Dante Hicks is Dead.

• Monday, May 30, 2011 3 comments
In the summer of 2006, exactly one month after my birthday, my father and I sat in a small movie theater at Park Place Stadium Cinemas as the credits for Kevin Smith's newly released sequel to "Clerks" - "Clerks 2" [shocking title] - came to a close, slowly panning back on its two protagonists, the infamous Randal Graves and Dante Hicks, as the color washed from the screen and Soul Asylum's "Misery" began its lonesome entreaty to the audience. The theater was not terribly full, its attendant was most likely busy, so with the lights still off, and the other patrons shuffling out, I sat next to my father and started to cry.

To his merit, he never said a word, never offered a joke to wash the moment away, or asked if there was something wrong, of if there was something he could do. There was something wrong - there were a lot of things wrong in my life at the time, most of them not nearly as important as I thought they were, but one of them important enough that I'm relatively sure that its presence still ails me to this day. I was in a place I didn't want to be, there was a person I loved that I was growing apart from, and the end of college was looming, and I had no idea what the future would hold for me. As far as "what I wanted" went, I hadn't a clue.

"Clerks 2" probably should have solidified that feeling to me. That moment should have been a moment of hopelessness, those tears could have been born from that swelling, growing terror. When I discovered "Clerks" in high school, a world had opened up for me, the early to mid-nineties cinema which I had been too young and out of touch to discover showing me something I wanted to be part of, something that said I could be myself, but I was also allowed to make things better -- not in an altruistic sense, but still, better for me. And while "Clerks" was the first, and while it would introduce me to not just Kevin Smith's movies, but classics of both cult and mainstream variety, it would also hold the distinction of being the favorite, of being the inspiration. Of showing that if I wanted, I could do what Kevin Smith was doing too. Not in a way that made it look easy, but in a way that made it look like something that, with work, I could accomplish myself. Attainability, without dragging that which seemed attainable down. A rare, wonderful thing for a cynic.

And now I was watching the sequel to that, not closer to my own brass ring. Not far from the age Smith was when he made the first, and now, here was the second, twelve years later. The cynic hadn't even caught the gleam off his brass ring.

But it wasn't that. That wasn't why I cried. I was crying because, for the first time in so very, very long, as I sat in that theater with those credits rolling, I realized I felt like I was home. Home. I say it again, and realize it sounds corny. But once upon a time I could recite "Clerks" like a priest with his bible verses. More often than not, when I was alone, when I had a moment of peace, it was on, slightly overexposed black and white film glaring off my TV set, in way that could almost give you a certain kind of headache. A moving poster, an electric, full-screen, analog security blanket. Safe. Comfortable. Funny. Reassuring. Home. And "Clerks 2" took me back home.

It was beautiful. I cried. For a while, I think I cried every time. And even now, occasionally, it can catch me off guard.

You can't be that kind of Kevin Smith fan, however, and not know how close to not having that moment in 2006 I came. The original "Clerks" was not so much released in theaters as it was "released in theater(s)," and in this early, initial cut of the film, a great deal of things were different. The drugged out ramblings of Jason Mewes not so alter-ego "Jay" were longer, and included an amusing anecdote about having sex with his cousin. You could also see Randal interacting with the store security camera, and a few more idiot customers also turned up along the way. And there was a small subplot about another unfortunate customer, not of the Quick Stop, but of the drug dealers and Jay and Silent Bob, who needed just a little more scratch to cover his debt, and outfit the Jersey house party he was headed to with dankest of shit that Jay could provide. Of course, he was broke. But there are ways around these things.

So this nameless drug strolled into the Quick Stop while Dante Hicks was counting out for the day, and shot and killed our hapless protagonist, leaving him lifeless behind the counter, not even supposed to be there that day.

Such a depressing ending was listed, early on, as one of the film's greatest flaws, and Smith's mentor John Pierson suggested he cut it, so naturally Smith did. He was a young man, a young filmmaker, and Pierson's opinion held a great deal of weight. Few would ever call this move a mistake, and even Smith admits he only ended the film that way because it was an indie movie, and "in indie movies, someone always dies." It was unnecessary, some even say it would have made "Clerks" a different kind of movie, and that is a legitimate argument to be made.

