Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I Can't Stop Laughing At This

I first saw this a couple of months ago, but somehow, I keep coming back to it.
Pure gold...

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hot Bliggety Blog!

This past week, I’ve invested a bit of my procrastination time doing some internetworking (did I just invent a new term? Probably not). This entailed setting up a new “MySpace” page (you know, for the kids!) and an account at deviantART. Permanent links are now on the sidebar here.

I still don’t know what the deal is with MySpace. It has some of the features of Blogger, but with horrible esthetics. A little browsing uncovers a mish-mash of useless information and confusing imagery. Its only redeeming feature seems to be that it appeals to a younger demographic. My MySpace page is basically a portal to this page and to my other myriad websites. It’s like I’m creating a giant…web! A “world-wide” web, if you will! If you have an account, you should visit my page and become one of my very good “friends!” Please validate me. It makes me feel better about myself. ;)

ZOMG!!!

The deviantArt website is a pretty cool thing. It’s been on my radar for a while, because some artists I admire (like Becky Cloonan) have their work there. Like MySpace, users get blogs, ‘friends,’ and stuff like that…Plus, artists can post artwork. The art can be viewed or, in many cases, be turned into products like art prints, postcards, calendars, etc. This seemed like a good place for me to join. I can ‘mingle’ with artists and promote my own work. You should check it out.

A nifty side-effect of all this experimenting is that I’m being forced to learn a bit more HTML. Now, I will use some here to provide these links (Happy Thursday)…

My MySpace:





My deviantART Page:





Sigh. This just reminds me that I really need to update my online portfolio. Been too long. Will this never end?!?!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving Thoughts

As the Thanksgiving Day extended weekend comes to a close, I’ve been thinking about what I have to be thankful for.

The short answer is that I’m thankful for everything that I have.

You only have to browse the news headlines to see how fortunate you are. Even if things aren’t going particularly well, there is always some horrible story to remind you that things can always be much worse. I’m not a religious man, but I can honestly say that I feel blessed to occupy the space I’m in today. We really have no control over so much of what happens to us in this life.

Actually, we can’t control any of it. Our actions did not dictate who our parents are and where we were born, for example. Instead of being born in New York City, fate could have dropped me in Darfour, Bagdad, or Pyongyang—just to pull places from the news. That’s not to say that life is terrible for everyone in all those places, just that I know I’m fortunate to have been given the life I have.

Yep, we can’t control those elements that shape our lives. All we can do is control how we respond to the things that happen to us, the opportunities we are given, and the people we meet. That’s why Thanksgiving is important—it reminds us to be humble and grateful for our good fortunes, and to put the bad stuff in perspective. If people could do that all year, the world would be a more tolerable place.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Be Thankful, Be Very Thankful

Haven’t blogged in a few days. That’s cuz I’m so gull-durned BUSY!!! Yeah, I’m pounding away at my manga pages. I’ve fallen a bit behind, and I’m burning some of that late-night oil to make up the lost time. In fact, I shouldn’t be taking this break to blog. Don’t tell my editor!!! Luckily for me, he’s too damned busy himself, so I know he isn’t reading this!

Anyway, I’ll justify this exercise as just that: an exercise. It’s important to write a little every day to keep those creative juices flowing, regardless of the content. I just pity you, dear reader, who is wasting precious moments of life, reading this drivel.

Just to make myself useful, I will recommend another, more interesting blog for you to waste time reading:

http://johnkstuff.blogspot.com

Is the blog of John Kricfalusi. He is most famous for creating Ren & Stimpy, but he’s also the creator of many fine and demented diversions. This blog was recently written about by Heidi MacDonald of The Beat (also a good blog). John K.’s blog is a vast well of knowledge worth reading by anyone who’s interested in art, animation and animation art.

Please to visit. He’s selling stuff on Cafe Press, too. You should buy some. But first, buy mine. The Comiculture Anthology makes for a fine holiday gift!

Speaking of which, Happy Thanksgiving! You may now be thankful that this blog entry has come to an end. ;)

But first, a turkey, by my son...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Manga Preview


So, hey! Here's a sneak peek into the project I'm now working on! It's a new manga called Battle of the Bands that will be published by Tokyopop next July! On the bar to the right is a link to my special Tokyopop blog. Bookmark it, cuz I will be posting more preview art there in the future!

Enjoy...

Voting Sux!

Just for the record: I DID vote yesterday.

But, it pisses me off. And not because I think that ‘votes don’t count’ or that they are somehow ‘rigged.’ What bugs me most are two distinct (but related) issues…

First, there are all the court appointments that we had to vote on (in California, at least). What really bugs me is that there is no easy way to learn about the people are who may be appointed to judge. Who are these people? On my ballot, there were about 15 different court seats open for new Justices on the Supreme and Appellate Courts, with about 35 candidates who needed a “yes” or “no” vote to be elected.

Now, I actually sat down and read through all of the voters’ information guides that came in the mail. When it came to these candidates for judge-ship, there was NO information to be found. I did find a website (www.voterguide.ss.ca.gov) that listed all of the candidates, each of whom had a dry ‘resume’ page. This tells you where they went to school, if they were in the military and specifics about jobs. But not who they are and what they stand for.

The voter’s guide says that these people are “nonpartisan.”

But what does that mean? These days—and especially in a state like California—there is a disturbing trend for judges to actually MAKE laws instead of interpreting and enforcing them. And the voters seem to like this idea. Therefore, I think the politics of these candidates should be made public and easy to determine.

It makes me want to vote “NO” for ALL of these candidates. How can I hire someone who I don’t know?

The second maddening thing about voting is all the Propositions and Ballot Measures (are they the same thing?).

Yesterday, Californians voted on 13 Propositions. Some involved with “Rebuilding California,” one about parental notification for minors to receive abortions, and the much-publicized “Prop 87” which deals with “New Energy.” Fun stuff like that.

Like everyone I know, I have been inundated with information about these Propositions. I don’t watch TV, but I’ve heard plenty of radio ads, received a ton of mailers arguing the pros and cons, listened to proponents and their opposition on talk radio, and even took part in a phone survey about “87.” My favorites are the recorded phone calls from Arnold. I personally received 4 with Arnold’s voice and maybe a dozen from others. One was from Clint Eastwood who wanted me to vote for his “buddy,” Tom McClintock (or was it Tony Strickland…?)

I read the descriptions of all the Propositions, I read the analysis, and all the arguments and rebuttals.

And I still had no idea what to do about them.

The problem is this: I am not qualified to determine the legal or fiscal ramifications of the proposed laws.

It isn’t even like you can just take a moral stand, because the issues, and more specifically, the methods of dealing with them, are not black & white.

For fun, I’ll make up my own Proposition, to make my point…

Lets say, for example, that fictitious “Proposition 5000”claims to “end racism without raising taxes” by selling bonds to raise money for groups to spend on education, or whatever. That sounds good, right? Who can argue with that? (Whoever does argue with that would probably be labeled as a ‘racist,’ but that’s a separate issue)

Still, I read through my imaginary voter’s guide, and try to comprehend the letter of the law. It seems reasonable. So, I move on and read the “Argument For Prop 5000,” which has been prepared by the group behind it: “Peoples Against Racism.” It is basically the advertisement; a nice mixture of hyperbole, fear-mongering and name-calling. Still, it sounds pretty good.

So, I read the rebuttal: “Nobody likes racism, but Prop 5000 is a sloppy piece of legislation that will do NOTHING to end racism! It was drafted by SPECIAL INTERESTS that can use the money at their own discretion! No Accountability! Misleading fine print! Phony reform! Et Cetera…”

Hmmm. That sounds good too. I hate racism, but what’s the point to spending money on something that won’t work? I continue reading…

“Argument Against Prop 5000” is a more fleshed-out version of the rebuttal. It is even more convincing. When I’m done, I’m sure that Prop 5000 is an insidious plot that will actually increase racism, raise my taxes, and doom the future of California for generations. Next is the rebuttal to this argument. It says, “ DON’T BE FOOLED BY SPECIAL INTERESTS! Opponents to Prop 5000 are pawns of big-business, the tobacco industry and big oil!” It then repeats the main selling points from before.

