WonderCon approaching

So I am positioned at table E-07 at WonderCon 2018 this year. After getting stuck on the waiting list for a few months, I have a new sketchbook prepped, a new comic almost finished, and another comic in production with an oft collaborator and friend Jamie Gambell.

Jamie’s podcast can be found here https://www.whoiampodcast.com/
Jamie and I collaborated on this piece for Nix Comics Quarterly.

Both of us work in post production and met through Karl Altstatetter of Extreme Studios. Karl used to host a meetup called Koffee and Komics in Universal City which turned into a broader collaboration culminating the Samurai Graphic Novel.

I knew Jamie worked on various projects around town, and I primarily worked out of the Universal backlot. For a few years, I would walk past the CSI soundstages on my way to lunch NOT knowing Jamie worked right inside stage 21 or 22 (CSI used stages 21-25 for almost ten years) depending on the schedule.

On one of my longer lunch breaks, and after finally figuring out we worked on the lot at the same time, I hung out backstage during a shoot once to talk about some comics stuff. Pretty laid back set, and every once in a while Jamie said the trams Universal is famous for would bleed into the audio of the shoot. Not something you can avoid, but you make do.

Jamie has had a podcast (at one time featuring your truly) about creative people processes and projects at https://www.whoiampodcast.com/. It’s worth taking a look at a lot of creative variety in there – musicians, actors, writers, comedians, publishers and more. If you are one of those struggling “below the line” like me, it’s always worth a listen.


The Art of Who Cares

I have always had a serious problem with “The Art of So and So” books.

I’m already pretentious enough without showing off a bunch of work no one saw in the waking world, that the idea of many sketchbooks just seems, well, selfish.

I get it. And I have done some of my own at the suggestion of other creators. But I have to admit I refrained from calling it “The art of …”

The real reason? Who cares. Who flipping cares. Note the lack of a question mark. It’s not a question anymore if everyone and their brother can publish a sketchbook of random stuff you didn’t make any money doing. To put it into really simple – and sometimes incomprehensible business speak to some – it is monetizing your sketchbook.

Why does that bother me? Why do I hate it? I think it’s seriously too much to ask for someone to proclaim what they do is really art by slapping it right there on the cover. It really only bothers me when people slap that moniker on there and the book is filled with rehashes, remixes or reinterpretations someone else’s intellectual property. And yeah I’m picking on fan art monetization. That should bug every artist but it doesn’t.

At some point you may find yourself at the nexus of copyright and theft – the real question then of your art is whether you are the thief or the victim. And I’m not talking about that Steal like and artist nonsense. That phrase has been abused so profusely the original author should have disowned it by now. But the lecture circuit is too profitable these days.

Stealing like an artist, as I define it, reminds me of something Frank Lloyd Wright said about his work. Nature was his inspiration, where you might say he “stole” his ideas. But he called it organic – as in organic architecture. That an architect experienced nature, it passed through their soul, and something new emerged. THAT is how you are meant to steal like an artist. It doesn’t mean selling prints of Poison Ivy having sex with Black Widow (mashups are fun, don’t get me wrong, but calling it art or stealing REALLY begs other  embarrassing questions).

SO my ranting continues. And I chose a theme for my sketchbook – a simple 24 page convention first for me. It’s themed around the ideas of the apocalypse – everyone’s favorite way to mull over the end of days, only I am using the doctrine of fair use CORRECTLY,  borrowing phrases from authors around the world, and coupling them with pieces I have created over the years. The effect, I think, is new, at least for me.

A funeral, flowers and a ring

So Wednesday is Valentines Day, and this is not a rant about romance or relationships or any of the usual vitriol about corporate reasons to spend money.

Well, in part it might end up that way. But for the few years after my father died I made sure I sent flowers to my mother. My father was a loving guy, and there was a cute look and grin he always had when he would tease my mom about this or that. It’s that look that says I love you, life is good, laugh with me and everything will be ok. It was usually after something broke, or more accurately, he broke something.

My mother always said that their first home, in a village on Guam called Mongmong, was her favorite. Their first son, daughter, their first car – a lot of family firsts were left in that house when the rest of the kids came along and made it necessary to move.

Few people in the world even live life as long as my parents were married – for nearly 60 years. And like a lot of kids, I felt like I both added and subtracted from their happiness at times. Bad grades and slight delinquency aside, I think I tried later in life to be more additive in that respect.

They were married for more years than I have lived even now and I know I’ve never made any commitment nearly as important or as lengthy as their marriage. For that matter I think they were married for longer than the popular notion that Valentine’s Day represented an obligation to spend money on restaurants, candy and expensive jewelry.

In the classic notion that money doesn’t equal happiness, my parents would always exclaim their higher form of wealth. As long as happiness, love and more often than not – FOOD – were in good supply, everything else was superfluous and wasted. Which was often why I was a total hero when bringing home fresh fish, caught that morning with my father. At least I thought so.

So when my mother finally passed, it was harder than ever to understand – given the national pastime that Valentines Day represents these days – that someone had by either ignorance, misplaced or by greed and malice, stolen my mother’s wedding ring. No one, not the nursing home staff, the ambulance crew, the hospital staff or the mortuary employees could find it.

I get that it is a small object, but the relationship it represented was more valuable than it’s setting or jewels. But our family did not pursue the matter further than official channels allowed at the time. It was more important to meet with cousins, talk about old times, and imagine them together again somewhere better than a place that lets symbols of devotion fall through cracks.

I’m not entirely sure I’m as forgiving as I should be on any given day – cut me off in traffic on a Monday morning and you might catch a clever adjective or two and some sworn penalty when I come to power. But being incredibly devout people, my parents impressed me more with their virtues as I got older. If only those virtues were genetic traits passed on to future generations. It’s that lack of forgiveness that would have me believe I am adopted were it not for the resemblance being rock solid.

I made a joke after the funeral to try an ease what I felt were still some tense nerves regarding the missing ring. My Dad had a pretty abrupt sense of humor, like a lot of his family did. In passing through the pearly gates, my father welcomes my mother with that grin, but then things get a little serious. His expression droops into a familiar disapproving stare usually made when one of the children has broken something expensive.

He stops her, and says “Hey,” pausing for effect, “Where’s your ring?” And before she can explain the whole folly of dozens charged with her care on earth, he chuckles, smiles and maybe even winks and says “Did you leave it at your boyfriend’s?” At which point they would laugh, forget about it, and get on with the rest of forever.

So this Valentine’s Day, there are – I am sure – any number of reasons to spend silly money on toys, trinkets, vacations, and all manner of ways to validate to the world how much your current relationship means to you. But I guess I just like flowers.