Here’s an incomplete list of what I’ve been doing since I decided to step away from making comics on a serious basis back in July:
-Painted Slimepunk and Faerie Ishee on an underwater adventure for my girlfriend.
-Tried to raise sea monkeys and triops that my girlfriend got me for our anniversary. The triops never hatched and the sea monkeys died within a week of hatching. :(
-Started exercising again, bought a jump rope.
-Been watching a lot more movies. Movies are cool, I like them.
-Bought an N64 and over a dozen games, most of which I’ve barely even played.
-Started playing Final Fantasy VII for the first time since…middle school or high school, probably? Got out of Midgar, stopped.
-Drew a great big mutant family reunion as a commission.
-Appeared at Kil’n Time Contemporary Ceramic Studio as a guest artist for a local monthly thing called Art D’Vine, where people visit the galleries downtown to look at art and sample wine and cheese.
-Cleaned a LOT of old videogame cartridges.
-Designed a couple flyers for friends.
-Figured out what Slimepunk’s insides look like, drew them.
-Got better at cutting my own hair with clippers
-Read all 14 volumes of the Neon Genesis Evangelion manga.
-Went hiking, stood nude atop a waterfall.
-Figured out how to switch my Roomba’s language from shouting at me in Russian to shouting in English.
-Started playing more with traditional art materials again.* Did 4 mixed media portraits of characters from Mad Mad: Fury Road.
-Cursed the transition from summer to fall and the drop in temperature that accompanies it.
-Started a new comic in my moleskine, did about 5 or 6 pages in a week, haven’t really touched it since.
-Wrote for Gamervescent about mediocre SNES and Sega Genesis games, and how the new PS4 Godzilla game compares.
-Started to make more serious attempts at digital painting by copying photographs found on Tumblr.
*I’m participating in the Bill Counts October Game again this year. The idea I have this time around is…a little different, maybe. I went back through a stack of old sketchbooks and notebooks, writing down things I found interesting, mostly quotes and lyrics that I’ve since lost any context for. I also went through tweets I’d added to my favorites on Twitter (I had over 600!), things on Tumblr, et cetera. Altogether I now have close to 60 little things written down to serve as ideas, prompts, or titles for illustrations to be made in whatever way I find fitting. I only need 31 of those, so at least I have no shortage of words to work from, right? I’ve also combed through a lot of art and photography I really enjoy as a go-to inspiration guide for the month. All the mixed media stuff I’ve been doing, attempts at copying photos and paintings in different styles, are kind of a crash course for when October hits next Thursday, so I can work in whatever way I want and at least pretend I know what I’m doing. Like grinding before a particularly challenging dungeon in an RPG.
So, you know, I’m probably going to go insane again. It’ll get pretty weird pretty fast. Should be fun.
One night a few weeks back, unable to sleep, a realization came to me: I was depressed. Maybe. I'm not 100% sure. If nothing else, I was unhappy, that may be a better way to put it. X-Con was a flop, HeroesCon not much better. I had other things going really well, but I was exhausted. I kept putting other things off to prepare for everything that I scheduled so close together, and working on Cannonball Fist was becoming more of a chore than anything else, stressing out over getting the next page finished and uploaded in time. I was just doing the pages out of some sense of obligation and I wasn't happy with the work.
So after briefly talking about it with a couple friends, I decided I'm taking a break from doing serious comic work. The newest page of Cannonball Fist went up a couple weeks ago, and the comic is currently on hiatus. Reflected Gaze is momentarily stalled, though I have other people who should be working on contributions to the site. Future stories I was starting to develop are now just set aside.
And it feels good. Just realizing I was unhappy was like hitting a light switch in a dark room, and reading this article by Dave Zissou about Sam Hiti's "death" was something I connected with, particularly this part:
It’s okay to quit.
If comics has taken so much from you and given so little and you feel that you need to escape, you should. Trust your intuition. Even if you end up coming back to it a week later, months, years, or never. You are more important than comics.
Respect the people who choose to quit or take a long time to finish a project. Comics are demanding.
