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.

June 19, 2007

Letter To Ewart Cameron

Filed under: Mail — M Kitchen @ 9:17 am

Hi Ewart.

Thanks for writing. I had always wondered if those convention flyers had made any sort of impact. The fact that you are here writing almost a year later (without having yet read any of the actual comics) makes me think that the flyers have accomplished exactly what I had intended them to, namely to get people who haven’t yet read the comic to remember SPY GUY. So that is a useful reassuring thing to learn. I plan on making a new convention flyer this summer, possibly even a mini-sampler book, so your letter came at a very opportune time.

Bits of the SPY GUY comics have been posted online, however website maintenance is always one of the first things to get bumped off my priority list of “things to do” so there is no easy web access to them (which sort of defeats the purpose).

Here are links to take you to some online comic stuff for your reading pleasure.

SPY GUY: Bootleg

SPY GUY: Minis pg14 pg19 pg23


SPY GUY: Webcomic

As for your questions on publishing: For SPY GUY: Minis and SPUD & HARRY #1 I used Lebonfon for the printing, with print runs of 5000 and 8000 respectively. Patrick Jodoin is the Sales manager at Lebonfon, and is most likely the person to talk with. You can contact him at 1-866-970-4100 ext. 25 to give them your specs, and receive a quote as to the cost of printing your book.

I’m a big fan of traditional print, especially if you don’t mind boxes of comics kicking around your place of residence. It costs a lot more up front, but you can also make more from each sale. Black and white is obviously much cheaper to print than colour. My intent at the moment is getting my stuff out there, so I figure the more comics I have printed and out there in circulation, the more exposure I get, and the better chances I have of turning this into a full time job at some point in the future.

As for offsetting costs. I don’t. I just suck it up. Charge it to my credit card. Pay that off with my line of credit. Then take some extra animation work to try and break even. If you think you can manage that sort of cash flow, go for it. Other comic artists have come up with all sorts of great schemes to help offset their printing costs (which I fortunately haven’t needed to use). If you haven’t yet, you should read the Cerebus Guide To Self-Publishing, which has all sorts of good information in it. Some of it may be out of date, but most of it is still relevant. I posted a Dick Dale interview from YouTube a while back, where I think he nailed the philosophy we should have when starting out as indy artists.

The other option to traditional print is print on demand, which I plan to use for the SPY GUY: Webcomic when I finally get around to finishing it. There are a number of printers that offer this service, and while I haven’t decided which one to use yet, these are the ones that I am keeping in mind: Lulu, ComicXPress, and Ka-Blam. The good thing about print on demand (especially in your case if you decide to go colour) is that there isn’t a lot of upfront cost or added risk.

Hope some of that information helps.

As for setting up a cross-link… I was hesitant at first with the idea, because I really don’t want to turn my link list into a pay-for-play plugola type thing. I’d rather keep it a list of things I am genuinely interested in, and not just make it a list to barter my own comics plug elsewhere. But luckily none of that is an issue, because after clicking over to your site, I thought your comics were genuinely funny, so I’d be happy to give your site a link and endorsement.

Good luck with your comics.
Hope to see you this summer.

Mike Kitchen

June 18, 2007

Letter From Ewart Cameron

Filed under: Mail — M Kitchen @ 8:35 am

Taking a cue from the Blog and Mail, I’ve decided to occasionally post letters as blog journal fodder. Partially this is due to SPY GUY #1 (of the unlimited series) not having a letters column slated, and partially because the online letters forum hasn’t yet been constructed, and partially because of the lack of free time to do anything else. I figure if I’m going to be typing anyway, might as well get some mileage out of it. So below, a letter from Ewart Cameron.


I’d love to say I’m a big fan, but truth is, I’ve only seen you briefly at last year’s Fan Expo. I certainly admire your work and art… very reminicent of Bone, but has it’s own charm to it. The action you get across with the “cartoony” style is awesome!

Anyway, I hope you’re at this year’s Expo… I plan to pick up a few comics if you are… maybe order a few before then. I’ve been checking out your site and was a little disapointed that you didn’t have any onine previews… even a mini-story. But that’s cool… I still have the little pamphlets from last year.

