Sunday strip I drew. And I've opted to develop the other. With this second story I'm actually doing something completely new, and quite different for me. Here is a sneak peek at a panel from strip #2 below. It'll debut online sometime within the next month, so I will post with the link when I do.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Chairs' Hiatus by Matthew Bogart -- a worthy graphic novel Kickstarter campaign

Johanna Draper Carlson has a terrific site called Comics Worth Reading.com, where she reviews all kinds of comics and comics-related items and loops us in to comics-related news. Yesterday I read her Google+ post on Matthew Bogart's Kickstarter campaign for his book The Chairs' Hiatus, a 96- page graphic novel about a band that broke up ... it's moving, lovely to look at and emotional. I read Part 1 last night and could not wait to get up this morning and finish it. I read the rest today and loved it. Matthew has it online for you to read -- and you know reading it online is not enough. Help fund this darling book -- this one's a keeper.

He has 25 days to go on his campaign as of today -- and he's halfway to his goal. $20 gets you a copy of his book, and $80 will get you a copy of the book and an original sketch (limited to 10 people.) I like this second option because he draws his books digitally, so any original art would be few and far between ...!

The other options include band posters and t-shirts (hilarious and great idea!!)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

From MST3K to RiffTrax to Paul F. Tompkins and The Thrilling Adventure Hour -- a big thanks to all

It's a lovely thing to discover a fun concept fully realized, even if you have to catch up with years and years of the stuff!

By this I mean (firstly) Chris and I became huge fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 waaaay after they had wrapped up the show, thanks to our friend Andy, who brought over a DVD to one of our "Movie Saturdays" just a few years ago (I think I've brought that up in a post here previously.) Each time we gathered he'd bring in a different one -- and we enjoyed them so much and were so fascinated by the wrap around storylines with the bots and Joel and Mike that we started to get the DVDs, too. And there was plenty to catch up on. Something like 20 years worth ... with some of them being plum out of print (and we hope they get reissued some day!) Just gotta say watching a show about being stuck in space with only robots for friends and being forced by an evil scientist to watch terrible movies in order to survive, and having to make fun of said terrible movies to just keep one's sanity (and life!) is pretty bizarre and hilarious stuff ... (and then the Evil scientist's Mom took over ... it's a whole thing!)

One of my favorite things about MST3K is how Tom Servo -- the little red gumball-machine looking robot -- makes art-related riffs at the screen. The first art riff that literally made me laugh so hard I lost my breath was on Secret Agent Super Dragon, when one of the villains is waxing poetic in front of a wall of stuffy paintings and he stops in front of one Moe-haired medieval musician, and Servo says -- as if he were giving the painting a title -- "Emo Avec Lute" (that STILL makes me laugh hysterically whenever I remember it!) I also really enjoyed Servo's "Frederick Remington's 'Guernica'" from Werewolf and "Edward Hopper's 'Quick-e-Mart'" from Soul Taker. LOVE the art riffs!

Since that show is over and the actors involved in MST3K have since split off into two new riffing groups -- RiffTrax and Cinematic Titanic, we jumped onboard to catch these early on. We even went to see RiffTrax Live twice at the Belcourt when they were in town (and happily, they do Live shows in town quite regularly.) It's been a hoot (and much easier) to catch up and keep up with their new endeavors. (They riffed on Sharknado this month!)

Thanks to RiffTrax we were introduced to comedian Paul F. Tompkins, who we have also grown to love. Tompkins is one elegantly dressed comedian and very funny guy. He guest-starred with the guys in RiffTrax on their House on Haunted Hill mockery fest. Aside from his stand up (and many other cool projects) Tompkins hosts his own internet talkshow called Speakeasy  -- where he interviews fellow comedians/writers/actors at a bar, over a smooth drink. This is a show I've grown to love nearly as much as I love Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (and I say "nearly" only because I can get CCGC anytime on the Crackle channel on the Roku, whereas Chris has to first cast Speakeasy for me so I can watch it off the Roku while I stay comfortably seated on the couch. That extra step only just makes the show a little out of my immediate access.)

Tompkins with Paget Brewster      Photo ©Jonathan Reilly

Of course, discovering Paul F. Tompkins helped us find "Acker and Blacker's The Thrilling Adventure Hour" -- a marvelous "staged production done in the style of old time radio", and our favorite feature, is of course, the one Tompkins stars in  -- Beyond Belief. Beyond Belief is a marvelous feature about Frank and Sadie Doyle who live at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, drink like lushes all day long and oh yeah -- "they see ghosts" (as well as all sorts of other paranormal phenomena!!) It's hilarious fun to listen to the podcast.

