Friday, May 30, 2008

One Weekend- Three Cons

The Megazeen Team will be wreaking havoc next weekend in the New York area.

On Friday 6/6 you might spot us at Jim Hanley's Universe or Mid-Town Comics among other stops as we do the tourist circuit of New York City.

On Saturday 6/7 we're hitting two comic shows, not as dealers but as fanboys, hobknobbing with the goobersmoochers as it were. Look for the "Suck it Up" Megazeen T-shirts and say "hi" at MOCCA and Big Apple Comic & Toy Expo! And hey, if we get a chance to shave our legs we might even cosplay!

Finally on Sunday 6/8 we've got a table at the Clifton NJ Comic Book Show, thanks to our buddy JP. We'll be selling swag, drawing, reviewing artwork, and talking about a few upcoming projects, including Colossians, Megazeen: The One Page Issue, Megazeen: The Christmas Issue, Eagle All-Star #2, and KING!

In attendace: myself, Jer "Freak Accident" Zehr, Tom "So Blame Him" Hall, Keith "Inkboy" Betancourt, and Jesus "My Thong's Riding Up on Me" Marquez,

Friday, May 23, 2008

Freak Accident Podcast

My buddy Jeremy Zehr and I were supposed to do a roundtable discussion about comics n stuff, but it ended up just being me and him, so we talked about Colossians and Megazeen and comics and movies and American Idol (unless Jer edited that out, which I'll be grateful if he did).

So if you want to hear my voice talking about my favorite subject- me- tune in!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

If You Want Something Done "Ehhh"

If you want something done right...the classic completion to that, of course, is "do it yourself." But managing a multi-million dollar company for years, and being the editor of the longest-running Christian anthology comic alive, I can tell you that's rarely the case. It's usually ego, pure and simple. I'm more of the persuasion that it takes a village to raise a child- a team of well-assigned and well-trained experts to get a job done well.

As we were driving to "Positive Puppy Training School" (long story and I think there's a sermon in there somewhere), my wife asked me, "why didn't you just draw Colossians yourself?" Logical question. I'm not the worst artist I know by any stretch. But my attachment to the story, crossed with my own personal disatisfaction with my art (a problem that haunts many artists) was paralyzing the project. So, before Colossians languished further, I took the advice of Richard and Wendy Pini regarding Elfquest...

Deep breath... and let it go.

My two pencilers- Kneon Transitt and Dan Barlowe- have no long history with the characters and are very efficient and consistent artistically. They both simply like the part of the story they're drawing. No preconceived notions. Let 'er rip. And they have.

The next question made me think a little more. "What if the artist draws something you don't like?" Excellent point. After all, with literally 25 years of experience with characters like Foxx, Savage, Trogg, JazzMan and Stasella Paine to go on, what if the artist just didn't nail it just right?

The answer to that is that it's all in how you look at it.

If I wanted the characters drawn MY WAY, well, I should draw em myself, right? But since drawing them myself wasn't working I've got two real capable guys lending a hand. Rather than be the anal controlling guy, I found it was easier to chuck my ego out the window and just let the art happen. I wanted Kneon and Dan to have FUN drawing it- the hopeful result being a fun book to read. And it worked.

As an interesting side effect, for me- it was like reading my own story for the first time. This has given me a little more of the perspective of the first-time reader, which has certainly helped in developing a story that's for fans.

The creative process in comics continues to fascinate and excite me. I believe Colossians is happening as it should, and the results should be pretty durn skippy.

The image above is my original concept for the cover art for Colossians #1 (penciled, inked and marker colored by moi). While I don't think it's too shabby for a rough, I have to say I'm glad I've got a TEAM to make the vision come to life.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Colossians #1- Cover Preview

If good things come in threes then maybe Colossians is a good thing. Last Tuesday I finished the inks for issue 1, Wednesday I received the first few penciled pages of issue 2, and last Thursday I got the pencil sketch of the cover for the first issue, courtesy of Jeff Slemons.

