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Apr. 26th, 2015

do it!

THE IDIOT

Looking at my last post, you would think perhaps old Jay had slipped a cog. "he's almost 45 fuckin' years old!", you think, "You tell me he's only just now figuring this out?!"
Well, I'm not wearing blinders. Haven't for years. Any thoughts I had on comic success went South after Jay's Days: Pasta Shop Lothario took a tank in PREVIEWS. I also learned not to trust that big monopoly called Diamond Comics "Distributing" when they refused to refill orders for the Lothario book. If my Publisher hadn't stepped in and did it himself...
I'm learning to measure "success" in a different way. It's hard to retrain the brain though. I have a bevy of dedicated readers. Hell, one guy told me he bought a copy of the new Not My Small Diary #Eighteen: The Pet Issue just because I was in it. stories like that, well, they get you.
I made a lot of mistakes in my comics "career". A LOT. No denying it. The only way to look though is forward, pretty hard for a guy who does comics that require him to look back. I have enough material from weekly online comics to do a decent sized book. If I scanned my ass off I could have that up and for sale on Lulu in about two weeks. I have my mammoth new book project I am lettering at the moment that I will ship around to any prospective Publishers when close to done. There's no guarantee I have lots of time left on the corpse but why ponder that too much?
Along with the Not My Small Diary anthology I also have a story in the latest book from Chainsaw Comics, the anthology Crazy (which may or may not feature the last collaboration with Joe Meyer as my inker/letterer.), and I'm super proud of that story. I'm super proud of my other Chainsaw Comics pieces in Fear and Joy. I enjoy pushing out anthology pieces and would love to do more, especially for Not My Small Diary (hint hint, Delaine Derry Green!!) a book I've wanted to be a part of for a long time and now am! Anthology shorts are a nice way to stretch the legs and take a breather from longer work and also allow me to share what life has thrown my way.
Yesterday I did my first Podcast "interview" with old pal Paul Quinn and so enjoyed the experience that we'll be doing another at some point. It's also made me rethink my position on hosting a Comics related podcast so who knows? Maybe i'll be coming at you from the bowels of the internet with not just my comics but my curmudgeonly jaded comics opinionated voice too!
I have seen the corpses of comics creators along the road, and those that have stopped to rest and recoup as well. We all have that pesky thing called Life to deal with: kids, mortgages/rent, car payments, etc. Some put comics aside completely and move on to other passions. Some put the work aside and vow to return. Some like me, struggle to juggle the whole sordid mess, and try to learn to accept that this is the best way to deal with it if putting the work out there is the goal. Folks like John MacLeod have risen from the ashes of comics past and are doing it again. I idolize that guy. How can I not try and keep the comic making beast in me alive if he can come out of a "retirement" and do it? So it's hopefully full steam ahead come Hell or high-water folks. No matter how "pointless" or ill advised it may be.

