Artist. Designer. Awkward wad of nerd. Fights off existential terror and self-loathing with Godzilla films.

He's still a crybaby

I’m going to talk about anime again. You may want to go read something on Cracked now instead. Or look at eerily specific Tumblr pages.

It was either in seventh or eighth grade, knee deep in my love for Gundam Wing, DBZ, and Outlaw Star (which I still declare to be one of the greatest anime series ever), when I finally started digging into stuff that didn’t come on Toonami thanks to the internet. I was immediately drawn, like any other kid mildly interested in Japan, to Neon Genesis Evangelion. I read about it obsessively, looked at everything I could, downloaded and watched AMVs over a year before I finally acquired a DVD player and a couple volumes of the show itself. It was the designs of the Eva units, the Angels, the weird psychological and religious stuff that caught my interest and I latched onto it.

(I wanted to post the AMV set to Rammstein's Engel, but it can't be embedded. This will do)

I never watched the entire series. In fact, I think I never watched any more than maybe 9 episodes and End of Evangelion. It was one of those situations where what I had in my head was so much different and better than what the actual show was. At the tender age of 14 or 15, I felt I identified with Shinji, yeah, but even then, I thought he was a bit too whiny, too much of a crybaby, and it felt like the writers were trying too hard in places to be funny or emotional. And as I grew older I eventually just dropped it entirely. In that last ultra-big anime and manga blog post I did, I mentioned my knee-jerk reaction in which I would tell people that I hate anime. This was around the start of that denial phase, when I decided that Evangelion sucked and that I would no longer show interest in it. See how that worked?

Fast forward to present day. Amazon recommended me Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone, 10 bucks on Blu-Ray. I asked on Facebook if it was worth it, was told yes, ordered it, and watched it. And now I’m super nostalgic.
This usually doesn’t end so well.

So, the movie. I had my fingers crossed that they’d rewritten Shinji, at least a little, to make him less of an emo child. Sadly, that wasn’t so, but since this was a movie I was watching and not the show, they thankfully kept the whining and crying to a bare minimum, making it easier to deal with. Also, I was reminded of one of the main reasons I was so enamored with the series to begin with: Eva 01 tearing shit up. The battles against the Angels are like what I always wanted from a giant monster film, which is a high compliment given that I’m a stupidly huge Godzilla and Gamera fan. And really, watching Evangelion 1.11 really felt like watching a giant monster movie, having to sit through some half-interesting human drama before getting to see a giant morphing diamond thing firing massive lasers. So, not the rewrite and improvement I was expecting, but still great. I miss the graininess of 80s/90s anime, and this being a digital transfer of the film straight to high-def BD, the movie is almost TOO crisp and clean, there's no grit at all, but then you see what they did with the final Angel encounter and just stop caring about why no one gets dirty.

It’s just interesting to think of the ways in which something can influence you, even when you’re not terribly familiar with it. With Evangelion, I also owned volumes 1 and 5 of the manga, again, before I saw a single full episode of the show. Then I cut pages out of them and used them in collages and stuff, because I was an idiot and figured I’d never want to read them again.

I rediscovered these two pages that I scanned from one of the volumes, and realized that this scene was a big influence on the comic book I’m currently working on:
Really, I was not thinking about these pages, or of Evangelion at all when I got the idea for this comic and started working on it. If anything, I thought I was largely ripping off the film Altered States and maybe a little bit of Fringe and HP Lovecraft, so my mind was blown when I found these. I mean, seriously, the opening pages to my comic are so damn close to this it's kind of unnerving.

And that’s the other reason I decided to just go for it and buy the Blu-Ray, to figure out just how much the show, the manga, the designs, influenced me on some very deep level. I do believe wholeheartedly that the white Evas in End of Evangelion (which show up in the above AMV) are the freakiest, coolest designs ever and I've tried to mimic them on multiple occasions. I also think Eva 01 is one of the reasons I used purple and green so much in my work. Either that or the Mystic Cave level from Sonic 2 on the Sega Genesis, who knows?

This also could lead into an argument about things we remember and the fact that they surely exist on the internet. Is it better to just cling to your memories, especially when intentionally referencing something, or should you refer back to the source material and get as close to it as possible?

