Ultraist Studios Blog Journal thoughts, musings and other rambling…

October 14, 2010

The Last Signing, Glamourpuss Event, Word On The Street Halifax pt.2

Filed under: Conventions,Video — M Kitchen @ 11:14 am

Here’s part 2 (of 3).

And a picture of Dave Sim falling asleep while shaking my hand.

October 11, 2010

The Last Signing, Glamourpuss Event, Word On The Street Halifax pt.1

Filed under: Conventions,Video — M Kitchen @ 12:53 pm

Hi folks! Below you’ll find part 1 (of 3) of a video documentary from the comic book pilgrimage to Halifax Nova Scotia.

Also below are some pictures by Stoo Metz and links.

The Kitchenettes meet Dave Sim.

The Bride of Ultraist meets Dave Sim.

Dave Sim and Darwyn Cooke chat (as I lurk in the background).

Calum Johnston Facebook Photos

Cerebus Fangirl Flickr Photos

Stay tuned for pt.2 – HERE!

September 27, 2009

Word On The Street

Filed under: Announcements,Conventions — M Kitchen @ 7:18 am

Photo by Blair Kitchen

Word On The Street is TODAY!
Bring your umbrella and check out Ultraist Studios and Possum Press at booth MM19.
We have new comics, free sketches and BUTTONS!

*UPDATE* I probably won’t get around to posting pics from the show, so instead, why not head over to POSSUM PRESS and read Blair’s report, and see some sketches and pictures!

*UPDATE 2* The Urban Firefly wrote a Word On The Street report featuring SPY GUY and THE POSSUM. Very cool. You can read it here.

October 5, 2008

Word On The Street 2008

Filed under: Conventions,Photos,Sketches — M Kitchen @ 7:27 am

Photo by Blair Kitchen

Last Sunday was the annual Word On The Street festival in Toronto, and despite calls for rain, the day ended up being warm and sunny. Once again Ultraist Studios was in attendance with Possum Press, and this year we debuted the SPY GUY and The POSSUM Superhero Movie cut-out stand-ups for the first time ever, which got a lot of attention (and photos).

An interesting side note:  I noticed all day that I was drawing a disproportionately large number of sketches with children robbing banks.  Must be a sign of our times.

Click to enlarge.

September 29, 2007


Filed under: Announcements,Conventions — M Kitchen @ 8:09 am

Wow. The Word on the Street festival is tomorrow. I guess now would be a good time to put up a blog post to announce it to the hand full of you that check out The Ultraist Studios Blog Journal, and happen to be in the Toronto area…

Word on the Street is a national, annual, one-day celebration of reading and writing that promotes Canadian authors, books and magazines, and highlights the importance of literacy in the lives of all Canadians. The Word On The Street festival in Toronto focuses on promoting Toronto and Ontario authors and literacy organizations.*

This year Ultraist Studios and Possum Press have joined forces to attend. Listed under MAGAZINE MEWS Niche magazine publishers: Ultraist Studios / Possum Press will be located at booth MM5 which is located at 2 o’clock on the Queen’s Park Crescent circle. See map below for details.

I have always heard good things from comic makers about Word on the Street. It will be interesting to see how many comics can be sold in a single day, and if it will be enough to make up the table cost. At least my weather widget assures me that tomorrow will be mostly sunny with a high of 22°C.

In other news, the Ultraist Studio Store is debuting a SPUD & HARRY #1 / Creature From Jekyll Island special. More details and pictures to come.

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?

January 3, 2011

A Chat With Dave Sim, Part 6 – A Response

Filed under: Conventions,Thoughts — M Kitchen @ 11:11 am

Originally MYRANT thought this comment entry was spammy, so I posted it here on the Ultraist Journal Blog. Since then Steve Bissette took the initiative to copy and paste it in manually. Thanks Steve!  This goes into deep detail on my comic convention experiences.  It is a response to A Chat With Dave Sim, Part 6.

Regarding Comic Conventions:

There are two conventions that are “profitable” for Ultraist Studios and Possum Press:  FAN EXPO and WORD ON THE STREET (which is a book fair, not a comic convention).

Fan Expo is the fourth largest comic convention in North America and it’s right in our backyard.  Our only expense is the table and parking.  As a result we are able to do slightly better than “break even”.  Our comics are able to hold their own in this environment.  We get lots of interest from people who are at the show for other things (like the SciFi or Horror).  This has become an annual outing for us and we are now at a point where people come looking for us.  Check out our con reports here:  http://www.ultraist.net/journal/index.php?s=”fan+expo”.  In fact, in 2009 Electric Playground did a SPY GUY feature that was broadcast on national television.  That interview can be seen here: http://www.ultraist.net/epInterview.html

Word On The Street is interesting in that we are some of the only comic book publishers at this event.  We get people from all walks of life showing interest.  It’s a more even demographic than any other show.  Because there are few comic books, we get a lot of interest from children.  That is a good sign (if you ask me) that comic books are as interesting as ever for the upcoming generation.  Considering that table costs are quite steep for a one day show, and we are selling three dollar comics, it amazes me that every year we are able to do slightly better than “break even”.  Con reports here:  http://www.ultraist.net/journal/index.php?s=”word+on+the+street”

Just about any other convention we’ve done, once you tack on travel and accommodation costs, becomes a loss leader.

It is the residual effects of attending these conventions that make them worth while.

