Ultraist Studios Blog Journal thoughts, musings and other rambling…

August 24, 2011


Filed under: Announcements,Comics,Conventions — M Kitchen @ 7:53 pm

Ultraist Studios (Spy Guy) and Possum Press (The Possum) are once again returning to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for the Toronto FAN EXPO! This year we’ve got new comics! That is, assuming the shipment of SPY GUY #2 arrives at 1:00 like it is supposed to… these last minute deliveries seem to be a reoccuring event, even when they are given weeks extra to compensate. At the very least, it makes for an interesting story.

You can find us at table A35 in the Independent / Small Press Artist Alley.

September 1, 2010

Fan Expo 2010 postmortem

Filed under: Conventions,Photos,Sketches — M Kitchen @ 8:51 pm

Fan Expo 2010 has come and gone.
It was a strange show this year.
The whole thing seemed extremely disorganized.

Friday we arrived at 4:00 pm and were continually misdirected by security and volunteer staff on how to actually get into the convention floor.  Turned out that in order to pick up our exhibitor badge we had to enter an area that you could not get into unless you had an exhibitor badge.  Yeah, that’s right.  You could not pick up your badge unless you had your badge.  What a mess.

It was an hour later when one of the volunteers who was on the ball came to our aid and offered to escort us past security.  There were a lot of horror stories like this with nearly everyone I talked to.  Very unfortunate.  Oh well.  Hopfully Fan Expo cleans up their act for next year, because it really is a GREAT comic con.

Photo by Jules Faulkner

The space in the north hall was smaller, and the floor seemed more crowded.  The largest booths seemed bigger than usual (yet like dwarfed versions of their San Diego counterparts).  The windows and daylight I did enjoy.
We do have video footage this year that will be edited together into a mini documentary and posted as soon as we have time to do it (har, har, har… the story of my life).  That said, here are some pics:

Here’s a great drawing from Brenda Hickey.

And a Spy Lad by Greg Hyland.

And here’s a sketch I did that I thought turned out pretty cool…

And here’s a first; a custom Spy Guy appearing on the cover of Possum Mini Comics #1!

I also heard from numerous sources that there was another “Spy Guy” comic created by some other folks in artist alley. Very interesting. I’ll have to keep a pulse on that as things develop.

In closing, to everyone that took a moment to stop by our table to chat and support the work that we are doing:  Thank You!  That more than anything else makes doing these shows worth while!  See you again next year.

August 26, 2010

Fan Expo 2010 is coming!

Filed under: Announcements — M Kitchen @ 2:19 pm

Tomorrow Fan Expo 2010 begins, and we will be there!
Look for us in the Artist Alley at table A74.

No new comics (darn it) but hopefully the t-shirts, prints, and other miscellany will hold you over.

I’ll even bring some original pages to show from SPY GUY #2.

As you can see, this new main page section is currently under construction.
Soon there will be a new SPY GUY: Minis webcomic series (displayed above).

August 31, 2009

FAN EXPO 2009 – Success!

Filed under: Conventions,Photos,Sketches,Spy Guy — M Kitchen @ 5:47 pm

Friday came around… no comics.  When I checked online and saw that the expected “over-night” delivery was going to be Monday at 5:00 pm I got more than a little worried.  Erika did some detective work while I was at the con, and managed to find out that the comics could be here between 12:00 noon and 5:00 pm on Saturday; a ray of hope!

So early morning Saturday I tracked the packages from Mirabel to Burlington, and intercepted the transport truck at the sorting station just before noon, grabbed my boxes of comics, and sped to the Fan Expo where Blair was manning the booth.  Talk about deja vu (nearly the same thing happened for the release of Spud & Harry #1).

Never the less, the comics arrived in time for FAN EXPO 2009, and the people couldn’t be happier (except for Christopher Miller who came by early on Friday… sorry Chris).

Both Deadpool and The Comedian agree that SPY GUY #1 is the best SPY GUY comic yet!

Speaking of celebrities, I managed to take these pics:

Linda Hamilton

Lou Ferrigno

Bruce Campbell

Now I REALLY wanted to get a pic of Spock, but unfortunately wasn’t able to… I missed him and Captain Kirk back in 2006 as well…  oh well.  Maybe next time.

And what would a comic con be without FREE SKETCHES!?
Here are some of my favorites:

Black Widow vs. SPY-Derman

Spy Guy vs. Fazeman

Dark Possum vs. Dark Spy Guy
(The un-expected concept of this one is one of my favorites since Spy-Mite! And the idea never would have existed if it wasn’t for doing these sketches.  It’s great exercise in creativity.  I’d really like to colour this one).

Spy Guy vs. The Possum
(These team-up sketches are always fun to do.  Especially trying to mix it up by fitting in a gag that wasn’t expected.)