I may write some more on anime related stuff again later, considering I recently also finished reading all 2000+ pages of Akira and picked up six issues of some horrible manga by the original creator of La Blue Girl, but maybe I shouldn't go into that...


Exchanging blows

Sorry about the rough period there of inactivity, but I'm sure few of you noticed, and those of you who did, probably didn't care much. That's the proper attitude. Last week was busy with work, a trip to Asheville in which I bought comics and helped my friends beat the Simpsons arcade game, Thanksgiving, and purchasing Batman: Arkham City on Black Friday. I'd rather be playing that right now, so let's do this.

First off, due to the holiday, there was only one paper last week, in which I concluded the Distinguished Gentlemen:
I'm a little sad to see them go. Perhaps I can continue their adventures another day in the future, and continue to get paid for it?

And next up is part one of mine and David's two-part collaboration, which will probably overlap the sidebar or something due to the format:
This was so tough to draw. It was David's first time writing a comic, and it was a tad...problematic. Eight panels, and he had written each of them packed with detail I just couldn't do, along with WAY too much dialogue. I unfortunately had to hack it down quite a bit.

The second strip, for Thursday, he did a MUCH better job with writing, but I'm afraid I screwed it up myself by accidentally drawing it a half inch shorter than it's supposed to be. Way to drop the ball, Brett.

There will be one final paper next Monday and that will conclude my job as official cartoonist for the East Tennessean. It sucks that it was only for a single semester, because the job kept me on my toes and I feel like I really improved a lot as an artist doing these silly strips about weird creatures. Everyone's opinion seems pretty positive, I haven't received any negative feedback. My editor told me of a couple compliments they've received, and pointed out to me that generally most people don't write or say anything unless they're upset by it.

...So my comics did not upset a single reader. Damn. I'll have to try harder next time.

Work continues on the still-unnamed comic book, with some 30-odd pages written and thumbnailed and still more to come. However, with my cartooning job ending, I feel like there's going to be a I will try to keep doing other comics that won't take months to plan out and write and such in order to stay limber while I tunnel through this massive beast of a project.

Graduation in less than a month. Holy crap. And what will I do then? I don't know, don't ask me that. All I know is that, no matter where I am or what I'm doing, I'm going to keep drawing, and more importantly, I'm going to keep drawing comics.

Now, I have to go hunt down Mr. Freeze's wife. Arkham City waits.


Back to the lab without a mic to grab

Well kids, the show has come and gone. And, well, I think it was pretty successful.

The reception got started a wee bit late, but that wasn't really a problem. We were tired from having our individual critiques earlier that day and having run around Sam's Club and Wal Mart in search of food for the thing, and I spent most of the evening in a daze, wired, but feeling like I could fall over at any second.
The response was pretty good, surprisingly. It's mind-blowing to me that people were enjoying my strange, colorful illustrations of naked people mutating and stuff, you know? Oh, oh, here's a few of my favorite guestbook bits:
I kind of wish I knew who drew the dog with the monocle.
I was happy to get rid of my last copies of Burst Reach (even though I'm pretty sure one of them was taken by my dad), and Sterlin arrived with a bag full of copies of Museum For Dead Clowns, which we also managed to hand out a few to friends. He also gave me Vonnegut's Timequake, a book about UFOs, and an old Less Than Jake album I didn't have.

I really can't think of anything else to say. The reception was a blast, a lot of my friends showed up, fun was had, and uh...I dunno. I had to go back today to take down the show, which felt kind of weird. It's sad that Embrace Infection was only up a week, but hey, there's always the gallery on this site for those who missed it!
Oh, and here's Thursday's shark-jumping Distinguished Gentlemen:
I'm gonna go lay down and sleep for a few days now, okay?

Thanks everyone, for supporting my steady descent into madness. People like me need people like you.


Things just got REAL

 Hanging the 10 pieces on Sunday was excruciating, partially because I got there at 8am after a night of no real sleep. I felt like I was operating at the limits of my capacity doing this thing. But it's up, open to the public, and that's all there is to it.

Instead of a comic for yesterday's East Tennesseean, I made a piece of shameless self-promotion:
 I don't think any of the other BFA shows have actually been mentioned in the paper yet. This issue also got a press release, because I got sick of just promoting myself and wanted people to take interest in the other artists I'm showing with. 

