F me, here we are in April already. Spring. I have been busier than a shithouse rat, as the saying goes, or it would if that were ever a saying. That’s how busy it is.
On the bright side it is generally a good kind of busy. For me, anyway. My wife is finishing up her first year of her third graduate degree and working three jobs and generally pulling her hair out. I’m keeping my head down, working my day job and drawing a lot of weird but sometimes funny nonsense.
This is the first winter I can remember in a long time where I’m coming out of it in a much better mood than when I went in. Apart from the lift of looking forward to spring, I think generally we feel beaten down by the end of winter, especially a Canadian winter. But I feel strangely energized. That’s probably a strong word for it, but that’s OK.
If you missed it last time, check out the SNOW:
What’s this, a new section? I’ll be using it to report on comics shows and other events that I have attended. And as it turns out, I spent last weekend in Charlottetown for my first appearance of the year at a new show called the Island Entertainment Expo. It is not a comics-focused show, it covers gaming and cosplay and all kinds of things; which is fine, but I ordinarily don’t attend shows like that (or exhibit at them) because the stuff I make tends to be kind of niche even for comics fans. But, I figured I would take the risk since it was the first one, in a place where I hadn’t tabled before, so my song and dance would be novel to most attendees. Plus, my parents have lived on PEI for nearly 30 years so I figured I would get a rare visit in with them.
My family and I aren’t especially close, and that seems to work for us. But sometimes it backfires, like when I called my parents about a month ago to remind them that I was coming over and was planning on staying with them, my mother was disappointed to reply that they had already booked a trip to Cape Cod or something for that weekend and beyond. This is such a perfect illustration of my family dynamic it could be frozen and used as an official measure like an atomic clock.
Anyway. I quickly found a reasonably priced B&B in Charlottetown (the Eden Hall), a short walk from the show, and that is where I stayed. So that ate into my rather slim profit margin, but that’s OK. I don’t like to make appearances about money or turning a profit. I kind of enjoy investing money and time in something I think is totally random like the Story Mode game, and then discovering that not only does someone else like it, they might give me money for it. So IEX, like many of my shows last year, was one where I sold a bit of everything but not a lot of any one thing. I sold some books (maybe a few less than hoped); also some prints (pretty much what I expected); a small piece of original art (completely unexpected); and two full sets of Story Mode, which surprised me. It probably helps that I did have a sample deck of Story Mode set up right in the middle of the table so people could stop and try a game with me.
I didn’t try very hard to sell stuff at that show, to be honest. I sat and chilled and drew and talked to people if they stopped or showed an interest. And even with that lack of energy on my part, sales were better than I would have expected. So I consider the show a win all around, for me and the attendees and hopefully the organizers. I heard that they have contracts lined up to do it for the next two years, so assuming my parents and I get better coordinated next time, I would certainly do IEX again.
I was also pleased to be invited to the second year of the Fog City Comic Con in Saint John, this time going over two days in the first weekend of May. I will be leading a session on making comics for all ages in the morning on Saturday, and then will have a table selling my usual tricks and notions that afternoon and probably part of Sunday. It’s going to be a complicated weekend with a birthday party for my son and somehow collecting Nicole from the airport as she returns from a trip to Croatia. But we will figure it out. In any case, come on the Saturday if you are determined to see me. I will try to do some of the Sunday as well.
This old Twilight Zone/EC Comics style story was originally published in my first series of minicomics, and has not made the cut for reprinting anywhere. Maybe in the next book? Maybe not. For now, here’s a peek for you and you alone!
My other big activity this past month was creating a group called Making Comics at Meetup.com, a site and app that lets you coordinate meetups with people interested in a variety of topics.https://www.meetup.com/Making-Comics/
We met for the first time on March 9th at Radstorm, I think about 20 people came and went during the two hours, which were an enjoyable blur of talking and sketching and making plans. We’re doing it again on April 13th, so if you can make it to Halifax for meetups (or if you’re in the area and want to be in the group at least), I encourage you to join through the link above.
Currently on the reading pile are library books (the latest Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child, and a YA novel called On The Come Up, by Angie Thomas, who wrote the excellent The Hate U Give); a couple of post-holiday books I couldn’t resist (The Athletico Mince companion book, and Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks); and perhaps best of all, I finally got hands on the Art of Into the Spider-Verse book, which as you might expect is lovely.
Speaking of lovely illustrations, I backed a kickstarter for the Etherington Brothers’ second volume of advice comics called How to Think When You Draw. Loved the first volume and their Instagram. I highly recommend both for anyone who wants to draw or who already does but wants some fun exercises to try.
There have been some great comics published lately, my favourites from the pull list are still dominated by Keiron Gillen’s books (Die, Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt, and The Wicked & The Divine), but there are some strong new entries: a new Sabrina series from Archie that ties into their current continuity - the real attraction is that it’s written by Kelly Thompson and drawn by Veronica Fish. Invisible Kingdom by G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward is a very cool new SF series that reminds me of Moebius and Heavy Metal. Little Bird by Darcy van Poelgeest, Ian Bertram, and Matt Hollingsworth is tough to describe - We Stand on Guard meets Monstress? It’s darkly funny and gory.
All that said, one of the best things I have read in any artform is the latest two issues of Giant Days (48 and 49), in which John Allison brings one of his best-loved characters home to the small town that was home to his years of great webcomics in Bobbins, Scary Go Round and Bad Machinery. You wouldn’t expect a book to still be innovating and striving for this kind of excellence at issue 48.
