Ultraist Studios Blog Journal thoughts, musings and other rambling…

March 29, 2011

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.4

Filed under: Mail,Now I'll Ask You One... — M Kitchen @ 8:55 pm

Blair:  Well, I agree with you 100% about trying to control people. My fear about bringing someone on to collaborate, would be that it automatically means giving up a portion of control. A huge lesson I learned from marriage, is that no matter how hard you try, it’s a losing battle if one spouse tries to control the other. It seems to me that you and Gerhard had the ideal partnership and it really is a feat what you two accomplished by making it to issue 300 and crossing the finish line together! (Kudos to you two on that!)

And yes, as we speak I’m getting ready to drive down to Texas with the family, early tomorrow morning, although it would take a lot more than a road trip to keep me from participating in a discussion like this. It seems with me these days, there’s always 2 or 3 pots in the fire, so I’ll just pretend it’s all business as usual and take part of the blame for planning a road trip the same week my episode of Cerebus TV is running.

Now, about my lovely wife, Rochelle: We met at Sheridan College in Oakville, while we were both taking the animation program there…. There were 4 or 5 girls in our graduating class, and somehow I managed to convince one of them to marry me. We actually worked together at many of the same animation studios once we graduated, which was a good thing, because with the hours we worked at some of those studios, we never would have seen each other if we weren’t working together. I’m not sure how familiar you are with the animation world, but depending on where you work it can be a pretty competitive industry with some very long hours (Much like comics I guess), and after 8 or 9 years of it, Rochelle was getting tired of the politics. Once we were married, and Rochelle was pregnant with our first child (Avery, or “Tex” as a few people we worked with liked to call her), she was more than happy to become a “full time mom”. It’s funny, because we had never really talked about whether or not she would stay home with our future kids until the inevitable discussion needed to take place, and I really, really didn’t like the idea of daycare. Luckily we were both on the same page with our thoughts and she was the one who suggested that she stay at home. It’s sad though, because a lot of women feel pressured to return to work, and I’m not sure if that pressure is real or if it’s put on them by themselves because of the unreal values that are in their minds of what a woman should do, but it’s definitely there. I understand that not all families can afford to live off of one income, and many things in this world don’t work the way they should, but from the children’s point of view, having a mother there to greet you when you get home from school is the best case scenario by far. I don’t even think that a stay at home dad can fill that role the same way a mom can. Rochelle is definitely not a comic book reader though. She can appreciate the art, but as far as interest in sitting down and reading a comic book goes, there’s not much there. I got her to read Jaka’s story once, but I’m not sure if she made it all the way through, and she read a few issues of Invincible, but that’s about it. I must say that it is nice to have a fellow artist in the house when I can’t get an expression right, or just to have a second pair of eyes. She always gets frustrated with me, because I tend to ask for advice a lot and when she gives me her opinion, I often say “no, I think it should be like this” and then do the opposite of what she suggested. (sometimes you just need to hear someone else’s opinion to actually realize what it is you wanted in the first place), although I did take her suggestion on the Possum’s expression for the cover of issue #5 which will be ready for Comicon this year. Rochelle still draws when she can though, during those rare moments when the kids are in bed and the Kitchen’s cleaned and the laundry is done. (much like me when my animation work is finished, and the garbage is put out, and the house is in working order). She has a sketchbook full of great children’s book ideas that she would really like to illustrate as soon as our youngest is in school (which is still a few years off). A few times when money has been tight, she’s toyed with the idea of picking up some animation work, and she still gets calls from studios from time to time, but I know she really doesn’t want to do it right now, and I think her time is much better spent working on her own artwork. As for her getting stuck with the babysitting duties in Halifax, that was her call. We were staying with an old friend in Halifax, and also visiting Mike and my sister who was living there at the time, and I think the thought of a nice quiet evening watching a movie trumped hanging out in a comic shop till 2:00 am with 3 tired children. During the Glamourpuss event, I think she was over at my sister’s place with the kids and their cousins, hanging out. By the grace of God, Mike and I did OK with finding wives that will give us their blessing as we run around from convention to convention, pretending we’re comic artists. All joking aside, it takes a lot of evenings, weekends and sacrifices to make these comic books, with no assurance that we will ever see a profit from them, and having a supportive spouse makes all the difference in the world.

