Thursday, July 30, 2015

Geek Speaking of Regurgitating Comics

Geek Speak: Super Spew!

This, my friends, is why I don't ever have more than two consecutive drinks, three tops. One too many and I end up getting a serious return on my investment, and ROI isn't what you're trying to achieve when you're at a party or out with friends. 

I'm trying something new with Wuffle's tutu, even though we're getting close to when he'll be able to take it off. I've never been completely happy with the way it looked. The other night I was reading my daughter her bedtime story and she'd picked out Ladybug Girl and the Dress-Up Dilemma. In the book the main character wears a tutu with her ladybug costume. The artist draws the tutu really simply with some bold slashing lines. I may go back to trying to painstakingly draw out all of those ruffles, but I'll probably ultimately end up somewhere in between. 

Comic Con a Story with Some Pictures

Rather than belabor the events of Comic Con as I have in past years I think I'll wrap up it up with this post as a kind of show-and-tell with pictures taken over the weekend. 

If your goal at Comic Con is to take pictures of great costumes you could spend all day standing in one spot outside the doors to the exhibit floor and completely fill up the memory on whatever camera you're using. Instead of trying to take pictures of every cool costume I encountered I focused on getting fun moments.

Even Supergirl needs the occasional pick-me-up. I thought the idea of Supergirl sneaking a quick coffee break was too good to pass up. She seemed genuinely surprised when I told her I wanted a picture with the coffee. 

There's not really a particular moment I'm catching here. I had walked about ten steps past her when I realized she was dressed as Otto from The Simpsons, complete with bus. Props for creativity. This is a great example of what can be accomplished by thinking inside the box. 

There is a little story to go with this one. I had stopped by Nooligan's booth to chat and to see if he would give some feedback on my sketchbook. He did both, and then some. I really got more than I bargained for. He took a look at my sketchbook and just went off, which was great. He started out saying that he likes what I'm doing but I need to be way looser and less inhibited in my sketchbook. In a sense he was preaching to the converted. I've been thinking for a while now that my drawings need to be way more flowing and dynamic. Not satisfied with simply telling me to be looser and more scribbly he proceeded to open to the inside of the front cover of the sketchbook and show me what he meant. Then he asked what kind of pen I like and said, "here try this," and handed me one of his. I tried it, thought it was great, and told him as much. When I tried to hand it back he told me to keep it. He then did the same thing with another pen. I ended up buying a print of his I really like of Superboy playing fetch with Krypto, the Superdog, and walked away with the print and a lot to think about and to work on. 

Walked past a great, great Anna costume as I was on my way from one panel to another. I didn't ask her to pose at all, but I like what she did here. It's like "Anna, did you try to give the kingdom away to another princeling desperate for a throne of his own?" 

You have been a good boy...'nuff said. Also, my wedding ring is really shiny. 

At the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner Friday after the convention. All three of my dinner companions were checking the live feed from the Star Wars panel. While we were there someone sat down in the booth across from us and pulled out a sketchbook and started drawing while chatting with his friends. 

I was doing something not altogether different on the back of the placemat. 

After the Star Wars concert there was an EPIC fireworks show. Seriously, they did things with fireworks I thought could only be achieved with CGI animation and direction from Steven Spielberg. 

The problem with running into Harley is she's always trying to get you hammered. 

Waiting in line for the convention to open with literally thousands of my fellow geeks.

First stop, the pro lounge for a badly needed cup or two (or three) of free coffee. It wasn't outstanding coffee but, goddammit, it was free!

The new security company was really, really strict! Sadly, neither of these turned out to be Adam Savage. 

She knows her value. It's not well represented here, but every time I saw an Agent Carter costume I tried to get a picture to send my wife. On another note, I kind of love the lights in this one. 

In a stroke of pure dumb luck I happened to be the first person to the Baby Tattoo books booth on Friday morning. By first person to the booth of course I mean they were still setting up and were a little discombobulated when I walked up and started asking about a Brian Kesinger sketch cover on Darth Vader #1. He was only doing two books per day and I was the first person to ask for one that day. The only direction I gave was "I'd like a steampunk Vader." Beyond that I said Brian could go nuts. By the end of the day he wasn't quite done and asked if he could keep it until Saturday, which I was more than happy to let him do. He rewarded my patience with this. Brian really likes steampunk and I think he really likes drawing Vader, and it shows. When I picked it up he actually thanked me. Which was nice, but I'm pretty sure I got more out of the exchange. He produced one of those drawings where you get something new out of it every time you look at it. I couldn't be happier with it, and as soon as I can find some frames that fit it will be going up on my wall so I can look at it as I'm doing my own drawing. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Geek Speaking of Booze Hound Conventions

Geek Speak: Booze Hound

Sometimes I struggle with what to call a strip when it's posted. In this case the name kind of suggested itself. I suppose I could also have called this "Dog Breath vs. Morning Breath: Dawn of Halitosis," but DC Comics has a lock on the rights to shitty titles.

