Ultraist Studios Blog Journal thoughts, musings and other rambling…

April 8, 2011

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.22

Filed under: Mail,Now I'll Ask You One... — M Kitchen @ 10:43 pm

Blair: Well Dave, I’ve got to say it’s been a pleasure having this discussion with you and Mike. I really enjoyed reading your conversations with Steve Bissette and Jimmy Gownley over the last few months and hopefully our discussion holds up to both of those alright. (Maybe we’ll even have to do this again sometime).

Thanks again, and I look forward to seeing you in July!

Mike: “Cinderella Liberty”… there’s a comic in there somewhere! Perhaps it’s naivety or perhaps it’s simply optimism, but I do think there are people out there that would enjoy the sorts of work we do on the fringes with our self-published works. Far more than recent sales would have us believe. I continue to find support for my own work in the most unlikely of places. When those allies are found, I am overcome with a sense of gratitude. It makes the battle seem a little less hopeless. It reminds me of two different quotes that I’ve collected into a category I call Mantra’s on my Ultraist Studios Blog Journal. The first was something you said in you conversation with Steve Bissette over at his Myrant page:

“Self-publishing for a living is somewhere on a sliding scale between extremely unlikely and totally impossible”

Which, so far as I can tell in 2011, is as close to a truth as I can imagine. And that in turn makes me think of something that writer Seth Godin said recently on his own blog:

“Your chance of winning is so vanishingly small it’s as if, from an investment point of view, there are no winners. Which means that you should play the game for the thrill of playing it, for the benefits of playing it to a normal conclusion, not because you think you have any shot at all of winning the grand prize.”

That can be said, not only for self-publishing, but for life itself.

I mean, we’re all going to fly into the ground one of these days…
… so we might as well enjoy the ride!

Thanks again for instigating this conversation Dave.
Both Blair and I enjoyed doing it.

But now it’s time to fax this off before the clock strikes twelve.
The family and I look forward to seeing you in July.

Mike Kitchen – signing off.

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.21

Filed under: Mail,Now I'll Ask You One... — M Kitchen @ 10:36 am

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.20

Filed under: Mail,Now I'll Ask You One... — M Kitchen @ 7:50 am

Mike: You’re going to open a “can of worms” on this one Dave, because it kicks my conspiracy theory brain into full gear.  I absolutely think this internet is the world’s biggest scam in the same way that I think fractional-reserve banking is a scam and bloated socialist governments are a scam.  I think the reason we’ve had so much freedom on the internet for so long is because the “powers that be” are trying to get everyone hooked on the system before they clamp down on it for total control, much like they did with the radio waves many years ago.  Now that everyone (almost everyone) is plugged into the matrix, equipped with their iPhones and other Star Trek devices that can be GPS tracked and traced and now that banking is going electronic and now that all of your actions can be recorded on giant echelon computers and your habits can be predicted (go look at amazon.com as an example) and I see pretty much the whole of humanity being suckered into loving Big Brother.

Conspiracy brain aside; I think maintaining an on-line presence is about as beneficial as keeping an in-print presence for whatever that’s worth.  I mean, both of those I’m not making any money with, so I’m probably the wrong guy to ask.  But I can easily point to people (in both on-line and in-print camps) who are making it work.  I have discovered artists and their work on-line, I’ve bought stuff on-line and sold stuff on-line and connected with people on-line, so there is something to it.  No question there.  My big question is HOW to make it work so that the energy out is greater than the energy in (which is my same question for in-print).  The answer seems to be the same:  Do it well, do it frequently, do it habitually, offer something that people want that serves them.  One of those easier-said-than-done answers… unless you do it.

Measured against going to conventions and small press shows and getting the local store to carry the books on spec?  To me it’s apples and oranges.  Using military analogies that I like to use, I see the on-line aspects as media and propaganda campaigns.  It’s putting up billboards and dropping leaflets and broadcasting commercials and giving up to the minute news bulletins and branding yourself into the mass consciousness “Keep Calm and Carry On” “Uncle Sam Wants You!” types of things.  The conventions and small press shows and local stores are like ground assaults.  You’re going in on a special-ops mission and occupying territory (be it shelf space or table space) planting your flag and fighting to not get cut down by enemy fire.  The internet thing is certainly cheaper than paying for gas and airfare and table space and accommodations.  The data can be duplicated infinitely so it theoretically has infinite reach, which is great for spreading idea-viruses.  But it sure ain’t as real as holding a book in your hands.  I don’t care if you can read a comic on your iPad, you still can’t sign a limited edition first print issue number one on the internet.