Mike: My turn. The sports analogy is a great one. Personally, I always tend to think in military analogies for some reason; combat being a “young man’s game” as well. As I see my own youth slipping behind me, I find I’m tending to look at Will Eisner for inspiration – “The Plot” was a masterpiece. It keeps the thought in my head “it isn’t futile… keep going…”.

I looked up the stats on Gordie Howe:

– Oldest player to play in NHL: 52 years, 11 days (no other player has played past the age of 48)

– Only player to play in the NHL in five different decades (1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s)

– Another milestone in a remarkable career was reached in 1997 when Howe played professional hockey in a sixth decade. He was signed to a one-game contract by the Detroit Vipers of the IHL and, almost 70-years-old, made a return to the ice for one shift. In doing so, he became the only player in hockey history to compete in six different decades at the professional level, having played in the NHL, WHA and IHL from the 1940s to 1990s.

The formative years of SPY GUY were the late 1980’s. At that time the action hero cop genre was all over the place. Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop, Die Hard, et al… so the Action Movie was a HUGE influence. It doesn’t show so much in the one panel gag comics I created at the time, doodling in my sketchbook at Milton District High School, due to the limitations of the format… but in my head, that’s where it was going. When I discovered manga comics while at Sheridan College (shortly after I discovered Cerebus with issue #166) it became the moment everything crystallized in my mind. I wasn’t thinking SPY GUY so much at the time (I had moved on to a Cyber-Punk idea called ULTRAISTS) but the handling of black-and-white half-tones, and decompressed storytelling and manga action tricks started to fall into place like Tetris blocks in my mind.

When I get this story arc done I’ll have a blueprint for a movie” is at the opposite end of the spectrum from where my mind is at. My experience with Hollywood definitely has me avoiding that, to keep SPY GUY strictly my own. A video game or something? Maybe (it would be something to pay the bills). But I can’t see SPY GUY surviving the Hollywood movie process intact.

An interesting aside; At San Diego Comic Con I was approached by someone who was apparently involved with the Bourne Identity movies, who was looking for new SPY material to be made into feature films. He asked if I ever though of having SPY GUY turned into a movie, and I told him that if it were ever to happen, I’d see it as an animated movie, at which point he visibly lost interest, though he gave me his card, and I gave him a comic. But the thought of having something like “Bruce Willis as SPY GUY” was a funny enough idea to keep me amused for quite some time after that.

Back to the question; I should also quantify this answer by saying my experience working on HELLBOY was a career highlight for me, so THAT wasn’t at all a factor. There are places where the HELLBOY movie went off the mark compared to the comic (which I was a huge fan of – so I was wanting it to hit the mark EXACTLY), but not NEARLY as off the mark as so many other comic-turned-movie projects. Tippett Studio (where we handled the animation) operation was analogous to a sports team. It was lunchbucket effects. A studio that brought out the best in artistic people. A place that encouraged us to exercise our creativity. Unfortunately I can’t say that about every other animation studio I’ve worked at. Those other studio experiences I can say have definitely been a factor. I always saw SPY GUY as my Mickey Mouse, or Bugs Bunny, or Charlie Brown… a character that I can keep going with… that can be dropped into any situation to get a story from… a character that can express what’s going through my head at any given moment. I’d hate to lose that.

I wouldn’t be against creating some other project with the intent of having a Hollywood blueprint to sell. Cash it in and ride the wave of success? Beats working the day job! But this is where the control freak nature for me comes in: If SPY GUY were to get the Hollywood treatment, I wouldn’t want it butchered, so I’d want some part in the creative process, which would probably require starting an animation studio, and next thing you know I’m running a studio and making the money-men happy rather than doing the hands on creating. Seems like a lot of hassle when I could be putting some of my own ink on some S-172 Bainbridge and telling the same story. Now if only I could earn enough of a living doing that to take care of my family…

