The Force Awakens

Last night I went to the opening night of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Props to Terry Gant of Third Coast Comics who puts together a bunch of movie premiere parties as well as monthly meetups & Karaoke events that are awesome. Usually I’m the kind of person who waits a week or two then catches a matinee when a movie I like comes out, but this time I decided to be “among the first” to see this mega blockbuster.

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I had been to one of Terry’s premieres before (Guardians of the Galaxy) and had a good time but I remember having to get up during the flick to use the washroom because I’d had too many cocktails from our private bartender. I still don’t know how they escaped the prison! This time the plan was get there just before the movie starts, have one drink and nurse it through the movie. Turns out that wasn’t such a good idea because every seat was either taken or being “held” for folks who weren’t there. Luckily I was able to squeeze in between two middle aged ladies, one of whom was already half in the bag.

The movie itself was everything I had hoped it would be. I don’t have the same attachment many Star Wars fans have with the franchise since I was 20 when the first movie came out so even though I really liked it, it didn’t influence my childhood the way it does some of the die-hard fans. JJ Abrams is one of those fans and he has made a movie that is a love letter to the other fans who have been sadly and in some cases angrily disappointed by the films made since Return of the Jedi. Even tho this movie introduces the next generation of Star Wars characters, it has the advantage of having the original cast included thus giving their blessing, if you will to the youngbloods. As every beloved original cast member made their first screen appearance they were greeted by thunderous applause, like we were attending a live performance. I’m not going to give any spoilers because I HATE people who do that, but I can say that if the hardcore fans don’t like this one, just hang up your robe and lay down your light sabre.

 

To SPACE…No More!

It’s been just over a week since I got back from SPACE so I’ve had time to rest and reflect on the experience. In case you’ve never heard of SPACE the small press & alternative comics expo, it’s been an annual event for the last 16 years held in Columbus, Ohio. It was the first comic show that I worked as a creator.

Back in ’06 Janet & I rented a car and drove through the desolate wasteland that is Indiana to the buckeye state and spent two nights there for the one day show on Saturday. It was held at some masonic hall with really creepy photos of past members on the walls. Cerebus creator Dave Sim was there.  My first book, Complicated Hair #1 was all I had literally on the table. No cloth, signage or promotional items, just a lot of excitement and determination. We ended up selling probably less than ten books but we did meet some really cool people. Moreover, now I felt like a professional comics creator because not only have I written & drawn a book and had it printed but I finally get to be on the other side of the table something I’ve wanted to do my entire life.

The next SPACE trip was 2013 and that was my first road trip to a con since the “06 show. I didn’t have really high expectations but expected to do much better this time simply because I had four other books and other things like sketch cards & magnets. To my surprise my sales were similar to the first trip!

The Chrysler 200 was the road dog for this trip. Smokin' interior and loaded with options that I didn't figure out until it was time to give it back. At one point I asked Michael,"does it feel like we're doing 90"?
The Chrysler 200 was the road dog for this trip. Smokin’ interior and loaded with options that I didn’t figure out until it was time to give it back. At one point I asked Michael, does it feel like we’re doing 90?

So now to the latest trip. I decided to give SPACE one more chance. Plus my friend Michael who accompanied me on the last trip wanted to see the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum. We did see the museum and I’ll recount that experience in a future entry. I was worried that we couldn’t set up the day before but setup went smoothly Saturday morning. There seemed to be decent attendance but it was well after noon before I got a single sale. By the end of the day I was ready to slit my wrists. In my limited experience doing comic shows this was one of the worst days ever.

First sale of the day around 12:30.
First sale of the day around 12:30.

Sunday we roll in about half an hour late full of a good Bob Evans breakfast. Since I’m selling next to nothing I took a few minutes to look around and check out the other artists. By the time I finally got to my table I’d accepted the reality that it was all a loss and was having a conversation with one of my neighbors that had a table literally in a dark corner when Bob Corby the show’s organizer appeared at my table.

Harvey Pekar's widow Joyce Brabner was there selling back issues of American Splendor. I got this nice copy of #2 for $10.
Harvey Pekar’s widow Joyce Brabner was there selling back issues of American Splendor. I got this nice copy of #2 for $10.
I met Andy who does The Manor and we talked about the fact that he's doing 14 cons this year! Also, The Manor is based on his home which he believes to be haunted.
I met Andy who does The Manor and we talked about the fact that he’s doing 14 cons this year! Also, The Manor is based on his home which he believes to be haunted.
Michael turned me on to the cowboy mummy so I had to grab a couple'a copies. Hey cowboy mummy, that's almost as crazy as say a ninja bunny assassin!
Michael turned me on to the cowboy mummy so I had to grab a couple’a copies. Hey cowboy mummy, that’s almost as crazy as say a ninja bunny assassin!