I see both aspects being very useful but for very different reasons.

But like I said; I’m not making any money on either of them.
So what do I know…

Now I’ll ask you one…  You’ve mentioned glamourpuss numbers a few times during these conversations.  My question is this:  What can us readers do to help YOU with glamourpuss?  I mean, we can buy the comic – ✔ check.  We can talk about it for the word-of-mouth viral effect – ✔ check.  But if there was another way for readers to help a self-publishing author make sure the numbers grow and the work continues, what would it be?

PS.  We got the missing page from Oliver so Blair should be good to go.  They can’t keep THIS frequency jammed! I haven’t heard from Blair this evening, and I’m not sure if he also has a question ready for you or not. Regardless, I figured I’d send this to you now so I can log off this computer.

Blair: I have to agree with Mike’s conspiracy theory brain on this one, although I haven’t put much thought into it that way, but I’m sure the powers that be are up to something. For the most part, I lump the internet in with TV and video games as far as time wasting goes and I’m just as guilty as the next guy. I purposely cancelled my cable for my TV and we have one video game in our house from about 14 years ago, but I find I still end up wasting time only it’s on line rather than in front of the TV. If I wasn’t trying to make a comic and promote it I probably would have no use for an online presence. Pre-Possum, I didn’t own a computer (2004 I think it was when I bought my first one to colour pages) and I may have checked my email once a week at work, although in those days I was animating on paper and the only time I was around a computer was when I was pencil testing a scene. I checked the hockey scores in the morning and didn’t think about it again all day. Work was steady and if someone wanted to reach me they’d call me on the phone. Things are different now though. I’m no longer content working for a studio so I’m trying to start a business and I think the internet is an invaluable asset if it’s used properly, but like most things it has a down side that might outweigh the good side. I mean at the moment, there would be no way that I could carry on this conversation we’re having right now without the internet and all the people reading our conversation wouldn’t have access to it without the internet. One thing is for sure, there’s a lot more competition out there because of the internet, because everyone now has a voice and anyone can put their stuff online for everyone to see which is a good thing, but at the same time it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.

The conventions, small press shows and selling books in stores on spec is a tough way to make a living as well. I find there’s only so much you can accomplish with those options and selling $3 comic books by hand is almost like trying to swim upstream. I once spent $5 on TTC tickets to get me to the Beguiling and back in the winter to pick up $6 worth of commissions. Most stores will take between 3 and 5 comics to sell on consignment and it really doesn’t make sense to spend the time and money it takes going store to store to pick up any cash I may have coming to me. The exception to this has been the Silver Snail in Toronto where they’ve been good in keeping my books in stock and have consistently been selling out of them for years now. (I’m not talking hundreds of books or anything, but enough to make it worthwhile making a detour to the Snail every other time I’m in Toronto to see if they need more comics and to pick up a small cheque, and by small I mean enough to buy a few comics for myself with). Unless you want to go the hardcore webcomics route, then distribution is really the key to the whole thing, and Diamond is king right now. Without distribution, I find I’m just spinning my wheels at comic conventions and the same can be said about my online presence. Sure I make a few web sales and sure I sell comics at each convention but the web sales are sure not going to pay my mortgage and I find with $350+ tables at conventions selling $3 comic books the goal is usually to just not lose money. Both Mike and I have a small following now though and my hope is through all of this work online and at conventions we can get a bit of a head start, so that when distribution becomes a reality the ground work can already be laid to start seriously advertising, using the internet as an invaluable tool.

Cartoonists are making a living through the internet, ignoring the traditional distribution channels and I must say that right now my backup plan if I’m not able to get into those traditional distribution channels would be to focus on creating my own distribution through the web and see where it takes me. I like paper though, and there’s something legit about having a printed book selling in stores, so that’s my primary goal.