I won't show you the whole thing, since the scan is a little grainy and, hey, we've got to have some surprises when this thing hits the stands, right? What you're seeing is a giant ape named JazzMan that makes life pretty rough for our heroes for the first several pages. If all goes well, he'll also play a part later in the series, in a 4-issue arc called Fire.

Most of my comic efforts for the next few months will be on Colossians, including a website, a MySpace, and of course the lettering and back-up features (sketchbook, fan art, commentary, etc). I'll continue to preview elements of the book here and discuss progress. If there's anything specific you want to know about, please post a comment and I'll do my best to answer.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Colossians #2- Penciler

A few months back I talked about how Colossians is envisioned as an ongoing series, with my concentration right on the first story arc, which will take us through issue 5, and that there would be other Megazeen artists on deck for each issue. Up until now I haven't named them, but since I just received the first 6 pages of pencils for issue 2 on Wednesday, I know it's a sure thing, so it is with great honor that I announce the penciler for issue 2 is none other than Dan Barlow.

Dan has been a regular on the boards for a long time, and has produced work for the three most recent issues of Megazeen (Frank Gun in the Horror issue, the cover of the Failure issue and Hair of the Dog in the sci-fi issue). Dan has the consistency, the vision, the absolute chops to make it in the long haul.

Seeing Dan's work on the second issue was awesome. I won't talk about them in too much detail, since it won't mean much until you've all seen issue 1, but Dan's another one of those artists (much like Kneon) that clearly enjoys playing in other people's sandboxes. What he's done in the backgrounds, the wardrobe selections, and the redesign of one of my characters (she will debut in issue 2) shows me he understands where we need to go with Colossians.

Dan's style certainly differs from the first issue, which is well-suited. Issue 2 will take some decidedly dark turns in the storyline, and expose a lot more about the uncomfortable backgrounds of Foxx, Savage and the Manx. This will also set up the action-packed twists that come in the third and fourth issues.

Dan's preliminary character sketch of Foxx is attached.

So things are rocking along pretty well with this book at long last!!! But that was Wednesday. I got another surprise in my email on Thursday that, believe it or not, made this whole thing that much better!

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I'm embarrassed to admit it has taken me, get this, four years to complete the inking on Colossians #1, with a large chunk of it getting done in the past six months. This was the final panel I had to knock out, from page 11 of the first issue. In this shot, the Manx is leaping onto a rooftop to surprise some unsuspecting thugs.
I love working with ink. If my fingertips are black, I've had a very, very good day.

Working on Kneon's pencils has been a real privilege and learning experience. His work is tight and precise, an odd blend of cartoon and old-school classic style, which is what convinced me to ask him to do the work in the first place. His art sets the right tone for the book- it's fun but gritty, and very creative. I used a blend of pens, brushes, markers and quills to make his work pop.

Now that the inks are done I can move onto perhaps the toughest part of the project- believe it or not, there's NO SCRIPT for issue 1. Seriously. Not kidding you. Kneon drew these pages based on a loose plot synopsis that was about 3 pages long (including character descriptions). So in classic backwards Megazeen fashion, draw first write later.
It's not that there's no story of course- the story is actually a very involved and detailed mythology that will take these characters in a lot of weird directions, should it become the series I've envisioned. It's just the dialogue and narrative that I've got to get going on, so I can add the letters and get it off to the printer. And just as I've dipped into some of the best Megazeen talent so far (Kneon, Mark Melton on colors, and Jeff Slemons on the cover), I'll be tapping into the best writers I know to help be finish my baby.
Oh, by the way, I finished the inks on Tuesday. Wait till you find out what showed up in the mail on Wednesday... it makes completing this issue a lot more urgent.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Restriction or Freedom

As editor of Megazeen I receive a few submissions a week from guys (mostly guys) who want to draw comics. I am not the best writer that I know and certainly not the best artist, so critiquing these submissions can be very awkward for me- I mean, who am I? But the fact is I am the editor of Megazeen, so my call (whether right or wrong) counts for something. I guess.
The hardest part, for me, is taking a look at work that really has no true vision. It may not be that the artist has no vision, but the work is like watered down iced tea. This seems to be a trap that many believers fall into when it comes to Christian comics. The artist, whether consciously or not, finds Christianity to be restrictive with regard to art and possibly in regard to life.

