Sunday, January 28, 2007

Hide And Seek

Becky Cloonan’s latest blog entry makes the case for comics creators to get more personal. She references another blog that made her consider that when artists work on projects that “don’t tell the world what they think…or believe…” then they are hiding. They’re not being “true to themselves” and, ultimately, they will be forgotten.

I was going to leave a comment on her blog in response, but I felt my own soap-box sermon coming on, so I decided to address the issue here! (Stand back--!)

On one hand, I can understand the sentiment. Like Becky, I have a deep affection and appreciation for the comic art form. As it happens, in the past, I’ve thought on this subject. When I read a book like Craig Thompson’s Blankets or anything by Will Eisner, Adrian Tomine or Joe Sacco (to name only a few), I am struck by how goddamned personal their work is. These people have a real point of view, something to share and some brass balls for putting it all out there for everyone to see! I admit it—I sometimes feel small in comparison, and I hope that one day I’ll have something equally interesting to say. This is something to aspire to.

On the other hand, the thing that bothers me about this train of thought is that it smacks of an elitism that truly drives me crazy.

A couple of years ago, I was flipping through a piece in the New York Times Magazine about some of my contemporary comic book heroes. There was a big photo spread featuring Seth, Joe Sacco, Adrian Tomine, Chester Brown and, of course, the Nobel Prize-winning author of Maus, Art Spiegelman. The article was the latest version of the old, “Comics aren’t just for kids” bit. It was a very good piece and nicely prominent, but when I finished reading, I was upset.

The reason why is because it reminded me of the “elite club” that these “heroes” of mine belong to, and the fact that I can never join.

Why not? Because I have worked all these years on “mainstream” comics for Marvel, DC, Image and Dark Horse.

It’s an interesting phenomenon that people don’t talk about in comics. There is a real snobbery in the world of “alternative” comics (or “comix” or “sequential art” or whatever label you want to use). It comes through in the New York Times article, it was apparent in a lecture I attended at UCLA given by Art Spiegelman, and I see it in the blog that caused Becky Cloonan to reflect & comment on. It is an attitude that says, “Our books are ART and everything mainstream is not to be taken seriously—regardless of the quality present in the story and art.” It says that the circumstances in which the works are created are more important than the demonstrable skill of the artists in question.

I truly believe this to be the case, and it pains me. It pains me because all of the aforementioned artists are, in fact, heroes of mine. If they sucked, I wouldn’t care. I really don’t understand how they can marginalize the artists who work “in the trenches” at Marvel & DC simply because that’s where they get their paycheck. The fact is that once you are in the trenches, you can’t get out. You’re not a serious artist, but a commercial hack; a sell-out.

Think I’m exaggerating? Imagine this scenario: A famous “mainstream” artist decides he wants to stop drawing mutants and draw a personal graphic novel about his suburban childhood. Let’s say it’s Rob Leifeld. Now imagine something else: this book is a huge departure from his mainstream work—understated, mature and insightful. The book is personal and has a unique point of view…

…Is anybody going to take this book seriously?

No offense meant to Rob, but think about it. Is Art Spiegelman going to suddenly add Rob Leifeld to his list of “important” contemporary artists? Is The Comics Journal going to mention the book at all? No way. If this were a true story, people would be insulting this book long before anyone ever read a page. It wouldn’t stand a chance in the world of “serious” comics literature. What’s more, Rob’s current fan base wouldn’t be interested either.

I used Rob as an example because he’s famous, but I believe the same would be true for a relative unknown like myself—and I don’t carry the baggage (good & bad) that Rob does. And that’s what makes me upset—Because one day, I would like to try my hand at something “personal” and I’d like it to have a fighting chance. Unfortunately, I might have a better chance of being taken seriously if I published those “comix” pretending to be a newcomer and using a pseudonym.

Why don’t I stop work on my Tokyopop manga and draw my own personal vision right now? Is it because I’m “hiding?” I don’t think so. It’s a complicated issue. I mean, there are financial considerations, to begin with. It’s easy for Art Speigelman to give the advice he gave at UCLA—he told aspiring comics creators that working on the mainstream books was a waste of time and not really art. Of course, he doesn’t need to draw them—he can illustrate a single New Yorker cover and be paid more that I would for a whole issue (or more) of a comic.

