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  • Listening to: Les Baxter
  • Reading: "The House of the Seven Gables"
  • Playing: Sequence
  • Eating: Tofu pups
  • Drinking: Flying Dog "Garde Dog" ale
Certainly Michael Turner's passing is a tragic event for his family, friends, business associates, and fans, but , being none of these, I can't help but feel a little disturbed by the endless barrage of remembrances and tributes spewed across the internet and blogosphere (what a word!).  Seems like every time some "superstar" in comics dies everyone and their grandmother (heck, they read comics, too) has some vague connection or encounter that entitles them to expound on how great a guy he was.  Perhaps he was.   In fact, I never met him and wouldn't dare judge.  

What really bothers me is that so many of these people use something like this to talk about themselves.  It's akin to the Virginia Tech shootings from a year ago (or was it longer…how quickly the furor dies down and we forget).  Sometimes bad and upsetting things happen.  But it's not really about how YOU feel about it or WHAT connection it has to you.   Is everyone that self-centered?

Aha, you're about to call me a hypocrite.  When I found out Marshall Rogers died I wrote something in my DA journal.  Let me explain:  take a look in my long boxes and on my bookshelf.  Rogers is everywhere.  He's one of my top 3 biggest influences.  If everyone who wrote something about Turner held him in that regard, I'm worried for the future of comics.

Can we separate Michael Turner the man from his work for a second?  I definitely didn't know the man, but I knew his work.  I couldn't stand it.  Michael Turner's work reinforced so many things that are wrong with mainstream comics.  He drew spindly women with oversized tits in unnatural poses.  He aped third-generation, derivative artists and compounded the mistakes of pencillers who came before him.  His storytelling was uninspiring and unemotional.   I can't remember ever seeing him drawing a building.   And as a publisher, he created a platform for some of the most ridiculous and embarrassing titles on the racks.  Oh, and here, pay $4 for a 10 page preview issue #0.   Issue #1 will come out a year from now.  With six different covers and three panels per page.

This might be harsh to say so soon, but why isn't this mentioned?  All the tributes are about the man, and that's fine.  That has it's place.  From what I've read, he was a great guy.  But if you use industry forums and news sites to talk about this, let's talk about his actual legacy.  I've read plenty of obituaries about plenty of people in plenty of newspapers.  A public person's influence through their professional life should be discussed.  I don't see a lot of that right now.  All I see is mindless canonization.  

Did Michael Turner leave comics as a medium in a better state?  I certainly don't mean to belittle the work he did as he fought his painful fight with cancer, and I'm not just commenting on his work from the past 2 years.  When he started professionally, Turner was in the right place at the right time with the right style.  And after that he coasted.   How many countless, footless, and tasteless covers and pinups did he do and then repeat and then repeat again.  

I want people who bought that crap to take some responsibility.  You helped hold this medium back.   You threw money on a flaming heap of dung that's still sticking to our feet as we try to stride forward.

I go to the shops weekly.  I see so much crap.  I understand that comics are an industry.  Money makes things matter.  When folks buy crap publishers want more crap just like that.   But let me ask, are you enjoying this crap because it's all you've ever known?

Where are the critics in our medium?  Where is the peer review?  Dave Sim, you've earned your rest, but the rest of you?   An irregular column from Erik Larsen isn't enough.  Why doesn't comics have its own Harlan Ellison or someone as bold to stand up and say, "This is terrible!  This is garbage!"  At least then, if people buy it, we can say, as they usher us to our tiny niches, "Well, we warned them…"   

And, I know, art is anything but objective.  There is no one or two "worthy" types or styles that deserve people's attention and dollars.    Not everyone gets a thrill from the Hernandez bros., Phil Winslade, or Greg Tocchini.  But, as an aspiring artist, I struggle daily (if I'm lucky) with my own work to try to make it better.  I understand when I don't get a job offer or get rejected for a gig that I can only try to do better.  I can only try to elevate my work from the  hesitancy and inconsistency of its current state to a confident, mature expression of my vision.  Filtered through my influences into a form completely and utterly my own .  No swipes.  No apes.  No thought of marketability.  Will this ever happen?  Will I ever achieve my goal?  I wouldn't harbor a guess, but I'm not about to settle or compromise.   

