Ultraist Studios Blog Journal thoughts, musings and other rambling…

April 6, 2011

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.16

Filed under: Mail,Now I'll Ask You One... — M Kitchen @ 7:20 am

Mike: I hadn’t really thought about how the Uber-Travelling and Anti-Travelling effected SPY GUY before.

I did think I would be a lot more productive being at the extreme end of Anti-Travelling, but truth is the productivity so far has remained about the same. While I was travelling, I would always manage to find time to get my ideas down on paper. In Hawaii I roughed out the First Strike three part story on Ala Moana beach during lunch hours. I would also wake up crazy early in the morning to ink pages before driving to work. In Montreal I managed to get my pages for SPY GUY: Bootleg scanned, and the cover done during downtime at the office. In California I didn’t have any downtime at work (it was a tight ship) but I tried to squeeze comics in whenever I could in my “free time” at home. In Toronto I would escape to the library at lunch hour to work on SPUD & HARRY. I also roughed out (pencilled) a lot of that comic and SPY GUY #1 on the GO Train. Blair and I plotted the SPY GUY POSSUM crossover on the plane to San Diego. I guess you do what you have to do to be more productive.

The two things I found that always put a halt to my comic making more than anything else was the actual move (that would put me out of commission for a good three or four months while we got our bearings and settled in… and it was a financial drain) and having babies (which throws off the whole sleep schedule until the baby starts sleeping through the night).

One definite difference I see is that during the Uber-Travelling I was always in sponge-mode. It was all about absorbing information. Great for inspiration and ideas. I think there is an energy you get travelling and seeing new things and meeting new people. I know recently I was super-energized after San Diego Comic Con. A drawback is there are a lot of things to sap your concentration when travelling around too. It’s easier to lose focus. I think if you need inspiration, travel helps. If you are already inspired, travel just becomes a distraction. Travelling did give me a better macro view on things. An overall idea of the big picture. It was good for Erika and I with regards to establishing our marriage and family too. Getting away from old surroundings and starting with a clean slate. Learning to rely on each other. Have some adventure in our lives. But it is an ethereal experience.

During Anti-Travelling I am in pure emission-mode. It’s all about exerting energy and building things. Everything becomes more tangible. Because right now I’m super-saturated with ideas I find this mode more comfortable. It allows me to process the thoughts better, and be less distracted by people and other worldly commotion. I think the concentration levels are better staying put. There is more focus and more intensity. It’s easier to think through problems. It’s easier to do the work out of a permanent base of operations. There is a solid foundation. It’s better to catch your bearings and fully understand where you are and where you are going. What you are doing. Not travelling allows more intimate knowledge of a thing as you settle into it. You become entrenched in the routines, which is good if you have a good routine going.

I’d like to take it to an even further extreme by starting to grow more food in my yard and becoming more self-sufficient. Even moving to a northern homestead with acreage and lower expenses… one of these days.

Tying this back to SPY GUY, I do think I’ve been able to give far more thought to this recent comic, especially when I took the time off to just focus on it. It was amazing to see the momentum begin to build as I got into the groove. I do think the quality has been better as well.  Hopefully I can figure out a way to afford another couple months off to keep going. It would be nice to get these funny-books out more frequently.

Blair: My planning for The Possum pretty much consists of a bunch of sketchbooks with quick sketches, and notes with many random ideas all scattered throughout. I’ve gotten into the habit of always carrying a sketchbook on me, so that when an idea strikes me (whether for a new villain, a story or some stupid thing that Stuart and his friends could be doing) I’ll write it down, usually with a crude little sketch accompanying it. I pretty much have a bucket of ideas that can happen around the comic book store, such as them playing road hockey, sitting out front of the convenience store eating freezies, building a smash up derby car, etc. Then I’ll have a bucket of ideas for villains and then a bucket of ideas for soap opera type story arcs that can weave their way through all of the issues, such as the relationship with Steve Tacola and Stuart Spankly, which is what this first long term story arc will focus on. I’ve only planned ahead a few issues, knowing what villain I want The Possum to fight (issue #5 is the giant robot, which I’m just finishing up now, issue #6 will be a hypnotist villain called Waldo and for issue #7 I’m pretty sure I want to make it a James Bond type story involving an awesome car, a hot woman and the high school prom, but no idea is set in stone until I finish the previous comic and write the little “Next issue” caption at the bottom of the last page. What I’ve been finding though is that the ideas for the little happenings have been growing and growing faster than I can make these comics, so I’ve decided that I really need to start sprinkling them in more and more each issue, which works out well because I really want to condense the story in each issue more, like we were talking about earlier on in this discussion.