Who's to say that a Thor story can’t be an artist’s personal vision anyway? The fact that Stan Lee & Jack Kirby created Thor stories years before Walt Simonson doesn’t diminish Walt’s contribution. Does the fact that the book is a monthly periodical exclude it from “art” status, or does it depend on who owns the character? Was Frank Miller’s Daredevil or Dark Knight less artistic or less of a “personal vision” because it was drawn on a work-for-hire basis? Is Sin City automatically a more valid artistic expression because Frank owns it? Do I need to point out that there are hundreds of self-published, self-indulgent, personal visions being produced these days? Most of which are forgettable.

I don’t think I’m hiding or not being true to myself. I think I’m honing my craft. Every new project I work on teaches me something new. Hopefully I am improving my skills and opening doors, even if I’m not joining any elite clubs. If I’m lucky, I’m building a reputation that will help me get noticed when the time comes that I do have something personal to say. Also, I don’t want to do something “personal” just for its own sake. That’s called masturbation. I hope that when I write to really “say something” that it will be something worth reading. Meanwhile, I’m happy if I can entertain my readers on any level.

End of rant. Your input is appreciated.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Happy Dance

Gotta keep those spirits up! Let's groove...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

...Oh, What A Relief It Is!

AAAHHHHH…. This morning I breathe a momentary sigh of relief, for yesterday I finished penciling Battle of the Bands! Unfortunately, I only have a moment before I must hurl myself full-throttle into the inking process. I’m so behind schedule! The good news is that I’m slightly better off than I was around the holidays, but last week’s jury duty really put the brakes on my progress.

In case you’re wondering, my week of jury duty ended on Friday, when the entire pool of potential jurors was suddenly dismissed. Not sure what happened there. The trial was for 2 counts of armed robbery & assault with a deadly weapon. If it were not for the stress of how this cut into my work/home-life schedule, it would have been pretty interesting. I was in a pool of about 120 potential jurors that were being interviewed by the judge & attorneys—they never even got to me. I just had to sit there and listen to others answer questions and/or try to weasel out of service. The Judge was pretty much a hard-ass and was not letting people get away easily…if at all!

Anyway, on Friday, rather abruptly, one of the defense attorneys called a sidebar that lasted a really long time. When it was over, we were all excused without an explanation. Probably something was said during the questioning that tainted the jury pool. Or maybe the sight of 73 grumpy potential jurors scared the defendants into copping a plea! Who knows. All I know is that, while it was interesting, I was anxious to get home and back to work.

Now, a few days later, I take a quick breath. This morning Rob, my editor, is dropping by on the way in to Tokyopop to check out my progress. I still have to ink and add grey-tones to the pages, and the book is due to be finished by the beginning of April. A near-impossible task. But, it’s very important for me to make sure BOTB ships this July so I can sell you all copies at the San Diego Comic-Con!

You probably won’t hear too much from me until April, but if I get a chance, I’m hoping to squeeze in a blog or two. I have some books to recommend. I’ll also be posting some more of my work in-progress. So, please, check in from time to time! It gets so lonely here in deadline hell. Speaking of lonely…

…Poor rittle me.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Thursday, January 18, 2007

How I Feel

More Jury Duty today, no time to write. Wil update when things calm down. Maybe by 2008. Meanwhile, I will do a little dance...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Jury Duty Update

Didn't get around to updating last night--so sorry.

So, the bad news for my schedule is that late in the afternoon yesterday, the whole pool of potential jurors was called in to one of the courtrooms for a trial. Today they start jury selection so, yes, I must report again. So much for the "One Day" thing. There are 75 potential jurors, so god knowd how long it will take for them to select the 12 they need (plus a few alternates). On the plus side, I don't have to be there until after lunch, so it will only take up 2 or 3 hours of my day. Bad timing though, as I usually pick up my son from school in that time slot. AK!

