Comic creator. Painter. Kaiju enthusiast. Nudist. Pan. He/him. 

Become a Patron!


The leaves are turning, the temperature's dropping, the sun is slipping into a gray sky, my bones are beginning to ache. It's October.

Which means I'm once more taking part in the Bill Counts October Game. Or Inktober. Or Artober. Whatever you want to call it: a new piece of art every day of the month. But I've chosen a different direction this year. I made a big list of friends who I wanted to draw, then slowly and somewhat painfully cut that list from close to fifty down to thirty one. Well, more than that, because I'm drawing a handful of couples, too.
So each day, I'm picking a friend and drawing them. When I post that drawing on Facebook, I tag them, and try to write about who they are, what our relationship is, and what they mean to me. Here's the album, if you're curious to see me struggling to express these things that I'm not used to expressing.

It's also such a weird shift in direction for me. On the one hand, outside of these circles of friends on Facebook, there's not a lot of appeal to what I'm doing. I'm not trying to do stuff that would get people's attention like previous years. It feels strange, focusing on actually drawing these people I know, not turning them into mutants, not drawing monsters and surreal stuff, but trying to capture all these different likenesses and trying to distill their personalities into the drawings. It's more challenging than I expected, and it's made me recognize a lot of my limitations as an artist. I wasn't really looking to test myself much, but that's what's happening.
It's been a rough year, and it seems so many people I know are pretty down in the dumps, and a lot of what I see in my social media feeds is depressing. This is my attempt at countering that, however small or feeble it may be. Part of an ongoing goal of just trying to be a better, kinder person, I guess.

Beyond that, the Bristol Bizarre folks have a new show coming up at the Hideaway in Johnson City, called La Petite Mort. I'm going to be a part of that, and I've been cranking out a few new pieces here and there to try and sell. The primary, surprisingly enjoyable thing I've been doing is drawing a series of little skull studies:
Like, seriously, if I were to just drop everything else and focus solely on drawing (and maybe painting) skulls, become the Skull Guy or whatever? That'd be alright. They're a lot of fun to do.

I'm also doing some larger figure drawings for it:
The show will be on the 22nd. Hope to see you there.

Three comic projects are progressing slowly, but nicely. The other two are on the backburner because, guys, trying to work on five separate comic projects at once is stupid and you shouldn't do it. Seriously.

FRAG is also having another holiday show in early December. I'll have more on that as we get closer to the date.

So much for slowing down after Rhythm and Roots, I guess. I can't be too upset though.

What is ordinary?

I haven't written here in a while, and, well, it's because a lot has been going on. I had to look back through my calendar and write some notes on an index card to get a straight track of everything I've been involved with since July...

 First off: We held our second figure drawing get together on July 3rd. It had a loose Patriotic theme to it. I wore American flag and star stickers when I posed, and provided red, white, and blue leis for everyone.
 At the end of July was Rob-Con! That Saturday I sold an original, the cover to one of the chapters of Other Sleep, which is a remarkable first, and I continued to sell lots of things after that, including a bunch of Pokemon sketch cards that I made. Another first: I ate a funnel cake burrito. It's...pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Sunday was muuuuuuuch slower, and it occurred to me that, even though it was the first con that I had copies of All of This Will Crumble at, no one bought any. I sold very few comics, in fact. Which isn't really new, I think I've written about that before, but it was mildly disappointing. I did get commissioned to draw Donald Trump in a fist fight with Josef Stalin, at least. That was fun.

The very next weekend, I went to a meeting of the FRAG group that I had the Christmas show with last year. Our host hired a model and we did some figure drawing. For a number of folks there, it was their first time doing any such thing, and seeing the wide variety of drawings everyone cranked out was great. Here's a favorite that I did:
Things get blurry after this.

At some point, All of This Will Crumble went up on ComiXology, which led to a few orders for physical copies on my Big Cartel page! The day it went up, I received an email within hours from someone who bought it on a whim and enjoyed it, and I got some other good feedback not long after. I felt invincible that day, and hope it continues to find an audience. 

I started working hard on one of the, um, multiple comic projects I've got going. I can't show anything yet, really, but I penciled the first 11 pages at a killer pace, including my first two page spread that I'm really excited about. 10 of those pages are inked, and one of those is fully colored. I think once this batch is totally finished, we'll be ready to announce it, so not much longer.

A really talented painter friend of mine, Maudlyn Claire, popped up after I gushed about one of her self portraits and asked if I'd be willing to do some collaborative work with her. I flipped out and within a few days drew a bunch of stuff, which I mailed off to her. She's painting over my inks mostly, but I sent her some pencil drawings to play with, too. The results are looking fantastic:
The plan is, at some point, to do a little comic together. I'm on the cusp of having a solid idea nailed down. That's, um, one of the OTHER four comic projects that are in various stages of development, and the third one that's a collaboration. And each collaboration is wildly different, which is just awesome after so many years of working all by myself.