I saw an interview with Larry David (co creator of Seinfeld and star of Curb Your Enthusiasm) and he was explaining how he always carries around a notebook with him to write ideas down when he gets them. Then every now and then when the ideas get all over the place, he keeps another set of notebooks at home that he’ll take all of the scattered ideas in his small notebooks and organize those ideas more properly in the larger ones. This is similar to the way I work, but where I differ is that each time I start a new sketchbook, I’ll compile most of the key ideas into a few pages of the new sketchbook and then continue on with my scattered ideas. Each time I start scripting a new comic, I’ll flip through all of my old sketchbooks and make sure I’m not forgetting anything. During this process, I’ll also flag certain pages with sticky notes to be used in future issues.

I leave a lot of room for changing issue to issue, but I’m pretty locked down on the over all story arc between Steve and Stuart at this point, as I have to make that one evolve slowly, but also I have to make it evolve towards a specific event that I’d like to take place. (I can’t give too much away here though)

The long term planning and the plotting of each issue usually take place sporadically over years (which hopefully can be accelerated once I start accelerating the time between each comic coming out and the amount of time I spend making comics). I talked earlier about how often we think about comics, and I mentioned the time thinking while driving, in the shower, or before bed, and a lot of that thinking is directed towards this kind of planning. The first chance I get, it all goes into the sketchbook. A lot of the time when I start a comic, I know the way I want it to end, but I don’t know exactly how I’m going to get the character in that position. During the process of pencilling out the pages, I’ll be thinking “how the heck is he going to get THERE?” With issue #3, I was pencilling along and until I realized that the story was progressing quicker than I had planned and it was looking like I was going to be about 3 pages too short. I remember racking my brain trying to figure out how I was going to solve this dilemma and Mike finally said “whatever you’re trying to say with your story, reiterate that in those 3 pages”, hence the cockroach hallucination in the Happy Mexican washroom came into existence. That was a case of a happy accident, because looking back at that story, I think the hallucination really adds to it, and it has been received really well.

I’m kind of forced to work this way, due to time restraints as I very rarely have moments when I can sit down and just plan. If anything I’d say that I wish I could plan a bit more ahead of time, but I tend to have a hard time working small and thumbnailing. With animation, I tend to do my thumbnail drawings full scale (almost as a rough first pass) and with my comic pages I tend to need to see the panels on the actual page in order to get a clear idea of how it will work. Likewise with the dialogue and story, I need to see where the characters are going to take me, and usually what I have plotted out for each issue changes considerably once I start pencilling the actual pages and start to get a clear feeling as to what the characters would naturally do. Working this way wouldn’t work if I didn’t at least have that first plotting attempt written out so I at least have markers that I know I have to hit.

Looking through my old sketchbooks always amazes me how early on in the process a lot of my ideas came to me and it’s kind of depressing knowing how long it may take to get other ideas into an actual comic. The seed idea for issue #5 that I’m finishing up right now was actually first sketched out in 2003 or so….. What happened to the last 8 years!!!

The struggle for me is always finding time to draw. So much of my time is spent drawing storyboards for animation that any time I get to work on my comic, I want it to be productive drawing time and not thinking time. I can think and plan while doing other things (until I get stumped and need to set aside a few hours to figure things out), but drawing time is always at a premium. I’ve tried different methods of squeezing in pure drawing time like 1 hour before I start my day job, or 1 hour before I go to bed each day, but before I know it my day job work starts to creep in, or I’m hit with a really tight deadline and it throws everything off. I was able to take a month off of work earlier this year and focus strictly on comics and I must say, it was bliss. Unfortunately, that can’t be the norm right now, so until it is, I’ll have to keep focussed and draw when I can draw and plan when I can’t draw.

As for fine tuning, I try to pencil the entire comic out first (reading it and adjusting my plot as I go) and then once it’s all pencilled, I’ll tweak dialogue and make minor changes as I ink. I give myself one last chance to fix drawings that I’m not happy with or dialogue that doesn’t work before I scan all the pages, but I don’t usually tweak things after I ink unless it’s really bugging me. I’m well aware of the trap that most people can fall into with over planning or over tweaking things, but that doesn’t seem to be in my nature. Sometimes I struggle with the “Quality” vs. “Quantity” battle but I usually lean towards “Quantity” and I search for ways to get more “Quality”. I look at artists like yourself, Erik Larsen or Sergio Aragones as good role models for buckling down and just producing comics consistently while at the same time turning out quality work. Also my 12 plus years working in animation has taught me to draw fast and meet deadlines (especially when your working on footage rates). My problem right now is that I need two of me.