August 27, 2009


Filed under: Announcements,Conventions,Spy Guy — M Kitchen @ 4:45 pm

So I missed Fan Expo 2008.  I was busy with my wife, having a baby.
But this year my schedule is open and I intend to be there!

Hopefully with a brand new comic.

Which brings me to a funny story…

Remember what Dave Sim said way back in the blogandmail #338 (August 15th, 2007)?  Well, it seems, once again, I’ve engineered a situation where everything had to go off like clockwork in order for it to happen.  It got right down to the wire, and my plans were almost foiled by the platinum foil edition.

Today I received this message from Lebonfon:

Hi Mike

We just got the covers, but we got some problem on the saddlestitch machine.

We will build a 100copies (50 of each version) manually so you have at least this for the Fan Expo.

Tonight or tomorrow morning we will saddlestitch the rest and try a saturday delivery for the others 300 if you want.

Please advise

Gestionnaire de Projet / Project Coordinator
Imprimerie Lebonfon inc.

Talk about down to the wire!  So… if you’re one of the lucky ones to pick up your SPY GUY #1 at the FAN EXPO this weekend, you get the ULTRA-RARE-HAND-SADDLESTITCH edition! We’re making them old-school now folks!

If you’re at the show, be sure to come by the POSSUM PRESS / ULTRAIST STUDIOS booth at table A39 and pick up the latest SPY GUY, and THE POSSUM (which is fantastic by the way – Blair really outdid himself on issue #4 – best POSSUM to date).  We’ll be doing the usual free sketches if you buy something, and we’ll have the classic VALUE PACK so you can get everything for cheap!

See you there!

ps.  Perhaps on SPY GUY #2 I’ll heed Dave Sim’s sage advice…

August 27, 2007

FAN EXPO 2007: Field Report

Filed under: Announcements,Conventions,Photos,Sketches — M Kitchen @ 6:39 am

It’s been a year since the last Fan Expo. Our first con. Attending Fan Expo 2007 had me reminiscing about the all the conventions we hit this year. What worked. What didn’t. Things to think about for the future. And the realization that the pop-culture crowd seems to be our target audience. If you’d ask me last year, I would have thought that the A.P.E. or T.C.A.F. would have been the crowd that would gravitate to our comics. But the Fan Expo continues to blow all the other cons out of the water. Which has got me seriously considering the other BIG THREE comic cons. Maybe next year?

As for celebrity guests this year: Adam West and Johnathan Frakes were the two I was most interested to see.

On the comic book front, the heavy hitters were John Romita Sr. and John Romita Jr. who had a sketch off that I would have loved to watch, but couldn’t because I was busy selling comics. Sometime this week, I’ll have to scour the internet to see if it was captured on film.

Here is an interesting con sketch… one of our customers was having comic artists finish an old issue of Alpha Flight! Check out the Spy Guy appearance (along with The Grad and The Possum)!

And here are some other con sketches that came out quite well:

Spy Guy vs. Darth Vader.

Spud & Harry vs. Doctor Who.

Spy Guy Batman team-up.

Spy Guy vs. Spy Mite.

Spy Guy Captain Kirk team-up.

Adam West vs. Spy Guy.

Spy Guy SCUD team-up.

Spider-man vs. Spy Guy.

Harry Potter vs. Elijah Wood (as Kevin).

Geeze… the list goes on and on… so let’s end with:

The Possum Spy Guy team-up.

August 24, 2007

FAN EXPO 2007: Starting Now.

Filed under: Announcements,Conventions,Uncategorized — M Kitchen @ 3:47 pm

Click here for the Floor Plan

Come visit us Friday – Sunday at Ultraist Studios booth A73

August 25, 2011


Filed under: Announcements,Spy Guy — M Kitchen @ 11:04 am

At 9:00 am this morning, SPY GUY number two of the Unlimited Series arrived at the loading dock of the Ultraist Studios suburban stronghold.

The good news is that it is here with time to spare to have available for purchase at the 2011 Fan Expo.

The bad news is that three quarters of them showed up with a minor printing error. The small print on the inside front cover was supposed to have four variants indicating the four different versions of the variant covers: ULTRA 5A, ULTRA 5B, ULTRA 5C & ULTRA 5D. However the entire print run came out with the ULTRA 5A Blues Bros. variant small print.

We’ll have to see what the folks at Lebonfon can do to fix this up for us.

July 27, 2011


Filed under: Announcements,Spy Guy — M Kitchen @ 10:56 am

On Monday I completed all of the finishing touches to SPY GUY #2. Then yesterday I gathered up the digital page files and did one last proof reading. Now today the files are transfering via filezilla to Lebonfon for printing. Patrick says it should be no problem getting the books in time for Fan Expo. I don’t know about you, but I’m really looking forward to seeing it!

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?

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