If you're an art director, and you'd like to have one of your very own, drop me an email and I'll make it happen posthaste. If you're just a regular schlub and you'd like to have one...aww, drop me an email and I'll send you one too!
I've been illustrating Savage Love for awhile now, and the challenge always lies in extracting a PG-13 drawing from the often R-rated column and the topics it discusses. Not always an easy task, but usually a satisfying result. For the column of 12/7, all the letters concerned the sexual practices, or lack thereof, of people with various disabilities. You can read the whole column here, but I chose to make this letter the topic of my illo (edited somewhat for brevity):
Q: Due to a rare autoimmune attack three years ago, I have been indefinitely confined to a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. I was never sexually active before the attack, so now I’m left to face my sexual future from a significantly altered perspective. The important thing to remember is that I can still engage in sex. I think a common misconception that many people have is that we automatically can’t have sex. I would like to pursue physical relationships with women, but how do I let them know I can still perform without just coming out and saying it? Are there any wheelchair fetishists out there I should know about?
A: “Many people think ‘paralyzed from the waist down’ means ‘turned into a block of ice down there,’” the authors of The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability — Miriam Kaufman, Cory Silverberg and Fran Odette — wrote in a group e-mail. (We’ll call the authors KSO for short.) That paralyzed folks don’t have blocks of ice in their pants is something we fully ambulatory idiots can go our whole lives without learning. “[Non-paralyzed people] have been raised to believe that it isn’t polite to ever ask a person with a disability anything about their disability, let alone about sex,” says KSO, “at least when they’re sober.”
“As for wheelchair fetishists, HANDICAPPED, they’re out there and KSO has some good news for you: “They tend to be straight women looking for guys who use wheelchairs.” Straight women — they’re just a bunch of kinky, sex-crazed freaks, huh?
Wheelchair fetishists? Well, that's an idea just tailor-made for one of my illustrations! Often, it takes me awhile to thinkof an idea for a spot, but not this time. Right away, the idea of a girl sitting on the lap of a guy in a wheelchair hits me, so I whip up some sketches. I figure they're both overjoyed that they've found each other, so he's smiling ear to ear, and she's pretty much going wild. Maybe he should be popping a wheelie, too?
I'm obviously going to have to draw a wheelchair, and draw one well, for the joke to work..so next, I get on Google for some photo reference...and find some, thanks to the good people at Veer:
Then, the pencil stage...I usually work on oddly cut and sized pieces of Strathmore 2-ply bristol board, which I originally buy as 30" x 22" sheets, and this time, I chose a piece that was too small to fit the whole drawing on the page, which is why the woman's hand is cut off at the top. This means I'll have to ink the drawing on another piece of bristol, using the lightbox...which is kind of a pain in the ass, but it beats having to do the drawing again!
Finally, it's time to ink. I use a #2 brush for most of it, except the lines on the tie, and some of the components of the chair, for which I use a Pitt Artists pen. I find that my brush lines tend to be a bit wonky at times, going from thick to thin, and while that's great for figures, it looks kind of bad on non-organic objects like cars and, well, wheelchairs.
Speaking of wheelchairs, I'm pretty happy with how this one has turned out. It looks good, the perspective is correct, or at least, I've faked it in a believeable way. I struggle drawing vehicles of any kind, anything with wheels, so this a pretty satisfying result.
So that's that! Another satisfied customer. The drawing runs in the City Paper a few days later, and I start think about next week...
Anyway, here's a new piece, created to sell on the website (It'd make a great gift, as would any of the half-dozen or so new pieces I added to the site yesterday.). It's Flower, Kamandi's ill-fated girlfriend from Jack Kirby's early 70's masterpiece. I picked up Kamandi Archives Vol. 1 awhile ago, and I guess I got inspired. The fact that she walks around topless didn't hurt, either.
On Thanksgiving night, just as "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" was really getting good, I heard my dog Puck freaking out over something in the backyard. I figured it was just a cat, or maybe a squirrel who'd stayed up late, so I let him out the back door to chase it off (It is his yard, after all). I was shocked to see that it wasn't a cat, or a squirrel, but a black puppy, who had somehow gotten into our fenced-in backyard. She and Puck got along great, chasing each other around the yard, as theories about where she'd come from bounced around our inebriated crowd. She had no collar, but she wasn't all dirty and smelly, so we figured she'd just escaped from someone's backyard. Then again, maybe she'd been dumped? My wife Brooke was instantly smitten, and wanted to keep her. but I thought she had to belong to someone, and that we shouldn't get too attached. A few minutes later, she squeezed though a hole in our backyard fence, no doubt the same way she'd gotten in, and took off down the alley, toward her (hopefully) rightful home. I followed her for awhile, but lost her in the blackness.
