Friday, November 21, 2014

Genghis Con!






And then, to wrap up a gala weekend of indy comix, the big Genghis Con comix fest is Sunday, Nov. 30 from 2 to 7 pm!

The festivities kick off there evening before at Cleveland's fabulous Mahall Lanes for a kick-off party. There's food, beer and retro bowling! And screenings of documentaries about Cleveland poster man extraordinaire, John G (who drew these posters here) and indy comix hero John Porcellino. I'll be dropping in at some point.


And then Sunday, the con itself, in our new venue, the Screw Factory aka the Lake Erie Building! Local Cleves know it well as the home of an anthill of galleries and art studios and home to several popular art shows. It is one cool space. We outgrew our first home, the legendary Beachland Ballroom. It's a great lineup this year, with several big indy names coming in: the before mentioned Porcellino, Frank Santaro from Pittsburgh, NYC's Gregory Benton, as well as a who's who of Ohio talent, like Kevin Czap, Liz Valasco, Nix Comics, and, of course, yours truly.

And for those westsiders too lazy to schlep across town for my eastside signings, here's your chance to grab my books for Christmas. 

Best of all.... Genghis Con is FREE! Yep. No admission charge. Spend that money on comix instead!





Upcoming signings.

I emerge from my hole to support indy bookstores with TWO signings

I'll be at Loganberry Books in Cleveland's Larchmere District on Black Friday, from 3 to 5. Gorgeous store, as you locals well know.


And on Saturday, Indies First Day, I'll be at Mac's Backs on Coventry from 11am -12pm. 


So if you're looking to get signed copies of my books, including the new True Stories Volume One, this would be the weekend to do it.

Please please PLEASE shop your local merchants, especially your local bookstores.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

PR&TP now on Comixology!




Those of you who haven't been able to track down a copy of my first graphic novel, big news! The fine folks at Comixology have added it to their digital catalog! You can download it right now and be reading it in mere seconds! AND it's only $8.99! What are you waiting for?

PR&TP is a hit in Europe, which is just about the most gratifying thing that's happened to me, because it didn't sell much in the US, despite glowing reviews. But it's a bestseller in France. That's the benefit of following My Friend Dahmer, rather than preceding it. But I'd really like more people to read it, because I'm fond of Otto and Co. and very proud of this book. 

Download it HERE

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Not Dead Yet

Me & Sheryl, on the Seine, 2013


My darling wife heard a piece on NPR about the biggest regrets people have on their death beds. As women do, she obsessed over this for days as she compiled her own mental list. She asked me for mine. I didn't hesitate. If I dropped over dead tomorrow, I answered, my only regret after this past eleven years I've had, would be that I didn't have more time to do more!

Why eleven years? Because on this very day in 2003, I finished treatment for cancer. On that grey day in November when I walked out of the Radiology Department in the basement of University Hospitals for the final time, I was exhausted, sporting a half dozen ghastly 12-inch scars and missing a few chunks of my body, battered and roasted to a crisp, but happy. I'd made it. 

Cancer messes with your head. I always thought I'd live to a ripe old age like my grandfather, who lived to 105 (his brother lived to 108!), but my body started to fall apart at age 35  like a Chevy Vega. On that November 18th, I was determined to make the most out of whatever time I had left. 

Here's what I've done in those eleven years:



My original concept for Punk Rock & Trailer Parks, 2007. That was the working title early on. 

Taking a break from working on Punk Rock & Trailer Parks to crank out a City strip, 2008

My Friend Dahmer arrives, fresh from the printing plant, 2012!


•Wrote and drew three graphic novels, two webcomics and 600 comic strips.

•Spent another decade with that incredible woman I conned into dating me when we were just kids at Ohio State.

•Published five mini-comics, a bunch of short stories for various anthology books and True Stories: Volume One,  with three more volumes on the way.


240 freshly inked pages of Trashed, my next book, due in Fall 2015. Plus a pile of Band-aid finger pads for my drawing hand and a funeral pyre of spent Microns.


•Watched my son, who was 8 when I got sick, grow up, graduate high school and make his first halting steps into the world. My daughter, who was a quiet 4 year old who nervously sucked her fingers and clutched a stuffed animal, as she burrowed into my chest while I lay on the couch after a chemo,  is now a smart and beautiful (albeit complicated) high school sophomore.



•Won a Robert F. Kennedy Award, an Angoulême Prize, another French book prize, and was nominated for Harvey, Ignatz and Reuben Awards, and yet another French book prize.