Apr. 24th, 2015

the eye

COMIC BOOK REALITIES REVISITED

Strange.It took a text message conversation with Canadian cartoonist Joe Ollmann to cement in reality something my mind had perhaps already accepted but needed a swift kick in the ass to accept: there is for most NO money in comics, or at least those of the Independent kind. Ollmann is on the roster of Conundrum Books a well established graphic novel Publisher so I can only believe he knows of what he speaks.
There are that handful of course. The Kevin Eastman/Peter Laird/ Jeff Smiths of the Industry. They stand atop a very small mountaintop of Indie creators who technically no longer need to produce artwork to make a living, able to live off the residuals of their most successful creations and perhaps dabble in the comics world once in awhile as a lark.
No, I am one of the thousands of creators who do what they do cause they love to do it. Need to do it. Is it a bitter pill to swallow? This late in the game? No, not really. Of course I would like to see my latest project picked up by a Publisher who can give it proper legs to run. Yet I am ready to self publish if necessary. Sometimes I feel if that happens it will likely be my last true kick at the comics can. I've been knocking out some goofy little autobio stories for various anthologies and really, those are nice. A huge workload doesn't sit atop my shoulders when I do those, even with the loss of Joe Meyer as my long time letterer/inker. The books come out, they sell, and I am content that work is out there. That some form of my work can live on and breath.
I have seen people go from very small to BLOWN UP, most of them met and friended on this very Livejournal almost twenty odd years ago for some. I was not among them, though I am forever in awe of how well my LJ cartoonist pals who stepped up their game to become a force in comics. When I look at it I am not alone in my status as not really been. Many dropped off the comics making world altogether to become parents, to become embroiled in their day jobs that were able to keep a roof over their heads. Maybe some still do comics. I can at least say that,though I am a father of two, married and working a heavy duty day job to keep a roof over my head and food on the table, I still force myself to do comics.
Joe Ollmann won a goddamn Doug Wright Award. As he put it to paraphrase, he felt he had gone bigtime with that "success" (his quotations, not mine). Then reality brought him down to Earth.
"We're not in comics to make money. We do this because we love doing it." is kind of how he put it.
How true. I've paid some bills with my sales. Paid some with freelance gigs. I'm not a huge sell for an Indie con though. Some of the numbers people throw at me saleswise staggers my imagination. Selling out before halfway through the second day of a three day show. Fuck, If I sold 12 or 13 of my graphic novels at a show that paid for my portion of a three way split table and bought dinner or paid a phone bill. Those numbers are rather mundane next to a lot of folks I know.
I will however always cheer on those who started out here on LJ with me and stepped full on into this crazy industry. They are my friends. How could I not?

Mar. 29th, 2015

foster's

BURLINGTON STREET

Another preview of a story from my upcoming book. A few words of explanation(so you can make sense of it here:it will be explained in other stories of the book): My Uncle Randy was living with us, along with friend of my Mother's, Bonnie, a cab driver. My Uncle was constantly into shit, like drugs and stimulants.



























