Unlock Achievement: Launch Web Comic!

My comic Furry Widdle Bunny launched today! I’ve been building up to this for a while, and it feels pretty gosh-dang good to finally throw it up on the web for all to see!

Er. Phrasing.

The artist toots his horn.

The artist toots his horn.

Anyway, I’ve been tooting my own horn all day over it, chiefly so I don’t think about all of the work ahead of me. There are enough strips in the queue to get through November, and I’d like to keep a roughly 2-month stockpile to ensure that I keep this going!


Kickstart a Nightmare!


My friend and sometime collaborator, Rafer Roberts, has been quietly producing the most delightfully disturbing comic strip I’ve ever read. “Nightmare the Rat” follows the escapades of the title scamp as he pilfers the choppers of the slumbering citizens of Hell City. And illegal tooth extraction is the least perverse thing in the series.

See for yourself!

Now Rafer’s running a Kickstarter to collect these strips for publication in the Hell City newspaper. There are, of course, some cool rewards, so please check out his campaign!

Kick that delightful scamp!

Hopping Down the Furry Widdle Bunny Trail

I’ve been working in (open) secrecy for nearly a month on a project. It’s been years since I last did a Furry Widdle Bunny comic and nearly a decade since I drew a comic strip! I’ve decided to restart it as a weekly 3-panel strip starting in October!

Now, by “restart”, I mean quite plainly to start over, as though none of the strips or associated comics ever happened. The same characters will be reintroduced, and in time the situations will all be restored, but I wanted to take the opportunity to start it all from scratch as a semi-linear narrative. If all goes as planned, the earlier stuff should still fit into the timeline as extras. Well, the strips and “Furry Widdle Bunny” 1, at any rate. The “New Corporate Policy” issues were always a bit in their own weird space.

I feel like there are maybe two people who remember what I’m talking about, here…

Anyway, the new strip is going to be in color, so one of my pre-production steps is to make color guides. I’ve started, of course, with Simon.

Simon looks very weird to me in color, yet.

Simon looks very weird to me in color, yet.

I’m probably not going to talk overmuch about it here. There will be a new site launched to host the strip, and I’ll provide a link when it’s up. I just thought I’d share this because I’m all excited. 🙂

If you are interested in seeing more info about the process of getting the new strip up and running, I’ll be posting updates to Hula Cat Comics.

Our Traveler Returns from SPACE

It’s been several years since I last sold comics at a convention, but this month found me once again behind the table. The Plastic Farm table, to be precise, at the Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo (SPACE) in Columbus, Ohio. Plastic Farm is an ongoing series chronicling the deepening insanity of a man who can alter reality, and it’s the brainchild of Rafer Roberts.

The reason I was at Rafer’s table is that he had drawn the comic I was there to sell, Wild Women of the Kitty-Kat Galaxy. Rafer graciously agreed to help me ease back into the game, and I found it very calming to talk comics with him during the slow periods of the show.

Slow periods have always been my 2nd biggest fear about conventions. When left with my own thoughts, I tend to become overwhelmed with doubts and depression. This in turn keeps costumers away and leaves me in the abusive grip of my brain.

There were stretches of time where I was alone at the table; what’s the point of being surrounded by indie creators and not checking out their work? Having several years of perspective behind me, I realized that I could beat my bad brain. Low traffic means only less opportunity, and I let that get to me I can miss those people who do come within range. Like a trap-door spider, I just need to be patient until prey presents itself.

But less killy-eaty than that.

Besides, I found that I had missed the camaraderie of like-minded story-tellers. Everything from mini-comics to graphic novels were on display, ranging in narrative structure from image-dreams to biographies to continuing adventures. It’s like stepping into the fire bath of She-who-must-be-obeyed; it makes you immortal, or it returns you to your actual age.

On second thought, it’s more like something else. Go ahead and pretend I had a clever allusion for getting a power-up.

My biggest fear about conventions, by the way, is being trapped by a skeevy fellow describing his liberated, nearly-naked heroine to me in excruciating (and panting) detail. This happens, though thankfully not so often at small press shows.

So, it looks like I’ll be going back next year. Maybe I’ll even have another new comic!