I'll come back to it, of course. I just need to recharge, play around, try some new things, find some new directions and return better than ever.
Especially given how great Rob-Con was this year. The best yet! Like, I don't even really know what to say, it was just a lot of fun as always.
I sat between Ivan Castillo and his wife Joyce, who make up Conquest Art Designs, and Alex Ogle, whose work is incredibly striking. There were several other immensely talented artists there too, including Joseph Culp, younger brother of friend and Gamervescent co-owner Jennifer Culp. He's an awesome digital painter who I've been following for a while, and I finally got to actually meet him this weekend. It was his first time ever tabling at a convention, and I got to hang out with him and his wife Hannah (who won runner up at the costume contest) at their home Saturday night, where I talked him into being part of an artist's panel that was on Sunday.
That panel, by the way, was awesome. Aside from the two of us, Alex Ogle took part, as well as James Lyle and Chris Gibbs. Our moderator was the awesome Diana, who helps run the local comic shop and who I drew the last Reflected Gaze comic about, and you'd have no idea it was her first time considering just how well the whole thing went.
Aside from being around a bunch of really cool people, I did well all weekend, selling out of all the copies of Slimepunk that I'd brought with me, as well as a bunch of pre-done sketches. I did a pretty sweet advanced commission for someone, which she came and got on Sunday after requesting it on Instagram. I ran out and made prints of the image from my Slimepunk banner for a friend who really wanted one for his wife. And I got a pretty decent haul, too. I exchanged stuff with Joseph, found a really early issue of Heavy Metal in excellent condition, bought an old Aliens action figure that I used to own as a kid, dug up a copy of Katsuhiro Otomo's Memories one-shot and a bunch of issues of the Big O, and got a bunch of Kaiju prints from the Hero Squares table.
I'm the most exhausted I've ever been after a con, but it was worth the lack of rest and assorted aches. I plan on cutting down the number of cons I'll do next year, but I will always, ALWAYS go to Rob-Con as long as I'm able to.
Really, this weekend warmed my heart and insured that I'll never leave comics for good.
HEY HEY GUESS WHAT'S THIS WEEKEND. HEROESCON IS THIS WEEKEND, BABY.Here's where I'll be, Table AA-627. On the site I'm listed at 626, but I'm swapping tables. Crazy, I know.
Here's what I'll have:
Copies of the first chapter of Other Sleep will be given away with any and all purchases. I'm also selling original pages and small sketches like this one of Mewtwo that I did this morning:
Following that, I'll be at the Johnson City Public Library's own free little comic convention next weekend. Here's the flyer they made for it. Look! My name is up top!
I'm giving a talk at 10:30 that morning. I'm still putting the talk together, but it will probably be about my process for working on Cannonball Fist.
The original plan was that after this, July would be a slow, easy month where I wouldn't have anything to do, but nope, nope, not happening. On July 8th I think I'll be teaching a class on making mutant self portraits at the summer camp program that the William King Museum is putting on. You can find my teacher profile here.
Speaking of that museum, I'm taking a chance and submitting a portfolio to their From These Hills exhibition for later this year. I'm going to try to come up with some new work to submit, maybe connected to Reflected Gaze or that horror comic project I'd kind of sort of abandoned.
I also found time to put together this Gamera Vs Zigra piece which I'm submitting to this fanzine called Gamera Vs Zine-Ra, celebrating the big turtle's 50th anniversary.
There may or may not be another thing I'll be doing in July. Not 100% sure yet. Fingers crossed.
And, um, that's it for now. I've got like, a dozen things to do before we leave for Charlotte on Thursday and I'm just kind of wasting my time typing this. OKAY BYE
So it turns out scheduling so many things so close together can really wear you down. Who knew?
The weekend after Shikacon was Free Comic Book Day (after going out to see the Avengers: Age of Ultron the night before), an incredibly good time where I sketched so many people's children as mutants. A few days later was a quick trip to Dollywood with my closest friends and girlfriend. My grandmother's 90th birthday was Saturday the 9th. This past weekend was X-Con in Myrtle Beach.