Mar. 28th, 2015

foster's

THE INTRICACIES OF INKING, or, HOW A HACK KNOCKS OUT PAGES

Anyone who knows me knows that inking comic pages is laborious work I try to evade like the plague. For some people inking is their favorite part of comics making (for me, it's a toss up between scripting and successfully penciling out pages), the way to cross the "t"'s and dot the "i''s of their work. For me though it's always been a painfully frustrating experience, and daunting on top of that.
I have never possessed inking "skills". Admittedly if I look back at older work I can go see a HUGE difference and be like, "Fuck yeah, I ink waaaay better than I did then!" but it's still not pretty. Some call it a problem with patience, though I will sweat for hours over pages sometimes and still get less than desirable results. Others push the "practice, practice and more practice" mantra which if I follow well maybe by when I'm 60...
Anyway, let me give you a little run down of my inking process. I promise it's nothing complicated and you will learn ZERO from it, but you may be entertained, and you all know I live to entertain you, as your humble, bumbling servant.
I am perhaps a follower of the Alex Toth school, which is to say I am NOT anyway as skilled as that Master, but I am an admirer of his favorite inking implements, the lowly markers. No, nibs have never appealed to me, and most brushes are used to fill large spaces with copious black ink. My tools of choice have been for the last almost 15-16 years Faber-Castell Brush pens and their various pen size "nib" types. I have tried the Staetdler brush pen favored by inking Master Joe Meyer, who can wield that thing to make the finest lines and the boldest strokes. Mine quickly became a brush I could dip into ink wells and fill up the large space with.
With the Faber Castell I can usually come up with a reliable line, and with pens I can get pretty small things. Control has always been a problem so often line thickness is inconsistent, or "weak" as I say, but with a little work I've managed to somewhat improve on this. Yes the brush pen can lose it's tip and then you do the infamous "flip" of the brush head by pulling out the thing and flipping it over to a secondary fine tip. It's a pain, but it's what I know.
One of the things I have taken to heart about inking a page I learned from artist pal/former publisher Ron Gravelle who would say to me, "You NEVER want to ink one page after another in order. People will figure out where you got tired, bored, or rushed a bit."
"Well, what do you do?" I asked.
"Just go through the pages and ink random pencils. Maybe do the hard panels first," he said,"get those out of the way. Knock out easier panels if you're not feeling up to bigger panels with more details. Just keep it random and let the package come together. You'll maybe have some weak spots, but they'll be joined up with really strong spots too. Eventually you'll learn to make it all look good."
This method indeed proved invaluable, especially if I wanted to avoid that rare crowd scene or complex establishing shot for a few days. I still employ this method today and really, it works for me. Maybe not for everyone, but I am a bad inker so I need all the tricks I can get. Another trick I learned from Ron, and if you look at comics you'll find this to be true is that not EVERY panel needs backgrounds. "Use your establishing shot to set the place your characters are in. Don't overcrowd panels with a lot of background stuff unless it helps tell the story or just put the odd reminder in.". SOMETHING like that.
As far as where I ink, it doesn't seem to matter. Most of my inking is sitting on the floor of our bedroom with a light table (a new method I had to employ for the pencils of my new book), something on the radio (usually Dragnet or some other old radio dramas, but ANY music works while I ink, whereas with penciling -forget it-it's gotta be mellow or strictly talk shows/old radio shows), and as few distractions as possible. My studio has been a disaster since my Mom passed away and sometimes I'll be in there working but usually only if Kris and the kids are away or Kris is home in the evening.
I get no particular joy from the inking to be honest. It's WORK for me. REAL work. A page is like drawing blood with a dull needle and no visible veins to poke at sometimes. I may ink a panel or two, then just sit there and "rest". Some think that this indicates a lack of love for comic making, but I love making comics. I NEED to make comics. If I could get away without having to INK comics, EVER, or my God, LETTER comics, I'd be in Heaven. Inking my own work has always been a poor man's "tracing", I guess, and it feels like I'm drawing the same thing twice (essentially this is true).
Over the years the inking process has become somewhat easier, and I'm finding as I grind away through pages for the new book I feel not as intimidated. I still however feel that the product is inferior to what it COULD have been say had Joe Meyer or other old inking pal Jeremy Kaposy tackled the job. That thought will linger in my mind if say, I fail to land a Publisher for the book, but I can only do what I can do. I only trust those TWO PEOPLE with the job. Well, maybe Andrew Foster too, but we all know he doesn't make comics anymore and it makes me sad but I digress...
I look at and admire say the inks of Lucy Knisley (so clean! So little linework!) or Joe Ollmann (it looks roughly hewn with pen nibs and brushwork but it's beautiful!) or even the VERY simple appearing work of John Porcellino, or the amazing work of pal Box Brown who has improved a thousandfold as an artist in only ten or so years. I could go on and on over people who blow me away and even more so over people who make shrug my shoulders and say, "What the FUCK is the big deal about THIS guy/gal?!"
But I'm rambling. Feel free to comment on my Facebook where I'll be linking this.