The second annual Johnson City Zine Fest was on August 20th, and I was so happy to be a part of it. I did fairly well, and picked up quite a stack of zines from other incredible people. I wasn't sure what to expect, so I decided to just push my books and a few of my prints, nothing else. I sold enough copies of All of This Will Crumble that I'm going to have to get it reprinted soon, which is nice. I'm almost sold out of Cannonball Fist and Shouting at the Void, too!

Things got weirder when my girlfriend's mom turned up at work with a mannequin that she bought me. Her name is Beatrice Rose and I have no idea what I'm going to do with her yet, but she sits by the window to creep out people that pass by. I don't know, I think I may try to turn her into a kaiju?
Speaking of mannequins, I finished a shirt design for my brother's band. I'm not sure I can show that yet, though. Sorry.

Anyways, I held another figure drawing thing, this time in my own apartment, with a new model!
I really love figure drawing, you guys. I can't properly articulate how happy I am that I'm doing it on a semi regular basis now. It's really one of this year's big highlights. Modeling is getting easier for me, too, especially when the group is cool with me playing some Akira Ifukube scores to Godzilla movies and posing like a kaiju.

Here's another drawing I'm pleased with, when another model picked up on those kaiju vibes. I stood up on a chair to draw this one:
Finally, I'm in another show at the William King Museum of Art, called the Cherry Bounce Show. More than 50 Appalachian artists are involved, each one given a specific Presidential campaign to react to. It's a mad, brilliant idea, and I wasn't a part of it at all, at first. One of the artists dropped out, the show's guest curator saw a mutant portrait I did of a friend who works at the museum, and so they called me up, two days before the show, asking if I could fill in and do a piece reacting to the 1988 election of Bush Vs Dukakis. How could I say no?

...I don't have a decent picture of what I did, which is basically a painting of George Bush's head looming over the mountains and a burning tank. Look, the show is up through January, and the museum has some other really cool shows going on right now too, so you should just go and check it out.

But seriously, you guys. It's a killer assortment of artists in that show, and I feel like I somehow pulled off a con in getting to be a part of it. I was afraid my painting wouldn't fit in. It does, better than I expected, but I'm still not 100% convinced I belong among so much talent. I freaked out...quite a bit over it, and it was a very stressful two days of work and I spent most of my time at the opening reception just trying not to lose it. I was frazzled. It was a great time, though, and we got to go to a great afterparty too.

Today, the 6th, was World Art Drop Day, so I did my bit by dropping off a couple older pieces of mine downtown during my lunchbreak. Here's one of them:
So...yeah...I guess I've been busy. It's been weird. I don't remember what it's like to have an ordinary life anymore.

And I've been invited to set up and sell work at the upcoming Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion with some FRAG folks, too. Which is in two weeks. Need to start preparing for that. Here's a new painting that I put together to try and sell there. I like it a lot, so I'll probably get prints made too:
I'm going to try to take it easy after that, if only for a little bit. I need to get back into practicing self care, because I've just been feeling overwhelmed and frazzled all the time lately.

Oh, Inktober is next month, too. And I already have my idea for that. So there's that.

Okay, that's enough rambling for now. Don't be like me, take care of yourselves.

Back on the other side of the table

Here's a list of the pros and cons of attending a convention as a fan for the first time in years when you're more used to tabling:

-You can go anywhere! Want to run back to your hotel room to drop stuff off? Do it! Want to go find lunch with your girlfriend? Go for it! Want to just meander, aimless and overwhelmed by your surroundings, taking care not to accidentally step on anyone's cape? Have at it!
-If you have friends who are tabling, and are by themselves, you can help them out, watch their things, grab food for them, and make sure they haven't curled up in a ball under their table to weep.
-You actually get to spend time with your girlfriend and go to panels together, plus you can hang out with other friends, especially those who have never been to a con before and are experiencing all of this for the first time!
-You save money and you don't have to stress out over whether or not you'll be able to sell enough to make back what you spent to have a table at a convention where you're surrounded by so many other, better artists! 

-Lines. So many lines. Having a table means getting down to the convention floor early. This year, we had to wait in line every morning to be let in, and it felt like an indignity after being so used to just strolling in.
-All that walking wears you out, especially when carrying a bag filled with things you've bought plus your own minicomic which you brought to the con to give to other creators.
-By day three, your senses will be dulled down to almost nothing. You will feel nothing except for your screaming back and the slow ache of your legs and feet. You will wander the con floor like a zombie, winding up in front of a booth you had no intention of approaching.  