Now we’ll ask you one:

Both Mike and I have really fond memories of spending hours and hours drawing comics at our grandparent’s cottage in our parent’s tent trailer. My uncle had an old box of comics up there for us to read and destroy as well, which really was our introduction to comics and is one of the big things that got us interested in them. It’s interesting that certain comics really stuck out in our minds as kids from that old box, such as Amazing Spiderman 232 (John Romita Jr.) and Batman 244 (Neal Adams) to name a couple.

I’m wondering, if you have specific childhood memories of experiences with comics that may have lead you towards where you are now?

Mike here with an extra part to this question: The thing I find interesting about our cottage experience is how much it still resonates with me. I end up in that environment and it all comes rushing back. A setting like that would be my ideal comic studio.
Last summer at the cottage, the older children and grandparents were off to bed as my wife was helping the little one fall asleep, leaving me all alone on the couch in the main room. Making use of the quiet time, I wandered over to the nearby shelf and leafed through the stacks of paper books and pamplets looking for something interesting to read, just as I have done for decades before. These are the same shelves where I discovered Peanuts, and Andy Capp, and Archie, and Neal Adam’s Batman. What did I find on the shelf this time? Spy Guy #1 and The Possum #4! This made me smile. I brought them back to the couch and read through them. It brought back those oldest memories of reading comic books, and something about this experience brought things full circle in my mind, making me satisfied with what my brother and I had accomplished in making our own. (It also confirmed for me the idea of comics as paper artifacts. As physical art objects that can be found, and experienced, and enjoyed from a shelf in a cottage – but that is another story).

Do you have those childhood comic-book memories that are so powerful that they still resonate with you into the present? Specifically ones anchored by specific locations and/or sensations.

April 5, 2011

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.15

Filed under: Mail,Now I'll Ask You One... — M Kitchen @ 11:44 am

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.14

Filed under: Mail,Now I'll Ask You One... — M Kitchen @ 6:00 am

Blair: First of all, I’m glad you liked the ‘pseudo Spanish’ in issues 2 – 4. Coming from the guy who pretty much mastered the art of written dialects, it means a lot. My first plan was to have a friend of mine from Paraguay translate all of the Seven Deadly Dwarfs’ dialogue into proper Spanish for me, but I don’t really write a proper script before I start drawing, and I’m usually doing dialogue changes right up until the final inks, so I never got around to actually getting her to translate anything for me. At the same time, my kids were into watching the old Looney Tunes cartoons and the way Pepe Le Pew talked always cracked me up. Another thing I thought of that was funny was the poorly translated bootleg DVD’s from Japan. If you’ve ever read some of the movie descriptions on the backs of the cases, it’s hilarious. They’re trying to come across as proper English, but some of them are almost illegible and are even more entertaining than the actual movies. I decided to use Google Translate, an online translation program, where you type in a sentence and it will automatically translate it into whatever language you select. With each sentence, I would type it into the program and convert it to Spanish, then I’d convert it back from Spanish to English to see if it was legible. Usually it wasn’t even close, so I’d reword the sentence to almost cave man English, until it made sense. For dialogue that didn’t really matter to the story, I’d keep it cave man English translated to Spanish, straight from Google Translate. When it was imperative that you knew what the Seven Deadly Dwarfs were saying to understand the plot, I would keep most of the nouns as English, and would make the pronouns and adjectives Spanish, or at least make it so that there were enough English words to make sense of the sentence. (I also used a traditional Spanish-English dictionary if the computer wasn’t giving me words that made sense) Sometimes there was funny dialogue that I knew that 95% of the people reading it wouldn’t get, but I hoped that for the 5% that knew Spanish it would at least make sense to them and it would be a nice bonus for them to get the jokes. I’ve actually gotten a lot of positive comments from people who know Spanish, and much to my relief, they said it all read well in a funny way, which is what I was going for. I purposely tried to use English phrases that wouldn’t technically work in Spanish, like in issue #2 when the midgets are blowing up the safe while they’re robbing the bank, Glotonaria (the fat one) yells out “Fire in the hole!”, which translated to Spanish makes absolutely no sense unless you know both Spanish and English. There’s been a few occasions that I’ve met people from Mexico who have been attending conventions and they’ve absolutely loved the bad Spanish, so I guess I was successful in what I was trying to accomplish. The accents that you managed to portray in Cerebus was a big inspiration for trying something different like what I did, and I actually thought at one point that I’d try to write out the Spanish accent in English like you did, but I ended up chickening out.

I’ve got a couple of other ideas for different ways to write dialogue that I’m not sure if it’s been done before, but one of them will be in issue #6 which I’m plotting out right now.

Mike: Well, since I chose to become an animator, a father of five, and a comic-book artist in my “free-time”, it’s safe to say I err on the side towards making masochist “time-consuming choices”… or let’s go with calling it “good ol’ Judeo-Christian work ethic”, which sounds a lot better.