But let's also be fair; any movie that's success hinges solely on its ending isn't all that good of a movie anyway, and whether Smith had changed that ending or not probably would have had little baring on the sudden jump start to his career. He still would have gotten studio attention, he still would have joined the Miramax Golden Boys, and its pretty likely Smith would have continued making movies much as he has to this day. Smith himself has cast doubts on the Jersey Trilogy having ever taken shape had he kept that ending, but a touch a stubbornness, a different decision, none of this necessarily would have halted the slow creation of the View Askewniverse.

It would still be a universe. Smith was a comic book fan at heart, and appreciated the shared world the three-color heroes shared in their monthlies. Batman and Superman were friends, Spidey could spin by and have a beer with Daredevil, the Fantastic Four could fight the Hulk -- he liked these things, and the continuity that developed between them, because of them, and put it into his own world he was creating, setting [mostly] in Leonardo, New Jersey. And he was a stickler for his own continuity, at least for a while, and when you consider that, in the same context of the death of Dante Hicks, it is hard not to wonder.

Obviously, "Mallrats" could have went on without him. "Chasing Amy" also could have been made without a hitch, and in fact it's "down ending" would fit better in a world where Dante Hicks was dead. In "Chasing Amy" everything was darker, everything was just a little more real - Jay and Bob, in their few moments of screen time, even seem a bit harder edged... not the kids from "Mallrats" but more like two someones who could have walked into a Tarantino scene. "Dogma" is much the same, though with a brighter gloss, and a feeling like Smith himself is trying to regain a little of his ridiculousness, and little bit of the light-hearted charm, while dealing with something with so serious that the filmmaker would get death threats himself. And why not? If someone would kill over drugs, or a pack of smokes, some Hollywood-hotshot lampooning the Catholic faith probably shouldn't be surprised that a few folks might want him dead.

Other parts of the mythos are more problematic. The Oni-published Clerks comics could have easily been prequels, at least one supposes, barring of course the Christmas Special, but like we've seen with Joss Whedon, even if that had been produced someone could have come along and agreed to its canonicity. "Chasing Dogma" now actually fits better, but its eventual metamorphosis into "Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back" seems unlikely. Randal and Dante are the impetus for Jay and Bob's ejection from outside the Quick Stop, and it's difficult to swallow that Randal Graves would have ever been able to pick up with his life after "Clerks" and keep working in the video store, steps away from where his friend died. And even if he somehow could, Randal Graves is not so immutable that he would be the same man after such a tragedy, that he'd be able to slip back into old habits, and care enough about arguments concerning Morris Day and "Clash of the Titans" to ever call the cops. Those wheels would not be set in motion.

The cartoon, I suppose, could have still happened. Why not? Though again, what seems more likely is that the "Dogma" cartoon that was originally considered would have taken shape, maybe not made it on ABC, but found a home in syndication. Hell, maybe Kevin Smith could have used that cartoon to walk away from Hollywood completely, become a "TV guy," with a cast and crew diametrically opposed to the cheap animation and one-note jokes of a Seth MacFarlane-dominated prime time cartoon landscape.

All right. So there probably just wouldn't have been a cartoon.

And there probably wouldn't have been a "Clerks 2." And if there had, what would it have been? What would the Askewniverse look like without Dante Hicks? Maybe Randal would have been forever tied to the place that claimed his only friend. Maybe it still burns down, and Randal never looks back, goes to Mooby's, and winds up being the one who knocks up Becky, a relationship which could never persevere, never last, as Elias looks on, probably more of a punching bag for Randal's ever-growing spite for the world. Because he hates everything, and thinks everything is stupid. Who the hell would ever want to be his friend? And what the hell else does he have in life to live for?

Smith has said "Clerks 2" was as much about being in his 30s as "Clerks" was about being in his 20s. That's fair. That picture above would probably not reflect Smith's 30s, even without Dante Hicks, giving it all the more reason to never be made. But then again, what if it wasn't? What if, without Dante, Smith had no outlet for what he felt he needed to say? Where would Jay and Silent Bob be now, what venue would Smith find for his one big musical number? Kevin is an artist, a writer, who is always at his best when he has something he feels he has to say, and Dante really, was his first avatar to express that. Would Holden [Fucking] McNeil have been his second choice, had he left his first back on that Quick Stop floor? Is he still out there, chasing Alyssa Jones?