Not much else to report. I must get as much work done as possible before it's time to perform my civic duties. Probably won't blog much this week, but what else is new!


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Postcards From The Jury Room

Today I have Jury Duty, but right now I am home for lunch. I wrote the following ramblings from the jury room. I'll update this evening when I return again...

I’m writing this in the Jury Room of the Inglewood courthouse today, trying not to be bored out of my mind. Luckily, they have a new policy for those of us who have been chosen to serve Jury Duty. It’s called “One day, one trial.” What that means is if I sit here all day and do not get put on a jury, then my obligation is over for the next year or so. This new system makes it easier for us potential jurors to “do our time” and get home. Because it is more convenient, it also means that it’s almost impossible to be excused from service. The only persons who are not eligible ate active law enforcement officers—everyone else is fair game. The judge who gave us our “welcome speech” gave us several examples of people who tried—and failed—to be excused. The list included doctors, lawyers, a prominent Cardinal and the Judge himself. They have also changed the method of sunpoening potential jurors. Until recently, the courts only used voter registration to find people, so if you didn’t vote, they couldn’t find you. Now they also use DMV records, so if you haven’t been called…expect to be soon! At least if you live in Los Angeles.

I’ve been called 3 or 4 times in the past decade. I have yet to be put on an actual jury. Because I’m swamped with work and have child-care issues, I hope to make it through the day without being selected. Otherwise, if my schedule were more free, I actually wouldn’t mind sitting on a jury for once. Just to see how the system works. Guess we’ll see how the day pans out.

Meanwhile, I’m pleased to report that I got a bunch done over the holiday weekend. Good progress on Battle of the Bands, though I am still behind schedule. I hope I can catch up soon to where I’m supposed to be. The book should be done by April.

The worst part about sitting here in the Jury Room (so far!) is that the television is on. There is some Oprah-like show on. I’ve positioned myself so I don’t have to look at the screen, but the noise is driving me crazy. Is this really necessary? Can’t people just read?

I have my laptop, but forgot a book. Guess I’ll try to get some work done. I should have brought some DVDs and headphones. Must remember that next time!

The man across from me is snoring. Maybe I should have brought a pillow.

More later...


Monday, January 08, 2007

Sunday Dinner Update

Well, dinner went fine. After about 3 hours in the kitchen, I came up with a perfectly adequate meal. Better that it looks in this photo, though not as great as I'd hoped.

The Coq Au Vin was good, and the leftovers will probably be even better. I tried a different recipe this time, but I think I like my old recipe a little better. Not sure why that is, I must compare the two side-by-side.

The roasted potatoes were kind of blah. Le big disappointment.

The big surprise was the Braised Fennel. Actually, the store didn't have any fennel, so I substituted anise. It was REALLY good. The hilight of the meal, I must say. These recipes were all from the Williams-Sonoma Savoring France cookbook. We've prepared many good things from that book (like the Boeuf aux Carottes...yummers!), but after last night I am especially enthusiastic about trying more of their vegetable recipes.

If you want the Braised Fennel recipe, let me know. I'm too lazy to type it right now. Gotta get to work anywho...


Sunday, January 07, 2007


Ah, it’s Sunday. The day of rest.

Well…no rest for the wicked. Am I wicked? Well, maybe in the sense that I am super cool. Ha.

No, today I must work. Again. That’s going to be the status quo for a few more months, ‘til I finish my Tokyopop book (see preview art, last post). However, I gotta eat, right? As does the family. So, this afternoon I’m going to do a little cooking. Sometimes it relaxes me too cook something complicated and interesting.

Tonight’s menu:

Coq au Vin

Braised Fennel

And…Roasted Potatoes with Fresh Herbs.

Yes, I’m feeling a little French today. And why not? I am currently penciling the exciting climax of my book, which happens to take place in Paris.

Have a nice Sunday. Eat something yummy!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Another Sneak Peek!

Hey all. Here's some more art from my new Tokyopop book, scheduled to be published in July! The book will be a black & white, Japanese manga-style, 180 page monster called Battle of the Bands! These are the main characters...