This example may seem hugely over-simplified, but I must say that ALL OF THE PROPOSITIONS, ARGUMENTS AND REBUTTALS READ EXACTLY LIKE THIS. How can one really make a decision about these issues based on these arguments? All one can do is make knee-jerk decisions. Maybe the best you can do is read from the list of who supports what Proposition, and try to align your vote with the supporters you recognize, if not trust.

I actually read all of the materials for the propositions on my ballot, and I can admit that I am clueless about which ones will actually WORK, which ones benefit only the groups that support them, which will raise taxes or cause legal loopholes. I can only assume that a huge majority of voters did NOT read all of the materials, and were therefore even less qualified than myself.

This makes me want to vote “NO,” to all propositions. And I did just that. So there.

What is the point of these measures anyway? Do they exist because our elected officials run into logjams trying to push through legislation of their own? Are these Propositions the only way to ‘get things done’ because putting the issues to the voters is the only way for government officials to circumvent opposition or partisan politics?

If that is the case, then I think it is ridiculous. All it does is put the decisions in the hands of more unqualified people, who, in any case, can be bullied by partisan politicians and interest groups who flood the media with ads.

Don’t get me wrong—I generally trust the American voter. I’m not saying people are stupid, but I do know that the average Joe & Jane are not qualified to interpret and understand the ramifications of these new laws. In any case, they probably never even read them. Personally, I think we should let our elected representatives make these decisions and give them the power to do the things we elect them for.

If you have anything to say about this, please comment. Maybe I’m just missing something. I ain’t no fancy-talkin’ college graduate, after all. Just a disgruntled citizen yappin’ on the blogosphere.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Adrienne Shelley Update

The other day I wrote about how shocked I was about the actress Adrienne Shelley's apparent suicide. Today, I got a link from Marie to today's New York Daily News article that reports Shelley's death was actually murder, not a suicide.

Either way, the news is terrible. In a way, the suicide story seemed more disturbing because it made no sense; friends and relatives all believed Adrienne was a happy person. She had a young child and a blossoming career.

I guess the bottom line is that a murder means there is a murderer...someone to blame and be furious with.

People suck.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Good Morning

So, my brother called me this morning to tell me about the death of someone we don't know. I'm kinda bummed out now.

The sad story is about the actress Adrienne Shelley, who apparently killed herself by hanging last night. Not exactly a household name, I know, but I've always had a fondness for the "indie actress" ever since I first saw her in the Hal Hartley movies Trust and The Unbelievable Truth (you know, back when Hartley made good movies). She was a talented actress who also directed some indie films.



Okay, I admit it: I used to have the biggest crush on Ms. Shelley. I mean, look at this photo. She was gorgeous.

It's weird that the death of a film actor can affect us in this way. I mean, putting the "crush" aside for a moment, I'm sad that I won't be following her career anymore. I am looking forward to seeing Factotum on DVD (missed it in the theater, natch). but I wanted to see that anyway, because I am a fan of the book by Bukowski (I love that drunken bastard!).

I suppose that we can become attached to the characters that actors play, and attribute the character's qualities--good or bad--to the people who play them. We feel like we know the actors personally because we've seen them vulnerable.

I did not know Adrienne Shelley at all. I did have one personal encounter with her, though. It was back in 1993 (or so). Just after moving to Los Angeles, I was back in New York, visiting friends, when some of us went to a performance at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe on Avenue C. Honestly, I don't remember what the performance was--it was a reading of an unproduced screenplay--but I do remember that there were a few familliar faces in the cast of readers, like Frank Whaley and, of course, Adrienne Shelley.

Probably the reason I don't remember the content of the reading is that I spent the whole time staring at her. I don't know if I was starstruck or just drooling.

Maybe it was my imagination, but before the performance, I was upstairs waiting on line for the men's room, when I first ran into her. She was just hanging around in the 'loft' area, waiting for the show. The loft is small, so I was standing right next to her, trying not to look at her. But, she was looking at me.

I'm a shy guy. Less so today, but still pretty quiet around groups of people. By 'groups' I mean more than two or three people. Back then I was much worse--especially where beautiful women were concerned. So there I was, standing next to Adrienne Shelley, sweating bullets, averting my eyes, waiting to pee. Finally I did look up, she was smiling, I kind of gave her a goofy grin and an inaudable, "hi."

Then the bathroom opened up and I fled.

When we sat down to watch the show, my friends and I lucked out with front-row seats. When the actors came out, they all sat down in a row of chairs that were set up in a line, and they went though the script, each reading a different role. Though I don't remember the script, I remember enjoying it, and I remember that Adrienne Shelley's seat was right in front of me.

How could I not stare the whole time?

ANYWAY, that's it; the whole story. I didn't really see her after the show--she was hanging out with the actors. Not that I would have talked to her. For a long time afterwards, I fantasized about what might have happened if I'd just opened my goddamned mouth. Would she have let me buy her a drink? Would we find a common ground for a conversation--or more? COULD I HAVE DATED ADRIENNE SHELLEY??!?!?!

It's stupid. I've had that same experience in dozens of bars with pretty women, not famous, who I also did not have the nerve to speak to. But because of that connection we feel with the personalities we watch on the silver screen, this particular episode has always stayed with me. When I've seen the infrequent film freaturing Adrienne Shelley, I've always smiled inwardly. I've smiled at my own goofiness and shaken my head at how memory can build up such insignificant moments as those spent waiting for the men's room with a girl you don't even know.

The details of Ms. Shelley's apparent suicide are pretty awful, and those who know her can't believe she did it. They say she was a happy person; they're shocked. It's impossible to know what goes on in other people's heads, and events like this drive that point home. I certainly know nothing about the inner Adrienne Shelley, but I'm shocked too. What drives people to do such things?

I still want to see Factotum,, but I know it will make me sad. Here's a random thought: wherever she is, maybe Adrienne's hanging out with that ole barfly, Charles Bukowski! If so, buy her a drink for me, Chuck! I should have done it when I had the chance!

Now, back to work...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Maybe Next Year...


Oh well. Another year has gone by and I have not yet taken the 24-Hour Comic challenge.

For those unfamiliar, 24-Hour Comic Day was this past weekend. The 24-Hour Comic was invented in 1990 by Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics) as a "dare" to comics creators and those who aspire to join their ranks. The idea is simple, as are the rules: One must write, draw and letter a 24-page comic book story within 24 consecutive hours. No work may be done on the story in advance of the 24-hour period, except one may think about it. If you take a break or nap, the clock keeps ticking. That's about it. In the past few years, there have been designated "24-hour comics Days" when people gather to take the challenge. Places like my local comic shop, The Comic Bug, host these events where creators jam all night to produce the best comic they can in the time given.


Since I first learned about Scott McCloud's dare, I have wanted to take part. Unfortunately, this year (and last) my schedule hasn't allowed me to join in the fun. Last week I was up late all week cranking on my Tokyopop job. When Saturday came along, I knew that there was no way I could pull another all-nighter without making myself ill! It's been disappointing, but I hope that next year I will be able to plan the event into my week.


I did drop by The Comic Bug on Saturday afternoon to see how things were going. It was pretty exciting. There were about 30 people taking part in the challenge--some professionals, some up-and-comers and fans. Mike Wellman, the store manager, told me that they had the largest participating group in the U.S., if not the world. At least, according to the 24-Hour Comic Day website/blog. Everyone appeared to be having a great time, feeding off the creative atmosphere and the enthusiasm of the other participants & customers. I wonder how they all felt at 3AM! I should have dropped by, but, I was getting some much needed sleep!


I'm not sure why the 24-Hour Comic idea appeals to me so much. Maybe it reminds me of when I was in high school and made comics just for the fun of it (as opposed to doing it for my work). Also, as someone who works alone at home, I appreciate the creative energy that occurs when a group of artists all get together with a common goal. Makes me miss when I shared a studio with some of my pals in Marina Del Rey.

Anyway, I admire all of you out there who have taken the challenge! I hope to join you next year!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Lost and Found


This blog posting comes a couple of days late, but I wanted to mention that I caught the season premier of Lost the other night. What I found was that I have no tolerance for broadcast TV anymore. It's official. TV sucks.

