Ultraist Studios Blog Journal thoughts, musings and other rambling…

August 1, 2007

I Got Mail…

Filed under: Mail — M Kitchen @ 6:41 am

The following mail, containing perhaps the most comprehensive review yet, arrived from Switzerland from Ultraist Reader and CRIC2 Contributor Jay Traci:

Random notes from a know-nuthin’ on the comics of Mike Kitchen:

Knight Hawk/Apocalypse (1993)

Ah, a step back in the way-back machine. So what’s the Matt Campbell chap working on of late. I see his posts on your page from time to time.

Spy Guy Bootleg (2001)

Nice cover, bootleg-esque, but maybe you should have focused the drawing more on Spy Guy, an interesting, eye-catching character?

Funny to see the A-V ‘note from the president’ layout on the inside front cover. I like that you state the circulation too.

I like the look of The Skunk character.

Hot damn you do good guns!

Your use of tones is nice. Not too heavy handed. And I like your backgrounds, like in the cigar shop: the wooded paneling and newspapers on the racks.

Lovely sequence of 4 panels with Hunter taking the thug’s gun away.

Hmmm, looks like you got a thing with squee-gee guys! I’m a big fan of ‘conceptual continuity’ and could feel they would return And they did! Again and again!

Ninja dialect: difficult to pull off. But it worked, mostly.

In the restaurant I loved the dialogue of “Ssshhhh, keep it down! Someone may become suspicious of our activities!” after he shot someone in the head.

Nice 1920s flash-back.

Great panels of the alley, bricks and Spy Guy on the fire escape. With lasers.

Also at the shipyard with the wideshot on the top panel and then seemingly the ninja and mob guy face to face in the next, with panel separator.

Hmmm, Spy Guy carries a rubber chick around…I like the idea of the jacket being able to house damn near anything (like the bazooka-type gun at the end)

Nice idea of SG sliding to get under the thug’s chin with a gun.

Lotssssss of cross hatching on the wharf. Lots.

I like the back cover too.

So what happened to the Spy Guy video-game you mention in the intro?

Spy Guy Minis (2005)

I liked most of the Target: Terror strips, and I’m very much in-line with your political thinking and it’s nice to see you fleshing out your characters and broadening your drawings, but all in all I think there _could_ be a danger is using a character you want to continue to fall-back on in such a autobiographical motif, no?

One of the things I’ve thought about doing with ‘my guy’ is some random ‘public service announcements’ about public transportation. But I’m wary, as they’d pretty much just be rants and I don’t want to muddy the character in mere substitute for drawing a self-portrait.

But as I said, I enjoyed them. And current events certainly gives one a storyline to continue to work with.

In addition to T:T I did like the occasional inter-cut of non-T:T bits. I can’t stand Star Wars but I liked the way you did the little review. And inserting yourself sitting with your character is nice and the fat movie guy (you know, Beyonce’s brother) gives it a movie feel.

T:T12, “leave your trash in Mississauga .” Funny stuff. Plus I like the name Mississauga .

Thumbnail Action. Amazing. I love this. You totally have every bit of you character nailed, and your animation tuition was certainly worth it. Love it.

T:T13, Canada joins war in Afghanistan. Great strip.

T:T14, the guy that runs the cigar shop returns! Nice to see. And nice reference to Pearl Harbour (and again later). I always dry heave when Americans cite PH knowing little about it.

The Dog, the Bitch and the Gimp. “ring burns on both ends”, you’re sick. (but in a good way). Interesting strip. I liked the ending. And these tiny-tiny panels you sometimes insert are a nifty device.

The Miller-esque pinup is nice.

Hat Attack, ah! So our little spy indeed has a head of hair (which I assumed as it’s in his file from Bootleg…)

Godlike, is that lettering reminiscent of The Godfather? Gotta love a Sea Monkies mention, though. And, of course, the Cerebus “alone, unmourned and unloved” reference.

Nice to see the first appearance of Spud.

T:T22, “don’t have to live there but still have to deal with them” sums up _exactly_ how I feel…

I also loved the cover, great colour contrasts and excellent presentation of your character. Paperstock is also nice.

