Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Thank you for being a friend

George Clooney is on this old episode of the The Golden Girls (as a cop holding a stakeout in the girls' apartment). I admire Clooney's career arc. He did his time in hell, worked his way along, and now sits on top of the world. Making good decisions most of the time. Or at least logical ones.

But it's almost painful to see him in this one.

Is it whiny and angst-ridden to note that your life is interesting but messy? I had a phone call today that underscored that fact. A creative exec for a big star, looking for info on available film rights. At this point, it's not shocking, thrilling or even providing all that much reason for optimism. I don't say that to be coy. That's just how it is. The only thing it does is reinforce my desire to splash around in that pond. I have no illusions about how Hollywood works, and I know that even more than a longshot, stuff out there is a complete crapshoot. But I get a kick out of the whole process. From the safety of HERE, anyway.

Blah blah, I'm at a point now where everything could either collapse or skyrocket, and it's not without, fuck that...lots of stress. I imagine things will settle somewhere in between, but I sure hope they head way up. I don't think I can take much more of the stress.

This summer will be telling, in any event.

BTW, Clooney got shot at the end of this episode. Luckily, he survived.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

How old do I need to be to wax nostalgic?

I was just perusing the solicitations for DC's August releases. It's heartening to see so many familiar names there. It gives proof to the theory that busting your ass and sticking to it will prevail, in the face of all logic.

Bear with me here. I don't do the memory lane thing too often, but tonight I'm doing it in style.

I first entered comics as a "creator" around 1998, co-editing and contributing to a book called Love in Tights, with friend and writer J. Torres. Up to that point, J.'s only credit had been The Copybook Tales (track down the Oni collection), published by Slave Labor Graphics. J. and his pal Tim Levins turned clever minicomics into a terrific (and rather unique) comic book detailing the hopes and dreams of two aspiring comic creators, complete with flashbacks to their eighties adolescence. J. eventually published Siren and Monster Hunters, Inc. through Image Comics (which is how I became familiar with the way Image worked), and conceived Love in Tights for SLG. He invited me to contribute, and I ended up doing most of the editing for the book, as well as assembling the files and sending them off to Slave Labor for publication. Somehow we struggles through six issues between 1998 and 2000, and I learned a LOT about the industry.

Within the pages of LiT, we also published the first (or some of the first) work of creators such as Francis Manipul, J. Bone, Kalman Andrasofszky, Josh Blaylock, Takeshi Miyazawi, Mike Hawthorne and Mike Norton, all of whom have gone on to nice careers in "mainstream" comics. Most of these guys became friends, and some of them very close friends.

So today I was perusing the August solicitations from DC Comics (as I said before, right?), and it was pretty fucking cool to see how many pals are doing good work for DC. Guys I've known for years, and "come up with" as we all kept swimming against the tide, hoping to make an impact.

To whit:

J. Torres has four books coming out from DC (or DC/Wildstorm) this month, including Wonder Woman, Ninja Scroll, Teen Titans Go and the Legion cartoon book.

Mike Norton is drawing the All New Atom, and recently accepted a DC exclusive.

Kalman did a couple of the covers for August books (while slowly finishing a story of mine for Devil's Due's upcoming Troma anthology).

Arvid Nelson, who entered Image around the same time I did (he with Rex Mundi, me with Hawaiian Dick), and was a member a certain "class" of Image creators that bonded (in one way or another), has a new JSA Classified arc beginning this month. Hopefully, mine will follow.

J. Bone (who remains one of my favorite people in comics) is co-creating wonderful new Spirit stories with Darwyn Cooke (who I'll also call a friend, assuming it's cool with him), and has a hardcover collection of their first several issues debuting.

Sean McKeever, who I met first through Mike Norton (the two of them first broke in together with the often overlooked The Waiting Place, also through Slave Labor), and as nice a guy as you'll ever meet, is all over the DC solicits.

Mike Hawthorne's new vertigo book, The Un-Men, debuts in August, and Mike is doing amazing work on it. Mike's another guy we featured in Love in Tights, back when he could barely pay the rent. His astonishing work ethic, strength of character, and natural talent have led him to well-deserved success. Words can't express how much I think of Mike.

Jason Aaron's brilliant Scalped continues from Vertigo. I first met Jason at my local comic shop shortly after he'd won a Marvel writing contest (ironically, a friend of mine from California was one of two other winners), and have gotten closer to him over the years, to the point we now belong to the same virtual studio. Back when I worked for Image Comics, I tried to get Jason to let Image publish what became The Other Side. Somehow, he'd already gotten the attention of Will Dennis at Vertigo (by sending in an unsolicited pitch!), and the rest is history. I just feel glad I was justified in having faith in the project (which was just nominated for an Eisner award).