It is a morbidly fun game to play. Would Dante Hicks would have had some small part as one of the many kinds of living dead in "Dogma" [he has, of course, the experience, from being one of the living dead in "Clerks"]? Maybe not in physical form, but as some twisted Alan Rickman-uttered metaphor for the meaninglessness of existence, about the man who put himself out one day, who lived a day so important in its unimportance, and who, on the precipice of change, was denied that change by an act of random violence, by a bullet from some hoodlum of a gun? And then a sobbing Last Scion, so angry at the Lord who she feels has forsaken her on her question, screams back at him, asking why, why the Creator couldn't himself have saved this man, reach out to him, protected him, just ended the picture a minute or so early, that he may go on living, and make the changes he had planned on. Or not. Couldn't his God have given him the time?

The best things in Kevin Smith movies occur in conversations, the nuanced parts that take a little more attention, that ask someone to look at the threads between the characters. You have to take the time. Maybe Dante Hicks would have been remembered like that, the reason his cousin Gil goes for the big prizes in "Mallrats," a parable for living life to its fullest in "Chasing Amy," a memorial in the background, if you just pause the laserdisc, or put the DVD on slow motion, and run through it, one frame at a time. Here lies Dante Hicks. "The Lord Has Taken Him Home."

Home.

Every comic book fan loves a good "What If...?" Everyone wants to see the Elseworlds or Earth-2476, everyone wants to know about The Nail. It's hard not to be interested, it's hard not to want to leave the comfort of the fictions we know, and visit places where Superman still has the mullet, where Wolverine has killed the X-Men, where Donna Noble turned right. We want to see how they'd be different, how they would cope if we perversely reallocated their losses and theirs gains. And right on the edge of that, we wonder what we might have sacrificed, and how we too might have been changed.

In July of 2006, if Dante Hicks had died, I would not have sat in a movie theater and cried openly in front of my father, hunched over the back of a faux-velvet seat, the only thing keeping me from falling to my knees in genuflection. I would not have this small moment, which most would think was of little consequence, as a part of my life. And though I can speculate endlessly what this would have changed for Kevin Smith, or my father, or even the fictitious Randal Graves, I cannot imagine what it would have meant for me.

I always feel weird writing an invoice...

• Tuesday, May 24, 2011 1 comments
A lot of positive stuff to talk about, despite it not being the best couple of days.

Nearly finished with the copy for
TCustomz.com. Sent off the invoice, and the rough draft of the biography page last night/this morning. Feeling pretty good about it - I spent a lot of my week working on the page that profiles who Travis is, where he's been, and what he's done, and while I know this is always the page of copy that needs the most adjusting, I still found myself digging what I did with it. The "problem" with an artists profile is that there are just so many ways to do them, and if you're any good at interviewing your client [I like to think I am], then you're going to have a wealth of information to pull from, and a lot of ways to utilize it. I've seen websites that just jam the information about the artist in there like it's the back of a hardcover, and that's fine in some circumstances, but I've always thought the way you present said information should reflect the person its about.

So the rough copy of that is in Travis's hands, and the rest of the work is done. Everything but the bio will be up on his website soon, and I'll do a post pointing everyone to that when the time comes. I've really enjoyed working with Travis on this, and am hopeful that my copy will help him. We really ended up doing something that not a lot of other websites in his industry does. In fact, I'm just going to go ahead and say, if you're a producer, if you do sampling and sell beats, honestly, if you're just a musician, someone in a band, and your website is looking sparse, I would recommend upping the copy on it. Your Flash Player is not showing up in any search engine.

And if you need someone to do it for you, well... hi. How can I help?

Justin has put up some sketches for the comic on his blog [re: Calamity Cash and the Town with No Name]. The first is of Tana Cash herself, just an amazing and dynamic shot, though I think Justin's having a little problem with his scanner, so you won't get to see any of the background in the sketch. Still, it's absolutely amazing, exactly how I picture our heroine at her most bad ass. He also just finished said page, and put up this thumbnail, which is absolutely worth a look too. It's hilarious to me that even with a plot point being how little ammo they have, I worked so many firearms into that script.

Unrelated to all of that, I also wanted to thank my friend John Wiswell for his blog post today. He recently received another Versatile Blogger award, a real honor in his community, and one he absolutely deserves, if you're familiar at all with his stuff. But in the post, he also made reference to our Tuesday night ritual where we watch Dragon Gate Infinity together, and just generally talk wrestling while he listens to me gush about how great K-Ness is. It's one of the highlights of my week, and one of those things that just wouldn't be possible without the internet to bring us together for it. The great downside to my years of college in Vermont means that the bulk of my friends are not folks who live right next door, and chilling together can get a lot more involved than just grabbing some beer and a DVD and popping by.