Now I’ll ask YOU one: Since we’re speaking of creating “a blueprint for a movie”… Have you ever considered doing the Mark Millar “MILLAR WORLD” thing, where you create a comic mini-series of 3 to 8 comics to tell a short story that you’re not as attached to (as say Cerebus or glamourpuss) with the idea that it could be released into the Hollywood meat-grinder for a quick buck? I mean, the question seems moot, now that you’ve got your drawing board full with glamourpuss and Cerebus Archive… but I remember years ago via the Blog And Mail you had mentioned that Cartoon Network had been asking you about intellectual properties that you’re not as finicky about, and you mentioned a movie idea you had… AND I see that Jeff Smith just recently had the RASL movie rights picked up AND Doug TenNapel seems to be doing well with this model… and, well, I’m curious: What are your thoughts about creating a (disposable) comic mini-series as a blueprint for a movie?

ps. The tech people managed to solve my missing fax pages problem (so you can send them all at once like you did the first time), and now this whole exchange should go off without a hitch… God willing of course.

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.3

Filed under: Mail,Now I'll Ask You One... — M Kitchen @ 1:37 pm

March 28, 2011

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.2

Filed under: Mail,Now I'll Ask You One... — M Kitchen @ 9:59 pm

First of all Dave, I just want to say “thanks” for initiating this instalment of “Now I’ll Ask YOU One”. Very interested to see where the conversation leads us.

The Aardvark-Vanaheim support staff (Oliver and Margaret) helped hook up Ultraist Studios with a virtual fax number 206-202-3112 so we should be good to go.

The whole family and I enjoyed doing that reading before Christmas as well.

How did I come up with the idea of getting the kids to come up with their own members of the supporting cast?

That’s an interesting question, and will make for a long winded answer… Years ago Blair showed me a copy of Jim Henson’s Designs and Doodles: A Muppet Sketchbook and I was amazed at how such simple crude drawings had so much charisma and were turned into such appealing iconic characters as muppets. It made me think of The Art of Star Wars book I had, and how those original Star Wars designs also seemed crude and yet appealing and were turned into such iconic characters in the movie. Contrast that to the most recent Star Wars movies that had designs that were amazingly slick and polished in comparison, and yet the final product that we see in the films came across as over designed and devoid of appeal.

Somewhere along the line, I also noticed that it was Steve Ditko that had created most of my favourite superhero designs (especially in the Spider-Man Universe), and while John Romita Sr. may have polished them all up on his run, there wasn’t anything quite as iconic (in my opinion) created afterwards. Very interesting… Then just a couple years ago, over in the Marvel camp, The Amazing Spider-Man got the Brand New Day reboot where they promised to introduce all new villains, and echoing the above Star Wars scenario, we got (in my opinion) slick polished art with over-designed characters devoid of appeal. They didn’t hold a flame to the Ditko classics!

I began to wonder how much a part of innocence and naivety and child-like wonder plays into creating appealing characters and concepts…

Meanwhile over in the Spy Guy Universe, I was finding similar things happening. Spy Guy was a character I had created back in high school. So were most of his villains. All crudely drawn but (in my opinion) high in appeal. However I noticed the new characters I was creating were starting to lean into the over-designed and devoid of appeal side of the spectrum. Yikes. That’s not good.

A couple years ago Anika (my oldest daughter) designed a superhero called “Zap Girl”.
The design of “Zap Girl” reminded me of a Ditko character. Again, very interesting…

For fun, not too long ago, I asked all of my children (who were old enough to hold a crayon) to each draw their own characters, to see what they would come up with this time around. Anika created “Katie Whips”, Raina created “Fire Girl”, and Erikson created “Frosty Guy”. I then did a redraw of those characters in my sketchbook and I liked the results. A LOT. I mean how can you not? Who thinks of a pre-teen in high heels, khaki shorts and armed with a diamond tip whip? It’s brilliant!

Also I should mention that Mike Mignola and his daughter Katie’s “The Magician And The Snake” is one of my favourite short stories. AND I was well aware that Ethan and Malachai Nicolle’s Axe Cop was tearing up the webcomic scene so all of this had been percolating in my mind for years. There was something to all this…

Enter INDIE COMICS MAGAZINE (which is where THIS story will be printed and available at all fine comic shops in April – just in case anyone wants to grab it).