True Crime: From Comics to Cable

I’ve been reading collections of an old comic called Crime Does Not Pay. Started during WWII (as evidenced by the many ads for war bonds) with issue 22 — renaming existing series was a common trick to avoid postal registration fees — the series presaged the post-war rise of noir and horror. Nominally reinforcing morality by demonstrating the folly of crime, the stories rely on the morbid attractions of blood and violence.

Being a big fan of noir and horror, this appeals to me on a visceral level.

On a seemingly unrelated note, I’ve used much of this year’s sick day coverage already. This adds up to several days spent sleeping, eating soup, and watching TV. Daytime TV is a close approximation of living death, but I didn’t always have the energy to get up and find another movie to pop in.

Fortunately we have Netflix streaming, so all manner of entertainments are available to me from the remote comfort of my couch. Alas, illness makes me astonishingly forgetful. I wound up leaving the TV on ID, Discovery’s crime channel.

Watching, and napping through, umpteen hours of shows about real murders and rapes made it inevitable that a few dots would connect in my dulled brain. This has undoubtedly been mentioned long ago by those far more clever than I, but true crime shows are the modern incarnation of crime and suspense anthology comics.

Now, crime has always been a staple of TV, and it’s hard to remember a time when you couldn’t find an episode of “Law & Order: What-Have-You” on one of a handful of channels at any time of the day. I’m not talking about cop shows, or lawyer shows, or even outlaw shows. Reality shows that follow investigations aren’t it either. I’m specifically talking about the shows that present real cases in as sleazy and lurid a manner as possible. Shows with names that scream panic and prurience: “Nightmare Next Door”, “Deadly Sins”, and “Pretty Bad Girls” to name but three.

All of these go beyond their stated objectives of imparting facts. They insinuate, they tantalize, and they exult in tragedy. “Nightmare Next Door”, which happens to be on while I write this, has a narrator that puns and mocks his way through each story. He might as well be Mr. Crime, the evil spirit that began serving as a narrator in Crime Does Not Pay with issue 24. Sultry music cues are not uncommon in these shows, and many re-enactment shots play up the sexual attributes of “bad girls”. “Scorned: Love Kills” plays up the prurient interest with lots of re-enacted sex, complete with overdubbed moans and sighs.

They aren’t concerned with telling a good story or presenting a detailed account. They want to grab your attention, tie it to a chair, and hold it as ransom to get ad revenue. They’re cynical crap, serving up a world of constant crime and inevitable punishment to keep us excited.

I could only love them more if they were comics.

5 Marriage Tips That You Can Really Use!

Wendi and I have been married for nineteen years. If we were an agency or consultancy of some sort, we could claim 38 years of marriage experience between us. Sounds impressive put that way. “Put our 38 years of marital experience to work for you!”

(Note to self: look into monetization of marriage.)

From my vast stores of lessons learned, I offer the following relationship advice.

1. Money matters when you don’t have any

Living check to check creates stress that can spark arguments when your desires conflict with those of your partner. A purely hypothetical example that totally happened: I wanted $100 worth of comics each week, and Wendi wanted to eat. With limited income, something had to give.

Fortunately, we can afford food again.

2. Unite against a common enemy

It’s human nature to unite against whoever is winning. Adding a willful and uncontrollable being to the family can give the two of you something to oppose together. A cat or a particularly spastic dog is the ideal marital companion, providing an unceasing stream of objectionable behavior that you have to find some way to jointly foil and suppress.

Do not attempt to use children for this purpose. They’re cunning enough to turn the tables on you, and if treated with hostility they may grow up and write essays about what a jerk you are.

3. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Does your honey have a turn of phrase that drives you crazy? Does your baby have an inexplicable fondness for a certain singer whose voice drags nails on the chalkboard of your mind? Let it go. If you can’t handle those things, you’ll never survive issues like unemployment and Japanese schoolgirl figurines.

4. Your face is less important than your relationship

You’ve done something stupid. You were wrong. You made a mistake. Your instinct is to save face in front of your partner so they’ll see you as the perfect being you think they think you are.

Well, you’re not perfect. Everybody already knows it, especially the ones who live with you. Admitting to errors builds trust both ways and brings you closer together.

Of course if your mistake involves getting closer to another partner, I would humbly suggest your face is beyond the power of plastic surgery to repair.

5. Zombies

Wendi has learned to accept seeing a zombie movie every now and again. She even enjoys them on occasion. This is the ultimate secret of our marriage. It’s sympathetic magic; just as zombies are hard to kill, so is our marriage.

