It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, May. It usually is, because my son and my wife’s birthdays are two days apart, but this month also mixed in two convention appearances and a minor release of the IT project I work on in my day job. Busy month, is what I’m telling you. And the minor release of the IT project is followed (unusually) by a major release a month from now, so it will be busy times ahead for that.
But, I am feeling pretty good. Stressed sometimes, but managing. Running over 20k a week. Enjoying the creative stuff I’m working on. Wishing I was spending more time reading and gaming and relaxing. I guess I should make that a goal for the summer.
It needs updating, but who knows, I may have done so:
As for offerings, if you can read this you are entitled to a free copy of a new little art zine I made called Always Drawing Faces. If you want one, reply with your postal address! While supplies last.
I was able to make a brief appearance at Fog City Comic-Con in Saint John early in the month, long enough to lead a session for (mostly) kids on making comics. A couple of days ago I did the East Coast Comics Expo in Moncton, a show that has grown steadily and this year moved to a new venue that allowed it to breathe. It was a good show but it’s always interesting to see what fans in different regions are interested in buying. I got to meet Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, creators of many cool comics including the very smart Bandette, and bought an Adventure Time print signed by Colleen. I also finally met the Grandway Comics guys from Dartmouth.
This Easter weekend between those shows was also the weekend of a favourite local show called Geequinox, a sort of early season primer for the much larger Hal-Con in the fall. I haven’t been to a Hal-Con since 1985, and while there have been TV star guests and the occasional comics person that I wouldn’t mind meeting, I don’t generally feel compelled to attend the current one. Same for exhibiting there: the table rates are a bit dear compared to smaller shows, and I am skeptical that the general-fandom crowd of that show would warm very much to my specific-weird wares. That said, I liked what I saw of Geequinox and I think it might make a nice addition to my calendar next year, if they’ll have me. I had a nice time walking around the floor on a quiet Sunday early afternoon, got to finally meet local comics people like Tony White, Ed Brisson, and Jed MacKay, and handed out some invites to the Making Comics meetup. So, something to think about for next year.
I had a chance to speak to Calum Johnston, owner of the Eisner-winning Strange Adventures comic shops and organizer of DCAF, who confirmed that I am welcome to attend this year’s show (I try not to assume) and we will probably work out some kind of combo table so that the Making Comics group members can sit and sell the group’s books with me next door for support. He tells me it will be on Sunday the 18th of August, so again if you are in the area, it’s always a good time.
Finally, I visited Sofacon yesterday - a virtual online convention where fans log into a chat room and can interact with a different artist and access exclusive prints and originals in their web stores, with a different artist featured each half hour. I picked up a new book and print plus a signed comic, all by Tula Lotay. Who, apart from being one of my favourite artists, also organizes an annual convention in Leeds called Thought Bubble.
I think, in the next year or two, it will be time to consider doing fewer shows where I drive to table in an artists alley at a general interest convention. I would like to travel farther to do some comics shows that are focused on non-mainstream work, like TCAF or Thought Bubble, as well as more zine fairs.
I did this silly comic for a web zine that my old frenemy, the late James Spielberg published for a while called Snarl. It was tossed together pretty quickly, as you can probably tell, so it will probably never make the cut for being collected in print. You are the first people to see it in at least 20 years. Enjoy.
The group continues to grow. We held our third meetup and I have scheduled the fourth for June 15th at Radstorm. We also plan on putting together a quarterly comic zine that would be internal to the group, with the first issue put together in early July. If you are in the HRM and making comics, we’d love to meet you!
When I was a kid I read all kinds of comics that weren’t really aimed at kids, but they were comics and my parents didn’t know better, so if the teen brothers who lived downstairs let me read Vampirella or Creepy, all good! We took the Princess of Acadia ferry to visit my relatives in Digby a few times a year, and I would usually manage to cadge a few bucks for the gift shop, where I would pick up hot rod magazines, puzzle magazines, or comics if they were available - usually it was just MAD magazine, or Cracked.
Back then, MAD published quarterly “super specials” that reprinted classic material and usually included some weird novelty to sweeten the deal, like a flexi-disc record, a poster, or sheets of stickers. In the late 70s they started including facsimile reprints of the original MAD comic books from the 50s, created by Harvey Kurtzman with art by greats like Will Elder, Jack Davis, Wally Wood and many more. Not that I knew any of this at the time. But I got several of those reprints as time went on and I pored over them again and again, fascinated by the tenor of the jokes and the brilliance of the art. I cannot understate the influence of those comics, on me and the American culture.
MAD had many imitators over the years from pretty much every publisher. Marvel had one called Crazy, Warren had one called Sick, and I don’t know who published Cracked. Even Kurtzman himself tried to compete with Mad with a couple of different vehicles for different publishers after he left EC. Of all the imitators, the one I probably recall most fondly is DC Comics’ PLOP! from the early 70s. In fact, I did a comic about it once:
True story. Anyway, Plop! was a strange title even for the time. It was “hosted” by Cain and Abel from the House of Mystery plus one of the weird sisters, all usually drawn by Sergio Aragones in short linked “host segments” much like the ones from the DC horror titles. Regular fixtures included striking covers by the great Basil Wolverton and some beautiful contributions by Wally Wood, most notably a brilliant adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.