The next day, I was walking down an alley a couple streets over and I ran into one of my neighbors...he asked if I was the owner of a black lab puppy. I said no, but told him my story of the night before...apparently the pup went to his house after I lost her in the alley, and he took her in and kept her for the night, planning to put up posters and try to locate her owners, if she had any, the next day. I told him that if nobody came forth to claim her, we'd take her on.
Now its a couple days later, and I guess she's our new dog. We named her Betty, and she's doing very well. We're still looking for her owners, but it's been a week and we've heard nothing, so it looks like she'll be with us for a while. She's smart, but a bit wild, and is a pretty determined little escape artist, so we're gonna get her some training and try to break her of these bad habits. You gotta love her, though...she's cute as a bug!
Just to be stupid, I've been growing a playoff beard! It's a long-standing tradition for NHL players to stop shaving once the Stanley Cup playoffs begin, and let the face fuzz fly until your team wins it all or is knocked out, a process that can take up to two months! I've only been working on this one for about a week, and the tournament will end no later than Monday either way, so I'm not going to go all Lanny McDonald or anything. Still, this is as close as I'm gonna get so I'm living it up...much to my wife's consternation (Incidentally, in an attempt to similarly frustrate and annoy me, she herself decided last weekend grow playoff leg hair, but she only lasted about 12 hours).
Late last summer, my pal Davis and I signed up to play indoor in-line hockey with a team in a rec league here in town, and roped another friend, Greg, into joining the league too (We play street hockey year-round, along with our goalie pal Patrick, and it's a buttload of fun). Our team is called the Pointy Pointy Birds, after an ESPN SportsCenter commercial from the early 90s. We got off to the rockiest of starts, opening the season with nine straight losses, before we began to gell as a team and win a few games, eventually ending up with 3 wins, 11 losses, and 2 ties.
Anyhow, since there are only four teams in our league, we made the playoffs, and managed to knock off the #1 team (who'd won the last three titles) in the single-elimination first round over the weekend. And tonight, we begin the best-of-three league finals! Unfortunately, Davis got himself suspended for fighting in the last regular season game, so he's gonna have to cheer us on from the press box...but the rest of us are ready to play hard and bring home the "Cup" ! Here's hoping by this time next week, we'll be known as the Champion Pointy Pointy Birds!
Coming tomorrow: The Playoff Beard!
Also, in a nice bit of serendipity, the idiotic Dwight sported the exact same toy lightsabre as part of his Sith Lord costume on The Office last night. I feel like someone must be looking out for me...but given the subject matter, I'm afraid to ask who!
Ink-stained fingers late into the night? The smell of toner first thing in the morning?
Oh yeah. it was on.
SPX 2005...at this point, it pretty much goes without saying that I love this show, and I always have a good time. As a result, it gets more and more difficult every year to write a con report, since it's usually comes down to gushing about the same stuff over and over. But I'll give it a go, and at least try to pick out the things that made 2005 different and or special.
The best thing, of course, is that my wife Brooke finally broke down and came to a comic book show! We've been together for close to five years, so I have no idea how she's managed to go this long without getting yoked into attending one with all the cons I do every year. But thankfully, I think she was pleasantly surprised...true, SPX is a lot less geeky (outwardly, anyway) than your average comic show, but he genuinely seemed to have a good time, and will no doubt show up next year as well. Now, talking her into going to San Diego is another story...
More good stuff:
I don't wanna be gauche and go on and on about making money, but I just have to point out that every year I try to estimate how much cash I'll earn at SPX, and every year I shatter that estimate. It' s not all about the dollaz, but that certainly helps.
I skipped the Ignatz Awards this year, mainly because we got back from dinner (at that awesome burrito joint a few blocks from the hotel) late, and I knew we'd end up having to stand up for the whole thing. Instead, I holed up in the room with J. Chris, Bill Burg and the Tot, worked on our epic jam comic that'd been circulating all weekend and watched two episodes of Justice League Unlimited. Congrats to the winners.
That built-in DC audience. So many folks know my stuff from the DC City Paper, whether they know it or not. Gives me a lot to talk about, and the people seem to really dig my stuff. Very gratifying.