Well done!

Spud and Harry (2007)

Nice flip cover and very eye catching.

The middle insert is very very cool also. I like that this is “a Spy Guy comic”, giving on the feeling you have your own little ‘universe’ going. Looking forward to Spud, Harry and Spy Guy meeting up some time.

The Spud story could be used in an Econmics 101 course…lots of information there; I’m curious how Spud, who obviously does his homework, will flesh out as a character. Harry, of course more the strong-Silent type.

Your art work, good years ago, has jumped leaps and bound. Absolutely fan-bloody-tastic. Every panel is damn, damn good. I really couldn’t be more impressed, Mike.

Feel free to pass this on to Blair…

Random notes on:

The Possum #1

Nice eye-catching cover.

I really like the splash page (p5), I’m very impressed with your houses and cars.

Page 7 having Mike’s line at the comic book convention being the only one with people (and lots of them at that) is a nice touch.

“3 Feet Under” is a hysterical name for a retirement place!

Holy hell is Steve Tacola an annoying character; and didn’t we allllllll know someone *exactly* like him!

Love the double-page spread on 18-19. Great bus.

A snort-out-loud moment was in the ambulance when our hero ‘returns’ the first reaction from the EMTs is not something like ‘it’s a miracle!’ but “Ahhhhh, Zombie!!” Funny stuff.

Nice use of visuals, very animated-like, with the stretcher coming out of the ambulance and rolling about.

Nice panel on 47, captures the “I wish I was never born” feel.

Again, I like your autos: the truck at the end of the story.

T-shirts with your first issue, wow, were pre-sales that good! Although I guess it’s not such an expensive endeavour as it used to be.

All in all a fun read. Admittedly I’m not a reader of _comic_ (or comedy/funny) comic books (pardon the seeming redundancy), but our visuals kept me engaged. Your consistent line-work is very solid. I haven’t seen a Mad magazine in over 20 years but I was getting a bit of a flashback. But you’ve mentioned you’re a big fan of Groo and I think Argones (sp?) was of that school.

What did stick out for me is your use of tones. Your art is really, really very good and I wish you would let us see it some more. Not everything needs a tone. Let white work for you. Solid black too.

The Possum #2

Again a nice cover. Eye-catching.

I like the movie-credits type of into (p8-9)

Again, your cars and backgrounds are very, very good.

Good ending with an issue number 2: bring ‘em back for more.

– – – – – –

Really impressive work, guys. And knowing that you both have the commitments of jobs, sometimes many jobs, and still get this down on paper. And published. Well, well done. And I’m sure Mom and Dad Kitchen are proud as can be.

Good luck with all your future projects!


Thanks Jay!

I’ll respond to your letter below in the comments section.

1 Comment »

  1. Okay. I’ve gone through your letter, and respond point by point.

    Knight Hawk/Apocalypse (1993)

    Matt Campbell has been making his fortune in video games. His latest comic project is something called The Boy Who Left Heaven, which is currently in pre-production. He used to be posting his development work at http://www.projecthellmouth.com however it looks like future work will end up here http://www.tbwlh.com

    Spy Guy Bootleg (2001)

    I wondered about the Bootleg cover. But in the end, I had to go with my gut, that SPY GUY on the cover would give away the story. It was interesting that people who already knew about the SPY GUY character would respond to it by saying “YOU CHANGED THE CHARACTER!”. No. That’s Sgt. Hunter. Just read it.

    I still think the A-V ‘note from the president’ layout on the inside front cover is the best. Mark Oakley comes close with Thieves & Kings inside front covers. But I figured I’d steal from the best!

    Yeah, I like the look of The Skunk character too. He was designed right on that page. He’ll have to return in a future story.

    As for the guns, thanks! I use reference.

    I’m trying to do my best Gerhard meets Manga on the backgrounds and tones… I’m slowly getting better.

    That 4 panel action sequence was the one that made me think “I REALLY need to improve my action sequences”. It was a big reason why SPUD & HARRY was a big action sequence. I just wanted to get better.