I'm sure once I see the full Marvel solicitations the story will be much the same. For one thing, I know Jeremy Haun kicks off his New Excalibur run. I've collaborated with Jeremy more than with any other artist (eleven books with Jeremy, to seven and a short story with Steven Griffin), and we first met back around 2000 as he and Matt Cashel debuted their (then) self-published Paradigm (before Image picked up the book) at my local shop...

My own debut DC work will have to wait until later in the year (November, maybe?), but I'm having a lot more fun doing it that I ever really thought I would.

I guess a bit of rum and the lateness of the hour have me reflecting on the past eight or nine years, and it just underscores how much the friendships I've forged in comics mean to me, and how happy I am to see so many old pals doing so well.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Random Geek Thought #3,276

Why hasn't DC done a Simon & Kirby BOY COMMANDOS Archives?

Seriously. That stuff was awesome, and there's a ton of it.

Anyway...just a...thought.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Life is a funny old thing

I've got my troubles...some of which are quite pressing and could cause real, serious trouble.

BUT...careerwise, things are finally getting to a point that feels right. I've always sort of made a point of following my own muse, assuming, that if I did my own thing and did it well, good things would happen. As a result, I've never been much of a door-knocker or phone caller. I'll follow up with editors who've shown interest in my work, but I'm not the guy to pester them weekly for work or send them pictures of my children with "FEED US!" scrawled across in red marker.

And, you know what? It's worked.

What's amazing about where I am now is that I've been able to do high profile work featuring characters and themes that I want to play with.

And now I'm about to formally pitch a book featuring old school pulp themes (one of my favorite playgrounds), collaborating with an artist whose work had a profound influence on my development, long before I embarked upon the comics career path. It's creator-owned, and so far has been a ton of fun to kick around.

There are times the comics industry can drag me down, but when I realize it's possible to do what you want with people you want to work with, and to do it for the top publishers in the industry, with solid marketing, and every chance in the world to succeed--it's hard to think of many other industries I'd rather be involved with.


Breezy warm spring days like today make it hard to stress out over even the biggest problems in life. Instead I've got the phone turned off and some very mellow music spinning as the sunlight wanes.

James Yorkton's The Year of the Leopard is one such disc. Sleepy, warm folk music. With song titles like "Us Late Travellers," I think you get the idea.

Another disc that fits the mood is the Innocence Mission's latest, We Walked in Song. I'm in love with the album cover...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

FCBD/Planet Comicon

It was good. Mainly I just like hanging out with the gang that was at the show.

The usual area suspects, of course...Jason Aaron, Tony Moore, Jeremy Haun and Matt Fraction, including lunch Saturday with Tony, Matt (and Kelly Sue), Jeremy and Jason and Nathan Hurley, followed by dinner tonight with the same crew (minus Kelly Sue plus Andy Kuhn and Phil R. from Vintage Stock in Joplin).

Also Phil Hester in town, and Ande Parks for a day. Throw in Andy Kuhn, Brian Hurtt, Chris Samnee, and assorted local boys (Jai Nitz, Dave Bryant, Sean Gebhardt, Ed Lavallee, Dan Spottswood, Travis Fox, Josh Cotter, the gang from Elite Comics), and a surprise appearance by my sister and her daughter Reece, and I couldn't ask for a better crew to spend a couple of days with.

And, of course, always cool to meet people interested in the work. Lots of nice folks dropping by to pick up a book or snag a signature. I moved a ton of HAWAIIAN DICK trades. Moreso that anything else.

There's still life in the Dick.

Friday, May 04, 2007

He's Okay, I'm Okay

So this spider and I have an agreement. His web takes up a healthy corner of the upper righthand side of my front door frame. But it's just high enough that the kids and the wife barely register it, and so long as I exit somewhere near the middle of the doorway, I'm clear, too.

My first instinct was to knock that fucker down, but if he's not in my way, why should I get in his? Besides, I've noticed lots of those annoying little gnats that flit around the porchlight resting for good (or until he devours them) in his stringy home.

Me and the spider? We're cool.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Car Stays Parked

Thank God I don't have to drive much these days. Just pushed my car into a gas station and fueled up next to some cat with "JOHN KERRY LIED" and lots of bumper stickers with ribbons plastered to the back of his truck. Paying three bucks a gallon for gas should teach him a lesson about where he places his allegiances.