That's so unfortunate. Following Christ should not be viewed as adhering to a long list of rules and expectations. It should be viewed as freedom from the bondage of sin. When you're free, life is good. When you're free, you can have fun and enjoy life. Sure there's rules- but keeping in line with them simply accentuates the good life we've got.

(Side note: I remember the old comic strip Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. Calvin invented this game called Calvinball, and would make up "the rules" as he went along, and conveniently void those rules when the game wasn't going his way. The strips moved at a maniacal pace and were hysterical- but when you read them, you realize Calvin really wasn't enjoying the game at all, and he'd inevitably get into a fight with Hobbes over it. However, usually Hobbes or Calvin's babysitter would start out frustrated with the game but could turn it to their advantage once they caught on.)

That said, I'm still surprised with the number of submissions I get that are tired old versions of the same old stuff, more suited for a church bulletin than a raw indy zine.

I don't want a strip that's going to make some old lady chuckle (the old lady who sits in the third pew every Sunday wearing her purple blazer and a hat, by golly a hat). I want a strip that's going to make a skateboarder spurt milk out of his nose.

I don't want a tired old sermon about Hell and fear of it. I want something that will scare the pants off someone for real and get under their skin. I'm not interested in the third-hand polished-up retelling of someone else's testimony- I want to read a real story story from the heart, warts and all.

I don't want a bunch of inside jokes about Vacation Bible School or the church collection plate, or old cliche's with an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other. I don't want church talk with words like sanctification, consecration, condemnation, salvation, revelation, new creation, glorify, edify... am I making a point here?

I want YOU. And I think God does too. And I don't think God is in the least interested in entertaining Christians with safe little comics that make the old ladies chuckle politely.
This is obviously a lot heavier than a single entry, so expand on some of these points in the weeks to come. The point of this series is NOT to discourage or make anyone feel bad. The point is to encourage you to get in touch with true storytelling vision, true artistic vision. Don't allow tradition to dictate what's acceptable.

Let's play Calvinball.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Musing at 40- Taking Risks

There have been some recent events in my life that have led me to conclude that I have been leading a wonderfully comfortable, safe and satisfying life. However, the fact is that God doesn't call us to comfort, safety or personal satisfaction, at least for their own sake.

Ripping off a little of my pastor's recent series of sermons on Ecclesiastes (my favorite book in the Bible), most of what we do, just for the sake of doing it, is meaningless. We get up, shower, get dressed, eat some food, drive to work, get annoyed, drive home, eat some food, watch TV, go to sleep, lather, rinse, repeat. Yaaaaawwwnnn.

When you look at it this way, that's a pretty meaningless existence. We have a limited amount of time on the planet to live, to make a difference, to affect lives, to use the gifts God's given, to plow a counterculture. How much time can we really devote to the mundane 9-5? How interested is God in this kind of life?

There comes a time when you have to start putting things on the line. Mundane efforts get mundane results- they put food on the table and buy a few creature comforts but little else. Radical risks can result in radical rewards or, of course, radical loss, God willing. Either way, it sure keeps things interesting.

Up until very recently, turning 40 meant resigning myself to comfy, safe and satisfying, which didn't seem SO bad. But now, today, that has changed. I am determined to make the next 10 years a decade of impact and personal transformation. I have been placed in some very unique leadership roles and presented some very unique opportunities. It is time to capitalize on these things. It's time to take some chances and see what God does with it.

I know that many artists and friends read this blog, and I'll let you know, too, that I will not be stopping with myself. I will be extending my personal challenge to those around me, to see what a difference we can make together. We're going to do some crazy things, and then we're going to kick back and watch what God does with it. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

In a nutshell: I am 40.

Youth is wasted on the young.

So I'm stealing some back.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Timely Reminder

I was planning to skunk out on Free Comic Book Day today. There. I admit it. Something got into my ego, and I forgot that the reason I do comics has never, ever been about doing comics.