And what do you think is in the latest issue of MAD magazine? A facsimile edition of PLOP! #1. Delightful. I look forward to the strange comics that come from young readers who find that laying around. (Note to self, leave my copy laying around.) Also in that issue btw, a fun new short comic from Evan Dorkin and one from fellow Haligonian Kyle Bridgett, AND some hilarious comics by Ian Boothby and Pia Guerra. Also the team that does The Lighter Side of… comics now really kicks ass. I never thought I would write that sentence in my life but it’s true.
The other big revelation from the world of comics this month for me is a new series called Faithless, by writer Brian Azarello and artist Maria Llovet. Lushly illustrated, smartly scripted, sexy and a little sleazy like the best of late-70s Metal Hurlant.
I just burned through a pair of thrillers courtesy of my library. The first was the latest Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child. I’ve already forgotten its title. It was better than average for the series, with a weird b-story about a group of hipsters running a most-dangerous-game hunting service in Maine. The second was “Before The Fall” by Noah Hawley, the genius who has developed and written and directed much of both Fargo and Legion for TV. Before The Fall is the story of a plane crash, the media, art, and what it means to be wealthy in modern America.
Like everyone else in the world we subscribed to a streaming service so we could watch the last season of Game of Thrones. So, there’s that. The service also has a new season of Bosch starring Titus Welliver, about an LA detective who isn’t great with following procedure but get results. Despite the cliched premise, Welliver and the cast (as well as that eternal supporting character, Hollywood) have created a compelling series that is closer to the neighbourhood of Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire than, say, Blue Bloods.
I wish we did more real pop culture scholarship. What does it say about us as a society that we have to have so many shows about noble cops who care about justice? Or hospitals that break their own rules to make sure that every effort is made to save a life?
I watched a recent Liam Neeson film called Cold Pursuit, in which a rural Colorado plow driver avenges the death of his son at the hands of drug dealers. Sounds like a lot of Neeson films, right? But this one- it is deeply weird. Sometimes it seems like black comedy, sometimes it is creepy and gross, sometimes it’s delightful and surprising, sometimes it’s just strange. If that kind of thing sounds good to you, check it out.
I finally caught the Shazam movie with my son last week and was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t quite as fun as Aquaman, and the central concept of a teenaged kid instantly transforming into a muscular adult is troubling. But I still enjoyed it, especially how they managed to mix the pretty serious foster family stuff with the action and a good amount of humour. DC movies are slowly getting some momentum.
Marvel of course is cruising at light speed, introducing new corners of its universe seemingly effortlessly. Avengers: Endgame is both the culmination of their efforts over the last decade and the foundation for what will come next. Between that and the end of Game of Thrones we’ve had a lot of ink spilled over whether or not each of them “stuck the landing”. I think they did. It’s doubtful that I will ever want to watch GoT again, but I would be willing to see Endgame for a third time eventually.
Finally, we have been burning through the first series of Killing Eve starring Sandra Oh and the very impressive Jodie Comer. Comer just won a BAFTA for her work as a Russian-born assassin working for a shadowy organization called The Twelve who are using her to kill key people in order to destabilize certain corners of the world and benefit themselves.
Dan Berry is still cranking out great new episodes of Make It Then Tell Everybody.
As I type this, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend has Tig Notaro for a guest and it is remarkable. Even more than you might think. It takes a strange turn, and then a dark one, that explains Notaro’s comedy better than any clip could.
I went to a recent annual record fair and picked up a souvenir record from the Brussels world’s fair, some kind of self-help record by the Maritime-famous mentalist Reveen, and a beat-up copy of one of the great albums from the 1980s, Night and Day by Joe Jackson. He played here not long ago and I didn’t see the show. I did run into him walking through Scotia Square.
I was a proud nerd a couple of weeks ago when a comment I left on the How Did This Get Made? message boards was read on the mini-episode for Hello, Mary Lou: Prom Night II. It was about the Canadian composer and musician Paul Zaza, who I described pretty accurately as the John Williams of shitty Canadian movies. And a few good ones.
I’m not going to do the detailed reports any longer. You don’t mind, do you? Of course not, why the hell would you. What I will do instead is just write about whatever I may have finished lately and what I’m working on next. Cool? Cool.
I wanted to get a new comic, even just a mini-comic, done in time for East Coast Comics Expo. But I also believe in letting projects evolve as far into the process as possible. I got a lot of work done on a new mini-comic called Your Sixth Kensho is Free!, a sort of true story about my own experiences with zen Buddhism. As I worked on the art it kind of kept evolving and I realized I wouldn’t be able to finish it in time for the show. Here is a little preview:
So instead I literally slapped together a little art zine called Always Drawing Faces, and printed it off on the big Brother scanner/printer that I picked up a few months back. This was the first time I used it for printing a colour zine, and I am pleased with the results. I might even be able to use it to make some prints, but even if I can’t I think it will be good for more zines and comics.
If you’d like a free copy of this zine, reply with your mailing address!
I didn’t wind up selling many of the zine at the show - nearly all of my sales were prints, and I kicked myself for not having more available. I’ve also had a noticeable amount of people ask if I have alternate media available for some of my art, like stickers or buttons. I don’t like to obsess too much over the capitalist side of art, but I think it’s fine to give people some options. As a buyer I always prefer buying comics, especially personal independent comics, over merchandise; but a lot of people seem to be just the opposite, so what do I know? :)
Anyway, the stuff I want to get done before my next and biggest show of the summer, the Dartmouth Comic Arts Festival, is:
I am also planning on creating a kind of collection vehicle for all of those mini-comics and zines and merch, called Jackdaw. I also need to make some website updates and changes.
Thanks for reading all the way to the end. I hope you’re having a good spring. See you in about a month. Peace.