I know I've only been going to conventions as an artist for a few years now so I'm not terribly experienced, but I've noticed this tendency. When it comes to multiple day cons, I usually do better each consecutive day. Sundays are my best days at Heroes Con, and at any two day con I always do better the second day. That tendency holds true for X-Con, but only just barely. Just by inches.
Attendance was rather low on Friday, picked up considerably on Saturday, then dropped again on Sunday. The big special guest, Ric Flair (WOOOOOOOO), was only there Saturday. Another one, Nicholas Brendan, was arrested for public intoxication Friday night and canceled his panel Saturday afternoon from being too hungover (apparently this happens to him a LOT). There were a handful of other guests, lots of vendors, and a bunch of us artists too, but nobody seemed to really be buying anything. I wasn't the only one who did poorly, everyone was talking about having a lousy weekend, even those who've attended previous years with good success. Who knows what the deal was, but I was kind of let down.
That said, I still met some cool people, including Tim Showers, who did a great Ultraman drawing in my con sketchbook. One of the guys from Studio De Sade talked to me a lot about my table setup and pricing my originals, gave me some great advice and assured me that I was doing better than some of the folks around his table. My friend Matthew D. Smith was there, too, and the guy next to me, George Farmer, was super nice and drew Han and Chewie in my sketchbook.
There were some great cosplayers, too:
And, well, we were at the BEACH.
We woke up at 4am Thursday morning, headed out at 5, got to Myrtle around noon, and stayed relatively active (aside from both of us accidentally falling asleep on the beach itself for an hour or so) until a 9:50pm showing of Mad Max: Fury Road, the movie I'd been most anticipating this year. We saw it at Broadway at the Beach in what was called the "BigD" theater. Shorter and wider than IMAX, apparently, it was overwhelming, like staring into the face of god for 2 hours. It was a religious experience, and I can't stop thinking about it. That movie is amazing. I need to see it again and again. It's all I can really think about lately. Nothing else this year will compare.
We also ate at a cool German restaurant we found, neither of us having had anything like it before, and Saturday night walked all the way down to South Myrtle's boardwalk. It was also biker week, so the streets were crowded while wild looking, lit up motorcycles and absurdly designed cars slowly made their way down the road or parked for everyone to gawk at and take pictures of. That was pretty wonderful.
Due to some business laws of some sort, I won't be returning to South Carolina to do another convention for another 24 months unless I pay for a business license first, which crosses off my consideration of doing the SC Comic Con in Greenville next year, but well, I'm doing too many events this year anyway and should probably ease back a little in 2016. Not a huge loss there, I guess.
In roughly a month I'll be in Charlotte for HeroesCon, and the weekend after I'll be at the Johnson City Public Library to give a talk at their own little comic show. I'm teaching an art class on drawing mutant self portraits at the William King Museum one day in July, and I've been invited to another local thing that month which I'll hopefully be able to do.
I took a 2 week break from Cannonball Fist, but the cover to chapter 5 is online today. Back on track! I gave out the last of my postcards at X-Con and ordered more last night for Heroes.
I wrote a new article about Earthbound for Gamervescent that I'm pleased with. Was working on a thing about Bloodborne, but it may be too late to post that now, I dunno.
New stuff on Reflected Gaze: the third comic, All or Nothing, is about a girl who balances bodybuilding with being a foodie. My friend Christina contributed an article about how comics and cosplay helped her learn to love her body, and I wrote about drawing mutant portraits. The new comic is in progress and will be up in the next couple of weeks! Also, the Facebook page now has over 350 likes. How weird is that?
Right, yeah, stuff. Farewell!
I finally got to see Furious 7! For a recap, I watched all six of the previous Fast and Furious movies last month. You can read my thoughts on those here and here.
One crazy thing about this series is how things tend to get better and better with each movie, the characters become more like superheroes (Vin Diesel apparently just always has giant wrenches and/or a sledgehammer in his car,) and the action just gets more and more absurd. Furious 7 follows through on that end, but I’m not fully sure yet whether or not it’s better than 5 or 6.
