Monday, December 31, 2007

Some New Year's Eve Thanks for 2007 Highlights... my personal life, and a bit of my professional life. Just a big thank you all around to all my amigos and family; thanks for putting up with me!

Thanks, too, for Myrant readers being out there. I've no idea how many of you there are (I've yet to figure out how to get a count of hits to the blog, despite numerous efforts), but it's nice to know this venue gives me some link to the outside world and a means of writing and sharing some of my brainspew. Thanks to my many fans, especially folks like Salvo, Tom and Phil, for all your kindnesses; I am not worthy! I really appreciate the occasional care packages, fellas, and wish you all the best of the coming New Year. I'll do my best to get something new out there for ya!

For 2008, a new computer, scanner, and the construction of a proper computer work area should provide the means at last to (a) work with Cat to complete the website as I hope it will exist, and (b) share more art with you via the site and this blog. That said, here's what I'm already thankful for in 2007...

* 2007 was Marge's and my first year in our new home! We in fact completed the move one year ago this past Friday, folks, so the whole of 2007 was indeed spent nesting in our new digs.

We're both overjoyed to be in our new home, with closer proximity to our respective jobs -- burning up far less gas, mind you, and saving in every other domestic bill, too, except for property taxes (the fool Republican claims about lower taxes are premised in part on ignoring completely how all deferred spending is landing on our collective backs via regional property taxes, but don't get me going). The increased proximity to White River Junction and The Center for Cartoon Studies has been a blessing, too, and allowed me more time than ever to dedicate to the students, when required and/or requested.

This home also plugged us into high-speed internet access, which has freed up literally days, weeks, months of time -- even with the blogging! -- to dedicate to more worthwhile ventures. It now takes about 15 minutes to do what in Marlboro, VT, with no broadband access, over four hours a day to do. You do the math.

* I'm thankful beyond words for my ongoing job at The Center for Cartoon Studies. Beyond just being thankful to be a man over 50 who even has a job in 2007, I'm thankful to have a job that is meaningful, satisfying and rewarding -- a rarer commodity still in Bush-era 21st Century America!

The time with the classes, the students, the enormous confidence and trust co-founders James Sturm and Michelle Ollie demonstrate daily, the ongoing support and hard work from Robyn Chapman, Jess Abston, Sarah Stewart Taylor, Jason Lutes, Peter Money, James Kochalka, Kaori Hamura, Jon-Mikel Gates (the latter three helped me co-teach Drawing Workshop this fall semester) and one and all -- especially the students, alumni included -- it's been amazing. I savor the enormous creative boost and joy this all provides, the reunions with alumni over the past couple of weeks, the drawing and the craziness and the bullshit and the -- well, all of it. I'm thankful, and feel lucky as any man can be to have this opportunity to work with the new generations of cartoonists and creators, hopefully passing on something of what I've learned and invented over my 30 years or so since I graduated from the Joe Kubert School.

* The year is ending (to the day, with more to go!) with heavy work in the home stretch on The Neil Gaiman Companion, a book project co-authors Christopher Golden and Henry Wagner invited me in on back in October.

Thanks for inviting me in to the party, guys! Though it's been a real pressure-cooker, amid the end-of-semester workload and demands of CCS and the holidays, it's been a joy, too. Whatever the headaches, it landed me the rare opportunity to spend a little face-to-face time with my old friend Neil, and is culminating in what is shaping up to be a honey of a book -- which you'll see in stores, I think, later in 2008 from St. Martin's Press. Watch for it!

* It's been a pleasure easing back into drawing comics again, and fun seeing some of that new work popping up in print. My retirement from the US comics industry stands -- and events in 2007 did nothing but confirm the wisdom of that 1999 decision. But I've found my way to keeping busy in the medium I love most outside of any industry venues, and hope to expand upon that in 2008.