Tompkins and beautiful Paget Brewster -- who plays the beautiful Sadie -- are like a cool, paranormal-sensitive modern take on Nick and Nora Charles from the 1934 movie The Thin Man. (We LOVE that movie series starring William Powell and Myrna Loy and bought that set years ago. So we really enjoy the premise of Beyond Belief!)

If you haven't watched or listened to any of these, I hope you will take a moment, check them out and make time for them. They're just fun!

So a huge Thank You! to all the marvelous and talented writers and entertainers (they sing and do different voices as well as act and are funny!) involved with these favorite shows of ours ... I deeply appreciate ya'll and the shows you create!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Painter Greg Decker at LeQuire Gallery

La Femme d'Abeilles by Greg Decker
One of my favorite galleries in Nashville is LeQuire Gallery over on Charlotte Pike. Whereas most of the galleries in town feature very abstract or nature-focused work -- or, in some cases, let's face it, the piece that simply would look great over a couch -- LeQuire is one of the handful that focuses on the figure.

One of my favorite painters they represent is Greg Decker. What I love about his work is he paints like what trying to paint a dream would look like ... which is to say, often a dream as you view it is not quite in focus but yet it is very vivid and striking ... and if one tried to paint what they saw inside their head while they were asleep late at night, the colors and figures might just look like his work. It's fascinating and beautiful to me.

His show at the LeQuire Gallery has been extended through the end of July. There he's been teamed up with painter Marleen De Waele - another painter whose lovely work I hope to see more of.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp GN

My sister gave me a copy of David Mazzucchelli's very first graphic novel, Asterios Polyp. I don't know where to begin, I just loved this story so much.

There's something to the art of drawing comics ... of creating a graphic novel ... that just fascinates me. The storyteller can play with time and space and even give an entire concept, just by whispering ideas through visual clues ... (yeah, I know, you can't "whisper" a "visual" idea, but that idea/language feels like a correct poetic expression of my thought ... Bear with me!)

The story is just wonderful ... of a man's transformation of character. I further loved the use of shape and color not just as an expression of the characters' states of mind and being ... but also as an expression of the state of the overall story from beginning to end. (Look at it!)  It was very emotionally touching. And artistically delightful.

 (In the hands of the right director, this could also make a beautiful little indie movie.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Walk Your Path

Panel from Graffiti graphic novel
A few weeks ago I found myself in what I think was kindof a midlife crisis  ... disguised as a terrible gut feeling that somehow I wasn't quite doing what was making me happy ...

I found myself vividly remembering being happier, but feeling not so much "happy" right now.

Life was generally okay, and I had many happy moments -- but what I was feeling was a sense of loss of a general happiness I had gotten used to being in, especially once having moved to Tennessee.

So I had to reconstruct just when I had felt that super-happyness I was remembering, and when possibly it was I managed to get off track ...

It took talking with my very patient husband, a good observation from my Mom, a few patient friends who listened and encouraged, and reading/listening to what several other friends were saying about their own paths. Then I went through a bunch of old notebooks of mine to rediscover what I had neglected to do ...

I had forgotten to fully be myself.

Yeah, but that's a silly thing to say, right? What does that even mean? How can a person forget how to do be themselves? You are always yourself, after all. You live in your skin! And I was already super doing things I just love! I teach during the school year, and love that -- and the kids! They're so great and so much fun! I also volunteer a lot and read at church, for example, and I love that, too! I had even joined the church choir which I had been longing to do (if I had a whole other lifetime to live I would totally be a musician.)

But I had forgotten what it was like to prioritize and put my comics work first. It's easy to fall into a pattern of doing what is more easily fulfilled and seems very, very, very important to do, over something that is a key to joy and yet seems so very solitary, takes a whole lot more work and focus and well, is maybe just a wee little selfish because of the sheer fun it is to do.

But yeah. I'd forgotten to fully be myself, because I'd misplaced my center of making comics.

I didn't LOSE it. Just misplaced it. De-prioritized it.

After all, it seems so self-centered, so internal to feel "out of sorts" when I'm not drawing comics.
But I do! And it's not the first time I've found myself feeling lost, off center and not myself. Each and every time I've felt that it's been because I haven't prioritized doing the one other simple thing -- other than prayer -- that brings me great peace. And that's putting focus on making art. On drawing my comics.

