Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Meanwhile, In Mark Martin Land --

Though I have been incredibly busy of late (see today's catch-up post, directly below), I have still found the time to

  • try to save my friend Mike Dobbs's life,

  • only to stupidly decapitate him somehow.

  • I'm still not sure how this happened; maybe I'll find out eventually. I'm told there's more coming, hopefully with more gut-splattering hi-larity ensuing.

    To read the whole Blogopera strip thus far, check out
  • Mark's Jabberous blog, which is always linked on my links menu at right. Always. The Blogopera started in late October, see Mark's archive links.

  • Of course, you can visit Mark's entire online universe here, where the L'il Condi Rice face lurks.

  • There's a little Condi everywhere, I'm told.
    Ah, Snow on the Ground at Last...

    It's true, it snowed here Sunday night -- a light, crisp snow -- and there's some of it still on the ground, but only here in the higher elevations.

    Anyhoot, sorry I've been away so long. It's been a hectic week since my last post, hence the very late blog entry. Much to report, but little time at hand; here it comes!

    The move to Windsor, VT continues, and that has been most preoccupying. Apart from the work I must have done week-to-week (Center for Cartoon Studies teaching, freelance, etc.), the purchase of the new home in Windsor, the prep for the selling of our existing home in Marlboro, and the seemingly interminable moving process is all-consuming. The movers have been contracted for late December -- by their calculations, I have (ahem) literally ten tons of stuff to move!

    With that momentous reality always first and foremost, I've been moving loads north almost two to three times a week to our storage facility closer to our new digs.

    This past weekend, a group of the CCS students pitched in (in exchange for gas money and -- most importantly -- a fabulous home-cooked meal prepared by Marge) and we got all but four boxes of the entire SpiderBaby Grafix backstock (half the second floor of our garage, mind you!) and about three rooms worth of books and items moved in one afternoon, which was a Herculean feat. This put us nicely on track for all that lies ahead, though the prep/packing for this weekend event ate up all of last week. It was great, though, and Marge and I send our undying love, gratitude and thanks to all who pitched in!

    Part and parcel of this process, too, has been renewed and vigorous shipments of my collection to
  • the Bissette Collection at HUIE Library/Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas
  • -- over forty boxes out in the past week alone.

    This isn't just a process of boxing up and shipping -- I type up extensive notes on the contents of each package, which allows Lea Ann Alexander, Hope Warner and the student volunteers to prepare every shipment for the collection: storage, access, display, archiving, etc. It's an ongoing and no doubt daunting task, especially given the loopy diversity of what's already in their hands. It only gets loopier.

    Here's a sample ship list:

    Shipping 10/30/06:

    * 1963 Merchandizing: Two (2) T-shirts (circa 1993, Graffiti Designs) featuring MYSTERY INCORPORATED (Rick Veitch art) and NO ONE ESCAPES... THE FURY! (Bissette art) -- these were the only two designs used and merchandized. I believe I’ve sent some of these to the collection, but -- well, here’s two more, size small.

    BISSETTE DVDs!: Both of the following DVD releases feature my art, and that of my son Daniel (HEAD TRAUMA) and the first DVD minicomic packaged with the Center for Cartoon Studies students:

    * THE LAST BROADCAST (Heretic Films/Wavelength Releasing, Sept. 26, 2006 street date; the movie itself is circa 1998) - The debut collaborative feature by Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler is also the world’s first all-digital feature that was digitally projected theatrically -- not only that, but projected theatrically via satellite feed! In content, it predates THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and was arguably ripped off FOR the BLAIR WITCH film; it’s digital filmmaking pioneer status also predate George Lucas’s much-ballyhooed digital projection via satellite release of STAR WARS I: THE PHANTOM MENACE by over a year and a half. I’ve detailed my association with Stefan and Lance (during my video store/VSDA/NEBG years) elsewhere in my notes for this collection. However, this brand-new release of THE LAST BROADCAST also features (a) an inside-cover color painting by myself, designed and delivered as the cover art -- I’ve no idea why they made the decision they did -- and (b) a JERSEY DEVIL minicomic and LAST BROADCAST booklet in its packaging, which I had a hand in packaging. Some of my own art appears on every page, but only individual panels. Working with the credited Center for Cartoon Studies students -- Elizabeth Chasalow, Alexis Frederick-Frost, Jacob Jarvela, Sean Morgan, Lauren O’Connell, Caitlin Plovnick, Adam Staffaroni, Josie Whitmore, with a panel by Rich Tommaso and script contributions by Sarah Stewart Taylor and Peter Money -- I conceived and executed the minicomic with the CCS Year One student team in May-June 2005. I also wrote THE LAST BROADCAST essay in the booklet, immediately following the minicomic and map key. AND -- I wrote the back cover copy for the DVD itself!

    * HEAD TRAUMA ((Heretic Films/Lance Weiler, Sept. 26, 2006 street date; the movie itself is circa summer 2006) - The second feature (first solo directorial feature effort) by THE LAST BROADCAST co-director Lance Weiler is even more relevant to the collection, as the film itself features a faux-Christian comic tract that was conceived and co-written by myself and Lance Weiler, and drawn by myself and my then-19-year-old son Daniel Bissette. More on this in a seperate collection item (the art itself), but this was a most pleasurable creative job, working with Lance over about a six month period to create piecemeal the art that appears in the film -- Lance sent me two rough edits of the film during the process, and I was able to both suggest further comics imagery, and integrate the imagery I was drawing organically into the edit of Lance’s film, increasing the comic’s “role” (it indeed becomes a sort of inert character in and of itself) while consciously resonating that imagery with sequences Lance had already filmed and edited. The result was a truly creative collaborative effort integrating comics and film in a way I’ve never seen in a film before. Daniel and I are also interviewed (via phone) for the bonus features, which see, discussing the evolution of the comic art we created for the film. Note, however, Daniel and I ONLY drew the comic art associated with the faux-Christian comic tract; we did not do the other comic art in the film, nor the little 8-pg. minicomic packaged with the DVD.

    * EXTRA COPIES (two) of the LAST BROADCAST DVD minicomic/booklet JERSEY DEVIL


    * THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS by Tim Burton (Hyperion Books, New York, 1993) - What it says, the children’s book adaptation from the stop-motion animated feature film; note the acknowledgements on the indicia page, as I’ve no idea if Tim actually wrote and illustrated this book or not.
    * Two National Geographic books illustrated by Louis S. Glanzman, brother of Sam Glanzman, one of the cartoonists whose work heavily influenced my own (Sam drew KONA, MONARCH OF MONSTER ISLE, COMBAT, “The Haunted Tank” in G.I. COMBAT, “U.S.S. Stevens” for the 1970s DC war comics, etc.) -- Sam always referred to his brother Louis as the more accomplished artist, and here’s two examples of Louis’s work:
    - THE WILD SHORES: AMERICA’S BEGINNINGS by Tee Loftin Snell (The National Geographic Society, 1974; second printing, 1983)
    - THE INCREDIBLE INCAS AND THEIR TIMELESS LAND by Loren McIntyre (The National Geographic Society, 1975, first printing)


    * MARSUPILAMI stickers (Benedikt Taschen, West Germany, 1989) - Seven missing of 20 total on this sheet
    * MARSUPILAMI bendable figure (Disney/Applause, China, 1989)
    * MARSUPILAMI key chain (Lanco, Spain, 1989?) - three figures!


    * BRONTOSAURUS-stamped penny (circa 1980s?) - Anachronistic (Brontosaurus is now known as Apatosaurus) artifact of the old perception of dinosaurs -- from one of those stamping machines that crushes and impresses art on pennies. A tiny collectible, don’t lose it!


    * GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS action figure: MOTHRA (Trendmasters, Inc./Toho Co. Ltd., 1994) (in original packaging, unopened) - This was part of the 1994 US marketed Godzilla action figures from Trendmasters, the first extensive line of Toho monsters licensed and manufactured for the American market.
    * GREMLINS ‘deep dish plate’ (paper plates, in original shrinkwrapping, unopened) (Hallmark Cards, Inc./Warner Bros., 1984) - Original merchandizing item from the Joe Dante film GREMLINS. More GREMLINS and GREMLINS 2 merchandizing to follow; my kids and I loved these two Dante films!
    * CHAIRRY from PEE WEE’S PLAYHOUSE TV series (Matchbox Toys/Herman Toys Inc., 1988) - It’s Chairry from the Playhouse! This character was voiced by Alison Mork from 1986-1990; cool toy, and the only one of our Pee Wee toys to survive the ‘80s.
    * TARZAN gorilla (Trendmasters Inc., 1995) - Big ol’ KONG-sized plastic gorilla from the 1995 TARZAN licensing toy line.


    * FRAILTY pen (Lions Gate Home Entertainment, 2001) - promo pen for the Bill Paxton-directed gem which metaphorically and presciently forecasted the George W. Bush Presidency’s “demon hunting” and fundamentalist proclivities -- brrrrr. This film opened before 9/11, but it’s finger was precisely reading the national pulse.

    Now, this is a pretty eclectic collection, folks. Amid the Alan Moore comic scripts and Swamp Thing/Taboo/Tyrant documents, art, sketches, letters and minutae most comics fans/scholars/historians might expect (and there is a lot of that, including all my business records) is the majority of my collection, including my toy collection, artifacts of my writing career, my video store management years, etc.

    Lea Ann made it clear they want it all -- and among the boxes shipped this past week were also an ultra-rare collection of French and Belgian fantasy/sf/horror television programs, serials and films I had in safe storage for my dear friend Jean-Marc Lofficier (nineteen boxes of videos!). Upon Jean-Marc's and his wife Randy's 2005 move from their long-time Los Angeles home to their lovely new home in France, I put Lea Ann in contact with the Lofficiers and they arranged for portions of Jean-Marc and Randy's collections to join HUIE Library's growing special collections. These video rarities were among the last to join that collection. I sweetened that shipment with a copy out of my own collection of Merveilleux, Fantastique et Science-Fiction a la Television Francaise by Jacques Baudou and Jean-Jacques Schleret (Huiteime Art/Le Dossiers du 8e Art), which I'd found in Montreal at a shorefront book kiosk a couple of years ago, providing a handy illustrated reference for much of Jean-Marc's video library.

    My father's personal military career collection also was accepted by Henderson/HUIE last year, a point of pride for my pop which provides a crucial context for my life and work few know about.

    All in all, this ongoing (a little over three years thus far) process has grown exponentially and quite remarkably, and Lea Ann, Hope, Randy Duncan and everyone at HUIE/Henderson have been marvelous to work with, a real joy.

    And man, I'm glad I've got somewhere to send most of the collection I've amassed over a lifetime now that we're (choke) moving again!

    Amid this hubbub, bub, there's also been much else going on.

    * I spoke with Randy Duncan's Henderson State University comic class last Friday, via a phone conference call. A lively conversation was had, with many questions about Taboo, censorship, Tyrant, 1963, and much else -- and as soon as that group conversation was over, I dashed upstairs at CCS to moderate a 90-minute class panel with visiting artist Tara Wray, the writer/director of the new documentary Manhattan, Kansas (2006). Tara's time with the students was as open and insightful as her autobiographical film, leading into a sometimes heated discussion of the differences between the mediums (comics and cinema) and much more. All in all, a great session, and a heady afternoon.

    * With the venerable (it originally opened 35 years ago!) worker-owned alternative organic foods Common Ground Restaurant now open for business in Brattleboro, VT, I formally resigned from the Board of Directors. Nice to leave knowing I was part of a Board that indeed got the restaurant back on its feet -- it's all up to the worker/owners now! With Marge and I moving out of the area, it was time to terminate my involvement; bon appetit, Brattleboro!