Hanging with Dustin Harbin, who's in charge of the excellent Indie Island at Heroes Con in Charlotte, was as usual, a fun experience. I must've been drunk, cause I have foggy memories of discussing which wine or liquor goes with certain Sam Prekop and The Sea and Cake records with he and the Tot. Does that sound like the kind of conversation a sober person would have.
Not so cool? My performance in the softball game. I played like shit all game, rushing an easy throw to second that resulted in three runs being scored, and going 0-4 with an (unintentional, I assure you) sac fly at the plate. Oh well, better luck next time.
Rumor has it that the Holiday Inn Select, where SPX has been held since 1998, was recently sold, and that the show will have to move to a new location for 2006. If that turns out to be the case, I'll really miss kicking off the fall in Bethesda in future years. Hey, maybe they can move it to Richmond...
I Attended SPX... and Lived: Comicon Virgin Deflowered
Well, I did it. Rob had spent years talking to me so coolly... whispering in my ear, "Its OK. If you aren't comfortable... you can wait. Do it when you are ready."
After my 4+ years of comicon abstinence, however, he began to get a little more agressive, "C'mon. Just try it. Just once - you can leave when you've had enough. Just one time. Please? For me? Just one time. Pitzer's spouse has been. So has J Chris's - Foster's done it. Just one time."
So, I gave in. Peer pressure worked.
I am no longer a comicon virgin as of Saturday September 24th.
28 years a virGin... all in my past.
What did I think? Here ya go:
MEMOIRS OF A COMICON VIRGIN
Freaks. Geeks. Dorks. Everywhere. I began to feel outnumbered. A heavy set dude with a mullet... a mullet that consisted of a ponytail past his ass crack... walks past me. A chick wearing what looks like my grandmother's housecoat dragging a 25lb goodie-sack of homemade comic mags weeble wobbles past me. An exceptionally skinny guy with thick glasses, black socks and shorts reads over his list of panel discussions in front of me. I have died and gone to freakland. I'm paralized with a mix of dread, fear and mind-numbing sensory overload.
There he is, my saving grace, the Tot. Thank Gawd someone NORMAL. (For those of you who have the honor of having the Tot in your life, know that he's not at all mainstream normal. He's bit creative himself.)
Turns out Greg and I have made it in time to catch the second half of Rob's panel discussion - Romance in Comics. We find the room and sit in the very back row. Its like when you attend someone else's church - you sit as far from the altar as possible so you can't get sucked into the oddity of the whole culture.
I try not to look at Rob. I don't want to make him nervous. Greg leans over, "Did you see Rob? He got nervous when you walked in." I slump and look off.
Greg and I spend the remaining 20 mins of the panel discussion giggling about comic books... about overhearing people in the hallways demanding that the panel discussion about Sex needs to begin. A chick with a leopard print cowgirl hat walks in and then leaves. While the door slowly falls closed, I see people in the hallway eating hotdogs with bacon as a condiment (is the SPX fav?) waiting to talk about Sex. Greg and I whisper some more. I get the giggles.
The panel breaks and people rush in... Rob seems thrilled that I have decided to attend. He hugs me... a bit more enthusiastically than normal. I'm happy knowing how excited he is. Its a geek moment.
I cling to my friends like life rafts as we make our way to Rob's table. Ah, yes. The shallow end of the pool... I begin to relax. Pitzer, Bill Burg, Mark Way... OK, I know these people - I can do this! Everyone is very eager to make this first time an easy one. They all are very attentive and excitedly asking me what I think.
I eventually get my sea legs and begin to branch out from the table. I do a small lap. What do I see? CROWDS of people. People are packed in the aisle's and blocking my views of tables. At first I try to see how quick I can walk past these people. But then something catches my eye. "No punch backs" little monsters. I'm intrigued - this chick makes these cute stuffed animal monsters. Hey! There's crafts in here! I walk on... getting a little closer to the tables.
There's a table with a screen print t-shirt of a girl pouting with money in her hands. A rain drop hangs over her head. Only $15?!. Too cool. I move on...
There are these handcrafted little comic books. Screen printed... hand assembled with staples, grommets, stickers, tape, glue, string... all unique. All lovingly made. I could see the sweat put into these little beauties. Each one totally different... each one really interesting. The cost for almost everything is fantastic. Being a designer myself and married to a comic book artist - I know the time put into all of this. I know how much the paper costs, the xerox's, the paint... and the time! The time these people spend to make all this! And they charge so little? How can they charge so little... they can't POSSIBLY live off this. Some do. Some can't. Many have full time jobs. Some are lucky and the wives bring home the steady checks (which, I can answer ANY questions you may have regarding how well THAT system works out).