As I've grown older the lost feelings have become more blatant, more nagging, more overwhelming when I get off track. It's not good. And you'd think I'd have figured that out by now, right? I'd have paid attention to the other half dozen off-kilter experiences I've gone through and maybe finally written myself a huge post-it note:

"Shut up and draw!"

Well, I finally did today. It's on the edge of my drafting table. And I'm posting it here to help me remind myself.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mike Madrid's "Divas, Dames & Daredevils"

Chris was catching up on podcasts a few weeks ago and I was working nearby as he listened to Felicia Day's Vlog entry "Some Comics I Bought", where (along with a bunch of other graphic novels) Felicia mentions buying Mike Madrid's "Divas, Dames and Daredevils". He immediately thought it would be something I would love (it is!) so he bought a copy for me.

I enjoy old-timey comics (those that are pre- 1954's SOTI comics industry clamp down.) I don't love the creepy "let's see what we can get away with" grotesqueness of pre-code comics -- rather I really enjoy the whole "just go with it" attitude in the storytelling that so many of the tales have.

And you really have to go with it cause there's not much time/space. The stories tend to be super short -- usually 6 or 7 pages -- and tend to be done in one. We can be dropped into the middle of a situation in progress. There's oftentimes no long, drawn-out set up, no origin story -- okay, maybe sometimes there will be the briefest of intros -- but usually there's just fly by the seat of your pants craziness.

Sure, the drawing of 40s and 50s comics can be somewhat staid when we compare them to the flashy, computer-colored panel-breaking layouts we've become used to in modern comics, but on the other hand, there's also something very visually "meaty" about their presentation, probably because the artist is not trying to impress the eye, but rather, more simply trying to serve the story.

What I absolutely enjoy is author Mike Madrid's flat out sheer L-O-V-E for old comics, comics history and especially female characters in these old comic books ('cause they were some gutsy dames) and he really is wonderfully up front about it. Reading this book is a hoot.

I also love how he closes the book -- and his whole final paragraph is just terrific -- where he says "The stories collected in this book represent a moment in time when women could be as heroic as men."

This is a book that I will treasure.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Plunging into Diversity in Comics and the Joy of Hope

Writer Joe Illidge has a terrific series running on Comic Book Resources titled The Color Barrier. The full title of the very first post is "THE COLOR BARRIER: A Message of Comics, Diversity & Hope".

Joe's interviews with African American and Latino writers and illustrators discussing their work and diversity in comics (and entertainment fields) and his greater message reinforcing the need to go forward and do, was the absolutely best thing I could have read this morning. (Yes, I read all -- as of this writing -- 10 articles.)

My favorite articles are his most recent two: "The Direct Impact of Dwayne McDuffie and What Comes Next" and "Does Fair Play Really Matter?" more than anything because they point to how some things in the comics industry are changing for the better.

It's been 17-18(?) years since I worked with Joe Illidge at Milestone Media. Joining him on The Nerds of Color video podcast Hard NOC Life to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Milestone was sobering -- in the best possible way.

Seeing the guys after all these years made me realize how although I've been working on a graphic novel on the side, I'd pretty much otherwise put my comics passion and love on the back burner. (This blog pretty much attests to that with the spotty posts I've made these past few years.)

The reunion made me realize much hurt, anger and disgust about mainstream comics (read Marvel and DC) I had been pressing down. And how very different my experience at Milestone had been in comparison to my experiences at Defiant, Broadway and DC Comics.

But this was a healing reunion and realization for me. There we all reinforced the need to get past the disappointment and do something, and that something is to make comics that we'd want to read.

Truly the only way for people to find what they think is lacking is to then supply it. This is how new creator voices get heard. And how new comics get read. Let's encourage one another to do so.

Thank you, Joe, so much for the Hope and the encouragement to go forward and make comics.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A More Pedestrian-Friendly Nashville in our Dreams ... and that AMP. Egad.

I had a terrific comment posted by ShadeParade on my earlier post of April 5 2007 of a More Pedestrian-Friendly Nashville? Anyone? Anyone? And I must share by linking to their own post from December 2013 on walking Green Hills. They walked from Whole Foods to the Post Office in Green Hills. They also posted pics on the state of sidewalks and non-sidewalks along the way. (Believe it or not, this is one of our more pedestrian-forward areas of town!!)
Typical Green Hills Sidewalk. Photo taken by Shade Parade.