So, I do have a question, if you don’t mind me asking. I have an on-line comic, myself and have been working on a story for a print-based comic. But the actual printing and publishing is where I hit a wall. What do you do for printing? Do you go to a professional printer? How expensive does that run? How do you off-set costs before you start selling? So maybe that was more than one question… sorry.

Also, I was wondering if you’d like to set up a cross-link. My link on your blog and vice-versa on my site. I don’t know if you have a Comicspace account, but shoot me a note if you do and I’ll freindicate you.

Thanks for the time… hope to see you (and Spy Guy) this August.

Ewart Cameron

Response Tomorrow (?)

Also: I’ve got the next webcomic waiting to be scanned, so that’s coming up soon, as well as some convention pics which still need to be photoshop-resized. You’d think that for someone who sits vegetative in front of a computer all day, finding time to scan and photoshop wouldn’t be a problem. If only the day job systems guys would hook me up… The reference I’ve ordered online is starting to trickle in. May make some posts on that as well, despite the possible spoilers. Transformers the movie is coming out soon, which also requires a good rant. All this and more, only at the Ultraist Studios Blog Journal!

June 11, 2007

The Ultraist Writing Process

Filed under: Mail,Ramblings — M Kitchen @ 1:27 pm

Long time Spy Guy fan Thai Nguyen writes:

Hey Mike. Ive re-read Spud and Harry. Its excellent. The drawings are awesome…

Ive been starting to doodle more. I wanted to find out what your process of writing a story is? Do you outline the whole thing in thumbnail? do you know where you’re going with a story or just flow?

My writing process:

It all starts with an idea. It could be anything. In the case of Spud & Harry, it was thinking “what is the best way to introduce these characters?” and since they are career criminals, I figured the most iconic thing to do would be to rob a bank. Next is figuring out what I’m trying to say with the story. A lot of the time, I get this figured out when I’m already half way done the story. But with Spud & Harry it was easy. I’m taking a shot at banks. I’ve got years of pent up angst over the way banks do their business, and I’ve always had a hunch that something was wrong with financial institutions. “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. The idea for the story was “two guys rob the same bank, get in each other’s way, and get caught” and I knew the conclusion had to be their first encounter in prison. The origin story.

I carry a mini-sketchbook around with me everywhere I go. Whenever I get an idea, I jot it down. Just like Larry David from Curb Your Enthusiasm, or Chuck Palahniuk with Fight Club. That’s where all the seeds for the story get planted. I can also mine these mini-sketchbooks later whenever I need an additional idea to add to a story.

Once things get going for the comic stuff, I do two things simultaneously. I fold and staple together some 8.5×11 paper and make a comic where I draw out the story in thumbnails, to see how much story I can cram in there, and to get the pacing right. I also start working on the script, which I print out, re-write in pencil corrections, type it back in, and repeat…

For SPY GUY: First Strike (#1) I am spending even more time trying to figure out the dialog than I have in previous comics, making sure each character has a unique voice, and spending more time editing the beats between the panels.

As for knowing where I’m going. So far, I have always had an ending in mind. Minis and the Webcomic don’t count, because they are a stream of consciousness comic. I had no idea where I was going with those. However even when I know the ending, there have been surprises. Like in Bootleg, Hunter was supposed to screw up Spy Guy’s case. He was supposed to arrive on the scene, and blow Spy Guy’s cover. But it didn’t happen that way. Hunter is too good a cop. Instead, Hunter showed up and saved Spy Guy’s life, and helped battle the ninjas. I wasn’t expecting that.

Also, once I recognize the theme, or what I’m trying to say, I then try to layer on different sorts of meaning and symbolism. In Bootleg, it was the intro to Spy Guy. Things not being what they seem. For Spud & Harry, it was the idea of rebelling against the system, like striking a hornets nest with a stick. For SPY GUY: First Strike, the themes are conflicting ideologies, and beginnings. That’s what I am trying to deconstruct and recreate with the story.

March 11, 2007

Letter From Dave Sim

Filed under: Mail — M Kitchen @ 7:48 am

While I waited for my 20 minute delayed train in Toronto Union Station, I cracked open the Aardvark Vanaheim bubble envelope to find… a letter… a 27 PAGE letter!…
From none other than Dave Sim.

Which is exciting enough in itself, BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
It turns out this correspondence is going to be the feature in this weeks Blog and Mail.