So, is the internet a scam? I don’t know. Unlike TV or videogames, it can be a tool, and like all tools, it’s entirely up to the person using the tool to make something great with it. I’m not sure what the future will bring, but at the moment the American dream that everyone has a chance to make it big has never been more real…… for now. Tomorrow, the internet may be nothing more than glorified cable TV.

OK, I know Mike has already asked you a question, but I’ll ask you one too, trying to keep in line with what’s already been asked.

I’m wondering what your idea of success for Glamourpuss is after all you’ve accomplished and been through already?

April 7, 2011

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.19

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

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.18

Filed under: Mail,Now I'll Ask You One... — M Kitchen @ 6:33 am

Mike: Hmm… I guess it depends on how lenient you want to get with the term “comics creating”. Where’s Scott McCloud when you need him?

The earliest thing I remember drawing myself:

My earliest memory drawing has to be in kindergarten when I was drawing a landscape of some sort on an art easel. The girl sitting beside me looked at my paper and asked “how do you draw a tree so good?” I was slightly shocked that this female was attempting to communicate with me, but I thought I should at least try to answer her question; “well… you just kind of draw a squiggle… like this!” and I gave her a fifteen second art lesson.

My earliest memory drawing a story was in grade 5. In class we created our own small books, bound them ourselves and used wallpaper to wrap the hardback covers. My book was about a dolphin named “Flash” and a shark named “Mark”. It was closer in appearance and structure to a children’s book than it was to a comic. But it was illustrated and it had to have been my first completed story in book form. That’s got to be kicking around somewhere, probably at my parents house in a box in the attic.

In grade 7 for a school project I started working on a sci-fi adventure. It was as a prose story (which I added illustration to because that’s just the kind of guy I am) called “DeathStar Returns”. The second version was done as the first comic I ever remember creating. It was a horrible rip-off of all the toys and pop culture of the time. Star Wars, G.I.Joe, Robotech, MASK and I even had a blatant swipe of Snarf from Thundercats in there. Here is a picture of the prose version:

And here is a picture of that first comic (that I can remember). Never got around to the word bubbles.

I think this was also the year that I was drawing Garfield all of the time, and when I told my mother that I was going to draw Garfield for a living, she said to me “why don’t you make up your own character?” That’s the moment I started trying to plot my own stories, eventually leading me to create Spy Guy a few years later.

The earliest thing I remember my brother drawing:

His previous answer to you on 28 March, 2011 jogged my memory into remembering a bunch of his earlier works that I had forgotten about (like the porcupine). But the big one I remember was Sir Lance. It was only recently that I found out Blair was just copying Spy Guy and turning him into a knight. That gave me a chuckle. No wonder I was fond of the character. I was always curious if he was ever going to do something with Sir Lance. But now he has The Possum!

Where it happened:

It seems like most of those things I remember happened at school for myself. I guess it just goes to show that once you are confined in an enclosed space, and have a project deadline, things seem to get completed. Most of my other work came out as just piles and piles of random ideas, drawings and doodles. Closer to concept art and gag panels than they are to actual comic work. Sir Lance I remember at my parents dinning room table. I’m not sure where Blair would have created the character originally, but I do know we spent a lot of hours at that table drawing. That’s one of those “anchors” that gives me flashbacks whenever we have family get-togethers and dinners.

Since Blair’s running late in Texas, I figure I’ll send you this response of mine on it’s own, and let Blair send his off whenever he’s finished with it. I’m very curious to see what answers he comes up with.

Blair: Mike wouldn’t let me see his response to your question until I finished mine, so I’m going to have to really think here and not just copy his answers. (Being the younger brother there was a lot of that going on while we were growing up). Totally off topic; I remember one time Mike was sick and had to stay home from school and I faked a cough so I could stay home too even though I felt fine (I think I was in kindergarten at this time). I spent the entire day lying down on the couch, bored out of my mind, thinking “what have I gotten myself into?” My only entertainment that day was playing with a stamp set of all of the Marvel superheroes. (That was the first time I ever faked being sick and I never did it again). Mike usually did things first and because I naturally had similar interests, I’d just follow along and do many of the same things he did. I think this trend mostly applies to comics and drawing, but I’m sure Mike will say it happened a lot more than I’ll admit to.