In a previous post I gave much love to Netflix. It was thanks to that fine service that I watched the previous two seasons of Lost. In fact, I just finished Season Two about ten days ago, so I was really stoked to find out what would happen. That’s why my wife and I broke our usual “No TV” rule to see the premier. We were both totally annoyed by the commercial breaks, which so detract from the enjoyment of the show. We will now happily wait a year to see what happens to the beloved survivors of Oceanic Flight 815, when this season comes out on DVD. It’ll be a long wait, but luckily there are plenty of other quality films & series on DVD to keep me occupied.

One good thing about working at home is that I don’t have people chatting about TV programs like they do in most office environments…so, no spoilers here. Please don’t email me any! Thank you, good night and good luck.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Work Work Work


WHEW! Last night I finally finished my work on the Ronald Reagan biographical graphic novel. That was one tough job! Though, as it worked out, I only drew the first half of the book (50 pages). Someone who I admire greatly is drawing the second half of the book, which begins with Ronnie sworn in as California Governor. Not sure if I can name the other artist yet, because the publisher may not have announced it. Perhaps I will be able to fill you all in later. I hope to get a sneak peek at his work soon…hopefully he won’t make me look bad in comparison!

No rest for me. The schedule on my Tokyopop book is getting more intense, so I need to PRODUCE! I’m officially chained to my drawing board for the foreseeable future. Maybe I’ll have some stuff to show off soon.

That reminds me—I’ve set up a new blog on the Tokyopop website. The new one will deal exclusively with my new manga, scheduled for July of 2007. The title of the book is…Battle of the Bands! It is a story about an all-girl punk rock band and their roadie. Actually, it’s more than that, but I’m trying not to give away too many details right now. You will have to stay tuned.


I just started drawing Bands a few weeks ago, and I’m pretty pleased with how it is shaping up. I’ve been working hard on my “manga style.” My muse? I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but my inspiration has come from watching the DVD boxed set of Love Hina, over and over again. For those unfamiliar: Love Hina was a Japanese “Harem” Manga by Ken Akamatsu. It was translated & published in the U.S. by Tokyopop, and it spawned an animated TV series, which is available from Bandai Entertainment. What’s a “Harem Manga?” Put simply, it is a “sub-genre” of manga where one guy is in a situation with several women who love/hate/love him. Love Hina is the story of a loser who becomes the manager of an all-girl dormitory. Actually, that’s just the surface of what Love Hina is about, but the actual genre and setting of a “harem manga” can be anything. The popular American manga, Scott Pilgrim is actually a variation on this theme, though I don't know if the creator would admit it! (That's a great book, btw)

Actually, I’m having a blast! And now, I’d better get back to work...Seeya!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Vanguard!


It’s Monday (insert long sighhh here). Back to work and all that jazz. This week should be action-packed! I am finishing up my portion of the aforementioned Ronald Reagan biography and blasting away at my Tokyopop project. Last week, my Editor and I revised the production schedule and now I really have to crank! But that’s good! I work best under pressure. Keeps me sharp…(snap!)…On the edge…(snap!)…Where I have to be. I’ll post some sketches soon!

In other news, I’ve started season two of Lost. Dang, that show moves! I don’t know how they do it. I don’t see how anyone can stand waiting a week in between episodes (thanks, Netflix!). I may be a year behind everyone else, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it. Don’t post any spoilers here, okay?

Speaking of being behind the times, I’ve only recently gotten into the whole You Tube phenomenon. I’d looked at a couple of videos in the past, you know, when somebody’s sent me a link, or whatever. But I never really investigated it. Then, about 10 days ago, I was on Don Hudson’s Birthday Pub Crawl, and there was a whole discussion about You Tube. The bartender at one place was talking about a series of video blogs by someone called Lonelygirl15. He wasn’t sure if they were real or acted. Anyway, since hearing about it, I’ve watched Lonelygirl15’s saga, which is strangely compelling. After a couple of days, a New York Times article about Lonelygirl15 was published, about how her blog is an act--part of a promotion or something for a feature film. SO, I got to enjoy the fact that I was “in the know” about this piece of pop-culture for about 15 minutes before it was exposed to the world.

Yep, I’m on the cutting edge…

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering...

This morning was pretty typical. In the rush to get everyone fed, dressed and out the door to work & school I gave no thought to anything going on in the world. Then I sat down at my computer with my coffee to check my email and start the day. What day is it, anyway? Oh yeah. September 11th. Ouch.

I suppose that most thoughtful people today are feeling conflicted about the state of America and the world in the 5th anniversary of the terror attacks of 9/11/01. Angry, sad, sick, hopeless, afraid go ahead—pick a feeling, any feeling. Collect ‘em all.

I’m inclined to ignore the popular media today. I do believe that it is important to remember 9/11 and all its lessons, but I don’t really need to watch the planes hit over and over again to help me remember. I don’t need to hear any of the political rhetoric, finger-pointing or second-guessing. No hare-brained conspiracy theories, please. Thank you.

The week before last, I was vacationing with my family in New York (my home town). We sublet an apartment on West 90th street for most of the week, except for the first night because the apartment was unavailable. We stayed that one night in the Embassy Suites in Battery Park City, right across the street from Ground Zero. It was the first time I’d been down to the site since 9/11 and it was really disturbing, as one might guess. Not the same as on TV. I moved away from NYC when I was 24, but still consider myself a New Yorker. It was really painful to see the Ground Zero crater—like a giant, open wound on a familiar friend. Any New Yorker can tell you that the Twin Towers provided a tremendous landmark that one was always aware of. The absence of the towers is an emptiness in the skyline that, like the elephant in the room, is a constant reminder of that terrible day. I hope that when the new Freedom Tower is built, that it remains that much-needed reminder, instead of patching the hole in the sky and letting everyone forget.

Not sure why I’m writing this at all. A million others have written on the subject using more eloquent words. I guess the minutes I’m spending writing this blog entry constitute my ‘moment of silence.’ While I reflect on the meaning of 9/11 this morning. After I upload this post, it’s back to the rush of the day. I have much to do, as do we all.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

My New Favorite Website

is Overheard in New York.

I'll have something more interesting to say soon. Meanwhile, do yourself a favor, follow the link and have a laugh. On me.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Scary Old Photos!

Lately, Marie and a few other pals here in the blogosphere have been posting some old photos from when we were younger and working at Marvel Comics. I thought I'd dig up a couple and post them here to embarrass those involved. Including me...


This first one is from January 1991 at the Players Club in NYC. That's where Marvel used to have their Christmas parties. This pic shows Marie and her pals Marie and Nancy. You can see them posing at later Marvel parties on Marie's blog. That year, a couple of assistant editors and I decided to rent tuxedos for the event. I will spare you all those photos!


Okay, here's me that same year during my long-hair period. Aww...Ain't I purdy?


Stepping further back in time a couple years, alas, I must share this picture of Don with his eighties "flat-top" and our pal Vince who looks to be about twelve here. This was at David Wohl's infamous "wall-smashing" party, where everyone had a turn trying to destroy a wall partition David and his roommates had constructed in their Brooklyn apartment.


Next, I just need to point out Marie's shirt. A wonderful "hound's tooth" pattern, that is actually made up of black & white images of a dog. Wonder what happened to that one.


Oh, and just for fun, here's a picture of Sara making a face. She hates this photo. Heh!

That's all for now. That was kind of fun. We'll have to do it again. Maybe I'll share some nifty travel photos next time (I've got a good one of Marie on a camel, but those are a dime a dozen).

Friday, August 18, 2006

ECONOMY OF STORYTELLING: The Genius of Jerry Bruckheimer!


Note: This article was originally written in 2002 for Comiculture magazine. I present it here today, slightly edited, for fun and posterity…

Top Gun. Bad Boys. Crimson Tide. Con Air. The Rock. Enemy of the State. Armageddon. Pearl Harbor. Coyote Ugly?

Brilliant!

That might not be the first word that comes to mind when you look at the list of films above. Exciting, yes. Entertaining, to be sure. But these blockbusters aren’t usually regarded as food for thought. More likely, candy for the eyes. A roller coaster ride. Mindless escapism.

My friends, I beg to differ!