But I really needed this past weekend. Even though I'm still tired, even though I still ache all over. I could've just sat the con out altogether. I already missed ETSUcon, and ACE is no longer happening, so it wouldn't be that big of a deal, but I'm glad I went to experience that thrill of being a fan once more. I got to explore every little bit of the show floor. I got to go to panels! I got to meet Jim Steranko and hear him diss Stan Lee! There was a small arcade section set up, and they had a Judge Dredd pinball machine! JUDGE DREDD PINBALL!!
We helped out our good friend and tyrant Alejandro Bruzzese throughout the weekend, and he was gracious enough to let us leave our things at his table when they became a burden. We also traded art! I drew the two leads from his webcomic Proxy, and in return received this gorgeous weird nude drawing to go on my apartment's steadily growing wall of weird nude art:
I got a couple sketches done in my sci-fi sketchbook. My personal favorite is this super phallic Predator by Enzo Garza, who did a killer minicomic called Gutt Ghost. I really loved meeting him:
Also, I met up with my prolific and multitalented friend Joseph Tenney, who I met at ACE a couple years ago. I did a pinup for one of his minicomics of a cyborg kaiju called MechaDragon. He loved it so much that he made this FANTASTIC little diorama based off of it and gave it to me. It's the coolest thing anyone's done with my work, and the best gift I've received in some time:

Here's the most poignant moment of the whole weekend: the Milkfed Criminal Masterminds panel with Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, and Gabriel Bá and Fabio Moon, had just begun. Kelly Sue stood up and mentioned that at last year's panel, they held a moment of silence for the victims of the Charlston shooting that had happened just prior to the con. This year, we were just a week from the horrible shooting at Pulse in Orlando, so instead of a moment of silence, they wanted to do a brief singalong as a small tribute to the victims. So all of us in the audience stood up, and we all sang a couple verses of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. After we all sat down, Kelly Sue grabbed her mic and said "next year, I don't want there to be ANY OF THIS SHIT."

I had been in a horrid mood all week because of that shooting and the things people were saying about it online, among other things. I'd felt like I was just counting down the days, trying to keep just a few steps ahead of a black cloud trying to envelope me. To be in a room full of people who felt the same way, including some of my favorite people making comics right now, and to share that moment was immense. I felt like I was really a part of something.

And, you know, walking around, meeting artists, looking around at all the cool work people are making and putting out into the world served as a great reminder of how amazing comics are. It was reenergizing, seeing what others are doing can be really inspiring. I definitely think I'll table again next year. I also handed out quite a lot of copies of All of This Will Crumble, and people seemed to really respond to it. I hope only a few copies wound up thrown in the trash.

Speaking of which, I submitted All of This Will Crumble to ComiXology! It was accepted and should be available soon! I've also put it up on my Big Cartel page so you can order a physical copy! I have dumb medical bills to pay and I spent too much money at the con, so maybe consider picking one up?

Next up: more work on the new comic, putting together another figure drawing meeting next weekend, and, well, other stuff!
Take care of yourselves, folks. 

All of this

My new minicomic is finished! It's called All of this will crumble. You can read about the initial writing, designing, and drawing process in this post.
I went with a photo cover using a picture I took on the hike that inspired the book's setting. I'm pleased with how it looks, especially printed on the brown paper that I found and bought.

You'll remember in that last post about it that I penciled the whole thing in under two weeks, and inked and toned the first page immediately after. Well...the rest of the process wasn't that fast. At all. Which should come as no surprise seeing as how that was back in April and we're now into June. Toning was the roughest part, partially because I haven't worked in black and white like this in a long time, and also because it took so long to work out HOW it should be toned. I started off really simple, as shown with the first page in that old post. I realized that wouldn't work by the time I hit page 12 or so. 

Here's how it looks now, after multiple revisions:
That lead I was bragging about? I needed it. I REALLY needed it. I was so mad at myself for how much extra work I had to put into it, for getting cocky and thinking I could blast through the tones in the same way I handled the penciling. There were a number of nights where I just locked myself up and worked.

Here's another page:

It was worth all of that extra effort, I think. I'm just...really happy with it, you guys. I think it looks really good. I'm excited to take a bunch of copies with me to HeroesCon next weekend. 

Oh. And here's a hint at what exactly is causing the end of the world:
I've already got the whole thing folded and stapled. I'm going to submit it to ComiXology soon so that people can pick it up digitally. I really hope it finds an audience.

So what's next, now that this is finished? I'm working on a shirt design right now for my brother's band, an art trade with another artist I befriended on Instagram, and I've got script pages in hand for the next comic project. Plus, as a little side project, I'm looking back at all of the characters I've created since I seriously started making comics in 2010 and drawing them. I'll share all of those in a future post and talk about each one. I want to have a rough overview of what all I've done over the course of these 6 years and get a sense of how my creative process has morphed in that time. And then of course there's that figure drawing group I put together, trying to plan the next meeting for that.

All of which is to say: I'm hard at work again, I'm loving it, and I'm excited to show you all this new stuff. I hope you enjoy it.

On throwing a party and overcoming fears

I have a lot of friends who over the years have worked like crazy to make our sleepy little rural community more interesting with stand-up comedy, punk shows, art shows like February's Bristol Bizarre, and more. I've always admired them, and have always been thrilled when I got to be a part of whatever it was they were putting together. I never thought I had the skills to organize anything like what they do. I'm just pretty sure I couldn't pull it off.