I try to avoid conversation. What in the hell do I know about the art of comic books. I know what I like and that's about it. Turns out, that's all you need! I was the perfect audience member! I was a new attendee on the brink of conversion. People could tell, too. They see many of the same faces all the time. They love a new fan. People begin calling me in like Sirens. Damn, I'm in Homer's Odyssey and I'm getting pulled in! Where's Rob? I race back to the table. I'm a little giddy. There's stuff out there I like!
Rob eagerly grabs money from his cash box and walks around with me. I point out all the stuff I like - its freaky, he likes the same stuff. Its probably because I've seen the comic world through his eyes and that's WHY we like the same stuff. Or could it simply be that this stuff is damned good - who WOULDN'T appreciate it?
I tell Rob to wait before buying me anything. There's a WHOLE OTHER room to see! He walks with me and introduces me to famous people. Tony Consiglio! Jim Rugg! Jessica Abel! Jordan Crane (I buy a print for $25. Its beautiful... he created five horrific scenes of death in glorious colors... and now I'm pissed I didn't buy all 5 for $100. How stupid! Erg!)! Is that Harvey Pekar? (it was! - I have the photo proof!)
Its like the Oscars. The Oscars for real people consisting OF real people. These people are simply amazing. Talent everywhere! Talent, talent, .. talent...
And how were the people? the freaks? the geeks? the dorks? Awesome - they were the friendliest damned people I have met in a looong time. Everyone was generous. Some were shy when you told them how great their work was. Some were eager to share with you what they have created, drawn, published. All are proud. And with every right!
So, ...now what? What did I think? Like, if I were to give it stars... how many? Four out of four stars. Plain and simple.
What did I learn? A lot.
I learned that the graphic novels, the handmade comics, the posters, the t-shirts are an amazing craft that really does deserve its own market in this world. Its an amazing trade and skill.
I also learned that this art suffers like many arts. CENSORED is a four-letter word in this industry. There's a table: CBLDF. Those of you reading this know what that stands for - creative freedom! Rob has thought about joining but never has (hell, we have their poster framed in the house. Why hasn't he signed up yet - it must be expensive..). ONLY $25?!. Dear CBLDF, your check is in the mail with regrets that it hasn't made its way to you sooner. March on! You're a great organization!
I learned that your mom was right - you can't judge a book by its cover. These people ... hipsters and indie rockers abound, were a great sub culture that I wish was more mainstream if for the simple fact that most mainstream really is filled with assholes. Heck, I'M an asshole! Reread what I first wrote about my SPX experience - what a naive jerk. Hopefully, for those of you who made it to the end of this story, you are now a wee bit more tolerant of my opinions and are willing to work with me while I still learn & continue to grow.
SPX 2005 was a really great year I hear from Rob. He sold lots, the rooms were more packed this year, and, sadly, it MAY be the last year here at that hotel in Bethesda (remains to be seen with the new ownership).
I don't know how this year ranks with all the previous years but one thing is for sure: I plan to attend SPX 2006... And I'm bringing more cash.
One of my favorite things about SPX is the picnic and softball game that takes place on Sunday. After two furious days of hawking comics, it's a nice, relaxing way to end the weekend. And, knock on wood, the weather almost always turns out to be fantastic!
This year, I volunteered to design the T-shirt the players will wear on the field. Consider this a sneak preview.
What am I working on? Well, for starters, there's this week's issue of The Washington City Paper, to which I contributed a cover illustration and several inside spots for a story (a rant, actually) about the frustration that is office life. For the last five years I've illustrated Dan Savage's Savage Love column for the City Paper every single week, and now and then they ask me to work on something extra. It's really one of the best gigs imaginable...they're so easy to work with I almost feel guilty taking money for it. Anyway, it's free all over town, so if you ever happen to find yourself in the nation's capital, make sure to pick it up.
Next up is the ongoing McGraw-Hill project (which I've been working on for several weeks but will now receive my full attention), writing and drawing a series of five- and six-page comics that will be used as chapter introductions in textbooks. It's an awesome, incredibly demanding job...most of the stories are either science or history, and therefore demand a pretty extensive bit of research to make sure everything looks right. This is one where I feel like I'm earning it.
Finally, I have a few projects I'm trying to finish up for the Small Press Expo next month in Bethesda. It seems like every year I'm struggling to get something done for this show...no matter how aware I am of the deadline going in, I'm always on the verge of blowing it. It's a great feeling!