But it won't.

Had one of those days where, despite not getting much work done, I had two very productive phone calls. Good things stirring careerwise. Might be enough to save the family farm if I can get off my ass and get shit done.

Living in the suburbs, I can deal with having to drive twelve minutes to get to the nearest cool coffee shop (The Black Dog on 87th). You open until ten or eleven, with free wireless, a bottomless cup of coffee for two bucks and a lot of teenagers hanging around dressed like slumming rock stars.

But is it too much to ask for someone to build a fucking bookstore that close?

Yes. Yes, it is.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Future TV from the Past!

As soon as they start filming The Leading Man, I'm buying one of these for my office:

and you can't stop me.

Already Fingered Copies

Hey! A second post, ten minutes later!

For super fun kicks, I thought I'd display the four books I snagged while signing at Vintage Stock this past weekend. I am a stone cold sucker for used bookstores.

I picked up three completely random comics. An old issue of Wonder Woman, from the days when she was wearing a white jumpsuit instead of her red, white and blue corset. I kind of dig the idea of that phase, even if the execution was sometimes lacking. Been reading WW for reference, so the book has been on my mind.

We were chatting a bit about Howard Chaykin this weekend, since he's drawing Jason Aaron's upcoming Wolverine one-shot. Saw this copy of Weird Worlds, featuring Chaykin's Iron-Wolf character (why the hyphen, Howie?), and decided to grab it.

Finally, I couldn't resist a nice looking copy of an old Brother Voodoo book (Strange Tales #170). I dig the concept of Brother Voodo, but I don't know if anyone's handled it well before. The original stories aren't bad, I guess. Nice moody Gene Colan art.

And I picked up a real book, too! Paperback collection of Dashiell Hammett stories (The Big Knockover). As is typical of shit from the seventies (although the original publication dte was 1966), I'm not sure how well organized the collection is, but I don't have any of Hammett's Continental Op stories on my bookshelf, so I thought I'd remedy that. The cover is 100% typical of seventies cover art. Big fonts, representative photograph.

This is the only copy I could find of it online. It's the version in the middle (1972):

But the Flag Was Up!

I thought this new blog would be a good place to set down some pithy commentary on life and her many rough charms, but I've found myself drained of clever when I sit down to type.

Back before I was a "professional" writer, I could fill pages with brain leakage, often while sitting behind a sales desk somewhere, working in day jobs of various sizes (but all the same basic shape). Now I struggle to write anything without straining a mind muscle.

Typical day today. Waiting on a call from an editor, who should have notes on three separate projects. Watching the second leg of a Champions League semifinal between Liverpool and Chelsea. I could give a shit who wins, but they're into the second period of extra time (Liverpool having just almost hit the winning goal before being whistled for being offsides), and I'm a sucker for sporting drama. As an Arsenal fan, I have no real love for Chelsea, but I have to admit to being a fan of Frank Lampard.

It seems like all the little girls in my neighborhood ride these little mini motorcyles. Most of them look like little dirt bikes, but I can see out the window, one of them is on a miniature crotch rocket. It's telling most of these girls don't have brothers, but have fathers who love big boy toys.

For a suburban neighborhood, it's an odd mix of people. Or maybe not so odd. I guess suburban stereotypes are no more "real" than any others. But on this street we've got an amateur racer, whose wife once went to New York to pursue an acting/modeling career, and, as fate would have it, got to know Frank Coraci, the man assigned to direct the Hawaiian Dick movie. Weird to be sitting in a Kansas City backyard get together, talking about what "Frank" was looking for when casting his last flick. My next door neighbor runs the family body shop, and coaches the local girls softball and soccer teams (the ones my daughter plays for). Great guy, with a great wife and great kids. One of my favorite summer pastimes is wandering outside late on a Friday night and throwing down a few cheap beers with he and his softball buddies (he's a smaller guy, but every other guy on his team looks like sasquatch offspring). The head of the neighborhood landscaping committee came down the other day, to check on some mowing we needed done. With his gravely voice, mirrored sunglasses, salt and pepper goatee, Harley Davidson bandana and skull-adorned Vans, he didn't look much like your typical suburban committee chair. But that's a good thing.

We've got our share of salesmen surrounding the house (four, to be exact), and each of them works on their own schedule, so it's not unusual to see a couple of them mowing their lawns around noon on a weekday. But they're good guys, too.

Chelsea just missed a penalty kick after the second period of added time. I'd put my money on Liverpool from here.