In a way this strip explains how I feel about drinking to forget your problems. When you wake up in the morning the problems are still going to be there. You still have to deal with them, only now you get to do it with a hangover and feeling like you might puke if someone so much as says the word...well...puke. Sometimes having a drink after a hard day is ok, but hard drinking at the end of the day is a problem.

You might wake up to find a talking dog in your house.

Comic Con 2015

It's not possible after last weekend for me to sit at my keyboard to write a post and not talk about the San Diego Comic Con. Every year, and every convention I go to, whether it's Wonder Con or Comic Con I think, "this is it. This is the year I become jaded, and the feeling of belonging goes away and this stops making me happy." I'm happy to report that so far I've been disappointed in that regard. The feeling of being able to shed the person that I present to others in my day-to-day life and really get to be authentically myself has changed somewhat. It has diminished to a degree, but at the end of each day of convention I went back to the hotel tired, happy, and little lighter in the general region of my wallet. 

This year I drove down with a friend of Tea Leaf who we'll call Master Turtle. I'd met him a few times before, and we generally get along. We killed the time in the car by talking about everything from what he does for a living, which is way, way more interesting than what I do for a living, to marriage, to kids, to what he does for a living which is way, WAY more interesting than my job. 

We arrived in San Diego around 8:30, which means we made pretty good time. Pro-tip: if you only make use of them occasionally, you can use toll roads in California without an electronic pass. After using the toll road you have a week or so to pay the toll on the website It's worth it to knock twenty to thirty minutes off of the trip. To be honest, though, I might try taking the train to San Diego the next time I go to the convention. 

Through the magic of Tea Leaf and the arcane influence he exerts on the world we were able to find parking at PetCo Park, and we made our way into the convention. I would like to pause (or "paws") for a moment here to say that a sports arena called "PetCo Park" should have puppies on-site at all times, and you should be able to spend five bucks to get fifteen minutes of play time with them. 

At some point Master Turtle let me in on a secret, or not so much a secret as something that Comic Con makes available, but doesn't generally advertise. On the second floor of the convention center they have a room set aside as a "Pro Lounge" for professional badge holders. The lounge is set up with chairs and tables, it has outlets for charging devices, it has wi-fi, they offer a coffee and tea service, and it's even staffed with people to help you out. It's magical, and whenever I needed a break and to get off of my feet (or a free cup of coffee) I went to the lounge. Tea Leaf and Celluloid Girl, both hardcore con-goers, were also unaware of the lounge. This became the high point of my time at Comic Con as I had some great conversations, with some neat people. 

Master Turtle and I picked up our passes. One of the nice things about having a professional pass is there is almost never a line to pick up your pass, and you fly right through check in. From there we headed up to get in line with everyone else waiting to get into the convention. 

Here is an area where I think Comic-Con International fell a little short. The line to get into the convention was on the second floor and funneled everyone onto a single escalator. That's right, tens of thousands of people getting to the con floor by one escalator. I can understand why they did it. It means there isn't a crowd of people waiting at the doors to get in, so it eliminates that Black Friday crush of humanity surging toward a door and stomping anything, or anyone, in its path. It is a deliberate bottleneck. Still, the convention center is a huge place. It has a lot of ways to get down to the convention floor, and I feel like splitting things up would make for a smoother opening, better crowd control, and a safer situation overall. Lesson learned, next time I go to comic con I am getting my badge, then going out into the Gaslamp Quarter to find something to eat instead of waiting in line.

Master Turtle and I did eventually make it to the floor, where we immediately went our separate ways so we could make it to our first panels of the convention. Most of the panels I attended were specifically geared for people who draw comics, so the first panel I attended was "Drawing with Ed McGuinness." He talked a lot about the craft of getting into comics, but not too much about actually drawing. I take that back, he talked a lot about how he didn't like how the drawing of Superman he was working on, which had been requested by people in the audience who, admittedly, knew his work better than me. It's understandable, he's used to working on an elevated, angled surface, and in order to draw and talk at the same time he had to perch awkwardly on the back of a chair and draw on a digital overhead projector whose lamp was directly in his field of vision. Even so, most of us looking at the illustration of Superman he was apologizing for even as he created had a single collective thought, "screw you dude. I draw maybe half that well on my best day."

From there it was off to a workshop with cover artist Michael Cho, and graphic designer Chip Kidd. At the start of that panel the moderator had the privilege of presenting Kidd with a Comic Con International Inkpot Award for his contributions to comics. This is the second time I've seen this award presented. The first was to Bruce Timm. In both cases it was nearly without ceremony and a complete surprise to the recipient, which gives the presentation of the award a kind of authenticity that is really charming.