    * I've also been very actively engaged with the Board of an organization I'm moving closer to geographically: WRIF, the White River Independent Film group. We're working toward our spring (April) film festival, and it's been a pretty busy month or so for those of us part of that organization. It'll be nice to live closer after almost a year of three-hour round trip drives for meetings, and to be able to socialize with those I've come to know and love via my involvement. More news as it all comes together.

    * I'm working with my daughter Maia and my son Dan on two seperate, short zombie comic pieces for AccentUK, and the Center for Cartoon Studies students interested in contributing are also pulling together their work for that project, too. More later on all this...

    * Though I still can't say much about it, the upcoming Fury cell phone game is firming up nicely; just this past week I approved the first images prepared by the gaming company, so progress is underway on that project.

    * Speaking gigs will be picking up in 2007, in part due to the fact my October audition for the Vermont Humanities Council to join their lineup of sponsored speakers went well. I was notified a couple of weeks ago that I made the grade, and am now part of the Humanities Council's speaker program with my lecture(s) on comics & graphic novels; special thanks to my old amigo Joe Citro for suggesting me to the Council. This will subsidize many libraries and public venues in the coming years; I've been quite busy the past two years providing such programming based solely on what the respective venues (primarily libraries) can afford, so this is a positive shot in the arm for myself and interested future venues. I'll list upcoming presentations here as the schedule firms up for 2007.

    * Finally, I should mention I'll be speaking at the Newark Museum on Friday, November 24th at 1:30 PM for about an hour. It's all part of
  • the Masters of American Comics exhibition the Newark Museum is showcasing (along with Manhattan's The Jewish Museum),
  • though I'm not listed on the Museum's online program.

    But, really, I will be there, presenting an hour-long showcase of early animated cartoons based on the work of the artists in the show, including Windsor McCay, E.C. Segar, George Herriman and others. See some of you there, mayhaps?

    One other thing:

    Note that Lance Weiler's DVD release of Head Trauma made the cut this weekend in nothing less than (to quote John Belushi from National Lampoon's Lemmings) the fucking New York Times, man!

    Check out this past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, page 90 -- in a DVD Christmas-season lineup top-heavy with corporate studio product (and a year bulging with major studio horror fare), Lance’s “little film that could” is the only independent film in the section (and only genre listing, too).

    I've tooted the horn for Head Trauma for months here, due in part to my and my son's participation in the project (see the HUIE list, above, in case you skipped that part). But this is cool and quite an accomplishment, folks. Lance is internationally reknowned as one of the true pioneers of the digital feature revolution, and has maintained his independence (bucking the corrupt festival circuit scene now, still feistily indy and a remarkable incarnation of the ideal fusion of creative filmmaker and canny businessman -- a rare individual indeed). His knowledge of all aspects of filmmaking and the industry, including the kind of distribution traps and missteps most indy filmmakers succumb to, is incredibly invaluable, and Lance is among the most articulate of his generation in discussing such matters. Lance has successfully self-distributed two films now, nurturing the first (the made-for-$900 The Last Broadcast, in collaboration with Stefan Avalos every step of the way) into a multi-million $ earner which he and Stefan still own and keep in market.

    With Head Trauma, Lance was so disgusted with the exploitation of indy filmmakers in the current “indy” festival scene that he bucked the now-usual routes (which cost filmmakers small fortunes, often paying submission fees for festivals their films aren’t accepted for) and mounted a national theatrical tour for his digital-only feature which he personally set up. He negotiated a finite, very beneficial contract with a truly indy DVD label, Heretic, and has now parlayed his indy DVD distribution with a tiny but trustworthy label into -- well, The New York Times.

    Congrats to you, Lance, and thanks again for letting Dan and I be part of it.

    Of course, the comics community could care less about all this. Ah, retirement.

    OK, that's it -- I'm outta here. More to tell, but out of time. Have a great couple of days, hope to post again sooner than I did last time around!