Sometimes I get ideas, though.

There are days where I really miss figure drawing. I mean, yeah, I sketch from photos and stuff all the time, but it isn't the same. Drawing from a live model who's right there in front of you is so different, it engages a different part of your brain. I kept thinking about how I wanted to get back into it, but couldn't come up with any idea how. At least, not any idea that didn't involve going back to take classes at ETSU or anything that doesn't sound awkward when spoken out loud.

But I ended up musing out loud on the internet a couple weeks ago anyways. I mentioned how it'd be neat to have a local group that could meet for figure drawing sessions once or twice a month. Hire a model or two, get some snacks, play some music, and just draw. Rather than being written off, some friends expressed interest in doing such a thing. I talked it through with one of them, realized I had a small, but decent space where we could pull it off, and knew a couple of people who would like to model.

So I put a group together, laid out what I had in mind, and began organizing a figure drawing party. We had the party this past Sunday, not even two weeks after throwing the idea out in the open. Despite having no real idea what I was doing, we pulled it off with great success, and it was a good time!

We started with 1 minute poses and worked our way up from there with a backing soundtrack of Korean hip-hop. This turned out to be a bad decision around the 5-10 minute sketches because it's hard for the model to hold still when they really want to dance. Duly noted!
I primarily worked with a couple brush pens, just straight ink on paper, with the above sketch done with ballpoint gel pens. In the days leading up to the party, I kept thinking about what I wanted to focus on, how I wanted to work. I needed to think more about shading and building the form of the figure, thinking in three dimensions rather than just working in line. However, when things got started, I kind of forgot about all of that and acted on instinct. 

I was so out of practice. I think we all were. There was a lot of laughter and a bit of cursing as we things went on. We moved around a lot and stayed kind of chatty, which is completely unlike how the figure drawing classes I took at ETSU were. I mean, it WASN'T a class, duh. It was just a good environment to be in, I think.

Here's one by my friend KT:
And a couple by Jennifer Culp, of Gamervescent and Make Your Face fame:
And Hannah:
After a little more than an hour, we'd taken a bit of a break and I went to the bathroom. When I came out, someone asked if I was going to model. I felt like everyone was looking at me, but that's not true.

See, I'd said that I would do it if our model needed a break or whatever, but I didn't think that anyone would hold me to it, you know? I mean, I'd never modeled before outside of taking pictures for self portraits!

Sure, yeah, I've wanted to give it a shot for a while now, that's why I offered, but the prospect of doing so terrified me. Okay, that's another reason I wanted to do it, if I'm afraid of something I usually try to face it, but I didn't really feel prepared. And anyway, how DOES one prepare for such a thing? I have no clue.

I went back into the bathroom. I stripped to my underwear. Then I said screw it and took that off, too. Then I realized that I was going to have to step out of the bathroom and into the middle of the room fully nude, so I asked for a robe instead. It was a very fluffy leopard print robe, which, for some reason, gave me a weird boost of confidence.

I wore it around my waist for a couple five minute poses, just to try and take the edge off a little bit and work through my nervousness. Here's a sketch of one of those poses, by KT again:
After that, I changed the music, took a deep breath, and awkwardly dropped the robe, doing two 15 minute poses fully nude. The rush of feelings going through me was insane. I'm pretty sure I was shaking the whole time from some combination of nervousness and the dropped temperature. I'm pretty sure I was sweating, too. I felt, well, extremely vulnerable in a way I don't think I've ever felt before. That all eventually slid away though, and I got a high five when it was all over. Any sense of embarrassment subsided eventually, my discomfort shifting to something more physical: for the first pose I was sitting, but leaning back on my right arm, putting all the weight of my upper body on my wrist and shoulder. I laid down for the second pose, but turned my head without a pillow, which hurt my neck quite a bit. I'll try to remember not to do that the next time.

Here's one of Joe's charcoal sketches of me. Love seeing how he prioritizes form and depth in the way I was meaning to try:
I'm already eager to start planning the next meeting. I couldn't be happier about how well this went, it's hard to believe I managed to arrange such a thing. It isn't as big as stand-up comedy or anything, but I'm proud of this little group I've pieced together and look forward to doing more with them. And yeah, I think I'll be more willing to model again in the future now that I've given it a try and didn't die from it.

For now though, I need to get back to this comic. I'll be writing about that again soon.

Turning the heat up (a bad idea)

So here's what's been happening, more or less:

In March, I started writing a 20 page black and white comic based on a few different cobbled together ideas, jolted into motion by a song by my friend's one man black metal band Twilight Fauna. This song, Crossing the Threshold:

The comic is about a guy hiking up a mountain to witness the end of the world. It's weird and dark and I don't want it to look much like anything else I've drawn before.