As someone who works in the field of storytelling, I give a lot of thought to the movies that I watch. Probably more than I should. Maybe I need a hobby. Be that as it may, I have, over the years, spotted a trend in these films. An interesting shorthand has been developed, designed to give moviegoers more bang for their buck. A formula that taps into our society’s collective unconscious intertwined with popular culture. I call this formula "Economy of Storytelling." I believe that producer Jerry Bruckheimer may be the genius behind it.

THE PRODUCERS

In many cases it's unclear what role the producer plays in the making of a film. I don't know anyone who follows the careers of movie producers. Personally, I'm much more interested in who the Director is, probably because it's easier to spot a directorial "style." Producers seem to dwell way behind the scenes, and mostly involved with the business end of the film making, as opposed to the creative end.

The films of producer Jerry Bruckheimer seem different to me. Regardless of who is directing, each of these films has a signature style. That's not to say that filmmakers Tony Scott and Michael Bay have no style of their own, but I think it's safe to say that the priorities of these two directors (both Bruckheimer staples) are similar. Bruckheimer tends to work with the same directors again and again, so I believe it's also safe to assume that he chooses to partner with directors that are on the same wavelength as he.

ECONOMY OF STORYTELLING: CON AIR

When I watched Con Air in 1997, I first became aware and fascinated by the concept I call "Economy of Storytelling." What I'm referring to in this case is a huge amount of story told in amazing shorthand. The point of this formula is to get all the characterization and plot set up and out of the way as quickly as possible, in order to get on with the 2-hour roller-coaster ride of violence and mayhem that is expected from a Jerry Bruckheimer film.

In Con Air, nearly all of the important information is handed to the viewer before the opening credits are over. The film opens: Nick Cage plays Cameron Poe, a decorated Army Ranger. He comes home to find his beautiful wife Tricia, pregnant and working at a roadhouse bar. Some bar regulars hit on Tricia and Poe nearly gets into a fight with them--but restrains himself. Tricia comments that, "For a second, I thought you were that guy again." Hinting at Poe's troubled past. Unfortunately, the three guys jump Poe and Trish in the parking lot. They fight. One guy pulls a knife; Poe kills him barehanded in self-defense. The other guys run, taking the knife with them. Poe is arrested and makes a deal, pleading guilty to manslaughter--still; he gets 7-10 years in prison because the judge considers Poe to be a deadly weapon due to his Ranger training.

At this point in the film, the opening title appears! Credits roll over a montage of images as Poe does his prison time. A voice-over narrative--letters to his daughter Casey--tell the story of years passing. Photos show Casey growing—Poe has never seen her in person. Poe is a good man; he sits quietly in his cell during a riot, he learns Spanish, he can't wait to see his daughter. Finally, as the credits come to an end, Poe is about to be paroled. He's going to fly home in time for Casey's birthday.

Now, I know that there's a standard Hollywood formula that says that you need to set up the story within X number of pages, but DANG! That's a lot of story before the credits are even done. It gets better though…

Once the credits have passed, we learn that Cameron Poe is about to hitch a ride home on a prison transport plane that just happens to be carting all of the worst criminals in custody to one new super-prison. All the rotten apples in one basket. We meet our other hero; Marshal Vince Larkin (the ever-likable, John Cusack) and a bunch of DEA cops we aren't supposed to like. Colm Meany plays a guy we instantly dislike because of his attitude and the fact that he drives a sports car with a vanity license plate that reads "asskicker" or something like that.

Then we meet the villains and the true genius of this film and subsequent Bruckheimer productions becomes apparent…

CHARACTERIZATION THROUGH CASTING

In previous generations, this would never work. But today, American culture is so intertwined with the film industry. Movie stars are our royalty. Memorable film characters create our own mythology. This isn't a groundbreaking idea, but what's interesting to me is a practical application of this fact. If you have a big enough budget for your film, you can hire any actors you want. You can get actors who not only bring their talents to the roles, but also bring the baggage of all the characters they've played in other people's movies!

The villains in Con Air have pretty much NO time devoted to exploring their characters. Still, we know all about them the moment we see them. John Malkovich plays Cyrus The Virus. We all already know how twisted and brilliant he is--didn't you see In The Line of Fire? Ving Rhames plays the uber-militant black leader, Nathan "Diamond Dog" Jones. All we need to know is that he's black, he's angry and he's dangerous! But anyone who's seen Pulp Fiction already knew that. We also know that Steve Buscemi is just plain weird! Introducing his character, Garland Greene, all trussed up like Hannibal Lecter--well--'nuff said! Most of the other villains are played by actors who may not be household names, but they are ALL familiar from playing similar roles in other films.

Okay, so you may argue, "so what. They're just playing to type." That's true, typecasting isn't a new thing. But there's a difference here. Normally typecasting is about an actor only getting certain types of roles because of past experience or simply because of the way they look. That's it, there's no deeper motive. I believe that in the films of Jerry Bruckheimer, there is a definite motive behind the casting. That is to flesh out the characters, not with dialogue or even interesting scenes, but with the audience's familiarity of the actors as similar characters. In Con Air, this familiarity made the villains much more interesting than if unknowns had played them.

In a way, it's all about the budget. In a major blockbuster film, there's more money to get the actors you want. Instead of casting, say, a "Jimmy Stewart-type" for a role…what the hell, let's hire Jimmy Stewart!!!

Well, he's dead, so we might want to consider Tom Hanks.

This clever casting trend in Bruckheimer 's films reached an even more interesting level in The Rock…

JAMES WHO--?

In The Rock, directed by Michael Bay, Nick Cage is again our every-man hero: Stanley Goodspeed. Goodspeed is an expert in chemical warfare who must accompany a S.E.A.L. team to Alcatraz Island. Terrorists have taken hostages at the infamous "Rock" and plan to launch missiles loaded with deadly gas into the heart of San Francisco. Actually, it's more complicated; the terrorists are rogue U.S. Military led by General Hummel (Ed Harris), and they have a fairly sympathetic political statement to make. ANYWAY, in order to penetrate the old prison, they must get the help of the ONLY person to have ever successfully escaped from Alcatraz. No, not Clint Eastwood, but a mysterious character named John Mason, played by none other than Sean Connery.

The film is a virtuoso action film that follows all of the formula noted above on Con Air: A montage opening credits sequence that sets up General Hummel's entire character and motivation. An exciting introduction of Goodspeed almost being killed by a nasty chemical bomb followed by a look at his home life: we meet his beautiful girlfriend, who turns out to be pregnant (natch!). We also learn that Goodspeed is a “Beatlemaniac” who loves old vinyl LPs. I suppose this is important because it recalls the era of the so-called British Invasion. Careful viewers will note that the album he gets excited about is With The Beatles, released in 1963--only a year after Sean Connery invaded America as James Bond in Dr. No. Hmmmmmmm…..

The Rock also has a great cast of top-notch actors with their own histories. Why, Michael Biehn even plays a navy S.E.A.L.; a vocation he'd portrayed at least twice before (Navy S.E.A.L.s and The Abyss come to mind). The rest of the cast is great, Michael Bay put in an expert directing job, but for me, the most amazing thing about The Rock is the character John Mason.

As the film reaches a crucial turning point, it is revealed that John Mason was once an agent for the British Secret Service. After stealing some super-secret microfilm that contain all of America's secrets from the last half-century, Mason was caught and imprisoned without trial in 1972.

Have you caught on yet?

John Mason IS James Bond.

1972 was the year that Diamonds Are Forever was released. That was the last Bond Film that Connery starred in. In a wacky and wonderful way, The Rock is a sequel to Diamonds Are Forever! This explains where our favorite Bond has been all these years--IN PRISON!!!

Pardon my French, but that is FUCKING AWESOME!

The Rock is a cool action film on its own, but the simple fact that Sean Connery is pretty much playing James Bond again makes it all the cooler. It adds a totally new dimension to the character--of course Mason can beat all of the terrorists, practically single-handedly: HE'S JAMES BOND, FOR CHRIST'S SAKE!!! This is a direct evolution from the sort of typecasting in Con Air. It's as if, instead of Steve Buscemi playing a character similar to Hannibal Lecter, they just said, what the hell, we'll get Anthony Hopkins! But the genius of The Rock is that you don't NEED to know that Mason is James Bond to follow the story, but if you DO know, there are all kinds of fun implications.