But more flattering than all of that is that John named me on a list of his versatile writers. Again, if you follow John's work at all [and if you don't you really should] you'll know there's really no one who busts genres like he does, no one who personifies versatile more than John, and to be recognized by him at all for even achieving a modicum of that is just... beyond flattering. I don't have words, or even a proper way to say thank you for him saying this. It just means a lot.

I may actually join in the game later in the week, throw out some little known facts about myself, but right now my heart's just not in it. My grandmother's in the hospital, and she's doing okay, but it's still thrown everything here into disarray. She's doing okay, which is really as much as I'm comfortable going into here, just because I know she finds it mortifying that us kids throw up so much personal stuff on the internet for anyone to read, and even with this glowing shrine to myself I kind of agree with her there. But yeah, that's why despite all the good news, the past few days have not been great.

My kid brother is graduating from high school this weekend. But it's barely Tuesday now, and that feels a long way off.

If the Rapture is coming, I'll be starring in all 16 of those shitty novels.

• Thursday, May 19, 2011 0 comments
Already got the client feedback for the bulk of Travis's website copy, we had a short sit down about it, and I plugged in the pretty minimal changes he wanted made. Unless you've ever worked on a project like this for someone, it's hard to illustrate how incredibly satisfying it can be to just see how pleased the client is with what you've done for them - in my experience, it rarely ever happens, even when the client is pleased. That's been the awesome thing about working with Travis on his website - this business he's started is his baby, he is in charge of every single aspect of it, and he's passionate about making it great. Which means he has made himself available and has wanted to be involved in the project, and as strange as it sounds, that actually tends to lead to less drafts, less changes, better work. Communication is key, folks. Could not ask for a better person to work for on this, either.

Still have to finish off his biography/profile page. It is one of the more involved sections, with a lot more text and about a hundred different ways it could be put together. I have a rough deadline for myself on Monday. My guess is that some, if not all, of my copy will be going live on TCustomz website sometime next week. Expect links. I'm pretty pleased with how this has worked out, and I'm hoping other music-type people will see what has been done, and think, "hey, we should get something like that too."

Preferably from me. Hah.

Justin has an in-progress preview of the most recent "Calamity Cash and the Town with No Name" page up on his blog. He's really bogged down, and having to alter the way he prefers to work [not style, time, etc - but read his entry, he'll tell you about it better than I can], but he continues to plug along on this. It looks good, and I'm always happy to see the new stuff. Hopefully I'll get to see the how page in person in the next couple weeks... we've also been trying to make a better effort of hanging out.

It's a balancing act.

Always a good excuse to remind you to get one of Justin's sketchbooks. It's awesome, and supporting fellow creatives is what this space is all about.

I've not been feeling my best the past couple of days. I think it's just been bad times, though I dislike saying so because there has been good stuff happening too.

Sunday to Sunday

• Monday, May 16, 2011 0 comments
"The electric white of the computer screen causes me great pain - when switched to black, the glowing reds feel like needles, slipping just under my eyes, throbbing with each heartbeat. The access it affords me is unprecedented, but I fear, more often than not, I'm stretching my perceptions in ways they were not meant to be... I think that we are absorbing information in a manner our bodies never expected. That we are committed now, pragmatically, to going in through the out door, the arrows on the floor all pointing us in the opposite direction in which we move. It's crowded; we will bump and crash into each other. It will damage us - if we're lucky."
--William Kurdt (May, 2007)

---

A whole week after promising to post more. Ridiculous.

I blame the Blogger outage at least partially, though I will admit to finding some perverse glee in what a state it seemed to put so many people in. We are remarkably sensible about the internet when it's working, but when something goes wrong I think our dependence shows a little. And I kind of think that's great.

The work on the TCustomz project is going really well. I've already gotten first drafts of about 2/3rds of the copy done, and that was sent to Travis today, a full 24 hours ahead of the deadline we set. I wanted to get one of the larger chunks of copy that wasn't scheduled for tomorrow done as well, that other third of the work, but it's just occurred to me that I'm going to need several more days to polish it off, and since I'd originally said that's how long it would take, I just had to admit to myself that I was on schedule. And that was okay.

It's funny that I sweat being on time more than being ahead or behind.