Bob is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. This show is a labor of love for him. So Bob tells me that a spot just opened up in the main room. Apparently somebody got sick and left early and the spot that was open was the first table on the right as soon as you walk in. This has to be what they had in mind when somebody came up with the saying”closing the barn door after the horse is gone”. I kindly accepted Bob’s offer and moved. At the very least the energy was better at the new table since for the first time I got some not so friendly neighbors. The new spot was prime and right next to the front door which made for easy load out.

Without knowing I had booked the room at the same Best Western Janet & I stayed in my first time in Columbus. How fitting to come full circle with this SPACE experience. This will be my last SPACE experience. Even though it’s a wonderful idea and the people are awesome, for whatever reasons it’s never been a good show for me. Maybe it’s a regional thing. The cartoonists and fans of Columbus are very lucky to have a show like SPACE. There is no show that is equivalent to it in Chicago which really sucks when you consider the size of this city and the talent here. Sure there’s CAKE but that’s a curated show that’s difficult to get in for some people whereas SPACE is first come first in. I wish everyone involved well but I shall not return.

 

Disco Demolition Remembered

Yesterday July 12th was the 36th anniversary of the infamous Disco Demolition promotion at old Comiskey Park. I have vague memories of my 21 year old self attending that twi-night double header having no idea that I was about to witness an historical event.

Steve Dahl was a DJ on what was then the premiere rock station in town WLUP. Steve had recently been fired from WDAI who used to be top dog until they literally went disco overnight. I was a regular listener to his morning show on WDAI and was shocked when I turned on the radio and heard some announcer welcoming me to the new Disco DAI! I thought it was Dahl pulling a prank.

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Steve Dahl and Loreli the original Loop girl.

There were several reasons I hated disco.

1) I can’t dance. Apparently just being black does not guarantee you will have moves.

2) I couldn’t afford a white 3 piece suit. To be a rocker all you need are jeans & t-shirts.

3) Disco seemed to glorify this shallow superficial lifestyle where you are judged on how well you dance, what you wear and how big a schmuck you are.

So when Dahl organized this demolition thing I was all over it.

So I was able to rustle up 98 cents and a disco record (I think it was “shake your groove thang” by Peaches & Herb) and headed off to the ballpark.

By the time I arrived they were telling people to just keep their records and pay the 98 cents. Sweet! I get in the event and get to return my roommate his disco record. I don’t remember much about the game which I believe the Sox lost, but I do remember records flying through the air like frisbees and an odd mix of people that could give a shit about baseball and were only there to see Steve Dahl and watch some records get blowed up real good.

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It’s like That 70’s Show for real! Where’s Fez?

Fast forward to the ceremony. After Dahl & his crew blew up the records there was a thunderous response and then somebody ran on the field. Then 2 more ran on then 10 then 50. I had seen old footage of fans running on the field to celebrate, like when Bobby Thompson hit his famous home run. So I’m thinking. when am I gonna get a chance to do that? Right now that’s when! As I hit the field I head right for second base because I thought it would be cool to say I slid into second in a MLB ballpark. Second base was gone.

Bedlam I tell ya!
Bedlam I tell ya!
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Well it seemed like a good idea at the time…

All the bases were gone, literally stolen. They would have taken home plate if wasn’t a big slab of rock. Well then. I remember jogging past the dugouts and seeing a look of pure terror on the faces of the players & coaches. This was officially out of hand. I remember standing amid the chaos and looking up to the stands from a view I had never experienced before taking in the surreal moment. Then it dawned on me that now was probably a good time to get my ass off the field. I had been back in my seat for 15-20 minutes when the Chicago riot police arrived on horseback to the cheers of White Sox fans.

7/13/1979 -- The White Sox scoreboard message goes unheeded as thousands of spectators engulf the field during an anti-disco demonstration that caused the second game of a double-header to be called off. Detroit won the opener 4-1. UPI photo by Hank DeGeorge.(demolition,Comiskey park,baseball pro,Chicago)
Damn! That dude looks familiar!

When I got home that night my roommates had seen the whole thing on the news but since there was no social media or even cable news it would be weeks before we knew the significance of that night. Steve Dahl and his partner Garry Meier went on to become two of the most famous and well paid radio personalities in Chicago, disco did indeed die a few years later and the music they called rock is now “classic rock”.

There’s nothing short of an earthquake that could get me to run out on a ball field these days. Disco Demolition falls under the category of dumbshit I did and lived to talk about.