The first picture that I can actually remember drawing was a picture of the Incredible Hulk I did when I was having my interview with my kindergarten teacher before the school year began. (a standard interview they do with all kids, just to make sure my marbles were all there). I would have been 4 years old at the time, because my birthday wasn’t until November and I remember being a little confused that there were no other kids there, because in my child’s mind I didn’t know what an interview was, but I did know that kindergarten was supposed to involve a lot of kids, but it was just my mom, my teacher and me. I think my mother might still have that drawing in a folder somewhere in the closet hallway, but it’s been quite some time since I’ve seen it, although I remember using the green crayon for the Hulk’s body and the purple one for his pants and thinking I was doing a really good job at making him look really strong.

When I was younger most of my drawing wasn’t comics, but rather I’d tell stories through making huge battle scenes on big sheets of paper that my dad would bring home from work. In my memories, we were drawing the pictures on the family room floor, just close to the steps that went down to our basement, but to tell you the truth, I’m not sure if we even had a family room at that time. (before the family room was built, there was a kitchen and a mud room there). Regardless, I remember drawing cars jumping over ramps and shooting other cars while planes would fly overhead shooting dotted line bullets until the page was completely filled with carnage. The first comic strips I drew were copied Garfield strips, until I felt confident enough to make my own characters, and I guess you could say the first original comics (that consisted of more than a one panel gag) was with my sir Lance character that I talked about earlier. We did a lot of drawing at the dining room table in those days and I remember my best friend Jarrett’s mom telling me years later that he would always come home from our house and tell her “All those Kitchen boys like to do is draw!” Although we must have done a lot of other things too, because I always seemed to get in trouble with Jarrett and there’s not much trouble to get into while drawing. (Unless you’re drawing about feminists….. nyuk, nyuk, nyuk).

The first comic book I ever drew (other than my Dave Sim and Gerhard inspired Sir Lance that only made it to page 11 or so) believe it or not was The Possum #1, which I started in 2002 when I was 26 years old and completed in 2006.

A lot of my memories of Mike’s drawings were similar to things that I was drawing. Mike would draw every Autobot on a big sheet of paper and I would attempt to draw every single Decepticon. Mike would make a poster of Heathcliff and I would make a Garfield poster. Mike would make a short character with big feet who was a spy and I would make a short character with big feet who was a knight. It wasn’t until Mike moved out and went to college that my drawing style naturally started to take on it’s own identity. Once Mike moved out of our parents house (and I was only a couple years behind him), we really didn’t draw together any more and I don’t think it was until we started doing comic conventions that I’d actually sit next to him and draw with him again, which has been a lot of fun and has brought back a lot of those childhood feelings.

And now I’ll ask YOU one:
Some of the best pro-tips I know I’ve learned from you. I got the Hunt 102 and S-172 Bainbridge from reading Cerebus (the parts that would become the Cerebus Guide To Self-Publishing). I got the tracing paper transfer method from reading the Blog And Mail. I got some old school brush techniques (which I’m still itching to use on SPY GUY #3) and some award winning lettering advice from you (that I used to fix up SPY GUY #2) when you came to visit Ultraist Studios.

What are some good pro-tips that you can give us the secrets to? What tricks and techniques could help us take SPY GUY and THE POSSUM to the next level? What is your favourite NEW trick to use on glamourpuss? What is the trick to writing great dialogue? (I’m seeing lots of question marks here… I guess that’s more than one… feel free to pick and chose which ones you feel like answering).

ps. If you’d like, you can try sending the fax directly to me again. Page 3 from this morning came through fine (not sure why the first two didn’t). One thing I noticed is that when Oliver sends them to us, they’re not nearly as clear to read, so sending them direct will make for easier reading when they’re posted on the website.

Pss. I’ve really been enjoying this conversation.

April 6, 2011

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.17

Filed under: Mail,Now I'll Ask You One... — M Kitchen @ 2:40 pm

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now we’ll ask you one:

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

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

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

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

April 5, 2011

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.15

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

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hermaphrodite and androgynous occult symbolism.
Cerebus as a hermaphrodite.

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

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

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

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

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

April 4, 2011

Now I’ll Ask YOU One… pt.13

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

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