Just ignore the shambling, rotting horror stuff. The analogy sort of falls to pieces there. So to speak.

The actual importance of this lesson is that it’s clearly so personal that it’s utterly useless as general advice. This is the internet. It’s not much like a series of tubes, but it’s a lot like millions of people sharing their thoughts without anything like facts or research. If you’re seriously expecting to find useful advice on the net about a topic with any degree of subjectivity, you’re going to be quickly surrounded by zombies.

Comic Recon

Lately I’ve been mulling over plans to publish comics electronically. Truthfully there’s more urgency than that implies, as I’ve already received pages from the artist and passed them on for coloring. What I’m thinking about is which of several other projects to start next and, more importantly, how to market an e-only work on the convention circuit.

The Motor City Comic Con in Novi was held the other weekend. I decided to go to see if there was anybody dealing with digital content yet. Also I wanted to pick up a sketch I’d commissioned from Andy Bennett, who Wendi and I had met the last time we’d made comics. Wanting that sketch (and not wanting to stiff Andy) helped me to fight off the many reasons my brain concocted for not driving an hour to subject myself to a large mass of humanity.

It’s a really good thing I had that sketch as a carrot, because it took about a half an hour to finally score a parking spot. There were secret lots accessible along the edges, lots where cars floated tightly together on waves of loose gravel. Even those self-organized spaces had no room for my little Ion. Finally I took to circling a few lanes, a climate-controlled vulture waiting for a tasty spot to open up. I’m going to leave this part of my adventure there and hope that you didn’t catch how miserably that metaphor turned out.

The process of getting into the convention baffled me, but it consisted mainly of inching slowly back and forth in the winding line. We were all handed forms to fill out in order to gain admittance. Twenty minutes later I reached the table where dull golf pencils were available for use. I could have saved precious seconds by asking the people near me if I could borrow their pens but, and I cannot stress this enough, that would have required speaking to them. I don’t know what they would have said other than variants of ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but my brain said not to take the chance. I needed to save my social risks for the convention floor.

This, by the way, is why I’ve always been a lousy salesman. I don’t want to bother or annoy people. But a convention is a marketplace, and you’ve got to put yourself out there. A lot of people are just passing you to get somewhere else, so you can’t expect them to come to you. You’ve got to draw them in. I’m not sure how well I can do that given my general levels of anxiety, but being confident in my product and lures would make it at least imaginable.

Eventually I reached a desk, and I tried to hand them my registration form. The clerk gave me an exasperated look and told me that this was the line for buying tickets. I’d need to take the ticket and the form to go trade for a wristband. It was starting to feel like a game quest. Acquire the form and the ticket, then turn them in to your contact to receive the Wristband of Ingress. Not an exciting quest, but you have to start with the boilerplate missions to get used to the controls.

After equipping my newly acquired magic item, I went to find Nichelle Nichols. I’m a big fan of the original Enterprise crew, and even as a kid watching reruns in the 1970s I knew that Lt. Uhura’s presence on the bridge was revolutionary. I wanted to go meet her and tell her how that helped shape my views on racial and gender equality, even if the writers mostly confined her to the line “Hailing frequencies are open, Captain.” Sadly, I had to put my embarrassing confession on hold; she was off at an arranged photo-op. I’d have to check back later.

There were a few other celebs on my optional mission list, but I made a beeline through their section of the convention for the artists. The server was already pretty full, and most areas of the map were experiencing some intense lagging. (Translation for non-MMORPG players: it was really crowded and hard to keep up with all the activity.) I wanted my sketch in hand before I became completely enwiggenated and had to flee.

I pulled up short when I saw Tom Savini. If you like George Romero and/or zombies you know him as an effects creator and some-time actor. He’s a nice guy and really approachable, which is important for an anxiety-riddled me. Tim and I had seen him at Drive-In Super Monster-Rama last year, so I asked Savini if he’d be attending this year as well. After confirming that we were talking about the same film festival, he said he would. We agreed it was a pretty good set of movies.

Sharing a tiny geek-out with a man whose work I admire added bonuses to my panic control. I rolled up my signed “Grindhouse” poster and stuck it in my satchel. Any creases or wrinkles would only add to the feel of the poster. Then I plunged into the thicker crowds that milled throughout the creators section of the con.