 

GRASP 2015 Recap

So the first GRASP con is in the history books. Now that I’ve had a chance to recover from the drive and lack of sleep it’s time to take a look back at the weekend.

First of all, traffic on I-94 sucks. There’s construction all throughout Indiana that turns a relatively easy drive into a hard one. Our car is in need of work so I got a rental Chevy Impala. That baby had lots of trunk room, moves like a cat and rides like a couch floating down the highway.

My companion for the trip to Grand Rapids. Me likee!
My companion for the trip to Grand Rapids. Me likee!

After getting the “full breakfast” included with the room at the Best Western I was disappointed that the only thing worth eating was scrambled eggs that may or may not have been army surplus, brown & serve sausages and juice. Everything else was heavy carb heavy sugar including a self serve waffle iron. They didn’t even have bacon! Full breakfast my eye!

The C Rations breakfast at the Best Western.
The C Rations breakfast at the Best Western.

After breakfast I got to the venue with no delays and beat the 9am deadline when they start charging $5 for parking. The Deltaplex is the building equivalent of a nondescript white van. On the inside it looks like a bomb shelter. The Deltaplex is also the home of The Grand Rapids Drive, of the NBA’s D-League.

The Deltaplex exterior. Go Drive!
The Deltaplex exterior. Go Drive!

Saturday started slowly with my first customer attempting to buy a $3 button with a fifty. Come on lady, do I look like a currency exchange? It was cold as a meat locker and stupid me forgot to bring a sweater. Combine cold and a lack of business and by noon I’m struggling to stay awake. At one point I go to the parking lot just so I can warm my hands on the hood of the car. After my warmup I got a second wind and even did a sketch for one of my neighbors of his character for his book. Sunday was even more sparsely attended but I was prepared after seeing Saturday’s turnout.

The bottom line is this was the first year for this show and it takes a while for any comic show to get established.  I didn’t make a lot of sales but on the positive side I sold more comic books than ever before! The Ninja Bunny debut book was the best seller and garnered a lot of attention. I also got to talk to a lot of people that actually read small press comics and networked with some really cool creators. I would probably do this show again.

Would it kill you to print simple ID tags like these for your artists Wizard World?
Would it kill you to print simple ID tags like these for your artists Wizard World?

GRASP Con is this week

The first of three conventions I plan on doing this year is happening this Saturday & Sunday the 27-28th in Grand Rapids Michigan and it’s called GRASP Comic Expo. GRASP stands for Grand Rapids Alternative Small Press.

This is the Inaugural show for the organizers of this event but they have had success with their fall show the Grand Rapids Comic Con. Their booths were very affordable and since it is not a juried show they were kind enough to accept my money and rent me a booth without any approval process.

Since this is their first show I’m going in with no expectations. Whatever happens it’s all good and I’m just going to enjoy being a part of the show. I’ve had some good experiences with Michigan shows so far so hopefully the trend continues.

My White Sox Adventure

I have been a Cubs fan since the days of Banks, Santo & Williams but I was born on the south side. That means a lot of abuse has been sent my way from south siders as well as anyone that thought me a dope for rooting for a bunch of perennial losers.

But all the while I have never hated the White Sox. In fact the pale hose have a special place in my heart. The first ballgame I ever attended was a Sox double header that my uncle brought me to. I still remember being awed by the red pinstripe uniforms because we only had a B&W TV.

It wasn’t until years later I discovered that the Negro League All-Star Game was often held at old Comisky Park, and for years they commemorated that by giving away Chicago American Giants caps as a promotion every year.

 

The 1936 Negro League All Stars at the old Comisky Park.
The 1936 Negro League All Stars at the old Comisky Park.

So even though I bleed cubbie blue I think baseball fans are lucky to have two major league franchises in this city and I still enjoy catching an AL game every now and then.

Jose Abreu, whose dinger would later seal the win.
Jose Abreu, whose dinger would later seal the win.

After scoring a seat in section 520, sixth row even with first base for $5, I settle  back with my Lagunitas IPA and a much anticipated Bill Melton Brat. The brat was disappointment. It was pretty dry, overcooked and burnt in some spots. Since it was covered in onions there was no way I could tell until it was too late. Should have gotten the Beggar’s pizza instead.

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This brat was not worth the heartburn that it gave me later.