The reason I was using Toronto as Spy Guy’s city (going all the way back to the high-school gag comics), is because I had always heard it be said that you should “write what you know”. I decided to make SPY GUY into a black and white indie comic when my friend and collaborator told me he had decided not to do his Cyber-Punk black and white indie comic, and since my ULTRAIST black and white indie comic was closely intertwined in his comic-book universe, I abandoned my comic as well and decided to resurrect SPY GUY. At that time I was living in down-town Toronto. For my 1996-1998 day-job, I was being flown around North America to attend CGI tradeshows and I was seeing lots of different cities, and decided to use the opportunity to take reference photos for my new SPY GUY comic-book. Only when I started doing so, I realized how different other cities really are; “THAT’s not what a Toronto dumpster looks like!” “THAT’s not how the Toronto curb and sidewalk looks like” “A Toronto manhole cover doesn’t look like THAT!” and it hit me how different every city is from one another.

When I moved to Hawaii (which is where the bulk of SPY GUY: Bootleg was created) I was hyper aware of Toronto as a unique city with it’s own unique details. I had also read interviews and articles with great storytellers and directors who said that the location is also a character in the story. So I’ve always been hyper aware of that aspect as well. All of this became very important.

The Spy Guy look was always based around classical animation with the cell painted characters, and intricately detailed painted backgrounds. It didn’t help that I was being heavily influenced in comics by Gerhard’s backgrounds on Cerebus and Katsuhiro Otomo’s backgrounds on Akira. So that was always a specific look I was going for. If nobody else even noticed those backgrounds, I’d still probably keep drawing that way just for myself. But the thing is those backgrounds have received a very good reaction. Charlito from Indie Spinner Rack pointed to the last panel on page 12 saying that could look like it was from any realistic comic. Even you yourself said “the cityscape behind the cop car is as detailed as anything George Perez ever did.” which I took as a huge compliment. Erik Larsen told me when flipping through SPY GUY #1 “SOMEbody has been influenced by Dave Sim…” which I obviously took as a huge compliment.

One of my favourite reactions to get are from people who know the city of Toronto, but have been away from it and yet when they see the backgrounds they can immediate place it. They know where that street corner is. They recognize that landmark. They have been there. When I keep getting reactions like that, I certainly don’t regret drawing them… if anything, the one thing I regret is that I can’t draw those backgrounds faster… but I’m working on it!

Now I’ll ask YOU one that I’ve been curious about for a while…

My research for SPY GUY has lead me down various rabbit-holes where I’ve found information about conspiracy theories, secret societies, shadow governments and various mystery schools. And what has amazed me is how much of the esoteric information and symbolism I’ve retroactively found that seemed to echo in Cerebus. Here are a couple of them:

Adam Weishaupt was the founder of the Bavaria Order of Illuminati.
Obvious connection to President Adam Weisshaupt all the way back in issue #21.

Nasa (Project Paperclip) lunar missions allegedly as Masonic cabalistic rituals.
Made me think of the Cerebus ascension, and especially tied together with the footprint on the moon in #111

Hermaphrodite and androgynous occult symbolism.
Cerebus as a hermaphrodite.

The bronze sculpture called Sphere Within Sphere (Sfera Con Sfera) for the Vatican Museums.
Reminded me of Church & State and Mothers & Daughters gold spheres.

Plutonic age – Chemycal Wedding / Chemycal Divorce – attaining truth by confronting and removing all that is false with the self.
Similar to the astrological elements in Minds with Cerebus ending up on Pluto talking with Dave.

Cult of Aton – Origin of mystery schools – Egyptian sun worship cult.
The Last Day in Cerebus – Sheshep and the Harmaclus in the mind blowing issue #299.

I don’t know how much of this stuff in Cerebus was actually pulled from esoteric sources, but regardless, to me it seemed to have parallels to it. I know that while writing Cerebus you were on the lookout for the capital “T” TRUTH. And it was Rick’s Story where you seemed to have found it in God. But the inclusion of these other things interests me because I keep coming across it in researching secret societies.

So, long question short – I’ve been curious: Where did you get the ideas for some of these esoteric elements and how did you decide to put them into the Cerebus comic?

April 4, 2011

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.13

Filed under: Mail,Now I'll Ask You One... — M Kitchen @ 9:01 am

April 3, 2011

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.12

Filed under: Mail,Now I'll Ask You One... — M Kitchen @ 6:15 am

Mike: That last answer was great!