It's hard to believe this is the week I've been building up for since the summer. It's surreal. I feel like I'm in this weird daze, and my nerves are on fire, I'm worried about things going horribly wrong, about somehow still failing and not graduating, stupid things like that. Tomorrow morning for class I'm going to have to stand in the gallery and answer questions from classmates. I have no idea what they'll ask. I really don't. I probably won't sleep tonight. Oh lord.

Friday I meet my advisor in the gallery for, I guess a critique of sorts. Then that evening is the reception. I've got a decent number of friends supporting me and saying they'll be there, which I'm really excited about. Saturday I take it down. Man.

In other news, my friend David and I are collaborating for a pair of strips for one of the final weeks of the paper, an adventure with Professors Bear and Waterbear. David's writing the script, I'll draw it of course, and we've pleaded with the editor to give us a lot of space for each strip so that it'll be something truly epic. I'm so excited about that. He just asked me if I'm against time travel somehow being involved. AWESOME.

I've also been writing/thumbnailing/designing a new comic, which may end up as a graphic novella, considering how far I am into it at this point. I'm keeping tight-lipped about it, but what I find funny is that, that one other comic, the sci fi action one I rambled about? I got 30 pages in before dropping it, and the plot was bland, there wasn't much action, and there was nothing weird. I was being more...conservative, I suppose. No dreams, no nudity, no strange creatures, none of that. This new comic I'm working on? Over 30 pages plotted out, the plot largely involves dreams, there are strange creatures, and there's quite a bit of nudity. And I'm not slowing down much at all or getting frustrated with it like I was with the last one. I guess I should stop trying to be more normal and just let my work be as weird as it can be, it's more fun that way.

Hm. That's it. I'll let you know how the reception and everything else goes. I should go to bed soon...


Momentum overwhelms

Okay, what the hell is up with the spam comments about handbags? Why do I keep getting those? I think that's the first time I've ever even typed the word "handbags" ever in my entire life. Worst. Spambots. Ever. Couldn't I be spammed with something more interesting? Like, I don't know, fresh organic produce or something? I get comments so rarely as it is, and that makes the spam even more annoying.

Oh well.

Here's today's Distinguished Gentlemen strip, in which things get pretty epic:
Exciting right? Though I have to confess, I completely jump the shark in next week's strip. How do you jump the shark in a comic strip about a giant fire-breathing penguin? You'll see. Here's a hint: there are only two or three methods for getting rid of a giant monster, and none of them are all that sensible.

That's a terrible hint.

HEY! I HANG THE PIECES FOR EMBRACE INFECTION IN THREE DAYS. HOLY CRAP. The time is upon us! Get stoked! Reception next Friday! Come see me trying not to be a massively awkward nerd surrounded by my own art! There are two other people exhibiting as well, and I think they're both more talented than I am, so if you don't come to see me, you should come to see their work instead. Especially since one girl's exhibition is about a secret agent cat going to Paris to stop a mouse's diabolical plans.

I'll be so glad when this is all over and done with. Did I mention I can't stand to look at the pieces anymore? Because I can't. I'm just glad I got all that weird psuedo-sexual mutation stuff out of my system so I can move on to things that are hopefully more easily digested by the public.

(yes, I'm already working on another comic from the ashes of that action comic I gave up on)

(it's already incredibly weird, sorry)

(no I'm not talking about it yet, too soon)


I'm getting pretty good at little things

I'm kind of sick, either from something I ate or a stomach virus of some sort, who knows, so I'll try to be brief (and will not succeed). Here's today's Exciting Tales! strip, a haiku about the rain:
So here's the cast, from left to right: The raptor with the umbrella is my friend Ricky's TRUE FORM. Next up is Harold, who readers should be familiar with. At least this time he's not getting slapped with a fish or assaulted by a large waterbear. Then there's my editor, Alaina. Her cellphone apparently never works, and she wanted it in the comic. Past her is Sterlin, carrying a copy of Museum for Dead Clowns and listening to uh, probably Black Flag. Then there's Radha, annoyed, and Trey, who wields the Iron Fist. The melting guy is my old roommate, because I think I once dreamed about him melting in the rain. Last we have Dr. Noe looking down at Sami's arm as she drowns in a puddle because she's short.

I had posted on Facebook asking if anyone wanted to be in a comic walking miserably through the rain, and they responded. Except Ricky, but I just REALLY wanted to draw a raptor. And my old roommate, who I do not talk to anymore.