I also got feedback from Kyle this week on "The Tagalong," a pleasant surprise which will come in real handy once I have some time to get back to working on it. Right now I'm a little swamped, and paying work almost always takes precedence with me, less out of a great commitment to the almighty dollar, and more because I have a tendency of letting my projects take over my life. It's counterintuitive to deadlines to work on something unrelated for days until you pass out in a stupor, only to sleep said stupor off until you've made an acceptable dent in the sleep debt you've accumulated. It can get out of hand.

Discipline.

Since I haven't written anything I can really share, I'm going to link Amy Klein's recent blog post on the passing of Poly Styrene. Or maybe just prompted by her passing. It's called "Poly Styrene Takes Her Place in History" and like most things Amy writes, it has a lot more going on than just it's obvious topic. Which means even if you're not a Poly Styrene fan [and what's wrong with you if you're not?], you should probably read it anyway. I said this already on Twitter, but when Amy Klein blogs, I realize just how much I need to up my game as a writer.

I also got to read to someone this week. Joan Didion - not who I read to, but what I read to someone. I hadn't really read to anyone, hadn't really read out loud, in such a long time. And that was really nice too.

Catching up - new copy project for TCustomz.com.

• Sunday, May 8, 2011 0 comments
There's really no reason for me to have not posted more lately. I've certainly been working.

Sleep is the problem. When isn't it? I've been staying up all night, running errands during the day, and sleeping just enough in the evening to stay up all night again. Sometimes it butchers my productivity, other times I hardly even notice a difference. Five to nine instead of nine to five. The short five to nine though. I should probably fix this, try to adjust to something more sensible. It's hard, because I do feel really comfortable on this schedule, even though it's not very sensible. Everything can get done on this schedule. Even if I do feel unpleasant for most of the day because of it.

Big project right now is preparing copy for my cousin Travis Cole's website - or TCustomz as it's called [that's the business, website, and artist's moniker]. I've mentioned before, but Travis is a music producer; he samples and creates beats, puts together hip hop instrumentals, and makes drum kits, and has it all online and up for sale. Along with being extremely talented at it, Travis is also a much smarter artist than I am, as he's been plying his craft as a producer on the side while keeping lucrative, steady employment, and along the way he's really found some success with his beats and feels, rightfully so, like he's ready to take his business to the next level.

As anyone who has a website-based business knows, it's all about search terms, getting those important words and all that self-promoting content onto the site proper so you pop high on Google when searched for. Accessibility and visibility translate into big business, and Travis has hired me to put together the copy which is going to facilitate that. We've had a slew of emails passed back and forth between us over the past month or so, and two good Skype conferences about what it is he wants, and now I'm just in that busy place where I'm looking over notes and trying to get a rough draft going for him.

Current deadline is loose [upside to working with someone not in a hurry, and who wants the best work possible], but I'm trying to get first copy to him by the 16th-17th. That's the tentative date. We've talked about several things we can do with this, both now, and down the line, and I may also interview Travis and post it up here after this project is done, just to get him so press to link to, as a placeholder for when all his rather spectacular work starts to get a lot of real press. Which I'm sure it will.

Check out just what Travis does on his website here : http://tcustomz.com/.

But that's getting a little ahead of myself. Right now I'm not looking much farther ahead than next week. I just polished off a book review, and I'm hoping another book won't come until I have a lot of this stuff worked out. Splitting my time has never been my strong suit.

And yet, I do it a lot. I've decided mostly what my plan is with "Walks with Angels" - I'm going to do two versions, one as the short screenplay I've written it as, and a second as a comic. It'll be a good study in the differences of the style, while still giving me something else I can send out to festivals and contests. I think though the thrust of the story will still be the same in both versions, I think the end product will be different enough so as not to be a problem. We'll see. It occurs to me that as often as I talk about trying to figure out the best mediums for telling certain stories, I've never really tried to take one story and tell it both ways before.

It feels a little like blasphemy. Self-hating blasphemy. But I'll run with it.

The comic version of "Walks with Angels" is going to feature a character from "VHS Generation." Idea came about when Ander and I were talking about how one of the characters was probably something of a hustler... it fits, really well, actually, and it also plays to the 90s aesthetic. Most of the new dialogue is already written. It's just all in the moleskin right now.