Halfway through the top of the second inning a group of teenagers came in. Then another group. Then, I swear to God about 150 of them just swarmed in. Of all the empty sections in a pretty damn empty park this group of youngsters had been assigned section 520. I’ve got nothing against teenagers but I was kind of hoping to just enjoy the game and all of it’s nuances which you don’t really do if you go with a group because then it becomes more of a social event. A few years ago I was at a Blue Jays game in Toronto and was attempting to return to my seat after buying food. The usher stopped me and said ” Sir, please wait until the batter is finished” after which myself and all the other patrons waited until between innings to return to our seats so we wouldn’t obstruct the vision of the seated fans. Americans have no problem putting an ass in your face at any point in the game even if something crucial is happening. Hey, I need my third hot dog, you got a problem with that? With the kids constantly getting up and parading back & forth to the snack bar, by the third inning it was time to move.

The middle schoolers that took over my section. Notice the lack of fans in every other section.
The middle schoolers that took over my section. Notice the lack of fans in every other section.

Luckily for me since the park was so empty sitting in another section wasn’t hard to do. After moving to the first base side I was able to focus on the game which was 1-0 Astros. From then the game took a turn for better for the Sox as well. My guy Geo Soto (ex-cub) hit a home run to put them ahead and Jose Abreu, who was one of the reasons I wanted to see a Sox game in the first place hits a two run shot to give them a cushion and the Sox end up winning 4-1.

The scoreboard celebrating Jose Abreu's insurance home run.
The scoreboard celebrating Jose Abreu’s insurance home run.

Being at the park is fun if you have crazy good seats with parking included, but for me personally, the best seat in the house in in front of your HD TV with a clean restroom just steps away and unlimited food & drink at your fingertips.

 

Finding a Good Comic Book Printer

Summer is here and for me that means Comic Con season. Since I hate driving in bad weather the warmer months are the only time of year we do shows. That and I’m starting to totally rethink the whole concept of comic shows as a way to gain recognition, but that’s another story.

If you’re going to do cons then you will be needing actual books to sell to potential readers. It sounds simple but as you know printing costs are expensive so what I like to do is small print runs so I won’t have a lot of  back stock in case the book is a slow seller. It’s been a trial and error process to find a printer that accommodates small indie comic makers and our limited budgets.

At a recent show I bought someone’s book that was printed by Comix Well Spring and it looked pretty nice so I decided to give them a try. I have to say that they did not disappoint.

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The books come standard with a cardstock cover which feels very substantial. The interior pages are also a decent thickness and the images almost look like books printed using the offset process which is more expensive and usually require a higher print minimum. The colors are true to the pdf original, unlike when I use Ka-Blam printing who’s process makes the images darker. And turnaround time was crazy fast unlike Ka-Blam who makes sure to take every bit of a month to get your books to you unless you pay them an extra fee. I got my books in just under two weeks. Needless to say, I’ve found my printer. IMG_3821

55?

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Why does everybody speed to wherever they’re going? I’m sure many of these people are heading to jobs that they hate or family they can’t stand but boy are they in a hurry to get there!

The other day I was driving south on I-57. I’m not a leadfoot anymore so I try to stay in the middle lane and go a few miles over the limit but not so fast that I can’t adjust down if a state trooper is spotted. This particular day was a Saturday afternoon and traffic seemed a bit more aggressive than usual so I moved to the right lane so all the NASCAR wannabees could get past me. This woman got right in my ass. Keep in mind that I’m going 70 mph in a 55 zone in the right lane. It was clear she was giving me the kind of tailgate that’s meant to intimidate me into driving faster. Sorry missy, if 70 in the slow lane ain’t fast enough for ya then take your ass around. Which she did and while doing so shot me the nastiest glare one human being could give another. Like I’m the asshole!

Am I?

Superheroes Exist!

Seattle is cool for a lot of reasons. One of those is that they have real live superheroes patrolling their streets. The most famous of these is Phoenix Jones.

phoenix jones

Phoenix Jones (real name Benjamin Fodor) goes on nightly patrols much like Daredevil does in Hell’s Kitchen in the Marvel comics. Jones originally was a solo crime fighter but over time he’s added several others to his entourage including his wife who adopted the persona Purple Reign.

ESPN just did a piece on him, Phoenix Rising that is definitely worth the watch.

 

No CAKE for you!

This was the first year that I applied for a table at CAKE, the only comic show in the Chicago area that showcases indie comic creators. I was fully expecting to be denied because there are so many deserving cartoonists in this city. Turns out I was right . Sort of.

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Today I received the notification email and it turns out I’m on the waiting list. Which is a victory of sorts I guess, at least they didn’t say no. The email did say that they received 579 applications and it is a small show. They do not mention if I’m #10 on the list or #499 because it’s their policy to not reveal your waiting list ranking or how you were graded by their jury.

So basically I’m going forward as if it’s not happening.