Yeah, take a look at the link. Look at the lack of sidewalks. Pretty impossible, isn't it? Super scary with a stroller! (God bless and keep safe all our neighbors as they walk Nashville!!) Wait til you read the update. Nashville is ranked the 15th most dangerous city to walk in ....? If that's actually true, it really wouldn't surprise me. We really don't have much sidewalks to speak of.

The biggest difference between the walkability of New York City and Nashville IMO are:
1) in NYC pedestrians are first before cars. Cars need to make their way AROUND us ("I'm walking here!")
2) in Nashville, pedestrians are apparently second to cars. We have to constantly look out for cars turning onto our sidewalks (when they even exist) because cars get first dibs on getting anywhere. That's just the way it is.
3) Most of this big small town doesn't have sidewalks to get you from a house or apartment building to a bus or down the road to any kind of retail area.
4) Our sidewalks are further taken up by huge utility poles and apparently they count as humans, because we don't get any sidewalk width compensated for the room they take up.

Now I like the whole idea of live/work communities that have started happening around town. But while we are making pockets of (usually really expensive to buy into BTW) liveable communities, that does not address the greater issue of getting from one area of town to the other by either using a form of public transportation or by walking. How do you get from Bellevue to Green Hills or from Antioch to Donelson or from Downtown to Brentwood?

Well, it's like this. You buy a car.

And don't even get me started on the AMP, which is a very nice idea, but planned for a part of town that doesn't actually need it. We don't need an AMP running from Downtown via Broadway/West End/Harding Road (yes, actually they are all the same road with 3 different names) all the way to White Bridge Road. Why? Because if we did need, right now EVERY SINGLE BUS running down West End would be full -- and THAT doesn't happen yet except during rush hour. And if we did need it, those rush hour buses would be full of people getting OFF the bus before White Bridge Road, and again, some, but very few people actually do. The bulk of the bus riders GET OFF before 440 and get off AFTER the Highway 70/100 split, and go into Bellevue.

Another reason AMP is a bad idea? Nashville is not built on a grid system. It's more like spokes on a wheel and the roads curve a lot. There isn't much leeway to carve out more space to widen or modify roads that exist. Using two lanes as a designated bus lane is not a practical idea, and may not be for sheer width of road purposes.

The Amp is supposed to "relieve the traffic flow" along West End to 440 and from I-440 to White Bridge Road but those people living in those areas are not going to magically take the AMP because it goes faster than a regular bus. People before 440 are getting off West End to get onto 440. And those people driving cars clogging up the 6-8 blocks stretch between Montgomery Bell Academy and WBR are either turning off onto Woodmont or onto White Bridge Road or heading straight down further into Belle Meade and Bellevue. These are not folks who are going magically start taking the bus or an AMP. They don't do it now. Arguably it could be the whole there are no sidewalks to get them from Harding Road to where they're headed, and back. Right now any of those areas are going to be no shoulder, mostly grassed-over gutter, and not sidewalked.

We already made the bold move of adding weekend service to some areas and more buses during rush periods (but God help you if you're using one of the bus stops without a set time they're due there, cause the drivers still may blow past you anyway if they're running early.) Sp before we get all crazy and fund an AMP perhaps we should start with adding sidewalks to get people to the bus system we already have, before we get into replacing a whole transportation line in light of other areas plum needing more bus service in the first place.

Nashville needs sidewalks everywhere. And Nashville needs buses especially in areas of town where the people are LESS likely to own a car, and thus are more likely to need to use the public transportation provided. When is THAT going to happen?

Secret Identities The Asian American Superhero Anthology

Post our Milestone Comics 20th anniversary reunion (courtesy of Hard N.O.C. Life by the The Nerds of Color)  I would love to address (in a longer post sometime) the hope and necessity of diversity in comics and how we really can only shut up and make the comics ourselves to do so. (Having ebooks now as an option to get our work out makes it a whole new publishing world, people!)

In the meanwhile, I was looking for meaningful comics to enjoy, so I bought a copy of Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology. I had not known our host Keith Chow had been involved in making that book happen until our whole reunion had been underway -- and found out that Milestone had been their impetus. Wow.

WHAT FUN! I totally loved loved loved Secret Identities; it was chock-full of short stories by a nicely wide range of creators (so you get a wide variety of styles of stories and art even if basically within a superhero genre.) The reviews on Amazon will do the book waaaay more justice than I can if you need more convincing. Me, I heartily just tell you to BUY THIS BOOK and enjoy!

[No seriously, if you are a comics creator who at all seriously wants to contribute and be part of the whole
creative contribution and conversation, you HAVE to own and have read a copy of this book.]