After the workshop with Cho and Kidd it was off to lunch. I was straight starving and needed sustenance. I hit the food trucks where I met up with Tea Leaf and Celluloid Girl for the first time at the convention. They spotted me because of the bright green Green Lantern shirt I was wearing, I spotted Celluloid Girl because of her awesome stripey hat.

After lunch it was off to more art instruction in the form of a painting and illustration panel with Jeffrey Watts and Erik Gist of the Watts Atelier. It was like a sixty minute infomercial for attending the Watts Atelier, interspersed with some really sound advice for improving figure illustration. I listened with half an ear and a bit while I drew the models. I'm linking to it here because, honestly, I like their approach and their philosophy on teaching art. Both of the panelists are the real deal. What they were able to do with paints in an hour represents a lifetime of learning, practice, teaching, and application.

From there I was off to the Terry Moore Panel. I could fill an entire blog post talking about Terry Moore. Instead I will just say this, I have tremendous respect and admiration for Moore as a person and a creator. Every time I'm lucky enough to hear him talk, or even to talk with him in person I feel like I leave with a lot of things to think about. He's also a very talented writer and illustrator whose books are worth picking up.

After that I ran to a panel on marker rendering presented by Mark Books. He and his wife were co-hosting the panel, which was good because he was invested in illustrating and rendering a drawing of Catwoman and Batman as he was talking. On that one I bailed early because it was six in the evening and time to go to dinner because, once again, I was straight starving. I'd also agreed to meet up with Master Turtle, Celluloid Girl, and Tea Leaf at the Old Spaghetti Factory.

We arrived at the Old Spaghetti Factory and were informed there was no soup available. Which seemed like an odd thing to take off the menu. The waiter then doubled down on the odd choices by offering Master Turtle a side salad to go with the chicken salad he'd ordered for dinner. Food ordered I dove into drawing a goofy little cartoon sketch while my companions dove into their phones to follow a live blog of the Star Wars panel that was going on at the same time. When J.J. Abrams announced that everyone attending the panel was going to be treated to a surprise concert featuring music from the Star Wars movies Tea Leaf all but wept. There were tears and consolation. Then we went for ice cream.

It is becoming something of a convention tradition to go to the Old Spaghetti Factory, and then go to Ghiardelli to get ice cream for dessert. They make a hot fudge sundae that can deservedly be called legendary, and is the thing I order whenever we go. In some ways I look forward to those two things as much as walking the floor, or learning how to draw from icons in the field of comic book illustration.

After ice cream I drove to the hotel, which wasn't really notable except for one thing. We could see Mexico from our room. That is not a Sarah Palin "I can see Russia from my house" kind of exaggeration. We could literally see Tijuana from our hotel. What did it look like? Honestly? It looked like any other big city at night, just a bunch of lights in the darkness. I have to imagine there were probably people looking back in our direction and thinking, "I can see America from here."

On a final note. I was a lot more selective with the pictures I took this year, and used the camera on my phone almost exclusively. Still, I got some fun images. I'll share those and my doodles in the next post. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Comic Con Meets Misfortune

Comic Con and the Adventures of those Less Fortunate

This weekend I was fortunate enough to spend two days at the San Diego Comic Con, but this isn't a story about the costumes I saw, the panels I sat in on, or the neat things I bought. That story is coming later, this is a story about someone I met who may have changed my life. 

The first day of Con I was walking with a friend to get lunch at some food trucks that had gathered in a parking lot set up like the world's nerdiest carnival. Call it Mardis Geek. Anyway, as we were walking over the bridge to get to the lot where the food trucks were set up we passed a woman pushing a stroller. Not in and of itself unique. Haggard looking parents pushing a stroller are legion at the convention. She was different from the rest for two reasons. She was dressed like a hippie, and the stroller clearly was packed with all her worldly possessions, including her young son. She has a sign, "Mom and super hippie dippy kid need help. Anything helps, god bless you."

In my cynicism I dismissed her. "I don't have anything to give right now. Even if I did I'm not giving her money so she can go put it up her arm." Thus satisfied with my superior station in life I kept walking. I was in for a rude awakening. 

I ran into her again the next day when I went to Ralph's in search of coffee and breakfast. She was in the baby food aisle buying applesauce packets for her kid, just like any mom. He was fussing, and she sounded desperate. I yanked my head out of my cynical orifice and opened my wallet and handed twenty dollars. She nearly broke down in tears, and I took my cynicism out and buried it alive. In addition to the twenty bucks I bought her a sippy cup so she could give her son water, a packet of Gerbert fortified baby yogurt, and wipes. She told me how she had come to be there and I realized something critical. She's not a "bum," or a drug addict, or a loser. She was bright, even articulate, and she had been dealt as raw a deal as anyone I've ever heard of. She could be me or anyone I know under the right, or more appropriately, the wrong circumstances.