As an Old Person I have largely ignored TV shows that primarily exist on YouTube. But lately I have been watching a series called Hot Ones, where celebrities join a host to eat a series of increasingly hot chicken wings while being interviewed. This one with Alton Brown is very good and thoughtful. And this one with Eddie Huang made me cry laughing.
This makes me realize that for a guy who hates reality TV, I watch a fair bit of it, including Gordon Ramsay’s shows (though we seem to have let Hell’s Kitchen drop by the wayside, thank god), Top Chef, and various athletic competition shows like American Ninja Warrior. Why? I don’t know. I don’t enjoy competitions that encourage people to be cruel to each other or just generate drama. The Great British Bake Off is a recent favourite. Everyone is so polite to each other.
As a Canadian who posts comments on usually US-based media outlets, I forget sometimes that my kind of lifelong low-level Anglophilia is not normal in the rest of the world. Here, we listen to friends and neighbours talk about the royal family as if that is somehow relevant to us or anyone. Because we used to be subjects of the British. I went wandering out in downtown Saint John a few years ago and ran into Charles and Camilla doing some kind of tour. We don’t bat an eye at this in Canada. Everyone over the age of 55 is required by law to watch Coronation Street. I’ve tried, I even tried listening to The Archers. I don’t know if I will manage, but as they say, keep calm and stiff upper lip.
All of which is preamble to my update that as predicted last month, I have started rewatching Inspector Morse. By which I mean I’ll put one on in the background while I work in the afternoon. After that, I’m not sure. Maybe a rewatch of The Avengers. By which I mean Steed and Mrs. Peel; more Anglophilia.
We went to see both Captain Marvel and a much smaller screening of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm on the same Sunday. Captain Marvel was well-executed, kept a lot of plates spinning, but as a result it felt to me like less of a Black Panther-level introduction and more of a Captain America: The First Avenger, which I remember enjoying well enough at the time but not nearly as much as I enjoyed what came afterward. We are truly spoiled for excellent superhero movies in this otherwise squalid period of American history and culture. I’m quite looking forward to Infinity War: Endgame and more of the Captain. (Postscript to this: I saw it a second time since with Jack and enjoyed it more.)
As for Mask of the Phantasm, it remains a wonderful and singular instance of a character and design and artform coming together to make something that was the best imaginable incarnation of those things. It is still a great pleasure to watch, and better still to listen to, as the voice work of its cast continues to shine and offset the film’s very low budget and very short production time. It’s still my favourite of all the filmed and televised incarnations of the character.
Finally, I went to see Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us. It feels really insufficient to describe it as a horror film. It’s a horror film the way that the original version of Night of the Living Dead is a horror film. With much the same theme, sadly. In any case, it is pretty effective. I both anticipate and dread seeing it again. And I am very much looking forward to the new series of The Twilight Zone that Peele is producing.
My favourite podcast continues to be Top Flight Time Machine, so much so that I joined its Patreon. It is not a podcast that I would actually recommend to most people. Because to enjoy it I think you need to be kind of an asshole, The two hosts are essentially bloke comedians who like to undermine bloke comedy and inject some feminism and diversity. But it’s still very much bloke comedy, so if that’s not your thing or you have a low tolerance, it may not be for you.
TFTM is also ostensibly a football podcast, where the hosts predict who will win the EPL games that week, in competition with a hopefully fictional “ResultsBot” that always predicts a 1-0 result - a strategy which works more often than not in football.
So to sum up, you should listen to TFTM if you are (1) an old, confused or troubled male comedy nerd who wants to be a better person (2) someone who knows what football and the EPL are, and likes them. You might also enjoy it if you are not either of those things, especially if you like non-sequitur based comedy.
One of my other favourite podcasts (which also has a Patreon that I support) is called Make It Then Tell Everybody; host Dan Berry is a UK-based cartoonist and teacher who is known for sensitive and funny watercolour stories like Carry Me. For several years he has interviewed other cartoonists about how they approach their work and how they got to where they are. It was on hiatus for most of the last year but it has come roaring back recently with new episodes featuring artists Christian Ward (Ody-C, Black Bolt, and the impressive new Invisible Kingdom) and Lucy Knisley (French Milk, Relish).
If you see a to-do item in italics, that means it got worked on. If you see it in bold, that means it got done.
I’m going to write a movie like The Bucket List, only the bucket list is a list of graves that I want to travel to and piss on. For example: Ayn Rand, Roy Lichtenstein, Hitler, maybe Phil Collins.
Last month I alluded to the mysterious Project Transformer, and after some hours spent tinkering with formats and printing options, I have decided to simply collect it all into a new issue of my comics and other junk zine called Flavour Country, which was published for the first and only time previously two years ago (I think). Maybe three. Anyway, it’s past time for another issue, and I am pleased with how this one is shaping up. So, I am concentrating on getting that done and when I feel like a break I will try to get the updates to the Story Mode game done.
prep for IEX order books for this season - design a new store web banner - add originals and small works to store - write promotional plan & checkpoints for 2019 - look into grants for this year - finish “scrap art” postcards and send to stores - consolidate Shop, Books and Comic pages on Potzrebie, and move downloads (PDFs) to Behance - create a site for IDTa - promo buttons? Stickers? for Flavour Country
Thanks for reading all the way to the end. I hope you’re having a good spring. See you in a month, maybe sooner but certainly no later. Peace.