It really got me thinking…

Answering YOUR question: There are a couple things in there:

A child, once they realize they are capable of being mobile (6-10 months old) is nearly impossible to keep still for an extended period of time. At this age reasoning to stay still and stay quiet is out of the question. There are diversionary tactics that work – sippy cups, baby cookies, books, toys – but that only buys you a certain number of minutes. This lasts until the child develops certain cognitive abilities where they can understand what “stay still and stay quiet” means and they can understand that there are certain consequences for not staying still and not staying quiet when they are in a place where they should be still and quiet (2½ -3 years old).

Attending a church service with a child at this young age requires one parent to be acting as a diversionary tactician for the better part of the full church service. A third of that is usually taking the child out into the lobby and walking around with them so they’re not disturbing everyone else when they begin to go bonkers from sitting cramped in the little bench for an extended period of time.

Once the child is over three years old (if you’ve done your job right as a parent) it is smooth sailing.

If a child is old enough to be running up and down the isle with toy race-cars, then that child should be old enough to understand “stay still and stay quiet”. In that case, it seems to me it’s the result of laxed parenting. Here’s a bit of advice to new parents: If you do your job right at the early stages of your child’s development (which is hard) your child will learn proper ethics and judgement and act on them as they get older (which is easy). Proverbs 13:24 is scripture for a reason. But this is the thing; with proper discipline, you’ll find you rarely need to discipline. I can’t think of the last time I had to actual spank any of my children… last year maybe? Children are smart, and they do what works. If misbehaving doesn’t work, they don’t do it. It’s really that simple.

In the case of Erikson, he’s very well behaved and disciplined. All the kids are actually. The fact Erika was able to walk around downtown New York City last year like a mother hen with all four children in tow and behaving perfectly while I was at MoCCA all weekend is a testament to that. I asked Erika about your specific discussion with her and it confirmed my hunch that in this case, what she was talking about with things being crazy, is that Erikson has had hockey Sunday mornings all winter, so the running around she’s talking about is actually us driving him to the arena to play his hockey game, and then driving back. Anika also has had soccer practices Sunday mornings all year, so we’re also driving her around. After all morning doing that, we have to decide if we want to get dressed up to chase our baby/toddler Markus around a church or just take a timeout in the morning to catch our breath.

And this gets into some other things:

The primary thing I enjoy about a church service is the sermon. However that normally lasts for only a few minutes (5-15minutes?) The rest is standing up, sitting down, singing songs, etc. And that portion of the service I have never really connected with. Adding to that an already exhaustive schedule and a small baby/toddler that can’t stay still, for Erika and myself that adds up to the tipping point. Personally I don’t necessarily feel the need to sit in a church every week to exercise my religious beliefs. I think the internal aspect is far greater. As for our children, they attend a Catholic School, so attending a mass during school hours is already part of their curriculum. And the people we interact with in our daily lives are part of the school and church community, so that aspect in our lives isn’t lacking either.

But the BIG one for me is this:

It’s that society has drifted completely off the mark with observance of the sabbath. I remember being a child and every store was closed on Sunday. Now a Sunday is treated like any other day by the majority of the community. So it becomes yet another juggling act trying to fit everything into the schedule. If God is in our lives, is it absolutely necessary to go to a church to stand up and sit down and sing songs? Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. I really don’t know the answer. In the end we just do the best we can do with where we are at any given moment. One thing I do know is that getting back to a proper observance of the sabbath would do wonders for everyone.

Blair and I have slightly different views in regards to some of the things I’ve typed here, so I’m very curious to see what his answer is going to look like. Over to you Blair.

Blair: The “self serving” view of church is a hollow view as far as I’m concerned. Really, it’s nothing more than a form of consumerism. I think we have to start with what church is supposed to be and what purpose it is supposed to serve. As human’s we’re wired for being part of a community, and when we attend church it should be as a selfless act of worship, where each member of the church family has a role to prop up other members of the church. It’s not enough to show up to church, listen to a good sermon and go home. We’re to be servants, just as Jesus was a servant and without the church body, we’re missing out on so much that the Holy Spirit has to offer. I can only say that I for one love seeing kids in a church, and I commend parents who faithfully bring their children to church on a Sunday morning, as it’s not an easy thing to do. Mark 10:13-14 automatically comes to mind when thinking about children getting in the way of worshipping: “13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” I think children reflect such a pure form of worship that I can only be humbled by them. I totally agree with both you and Mike that parents have a huge responsibility in disciplining their children and teaching them how to behave and if the parents neglect their role, things fall apart quickly, but I don’t think that segregating yourself or the children from the church community is a healthy solution. By doing that, everyone loses. I think that if children are getting in the way of us worshipping God, then the problem is not the children, but rather, I believe, the problem is us. Sure we have friends that we socialize with, but in our day to day lives we gravitate to like minded people, or people similar to us in age and in stage of life. What about the elderly lady who has so much to teach us and in turn, needs young hands to help her? A church community is such a vibrant mix of people, all held together by the Holy Spirit, and it’s such a beautiful thing when it’s allowed to thrive in the context it was created for.