• I recieved a great review for Lunch-Hour Comix on Mark Frauenfelder's excellent Boing Boing website. Thanks for everything, Mark! And thanks to Rusty for pointing it out!
• My favorite show these days is Justice League Unlimited...it's absolutely every DC fanboy's dream come true. They released a bit of news about the upcoming season at Comicon, and it sounds like it's gonna stay on the top of my "must-see TV" list.
• Hockey's Back! Ye gods, it's about time!
What a bummer. Jim Aparo was responsible for a pretty huge percentage of the comics I saw in my real early years of reading, with the Aquamans and The Brave and the Bolds that seemed to find their way into my hands, and was probably the first artist whose name I recognized. He had a great run on B&B, lasting almost 100 issues and in the process, giving Aparo the opportunity to draw nearly every character in the DC Universe at the time. And his Aquaman issues...stories by Steve Skeates, with art (and lettering!) by Aparo and covers by Nick Cardy...no wonder the Sea King was my favorite hero growing up!
I followed his run on Batman and The Outsiders too...he was doing good stuff even then, well into the 80s, until they saddled him with terrible inkers (Mike Decarlo, ughh...he could make Eisner look bad) and he seemed to drop off the map.
I wish I'd had a chance to meet the man...Rest in Peace, Jim!
I think that, while horribly misguided and feeble-minded, Dubya actually thinks, as a result of his evangelical programming, that what he's doing is right. Rove, on the other hand, seems completely amoral, driven only by and willing to do anything to gain power. His disgusting character assassination of John McCain during the 2000 SC primary is evidence of that (Seriously, are there any reasonable (i.e., non-fundamentalist) right-leaners out there who think McCain wouldn't have done a better job as president than Bush? You have this walking sack of diarrhea to thank for making sure it wouldn't happen.). He's terrifying...and though I think the chances are slim, I'd love nothing more than to see his fat ass nailed to the wall.
Anyway, I had planned to do a whole big con report, but at this point I've kinda run out of steam, so I'm gonna leave the reportage to my good pal J. Chris Campbell, whose Heroes Con report woulda left mine in the dust even if I had remembered to take pictures! Excelsior!
And to top it all off, he invented the Terriblle Towel! How cool is that?
Photo by Peter Diana, Pgh. Post-Gazette
Saturday morning we called a car service for easy transport and lugged all our stuff over to the lovely Puck building in SoHo where the show was being held. J Chris, who publishes his book ZigZag with AdHouse, was sharing space with AdHouse head honcho Chris Pitzer. I personally had decided to only rent a table for one day, Sunday, and I figured I'd just peruse the con as a fan on Saturday. However, when I saw where the table I was assigned was located, on the absolute ass-end of the con (a lurid.com tradition!), I was despondent. It was probably my own fault, as I'd waited til the last minute to apply for a table, but I was nonetheless quite disappointed to have such a horrendous location, where I was virtually assured to make no sales at all.
Thankfully, I happened to whine about my bad fortune to Chris Radtke and Mike Dawson, creators of the fantastic Gabagool! funnybook, and they let me set up at their table gratis! (apparently an adjacent exhibitor hadn't shown up and they ended up with twice the space they paid for.) Truly a spectacular gesture. I was humbled, but only for a moment, as I quickly scurred over, grabbed my goods and set up shop. Good thing too, cause most of the sales were on Saturday!
Sunday was good as well, if a bit slower somehow...lotsa browsers, but not as many buyers. As always, I saw and got to hang out with all kinds of great old friends and made some new ones.
And the heat! There's nothing quite like NYC in the summer, which is when I always seem to be there. It sticks to you, follows you like a shroud...being in the subway tunnels on a scorching day is like being inside someone's lungs! You start to question what you're doing with your life when it's 95 degrees out and you're standing there on the street lugging around a fifty pound box of comic books you photocopied and stapled yourself.
But anyways, overall the show itself was pretty great. I went in '02 and '03, when it was only one day, and it was way too crowded for my taste and sanity. The switch to two days has alleviated that problem, and while I'd still pick SPX as my favorite show, MoCCA is a blast and I'm sure I'll head back next year.
Lest you think I'm a big dope who can't appreciate a slow-moving flick without a shitload of explosions and titties, know this: Right after KB:V2 (mercifully) ended, I flipped to Encore or something where Winged Migration had just begun, and I spent the next 90 minutes enraptured by the spectacular footage of birds flying south.