Another comic, I only recently got outlined. Sort of a... tribute, I think, to my friends here, a group of people I haven't seen a lot lately, but I wanted to write something about. In kind of a... circuitous way. Plus, there's a little spirit of The Housemartins in it, a band another friend of mine, Caitlin, turned me onto. They're not my style at all, but their message is really what's kept me listening, and given me a lot of inspiration for this too. I'm calling it "Cherry Stone" for right now. My hope is it'll only be about 18 pages long, but the outline is almost half of that which means it'll probably be over. Maybe I'll be able to make cuts. There's also a lot of really cool stuff in it to draw, which means there might be some hope of getting an artist interested in working on it once the script is finished.

I haven't gotten any more feedback for "The Tagalong." I'm holding out hope that a couple of people will still get back to me about it. But I told folks not to hurry, and they're not. I can totally dig that. I'm getting to that place where I'm busy enough with other things that I'd like to put it to bed soon.

All three of those projects are at bat after I finish the copy for Travis's website, or at least get enough of it done that I can, in good conscience, work on other things.

---

I know it doesn't look like it, but I'm really trying to get more pragmatic about my stuff these days. If I'm honest with myself, I don't think I have the hustle to do traditional freelance work, chasing down paychecks and elbowing other people out for gigs. I don't want it bad enough to trample on other talented people, and that's... you know, that's a problem. That's going to impede me. In the past week I've been called a "nice guy" on numerous occasions, said in a way which is both a compliment but also like the person saying it was trying to get something sour out of their mouth.

I don't know what I'm going to do about that right now. I've been lucky enough to have friends, or people familiar with what I do to offer me work. I don't expect that to last. On the bright side of things, there have been enough of that kind of thing that I would actually have a pretty robust portfolio if I bothered to put it together, and that's a good thing [probably will put one together after I get this website done for Travis - it would be the nice little crown jewel of work]. But I'm not a journalist. I'm really not. I just like to write. I like to tell stories. And I can do prose, but I really don't know if I do enough prose to ever be able to submit work, and make money that way. And it's not even medium that I like to work in.The mediums I like to work in involve connections, and funding. And the former is a lot easier to get if you have the latter too, which... well, I don't.

It's hard not to get discouraged. There is this very real part of me that thinks... if I actually had something, if there was something worthwhile about me, it would have been noticed by now. The lack of any sort of recognition brings a lot of problems, the lack recognition itself only being a small part of that. There's very little feedback. No clue as to what I'm doing wrong. No pat on the back when I do something right. There's no one here to help sharpen dull ideas into concrete plans. These things, in and of themselves, are important. But to be worth these things, that's important too. Not catching anyone's attention enough to have that... it works on you.

So ultimately, I'm left with stuff like this, Gail Simone's "Brutal Tips On Breaking Into Comics" a really great article that only partly applies to me, and to my goals. Most articles, many books I read are like that - things about writing novels, movies, comics, that are encouraging but not helpful enough, not for my particular set of circumstances, and there are never any articles about adapting these useful hints to help yourself specifically. You're left to try and mince it out on your own. In my quest to become as unique as possible, I have inadvertently stumbled on a set of circumstances that there's no guide for overcoming.

Hopefully not because no ever has.

It's a really good argument to go back to school. To hope I'll be able to, when that's actually an option again. To hope that will actually be an option again. And if not that, there will be some people, somewhere, willing to accept me, and engage me in some satisfying way. Hopes.

I do at least have the blessing of some support and time, which does allow me to consider these things on my own, even though, for as smart as I claim to be, answers don't come quickly. It is also reassuring to know that, while I might not be doing the right thing by myself, I am at least doing what I believe is right for others. It's not as "pat-yourself-on-the-back" awesome as it sounds, but it makes certain things easier. And easier does not always equal wrong.

And there's work. Work still comes in, though I am constantly worried more people are doing more than I am, both because it means they're doing better, and also because it means that there's something very deficient in me for only being able to handle this much at a time. And there are the stories I think of, that I want to tell. Not having a set idea how I'm going to turn that into a living, or what I could do instead so that I could keep telling those... that's a hard hurdle to overcome, but it doesn't take away from when I'm actually elbows deep into a script.

There's not much time to worry about it all with copy still to do.

None of that probably makes much sense. But if you read it, you deserve an explanation. It's all why I've only been writing here sporadically.

Much Love - Ander Sarabia relaunches his portfolio, Justin Cornell's sketchbooks are up for sale and more!

• Monday, May 2, 2011 0 comments
On this rather auspicious day, I thought I'd focus on spreading the love, and show off some of the amazing things my friends have been working on.