I also think that our relationship with God has to be looked at. I’m coming at this from a Christian perspective, because that’s what I am, and to me it is the most healthy perspective. I find it fascinating that we are taught by Jesus to approach the throne of God boldly and also that we are taught to regard God as “Abba” or Father. We’re called to have an intimate relationship with the creator of the universe, not just approaching the throne on our knees, but we have permission to crawl up on the king’s lap and find comfort in his arms, and ask Him for the most trivial of things like a warm glass of milk as well as the largest of things like the stars and the moon. If we dilute our relationship down to only religion like the Pharisees did, then we’re missing out on so, so much of God’s love, and in some cases we’re missing the mark entirely.

As my pastor says, before praying for the children and sending them off to Sunday school, “Now is not the time that we send the noisy children off to Sunday school so we can get down to real church business” and Sunday school should never be just a babysitting program, but rather a place where the children can have age appropriate learning about God. The children are a vital part of the church and should be treated with the utmost care. The “Born this way” argument is scary, because anyone who has children HAS to admit that we’re born sinners and we need to learn how to behave. Just like all of Christianity (and this is what I find so fascinating about Christianity) is the polar opposites that exist within it. Children possess such a pureness and innocence, but at the same time they’re selfish little people that need proper guidance and discipline. If you love your children, you discipline your children, just as the Lord disciplines us because he loves us.

OK, now we’ll ask you one……
I’m curious as to how your religious views affect your recent comic work. Is it something that you feel obliged to work into it, or is it just something that naturally works it’s way into your art because it’s ingrained in you? (or on the flip side, do you ever feel the need to hold certain views back and just play it safe?)

April 2, 2011

CerebusTV: Episode 59!

Filed under: Announcements,Photos — M Kitchen @ 9:34 am

As announced Thursday, The Kitchen Family makes their debut appearance on CerebusTV.  You will see video footage  from The Last Signing.  A secret look inside the Cerebus Archive.  Hear Dave read broken Spanish from The Possum.  Watch as Jacob Kitchen signs an autograph for Dave.  See Dave draw a head sketch of Cerebus as The Possum. Get a sneak peek at the newest issue of glamourpuss.  AND there is even a preview of “The Kitchen Family Players” doing a comic reading performance of the NEW SPY GUY story from Indie Comics Magazine #2.  This episode will be streaming live all week. After that it’s gone, so watch it today at CerebusTV.com!

All this, AND Dave Sim rocks out his iSpy glow-in-the-dark Spy Guy t-shirt!  If you want one for yourself, you can get one (in any colour) here!  (You can also get your very own Possum t-shirt here!)

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.11

Filed under: Mail,Now I'll Ask You One... — M Kitchen @ 8:56 am

April 1, 2011

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.10

Filed under: Mail,Now I'll Ask You One... — M Kitchen @ 11:45 pm

Mike: Addendum to yesterday’s answer: When Blair read my response, he informed me that he thought you were probably asking about the response to Cerebus Readers In Crisis #2 in general (as opposed to the response from the specific comic strip)… which is a very different answer.

At conventions when people walk by, they’ll see the word “Cerebus” on my table and THAT is where I’ve received some VERY different reaction based on geographic areas.

The negative response being “Cerebus?! … Yeah, I used to read it … before he went CRAZY at the end … heheh <mockingly nervous laugh>.”

And the positive response being “Cerebus!?! NO WAY!!!! Yeah, that comic is amazing. I LOVE Cerebus!”

In my circles, people admire Cerebus, so I could never understand what you were always talking about being the “Evil Misogynist & The Pariah King of Comics!” Aside from glimpses of some skewed comic articles, in my daily life I wasn’t seeing it.

Now APE in San Francisco was the first time I had copies of CRIC #2 for sale and suddenly I began to witness the backlash. The reactions blew me away! It was easily a 90% negative vs. 10% positive. You could feel the judgemental negative ooze just dripping over the table. It made me think “Ohhhh…. THIS is what Dave has been always talking about… I get it now.” It comes off as a meme that has been injected into the collective consciousness. The repeaters are repeating.

Though coming home to Toronto, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, for Fan Expo and Word on the Street and Paradise Con. Complete opposite ratio of being 90% positive vs. 10% negative. (I forget the response from TCAF, but I think it was positive). Now that was very interesting to me. It was like there are two different camps in the two different geographic regions.