If you're happy to see this turn of events -- as I am -- special thanks is due to the following folks:

* First and foremost, my son Daniel, who once told Marge he hoped to get me back to drawing comics. Well, pat yourself on the back, son, you done good (and there was no prouder pop on Planet Earth than yours truly the night I enjoyed hearing and seeing you, Sam and Jeremy -- Mooneye -- playing at the Main Street Museum!).
* My daughter Maia Rose -- we'll get ours, done, too, my dear!
* Everyone at The Center for Cartoon Studies (see below)
* Leah Moore and John Reppion and the folks; special thanks to Leah and John, I met and committed to:
* the AccentUK crew, primary among them Colin Mathieson and Dave West, who were enthusiastic and patient and attentive and ended up publishing my work (solo on the cover and interior illo) and collaborative effort with Dan, and some fine stories by CCS students/artists in May of 2007, all in the AccentUK Zombies anthology.

* The Trees & Hills Comics Group, a New England comics collective, particularly Colin Tedford and Daniel Barlow; in fact, my son Dan and I did our first published collaborative work for the 2006 Trees & Hills anthology, Trees & Hills and Friends; I had another (solo) piece in this year's first T&H anthology, too (I missed being in their second collective comic of 2007, though).

* Kudos, too, to CCS alumni Sean Morgan for being ballsy enough to ask me to collaborate on the art for the cover story in his anthology Capsule -- thanks, Sean, and it was fun!

The story turned out well, if I may say so myself, and it was also a hoot to see Sean's zombie story see print at last herein -- "He Is Risen" had been written, drawn and submitted to Zombies, but it was bumped due to its religious content. Way to push the 'taboo' button, Sean, and here's hoping we work on something new in 2008...

Invigorated by that process and the Zombies anthology as a whole, I also stepped up to the plate for a single oversized page of new work in the super-sized Sundays anthology, a true labor of cover-to-cover love a pack of inspired, perspiring CCSers created for its debut at the spring MoCCA convention in NYC. I did so with some apprehension, and considerable changing-of-horses in midstream a couple of times, but it all worked out for the best for one and all.

It was also inspiring to see everyone involved pouring so much of themselves into every aspect of the project -- though I was only an observer, really, with one page in the mix, I felt reconnected to the wellsprings of the comics community I once felt part of, the vital stuff of creation, hands-on production and working through the details, genuine self-publishing (right down to the marathon silk-screening sessions and hand-binding production line of that final week before MoCCA). The Sundays crew busted their asses on this book! Kudos to everyone involved, it was a monumental effort, beautifully conceived and executed.

Though I should have asked/pressed for another page -- I'm guilty of the sin of too-much-text to too-little-art in my humble one-pager -- I'm pleased that the encouragement of the CCS now-senior confederates in creative crime behind Sundays prompted me to re-engage with Tyrant for a time -- yep, the first new Tyrant work to see print in a decade was in Sundays!

Sure, it was bitter little pill of a page, but it was pretty funny, I think, too. More importantly, it prompted my returning to the project and prepping two versions of a proposal I'll be circulating in 2008, in hopes of landing a home in the book market for some incarnation of my pet project. Time will tell on that, but nothing will take away the shot-in-the-arm the Sundays crew provided this ol' coot.

Before summer was out, another scurvy pack of ink-slinging swine tantalized me with the thought of taking another shot at doing a western comic story, and the result was "Tenderfoot" in Dead Man's Hand (which debuted at SPX in October).

Now, I've the greatest affection and respect in the world for the rowdy-noodies who concocted and completed Dead Man's Hand -- after all, I taught 'em all most everything they know, y'could say -- but I gotta tell you right here and now, the sap-suckin' lily-livered saddle-sore slurpin' sidewinders bushwhacked me! Consarn their blasted eyes!

After a night of carousing at the local brewery Elixir's and proposing every conceivable variation on mixing cowboys and dinosaurs -- from Turok to Gwangi to thunderbirds to giant horny-toads squirtin' jet-propelled rivers of blood from their eyes -- and being increasingly slammed dick-in-the-dirt at every turn, I put pen to paper to craft an original tale with nary a saurian in sight -- not even a fossil! And I'm mighty happy with my story "Tenderfoot," mind ye.