Ander Sarabia, the amazingly talented artist from across the ocean, the Bilbao-based illustrator of any writer's dreams who I collaborated with on "A Change is Gonna Come," and am currently logging time with for our next short subject comic, "VHS Generation," recently did a soft relaunch/makeover of his blog/art website/portfolio over at andersarabia.blogspot.com. Along with giving the site a completely new look, he's also added loads of content that wasn't up before, making it impossible to not be impressed by his sheer talent and versatility once you've seen how many different kinds of things he's actually done.

Plus, Ander's uncovered a neat trick, what I assume is one of the many new and as of yet not much heralded features of blogspot's new additions to the service. So if you hit this link you can see his whole body of work in Google's flipcard layout, a design feature that effectively turns his blog into an actual online art portfolio, in a style that, at least to me, seems to make way more sense and have way less clutter than the various DeviantArt-style sites I've come to know. If you're an artist, and don't know about it, check it out, and hell, if you just want to see all of Ander's stuff laid right out there at your beck and call, definitely give it a click.

Now, Ander and I haven't known each other for crazy-long yet, and when we've talked, it's mostly been shop-talk, or pleasant and hilarious reminiscing about the 80s and 90s, so even I was surprised at some of the work he's done before. Some select panels from "Change" are also featured over there, along with a shout-out to yours truly and some gracious linkage, which I am greatly flattered by. I know from working with a lot of artists that the portfolio is an artist's best foot forward kind of thing, and consider part of the work we did together getting included a great honor.

Ander has been crazy-busy lately with various projects [including working with the oft-linked mad scientist Eric Esquivel], but like the good friend he is, he's always made time for a little email chat with me, despite the time difference and his hectic schedule. I've been so happy with the work we've done together so far, and I'm really looking forward to doing more in the future, and I wanted everyone to see his new internet digs as it were. I think it's turned out great, and really reflects him, and his work, well.

---

Now, I linked this once before about a month back, but Justin Cornell, my good friend and partner-in-crime on "Calamity Cash and the Town with No Name," is selling his first sketchbook, and the first copies have just come hot off the press. Mine arrived the other day, and it really looks great, the printing is tip-top, and I've never seen a sketchbook with such a wide and varied amount of subject matter within from all over the annals of pop culture. Ever wanted to witness Buffy staking Edward Cullen? Ever think you'd turn a page and see portraits of Charles Bronson and Nikola Tesla next to each other? Well, in Justin's "Sketchbook Ho!" you can see all that, a whole lot more.

You can order the book here
from Justin's website, and it's a hefty 40+ page monster of an art book for only $12.00, American [though no worries, his shop is through Paypal, so if you're not currently using American currency you can still get one]. For another ten smackers you can get Justin to do a custom sketch in yours, literally anything you want [after all, when it comes to pop culture, Justin is the king of the obscure], and even if you don't order the sketch, all books are signed and numbered by the artist himself.

And don't forget, this is the same model Justin and I will probably be released "Calamity Cash," so all orders made won't just get you a great sketchbook, but will also help with our next project too, along with future Mojo Wire and Vanderhuge Studios productions. But, and I'm not playing pitch man at all here [okay, a little, but these are awesome], supply is limited, and I'm fairly certain when Justin runs out, there's no plan for a second print run. So cliche though it may sound, if you want one, your safest bet is to order now.

---

There are a few other things of note, including Zoe Chevat's recent post to her own blog - a color and movement test entitled "Mr. Pidge" for her thesis project "Beastly Things." Zoe's an amazingly talented animator currently studying at the super-prestigious CalArts, and as she's always working, it's rare we get the pleasure of seeing some of her moving picture antics, and this 20 second clip is just amazing. I know just for me personally, it's hard not to get that same tingle I felt as a child, having Tex Avery explain the animation process to me on television, only to see today that my friend, someone I used to discuss short fiction with, doing exactly the same thing herself [well, okay, not exactly the same thing. I imagine there's probably a bit nuance to different animation styles, and some considerable technological changes since the Avery days, but... Moving! Pictures! Cartoons! Is there anything better?]

It's absolutely lovely and worth a look, and I only wish I could call CalArts and yell at her instructors to stop working her so damn hard, so she could post more wonderful things like this for the rest of us to see.

Of course, there's always after graduation...

Zoe's also been doing some writing for The Mary Sue, a Geek Girl Culture-specific blog, which I can't recommend enough.