A big part of that is that Justin Lin, who directed 3-6, is now gone, replaced by horror film director James Wan, who directed the first Saw film and then moved in on current horror trends with Insidious and the Conjuring. He brings his sensibilities with him, as the movie is thick with shadows and a kind of stylization not really seen in the previous movies. There isn’t as much blood as I remember there being in 5 and 6, but it still carries more weight, there’s a tangible moment of terror any time a gun is drawn and fired, a greater sense of danger. A visit to the cemetery at night is shot as though someone’s going to jump Dom and Letty at any moment. We get a villain not unlike a beast from a slasher film in the form of Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw. The man is so focused on murdering Dom and his crew, and he’s a wildcard, showing up when you’re not expecting it, right in the middle of a job they’re trying to pull off. Playing him up as a T-800, relentless in his pursuit, was one of my favorite things about the movie. Not that he's the only one, the Rock gets to be a Terminator too:
Other aspects really throw me off. The action is hectic and great, Wan definitely puts his own stamp on things, but I just kept finding myself missing the clarity of Justin Lin’s direction. There’s a bit too much cutting going on during fights and set pieces here, with things getting too playful in the editing and camerawork. I was okay with the camera flipping to follow Jason Statham as Dwayne Johnson Rock Bottoms him through a glass table, but then they do it at least two or three more times as the movie progresses and it gets tiring. Tony Jaa is brought in as a villain, going toe to toe with Paul Walker, and they do a decent job of showing off just what a monster that dude still is. The movie also gives us MMA badass Ronda Rousey, but she kind of gets the shaft for her fight with Michelle Rodriguez. After the previous movie finally figured out how cool Rodriguez is, she’s back to having almost nothing to do here.
Speaking of women, all of these movies have had a certain element of objectification going on, with a “hey let’s follow this woman’s ass” shot in pretty much every one of them. Wan didn’t think just one of those shots was enough for this movie, so we get at least three of the damn things. If there’s a woman, chances are you’ll get to see her ass, except for returning characters. There seemed to be a bit of extra CG wobble to Nathalie Emmanuel’s breasts as she steps out of the water in a bikini, with Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson babbling about who has dibs on her. Ugh.
Complaints like those aside, this was certainly the most emotional of the movies. Here we get to see the crew’s response to Han’s death, we get Brian’s personality shift as a father, Letty’s struggle with her amnesia, and we’re introduced to the adorable daughter of Hobbs. The family dynamic that Dom has been harping on from the first movie is in full form, making Han’s death hit harder than you’d expect since we technically saw it happen four movies ago. When Deckard goes for Hobbs, I was sincerely worried for him, as I’d already heard the Rock wasn’t in this movie as much.
And then, well, there’s of course the death of Paul Walker, which hung over so much of this movie as I watched it. I held it together until the ending, then found myself in tears. Everyone in this movie is virtually invincible, shrugging off injuries like they’re nothing, but they couldn’t ignore that Paul’s gone for good now, and they do a great job paying tribute to him. It doesn’t hurt that he holds his own against Tony Jaa and gets one of the best fights in the movie.
I was talking to a friend working at the theater when I got out, and a guy who was at the same showing with his two daughters must have overheard it, because he came up to me as I was heading to my car and assured me that I wasn’t the only one who cried at the end. He and his wife bawled when they saw it (this was his second time,) he said so many people in the theater were in tears, and he told me about how that family element was so important to him in the series because his family was never close.
I dunno. I had this realization as I watched the movies: Paul reminded me so much of one of my brothers, who’s also a new father himself. My family’s not the closest, nothing like these guys, but I would be devastated if something were to happen to him, and seeing this family develop over so many years and lose one of their own in that way…it hits hard.
Oh, and Kurt Russell is in this movie. He’s amazing, as always. He kind of steals the show in every scene he’s in.
I hope they keep making them. I really do. It’ll be weird without Paul, but no other franchise delivers like this one.
I feel like I'm coming close to achieving true enlightenment, having watched these movies and quickly witnessed their incredible evolution. When Furious 7 drops this weekend, I may very well reach Nirvana upon seeing it. I am really, truly, stupidly excited for it.