Um. There were things I wanted to talk about prior to like, getting sick, but I can't remember what they are. I've just been watching Top Gear and rereading Darwyn Cooke's comic adaptions of the Hunter and the Outfit, which are some of the best comics I've ever read. Also the first volume of X-Statix. But uh...I can't remember if there was anything I wanted to talk about regarding any of these things?

I did interrupt a conversation between two former co-workers the other night when they were talking about what new DC titles they were reading. I screamed, "NO, FORGET ALL OF THAT, I'VE GOT ONE WORD FOR YOU: OMACTIVATE!!"

I'm still one of like, two people enjoying that comic, I think.

Right, on comes the nausea. AWAY.


Standing one step closer.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Would you like to see today's Distinguished Gentlemen strip? It's another one that I'm proud of:
That line in the bottom panel, spoken by the penguin in the distressing font? That may be the greatest piece of dialogue I will ever write. I seriously think that I am just BRINGING IT with these recent strips, I am so happy with the work I've been doing.

Which is why it's so disappointing when they get shoved into a tiny space in the newspaper, barely readable at all. Monday's Ghost Monkey strip was printed so freaking small. It angered me, that something I put a lot of effort and love into, was made to look almost like an afterthought, like "oh we have this little tiny bit of space left so let's just throw this stupid comic strip in there." I know that's not what it is, I know the guy who does the page layouts has to deal with the articles and ads that HAVE to be a specific size on the page (its the ads which keep the paper going) and that he doesn't really have a whole lot of time to sit and come up with a layout that's nice and balanced, pleasing to the eye. But, you know, it still kind of hurts, especially because of the detail I've been throwing into these lately. I just have no control over it. But hey, that's why they're all online too!

Of course, there have been other strips in the past which were printed pretty huge, which is awesome. And, regardless of size issues, I've heard that the comics have been getting praise, and I've heard some funny stories too. Apparently a friend of mine that works in the library on campus has people occasionally come up to him and ask what my comics mean. And David told me a story the other night about how he watched a guy open up the paper to the page that last week's Distinguished Gentlemen was on, stare at it for a long time, and then slowly smile. Heh.

Anyways, onto better things. I accomplished a lot yesterday. For one thing, after a few excruciating hours, I got my vinyl sign cut out for Embrace Infection:
It'll be going vertically on one of the gallery walls, most likely.

On top of that, I received my postcards for the show. I only ordered 50, which was barely enough. I distributed about 30 or so throughout the art building on campus and handed out quite a few too. Today I mailed a couple to some good friends. ADVERTISING. Finally, I picked 10 of the 12 prints to hang and dropped them off to be professionally mounted. Next Sunday is when I'll be hanging the pieces.

To sum things up: SHIT IS GETTING REAL, DAWG.

Oh, and that comic I was working on, that I talked so much about earlier this week and last? I uh, stopped. The story got too far away from me. So I'm setting it aside. What was it that I said in that one entry? That I hoped it wouldn't get scrapped or something?


But hey, at least I've got a thrilling story going with the Distinguished Gentlemen being chased by a giant fire-breathing penguin in Antarctica, right?


Down in the old morgue.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN. Here's today's East Tennessean strip, about the Ghost Monkey of ETSU. It's a true story:
Could this be my best work yet? Next week's Exciting Tales! is going to be a haiku. I can't do haiku very well, so it's bound to be terrible. There may be a dinosaur in it though.

I thought about writing about all the different horror movies I've been watching lately. I think I've finally pulled myself out of my John Carpenter kick that I've been on after making attempts at watching some of his lousier films like the Ward. I bought Halloween and watched it last night, of course. Old Vincent Price films like the Masque of the Red Death, but those still don't compare to the outrageous awesomeness of the Abominable Dr. Phibes. Re-watched Nosferatu and and the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which led me to draw this last night:
I MAY re-watch Nosferatu again tonight, because it is great. I also watched Shadow of the Vampire, which I had bought earlier this year and kind of forgot I owned. And another favorite of mine, Bram Stoker's Dracula.I had started watching the 2005 remake of Dr. Caligari, and it The acting wasn't too good, though Doug Jones was REALLY creepy as the somnambulist. If I finish it, it'll be for his performance, definitely...