Finally, last but not least, as they say, a little something from my buddy John Wiswell dropped over the weekend, which I feel like I'd be remiss if I didn't link. Now, usually, John's daily awesomeness over on his Bathroom Monologues site gets coverage from me on Twitter, but to give myself a bit of break, and also because I don't always get to my RSS reader then, I haven't been doing links over the weekends. But recently, he posted a short piece called "The Wrestler in Black," which not only did I find to be exceptional, but that I was just really glad he got to do as, it seems sometimes, as writers, so rarely do we get to feature what some might consider our "fringe interests." I found this to be highly entertaining, and one of my favorite stories of his in a long time, which, with the sheer amount of quality material John puts out, is really saying something.

I hope everyone enjoys. I realize my postings have been kind of sporadic lately, and as much as I'd like to say otherwise, I don't know if that's going to change. I've been really swamped with work lately, and sort of just cramming creative stuff into whatever free moments I've had. Not all of that cramming has been exactly productive, but just getting it in is an accomplishment, and I haven't really had time to come back and touch base here as it concerns some of my current or new ideas. It's a problem because, as ridiculous as it may sound, having the time to take a minute, collect my thoughts, and put down what I've been up to here helps my process and my output greatly, but there just hasn't been time. Nevertheless look for an update later in the week, specifically about a couple of things I've been working on lately, along with a little news about a really cool freelance gig I've taken on for a friend and family member.

More soon.

To Remember: May 1st, 2011

I'm not crazy about doing short blogs. Most of the short stuff you'll find here are either quick hit updates as to what I'm working on, usually right that very minute, with some kind of note to remind me of something for later, or one of the handful of posts that got redacted to shit at my ex-writing partner Casey's request. I wasn't going to say anything about this at all, but when I went out to get the paper this morning, the bolded headline above the fold reading "BIN LADEN DEAD" suddenly drove home to me how important this might actually be, in that "where were you when...?" kind of way.

I can't really bring myself to celebrate someone's death. I'm not here to judge anyone who did, who does, or who will, over the next several days, continue to. If you want me to join you for a beer on this occasion, I will gladly, just realize I'll be drinking because I was given a beer, and probably not for any other reason. I get it, though, I do. We pulled a bogeyman of an entire generation out of the closet, and screaming into the light. We caught the man who hurt and scared us when we were young. Someone who took something from us... in some cases, just our innocence. In others... in some folks' cases a whole hell of a lot more, from lost family members, to just those who saw a city scarred, a city they identify with so closely as to consider it a part of themselves. They all deserve whatever it takes to get them closure [in some cases, this won't be it]. So I am not going to sit here and tell anyone what I think they should be feeling.

As for what I'm feeling it's... mostly reflection, on how I don't really have the spirit of a revolutionary, or the soul of a warrior. How I don't have it in me to feel particularly good about this, about the death of someone who was an enemy. Who would have been glad to have seen me dead - so honestly, my enemy. When I heard they had got him, I was surprised. I turned on the television, I opened Twitter. Talked to a few friends, but mostly, I just let it happen around me. I kicked myself for not having enough foresight to realize what this means yet, or to even be able to conjecture. And I went back to work on something unrelated. I was plugged in and interested, it's important to be plugged in when stuff like this happens, but I wouldn't say I was happy. There are a lot of complicated things at work here, and some very real truths that a lot of people who feel the same way that I do are going to bring up over the next couple weeks... maybe a lot longer. So I think, like with those who are celebrating, I'm going to leave that up to someone else too.

What I will say is good riddance. This is a good thing. A bad guy, in every sense of the term, is gone from this world, and I am not so cynical as to believe that doesn't make it at least one iota better than it was with him in it. I'm also not optimistic enough to believe there was any other way. I'm proud of the stern and measured way the man I voted for, probably the first politician I really believed in, handled this situation. And I have an endless amount of respect for those members of the military, who took up not just this particular mission, but all of them who fought this war [and will continue to fight it], willingly. And that's the long and short of it. I mean every word of that. But no, I wouldn't say I'm happy. It needed to be done, but I'm not going to celebrate it.

On May 1st, 2011 Osama Bin Laden was killed. I was at my grandmother's in Elkview, WV, where I have been living the past few years, when a special report interrupted the television show she was watching. Desperate Housewives, I think. I scrawled part of this down in the back of book, like I did with my thoughts ten years before, on September 11, 2001, in English class at Herbert Hoover High School in Clendenin, WV. That one will always remind us of the other is something we should all be mindful of going forward.

...for reasons other than just the obvious.