When everything was bought and paid for she called me an angel, "a real angel," she said. Which was interesting because I was wearing my Doctor Who Weeping Angels t-shirt.

I played a little with the kid. Gave him a high five, and made funny faces that he giggled. They checked out and left the stored. I did too, and fought the urge to sob furiously. My heart was full of an anger so pure, so hot that I wanted to hit something. Not because someone had wronged them, which assuredly someone had, or because here was a small boy suffering in the midst of an orgy of consumer greed, but because it was infuriatingly unfair. He certainly hadn't had a choice in his circumstances, but there he was, an innocent victim caught in a whirlwind of misfortune.
So I'm writing to those of you still at the convention. If you see a mom pushing a little brown haired boy in a stroller packed with odds and ends, including a child sized guitar, help them out. Toss them whatever change you have from buying that con-exclusive lego set. Even if it's just a little bit, I guarantee you it's 500% more than they have already.

I ordinarily don't use this as a space for PSAs like some geek equivalent of Sally Struthers, but I feel safe putting it here because you're my people. Many of you, particularly the professionals, wouldn't be there if someone hadn't given you a hand up at some point, so we know the value of feeling that we're not going it alone.

If you see them, and you can toss them a few bucks, tell them the angel sent you. 

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Geek Speaking of Wayback Machine Wet Dreams

Geek Speak: Wet (Nose) Dreams

Panel one was fun to draw for obvious reasons. On a less obvious level, I think we all secretly dream of wearing a tux as well as, and being as seductive and dangerous as James Bond. Most men look killer in a tux, Bond actually is "killer in a tux." After a night of drinking as expression of denial I couldn't think of a worse way for Ted to wake up than nose to nose with the dog that drove him to buy the booze in the first place. 

Geek Speaking: The Wayback Machine Edition, or A Little Bit of Catching Up

I have a new cartoon for your viewing pleasure, but it does involve some characters from a previous story-arch in Geek Speak. To help you fill in the gaps I've posted links to the previous entries below. 

For the record, I would totally have used images instead of text links, but Blogger makes that as hard as fucking possible to do. It's way past time for Geek Speak to outgrow Blogger. It's just...overdue. I'm just going to say it here. I will now start looking for a way to move Geek Speak into its own official site. There I said it. Now I have to do it. Get a website that puts the comic front and center with a blog engine so I can write these posts for the five people who read them. It will have to have an actual archive as well so I don't have to go through this ridiculous exercise every time I pick a recurring character's story.

Ted and Wuffles

  1. I know I'm gorgeous in which I'm reminded that Ted's name was originally Brian.
  2. You can talk 
  3. Wuffles! Still in the top five of best comics I've done to date. 
  4. Don't let her take me! In which I talk about new art supplies that have really helped me take my artwork to the next level. 
  5. Power of booze In which I said this, which is worth repeating, "Hipster Charlie Brown says, "I liked the cute little red-haired girl before it was cool."
  6. Catch that bus In which I said something beautiful about my wife. Our anniversary is coming up again in a couple of weeks, and I don't know if I'm going to make it to a computer to write a post on that day (our lives have become far more busy and complicated in the last year), so I'll repeat the best thing I've ever said about being married to a wonderful woman, "Did I marry my best friend? No. I found a missing piece of my own being. One who was searching for a fragment of her own self. We held each other and didn't let go, and thus made ourselves whole. "
  7. Amazing save... 
  8. ...or not such a great save
  9. Medicinal uses
  10. Walk with the Animals
  11. Hobos In which I allude to starting a job with Disney, without actually using the name of the company. Now I don't know why I was being so circumspect. Turns out Disney was a great place to work with some seriously wonderful people. 
  12. Heroic Poser I still love Francis in the last panel, "...check out my sweet new heroic pose." 
  13. Home at last Obviously the strip is referring to the classic Doctor Dolittle with Rex Harrison and not the (admittedly pretty decent) remake with Eddie Murphy. 
As I was going through and building the list of links to previous strips I ran across an earlier post in which I did the same goddamn thing. I really need an archive. 

The other thing I noticed as I was going through this is the amazing transformation in the look of the strip. It starts with incredibly rough illustrations with dirty line work and colored/shaded with a black colored pencil from Prismacolor. The content is fine, but open a tab and compare the most recent strip to the first time we see Ted and Wuffles together. The differences is pretty incredible. Back then I don't think I'd have even attempted something like panel one in my most recent strip.