Then when we went to SPX in Bethesda, MD there was an even 50 / 50 split. Both reactions extreme and polarized.

Word on the Street: Halifax was overwhelmingly positive as well. Nearly 100% positive.

I can’t remember the response ratio for MoCCA in New York City and San Diego Comic Con…

SPACE had to have been 100% positive as well.

Then in all the above scenarios there was also a very tiny fraction of people who saw the cover, picked it up, said they had heard of Cerebus, vaguely knew of any controversy either way, but were very curious about both Cerebus and CRIC. At every comic convention there were a couple of those people (especially in Toronto).

All that said – them flipping CRIC open to the Self-Publishing Marathon strip didn’t result in any negative reaction directed towards it in particular… or at the very least, not that I know of.

Answering today’s question:

SPY GUY does enter my thinking on a daily, even hourly basis… Unfortunately it’s usually thoughts like “where can I squeeze in an hour to actually work on this” or “how the heck am I going to eventually make money from these comics” or “when am I finally going to master that darn inking?” or “man, I can’t wait to get to THAT issue… but at my current pace, that’s going to be in ten years… D’OH!”

The thing with animating, is it gives me plenty of time to think, but it’s always fragmented thoughts, and there is little time to DO!

With the day job it inevitably comes down to Parkinson’s Law, where the work expands so as to fill the time available for it’s completion. So no matter how fast I try to get the work done, it always comes down to a last minute deadline crunch. The work gets done early? Well, then there’s another round of retake notes. *sigh*

Is it the default setting? Hmm… yes, but it really ends up being this weird trinity of Family, Comic and Debt. The “Clark Kent Day Job” of course is required to pay the debts of daily living expenses, mortgage, printing bills, etc. In a sense it’s like juggling chainsaws; if you get the throw and the timing right you might be able to go for quite a while, but get it wrong and someone gets hurt. It doesn’t help that all three things are “Great White Sharks of Devouring Time”. It’s pretty much go-go-go from 7:00 in the morning until 11:30 at night (I’m typing this at 12:16am). Free time? HA! If I’m not working the “Clark Kent Day Job” then I’m working at being a good husband and father, and in between all that I’m trying to find a couple uninterrupted hours where I’m not completely brain-fried so I can get in the zone and get some comic momentum. I am blessed to have an amazing supportive wife, and an awesome family who can survive while I’m isolated in the Ultraist Studios Art Bunker. And luckily I do have a way to pay the bills. But it sure would be nice if these comics would start paying some of them. As of now, the energy in just doesn’t equal the energy out. But it’s what I enjoy doing, and that counts for a lot and that’s why I keep going.

It seems to me it’s a lot like being Spider-Man, juggling the superheroing, and the day job, and the relationship… I feel for that Peter Parker guy.

Blair: I think about The Possum everyday. I’m not sure if it’s always productive thinking, because usually there’s always something else that requires my attention at any given time. The goal is to squeeze in time to think and plan whenever the guilty thoughts of “I should really be spending time with the kids or I should be focusing on my animation work right now” can’t come into my head. Time by myself to just think is so rare that I’ve resorted to thinking in the car (which means shutting off the radio), in the shower or just before I lay down to go to sleep. Unfortunately, those are usually the times that I can’t write things down in my sketchbook, so my mind keeps thinking of the same things over and over again in a loop and never really comes to a conclusion about a certain issue I’m thinking about. I always thought of myself as a very relaxed guy, but recently I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m always a little anxious because there’s never enough time in the day to do everything that I should be doing. Sometimes I get envious of my single friends who have very low living expenses and no obligations to other people (much how you were describing your own situation during your last fax). Just think of how many comics I could draw if that was me! But it’s a pointless thought because truth is, I would give up comics in a heartbeat for my kids if I had to…. Heck I’d die for my kids! (Fortunately at the moment, I’m not forced to do either of those things). There’s a flip side to having kids too, because part of my motivation for making comics and creating artwork that I own is that I want to be able to leave something for my kids when I die. Sure, drawing comics is something that I love doing, but with work for hire animation, I have nothing to show for it after 12 years, other than my name in some credits, a decent reputation and a good demo reel that will get me more work for hire. But maybe with The Possum or something else that I draw down the road, I can leave my kids something with some value. Heck, my kids are the first people I think about when I’m making comics, because essentially I want to make something that they would enjoy reading (now or when they’re older) and something that they can learn things about me from. If I have nothing more than some fun stories that show my kids aspects of me that they may not otherwise have seen when all is said and done, then I think it was worth it, even though the goal is still to make a living doing what I love while at the same time making something that people enjoy. The tricky part is to be productive, but not let my constant thinking get in the way of quality time with my family, and not let comics creep it’s way up the ladder of my priorities over my family (all while maintaining that good ol’ Judeo-Christian work ethic that you attributed to Gerhard earlier). The hierarchy has to be God, family, then work in that order, and it’s something that has to be kept in check. The work serves God and the family, and the family serves God, and not the other way around.