My girlfriend and I went on a hike on Easter Sunday. A mile or two in, I realized this trail we were taking up to the Channels Natural Area Reserve was kind of perfect for the comic, and started taking pictures.
 I continued writing and rewriting, then about halfway through the script, started thumbnailing page layouts as well. I looked up how to draw snakes, centipedes, camping backpacks, and other things. I designed the main character:
On April 8th, I started penciling the first page. I finished it on Monday the 11th, then proceeded to pencil FOUR MORE PAGES that day.

Mountains Crumble is a partial title. It'll probably have a photo cover. We'll see.

The goal I set for myself was to have it penciled by the end of the month, so I was off to a good start. I spent the next day revising those pages, redrawing big chunks of pages 3 and 4, then continued. By the end of the week, I had another nine pages, bringing the total to fourteen. So...13 pages drawn in a week. I felt like I was in beast mode, I was unstoppable!

The following Monday, I penciled the final six pages. Yeah. Six pages. In one day. Holy crap. After a conversation with Jennifer Culp of Make Your Face about how we take care of ourselves when we push ourselves hard, I followed her advice and picked up a lacrosse ball that evening to massage my arm a bit. Tuesday and Wednesday were spent revising the pages again, plus lettering the whole thing by hand.
Inking began after that, and I finished the first page on Thursday, scanned it, and toned it as well (with some sagely help from the great Gregory Dickens) that night. Here it is:

So...yeah. Penciled and lettered, with the first page fully inked and toned, all in less than two weeks.

I guess I really missed making comics, what can I say?

On Saturday morning, I woke up with a horrendous pain on my left side. My whole arm had this dull, sore feeling all through it, with the worst pain being in my armpit, wrapping around my shoulderblade and pectoral muscle. I've never felt something quite that bad before, and I used to ice my wrist from working too much on Other Sleep some years back.

I uh, had been neglecting those lacrosse ball massages, and I hadn't done any yoga all week either. After all that frantic work penciling and lettering, not taking any breaks before inking meticulously in an unfamiliar style, I was paying for it. Ow.

Saturday was devoted to laziness and watching violent anime from the 80's and 90's. Yesterday, Sunday, I was feeling much better, got some yoga in and did a sketch of the new Godzilla design:
My birthday is this Friday. I'm celebrating with some friends Tuesday after work. Saturday and Sunday is Shikacon, which I'm a guest at, and which I'm prepping for. On Monday I go to Knoxville, to see a doctor at UT who will examine my jaw because that nasty big cyst they removed a few years ago may be returning. Ugh. Then Saturday, May 7th is Free Comic Book Day, and I'll be set up at Mountain Empire Comics as always.

All things considered, I should be taking it easy this week. My deadline for the comic is June, so I can give out copies at HeroesCon. I'm already WAY ahead of schedule. I should just watch more anime, play more Dark Souls 3, and give my arm more time to recover. I should be taking better care of myself.

Fingers crossed. Don't be an idiot like me: take breaks, take care of yourself. If you come to Shikacon, feel free to mock me.

Warming up

First thing's first: I'm going to be a guest once again at this year's Shikacon here in Bristol! Mark your calendars, it's April 30th and May 1st. Just days after my birthday. COME BUY THINGS FROM ME WHEN IT HAPPENS.

I'm going to work on a bunch of anime and videogame pieces to try and sell at it. Which is convenient, because I've been watching a lot of anime lately. Here's a print I'm going to be selling there, of Eva Unit 01 from Neon Genesis Evangelion:
This one's rather special, because it's the first completed piece I've done with my new Yiynova tablet. Did I mention I bought that with my tax return money last month? Because I did. It's the go-to cheap alternative to a Cintiq, the dang thing took hours to set up and I'm still struggling when it comes to actually drawing on it, but it's pretty great. I don't think I've ever done anything quite like this Eva piece, have I? Hopefully things will just get better from here.

Here's a sketch of John Boyega that I did when I first set it up:
I have to take a pretty different approach when I use it as compared to ink on paper. Such a different feel. Not to mention endlessly fiddling with brush settings in Photoshop. But as I improve over time, fingers crossed, things will be quicker.

I finished that 4 page comic about my relationship with kaiju movies over the course of my life:
 You can read the whole thing here on Tumblr or here on DeviantART. TELL YOUR FRIENDS!

Things really are warming up. The weather, definitely. I'm now writing two different comic scripts, one of which is for a sequel to a previous comic of mine. The other is for a black and white minicomic that I'll hopefully put out in time for Heroes Con in June. My goal is to draw it completely digitally to really get a feel for the Yiynova. There's a third comic being written for me to illustrate that I'm excited for. I'm excited to be getting back into drawing comics, but I've got to continue to be mindful. I don't want to burn out like I did last year...