Fortunately, Andy was pretty easy to find. As usual his table was next to that of his friend and fellow-artist, Dave Aikins. Dave was nowhere to be seen, but I figured I’d catch up with him later. I picked up my sketch (Boris Karloff as Ardeth Bey) and a copy of the anthology book “lifelike” from Andy, and we caught up. The venue had changed since my last attendance, and it seemed to have resulted in better foot traffic for the independent artists. In other words, the show was going well for him.

illo of Ardeth Bey

The face that launched my tiny Ion.

Remember my reason for attending the convention? Not the sketch, the other one. I wanted to gather ideas for marketing e-comics. Well, from Andy I learned that convention sketches are a big part of sales. That’s not immediately applicable, but it got me thinking that the lure of sketches could bring folks into range. Hanging around waiting for the sketch, all that reading material right before them… At worst, it would help defray the cost of the table. Plus nothing attracts customers like other customers.

Having added the sketch to my inventory, I was now free to leave at any time. This emboldened me, so I pursued a secondary objective. One of my friends from an RPG convention we used to attend had a booth at the show. Ian Ng writes “Omega Paradox”, published by Moonstone, and he was here with artist Mark Sparacio. They had four issues with them (well, three — it’s complicated) and assorted posters of Mark’s artwork. After introductions and brief reminiscing, Ian and I talked about the business while Mark critiqued an art portfolio.

Ian stressed the importance of the posters for bringing customers in for the pitch. I filed this away with sketches as another useful lure, but I was after ideas for what came next — showing off non-physical content to best effect. The importance of having a book came up. It tangibly demonstrates a body of work and is easier to shelf than a magazine. I reflected on Andy’s suggestion of print-on-demand, an option I’d hoped to avoid. It might be a nice (albeit low-profit) additional offering to my mainly online business model, and it would provide something to show and sell at conventions.

By this time, Nichelle Nichols was supposed to be back from the photo-op, so I wandered back to the celebrity booths. Happily, she was in fact there. I’m not noted for being quiet, but she had trouble hearing me over the general noise of the convention. I settled for getting an autograph, and spared us both the embarrassment of shouting my admiration over the din.

Lieutenant Uruha

I have nothing witty to say. Nichelle Nichols is awesome.

By now, my protection was beginning to fade. I decided to see if Dave Aikins had made it back to his table. He had, but there was a small crowd around him. Dave is almost custom-made for young parents, a growing part of comic con culture. As parents they like his work with Nickelodeon properties such as SpongeBob Squareparts, but as young adults they like his gruesome zombie art. He’s kind of like Frosted Mini-Wheats. Or a serial killer.

I didn’t want to intrude on business just to say howdy, so I circled the creator tables looking at artwork and displays until Dave’s customers thinned out. While taking everything in, I caught sight of a cool poster. It took the tired kitten-on-a-branch “Hang in there” concept and turned it into a gorgeous drawing. A mixture of sketch-like reality and precise abstraction, the piece caught my eye and reeled me in to the artist’s table.

Her name is Sara Richard, and her portfolio showed a wide range of skillfully evoked moods. She said it was her first time at the show and that it was going well for her. I compared notes about my previous life behind the guest tables, and I was glad to hear how much better it was for a newcomer now. Finally I settled on a print of two foxes that had a nice sense of attachment and longing about it. As she put it into a protective sheet for me, Sara revealed that it had been drawn for her boyfriend and the foxes represented the two of them. Art really does speak beyond the reach of words.

I wondered if I had anything that powerful to show. A lot of artists were relying on customers to be brought in by posters that prominently featured gravity-defying breasts, but Sara Richard was drawing attention for a skillful rendering of a familiar meme. It reminded me that a visual hook needn’t have anything much to do with my actual product. Cultural recognition can serve as a bridge to your own work.

The throng around Dave Aikins had cleared by then, so I hastened back to his table. He confirmed the general sense of it being a good convention and joined Andy in urging me to start exhibiting again. As Andy put it, “The world needs more comics.” As Dave starting loudly insulting comics (“Yeah, you heard me! Comics suck!”), I knew I’d have to find a way back behind an exhibitor table.

I don’t know yet when that will happen, or how I’ll display what wares, but I know this much: I’ll feel a lot better with a table between me and that crowd.