So we are going to do things a little differently this time around.
As each new installment of the Blog and Mail is released in the Cerebus Yahoo! Group, I will add a link to it below.
Strap yourselves in because we are in for a long and turbulent week.


Blog and Mail – Prologue

Blog and Mail – PART 1

Blog and Mail – PART 2

Blog and Mail – PART 3

Blog and Mail – PART 4

Blog and Mail – PART 5

Blog and Mail – PART 6

Blog and Mail – PART 7

Blog and Mail – PART 8 (The Conclusion)

March 9, 2007

I Got Mail… 2

Filed under: Mail — M Kitchen @ 10:59 am

Interesting story about this one…

Last Friday I (sort of) quit my day job (one of them) to try and get this next comic (Spud & Harry) done in time for A.P.E. (more on that later). The drama that ensued had me miss my 6:43 train, leaving me with an extra hour to kill before heading home for two weeks (if not more).

Well, (I thought to myself) might as well check the Ultraist Studios HQ. P.O. Box

And am I glad I did!
The package was from none other than Aardvark-Vanaheim.

It was a beefy one too… what could be in it?
A giant sized comic? A magazine? What?

Well, following the previous format, let’s first take a look at the letter I sent to Dave Sim. It came in at a whopping 11 pages. In it, I talk about everything from Cerebus, to marriage, to politics, to 9-11, to comics, to religion and God. You can read it below.

Sunday, we’ll open that package and take a look at what’s inside.
I would do it Saturday, but I’ve got a comic to finish…

March 8, 2007

Letter From Chuck Palahniuk

Filed under: Mail — M Kitchen @ 10:16 am

So let’s take a look at that box…

I had heard stories about the packages Chuck Palahniuk sends in reply to his fan mail. So while I was partially prepared, nothing could have completely prepared me for the experience of opening this package.

In an NPR interview Chuck said:

“Why I do it, that’s a darn good question. Junior highschool, okay, I wrote a letter, the only letter I’ve ever written to somebody I admire, I wrote a letter to Kate Jackson, okay? This is before Charlies Angels. I remember her from Dark Shadows, that far back… and she never wrote me back…

Well, of course she never wrote me back. But if she had, that would have been such an incredible experience event. So, you know, if I can do that, I’ll do that.”

What’s even more impressive is that Chuck sets aside up to six months to read and reply to the thousands of letters he receives during the fan mail period. That’s a lot of letters.

The first thing to notice is that as the box is opened, glittery shit falls out of the box and sticks to everything. Apparently this glittering confetti is legendary.

Followed by these goodies:

A severed finger
Relight birthday candles
Magic cards
A plastic carrot (with carrot seeds inside)
A birthday rubber ducky
Russell Stover assorted chocolates
A made in China harmonica
A plastic spider
4 mini crayons
A folding pocket switch-blade comb (for all the good that’ll do me)
Intense peppermint flavored mints
Forget-me-not seeds
Giant temporary tattoos
A mini pirate coloring book
A moving lion card
Herb garden seeds
A laminated $1,000,000 bill
A name tag sticker signed “Hello, my name is Chuck Palahniuk”
A stuffed moose “power” animal
An autographed photo of the cast from Fight Club with Chuck
Chuck Palahniuk: Tour Stories Volume 1 audio CD
Chuck Palahniuk: Tour Stories Volume 2 audio CD

And last but not least… a letter from Chuck.

What a swell guy.

Tomorrow: More mail!

March 7, 2007

I Got Mail…

Filed under: Mail — M Kitchen @ 12:25 pm

Things have been busy around here lately.
Not a lot of time for extra curricular activities, like blogging.

However this week has been a good week for mail.
So let’s take a look at some, shall we?

This package arrived a few days back.
From Chuck Palahniuk.

Back in October of last year, the Chuck Palahniuk fan site TheCult announced that Chuck would be accepting, and responding to fan letters mailed during that month.

So, today: My letter to Chuck Palahniuk.
In it, I tried to use some of the writing devices he talks about in his writing workshop. Submerging the “I”, and using a theme or “horses” (in this case water) to drive the story forward, and un-packing information by using personal events to depict the transition of time.

Tomorrow: We’ll open the box, and take a look at what’s inside.

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