Received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cleveland Writers & Poets League (which subsequently folded) and was inducted into my high school's Hall of Fame. Donated papers and originals to the Ohio State Cartoon Museum for the Derf Collection, and had my books added to the Library of Congress collection and the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame library.

Signed 500 books at my first TCAF and 300 books at the Strand Bookstore in New York. Befriended dozens of amazing comix creators. Spent an evening in a bar with Jules Feiffer as he regaled me and a couple others with tales of an era when cartoonists strode the earth like giants.

Had books translated into French, Spanish, German, Dutch and Korean, signed a film option.



•Talked about my work multiple times on National Public Radio, on French National Radio, on the BBC and the CBC and Australian National Radio, to Slate and Salon, to the Times of London and Le Monde and Frankfurter Allgemeine and El Mundo, to CNN and MSNBC. And at comicons, book festivals and comix fests, both here and abroad. Did my first, and hopefully only, radio interview drunk in Arras, France, as the host plied me with flagons of powerful French beer.



•Stripped the ugly aluminum siding off my house and restored the original cedar shingles, turning the ugliest house on the block into one of the nicest. Took 5 years.

•Took the family on vacation to a lovely lakeside lodge in Ontario, the place where 10-year-old me first fell in love with comix. First time I'd been back in 30 years and found it magically unchanged. As I sat in an Adirondack chair with my feet in the water, the idea for my first graphic novel came to me in an inspirational flash. Like I said, the place is magic.

•Said goodbye to my dog, Penny, who curled up beside me on the couch as I recovered from chemo treatments, and added two other dogs, Maggie and Reilly, to the family.


Clearing out my teenage room, 2014. The hippie-trippy wall mural I drew at 14 remained behind.


•Laid my Dad to rest and moved my Mom out of her house of 40 years.

•Did three book tours in France and Belgium, and prepping for a 4th, as well as a Dutch tour. Took Sheryl to Paris twice, and my daughter once. Sat at a cafe along the Seine, sipping wine on a sunny Spring day. Awoke to the Bells of Paris on Easter Sunday. Spent afternoons at the Louvre, the Pompadou and Musee D'orsay, walked the ramparts in Marseilles, climbed the bell tower of Notre Dame and drew a couple thousand dedications for fans. Had a gallery show at the Librarie Super Heros in Paris and signed books in a medieval turret in Caen. 


A cafe along the Siene.

Dedication in the French Punk Rock & Trailer Parks.

Gallery show at the legendary Librarie Super Heros in Paris.

Hanging out in a cafe with comix colleagues Frank Santaro and Dash Shaw.


As Warren Zevon wisely said as he was nearing the end of his battle with terminal cancer, "Enjoy every sandwich." 

Not dead yet! Pass me another sandwich.







Sunday, November 16, 2014

Stuff I Dig: Tom Daniel's Hot Rod Models



Daniel is the creative genius behind some of the wackiest hot rods ever made.  At the top of the list, of course, is the Red Baron (above).

Daniel started designing cars as a teenager, a real prodigy. While still in art school, Rod & Custom magazine hired him to draw fanciful hot rods, a feature which quickly became the most popular feature in the mag. Then he hired on with GM as a legit car designer. But his wife didn't like Detroit, so they soon moved back to SoCal. He found design jobs in aviation and even in the space program, and in his spare time picked up his gig with Rod & Custom again.



It was then that the folks at Monogram Models took notice and hired him to design some model kits. His first was The Beer Wagon in 1967 (above), which Monogram later changed to the ROOT Beer Wagon, having eventually realizing that marketing a bozze-laden hot rod to 8 year olds was problematic. His second was The Red Baron in 1968 (below). Both sold millions. The Baron is probably the most famous hot rod model ever made. They made it into an actual car, which still tours around to car shows.




Between 1968 and 1975, the golden age of the model craze, Daniel designed 75 kits for Monogram. Man, this guy had the best job in the world!


The Tijuana Taxi.


The S'cool Bus.


The Boot Hill Express.


TV producers took notice, too, and Daniel designed the Munsters Hearse, as well as Grandpa Munster's Dragula.



Mattel bought a some of his more popular designs and made them into Hot Wheels. 1969's Red Baron (below) was the biggest selling Hot Wheel of all time, with an estimated 1 million of the little cars sold.  



