The Man Who Would Be Prince

Thursday April 21st 2016 was a tragic day in many aspects. WWE great Chyna was found dead in her home. A 16 year old girl was murdered in a school bathroom by other teenage girls(WTF???). Prince Rogers Nelson, one of the greatest rock icons of all time died at his Paisley Park estate. All this happening within hours of each other, each event shocking enough to dominate the news cycle. It was the passing of the man called Prince that would stun the world.

prince_C-920_470x584

My one and only time I got to attend a Prince performance was 1981 at Park West in Chicago. Anyone familiar with the venue knows it’s very intimate, basically a night club. I remember there was a 2 drink minimum. The Dirty Mind album was his latest effort and the band was touring to promote it. We had seats on the main floor maybe 30-40 feet from the stage. Prince came out dressed in the trench coat, boots and manties he wore on the album cover. His band was pre-revolution with Dez, Dr. Fink, Andre, Bobby Z and Lisa, no Wendy just yet. I don’t remember how long they played but I do remember being blown away by this guy who we thought was maybe just a gimmick and knowing that we had been in the presence of greatness. From that point on I bought all of his albums and was a fan for life. Two years later, Purple Rain hit and the rest as they say is history.

The untimely deaths of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston really didn’t surprise me that much. Both their lives had been in a downward spiral to some degree so when the news came I was saddened but not shocked. The Prince thing really caught me off guard. I imagined him being a funky old man like George Clinton making music for years to come and popping up at award shows. Losing him this soon really was a shot to the gut.

At one point Prince to my dismay decided to no longer do his classic songs in concert. His new religion forbid him from using the four letter words that he so cleverly wove into his magical lyrics. I never gave the new material much thought but now I plan on giving it a second chance. Partly because there will be no more forthcoming, and partly because now I’ll listen with a different mindset. The man was constantly cranking out work which was one of the things I admired most about him. He was unafraid of failure. If a record bombed, no biggie here’s some more stuff. And some more stuff. I love that. I wish that I was able to have that drive in my own life.

He Who Must Not Be Named

WARNING! What follows is a blog about politics! Normally I stay away from the “P” word in this space but this time it can’t be helped. If your eyes glaze over at the mention of all things political then now is the time to bail.

Now that those folks are gone, let’s begin.

trump

I don’t know if y’all have noticed (and I don’t see how you could not have) but there’s some crazy shit going on in American politics. Mark my words, these are historic times we are living in right now. No matter what happens, in a few years we’ll look back on this year as the year _____ happened.

No matter what you think of Hillary Clinton, for her to be elected the first woman president would be a BFD especially given how deep misogyny runs not just in this country but worldwide. Bernie Sanders my be a punchline to some, but I’ve been listening to this guy every Friday for the last 5 years on the Thom Hartman show and I think he’s the real deal. We’ve been brainwashed by almost 40 years of Reganomics so of course most people think the things he says he could do are unrealistic because the greedy billionaires have convinced us they are.

Now the fun part. The republicans. Their side is a just a clown show led by the biggest clown, a former  reality show star/businessman whose name we must never speak again. He is doing so well that he doesn’t even spend money on ads because the corporate media is doing that for him. In fact, the only ads you see with him in them are negative ads sponsored by the mainstream republican party! Throw in Ted Cruz, (a cross between Dracula and Pee Wee Herman) the most hated man in the senate and it’s self destruct time for the GOP. Personally I couldn’t be happier.

All BS aside, let’s not sit on the sidelines for this one. As much fun as it is watching the party of Reagan implode, we need to unite behind the last man or woman standing on the democratic side come November. The Supreme Court is at stake. Reagan stacked the court with hardcore neocons that have helped to make life difficult for everyone who’s not a millionaire. Now that Scalia has checked out, the next appointment will swing the court to one side or the other. Plus Thomas, Kennedy & Ginsberg ain’t getting any younger. This election is too important to fight among ourselves and stay home.

The new website

Sometimes you just get stuck. For whatever reasons we have a hard time doing things we know need to get done. That was the case when it came to updating my website. My site was built back in 06 and looked like it was even older. The look was cluttered and was hard to navigate. I knew it needed updating but the task seemed insurmountable so it just kept getting kicked down the road.

About a year ago Janet & I bought RapidWeaver a WYSIWYG software that’s pretty affordable compared to the Adobe CC monthly subscription commitment. Jan built her site and it came out great, but for some reason I had the impression that it was hard and confusing so I made excuses to not use it. Finally, about a month ago I started playing around with it just to see how it worked. It couldn’t have been easier. There are a lot of third party add-ons you can get but my site was finished using a third party theme but nothing else.

It did take me a while to finish the new site but a lot of it was spent preparing content. Once all content is prepared assembling the site itself was a breeze. I fell behind on the Ninja Bunny webcomic but ended up finally creating the YouTube channel I’d been putting off making and along with the motion comic you see here. Man, feels good to be un-stuck!

Remember when Cons were fun?

Yesterday I registered for this year’s Motor City Comicon in Novi, MI. Didn’t make the 2015 show because of farting around on my part thinking there was plenty of time then I looked up and it was sold out. That’s a good show and it’s getting better. People tell me it was packed last year. Since this is likely our last year in the Midwest, we decided one last MCCC was a good idea. It will also be the only con we plan on doing this year.

Last year’s con season left a bad taste in my mouth. The Chicago Wizard show was a big letdown not just financially but it seemed to portend a bleak outlook for cons in general. At the 2015 show we had the best table we’d ever had in all the years of being in artist’s alley. We were surrounded by talented creators, the famous and the not yet famous, in the front, against the wall. We ended up not covering table costs for the first time in three years and it wasn’t just us. I talked to several other artists and vendors and they said the same thing.

This is my theory. First of all it just plain costs too much. If $75 just get’s you in the door for one day and that’s it?  There’s not much left to spend so you have to be very discerning when it comes to your purchases. I can’t tell you how many times I watched parents dragging their kids quickly in another direction as soon as they looked at our booth.

So I’m feeling kinda bummed about the whole idea of working conventions as a form of self promotion. On one hand you have the big corporate beast squeezing the life out of the small creator and the fan, on the other there are heavily curated shows that decide who gets a table and who does not. Then I saw this.

They only have 20 days left and they’re a long way off but if everybody who bitches about Wizard gives 5 or 10 bucks they could make it happen. I gave what I could and I really hope they’re successful. The best part for us is that the 2015 show was in Salem, Oregon. Where we’re planning to move. Looking forward to doing that one.

 

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.

tfa_poster_wide_header

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.

steve_loreli
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.

70s
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!
ddpic201
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.

melton_brat
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.