This is Economy of Storytelling: You don't need to spend screen time demonstrating how cool John Mason is. Or how skilled or ruthless he is. Just watch Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. There are about 10-12 hours of scenes demonstrating all of that! Now THAT'S a well-developed character!

If this isn't proof of a TREND yet, let me tell you about another Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster called Enemy Of The State.

In Enemy of the State, directed by Tony Scott, Will Smith plays Robert Clayton Dean. Dean is a lawyer who accidentally is targeted by a rogue element in the N.S.A. From early in the film, he is on the run from foes that have Orwellian eyes and ears--a victim of a high-tech surveillance society gone out of control. As in The Rock, the hero must team up with an older, experienced outcast in order to survive. In The Rock, Mason was once an insider in the intelligence community--a spy betrayed by an ally country. In Enemy of the State, the mentor character is Brill. Brill was once a surveillance expert for the N.S.A., who went underground in 1980. Brill is played by Gene Hackman.

Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 film, The Conversation, is not a part of pop culture iconography in the way that James Bond is. However, talk to anyone in the "industry" or even in film school and you'll find that Coppola's bleak masterpiece is regarded as one of the most important films of the 70's. The film centers on a lonely surveillance expert named Harry Caul who becomes obsessed with a conversation he has taped. Epitomizing the times in which the film was made, Caul's obsession leads him to complete paranoia and detachment from the world around him. Caul is marvelously played by Gene Hackman.

I don't have to tell you that Brill IS Harry Caul, do I?

It's really obvious if you know both films. In fact, in Enemy of the State, there's a scene where the N.S.A. chief, played by Jon Voight, is given a video-dossier on Brill. The image displayed of young Brill is actually young Hackman from The Conversation. There's also the obvious homage to Coppola's film where the N.S.A guys wiretap a conversation in a park between Dean and Rachel Banks (Lisa Bonet).

Once again, Enemy of the State works as a story without this insider knowledge, but if you are privy to The Conversation, the character of Brill becomes that much more interesting.

ARMAGEDDON AND BEYOND

Since Enemy of the State was released in 1998, Jerry Bruckheimer has had several other blockbuster films. Armageddon was also released in '98 and Pearl Harbor in 2001. Both were directed by Michael Bay. Neither film used characters from older films, but both used familiar actors in their ensemble casts. The same is true of Black Hawk Down and Gone in 60 Seconds. The latter film closely follows the formula of The Rock & Con Air, and also stars Nick Cage--hey, if it ain't broke…

Coyote Ugly stands alone as a recent Jerry Bruckheimer production to break the mold (well, not entirely--the set-up for the story all occurs in the trusty, credits-sequence-montage). But what makes Coyote Ugly different from the other films cited here is that it's a character-driven story, not an action-adventure. Director David McNally has the luxury of being able to take time to develop the character of Violet Sanford (Piper Perabo). In this way, Coyote Ugly is more similar to some of Jerry Bruckheimer's earlier films--like Flashdance. Personally, I love this film. I admit it is one of my guilty pleasures.

I'm still waiting for another Bruckheimer film to use a beloved character from the past. If Lucas and Spielberg can't get it together to do another Indiana Jones film, perhaps Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay can give us a story where a hot young actor (Josh Hartnett?) plays an every-man who needs to team up with an aged archeologist/adventurer played by Harrison Ford. Hey, Jerry--Give me a call, I've got some ideas if you're interested!

End Note: As I stated earlier, this article was originally written in 2002, a few years before the film National Treasure was released. This Bruckheimer-produced film, directed by Jon Turteltaub, is a fairly clever knockoff of The DaVinci Code. It beat DaVinci to the theaters by two years, did almost as well in the box office and has spawned a sequel due in 2007. As I kind-of predicted, Treasure is also an Indiana Jonesish adventure to fill the niche still unfilled by Spielberg & Lucas. Jerry Bruckheimer Productions does nothing if not give the people what they want. God bless ‘em!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Coming Attractions

I’ve been going through some stuff I’d previously written and think this blog would be a good place to re-visit some of the old material. Two articles in particular will find a nice home here, with a little updating. My next post will be an edited version of an article I wrote for Comiculture magazine (still available!) called The Genius of Jerry Bruckheimer. It is about a trend I call "Economy in Storytelling."

The second is a little public service article called Breaking in to Comics. That one was originally written in 1998 for ChannelOne.com and updated in 2002 for Comiculture.com. I think it’s worth repeating here for posterity with some new info for 2006.

Look for the first article later today or tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’m pleased to report that I’ve finally finished thumbnailing my Tokyopop book (That means I’ve done rough, miniature layouts—called thumbnails-- of each page, so my editor can get an idea of what the whole book will look like). I’m pretty jazzed because now I can start actually drawing the real thing! I’m a little behind schedule, but the book is not scheduled to be on sale until next July, so I have time to catch up to where I’m supposed to be. Here is a little look at what my thumbnails look like..



Seeya.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Netflix Your Power (2 Blogs in One--Now That's Conservation!)

Another day at the museum, another opportunity to free-associate blog-style!

So, all over Los Angeles—probably all over California—there are these cryptic messages on the highways. You know those electronic signs that alert you about traffic conditions and Amber Alerts? Well, I guess their default message these days is “Flex Your Power!”

All summer long, we’ve seen them; Flex Your Power! Flex Your Power!

What the hell does that even mean?

A simple Google search explains at www.fypower.org that “Flex Your Power” is the slogan of a campaign by some of California’s utilities, businesses and government agencies united to conserve energy. When you see the slogan, you are supposed to be on alert to conserve! That’s why we’ve seen it so often this summer.

That all sounds good, but I still don’t understand what it means to “flex” my power. All I know is that I feel guilty about not going to the gym.

In other conservation news, we’re pretty excited about a program by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP). It is called, “Trees for a Green LA.” It’s a program that lets customers get free trees to landscape their homes—the idea being that more trees equals more shade to help keep homes energy efficient (and purdy!). The website is pretty cool. You actually have to read through a lesson plan and take a test to qualify for the program. If you pass the online test, that tells you how to plant & care for trees, you can choose from a pretty large selection of available trees that will be delivered to your home.

Speaking of home delivery, have I mentioned how much I love Netflix lately? If you ‘re a movie lover like I am, I can’t recommend it enough. The premise is simple: You order DVDs for rental online and Netflix mails the discs to you in a returnable postage-paid envelope. Piece of cake. For me, the best part isn’t the convenience of delivery; it is the unbelievably huge selection. This ain’t no Blockbuster, people. In the past year, I have seen all kinds of programming, much of which I never would have heard of if not for the Netflix search engine. You can search for movies by title, genre, actor or director, or just browse common group categories like “New releases,” or “Television.” And if it is on DVD, they most likely have it. I’ve seen all sorts of foreign films & TV and Documentaries that you’d never find at a local video store. Eventually, I assume all this stuff will be available “On Demand” from your cable companies, but right now, there is nothing that equals the Netflix library for the variety of programming.

Luckily for me, some of the work I do is mindless enough that I can actually watch some of these things during the course of my work-week. This has allowed me to watch some of those TV programs that people are always yapping about (like Lost for example). Have I mentioned that we NEVER watch any regular TV in my house? That’s a rant for another day, and a lifestyle choice I whole-heartedly endorse. Netflix lets me have my cake and eat it, too. Here’s a list of some choice Netflix recommendations from my recent rentals (if anyone on Earth cares!):

CLASSICS:
The Spiral Staircase: I’ve been on a film-noir kick lately, and this was the last one I watched. Creepy!
The Killers: Just watched both the 1946 and 1964 versions of this story, based on a Hemmingway short story. Both worth watching, but the 1946 version is FAR better.
The Cincinnati Kid: Steve McQueen, Edward G. Robinson and poker. How bad could that be?
Seven Days In May: Burt Lancaster plans a U.S. Coup in this paranoid thriller.
The Pawnbroker: A classic Sidney Lumet film about a haunted Holocaust survivor and his business in Harlem. Explosive!