Oh, and the weekly kaiju sketches continue, though low energy and depression are no longer things I've had to fight lately thanks to...a number of things, really. Here's a psychedelic Hedorah from a couple weeks back that I'm REALLY happy with:
Facebook reminded me that six years ago I created Ezra Neuro, whose comic became the first short in Burst Reach #1, my first serious self-publishing attempt. So I drew her again:
The H on her chest is the symbol for the Heavy Machine Gun in Metal Slug.

Here are two other Evangelion pieces I've done for the con, which I'm hoping someone will buy:
There's more in my portfolio, but we'll leave it at that for now. Take care of yourselves, okay? See you next time.

Trying to warm up

I haven't written a blog post this year, have I? Let's fix that. A quick recap of how I’ve spent 2016 so far:

At 3am on December 31st we got up and started driving to Florida. I had the best tacos in my whole life at a little place in St. Augustine later that day before meeting up with a group of friends, several of whom I hadn‘t seen in a long time. January 1st was spent in a swimming pool. The next day I got to see a really great friend of mine marry an awesome girl. After that we parted ways and went on to stay with one of my girlfriend’s aunts in DeLand. We went to Blue Spring State Park and saw a bunch of manatees, then spent two days in Disney World, visiting the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.

The trip feels like it changed something deep down inside of me, like I’ve been permanently altered in some small way that I can’t quite place.

I’m now viewing the world through a weird Disney filter, which may very well last all year. I’m more aware of the man and his studio’s influence over the rest of the world. I watched Robot Carnival, which I had gotten for Christmas, and was dumbfounded to realize that one of the movie’s segments, Starlight Angel, is set in a theme park based on the Magic Kingdom, including Cinderella’s castle, the Electric Light Parade, and Space Mountain. The final segment, Chicken Man and Red Neck, was a tribute to Fantasia’s Night on Bald Mountain. I also started playing the Witness on the PS4 (up until I got fed up with the disc drive constantly ejecting and decided to send it off to be serviced), and I have this idea that the island the game is set on is actually an abandoned, unfinished theme park of some sort. I’m even more fascinated with animatronics than I was before. If you’re into animatronics, Disney is really the place to be.

We got back from Florida in time for an absurdly sharp drop in temperature followed not long after by a big snowstorm. Depression set in, and exhaustion from the trip slipped into an overall lack of energy that I blame on the weather and isolation, among other things.

I discovered that having a 2-year-old nephew makes me oversensitive to anything involving child endangerment, even if it’s something like an episode of Ultraman. I don’t know, maybe those two days at Disney pushed that a little bit, too. I screwed myself up pretty badly by one day reading a Wikipedia article about a toddler who was kidnapped from a mall and murdered by two ten year old boys in England, and the details of it stuck with me and made sleep difficult for a handful of nights. A two year old went missing on a hike with his grandparents in Tennessee just as that big snowstorm hit, the local news was all over it. When I read that they found his body five days later I dropped everything and sobbed for a while, and had to stay off of Facebook because people kept posting about it. Even watching Shogun Assassin again more recently bugged me at how frequently Daigoro’s life was in jeopardy. It’s ridiculous and I don’t know what to do about it.

I’ve been working on my first comic since last summer, a small four-pager about my relationship with kaiju movies throughout life. It’s taking far longer than it should, but I’m trying not to let that get to me. Slowly easing my way back into making sequential art. Other stuff is in the works too.

Spurred by a Zyuranger marathon that Shout Factory TV hosted one Saturday, I’ve been watching random episodes from various Ultraman shows available on their service and on Crunchy Roll. Nine shows total, ten if you want to count the precursor, Ultra Q. So far? Ultraman Max is my favorite, especially with the involvement of Shusuke Kaneko and getting Takashi Miike to direct a couple episodes. Ultraman Nexus is the biggest disappointment, all the color and charm sucked out of it to try and gear it towards an older crowd, with laborious pacing, empty characters, and overly relying on crappy CG. It’s like a bad anime.

To keep myself occupied during those periods where I have no energy, I’ve been doing fan art of various Ultra Kaiju. Here’s the most recent one:
The rest are in this year’s portfolio if you want to see them.

On top of sending in my PS4 for service, I’ve returned two pairs of shoes and three shirts. Maybe four, I forget. Trying to update your wardrobe without any real sense of where to go with it, while also realizing that you’ve gained a noticeable amount of weight for what feels like the first time since high school…it can be a bit difficult.

I waited too long to apply for a table at ETSUcon, so this is the first year I’m missing it, but I‘m not really all that bothered by it. I may still go one day, my friend Hunter is doing a panel on Disney stuff and he’s a hilarious guy. I WILL be setting up for a local art thing called the Bristol Bizarre, though, so it’s not a total loss. Aside from Rob-Con this summer and maybe ACE, I don’t really plan on tabling at any other conventions. We’re just going to go to HeroesCon as fans, and I’ll hopefully have a minicomic cranked out in time to take with me and hand out down there. What that minicomic may be, I’m not sure, but I've got some ideas.