    Ah yes. The Squee-gee guys. When I was living in Toronto circa 1997, you couldn’t walk a block without tripping over a squeegee kid. I didn’t drive a car, but would still get offers to have my sunglasses cleaned. When I started the Bootleg script, I knew they had to play a part in the story. KMFDM introduced me to the term ‘conceptual continuity’. Chuck Palahniuk was the one that explained it. I’m a big fan of that as well. Look for more of it in SPY GUY #1.

    The ninja dialect: yeah, mostly.

    The restaurant part concerned me. I didn’t know if it held up at all. Then I saw that Lambiek.net used a panel from the sequence on their website, and now you tell me that dialogue worked, and now I think that part doesn’t concern me as much as it used to.

    The 1920s flash-back also concerned me…

    That alley sequence was what inspired me to do the Frank Miller Sin City style pinup shot in Minis. I thought I really botched it the first time around.

    It’s interesting because with so much of this comic I was flying by the seat of my pants, that when there is a panel arrangement that worked well (such as this one) I’m pleasantly amused. “Huh. That one turned out alright.”

    The rubber chicken was a gag we came up with for the videogame. I had to use it here in the comic. The trench coat gag (being able to house damn near anything) was the very first one I came up with for SPY GUY way back in 1986.

    The gun under the chin thing is another that falls under the “Huh. That one turned out alright.” I like the way that sequence turned out.

    I use letraset.


    As for the SPY GUY videogame: We used the assets for it in an Alias|Wavefront demo for a gaming convention (it wasn’t E3, it was the other one). The game itself was never finished, but you could run a 3D Spy Guy through the streets of Venice. And he did pull a bazooka out of his trench coat.

    Spy Guy Minis (2005)

    To be honest, I wondered the same thing. That’s why I wanted to see if I could pull it off in Minis before committing to that kind of ranting in the “real” comic. There is a fine line between pulling a punch and wussing out. So yeah, there’s a danger, but I didn’t want to wuss out.

    My take on this is; if you are thinking of doing this, then there is a good chance that you should just do it. Chances are, if you do, then it’s coming from your gut, and you’ll end up with the most powerful, honest material you could ever hope to come up with. And if you muddy the character? Well, you took a risk.

    Yes they do.

    Current events and pop-culture commentary had always played a big part in the SPY GUY continuity, dating right back to the high school comics. To me, that’s an important element of the character and universe.

    Yeah. I like the name Mississauga too.


    Thanks again.

    Me too.

    Ah yes. This strip is one of those where I decided to take a risk. Testing the threshold. I showed it to a few people, who all responded the same way. It always provoked a reaction. And it was never more negative than “that’s sick”. I thought I went too far. Then I heeded the words of Chuck Palahniuk and thought that’s just far enough.

    I’m pretty sure I got the tiny panel idea from Mark Oakley. They work well as punctuation I think.


    Interesting reaction to Hat Attack. Interesting because I really pondered over what SPY GUY’s head should look like. At the time, I wondered if so much pondering over it was silly. But an “ah!” response tells me other people had pondered the same thing… interesting.

    Yes, the Godlike lettering is the Godfather font. Seemed appropriate. Also, this whole strip is based on an actual conversation I had with Matt Campbell. The Cerebus line seemed the perfect way to cap the conversation.

    I keep forgetting that strip is in there (as well as the COMING SOON in Bootleg).

    ‘Nuff said.

    Thanks. I think that cover turned out pretty good. The only thing I’d change is to try and align the background strips better to the edge of the page so they are visually centered better. Oh well. It’s a learning process.

    Spud and Harry (2007)

    Thanks again. I’ve always loved those flip covers… especially if used in proper context.

    The SPY GUY Universe thing is definitely something I was trying to emphasize here. Glad it worked!

    So far no one has slammed me on my Spud diatribe. Actually, I got a blank stare from a co-worker who seemed to think it got too cerebral (when he was just expecting something funny). But other than that, all the feedback has been positive. Then again, I’m not famous enough for people to write in to tell me that they hate me.

    Thanks for the kind words Jay. I’m hoping the artistic learning curve takes another leap on this next comic. It’s getting there…

    Comment by M Kitchen — August 2, 2007 @ 11:40 am

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