For four years running New Moon Comics has welcomed the Megazeen team into their store to do sketches and sell books and talk to people. It is a small store in a new location off the beaten path. I came to the conclusion a few weeks ago that the store would probably not be well-traveled enough to bother this year. That and my wife and I had plans for the past several weekends that sent us down different paths, so I was setting aside some quality time.

But this morning, the weather was crummy, and Marie confessed she needed to do some shopping for my birthday tomorrow (have I mentioned I'm turning 40?), and would I like to join my friends at New Moon for a while?

Dude, I couldn't pack my gear fast enough, and tears of joy literally were rolling down my face as I drove down to Wayne.

A small group of young kids came in early, so I got to draw Spiderman, Wolverine (twice), Luke, Artoo, Boba Fett and a Skrull. Sold a couple books and pins which was sweet. Then my buddies Jesus Marquez, his fiance' Jennifer, and Keith "Inkboy" Betancourt joined us and we all had a blast. The crowd was light as I expected, but it was good because we actually got some time to talk.

Turns out Jesus is preaching for the first time at his church tomorrow. I really wish I could be there for myself to see it. He told me he's preaching about "Transformation," so I was thinking he's got to be using some kind of Optimus Prime references. "Actually," he said, "Part of my sermon deals with you."


Jesus told me about how part of true transformation requires accountability. Someone to mentor you, to push you to be all you can be. For him, he said, that's a lot of what I do for him.

And there I was reminded why I do what I do once again. It's not about volume, about comics, about publicity. It's about friends. And I drove home, again with tears in my eyes.

Then my ultra-cool wife brought me to see Iron Man. I'm not a movie critic, there are professionals for that. I will say great flick. I will also say that, if you wait through all the credits, you'll be very, very happy you did.

I believe that today, my final day of my thirties, is a precursor for what is to come in the next decade. I think I now know what it's shaping up to be and what God has been shaping me to be. I look forward to it now with far less depression, a little more healthy fear, and a lot more hopeful anticipation.

He I Are Now, Entertain Me

To keep myself entertained, I'm watching the new Battlestar Galactica series, which is just amazing. I'm in the midst of watching Season 2.5 on DVD and the current eps on SciFi. It just never seems to go in the direction I think it will, which is one of the best parts.

I also bought King Kong at Blockbuster last week. The young whipper snapper of a clerk looked at me and said, "Um, you know this isn't the new one, right?" and I said, "Oh, yeah, know." And he said, "It's also not the original form the 30's," and I said, "Yeah, I know, it's the one from '76." And then, just to try to make his real point, he said, "But, this is the one that, um, sucks!"

What he doesn't know about me is that that's not a warning, dude, that's a sales pitch. Best four bucks I'd spent since lunch!

Comics... Tales from the Farm (Top Shelf) was a great read. It moves quickly for a graphic novel, which is fine because it allows more time to re-read it.

Musings at 39- the Final Day's Activities

It is the last day of my thirties today. I'm looking forward to a nice birthday weekend- I'll be heading in to New Moon Comics again for Free Comic Book Day to do sketches with Jesus and Keith for a little while. I really enjoy those days- there's nothing like getting face-to-face with people and being able to use your God-given skills to make then happy. I'm hoping that I don't have to draw Spongebob too much.

After that, my wife is taking me on a date to see Iron Man, which looks awesome!

Let's see, what else has been happening... I visited the New York Comic Con a couple weeks ago, not as an exhibitor but as a fan, which was simultaneously very depressing and very freeing at the same time. I got copious amounts of time to visit with other artists and vendors and came hoe with some real interesting swag. The hard part, of course, was being there without Megazeen. I'll fix that next year.

Colossians is wrapping up- Mark has broken into coloring the second half of the story and the results are just amazing. I have three pages left that I need to ink the stoopid backgrounds.

I'm also in the midst of reading some scripts and plot synopsis by a very talented writer. Truth be told, I have the attention span of a gnat, so reading scripts usually doesn't work out too well, but this is some good quality stuff, and I'm trying to wrap my brain around drawing one of them if I can.