There’s more. There always is, but this post has gone on long enough. Hopefully the rest of the year won’t be quite so lethargic and unproductive and I'll start kicking ass again once it warms up. Take care of yourselves!

Favorite things of 2015

The year is almost over, and so it's time to drum up an obligatory list of the movies, videogames, music, and comics that I liked most in 2015. Apologies if this seems a little rushed, but I'm leaving for Florida TONIGHT, so things are kind of hectic.


Mad Max: Fury Road
You’ve probably already seen this on everyone else’s list, with good reason. I don’t know what to say about it that others haven’t already said. This movie is so good that watching it makes me forget what else I’ve seen this year, and I mean that. I seriously forgot I saw Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man until someone asked what I thought about them because of this movie.
It Follows
The majority of this movie is so much like actual nightmares I’ve frequently had. The score by Disasterpiece, the concept, and the cinematography all evoked some primal fear that keeps me nervous and anxious while I’m watching it, following me long after it's over. It’s pretty much how I’d want an Other Sleep movie to feel, were such a thing to happen.

TIE: Furious 7/Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Man, it was a good year for endangering the lives of stuntmen and smashing up vehicles.
Runners up: Ex Machina, Crimson Peak, Star Wars: the Force Awakens
Movies I didn’t get to see: Hateful Eight, Creed, the Revenant, Beasts of No Nation, Jupiter Ascending
I never imagined that I’d ever fall in love with a multiplayer shooter, but leave it to Nintendo to make it happen. I wrote about it for Gamervescent not long after buying it, and I did stop playing it for a while, but I’ve recently jumped back in after more stages, weapons, and Ranked modes were added. And they keep on adding things for free! The game’s incredible soundtrack gets stuck in my head all the time, I have the Amiibos and everything they unlock, and I’m contemplating getting a plush pillow too. I’m hooked. It’s way too much fun and visually dazzling. I'm also greatly enjoying that critics are praising it far more than Call of Duty or whatever, that makes me really happy.

I was a little wary of this game due to being so disappointed with Dark Souls 2, but after just a half hour of watching a friend play it, I ran out and bought a PS4. They dumbed things down from the Souls games here and there, like weight limits and armor upgrades, but this isn’t meant to be played like Dark Souls. This game is a modern hack ‘n’ slash, the lack of a shield and ability to quickly regain lost health through combat pushing you to get up close and personal with some very terrifying creatures that you really don’t want to go anywhere near. This is the most satisfying horror game I’ve played in a long time. Here's something I wrote for Gamervescent about the awful things I encountered in the game.
Runners up: Super Mario Maker, Fast Racing Neo, Godzilla
Games I didn’t get to play: Axiom Verge, Transformers: Devastation
Blur– Go Out
Blur released a new album this year, their first in what, over a decade? I was really excited for it, only to realize that just like every other album of theirs, I only like about half of it. Go Out is the best track to me, and proof that Damon Albarn still has a knack for writing incredibly catchy songs, even when they rely heavily on static and feedback. The beat to this track has carried me quite a lot through this year.
Wolf Alice- Moaning Lisa Smile
 I can’t remember the last time I heard a song on the radio that I enjoyed as much as this one. The album is all over the place, and I enjoy all of it, but I don’t think any of it hits me quite like the guitars in this song do.
Grimes- Kill V. Maim This is the first Grimes album I’ve actually enjoyed, and this track in particular slays. Sounds like the theme song for her own 90’s OVA directed by Yasuomi Umetsu. If I hear this song, I will dance to it no matter what, and I don't really dance.
Aesop Rock– Cat Food
Technically released last year I think, but only available as a pack-in single with a vinyl figure. This was a pretty good year for rap, but for me nothing is as appealing as Aesop. This is just a really fun track.
Gabrielle Aplin- Sweet Nothing
This is probably the catchiest thing on my list. That chorus is immense, that drumbeat so huge that they had to literalize it in the video with an army of drummers. This is a song that effortlessly fills the room, even at a low volume. It sweeps you up. Best discovery of the year, hands down.
One-Punch Man/Ultraman
I don’t follow western superhero comics anymore. Marvel and DC just wear me out. It doesn’t help that these two manga, which finally saw print in September, are leaps and bounds beyond anything I’d expect to see from the Big Two. One Punch Man is a hilarious and heartfelt takedown of the genre and its myriad tropes. Ultraman, on the other hand, feels like the kind of reboot Marvel was initially going for with their Ultimate universe, just done better. I’m still not too cool with the power armor and the lack of actual city smashing kaiju so far feels like blasphemy, but I’m really impressed with how this series ties directly to the original TV show from 1966 while simultaneously doing something completely different with the concept. It also helps that both these manga have seriously great action.
The Infinite Loop
I picked up the first issue of this on a whim and was surprised at how great it was. It is at its core a time travel romance about a woman who unexpectedly falls into a same-sex relationship and will do anything to protect her new partner. It also deals with history’s tendency to repeat itself, the ways we cast out others and make up reasons to hate them for being different, and how our own personalities are somewhat fractured. I never did get to pick up the final issues, so maybe it all comes crashing down at the end, but for those first four, Pierrick Colinet and Elsa Charretier have made something very special, that I haven’t seen ANYONE talk about online.
Brandon Graham and Emma Rios, two incredible comic creators in their own right and favorites of mine, are now running their own anthology book packed with stellar work by friends and peers of theirs, and the world is a better place for it. This is what Heavy Metal used to be.
Here's a random list of other things I've liked this year: Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong, the One Punch Man anime, the Welcome to Night Vale novel, Chris Ready's reviews of every James Bond film, Rick and Morty, the Travis Bickle on the Riviera podcast, Red Letter Media's Star Wars: the Force Awakens Clickbait video, Warren Ellis writing comics and ebooks, Daredevil and Jessica Jones on Netflix, and probably other things I can't remember.
Alright everyone, let's try not to bungle 2016, okay? Have a safe one.