If you're not trying to do better than your best you're a hack.  I think we should all remember that as much as we remember those that came before.  If they were true artists or craftsman they'd want nothing less.
  • Listening to: Peter Hammill "Enter K"
  • Reading: Wilkie Collins "The Moonstone"
  • Watching: traffic...
  • Playing: nothing
  • Eating: eggplant from Congee Village...not so good
  • Drinking: Frappe!
Went to NYC yesterday to see Polvo.

Melanie and I got to spend the afternoon with some friends (the ever-hospitable Melissa and Johnathan) who have an apartment in Astoria.  Lovely day for a walk around the neighborhood and a frappe at Omonia Cafe.  

Later we met some (and when I say "some" I really mean 12) of Johnathan's North Carolina friends and their comrades at Congee Village in the Bowery.  Dinner was rather unsatisfying.  Greasy spinach and tofu the consistency of...ummm...really mushy tofu.  But the drinks!  A Ketel One Lychee martini for 6 bucks, a Long Island Ice Tea for 7!  I thought this was New York?

Highlight of the dinner was Johnathan catching a fly with his chopsticks.  Not quite as impressive when we found out the little bugger was doing a rather feeble backstroke in his soy sauce.  A sign, perhaps? (yeah, going out of business)  

In all fairness, the restaurant specializes in duck tongue and goose intestine, neither of which I tried.  I was tempted by the "Duck's Blood with Chives", though.  Everything's better with chives.

Drinks at the fishy smelling bar upstairs and then we raced to the Bowery Ballroom.  

Polvo was excellent.

Not as excellent as the bagels we grabbed on the way to the train this morning, but that's not the band's fault. I mean, come on...
  • Listening to: Fingerprintz "Going Going Gone"
  • Reading: the Essential Killraven
  • Watching: nothing
  • Playing: nothing
  • Eating: Mee Siam
  • Drinking: Basil Hayden's
WWPhilly was this past weekend, and I did the usual portfolio hustle with those companies who would look.  One publisher wouldn't look at anything in person, only online (don't worry, Dynamite, I won't mention you by name).  And of course, DC never does any reviews at Philly.  So, there wasn't a lot of hustlin' to do.  

Still, I ended up making a very exciting connection and the opportunity to work on a very cool book.  Won't mention it yet, but I will when I can.  It's definitely a genre that plays to my strengths.  Something I can sink my teeth into.  (and no, it's not a vampire book)

Oh, what about the other big boy?  Well, Marvel asks folks to leave samples with them overnight, and they pick the best for reviews the next day.  I dropped my packet off on Friday, spent the day milling about the con, and headed home.  

That night some friends came over.  Gin was poured.  Records were spun.  The Dive was visited.  Lorenzo's was patronized.  Yes, in that order.

Needless to say, I got a late start the next day.  Ended up at the con around 10:50.  Leisurely, and I mean that with a British accent, I strolled to Marvel's booth.  Where's that darn review list?  Not there.  Other side?  

I looked again.  Scrawled in Sharpie on the back of some glossy poster..."Reviews...11:00 am...Dean Kotz. "  

Shit!  No room was listed.  I interrupted some editor in mid-conversation..."Where are the portfolio reviews?"  

"Oh, um....let me 301."

Shit!  I ran upstairs.  They only give you 15 minutes and I wasn't gonna waste half of my time looking for the place.  Up the escalator...down the hall...and then back.  The numbering made no sense!  It would be so much easier if I wasn't the first review of the day.  I could just look for a room guarded by kids with black portfolios.  Two minutes later (my watch said 11:01) I find it.  301.

I burst into the room.  Some guy stands up.  "Hi, I'm Dean," I say.  We shake hands.

"Well, he's running late, and we have to get him to a panel.  Did we email about this?" he says miming a typist.

What the hell is this guy talking about?  "Umm, I'm here for a portfolio review."

"Oh, SSSHHHHHH!  They're doing an interview."

I look over.  A reporter's asking JG Jones questions about Final Crisis.  So, I sit.  I listen to the interview.  God, I hope I'm in the right room.  They finish up, and the email miming guy asks, "You sure you're in the right room?"  

"That's what they told me.  301."

JG's satchel is on the chair next to me, and when he comes to collect it and run off to his panel, he looks at me and goes, "Da Da Da Dummm!"   

And then, like some elusive mountain jaguar, he disappeared.  