...a punk rock band called "Led Salad" and...

...their hapless roadie, Chet.

These color images will probably appear on the book's back cover. I'm pretty jazzed. How 'bout you?


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Tag, I’m it!

Hey, it’s my first blog post for 2007, so first...Happy New Year!

In the final days of 2006, two of my blog-buddies, Marie and Marcus posted an interesting challenge on their blogs. Evidently, someone “tagged” Marie first with the dare to write “Five Things About Herself That Nobody Else Knows.” Afterwards, she was supposed to “tag” five friends to do the same, but always being one to buck convention, she refused to play that part of the game. Marcus decided to tag himself and responded with his own list of five.

I approve of the concept, as it made for some very interesting blog-reading, though I am skeptical that it is really possible. As it happens, I already knew several of Marie’s five “secrets.” I doubt anyone (except the true “International Man of Mystery”) can really come up with 5 things that NOBODY knows about. I’m pretty much an open book. Still, I will try my best. Perhaps I can strive for “Five Things That Nobody Reading This Blog Knows.”

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD! The very nature of this exercise involves getting in there and revealing some intimate personal details about myself. I’m game, but if you wish to keep our internet interaction at a safe, impersonal level, you may want to skip today’s blog entry, and go directly to this post!

Ready? I’ll start with something easy…

1.) In the past decade, I have “changed” the pronunciation of my surname. This is obviously confusing for people who have known me for a while, so let me explain it once and for all. The “correct” pronunciation of BUCCELLATO is “BOO-CHA-LA-TOE.” That’s how they say it in Sicily, and that’s what I say today. However, I grew up saying it differently: “BYOU-SA-LOTTO.” That is why my sometimes-nickname is BUCCE, which rhymes with “juice;” it is a shortened version of the “wrong” pronunciation I grew up with. I’m not sure where “Byou-sa-lotto” came from. That’s how my Dad says it, and I can only assume that’s what he grew up saying. Clearly this is some Americanized bastardization. People always have trouble with the name. Except, of course, in Italy, where people always know how to say it, and even know how to spell it correctly without being told.

In case you’re wondering what Buccellato means, it is the name of a plain, sweet cake. I'll post the recipe sometime. I've said it before: if I were in the Mafia, that would be my mob name: "Stevie Sweet Cakes."

Yep, that joke never gets old...

Anyway, I started using the “correct” pronunciation around the time I met my wife. Maybe 7 years ago. As it happens, my younger brother also changed—before me, I believe. That’s why some people call him “BOOCH,” as opposed to my “BUCCE” (still rhyming with juice). I don’t plan to change my nickname, and that really isn’t my business (one doesn’t give oneself a nickname). Also, I don’t really correct anyone…especially people I’ve known forever. I accept either and all names. “Steve” is easiest.

2.) Friendship ranks as one of the most important things in my life. Definitely in the top three. Sure, anyone can say that, but I really, really mean it. I’ve worked hard at making my friends a top priority in my life. I think the reason is that in the past I have NOT done so.

I grew up in New York City—mostly in Queens— but we moved around a lot. I’ve also lived in all the other boroughs of NYC except Staten Island (I made up for that by living in Jersey City for a bit—JC might as well be another borough). As a result of moving so much, I also changed schools quite a bit, until I reached high school. I had a bad habit of NOT keeping in touch with friends after each move. This behavior continued until I left high school and started working on staff at Marvel Comics. I think that’s when I really became aware of my problem. I’d just “blown off” my high school friends and was hanging out with a great group of people at Marvel—the Assistant Editors. A couple, in particular, had been friends with each other since the 6th grade. Because I was new to their circle, and a year younger, I always felt like somewhat of an outsider, but I really liked these guys—and their extended group of friends—and wanted to be part of the group.

It was then that I consciously decided that I was going to keep this group of friends—for life, if possible. Like anything worthwhile in life, that meant I had to work at it. I’m happy to say that I am still good friends with most of those people today.