Gary Scott-Beatty asked if I would be interested in contributing an 8 page story for Indie Comics Magazine #2 which would be distributed through Diamond Comics. This was just as I was about to take 2 and a half months (unpaid) off from my animation “Clark Kent Day Job” to finish up SPY GUY #2. Given that SPY GUY has yet to break through the Diamond Comics direct market blockade, I knew I had to take advantage of the opportunity… but what story did I want to tell that was interesting enough to take me away from my focus of finishing the next comic? I had ideas, but none of them were as interesting as the work I was in the middle of. Then I got to thinking about how I had been wanting to do a project with my kids, and I got to thinking about how fast they’re growing up, and how slow I’ve been producing new comics and how that was THE ONE thing I would rather work on than what I was in the middle of. So that’s what I did. Katie Whips already fit into the story I had in mind. But Raina and Erikson’s characters weren’t going to fit. I told them the sort of story I was thinking of doing, and they presented me with “Two-Gun Tiny” and “Super Shooter And His Army Men Lightning Hawks”. Perfect! They designed the characters and helped write their character’s dialogue and I crammed it into the basic museum heist story I had in mind.

And THAT is basically how I came up with the idea of getting the kids to come up with their own members of the supporting cast! I look forward to collaborating with them again in the near future!

After that long winded answer, I’ll turn the text over to Blair…

Blair: Hi Dave! First of all, thanks for allowing us to have this dialogue. I really enjoyed the conversations you’ve had with Steve Bissette and Jimmy Gownley, so I’m thrilled that Mike and I get to have a go at this ourselves.

As for your question about The Possum being my first super hero, the answer is definitely not. Mike and I have been coming up with super heros and cartoon characters for as long as I can remember. Way back to the first grade, I remember having characters that were pretty much pom poms with eyes and feet that I’d draw all the time, then it was funny roman soldiers for a while which took up large sheets of paper where they performed elaborate battle scenes. Then as I got older (around 3rd or 4th grade), a porcupine called Spike (I know….. real original) became my trademark character. Spike was inspired by Garfield, and he’d always be accompanied by some sort of witty caption that consisted of him wanting a hug or something like that (ha ha ha…. Real original again). I remember drawing Viking characters at the dining room table, using the Armour All logo as reference and Mike turns to me and says “I’ve figured out a way to draw any kind of character!” I was sceptical, but Mike being 13 years old and a whole 2 years older than me, I thought I’d see what he was talking about. Mike had a standard cartoon man that he could draw, and he turned him into a business man by drawing him a brief case and a tie. Then he made him into a scuba diver by giving him a mask, flippers and oxygen tank! This was a revelation to me! I now had the knowledge make up characters from my head, rather than seeing something I liked and just making a cheap knock off character out of it! Most of my characters were still imitations of what Mike was drawing, and by this time Mike had started to draw Spy Guy, so I made a knight character with the same proportions as Spy Guy and called him Sir Lance. This was around the 6th grade I think, and I filled sketch books with one page gags, made Sunday morning style comic strips, and even started writing a novel about these knight characters (I think I completed 8 or 9 pages of it even). Sir Lance was the most developed of any character I had created before The Possum, and he was my “go to” character all the way through high school. Once I discovered Cerebus in my high school days, I even got through 10 pages of a revamped Sir Lance comic book, complete with my version of Gerhard cross hatching and a cartoon proportioned hero in a world of realistic proportioned people. I guess if you want to get technical, The Possum was my first fully developed “Super hero” as all of my other characters were of the Sunday strip variety. I had created tons of super heroes throughout my childhood and would fill sketchbooks full of super hero characters, but I’d mainly design their costumes and powers, draw a cool pose and then move on, and The Possum was really, no different than that at first.
I touched on how The Possum came to be in the introduction page of The Possum #1, but I condensed it down to a sentence or two, so I’ll give you the full version: I’m not sure how I did it, but somehow during high school I managed to maintain good marks despite the fact that my note taking to doodling ratio favoured doodling by a considerable margin. My memory of each class that I attended consisted of me drawing and whoever was sitting beside me, looking over my shoulder and offering their suggestions of what should be drawn next. During Mrs Trickey‘s math class, it was comics of me and Howard becoming so board that we’d turn into skeletons or we’d start bleeding out our eyes. In Mr Warcholak‘s history class it was Geoff Grimwood and I drawing 101 ways to kill a Happy Face (I still think we were on to something with that one, and if we had the ability to make posters and buttons back then, we would’ve been millionaires). I remember drawing the first drawing of the Possum in either English class or History class, but for the life of me I can’t remember if I was sitting with Geoff Grimwood, Howard McGill, or Jay Jackson, but the three of them were the usual suspects anyways, so one of them gets partial credit for at least inspiring the character. We were coming up with the lamest super heroes we could think of, while we were supposed to be learning about the Russian revolution or something that at the time I thought would have no relevance to anything in my life. The Possum did nothing more than entertain us for the 40 minutes it took to get through that class, then I turned the page in my sketchbook and moved on. It wasn’t until ten years later that my wife, Rochelle (a talented artist in her own right) and I were moving from downtown Toronto where we lived at the time, to Burlington, Ontario. I was wanting to draw a comic book for some time, but everything that I was experimenting with seemed contrived and without purpose. I was going through our closets while packing and I came across my old sketchbook from high school, and as I flipped through the pages I saw that old drawing of The Possum. It immediately brought a smile to my face. I sat down on the stairs and, in my (at the time) current sketchbook, I drew a new version of The Possum. At that moment the Possum’s world became clear to me and I spent the next 20 minutes or so laying down the backdrop of what would become the world in which The Possum takes place. It’s funny how ideas come to you. I was racking my brain for months and months, trying to come up with an idea for a comic and then within 20 minutes of seeing that picture, I had my character. There’s something about youthful imagination and energy that we just can’t duplicate as adults. All of those characters that I created growing up were poorly executed, but each one of them has a charm and an innocence to them that makes them special. I’d love to do some back up features in future Possum issues, staring some of my favourites.