What did he mean by going, "Da Da Da Dummm?"  Was it some cryptic advice from a master?  Some dread warning?  The theme to some forgotten sitcom?  What does it mean?

Eventually the Marvel editor showed up.  We had a nice little chat.  I didn't get a job offer.  

Perhaps JG Jones is psychic.
  • Listening to: Gleaming Spires "While We Can"
  • Reading: The Great Mortality by John Kelly
  • Watching: Some Like it Hot
  • Playing: pinochle
  • Eating: Mao Po Tofu (from a truck)
  • Drinking: SlyFox Phoenix pale ale
Trailer Park of Terror #8 from Imperium Comics just came out.  And, no, it didn't turn out bad at all.  Actually, the Imperium boys keep putting out stronger and stronger issues.  Upping the production values, and tightening up the stories.  

Chances are, you won't find it on the racks of your local comic shop.  Unless your shop is some way-cool superstore for indie books.  So, get 'em to order it!

Heck, my regular shop is pretty awesome, but they don't stock it either.    I have it on my pull list and they bring in one copy just for little ol' me.  

I could wait for the comps, but there's a little thrill one gets buying something the minute it comes out.  Especially when you have some work in it.  

No sooner does the last issue come out, but James puts me back to work for the next one.  If only his scripts weren't so darn funny!

I'm also working on a short written by :icondfridolfs: for the third volume of Popgun.  It's a nifty scifi story with a Bruce Jones twist ending. usual, I'm putzing around with a few stories of my own.  One of these days I'll finish something.

It's like my buddy Paul says, "Ya gotta get the bad out first."

There's me.  Getting out the bad.
  • Listening to: Genesis "Wind & Wuthering"
  • Reading: Hatfields & McCoys by Otis Rice
  • Watching: too much Hardball
  • Eating: all-you-can-eat sushi at Aoi ($20.95)
  • Drinking: Rare Eagle bourbon
When Warren Zevon lived in Philly he used to hang out at "Tank Bar", the second floor of the restaurant "Fri Sat Sun" (21st 'tween Spruce and Locust).  I only went there once, years ago, dragged with a few friends by my buddy Melissa.  She supposedly knew the bartender, but that didn't seem to help with the price of drinks.  Real odd place with lots of dark, draping velvet and a very unimpressive fish tank.   Freaky sorta regulars around the bar.  The sort that are crazy 'cause they can afford to be.  

I had the inspiration to check it out again a couple weeks ago.  It was the night of the New Hampshire primary and the cable had gone out all over center city.  Last we heard it was too close to call for the Dems.  The screens at Grace tavern were still blue when Melanie and I left and wandered toward Rittenhouse Square.

See, I gave up beer as my New Year's resolution and plan on sticking to it until my birthday (sometime in April, nosey).  Done really well so far, only I've substituted a fair amount of bourbon.  Not drinking beer ends up effecting which sorta bars a fella can go to.  There are certain bars you'll get laughed at if you order anything but a brew.  Others, you order a cocktail or whiskey, you'll just get ripped off.

Don't know what we were thinking, but, finding Grace a bit too expensive, we became gluttons for punishment and headed toward the tony part of town.  Got about half a block away from Tank bar when we noticed the neon sign wasn't lit.  "What's closed!"  I was pissed.  I wanted to sip some whiskey and laugh at the undersized fish tank.  I wanted to giggle at the black velvet.  I wanted to pretend I was Zevon and my life was a wild fandango of hookers, Mexican soldiers, and guest spots on Letterman.

"The nerve!!"  We stormed away.  Then it hit me.  The bar was above a restaurant called "Fri Sat Sun".  What was tonight?  Tuesday.

Somewhere, Zevon was laughing.  "Rookie."
  • Listening to: Steve Roach "Structures from Silence"
  • Reading: Meanwhile: a biography of Milton Caniff
  • Drinking: "Pumpking" beer
..the guys at Imperium Comics are releasing Trailer Park of Terror #7.  It should be out next Wednesday.  Somehow I ended up drawing two stories, a whole 16 pages worth.  

For the home-surgery-with-powerdrill story, I did pencils and inks with my good buddy :icongarryhenderson: doing his alway impressive colors.  Crazy thing is, all the stuff we've done together, this will be my first collaboration with Garry to actually see print.

James Dracoules wrote another hilarious Norma story this issue, and the talented Tom Schloendorn :iconmadman1: inked my pencils for it.  Can't tell you how thrilled I was to be working with Tom.  He ended up turning my rush job into some pro looking stuff.  The guy's got chops.