Mar. 18th, 2015

foster's

Xan's VERY First Year in Hockey, or How I Became a Hockey Dad

Drop back a year and a few months ago; Xander had decided, much to our trepidation, that he wanted to play Hockey. He was no skater. His movements on the ice at the first bunch of free public skates we attended were jerky, uneven. It seemed like such an unrealistic goal, really. My biggest concern was that he would get out there with all these kids who had been at it for years and embarrass himself, and suffer a shock to his self esteem. His ONLY exposure to "playing" hockey to this point was the Wii's NHL Slapshot for God's sake, and a video game does NOT a Hockey Player make.
Kristine immediately began looking into programs. We came across one called "Skate the Dream", where kids who aspired to play the game could go for nine weeks and learn the fundamentals. It cost next to nothing and seemed like our best bet. An agreement was made: we told Xan that if he committed himself to this program and busted his ass, we would sign him up for House League the next year.
Due to work, I missed the first couple of weeks of the program. My Dad, who had risen as far as Junior A level as a Goalie prospect, was interested in seeing his Grandson's progress. Much to my Dad's disappointment I had never shown any interest in playing the game when I was a lad, so this was a chance to see another Marcy on the ice.
So three or four weeks in I picked up my Dad and we went to the FREEZING environs of Eastdale Arena. Checking out the ice, I searched for my kid.
"Where is he?" I asked Kris.
Kris pointed out a kid skillfully executing stops and moving quickly."There he is there!"
This little jet on skates could NOT be Xan I thought. Only weeks previous the mere idea of him being able to traverse the length of the ice surface without falling was beyond me. Yet here he was. Skating, stopping, and more importantly having a ball.
My Dad was impressed. "If he's picked up the skating this quickly, all he needs is stick and puck handling and he's on his way!" he said.
The weeks wore down for Skate the Dream, and every week Xan got better and better. As promised we signed him up for House League at Lawfield Arena. We went and bought him all new equipment and signed him up for Power Skating courses.
The first day of Power Skating I went down with him to the change room and with great pride and reverence, helped him into his stuff. Here he was on the cusp of achieving something I thought would take years. It was and still is a powerful indelible memory.
Every week we would go to Hamilton Doublerinks and I would repeat the ritual. Unpack his bag. Line up the equipment. Tie the skates. One time he gave me a huge hug, and I was tearful.
The day of Assessment at Lawfield soon came and Xan took to the ice, participating in drills he had actually only learned earlier that day in his last Power Skating class of that session. Coaches were taking notice. Where had he played before? they'd ask him and were amazed that indeed, this was his first year. Kris was nervous but I felt calm, maybe only a few butterflies in my gut. Xan performed well though.
We got a call. Xander was to join the Lawfield Red Wings. We were given a date for the first practice and man, I was ready to go. This was Xan's passion and I was committed to helping him live it. We went and bought Red Wings baseball hats. The practice went well. A schedule for games and practices was passed out. This was happening!
Those first few games you noticed our boy was a newbie. He skated well, but wasn't quite sure of his place. He wasn't the only new kid on the block but still...
My Dad came out and enjoyed it. "He'll get it," he said, "Just give him a few weeks and every time he'll get better."
And sure enough he did. To see the name "Marcy" on the back of a hockey jersey again, my Dad was over the moon, and it a was proud moment for me, too!
Five games in and we were unbeaten. At the Arena, my Dad suddenly took ill, a diabetic attack. An ambulance was called and one of our players' Father was a paramedic and was on scene to help. With some insulin and a sugar boost of juice and a sandwich Dad came to. Scary.
A few days later we got the call. My Dad had passed away, massive heart attack. He had been sicker than we knew, several months earlier told his arteries were clogged back up (he had quadruple bypass nineteen years earlier.). He never told us. The day after we had practice. We went. My Dad would have been pissed if we hadn't. We went to the game. Xander scored his very first goal in a losing affair. I was choked up!
After the game, he said,"That was for Grandpa." just thinking of it now brings tears to my eyes.
We went on an 11 game losing streak. Usually one goal heartbreakers. Me, I was despondent.I started to think of silly superstitions. Five game winning streak before my Dad died, 11 game losing after. Xander got another goal. He had assists. We finally snapped the losing skid. He wracked up 14 penalty minutes and ended the season with thirteen points, three goals ten assists.
We met a lot of great kids. Our whole team was full of them. The Captain was a skilled player who would often help out the less experienced kids. We had an amazing girl on our team who was a constant scoring threat on the ice. Our goalie was a rail thin rake of a kid who could stop the puck like nobody's business. Our talent and heart was there, always fighting.
As first time hockey parents Kris and I struggled to fit in, and were able to have some conversations with other parents. It was odd to around so many people who had known each other for years. We talked a lot with the Dad of the other newbie, and befriended other parents as well. We didn't do as good as we could have. Despite my normal outgoing nature in strange unfamiliar situations I would revert to my shy self and this hockey thing? It was unfamiliar.
It's important to focus on the good things, like how encouraging everyone was of our son's improving play, their amazement it was his first year ever, and of course, the deep passion he holds for the game. It infected us and we looked forward to every practice and every game and every Power Skating session. It indeed brought us closer together.
This past Monday and Tuesday we had a tournament, and even though we only won one of the three games, damn wasn't it fun to be around the other parents and to talk to them, and to see all these awesome kids who were now indeed my son's new friends.
There were bad moments. I tended to get overly critical of the refereeing, sometimes too much so. We witnessed the bad side of kid's hockey when an opposing team's Mother lost her shit at our first tournament and Kris had to make sure one of our Mom's didn't duke it out with her. We played teams that had an over abundance of talent (which some pointed to as shady) and teams that played dirty and always seemed to get away with it. We dealt with the losses, both on and off the ice. My Dad, and then the head coach's brother, both passing in the season.
Most of all though it was a great experience, and as the weeks passed and we got closer to the end, I would sometimes get emotional. This had been FUN. Xander was living one of his passions, and we were 100% behind him. It's over for the year now. Yes, we have Xan signed up for 3 on 3 hockey, and perhaps some time at a school learning stick and puck handling. But I'm looking forward to October, when we go in for assessments again and start the wheel turning all over with a new Season and perhaps a new team. A lot of the great kids on our team are moving on to Bantam and Xander to senior PeeWee. I'll miss those kids. As one of the Dads said on Tuesday, "You know, we've got a great bunch of kids on our team. They're all really, really nice kids."
I agree. Not a prima donna in the bunch. And to those kids, I say thanks. Thanks for letting our kid and us be a part of Canada's greatest game, and here's to next year.