Anyhoot, I did that only to find, upon publication, they'd let another cactus-lickin' contributor do a story with a pfucking pterodactyl in it! A no-shit flying dinosaur! Thunderbird, my ass!

Goddammit, I was hornswoggled! Boondoggled! Barn-doored and slamdunked! I'll get you suckers next time, you wait and see! It'll be Dunston comics for you, you baboon-assed monkey-humpin' simian lovers!

2008 already has me working on a swamp-monster personal project, which I'm excited about, and a story for a new CCS-community anthology proposed and helmed (or co-helmed) by our compadre Cayetano 'Cat' Garza -- watch for Secrets & Lies at MoCCA this year!

* The Bissette Coffee Zombee mugs have been a fun diversion this year, and I'm working on some new ceramic art for 2008.

No, you can't mail order 'em -- though I am gracing friends and family with their own one-of-a-kind ceramic goodies this holiday season, including some Marge and I did together (no zombies on those, though), and will continue to do so (for birthdays) throughout 2008.

These have been just fun to make, personally. As for those not created as gifts, I'm pleased to keep prices, productivity, profits and the profile low. Still, these each-one-of-a-kind painted and glazed works are happily circulating in surprising circles, and part of the fun for me is knowing
  • they're all finding homes via my booth at the Antiques Mall at Quechee Gorge Village on Route 4 in VT -- dealer #653, a booth jam-packed with work by yours truly and the students and faculty of The Center for Cartoon Studies, along with my ceramics originals, comics, books, DVDs (most brand new and factory-sealed, including lots of out-of-print cult gems), LPs, magazines, toys, collectibles and wackiness.

  • 2007 record-holder for Coffee Zombee mug to have traveled the farthest! Brent just sent me "pics of the Coffee Zombee mug I picked up at the Queechee Gorge antique mall. I was passing through... and happened across the cup. More appropriately I should say I happened across your booth. It was great (albeit odd) to see your collection of the strange amongst the left overs and knick knacks from peoples past. I hope to see more next year when we head that way. Thanks for the coffee, in a round about way!" Yer welcome, Brent, and enjoy! [Photo compliments of Brent]

    A fine fellow named Brent out in Newbury Park, CA holds the record for carrying a cup o' Bissette ceramic craziness the furthest from its origin point, and kudos to Brent for letting me know, too.

    Marge and I have done a bunch of ceramics this fall and winter, which I'll post photos of here once we get everyone's gifts to them. Don't want to give away any secrets here... but we've both been enjoying the making of these goodies, and it's been rare fun to be doing creative work with Marge, too.
  • All this stuff is happening at the White River Junction-based Tip Top Pottery studio, here's the link to Amy's happening joint -- check it out.

  • Though I've started toying with other kinds of painting subjects -- dinosaurs are a subject I've been playing with in new works, along with my own monsters and stuff -- and plan on working on some tiles, which cartoonists like James Kochalka and others have embraced wholeheartedly as a vehicle, I'm keeping all this on the level of play, and intend to keep it that way!

    Here's a Moondog (Louis T. Hardin) mug I painted for my son Dan, one of his birthday gifts this December -- the lad turned 22, and I wanted to be sure he got something special, unlike anything else on Earth...

    OK, well, there's tons more I'm thankful for, too. I'm overjoyed that two of my best buds, Mike Dobbs (G. Michael Dobbs) and Tim Lucas, got their pet book projects done and published this year -- and what books they are! More on those later this week, as I try to assess the best books of the year.

    I'm glad Black Coat Press and I got the first volume of S.R. Bissette's Blur out this year; volumes two, three and four are in the works, thanks to computer aide from CCS alumni (and Blur book cover designer and good friend) Jon-Mikel Gates, and it's too bad I didn't get 'em out this year as originally planned. Computer woes and the surprise involvement with The Neil Gaiman Companion derailed that scheme, but only for a short while... there's more to come in 2008, which I'll get into once we reach next year!

    Which brings me to the inevitable Happy New Year, one and all.

    Be safe, be happy, be warm tonight, and make it safely into 2008!

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