With me in downtown Philly and Tom right across the river, the marketing gurus at Imperium couldn't resist setting up a signing.  Soooo......

If you're in Philadelphia on October 20th, swing by the Brave New Worlds comic shop at 45 N 2nd Street.  From 12pm, the Imperium crew, Tom,and I will be slinging comics and doing sketches.  

Can't guarantee I'll have a lot to say (hey, that's why I draw!), but James might have some fascinating stories about their upcoming Hollywood movie.  Just ask 'im.   

Hope to see you there...   

I attended my first comic book convention in 1987 in Allentown, PA.  The vendors barely filled a rather small ballroom of the downtown Sheraton and there was only one professional guest, Marshall Rogers.  The ad for the con mentioned an art contest, and being an aspiring artist, I worked up an entry.  

As attendees entered the lobby they placed their entree on one of two tables, either b&w or color, to be displayed throughout the day.   The guest of honor (the only guest) would select a winner from each category shortly before the con ended.  The whole set-up sounds ridiculously quaint by today's standards.  After dropping off my piece, some rudimentary page showing Thor and Loki fighting (I think), I wandered about the show.  

At the time I had know idea who Marshall Rogers was, but my good friend Yadin Flammer's father, a comic-fan of many years (though he was primarily a rabid Uncle Scrooge/Barks collector), was quite excited that he was there.  Rogers was at the time just finishing work on Cap'n Quick and a Foozle, and I believe my friend's dad even had a Foozle T-shirt.  When the art contest judging was announced the lobby filled with fans.  Everyone quietly watched  Marshall pace in front of the two tables until he finally selected one winner from each category.  Needless to say, I didn't win, but one of the con organizers announced that participants could bring their work to Marshall's table for some tips and advice.  

When I got to Marshall's table he was mid-sketch, chain-smoking as he talked to one of his fans flipping through his pages for sale.  When the conversation trickled down, I mustered the courage to ask for a critique.  Marshall stopped sketching and began to go over my piece.  He brought out a sketchpad and started showing me some musculature tips.  He told me not to worry about drawing every little muscle, but rather to focus on the major groups.  He told me to draw from life, and wrote down the name of a book on the subject I should look for, George Bridgman's.  He was extremely patient and gave good, simple advice and the most constructive criticism.  

The point is, he devoted prime sketching time, time when he could be making some easy cash, to helping some goofy, no-nothing kid figure this whole comic thing out.  I was floored.  Suddenly a lot of stuff fell into place and Marshall became my de facto mentor.  I devoured his stuff.  His Silver Surfer was one of the few comics I subscribed to.  I sought out his issues of Batman and Dr. Strange and they blew my mind.  

Marshall made me appreciate clarity in storytelling, characterization through a figure's movement and pose, and the excitement of realistic, unexpected detail.  He didn't draw mindless T&A and he never drew a muscle-bound oaf for no reason.  Marshall drew from real life and wanted his stories to have the same quality as the world outside your door, only a world unlimited in its scope and imagination.  You don't have to make extreme proportions or impossible structures with distorted perspective, he seems to say.  There's enough cool stuff out there, it's all in how you present it.  He was easily one of the most-innovative layout stylists, and he understood the emotional power of color years before most .   His creative use of the four-color range in the seventies anticipated the baxter/offset revolution of the next decade .  He was just too darn versatile and too darn cool.  He was the first comic pro I ever met and continues to be my biggest inspiration.  

I only found out this Sunday that he passed away last month.  Somehow I missed all the articles on the comic news sites.  I probably still wouldn't know if I hadn't been searching online for a Cap'n Quick and a Foozle T-shirt.  For some reason, after all these years, I'm always thinking about Marshall's comics.
Anymore I've been reading a lot less comics and more ABOUT comics.

Wish there were some modern comics that were as hard to put down as Gerard Jones' history of the medium, Men of Tomorrow.  A book safely called a "real-page-turner", Men of Tomorrow uses the publishing careers of Donefeld and Leibowitz as a spine to hang countless fascinating stories of creators and creations during the first three decades of comics.  Jones' retelling of the creation of the first issue of (the golden age) Daredevil should be required reading for anyone who wants to make comics.  Can't recommend it enough.