Eh, that's it. I'm gonna go eat candy and draw now.


I want my own clockwork band.

Here's today's Distinguished Gentlemen strip, which is the most cinematic comic I've ever done, possibly:
I finished drawing the next strip today. It too is a doozy.

Nothing to report on. My life has been mostly horror movies, comics, and tying loose ends up regarding the exhibition of Embrace Infection and my graduation.

I would like to point out a few things: First, this week's issue of Secret Avengers is jaw-droppingly awesome. David Aja's art is absolutely perfect, channeling the likes of Toth and Steranko, with Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, kicking people in the face in a sci fi MC Escher-like setting. It's a thing of beauty. Second, I think that the Abominable Dr. Phibes is not only Vincent Price's greatest role, but also my favorite horror movie. Or it's at least up there with the Thing and the Fly. It's so ostentatious and wildly entertaining. Finally, I got to watch Psycho Gothic Lolita yesterday, and was quite disappointed. This is heartbreaking.

Er, that's all. Gonna go draw, eat cookie cake, and watch Halloween III: Season of the Witch, the one that DOESN'T have Michael Myers in it.


Skip to the fight scene.

Hello, here's yesterday's Exciting Tales! strip, which I sincerely believe is one of my absolute best comics yet:
After doing the Professor Bear strip? I HAD to do one about Professor Waterbear.  It also gave me the opportunity to do a figure drawing gag I had been wanting to do from the beginning.

Man, Harold just can't catch a break...

As mentioned before, Thursday's Distinguished Gentlemen will be pretty amazing, and Monday's Halloween strip will be even more amazing.

A friend sent me this video on Facebook. See if you can figure out why:

I think I like this guy. "MAY THE POWER OF THE COSMOS BE WITH YOU!!"

So I mentioned before that I'm working on a new action comic that I'm taking my time on. Since then, much progress has been made. I've been writing and thumbnailing simultaneously, which seems to be the best way to work, considering that I always get bogged down if I just try to sit and type out a script. I finished laying out the first chapter, which at 16 pages is longer than anything I've done before, but a bit short for even a single-issue thing. Still, it is what it is, and I may do a bonus supplementary chapter to squeeze in a few more pages. I started the second chapter today, with three pages thumbed out so far.
The guy on the far right is introduced in the second chapter, explaining how he bought an isolation chamber that he never uses.

I keep referring to this as my "dumb action comic," but it's hardly that at the moment. The fight scene in the first chapter takes up about 5 or 6 pages, and the rest is just two characters talking. No idea if there'll be much action in the second chapter, because I'm finding that it's more fun to develop the characters and the setting, but at the same time, I have to fight and keep myself from making it all just a big, boring exposition dump, so I have to figure out how much info to let out and when. There's a lot of questions between the two main characters, and figuring out what they are, when to ask and when to answer is a big chore.

There's a lot of designing to do too. In trying to give the town the comic takes place in a life of its own, there's a lot of defining to do. For instance, the hotel itself needs look as though it's been around quite a while, but the TV, furniture, and other little bits need to look new and different, like they've replaced the old furniture but left the room itself as is. Does that make sense? It's a science fiction future, but the town itself hasn't quite caught up just yet. And it's doubly difficult because I've never really drawn any real interior spaces before, my backgrounds are always light, and I'm going to try and break that with this comic. Also, a scene with a car. I'm going to hate myself when I start to REALLY draw this.

And compared, to the other comics I've done, there's not really any super weird and random crap. Not yet, anyways. I want things to slowly get more and more ludicrous as time passes, so maybe later on it'll become what it was originally intended to be. I realized I can't just make a comic that's a bunch of fighting and make it compelling or interesting if the characters don't do much else and the setting is ambiguous.

I mentioned No More Heroes and Old City Blues last time as influences, but I realized there's more going into it than that. Akira, the Woman Trap, King City, Ronin, and hell, I quote David Lynch's Lost Highway in one panel and in another do a scene similar to a Batman panel from the only Justice League comic I own. It's coming from all over the place, which is totally a good thing.

I probably won't start drawing the actual pages until December at the earliest, once the semester and my job doing comics for the East Tennessean is done.

Also, unlike previous Big Ambitious Projects I've come up with, hopefully this one won't get scrapped so quickly, especially after having written about it here.