And don’t get me wrong. There are many times that I get lost in what I’m doing with the kids and the thought of comics don’t even enter my mind, but as soon as we’re done and the dust settles, The Possum enters my mind again, the wheels start spinning, and I’m trying to solve a problem with a plot, plan a marketing strategy or think of a cover design. One thing that you touched on that is so hard for me is when I’m working away and I hear little feet coming down the stairs to visit me. I love those visits and I wish I could have a little drawing desk next to mine that the kids can sit in and draw next to me all day. Sometimes we do that, but for the most part, it’s a lost cause to try to work while the kids are with me. I want them to see me work and I want to answer all of their thousands of questions, but at the same time I have to be strict about the rules of disturbing “Dad” when he’s downstairs working or else every 10 minutes I’d get another visitor and nothing would get done. My kids are 2, 5 and 7 years old and I’m well aware that the window of them wanting to hang out with their dad doesn’t last too long, so every now and then I have to step back and let them break the rules.

As far as Alphabuddies, I’ll let Rochelle answer that one, while I go swimming with the kids!

Rochelle: Hi Dave. It was nice meeting you at “The other Kitchen’s” as we say, not too long ago. I had heard much about you from Blair over the years, and have obviously seen your work, so it was good to put a face to the person that has had much influence on Blair.

As far as your question regarding the story behind Alphabuddies, I have been writing different children’s book idea’s for awhile now, and in 2006 I came up with the idea of having alphabet letter character’s interacting while forming simple words together: A book that would target a preschool age for letter recognition and early reading skills. Most of the stories I had read to my own children didn’t have a fun way of keeping a child’s interest and enthusiasm for early reading. My theory is learning before the age of five should be play based, so I began writing and I was enjoying the way it was going until I got stuck. I was having trouble with a particular part in the story and I simply procrastinated. I would go back to it here and there when I had time, but could not get past my writers block. Christmas was fast approaching and I was looking for creative ways to make my nieces and nephews gifts, when I had the idea which was influenced Dr. Seuss (strangely enough) to frame the letters of the alphabet in the design of these characters.

Blair then began to brainstorm all the possibilities I could do with it. Thus my small business of Alphabuddies was formed. So I began creating several different letters, representing different objects or ideas for each letter, ex. E is for egg.

I designed as many E’s (and the rest of the letters of the alphabet) as I could illustrate an idea for. Some were more male oriented and some more female oriented leaving a few to work either way.

When I finished my library of letters, all I would have to do to create a child’s name is format them together, possibly change the colours and I had a custom name ready to be printed. I also made T-shirts.

I began to participate in several different craft shows over the years, and have had a good time seeing people take an interest and delight in my work. Especially the kids.

I was also offered the opportunity to create an animated interstitial based on my characters, which I would love to do some day, but I would like to be able to be involved with that opportunity, and at this season in my life that isn’t something that is possible.

I still make orders for some loyal customers of mine, and the idea of an interstitial would be awesome, but in all honesty, I would really like to get back to finishing the book and illustrating the other stories I have created when my youngest starts school.

I have enjoyed seeing the changes that have evolved with this idea over the years, and I’m eager to finishing the very thing I started. Until then, I’ll keep being influenced by my wonderful kids and scratching out new ideas and drawings.

Alphabuddies pitch – leica reel from Possum Press on Vimeo.
Alphabuddies are created and designed by Rochelle Kitchen.  Leica by Blair Kitchen.

Mike: Now I’ll ask YOU one…

I’ve found it interesting that after your 6000 page epic story, that both Judenhaus and glamourpuss are closer to commentary than they are to traditional story. And the parts that are telling a story, it’s much closer to a documentary than it is to a narrative fiction. It surprised me picking up those new issues for the first time because I had just come out of reading The Blog And Mail (which was also commentary) and found them to be similar in tone – that is to say; commentary, and in the case of glamourpuss parody, but with amazing pictures. You got into this a little bit with your conversation last week with Jimmy Gownley (by saying it’s the exact opposite to being enticed by writing more fiction), but I was hoping to get some more details…

What is you think, that is directing your interest towards the historical and commentary aspects with your current work, and away from the narrative fiction – Is it that you already told the BIG story you wanted to tell – Or is it something else entirely?

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.9

Filed under: Mail,Now I'll Ask You One... — M Kitchen @ 8:41 am

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