OK, now I’ll ask YOU one:

I know early on in Cerebus, you experimented with getting Deni to fill in blacks for you, and that you were less than happy with the results. Being a bit of a control freak myself, my question to you is how hard was it to hand the job of drawing backgrounds over to Gerhard? Was it merely a case of survival, or did you lose sleep over it?

PS. Mike here with an added comment to Blair’s question: When it comes to my own comic work, I’m a control freak as well. Maybe that’s partially due to doing the “team sport” of animation for most of my waking life. Obviously Gerhard’s results speak for themselves AND you managed to cross the 300 finish line together, so “mission accomplished!”. I always saw the Dave & Ger team as being a high watermark in collaboration (maybe Blair and I can attempt some of that when we do our SPY GUY / POSSUM crossover). What I’m curious about is; how do you find the dynamic different between doing the collaborative work throughout the run of Cerebus compared to your current solo projects like glamourpuss?

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.1

Filed under: Mail,Now I'll Ask You One... — M Kitchen @ 3:19 pm

Stay tuned for Mike and Blair’s answers… coming soon.

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… A dialogue with Dave Sim & The Kitchen Bros.

Filed under: Announcements,Mail,Now I'll Ask You One... — M Kitchen @ 3:12 pm

Happening all this week (March 28 – April 1) and next (April 4 – 8).
Only at Ultraist Studios and Possum Press!
Stay tuned to the blogs as the conversation progresses!

spy guy cerebus the possum

December 27, 2010

SPY GUY Hated By The Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) ?

Filed under: Announcements,Conventions,Mail — M Kitchen @ 12:13 pm

The following form letter comes from Chris Butcher:


TCAF 2011 Exhibitor Application

From:  Christopher Butcher <contact@torontocomics.com>
To: “Mike@Ultraist. Net” <mike@ultraist.net>

Dear Mike,

Thanks for your interest in exhibiting at the next Toronto Comic Arts
Festival, to be held this May 7th and 8th, 2011.

As you know, TCAF is a juried show that strives to present a curated,
though broad, picture of the comics medium. We received 30% more
applications this year over 2010. But as our space has not
significantly increased over 2010, not everyone who applied will be
able to exhibit.

As of today we have completely filled our 2011 capacity, and we were
not able to immediately accommodate your request for space.

However, we have decided to create a small waiting list for exhibition
space. We’ve only included exhibitors such as yourself whose work
would be a good fit for TCAF, and who have the potential to actually
get a table.

