Sunday, July 29, 2007

Uncharted Water Colors

My daughter asked me today if we could do some painting together. Sometimes I have to remind myself that when I go on these little quality time adventures with her they always pay off in a huge way. Much more than lying around on the couch eating.

So I broke out a couple of new sets of paints that I picked up from a local art store going out of business. I only bought them because they were cheap, since painting is certainly not my forte. My daughter asked for the one little canvas I had bought, so I gave her the acryllics and the little easel.

Me, I broke out the watercolor tubes. I had watched a guy at the Big Apple Con paint an amazing picture of the Manx using just black watercolor washes, and I was fascinated by the process, so I picked up some identical paints to see what I could do. After experimenting a little, I decided to get a little ambitious and attempt to re-create the first drawing I did in the "Old Men" series I drew a couple of years ago, on 11x14 vellum bristol. There be the results. I have no idea whether it's any good but I had fun doing it, and look forward to giving it another shot.

Oh, my daughter lost interest after 5 minutes and a canvas half-painted orange. God bless her. She's got the same attention span as her father. What were we talking about again?

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Most of my comic efforts have revolved around Megazeen. But somewhere in the background of slapping together the zeen, I've been working on my own pet project.
The name of the book is Colossians, a character-driven space opera about (among other things) the acceptance of faith. It's hard to put it into a a simple package like that. It's got action, freaky aliens, humor, suspense, even some romantic tension. I'm really hoping people dig it the way I do.
I managed to convince Kneon Transitt to do the pencils for the first issue. I'm laying down inks myself, and Hale Burckin is doing colors. I'll probably letter it myself once I finally get a script written. Rumor has it Jeff Slemons is going to do the cover, which would be the perfect cap on this first issue.
Anyways, I wanted to pop up one of the colored pages as a preview. Enjoy. Coming soon!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What is dis 'Megazeen' you speak of?

Megazeen is an independent, raw anthology founded in early 2002 by Joseph Crossett and me. The idea behind the book was to create a Christian comic that WE would want to read. It would not be the traditional "safe" fare that Christian comics were traditionally known for, which was either extremely kid-friendly or in-your-face and down-your-throat evangelism. We were tired of people telling us what faith-based entertainment SHOULD be. We didn't want a book that the forty-year-old moms at the Christian bookstores would look through. Our book would be raw, entertaining, funny, even controversial at times, geared toward regular comic book readers, loser kids, kids on the fence. Gone would be the sappy cliche's and dardee dar endings we'd become accustomed to. And from that came our first slogan, "Christian comics without the cheese."
This, of course, ticked some people off.
Were we implying that Christian comics were cheesy? Yup. Were we implying that Christian comics should be geared toward the Beavis and Butthead generation more than the church youth group? Yup.
The hate mail was almost immediate. Even before the first issue debuted.
And it was all from Christians.
It surprised us- but from that came our second slogan. "If you're not ticking someone off, chances are you're not doing it right."
Megazeen has become, in many ways, instrumental in the ongoing success of Christian comics in general. More on that later.
I'm going to be updating the main website shortly, with a page devoted to each issue we did. It will show some clips from the book, some of the stories behind the scenes, even some of the bitter internal feuds we had as we disagreed about content more than once. We even managed to tick each other off!
As we wrap up production on our 14th and 15th regular issues, it's pretty amazing looking back to see where we came from- but looking ahead, there's no end to this series.

Viva la Megazeen, la comica sans fromage!

The Wrong Miracle

So there's this young man named Brian from my church. He's in his mid-twenties, one of "the beautiful people" - tall, blonde, blue eyes, athletic, the works. Married a beautiful girl four years ago and they bought a little log cabin together. He and I served together on the church board for a year (one VERY long year, btw). Mid-twenties. Such a cool guy I based my character "Smiling Bry the Nice Christian Guy" on him. The guy has his whooooooole life ahead of him.
A few months ago he was diagnosed with Melanoma.
We prayed for Brian and fasted for Brian. We collected money for Brian to help meet expenses. On Free Comic Book Day the Megazeen crew drew sketches and sold books and Brian got the full proceeds from that day. The expectation, of course, was a miraculous full recovery that we could sing songs about for decades. After all, that what we prayed for.
We named it, we claimed it.
Brian died two weeks ago.
The Bible says not to question God (see Job) but honestly, who can help it? It should have been A to B to C and let's move on to a long & healthy life. Right? But this was the wrong miracle.
The miracle had already happened.
Brian was mistreated and all but abandoned by his mother. In his teen years he (without going into details, you can fill in the blanks) sinned. A lot. This kid was hopelessly messed up.
Then Jesus reached out to this hopeless kid and gave him hope. He turned his life around instantaneously, and became one of the most integrity-filled men I have ever had the privelege to know. Brian was the real deal. But the day he accepted Christ, he had no idea how important that salvation would mean to him in a very short time.
Brian didn't know, but Jesus did.
He spent his last day (7/3) reading scripture with his wife and her family by his side. While everyone was talking in the room, Brian suddenly shushed everyone, and in the silence he closed his eyes. When he opened them, Jesus was by his side.
Brian- I'd say rest in peace, bro, but I know you too well. You're wildly dancing and praising and singing and eating, doing what made you happiest here too. Rest isn't on the agenda. Save some ham for me brother. We'll miss you down here, but we'll see you soon enough.