Jan. 23rd, 2015

foster's

CHANCE OF A LIFETIME

Four page preview from my new book.












Apr. 17th, 2014

foster's

DUMMY THOUGHTS

So I have two more ideas for online strips right now. It will also be time to really knuckle down and get on my book project again. I have enough strips to do a compilation book but my next "big" thing needs doing and time is a wastin'.
The big book is perplexing. I am having doubts as to how to format things and may ditch an entire section of it altogether. Everything is always in flux it seems with the new book.
As for it being my "last" book project if no pubs bite, it's possible. I am 43 years old. I can see finally coming to terms with my comics simply being a legacy for my kids type of thing if no one gives a shit about publishing this book. Still I need to get it done first.
I am somewhat excited for TCAF in a few weeks. Especially picking up Box Brown's Andre the Giant biography and looking over some other cool new shit. It always kinda bites me in the ass that I haven't tabled since 2009 but really, I don't HAVE any new things to sell and the show is so much bigger than a small potatoes kind of guy like me. Other folks who have fallen out of comics seem to be fine with it but it's hard for me. Fucking dreams and shit.
So it's the night before Good Friday 2014 and the bald guy is feeling old. I came across a gal I had a young man's crush on via Facebook, and now it's 25 years on...well that's one of my ideas for a strip. "Missed Opportunities" I think I'll call it. Will likely have a Star Trek reference in it I'm very fond of from a film most people diss the shit out of but I have a great fondness for.
What else? I ordered a 602 page book online called "Slovakia: Fall in the Heart of Europe". It seems more and more that the best comics are NOT coming via Diamond's monopoly but through folks offering their wares on the Internet and the like.
Does anyone read Livejournal anymore? Ah well. I vented some spleen here.

Apr. 16th, 2014

foster's

TYPICAL BEDTIME




One of those routines I will miss greatly...

Apr. 11th, 2014

foster's

SPACES IN BETWEEN







The drastically revised and redrawn strip I kept yammering about. Trying to work these feelings out is constantly a challenge.

Mar. 30th, 2014

foster's

PASSION




I don't know how far he'll go. As far as he wants.

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