I've been obsessed with Jim Aparo lately.  It's a shame most folks only know him for his later work on the Batman/Outsiders and other Bat books.  While, in my opinion, he never put out a bad page in his career, his earlier work is so much stronger.  Mostly because of his inks.  Just check out the gorgeous Showcase Presents Phantom Stranger.  Man, he's TOO damn good.  So casual and unforced.  His Spectre stuff is amazing as well.  While the Adams clone comparison often gets mentioned, Jim really had a sense of openness quite unlike the often claustraphobic Adams.  Jim's characters aren't right in your face doing the hard sell.  They're beautifully framed and walk on a solid, believable ground as they act out the story.  I'd give anything for an ounce of his talent.


Seems the journal is getting embarassingly old...

Stoneteller, the webcomic Garry :icongarryhenderson: , Will and I do over at Baeg Tobar is still going strong.   Click here to go check out the latest episode…

Imperium Comics just released Trailer Park of Terror #5 featuring (I think...I still haven't seen it yet) my little excursion into car chases and zombies.  I'm sure there's a bunch of other great stories, including something by my pal :icondfridolfs:  Have your shop order it

Looks like William Ward's fantasy anthology FABLEWOOD has found a home at a certain very respectable indie publisher.  Don't know if the details can be made public yet.  It's gonna contain the story Garry and I did together last year ("the Apprentice" for those keeping score).  Might be a little while yet before it hits the shelves, but it should be a very slick looking collection.

Speaking of stuff from awhile back, word is that my first gig, Will Ward's "Reservation", got picked up by an up-and-coming anthology.  Gotta duck my head behind the seats a little for this one since I'm less than thrilled by my first stabs at comic art.  Will was very gracious about the whole thing, and I'm forever indebted for the opportunity to mangle one of his scripts.  When I find out more info I'll pass it along.  Heck, all the panels can't be that bad...

As far as projects on the drawing board/forthcoming:

My buddy Oforie Murray has me doing some character designs and spot illos for a Mutants and Masterminds module.

I'm lined up to draw a future Fist of Justice adventure from Digital Webbing (very excited about this one!)

Doing preliminary sketches for a very cool mini-series.  Can't say much else yet.  Recently I visited the library looking for appropriate mood/reference material and checked out August Derleth's Mask of Cthulu...hmmm....

Now that you're asleep by the fire, here's wishing you a Happy Holiday! my favorite Radio Birdman song.  My ears are still ringing from their blistering perfomance in Philly tonight.  I don't know all the stops, but they're on their first US tour ever.  If you get a chance to see them, do so.  They really pack a whollop.

In other news:  Tomorrow (hang on...make that later TODAY) Stoneteller launches over at Baeg Tobar.

What's Stoneteller?  Stoneteller's a new webcomic set within the world of Baeg Tobar.  It's written by William Ward :iconscrupulousscribe: and colored by Garry Henderson :icongarryhenderson:  I'm doing the pencils and inks.  It updates twice a week on Mondays and Fridays.

What's this Baeg Tobar you ask?  Baeg Tobar features engaging and beautifully illustrated fantasy stories without the usual video game cliches.  Within the site you'll find prose, webcomics, and a richly detailed encyclopedia of this fascinating shared-world.  If you get a chance, stop by.  It packs a whollop too.
This Philly humidity is bringing some bad juju to my latest pages.  Ink and sweat everywhere.  Really wish I had a/c. Shouldn't have to fight the elements making comics.

If you happen to stop by your comic shop this week please take a peak at Imperium Comics' Trailer Park of Terror #4.  Inside you'll find some humor and horror and two pages by yours truly.  If you have some extra cash go ahead and buy it.  You'll get at least two great pages of comics (not necessarily mine.)

The guys at Imperium were kind enough to give me another gig; this time a full story.  What I didn't expect was 9 pages of car chases and a phantom '57 Buick.  It's a bitch and a half, but I love a challenge.  The page 1 pencils are in my gallery if you wanna check 'em out.

Otherwise, I'm still working with my frequent and ever-capable collaborators William Ward and Garry Henderson.  Our next project is getting closer to launch (hint-hint), at which time more can be said.     Will's written up a tearjerker of a tale and Garry's colors (what he's been able to do, that busy bastard) are some of his best.  Look for it in July.

That's enough blabbing for now.  Thanks for lookin' and stay cool.