APE at the time we went was our least successful show.  People there were more interested in art objects than comic books.  This is a common trait I’ve found in the ultra-indie comic cons.  People do not seem to be interested in traditional comics, unlike the big ComicCons and FanExpos.  Blair and I went home from that show with the wind blown out of our sales.  But because of that convention, we were noticed by some people in Hollywood, and were asked to be a part of the convention sequence of the 2008 feature film SUPERHERO MOVIE directed by Craig Mazin and produced by David Zucker and Robert K. Weiss.  Here are some screen grabs:  http://www.ultraist.net/journal/2009/04/24/spy-guy-vs-dragonfly/

We recently returned to San Francisco to attend WonderCon 2010, and were amazed to find how many people had been looking for us ever since.  Our table was tucked away in a far back corner, so when we were discovered with excitement, it was one of those things that makes it all worth while.  Here is a videoblog of our Wonder Con adventure:  http://www.ultraist.net/journal/2010/06/24/spy-guy-the-possum-vs-wondercon-2010/

SPX was one of my favorite shows to attend.  It fell somewhere between the mainstream shows and the ultra-indie shows.  There wasn’t Hollywood competition, and yet people were still interested in traditional looking comic books.  It was a “break-even” or “slightly-less-than-break-even” show, but the BOX of comic trades I came home with FAR MORE than outweighed any loss.  Good stuff!  Of course we did that show on the cheap (sleeping in the van).  Paying for a hotel room would have crushed us.  Definitely a show I would like to do again, however circumstances have prevented us from doing so recently.  Full report here:  http://www.ultraist.net/journal/2007/10/19/spx-2007-field-report/

MoCCA had to be the biggest financial loss of any show I’ve attended.  There was lots working against it.  Blair didn’t attend the show, so I took all the financial loss myself (even though I was selling his comics and using his sales to help offset the cost).  I brought the whole family with me which added to the expense.  And MoCCA seemed to be one of those ultra-indie shows where people aren’t interested in traditional looking comics.  That said; this is what good came out of it:  I finally got to meet Charlito (and Mr Phil who I first met at SPX) of Indie Spinner Rack, and got to speak with him for one of the ISR shows:  http://www.ultraist.net/journal/2010/06/17/indie-spinner-rack/ and I also got to meet Brian LeTendre from the Secret Identity Podcast and appear on his show: http://www.ultraist.net/journal/2010/09/09/secret-identity-podcast-264/ I also got to meet Gahl Buslov of Midtown Comics who made the BIGGEST single purchase of SPY GUY comics in the history of Ultraist Studios.  It was nice to say “thank you” in person.  Here is my videoblog con report:  http://www.ultraist.net/journal/2010/04/17/spy-guy-vs-mocca-2010/ (good trades from this show as well).

And San Diego Comic Con.  What an experience that was.  This nearly ties with MoCCA for biggest financial loss, but man was it fun!  It was so big, and we met so many people, and went to so many post-con parties, that I have to say it was worth the expense.  An interesting story; 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 lost interest, though he gave me his card, and I gave him a comic.  But the though of having “Bruce Willis as SPY GUY” was a funny enough thought to keep me laughing (even as I type this).  We have a video blog waiting to be edited but in the meantime here is a quick blog post:  http://www.ultraist.net/journal/index.php?s=”San+Diego+Comic+Con+2010″

An exception to the “loss leader” show was SPACE.  Here the table cost was low, and even the foot traffic of attendees was low. Yet if you compared our sales to the number of attendees it had to be the highest sales per person ratio of any show we’ve been to.  I don’t think we covered transportation cost (gas from Toronto to Columbus) but when all is said and done, it’s a show I would not hesitate to do again.  It was a “meeting of the tribe”.  Highlights were meeting up with the Cerebus Yahoo!s, doing the annual gathering at Schmidt’s Sausage Haus (for our first time).  Also came home with a decent amount of trades.  SPUD & HARRY even got nominated as a SPACE PRIZE finalist!  http://www.backporchcomics.com/space_prize_finaliists_general.htm

A videoblog documentary of SPACE 2010 can be viewed here:

What is worth mentioning is that a lot of these things don’t necessarily translate into immediate sales, but there is a very real “snowball effect” that is clearly happening in slow motion where each event builds on the other, causing a cascading chain reaction.

It’s tough doing the comic circuit selling three dollar comics.
Part of the trick to making money at these things is to come up with something that sells in the $50 and up range.
Big name artists can sell sketches, but we like to give those away to people who support us for free.
That’s just how we roll.

Coming up in the next few years, we’ll be experimenting with attending other shows we’ve yet to attend.  To have our comics infiltrate new cities and get them into the hands of new readers.  I’m very curious to hear other artists experiences with shows they’ve attended and hearing their recommendations.

May 25, 2009

Final Push for SPY GUY #1

Filed under: Announcements,Spy Guy — M Kitchen @ 6:39 pm

Busy, busy, busy… making a final push to finish SPY GUY #1 in time for FanExpo and Word on the Street.  Must begin painting the cover soon.  Stay tuned for a preview.

Check the twitter for updates:  SPY GUY #1 Progress.

October 11, 2007

SPX and other miscellany…

Filed under: Announcements,Conventions — M Kitchen @ 3:50 pm

Yes. Tomorrow we commence on an SPX road trip.

Click the banner above for details.

Or click to Possum Press for more info.

At the moment I don’t feel like typing.

On a side note: Word On The Street was a great success!

Want to see pics and stuff?

Again, click over to Possum Press.

Haven’t felt like blogging.

Mind has been focused on SPY GUY #1.

And attempting sleep.

Perhaps SPX will inspire some blog entries.

Stay tuned.

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