DOCUMENTARIES:
The Blue Planet: This is a BBC series about ocean life. Incredible stuff you’ve never seen before. Stuff NOBODY has seen before. My favorite episode is “The Deep.” All about life in the deepest darkest oceans. I actually bought this one. My kid loves that “Fangtooth!”
New York: an 8-disc series about the city I grew up in, but evidently hardly knew about. This series is awesome. Directed by Ric Burns, brother of the famous documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns who happened to direct…
Ken Burns’ Civil War: A superb 5 disc series.
Murderball: an excellent film about the intense sport, quad-rugby and the intense players on the US team.
Empires: The Medici, Godfathers of the Renaissance: We watched this before going to Florence last year--really interesting stuff! Besides the intrigue of the mafia-like power of the Medici family, this documentary is also a nice, quick overview of renaissance art and the history of Florence.
The Weather Underground: A fascinating look at a forgotten part of recent US history: our very own home-grown terrorist group! Aw!
Super-Size Me: I talked about this in another blog. Fun. Horrifying. Yum!
Why We Fight: actually, I’m not sure if I recommend this one, but it’s an interesting, if completely one-sided look at the so-called “military industrial complex” that supposedly governs every aspect of our lives! I’m not a big fan of this kind of documentary, as you can probably tell. It’s not difficult to take a position you want to espouse and then find a bunch of film to support that view without dealing with contrary opinions. Blah blah.

TELEVISION:
Sleeper Cell: I just started watching this, so I’m only 4 episodes in. What I’ve seen so far, I like. Reminds me of an updated Wiseguy.
Wiseguy: since I mentioned it, I was a big fan of this series when it first aired in the late eighties. It was a great cop show about an undercover FBI guy named Vinnie Terranova (Ken Wahl). Great supporting cast & villains. A must see! This was one of the first (if not THE first) TV show to tell stories in large arcs. The DVDs are divided by arcs—try to watch them in order to see how Vince’s character grows. One complaint: The DVD has different music from the original series as it was created. Why? Because they did not keep the rights to the pop music that they used. Unfortunate, but I don’t know if you’d miss it if you didn’t see the original.
Deadwood: Love love love this HBO original series. 2 seasons currently available. Don’t rent it if you can’t take harsh language!
The Shield: What a show! Mythic!
The Sopranos: ‘Nuff said.
Cracker: This is a BBC cop show starring Robbie Coltraine. Never heard of it before I stumbled across it on Netflix. It’s amazing.
Rescue Me: Dennis Leary’s firefighter drama. Superb.
The Office: The original BBC series, starring Ricky Gervais, that is. Funniest show ever. Haven’t seen the American version, though I hear it’s also pretty good.
Also, I’ve happily been brought up to speed on 24, Alias, CSI, Nip/Tuck, The Wire and the new Battlestar Galactica, all of which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and recommend!

C'mon, give it a try...

Netflix, Inc.

Monday, August 07, 2006

More Randomnessitude and Query

Another day tagging along with the Adventures in Nature camp at the Natural History Museum. This week my son is in the “Prehistoric Pals” class and we went up to the mysterious “staff only” fourth floor where the Paleontology lab is. Pretty cool stuff up there. We had a look at how they clean fossils & whatnot. Currently, most of the team is off in Montana digging up a T-Rex. How cool is that? It’s fun to see this stuff through the eyes of the kids.

In comics news, I am almost finished thumbnailing my Tokyopop project. Looks like it is shaping up to be about 170 pages long. Once this stage is done, I finally will move ahead with drawing the actual book! I should be able to post some preview pages pretty soon. I think I’m supposed to wait until they ‘officially’ announce the book before I start showing stuff or giving away details. The book is on the schedule for next July, in case anyone is wondering.

I guess that's all. Not the most interesting blog post, to be sure. I end with one question:

HOW COME EVERYONE IS MOVING TO PORTLAND? Every time I turn around, someone else I know is moving there. I'm afraid that I'll need to follow if this keeps up. I once was very seriously planning on moving to Seattle, but then I met the woman who is now my wife. That changed things. Now, we have a family and some important roots that would make it difficult to make such a move, but I can't help but wonder what the appeal of Portland is. Never been there, myself. Perhaps I ought to take a trip. Meanwhile, can anyone out there shed some light?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Am I Just Stupid?


One of the few comics that I still read regularly is B.P.R.D., the Hellboy spin-off by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Guy Davis. It’s a really cool book about the Hellboy related characters in the “Bureau For Paranormal Research And Defense.” Kind of like a government sponsored team of freaks (or superheroes) that defends the U.S. and the world from monsters, demons and stuff like that. Great stories, great characters and great art—a ‘must buy!’ And I should know, it appears that I’ve bought several copies of each issue by mistake!

Don’t get me wrong—I love, repeat: LOVE, Mike Mignola’s covers. I love his art, in general. Mike has been a big influence on my own work. In fact, I have an original piece of his Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser art hanging right over my head as I type this. By the way, that makes me think of an amusing tale for another time. You’ll have to remind me to tell it later. But I must confess that I’ve discovered a that I have a little problem with these B.P.R.D. covers…

I can’t tell them apart.

Is it just me? Am I a moron? Has anyone else had this problem??? Specifically, the problem is that I go to my favorite comic shop and buy the latest issue, only to get home and find that I already have it! Yesterday, I accidentally bought TWO copies of B.P.R.D.: The Universal Machine #3. How did I do that? What’s worse is that when I got home, I realized I’d read it already!!! What am I, freakin’ retarded? Going senile? I hate to admit it, but this has happened at least 2 other times. And only with this book.

Maybe this is a clever ploy perpetrated by Mike and the gang at Dark Horse Comics. A way to get me to pay $9 for a $3 comic. I mean, I like the book a lot, but I don’t think it’s worth $9 for one issue. I’m not a collector (just a reader), so the extra copies are useless to me.

Sigh.

I guess I can pass them on to interested parties. Interested anyone?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Random Thoughts

Well, I’ve recovered from my dragon-related injuries, and I’m sitting in a classroom at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. Today my son is learning about butterflies at the museum’s summer camp program. Being paranoid parents, we don’t feel comfortable leaving him, so I’m hanging out, hovering in the back of the class with my laptop. In a half hour, we’ll be going down to the Butterfly Pavilion, so I have some time to kill.

This museum is a favorite of my son. He’s been here a zillion times. I like it too because it is reminiscent of the museum I grew up with in New York. It’s a LOT smaller, for sure, but it’s not bad. Also, it is pretty old, dark and designed in a similar neo-classical style. Unfortunately, it is often pretty empty. That means less of a crowd to deal with, which is nice, but it doesn’t bode well for the future of the museum. It also does not speak well to the parents of Los Angeles. Why wouldn’t you bring your kid here? Next door there is a science museum, an IMAX theater and a small Air & Space museum. Also, a huge and largely unused Olympic stadium. Unfortunately, Exposition Park, which encompasses all of these attractions, is surrounded by a horrible neighborhood that probably keeps folks away.

Let’s see, what else…

In a previous post, I mentioned that I was reading Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. Well, I finished it a week or two ago and I wanted to tell you all about the aftermath. First, the book is great and I highly recommend it, if you have a strong stomach. The book definitely had an effect on me. I have not turned into a vegan or anything, Let’s just say that I’ve lost weight! I’m having trouble looking at food the same way. For example, usually, when I’m hungry it is a bad idea for me to go to the supermarket. Everything looks good to me. I’m a sucker for trying new products and I will buy the junkiest food. After reading FFN, I was in a supermarket looking for something to eat around lunchtime. Actually, it was pretty late for lunch and I was starving. Instead of pulling stuff off the shelves, I walked around the store for a while, imagining the conditions at cattle ranches and slaughterhouses. I thought about strange labs and chemical plants on the New Jersey Turnpike where flavors are created for processed foods. I walked out empty handed and still hungry, if slightly nauseated. Thi shas now happened more than once.

I guess I need to get over it. I probably will. My family already eats very well. We already buy organic meats & milk products, avoiding hormones & whatever. Don’t know when I’ll ever eat another Big Mac, but I know I probably will someday. Right now, the thought is revolting to me.

Off to look at butterflies now. Maybe I’ll eat one or two when nobody’s looking.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Dragon Attack!