For a budding artist, the boyhood me was a lousy model builder. My models often wound up as a ball of glue with paint slopped all over it.... or hurled in frustration at the bedroom wall. But I always displayed the boxes! They were cooler than the models anyways. Daniel kits weren't that challenging, luckily, so they turned out better then most. 


My favorite, no surprise, is the Garbage Truck (above), transformed by Daniel  into a surf rod. 

The designs got progressively weirder, but we kids gobbled them up. It didn't get any weirder than 1969's Rommel's Rod (below) a souped up German halftrack with a a skeletal Rommel in the driver's seat! At least Daniel left off the swastikas. Naturally, my eyes bugged out of my head when I saw this box in the toy store. A few minutes of desperate pleading and it was mine.  


Then came 1970, and while on vacation at a lakeside lodge in Canada, I bought a copy of Fantastic Four #102 on a whim. Just like that, my Hot Wheels and Tom Daniel models were mothballed and I gave my life completely to comix.

Just as well. Modeller dorks are even weirder than comix dorks!





Saturday, November 8, 2014

My Friend Dahmer-- it's always weird

Just gave a talk at a library in suburban Akron. Nice turnout. Always like to take care of librarians who ask me to speak. 





This one was particularly strange. It was the Fairlawn branch, and the far west outskirts of the Rubber City... and directly across the street from the Summit Mall, the mall where I wandered for endless hours as a bored teenager, and, of course, where Dahmer's Command Performance took place.


I had some time to kill before the talk, so I wandered around the mall a bit. It's been almost 40 years since my mallrat days, but the mall hasn't changed all that much. The mall cinema, where I first saw Star Wars, is long gone. As is Woolworth's where I bought the black Chuck Taylors I still wear. So is the Booklein Newsstand, where I bought my monthly National Lampoon and Heavy Metal and Creem. But there's still an Orange Julius and a Spencer Gifts and a Goodyear Tire store! The smell of new tires always reminds me of the Summit Mall (it's the Rubber City, baby!). All that was missing was the Hammond Organ salesman, playing crappy muzak renditions of popular tunes. It's an unsettling stroll, because the memories always come back. Yeah, this is the spot where Dahmer had his epileptic fit. Here's the spot where he spit out the wheat germ sample. 





On the opposite side of the mall is West Market Street, a dull commercial strip where carloads of local teens crusied an endless loop from the Sky-way Drive-in burger joint (which I depicted in Punk Rock & Trailer Parks) to the Montrose Drive-in Theater and back. It's also the spot--- and I could see it from the window of the library, where Dahmer picked up a hitchhiking Steven Hicks, the tragic young man who became the first of Dahmer's 17 victims.




It's the epicenter of my bibliography! 

Talk went well. I stopped at Sky-way for a burger before the long ride back to Cleveland.



Friday, October 31, 2014

I'm back

Whew. Some good news. I've been blasting away on my new 250-page Trashed book for Abrams Comicarts, publishers of My Friend Dahmer, working 12-14 hour days, 7 days a week, in a mad rush to meet my mid-December deadline. That's been my schedule since Labor Day! I was going to make it, by the skin of my teeth, but then I got word the deadline has been pushed back to early Spring! Best of all, the release– Fall 2015– remains the same! So I can go back to 8-10 hour days and take some time with this. 

This is the reason for my radio silence over the past couple months. Now I can drop in a blog post or two. I know you've all been waiting with baited breath for my latest musings.


Of course, I didn't receive this reprieve until I had only five pages left to ink. Still, I'm glad I have the bulk of it completed. I'm quite pleased with the art. It's always fun to draw garbage.  And drawing a book in such a short time span gives the whole thing a consistency my other books, which took far longer, didn't have. Punk Rock & Trailer Parks, for example, took nearly two years to draw, and by the time I got to the end of it I noticed I was drawing the characters differently. So I had to go back to the first chapter and paste in new heads on everyone! I was a little more disciplined with MFD, but the opening scene was drawn a good year before the rest of the book, so I had a bit of the same problem and wound up totally re-drawing a couple entire pages. I don't know how creators who spend years on a project, like Jeff Smith did on Bone, do it.

Here's a two-page spread I just finished earlier this week.



My plan is to still wrap it up by late January, before I leave for Angoulême and another month-long  European book tour. I still have to lay in all the type, and the grey washes and punch out a cover.Then there's the edits and corrections. So lots to do, but at least I can take time off for Thanksgiving dinner.

More later.