Megazeen of FAILURE

The Megazeen of Failure (our 13th regular issue) contains some of the best comics I've ever seen in an issue of MZ. Tom Hall, longtime contributor, took the reins as editor for this issue and recruited some of the most amazing talent we have access to.
You like MANGA? Psycho Ann always delivers. Parody? Jeff Slemons hits it with Mad Magazine-esque accuracy. Minimalist? Uncle Schlomo returns with a bible adaptation from I Samuel. The list goes on with Dean Rankine, Keith Stone, Jamie Cosley, Kneon Transitt- all very consistent artists, and their work in this book is no exception. Top it off with the Dan Barlowe wraparound cover and you've got a heck of a book. This Megazeen's got EVERYTHING.
Except, apparantly, readers.
Other than the name of this issue, which may have turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy saleswise, I don't get it. I really don't.
(Now I know, this is the part of the show where the smug among you will be sitting back in your chair, cross your arms and say, "HA!" Those Megazeeners, those trouble makers, those hooligans. Serves 'em right. Not that you've ever read an issue or anything to see what we're all about. We don't MAKE Megazeen for you, you judgmental little twerp. Not that you're not entitled to your opinion, but your opinion doesn't count for much if you're not a reader. It would be like me reviewing the new Sandy Patti album. I'm not impressed, but I'm not her audience. She's out to entertain Christians. I'm not. But...I digress...)
Guys... here's the story. Tom contacted specific artists and told them, "The theme is failure, do something that deals with that issue." There's not one of us that hasn't failed at something (probably TODAY in fact), not one of that hasn't been disappointed in the failure of something, and plenty of examples in the Bible that deal with failure. It's a topic that should be confronted.
Credit to Tom who weeded out the trash, like artists who intentionally drew a bad piece and called it a failure. What made the book is spot-on one of the best anthologies out there. Funny, creepy, thought-provoking, edgy.
People keep asking me "When is the 'One-Page' book coming out? The answer is, well, when I sell enough Failure books to pay for the printing. That's what we call 'non-profit.'
Buy it.

Big Apple Comic Con

After a two-year absence from the convention circuit, Megazeen decided to have a go in the city that never sleeps, cuz hey, if you can make it there you can make it anywhere, right?
Now, the Big Apple Con is not Wizard World or San Diego by a long shot, but it is a LOT friendlier toward small-press indy comics. For example, they don't make you take out a home loan for a table (hi Gareb) and the show is small enough that the artists are fairly well integrated with the dealers, so the fanboys trying to fill the gaps in their "52" collection from the dollar bins might actually see something GOOD and WORTH READING for a change. But I digress. You'll find I digress often. Another perk is that the guys who run the show REALLY love comics and are not so driven by the almighty dollar. They're cool, they still really admire the art of comics and not the speculation (as much).
So we took our prize money from the Comics Jam War (we won third place, don't hate me cuz you ain't me) and got a table. Jeremy, Tom and I arrived nice and early and, as is typical with most of these shows, they sandwiched the Christians by the comic porn. Ha ha. Never gets old guys. So anyway, our neighbors included a young lady in a red vinyl dress that squeaked when she walked, and an overweight dominatrix.
WWJD? He'd make friends, so we did just that. Always better to talk WITH people than to talk AT them. Then we finished setting up our table with our comics and I left my "Jesus Loves Porn Stars" bible prominently on the table (gotta love them XXXchurch guys, you ROCK!).
Almost immediately, one of the show organizers asked us if we'd be willing to participate on a panel discussion for indy publishers. Since Tom was willing to man the booth, Jer followed me with his high-tech video camera to the 18th floor where we did a Q&A session about the creative processing, publishing and realistic expectations. Since I've been reading a lot of CEREBUS lately, I adopted a Dave Sim like attitude and had some fun with it, figuring the audience would rather hear some truth and humor than rambling subjective nonsense. I think it worked well. Once Jer gets the tape edited I'll post what I can on Youtube or something.
Jesus Marquez and Inkboy joined us halfway through Saturday, since they hit Mocca first. What hosers planned both of those events the same weekend?!?
That's when we really started drawing sketches. It's amazing how many people won't give your table a second glance normally, but how many tightwad scabs will flock to you if they see the old "free sketches" sign. I'm learning that free is not always a good thing. If someone is paying for art, you know they'll care. But FREE sketches? "Hey, can you draw me a girl dressed like a devil with an angel's halo? Cool! I'll be back in like 20 minutes." You can't even take the time to WATCH or TALK to me? Or (heaven forbid) plop down a buck or two for one of our comics? I got so annoyed I took the sign down (sorry Keith). Keith drew headshots of the red vinyl girl and the dominatrix- they didn't ask, he just did them as gifts, and they came out great. I drew a Nightcrawler but Jesus drew a better one.
We only met a couple of fellow believers. There was a guy who did some mad crazy multi-panelled shots that would look pretty cool in Megazeen. The other guy in his "Jesus is Lord" t-shirt barely noticed us as he couldn't get his eyes off the porn across the way from us. With his eight-year-old son in tow.
Sales-wise we did better in 2 days than we ever did in 3 days at Wizard World Philly. We still spent more money on swag than we made, but the best part about doing these shows is that we get together as friends to do our thing. That's pretty priceless.