This weekend I was assaulted by a kite. What more can I say?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tasteful Reading

Ugh. So, I’m only halfway through reading Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, but I can already recommend it. That is, if you have the stomach! Yes, my friends, that is a dare.

This book was suggested to me a couple of years ago by Marie Javins. I only recently picked it up after watching the documentary film, Super Size Me, directed by and starring Morgan Spurlock. In the film, Spurlock uses himself as a guinea pig to see what would happen if he only ate at McDonalds, three meals a day for one month. The results are terrifying even as he keeps you laughing, cracking wise, tongue firmly in cheek. That is, until he becomes morbidly depressed and his doctors plead with him to give up the diet after only 3 weeks. The sicko science experiment is inter-cut with interesting factoids, history and interviews. One of the interviews that was filmed after the film was released, is with Eric Schlosser--It appears as an extra on the DVD. The interesting chat, along with other nifty extras, makes the DVD a worthwhile rental, even if you’ve seen the film in the theater. Thank Lord Jesus for my Netflix cue. Next up: The Matador! Huzzah!

Needless to say, Schlosser’s book is much more in-depth and detailed than the Spurlock film. It is also extremely readable. In fact, it’s difficult to put down. Hard to look away from. Like a good train wreck. Luckily, I’m speaking metaphorically and I’ve never been close to a train wreck. I’m sure that if I were to witness one, like the wreck in The Fugitive, it would leave an indelible image in my memory. Just as The Fugitive did. But, that’s another story. What was my point? Oh yeah. The “indelible memory” thing. I was going to say that Fast Food Nation has forever changed the way I look at food. At least, that’s how I feel right now.

Food is very important to me. I’m one of those “foodies” you may have heard about. So’s my wife. We are really into food. We love trying great restaurants and we cook more than anyone I know. And my wife bakes. A lot. It’s pretty cool. I really need to get to the gym. Anyway, I love food, but I’m also not a snob about it. I have a real soft spot for he comfort foods of my youth (since I grew up in Queens, feel free to read “youth” pronounced ad “yewt”). Therefore, I freely confess to the occasional Big Mac attack.

The book is compelling for many reasons. First, it serves up a fascinating history lesson as Schlosser introduces the founders of the fast food industry. Men like Carl N. Karcher, Dave Thomas and the McDonalds brothers, whose stories are as American as a hot, fried apple pie. These pioneers were almost all men with little education, who started with nothing but some innovative ideas and the drive to make their dreams come true. The story turns darker as their little companies become huge corporate entities that utterly changed way food is grown, collected, sold, distributed, marketed, prepared and eaten. These changes were made possible because through a combination of technological advances, the culture of the automobile and the creation of a national highway system, corporate and political corruption at all levels, the exploitation of workers, and a great big dose of greed.

The results that Fast Food Nation suggests are no less than the “mall-ization” of the American landscape as the business practices of the fast food industry were mimicked by other retail suppliers and abominable conditions in the meat-producing industries that must lead to the spread of disease. I swear again, I don’t believe that I’ll be able to look at fast food the same way again. Or any processed food, really. I’m seriously considering buying a meat-grinder for my home. I want to make my own sausage like they do in the Old Country—ammĂ zza!!!

But what really warms my heart is the knowledge that all of this is currently being exported to the world at large. Will there even be an “Old Country” fifty years from now? Will it really be one big McPlanet? How can we turn back the clock and go back to eating “real” food. Without spending an ungodly fortune at Whole Foods, at any rate?

Dude, it’s a good book. Read it, already. If you can’t be bothered to educate yourself, what can I say? Have it your way. (heh heh) I’m going to try and finish it this week.

And, speaking of delicious tasty treats, you ought to check out Marie’s blog entry for today.

Bon appetit!


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Am I a Big Sell-Out?!?

Today I was surfing around some comics blogs and stuff. Yes, I should have been working, but there you have it. It’s not like I spent all day at it…

Anywho, I was looking at Becky Cloonan’s website. I don’t know Becky personally (I met her briefly once), but I’m a HUGE fan of her work. On her page is a link to her blog. She posts about as rarely as I do, but one of her posts immediately got my attention. Alas, it seems she really hates a certain book that, as it happens, is a major influence on one of my projects.

For the record, I believe that her reasons are sound. I may even agree with her, personally! Still, I’m creating something designed to appeal to a specific audience.

Is that so wrong???

I guess I feel bad in the knowledge that I am currently working on something that I know Becky will not like. Even though I don’t even know her. It’s just because I admire her work so much, I wish there could be some reciprocal feelings.

At the same time, closer to home, I also know that my book will have little appeal to my wife, some of my friends and my parents! It will also be unsuitable for my kid--at least for another 10-12 years!

But they aren’t the target audience! Neither am I for that matter! I am just trying to do the best work I can on a project that will appeal to a certain niche.

Does this make me a big sell-out???

I don’t think it does. But maybe I’m just delusional. You’ll have to let me know.

Sorry Becky. Maybe you’ll like my next project, whatever that will be (wonder which “target audience” she falls into?)

Friday, June 30, 2006

"All That Stuff"

I haven’t seen Superman Returns yet, and I’m not sure when I will, but I really want to. The trailers look great and I have great faith in Bryan Singer’s vision when it comes to these comic book movies.

But I gotta tell you about something that’s been bugging me since I first saw the trailer a couple of months ago.

That is, a sound-bite where Daily Planet chief, Perry White says, “Does he (Superman) still stand for Truth? Justice? All that stuff…?

Now, unless you’ve lived without any access to the media or pop-culture for your entire life (if so--how on earth did you even find my blog?), you know that Superman stands for “Truth, Justice and The American Way.”

This has been bothering me for a while, but I didn’t know if it was worth mentioning since I hadn’t yet seen the movie. But today I heard someone talking about it on talk radio, and so, I guess it really is an issue.

The omission of “The American Way” says much about the filmmakers. It seems they were not comfortable stating the “American Way” is an ideal worth fighting for. As we begin the 4th of July weekend, I think this is a sad commentary for many reasons.

In a Washington Post article about the topic, screenwriters Michael Dougherty and ,Dan Harris are quoted as saying they were hesitant to use the phrase “American Way” because “when people say 'American way,' they're actually talking about what the 'American way' meant back in the '40s and '50s, which was something more noble and idealistic."

Really? Do they really believe that? I thought the Hollywood elite despised the values of the 40’s and 50’s. I guess these guys are an exception. They must long for those good ol’ days back when women stayed in the kitchen and before civil rights laws! (Maybe they should rethink that position, eh?)

Politics aside, they also claim that because Superman is an alien, he’s a citizen of the world. In my view, this shows a lack of understanding of the character.

Yes, Superman is an alien: Kal-El from planet Krypton. But, more importantly, he is also Clark Kent, raised by Martha and Jonathan on a Kansas farm. This was a deliberate choice by Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. They could have had Kal-El land in New York City or San Francisco and grow up as a progressive, urbane hipster. But they did not. Superman’s entire worldview and value system were forged by his adoptive parents, in America’s heartland.

In an attempt to create a Superman film they believe will be relevant to today’s audience, the screenwriters have removed a crucial part of the hero’s character. Because they don’t believe America has any particular value in the world, they’ve decided that Superman also feels this way. I understand that the writers may lack the ability to judge that one society’s values may be better than another’s. But I don’t really get the idea of a Superman who is unable to make those moral distinctions.

As I stated before—I haven’t seen the film yet. I will. I want to. In spite of this rant, I have high expectations for the film. I only hope that Superman’s character has not been watered down, as suggested above. I saw an interview with Bryan Singer who claims that his Superman is “deeper.” Maybe it’s true, and the action in the film depicts a hero that people can still look up to. They say that actions speak louder than words. Still, words are extremely important. That’s what thoughts are made of. I wish they hadn’t changed those particular words.

Happy Birthday America!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

An Advertiser's Dream

I readily admit it.

I am extremely susceptible to suggestion. Especially when suggested in the form of some delicious foodstuff. Hence my search for Haagen-Daz Mayan Chocolate ice cream. I saw an ad for it a couple of weeks ago.


Dark chocolate and cinnamon. How could that be a bad thing?