There's been an awakening...

I wasn’t interested at all in JJ Abrams directing a new Star Wars movie until I saw that first trailer. Something stirred inside of me in a way I’m not sure how to word. I mean, I enjoy the original trilogy a lot, but I never considered myself a real fanatic. Something about hearing the TIE Fighter noise again, seeing the practical effects and puppets, Kylo Ren and his awesome lightsaber…I went from being indifferent to being all in.

So in anticipation of the movie’s release, I did a sketch every day this week of characters from the Force Awakens. I got to see the movie last night, and got to see these characters in their proper context, so I thought I’d talk about what was in my head versus how they were really portrayed in the movie.

That said, there will be some very light spoilers ahead for those of you who haven’t seen it yet.


First off, this dude was hard to draw. That helmet design, the shape of it, it’s iconic. If you mess up even a littlee, it ruins the whole thing. I was quietly hoping these guys wouldn’t be as jokey and ineffectual as they are in the original trilogy, especially since they’ve been redesigned to look more sinister and have a little more weapons variety.

And I was right! The First Order Stormtroopers are definitely a bigger threat than their Imperial predecessors, actually managing to hit their targets. You also get a little more background on them, with hints at what life is like under such a vicious regime. Choosing to make Finn a former Stormtrooper was such a good idea.

Also known as Captain Ithano. I picked him from the photo of all those space pirates that Annie Leibovitz took for Vanity Fair. I liked his style, his swagger, and that weird, cool head. I knew he’d just be a bit part, but sometimes the weird background characters are the most interesting. He was a little more prominent in the movie than I expected, not just set dressing. That was nice.

Rey’s awesome. I had no clue what her role would be in the movie, only knowing that she’s a desert scavenger who knows her way around the ruins of a crashed Star Destroyer. Whatever expectations I might’ve had in mind regarding her, the movie blew them away. She has a great arc in this. Her character is an excellent and much needed addition to the series. Following her and Finn over the course of the next however many movies is going to be great.



From the moment I saw her in a picture with Billie Lourd’s character, I fell in love with this Droid’s design. That huge neck and narrowing face, that sheepish smile, the samurai armor plates on the shoulders, her posture, she’s just so great. And that shade of blue! I think she looks like something Tsuburaya Productions would’ve designed in the 70’s.

This is one of my few complaints about the Force Awakens: I only saw “Peazy” in two shots, and in one of those she was standing behind a screen, obscured so you could only see part of her head. How dare you make me fall for such a delightful design, only to keep it out of the movie?!


I don’t know why I honed in on Kylo. It started with his crazy lightsaber, of course. That crossguard defines it, along with the volatile blade itself. His helmet is weird, I didn’t like it at first, but it’s grown on me to the point that I bought one on Halloween clearance. And then I heard his distorted voice, saw him speaking to the ruined helmet of Vader. “I will finish what you started.” I had my worries. I mean, Darth Maul looked really cool, and he was…well, not much of anything in the Phantom Menace beyond an evil guy to fight. No depth.

I’m still processing things. I figured he’d be a pretty simple, pulpy villain, but the movie explores his personality and motivation in a way we didn’t get to see with Vader until Empire. I was also really impressed by the way that he used the Force in combat, I don’t think we’ve ever seen anyone manipulate it in quite that way before.

The one character I wasn’t interested in at all in the beginning, but now wish I’d drawn? Poe Dameron, the hotshot X-Wing pilot for the Resistance. That guy is great, especially paired up with Finn. I’m not about to try to figure out how to properly draw an X-Wing, though.

The movie itself was great, with no shortage of other characters to draw should I choose to do more of these. My complaints as of right now are all minor, like the PZ-4CO thing and the fact that Abrams is a dude who still relies a little too much on closeups when most of the actors also had incredible body language, but other than that? He nailed it. I’m excited to see what Rian Johnson is going to bring to the table for Episode VIII.