In my adult life, I’ve always believed that you can’t really choose your friends—Friends choose YOU. I still think that is true, but it isn’t the whole truth. If you value friendship, you need to learn how to pick the right people to be friends with, and pursue them as you would any other goal. I know too many people who pick friends for the wrong reasons—like because they are cool or popular, for example. You may have a good time hanging out with such people, but unless you share a similar value system, this is not a friendship that will endure. I’m talking about REAL friends, by the way. Intimates that you can stay friends with for decades, if not for life. No reason you can’t hang out & have fun with people who are cool, popular & exciting…just beware of mistaking that for true friendship.

Excuse me while I step off this soapbox…

Here’s the good stuff…

3.) I am a really good kisser! Or so I have been told, by those who would have an opinion on such things! No, really, it’s been an almost universal compliment from those I’ve kissed. Or, should I way, those lucky few…? Heh, heh.


Where did I learn this important talent? Well, I credit an old girlfriend of my brother Jack. I have no idea what her name was. I must have been about ten years old at the time. I remember absolutely nothing about this girl, except that she “taught” me how to “French kiss” one day, just for kicks! Maybe the credit is undeserved. Maybe she was a lousy kisser. Still, she was the first, and I’ll always be grateful! ;)

4.) I’ve always had many girls as friends, and I’ve almost always fallen in love/lust/obsession with them.

Since I’m getting all candid and introspective here, I will have to say that I credit this behavior to the fact that I come from divorced parents. I grew up very close to my mother and without a father figure at home. In my case, repercussions were as follows: Growing up I was, on one hand, comfortable with girls/women (as friends). On the other hand, I was utterly clueless about what to do with them. After all, I had no clear example of what a healthy relationship looked like. I think that because my mother raised me, I was able to relate to girls in that way that made me the “sweet, harmless guy” they liked to hang out with, but never date. Plus, I was small, shy and mousy. Petrified, really. If they only knew about the “Great Kisser” thing…

I can’t remember all of the girl “friends” I’ve had crushes on, but I remember many of them. Even back in the second grade…the first girl I remember liking…Janice. Elementary school is a blur. In Junior high, I was into Fiona, then, I became infatuated with Zoe, and then downright obsessed with Jody. She was the first pure example of what became my M.O. through high school and beyond. Actually, she was a little different from most because we were good friends in 8th grade. Some of my other “obsessions” were based more on fantasy. It took a while before I had a girlfriend who actually reciprocated my feelings (more or less!)

As I think about it, I realize that I was well into my twenties before I had a relationship where I felt confident to be myself (yes, she too was a “friend” before becoming a “girlfriend,” or whatever term you want to use—she hated that term!). But it wasn’t until my thirties that I really got a handle on WHO I AM. That made all the difference, and put me in a position where I was ready to meet & marry the right woman.

Up until that point there were many women that I fell for in different degrees. A few reciprocated, most didn’t. Almost all of them were my friends first and some still are. At this point, the ones who are still my friends are mostly married themselves. Keeping a friendship alive with a single woman is a difficult or impossible feat a married man. It’s a bad idea, in any case. As you know from my confession above, friendship is a big deal for me—but, so is marriage. Generally speaking, it’s asking for trouble to hang around with single people of the opposite sex when you’re married. As a result, many of these relationships have faded or disappeared…but the good ones are fondly remembered, and all of them helped make me who I am today. Whatever that means.

5.) I have cold knees. How’s that for a little-known fact? Some people have cold feet. I have cold knees. A precious few share that intimate knowledge…until now that is!

Well, that’s it. More than you wanted to know. Ahhh, the internet—it’s like a grand, glorious rubbish heap filled with the refuse of all that was once private and sacrosanct in human discourse. I feel cleansed, having dumped all this upon you, dear reader. Thanks!

Next time, I promise to blog about something more inane…until then...

…Oh yeah…consider yourself TAGGED…MwaHaHa!!

PS: I wrote this in the middle of the night and I'm afraid this post is both rambling and unclear in places. Need any clarification on what the hell I'm talking about? Please ask--I'll try to figure out what I mean! At least let me know if I'm embarassing myself too much! ;)