Since then, I’ve looked in every grocery store around me to no avail. Until today! They have it at my local Gelsons. If any representatives from Vons, Ralphs or Bristol Farms are reading this, you’d do well to order some of this stuff quickly.

It’s delightful. Sigh. Look at this...


Yummy.

But then, if you ask my wife, this is the book on me. I’m the guy who always has to try the latest flavor, the new-fangled pasta or wacky soft drink.

Yes, I have a bottle of Coke Blak in my fridge. Haven’t tried it yet, so I’ll have to let you know.

I’m an advertiser’s dream. Show me a pretty picture and I’ll try your product. Luckily for our bank account, I watch ZERO television these days. That’s a subject for another blog, but I’ve been TV-free for about five years now. I keep up with the pop culture courtesy of Netflix. God bless them.

Part of the reason I don’t watch TV is because I become very weak in the cool glow of the cathode ray. Or whatever it is. My brain shuts off and I seem to loose motor functions when presented with television. I…can’t…move…! I’ll watch almost anything. Or nothing! Just flip them channels. Commercials are often more entertaining than the regular programming, in any case. Anyway, I just can’t seem to help trying new things. What a good consumer my mother raised!

Not all advertising works on me. I truly hate email spam and those annoying “pop up” ads that appear over many websites. Even worse, in the non-digital arena, is the mountain of trash that appears in my mailbox every day. What a waste of paper. Also, I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but in my neighborhood, a deluge of flyers are strewn on my front porch daily. I ignore these ads on principal.

But the absolute WORST thing you can do for your product (or cause) is to ring my doorbell. I don’t know why, but solicitors are truly my pet peeve. I hate them. I don’t care if you’re a kid looking for a sponsor for a school trip, a Jehovah’s Witness, the police collecting for the department’s fund drive, or a global-warming fanatic looking for a signature. If I don’t know you personally, stay away from my door. Pretty please. I would tell these people to write up their request and put it in a letter, but I already told you that I ignore junk mail. Now if they’d take out a nice, glossy, full-page magazine ad, maybe they’d get my attention.

As long as it looks delicious!

P.S. Here’s a link. Try that “flavor finder!”

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Beneath the Sweater

As promised...ZOINKS!
For full details, see the comments on the last post...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Scooby News

Today my four-and-a-half year old boy asked, "what if Velma Dinkley was naked?"

We aren't sure what he was getting at, but he seemed to think it was a good idea,

JINKIES!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

What's Happening?

Yes, I have not really posted much here in the ol’ blogosphere lately. The last two entries don’t really count, especially since I previously stated that I would only write blogs of some substance. I guess I haven’t had anything substantive to say lately.

And that is still true today.

I’ve been a busy guy, lately. Work on the Reagan book is going well, if slowly. Here’s a random page…



This is one of the ‘easy’ pages that did not require huge amounts of research & reference. Most of the book has been quite challenging because there are not too many ‘easy’ pages. This is a tough job.

My other tough job for Tokyopop is going along pretty well. They have not yet announced the book, so I can’t really share my progress at this time. I’ll just leave you hanging!

When I have more to show, I will. Thanks for droppin’ by!

Now THAT'S Comedy...

Click this.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Is it just me...

...or does Brandon Routh look like a cross between Christopher Reeve and Bryan Singer?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Illustration Job


Today I received a copy of a magazine that I did a bunch of illustrations for last month. It's called Training Treasures and it's written as a guide for business training. This issue's main feature is about storytelling and how to use stories ro motivate and sell. The publisher wanted comic book style illustrations to go with the theme and somehow found me! It was a fun job.

Happily, the magazine looks GREAT! It's printed on really nice paper--heavy stock, glossy finish. I turned in artwork at a higher resolution than some of the comics publishers typically use and I think it paid off. I'm quite pleased!

The End of the World

As stated in a previous blog entry, I’m juggling a couple of big projects right now. This is good news, but I have to tell y’all that it is not easy! My biggest problem is that the projects are very different and it’s hard to make the mental ‘jump’ back and forth. Today I’m coping with a little thing they call “Writer’s block.” In fact, this is one of the reasons I am writing this blog entry--to get the creative juices flowing, so to speak.

I’ve blocked out the entire day for uninterrupted work on my Top-Secret Manga script. Therefore, I got my errands all done early. I often spend part of my workday running around to the bank, post office, dry-cleaners and such. Today I was shocked to find the post office closed. One of the employees was hanging around the lobby, helping people buy stamps from the machines and explaining that there is some “nationwide problem” with the postal system. Sounds scary, but I’ve found no mention of the problem in the news. Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe we’ll learn more as the day progresses!

After that, I stopped next door at the local Starbucks (sorry, Kieron) and was dismayed that they were only taking to-go orders for the “tall” sized coffees (that’s the smallest), because the store was out of lids for the “grande” and “venti” sizes.

Clearly, there is something amiss in the world. Let’s just say that I feel uneasy. And it bodes ill that writing this lame story is how I’ve chosen to start my workday.

Wish me luck (and don’t tell my editor)…

Friday, February 24, 2006

Hey Kids: Comics!

Yesterday I was over at The Comic Bug and had an interesting chat with Mike Wellman. I confessed that I’ve recently come to realize that the whole superhero thing is officially out of my system.

What I mean is that as a READER, I seem to have lost interest in all of the beloved tight-wearing heroes of my youth. Finally.

The last mainstream superhero title that I’ve followed was Daredevil. Sometime in 2005—I think nearly a year ago—I missed a couple of issues of the book, and never went back. I was a big fan of the Bendis/Maleev run on Daredevil, but once I broke the “habit” of reading those monthly issues, I just did not miss them. To be fair, I also know that these issues will be collected into trade-paperbacks, and I probably will read them someday.

I made this break without really thinking about it. I still purchase comics fairly often, but no superheroes. Only recently have I given it any thought. What’s the deal?

I guess they just aren’t relevant to me anymore--at least, not as a READER. As a CREATOR, I have plenty of ideas in the genre that I would like to pursue. The difference is that I would not be writing for ME, but for kids. Too many creators working in comics today write for themselves instead of for the audience. I don’t know if that is appropriate for Spider-Man.

I guess I’m sick of all the “adult” superhero books. I wish those standards like Spider-Man,Supermanand Batman were really geared towards kids. Of course I loved Watchmen and Dark-Knight when they came out, but I was a teenager then. I think the post-modern, deconstruction of the superhero genre has been officially done to death. Like, ten years ago.

Besides, there are so many REALLY GOOD comics available today that are maturely written for an adult audience. What do I read? Well, on a monthly basis, I still read only ONE regular, monthly book. I still read 100 Bullets, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. That book continues to be the “monthly fix” that took the place of Preacher, when that book ended.

I’ve also been enjoying the work of Brian Wood lately. DMZ, by Wood and Riccardo Burchielli has been awesome. Wood’s work on Local with Ryan Kelly and Demo with Becky Cloonan are both well worth picking up.

My old pal, Mark Chiarello, who I know from back in the glory days of at Epic Comics has been producing an awesome book over at DC. If you are unfamiliar with Solo, you really are missing a wonderful series. Each issue spotlights a different comic book creator with all-original short stories. My personal favorites (so far) are the issues by Jordi Bernet, Paul Pope, Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale. Mark is getting some of the industry’s best talents involved with this book. Quite a feather in DC’s cap.

I adore Paris, by Andi Watson and Simon Gane. Please buy it.

There are a few monthly comics that I don’t read on a monthly basis, but instead choose to wait until they are collected in trade-paperbacks. The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn is a wonderful, dramatic take on the whole “zombie” craze. I also prefer to read Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai in the collected format. I also like them on my shelf!

There are many more worthwhile books out there that I read and recommend. Top Shelf had been publishing many of them (have you read Blankets yet?). I wish that people like Dan Clowes, Frank Miller and Adrian Tomine produced more. I wish European Albums were easier to come by here in the US. What can you do?

I’m rambling now, and getting away from my point about superheroes. In fact, today I’m not sure what the point is! I just found out that Paul Pope has a new Batman book out. I may have “regress” for a minute and pick that up…!

Recommended Reading:


I can keep going, but I won't! Happy reading!