What’s next:

1. If you don’t want to be a part of the waiting list or can otherwise
not exhibit at TCAF 2011 any longer, please let us know and we’ll take
your name off the list.

2. In early March we’ll have a final count of exhibitors, as well as a
final table layout. That’s when we’ll know how many (if any) extra
table spaces are available, and we will begin contacting people on the
waiting list.

3. It is going to be far easier to accommodate people on the waiting
list requesting 3 foot spaces, rather than 6 foot spaces. If you’ve
requested 6 feet of space, feel free to adjust your request downwards
by e-mailing us at registration@torontocomics.com.

4. Make sure you’re signed up for the TCAF mailing list at
http://torontocomics.com/, because TCAF is much more than a two-day
exhibition, and even without exhibition space there may be ways for
you to take part in the event and promote your work!

5. Don’t get discouraged! The competition was really tough this year
for exhibitor spaces. Keep making comics, keep making plans, and we’ll
do our best to find a space for you at the Festival.

Regardless of exhibition space, we sincerely hope you’ll still
consider attending the Festival this May. We’ve got a ton of exciting
stuff coming up for this year, including the announcement of our
Guests of Honour, partnerships with some great organizations, and more
programming than we’ve ever done before. We’re planning on making TCAF
2011 our best yet.

All the best,

– Christopher Butcher, Festival Director, TCAF

P.S.: As always, feel free to contact us at contact@torontocomics.com
with any questions, comments, or concerns.


The thing that I find unfortunate about this is TCAF is a show I wish I could support. I’m a Toronto artist, creating an independent Toronto comic book, that even TAKES PLACE in Toronto, AND I think the Beguiling is a GREAT comic book store (that has always shelved our comics). When we attended TCAF in 2007 we had a great time (even though we didn’t make enough money to cover the table cost). The whole thing is just very unfortunate. Have to say though, I’m tired of the rejection. This will be the last year I go out of my way to submit an application in an attempt to get a table with TCAF.

April 15, 2009

SPY GUY Celebrity Sketch #2

Filed under: Mail,Sketches,Spy Guy — M Kitchen @ 10:05 pm

Not long ago I received this great sketch in the mail by none other than Troy Little; creator of Chiaroscuro (now a hit graphic novel published by IDW) and co-creator of Angora Napkin (not only a graphic novel, but also a new cartoon by Teletoon).

Be sure to check out his stuff over at Meanwhile Studios.

September 26, 2008

Unfiltered News

Filed under: Announcements,Mail,Spud & Harry — M Kitchen @ 12:12 am

Hey, this is neat: G. Edward Griffin gave SPUD & HARRY a plug in this weeks edition of Unfiltered News!

To anyone from Freedom Force International that has clicked on over, I’d like to take this moment to say “hi”.

May 26, 2008

I Got Mail…

Filed under: Mail — M Kitchen @ 11:29 am

Here is a package that came in just a couple weeks ago from Effing Magnifier Productions.

Inside was CEREBUS READERS IN CRISIS #3 along with a letter from publisher Jeff Seiler, and a Center for Cartoon Studies booklet.

The main story this issue is by Elizabeth Ann Bardawill and is called Crisis (On Infinite London Ontarios). The back cover even contains a SPY GUY sketch that was drawn in CRIC #2.

To purchase a copy ($5.00 + S&H), contact Jeff Seiler.

August 15, 2007

Ripped From the Blog and Mail

Filed under: Announcements,Mail — M Kitchen @ 10:19 pm

Dave Sim has posted an incredible review of SPUD & HARRY #1 on today’s Blog and Mail. Originally I was thinking of posting it here, but it’s a big one, so instead I’ll leave you to click over to the Cerebus Yahoo! Group to read it. The previous day’s post also contains the letter which I sent with the comic. That has also been linked for your reading enjoyment. The best thing about Dave Sim is that no matter what it is that he is discussing, he always gives you something good to think about. And this time it is no exception. I think his “force God’s hand” analysis is pretty accurate… not conscious on my part… but accurate none the less.

My Letter to Dave Sim –Tuesday August 14 2007 Blog and Mail

Dave Sim’s review of SPUD & HARRY #1 – Wednesday August 15 2007 Blog and Mail

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